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2016 World Series: Cubs’ Lester seeks more Series dominance

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —    A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:



Next year? It can wait. The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians play Game 1 of the World Series, each with hopes of ending a long championship drought. Chicago hasn’t been to the Series since 1945 and hasn’t won since 1908, and Cleveland earned its most recent title in 1948.

How long has it been for Chicago? Dexter Fowler will become the first black player to suit up for the Cubs in a World Series when he likely bats leadoff at Progressive Field.

Jon Lester gets the ball for Chicago, and at 32 years old, he’s already one of the best World Series pitchers ever. He’s won all three of his starts and has a 0.43 ERA, third-best among pitchers with at least 20 World Series innings, behind Madison Bumgarner and Jack Billingham. Lester is matched up against 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, a contender for the prize again this season.

The Indians hope to have Jason Kipnis in the lineup after the second baseman sprained his left ankle celebrating the final out of the ALCS.


The Cubs might get back young slugger Kyle Schwarber, out since tearing knee ligaments on April 8. A person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Monday that Schwarber was traveling to Cleveland, but the person did not know yet if the slugger would be on the roster. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the roster won’t be announced until Tuesday. Schwarber has played two games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks. He hit five homers in nine postseason games as a rookie last year.


Want to get into Wrigley Field for Game 3? It will cost you a couple thousand dollars at least, and at that price point, don’t expect a seat. Standing room tickets are going for more than $2,200, and fans have called ticket brokers willing to pay as much as $12,000 for a seat. Meanwhile, Cleveland figures to have some Wrigleyville vibes for Games 1 and 2 — ticket-selling site StubHub reported a quarter of all tickets purchased for Game 1 are being paid for with credit cards associated with Illinois ZIP codes.


Umpire Larry Vanover will work his first World Series game and do it from behind home plate. John Hirshbeck will be the crew chief, joined by Series veterans Joe West and Sam Holbrook and first-timers Vanover, Chris Guccione, Marvin Hudson and Tony Randazzo. Holbrook, working his second Series, will be the replay official for the first two games, then will switch places with Vanover. This will be the sixth World Series for West and fifth for Hirschbeck.


Less than a decade after its opening, Yankee Stadium is being renovated. New York is adding seven new social gathering spaces, a move that will cut capacity by about 2,100 seats. The Yankees are adding a children’s zone in the right-field upper deck and replacing obstructed view bleacher seats with outdoor party decks.


CLEVELAND (AP) — The last time the Cleveland Indians won the World Series, Dewey led Truman in the polls. The Chicago Cubs’ last title was 13 days after the first Ford Model T car was completed.

Lovable losers known for decades of defeat meet in this year’s championship, a combined 174 seasons of futility facing off starting Tuesday night at Progressive Field.

Cleveland’s last title was in 1948, when 16 teams from the East Coast to St. Louis competed in a just-integrated sport. The Cubs are trying to win for the first time since 1908 , a dead ball-era matchup at a time home runs were rarities along with telephones.

No player is alive from the last championship Cubs or even the last to make a Series appearance — Tuesday marks the 25,948th day since the Cubs’ Game 7 loss to Detroit in 1945. One player remains from the 1948 Indians, 95-year-old Eddie Robinson.

“It seems like it’s just forever,” Robinson said Monday from his home in Fort Worth, Texas. “When we got home from Boston, there was a monumental parade. It just looked like everybody in Cleveland came out on Euclid Avenue.”

One team’s fans will let loose with the celebration of a lifetime. But while history weighs on the supporters, Cubs manager Joe Maddon focuses his players with a now-centered battle cry of “Win the Inning!”

“Air conditioning is popular right now. So is color TV,” he said. “You’ve just got to change with the times.”

Both teams worked out under cloudy skies Monday as the new 59-by-221-foot scoreboard behind the left-field seats — the largest in the major leagues — trumpeted the Sisyphean matchup. While the Cubs play in Wrigley Field, the 102-year-old brick-and-ivy jewel on Chicago’s North Side, the Indians are in a 22-year-old throwback-style ballpark originally called Jacobs Field.

Led by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs led the major leagues with 103 wins during the regular season, then beat San Francisco and Los Angeles in the playoffs. But since the playoffs expanded in 1995, only four teams with the best regular-season record won the title: the 1998 and 2009 New York Yankees, and the 2007 and 2013 Boston Red Sox.

“I promise you, our guys are going to be in the present tense,” Maddon said. “I think we all have a tremendous amount of respect for history and what’s happened before us or not happened before us. But, you know, you go in that room right now, they’re very young. Really not impacted by a lot of the lore.”

Jon Lester, 7-1 in his career against Cleveland, starts for the Cubs and Corey Kluber opens for the Indians. Lester is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three postseason starts this year and 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in a trio of Series outings. He learned to prepare from watching Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett in Boston.

“They prepared the same way for this start as they would for a regular start during the season,” he said.

Kluber pitched shutout ball twice in the playoffs before allowing two runs in five innings in Game 4 at Toronto. His father, Jim, was born in Cleveland and rooted for the Indians growing up in suburban Highland Heights.

“I think every parent is excited if their kid has a chance to play in the World Series,” said the 30-year-old right-hander, who could win his second AL Cy Young Award in three years.

Both teams were dealing with injuries that caused changes in planning.

Chicago included outfielder Kyle Schwarber, out since tearing knee ligaments on April 7. He played a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks.

“Reports are good,” Maddon said. “He’s swinging the bat well. He’s running really well.”

Cleveland, juggling all year because of health mishaps, put on pitcher Danny Salazar, who could start Game 4. The All-Star right-hander has not pitched since Sept. 9 because of forearm tightness but threw a simulated game Sunday.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis was dealing with a sprained left ankle, hurt when he jumped and shortstop Francisco Lindor accidentally stepped on his foot while celebrating the last out of the ALCS.

“He might not be 100 percent, but I don’t think it’s going to get in the way,” Francona said.

Cleveland fell three outs short of the 1997 title when Jose Mesa blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 at Florida and an error by second baseman Tony Fernandez led to the Marlins’ winning run in the 11th.

The Series starts just after a ceremony across the street when LeBron James and the Cavaliers receive championship rings before their opener celebrating this year’s NBA title, the first for Cleveland’s big league teams since the NFL’s Browns in 1964.

“It’s a pretty neat set of circumstances,” said Indians reliever Andrew Miller, the ALCS MVP. “Obviously the fans wish they had won quite a bit previously, but I think the Cubs are even going to overshadow us in that history.”

While Chicago has many famous fans, among them actor Bill Murray and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Cleveland is rooted on by Tom Hanks and Drew Carey. And the Indians’ losing history received nationwide attention in the 1989 film “Major League,” featuring Charlie Sheen as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn.

Maddon prepared for the Series while watching some baseball movies, “42” — “we had to beat the Dodgers before I could watch it” — and “Field of Dreams.”

“I’m that guy,” he said. “I cry easily, so the connection to the past is very important, very important.”


2016 World Series: How the Cubs and Indians match up

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-   A position-by-position look at the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians going into the World Series, starting Tuesday night at Progressive Field:


First Base:

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo. A cancer survivor and top contender for NL MVP this season, Rizzo was the first member of Chicago’s current young core to arrive, in a January 2012 trade with San Diego. Now, he’s a power-hitting staple with a patient eye in the middle of a loaded lineup. Rizzo busted out of a 2-for-26 slump by going 7 of 14 with two homers and five RBIs over the last three games of the NL Championship Series.

Indians: Mike Napoli. Pasted on T-shirts all over town, “Party at Napoli’s” has been the popular cry in Cleveland this year. And it’s no wonder. With 34 homers and 101 RBIs, the veteran slugger has been perhaps baseball’s biggest free-agent bargain after signing a $7 million, one-year contract. Napoli is a proven winner, appearing in the playoffs eight of the past 10 years.

Edge: Cubs.


Second Base:

Cubs: Javier Baez. Slick and flashy in the field, the 23-year-old Baez has become a breakout star this postseason and was co-MVP of the NLCS. Blessed with rare bat speed, he’s cut down on his big swing and strikeout rate, helping him deliver several clutch hits. Supremely confident, excellent instincts — he even stole home in the NLCS opener. Power to all fields and perhaps a future Gold Glove winner, too.

Indians: Jason Kipnis. A two-time All-Star, Kipnis grew up a huge Cubs fan outside Chicago. He’s a leader in the clubhouse who provides left-handed pop and some speed. He hit two homers in the playoffs but went 1 for 19 (.053) during the ALCS. Kipnis sprained his left ankle while celebrating after the final out of the pennant clincher in Toronto, an injury that was still bothering him on the eve of the World Series.

Edge: Indians, on track record. Cubs, on pure talent.



Cubs: Addison Russell. Another impressive youngster, the 22-year-old Russell batted .238 with 21 homers and 95 RBIs this season, his second in the majors, and was elected to start the All-Star Game along with several Cubs teammates. Russell also snapped out of a postseason skid (1 for 24) in the final three NLCS games, going 6 for 13 with two homers and four RBIs. He was obtained from Oakland when Chicago traded pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in July 2014.

Indians: Francisco Lindor. Next in a bumper crop of gifted young infielders on display in this Series. The 22-year-old Lindor, runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year last season, can do it all — including light up a ballpark with his energy and smile. He batted .323 with two homers, two doubles and four RBIs in eight playoff games, also showing off his vast array of skills to the national audience. Cleveland drafted Lindor eighth overall in 2011 — one pick before the Cubs took Baez.

Edge: Indians.


Third Base:

Cubs: Kris Bryant. Probably the favorite for NL MVP, the 24-year-old Bryant has delivered immediately on his promise of big power after he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2013. Last season’s NL Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star already, he had a .939 OPS with 39 homers and 102 RBIs this season. But he’s more than just a bopper. Also a versatile defender, Bryant runs pretty well and is a better all-around player than his profile might suggest.

Indians: Jose Ramirez. The unheralded Ramirez has been a pleasant surprise for Cleveland, filling a hole at third base with an excellent season. The switch-hitter batted .312 with 11 home runs, 46 doubles, 76 RBIs and an .825 OPS. Not to mention 22 stolen bases and his knack for clutch hits. Wow, right? Did anyone outside Ohio even notice? Ramirez was a mixed bag in the AL playoffs, going 5 for 10 with four runs against Boston but 1 for 17 vs. Toronto.

Edge: Cubs.



Cubs: David Ross, Willson Contreras or Miguel Montero. Longtime batterymates going back to their days in Boston, Ross is the regular catcher for Game 1 starter Jon Lester. Set to retire after this season, the graying 39-year-old is a fan favorite in Chicago, where Ross is affectionately known as Grandpa Rossy. He hit 10 homers in only 166 at-bats during a quality year at the plate and then went deep against the Giants in the NL playoffs. Contreras is an advanced right-handed hitter at age 24, and the rookie can also play left field and first base. Montero is a two-time All-Star with left-handed pop. He batted just .216 this year but caught both of Jake Arrieta’s playoff starts and delivered the third pinch-hit grand slam in postseason history, a tiebreaking shot against the Dodgers in the eighth inning of the NLCS opener.

Indians: Roberto Perez. Subbing for injured starter Yan Gomes, Perez provides strong defense behind the plate. He threw out 46 percent of attempted base stealers this season, and the Indians went 33-20 when he started. Limited to 61 games by a broken thumb, Perez batted .183 with three homers this year.

Edge: Cubs.


Left Field:

Cubs: Ben Zobrist. One of baseball’s most versatile players, Zobrist helped Kansas City win the World Series last season and then signed a $56 million, four-year contract with the Cubs. The productive switch-hitter is a three-time All-Star with a discerning eye who bats in the middle of the lineup to keep it balanced. He mostly played second base during the season but has been shifted to left field to make everyday room for Baez.

Indians: Rajai Davis or Coco Crisp. The speedy Davis was another free-agent pickup at a friendly price who played a significant role for the Indians. He hit 12 homers, scored 74 runs and led the AL with 43 steals but went hitless in 12 playoff at-bats. Crisp returned to his Cleveland roots when he was acquired from Oakland on Aug. 31, just in time to be eligible for the postseason. The 36-year-old switch-hitter finished the season with 13 homers and hit two more in the playoffs.

Edge: Cubs.


Center Field:

Cubs: Dexter Fowler. An underrated leadoff hitter, Fowler re-signed with Chicago late last offseason for $13 million in a surprise move that paid off handsomely for the Cubs. The switch-hitter compiled a career-best .393 on-base percentage and scored 84 runs in 125 games. When he gets on, the Cubs really go.

Indians: Tyler Naquin. With 14 home runs and an .886 OPS in 116 games, the 25-year-old Naquin ranked among rookie leaders in several offensive categories. A first-round draft pick in 2012 out of Texas A&M, he is 3 for 16 (.188) in the postseason with a pair of doubles.

Edge: Cubs.


Right Field:

Cubs: Jason Heyward. A major disappointment at the plate after signing with Chicago for $184 million over eight years, the three-time Gold Glove winner at least provides outstanding defense. He had a paltry .631 OPS this season and went 2 for 28 in the playoffs, dropping his career postseason batting average to .160 and occasionally leaving him on the bench.

Indians: Lonnie Chisenhall. The converted third baseman has found a home in right field, where Cleveland is happy with his defense. He batted .286 with eight homers and 57 RBIs this season, then connected for a big home run in the Division Series against Boston. Chisenhall is 10 for 30 (.333) in his postseason career.

Edge: Even.


Designated Hitter:

Cubs: Kyle Schwarber. In an October shocker, the expectation is Schwarber will return from an early-season knee injury in Game 1 of the World Series. A prodigious young power hitter, Schwarber played two games in April before tearing a pair of ligaments in his left knee. He was ruled out for the year but made a rapid recovery from surgery and was cleared to play two games in the Arizona Fall League. Apparently, that was enough for the Cubs. One year removed from college, Schwarber hit 16 homers with an .842 OPS in 69 games last season. Then he hit five more home runs in the 2015 playoffs.

Indians: Carlos Santana. The unusual thing about Santana is that he’s a power hitter who bats leadoff, because of his patient approach at the plate. The switch-hitter walked 99 times this season to go with a career-high 34 homers and 87 RBIs. Santana was 5 for 29 (.172) in the playoffs but homered twice in the ALCS.

Edge: Indians.


Starting Pitchers:

Cubs: Despite going seven decades without a pennant, Chicago has a pair of proven World Series arms in its deep rotation. Lester, co-MVP of the NLCS, won championship rings with Boston in 2007 and 2013. He is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three World Series starts and will be on regular rest Tuesday night. The 32-year-old lefty went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA this season and 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three playoff outings. Right behind him is Kyle Hendricks (16-8), who led the majors with a 2.13 ERA and beat Clayton Kershaw 5-0 with 7 1/3 innings of two-hit ball in the NLCS clincher. Arrieta (18-8), last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, has been inconsistent in the postseason. John Lackey (11-8), who just turned 38, won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as an Angels rookie and helped the Red Sox to their 2013 title.

Indians: Coming into the season, Cleveland had an enviable stable of young, power arms who made up one of baseball’s best rotations. That was before a string of injuries left the Indians piecing together their playoff pitching plans. Corey Kluber, the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, remains a workhorse at the top and will start the Series opener on two extra days of rest. He was 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and 227 strikeouts this season. Josh Tomlin (13-9) was dropped from the rotation after going 0-5 in August but got another chance in October and delivered. He won both playoff starts with a 2.53 ERA in his first postseason. Trevor Bauer (12-8) expects to pitch after a bleeding right pinkie forced him out early in Game 3 of the ALCS. He sliced open the finger while repairing one of the drones he enjoys flying as a hobby. Rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt came through with 4 1/3 scoreless in the Game 5 clincher, his second major league start. Carlos Carrasco is out with a broken pinkie, but All-Star righty Danny Salazar, sidelined since Sept. 9 because of forearm tightness, will be on the World Series roster. It’s unclear if he will start or work out of the bullpen. So the rotation remains Cleveland’s biggest question mark.

Edge: Cubs.



Cubs: A midseason trade for hard-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman gave the Cubs an imposing arm in the ninth inning. He’s been summoned in the eighth on occasion during the postseason, but hasn’t exactly been lights out. Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm offer live arms and good stuff from the right side, but aren’t always completely reliable. Left-handers Travis Wood and Mike Montgomery provide length and flexibility. There are options here. There is depth. But it’s not necessarily a dominant unit.

Indians: The team’s best weapon and biggest strength. The most powerful chess piece in this entire postseason has been Andrew Miller, the ALCS MVP acquired in July from the New York Yankees — where Chapman was his teammate. The 6-foot-7 lefty with the wipeout slider has struck out 21 over 11 2/3 scoreless innings after going 10-1 with a 1.45 ERA while striking out 14.9 batters per nine innings this year. The way Cleveland utilizes him, Miller starts looming by the middle innings and becomes an option in almost any high-leverage situation. He entered as early as the fifth during the AL playoffs. Not to be forgotten are closer Cody Allen (32 saves) and steady right-hander Bryan Shaw. And when Bauer was removed in the first inning, Dan Otero, Jeff Manship and Zach McAllister helped the relievers rack up 25 outs in a Game 3 win during the ALCS. With a 1.67 ERA in 32 1/3 playoff innings, the bullpen is a big reason Cleveland has thrown three shutouts this postseason. And if the Indians win the World Series, this group will likely rank among the greatest October bullpens in baseball history.

Edge: Indians.



Cubs: Plenty of options for a team that thrives on versatility, flexibility and depth. Montero and Contreras came through with huge pinch hits in the playoffs. Chris Coghlan is an experienced left-handed hitter who can play the infield and outfield. From the right side, Jorge Soler has power and Albert Almora Jr. brings fine defense. A healthy Schwarber would obviously add a very dangerous bat to the mix.

Indians: This unit would probably be deeper if not for an injury to All-Star Michael Brantley and drug suspensions for fellow outfielders Abraham Almonte and Marlon Byrd. Davis, Crisp or Naquin will likely be on the bench, offering speed and some pop. Davis and Crisp have plenty of experience, too. Brandon Guyer, obtained at the Aug. 1 trade deadline from Tampa Bay, can provide punch against left-handed pitching.

Edge: Cubs.



Cubs: Joe Maddon. A popular free spirit who led the Rays and Cubs out of the doldrums, Maddon is a three-time Manager of the Year with a philosophical approach. He wants his players to have fun and he thinks outside the box. He’s shown a quick hook with starting pitchers in October and has been accused of overmanaging. Maddon lost in his only previous trip to the World Series, in 2008 with Tampa Bay.

Indians: Terry Francona. After winning two World Series titles in Boston, ending an 86-year drought and overcoming a 3-0 ALCS deficit to the Yankees along the way, Francona is building a Hall of Fame resume. He has a deft touch — especially in October — and this year’s run with the injury-riddled Indians could become his masterpiece. Francona has an excellent feel for his players and knows how to take pressure off them. His aggressive, unconventional use of Miller and the rest of that brilliant bullpen is a huge reason the Indians are here.

Edge: Indians.


Pick: Cubs in 6.

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers 5-0 to reach 1st World Series since 1945

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CHICAGO (AP) — Anthony Rizzo caught the ball for the final out and Wrigley Field erupted.

“I’m sleeping with this thing tonight,” the Chicago Cubs first baseman told the pulsating crowd moments later, kissing the prized souvenir. “Are you kidding me? We’re going to the World Series.”

Cubs … World Series? Yes, the Cubbies!

Next up, Game 1 in Cleveland.

With fans chanting, singing and waving those Ws, shaking the century-old ballpark and jamming the streets of Wrigleyville, the Cubs celebrated a moment many of their faithful wondered whether they would ever see.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton Kershaw, Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs took their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night to win the NL Championship Series in six games.

“Listen to them. Outside before the game was crazy. Inside the game was crazy,” Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said.

“These guys have done nothing but support us from Day One. It’s been unbelievable to be here and be part of this. Words can’t really describe where I’m at right now,” he said.

Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, those “Lovable Losers” now have a chance to win it all.

Trying to win their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon’s team opens the World Series against Cleveland on Tuesday night.

The Indians haven’t won it all since 1948 — Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

“This city deserves it so much,” Rizzo said. “We got four more big ones to go, but we’re going to enjoy this. We’re going to the World Series. I can’t even believe that.”

All-everything Javier Baez and Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

The drought ended when Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play , setting off a wild celebration. And if they bring home the elusive championship?

“I may make the ‘W’ a tattoo,” said chairman Tom Ricketts , who once lived across the street and met his wife in the bleachers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal “wait till next year” is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure — the future is now.

“We’re too young. We don’t care about it,” star slugger Kris Bryant said. “We don’t look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We’re enjoying it and our work’s just getting started.”

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings . Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The Dodgers sent the minimum 27 batters to the plate and no one got past first base.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In the 1945 Series, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn’t allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first . Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer.Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game’s first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

“This day is never fun, the ending of a season,” Kershaw said.

The Dodgers haven’t been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days’ rest, Kershaw needed 30 pitches to get through the first. Fowler led off with a double against the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, and Bryant’s single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

Fans had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo’s fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

“Kershaw’s pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don’t feel like we’re losing anything on defense,” Maddon said. “I know Jason’s a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too.”

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs — 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the “Play Ball!” call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.

Cubs fans celebrate team’s 1st World Series berth since 1945

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CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Cubs fans waited 71 years to celebrate a return to the World Series.

Overjoyed fans streamed out of Wrigley Field and into the streets Saturday night after the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series to earn their first trip to the World Series since 1945.

Many people donned Cubbie blue and held “W” flags. Two people climbed a traffic pole, with one man shimmying all the way to the end. Police said he was later arrested, as were a couple of fans who lit fireworks.

A majority of the crowd, however, celebrated the victory peacefully. Many took selfies in front of the stadium and hugged one another. Some also broke out in song, while others shook up beer bottles and sprayed the crowd.

Police officers, including about a dozen cops on horseback, kept a close eye on the crowd. And some officers were seen giving high-fives to fans as they walked by.

Brian Dusza, who was at Wrigley for Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, never thought he’d see the team win the pennant

“I never thought I’d see it,” Dusza, 49, said after attending Saturday’s game. “I can’t even describe what I’m feeling.”

Among the few thousand fans who stayed in their seats an hour after the game ended was Ed Koenig of Darien. His eyes welled up as he talked about his father, who died in May.

“He never got to see this,” Koenig said. “I haven’t been to a game this season without him and when my friend won a lottery for these tickets, I thought ‘how am I going to go without my dad?'”

But his friend convinced him to go.

“I have his watch on,” Koenig said, showing off the watch on his wrist. “I thought I was going without my dad, but I’m with him.”

Before the game, Steve Zucker said that if the team won, he would go to his father’s grave and leave him a Cubs hat and T-shirt.

“My dad died playing cards, listening to the game on a little transistor radio, so I may bring that, too,” Zucker said.

Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks said after the game that this win and trip to the World Series was for the fans.

“I hope they enjoy this. They have been waiting a long time,” Hendricks said. “Best fans in the baseball, most dedicated fans, and they deserve a lot more of these.”

The Cubs will face the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 on Tuesday, with the series returning to Wrigley Field for Game 3 on Friday.


CHICAGO (AP) — When Jon Lester was a free agent two years ago, one of the reasons he decided to sign with the Chicago Cubs was a group of promising prospects that included all-around dynamo Javier Baez.

Look where they are now.

Lester and Baez were selected co-MVPs for the NL Championship Series on Saturday night after leading the Cubs to their first NL pennant since 1945.

Baez hit .318 (7 for 22) with five RBIs against the Dodgers, picking up right where he left off in the Division Series. The versatile Baez also made a couple of the NLCS’ most exciting plays, stealing home during Chicago’s victory in the opener and robbing Adrian Gonzalez of a hit with a terrific barehanded scoop in Game 5 on Thursday night.

“Just having fun,” Baez said. “Living my dream, playing like a little kid, moving everywhere, catching the ball and making plays.”

Next up for Baez and the Cubs is the World Series against Francisco Lindor and the Indians, beginning Tuesday night in Cleveland. Baez and Lindor are part of a dynamic group of young players from Puerto Rico that also includes Houston shortstop Carlos Correa.

