Phillies push NLCS to Game 6 with 4-2 victory in San Fran

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Just as the Yankees did Wednesday in Game 5 of the ALCS, the Phillies have pushed their NLCS matchup with the Giants to a Game 6.

Phillies ace Roy Halladay had a little trouble early on, both in finding the strike zone and during a first-inning stare-down with Giants outfielder Pat Burrell, but the right-hander eventually settled in and surrendered only two earned runs while striking out five over six innings of work.

The Phillies’ bullpen did a fantastic job in his wake, allowing only one hit over the final three frames as an excited and packed AT&T Park slowly grew docile.

Giants starter Tim Lincecum pitched fairly well, finishing with seven strikeouts and only one walk over seven quality innings.  But he was hurt by poor defense in what became a three-run third inning for Philly and the San Francisco offense failed to rally.

Now this seven-game series heads back to Philadelphia, where the fans will be ferocious, where the ballpark is more hitter-friendly and where Roy Oswalt will take on Jonathan Sanchez in Game 6 in an effort to keep the Phils kicking.

Oswalt allowed a game-winning sacrifice fly during a relief appearance in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4, but he’s been dominant since the start of September and should fare well at Citizens Bank Park, where he has held opposing hitters to a .208/.264/.320 batting line in 10 career starts.  The righty has a 1.76 ERA and 0.85 WHIP this year in that park.  Pick any sample size you’d like; Oswalt does the deed.

That’s not to say that Sanchez, the Giants’ lefty, isn’t capable of burning the Phillies and clinching his club’s first trip to the World Series since 2002.  He has surrendered only three earned runs in 13.1 innings this postseason with 18 strikeouts against four walks.

Thursday’s Game 5 in San Francisco wasn’t the great pitching duel that most expected.

Saturday’s Game 6 might be.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.