Friday, August 31, 2012

Phillies rally to top Braves in 10

ATLANTA (AP) — Erik Kratz homered in the ninth inning off Braves closer Craig Kimbrel and John Mayberry Jr. hit a three-run shot off Cristhian Martinez in the 10th to help the Phillies rally for an 8-5 victory over Atlanta on Friday night.
Josh Lindblom (3-3) pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing one walk and striking out one.
Jonathan Papelbon earned his 31st save in 34 chances by striking out Dan Uggla, getting Paul Janish to fly out and striking out Eric Hinske in the 10th.
Martinez (5-4) allowed three hits, three runs, one walk and struck out two.
The Braves, who have lost two straight and three of four, dropped 6½ games behind first-place Washington in the NL East.

Philadelphia has won two straight and six of eight. The Phillies are 18 games back in the NL East, but they finished August with a 17-12 record.
Kevin Frandsen led off the 10th with a single, moved to second on Martinez's balk and advanced to third on Chase Utley's groundout. After Ryan Howard was intentionally walked, Martinez struck out Juan Pierre before Mayberry's 13th homer landed in the seats in left field.
Kratz's homer made it 5-all in the ninth. The blown save was Kimbrel's second since Aug. 3. Though Kimbrel has converted 32 of 35 chances this season, his last blown save came July 20 on a homer by Washington's Danny Espinosa.
Uggla homered off Jeremy Horst to break a 4-all tie in the sixth.
Martin Prado and Freddie Freeman hit two-run homers in the fifth off Phillies starter Roy Halladay to give the Braves a 4-1 lead.
Howard, whose 10th homer made it 1-0 in the second, cut Atlanta's lead to 4-3 in the sixth with a two-run single that chased Atlanta starter Mike Minor. Ty Wigginton's sacrifice fly off Chad Durbin made it 4-all.
Halladay gave up seven hits, four runs, four walks and struck out three in 4 2-3 innings.
Halladay is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in four starts at Turner Field this year. The two-time Cy Young Award winner had gone 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA in his first five August starts.
The Phillies improved to 2-8 against Atlanta this year.
Minor led off the fifth with a single and scored with one out on Prado's eighth homer. After Jason Heyward's popup, Hallaway walked Chipper Jones before Freeman launched his 19th homer to make it 4-1.
In the sixth, Minor loaded the bases on singles by Jimmy Rollins, Frandsen and Utley. Howard singled softly to center to score Rollins and Frandsen and cut the lead to 4-3.
Howard has 40 homers and 115 RBIs in 129 career games against Atlanta.
Minor allowed seven hits and four runs with one walk and three strikeouts in four-plus innings.
On the last play of the fourth, the 40-year-old Jones was trying to score from second on Janish's single to center, but he was tagged out at the plate by Kratz. Though Jones lowered his shoulder and knocked Kratz on his back, Kratz held onto the ball to preserve Halladay's 1-0 lead.
Notes: Braves SS Andrelton Simmons has been cleared by a team physician to begin baseball activities and could start a rehab assignment on Tuesday. ... Rollins apologized to manager Charlie Manuel before the game and returned to the lineup a day after the former NL MVP was benched in the middle of a game for failing to hustle. ... Minor went 1-1 with 2.40 ERA in his first two starts against the Phillies this year. ... The Braves released SS Jack Wilson before the game and later announced a trade with Detroit for utility man Jeff Baker.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thunder lose, but close in on division

For The Trentonian
TRENTON -- It was nearly as good as a win.
Sure, Trenton suffered a relatively non-descript 3-1 loss at the hands of the New Britain Rock Cats on Wednesday night, but Reading's loss to the Binghamton Mets clipped the Thunder's magic number to win the Eastern Division to just two.
On the heels of clinching a playoff berth on Tuesday night, the Thunder mustered just one run against Rock Cats pitching, and none against starter Logan Darnell, who held Trenton to just two walks and three hits through six innings.
The Thunder had their best chance to win in the seventh, when New Britain reliever David Bromberg loaded the bases with nobody out thanks to a Rob Segedin single and back-to-back walks issued to Shane Brown and Walter Ibarra, respectively.
Adonis Garcia's run-scoring single put one run across the board, but it's all Trenton would get, as Bromberg bore down to retire the Thunder's 2-3-4 hitters in order. J.R. Murphy grounded out, and Bromberg struck out both David Adams and Zoilo Almonte to end the threat and, for all intents and purposes, Trenton's chance at a win.
"We missed an opportunity there," said Thunder manager Tony Franklin. "We didn't get a lot from Darnell, he pitched a pretty good game. We had an opportunity there, it just kind of went by the wayside for us."
Trenton starting pitcher Mikey O'Brien also turned in a solid outing, but it wasn't enough. He limited New Britain to just two runs on nine hits through six innings of work, good for his second straight quality outing. But, unlike his effort in Akron, it wasn't good enough for a win.
Back-to-back fourth inning doubles by 2009 Futures Game MVP Rene Tosoni and Deibinson Romero put the Rock Cats on the board early, and Estarlin De Los Santos' RBI groundout doubled their advantage to two. New Britain pushed across their insurance run off of Trenton reliever Francisco Rondon, who allowed a leadoff triple to highly touted Twins prospect Aaron Hicks, who then scored after Rondon uncorked a wild pitch to the next batter.
With just five games remaining in the regular season and a playoff spot clinched, a division title is still important to both the players and Franklin, and losing still isn't taken lightly.
"We're still trying to win a division," he said. "I made it pretty clear to them, but I'm pretty sure that they know that. It doesn't make any sense to celebrate anything. We haven't accomplished a whole lot except for we're in the playoffs, which is a good thing. But we'd like to finish on a pretty good note, and that would be to win the division."
There was no letdown, no taking their collective feet off the gas pedal now that they'll be playing deep into September. According to Franklin, he wasn't expecting that to be the case anyway.
"My fondest hope was that we were going to come out and play just as well, I expected that," he said.
"We came out today and put our work in, and I expected a pretty solid game. It just didn't materialize today, but we'll look for better things tomorrow."

Cloyd solid in debut, but Phillies lose to Mets

PHILADELPHIA - In recent days Tyler Cloyd had been getting plenty of accolades for his monstrous 2012 season in the minor leagues.
Wednesday he got the only reward that really matters to a prospect: The Call.
Thanks to a combination of poorly prepared food ingested by Cole Hamels and a decision that Vance Worley’s spiraling season should end early so he could get to the operating table for elbow surgery, Cloyd joined the Phillies’ rotation and was on the hill to work against the Mets.
The result was like a summary of what sketpical scouts often say about the right-hander: Not pretty or overpowering, but effective. Unfortunately for the rookie, a lineup stacked in the back half with a few guys who were his Triple-A teammates not long ago didn’t offer much support in a 3-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park.
Despite a two-run homer by Lucas Duda in the third inning, a few jams that needed escaping and a handful of hard-hit outs snagged by backpedaling outfielders, Cloyd got through six innings having allowed three runs and keeping the Phillies in the game, trailing by a run when he was replaced by reliever Jeremy Horst in the top of the seventh.
For a while it seemed Cloyd would meet a much less flattering ending in his big-league debut. He gave up two hits in the first inning, a run in the second and the two-run bomb by Duda in the third. But he rallied to retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced, getting five strikeouts. It wasn’t on the level of what he did at Reading and Lehigh Valley this year -- a combined 15-1, 2.26 ERA in 26 starts, a performance that got him the starting nod in the Triple-A All-Star Game, the International League MVP award and the Paul Owens Award as the Phillies’ top minor-league pitcher.
However, for a guy who only touched 90 mph on the radar gun with one of his 102 pitches and often floated 82 mph cutters toward the plate, this was a debut that deeemed him worthy of four or five more trips to the hill in September.
He’d like to get a little more run support along the way. The Phils touched Mets rookie Matt Harvey for a run on a Ryan Howard sacrifice fly in the first inning and another in the second when Jimmy Rollins followed a Cloyd walk with a double to right. But the bats dried up quickly from there.
There will be a permanent place in the rotation for Cloyd the rest of this season, since Worley finally got the call from the front office informing him enough was enough. Worley was 2-4 with a 5.20 ERA since the All-Star break, and 0-3, 6.75 in his last five starts.
While the Phillies and their medical staff insisted the loose bodies in Worley’s elbow weren’t detrimental to his health provided they didn’t cause another irritation, pitching coach Rich Dubee believed the knowledge that his arm was destined for surgery played with Worley’s confidence.
“I don’t know if it was as much as it being painful (as) it weighs on his mind,” Dubee said.“His mound presence just hasn’t been the same. He’s been putting hot stuff on his arm, and it get to the point where he might have been able to pitch through it the rest of the year - we don’t think he would’ve done any damage - but his presence on the mound hasn’t been good.
“It’s hard to play this game with divided attention. You have to be focused.”
Worley finished the season 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA in 23 starts. Dubee assured the bespectacled right-hander that he’ll have a rotation spot there for the reclaiming come spring.
“He has an inside edge for being in the rotation,” Dubee said. “We have to get him fixed up and see how he comes back. Hopefully he’ll come back like Cole (Hamels) did (after a subpar 2009 season).”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Phillies' bullpen crushed in 10th inning