Baez “grew up in Puerto Rico, played a lot of baseball as a youth, played a lot of winter ball,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s been taught properly and well. And when he goes out there, man, you saw him before the game sitting on the bench, saw him waving into the camera, he’s just being himself. I love that.”

Lester, one of baseball’s most accomplished playoff performers, went 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles. He has allowed just two runs in 21 innings in three postseason games this year.

Lester’s $155 million, six-year deal in December 2014 was a key moment in the Cubs’ turnaround from also-ran to contender. The left-hander is a sure bet to get the ball in Game 1 against the Indians, looking to improve to 4-0 in four World Series starts after helping Boston win it all in 2007 and 2013.

“It’s unbelievable. Going through this process, this is why they signed me,” Lester said. “This is why they wanted me to come here to win a World Series. This is why I wanted to come here, to win a World Series for this city and this organization, this ownership, this front office. … We still have a long ways to go.”

Lester and Baez became the first NLCS co-MVPs since Cincinnati relievers Rob Dibble and Randy Myers in 1990.

The Cubs grabbed Baez with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft. He made his major league debut in 2014, but really turned into a consistent force this year, batting .273 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs while playing several different positions.

After struggling for a while in his first year in Chicago, Lester went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA in 32 starts this season. The 19 wins matched a career high.

“You’re obviously going to feel more comfortable that second year as opposed to just getting thrown into that first year with a whole new atmosphere in front of you,” Lester said before Game 1 of the NLCS.


Jay Cohen can be reached at

MLB Playoffs: Cubs face Kershaw, try to end Series drought

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A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:



It’s been 71 years since the Chicago Cubs reached the World Series. They can finally halt the drought with a victory at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series at 8 p.m. EDT. Anticipating a long-awaited pennant, excited fans at jam-packed Wrigley Field will certainly be on the edge of their seats.


Standing in the way of a huge Cubs party is rested Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, perhaps the best pitcher in baseball. Shaking off his previous playoff struggles, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. With the Dodgers down 3-2 in the best-of-seven NLCS, will he rescue them again or flop in October once more? Game 7 would be Sunday night, if necessary.

“We’ve won two games in a row before,” Los Angeles first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. “Nothing says we can’t do it Saturday and Sunday.”

Kyle Hendricks, who led the majors with a 2.13 ERA this season, gets the ball for Chicago. Kershaw beat Hendricks 1-0 in Game 2 at Wrigley Field.


All-Star starter Danny Salazar plans to throw a three-inning simulated game, and the AL champion Indians will assess his status before deciding whether to put him on their World Series roster. Salazar hasn’t appeared in a major league game since Sept. 9 because of tightness in his right forearm. But he’s thrown well in recent bullpen sessions and could be an option in the Fall Classic — even if that means working in relief. “I think he’s ready to pitch,” manager Terry Francona said.

Cleveland also hopes Trevor Bauer will be available after his Game 4 start in the ALCS lasted less than an inning when his stitched right pinkie opened up and he had to be replaced because of excessive bleeding. Bauer said his finger is healing and he’s confident the added rest before the Series will allow him to pitch. Game 1 is Tuesday night in Cleveland.


Wild Thing is stuck in the bullpen. While actor Charlie Sheen, who played Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn in the movie “Major League,” offered to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before one of this year’s World Series games, Major League Baseball said the choices were already made. A spokesman said MLB worked with the Indians to identify “former franchise greats” to do the honors in Cleveland. There had been a movement by fans on social media for Sheen to throw out a first pitch and be part of pregame festivities. Released in 1989, “Major League” is a fictional account of the Indians finishing in first place with an unconventional group of players, including Vaughn.


Detroit’s new batting instructor is a familiar face in Motown. The team hired former Mariners and Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon as hitting coach and Leon Durham as assistant hitting coach on Friday. McClendon returns for his second stint with the Tigers after serving as bullpen coach in 2006 and hitting coach from 2007-13. He managed the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate in Toledo this season, guiding the team to a 68-76 record.

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers 8-4, head home with 3-2 lead in NLCS

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — One win away. Two chances at home. Seven decades of waiting.

The Chicago Cubs closed in on their first World Series trip since 1945 by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday in Game 5 of their National League playoff.

Jon Lester pitched seven sharp innings , Addison Russell hit a tiebreaking homer and the Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series.

On deck, a pair of opportunities to wrap up that elusive pennant at Wrigley Field.

“The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re not going to run away from anything. It’s within our reach right now.”

The Cubs’ first opportunity to clinch comes Saturday night in Game 6, when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw faces major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

“That’s a game we expect to win,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.

Of course, the Cubs were in the same favorable position 13 years ago — heading home to Wrigley with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS.

But even with ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood starting the final two games, Chicago collapsed against the Marlins in one of its most excruciating failures.

More than a decade later, the franchise is still chasing its first World Series championship since 1908.

“We’ve heard the history,” center fielder Dexter Fowler said, “but at the same time we’re trying to make history.”

Budding star Javier Baez was in the middle of everything for the Cubs, a common theme this October. The second baseman made a sensational defensive play when the game was still close in the seventh, and his three-run double capped a five-run eighth that made it 8-1.

After busting out of his postseason slump Wednesday, Russell hit a two-run homer for the second straight game. This one was a sixth-inning drive off losing pitcher Joe Blanton that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead.

“Just rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting,” Russell said. “Pumped up, not only for myself but for the team and that little cushion that Jonny had to go forward from that.”

Baez had three of Chicago’s 13 hits, matching the team’s total in Game 4, when the Cubs snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak and won 10-2.

Lester allowed one run and five hits, improving to 2-0 in three playoff starts this year. He has given up two runs in 21 innings.

The left-hander struck out six and walked one in a slow-paced game that lasted 4 hours, 16 minutes.

“These guys won the game for us,” Lester said, nodding toward Russell and Baez. “I was just kind of along for the ride.”

Anthony Rizzo’s run-scoring double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.

Los Angeles tied it in the fourth on Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI groundout.

Russell homered on an 0-1 pitch from Blanton, who gave up a single to Baez leading off the sixth. Baez stole second before Russell’s shot to left-center put the Cubs ahead on another unusually hot night at Dodger Stadium.

Blanton took his second loss of the series. The veteran right-hander gave up consecutive homers in the eighth inning of Game 1, including a tiebreaking grand slam by pinch-hitter Miguel Montero.

“Our confidence hasn’t wavered,” Roberts said . “This series certainly isn’t over.”

With the Dodgers trailing 3-1 in the seventh, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong end of a replay review for the second consecutive night.

With Baez playing way out on the outfield grass in shallow right, the slow-footed Gonzalez tried to take advantage with a drag bunt leading off the inning. Baez rushed in for a barehanded scoop and off-balance throw, but Gonzalez initially was called safe by first base umpire Ted Barrett. The Cubs challenged and the ruling was overturned.

In Game 4, Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second after diving with his left hand stretched toward the plate while catcher Willson Contreras applied a tag. The Dodgers challenged, but the video review upheld umpire Angel Hernandez’s out call.

Chicago jumped on struggling Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda from the start. Fowler singled leading off the game and scored on Rizzo’s double to right two batters later.

Maeda gave up one run and three hits over 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings this postseason.

The Dodgers’ defense fell apart in the eighth.

Gonzalez tried flipping Russell’s slow roller to reliever Pedro Baez, who came over to cover first and bobbled the ball for an error.

Contreras followed with a pinch-hit single, and the runners moved up on pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.’s sacrifice bunt. Fowler reached on an infield single to first, with Gonzalez losing a foot race when Fowler slid into the bag as Russell scored.

Kris Bryant reached on an infield single to third, with the Dodgers unsuccessfully challenging the call that he was safe.

The Dodgers thought they’d finally escaped the inning when Rizzo lined out to second baseman Kike Hernandez, who nearly doubled up Fowler at second. But the Cubs challenged the call and it was reversed, prolonging the inning.

Pedro Baez got yanked after walking Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Ross Stripling came on to face Javier Baez, who doubled to deep right, driving in three more runs.

“We can grab that momentum by one name: Kershaw,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t want to put it all on him, but if we score a couple of runs, we’ll feel real good.”


Vin Scully was back at Dodger Stadium for the first time since ending his 67-year career behind the microphone earlier this month.

The 88-year-old Hall of Fame announcer attended as a spectator and proclaimed, “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” from an upstairs suite.


Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur isn’t on the NLCS roster, but he’s contributing. A day after his bat was borrowed by Rizzo to hit a home run, Szczur revealed during an in-game TV interview that Russell wore a pair of his underwear leggings Wednesday after leaving his own at home.


Dodgers: Kershaw takes the mound in Chicago on an extra day of rest. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. Overall, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.

Cubs: Hendricks’ 2.13 ERA was tops in the majors this season. The right-hander allowed a solo homer over 5 1/3 innings in Game 2, his longest career postseason start. The Cubs lost 1-0 to Kershaw.

MLB Playoffs Roundup: Blue Jays bats go silent against Indians in ALCS

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TORONTO (AP) — Five games. Eight runs. Two shutout losses.

A power-laden Toronto Blue Jays lineup fizzled against Cleveland, finishing off a five-game AL Championship Series wipeout with a 3-0 loss Wednesday.

Bidding to return to the World Series for the first time since 1993, the Blue Jays lost in the ALCS for the second straight year, following last year’s six-game defeat against eventual champion Kansas City. Toronto was held to six hits by rookie Ryan Merritt and three relievers in the Indians’ second shutout of the ALCS.

“We never really had a big inning, never were able to really string some hits together and get a rally going,” Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said. “You can point the finger at us and say we didn’t do a good job, or you can point the finger at those guys. To get us out, you have to pitch well. You have to, and they did.”

No Cleveland pitcher was tougher than ALCS MVP Andrew Miller, who struck out 13 in 7 2/3 scoreless innings.

“It’s not easy to go through lineups like this,” Miller said. Still, the lefty sure made it look simple against the Blue Jays, who struck out 50 times over the five games.

An offense led by Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki produced seven extra-base hits in the series — three doubles, two triples and two solo home runs. The Blue Jays hit just .201; Cleveland was even worse at .168.

“I’m sure there will be some disappointments and grumbling and complaining about how you fell short again, but that’s not coming from me,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “I know what these guys did, and I think it’s a pretty good accomplishment. The key is we want to take that next step one of these days. Hopefully it’s next year.”

Bautista , who turned 36 Wednesday, and the 33-year-old Encarnacion may have been playing for the Blue Jays for the final time. Both are eligible for free agency, a subject neither wanted to address in a somber clubhouse.

“I don’t think it’s the right time to be taking about that,” Bautista said. “We just battled through a tough series. I don’t want to make this about myself, and I don’t really feel like I’m in the proper state of mind to be taking about that. I know it’s a possibility but we’ll see what happens.”

Gibbons said his two sluggers “helped put this team back on the map” after Toronto went 22 years between postseason appearances.

“We were staring at a playoff drought for a lot of years around here,” Gibbons said. “And they came through for the team last year, the organization, and then repeated it this year. And they really — both of them — made their name here in Toronto.”

Toronto slugged past Baltimore in the wild card game, winning on Encarnacion’s 11th-inning home run. The Blue Jays swept Texas in the Division Series, outhomering the Rangers 8-2 and outscoring them 22-10.

Bautista’s two hits in the finale left him 3 for 18 (.167) with no RBIs in the series, while Encarnacion was 4 for 19 (.211) and drove in two runs. Tulowitzki was 2 for 18 (.111) with no RBIs and Donaldson 6 for 18 (.333) with two RBIs.

“I know that I’m capable of doing a lot more,” Bautista said. “They pitched great. It was tough. They seemed to make the right pitches at the right time and got us out.”

Martin, who chased Merritt with a one-out bloop single in the fifth and advanced on pinch-hitter Michael Saunders’s hit, was Toronto’s only runner to reach scoring position. Reliever Bryan Shaw fanned Ezequiel Carrera and Kevin Pillar.

Toronto’s offensive funk was remarkable given the shaky state of Cleveland’s starting pitching. Carlos Carrasco (broken hand) and Danny Salazar (forearm) have missed the entire postseason, and right-hander Trevor Bauer left Game 3 after four batters when blood began dripping from his right pinkie, sliced open last week while he repaired a drone.

The Blue Jays hit .120 (3 for 25) with runners in scoring position.

“They never let us string base hits together,” Bautista said, “and when we had men in scoring position they seemed to turn it up a notch and go to another level of execution.”


Los Angeles Dodgers’ Julio Urias sits in the dugout during the second inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Urias, Dodgers unravel in 4th inning of Game 4 blowout loss

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Julio Urias cruised through three hitless innings to begin Game 4 of the NL Championship Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ 20-year-old rookie starter seemed to be thriving under the spotlight.

Then the lights went out for Urias and the Dodgers.

In one miserable night at Chavez Ravine, they squandered a chance to take control of this series and lost their opportunity to win the pennant at home.

The Chicago Cubs ended their 21-inning scoreless streak with a four-run fourth against Urias, and the youngest pitcher in big league history to start a postseason game took his first playoff loss in the Dodgers’ 10-2 defeat Wednesday.

“I felt comfortable in that situation, but I just didn’t get the results,” Urias said through a translator.

Game 5 is Thursday at Dodger Stadium, with Kenta Maeda scheduled to pitch against Cubs lefty Jon Lester. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts reiterated he won’t start ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest this time, putting the three-time Cy Young Award winner in line for Game 6 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Roberts said Kershaw was eager to pitch, but Game 5 “isn’t a deciding game. It’s not an elimination game. And I think the accumulation of his usage over the last 10 days plays a factor in our decision.”

Urias was in fine shape until the fourth inning, and so were the Dodgers’ plans to keep a powerful Chicago lineup off the board. The left-hander from Mexico didn’t pitch much down the stretch for the NL West champions, who gave him a postseason start with the hope he could realize his ample potential in October.

Urias walked two Cubs in the first three innings, but otherwise kept them mired in their slump — until Ben Zobrist led off the fourth with a clever bunt single. Urias acknowledged the bunt caught him off guard.

“That’s baseball,” he said. “Even if it’s a bad hit, it’s a hit. That’s how they scored their runs.”

Two more singles and an RBI groundout later, Addison Russell’s first homer of the postseason put the Cubs up 4-0 and well on their way to a series-tying win.

Adrian Gonzalez and several other Dodgers thought things started to unravel two innings earlier when the video review of a close play at the plate didn’t go their way.

Gonzalez was called out while trying to score from second on Andrew Toles’ single, and the ruling was upheld after replays that were interpreted both ways.

“I knew I was safe,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got plenty of still frames that prove I was safe. Unfortunately, it turned into a trial, and they said there was not enough evidence.”

Gonzalez believed his run, which would have put the Dodgers up 1-0 and kept the inning going with two runners on, would have given Urias a cushion in a high-pressure situation.

“It completely changes his way of pitching,” Gonzalez said. “Now he gets one guy on base, and he’s trying not to let that one run score, where if we’ve got that lead, he feels more comfortable. He attacks it a bit more. It changes everything. One little thing can change the outcome.”

While Urias didn’t finish strong, the Dodgers’ shaky defense played a big role in the collapse as well. Los Angeles hadn’t made four errors in a playoff game since the 1974 NLCS, but Toles’ throwing error on Willson Contreras’ soft single to left field allowed Zobrist to easily score the Cubs’ first run since Game 1.

“We played a very sloppy game overall,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes that happens. Obviously that was a big reason we lost today, but we’re confident we’ll play better.”

Down 5-0 in the fifth, the Dodgers still had a chance to get back in it. They loaded the bases against reliever Mike Montgomery, who accidentally deflected Justin Turner’s comebacker into shallow left field for a two-run single.

But Gonzalez and Kike Hernandez failed to reach base, and the Cubs turned it into a laugher moments later with a five-run sixth. The Dodgers’ defense chipped in again, with Hernandez and Joc Pederson making throwing errors while the Cubs batted around .

Thousands of Dodgers fans hit the freeways early, unwilling to watch a healthy contingent of Cubs rooters celebrate.

Now the NLCS is down to a best-of-three, with the Dodgers still two wins from their first pennant since 1988, and the AL champion Cleveland Indians waiting for a World Series opponent next week.


MLB Playoffs Roundup: Hill outpitches Arrieta; Dodgers beat Cubs 6-0 for NLCS lead

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rich Hill never strayed from his mindset of pitching in the moment, even when he was far from the major leagues playing independent ball with the Long Island Ducks.

Convinced there would be another opportunity to get back to the big leagues, he focused on executing pitches without worrying about his current circumstances.

Fourteen months later, Hill allowed two hits over six innings to beat Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs 6-0 Tuesday, giving the Los Angeles Dodgers a 2-1 NL Championship Series lead.

“It’s the biggest game of my career,” Hill said. “It’s just putting in the work, putting in the time, having a routine, persevere, all those things that you can say to sum up some kind of endurance or resiliency. For me, that’s all I’ve ever known is just work.”

Rookie Corey Seager had three hits, including a go-ahead single in the third, and Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run homer in the fourth.

After winning a big league-high 103 games during the regular season and sparking belief they could win the World Series for the first time since 1908, the Cubs have been shut out in consecutive games for the first time since May 2014, managing just six hits — five of them singles. Their 18 straight scoreless innings mark the longest postseason drought in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“More than anything, I think we need to get a couple runs and hits and runs early to try to get that kind of feeling back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, “because, obviously, when you’re not scoring any runs, it makes it even more difficult in the dugout.”

Hill, who made two starts in the independent Atlantic League in August 2015 before signing a minor league deal with Boston , struck out six and walked two. Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Kenley Jansen finished. Playing their 200th postseason game, the Dodgers posted consecutive shutouts for the first time.

Julio Urias starts Game 4 for the Dodgers on Wednesday and at 20 years, 68 days will become the youngest starting pitcher in postseason history. John Lackey starts for the Cubs.

“He’s not scared of the moment,” Seager said of Urias. “He’s not scared of anything.”

Hill was acquired from Oakland along with Josh Reddick at the Aug. 1 trade deadline. The 36-year-old left-hander struggled with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand that landed him on the disabled list from mid-July to late August. The blister still bothered him in the final weeks of the regular season, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled him after seven perfect innings against Miami on Sept. 10, saying the team had to keep its focus on bigger goals in October.

Hill was strong from the start against one of his former teams, retiring the side to open the game and later eight in a row. He’s given up one run in 23 innings over four home starts for the Dodgers, lowering his ERA to 0.39.

“When he’s got that attitude out there, you can tell,” Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. “That’s when you know he’s rolling, that his pitches are working, and he’s doing what he wants to do out there.”

Seager’s go-ahead single ended an 0-for-15 slide with runners in scoring position in postseason play.

Grandal was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts against Arrieta in his career before he launched a 3-2 pitch into the right-field pavilion in the fourth for a 3-0 lead. Grandal drove in Reddick, who singled and stole second and third.

“He’s been so good for the last couple years just because he doesn’t give in,” Grandal said of Arrieta. “He still made a really good pitch down in the zone. I was just lucky to put a swing on it and hit it out.”

Justin Turner homered on the first pitch leading off the sixth to chase Arrieta, who gave up four runs and six hits in five innings. He dominated the Dodgers in his previous two starts against them, including a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 30, 2015. Los Angeles had gone 2 for 51 against him in two games.

“It’s hard to go out there and pitch when your team is not scoring, so you try to be perfect. You can’t make any mistakes. If you give up one run, that can be it,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. “He had one of his best stuff all year, to be honest.”

Joc Pederson doubled in a run in the eighth and Grandal hit a run-scoring groundout .

Maddon moved struggling Anthony Rizzo from third to the cleanup spot, and his broken-bat infield hit in the ninth made him 2 for 26 in the postseason. Addison Russell, dropped from fifth to seventh, is 1 for 24. Jason Heyward struck out as a pinch hitter and is 2 for 19.

Chicago’s 3-4-5 hitters went 1 for 11 in the game and are 2 for 32 in the series without an RBI.

Dexter Fowler’s two-out double in the eighth provided the Cubs’ first extra-base hit since their 8-4 win in the opener.

“There’s no doubt here,” third baseman Kris Bryant said. “We certainly have all the belief in the world. It’s a powerful thing when you believe.”

With a win Wednesday, the Dodgers could try to finish the series at home.

“These guys won 100-some games. They’ve got the talent, so you can’t think ahead,” Grandal said. “If you think ahead, that’s when bad things happen.”


Four of Chicago’s eight shutouts this year have been against the Dodgers.


Roberts hasn’t ruled out turning to Clayton Kershaw to pitch on three days’ rest in Game 5 on Thursday.

Los Angeles has announced rookie Kenta Maeda as its starter. He’s given up seven earned runs in a combined seven innings of his two postseason starts.

In last week’s five-game Division Series against Washington, Kershaw pitched in all three wins. He started Game 1 and Game 4, on three days’ rest and got his first big league save in Game 5.

“The series circumstances will kind of dictate what decision we make,” Roberts said Tuesday. “Clayton feels good after Game 2. He’s prepared for anything that we have for him. He’s shown the ability to adjust his routine or regimen for whatever is best for our club.”


Lackey is 8-5 with a 3.22 ERA in 24 postseason appearances. Urias will be the third consecutive left-hander to start for the Dodgers. He earned the victory over Washington in Game 5 of the NLDS with two scoreless innings.


Blue Jays stave off ALCS elimination, beat Indians 5-1

TORONTO (AP) — Just in time, Josh Donaldson and the Toronto Blue Jays broke out the bats to save their season.

Now they have a chance to really make things interesting in this AL Championship Series.

Donaldson backed up his fiery pep talk to teammates before the game, hitting a home run and turning in a timely diving stop Tuesday to help the Blue Jays avert a sweep with a 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians.

The Indians still lead the matchup 3-1, but with a couple of big hits and a strong outing by Aaron Sanchez, Toronto handed them their first loss of this postseason.

“I’m not going to give too much away of what I had to say, but just more so getting everybody’s attention and focus and understanding,” Donaldson said. “I mean, everybody knew coming into today how important today was. But at the same time I just wanted to kind of reiterate that and let the boys know that I was coming to play today.”

Cleveland will try again Wednesday to win to earn its first World Series trip since 1997, but the big concern for the Indians coming into the series — an injury-riddled rotation — still lingers. In Game 5, Cleveland will start Ryan Merritt, who has pitched just 11 innings in the majors, against Marco Estrada.

It was an emotional day all around at Rogers Centre, where the home crowd had fallen silent watching the season slipping away because of a slumbering offense that totaled only three runs in the first three games of the series.

“I thought we battled pretty good today, with the bats,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “Naturally, when you score, which we haven’t been doing, it always looks good.”

Donaldson’s solo shot to left-center field off Corey Kluber in the third put the Blue Jays ahead for the first time all series. Two innings after that, the star third baseman made an outstanding play to preserve a one-run edge.

Sanchez, the American League ERA champion, allowed a run and two hits in six innings, and the bullpen finished with three perfect innings.

Kluber was starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his career.

“I felt fine. I don’t think it physically affected me. I made a mistake to Donaldson,” Kluber said. “We’re one win away from the World Series and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Kluber hadn’t allowed a run in either of his first two starts this postseason. Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP and sporting a still freshly shaved face, opened the scoring with his first home run of these playoffs.

The wild-card Blue Jays made it 2-0 in the fourth when Ezequiel Carrera’s blooper fell between three Cleveland fielders in left-center for an RBI single.

Roberto Perez hit an RBI double in the fifth off Sanchez. Carlos Santana’s two-out grounder to the left side might have had a chance to score him, but Donaldson made the play to his left , then popped up and danced off the field with a bit of a fist pump.

“I was locked in,” Donaldson said. “It helps when you have a guy like Sanchez in the zone, where you can really focus in on a certain area of the strike zone. And I was able to get a really good read off the bat, and I was fortunate enough to be able to make the play.”

The Indians didn’t have another baserunner after that. Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna pitched an inning each in relief for Toronto.

Taking no chances, Gibbons brought in Osuna, his closer, in a non-save situation to finish off Cleveland.

