Phils, Manuel reach milestones in dramatic win


Phils, Manuel reach milestones in dramatic win


ATLANTA On the last and wildest night of the regular season, the Phillies turned out the lights in Georgia and celebrated two significant milestones.

The Phils rallied twice in the late innings to end the Atlanta Braves season with an exciting and dramatic 4-3 victory in 13 innings at Turner Field. By eliminating the punch-drunk Braves, the Phils propelled themselves into a National League Division Series matchup against the sizzling St. Louis Cardinals, who stormed back from 8 games behind the Braves on Sept. 5 to claim the wild card. St. Louis finished the regular season with 16 wins in its final 21 games. Three of those wins came against the Phils at Citizens Bank Park.

Theyre an extremely hot team, Hunter Pence said late Wednesday night. Its going to be a good series. Two good teams going at it.

Pence spoke those words moments after singling home the go-ahead run in the win that gave the Phils a final-series sweep of Atlanta.

The victory officially made 2011 the best regular season in Phillies history. The Phils won 102 games, most in team history, one more than the 1976 and 1977 clubs won. They finished with the best record in the majors (102-60) for the second straight year.

The win was also Charlie Manuels 646th as Phillies manager, moving him ahead of Gene Mauch on the teams all-time list. After the game, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Madson stood in front of the team in the winning clubhouse and presented Manuel with a large bottle of champagne. The bottle was neatly emblazoned with a label that featured Manuels picture and 646.

That was pretty cool, Brad Lidge said. Charlie didnt want to talk about it much. He wanted to turn the page and get ready for the next step.

It was pretty amazing to do it on the day we got to 102 wins. Its a pretty special moment for our team and for him.

Manuels hiring before the 2005 season was unpopular. In 2007, the Phillies lost their 10,000th game as a franchise, but later that season started a run of five straight NL East titles.

I remember when we lost 10,000 games and some people acted like I was there for all 10,000, Manuel said. Now that Im the winningest manager, I might let someone else brag, but Ill definitely smile and take credit for it.

I cant imagine the success that weve had. Im in the position where I was the manager, but it was definitely a team thing. It came from the players that the organization put together. And the fans had a big hand in it because they affect how we play in Philadelphia. But I think the memories Ill have from it are what Ill cherish the most, and the guys who helped me achieve it.

Lidge was asked if reaching 102 wins was important to the team.

I think its a cool thing, he said. I dont think it would have made a lot of difference if we didnt do it, but Im glad we did. Im pretty excited to be part of it.

Manuel said the team victory record was very fitting for the club.

Weve had a big season, but at the same time we still have a lot of work to do, he said. Our ultimate goal is to go to the World Series and win, and I think were sitting in a pretty good position. Its up to us to go get it.

The Phillies clinched the NL East with a win over St. Louis on Sept. 17 and followed that with an eight-game losing streak before righting themselves with wins in their last four games.

I think we just kind of let our guard down a little bit and we had a lot of guys missing from our lineup, Lidge said. We can turn it on, but I think we turned it off in those eight games. We knew we had to get everyone back in there and start turning it on for the postseason. We saw it was time to start playing and we did.

We finished up the season the right way, added Ryan Howard. And being able to win 102 games is a great accomplishment. Its hard to win in this league. At the same time, we have our eye on bigger goals.

Atlanta came into the final series fighting for its playoff life. That intensity seemed to help the Phils, who came to play each night. Wednesday nights finale was super-intense with the Phils rallying for the tying run against ace closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth then pushing across the go-ahead run four innings later. On the way to the win, the Phils got eight shutout innings from a team of seven relievers. Rookie Michael Schwimer pitched two scoreless innings and another rookie, Justin De Fratus, got the win, while David Herndon earned the save.

This series was a nice little transition to the postseason for us, Lidge said. For them it was do-or-die. We were able to put our best team on the field. Were pretty tough when we have everyone together.

St. Louis is one of three teams that the Phillies had a losing record against this season. The Cardinals won six of nine meetings. Roy Halladay will face lefty Jaime Garcia in Game 1 Saturday. Game time is expected to be announced Thursday.

Theyve been playing some great ball, Howard said. They had to scratch and claw to make it to this point at the end of the season, so theyre a very dangerous team. You cant take them lightly. For us, we just need to do our thing, just focus on ourselves, pitch well, hit well, play good defense.

Manuel agreed.

Theyre a good team, he said. They can hit. Weve played them nine times this year and theyre a challenge for us. But at the same time, I look at it and theyve got good hitters. They can be a little weak on defense and their bullpen theyve got talent in their bullpen, theyve got big arms but theyve had kind of a weakness so far. Weve got to play hard. Its pretty even.

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Today's Lineup: Tommy Joseph, Andres Blanco in to help avoid sweep vs. Cubs


Today's Lineup: Tommy Joseph, Andres Blanco in to help avoid sweep vs. Cubs

Seeking to avoid being swept for the first time since their opening series in Cincinnati, the Phillies on Sunday afternoon will ask Tommy Joseph to provide a much needed spark.