PHILADELPHIA - The Mets would like to propose a trade: Citizens Bank Park for Citi Field -- and they won't even make the Phillies take Bernie Madoff in the deal.
New York has spent most of the past two months watching the playoff aspirations it had when it was seven games over .500 and 2 1/2 games out of first place in the National League East June 30 evaporate.
In July the Mets' pitching betrayed it. In August the offense has been so woeful that a day-to-day list of their runs scored reads like binary code.
However, there has been one place where the Mets have found sanctuary this season, and that is in Philadelphia.
For the sixth time in seven games at CBP, the Mets' bats sprung to life. The big burst came in the top of the 10th when they lit up B.J. Rosenberg for four runs -- the last two on a two-run bomb by Kelly Shoppach -- as New York roared to a 9-5 win Tuesday night.
This from a team that had scored just 15 runs in its previous eight games, the last seven of which had been in their spacious money pit in Queens.
In South Philly, however, the Mets have been anything but impotent. In their six wins over the Phils at CBP, New York has racked up 41 runs.
The extra-inning antics were a stark contrast to what happened in the opening inning.
Before Mets starter Chris Young record so much as an out, the Phillies had four runs.
Those came on Ryan Howard's grand slam to center field, his ninth homer of the season.
Most nights that four-spot would be something the starting pitcher likely could protect.
But the Phillies were on their weakest link, and Vance Worley continued to buckle.
While Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick have gotten their acts together, and Cole Hamels continues to have his act together, the one member of the rotation who has become a bloated dead weight putting drag on the Phillies as they slowly gain momentum and prepare for next season is Worley.
Worley, who went 4-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 12 starts during the season's first three months, has been in a persistent tailspin. Maybe it can be attributed to the loose bodies in his elbow that eventually will require surgery. But if that's the case, then perhaps it's time to get him to the surgeon.
Worley had to be yanked in the fifth inning after just 60 pitches, as New York was able to erase the 4-1 lead Howard gave the right-hander. Chase Utley would get that lead back with a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth, but the Phils still have a hard time trusting their bullpen with a one-run lead for too long.
Sure enough, Ryan Lindblom gave up a leadoff walk in the eighth. He handed the set-up work to Antonio Bastardo, who was burned by a one-handed swing by Shoppach, who slung a game-tying single to left. After using Jonathon Papelbon to hold serve in the ninth, Charlie Manuel watched Rosenberg serve up a four-spot in the 10th.
In a couple of days the rosters expand and at least a couple more minor-league players will trickle into the Phillies' clubhouse. One of them might well be Tyler Cloyd, who has gone 15-1 between Double- and Triple-A this season and Tuesday was named the International League MVP for going 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
He would seem to be a solid option for replacing Worley -- if the Phillies ever decide enough is enough.
* * *
Juan Pierre replaced Domonic Brown in left field in the top of the 10th inning, a move that didn't come as part of a double-switch, a move that hinted Brown's sore left knee had acted up, although no formal injury announcement was made during the game.

Thunder clinch playoff spot

TRENTON — The Thunder didn’t celebrate Tuesday night, but they did exhale deeply.
After missing their first opportunity to do so Monday, the Thunder clinched a playoff spot by beating the New Britain Rock Cats 7-4 on a beautiful evening at Waterfront Park. That accomplishment had appeared to be a mere formality a month ago, but a 3-12 stretch in the middle of August raised some doubts. Now, the Thunder can breathe easy.
"Everybody can breathe now," manager Tony Franklin said. "Certainly we can relax a little bit more and just play baseball. The next goal is to finish on top (of the division)."
New Britain starter Steve Hirschfeld did not have a good day. Second baseman David Adams launched a solo shot off the advertising in left field in the first inning, and in the second shortstop Addison Maruszak hit one out to center. Kevin Mahoney followed Maruszak with a double off the wall, and was brought home when Rob Segedin slapped a double of his own down the third-base line.
Center fielder Adonis Garcia then drove one out to center, bringing home Segedin. After a J.R. Murphy singled and Adams walk, Zoilo Almonte singled home Murphy and ended Hirschfeld’s day. The Thunder ended the second inning up 6-0.
"This team has put up big big-fly numbers this year, so it’s only fitting," Adams said adout the team’s power surge.
Maruszak left the game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his leg, but doesn’t believe the injury is serious.
"It just got under my barrel enough for me to square it up and hit myself in the calf," he said.
Meanwhile, Nuno looked like the pitcher that he was earlier in the year, giving up just a single run in six innings. Nuno allow six hits, but was helped by a solid defense behind him, which turned a pair of double plays. Typically around the zone, Nuno didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.
"He’s been really good," Franklin said of Nuno. "When we’re looking for somebody to get us a win and stop a slide, he’s been the guy."
Deibinson Romero was responsible for the only blemish on Nuno’s night, a solo homer in the fifth.
Garcia added an insurance run in the sixth with his second home run of the game, this one off reliever Dakota Watts.
Graham Stoneburner relieved Nuno, and after a scoreless seventh gave up a run before recording an out. That prompted Franklin to put in Yankees lefty-specialist Pedro Feliciano, who is with the Thunder on a rehab assignment. Feliciano managed just one out and allowed two inherited runners to score. He left with the score 7-4.
"I tried to be too nasty with the righty," Feliciano said. "I was trying to be too fine instead of throwing it down the middle and making them swing."
Ryan Pope then came on and got two quick outs to end the New Britain threat. He stayed in for the ninth to get the five-out save, striking out Aaron Hicks for the last out of the game.
The Thunder chose not to celebrate simply making the playoffs, instead electing to act like they’ve been there before. The choice reflected the old-school sensibility of their manager, who was at the helm for back-to-back Eastern League titles in 2007 and 2008.
"We’ll celebrate like no other when we do what we came here to do," Franklin said. "We haven’t won anything yet."

Hughes, Swisher lift Yankees past Jays

NEW YORK (AP) — Phil Hughes had another fine start at home, Nick Swisher extended his torrid streak with an RBI single and the New York Yankees handed Ricky Romero his 11th straight loss Tuesday night with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hughes (13-11) won his sixth consecutive decision at Yankee Stadium, giving up only Adeiny Hechavarria's first major league homer in seven effective innings. He allowed four hits and walked three.
Rafael Soriano bounced back from a blown save Monday night, when he gave up a go-ahead homer to Colby Rasmus with two outs in the ninth, by working a perfect inning to finish the four-hitter for his 34th save in 37 tries.
Curtis Granderson hit a sacrifice fly to help the Yankees to their fifth win in 12 games. They beat Romero (8-12) for the third time during his winless skid.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Jets fire blanks once again, yet to score touchdown in preseason

AP Photo- Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense failed to score a touchdown for the third time in three tries this preseason.


EAST RUTHERFORD — The Jets offense showed some life early in Sunday’s 17-12 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers, but the game came with a cost.

With Austin Howard in the starting lineup at right tackle instead of Wayne Hunter, quarterback Mark Sanchez finally had some time to operate in the pocket, and responded with his best game thus far this preseason. He was able to stretch the field vertically, and would have thrown his first touchdown of the year in the opening half had a pass not gone through rookie Stephen Hill’s hands late in the second quarter.

“The guys played well today,” Sanchez said. “There was just one sack, and that was really a coverage sack. I thought there was a great improvement up front.”

Unfortunately, tight end Dustin Keller (hamstring), linebacker David Harris (ankle) and fullback Josh Baker (knee) all were forced to leave the game with injuries.

Sanchez also threw an interception, but that pass also bounced off Hill’s hands. He finished the game 11 for 18 with 123 yards. Three games into the preseason, the Jets are the only team in the NFL yet to score a touchdown.

“I told him to get on the jug machine, first and foremost,” Sanchez said, relating his message to the young receiver.

On the Jets' first two offensive plays, Sanchez delivered  his best two throws of the preseason, hitting Keller for a 24 yard gain, then connecting with wideout Patrick Turner for 20 more. He nearly connected on a bomb to Santonio Holmes, and found Hill a few drives later for a 30-yard pickup.

AP Photo - The Jets' offense hasn't looked good this season, but the Flight Crew has maintained its fine form.

“We moved the ball pretty well,” said running back Shonn Greene, who finished with 47 yards on 13 carries. “We just have to finish.”

That momentum, however, stalled whenever the Jets got close to the red zone. Their best chance to find the end zone came in the second quarter, when a Sanchez pass bounced off Hill’s hands. The team settled for five field goal attempts, with Nick Folk going two for two and Josh Brown two for three.

“We’ll take what the defense gives us, but we need to execute better than that,” Sanchez said. “We need touchdowns.”

The Jets also did a decent job containing Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. The second-year phenom finished the game 6 of 15, for 60 yards and a touchdown.

One of the bright spots on that side of the ball was second-year nose tackle Kendrick Ellis, who was able to get consistent pressure on Newton. Linebacker Aaron Maybin also broke free into the Carolina backfield on more than one occasion, flushing Newton from the pocket. LaRon Landry picked off Carolina backup Derek Anderson.

Rookie Quinton Coples forced a Newton fumble deep in Panthers territory with six minutes left in the first half. That play set up another field goal, this one from Brown.

“We have a lot of talented young guys, and great chemistry,” veteran linebacker Bart Scott said of the defense. “We didn’t have OTAs last year, and know guys are really getting the opportunity to work together.”

Carolina’s only touchdown of the first half came after Sanchez’s hard-luck pick, which gave the Panthers the ball on the Jets' 31 yard line. The five-play drive was capped off by a three-yard touchdown strike to Louis Murphy.

Tim Tebow relieved Sanchez one drive into the second half, and was his typical erratic self, looking great evading the rush but telegraphing his throws and badly missing receivers. In the fourth quarter, he pulled off a Madden-esque 20-yard scramble through the Panthers’ defense, drawing a halfhearted “Tebow!” chant before throwing an ugly interception two plays later. He finished 4 for 13 with 55 yards and a pick.

Anderson threw what proved to be the game-winning touchdown to Gary Barnidge at the start of the fourth.

The Jets' final preseason game will be against the Eagles at 6:35 p.m. Thursday in Philadelphia.

