Resurgent Polanco leads late Phils rally in win

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Resurgent Polanco leads late Phils rally in win

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Placido Polanco, hitting .196 four days ago, hitting .250 now, was asked Monday night if hes made any adjustments at the plate.

Yeah, I changed shoes, he said. Im wearing 10 12 now.

Pause. Then laughter.

Polanco was joking, but the adjustments hes made are almost as subtle as changing shoe size.

Yeah, Im putting my weight on my back leg a little bit more, choke up a little bit more, he said. Little adjustments. Little adjustments that make a big difference.

The rejuvenated Polanco belted a two-run, two-out double into the deep left-field corner off reliever Rafael Dolis in the bottom of the eighth to give the Phillies a 6-4 win over the Cubs and a split of their four-game series Monday night at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

Polanco, 9 for 51 as of last Tuesday, is 7 for 16 in his last four games.

His double was his first multiple-RBI hit in 10 months, since a grand slam against Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano gave the Phillies a 7-5 win here last June.

Is his almost year-long slump over?

You hope so, Polanco said. You work. You keep working. You kind of relax a little more when youve been around a little bit, but at the same time you also want to come and make adjustments on what youre doing wrong. The last four or five games Ive been feeling really good.

Polanco really hasnt hit since last April. He was sitting at .398 a year ago today, the last day of April, then hit .243 the rest of the year. Add in his slow start this year, and Polanco was at .236 over virtually a full season.

Maybe things are changing. The two-run double was the hardest-hit ball Polanco has hit all year.

He drove that ball real good, Charlie Manuel said. The pitch was down and in, and he got to it. That was real good to see. Hes been doing a lot of work on his hitting, and the last four or five games, his swing has gotten better.

The Phillies hammered out five hits and four runs off Cubs starter Chris Volstad, and Phillies starter Vance Worley pitched well again, leaving after seven innings with a 4-1 lead.

But after Antonio Bastardo and Chad Qualls worked an ugly eighth, the game was tied at 4-4, and the Phillies hadnt scored since the first.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth, pinch-hitter Juan Pierre was hit by a pitch, and after Freddy Galvis popped up, Jimmy Rollins singled to right. That set the stage for Polanco, who entered the game with just two RBIs in 19 games.

I know that guy throws really hard and has a lot of movement, so I was looking for that fastball and make it be up a little bit, Polanco said. It was a good pitch, but I was able to turn on it.

Its been a while since Polancos last late-inning clutch two-out hit.

Its a good feeling, Polanco said. Especially when its game-winning RBIs in a tight ball game in the eighth. Its a good feeling.

Polanco said he never got too concerned about his slow start. Hes a .300 career hitter now in his 15th major-league season. He wasnt going to panic.

Its a long season, and I know we still have five months left, he said. Last year, I had a great first month and after that I didnt do anything, so I guess itll all work out if I keep working.

Last year, a great April and nothing after that.

This year? A poor April and then a hot streak?

Thats what Im trying to do, he said. Im seeing the ball good. I can control what I can control, and thats show up early, work hard and try to take tough at-bats in there, and whatever happens happens, and Im doing what I can do.

Polanco also made three defensive gems at third. He made a diving stab of a shot down the line by Volstad in the third, he made a sweet play on a pretty good drag bunt by Tony Campana in the fourth, and with the bases loaded and nobody out, he bailed out Worley by fielding a hard-hit ball by Geovany Soto and turning it into a 5-3 double play.

I always say that you play good defense, you can win a lot of games, said Polanco, a three-time Gold Glove winner. Because you might be a great-hitting team, but youre not going to hit every day, and we have good pitching.

And the big defensive plays mean as much to him as the big hits.

Without a doubt, he said. Were here for one purpose, which is to win games, and all that helps.

The Cubs three-run eighth, including Bryan LaHairs two-run homer off Qualls, cost Worley his third win, but Worley was very good again, allowing one run and five hits in seven innings.

In his last three starts, Worley has pitched 20 innings, giving up 14 hits, two earned runs, walking six and striking out 21 with a 0.90 ERA. Hes allowed just seven earned runs in 32 innings this year and has his ERA down to 1.97.

The Phils are 4-2 in their last six and now just one game under .500 at 11-12 going into a six-game road trip against the Braves and Nationals.

Its just the first month, Worley said. Nothing to really worry about. We just got to go out and play and not do too much thinking out there and see how things roll.

The Phillies open a three-game series with the Braves on Tuesday in Atlanta and start a three-game series with the Nationals on Friday in Washington.

I think were starting to swing the bats better, Manuel said. Ive seen us have rough Aprils before, but were close. Were a game under .500. Were starting a new month and I hope we can play better.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

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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.

Best of MLB: Blue Jays get walk-off win vs. Red Sox

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Best of MLB: Blue Jays get walk-off win vs. Red Sox

TORONTO -- With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Toronto Blue Jays' repeated comeback efforts on Saturday were starting to look like they might come up agonizingly short.

But with Justin Smoak, Russell Martin and Devon Travis all facing consecutive two-strike counts against Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, a four-time All-Star, an unlikely thing happened.

They all cashed in, and the Blue Jays walked off with a 10-9 victory, their fourth straight against Boston and their third walk-off win of the year.

"With the potency in our lineup, I feel like no lead is really big enough," said Martin, who went 3-for-5 and hit his third home run in four days in the sixth inning. "We can always find a way to get runners on and also if the other team makes a mistake, capitalizing on those mistakes. I think that was the key for us today. I think there was a couple miscues on defense for them and we were able to take advantage of that."