The Indians were trying to become the third team to sweep a Division Series and Championship Series in the same postseason. The 2007 Colorado Rockies and 2014 Kansas City Royals both did it.

Cleveland had won nine in a row, including three straight over Boston in the ALDS.

The Indians had a chance to take the lead in the third when Tyler Naquin hit a leadoff double and went to third on a sacrifice. Sanchez retired Santana on a soft grounder with the infield in, and then Jason Kipnis also grounded out.

Kluber was pulled after 89 pitches. He allowed two runs and four hits in five innings.

The Blue Jays added two more runs in the seventh after a throwing error by reliever Bryan Shaw. Edwin Encarnacion came up with the bases loaded and the crowd chanting “Eddie” — and his hard grounder skipped off the mound and into center field for a two-run single to make it 4-1.


Trevor Bauer’s finger injury put more pressure on Kluber to come back for Game 4 and a possible Game 7 on short rest. Bauer cut his right pinkie on a drone and had to be pulled in the first inning Monday after he started bleeding.

“I had to witness everything he had to go through to try and go out there and pitch last night,” pitching coach Mickey Callaway said before Tuesday’s game. “Not too many people would have done that. He’s been wonderful. He’s obviously grown over the years because he wanted to.”


Indians: The 24-year-old Merritt made his lone big league start on Sept. 30, when the left-hander held Kansas City to a run and three hits in five innings.

“If you told me on the first day of the season I would be pitching in the ALCS I might have thought you were crazy,” Merritt said. “To get this opportunity is awesome. It feels good that the team trusts me.”

Blue Jays: Estrada allowed two runs in eight innings in Game 1 against Cleveland.

MLB Playoffs Roundup: Kershaw helps Dodgers blank Cubs 1-0, NLCS even at 1-all

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CHICAGO (AP) — So much for October closer. With his Dodgers desperate for a win, Clayton Kershaw delivered the best start of his checkered playoff career.

The ace left-hander pitched seven sparkling innings, Adrian Gonzalez homered and Los Angeles beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 Sunday night to tie the NL Championship Series at a game apiece.

Kershaw retired his first 14 batters and allowed just two hits in first outing since he pitched three times in the NL Division Series, including a two-out save in Game 5 on Thursday night in Washington. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner struck out six and walked one while throwing just 84 pitches in a brisk outing that could help when he returns later in the NLCS.

“It was one of those games where one pitch could have been the deciding factor,” Kershaw said. “So, really just kind of couldn’t look up for a minute for air and just kind of kept going through it and fortunate to get through it tonight.”

Kenley Jansen then struck out four in two perfect innings for his third save of the playoffs. The teams combined for just five hits for the lowest total in a playoff game since the Cardinals and Pirates had four in Game 4 of their 2013 NL Division Series.

“I think that you couldn’t have scripted it any better,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And it was just another fun ballgame.”

Roberts almost went to Jansen with a runner on first and two out in the seventh, but Kershaw argued successfully to stay in the game. Javier Baez then hit a drive to the warning track in deep center, but Joc Pederson was there for the catch.

“He hit it pretty good,” Kershaw said. “And yeah, after Dave came out and that, I kind of talked my way into it. I really wanted to — he was probably not going to trust me again after that, but, fortunately, he hit it at somebody, so it was good.”

Baez’s drive was one of a precious few hard-hit balls for the Cubs. Kershaw was that good.

The Dodgers needed a clutch pitching performance after their heartbreaking 8-4 loss in the series opener. And Kershaw responded with a gem that continued his reputation repair after a handful of playoff duds over the years. He was just 3-6 with a 4.79 ERA in 16 career postseason games coming into this series.

“I feel like every start he has the chance to be great,” catcher Yasmani Grandal said. “It’s just unbelievable to see him pitch, it’s unbelievable to see him compete.”

Game 3 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, who pitched a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium last August, faces left-hander Rich Hill.

The Cubs lost a 1-0 game in the postseason for the first time since Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox blanked them in the 1918 World Series opener.

“Playoffs is always about pitching and defense,” said Miguel Montero, the Game 1 star for the Cubs. “Tonight we played great defense as well and we couldn’t score.”

Chicago, trying for its first pennant in 71 years, wasted a solid start by major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks, who pitched 5 1/3 innings of three-hit ball in his first outing since he left his Division Series start against San Francisco with a bruised right forearm.

Hendricks’ only mistake was a second-inning fastball that Gonzalez drove over the wall in left-center for his second homer of the playoffs. Gonzalez also had a tying two-run single in the eighth inning of the series opener, but Montero’s pinch-hit grand slam was the big blow in a dramatic win for Chicago.

A day later, the Cubs couldn’t get anything going against Kershaw.

“He kept the ball off the fat part of our bat,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He threw strikes like he normally does. So despite not having rest, his command and velocity were still good.”

Slumping slugger Anthony Rizzo just missed a home run with a foul drive in the fourth, and then bounced out. Baez and Willson Contreras hit consecutive two-out singles in the fifth for Chicago’s first baserunners, but Jason Heyward fouled out to third.

Nothing seemed to bother Kershaw on a muggy night at Wrigley Field. After Grandal dropped a foul popup in the seventh, Kershaw responded with a wry grin, and then struck out Ben Zobrist.

“I honestly thought with him pitching with a couple of days’ rest, he wasn’t going to be that nasty,” Baez said, “but obviously he came ready for us and he just did his job.”

Jansen backed Kershaw with flawless relief. The big right-hander struck out Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant before Rizzo lined meekly to second for the final out.


Gonzalez became the seventh player in major league history to homer in at least six consecutive playoff series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was the third go-ahead homer of his postseason career.


While the Cubs struggled against Jansen and Kershaw, Hendricks and their bullpen gave them a chance. Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop and Aroldis Chapman combined for 3 2/3 innings of hitless relief.

Josh Reddick got Los Angeles’ last hit of the night in the sixth, putting runners on first and second. Edwards then came in and got Pederson to hit a soft liner to second that Baez let drop before starting a heady inning-ending double play .


The Cubs and Dodgers work out in Los Angeles on Monday, and then Arrieta and Hill return to the mound for the first time since the Division Series. Arrieta made one start against Los Angeles this season, pitching seven scoreless innings in a no-decision at Wrigley on May 31. Hill, a fourth-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2002, has made one appearance against his first major league team, recording two outs in relief for Boston on May 21, 2011.


A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:



Trevor Bauer and the Indians take a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series into Game 3 at Toronto. Bauer had been scheduled to start Game 2, but was pushed back after he said he cut the pinkie on his right hand while fixing a drone. Bauer, who needed stitches to close the wound, is a self-described “nerd” and big “Star Wars” fan who studied mechanical engineering in college and enjoys playing around with the flying objects. Marcus Stroman will start for the Blue Jays.


It’s workout day at Dodger Stadium with Chicago and Los Angeles tied at one game apiece in the NL Championship Series. Rich Hill is set to pitch Game 3 for LA on Tuesday against Jake Arrieta. Hill has been bothered by blister trouble, and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning in either of his two starts vs. Washington in the NLDS.


The Blue Jays totaled one run over Games 1 and 2, and of their 10 hits, just one came against the Indians’ bullpen. Jose Bautista is 0 for 6, Edwin Encarnacion 2 for 7, Troy Tulowitzki 1 for 8 and Russell Martin 1 for 7. Toronto was fourth in the majors in home runs during the regular season got off to a powerful start in the playoffs, but hasn’t hit one in 27 innings, since the first inning of Game 3 in their AL Division Series against Texas.


Injured Indians pitcher Danny Salazar threw what appeared to be a simulated game after Cleveland’s workout Sunday night in Toronto. The All-Star righty has been sidelined since Sept. 9 because of forearm trouble and isn’t on the roster for the ALCS. Salazar threw to hitters at Rogers Centre a day before Game 3. He was 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA during the regular season.


The Diamondbacks plan to formally introduce Mike Hazen as their general manager. The 40-year-old served as Boston’s GM this season. Hazen replaces Dave Stewart, who was fired along with manager Chip Hale a day after Arizona finished 69-93 — its fifth straight year out of the playoffs. Hazen graduated from Princeton and played two seasons in the minor leagues.

MLB Playoffs: Montero’s PH slam lifts Cubs over Dodgers 8-4 in NLCS opener

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CHICAGO – (AP) — Miguel Montero delivered a memorable swing, Javier Baez stole home with his daring dash down the line and Jon Lester turned in another steady performance on the mound.

It all added up to another dramatic victory for the Chicago Cubs, who are off and running in the NL Championship Series.

Montero snapped an eighth-inning tie with the third pinch-hit grand slam in postseason history, and Chicago beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 in the opener Saturday night, moving the Cubs a step closer to their first pennant in 71 years.

“We hang in there,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We don’t give up.”

Game 2 is Sunday night, with the Dodgers once again in need of a clutch performance from ace Clayton Kershaw. Major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks pitches for the Cubs, chasing their first World Series title since 1908.

Lester pitched six effective innings, and Dexter Fowler homered after making two diving catches in center field — breaking his belt on the second grab. Left fielder Ben Zobrist threw out Adrian Gonzalez at the plate, helping Chicago to its first NLCS victory in 13 years.

The Cubs pulled out 14 of their major league-best 103 wins this season in their final at-bat. They added two more in the Division Series against playoff-tested San Francisco, including a four-run ninth in the clinching Game 4.

And now, this.

“We’ve kind of proved we can overcome adversity in the game,” slugger Kris Bryant said.

Chicago was swept by the New York Mets in last year’s NLCS. Lester & Co. are back again and already in better shape following a crazy eighth inning.

In the top half, Gonzalez tied it at 3 with a two-out, two-run single off Aroldis Chapman.

Zobrist hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the inning before pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan was intentionally walked with runners at first and second and two outs, bringing up Chapman’s spot in the batting order.

“That was the right thing to do,” Maddon said. “I probably would have done the same thing.”

Maddon sent up Montero, who drove an 0-2 slider from loser Joe Blanton halfway up the right-field bleachers for his first hit of the playoffs.

“I trust Joe. I’ve trusted him all year long. He’s been great for us,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Left a pitch up. … It just didn’t work out.”

The crowd of 42,376 at Wrigley Field roared as Montero rounded the bases and kept cheering until the veteran catcher popped out of the dugout for a curtain call.

“I never even thought I was going to hit at that point,” Montero said. “To be honest, I thought Maddon put me out there just to bring the lefty and get (Willson) Contreras to pinch-hit for me, and they didn’t bring the lefty for Contreras.”

Fowler homered on the next pitch as the Cubs rebounded quickly from a shaky bullpen performance. Hector Rondon allowed Andrew Toles’ RBI double in the ninth before Chase Utley lined into a game-ending double play.

Chapman retired Yasmani Grandal on an inning-ending groundout in the eighth and was credited with the win.

“We’ll be ready tomorrow,” Gonzalez said. “This game gave us a lot of confidence. We know we can beat them.”

Lester and Baez helped Chicago to a 3-1 lead after seven. But the Dodgers rallied in the eighth, prompting Maddon to go to Chapman with the bases loaded and no outs.

The lefty struck out Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig before Gonzalez lined a 102 mph fastball back up the middle. A pumped-up Gonzalez celebrated at first base after delivering Los Angeles’ first hit in 12 at-bats with the bases loaded in these playoffs.

But everything changed in the bottom half, leaving both managers to answer for several difficult decisions. Lester was replaced by a pinch hitter after just 77 pitches, and the intentional walk to Coghlan put the go-ahead run at third.

“A lot of that stuff was preplanned,” Maddon said. “You look for situations. You’re looking for the right matchups. But you don’t know what he’s going to do. … You have to be able to react.”

Andre Ethier had a pinch-hit homer for Los Angeles, helped by a strong wind going out to left and left-center on a warm night at Wrigley Field. Kenta Maeda lasted just four innings in his fourth straight shaky outing dating to the regular season.

The last time Kershaw was on the mound, he got two outs for the save in Los Angeles’ clinching Game 5 win at Washington on Thursday night. The taxing final victory over the Nationals left Roberts with few options for the NLCS opener, and the Cubs jumped on Maeda for three runs in the first two innings.

“There were a lot of pitches I left over the plate that they took advantage of,” Maeda said through a translator.

Bryant drove in Fowler with an RBI double in the first. Baez, one of the breakout stars of this year’s postseason, added his own run-scoring double in the second, on a blooper into center over a drawn-in infield.

Baez was on third with one out when he initially broke for the plate with Lester squaring to bunt. Lester didn’t get the bunt down, and catcher Carlos Ruiz threw to third baseman Justin Turner. Baez hesitated, then kept going toward the plate. He slid in safely before Ruiz could get the tag on him.

Baez became the second player to steal home for the Cubs in a postseason game, joining Jimmy Slagle in Game 4 of the 1907 World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“It was a safety squeeze. I went a little too early and I saw I couldn’t get back,” Baez said. “This is the big leagues and a rundown is too easy, so I kept going.”


Montero’s drive was the first go-ahead grand slam by a pinch hitter in postseason history. Mark Lewis and Ricky Ledee were the other pinch hitters to sock a playoff grand slam. Lewis connected for the Cincinnati Reds in a 1995 Division Series against the Dodgers. Ledee went deep for the New York Yankees in the 1999 ALCS vs. Boston.


Dodgers: Kershaw pitched in all three Dodgers wins during the Division Series. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is 3-6 with a 4.79 ERA in 16 playoff appearances, including 12 starts.

Cubs: Hendricks, who went 16-8 with a 2.13 ERA this season, makes his fourth career playoff start. He left his Division Series start against San Francisco after taking a line drive off his right forearm.


Jay Cohen can be reached at

MLB Playoffs: Blue Jays-Indians open ALCS, Dodgers-Cubs set

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-   A look at what’s happening all around the majors Friday:



Edwin Encarnacion and the slugging Blue Jays visit Cleveland for Game 1 of the AL Championship series, with Corey Kluber starting for the Indians against Marco Estrada. Jose Bautista and wild-card Toronto hit eight home runs in their three-game sweep of Texas in the AL Division Series. Kluber was magnificent in his postseason debut, pitching three-hit ball for seven shutout innings as Cleveland swept Boston.


The Dodgers will be working out at Wrigley Field, fresh off winning the deciding Game 5 of the NL Division Series in Washington. Ace Clayton Kershaw might not do a ton of throwing — he got the last two outs vs. the Nationals for his first major league save, two days after throwing 110 pitches in Game 4 on short rest.


Cubs lefty Jon Lester is all set to start the NL Championship Series opener on Saturday night against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field. The rest of Chicago’s rotation depends on the health of Kyle Hendricks. The righty exited in the Division Series vs. the Giants after being hit in the forearm by a comebacker. Hendricks threw a bullpen session Thursday and the Cubs are waiting to see how the major league ERA leader feels before confirming him for Game 2.


Blue Jays reliever Francisco Liriano has recovered from the concussion he received when he was struck on the back of the head by Carlos Gomez in the ALDS. The lefty is expected to be cleared in time for Game 1 vs. Cleveland.


The Giants want Madison Bumgarner to stick around. Two days after San Francisco lost to the Cubs in the NL Division Series, general manager Bobby Evans spoke with Bumgarner and told the ace’s reps the team is ready to begin talks on a new contract. The lefty signed a $35.56 million, six-year deal through 2017 that includes $12 million club options for 2018 and 2019.

MLB Playoffs Roundup: Kershaw gets save, LA tops Nats 4-3 to win NLDS

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A little past midnight in Game 5 of the NL Division Series, Clayton Kershaw emerged from the bullpen to pitch in relief for the first time in seven years.

Two outs later, the only save of his major league career in the books, Kershaw’s arms were raised and teammates were rushing to celebrate with a guy whose postseason performances have never carried the luster of his regular-season success.

Coming in after closer Kenley Jansen entered in the seventh inning and threw a career-high 51 pitches but issued a pair of one-out walks in the ninth, Kershaw got Daniel Murphy to pop out, then struck out Wilmer Difo to end it. That finished the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dramatic 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals that decided their NL Division Series in the wee hours of Friday.

“The adrenaline rush was pretty good right there,” said Kershaw, who approached Dodgers manager Dave Roberts in the seventh inning to offer to pitch if need be on the must-win occasion.

“At the at the end of the day, if we don’t win that game, we’re going home, anyway, so what does it matter?” Kershaw said. “I just wanted to be available, and it ended up to the point where I could help out tonight.”

The Dodgers won the last two games of the best-of-five NLDS with Kershaw pitching in each and now head to the NL Championship Series to face the Chicago Cubs. That opens at Wrigley Field on Saturday night.

The Nationals, meanwhile, still have never won a postseason series, winning three NL East titles in the past five years but losing in the NLDS each time.

And while there’s no way Kershaw will be available for Game 1 against Chicago, one thing’s for sure: Whatever notion there might have been about the lefty’s playoff problems — he was 2-6 in the postseason until this series, with an ERA nearly twice what he has in the regular season — is now a thing of the past.

“That (criticism) is ridiculous,” Dodgers President Stan Kasten said, his dress shirt soaked with alcohol from the postgame festivities. “That’s why I said to him, ‘Dude, you’re Mr. October.'”

Kershaw worked two days after throwing 110 pitches over 6 2/3 innings in Game 4, when he had the benefit of only three days’ rest following his win in the opener against the Nationals.

“Nobody wants it more than him — his tireless work ethic and how much he competes. And just for him to go up and tell them, ‘Hey, I can come in and close this thing out if you need me,’ just says so much about the type of player he is,” said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, whose two-run triple in the seventh helped LA build its lead. “He’s a winner. He’s a champion.”

How unanticipated was this work as a reliever? Several hours before Thursday’s game began, Dodgers first-year manager Dave Roberts was asked whether Kershaw might be available at all — maybe just for one out, say?

“No,” came Roberts’ reply. “Absolutely not.”

Turned out the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner would get a pair of outs in his first relief appearance since the 2009 playoffs.

“Clayton came to me in the seventh,” Roberts explained, “and said that he had an inning if I needed it.”

Kershaw came in after Jansen got a career-high seven outs. Jansen walked Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth with one out in the ninth — and that’s when Roberts went to Kershaw.

Kershaw wound up with his second pro save. His other came on Aug. 19, 2006, in the Gulf Coast League in a game against the Nationals’ rookie club.

And Kershaw’s catcher that day a decade ago?

Amazingly, none other than Jansen, who didn’t begin pitching professionally until three years later.

Jansen said he couldn’t recall that particular game. He assured everyone he’ll never forget this one. When Kershaw walked from the dugout to the bullpen before removing his blue jacket to start warming up, he got fist bumps from teammates.

In the tunnel that leads from the dugout to the visiting clubhouse, Jansen looked up at a TV and saw Kershaw getting ready to pitch.

“I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. Am I dreaming right now?’ I couldn’t believe it,” Jansen said later, just socks on his feet and ski goggles on his head, leaning against a wall in a clubhouse hallway. “I’m like, ‘Is Kersh warming up? Is he really out there?”

Sure was.

LA’s scoring all came in a four-run seventh off six Nationals pitchers, including Joc Pederson’s homer off Max Scherzer.

“It’s the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Scherzer, who took a no-hitter into the fifth. “We just didn’t get it done. No one’s a goat. No one made a crucial misplay. Everybody stepped up and did their game. We just didn’t get that extra run.”

Washington was leading 1-0 in the sixth, when Werth walked and Ryan Zimmerman smacked a two-out double to left. But third-base coach Bob Henley — whose propensity for waving runners home led to a popular T-shirt among Nationals players that says, “Send ’em short, send ’em tall, send ’em one, send ’em all” — sent Werth and saw him get thrown out easily on shortstop Corey Seager’s relay.

Wasn’t even close.

“You live and die by those moments, sometimes,” Werth said.

And in the sort of blink-and-you-missed-it game-shifting sequence, Werth’s inning-ending, overzealous bid to score was followed immediately by Pederson’s homer on Scherzer’s first — and, it turned out, only — pitch of the seventh.

That began a rally that included a pinch-hit RBI single by 37-year-old pinch hitter Carlos Ruiz, helping LA go up 4-1.

Then came pinch hitter Chris Heisey’s two-run homer in the Washington seventh.

Then came Jansen in an inning that took 66 minutes and included a total of eight pitchers.

And then came Kershaw.

The West champion Dodgers are back in the NLCS for the first time since 2013, but they’ve lost in their past three trips to that round, failing to make it to the World Series since they won their most recent championship in 1988.

And Kershaw had a hand in all three NLDS wins.

“Looking him in the eye, I felt good about it, and the training staff gave the OK,” Roberts said, “so it’s only fitting for Clayton to get the last out right there.”


The Cubs were 4-3 against the Dodgers this year. The only other time they met in the postseason was the 2008 NLDS, which LA swept.


The East champion Nationals are one-and-done in the playoffs yet again, losing in the NLDS yet again. Washington was beaten in five games in 2012 by St. Louis, and in four games in 2014 by San Francisco. Take it back further, and a baseball club based in the nation’s capital hasn’t won a postseason series since the old Senators were the 1924 World Series champions.

“I’m not ready to go home,” Nationals first-year manager Dusty Baker said. “I haven’t been home since February, but I would have gladly stayed a couple more weeks.”

Marc Rzepczynski was the losing pitcher.


Dodgers LHP Julio Urias, who turned 20 in August, became the youngest pitcher to appear in the postseason since Cincinnati’s Don Gullett was 19 in the 1970 World Series, the Dodgers said, citing STATS. Urias entered in the fifth and threw two scoreless innings and got the win. He walked Harper, then picked him off first base.


Before this year, Roberts was best known in the postseason for his ninth-inning steal as a pinch-runner in Game of the 2004 ALCS that sparked Boston’s comeback against the Yankees. He’ll now also be remembered for his mound maneuvers that won this game — he used three members of his rotation, plus his closer in a career-long outing.

“These are conversations that me, the front office, we have daily, about just kind of forward-thinking, being open-minded to how you can use guys in certain roles. And today was a prime example,” Roberts said.

MLB Playoffs: Cubs rally for 4 runs in 9th, beat Giants 6-5 to win NLDS

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Kris Bryant tossed his glove high in the air, Jake Arrieta jumped over the dugout railing and the rest of the Chicago Cubs rushed to join the celebration.

Pure revelry and a sigh of relief, all at once.

World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs took another step in their championship chase Tuesday night by rallying for four runs in the ninth inning of Game 4 to beat San Francisco 6-5 and win their NL Division Series.

“You could see it coming. You could see little signs. We’ve done it before and the guys, we don’t quit,” Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler said. “It’s a little more special doing it here. They for sure were thinking that they won it. But we play 27 outs and we don’t give up until we win.”

Javier Baez’s tiebreaking single capped the comeback against a beleaguered bullpen that sabotaged the Giants one last time.

Four wins from their first pennant since 1945, the Cubs will open the NL Championship Series at Wrigley Field on Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington Nationals. That matchup is tied 2-all heading into the deciding Game 5 on Thursday.

Before that, the team with the best regular-season record (103-58) in the majors this year will get a few days of rest. Chicago was swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS last year and is still seeking its first World Series title since 1908.

“Expectations is a good word. Because normally it means that you have something good attached to it at the other side,” manager Joe Maddon said.

And after finishing off the resilient Giants, the Cubs should have their rotation all lined up for the NLCS.

“Pressure, expectations — I want our guys to thrive on those two words for the years to come. I want the organization to. In the end that means there’s a lot expected of you. Good. There should be. We should all have a lot expected of us,” Maddon added. “So all those things I want to have us channel in a positive direction.”

Held to two hits over eight innings by Matt Moore, the Cubs trailed 5-2 heading to the ninth.

No matter. One big rally ended San Francisco’s 10-game winning streak when facing postseason elimination.

Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras tied it with a two-run single with none out. Baez singled in the go-ahead run two batters later, and the Cubs capitalized on Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford’s second costly error and more untimely blunders by the Giants’ once-reliable relief staff.

One day after getting tagged in the eighth inning, Aroldis Chapman closed this one out by striking out the side in order. When he set down Brandon Belt to end it, Chapman’s teammates rushed to the mound to hug him and begin their celebration.