“The way I see it, we’re saving all our good stuff for the regular season,” Sanchez said.

— For complete Jets coverage this season follow Nick Peruffo on twitter @jetssmart

Jets fall to Panthers, offense yet to score touchdown in preseason

AP Photo - The Jets haven't scored a touchdown yet in the preseason.

EAST RUTHERFORD (AP) — Mark Sanchez looked pretty good for nearly three quarters. He just couldn't get the Jets into the end zone — again.

Tim Tebow had the play of the game, but also couldn't get that elusive preseason touchdown for the Jets.

Tebow got the fans fired up with a dazzling 20-yard run in the fourth quarter, but threw an interception three plays later and the Carolina Panthers held on for a 17-12 victory Sunday night.

The Jets (0-3) still have not scored a touchdown through three preseason games, an alarming display of ineptitude even though the games don't count. But Sanchez and the starters will not play Thursday night in the preseason finale at Philadelphia, so they certainly have a lot to work on before the regular-season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 9.

Sanchez played well into the third quarter, but got no help from his receivers who dropped a few passes. He finished 11 of 18 for 123 yards and an interception.

Tebow faced a third-and-16 from the Jets 34 and ran around in the backfield, eluded a tackle attempt by Ryan Van Bergan and then took off and slipped through a few other tackle attempts by the Panthers (2-1) before being taken down for a 20-yard gain by Reggie Smith. Tebow pumped both fists and yelled at the crowd chanting "Tee-boww! Tee-boww!" But three plays later, Tebow threw an easy interception to Smith.

Tebow got the Jets in scoring position again in the closing moments, again with the fans chanting his name, but threw four straight incompletions from the Panthers 27 to end the game. He was 4 of 14 for 55 yards and the interception.

While the Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) didn't get into the end zone, two fans nearly did. Two men — wearing only underwear and sneakers — were tackled by security behind the end zone before they could get onto the field of play. One was handcuffed quickly and led off the field, while the other struggled for a few minutes before being led away

Cam Newton was held mostly in check by the Jets, going 6 of 15 for 60 yards, but he got the Panthers (No. 20) into the end zone with a touchdown pass to Louis Murphy.

Backup Derek Anderson put Carolina ahead to stay with a 1-yard touchdown toss to Gary Barnidge, making it 17-12 with 11:31 left in the game.

Sanchez was done in on consecutive plays by his receivers not holding onto the ball. First, on second-and-10 from the Jets 38, Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes in the mask and the receiver couldn't corral the pass. On the next play, Sanchez hit Stephen Hill in the chest, but the rookie couldn't control the ball and it bounced off his arms and into the hands of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

Five plays later, Newton connected with Murphy, starting for the injured Steve Smith, for a 9-yard touchdown that put the Panthers up 10-9 with 1:16 left in the opening half.

Jonathan Stewart was injured on the drive, hurting his right ankle when he took a handoff and went down the right sideline for 7 yards before he was knocked out of bounds on a hard hit by LaRon Landry. Stewart stayed down for a few moments before being helped to the bench. After trainers looked at Stewart's right leg, the running back was carted to the locker room — but was smiling at his teammates as he headed into the tunnel.

The Jets got the ball with 1:11 left and two timeouts and ran just two plays, preferring not to go for a score — as the crowd at MetLife Stadium booed loudly.

Tebow came in the game for the Jets in the third quarter, and couldn't get much going, either. On second-and-goal from the 12, he was nearly picked off by David Nixon, who read the play all the way and stepped in front of Tebow's toss for Dedric Epps but dropped the ball — or he would have had a clear path to the end zone.

Two plays later, Folk kicked a 30-yarder to give the Jets a 12-10 lead with 1:48 left.

The Jets lost three key players to injuries as tight ends Dustin Keller (hamstring) and Josh Baker (right knee) and linebacker David Harris (ankle) all left in the first half. Baker appeared to sustain the most serious injury in the second quarter when he was hit on the right knee by a Panthers defender while trying to catch a pass from Sanchez in the end zone. Baker stayed down for several minutes, was helped to the sideline and then carted to the locker room.

Olindo Mare's 33-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter put the Panthers up 3-0 on their first drive of the game, helped in part by a pass interference call on Jets linebacker Bart Scott that put the ball in New York territory.

The Jets came right back and tied it on Nick Folk's 46-yard field goal on their opening offensive drive.

Josh Brown, competing with Folk for the Jets' kicking job, made a 34-yarder with 6:51 left in the first half to give New York a 6-3 lead.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Phillies win third straight, sixth of eight

PHILADELPHIA - For the Phillies of 2012, there would be one instruction manual for what was assumed to be an easy-to-assemble summer of routine championship contention.
Enjoy strong starting pitching. Make full use out of $50,000,058 closer Jonathan Papelbon. Connect in the eighth inning with Antonio Bastardo.
And while the project has wobbled into the final hours of August, it worked Saturday to those exact specs in a 4-2 victory over the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.
Roy Halladay pitched seven innings and hardly threw anything an inch wide of the strike zone in improving to 8-7 and outperforming Washington starter Gio Gonzalez. Bastardo struck out the side in the eighth. And Papelbon needed just 10 ninth-inning pitches for his 29th save.
John Mayberry homered to put the Phillies ahead in the sixth, then rewarded Chase Utley for some basepath hustle by luring him home with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly RBI. Mayberry had three RBIs, giving him seven in the last six games.
The Phillies won their third consecutive game and their sixth in their last eight. The Nationals, who have lost their last three, had their N.L. East lead over Atlanta shaved to 5 1/2 games.
Do they still have a chance?
“Absolutely,” Utley said.
Halladay lasted seven innings, throwing 105 pitches, striking out six and allowing seven hits. He held the Nationals hitless until Bryce Harper singled to lead off the fourth, and left with a 3-2 lead. He has allowed 11 earned runs over his last 36 innings. Of Halladay's 105 pitches, only 19 were out of the strike zone.
Charlie Manuel, never at a patience crisis, trusted the lead to Bastardo, proof that he still considers the inconsistent left-hander a useful eighth-inning gangplank between his strong starting pitching and Papelbon.
“We are going to get Bastardo where we want him,” Manuel said. “We know how good he can be. And it's still there. It's just a matter of us getting it out of him, and him getting it out of himself. He will.”
Bastardo faced three hitters - Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche - and struck them all out, showing some of the drive that had made him so valuable last season.
“With the type of person he is and the type of pitcher he is, I think sometimes when he feels real good you see the aggressiveness,” Manuel said. “I think sometimes he doesn't realize the kind of difference in him. Last year, when he was really good, when he would come in the ball was really flying out of his hand and he was beating the hitters. Now, if he can just get back close to where he was last year, he is going to be good.”
Despite having pitched in three of the last four games, including the previous two, Papelbon was ready for the ninth.
Mayberry turned on Gonzalez's first sixth-inning pitch and plunked it into the left-field seats for his 12th home run of the season.
“Leading off the inning, I just wanted to get something started,” Mayberry said. “I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit and put it in play hard. I was able to get one out of there. The second time, basically, Chase did all the work.”
Utley was hit by a Sean Burnett to begin the Phils' eighth, then stole second and third for his fifth and sixth stolen bases of the season. When Mayberry hammered a fly to deep right-center, Utley rolled home for the 4-2 lead.
“It was a pretty good game,” Utley said. “Roy pitched well. Pappy looked crisp and fluid and was throwing strikes with all of his pitches. It was nice to see that.”
The Phillies made Gonzalez throw 31 first-inning pitches and took a 2-1 lead. Jimmy Rollins, who walked, went to third on a Kevin Frandsen single. He scored on Utley's ground single to right. On a Ryan Howard ground-out, Frandsen took third, from where he would score on Mayberry's infield hit behind second.
The Nationals forced a 2-2 tie in the fifth when Steve Lombardozzi singled to center to deliver Danny Espinosa and Kurt Suzuki, who narrowly beat the throw from John Mayberry despite thorough plate coverage by Erik Kratz.
Gonzalez, once Phillies property, struck out seven in six innings, but left trailing, 3-2, after throwing 107 pitches. He fell to 16-7.
“If we can keep going and close out the season with some victories,” Manuel said, “then we can see what happens.”

