MLB Wrap: Nationals snap four-game skid


MLB Wrap: Nationals snap four-game skid

For the second straight game, the Phillies came apart in the latter innings of a loss to the Pirates (see game recap).

The Phillies are finding out quickly that hitting doesn't come easy (see story).

Here is quick recap of Thursday's action around MLB:

Nationals snap losing skid
WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez allowed just one hit in eight innings, and Denard Span and Danny Espinosa drove in three runs each to lead the Washington Nationals to a 8-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday night.

Gonzalez, who allowed 12 runs in his previous nine innings, retired the first 11 Reds batters before Joey Votto homered with two outs in the fourth. He struck out seven and walked two.

By the time Votto homered, Gonzalez (2-1) had a 6-0 lead.

Washington had lost nine of 12 and their previous six home games. Cincinnati has lost six of its seven road games.

The Nationals scored two runs in the bottom of the second against Bronson Arroyo (2-2). With one out, Ian Desmond singled. He scored on Espinosa's double. Kurt Suzuki singled. Gonzalez moved Suzuki to second with a bunt, and Espinosa scored on an infield single by Span.

Washington took a 6-0 lead in the third. Bryce Harper led off with his eighth home run of the year, the most any National has hit in April. Harper also doubled. He has 11 multi-hit games in the 22 Washington has played (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Dodgers edge Mets with ninth-inning heroics
NEW YORK -- From his very first pitch, Hyun-Jin Ryu heard the fans cheering for him.

A lot of them, anyway.

Boosted by plenty of road rooters, the South Korean rookie turned in his best performance yet and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the New York Mets 3-2 Thursday on Andre Ethier's tiebreaking single in the ninth inning.

"I was aware there are a lot of Korean Americans here in New York," Ryu said through a translator. "It was definitely encouragement."

A large Korean neighborhood is just one subway stop away from Citi Field, and Ryu had a lot of vocal support while holding the Mets to three hits in seven innings. He said the warm welcome was "a big strength for my pitching."

Also encouraging to the Dodgers was the key hit by the slumping Ethier off left-handed reliever Scott Rice (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Royals top Tigers in extras
DETROIT -- Alex Gordon had already struck out three times when he came to the plate with the bases loaded in the 10th inning.

"I was just trying to make contact," the Kansas City outfielder said.

He ended up hitting his first career grand slam, helping the Royals to an encouraging win at the end of a difficult road trip.

Gordon's drive highlighted a five-run 10th for Kansas City, which rallied against the Detroit bullpen for an 8-3 victory Thursday after Tigers ace Justin Verlander left with a blister on his thumb.

George Kottaras put the Royals ahead 4-3 with a bases-loaded walk off Phil Coke (0-3). Darin Downs came on for Detroit after that, but Gordon broke the game open one out later with a homer that easily cleared the 420-foot marker on the wall in center (see full recap).

- The Associated Press

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

CLEVELAND — Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber's rehab finished just in time for the World Series.

Schwarber will bat fifth and be the designated hitter for the National League champions in Game 1 on Tuesday night against Cleveland's Corey Kluber. Schwarber hasn't played in the majors since tearing ligaments in his left knee on April 7 in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler.

Dallas Cowboys orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Cooper operated 12 days later to repair torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. He was expected to miss the rest of the season but was cleared to return on Oct. 17.

Schwarber played a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks, and flew to Cleveland on Monday.

Once ridiculed in Philly, Terry Francona is 4 wins from Cooperstown

Once ridiculed in Philly, Terry Francona is 4 wins from Cooperstown

If Terry Francona wins four ballgames over these next nine days, he is going to Cooperstown.

And not as a visitor.

Francona sits at the helm of a Cleveland Indians team that has so far rolled through the postseason, winning eight of nine games as it opens play Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs in a World Series that is filled with compelling storylines.

Of course, the biggest storyline is the “Lovable Loser” angle.