Maddon has his confident, power-hitting Cubs on an October roll. They already beat All-Star Johnny Cueto and ex-Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija, then waited until Moore’s stellar outing was done to pounce.

“With this team, the big thing is we never give up, we never quit,” said lefty Jon Lester, who figures to start the NLCS opener. “We always feel like we have a chance, whether it’s the first inning or the ninth inning.”

Soon-to-retire David Ross homered to start the third, hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth and threw out Denard Span trying to steal.

Downright unflappable for years in these pressure-packed situations, the Giants won World Series championships in 2010, ’12 and ’14. This was the club’s first postseason series defeat in the last 12.

“We don’t think we’re going to win the World Series every even year. I mean, it took 50-something years to get one here,” quipped manager Bruce Bochy, whose bullpen management was scrutinized throughout a disappointing second half.

The orange towel-waving sellout crowd of 43,166, perhaps spoiled this decade by the every-other-year title success, had been counting on a few more games by the bay this October.

Moore, acquired from Tampa Bay at the Aug. 1 trade deadline for games of this magnitude, struck out 10 as his former Rays manager — Maddon — watched from the other dugout.

Long after Cubs starter John Lackey’s night was done with just four innings, Hector Rondon pitched the eighth for the win.


Lester doesn’t buy all the superstition surrounding Chicago’s championship drought.

“Nobody really cares in there about a curse or a goat or anything else,” he said. “If we make a mistake, we’re not going to blame it on a curse or anything else like that. We’re going to blame it on ourselves and be accountable for it and move on to the next play or the next moment. … We’ve got too many young guys in there that don’t even know what that stuff is, you know what I mean? So, it’s almost better to play naive and just go out and worry about us, worry about the Cubs and not anything else in the past or, like I said, any animals.”


Two pitchers homered for the Cubs in the series: Arrieta on Monday and reliever Travis Wood in Game 2. The 1924 New York Giants were the only other team to have two pitchers go deep in a postseason series, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“That’s pretty incredible, isn’t it?” Maddon said.


Left fielder Angel Pagan missed his second straight start with back spasms, and third baseman Eduardo Nunez’s strained right hamstring is still slow to heal, leaving the Giants to contemplate replacing one on the roster. But no move was made before the game.


The shortstop was the first Giants player to commit two errors in a postseason game since Don Mueller on Sept. 29, 1954, in Game 1 of the World Series.


Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chase Utley watches his RBI-single during the eighth inning in Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Utley lifts Dodgers to 6-5 win over Nats to force Game 5

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Clayton Kershaw was out of the game, his head down in the dugout, the Los Angeles bullpen faltering and the season slipping away.

Chase Utley plucked the Dodgers from the brink, singling home the tiebreaking run with two outs in the eighth inning.

Suddenly, Game 5 was on the horizon.

One more chance to pursue the club’s first World Series appearance in 28 years.

“There is no quit in this team,” closer Kenley Jansen said.

The Dodgers avoided elimination Tuesday with a 6-5 victory over the Washington Nationals that forced a deciding game in their NL playoff.

Jansen worked the ninth for a save, one day after giving up four late runs during Los Angeles’ loss in Game 3.

“I got out there and focused and fought,” he said.

The finale is Thursday in Washington, with 20-game winner Max Scherzer set to pitch for the Nationals.

“Man, this is going to be a heck of a ballgame,” he said. “The effort from both sides over the first four games has been incredible. Great pitching, great hitting, defense, everything.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he will use left-hander Rich Hill and rookie Julio Urias, but did not announce which one will start. Hill is expected to get the ball first.

“If anyone gives up on this team, they haven’t seen us play a whole lot this year,” Roberts said, “and it starts with what Clayton did — short rest and leaving it all out there. Everyone fed off that.”

Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer for the Dodgers, who turned to Kershaw on three days’ rest to salvage their season.

The score was tied 5-all with two outs in the eighth when Andrew Toles got hit by a pitch from loser Blake Treinen. Ethier followed with a single to left and Utley singled to right, scoring Toles from second for a 6-5 lead.

Trailing 5-2 in the seventh, the Nats had runners on first and second against Kershaw with two outs. The crowd chanted Kershaw’s name as he and Bryce Harper battled through eight pitches before Harper drew a walk.

“Man, that’s what baseball is all about right there — a matter of will,” Nats manager Dusty Baker said. “Kershaw was on empty. We knew it. They knew it. Everybody knew it.”

Harper’s walk loaded the bases and chased Kershaw, who walked off with his head down. He sat alone in the dugout with his head resting on his right hand.

“Kershaw was outstanding,” Baker said. “That’s one of the best performances I’ve seen, especially on three days’ rest.”

But the Dodgers’ bullpen nearly gave the game away.

Pedro Baez came in and hit Jayson Werth with his only pitch, forcing in a run to make it 5-3. Baez got booed off the field.

Daniel Murphy’s single off Luis Avilan dropped between Toles and Joc Pederson in left-center field, scoring two runs to tie it at 5. Avilan also heard boos.

Joe Blanton, who earned the win, retired Anthony Rendon on a swinging strikeout to end the inning.

“Our bullpen has been unbelievable,” Kershaw said. “Joe did what Joe’s been doing all season. He’s been through a lot in his career but he came in and shut them down.”

After failing to close out the Dodgers on the road, Washington gets one more chance to win a playoff series for the first time since the franchise relocated from Montreal. NL East champions in three of the past five years, the Nationals were unable to advance during their two previous trips to the postseason.

“That’s why we fought so hard for the home-field advantage,” Baker said. “This year, it’s coming to fruition.”

Desperate to avoid another early playoff exit, the Dodgers went with Kershaw, their three-time Cy Young Award winner who won Game 1 last Friday despite going just five innings and allowing three runs.

This time, he was charged with five runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out 11 — equaling his second-best postseason total — and walked two.

The left-hander was limited to 149 innings while compiling a 1.69 ERA during the regular season. He missed 2 1/2 months with a mildly herniated disk in his back.

Kershaw opened the game by giving up a leadoff single and a walk before Murphy’s RBI single.

The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on Gonzalez’s two-run shot that scored Justin Turner, who was hit by a pitch from Joe Ross.

Werth’s RBI single tied it 2-all in the third.

Los Angeles again answered in the bottom of the inning, with Kershaw getting the rally going with a double to left field. He slid into second and clenched his fists in a rare show of emotion.

Kershaw scored on Turner’s single with two outs. Pederson got hit by a pitch from Ross with the bases loaded, forcing in Turner

Ross made his postseason debut for the Nationals, giving up four runs and three hits in 2 2/3 innings, equaling the shortest playoff start in the history of the Montreal-Washington franchise. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out three and walked two. He hasn’t pitched more than four innings since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 18.


Five players were hit by pitches, including four Dodgers, which set a single-game franchise playoff record. Of the quartet, two ended up scoring. Werth was the lone Nationals player to get hit.

There have been 11 hit batters in the series, a postseason record.

“No one on either side is trying to hit anybody with everything on the line right now,” Scherzer said. “That’s just baseball being played at its highest.”


Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg experienced discomfort in his right elbow during a bullpen session Monday at Dodger Stadium. He threw 30 or 31 pitches instead of the scheduled 35. Strasburg has been out since tearing the pronator tendon in his elbow on Sept. 7.

Baker said Strasburg was throwing the ball “very good” and he’s not concerned about the pitcher’s progress. Strasburg has said he would try to return this season if the Nationals advance to the NLCS.


Baker has lost eight consecutive postseason games when his team would have advanced with a victory. That’s the longest such streak in major league history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.


The Dodgers improved to 12-15 in postseason elimination games since moving to Los Angeles.

MLB Playoffs: Nationals beat Dodgers 8-3 to take 2-1 lead in NLDS

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jayson Werth always wanted to hit a home run out of Dodger Stadium when he played two seasons in the venerable ballpark. His latest attempt came close with a 450-foot blast into the upper reaches of the left-field pavilion.

Werth’s homer helped break open a one-run game in the ninth inning, moving the Washington Nationals within one victory of taking a postseason series for the first time with an 8-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday and a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five NL playoff.

Heck, he even tied Babe Ruth with his 15th career postseason homer, good for 11th all-time.

“Ever since Dusty (Baker) moved me into the two-hole, I just felt like my job is to get on base for the animals behind me,” said Werth, whose three hits tied a postseason career high.

Four relievers combined for 4 2/3 shutout innings, putting the Nationals in position to wrap up the NL Division Series on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

“They work quick and they’re not afraid to go after anybody,” said third baseman Anthony Rendon, who hit a two-run homer in a four-run third that chased Kenta Maeda.

Werth added, “It gives us confidence. I feel like the bullpen is going to hold up and that might not have been the case or the feeling in years past.”

NL East champions for the third time in five years, the Nats were unable to advance during their two previous trips to the postseason. They lost in the Division Series to St. Louis in 2012 and San Francisco in 2014.

“I’m hoping this is our year,” Werth said. “We’re battle-tested, we’re playoff-tested, and we’ve got a good group of guys. We’ve been playing together a long time now, so I feel like this is our opportunity.”

Now 37 and with his 2008 World Series championship in Philadelphia long behind him, Werth senses time encroaching on him.

“Obviously, I can’t play this game forever,” he said. “So I feel like this is our chance and I also feel like maybe this is my last chance to do it.”

The franchise has won one playoff series — the Montreal Expos beat Philadelphia following the strike-shortened 1981 season before losing to the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

The team moved from Montreal to Washington before the 2005 season.

Playing 23 hours after the Nationals tied the series at home in a rain-postponed Game 2, the Dodgers again struggled against left-handed pitching, a problem throughout the season when they had a major league-worst .213 average against lefties.

Four Washington lefty relievers stymied the Dodgers in the first two games. Facing lefty starter Gio Gonzalez in Game 3, they got three runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings.

The only Dodgers hitter with proven success against Gonzalez was catcher Carlos Ruiz, and he came through with a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the fifth that cut their deficit to 4-3.

“I made one bad pitch, but the bullpen was incredible,” Gonzalez said. “It’s tough to go on the road and win in the playoffs. I went after them but I wish I had that one pitch back.”

After that, the Dodgers mustered just a pair of singles off a Nats’ bullpen that included lefties Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez, and didn’t advance a runner past first base. Solis wound up with the win.

Now, the four-time defending NL West champions are facing elimination.

“We’re not afraid of this,” rookie manager Dave Roberts said. “There’s no quit in our guys. We’ll be ready tomorrow to win a baseball game, I can promise you that.”

It was still 4-3 when Werth homered on a 1-0 pitch from All-Star closer Kenley Jansen leading off the ninth.

Ryan Zimmerman added a two-run double that bounced off right fielder Josh Reddick’s glove at the wall — the hit scored Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, who both walked.

Jansen, the team’s all-time saves leader, was yanked. Los Angeles used all seven of its relievers in the game.

Maeda gave up four runs and five hits in three innings. The Japanese right-hander who won a team-leading 16 games is one of seven rookies on the Dodgers’ NLDS roster.

“Kenta was missing and getting behind,” Roberts said. “His fastball leaked back behind the plate and they made him pay. It was a good game until the ninth. That’s baseball.”

Maeda retired the side in the second, striking out two, before wilting in the third. He opened the inning by giving up four hits in five batters.

Werth’s RBI double in the right-field corner tied the game 1-all. Harper hit an RBI single and Rendon followed with his two-run shot to the left-field pavilion for a 4-1 lead.

Dodgers rookie Corey Seager continued his first-inning success in the series, hitting an RBI double off the wall for a 1-0 lead after homering in the first inning of Games 1 and 2.


Arrieta’s early 3-run homer doesn’t hold, Cubs lose Game 3

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jake Arrieta had so boldly proclaimed October ace Madison Bumgarner could be beaten, and the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner nearly made it happen with his bat and that big right arm.

Arrieta hit a three-run homer in the second inning that held up for most of the night, but the game was decided by the bullpens hours later, and the Chicago Cubs will have to wait another day to try to earn their spot in the NL Championship Series.

Joe Panik doubled off the wall in right-center field to drive in Brandon Crawford with the winning run in the 13th inning, and the Giants staved off elimination again by outlasting the Cubs 6-5 on Monday in Game 3 of their NL Division Series.

The wild-card Giants forced Tuesday night’s Game 4 back at their raucous, sold-out ballpark, postponing a potential Cubs clinch party. Chicago leads the best-of-five playoff 2-1 and will send John Lackey to the mound opposite lefty Matt Moore.

“We played it hard, we played it right — and they beat us,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Panik came through on the 57th pitch from Mike Montgomery, who was working his fifth inning of relief. Brandon Crawford hit a leadoff double on an 0-2 curveball.

“It’s definitely disappointing the way it ended, but I think we’ll come back tomorrow ready to go,” Montgomery said.

San Francisco won its 10th straight game when facing postseason elimination. The Giants are trying to extend their pattern of even-year championships after winning the World Series in 2010, ’12 and ’14.

Panik’s big hit ended a 5-hour, 4-minute game that was only 29 minutes shy of the total time it took to play the first two series games combined last week at Wrigley Field.

“We just have to have a short memory, forget about it. It’s over, just go out there tomorrow and get the victory,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. “It’s not easy. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Rookie left-hander Ty Blach was the winner, escaping a 13th-inning jam when pinch-hitter David Ross bounced into a double play.

Kris Bryant hit a tying, two-run homer off Giants closer Sergio Romo in the ninth after San Francisco rallied for three runs to take the lead in the eighth against Aroldis Chapman.

Bryant’s drive hit the top of the left-field fence and bounced into the seats, silencing the orange towel-swirling sellout crowd. The slugger received a warm hug of congratulations in the dugout from Chapman, who had just given up the lead.

With Bumgarner’s remarkable postseason scoreless streak at 24 innings, Arrieta drove a 1-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers in the second inning — and, as a bonus, a man in a blue Cubs cap caught it and jumped for joy at his good fortune.

Arrieta’s mouth hung wide open as he rounded the bases, pumping his pitching arm.

It was Arrieta’s fifth career home run, and the first Bumgarner had given up to a pitcher in his seven-year big league career.


Indians top Ortiz, Red Sox 4-3, complete sweep, reach ALCS

BOSTON (AP) — The ball settled into the right fielder’s glove, the Cleveland Indians poured onto the diamond and the Fenway fans fell silent.

Then, slowly from the crowd rose a chant of “Pa-pi!”

Cleveland swept the Red Sox out of the postseason and sent David Ortiz into retirement on Monday night with a 4-3 victory that completed a three-game AL Division Series sweep. But even as the Indians frolicked on the field in their celebratory hats and T-shirts, Boston fans weren’t ready to let their beloved Big Papi go.

“I’m glad he didn’t get a hit to beat us,” manager Terry Francona said after leading the Indians to just the second postseason sweep in franchise history. “I thought it was an honor to be on the field, competing against him in his last game, because he’s truly one of the best. You could tell the way people were hanging around yelling his name and everything. He deserves every bit of that.”

Coco Crisp hit a two-run homer , closer Cody Allen got four outs and the Indians advanced the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2007. That year, they took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series against Boston before losing three in a row.

Cleveland also blew a 2-0 lead against Boston in the best-of-five round in 1999.

But this year there would be no fold.

Perhaps inspired by the Cavaliers’ NBA title — the city’s first pro sports championship since 1964 — the Indians shut down Ortiz and the most prolific offense in the league. Rookie Tyler Naquin delivered a two-run single and Josh Tomlin pitched five strong innings for the Indians, who will open the ALCS at home against Toronto on Friday.

Cleveland went 4-3 this year against the wild-card Blue Jays, who swept AL West champion Texas to reach the ALCS for the second straight year.

“Nobody in this clubhouse doubts what we’re what capable of,” reliever Andrew Miller said as music blared and corks popped in the visitors’ clubhouse. “I think we saw in our games in Cleveland how much support we have. It’s a special place to be. I think we have bigger things ahead of us, but it’s not going to be any easier.”

To advance, the Indians had to shut down the most prolific offense in the major leagues and weather the emotional farewell to Ortiz . The Red Sox designated hitter went 1 for 9 in the series, collecting a sacrifice fly in Game 3 before walking on four pitches in his final plate appearance .

Ortiz was lifted for a pinch runner in the eighth and left to a standing ovation.

But that wasn’t enough for the crowd of 39,530 — the largest at Fenway since at least World War II. Chanting “We’re not leaving!” and “Thank you, Pa-pi!” for more than 10 minutes while the Indians celebrated their victory, the crowd finally drew the beloved slugger back onto the field.

Wearing a red warmup and a scowl on his face, Ortiz lumbered out to the mound and tipped his cap in all directions, tapping his heart. Only when the camera zoomed in on him did it become apparent that the frown was not regret over an early postseason exit: Big Papi was crying.

“Tonight when I walked to the mound, I realized that it was over. It was pretty much probably the last time as a player to walk in front of a crowd,” Ortiz told reporters afterward. “And the emotion came back out again.”

After two minutes, Ortiz retired to the dugout and retired for good, ending to a career that brought three World Series titles to Boston and transformed the once-futile franchise into winners.

“I’m happy, not just for me, not just how my career went down, but for the organization, the step that we took, from going from last place to win the division this year,” he told reporters. “Even if things didn’t end up the way we were looking for … it’s like going from bad to good, from day to night.”

Making it their goal to send their beloved Big Papi out as a winner, the Red Sox managed to win the AL East — the second time in four seasons they went from worst to first.

Boston raised fans’ hopes with an 11-game winning streak in September but then lost eight of its last nine games, including the playoffs. After winning the first two games in the best-of-five AL Division Series, and then waiting an extra day because of Sunday’s rainout, the Indians it took a 2-0 lead off Clay Buchholz in the fourth inning on Naquin’s single.

Tomlin gave up Andrew Benintendi’s Green Monster-scraping RBI double in the fifth, which gave some life to the Fenway crowd.

But with one run in, one out, one on and the fans taunting the Indians starter — “Tom-lin! Tom-lin!” — he struck out Sandy Leon on a pitch in the dirt and then Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded out to first. In the sixth, Crisp hit a two-run homer over the left-field wall to make it 4-1.

Buchholz allowed two runs and six hits in four innings, joining David Price and Rick Porcello as postseason losers.

Tomlin allowed two runs on four in five-plus innings. Miller pitched two innings , Bryan Shaw got two outs and Allen came on to face Ortiz with two out and a man on first in the eighth.

After walking on four pitches , Ortiz stood on first and waved his arms at the mostly dormant crowd. The fans rose to cheer for him and stayed there as Hanley Ramirez singled to make it 4-3.

Now representing the tying run at second, Ortiz was lifted for pinch-runner Marco Hernandez, leaving the field to a raucous cheer. But even after coming out of the game, his work wasn’t done: With one foot on the top step of the dugout, he continued to cheer the team on.

Xander Bogaerts hit a hard line drive to second and Ortiz jumped onto the dirt, only to turn around and walk dejectedly back into the dugout when it was caught for the last out.

In the ninth, Jackie Bradley Jr. singled with two out and Dustin Pedroia drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Travis Shaw worked the count full before popping up to end it.

“I was cheering so bad,” Ortiz said. “Once I got out of the game I was screaming at my team to put me back in it. Make me wear this uniform one more day. Because I wasn’t ready to be over with the playoff.”

MLB Playoffs: Wood homers as Cubs beat Giants 5-2 for 2-0 NLDS lead

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CHICAGO (AP) — Best in the majors during the regular season, the Chicago Cubs are one win from reaching the NL Championship Series for the second straight year.

Travis Wood took over when starter Kyle Hendricks got hurt and became the first relief pitcher since 1924 to hit a postseason home run , helping the Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 5-2 Saturday night for 2-0 NL Division Series lead.

Madison Bumgarner, coming off a four-hit shutout of the New York Mets in the NL wild card game, tries to save the Giants’ season when the series resumes Monday in San Francisco.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon remains wary of the Giants, World Series champions in 2010, ’12 and ’14.

“You watch how they react to different moments,” Maddon said . “They’re never panicked. They’re never concerned. … I really believe our guys will come ready to play knowing that they are also. That’s just a given.”

The Cubs, who start reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, are now one win from a matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington Nationals. Swept by the New York Mets in last year’s NLCS, Chicago led the big leagues with 103 wins during the regular season and is hoping for its first World Series title since 1908.

Ben Zobrist hit a run-scoring single off former Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija in the first, and Hendricks added a two-run, bloop single in a three-run second.

The Cubs were leading 4-2 in the fourth when Hendricks left the game after with a bruised right forearm after being hit by Angel Pagan’s line drive.

Wood struck out Conor Gillaspie to strand Pagan, then sent a one-out offering from George Kontos halfway up the left-field bleachers in the bottom half. The only other reliever to homer in the postseason was the New York Giants’ Rosy Ryan in Game 3 of the 1924 World Series.

Given a curtain call by a screaming crowd of 42,392, Wood joined Rick Sutcliffe (1984) and Kerry Wood (2003) as the only Cubs pitchers to go deep in the postseason. Travis Wood has nine regular-season homers in his big league career.

Wood pitched a hitless fifth and was credited with the win. Four more relievers completed Chicago’s second straight six-hitter, with Aroldis Chapman throwing 12 of 16 pitches at 100 mph and up for his second consecutive save.

Hendricks, the major league ERA leader, gave up two runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“We picked him up tonight, having his injury and stuff and that’s what we have done all year long,” Wood said. “We pull on each other and end up backing each other up.”

Samardzija’s first career playoff start was a short one. The right-hander, who spent his first 61/2 seasons with the Cubs, was pinch hit for in the third after allowing four runs and six hits.

Down 4-0, San Francisco scored two in the third when Gregor Blanco doubled in a run and scored on Brandon Belt ‘s sacrifice fly.

“Just can’t put your team in that much of a hole early in the game, especially against a good staff like they have over there,” Samardzija said. “Like to have that one back, for sure, that one’s on me.”

MLB Playoffs Roundup: Kershaw, Seager, Turner lead LA past Nats 4-3 in NLDS opener

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Clayton Kershaw was hardly at his best.

Nothing new when it comes to October.

He allowed eight hits and three runs. He needed 101 pitches just to make it through five innings. His career postseason ERA even rose a bit, up to 4.65.

Didn’t matter a bit to the lefty. Only this did: He earned a rare playoff victory.

Backed by early homers from rookie sensation Corey Seager and Justin Turner off Max Scherzer in a matchup of Cy Young Award winners that promised more than it delivered, Kershaw helped the Los Angeles Dodgers edge the Washington Nationals 4-3 Friday in Game 1 of their NL Division Series.

“It was a grind. A lot of guys on base all the time. Definitely wasn’t easy,” Kershaw said. “As close as you can bend without breaking, I guess.”

His work done, Kershaw was able to relax in the dugout, chewing gum and blowing bubbles while watching relievers Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen combine to give up one hit over four scoreless innings. Jansen got his first five-out save since April.

“Whatever we’ve got to do to win, right? Those guys are up to the challenge,” Seager said about LA’s bullpen. “And they’ve been up to it all year.”

Game 2 in the best-of-five matchup is Saturday at Washington.

Facing the NL East champs, Kershaw’s three runs might not sound like an exorbitant total, but an opponent scored that many only once in the lefty’s preceding 16 starts. And there was a stop-and-start feel to the evening, because of plenty of boo-inducing mound visits from catcher Yasmani Grandal.

“I wanted to be sure on the signs. We were trying to change ’em up pretty often,” said Kershaw, who improved to 3-6 in the playoffs , a far cry from his regular-season record of 126-60 with a 2.37 ERA and three Cy Young Awards. “It was mainly that I had so many guys on second base.”

Certainly did.

Kershaw left the bases loaded in the second, and stranded two runners in both the third and fifth — striking out Danny Espinosa along the way each time.

“We had him on the ropes a couple times,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said, “and, you know, the big hit just escaped us.”

There was also a baserunning blunder by NL MVP contender Daniel Murphy in the seventh inning.

Murphy, who hadn’t started a game since Sept. 17 because of a strained glute muscle, reached when Baez walked him, but then was thrown out trying to steal second. Baker said it was Murphy’s decision to run there and acknowledged being surprised by the attempt.