Indians shut down Bombers

CLEVELAND (AP) — Justin Masterson handled New York's power-packed lineup for 6 2-3 innings and Michael Brantley hit a three-run homer as the Cleveland Indians snapped a nine-game skid with a 3-1 win over theYankees on Saturday night.
It's the second time this month that Masterson (10-11) has busted a long losing streak for the Indians. On Aug. 8, he beat Minnesota and stopped Cleveland's 11-game slide, one loss shy of the club record.
Brantley homered in the first inning off Hiroki Kuroda (12-9), and the Indians, who were in playoff contention in late July, held on to win for just the fifth time in 27 games. Cleveland is 5-18 in August.
Masterson, roughed up by Oakland in his previous start, allowed one run and seven hits. He walked two, struck out six and worked his way out of a major mess in the sixth.
With the victory, the Indians avoided becoming the first team since the Kansas City Royals in 2006 to have two losing streaks of at least 10 games in the same season.
Vinnie Pestano replaced Masterson in the seventh, inheriting two runners with two outs. Pestano walked Robinson Cano to load the bases before breaking Mark Teixeira's bat on a popup.
Chris Perez pitched a perfect ninth for his 33rd save, striking out Derek Jeter for the final out.
Despite the loss, the AL East-leading Yankees remained 3½ games ahead of Tampa Bay, which lost 4-2 to Oakland.
Kuroda gave up Brantley's homer in the first, but shut out Cleveland on just four hits over the next seven innings.
Masterson coasted through five innings, allowing just three hits and holding a 3-0 lead.
But the Yankees had him on the ropes in the sixth, when they loaded the bases with none out on two singles and a walk. Teixeira's sacrifice fly to deep center made it 3-1, and Masterson walked Curtis Granderson to refill the bases. However, Masterson got Eric Chavez on a liner to third and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo ran down Russell Martin's drive at the warning track.
As Masterson walked back to the dugout, catcher Lou Marson slapped the big right-hander on the rear end after he survived New York's ominous threat.
He got the first two outs in the seventh, but gave up consecutive singles to Jeter and Nick Swisher. Manager Manny Acta pulled Masterson, who got a loud ovation from the crowd of 34,374 — nearly half of them Yankeesfans — as he left the field. Fortunately for the Indians, this time their bullpen didn't let them down.
In their previous 22 losses, the Indians had the lead at some point in nine of them but their relievers blew some games in the late innings.
Kuroda was in trouble immediately. He hit Jason Kipnis with a pitch leading off the first and then walked Choo with one out. Kuroda struck out Carlos Santana for the second out, but Brantley drove the right-hander's first pitch to right-center for his sixth homer.
Kuroda had not given up more than three runs in his previous seven starts, but he was in an early hole and the Yankees couldn't get anything going against Masterson.
New York didn't get its first hit until the fourth, when Cano doubled with two outs. But Masterson fooled Teixeira, who was caught looking at strike three to end the inning.
Notes: Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he expects LHP Andy Pettitte to appear in another major league game this season. Pettitte has been on the disabled list with a broken left ankle since June 28. He threw in the outfield before the game and is scheduled to visit Dr. Chris Ahmad on Monday in New York. ... Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez has been taking dry, soft-toss swings the past two days as he continues to recover from a broken left hand. Rodriguez has missed 28 games since going on the DL on July 25. Rodriguez has been swinging one-handed and occasionally throwing a football to keep his arm strong. ... The Indians are optimistic 3B Lonnie Chisenhall will return before the season ends. He broke his right arm when he was hit by a pitch June 29 and underwent surgery. Acta said Chisenhall will take on-field batting practice Monday. He has been hitting and fielding indoors. Chisenhall may play winter ball to make up for his missed at-bats, Acta said.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rollins, Kendrick lift Phillies past Nats

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Kyle Kendrick pitched effectively for 6 2-3 innings and Jimmy Rollins drove in a pair of runs to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-2 victory over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
Kendrick (7-9), one of seven pitchers used by Philadelphia, allowed four hits and struck out three to help the Phillies win for the fifth time in the last seven games.
Tyler Moore homered for Washington, which lost its second straight.
Moore snapped Kendrick's 21 2/3 innings scoreless streak with a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh. Kendrick retired the first two batters in the frame before walking Kurt Suzuki. Moore, pinch-hitting for Edwin Jackson, launched an 0-1 sinker into the seats in left to pull Washington within 3-2.
Jackson (11-8) gave up three runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in six innings to fall to 0-4 with a 5.32 ERA in four career starts against Philadelphia.
Jonathan Papelbon earned his 28th save in 31 chances with a scoreless ninth.
Rollins gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead in the fourth when he lined an opposite-field, two-out single to left off Jackson to score John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix, who barely beat the tag of Suzuki with an elusive head-first slide at the
Chase Utley's RBI single in the first had given Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. The Phillies were positioned to add on to the lead, with runners on first and third and no outs, but Ryan Howard struck out and Domonic Brown grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Phillies used four pitchers in a scoreless eighth inning. Antonio Bastardo started the frame with a strikeout of Bryce Harper and was followed by Josh Lindblom, who walked Ryan Zimmerman. Raul Valdes then relieved Lindblom and surrendered a single to Roger Bernadina before striking out Adam LaRoche. With two outs and runners on first and second, B.J. Rosenberg followed Valdes and struck out Jayson Werth to end the frame.
The Phillies padded their lead in the bottom of the inning. Utley walked, stole second and scored on Howard's single to right that put Philadelphia up 4-2.
Michael Morse left the game in the first inning with a contusion on his right hand after being hit by a Kendrick pitch.
Ian Desmond was a late scratch due to a right knee injury suffered in Wednesday's game against Atlanta. Desmond, who was replaced at shortstop by Danny Espinosa, was available to pinch-hit.
Notes: The Phillies honored four Olympic gold medalists with Philadelphia-area ties in a pregame ceremony, as soccer stars Heather Mitts and Carli Lloyd joined Jordan Burroughs (wrestling) and Susan Francia (rowing) to throw out ceremonial first pitches. . Philadelphia placed catcher Brian Schneider on the 15-day DL and recalled Steven Lerud from Double-A Reading. . Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay (7-7, 3.95) is scheduled to face Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez (16-6, 3.23) in the second game of the three-game set at 7:05 Saturday night.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Phillies battle past Reds in 11 innings

PHILADELPHIA - A night after throwing their game-day act back to the 1990s, the Phillies Thursday threw one back to another era of some franchise relevance - the recent 2000's.
They pitched well. They battled. They treated 41,972 to four-plus hours of entertainment. And they defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 4-3, in 11 innings.
Not only that, in winning for the fourth time in six games, they didn't even have to model any last-century uniforms.

John Mayberry delivered Chase Utley with a ground single to left in the 11th to help Raul Valdes improve to 3-2.
Frandsen had greeted greeted Alfredo Simon (2-2) with a leadoff single and breezed to third when Chase Utley lined a double to right. Dusty Baker ordered Ryan Howard intentionally walked, but Domonic Brown tapped to first and the Reds forced Frandsen at the plate before Mayberry enabled the Phils to split the four-game series.
The Phillies had a chance to win in the ninth, loading the bases with one out, but Brown hit into a night-extending double play. By then, though, Brown had collected two hits, including a double, and had scored twice.
Erik Kratz muscled a one-out single to shallow center in the 10th but could only reach third when Jimmy Rollins rammed a double into the right-center gap. After Brian Schneider grounded to third, Juan Pierre popped out.
In a pitching matchup between Cy Young Award candidates, neither Johnny Cueto nor Cole Hamels overwhelmed. Cueto lasted five innings, throwing 111 pitches. Hamels lasted six innings, striking out four. Cueto remained at 16-6, Hamels at 14-6.
The Phillies used consecutive singles by Brown, Mayberry and Kratz to load the bases with one out in the eighth, and forced a 3-3 tie when Rollins lofted a sacrifice fly RBI just deep enough to left-center to lure the swift Brown safely home. Ty Wigginton struck out to end the inning, and the Phils trusted Jonathon Papelbon in the ninth of a tie game.
Papelbon promptly walked Ryan Hanigan, who was sacrificed to second, where he would stay, calling the Phils to their bottom-of-the-ninth stage.
For the heavily touted event, Charlie Manuel would select a batting order that was, at best, curious. He had Michael Martinez, not Jimmy Rollins, at short. Laynce Nix was in center. Frandsen, not Placido Polanco, was at third, though that was on recent merit.
That plot turned typical of the season in a two-run Cincinnati third. After Jay Bruce singled, Ryan Ludwick hammered a sharp grounder to short … and off the glove of Martinez for what was ruled a single. Todd Frazier followed with a long but ordinary fly to center that Nix turned and watched hit the wall before bobbling the rebound. That sent Frazier to third and Cincinnati to a 3-0 lead.
But the Phillies answered in the bottom of the inning when Cueto walked Howard before Brown sliced the Reds' starter's 111th pitch into the left-center gap for a double. That gave Brown five extra-base hits in as many games, pushed Howard to third and chased Cueto.
Nix took reliever Jose Arredondo with a long sacrifice fly RBI to right, Brown taking third. From there, he sprinted home on Kratz's sacrifice fly to shallow left-center, pulling the Phils within 3-2. Pinch-hitting for Martinez, Rollins tapped out in front of the plate.
The Reds loaded the bases with one out in the first when Frazier rolled a soft grounder to Frandsen. But despite the possibility of forcing Zack Cozart at the plate, Frandsen took the certain out at first and the Reds had a 1-0 lead.
Considering the pitchers, that suddenly seemed like plenty.
The Phils challenged Cueto in the fourth when Pierre drew a one-out walk and Frandsen was hit by a pitch. But when Utley singled to center, third base coach Juan Samuel directed Pierre home … where he would be thrown out by Brandon Stubbs. Howard walked to load the bases for Brown, who was overwhelmed by Cueto in an unsightly strikeout. So with two walks, a hit batter and a single in the inning, the Phillies were still scoreless.
“He has talent, he has stuff, he has command of his fast ball,” Manuel said of Cueto. “I think that's what has made him what he is. And experience. If you look, he has more command than he used to have, especially with his changeup. It makes his fastball better. He can be overpowering.”
Hamels singled to lead off the fifth and was sacrificed to second by Pierre. A Cueto balk sent him to third where he would remain as Frandsen fanned and Utley hit a non-threatening liner to shallow right.
Phillippe Aumont, the presumed gem of the odd and unpopular 2009 trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle, made his major-league debut, throwing a scoreless eighth to keep the Phils within one run, allowing them to pull even in the bottom of the inning.
J.J. Hoover walked Pierre to open the ninth, and the Phillies were content to sacrifice him to second. But first baseman Miguel Cairo took Frandsen's bunt and casually tried a backhand swipe for an out as Frandsen stutter-stepped up the line … and dropped the ball. That gave the Phillies runners on first and second.
The Phils loaded the bases when Cairo could only smother Howard's infield hit, but the game rolled into extra innings when Brown hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
Jeremy Horst, re-activated earlier in the day after a paternity leave, pitched a clean 10th and was replaced in the 11th - and final inning - by Valdes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Worley, Phillies can't throwback a win

By ROB PARENT, @ReluctantSE
PHILADELPHIA — On what felt more like just another sticky, stinky South Philly baseball night instead of a charming retro dip into 1990s nostalgia, the Phillies played along Wednesday by punkin’ their fans all night long.
Bronson Arroyo, the hippy dippy Reds pitcher whose previous experiences against the Phillies have been mostly dark and stormy, breezed through a 90s-style Phillies lineup of old and young, gifted but mostly otherwise, in leading Cincinnati to a 3-2 victory at Citizens Bank Park.

