Streaking Phillies top Brewers to open road trip

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Streaking Phillies top Brewers to open road trip

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MILWAUKEE -- It turns out the old sparkplug still has a little juice.

Leading off for the first time since 2004, Michael Young went 3 for 5 and conspired with John Mayberry to produce six hits from the top two spots in the lineup. Tyler Cloyd did the rest for yet another quality start, and the Phillies opened a 10-game road trip with a 5-1 win in Milwaukee on Thursday (see Instant Replay).

The Phils (31-30) won for the fifth straight game and climbed over .500 for the first time this season.

Mayberry also went 3 for 5, Delmon Young homered and Cloyd worked into the seventh without surrendering a run, all helping the Phillies claim a relatively comfortable win.

"We're happy the hard work has started to pay off and we're starting to see it in the standings," Michael Young said. "I think we're very happy with our style of play right now. We're doing a good job on the bases, running aggressively, pushing the envelope. The bases is one of those places where you can create some energy for your team, and we're doing a good job of that right now."

A pair of infield singles ignited a first-inning rally that gave Cloyd some early support. The Phillies ultimately loaded the bases with no outs, then scored on Ryan Howard's laser-beam sacrifice fly to center and a wild pitch from Brewers starter Wily Peralta (4-7), who labored through five innings of work.

"We caught a couple breaks with two infield hits, and Jimmy got a clean one," Young said, referring to the Jimmy Rollins' single to load the bases. "Their guy has great stuff and has a real bright future, but Tyler did really well. He limited the damage. Their big guys in the middle managed a couple singles, and that was about it."

Cloyd allowed four hits -- all singles -- in 6 2/3 innings of work. He worked around five walks and has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his five starts since subbing in for Roy Halladay. He was saddled with a hard-luck loss in his last start Saturday, also against the Brewers.

"We mixed up a lot, threw a lot of different sequences, different pitches to hitters," Cloyd said of facing the same team twice in a week. "I made little adjustments mechanics-wise, which has helped me keep the ball down. Obviously when the ball is down, you get a little more movement on pitches. The offspeed has been down in the zone and that's the biggest thing."

The Phillies weren't satisfied with the 2-0 lead after one, scoring in the second when Cloyd drew a walk and motored around from first base on Mayberry's RBI double. In the third, speed again played a role when Domonic Brown stole both second and third base, then came across when Erik Kratz beat the ball to first to avoid a double play. Brown, who registered his team-leading 20th multi-hit game, now has six stolen bases for the year after stealing five in his career heading into 2013.

"We're not going to steal a lot of pitches when pitchers are really quick to the plate and catchers throw good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We don't have a legit base-stealer where he can go when a pitcher's release is about 1.2 or 1.25 [seconds], definitely 1.3. When you start getting up into the 1.4s and [1.]5s and [1.]6s, they have a good chance of making it."

Delmon Young added his third home run in seven games in the fifth to afford the Phillies a 5-0 lead. Milwaukee's lone run came across against reliever Mike Adams in the eighth on an RBI groundout by Jonathan Lucroy.

Two of Michael Young's hits were of the infield variety, including one to lead off the game.

"[Manuel] asked me about it when I got here," Young said of batting leadoff. "He asked if I'd done it before, I said, 'Yeah.' It doesn't really matter to me. My approach is always dictated on the situation in the game.

"I know what I'm capable of — I just have to try and stay the course. I had a little bit of a rough stretch there, but I just have to keep at it and stay the course."

The Brewers, who have been beleaguered by ineffectiveness and injuries within their rotation, plan to start Alfredo Figaro and Tom Gorzelanny over the next two days. Both have spent the majority of the year in the bullpen and may not have a typical starter's pitch count to work with, meaning the Phillies could benefit from forcing the Brewers to take a full four innings of relief work Thursday.

"We've still got to come out and outplay them," Manuel said. "Sometimes in this game when things don't look so bright for you, something always happens. That's why you go play. You don't take anything for granted."

Best of MLB: Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

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Best of MLB: Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge circled the bases for the 50th time this season, breaking Mark McGwire's major league record for home runs by a rookie, and returned to the Yankees dugout to exchange handshakes, hugs and high-fives with excited teammates.

And then, he walked up the steps and back onto the field.

Embarrassed by the attention, he managed four short waves with his right hand before heading back to the bench just three seconds later.

"They kind of told me: `You got to go out there. You got to go out there,'" he would later recall. "First curtain call. I hope it was a good one."

Judge had his second straight two-homer game in an 11-3 rout of Kansas City on Monday. On an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon, the Yankees won for the 16th time in 22 games during a playoff push that earned no worse than a wild card.

The 6-foot-7, 25-year-old slugger tied McGwire's 1987 mark with a two-run drive to right-center off Jakob Junis (8-3) in the third inning that put New York ahead 3-0, driving a 93 mph high fastball 389 feet about a half-dozen rows into the right field seats (see full recap).

Russell makes food run, Cubs beat Cards to near clinch
ST. LOUIS -- Say cheese!

Addison Russell and the Chicago Cubs were all smiles after moving within a victory of another division title Monday night.

Russell hit a three-run double in the first inning, then made a food run for a fan in enemy territory while the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 10-2. Chicago can wrap up the division with a win Tuesday against the Cardinals or a loss by Milwaukee against Cincinnati.