Both clubs long ago became punch lines for their failures. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and their shortcomings have been blamed on everything from the curse of a billy goat to black cats to too many day games at Wrigley Field to Steve Bartman. The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. They were so notoriously synonymous with losing that Hollywood made a couple of movies about them. Well, sort of.

With four more wins, one of these teams will shed the Lovable Loser tag forever.

And if it’s Francona’s Indians, he will forever be honored with a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. You can bank on it. That’s where managers who win three World Series end up.

Time flies.

It was 20 years ago this week that the Phillies hired Francona for his first big-league managerial job. He was 37 at the time. He’d managed at the Double A level with the Chicago White Sox and been on the Detroit Tigers’ big-league coaching staff. Loaded with personality, smarts and the experience that came with growing up in baseball family (his dad played 15 seasons in the majors), being the best college player in the nation at the University of Arizona, and, probably most important, having been humbled by the ups and downs of 10 injury-riddled years as a big-league player, Francona was considered an excellent managerial prospect when the Phillies hired him. But he never deluded himself. He knew he got the job because the Phillies were rebuilding, because they were going to be young and bad for a while and he had the personality and youthful resilience to deal with it all. “If the Phillies were ready to win, they would have hired Jim Leyland or somebody like that,” he used to say.

Francona took over a 95-loss team in Philadelphia. He managed the club for four years, never had a winning season and was jeered out of town with slashed tires after the club lost 97 games in 2000.

Was Terry Francona a great manager in Philadelphia? Nope. Few people are great out of the gate in any line of work. But Francona had little chance to succeed in those Phillies years. There wasn’t close to enough talent on the field. The club was going through a sloooooow rebuild and the organizational focus in those years was probably more about getting a new stadium than putting a winning team on the field.

Francona was committed to becoming a successful manager when he left Philadelphia. That’s why he didn’t want to take a year off after he was fired. He wanted to stay in the game, stay in sight. He took a job in the Indians’ front office, then a year later was back in uniform, first as a coach with the Texas Rangers, then as a coach with the Oakland A’s.

In the fall of 2003, Francona interviewed for managerial jobs in Baltimore and in Boston. At the time, reporters in Baltimore asked him about the possibility of getting a second chance to manage.

“It would be like getting a mulligan,” Francona said.

The answer infuriated some in Philadelphia.

It shouldn’t have.

Francona’s use of the word ‘mulligan’ showed self-awareness, humility and accountability. It showed that he knew he had hooked his first chance into the woods, that he had made mistakes, that he’d learned from them and was ready to tee it up again. Francona’s use of the word mulligan showed how human he was and that is a priceless quality in the art of leading a group of men through the ups and downs of seven months of baseball and getting them to lay it all out for you night after night. Joe Torre had that quality. Charlie Manuel had it. Joe Maddon, the man Francona beat out for the Boston job and now squares off against in the World Series, has it. Francona has it. Just look at the way he kept the Indians believing after injuries wounded their starting pitching.

Of course, all of these aforementioned managers have or had talented players. That ultimately is how you win. Just ask Torre, who was dismissed as a loser until George Steinbrenner gave him some talent. Torre led it beautifully and ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Francona got his second chance to manage in Boston in 2004 and quickly led a talented group of players to a curse-busting title, that franchise’s first World Series championship in 86 years.

He won another in 2007.

He has managed 12 seasons since leaving Philadelphia and the growth experience that it provided. He has won 90 or more games in eight of those seasons. Yeah, he has had good players. But he’s led them well. And he’s done it particularly well this month, maneuvering his bullpen pieces like a master chess champion.

The World Series is upon us and it should be a good one as baseball’s two Lovable Loser franchises vie to end decades of frustration.

And 20 years after his managerial odyssey began with many losses and much ridicule in Philadelphia, Terry Francona, already a big winner in his career, has a chance to punch his ticket to the ultimate winner’s circle, the Hall of Fame, with four more victories and another World Series title.