Consecutive singles by Drew Stubbs, Brandon Phillips and Ryan Ludwick in the fifth inning gave Arroyo a two-run pad, and Jay Bruce provided insurance with a bomb into the right-field bleacher seats in the eighth. It turned out to be the biggest run of the game.
The Phils scored a run in the ninth off overpowering Reds closer Aroldis Chapman when Ty Wigginton dribbled a bat-smashing RBI single to right. But Chapman would escape further trouble and help the Phils drop to 57-67, very ‘90s numbers.
“We were trying to come back,” manager Charlie Manuel said, “but we didn’t make it.”
To that end, it was another collective non-starter for the Phillies’ offense and was underscored by another mediocre outing for Vance Worley, who fell to 6-9 and watched his ERA continue to rise.
“I did get to six tonight. That felt good,” said Worley, who hadn’t pitched into a sixth inning in his last three starts. “I kept the team in it and (the Reds) really didn’t hit the ball hard, so I can say I did my job.”
So could Arroyo, and with a straight face.
Only Domonic Brown’s first home run of the season, also in the fifth, marred Arroyo’s outing. He would go 8-plus innings, allowing but three hits and two earned runs.
And he pitched better than that.
“He’s tough, man,” Brown said of Arroyo. “He’ll keep you off balance, as he did all night. He was spotting up and hitting his spots the whole night.”
Arroyo, who came into the game sporting a 9-7 mark and 3.96 ERA, was never so effective in Philly. Not by a longshot. His record against the Phillies prior to this visit was 1-7, and with a laughable 7.28 ERA. He lost his only playoff start against them, victimized by a blown save in Game 2 of the 2010 NLDS, and in two career games at CBP was 0-2 with a tidy 18.00 ERA.
“Yeah, I was surprised,” Manuel said of Arroyo’s effectiveness. “He was throwing a lot of slurves and change-ups and we were swinging at them. We didn’t hit him very good at all. We weren’t working him at all.”
Manuel pinpointed his favorite reason for that: “At times some of our veterans work the count better than other times,” he said. “Tonight wasn’t a good night for them.”
Appropriately, that occurred on a “Celebrate the 1990s” promo night, which was the most entertaining facet of the game for Phillies fans.
Take not-so retro Domonic Brown out of the picture and Arroyo might have toyed with history, too.
Brown’s homer was the only hit of the night for the Phillies until he came to bat with one out in the eighth. To that point, Arroyo had thrown but 78 pitches. Capping one of his best overall games with the big club, Brown — who made a leaping catch in right, lost a routine fly in the clouds, then made up for that by gunning Bruce out at home — promptly clubbed one off the fence in right-center for a double.
That didn’t seem to matter much when Placido Polanco followed by bouncing weakly toward third, but the ball somehow eluded Scott Rolen’s golden hands, and the Phils suddenly had a rally.
On came Brian Schneider, who grounded sharply up the middle ... but into a Reds mini-shift. Shortstop Zack Cozart gloved the ball on the other side of second base, performed a leaping backhand flip to Phillips, who had time to pivot and throw out Schneider for an inning-ending double play.
With the paying crowd paying heed to the urgency of the Phillies’ situation by actually performing a version of The Wave in the ninth inning, Arroyo attempted to finish a complete-game gem. Standing in the way was red-hot Kevin Frandsen, who had started the prior 20 games at third for the Phils but took a rest to give the semi-healthy Polanco some work. Frandsen’s infield single sent Reds manager Dusty Baker out to get Arroyo — who had thrown all of 86 pitches.
On came Chapman, who promptly jammed Jimmy Rollins into a popout. Chapman then sawed Wigginton’s bat in half — but he managed to squirt the ball into right, bringing home Frandsen. But Chapman got Chase Utley to pop out, and was fortunate to have Ryan Howard’s line drive land in left fielder Ludwick’s glove for the final out.
* * *
NOTES: Brown said he lost Bruce’s fly “in the twilight,” but he slightly celebrated throwing him out shortly thereafter for a double play. That Bruce homered later might not have been a coincidence: “I think I got Jay Bruce going,” Brown said, “and that’s not a good thing.” ... Worley dismisses speculation that physical problems might be weighing on him these days. Asked how his elbow feels, he responded, “It works.”

White Sox sweep Yankees

CHICAGO (AP) — Chris Sale struck out 13 in 7 2-3 stellar innings to get his 15th victory, Alex Rios hit a go-ahead homer and the Chicago White Sox beat the New York Yankees 2-1 on Wednesday night to complete a three-game sweep in the meeting of division leaders.
Sale (15-4) outpitched New York's Phil Hughes, allowing one walk and three hits, including Derek Jeter's solo homer in the sixth — the Yankee star's third homer in as many nights. Addison Reed worked the ninth for his 23rd save in 26 chances.

New York's loss and Tampa Bay's victory over Kansas City reduced the Yankees' lead in the AL East to three games, their smallest since before play on June 26.
The win gave the White Sox their first three-game sweep of the Yankees at home since 1991, the year U.S. Cellular Field (then known as new Comiskey Park) opened.
Jeter hit his 13th homer to tie the game 1-1 in the top of the sixth. But Rios responded in the bottom half with his 20th homer to put Chicago ahead.
Hughes (12-11) allowed five hits and two runs in seven innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
Chicago scored first for the first time in the series when Gordon Beckham doubled, Dewayne Wise reached on a bunt single and Kevin Youkilis hit a sacrifice fly in the third.
Notes: Jeter acknowledged that it takes extra time now to get ready and at age 38 he's making it work with a standout season that seen him climb to No. 11 on the all-time hits list. He has also surpassed 250 career homers. "You got to get here a little earlier and stay a little longer. I'm sure that applies to most people who are standing here right now," Jeter said Wednesday. "I think that's normal, that's for everyone. My fifth year wasn't like my first year, just like this year isn't like five years ago." ... Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte (fractured left ankle) threw off of flat ground on Wednesday, and is scheduled to throw again on Saturday. Pettitte said he is building toward getting on a mound, but is "not quite there yet." There is no timetable for his return. ... Adam Dunn of the White Sox struck out in the third for a club-record 178th time, breaking the mark he set last season. Dunn fanned a career-high 199 times in 2010 with the Nationals.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thunder drop another as lead shrinks

For The Trentonian
TRENTON — It was billed as a potential pitchers’ duel, but only one half of the marquee matchup showed up.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, it was the wrong half. Starter Brett Marshall, who by nearly every measure has been the Thunder’s best pitcher this season, continued his recent downward trend in a 5-0 loss to the Altoona Curve Tuesday night at Waterfront Park. Altoona’s Jameson Taillon—widely considered one of the top prospects in baseball—was solid in his Double A debut, striking out six in five scoreless innings.
The loss was the tail-spinning Thunder’s 11th in the past 14 games.
“I expect more,” said a visibly upset Tony Franklin after the game. “I expect a lot more than what happened out there tonight. If we continue to play that way, I don’t expect us to win a game.”
Taillon, a 6-foot-6 righty out of Texas, was the second overall pick in the 2010 draft and showed why, with a fastball in the upper 90s and a changeup that was, at times, devastating. The Thunder did manage a couple of sharply hit balls, but were victims of the type of bad luck that haunts struggling teams.
“Not getting hit in the butt on that line drive,” Taillon cracked when asked if his outing could have possibly gotten any better, referring to a second-inning Addison Maruszak single. “It was definitely a good first start for me.”
The Curve struck first in the first inning, when first baseman Matt Curry singled home Adalberto Santos, and added a pair in the third when Curry stroked an RBI double to right. In the fourth, Santos grounded into what looked like a sure inning-ending double play to second baseman Walter Ibarra, but Maruszak had trouble on the transfer, allowing Quincy Latimore to score.
The Thunder got Zoilo Almonte to third in fourth inning, but that threat was undermined when Luke Murton was thrown out at second. Maruszak then flied out to end the inning.
“I made a mistake on the base path tonight that shouldn’t happen,” Murton said. “It was a mental mistake. We can all look at ourselves and see things we shouldn’t be doing.”
Trenton managed just four hits off Taillon, who threw just 67 pitches. Marshall ended up allowing four earned runs on 10 hits in six innings of work. No Thunder player recorded multiple hits in the game.
Hunter Strickland relieved Taillon in the sixth, and promptly gave up a single and two walks to load the bases. Murton, however, then grounded into a double play, killing the Thunder’s best chance of the evening.
“We needed a big hit there,” Franklin said. “We need something to spark us. We can’t be wishy-washy about it. We need to look in the mirror and say ‘I’m gonna be the guy to get it done today.’ Right now, we don’t have that person.”
Strickland then settled down, posting scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth. Victor Black closed the door for the Curve.
Francisco Rondon pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief of Marshall, giving up a run. Jon Meloan struck out Stefan Welch for the last Altoona out.
The Thunder will try to bounce back in game two of the series, sending Dellin Betances to the mound against Gerrit Cole in a 12:05 start at Waterfront.
“It comes down to this: either we are going to be a better team or we’re not,” Franklin said. “If we play better we’ll be better, but we can’t continue to make mistakes like that. Inexcusable.”