Joseph, 24, sat out Saturday's 4-1 loss to the MLB-best Cubs with Chicago trotting out right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who crafted a five-hit, one-run complete game masterpiece.

It will be Joseph's fifth game against a righty this week, as manager Pete Mackanin's platoon at first base with Ryan Howard seemingly is coming to an end. Joseph will bat fifth.

With the Phillies averaging 3.22 runs per game, second-worst in baseball, and owning a run differential of minus-38, playing Joseph more is one of a few moves Mackanin can make.

Take into account Howard's average dipped to .154 after an 0 for 4, two-strikeout game Saturday, the decision to give Joseph more at-bats makes sense. It has for a while now.

Plus, Joseph has enjoyed success during his time up with the Phillies. The first baseman is hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs. He is, however, hitting just .211 with seven of his 10 strikeouts in 19 at-bats against righties. He'll face a good one in John Lackey (4-2, 3.32) on Sunday.

Mackanin has also decided to start Andres Blanco at second base against Chicago, which has proved to be too much for the Phils through the first two games. Blanco, 32, will bat third against Lackey, who he has never faced in his career. The utility man is hitting .281 with one long ball and eight RBIs in 35 games this season.

In other lineup news, the Cubs will start Villanova product Matt Szczur in left field in the series finale, giving Jorge Soler the day off. During his junior baseball season at 'Nova in 2010, Szczur took time off to donate bone marrow that helped saved a young girl in Ukraine. (Read more on Szczur here from's Jim Salisbury.) Szczur is hitting .375 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 40 at-bats this season with Chicago.

Here are today's full lineups:

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Andres Blanco, 2B
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Tyler Goeddel, LF
8. Vince Velasquez, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Miguel Montero, C
7. Addison Russell, SS
8. Matt Szczur, LF
9. John Lackey, P

For more on today's game, read Steven Tyding's game notes.

Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Getting Vince Velasquez back on track


Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Getting Vince Velasquez back on track

Phillies (26-23) at Cubs (33-14)
2:20 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies have lost back-to-back games to the MLB-best Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field and on Sunday afternoon, they'll look to salvage a victory in the series finale.

Here are five things to get you ready for the ballgame:

1. Avoiding a sweep
Phillies fans had losing shoved down their throats for long stretches last season. This season has been much different … at least until the last three series.

With Saturday's loss, the Phils have lost three consecutive series for the first time in 2016 and will look to avoid their first sweep since their opening series in Cincinnati. The 4-1 victory by the Cubs was the Phillies' fourth loss in five games. They haven't lost five of six since September 2015. 

Meanwhile, the Cubs have won four straight games after losing eight of 12 games in mid-May. A win Sunday would give Chicago its fourth win streak of at least four games already in 2016. 

If that doesn't underline how tough a task the Phillies have ahead of them, Sunday's starter will do the trick.

2. Solving Lackey
John Lackey doesn't have the pizzazz of a Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester, but the veteran righty has been a consistent force in the Cubs' rotation. Coming over from the rival Cardinals in free agency, Lackey has a 4-2 record with a 3.38 ERA in nine starts in 2016.

However, the underlying numbers have been even better. He's completed six innings in all but one start and has seven quality starts. He has 61 strikeouts compared to just 13 walks and 45 hits in 61⅓ innings. 

Lackey has been a workhorse for the Cubs and has struck out at least five batters in each of his last four starts. 

The good news for Phillies fans? Despite Lackey's solid numbers, the Cubs have lost four of his nine starts.

3. Getting back on track
At 23 years old, it's tough to expect Vince Velasquez to be an ace all season, even if he may fill that role at some point in the not-so-distant future. 

So Velasquez's relatively minor struggles over his last few starts shouldn't worry fans as a sign of things to come. In Detroit, the flamethrowing righty could only complete four innings while giving up three home runs. While he struck out 10 and gave up no runs the start before against Miami, he failed to get past the fifth inning.

Those two starts came after consecutive outings where Velasquez gave up four runs in six innings. His last quality start came May 1, although it's tough to call his game against the Marlins anything but impressive.

While he's faced some strong lineups like the Mets and Nationals, the Cubs are a force Velasquez hasn't dealt with quite yet. He has no career numbers against the Cubs' probable starters, a group that has combined to be one of baseball's top offenses in 2016.

4. Who's on first?
Ryan Howard's final season in Philadelphia has been a grind to say the least. The veteran first baseman has just six hits in 58 at-bats in May and has just a .154 batting average this year. Howard's eight home runs have been a bright spot, but he doesn't have a homer since May 11.

Howard has three hits (two home runs) in 16 career at-bats against Lackey. But with right-handed first baseman Tommy Joseph excelling in his first big-league action, manager Pete Mackanin may turn to the rookie Sunday, as Howard tries to end his slump.

5. This and that
• Obubel Herrera is 3 for 4 in his only career appearances against Lackey. Maikel Franco is 2 for 3 against the righty.

• The Phillies are 3-0 in the final game of road trips this year … and 3-0 in the final game of homestands, too. 

• The Cubs have not swept the Phillies in Chicago since 1995.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field


Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Where are you now?
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

Trainer's room
Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

Up next
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May -- including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.