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.

Braves clinch NL East title

Ender Inciarte
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So much for a last-minute, nail-biting finish to this division race. The Braves cemented their division title with a dominant 5-3 finish over the Phillies on Saturday, laying claim to the NL East title for the first time since 2013.

The Braves asserted themselves right off the bat after amassing a four-run lead from Johan Camargo and Freddie Freeman, both of whom cleared the bases with two-run singles in the first two innings. Ronald Acuna Jr., meanwhile, found another way to make his presence known after swiping his 15th stolen base of the year and joining Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda, and Mike Trout as one of the youngest players to collect at least 25 home runs and 15 stolen bags in major league history.

Not to be outdone, Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz delivered one of the strongest starts of his season to date. The righty set down six innings of no-hit ball against the Phillies, and, with just 62 pitches under his belt, looked ready to go the distance before he lost his bid on Odubel Herrera‘s leadoff single in the seventh.

Unfortunately for the Braves, the Phillies not only upended Foltynewicz’s no-hit attempt, but the shutout as well. In the eighth inning, Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins wrestled two RBI singles from Atlanta’s bullpen and brought Philadelphia within one run of tying the game. Hoskins was the last Phillies batter to reach base, however, as Jonny Venters and Arodys Vizcaino tossed a combined 1 2/3 scoreless innings (backed by a final RBI hit from Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the eighth) to cap the Braves’ win — and the NL East title.

With the loss, the Phillies sit seven games back of a wild card spot in the National League. They’ll need to outpace the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals in order to make 2018 their first postseason-qualifying year since 2011.