Phillies blow another close one

PHILADELPHIA - As the Phillies began, perhaps for the final time, to concoct some unlikely math to yield postseason fantasies, they twice were reminded Tuesday why the effort was doomed to be wasted.
In the eighth inning of a 5-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, Antonio Bastardo re-alerted them that their bullpen is broken. And after a second consecutive night of impressive offensive counter-punching, Jonathan Papelbon bold-faced the point in the ninth.

After the Phils rallied to force a 4-4 tie in the eighth, Zack Cozart redirected Papelbon's first pitch into the left field seats. Shortly after, the Phils' three-game winning streak was over. Their playoff road - which was at least open enough earlier in the night for it to have been a discussion piece - was clogged again, too.
“I think there’s no sense of me even talking about that until we get down to the end of the season,” Charlie Manuel said. “Baseball is consistency, it’s a season. Sometimes one month doesn't make a good year. Two weeks don’t make a good year. Definitely one day doesn't. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a team effort. Everybody has to contribute and do their job.
“At the same time, I get excited when I see somebody do something real good. But can you do it on a consistent basis?”
The Phillies had plenty of reasons to excite a crowd of 45,091, particularly in the eighth. That's when Frandsen sliced a two-out triple into the right-field corner to deliver a head-first-sliding Domonic Brown from first to force a 4-4 tie, temporarily obscuring the ineffectiveness of Bastardo. That's because, in the eighth, Bastardo had surrendered a home run to Todd Frazier, good for a 4-3 Cincinnati lead.
By then, Cliff Lee had already been assured a no-decision, despite a nine-strikeout start. His record remained at 2-7. Lee allowed just two earned runs and walked one in 6 2-3 innings, yet was unable to collect his first win of the season in Citizens Bank Park.
After collecting 12 runs and 15 hits a night earlier, the Phillies continued the rampage in the first inning Tuesday. Jimmy Rollins hustled safely to first on an error by second baseman Brandon Phillips, then rushed to third on a Chase Utley single. Ryan Howard, who'd homered Monday, delivered Rollins with a long single off the right field wall.
Kevin Frandsen, who was back at third base after a night off to accommodate the return of Placido Polanco from the disabled list, helped preserve the Phils' 1-0 lead in the sixth. The Reds having loaded the bases with no outs, Ryan Ludwick laced a shot appearing destined to squeeze between third and short. But Frandsen made a diving stop, spun and, from his knees, threw home to force Cozart out, Erik Kratz nicely having blocked the plate. Jay Bruce then grounded into a double play.
The Reds tied the game in the seventh when Scott Rolen drilled a leadoff double to left-center and Todd Frazier walked. Rolen scored on Ryan Hanigan's single to center, and when Howard bobbled the throw from John Mayberry, the Reds had runners on second and third with no outs.
Lee fanned Homer Bailey, but Cozart gave the Reds a 2-1 lead with a sacrifice fly RBI to center. Drew Stubbs lined Lee's 117th pitch to left, scoring Hanigan for a 3-1 lead, and Charlie Manuel finally called for B.J. Rosenberg. Rosenberg coaxed Drew Stubbs into a grounder to second that Utley mishandled for the Phils' second error of the inning. But he struck out Brandon Phillips on a fast ball.
Frandsen hit a one-out single in the seventh, then went to third on an Erik Kratz double into the left-field corner.
Dusty Baker replaced Bailey, his starter, with left-hander Sean Marshall, who promptly walked pinch-hitter Ty Wigginton on four pitches to load the bases for Jimmy Rollins. Rollins, batting right-handed, pulled a double into the corner to force a 3-3 tie.
Manuel went for the lead, asking Juan Pierre to deliver Wigginton with a suicide-squeeze. While Pierre's bunt was clean, Marshall covered it quickly and tossed to Hanigan, who survived a collision with Wigginton to preserve the 3-3 tie and ensuring a no-decision for the 2-7 Lee.
Rollins was stranded at third when Utley muscled a soft liner to second.
Bastardo replaced Rosenberg for the eighth and surrendered Frazier's 18th home run of the season for a 4-3 lead that Dusty Baker entrusted to Jonathan Broxton.
Broxton walked Howard to open the eighth, but Mayberry hit into a double play. Brown survived on what was ruled a base hit off the glove of Phillips at second and roared home from first on Frandsen's opposite-field triple into the right-field corner.
The Phils did stir in the ninth when Polanco had a leadoff single. But Rollins could not move him with a sacrifice bunt. Rollins did steal second, then hustled to third with two outs. But Aroldis Chapman struck Utley out.
The Phillies are five games over .500 since the All-Star break, and have won six of their last 10.
“That,” Manuel said, “is encouraging.”
Such was the thinking, before the game - and before that bullpen door started to swing.

Youkilis sinks Yankees with slam

CHICAGO (AP) — Kevin Youkilis hit a grand slam, Paul Konerko homered and Dewayne Wise had four hits Tuesday night as the Chicago White Sox rallied for the second straight game to beat the New York Yankees 7-3.
Chicago, which fell behind 3-0 in Monday night's opener before winning 9-6, trailed 2-0 after one inning Tuesday in the matchup of division leaders.
Wise, designated for assignment by the Yankees in July, had four singles from the leadoff spot and has played well while filling in for the injured Alejandro De Aza.
It was Youkilis' second grand slam this season at U.S. Cellular Field. He also cleared the bases in April for Boston against the White Sox and Phil Humber.
Since joining the White Sox in a June trade with the Red Sox, Youkilis has hit 11 of his 15 homers.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Yankees fall to White Sox

CHICAGO (AP) — Alexei Ramirez hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the seventh, Adam Dunn added his major league leading 36th an inning later and the Chicago White Sox beat the Yankees 9-6 Monday night to end a three-game losing streak.
Ramirez connected with two outs in the seventh off Boone Logan (4-2) for his seventh homer of the season. Brett Myers (2-1) got the win by pitching two-thirds of an inning. Addison Reed worked the ninth for his 22nd save in 25 chances as the White Sox won the opener in a three-game series between two first-place teams.

Dewayne Wise and Gordon Beckham also homered for Chicago.
New York's Derek Jeter homered and had four hits, tying Eddie Murray for 11th place on the career hits list (3,255). He also took over 13th place on the runs scored list (1,845), passing Craig Biggio.
Wise hit a two-run homer for Chicago as the White Sox scored five times in the fifth for a 5-3 lead, but the Yankees quickly went ahead in the top of the sixth on Jeter's solo homer and RBI singles by Mark Teixeira and pinch-hitter Casey McGehee.
However, Beckham homered off Joba Chamberlain to start the bottom of the sixth, tying it at 6.
The Yankees scored three early runs against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd, who was wild from the outset and lasted only 2 1/3 innnings.
Wise, designated for assignment by the Yankees in July, hit his sixth homer in the fifth, shortly after umpires reversed a call and ruled that an apparent double by Ramirez was a foul ball.
Ramirez led off with a bouncer over third that third base umpire Bill Welke ruled a fair ball with Ramirez reaching on second. But after an umps' conference, they reversed the call and ruled it was foul. White Sox manager Robin Ventura came out of the dugout for an explanation but the changed call stood and Ramirez then struck out. At the time it was a pivotal call because Beckham followed with a single and then Wise homered.
Kevin Youkilis followed with a single and Dunn and Paul Konerko walked to load the bases and finish Yankees starter Freddy Garcia. Chicago tied it on Alex Rios' fielder's choice grounder.
A.J. Pierzynski greeted reliever Clay Rapada with an RBI single to center, giving Chicago a 4-3 lead and after the Yankees brought in their fourth pitcher of the inning in Chamberlain, Dayan Viciedo hit another run-scoring single.
Jeter hit the game's first pitch for a single, tying him with Nap Lajoie for 12th place on the career list. Nick Swisher walked before Beckham made a nice back-handed stop on Robinson Cano's grounder to get a force at second. Teixeira hit an RBI single and Eric Chavez a run-scoring fielder's choice.
Curtis Granderson hit a bases-loaded single to make it 3-0 in the second before Rios' strong throw from right cut down Cano at the plate for the final out.
Garcia lasted 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six hits and five runs with eight strikeouts.
Floyd threw 50 pitches in the first two innings and was yanked after just 2 1/3 innings — his shortest outing of the season — when he gave up five hits, three runs and four walks.
NOTES: Yankees ace CC Sabathia is scheduled to throw a bullpen session this week and manager Joe Girardi said how the left-hander feels after that workout could determine if he can come off the DL and return to the rotation. ... White Sox CF and leadoff hitter Alejandro de Aza missed his third straight game with a sore back. ... During his five seasons over two stints with the White Sox, Garcia was 55-31 and had a 3-0 mark in the 2005 playoffs, including the World Series clincher.

Mets scuffle, fall to Rockies

NEW YORK (AP) — Tyler Colvin stood in front of his locker wearing a Todd Helton T-shirt and cracked a big grin when he was given a choice: tying home run off R.A. Dickey or terrific play at first base.
"I'd go with the game-saving play," Colvin said.
Either way, Helton, the three-time Gold Glove first baseman on the disabled list since Aug. 6, would approve of Colvin's night that led the Colorado Rockies to a 3-1 win over the New York Mets on Monday.
Getting more playing time at first base because of Helton's hip surgery and the recently-injured Michael Cuddyer, Colvin connected off Dickey in the fifth inning then made a diving grab with the bases loaded in the eighth to preserve the lead.

