Phillies down Astros for 1st playoff berth since 2011

Philadelphia Phillies v Houston Astros
Getty Images
1 Comment

HOUSTON – Aaron Nola took a perfect game into the seventh inning and Kyle Schwarber homered twice as the Philadelphia Phillies clinched their first playoff berth in 11 years with a 3-0 win over the Houston Astros.

After Brandon Marsh caught Mauricio Dubon’s fly ball in center for for the game’s final out, players jumped and cheered in jubilation before meeting at the mound where they hugged and bounced around some more.

The video board at Minute Maid Park displayed the team’s logo and the words: “Congratulations Philadelphia” as the Phillies celebrated.

A small but vocal group of Philadelphia fans congregated near the team’s dugout and chanted: “Let’s go Phillies,” in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Phillies clinched at the same ballpark where they secured their last postseason trip on Sept. 14, 2011. That game was a 1-0 victory over the Astros highlighted by a complete game shutout by Hall of Famer Roy Halladay.

Philadelphia’s postseason drought was the longest active one in the majors after the Seattle Mariners clinched their first playoff berth in 21 years Friday night.

The Phillies entered the opener of the final regular season series of the year needing a win or a loss by the Brewers to get a National League Wild Card spot. The Brewers rallied to beat the Diamondbacks 6-5 in 10 innings a few minutes before Philadelphia wrapped up the victory.

Nola (11-13) struck out nine and didn’t allow a baserunner until Yordan Alvarez singled with two outs in the seventh. David Hensley followed with a single and Nola was replaced by Jose Alvarado, who struck out Kyle Tucker to end the inning.

Zach Eflin pitched a scoreless ninth to complete the shutout and get his first save in 11 years of pro ball.

Schwarber got things going for the Phillies in their first visit to Houston since Sept. 16, 2012, with a leadoff homer off Lance McCullers (4-2)

Philadelphia added some insurance when Bryson Stott and Schwarber hit back-to-back solo shots off Jose Urquidy to start the eighth inning.

It is the eighth multi-home run game this season for Schwarber, who leads the NL with a career-high 46 home runs, and gives him 199 homers in his career.

The Phillies have three players who will appear in the postseason for the first time after playing more than 600 career games. Jean Segura leads the group with 1,327, J.T. Realmuto has 1,004 and Rhys Hoskins is at 666.

McCullers allowed six hits and one run with five strikeouts in six innings.

Manager Dusty Baker replaced Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Jeremy Pena with Aledmys Diaz, Dubon and Hensley for the seventh inning.

He said before the game that he planned to get some of his starters out early to rest since Houston has already clinched the best record in the American League.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Phillies: LHP Brad Hand (elbow tendinitis) threw a bullpen session Monday in Houston and could throw live batting practice Wednesday. If that goes well, he could be ready to return for the postseason.

UP NEXT

Houston Justin Verlander, whose 1.80 ERA leads the majors, will try for his 18th win when the series continues Tuesday against Ranger Suarez (10-6, 3.37).

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
6 Comments

SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.