Martin kick-started the rally in the eighth that led Toronto back from a four-run deficit to tie the game at 8. But he really got things going in the ninth, with Ezequiel Carrera on as a pinch-runner for Smoak, doubling a fastball into left field to tie the game at 9 (see full recap).

Royals score 7 in 9th to beat White Sox; Perez hurt
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Brett Eibner wondered whether anything could surpass the Kansas City Royals' rally Friday night, when they overcome a four-run deficit to beat the Chicago White Sox in his major league debut.

He did not have to wait long to find out.

Eibner singled to cap the biggest ninth-inning comeback in Royals history, a seven-run rally off David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle that lifted the World Series champions over the Chicago White Sox 8-7 Saturday.

"I didn't think I could beat yesterday and, sure enough, we come around and do this," said Eibner, who also doubled to helped spark the inning. "It's super fun. There's nothing like it. I don't think I've ever experienced that."

Kansas City's Salvador Perez was injured in the ninth when third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert slid with a forearm and elbow into the left thigh of the All-Star catcher, who called off Chien-Ming Wang (3-0), settled under Adam Eaton's foul popup about 30 feet from the plate near the third-base line and snagged the ball just before he was hit.

Perez was taken for a MRI after the game and the extent of his injury was not announced. The preliminary diagnosis was a bruised left thigh (see full recap).

Braves beat Marlins to lock up first home series win
ATLANTA -- Braves interim manager Brian Snitker says Gordon Beckham is "bouncing around like he's a teenager."

That makes sense, because the return to his childhood hometown has helped Beckham add new life to his career.

Beckham hit a three-run homer, Nick Markakis drove in two runs and Atlanta beat the Miami Marlins 7-2 on Saturday to secure their first home series win of the season.

Beckham, 29, an Atlanta native and former University of Georgia standout, spent most of his first seven seasons with the Chicago White Sox before signing with the Braves as a free agent. He is hitting .317 while earning more starts at third base and second base than was expected at the start of the season.

"I feel good," Beckham said. "I enjoy putting on this uniform every day. It's a lot of fun for me, being from Atlanta."

The Braves improved to a still-dismal 4-20 at Turner Field by winning the first two games of the three-game series. Atlanta rallied from a 2-0 deficit for the second straight day (see full recap).

Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

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Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

CHICAGO – Other than the Italian beef sandwiches from Portillo’s that he loves so much, Pete Mackanin hasn’t had much to feel good about during his trip to his hometown.
 
Mackanin’s rebuilding Phillies have been bulldozed by the powerful Chicago Cubs two days in a row (see game story) and have lost four of five games on a road trip that ends with one more in Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon.
 
As difficult as it was to see his club get roughed up on Saturday, Mackanin was able to find a sliver of something good in the rubble of a 4-1 defeat.
 
“The highlight of the day was Freddy Galvis -- all day,” Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin listed all the things his 26-year-old shortstop did, from a tremendous relay throw to the plate to stop a run from scoring, to his two hustle plays that led to the Phillies’ only run in the ninth.
 
Galvis, who made several outstanding plays in the field on Friday, vowed to cut down on his errors after making 17 last season. He has just one in 48 games this season and Mackanin is more than impressed with the improvement.
 
“He’s making every play there is,” Mackanin said. “To me, if he’s not the best shortstop in the league, I’d like to see the guy that’s playing as consistent defense as he is.
 
“I’m thrilled with the way he’s playing. He’s playing hard and kind of taken a leadership role just with the way he goes about his business.”
 
Galvis has improved his defense by committing himself to concentrating for 27 outs and not getting careless on routine plays.
 
“I’ve been working with Larry Bowa on trying to set my feet and make the routine plays,” he said. “Don’t try to do too much. Just throw the ball, catch the ball and that’s it. So far, so good.”
 
Mackanin has made it clear that he expects his players to play hard and hustle. He made a huge statement to that effect when he benched his best player, Odubel Herrera, for not running out a ground ball in Detroit on Monday night.
 
So it was not surprising to see Mackanin heap praise on Galvis for his hustle in the top of ninth inning Saturday.
 
Galvis led off the inning with a pop up to right field. Outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist got their signals crossed and the ball fell in. Galvis, running hard the whole way, ended up on second with a fluke double.
 
“That was huge the way he ran that out,” Mackanin said.
 
Galvis then moved to third on a ground ball and scored the Phillies’ only run on a risky base running play. Ryan Howard whiffed on a dropped third strike. As catcher Miguel Montero threw to first to complete the out, Galvis sprinted down the line and slid safely into home. He was able to get a huge jump because the Cubs shifted Howard and left third uncovered. Had Galvis been out at the plate, the game would have been over and it would have gone down as a bad play. But he made it and Mackanin loved it. 
 
“He hustled on a routine fly ball that turned into a double, advanced and scored on the throw to first after the strikeout – it made my whole day,” Mackanin said. “It burnt the shutout. I like to see a guy like that play with that kind of energy.”
 
Earlier in the game, Galvis was hit by a pitch on the right ankle. The pitch got him good and he hobbled to first base. But his dash for home in the ninth inning proved he was OK. Still, he wore an ice pack on the leg after the game. It was a noticeable enough ice pack that Galvis had to be asked whether he expected to play on Sunday.
 
“(Bleep) yeah,” he said.