Jonathan Herrera bunted for a hit in the top of the eighth and made his way around the bases with help from some inept defense to give Colorado a 2-1 lead.
"Looking for any opportunity to get on base," Herrera said.
Colvin's first home run in 105 at-bats, denied the knuckleballer a chance at his 16th win and helped the Rockies to their sixth victory in eight games.
With their 10th loss in 14 games, the Mets (57-65) dropped into a third-place tie with Philadelphia in the NL East, 18 1/2 games behind first-place Washington.
Colvin made a lunging stop on pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin's sharp grounder just inside the bag with the bases loaded and his toss to reliever Matt Belisle just beat a diving Valdespin to the bag.
Valdepsin jumped up, waving his arms in disbelief, and manager Terry Collins engaged first base umpire Lance Barksdale in a prolonged discussion.
"They've all been told about you don't see track runners diving at the finish line. There's a reason they don't do it. It slows you down," Collins said. "Any time you hit the ground, it slows you down. Jordany gave it his best effort."
Said Valdespin: "At the moment, you not thinking nothing. You go running. The only (thing) you want to do is be safe because you know the tying run is on third base."
Rafael Betancourt, the Rockies' fifth pitcher, put two runners on before getting Mike Baxter to fly out to center finishing his 24th save.
Guillermo Moscoso gave up a hit in 2 1/3 innings, Rex Brothers (7-2) allowed a hit in 1 1-3 innings and Belisle got one big out for the Rockies.
Alex White was done after four wild, but effective innings under manager Jim Tracy's four-man rotation. He allowed three hits and two walks on 83 pitches — 46 strikes. Tracy has been limiting his pitchers to about 75 tosses a game.
"You throw 30 pitches in an inning you got to set your sites on going four innings," White said of his 29-pitch first inning. "It is what it is."
The team could go back to a five-man rotation soon. Jhoulys Chacin (pectoral nerve irritation) is scheduled to make his first start since May 1 on Tuesday and Drew Pomeranz will make his next start Friday, Tracy said. Depending on how Chacin does, all five could remain.
But Tracy said he never considered leaving White in.
"Eighty-three pitches in four innings," Tracy said, "we want better than that."
Dickey was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, and Herrera led off the eighth with a push a bunt toward first base. Reliever Josh Edgin (1-1) tried to shovel the ball with his glove to first baseman Ike Davis but the toss went way off line and Herrera raced to second on the Mets' first error in 10 games.
Herrera advanced to third on Chris Nelson's sacrifice and scored on a passed ball by Kelly Shoppach, who struck out batting for Josh Thole in the seventh with a runner on first.
The Mets loaded the bases against Brothers in the bottom half, getting a runner past first for the first time since they went ahead 1-0 on Daniel Murphy's single in the opening inning.
Pinch-hitter Ramon Hernandez had an RBI single off Jon Rauch in the ninth to make it 3-1.
While the Mets have shifted to a six-man rotation to give extra rest to Johan Santana and Chris Young and help limit rookie Matt Harvey's innings, Dickey will pitch on his regular schedule to give him a couple of more chances at a possible 20-win season.
The knuckleballer was coming off a rough start at Cincinnati in which he was asked to remove two bracelets and matched season highs by giving up three homers and 10 hits.
He had little trouble with the Rockies' injury-depleted lineup. Dickey retired the first eight batters before White looped a single over the outstretched glove of a leaping Murphy, the second baseman. He gave up three hits overall and walked two in seven innings.
But a Mets offense that has averaged less than three runs a game over their previous 13 provided him with little support and he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning of a tie game.
"It's tough, because the first half of the season, we scored a lot of runs and the offense really picked up the pitchers," Dickey said. " So it would be great to have a couple of games where we don't hit the ball where the pitchers pick the hitters up. It doesn't always work that way."
NOTES: The Rockies have won five straight at Citi Field. ... Rockies OF Carlos Gonzalez is not expected to return from Venezuela until late Tuesday night and will likely next play on Wednesday. He was placed on the bereavement list Saturday night because of the death of his grandfather. ... Santana is going to have an MRI on his stiff back Tuesday and his scheduled start Thursday is in jeopardy.

Phillies pound Reds in opener

PHILADELPHIA - Ryan Howard hit a lengthy home run. Roy Halladay won the game. Chase Utley drove in runs. Jimmy Rollins blasted a double into the corner. And the Phillies rallied twice to outscore a good team.
It was a reminder of what was. The Phillies are left to hope that their 12-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds Monday gave a capacity crowd of 44,341 was also a glimpse at what might be again.
All they know is that they are on a three-game winning streak, are driving the ball with authority, are running the bases with aggression and are finally playing some appealing outfield defense. And while all of that has brought them nothing more than a record eight games below .500, it has also been a shocking exhibit that there may be something left in their program, even if their season has been reduced to affecting, not participating, in pennant races.
“Yeah,” Charlie Manuel said. “We can definitely make an impact.”
So they did Monday, opening a 10-game homestand by spraying the N.L. Central-leading Reds with 15 hits and nostalgia.
Howard walloped a solo homer to deep right in the third, and Erik Kratz and John Mayberry also homered, but the Phillies still needed a classic four-run fifth to gain control on a night when Halladay was effective, if less than overpowering.
“For me, that was one of the best offensive games we had all year,” Halladay said. “It seemed like everybody was involved. One through nine, we were doing everything. We were getting extra-base hits. We were hitting home runs. Guys were getting on base. It wasn't one or two guys”
After Cincinnati took a 5-3 lead with a three-run fifth, the Phillies responded as they had too infrequently in their lost season. Juan Pierre, who was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and stolen bases No. 30 and 31, rapped one-out single to center, then scored on Utley's double to left. Howard was walked intentionally before Mayberry drove in Utley to force a 5-5 tie.
Domonic Brown, already having shown off his powerful arm in right field, delivered a two-run double to put the Phils ahead to stay.
Despite two rough innings, Halladay was game in improving to 7-7, and he continued to show that he is returning to form after an injury-perforated season.
“I think his last couple times out, he showed his arm strength has gotten better,” Charlie Manuel said before the game. “But also I think that Roy is a guy that has to pitch. With the more repetitions he gets, we should see his velocity creep up again. I’d say he’s going to get up to around 94 again and get to a point where he can control 91 to 94.”
Halladay lasted seven innings, surviving 10 hits and striking out three. By then, the Phils had inflated their lead to 10-5 with a three-run sixth, begun with Rollins' double, including a sacrifice fly RBI from Utley and featuring Mayberry's two-run homer, his 11th of the season.
“I saw the ball pretty well,” Mayberry said. “And it always helps to get good pitches to hit.”
Cincinnati built a 2-0 first inning lead, but starting pitcher Mike Leake had little and fell to 5-8. The Reds added three in the fifth, including one while Jay Bruce was being picked off, Brandon Phillips sneaking home amid 2-3-4-3-6 defensive acrobatics.
Placido Polanco, who had been on the disabled list with back issues since July 26, returned to start at third, and he walked and later scored on a Pierre ground-out in the seventh. Kratz made it 12-5 with a sacrifice fly, plating Mayberry, in the eighth.
B.J. Rosenberg, Antonio Bastardo and Josh Lindblom provided calm from the bullpen, allowing the Phillies to enjoy the progression of Halladay, if not every one of his boxscore figures.
Halladay is 3-2 since returning from the disabled list with a strained back.
“I felt that tonight, he definitely didn't have his best command,” Manuel said. “But he battled.”
The Phillies, still battling, have won six of their last nine.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ichiro's homers fuel Kuroda's gem

NEW YORK (AP) — Ichiro Suzuki homered twice and Hiroki Kuroda pitched eight innings of four-hit ball to lead the New York Yankees past Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox 4-1 on Sunday night.

Derek Jeter had three hits and scored twice for the Yankees, who took two of three from Boston despite playing the entire series without slugger Mark Teixeira. The AL East leaders won for the ninth time in 12 games, ending a two-year streak of futility against Beckett (5-11).

The right-hander was 5-0 in his previous seven starts against the Yankees since losing to them on Aug. 8, 2010. He kept his team in the game this time, but dropped to 0-4 in his past six outings overall. He is 1-7 in 13 starts since May 20 and has served up seven homers in his past three appearances covering 16 1-3 innings.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Giants defense finds redemption

EAST RUTHERFORD - For rookie Jayron Hosley and the Giants' defense, one week and one game made a world of difference.
When the Giants lost their preseason opener in Jacksonville last week the defense was calling its performance "unacceptable" after it gave up 156 rushing yards in a 32-31 loss.
At the same time, Hosley was in the doghouse after his muffed punt helped lead to a Jacksonville touchdown.
Last night at MetLife Stadium in the 44th annual preseason meeting with the neighoring Jets all was forgotten as the Giants dominated Gang Green by not allowing a touchdownn in a 26-3 win.
Cornerback Hosley intercepted a Mark Sanchez pass and returned it down the sideline 77 yards for a touchown, escorted the last 50 yards by teammate Osi Umenyiora.
That was after Umenyiora recorded two of the seven sacks the Giants defense recorded in just its second preseason win in six ganes against the Jets.
"That was an all-around good play by an 11-man machine," said Hosley. "We got good pressure up front whch allowed me to stick to my man.
"The quarterback threw it when he didn't want to. It was good pressure from the D-line, like I said. Then it was just going out and doing my job," added Hosley.
"As a whole, we played well on defense which we knew we had to do to win," said Jason Pierre-Paul, who had two sacks, including the first of the night on Sanchez.
"We got the pressure on him (Sanchez) like we hoped to," said defensive captain Justin Tuck. "This is the way we have to play if we want to be a good defense again. As a whole we played well tonght."
"We've still got a lot of work to do, but we're improving on the defensive side of the ball," said coach Tom Coughlin. "There were things I didn't like in the first half, like the blocked punt and the intereption. But the defense came hrough and kept them out of the end zone."
Manning, who was 7-for-14 for 62 yards during his half of action and led the G-Men on a pair of 13-play drives that led to Lawrence Tynes field goals of 35 and 38 yards, took blame or the interception that the Jets failed to cash in on.
"I tried to throw it away, but didn't get enough on it and didn't get it high enough," said Manning.
David Carr took over after halftime and completed five of nine throws for 83 yards.
Third-year QB Ryan Perrilloux, hoping to make it as the third QB this season after being cut and reigned 13 times last season, completed his two throws, including a touchdown throw to Joe Martinek, the rookie from Rutgers hoping to make the roster as a free agent. scored the only offensive toouchdown of the night when he hurdled into the end zone from the one.
No. 1 draft pick David Wilson led the run game for the second straight week with 26 yards on eight carries, while D.J. Warewas 11-fo-15, all in thefirst half when he got the majority of the work after Ahmad Bradshaw left the game after suffering a hand injury on his second carry.
Victor Cruz, who continues to have big games after the Jets, led the receivers with five catches for 51 yards, He had two receptions on each of the Giants first two dries that resulted in the Tynes field goals.
"Both defenses played well tonight," added Coughlin. "We got a chance to play a lot of people again, which is what you want to do.
"Some people stepped up and played well, especially on the defensive side of the ball. There were some individual plays that stood out."
The Giants play their final two preseason games at MetLife Stadium, hosting Chicago next Friday and New England on Wed. Aug. 29.

