MLB Wrap: Nats recover in extras, beat Cubs

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MLB Wrap: Nats recover in extras, beat Cubs

CHICAGO -- Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals were cruising along until it all fell apart. Then, a slow roller bailed them out.

Denard Span scored the go-ahead run on pinch-hitter Chad Tracy's grounder in the 13th inning, and the Nationals beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4 on Thursday after Strasburg blew a three-run lead in the ninth.

Span doubled leading off the 13th against Michael Bowden (1-3). He moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Steve Lombardozzi and came around on Tracy's roller to the first-base side of the mound.

"We got to do better than that. I mean, that gave me a heart attack," manager Davey Johnson said, smiling. "It's a good thing we had a track star down on third base. But a win is a win."

Craig Stammen (7-5) worked two innings and earned the victory. Drew Storen secured his third save in eight chances (see full recap).

Jackson's fielding costs Tigers
DETROIT -- Chris Herrmann thought he had missed his chance to give the Minnesota Twins a much-needed win in a road series.

But his second RBI double of the game broke an eighth-inning tie and helped the Twins beat the Detroit Tigers 7-6 on Thursday.

With two outs, the Twins catcher lined a ball into the right-center field gap. Center fielder Austin Jackson got a bad break on the ball, and just missed while attempting a shoestring catch. Doug Bernier scored from second to give the Twins the lead.

"I thought I hit it right at him, and it isn't like he's going to drop the ball," Herrmann said. "I still have no idea why it started hooking right, but I'll take it."

Jackson took a couple of indecisive steps toward right-center and then realized he was in trouble. He got close, but his style of not diving for balls cost him. He tried to grab the ball off the top of the grass, and couldn't hang on (see full recap).

Surging Yankees hold off Blue Jays
NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees are making their move in the AL playoff race -- thanks in large part to all the wins they are piling up against Toronto.

Pettitte pitched six effective innings, and Curtis Granderson homered to help the surging Yankees win 5-3 on Thursday after a 3 1/2-hour rain delay, their 10th straight victory over the Blue Jays.

New York took advantage of a missed call by the umpires to win its fifth consecutive game and 10th in 12 overall.

"We're feeling good about ourselves, and you knew this was going to happen," Pettitte said. "It was just a matter of when, and you hope it's not too late" (see full recap).

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

NEW YORK — The final eight games remaining on the Phillies’ 2016 schedule will undoubtedly serve as a farewell to Ryan Howard.

Lost in the background may be the fact this week could quite possibly be the end for the man who was supposed to platoon alongside him this year, as well: Darin Ruf.

Both men have been supplanted by Tommy Joseph, who's hit 21 home runs in just 100 games this year while positioning himself as the Phillies first baseman of the near future.

Ruf will start Saturday night against Mets’ lefthander Sean Gilmartin. The Phillies are not scheduled to face a lefty starter for the rest of the season, so Saturday could be one of the final chances to see Ruf in a Phillies uniform, especially considering manager Pete Mackanin’s stated intent to give Howard more playing time down the stretch.

“It seemed like we never faced a lefty for the first month of the season. So that didn’t help Ruf at the time,” Mackanin said.  “Joseph entered the picture and made an immediate impression.”

Ruf’s departure from the majors set the stage for Joseph’s immediate emergence. At the time of his May 13 demotion to AAA Lehigh Valley – and Joseph’s promotion -- Ruf was had a .158/.206/.193 slash line.
  
Since his Sept. 1 return to the majors after rosters expanded, Ruf has done what he can to make sure his possible final season in a Phillies uniform ends on a high note. On Friday night, he drilled a home run to left center off Mets reliever Josh Smoker in pinch-hit duty, the first time Ruf had gone yard since Oct. 1, 2015.

“It felt good,” Ruf said about ending his home run drought. “You just try to simply things and last night it worked out for me.”

Where Ruf will be next year is a more complicated matter, as the 30-year-old is out of minor league options. Japanese scouts were spotted at the games he played for AAA Lehigh Valley.

With Lehigh Valley, Ruf received an opportunity he’s never truly been able to get with the Phillies due to the longstanding presence of Howard: a chance to play every day and consistently accumulate plate appearances. He hit .294/.356/.529 in 390 trips to the plate for the IronPigs. 

Ruf has never made more than 300 plate appearances in a major league season and would struggle to crack that number if he remains in Philadelphia as a backup to Joseph, who will still be 25 on opening day next year.

“I learned [this year] that you can’t take anything for granted in this game,” Ruf said. “You’ve just got to keep working to get better every day, got to put up numbers no matter where you’re at in order to get to where you want. 

“Hopefully, wherever I’m at next year, I can do that.”

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Tonight's Lineup: Jorge Alfaro catches, bats 8th vs. Mets

Tonight's Lineup: Jorge Alfaro catches, bats 8th vs. Mets

Jorge Alfaro is behind the plate for the Phillies tonight and bats eighth. Alfaro has appeared in just four games since being called up earlier this month, and has just one hit in 10 at-bats. 

Tommy Joseph is back in the lineup and batting fifth. Pete Mackanin has said that Ryan Howard would get a lot of playing time during the last few games, but it is Joseph who gets the start tonight. Joseph is batting just .154 against the Mets this season. 

Odubel Herrera, who has been hitting well in September, will remain in the three spot. He has two homers and is batting .391 over the past week. Herrera has two hits in six at-bats against Mets' starter Sean Gilmartin. 

Phillies

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, RF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF 
4. Maikel Franco, 3B 
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Darin Ruf, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Alec Asher, P