“There’s two choices on that,” Murphy said. “Either be safe or don’t run.”

In all, Washington went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

That meant the Nationals repeatedly let Kershaw off the hook. He sat out more than two months with a bad back before returning to the NL West winners in September and hadn’t thrown more than 91 pitches since coming back.

So what if he struggled?

“It feels good to win, and it feels good to win in this situation,” Kershaw said. “If I had pitched seven shutout innings and we lost, it’s a different feeling. At this time of year, you kind of just throw the stats out the window and you just win the game.”

He was staked to a 4-0 lead thanks mainly to Seager and Turner, before slowly giving back most of that margin.

Kershaw allowed only one stolen base during 149 innings in the regular season, then allowed two on a single pitch in the third, when Bryce Harper (who had doubled) and Jayson Werth (who had walked) moved up. That became big when Anthony Rendon ripped a single to left field on a slider that didn’t really slide, bringing both runners home and getting Washington to 4-2.

Trea Turner’s sacrifice fly in the fourth cut LA’s lead to a run.

Like Washington’s Turner, LA’s Seager is a rookie who has not played like one all year long.

On the first pitch he saw from Scherzer, Seager turned on a 97 mph fastball and hit it to the deepest part of Nationals Park, beyond the 402-foot sign in center field, for a 1-0 lead.

Scherzer plunked the next batter, Justin Turner, on the left arm. For whatever reason, the 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner for Detroit — and a 20-game winner who’s a leading contender for the NL honor this year — never truly settled in.

The Dodgers made it 4-0 in the third on Chase Utley’s RBI single, then Justin Turner’s two-run shot on a 77 mph curveball. The ball sailed over the head of Werth, who jumped in vain to try to make a grab, then slammed his glove against the left-field wall.

Homers have been Scherzer’s biggest problem the past two seasons: He allowed 27 in 2015, and a major league-high 31 in 2016.

“I made some mistakes, and they cost me,” Scherzer said. “I take ownership of that, and I’m accountable for that.”


ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Rangers seemed to have everything lined up perfectly going into the postseason, with their two aces ready to go at home for the start of the AL Division Series.

Instead, the AL West champions are headed to Toronto facing the possibility of getting swept in the best-of-five matchup after Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish both struggled.

“We’ve got a good team. We all believe in each other,” All-Star center fielder Ian Desmond said. “Just keep on fighting.”

Darvish allowed a career-worst four homers, three in the same inning , and Texas lost 5-3 on a dreary, misty Friday afternoon in Texas.

That came a day after All-Star lefty Hamels, the MVP of the World Series and NLCS for Philadelphia in 2008, allowed seven runs in 3 1-3 innings in his worst-ever postseason start in a series-opening 10-1 romp by the wild-card Blue Jays.

But the Rangers also remember what happened last October, when Toronto lost the first two games of the ALDS at home before rallying to win the series.

“Why can’t we do it this year, too? You never know until the last out,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “We still believe that we can win this series.”

Game 3 is Sunday night.

“We’re up against it. We’ve got to win three in a row,” second-year Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “We’ve got to start with one.”

Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Edwin Encarnacion, who ended the AL wild-card game with a three-run homer in the 11th inning, hit solo homers in a five-batter span in the fifth to go up 5-0. Troy Tulowitzki’s two-run drive in the second put 20-game winner J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays ahead to stay.

“I was struggling with the strike zone and then was getting behind in the count and they were looking for the fastballs,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “And when I left it on the plate, they got it.”

It was only Darvish’s second postseason appearance in his five seasons with the Rangers after coming from Japan. The right-hander lost the 2012 AL wild-card game to Baltimore, and missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery.

Darvish had as many strikeouts (four) in his five innings as homers allowed, becoming the first pitcher in the postseason to allow four homers in a game since Minnesota’s Rick Reed against Oakland in Game 3 of the 2002 ALDS. He stared upward in disbelief after the balls landed in the seats.

Texas outhit the Blue Jays 13-6 and had multiple runners on base against Happ in each of the first four innings. The only time they scored off the lefty was on Ian Desmond’s RBI single in the fourth.

The Rangers have lost five straight ALDS games to Toronto since winning the first two games in Toronto last October. Texas dropped to 1-11 in ALDS games in its home ballpark.

Texas scored twice in the eighth, including Carlos Gomez’s single that struck Francisco Liriano near the back of the head. The pitcher walked off the mound, and an ambulance was waiting after the game. But he was cleared to fly home with the Blue Jays that evening after being checked out at a hospital.

The ball off Gomez’s bat was measured at 102 mph, and Liriano turned away just in time to avoid being hit in the face.

“It’s tough to see that, but it’s part of the game,” Gomez said.

Roberto Osuna, the 21-year-old closer, then came on to get the final five outs, the first when Desmond greeted him with an RBI grounder. Adrian Beltre had a leadoff double in the ninth, but got stranded there.


ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Talk about a 1-2-3 punch for the Toronto Blue Jays in these playoffs.

The wild-card Blue Jays have rediscovered their power stroke in October, and are going home with a chance to sweep the Texas Rangers in the AL Division Series after a 5-3 win Friday.

Edwin Encarnacion capped a three-homer burst in the fifth inning off Yu Darvish, and Toronto won on a dreary, misty afternoon for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five matchup.

One important reminder, though: Last fall, Toronto lost the first two games of the ALDS at home against Texas, then rallied to win the series.

“I learned something last year … you got to win three games,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “They’ve got a great team over there. You don’t lead the American League, powerhouse league, you don’t luck into that.”

Wearing spikes that had “No Panic” printed on them, closer Roberto Osuna got a five-out save that sent the Blue Jays home looking to clinch the series in Game 3 Sunday night.

Osuna entered after reliever Francisco Liriano was hit near the back of the head by Carlos Gomez’s line drive. Liriano was taken by ambulance after the game to a hospital, where he was checked out and then cleared to fly home with the team that evening. It was Osuna’s first appearance since he left the mound in the AL wild-card win Tuesday night with a shoulder injury that left his status in doubt.

Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Encarnacion, who ended the wild-card game with a three-run homer in the 11th inning, hit solo homers in a five-batter span in the fifth. Troy Tulowitzki’s two-run drive in the second put 20-game winner J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays ahead to stay.

“Getting behind in the count, and they were looking for fastballs,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “When I left it on the plate, they got it.”

Texas scored twice in the eighth, including Gomez’s single that struck Liriano. The pitcher walked off the mound.

A day after Cleveland homered three times in an inning against Boston and won its ALDS opener, the Blue Jays matched the feat against the team that won an AL-high 95 games this year. The home runs boosted the Blue Jays in a game in which they got outhit 13-6.

While Toronto finished the regular season fourth in the majors with 221 homers, only eight came in the last 11 games. They already have eight in three postseason games.

“Home runs are always a good thing,” Gibbons said.

Darvish had as many strikeouts (four) in his five innings as homers allowed, becoming the first pitcher in the postseason to allow four homers in a game since Minnesota’s Rick Reed against Oakland in Game 3 of the 2002 ALDS.

Texas has lost five straight ALDS games to the Blue Jays since winning the first two games in Toronto last October. The Rangers dropped to 1-11 in ALDS games in their home ballpark, including Cole Hamels’ worst postseason outing in the 10-1 series-opening loss Thursday.

“We’ve come back from a lot this year. … We all believe in each other,” said Texas outfielder Ian Desmond, who drove in two runs but was also thrown out trying to score on a grounder.

Happ allowed nine hits but only run before leaving one batter into the sixth.

“You go into a game knowing that at some point they’re going to get their hits,” Happ said. “But yeah, it was a battle. It seemed like a long five innings.”

Osuna, who afterward said he felt no pain, came in a little earlier than planned, a move that followed Liriano getting struck.

The ball off Gomez’s bat was measured at 102 mph, and Liriano turned away just in time to avoid being hit in the face. Gomez winced as the ball caromed into right-center field for a single to make it 5-2.

Desmond drove in a run with a grounder before Osuna struck out Carlos Beltran to end the eighth.

Adrian Beltre was stranded at second after a leadoff double in the ninth.


CHICAGO (AP) — Jon Lester gave the Chicago Cubs a chance, Javier Baez supplied the power and Aroldis Chapman finished the job.

A positive playoff opener for a city draped in “W” flags and hoping for a historic championship.

Lester outpitched Johnny Cueto with eight sparkling innings, Baez homered in the eighth and Chicago beat the San Francisco Giants 1-0 in a tense Game 1 of their NL Division Series on Friday night.

Lester retired his last 13 batters in a dominant performance, but the game was scoreless when Baez sent a towering drive into a stiff wind. With a raucous crowd of 42,148 and every player anxiously tracking the flight of the ball, left fielder Angel Pagan ran out of room as it landed in the basket that tops the ivy-covered walls at Wrigley Field.

Baez thought it was surely gone as soon as the ball left the bat.

“I forgot about the wind,” he said. “The wind’s blowing straight in, and I hit it really good. Good thing it just barely went.”

Chicago’s relievers in the bullpen in foul territory down the left-field line broke into cheers as Baez rounded the bases with the delirious crowd in a frenzy. Baez then came out of the dugout for a curtain call.

“Just waiting for him to make a mistake and he finally did,” Baez said.

Chapman allowed Buster Posey’s two-out double off the ivy in the ninth before Hunter Pence bounced to second for the final out, wrapping a bow on Chicago’s first meaningful game in weeks.

Lester’s $155 million, six-year deal in December 2014 was a key moment in the Cubs’ turnaround from also-ran to contender. They clinched the NL Central title on Sept. 15 and led the majors with 103 wins this year, but have their sights set on the franchise’s first World Series crown since 1908.

“I kind of figured as we got going it would come down to one mistake and luckily we didn’t make one and they did,” Lester said. “And I think that’s just kind of the beginning of the series.”

Game 2 is Saturday night.

Cueto was outstanding, following up Madison Bumgarner’s four-hitter in San Francisco’s wild-card win at New York with his own gem. The right-hander, deftly varying his delivery to keep the Cubs off balance, struck out 10 and allowed three hits in his second straight complete game in the postseason.

“We both were pitching a great ballgame and obviously we knew — we were aware that one run was going to decide the game,” Cueto said through a translator.

Baez’s homer stopped San Francisco’s postseason scoreless streak at 23 innings dating to the World Series in 2014. The Giants also won it all in 2010 and 2012, leading to talk of even-year magic for manager Bruce Bochy’s club, but it was the Cubs with the good fortune in the series opener, a strange turn of events for the usually snake-bitten franchise.

The Giants had at least one hit in each of the first four innings, including leadoff singles in the first three, but Lester held them off each time. The left-hander got some help from his usual catcher, with David Ross throwing out Gorkys Hernandez trying to steal second in the first and picking off wild-card hero Conor Gillaspie at first in the third.

San Francisco had runners on second and third after left fielder Ben Zobrist misplayed Pagan’s sinking liner into a fourth-inning double, but Brandon Crawford bounced out to end the inning.

“We had a couple chances there. We just couldn’t get the key hit,” Bochy said.

Cueto retired his first 10 batters and had the Cubs shaking their heads all night long. He also got some timely help from his defense.

Hernandez got revenge on Ross with an outstanding, sliding catch on the warning track in left-center in the third. Kelby Tomlinson, starting at second in place of Joe Panik with the lefty Lester on the mound, robbed Zobrist of a two-out RBI single in the fourth, then took a hit away from Anthony Rizzo with another diving stop in the seventh.

MLB Playoffs: Bumgarner, Gillaspie lead Giants over Mets 3-0; Cubs next

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NEW YORK (AP) — Nobody takes to October like Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants.

Bumgarner pitched a four-hitter for his latest postseason gem, outlasting Noah Syndergaard in a classic duel between aces, and injury substitute Conor Gillaspie hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning that sent San Francisco to a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets in the NL wild-card game Wednesday night.

“This game was everything we thought. Two really outstanding pitchers going at it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “One of the best postseason games I’ve been a part of.”

Gillaspie connected off All-Star closer Jeurys Familia, who led the majors this year with a club-record 51 saves while allowing only one home run.

With their ninth consecutive victory when facing postseason elimination, Bochy and the Giants advanced to play the NL Central champion Cubs in a best-of-five Division Series. Game 1 is Friday night at venerable Wrigley Field in Chicago.

“I like our chances,” Bumgarner said.

The good news for the Cubs as they attempt to end a championship drought that dates to 1908 is this: Bumgarner probably won’t start until Game 3 — and would only be available once on full rest.

The big left-hander has been untouchable under pressure.

“It’s unbelievable what he’s done,” Gillaspie said.

The last time Bumgarner was on the mound in the postseason, he saved Game 7 of the 2014 World Series in Kansas City with five scoreless innings on two days’ rest to cap one of the greatest playoff performances in baseball history.

Including his four-hit shutout at Pittsburgh in the 2014 wild-card game, he has tossed 23 straight scoreless innings in winner-take-all games — all on the road.

Sandy Koufax. Bob Gibson. Whitey Ford — Bumgarner ranks right up there with any of ’em when it comes to October clutch.

“He’s one of the game’s great big-game pitchers,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Asked how he wants to be remembered, Bumgarner said: “I’m a winner. That’s all anybody wants to be.”

After having the best record in the majors at the All-Star break, San Francisco was 26-42 in the second half before finishing with a four-game winning streak to hold off St. Louis by one game for the final NL playoff spot.

Now, the Giants have a chance to extend their pattern of even-year titles after winning World Series crowns in 2010, ’12 and ’14.

In a matchup between the past two NL champions, Syndergaard struck out 10 in seven innings of two-hit ball. Familia entered in the ninth and Brandon Crawford lined a leadoff double. Angel Pagan struck out after failing to get a bunt down, and Joe Panik walked.

Gillaspie, starting at third base for injured All-Star Eduardo Nunez and playing his first postseason game, drove a 96 mph pitch to right field and pumped his arm as he rounded first.

“I don’t know what I was thinking. Normally I’m not a fired-up guy. I let some frustration out from the first six innings with that swing,” said Gillaspie, who was 7 for 14 with five RBIs in his final five games of the regular season.

Before he connected, the Giants had a pinch-hitter on deck to bat for Bumgarner.

When the ball cleared the fence, it stunned a revved-up, orange towel-waving crowd of 44,747 that sank into its Citi Field seats with a collective groan.

“I missed the location,” Familia said simply.

With the Giants finally ahead, Bochy sent Bumgarner back out. He closed with a 1-2-3 ninth against the 3-4-5 hitters and smacked his glove in triumph when rookie T.J. Rivera flied out to end it.

San Francisco players hugged each other behind the mound and headed for the clubhouse to celebrate with bubbly, cheered by a happy contingent of Giants fans behind their dugout.

“Bum just did his thing,” Bochy said. “We won the game because of him.”

With his sizzling fastball clocking 99 mph and long, blond locks dangling down his neck, Syndergaard held San Francisco hitless until Denard Span’s two-out single in the sixth.

Mets center fielder Curtis Granderson kept the game scoreless with a courageous grab of Brandon Belt’s deep drive, crashing hard with his left shoulder into the padded fence 408 feet from home plate and tumbling to the warning track.

Syndergaard simply overpowered the Giants at times, but Bumgarner kept the Mets off balance by mixing pinpoint pitches and changing speeds from around 93 mph down to 77 mph.

New York came out swinging after Collins said before the game his hitters had seen enough video of Bumgarner over the past two days to know he would challenge them. But the aggressive approach played right into the hands of Bumgarner and the Giants, who never had to use a shaky bullpen that struggled badly down the stretch.

The big lefty was able to get quick outs early and went the distance on 119 pitches, striking out six and walking two — one intentional. He needed only seven pitches to get through each of the first three innings, with the help of a double play.

“I really thought, ‘Hey look, if we can get to him early,'” Collins said. “We probably need to do a little better job of working the count.”


Giants: Nunez (strained right hamstring) was left off the wild-card roster. An AL All-Star this season with Minnesota, he was acquired in a July 28 trade but hasn’t played since Sept. 25.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (wrist) was missed, particularly because of his prodigious numbers against left-handed pitching. Flores has been sidelined since Sept. 10 after getting hurt in a home-plate collision. Surgery is planned this week to remove the hamate bone in his right wrist, and Flores is expected to be healthy for spring training next year.


The Giants have outscored opponents 50-11 in their last nine postseason elimination games. They have won all 11 postseason rounds under Bochy, matching manager Joe Torre and the 1998-2001 New York Yankees for the longest streak in major league history.


New York had a runner on second when Bumgarner caught Asdrubal Cabrera’s not-so-hard liner to end the eighth inning. Pumped up by the play, he tossed the ball deep into the stands as he approached the dugout. “Just to be able to snag that thing was pretty big for us,” Bumgarner said. “It’s OK to say it now since nobody knows, but that was our family section, so just threw the ball there.”


Syndergaard fired 42 pitches at least 98 mph — more than the Phillies (41) and Indians (35) threw all year, according to a tweet from Inside Edge.


Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto figures to start the Division Series opener against LHP Jon Lester. The Cubs had the top record in the majors this year at 103-58.

Mets: Open next season April 3 at home against Atlanta.

MLB Roundup: Mike Trout or playoff-bound Mookie Betts for AL MVP? AL Wild Card Preview

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NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Trout has an MVP problem: He needs more help.

Widely considered baseball’s best all-around player, with modern metrics consistently supporting that assertion, the Los Angeles Angels center fielder has been runner-up in the American League three of the past four years.

The only time he took home the prize was 2014, when the Angels won 98 games and the AL West. They came in third place the other three seasons, leaving Trout to finish second despite his outstanding numbers.

It’s a similar scenario this year. Trout led the league in runs (123), on-base percentage (.441) and wins above replacement (10.6), as calculated by But he did all that for a fourth-place team that went 74-88 and was never in the playoff hunt.

With other top contenders on clubs that reached the postseason, Trout could be denied yet again — perhaps in favor of dynamic outfielder Mookie Betts or retiring bopper David Ortiz from AL East champion Boston.

“It’s not really defined a certain way, so people are going to have opinions different ways. For me, I think it should go to someone that is on a winning team and has a chance to go to the playoffs,” Cleveland slugger Mike Napoli said. “But then again, you can’t take away from people that really can’t control other people having down years and you having a really great year. So I think you can go either way.”

Over in the National League, it shapes up much the same.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs, who led the majors with 103 wins, are joined in the MVP discussion by Daniel Murphy from NL East champion Washington and rookie shortstop Corey Seager of the NL West champion Dodgers. Some of their stiffest competition comes from players on losing clubs: Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto.

Both Cy Young Award races are close, too, with Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer among those in the mix.

Poor teams have produced MVPs before — Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson (1987) and Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez (2003) even won for clubs that came in last place.

But until Washington slugger Bryce Harper was a unanimous winner in the NL last season, nobody in either league had been elected MVP from a team that missed the playoffs since Albert Pujols with St. Louis in 2008.

“Is it the best player in the particular league? When you look at the numbers, Trout obviously is the best player and that’s hard to argue,” said Dave Roberts, a strong candidate for NL Manager of the Year in his first season running the Dodgers.

“But for a winning team, there’s got to be some weight put on that and what that particular person means to that particular winning team. I kind of fluctuate season to season,” he added.

Voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is conducted before the postseason begins Tuesday, and results will be announced in November.

Here are our choices for all the big awards:


The nod goes to Trout (29 HRs, 100 RBIs, 30 for 37 in steals, .991 OPS) despite his team’s flaws. He scored 17 percent of the Angels’ runs this season, the highest percentage for an AL player since Rickey Henderson with the 1985 New York Yankees.

Taking nothing away from his achievements, Betts (31 HRs, 113 RBIs, 26 for 30 on steals, .897 OPS) benefited from hitting in a loaded Boston batting order, while Trout had little protection outside of Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun. It’s not fair to look past Trout simply because the Angels pitched poorly and fielded a thin lineup.

But if Betts wins, no complaints.


Some of the stats for Bryant and Rizzo are incredibly identical. They both batted .292 with a .385 on-base percentage, while Bryant had 39 homers and 102 RBIs to Rizzo’s 32 homers and 109 RBIs. Bryant also led the league in runs (121) and WAR while providing versatility on defense. He wins MVP honors one season after he was the NL Rookie of the Year. Arenado and Murphy warrant a close look, too, though.


Tigers ace Justin Verlander (16-9, 3.04 ERA) nips Boston right-hander Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.15) and 2014 winner Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14). Verlander led the league with 254 strikeouts and a 1.00 WHIP while throwing a few more innings than either of the other two. Porcello was fantastic but relied more on his defense, fanning 189.


Clayton Kershaw’s back injury might be the only reason this is a race — but it’s a close one. Some wonder whether Lester (19-5, 2.44) and Cubs teammate Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13) could split first-place votes and knock each other out after running 1-2 in ERA. Freeman said he favors Hendricks, while Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard went another way and picked Scherzer.

We think Howard’s got it right.

Washington’s ace went 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA while leading the league in strikeouts (284), innings (228 1/3) and WHIP (0.97). He even matched a major league record with 20 Ks in one game. Neither Lester nor Hendricks reached 200 strikeouts or 205 innings.


Two months in the majors are not enough for Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, even with 20 home runs and a 1.032 OPS in 201 at-bats. Detroit right-hander Michael Fulmer (11-7, 3.06 ERA, 159 innings) is the pick — but check out overlooked Houston reliever Chris Devenski (2.16 ERA and 104 Ks in 108 1/3 innings).


At one point it appeared this could be quite a race between a trio of talented young shortstops. Seager, however, ran away with it when Trevor Story and Aledmys Diaz got hurt.


Terry Francona wins with Cleveland for the second time in four years. His team overcame several significant injuries in winning the AL Central over World Series champion Kansas City and a Detroit squad that outspent the Indians by $107 million on player payroll.


Roberts edges Terry Collins of the New York Mets. Both clubs were severely depleted by health problems and still made the playoffs, but the Dodgers were four wins better and won their division.


A look at the American League wild-card game between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays:


Schedule: Tuesday, at Toronto, 8:08 p.m. EDT (TBS).


Season Series: Blue Jays won 10-9.


Projected Lineups:

Orioles: RF Michael Bourn (.264, 5 HRs, 52 RBIs with Diamondbacks and Orioles), CF Adam Jones (.265, 29, 83), 3B Manny Machado (.294, 37, 96), DH Mark Trumbo (.256, 47, 108, 170 Ks), C Matt Wieters (.244, 17, 66), 1B Chris Davis (.221, 38, 84, 88 BBs, 219 Ks), 2B Jonathan Schoop (.267, 25, 82), LF Hyun Soo Kim (.302, 6, 22), SS J.J. Hardy (.269, 9, 48).

Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis (.300, 11, 50), 3B Josh Donaldson (.284, 37, 99), 1B Edwin Encarnacion (.263, 42, 127), DH Jose Bautista (.234, 22, 69), C Russell Martin (.231, 20, 74), SS Troy Tulowitzki (.254, 24, 79), RF Michael Saunders (.253, 24, 57), CF Kevin Pillar (.266, 7, 53), LF Ezequiel Carrera (.248, 6, 23) or Melvin Upton Jr. (.238, 20, 61 with San Diego and Toronto).


Starting Pitchers:

Orioles: RH Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.77 ERA, 140Ks).

Blue Jays: RH Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37, career-high 204 IP).



Orioles: LH Zach Britton (2-1, 0.54, 47/47 saves, 18 BBs, 74 Ks), RH Brad Brach (10-4, 2.05, 2 saves, 92 Ks), RH Darren O’Day (3-1, 3.77, .214 BA against), RH Mychal Givens (8-2, 3.13, .220 BA against), RH Vance Worley (2-2, 3.53) RH Oliver Drake (1-0, 4.00, 21 Ks in 18 innings), LH Brian Duensing (1-0, 4.05), RH Tommy Hunter (2-2, 3.18 with Indians and Orioles).

Blue Jays: RH Roberto Osuna (1-6, 2.68, 36/39 saves), RH Jason Grilli (7-6, 1.29, 81Ks in 59 innings with Atlanta and Toronto), LH Brett Cecil (1-7, 3.96), RH Joe Biagini (4-3, 3.06 in 60 games as a rookie).



