Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Braves 1

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Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Braves 1

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Vince Velasquez on Sunday made his best start since the very first time he pitched on the Citizens Bank Park mound, and though the bullpen blew his lead, the Phillies recovered to win 2-1 on a walk-off.

The Phillies loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth with no outs on an Andrew Knapp double, Ty Kelly walk and Cesar Hernandez bunt single. On the second pitch Freddy Galvis saw, he delivered a game-winning single to right field.

It's the Phillies' second straight walk-off win over the Braves and fourth straight win overall.

The Phillies are 6-3 on their 10-game homestand, which wraps up tomorrow afternoon. 

Starting pitching report
Velasquez showed the Phillies something on this afternoon. He pitched seven scoreless innings for the second time in his career, with the only other occurrence being his 16-strikeout shutout of the Padres last April.

Velasquez was helped a great deal by his defense (more on that later), but the final two outs were all him. With runners on second and third and one out in a one-run game, Velasquez struck out Johan Camargo and Sean Rodriguez to end the seventh.

The strikeout of Camargo came on a 95.5 mph fastball, Velasquez's fastest pitch of the day. He whiffed Rodriguez on a full-count slider that didn't break much but was good enough against an aggressive hitter.

Velasquez's final line: 7 innings, 6 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts on a season-high 108 pitches (73 strikes). 

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey pitched very well for the Braves, allowing just the unearned run over seven innings. He struck out eight and didn't allow an extra-base hit.

Dickey and catcher Kurt Suzuki did, however, combine for five wild pitches and two passed balls.

In two starts against the Phillies this season, Dickey has allowed one earned run in 14 innings with 16 strikeouts.

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia's scoreless innings streak ended in the eighth inning at 21⅔ — the longest by a Phillies reliever since Larry Andersen's streak of 32⅔ scoreless innings in 1984.

Hector Neris pitched a scoreless ninth and earned the win.

At the plate
Odubel Herrera and Galvis each had multi-hit games for the Phillies. Both of Herrera's hits were bunt singles, his first two of the season.

Herrera has hit .390 with a .435 on-base percentage over his last 22 games. But he's been hot for much longer than that, hitting .340 over his last 201 plate appearances.

Galvis went 3 for 5.

Knapp had the only extra-base hit for either team.

In the field
Galvis made remarkable defensive plays in the both first and second innings to aid Velasquez.

Galvis saved at least one run and potentially more in the first. With two outs and men on first and second, Nick Markakis hit a ball in between shortstop and third base. Galvis ranged to his right, extended his glove and was able to field it on a hop in the hole. Ender Inciarte, thinking there was no way Galvis could have reached the ball, rounded third base and kept on running. Galvis threw him out at the plate pretty easily.

In the second inning, Galvis made a diving stop up the middle and in one motion, spun and flipped to Hernandez to start a double play.

In the fifth, Galvis started another double play on a softly hit grounder by Sean Rodriguez, who can run. The only way it would have been a double play is if Galvis did exactly what he did: charge it and flip it from his glove to Hernandez.

With apologies to Brandon Crawford, the Gold Glove this season should belong to Galvis.

On the bases
In the sixth inning, Herrera advanced to third on a wild pitch and the call was upheld by replay review. On the next pitch, however, he was thrown out at the plate attempting to score on another pitch that got past Suzuki.

Up next
The Phillies' four-game, wraparound series with the Braves ends tomorrow afternoon at 12:35. The Phils and Braves have the majors' only day game tomorrow ahead of the 4 p.m. trade deadline.

Nick Pivetta (3-6, 5.73) faces Mike Foltynewicz (9-5, 3.82).

Henderson Alvarez solid as audition with Phillies continues in loss to Braves

Henderson Alvarez solid as audition with Phillies continues in loss to Braves

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ATLANTA — It had been three years to the day since Henderson Alvarez had notched a pitching victory in the major leagues. Back on Sept. 23, 2014, while pitching for the Miami Marlins in a season in which he made the National League All-Star team, he beat the Phillies with 7 2/3 shutout innings.
 
A shoulder injury limited Alvarez to just four starts the next season. He did not pitch in 2016 and was forced to show his wares in the Independent Atlantic League before latching on with the Phillies in late August.
 
The Phils were looking for some pitching depth to get through the season, but Alvarez didn't care about the reason. He was happy for the audition in Triple A and the call to the majors this month.
 
Alvarez's long road back from surgery put him on the mound at SunTrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves, on Saturday night, exactly three years after his last big-league win. It would have been pretty sweet for the 27-year-old right-hander to come out of the assignment with a win — and he was in line to get it before the bullpen let a late lead get away in a 4-2 loss to the Braves (see observations).
 
"It is what it is," Alvarez said, shrugging after the game. "That's the way baseball is sometimes. You have to make every single out. There are things you cannot control. You just go out there and try your best."
 
Alvarez pitched five shutout innings and left with a 2-0 lead thanks to an RBI double by Rhys Hoskins and another run that scored on a passed ball.
 
"He pitched through five innings, got through it and didn't give up a run," manager Pete Mackanin said. "His ball had some movement and he changed speeds."
 
The bullpen could not hold the lead. Newcomer Kevin Siegrist gave up a solo homer to Rio Ruiz in the sixth inning on a 1-2 breaking ball that registered 69 mph on the radar gun. Two innings later, Luis Garcia was tagged for three runs as the Braves tied the game and took the lead.
 
