Phillies-Padres: 5 things you need to know


Phillies-Padres: 5 things you need to know

Phillies vs. Padres
1:05 p.m. on CSN

Fresh off a walk-off win over the Padres, the Phillies look to gain a rare three-game sweep over a team they rightfully outplayed in back-to-back games.

The Phils have just one sweep this season, April 11-13 over the Marlins at home.

Here are five things you need to know about Thursday's daytime series finale between the Phils and Padres:

An unlikely hero
Reid Brignac, who was about the 30th man on the Phillies' totem pole coming out of spring training, walked the Phils off with a three-run homer Wednesday night.

It was his first home run as a Phillie and his second walk-off knock in two weeks. Brignac also produced the game-winner in the 14th inning on May 31 against the Mets.

It was nice to see some clutch production out of a Phillies third baseman late in a game. Cody Asche is on the DL, and his three replacements -- Cesar Hernandez, Brignac and Freddy Galvis -- had eight hits in 64 (.125) at-bats from the seventh inning on.

Hamels on fire
Cole Hamels wasn't credited with a win Wednesday night, but he certainly earned one. He pitched eight shutout innings with 11 strikeouts to lower his ERA to 3.07.

Over his last seven outings, Hamels has struck out 56 in 50 2/3 innings while posting a 1.78 ERA. He's finished seven innings in each of those starts -- the third-longest streak of his career and the longest active streak in the majors.

The issue with Hamels has been run support. In his two wins, both against Cincinnati, the Phillies scored 15 runs for him. In his other eight starts, they scored a combined 17 runs.

Steady Kendrick on the hill
With a sweep in sight, this would be a good time for Kyle Kendrick to regain his command and make that two-seamer move.

Kendrick is who he's been this season -- a 4.30-ERA, 1.38-WHIP, No. 4/5-starter. Gives you as many quality starts as clunkers, pitches a lot of innings.

That has value. He's given the Phillies an average of 6 1/3 innings per start over 12 starts. He's on pace for 196 1/3 innings. Nearly 200 innings with that ERA could land Kendrick $7 to 9 million per year in a multi-year, free-agent deal this winter.

Kendrick hasn't seen these Padres much. Left-handed hitting Seth Smith is 8 for 14 with three doubles and a triple, so Kendrick could stay away from him. Chase Headley and Cameron Maybin are 1 for 7 and 1 for 9, each with homers against KK.

Stults replaces Cashner
The exciting Andrew Cashner was reportedly scratched from Thursday's start. The hard-throwing righty with the 2.13 ERA was activated from the DL last Saturday and pitched six shutout innings against the Nationals. An elbow strain originally sent him to the DL on May 14.

The Phillies will face lefty Eric Stults instead. Much different matchup.

Stults has been terrible this season -- 5.67 ERA, .321 opponents' batting average -- and these Phillies have hit .344 off him.

Marlon Byrd is 3 for 8 against Stults with two doubles. Jimmy Rollins is 3 for 8 with a HR, Carlos Ruiz is 3 for 6.

Lefties hit .176 with nine home runs against Stults from 2011-13, but Ryan Howard is 2 for 2 with two homers against him and Chase Utley is 2 for 5 with a double.

Success vs. San Diego
Since 2002, the Phillies are 54-27 against the Padres and have outscored them by 83 runs.

The Phils have won nine of the last 12 meetings with San Diego at Citizens Bank Park, outscoring the Friars 55-36 over that span.

The Padres have been a terrible offensive team this season, and especially in June. San Diego has hit .135 this month and scored 14 runs in nine games.

It's been so bad that the Padres are 10 for 61 in this series but have stll boosted their batting average for the month by eight points.

MLB Playoffs: Indians reach 1st World Series since 1997

MLB Playoffs: Indians reach 1st World Series since 1997

TORONTO -- For the Cleveland Indians, the script was the same every game -- hope for the best from whoever they started, then count on Andrew Miller and the bullpen to close it out.

That plan seemed especially dicey in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, with lightly used Ryan Merritt on the mound.

But out of nowhere, the rookie delivered.

Merritt coolly kept the Indians ahead until reinforcements arrived, and Cleveland earned its first trip to the World Series since 1997 by blanking the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 Wednesday.

The 24-year-old lefty defied expectations, shutting down the powerful Blue Jays before exiting in the fifth inning. Thanks to a most unlikely pitching performance, a most unexpected team won the ALCS 4-1.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

Manager Terry Francona's team will try to augment what's already been a scintillating year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first major pro sports championship since 1964.

The Indians' title drought dates to 1948. In 1997, they let a one-run lead get away in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 and lost to the Florida Marlins in the 11th.

"We always said if we could do it with this group it would be so special because this is as close to a family feel as you can get in a professional setting. So for that part of it, it is beyond feeling good," Francona said (see full recap).

Cubs' bats come alive to even series
LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and the rest of the Chicago Cubs' bats broke out in a big way.

Rizzo homered and ended a postseason slump with three RBIs, Russell's two-run drive highlighted a four-run fourth that stopped Chicago's 21-inning scoreless streak as the Cubs routed the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 on Wednesday to even the NL Championship Series at 2-all.

Kenta Maeda is set to pitch for the Dodgers in Game 5 on Thursday against Jon Lester. Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said he will not start Clayton Kershaw on short rest after the Los Angeles ace threw a bullpen session Wednesday.

Chicago ensured the NLCS will return to Wrigley Field for Game 6 Saturday.

To break out of his prolonged slump, Rizzo used teammate Matt Szczur's bat.

"I know Szczur's bat has a lot of hits in it," Rizzo said. "I've done it a few times this year, just switching up the bat, switching up the mindset."

Following consecutive shutout losses, the Cubs rapped out 13 hits on an 80-degree (26 degree Celcius) night with the warm Santa Ana winds fluttering the flags in center field.

Rizzo and Russell had three hits each. Chicago's 3-4-5 hitters -- a combined 2 for 32 in the first three games -- busted out. Every Cubs starter got at least one hit except Kris Bryant, who walked twice (see full recap).

For first time all season, Cubs not the World Series favorite

For first time all season, Cubs not the World Series favorite

For the first day, and perhaps the only day all season, the Chicago Cubs are not the World Series favorite.

Down 2-1 to the Dodgers in the NLCS with Game 4 Wednesday night in L.A., the Cubs' World Series odds are now 5/2, according to Bovada.

The Dodgers have the best odds of the final four teams at 7/4. The Indians, up 3-1 on the Blue Jays in the ALCS, are next at 2/1. Toronto is the longshot at 8/1.

Veteran John Lackey starts for the Cubs tonight against 20-year-old rookie Julio Urias. Jon Lester goes for the Cubs Thursday in Game 5; the Dodgers haven't yet named a starter.

In any event, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Joe Blanton are just two wins away from returning to the World Series for the first time since 2009. 

Utley is 3 for 24 with eight strikeouts this postseason. 

Ruiz contributed in the NLDS with a pinch-hit two-run homer in Game 3 and a pinch-hit, game-winning RBI single in Game 5.

Blanton, who had a great season as a reliever, has made six appearances in the playoffs and five have been clean. In the other, he allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning as the Dodgers dropped Game 1 to the Cubs.

Phillies fans still keep tabs on former players from their Golden Era and applaud them when they return, but seeing Utley, Chooch and Kentucky Joe in the Fall Classic wearing Dodger blue might be too much for some to take.