Brandon Phillips’ star turn guides Reds to Game 1 win

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Sure he’s a two-time All-Star, but maybe Brandon Phillips is feeling a little anonymous in Cincinnati. He certainly increased his profile Saturday as the Reds beat the Giants 5-2 in Game 1 of the NLDS.

Let’s run through the highlights:

– Phillips opened the scoring in the third with a two-run homer off Matt Cain. It was the first homer allowed by Cain in four career postseason starts. In fact, the those were the first two earned runs he had given up in 24 innings of postseason work.

– In the fifth, Phillips barehanded the ball on successive plays. First, he did it trying to turn a double play on a feed from Zack Cozart. However, the runner was able to beat out the strong relay. On the next play, he stuck his hand up and barehanded a grounder from Pablo Sandoval and threw to first to end the inning.

– The sixth inning saw Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco bunt down the first line. Reliever Mat Latos fielded the ball, but threw wide of Joey Votto at first base. Fortunately, Phillips, in a terrific display of heads-up baseball, was moving over from second to back up the play and made a diving stab of the baseball, keeping Blanco at first base.

– Phillips led off the eighth with a single, only to apparently get erased on a double play. But he didn’t. He managed to elude Marco Scutaro’s tag by falling down, and he got up and ran to second after Scutaro threw to first.

– The cherry on top: Phillips singled in a run in the top of the ninth, increasing Cincinnati’s lead from 3-1 to 4-1.

Mat Latos, Jay Bruce and Sam LeCure also did splendid work picking up the Reds after Johnny Cueto’s first-inning injury tonight, but this was Phillips’ show. He’s now 7-for-15 with two homers in four career postseason games. Tonight’s was the first that wasn’t a Reds loss.

Mets invite Tim Tebow to spring training

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Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.

Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.

Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.