Russell helped the Cubs get to starter Luke Weaver (7-2) early, then made some friends out of rival fans. After diving into the stands chasing a foul ball down the third-base line and spilling a man's tray of chips, Russell emerged from the dugout a few innings later with a plate of nachos and delivered it to the fan. Russell stopped to take a selfie before heading back to play shortstop.

"That was pretty entertaining," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said (see full recap).

Donaldson, Blue Jays stop Red Sox winning streak at 6
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox would like to get the AL East wrapped up quickly so they can start resting some banged-up players.

Josh Donaldson homered and drove in three runs, powering the Toronto Blue Jays past the first-place Red Sox 6-4 on Monday night.

Boston's six-game winning streak was snapped and its magic number to clinch a second straight division title remained at three. The Red Sox lead the second-place New York Yankees, who beat Kansas City earlier in the day, by four games with six remaining.

But the most important thing for the Red Sox was the loss of two key players to injuries. For how long? They don't know yet.

Eduardo Nunez and Mookie Betts both left the game early. Nunez aggravated a right knee injury that sidelined him for 13 games, and Betts came out with pain in his left wrist (see full recap).

Rangers fall to Astros, wild-card hopes fading
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Marwin Gonzalez had four hits and three RBIs as the AL West champion Houston Astros beat Texas 11-2 on Monday night, putting the Rangers on the brink of elimination in the wild-card race.

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, the American League leader with 199 hits and a .348 batting average, left in the eighth inning after he was hit by a 95 mph fastball. The team said X-rays were negative and Altuve had a bruised forearm.

Gonzalez had two hits and scored twice in an eight-run fourth, including a two-run single that chased starter Andrew Cashner (10-11). Gonzalez later hit his 23rd homer, a solo shot in the sixth.

Collin McHugh (4-2) struck out six while throwing 112 pitches in five innings. The right-hander is 15-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 19 starts in September or October during his four seasons with the Astros (see full recap).

In final start of 2017, Aaron Nola establishes himself as Phillies' best pitcher in loss

In final start of 2017, Aaron Nola establishes himself as Phillies' best pitcher in loss

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Before beginning their season-ending six-game homestand Monday night, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin singled out Aaron Nola when asked about the positives of what is mostly a dismal 2017 season. 

“Nola has really established himself,” Mackanin said pregame. “To me, he’s a solid No. 3 starter.”

Nola then looked the part in what was likely his final start of the year, using a sharp curveball to strike out nine over six innings in the Phillies’ 3-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park (see observations)

“I felt like just the command and getting ahead of hitters helped out this year,” Nola said. 

Returning from elbow surgery that ended his 2016 season in July, Nola (12-11) became the best starter on the team thanks to the development of a changeup in spring training to go with his fastball and dominant curveball. 

“I felt a lot stronger,” the soft-spoken Nola said when asked to sum up his season. “I felt like I was using my legs more and that increased my velocity a little bit.” 

Nola allowed two runs or fewer in 18 of his 27 starts. His 184 strikeouts are the most by a Phillies pitcher who made fewer than 30 starts in a season. 

“I wouldn’t call him a power pitcher. He doesn’t appear to be a strikeout pitcher,” Mackanin said. “But when you can locate your fastball and get ahead with your fastball down in the strike zone and have that kind of curveball and then you add that kind of changeup, now the hitter has three pitches to worry about.”

He struck out 36 over his final four starts and 25 1/3 innings, using his sweeping curve as an out pitch. All but one of his strikeout Monday night came on the curve. 

“It’s been good,” Nola said. “I’ve been able to command it on both sides of the plate and down, which has helped me. I felt like my fastball command was better this year than it was last year.” 

In a rotation in which basically nothing else is settled, Nola gives the Phillies an anchor for next season. The 24-year-old LSU product has a 3.54 ERA and the changeup gives him three quality pitches. 

“It’s been kind of the cherry on top, a little bit, being able to throw that right-on-right,” catcher Andrew Knapp said of the changeup. “It’s a hard pitch to hit when you’re left-handed hitter. But when you’re right-handed and coming to that back foot, it’s a really good pitch.” 

Nola retired the first four hitters before Jayson Werth singled and Michael A. Taylor followed by crushing a 3-1 fastball into the left-field seats for his 17th homer. 

It was the 18th home run allowed by Nola. But he got into a groove from there. Facing a lineup without Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, Nola held the NL East champions to two runs and five hits with two walks. 

But it didn’t prevent the Phillies from losing for the fourth time in five games. 

Odubel Herrera’s solo home run on an 0-2 pitch from A.J. Cole (3-5) in the fourth was all the offense the Phillies could muster. They’ve managed seven runs in four games. 

Rhys Hoskins is slumping (0 for 4 and hasn’t homered since Sept. 14) and Nick Williams struck out three times. 

“Our bats have gone silent for a few days now,” Mackanin said. 

They still have to win one more to avoid 100 losses, and many changes are possible in the offseason. Mackanin said before the game that “I still don’t know if I’ll be back here next year (see story)”. 

It’s a team that still has plenty of holes and lots of questions ahead of 2018. 

Nola, though, appears to be someone they can rely on. 

“The goal is to have five (reliable) guys on every start. But it’s nice,” Mackanin said. “When Nola pitches, we all expect to win. He’s done an outstanding job. He’s had the arm issues, but he came back from that better than he was before.”