Phillies fire Gabe Kapler

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It took a while, but the Philadelphia Phillies finally got around to it: they have fired manager Gabe Kapler. The search for a new skipper is on.

Kapler managed in Philly for two seasons and was under contract for one more. He posted a record of 161-163. This year was particularly disappointing, as injuries and the failure of young players to develop and improve turned what many thought was a playoff-bound team into a .500 club.

NBC Sports Philadelphia: Who replaces Kapler?

Both this season and last Kapler was taken to task for often puzzling strategic decisions and bullpen management. Indeed, from his very first week as Phillies manager someone, be it fans in general, Philly talk radio, or columnists, have been calling for his head at one time or another. Some of it has been justified. Some of it has been based on the perception that he’s not a traditional hot-blooded manager like Dallas Green or someone like that. Some of it has been based on the perception that he’s too beholden to analytics. It’s been a rich tapestry of Kapler-hate.

But it’s also hard not to conclude that the underperforming Phillies need a shakeup. With ownership giving Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail votes of confidence recently, someone was taking the fall. That someone is now Gabe Kapler.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.