A single-elimination showdown between AL East foes that battled to the final day of the regular season to determine which one would host this game. … Toronto and Baltimore tied for second place at 89-73, four games behind division champion Boston. … This is the first postseason meeting between the teams, who have been in the same division since the Blue Jays were born in 1977. … Orioles went 4-6 in Toronto this season but took two of three there last week, winning the final two games of a pivotal series after losing six of their previous seven road games against the Blue Jays. Baltimore got a two-run homer from Kim in the ninth inning to win one game and a stout performance by Jimenez in a 4-0 victory. … Toronto outscored the Orioles 97-81 overall in 19 meetings. … Machado and Donaldson have clashed in the past, most recently last year. … Tillman went 1-0 with a 3.63 ERA in four starts against the Blue Jays this season. … Trumbo hit only one home run in 80 plate appearances against Toronto. … Blue Jays have won nine of the past 15 meetings, outscoring the Orioles 83-65. … Since moving into Rogers Centre in 1989, Toronto has gone 136-86 there against Baltimore. … The Blue Jays hit 29 home runs in the season series, while Baltimore had 28. … This is Martin’s ninth trip to the playoffs in 11 major league seasons. He has made it with four teams (also the Dodgers, Yankees and Pirates). … The winner heads to Texas to play the AL West champion Rangers in a best-of-five Division Series beginning Thursday.


Big Picture:

Orioles: Baltimore has excelled under manager Buck Showalter, who took over in July 2010. After 14 straight losing seasons, the Orioles are in the playoffs for the third time in five years. They lost to the Yankees in 2012 ALDS and advanced to ALCS in 2014 before being swept in four games by Kansas City. … This team is built for power. Trumbo led the majors in homers and five of his teammates hit at least 22. Baltimore topped the big leagues with 253 home runs, 28 more than runner-up St. Louis. … Bourn is a threat on the bases, but the Orioles had only 19 steals — the fewest since the 1972 Detroit Tigers swiped 17. … Orioles went 52-38 at home and 39-42 on the road but finished with a 4-2 mark on their season-ending trip to Toronto and Yankee Stadium. … Baltimore won its final five series away from home. … Orioles went 21-16 in one-run games and 6-2 in extra innings.

Blue Jays: After snapping a 22-year postseason drought in 2015, Toronto reached the playoffs for the second straight season under manager John Gibbons. The last time the Blue Jays did that was a three-year run from 1991-93 that ended with back-to-back World Series titles. … The Blue Jays went 13-16 in September and October, their first losing month since April (11-14). … Toronto averaged an AL-worst 3.69 runs per game in September and October, a full run off their season average of 4.70. … Blue Jays starters were strong down the stretch, allowing no more than one earned run in 12 of the final 17 games. The bullpen struggled, however, blowing leads five times in a seven-game stretch that ended Oct. 1. … The Blue Jays went 46-35 at home, the fourth-best mark in the division. … Toronto has never played in the wild-card round before. … Toronto has several pending free agents, including Bautista, Encarnacion, Saunders, Cecil and RHP R.A. Dickey.


Watch For:

— Mister Perfect. Britton converted every one of his 47 save opportunities this season and allowed only four earned runs, none after Aug. 24. If the Orioles have a lead in the eighth or ninth inning, they’ll feel pretty good about Britton locking it down.

— Missing Benoit. Blue Jays reliever Joaquin Benoit went 2-0 with a 0.38 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings after being acquired from Seattle on July 26, but tore his left calf running in from the bullpen during a bench-clearing scrap with the Yankees on Sept. 26. He was ruled out for two to three weeks.

— RISP-Y Business. Toronto hit .249 with runners in scoring position, the worst mark among AL playoff teams. Over the final eight games, the Blue Jays were 13 for 66 (.197) with one double in those situatio

AP Baseball Writers Noah Trister in Detroit and Janie McCauley in San Francisco, and AP freelancer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd in Atlanta contributed to this report.

MLB Roundup: Blue Jays clinch playoff berth, beat Red Sox 2-1

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BOSTON (AP) — Aaron Sanchez said he didn’t know — and didn’t care — that the Blue Jays had already clinched a spot in baseball’s postseason.

Toronto still had a chance to host the AL wild-card game, and Sanchez wanted the win.

“I wasn’t ready to go home,” he said after the Blue Jays beat the Boston Red Sox 2-1 in the regular season finale on Sunday to claim the AL’s top wild-card berth. “For it to come down to (Game) 162, and me being out there … there was a lot at stake in that game. And it was in my hands.”

Sanchez took a no-hitter into the seventh, and Troy Tulowitzki singled to break an eighth-inning tie. Roberto Osuna retired David Ortiz on a weak nubber in front of the plate on the final regular season at-bat of his career, and then got Jackie Bradley Jr. on a groundout with two on to finish the game.

The Blue Jays had a muted celebration on the field, then popped champagne in the visitor’s clubhouse at Fenway Park.

“I’m (usually) straight-faced,” Tulowitzki said. “But that was fun out there.”

Toronto clinched a spot in the postseason when Detroit lost to Atlanta 1-0 earlier Sunday evening. With their win in Boston, the Blue Jays earned the right to host the Baltimore Orioles in a one-game playoff on Tuesday.

The Red Sox will start their AL Division Series against the Indians on Thursday in Cleveland.

“We’ve been able to win on the road and that’s where our playoff journey begins,” manager John Farrell said.

Pitching with Jose Fernandez’s initials on his hat in tribute to the Marlins pitcher who died last week, Sanchez held Boston hitless until Hanley Ramirez’s disputed home run with two outs in the seventh. The ball sailed over the foul pole above the Green Monster.

Sanchez tried to wave the ball foul and then yelled to the umpire, “No way!” But the replay upheld the original call.

“For me, it looked foul,” he said, but added that it didn’t matter as long as the Blue Jays won.

Xander Bogaerts followed with a single — the only other hit allowed by Sanchez, who lowered his ERA to 3.00 and clinched the AL title. In all, Sanchez (15-2) allowed one run, walking two, striking out six and hitting a batter.

“You have to give credit to Sanchez. He was (the) one today,” Ortiz said. “That’s the best I’ve ever seen him.”

The Blue Jays took the lead back in the eighth against Brad Ziegler (2-4) when Tulowitzki singled with runners on first and third. Toronto’s other run came on Devon Travis’ solo homer in the fifth.

Boston put runners on first and second with two out in the ninth, but Osuna retired Bradley to end the game for his 36th save.


NEW YORK (AP) — Matt Wieters homered from both sides of the plate and Kevin Gausman gave Baltimore a clutch pitching performance to snag a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season.

Baltimore will play at AL East rival Toronto in the wild-card game Tuesday night for a chance to face AL West champion Texas in a best-of-five Division Series.

Zach Britton got five outs in a non-save situation and finished perfect in 47 save chances this year with a 0.54 ERA. Wieters drove in four runs and Gausman (9-12) was charged with two runs in 7 1/3 innings as the Orioles reached the postseason for the third time in five years.

Luis Cessa (4-4) got the loss.


ATLANTA (AP) — Detroit was eliminated from playoff contention when Julio Teheran matched a career high with 12 strikeouts and Freddie Freeman hit a first-inning sacrifice fly that led Atlanta to victory in the last game at Turner Field.

While the Braves focused on sending their home of 20 years out in style before moving to a new suburban stadium in 2017, the Tigers hoped to extend this season with a victory.

They needed to win, hope that either Baltimore or Toronto lost, and then win a makeup game against Cleveland on Monday in order to force a tiebreaker for an AL wild card.

Instead, Detroit lost its second straight against the last-place Braves.

Teheran (7-10) lasted seven innings, giving up three hits and a walk. Jim Johnson, who agreed to a two-year contract before the game, worked the ninth for his 20th save in 23 chances.

Justin Verlander (16-9) allowed six hits in seven innings, walked one intentionally and struck out eight.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — If it is an even-numbered year, San Francisco finds its way into the playoffs

San Francisco made it on the final day of the regular season, securing the second NL wild card with a win over Los Angeles to complete a three-game sweep of their rival.

Denard Span hit a two-run triple among his three hits, and Buster Posey drove in three runs and had three hits.

San Francisco, which won Series titles in 2010, ’12 and ’14, plays at the defending NL champion New York Mets on Wednesday night in the NL wild-card game, with the winner advancing to a Division Series against the Chicago Cubs. Madison Bumgarner, the 2014 World Series MVP, will face Noah Syndergaard.

Midseason acquisition Matt Moore (6-5) allowed one run and three hits in eight innings.

Kenta Maeda (16-11) surrendered five runs and nine hits in 2 2/3 innings.


CINCINNATI (AP) — Matt Szczur doubled home two runs with two outs in the ninth inning, and Miguel Montero followed with a homer as Chicago finished one of its most successful seasons with a flourish.

With victory No. 103 in the books, the Cubs headed back to Wrigley Field for their first playoff game on Friday against the winner of the NL wild-card game.

The Cubs led the majors with their most victories since 1910. That’s no longer the reference point, however. The postseason focus is 1908, the last time they won a World Series.

After Raisel Iglesias (3-2) retired the first two batters in the ninth, Chicago pulled ahead with a walk, a single and Szczur’s double.

Justin Grimm (2-1) retired the one batter he faced for the win. Carl Edwards Jr. got his second save.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Francisco Lindor hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the eighth inning, Josh Tomlin dazzled in his final tuneup for the postseason and Cleveland beat Kansas City.

Tomlin (13-9) dueled with Ian Kennedy (11-11) into the eighth before the new AL Central champs pulled ahead.

Tomlin got the first batter in the eighth before Andrew Miller finished it up, and Cody Allen handled the ninth to earn his 32nd save and give the Indians (94-67) a nice boost heading into the playoffs.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Max Scherzer earned his 20th victory and drove in a career-high four runs to help Washington beat Miami.

Scherzer (20-7) allowed five runs in five innings while striking out seven. It was his second 20-win season, and he became the second pitcher to win 20 games for the Nationals since they moved to Washington.

Mark Melancon pitched the ninth to earn his 47th save in 51 chances.

The NL East champion Nationals, who will face Los Angeles in the Division Series, finished the regular season 95-67, a 12-game improvement in manager Dusty Baker’s first season.

Third baseman Martin Prado served as the Marlins’ manager, continuing a tradition actual manager Don Mattingly was a part of while working under Joe Torre in New York and Los Angeles and later when he managed the Dodgers.

Austin Brice (0-1) took the loss.


CHICAGO (AP) — Byron Buxton hit the game’s first pitch for an inside-the-park home run and Minnesota beat Chris Sale in manager Robin Ventura’s final game with Chicago.

Ventura said after the game that leaving was “a personal decision.” He was in the last year of his contract.

Miguel Sano added a three-run homer off Sale (17-10), who allowed five runs and six hits over five innings.

Jose Berrios (3-7) allowed one run and four hits in five innings.

Brandon Kintzler got the final three outs for his 17th save in 20 tries.


ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Alexei Ramirez had four hits, including a 10th-inning double before scoring, and Tampa Bay ended another losing season with a victory over AL West champion Texas.

The Rangers tied it in the ninth against closer Alex Colome, but the Rays then opened the 10th with three consecutive hits off Tanner Scheppers (1-1).

Erasmo Ramirez, the seventh Rays pitcher and 14th in the game, worked the 10th for his second save.

Colome (2-4) got the win.

While the Rangers (95-67) fell one win shy of matching the franchise record for victories, they had already clinched home-field advantage through the postseason. They will open the playoffs at home Thursday against the AL wild card winner, either Toronto or Baltimore.


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ryan Howard’s farewell game with the Philadelphia Phillies ended with a win.

Cesar Hernandez hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh inning, and Philadelphia beat playoff-bound New York.

Howard, the last player remaining from the 2008 World Series championship team, was honored in a pregame ceremony. The Phillies are planning to pay Howard a $10 million buyout instead of exercising a $23 million club option for 2017.

Colton Murray (1-1) pitched one inning in relief of Jerad Eickhoff to earn his first career win despite allowing a run. Hector Neris finished for his second save.

Erik Goeddel (2-2) took the loss.


ST. LOUIS (AP) — A win on the final day of the season was not enough for the St. Louis Cardinals, who missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Matt Carpenter homered and Randal Grichuk keyed a six-run seventh-inning with a two-run double to lead the Cardinals.

But the Cardinals (86-76) were eliminated while still on the field when San Francisco (87-75) beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-1 and earned the second NL wild card.

Jonathan Broxton (4-2) won despite allowing two runs in one inning of relief.

Juan Nicasio (10-7) gave up three runs without recording an out in the seventh.


SEATTLE (AP) — Stephen Vogt hit his 14th home run in the first inning on the only pitch that he saw on the final day of the season and Oakland held on to beat Seattle.

Vogt drove the first pitch he got from Felix Hernandez just beyond the left-field wall to give the A’s an early lead.

Seattle appeared drained after seeing its postseason hopes dashed in Saturday’s extra-innings loss to the A’s. Hernandez (11-8) was lifted after the third inning and Guillermo Heredia’s two-run double in the fifth amounted to all of Seattle’s offense and the only real threat against Oakland starter Sean Manaea.

Manaea (7-9) threw six innings, allowing five hits and striking out five.


ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Mike Trout stole his 30th base and drove in his 100th run, and Los Angeles completed its worst season of the 21st century.

Trout wrapped up another MVP-caliber campaign stuck on 29 homers, but he got his milestone stolen base in the first inning and an RBI single in the sixth before leaving to a standing ovation.

Houston’s Brady Rodgers (0-1) gave up five hits and four runs in his first big league start for his hometown team.

Jhoulys Chacin (4-4) finished an inconsistent year with a dominant effort in his first victory since Aug. 21.


DENVER (AP) — Andrew Susac hit his first homer of the season, a two-run drive in the 10th inning that lifted Milwaukee over Colorado.

After Orlando Arcia hustled for a two-out double, Susac followed with a liner to left off Chris Rusin (3-5).

Reliever Tyler Thornburg (8-5) won after blowing a lead for a second straight day. Corey Knebel pitched a perfect 10th for his second save.

DJ LeMahieu sat out Sunday to protect his lead in the batting title race. It worked as LeMahieu edged Washington’s Daniel Murphy by percentage points — .3478 to .3465.


PHOENIX (AP) — Pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning lifted Arizona over San Diego.

Tuffy Gosewich doubled against the Padres’ Brad Hand (4-4) after two fly outs, then was replaced by pinch-runner Socrates Brito. Gosselin lined his winning hit up the middle to end the game.

Daniel Hudson (3-2) earned the win.

MLB Roundup: Blue Jays beat Red Sox 4-3, move up in wild-card race

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The New York Mets clinched a playoff spot Saturday, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 to secure the top National League wild card.

The defending NL champions will host San Francisco or St. Louis on Wednesday night at Citi Field, with the winner advancing to face the Chicago Cubs.

James Loney hit a two-run homer to back Bartolo Colon (15-8), and Jeurys Familia closed for his major league-high 51st save. T.J. Rivera, Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera each had an RBI single.

The only other time the Mets made the postseason in consecutive years was 1999-2000. New York won the NL East last season and went all the way to the World Series before losing to Kansas City.

By clinching with one day to spare in the regular season, the Mets can save All-Star ace Noah Syndergaard for the wild-card game.

Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer in what was likely his penultimate game with the Phillies, who have dropped six straight. Patrick Schuster (0-1) took the loss.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Giants rookie Ty Blach outpitched ace Clayton Kershaw, and San Francisco held its lead for the last NL playoff spot going into the final day of the regular season.

The Giants stayed one game ahead of St. Louis for the second wild card.

Blach (1-0) earned his first big league victory, pitching eight innings of three-hit ball. He struck out six and walked one in his second start in the majors, and also got his first two hits.

Sergio Romo closed for his fourth save.

Angel Pagan homered in the fifth off Kershaw (12-4) to break a scoreless tie. Kershaw will start Game 1 of the Division Series against Washington — the Los Angeles loss gave the Nationals home-field advantage.


ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jedd Gyorko hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning, Matt Holliday provided another big boost and St. Louis pushed the playoff race to the final day.

The Cardinals trail San Francisco by one game for the second NL wild card.

Gyorko’s 30th homer came off Felipe Rivero (1-6).

Kevin Siegrist (6-3) pitched the eighth. Seung Hwan Oh left runners at second and third for his 19th save.


BOSTON (AP) — The Blue Jays almost balked away a pivotal game in their postseason chase.

With Toronto leading in the eighth inning thanks to another strong start from 20-game winner J.A. Happ, Roberto Osuna balked in the tying run. But Ezequiel Carrera delivered a sacrifice fly in the ninth, and Toronto beat Boston 4-3 on Saturday night to move into a tie with Baltimore for the top spot in the AL wild-card race.

“We had the lead and the tying run scores on balk. I was worried about the baseball gods,” said manager John Gibbons, whose team is tied with the Orioles at 88 wins with one game to play. “We want to enjoy this one. They’re hard to come by.”

Toronto owns the tie-breaker with Baltimore and would host the wild-card game if it wins the season finale Sunday. Detroit is also still in the wild-card hunt but would require losses by the Jays or Orioles to get in.

With the loss, Boston fell one-half game behind Cleveland in the race for home-field advantage when their AL Division Series begins on Thursday.

“Obviously, we would like the home-field advantage,” Boston utilityman Brock Holt said. “We’ll come ready to go tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll play that first game here.”

One night after the Blue Jays blew a 3-1 lead and gave up the winning homer to the soon-to-be-retired David Ortiz, Happ seemed poised to pick up his 21st win. But with Toronto leading 3-2 in the eighth, Mookie Betts doubled, took third on Holt’s hard-hit double-play ball and then scored to tie it when the Blue Jays closer Osuna stopped his motion after starting to get into the stretch.

“That was a pretty obvious one,” said Betts, who had two hits and scored twice for Boston.

Osuna got Jackie Bradley Jr. to end the inning.

With Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel (2-6) pitching in the ninth, Michael Saunders drew a leadoff walk, and then pinch-runner Dalton Pompey took second on a sacrifice bunt, third on a wild pitch and scored on Carrera’s fly to left.

“We grinded out at-bats,” said Toronto’s Kevin Pillar, who drove in three runs on a pair of RBI singles. “We know what the alternative is: going home. You don’t put this much work in to fold up shop and go home.”

Kimbrel has losses in two of his last three appearances, issuing six walks while completing two innings. Since Sept. 22, his ERA has risen from 2.52 to 3.40.

The 21-year-old Osuna (4-3) retired the Red Sox in order in the ninth to recover from his sixth blown save of the season.


NEW YORK (AP) — Tyler Austin tied the score with a seventh-inning home run, Austin Romine and Brett Gardner drove in two runs each in the eighth and New York rallied from a three-run deficit to stall Baltimore’s playoff push.

Thanks to Detroit’s loss Saturday night, however, Baltimore (88-73) can clinch an AL wild card with a win Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

All-Star setup man Brad Brach (10-4) took the loss. He was charged with a season-high four runs.

Tyler Clippard (2-3) pitched a perfect eighth, and Dellin Betances struck out the side after an infield hit in the ninth. The Yankees stopped the Orioles’ three-game winning streak and sent them to their second loss in eight games.

Mark Trumbo had four hits for Baltimore, which built a 3-0 lead against Luis Severino on Michael Bourn’s two-run single and Manny Machado’s 37th home run. Machado’s third-inning, opposite-field drive to right ended an 0-for-17 slide.


ATLANTA (AP) — Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis homered, rookie Aaron Blair had a career-high 10 strikeouts and last-place Atlanta damaged Detroit’s playoff hopes.

The Tigers dropped 1 1/2 games out of the second AL wild-card spot. They need a win Sunday and a loss by Baltimore or Toronto to avoid postseason elimination.

The Tigers will have ace Justin Verlander on the mound Sunday. Depending on the playoff scenario, Detroit’s regular season might extend with a makeup home game Monday against Cleveland.

Atlanta took a 5-2 lead in the seventh on Adonis Garcia’s two-run single, but reliever Mauricio Cabrera loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth. Chaz Roe struck out Miguel Cabrera and got J.D. Martinez to ground into a double play.

Braves closer Jim Johnson gave up a run in the ninth on Jose Iglesias’ infield single but retired pinch-hitter Victor Martinez to earn his 19th save. The Braves have won 11 of 13 heading into the last game at Turner Field.

Blair (2-7) entered with an 8.02 ERA but gave up four hits and two runs in five innings.

Detroit starter Jordan Zimmermann (9-7) went four innings and is 0-4 with an 11.64 ERA in four starts since June 24.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Nationals rookie Trea Turner hit his 13th homer, Tanner Roark tuned up for the playoffs with 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball and Washington beat Miami while clinching home-field advantage in the NL Division Series.

NL East champion Washington’s third trip to the postseason in five years will begin Friday in the nation’s capital against the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers, with Max Scherzer slated to face Clayton Kershaw.

The Nationals, it turned out, didn’t need to beat the Marlins — which they did, thanks to Turner, Roark (16-10) and Bryce Harper’s RBI single. The Dodgers’ loss to San Francisco assured Washington a better record and was announced before the bottom of the seventh to the Nationals Park crowd of 31,635, which responded with a standing ovation.

Wei-Yin Chen (5-5) allowed two runs in five innings.

Mark Melancon got four outs for his 46th save.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Francisco Lindor hit a two-out, two-run double during an eighth-inning rally to help Cleveland beat Kansas City .

Kevin McCarthy replaced Matt Strahm (2-2) with a runner on and walked the bases loaded before Lindor’s double over third base.

Mike Clevinger (3-3) won for the AL Central champs by retiring the only two batters he faced. Cody Allen worked the ninth for his 31st save in 34 opportunities.

Trevor Bauer tuned up for the postseason by striking out nine over six innings of three-run ball. Bauer will start Game 1 of the Division Series against Boston.


CINCINNATI (AP) — Jon Lester failed to become a 20-game winner, struggling for the first time since mid-July as the Reds pulled away to a victory over what’s likely to be the Cubs’ lineup for the first game of the playoffs.

Lester (19-5) gave up five runs in five innings, including Eugenio Suarez’s two-run homer and a pair of RBIs by Joey Votto. The left-hander hadn’t allowed five runs in a start since July 9.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has been getting players — especially his starting pitchers — some rest heading into the postseason. Even so, the Cubs have won eight of 12, finishing one of their best regular seasons with a flourish. Chicago’s 102 victories are its most since 1910.

Tim Adleman (4-4) gave up three runs in five innings as part of a rare Reds victory over Chicago.


ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Colby Lewis lost his fifth straight start in the right-hander’s tuneup for the playoffs, allowing Corey Dickerson’s three-run homer in Tampa Bay’s victory.

All four runs off Lewis (6-5) came in the third inning and were unearned.

The Rangers rested most of their starters a night after the AL West winners clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Texas (95-66) remains a win shy of the franchise record.

Jake Odorizzi (10-6) struck out eight in six innings, giving up his only run on Robinson Chirinos’ eighth homer in the sixth.

Alex Colome pitched around Dickerson’s dropped fly ball leading off the ninth for his 37th save.


CHICAGO (AP) — Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco each hit a two-run home run to send James Shields to a major league high-tying 19th loss.

The Twins got 6 1/3 innings of three-hit ball from Hector Santiago (13-10) in their third win in 14 games.

Shields (6-19) concluded a career-worst season split between San Diego and Chicago by allowing five runs and four hits over seven innings.


ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Collin McHugh pitched three-hit ball over 7 2/3 innings to help Houston beat Los Angeles.

Tyler Skaggs (3-4) was removed after 1 2/3 innings. Ken Giles converted his 15th save.


DENVER (AP) — Chris Carter hit a tiebreaking home run with two outs in the 10th inning, leading Milwaukee over Colorado.

Carter’s 41st homer of the season came on a 3-2 pitch against Adam Ottavino (1-3).

The Rockies tied it against Tyler Thornburg (7-5) in the ninth on pinch-hitter Tom Murphy’s RBI double.


PHOENIX (AP) — Yasmany Tomas hit a three-run homer as part of Arizona’s five-run first inning in a win.