Up and down the roster, the Phillies are in audition mode. Siegrist, a waiver claim from St. Louis, is looking to stick with the club as a lefty out of the bullpen. Ditto for Adam Morgan, who has been sensational over the last couple of months. He racked up another scoreless inning in this game and has allowed just two runs in his last 23 innings, dating to Aug. 2. Garcia has been auditioning toward the back of the bullpen and performed well. He had not allowed an earned run in his last 12 1/3 innings before this outing.
 
Garcia allowed three hits and three runs. Dansby Swanson singled home the tying run after Garcia fell behind in the count and had to pump fastballs with a man on second, and pinch-hitter Johan Camargo broke the tie with a two-out, two-run double to right-center.
 
"When you're pitching in a clutch situation, you can't fall behind hitters," Mackanin said. "You’ve got to get ahead. I think he threw five consecutive fastballs to Swanson. He tried to get a strike and couldn't do it. And you have to do it to be successful. You cannot get behind the hitters.
 
"It all comes down to getting clutch hits, making clutch plays and making clutch pitches. We're looking to win a World Series. You've got to be clutch."
 
The Phillies could have used a clutch hit or two to pad their early lead. In one big situation, they had the bases loaded against Braves starter Julio Teheran with two outs in the seventh and Odubel Herrera grounded out to second base on Teheran's last pitch of the night.
 
Herrera is hitless in the first two games of the series after hitting in each of the first 13 games (at a .434 clip) between the two teams this season.
 
It's not clear where Alvarez fits into the Phillies' future — or even if he does. He could make one more start over the final week of the season or he could finish in the bullpen. It does not seem likely the Phillies would keep him on the 40-man roster all winter, but it's not difficult to envision the club trying to bring him back on a minor-league deal where he could provide organizational depth and continue to get stronger post-surgery. Several teams will probably have interest in doing that.
 
Whatever happens, Alvarez had to feel good about his work Saturday night. Though he did not get his win, it was a step in the right direction on the comeback trail.
 
"It's been a roller-coaster," he said. "I just have to keep working hard."

Best of MLB: Bruce Maxwell 1st player to kneel during anthem; Yanks clinch playoff berth

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Associated Press

Best of MLB: Bruce Maxwell 1st player to kneel during anthem; Yanks clinch playoff berth

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics has become the first major league baseball player to kneel during the national anthem.

Maxwell dropped to a knee just outside Oakland's dugout on Saturday before a game against the Texas Rangers, adopting a protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in response to police treatment of blacks. Maxwell's teammates stood in a line next to him. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, put his right hand on one of Maxwell's shoulders.

The Athletics released a statement on Twitter shortly after the anthem, saying they "respect and support all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression" and "pride ourselves on being inclusive."

Major League Baseball also issued a statement, saying it has "a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games" but that "we also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions (See full story).

Yankees clinch postseason berth by beating Blue Jays 
TORONTO -- One year into a rebuild, the New York Yankees are back in the playoffs.

Greg Bird, among the new generation of Baby Bombers, hit a three-run homer that led New York over the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 on Saturday to clinch no worse than a wild card.

"I feel like our motto in the offseason was: `We're going to surprise people,'" Bird said. "Obviously, we had a good spring, but we knew that wasn't the real deal. We came out and played our game the whole year, and I feel like we showed people."

Sonny Gray (10-11), among New York's midseason reinforcements, allowed one run and four hits in six innings as the Yankees won for the 11th time in 14 games and at 86-68 matched their season high of 18 games over .500.

"I didn't know exactly what we were going to be this year, but when I saw the way these kids were playing in spring training and the depth of our talent, it got me really excited and I thought it was possible," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Chase Headley reached base three times to help the Yankees reach the postseason for the 53rd time in franchise history. The Los Angeles Dodgers are second with 31. 

Lindor's 33rd homer leads Indians over Mariners 
SEATTLE -- Now that he's set a Cleveland record for home runs by a middle infielder, Francisco Lindor would rather remember 2017 for a far bigger accomplishment.

Lindor led off the game with his 33rd home run, and the Indians routed the Seattle Mariners 11-4 Saturday for their 28th victory in 30 games.

"It's cool. Something that'll be there for a long time," Lindor said, "but I'm just focusing on trying to win. When you focus on winning, those things happen."

Carlos Carrasco (17-6) matched teammate Cory Kluber and Boston's Chris Sale for the most wins in the AL, allowing one run and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. Yan Gomes homered twice and had four RBIs, and Jose Ramirez homered and drove in four runs.

Cleveland, which set the AL record with a 22-game winning streak this month, matched the 1884 Providence Grays for the best big league record over a 30-game span at 28-2. The Indians (97-58) lead Houston (95-59) for AL home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Lindor, a 23-year-old shortstop, homered on the eighth pitch from Andrew Moore (1-5) and surpassed the 32 home runs hit by second baseman Joe Gordon in 1948, the last year Cleveland won the World Series. 

Red Sox move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds
CINCINNATI --  The Red Sox took another step toward a division title, putting up another shutout that ended with a feel-good moment for their manager.

Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and Boston beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.

Boston has won 13 of 16, holding a four-game lead over the Yankees with eight to play. The Red Sox are trying to win back-to-back AL East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. They've got their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.

It ended with a ninth inning that was unlike anything manager John Farrell has experienced. His son, Luke, relieved for the Reds, giving them a special moment in a competitive situation.

"It was somewhat surreal," he said. "Very proud. You're standing there looking through a netting in the dugout and you think you're maybe watching him throw back in Little League, in high school. To see it happen on a major league mound - a special day, a special inning."

The reliever walked two in a scoreless inning and glanced back at the Boston dugout, momentarily removing his cap, as he headed for the Reds dugout.