Thunder comeback falls short

For The Trentonian
TRENTON — It may have been quick, but it sure wasn’t painless. In fact, it was almost historic.
One night after Trenton’s most frustrating loss of the year, Bowie Baysox starter Jake Pettit flirted with a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings, shutting down the Thunder en route to a 3-2 loss on Saturday night in front of 7,657 fans at Waterfront Park in just 2 hours and 24 minutes.

“I didn’t even really get nervous, I thought I would,” said Pettit of his no-hit bid.

“It was pretty cool going into the eighth inning, I thought I had it in the bag. It crossed my mind the whole game. If you’ve got a no-hitter going, you want to see how long you can take it.”

So “infuriated” by his team’s “uninspired” 12-6 loss on Friday that he was afraid to address his team after the game in fear of saying something he might regret, Thunder manager Tony Franklin’s message to his team was simple prior to Saturday’s game: “Play better baseball.”

It didn’t seem like that message got through, at least not through the first seven innings, but the veteran skipper was pleased with his team’s effort overall, perhaps largely in part to a ninth-inning comeback that fell a Kevin Mahoney bases-loaded strikeout short.

“I hope (the message got across), but what I want is the effort like we got tonight every night,” Franklin said.

“It’s going to take a monumental effort on our part, we can’t just rely on what we’ve done the past four months.  We need very good efforts each and every night for the remainder of the season to finish this thing off, and I think we got a pretty good effort tonight.” 

The loss, combined with New Britain splitting a doubleheader and Reading winning on Saturday cut 
Trenton’s Eastern Division lead to four games over the Rock Cats, with the Phillies just one game behind them with just 16 games remaining.

As for Pettit, the southpaw breezed through his first five innings, needing just 59 pitches to hold 
Trenton completely off the scoreboard.  Only a Luke Murton hit by pitch in the second inning — one that barely grazed his jersey — kept Pettit from facing the minimum.  

After a 1-2-3 sixth, Pettit, whose previous season-high in innings was 6 1/3 through 21 outings this season, blew through that with a five-pitch seventh, getting him just six outs away from history with just 75 pitches under his belt.

A former 42nd-round draft choice of Baltimore, Pettit got to within five outs of the first no-hitter thrown against Trenton since the May 21, 2009 perfect game of Akron’s Jeanmar Gomez when he induced a Murton groundout, but it ended one batter later.  

On Pettit’s 83rd pitch of the night, Addison Maruszak stroked a 2-2, 83 mile-per-hour slider — one that Pettit said he tried to throw inside that caught too much of the plate — off the batter’s eye in center field to break up the no-no and put Trenton within one run.  

“Not only was it a no-hitter, but it was a close game,” Maruszak said.  “It was an OK pitch, but it caught too much of the plate, he’s right. I just happened to put a good swing on it and just connected with it.”

Afterward, Pettit slammed his glove in frustration, but left to a nice round of applause two batters later after he issued a two-out walk to J.R. Murphy.

“That was pretty cool, I didn’t expect that,” Pettit said.  

Nor did the Thunder expect such an effort from their unfamiliar foe.

“This was the first time we’ve seen him,” Maruszak said. “He was effective because he was spotting up with his fastball, and when he missed, he missed barely.  So even if we take and it’s a ball, in our mind, we’re going, ‘Oooh, that was a close pitch.’  I think that’s just what he did, and he just mixed well.  The first time we saw him, everybody was a tad out in front, a tad late and he just did a real good job. He pitched extremely well tonight.”

Ronnie Welty hit what turned out to be the game-winning solo home run in the top of the ninth off 
Thunder reliever Ryan Pope to add some much-needed padding to the lead. Kyler Newby recorded the last out of the eighth without issue, but things got hairy in the ninth. Newby issued back-to-back one-out walks to Adonis Garcia and David Adams, but recovered with a Zoilo Almonte strikeout. 

But as has been the case all year, Trenton wouldn’t go down without a fight, and Murton sent a single through the left side to score Garcia and make it a 3-2 game.

After Shane Brown pinch-ran for Murton at first, Newby walked Maruszak on four pitches, putting it all up to Mahoney. But after taking a borderline 1-2 inside fastball called for a ball, he struck out on the next pitch, sealing the victory for the Baysox.

“We had everything right there on the table there in the ninth inning, and I all I can ask for is a heck of an effort to try to come back in the ballgame like that,” Franklin said.  “We battled like crazy, but we just had a heck of a game pitched against us.”

Despite the loss, the same confidence that carried the Thunder so far this year remains in the home clubhouse deep into the season.

“I thought we were going to win it, I thought for sure,” Maruszak said.  “I had all the confidence in the world in Mahoney right there.  He didn’t get a hit, but I still would like him up almost every time, that guy is so clutch when he gets into those situations.  (Our confidence) is still there, it’s just that we just didn’t pull it off again tonight.”

Davis, Niese power Mets

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a tight duel with Jonathon Niese, one mistake cost Edwin Jackson.

Niese pitched into the eighth inning and Ike Davis hit a two-run homer off Jackson in the seventh to lead the New York Mets over the Washington Nationals 2-0 Saturday night.

Jackson (7-8) had allowed only a triple to Mike Baxter in the first inning and set a season high with 10 strikeouts through six. But in the seventh, the right-hander issued a leadoff walk to David Wright and Davis drove the next pitch the other way to left field for his 22nd home run.

Seventeen of his 22 homers have come on the road, most in the NL.

"I wasn't trying to go anywhere. I was just trying to hit the ball," Davis said.

"We didn't really do a great job of that tonight, partly because (Jackson) was so nasty. But he left a fastball up and away and I hit it on the barrel and it got out of there."

Niese (10-6) allowed one-out singles to Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman in the first. With Espinosa on third, Zimmerman stole second, but the left-hander pitched out of trouble.

"Oh, man. He was nasty tonight. He had everything. He was throwing all his pitches for strikes. His fastball was moving everywhere and his slider was real sharp," Davis said.

After allowing a leadoff single to Espinosa in the sixth, Niese retired the last seven batters he faced.

"It was one of those nights where everything felt good," he said.

Jon Rauch relieved Niese with one out in the eighth and retired his only two hitters. Frank Francisco worked a perfect ninth for his 20th save in 23 chances.

Francisco was helped by Baxter, who made a nice running catch of Zimmerman's fly ball to right to start the ninth.

"It was a good catch. I really had no idea why he was there, but he got me out," Zimmerman said.

Niese, who is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in six games against Washington, allowed five hits and struck out seven without a walk.

"It seems like when you need him most, he steps up," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Tonight he knew we needed him again and he gave us a great outing."

New York posted its 11th shutout of the season, while Washington was blanked for the fifth time.

Jackson pitched seven innings, allowing two runs and two hits. He walked one and struck out 11.

"Tonight, Niese was the better pitcher. He held us scoreless. The bullpen did the same. I gave up two runs. I lost," Jackson said.

Washington manager Davey Johnson was impressed, though.

"That was probably the most dominant I've seen him pitch," Johnson said. "He was fun watching. His stuff was so electric. He was overmatching them."

It was only New York's fourth win in 14 games against the NL East leaders this season.

"It's great to beat them. You always want to beat the best. And right now they're the best in the division," Davis said.

The Nationals remained four games ahead of second-place Atlanta, which lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two teams begin a three-game series Monday in Washington.

NOTES: Collins said he would meet with general manager Sandy Alderson on Monday to discuss struggling LHP Johan Santana. Collins said Santana is scheduled to pitch Thursday. The 33-year-old left-hander, who missed last season following major shoulder surgery, permitted six runs and seven hits over five innings Friday in his second outing since spending three weeks on the disabled list with a sprained ankle. He has lost five straight starts, giving up at least six runs in each one. Collins said Santana wasn't asking to be shut down. "I don't think he's asking for it. What he's basically saying is if that's what we think we should do to make sure he's healthy next year, he's on board with that," Collins said. ... Johnson said he would give SS Ian Desmond the day off on Sunday. Desmond returned Friday from more than three weeks on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle. ... For the 500th straight time, the character portraying Teddy Roosevelt lost in the Nationals' "Racing Presidents" mascot race. ... The crowd of 42,662 was the second-largest in Nationals Park history. ... Washington LHP Gio Gonzalez (15-6, 3.29 ERA) pitches Sunday against New York RHP Jeremy Hefner (2-4, 4.76).