Phillies anxious to put Braves in ‘hostile environment’

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The Philadelphia Phillies’ long wait for a home playoff game ends Friday when they play host to the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.

It will be the Phillies’ first home playoff game since 2011 when they ultimately fell in five games in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals. It will also be their first game back at home since Sept. 25.

The Phillies split the first two games of the current NLDS on the road against the defending World Series champion Braves. Their 7-6 victory in Game 1 was followed by a 3-0 defeat Wednesday.

Getting back to something of a regular routine has been welcomed. Philadelphia played its final 10 regular-season games on the road, swept the Cardinals in two consecutive games during the NL wild-card round in St. Louis and then traveled to Atlanta for two games.

“It feels great (to be home); I don’t think I’ve done laundry in a month,” Phillies outfielder Brandon Marsh said. “Just kidding. Feels good to be back and playing in front of our crowd.”

The Phillies will hand the ball to Aaron Nola (1-0, 0.00 ERA postseason; 11-13, 3.25 ERA regular season). The right-hander was spectacular in his postseason debut against the Cardinals, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings on four hits.

“We can’t wait for it,” Nola said of Game 3. “It’s going to be electric. It’s something special.”

The Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber, who led the NL with 46 home runs, has struggled mightily in the playoffs in an 0-for-16 slump with eight strikeouts. Rhys Hoskins, who misplayed a grounder by Matt Olson which led to Atlanta’s go-ahead run in Game 2, is 1-for-18 with six strikeouts.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson said Thursday that Schwarber and Hoskins will continue to bat Nos. 1 and 2 in the lineup.

“I’ve just got to be able to make the adjustments and go from there, put in a good day’s work and be ready to go here on Friday,” Schwarber said.

The Braves shook off a rain delay of nearly three hours in Game 2 and dazzled on defense. Now they’ll look to take a 2-1 series lead on the road.

“I’ve been in Philly when it’s crazy,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “When I was a third-base coach, every game we played there was nuts. It’s going to be, I guess, the so-called hostile environment.”

Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley each made a stellar catch while tracking down popups over their heads, starter Kyle Wright dominated over six innings and the Braves pushed across just enough offense to propel them to the Game 2 victory.

Most importantly, they survived a major scare to Ronald Acuna Jr. He was hit by a Zack Wheeler fastball on the right elbow in the sixth inning but stayed in the game. Snitker said that there was no structural damage following a lengthy examination.

Snitker had no update Thursday but said of his outfielder, “I’m sure he’s fine.” Acuna is expected to be back in the starting lineup for Game 3.

With or without any of their standout players, the Braves have proven that they don’t wilt under Snitker’s guidance.

“I think we just never lose that faith,” Acuna Jr. said. “We never lose that energy. We maintain that focus, and we know that we got to play to 27 outs, and we feel like you know, if there haven’t been 27 outs, we still have a chance.”

Said Snitker: “They don’t get caught up in the moment. They keep a slow heartbeat and stay in the moment.”

Rookie right-hander Spencer Strider was named the Braves’ starting pitcher on Friday morning.

Strider (2022 postseason debut; 11-5, 2.67 ERA) hasn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 18 due to an oblique issue.

Prior to the injury, Strider became the first pitcher in major league history to strike out more than 200 batters while allowing fewer than 100 hits.

Strider is 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA in four career appearances (three starts) versus Philadelphia.

 

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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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.