St Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies - Game 1

Phillies’ bats explode in 11-6 Game 1 victory over Cardinals

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If you want to beat Roy Halladay, you have to get to him early. That’s the common thought around baseball and it’s backed by the statisctics.

The Cards followed that strategy to near-perfection in the early going, plating three runs in the top of the first inning courtesy of a Lance Berkman home run.

But the St. Louis bats quickly went silent and the Phillies were able to rally in a major way against starter Kyle Lohse and the Redbirds’ bullpen.

Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-4 with three runs scored and Chase Utley went 3-for-5 with three runs scored. Hunter Pence drove in two runs, Raul Ibanez drove in three, and Ryan Howard drove in four.

The Phillies, baseball’s best team during the regular season, grabbed a convincing 11-6 Game 1 victory.

Notes

* The leadoff batter reached base both times Halladay faced St. Louis during the regular season. Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal continued that trend on Saturday evening in Philadelphia, and Berkman made Doc pay with a massive three-run homer to open the game’s scoring.

* Lohse followed a six-pitch first inning with a six-pitch second inning. Then needed only 11 pitches to get through the third. The Phillies appeared to be pressing early on, and the Citizens Bank Park jumbotron was broadcasting motivational movie scenes (Hoosiers, Varsity Blues, etc.) from the start.

* Philadelphia found life in the bottom of the fourth, when Utley missed a home run to right field by about two feet. He wound up with a double and came around to score a few batters later when Cardinals third baseman David Freese mishandled a pop-up in foul territory and Victorino singled to left field.

* Howard turned on a hanging changeup from Lohse with two runners on in the sixth inning to put the Phillies up 4-3. The shot sent a charge through Citizens Bank Park, which had been muted to some degree since Berkman’s three-run first-inning blast. Raul Ibanez made the roar even more audible when he ripped a two-run shot into the right field stands a few minutes later to give Philly a 6-3 lead.

* After Berkman’s homer, Halladay retired 23 of the next 24 batters he faced. And 21 batters in a row. Only two balls left the infield.

* The Cardinals scored three runs on five hits in the top of the ninth, after Halladay was removed.

* Matt Holliday was able to pinch-hit late in the defeat, suggesting he might be ready to return to starting left field duties in either Game 2 or Game 3 of this five-game series.

* Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET. Cliff Lee will face Chris Carpenter.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.