The Diamondbacks stole six bases, including a franchise record-tying four in the first inning.

Diamondbacks starter Archie Bradley (8-9) struck out a career high 11 in seven innings.

Clayton Richard (3-4) gave up four earned runs and six hits with four walks in 4 1/3 innings for the Padres.


SEATTLE (AP) — Joey Wendle hit a tiebreaking RBI double off Edwin Diaz in the top of the 10th inning, and Oakland ended Seattle’s playoff hopes.

Nelson Cruz’s comebacker with a man on in the bottom of the inning deflected off pitcher Ryan Madson (6-7) almost directly to first base, preventing Ben Gamel from scoring from second base.

Madson also escaped a bases-loaded situation in the ninth.

Seattle needed to win out to have a chance at an AL wild card.

Bruce Maxwell opened the 10th with a double off Diaz (0-4) and Wendle’s fourth hit of the night put Oakland in fron

MLB Roundup: Yankees eliminated despite Sabathia’s 5-1 win over Red Sox

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Yadier Molina hit a disputed double that drove in the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday night, sending the St. Louis Cardinals over the Cincinnati Reds 4-3.

The Cardinals are one game behind San Francisco for the second NL wild-card spot.

Matt Carpenter drew a one-out walk from Blake Wood (6-5). With two outs, Molina’s one-hop hit clearly bounced off a sign above the left-field wall and caromed back into play.

Carpenter kept running and scored from first. Reds manager Bryan Price ran after the umpires, who left when Carpenter touched the plate.

Price said he was told by the umpire that he didn’t make his appeal for a replay review fast enough on what should’ve been a ground-rule double.

Seung Hwan Oh (6-3) wound up with the win.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Johnny Cueto struck out 11 and San Francisco set up a wild race to the finish for the NL wild-card spots.

With three games left, the Giants are one game behind the New York Mets and one game ahead of St. Louis.

San Francisco hosts the Dodgers beginning Friday, the Cardinals play Pittsburgh at home and the Mets close out the regular season in Philadelphia.

Cueto (18-5) overcame a shaky start in his first appearance since being sidelined more than a week with a groin strain.

Colorado starter Jon Gray (10-10) allowed five runs over 5 1-3 innings.


SEATTLE (AP) — Struggling Mike Zunino delivered the go-ahead home run in the seventh inning and Seattle stayed on the edge of the AL wild card chase.

The Mariners are two games behind Baltimore and Toronto with three to play.

Zunino, hitting .139 over his last 25 games, opened the seventh with his 12th home run, sending a 2-2 pitch from Liam Hendriks (0-4) deep over the wall in left.

Steve Cishek (4-6) won and rookie Edwin Diaz notched his 18th save.


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Joc Pederson doubled twice and drove in three runs, and NL West champion Los Angeles avoided a three-game sweep in San Diego.

The Dodgers remained two games behind Washington with three to play in the race for home-field advantage in their upcoming Division Series matchup.

Rookie left-hander Julio Urias went three scoreless innings in his first start since Sept. 13. Brett Anderson (1-2) pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings for the victory.

Christian Friedrich (5-12) allowed five runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings.


PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh played to the first tie game in the major leagues since 2005 when rain forced them to stop in the sixth inning.

The Cubs and Pirates aren’t scheduled to play again this season, and the game won’t be made up because it doesn’t affect postseason positioning. So instead of becoming a suspended game, the stats count and it was declared a tie — the first since Houston and Cincinnati on June 30, 2005.

Willson Contreras had two hits and scored for the NL Central champion Cubs, who have already clinched the best record in the majors.

The game was called after a delay of 1 hour, 23 minutes.


TORONTO (AP) — Ubaldo Jimenez and two relievers combined on a three-hitter and Baltimore beat Toronto, leaving the teams tied in the AL wild-card race.

Detroit is 1 1/2 games behind the Orioles and Blue Jays.

Jimenez (8-12) allowed one hit in 6 2/3 innings, improving to 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA in five September starts.

Marcus Stroman (9-10) gave up nine hits and four runs in seven-plus innings. He is winless in eight starts.


ATLANTA (AP) — Freddie Freeman’s 30-game hitting streak ended when he struck out in the eighth inning, but Atlanta later scored four runs off Philadelphia closer Jeanmar Gomez.

Mauricio Cabrera (5-1) got one out.

Gomez (3-5) took the loss as the Phillies fell to the Braves for the seventh straight time.


NEW YORK (AP) — The Yankees were eliminated from playoff contention despite finishing off a three-game sweep of AL East champion Boston.

CC Sabathia (9-12) allowed one run and four hits over a season-high 7 1/3 innings for his first win in a month.

Playing his final game at Yankee Stadium, Boston’s David Ortiz was honored in a pregame ceremony, then struck out and walked. He was 0 for 10 with four strikeouts in the series.

Henry Owens (0-2) went 4 2/3 innings.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Wilmer Difo hit his first major league homer, and Pedro Severino his second, helping injury-depleted NL East champion Washington move closer to clinching home-field advantage in the Division Series.

Second baseman Difo and catcher Severino, both rookies, were in the lineup instead of Daniel Murphy (last started 12 days ago) and Wilson Ramos (out for the season), respectively.

Last in the NL West, Arizona has nothing at stake the rest of the way. The Nationals, while already assured of winning their division and of facing the Los Angeles Dodgers to open their postseason, still are trying to lock up a higher seeding for that series.

Reliever Reynaldo Lopez (5-3) pitched 3 2/3 innings. Mark Melancon got two outs for his 45th save.

Arizona starter Robbie Ray (8-15) allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Byron Buxton tripled, doubled, drove in two runs and scored twice as Minnesota defeated Kansas City.

Salvador Perez’s pinch-hit RBI single with two outs in the ninth pulled the Royals within a run, and Terrance Gore ran for him. Paulo Orlando was up next, and already had four hits when Brandon Kintzler picked off Gore at first base.

Gore was initially called safe, but was ruled out on a replay review.

Michael Tonkin (3-2) won and Kintzler got his 16th save. Kelvin Herrera (2-6) took the loss.


CHICAGO (AP) — Chris Archer overcame a shaky seventh inning to avoid becoming the majors’ first 20-game loser since 2003 and lead Tampa Bay.

Archer (9-19) allowed three runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings to help the Rays snap a six-game skid. Mike Maroth of Detroit was the last pitcher to lose 20 times in a season.

Alex Colome got his 36th save.

Mikie Mahtook hit a solo homer in the fourth off Jose Quintana (13-12) and doubled and scored in a three-run seventh off Chicago’s shaky bullpen.

MLB Roundup: Rays strike out 23 times, lose 3-2 to Red Sox in 10

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their fourth straight NL West title, winning the crown in Vin Scully’s final home game when Charlie Culberson homered with two outs in the 10th inning to beat the Colorado Rockies 4-3 Sunday.

Culberson hit his first homer of the season and just sixth of his career off Boone Logan (2-5) and the ball landed in the lower left-field seats, touching off wild cheers and a raucous celebration at home plate. The Dodgers charged out of their dugout and surrounded Culberson, jumping up and down. They donned championship T-shirts and hats from carts wheeled on the field.

The Dodgers took off their caps, turned toward Scully’s broadcasting booth and held them in a salute to the 88-year-old Hall of Famer, who has just three games at San Francisco next weekend before ending his 67-year career.

The Dodgers became the first NL West team to win four straight division titles.

Joe Blanton (7-2) pitched the 10th to get the victory.


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Rookie Manuel Margot tripled in the seventh inning and scored the go-ahead run on Wil Myers’ single as San Diego dropped San Francisco a game behind the New York Mets in the NL wild-card race.

A few minutes before this game ended, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat Colorado in 10 innings to win the NL West title. The Dodgers came into Sunday seven games ahead of the Giants.

Margot, called up Wednesday from Pacific Coast League champion El Paso, tripled to right center off Cory Gearrin (3-2) with one out in the seventh and scored on Myers’ single to right.

Margot doubled in the first and hit an RBI single in the second, both off rookie Ty Blach, who was making his first big league start, in place of the injured Johnny Cueto.

Brandon Morrow (1-0) got two outs for the victory. Brad Hand got the last five outs for his first save.


CHICAGO (AP) — David Ross homered and teamed with Jon Lester for another scoreless performance, and Chicago hurt St. Louis’ wild-card chances.

Ben Zobrist had three hits and scored two runs as Chicago finished with a major league-best 57-24 home record. It’s the most home wins for the Cubs since they went 58-19 at the West Side Grounds in 1910.

The Cardinals lost for the third time in four games, wasting a chance to improve their playoff positioning. They remain a half-game back of San Francisco for the second NL wild card.

Lester (19-4), one of the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award, struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander allowed three hits and walked one while improving to 10-0 with 1.34 ERA in his last 13 starts.

Carlos Martinez (15-9) allowed two runs and six hits in six innings.


CLEVELAND (AP) — Carlos Rodon struck out a career-high 11 over eight dominant innings and the Chicago White Sox denied Cleveland any chance of winning the AL Central title by beating the Indians 3-0 on Sunday.

Rodon (8-10) blanked the Indians on just two singles and easily handled the division leaders who still haven’t wrapped up a playoff spot and have gone flat at the worst time possible. Cleveland needed to win its regular-season finale at home and Detroit to lose to Kansas City for the Indians to clinch their first division championship since 2007.

Now, they will have to try and do it on the road against the Tigers, whom they’ve beaten 13 times in 15 games this season. The clubs open a four-game series Monday at Comerica Park.

It was a disappointing finish for the Indians at Progressive Field, where they went 50-27 and had 11 walk-off wins in a season of comebacks. Cleveland had three errors for the second straight game.

Carlos Sanchez had two RBIs off Josh Tomlin (12-9).


TORONTO (AP) — Ezequiel Carrera drove in the tying run with a squeeze bunt in the ninth inning, Edwin Encarnacion hit a winning single and Toront hled its AL wild-card lead.

Toronto leads Baltimore by 1 1/2 games for the top AL wild-card spot. The Blue Jays have won a team-record eight straight at home against the Yankees.

New York ended its 33-inning scoreless streak, but lost for the 11th time in 14 games.

After the Yankees scored twice in the ninth off closer Roberto Osuna (3-2) for a 3-2 lead, the Blue Jays bounced back.

Dellin Betances walked Melvin Upton Jr. to begin the bottom of the ninth and took third when Kevin Pillar singled off Tyler Clippard (3-6). Carrera followed with a squeeze bunt, and both runners advanced as Clippard’s attempted scoop sent the ball rolling past catcher Gary Sanchez toward the backstop.

Clippard struck out Devon Travis before Josh Donaldson was intentionally walked to load the bases. Encarnacion’s slow roller between first and second scored the winning run.


BALTIMORE (AP) — Hyun Soo Kim hit his fifth home run, a two-run shot in the second inning, and Baltimore completed a three-game sweep of Arizona.

The Orioles entered the day a half-game ahead of Detroit for the second AL wild card and trailed Toronto by 1 1/2 games for the top spot. The Orioles begin a crucial three-game series at the Blue Jays on Tuesday.

Baltimore finished the regular season 50-31 at Camden Yards. Arizona has been swept 13 times this season, including six on the road.

Orioles rookie Dylan Bundy (10-6) allowed the one run on three hits with five strikeouts over five innings. Baltimore’s Zach Britton picked up his American League-leading 46th save in 46 chances. Manny Machado went 2 for 4 for his team-high 54th multi-hit game.


DETROIT (AP) — Salvador Perez homered to cap a cycle by Kansas City’s first four batters of the game, and the Royals went deep three more times to beat Detroit and drop the Tigers in the AL wild-card race.

The defending World Series champions avoided elimination from this year’s postseason race by chasing Detroit starter Matt Boyd (6-5) before he retired a hitter. Kansas City started the game with a single, a triple and a double before Perez’s two-run homer made it 4-0.

The Tigers fell 1 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the second wild-card spot. The loss cut Cleveland’s magic number to clinch the AL Central to one — the Indians start a four-game series in Detroit on Monday night.


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays struck out in record fashion and lost their home finale on a strange play at the plate.

Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz’s double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox beat the Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the 10th. The relay throw on Ortiz’s hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate, but he avoided catcher Luke Maile’s first tag.

Pedroia’s momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

“I don’t have a good explanation other than that the ball seemed to be, from what I heard, was coming loose as Maile tagged (Pedroia),” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

The call confirmed after a video review that lasted 39 seconds.

“It’s obviously a strange play,” Maile said. “I don’t really know the timing of when the ball left the mitt. It’s a play you’ve got to make.”

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox.

Boston starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strike out 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego in 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Joe Kelly (4-0) added two in the 10th as the Rays became just the fifth big league team to strike out 23 or more in a game.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa after defecting from Cuba.

“A very emotional day,” Ortiz said. “I was thinking about Jose the whole game. It’s hard to believe. A very sad day.”

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz’s request after Fernandez’s death. He had three hits and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.


NEW YORK (AP) — Asdrubal Cabrera hit a grand slam, Jose Reyes drove in four runs and the Mets got the largest shutout victory in team history to maintain the NL wild-card lead.

On an afternoon when batters circled the bases like the cartoon Gashouse Gorillas, the Mets romped in their final regular-season game at Citi Field.

Reyes batted four straight times with the bases loaded and Cabrera hit his 23rd home run this season. Curtis Granderson reached 30 home runs for the first time since 2012 and rookie Robert Gsellman (3-2) allowed three hits over seven innings.

New York’s previous high for runs in a shutout was 14, against the Chicago Cubs in 1965 and Cincinnati in 1998.

Wearing 1986 commemorative uniforms, New York began the day tied with San Francisco for the NL’s two wild cards, a half-game ahead of St. Louis.

Jake Thompson (3-6) allowed three runs and five hits in four innings.


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Brandon Finnegan pitched five scoreless innings in his final start of the season, lifting the Cincinnati past Milwaukee.

Finnegan (10-11) scattered three hits and struck out four, needing only 54 pitches to get through five innings. Raisel Iglesias pitched the ninth for his fourth save in five chances.

Finnegan, obtained in the July 2015 trade that sent Johnny Cueto to Kansas City, went 4-3 with a 2.23 ERA in his final 11 starts. The left-hander pitched 172 innings this year, up from 105 1/3 innings splitting time between the major and minor leagues in 2015.

Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta (7-11) pitched six innings, allowing three runs — two earned — on five hits and three walks while striking out five.


HOUSTON (AP) — Joe Musgrove pitched seven strong innings, Evan Gattis, Tony Kemp and Tyler White homered, and Houston snapped a three-game slide to preserve its playoff hopes.

Houston began the day three games behind Baltimore for the second AL wild-card spot.

Musgrove (4-4, 4.06 ERA) allowed one run on seven hits while striking out four.

Closer Ken Giles rebounded from a blown save in Friday’s 10-6 loss to Los Angeles. He walked one and struck out two in the ninth for his 14th save.

Daniel Wright (0-5, 6.95) lasted six innings for the Angels. He gave up three runs on seven hits, including two homers, while striking out four and walking two.


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nelson Cruz homered twice before leaving with left wrist soreness, Jesus Sucre homered for the first time in 14 months and Seattle beat Minnesota.

Taijuan Walker (7-11) danced around danger for most of his 5 2/3 innings, allowing nine hits and three earned runs. Nick Vincent, Steve Cishek and Edwin Diaz then combined for 3 2/3 innings of no-hit relief, including Diaz’s 17th save in 19 chances.

Trying to make the postseason for the first time since 2001, Seattle is 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the second American League wild-card spot with a week to play.

Max Kepler homered and Robbie Grossman had three hits for Minnesota in its 100th loss. This is the second time in team history the Twins have had triple-digit losses: The 1982 squad finished 60-102.

Hector Santiago (12-10) allowed four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings for Minnesota.


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Jharel Cotton pitched seven crisp innings and Oakland avoided a series sweep.

Ryon Healy had three hits, including a two-run homer, and Stephen Vogt drove in three runs to help the A’s win after being shut out in back-to-back games.

Adrian Beltre hit his 32nd home run for Texas.

The Rangers, who clinched the AL West on Friday, fell into a tie with the Boston Red Sox for home-field advantage in the playoffs. Texas (92-64) holds a slight tiebreaking advantage based on division record.

Oakland will be sitting out the postseason and had lost the first five games on this homestand but ended it on an encouraging note behind Cotton (2-0). The rookie right-hander allowed one run, struck out five and faced two over the minimum while quieting the Rangers’ potent offense.

Coming off consecutive shutout losses in the first two games of the series, the A’s did all of their scoring in the second to chase starter Colby Lewis (6-4).


PITTSBURGH (AP) — Nationals star Bryce Harper injured his left thumb making an awkward slide to avoid a pretend tag by Pittsburgh third baseman Jung Ho Kang, and the teams later cleared the benches in Washington’s win.

Harper’s thumb was sore and the reigning NL MVP will have X-rays Monday.

Harper led off the third inning with a triple for the NL East champions. As Harper neared third, Kang acted as if a throw was coming and faked a tag. Harper went down, was checked by a trainer and stayed in. He scored on Anthony Rendon’s double and was replaced in the field in the bottom half.

The next time Kang came up, Nationals starter A.J. Cole threw a fastball behind him and was immediately ejected by plate umpire Jordan Baker.

The benches cleared, with Washington’s Jayson Werth in the middle of the skirmish. Pirates outfielder Sean Rodriguez was ejected.

Washington rallied for five runs in the eighth off former teammate Felipe Rivero (1-5).

Shawn Kelley (3-2) got the win. Former Pirates closer Mark Melancon got his 43rd save.

MLB Roundup: David Ortiz hits 2-run homer, Red Sox beat Rays 2-1

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning and the Texas Rangers secured their second straight AL West title, becoming the first American League team to clinch a playoff spot with a 3-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.

Beltre’s homer came during a three-run seventh after Oakland starter Kendall Graveman (10-11) pitched six perfect innings. Texas got its first baserunner when Carlos Gomez beat out an infield hit to lead off the seventh against Graveman.

This is Texas’ eighth AL West title and fourth since 2010.

All-Star left-hander Cole Hamels (15-5), acquired prior to last year’s non-waiver trade deadline, pitched the division-clinching game for the second year in a row. Last year, he threw a three-hitter in the last game of the regular season to beat the Los Angeles Angels.

Rangers closer Sam Dyson got pinch-hitter Yonder Alonso to hit into a fielder’s choice for the last out to record his 36th save.


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Boston’s clubhouse was buzzing about David Ortiz’s high-and-deep homer in the first inning, a drive that provided the winning margin as the Red Sox moved close to a postseason berth in the slugger’s final season.

Ortiz hit a two-run shot to set the RBIs record for a player in his final year, and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 on Friday night for their ninth straight win.

“It’s not all about the distance,” Ortiz said after the 411-foot drive. “It’s about scoring runs and make sure we put us in position to win the game.”

Ortiz’s 37th homer came off Chris Archer (8-19) and raised his RBIs total to 124, one more than Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1920. The 40-year-old’s 540th homer, his 300th on the road, struck an overhanging catwalk above the right-field seats.

“I’m used to the ball going over the fence but that far, I don’t think you really ever get used to that,” teammate Mookie Betts said. “He’s just doing what he always does.”

When asked if he’s thinking about 40 homers, Ortiz said with a laugh “I’m 40.”

Coming off four-game sweeps of the New York Yankees and Baltimore, the Red Sox have a 5½-game lead over second-place Toronto in the AL East. They lowered their magic number to two for clinching a playoff berth.

Drew Pomeranz (3-5) allowed one run and four hits in five innings. Brad Ziegler, the fifth Boston reliever, got his fourth save after allowing a leadoff double in the ninth to Evan Longoria.

Red Sox set-up man Koji Uehara and closer Craig Kimbrel were both given the night off after extensive use recently.

Archer set a Tampa Bay record for losses in a season, breaking the mark Tanyon Sturtze set in 2002. He has lost 11 straight decisions against Boston since beating the Red Sox in his first career start against them on Sept. 19, 2012.

“It stinks whenever you’re on the mound for so many team losses,” Archer said.

Ortiz appeared to have his 524th double with the Red Sox, which would have moved him within one of tying Ted Williams for second on the franchise list, but was called out at second base in the seventh after Tampa Bay challenged the original safe call. He was credited with a single.

Mikie Mahtook hit a solo homer in the second for the Rays.


CHICAGO (AP) — Jake Arrieta struck out 10 in seven innings and Chicago beat St. Louis for its 98th victory, the Cubs’ most since they last played in the World Series in 1945.

Arrieta (18-7) allowed five hits and walked one, Anthony Rizzo had three hits and Ben Zobrist drove in two runs to help the Cubs (98-55) tie a team record with their 56th home win. They clinched home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

Chicago scored four runs in the first inning off Mike Leake (9-11).

Pedro Strop came off the disabled list to work the eighth, and Travis Wood and Carl Edwards Jr. finished the five-hitter. Rizzo, Zobrist and Chris Coghlan drove in runs in the first off Leake, who lasted 3 1/3 innings and is winless in four starts since recovering from shingles.

Leake allowed another run on one of two wild pitches. Cardinals’ gaffes included Kolten Wong face-planting into the turf chasing Rizzo’s first-inning double and Matt Adams getting picked off first. Zobrist’s fourth-inning groundout added another run for Chicago.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joc Pederson and pinch-hitter Andre Ethier hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning and Los Angeles defeated Colorado after an emotional pre-game ceremony honoring Vin Scully.

Their third straight victory trimmed the Dodgers’ magic number for clinching a record fourth consecutive NL West title to two.

Pederson worked the count to 3-2 during a nine-pitch at-bat before homering off Jon Gray (10-9) with two outs.

Ross Stripling (5-8) got the win in relief of injured Scott Kazmir. The rookie right-hander allowed two hits in three innings, struck out four and walked two.


NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Conforto hit a three-run homer that capped a six-run rally in the fifth inning, Hansel Robles gave a big boost from the bullpen and New York beat Philadelphia to stay atop the NL wild-card race.

The Mets are a game up on San Francisco for the wild-card lead. St. Louis lost and trails New York by 1 1/2 games.

A day after using 10 pitchers in a stirring 9-8, 11-inning win over the Phillies, the Mets sent out six more. With his team competing for a playoff spot, manager Terry Collins yanked starter Gabriel Ynoa after just two shaky innings.

Robles preserved a 7-5 lead in the seventh, getting pinch-hitter Tommy Joseph to ground into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. Robles finished with hitless relief for his first career save. Josh Smoker (3-0) was the winner.

Jeremy Hellickson (12-10) was the loser. Maikel Franco homered for the second straight day and pinch-hitter Darin Ruf also connected for the Phillies.


PITTSBURGH (AP) — Rookie Jacob Stallings’ pinch-hit single in the 11th inning lifted Pittsburgh past Washington, preventing the Nationals from clinching a postseason berth.

Pittsburgh loaded the bases with one out against Yusmiero Petit (3-5) when Francisco Cervelli doubled, Andrew McCutchen was intentionally walked and Pedro Florimon walked.

Sean Rodriguez struck out and Stalling, a son of University of Pittsburgh basketball coach Kevin Stallings, grounded a 3-2 pitch into left field.

Wade LeBlanc (4-0) was the winner. Pittsburgh’s seventh win in nine games kept the Pirates on the fringe of the NL wild-card race.

Washington lost for the fifth time in six games. The Nationals have magic numbers of one for a playoff berth and two for an NL East title. Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa homered for the Nationals.


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Wil Myers hit a three-run homer off rookie Albert Suarez in the first inning and San Diego beat San Francisco for its seventh victory in eight games against the struggling Giants since the All-Star break.

The Giants dropped into the second wild-card position, a game behind the New York Mets.

Edwin Jackson (5-6) won for just the second time in seven starts, holding the Giants to two runs and four hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked five.

Suarez (3-5) fell behind 3-0 before recording an out. Jon Jay hit a leadoff single, rookie Carlos Asuaje doubled for his first big league hit and Myers homered into the party deck just beyond the fence in right-center, his 28th.


CLEVELAND (AP) — Jose Ramirez hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs, and Cleveland beat Chicago to move a step closer to the AL Central title.

The Indians dropped their magic number to three games for their first division title since 2007.

Trevor Bauer (12-8) overcame two-run homers by Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia. The right-hander allowed four runs in 7 2/3 innings.

Mike Napoli drove in two runs and became the first Cleveland player to reach 100 RBIs in nine years.

Miguel Gonzalez (4-8) was the loser. Chicago has lost six in a row and was eliminated from the AL wild-card race.

White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton left after appearing to hit his head and left shoulder running into the wall catching Roberto Perez’s long drive in the sixth.


BALTIMORE (AP) — Mark Trumbo led off the 12th inning with his major league-leading 44th home run, and Baltimore ovrcame a late two-run deficit to beat Arizona.

After getting swept in a four-game series by Boston, the Orioles remained a half-game behind Detroit for the AL’s second wild card.

Baltimore trailed 2-0 before Pedro Alvarez homered in the eighth off Enrique Burgos, and Matt Wieters homered against Daniel Hudson leading off the ninth.

Oliver Drake (1-0) pitched a scoreless 12th for his first big league win. Matt Koch (1-1) relieved to start the bottom half and Trumbo sent his first pitch over the left-field fence, setting off a celebration.


TORONTO (AP) — Francisco Liriano and three relievers combined on a three-hitter, Troy Tulowitzki had four RBIs and the Toronto routed New York to maintain a one-game lead in the AL wild-card standings.

Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer, Edwin Encarnacion had his 124th RBI — tied with Boston’s David Ortiz for the AL lead — and the Blue Jays won their sixth straight home game over New York.

New York was shut out for the second straight night and lost for the ninth time in 12 games, following a seven-game winning streak. The Yankees have gone 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position in their last two games and stranded 17 runners.

Liriano (8-13) escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Chase Headley to end a 27-pitch first inning, then left runners at the corners after the first two batters reached in the third. That was the start of a stretch that saw the left-hander retire nine straight. Liriano allowed three hits, walked two and struck out six for his second win with Toronto. Bryan Mitchell (1-2) was the loser.


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Chris Carter homered, Ryan Braun had a late clutch hit and Milwaukee its second triple play of the season in a victory over Cincinnati.

Carter hit his 38th home run of the season leading off the second against Anthony DeSclafani (8-4).

Jose Peraza put the Reds in front with a three-run homer with one out in the fifth off Milwaukee starter Zach Davies.

The Brewers scored in the sixth on Carter’s RBI groundout to cut the lead to 3-2. Milwaukee loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh, chasing DeSclafani. Scooter Gennett drew a walk off reliever Tony Cingrani to tie it. Milwaukee regained the lead when Braun followed with a two-run single off Blake Wood.

Brent Suter (2-1) retired the only batter he faced to get the victory. Tyler Thornburg finished for his 13th save.


HOUSTON (AP) — Yunel Escobar hit a two-run homer and pinch-hitter Rafael Ortega had three RBIs during a six-run ninth inning, lifting Los Angeles past Houston.

Houston fell 2 1/2 games behind the Tigers for the second AL wild card.

Houston led 6-4 when Escobar sent a slider from Ken Giles (2-5) into the seats in left field to start the ninth. Giles walked Mike Trout with one out before intentionally walking Albert Pujols. C.J. Cron followed with a bloop single to score Trout and put the Angels on top.

Giles was replaced by Michael Feliz after loading the bases with a walk. Ortega cleared the bases with his two-out double that deflected off shortstop Carlos Correa’s glove to extend the lead.

Cody Ege (1-0) got the last two outs of the eighth inning for the win.


DETROIT (AP) — Michael Fulmer pitched seven sharp innings for his first win in over a month and Detroit homered three times in a victory over Kansas City.

Justin Upton, Victor Martinez and Cameron Maybin went deep to help the Tigers win their fifth straight while chasing a postseason spot. Upton has 27 homers, including 14 in his last 29 games.

Fulmer (11-7) allowed a run and eight hits, striking out nine with no walks. Danny Duffy (12-3) allowed six runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. Kansas City has lost nine of its last 12.


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Robinson Cano had four hits and two RBIs, and Nelson Cruz added a towering two-run homer among his four RBIs and struggling Seattle beat Minnesota.

James Paxton pitched seven strong innings and finally received a boost from the offense, which broke out with a six-run seventh inning. Paxton (5-7) struck out nine and allowed one run on five hits.

The Mariners (81-72) passed Houston — which lost to the Los Angeles Angels — in the standings but still trail Detroit by two games for the second wild card.

Kyle Gibson (6-10) gave up two runs, five hits and four walks for Minnesota.


MIAMI (AP) — Adonis Garcia hit a tiebreaking single in the ninth inning, and Atlanta beat Miami for its season-high seventh straight win

Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 27 games with a sixth-inning double. Atlanta’s winning streak is its longest since it won nine in a row from June 27-July 5, 2014.

With the score 2-2, Emilio Bonifacio singled with one out off A.J. Ramos (1-4), stole his first base this season, took third on catcher J.T. Realmuto’s throwing error and came home on Garcia’s single to center.

Brandon Cuniff (2-0) struck out two of three batters in a hitless eighth, and Mauricio Cabrera threw a hitless ninth for his sixth save in seven chances with the Braves.

MLB Roundup: Ortiz, Bradley HRs carry surging Red Sox past Orioles 5-2

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BALTIMORE (AP) — With 40-year-old David Ortiz leading the way, the Boston Red Sox are putting substantial distance between themselves and their pursuers in the AL East.

Ortiz broke open a tight game with a three-run homer in the seventh inning, and Boston beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 Tuesday night for its sixth straight victory.

Jackie Bradley Jr. also homered for the Red Sox, who stretched their lead over third-place Baltimore to five games with 11 remaining. Toronto is in second place, four games back after a 10-2 victory at Seattle.

After sweeping four games from the Yankees, Boston has won the first two of this pivotal four-game series.

“This was really huge,” Bradley said. “To get two wins right away is very vital for us. I think it will help us keep building on our momentum and finish strong.”

Trey Mancini homered in his major league debut for the Orioles, who are 1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit for the second AL wild card.

The Red Sox are 11-3 in their last 14 games and a major league-best 13-5 in September.

“I think there is growing confidence in our clubhouse daily,” manager John Farrell said. “We’ve responded to a number of challenges, whether it’s on the road or coming from behind to win ballgames in the division. Those are key. When you succeed in those, that’s a snowball effect that takes place.

“To balance that out, no one is taking any of that for granted.”

The Red Sox led 2-1 in the seventh when Marco Hernandez and Mookie Betts singled off Kevin Gausman (8-11). One out later, Ortiz hit a 1-2 pitch far over the center-field wall.

“I still can’t figure out how he can swing so hard on balls up and in and then cover a pitch down and away, but that’s why he’s the hitter he is,” Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said.

Ortiz guessed correctly that Gausman would throw a fastball.

“I had to shoot for something. Experience played out in that at-bat,” the slugger said. “I told myself, ‘I’ve got to either shoot for a fastball or a splitter.’ But I know he’s throwing his best fastball right now. So I’m going to go for a fastball. And then he threw the fastball.”

Playing in his final season, Ortiz has 36 home runs and 121 RBIs. Big Papi has hit eight home runs against the Orioles this season — including two in this series — and 54 for his career.

Betts also extended his run of success against Baltimore, going 3 for 5 and scoring twice. He is 16 for 31 at Camden Yards and has scored 16 runs in eight games.

Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7) allowed two runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings for Boston, his first win in 11 starts since July 16.

Craig Kimbrel worked the ninth for his 28th save.

After giving up four hits in eight scoreless innings last week at Boston, Gausman yielded five runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Boston went up 1-0 in the third when Betts singled and scored on a grounder by Hanley Ramirez. Bradley hit his 26th homer in the fourth.

Rodriguez retired his first 11 batters and held Baltimore without a hit until Mancini connected with two outs in the fifth. The rookie sprinted around the bases, taking about half the time Ortiz did during his home run trot in the seventh.


SEATTLE (AP) — J.A. Happ became the major leagues’ second 20-game winner and Russell Martin and Michael Saunders each hit a two-run homer, lifting Toronto over Seattle to move into first in the AL wild-card race.

Toronto took the lead with an eight-run fourth inning and moved a game ahead of Baltimore. Detroit remained 2 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays.

Seattle lost for the fourth time in five games to fall four games behind Toronto.

Happ (20-4) allowed two runs, six hits and a walk over five innings, striking out eight while winning for the 14th time in his last 15 decisions. He’s the first Toronto pitcher to reach 20 wins since Roy Halladay in 2008.

Martin and Saunders each homered off Hisashi Iwakuma (16-12) during the Blue Jays’ big inning.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Eduardo Nunez and Brandon Belt homered to help San Francisco overcome injuries to All-Star pitcher Johnny Cueto and shortstop Brandon Crawford.

San Francisco pulled into a three-way tie for first place in the NL wild-card standings with the Mets and Cardinals. The Giants are five games behind the NL West-leading Dodgers with 11 to play.

Cueto (17-5) exited with a strained left groin in the sixth inning. Crawford came out with a dislocated left pinky in the second.

A team trainer checked on Cueto with Andrew Toles at bat. Cueto stayed in and walked Toles, then motioned that he was done.

Sergio Romo got his first save of the season.

Rich Hill (3-2) allowed a run and six hits over five innings.


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — George Springer hit a go-ahead single in the 10th inning, and Houston beat Oakland.

Tony Kemp, who tied it with a pinch-hit double in the seventh, got things going with a leadoff double against Sean Doolittle (2-3) and Jake Marisnick sacrificed him to third to bring up Springer.

Chris Devenski (4-4) struck out four in 3 2-3 innings of relief for the win, and Ken Giles escaped a bases-loaded jam and closed it out for his 13th save. The Astros remain in the mix for the AL wild card.

Jose Altuve’s eighth-inning single gave him 200 hits in three straight seasons, the first to do so since Ichiro Suzuki from 2001-10.

Oakland’s Danny Valencia was ejected at the end of the ninth by plate umpire Marty Foster after striking out.


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Rookie slugger Gary Sanchez hit his 17th homer in 42 games this season, a three-run shot in a four-run seventh inning for the Yankees.

The banged-up Yankees are 3 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the second AL wild card.

Sanchez gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead with his drive off Brad Boxberger (4-3).

Mark Teixeira hit a solo shot in the fourth for New York, which was swept in a four-game series at Boston last weekend and had lost seven of eight overall.

Luis Severino (3-8) pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win. Dellin Betances got three outs for his 12th save.


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Matt Boyd breezed through eight innings, backed by home runs from James McCann and Miguel Cabrera, and Detroit stepped forward in the AL wild-card race.

With Baltimore’s loss to Boston, the Tigers cut the deficit between them and the second spot to 1 1/2 games with 12 to go.

Boyd (6-4) allowed three hits, including Robbie Grossman’s seventh-inning homer.

McCann, in the designated hitter role for the injured Victor Martinez, connected for a three-run shot during Detroit’s a four-run sixth against Hector Santiago (12-9).


DENVER (AP) — Adam Wainwright was shaky on the mound and shined at the plate with a career-high four RBIs, helping St. Louis move into a three-way tie for the top NL wild card.

The free-swinging Wainwright lined a two-run double in the second inning and brought in two more with a bloop single in the fifth. Matt Adams and Jedd Gyorko homered to help the Cardinals pull even with the New York Mets, who lost at home to last-place Atlanta for the second straight night.

Wainwright (12-9) gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Daniel Descalso, Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra homered for Colorado, and Jorge De La Rosa (8-9) allowed eight runs — seven earned — in 4 2/3 innings.


CLEVELAND (AP) — Pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer hit a game-ending RBI single, helping Cleveland inch closer to the AL Central title.

Guyer’s two-out hit off Joakim Soria landed just fair in the right-field corner and scored Coco Crisp. Guyer was the third pinch hitter of the inning used by manager Terry Francona.

Cleveland leads Detroit by seven games in the division. The Indians haven’t won the AL Central since 2007.

The Royals, the reigning World Series champions, will be eliminated from contention in the division if they lose to Cleveland on Wednesday night.

Alex Gordon singled in a run for Kansas City, and Brian Flynn (1-2) got the loss.

Andrew Miller (9-1) got five outs for the win.


ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Rookie Nomar Mazara hit his 20th homer in another testy game with multiple ejections and the Rangers moved closer to their second consecutive AL West title.

Texas (90-62) cut its magic number to two to clinch the seventh division title in franchise history.

Mazara hit a 438-foot drive off rookie Daniel Wright (0-4), a two-run shot in the fourth that put the Rangers up 4-3.

Nick Martinez (2-3) worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, and the right-hander made a spectacular play in the fifth, when he reached behind his back for a no-look snag of Andrelton Simmons’ hard liner and turned it into a double play.

Sam Dyson worked the ninth for his 35th save in 40 chances.


MIAMI (AP) — Giancarlo Stanton homered to back a strong outing by Jose Fernandez, who pitched eight innings and struck out 12 for the Marlins.

Fernandez (16-8) allowed three hits without a walk to outduel Washington’s Tanner Roark (15-9) who pitched seven innings and allowed one run.

David Phelps pitched the ninth for his fourth save in 10 chances.

The Nationals were held to four hits in their fourth consecutive loss.

Stanton connected for his 27th homer in the sixth inning. Stanton also homered in Monday’s 4-3 win.


NEW YORK (AP) — Mets nemesis Julio Teheran pitched seven more sparkling innings and the last-place Braves blunted New York’s bid to extend its NL wild-card lead.

The Mets nicked the Braves’ bullpen for three runs in the eighth but couldn’t complete the comeback. The Braves have the worst record in the NL, yet have won four straight.

Teheran (6-10) gave up five hits and left with a 5-1 lead. Dating to the final time he saw the Mets last season, he’s 3-0 with a 0.73 ERA in five starts against them.

Jim Johnson pitched the ninth for his 16th save in 19 chances.

Robert Gsellman (2-2) lost in his fifth major league start.


CHICAGO (AP) — Jon Lester overcame an injury scare to throw seven strong innings, and the Cubs moved closer to securing the NL’s best record.

Lester (18-4) extended his scoreless streak to 21 innings before Jose Peraza’s RBI triple in the fifth. He stayed in after Joey Votto’s comebacker in the sixth left him with a welt on the wrist of his glove hand.

The Cubs’ 96th win reduced their magic number to three over Washington for clinching home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

Josh Smith (3-2), making a spot start in a bullpen game for the Reds, allowed one run and three hits in three innings. Brandon Phillips had two hits for Cincinnati.


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Andrew McCutchen, Jody Mercer and Josh Bell each drove in two runs, and Pittsburgh kept its faint playoff hopes alive.

The Pirates have won fifth of six to improve to .500 (75-75) for the first time since they were 69-69 on Sept. 8.

Jared Hughes (1-1) pitched an inning for the win and Tony Watson worked the ninth for his 14th save.

Milwaukee right-hander Matt Garza was charged with five runs and eight hits in four-plus innings.


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Odubel Herrera homered and drove in three runs, leading Philadelphia to the win.

Tommy Joseph and Roman Quinn added two hits apiece and combined to drive in three runs for the Phillies. Herrera, who hits between Joseph and Quinn in the lineup, is 15 for 28 in his last seven games.

Melky Cabrera hit a three-run homer for the White Sox, who have lost four straight. James Shields (5-18), winless since July 26, allowed six earned runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Trailing 7-3 in the ninth, the White Sox pulled within one on a two-out wild pitch and a two-run double from Adam Eaton. But Michael Mariot got Tim Anderson to ground out for his first career save.

Philadelphia’s Jake Thompson (3-5) gave up three runs and four hits over five innings.


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Adam Rosales homered and drove in four runs and rookie Ryan Schimpf scored three times to lead San Diego.

The start of the game was delayed 70 minutes by rain. It was only the seventh delay in Petco Park’s 13-season history, the sixth because of rain. The other one was due to a swarm of bees during a game in 2009.

Keith Hessler (1-0) got one out for his first career victory and Brandon Maurer got his 12th save.

Zack Godley (4-4) allowed two runs in two innings and got the loss.

MLB Roundup: Porcello wins 21st, Red Sox use 2 HRs to beat Orioles 5-2

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Rick Porcello and the Boston Red Sox appear poised to extend their late-season charge deep into October.

Porcello pitched a four-hitter for his major league-high 21st victory, David Ortiz and Mookie Betts hit two-run homers and Boston beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 on Monday night to pad its lead in the AL East.

Coming off a four-game sweep of the Yankees, the Red Sox extended their surge in the opener of an important four-game series for both clubs. Boston has won 10 of 13 and stands atop the division by a season-high four games.

“It’s never over until it’s over, but we’re definitely going to try to increase the gap between us and them,” Porcello said.

Adam Jones homered and Mark Trumbo picked up his 102nd RBI for the second-place Orioles, who started the day with a one-game lead over Toronto for the top AL wild card.

“We’ve got three more here against (the Red Sox),” Baltimore’s Manny Machado said. “We’ll just put it on a track where we need to be.”

Boston’s goal over the next three days will be to put away the Orioles for good.

“We’re going to try,” Ortiz said.

Porcello (21-4) struck out seven and walked none in his third complete game of the year. Five days earlier against Baltimore, the right-hander gave up one run in eight innings but took the loss.

In this one, he threw only 89 pitches — 65 in the strike zone.

“When it’s his day on the mound, he sets the tone for us,” manager John Farrell said. “Did once again.”

Porcello has allowed three runs or fewer in 11 straight starts and is sure to receive strong consideration for the AL Cy Young Award after going 9-15 last year.

“All of us are honored to be mentioned for those awards,” he said. “But I’ve been saying it all year, our focus is winning and what we want to accomplish as a team.”

Playing his final regular-season series in Baltimore, the 40-year-old Ortiz connected against rookie Dylan Bundy (9-6) with a man on in the fifth for a 5-1 lead. It was his 35th home run of the season and the 53rd of his career against the Orioles.

When he finally walks away from the game, Ortiz will certainly miss taking his cuts at Camden Yards.

“Yeah, man, it’s just super nice. I like it,” he said, “especially when it’s warm like it is.”

Betts put Boston up 2-0 with his 31st homer in the third. It was his eighth home run in seven games at Camden Yards — most in a season by a Red Sox in a visiting ballpark since Jimmie Foxx hit eight in St. Louis in 1939.

Porcello retired the first 11 batters before hitting Machado with a pitch in the fourth. Trumbo followed with an RBI double.

The Red Sox responded with a three-run fifth. Dustin Pedroia snapped an 0-for-12 skid with a run-scoring single before Ortiz launched a 1-1 pitch over the 25-foot scoreboard in right field.

Jones homered in the eighth, his 28th.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Adrian Gonzalez hit a game-ending double in the ninth inning, and Los Angeles rallied for a testy 2-1 victory over San Francisco that increased its NL West lead to six games.

Two innings after a shoving match broke out when tempers flared between Madison Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig again, the Dodgers’ comeback in the ninth began with pinch-hitter Andrew Toles’ leadoff single.

Corey Seager singled past diving second baseman Joe Panik on a two-strike pitch from Javier Lopez (1-3), allowing the speedy Toles to reach third.

Justin Turner’s single tied the game, and Gonzalez followed with a drive to deep right field that eluded Hunter Pence.

Joe Blanton (6-2) got the win in relief.


ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Ian Desmond had an RBI single with no outs in the ninth inning and Texas moved closer to the AL West title.

Elvis Andrus led off the ninth with a sharp single to left off Jose Alvarez (1-3) before Carlos Gomez turned an attempted sacrifice into a bunt single. Desmond, an All-Star center fielder, followed with his hit to right that scored Andrus.

Andrus also homered for the Rangers, who cut their magic number to three in pursuit of their second consecutive division title.

Alvarez, the sixth Angels pitcher, had gotten out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth following a 38-minute rain delay.

Closer Sam Dyson (3-2) worked a scoreless ninth for the victory.


SEATTLE (AP) — Marco Estrada took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Edwin Encarnacion hit his 41st home run and Toronto beat Seattle in the opener of a critical three-game series.

Estrada (9-9) had allowed only two walks before Robinson Cano led off the seventh with a line drive up the middle on a 2-1 pitch. Cano and Nelson Cruz walked in the fourth inning, but Estrada otherwise kept the Mariners off the bases.

The Blue Jays pulled even with Baltimore for the first wild-card spot. Both teams are 2 ½ games clear of Detroit and three ahead of Seattle and Houston.

Taijuan Walker (6-11) allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Roberto Osuna got his 34th save.


CHICAGO (AP) — Dexter Fowler hit a tiebreaking single with two outs in the seventh inning, and Chicago beat Cincinnati.

Fowler’s line drive into center field capped a three-run rally for the Cubs after they were shut down by Tim Adleman most of the night. It also made a winner of Jason Hammel (15-9), who pitched seven solid innings.

Jason Heyward added a two-run homer in the eighth as the Cubs moved seven games ahead of Washington for the best record in the National League, lowering their magic number for clinching home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs to five. That’s the only major goal still out there during the regular season for major league-leading Chicago after it secured the NL Central title last week.

Blake Wood (6-4) allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings.


NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Blair won for the first time in 13 major league starts, Freddie Freeman drove in three runs off a misfiring Noah Syndergaard and Atlanta slowed New York’s wild-card chase.

Freeman had four hits for the Braves, who have the worst record in the National League, and rookie Dansby Swanson had three hits and three RBIs.

New York had won 11 of its previous 14 games. The Mets have a one-game lead over San Francisco and St. Louis for the first NL wild card.

Pitching on five days’ rest rather than four, Syndergaard (13-9) allowed five runs, eight hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings.

Blair (1-6) gave up six hits in six innings and lowered his ERA to 7.71.


DENVER (AP) — Carlos Martinez threw five effective innings and added a two-run double, helping St. Louis gain ground in the NL playoff race.

The Cardinals moved into a tie for the second wild card with the Giants.

Martinez, who turns 25 on Wednesday, gave himself an early birthday present by holding Colorado to two runs while striking out six. The right-hander is 9-1 on the road this season.

Martinez (15-8) helped his own cause with a two-out double as part of a three-run fourth. He also was hit just below the left leg by a fastball from Tyler Anderson (5-6) in the third — two pitches after Randal Grichuk lined a two-run homer.


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Marwin Gonzalez hit a tiebreaking, two-run single off Ryan Madson in the ninth inning and Houston came from behind to beat Oakland.

The Astros trailed 2-1 going into the eighth but tied it on pinch-hitter Tyler White’s RBI double then scored twice in the ninth to bolster their slim playoff hopes.

Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa opened the inning with singles. After Evan Gattis was intentionally walked, Gonzalez lined the first pitch from Madson (5-7) into center field to drive in Altuve and Correa.

Former Oakland reliever Luke Gregerson (4-1) retired three batters for the win. Ken Giles pitched the ninth for his 12th save.


MIAMI (AP) — Giancarlo Stanton homered and Miami beat Washington.

Christian Yelich, Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Dietrich also drove in a run for the Marlins and A.J. Ramos pitched the ninth for his 38th save in 41 chances.

Brian Ellington (3-2) picked up the win with an inning of relief while Mat Latos (7-3) took the loss.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Yordano Ventura picked up his first complete-game victory, Kendrys Morales hit a three-run homer and Kansas City defeated Chicago.

The Royals have won three straight, keeping their faint playoff hopes flickering with 12 games remaining. The Royals went 14-5 against the White Sox this year.

Ventura (11-11) gave up nine hits, struck out five and walked one. His only other complete game in the majors was a loss July 28 at Texas.

Morales homered off Carlos Rodon (7-10) in a four-run fifth. Morales homered in back-to-back games, bringing his total to 29. The last Royal to hit 30 home runs in a season was Jermaine Dye, with 33 in 2000.


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Clayton Richard was sharp for six-plus innings and Wil Myers homered as San Diego defeated Arizona.

Richard (3-3) won his third straight decision, charged with two runs and six hits. He struck out two and walked two. Brandon Maurer pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 13 chances.

Braden Shipley (4-4) was gone after four innings.

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