Harper, Schwarber HR as Wheeler, Phillies top Padres to open NLCS

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Bryce Harper homered again, Kyle Schwarber hit a jaw-dropping, 488-foot drive and Zack Wheeler was brilliant in throwing one-hit ball for seven innings to lead the Philadelphia Phillies over the San Diego Padres 2-0 to open the all-wild card NL Championship Series.

Wheeler and two relievers combined on a one-hitter for Philadelphia. The Phillies managed just three hits off Darvish and the San Diego bullpen – the combined four hits matched the fewest ever in a postseason game.

The Phillies will try to take a 2-0 lead when they send Aaron Nola to mound to oppose Blake Snell on Wednesday afternoon. Nola is set to pitch against his brother, Padres catcher Austin Nola.

“I thought Darvish was really good and we couldn’t get much going, but Harper, three straight games with a home run, and Schwarber’s game was just completely flush,” Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said. “I mean, with the great pitching we had tonight, that’s all we needed.”

The Padres, who eliminated the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, had only four baserunners, including a single by Wil Myers in the fifth. Still, they had a chance to win in the ninth against Jose Alvarado.

Jurickson Profar drew a one-out walk and Juan Soto reached when third baseman Alec Bohm made an errant throwing trying for a force. Manny Machado flied out and Alvarado struck out Josh Bell for the save, looking skyward and clapping after getting the final out.

Harper, trying to reach his first World Series, hit a high-arcing, opposite-field shot into the first row in left field with one out in the fourth. It was the fourth home run this postseason for Harper, who was playing in San Diego for the first time since his left thumb was broken when he was hit by a pitch by Blake Snell on June 25, sidelining him for two months.

Harper homered in his third straight postseason game. The two-time NL MVP, who won the award last year, has hit nine home runs in 26 career postsaseason games.

Schwarber’s incredible shot on Darvish’s first pitch of the sixth had an exit velocity of 119.7 mph – the hardest-hit ball in any postseason since Statcast began tracking in 2015 – and was the first to reach the right field upper deck at Petco Park, which opened in 2004. It was the farthest in his career and the farthest at Petco in the Statcast Era and gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead.

Schwarber, who led the NL with 46 home runs this season, raised his right arm as he rounded first base and Harper stood in the dugout with his mouth agape in amazement.

“I thought it got pretty small pretty fast,” Harper said. “I’ve never seen a ball go up in that section in Petco Park. Just very impressive.”

His teammates thought so, too.

“A lot of people just looked at me weird,” Schwarber said about the reaction he got in the dugout. “It was a cool moment, but I’m happy that we got the win overall.”

They were the latest impressive home runs for the Phillies, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The last won the World Series in 2008. They’ve hit eight homers in seven games this postseason.

Harper joined Gary Matthews (1983) as the only players in franchise history to homer in three straight postseason games in the same year. Harper hit one homer in the wild-card series win at St. Louis and two in going 8 for 16 as the Phillies eliminated the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.

Rhys Hoskins had an epic bat spike on a monster homer against the Braves, and J.T. Realmuto became the first catcher in postseason history to hit an inside-the-park home run.

The Phillies at times stunned Petco Park, where a sellout crowd of 44,826 was amped up for the Padres’ first NLCS appearance since 1998. It was 78 degrees at first pitch at 5:04 p.m., a big change from Saturday night’s rainstorm during the Padres’ 5-3 clinching win in the NLDS.

But Wheeler had he Padres totally off balance, allowing only a one-out walk to Juan Soto in the first and then retiring 12 straight batters until Myers singled with one out in the fifth. Wheeler then retired his final eight batters. He struck out eight and walked one on 83 pitches.

“That’s probably as good a pitching performance we’ve seen all year, is my guess,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “Was ahead in the count. Was pretty good.”

Seranthony Dominguez pitched a perfect eighth.

Darvish took the loss, allowing two runs and three hits in seven innings while striking out seven and walking one.

STATS

The combined four hits matched matched the total for the Cardinals and Pirates in a 2013 NLDS matchup, and a game in the 2004 NLCS between the Cards and Astros. … The Padres became the first team to pitch a one-hitter in one game and have a one-hitter thrown against them in another during the same postseason. Joe Musgrove and the San Diego bullpen allowed one hit against the Mets in the wild-card round clincher.

REMEMBERING JERRY COLEMAN

The four Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets in the pregame flyover were from the VMFA-323 Death Rattlers, one of the squadrons the late New York Yankees second baseman and Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman flew with in World War II and Korea. Coleman also managed the Padres in 1980.

UP NEXT

Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA regular season; 2-0, 0.00 postseason) and Padres LHP Blake Snell (8-10, 3.38 ERA regular season; 1-0, 3.12 postseason) are scheduled to start Game 2 Wednesday afternoon. Nola’s brother Austin is the Padres’ catcher. Austin Nola’s RBI single off his younger brother carried the Padres to a 1-0 win against the Phillies at Petco Park on June 24.

Brian Cashman signs 4-year contract to remain Yankees GM

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — Brian Cashman has signed a four-year contract to remain the New York Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager. The announcement was made during the first day of baseball’s Winter Meetings.

Cashman, New York’s GM since 1998, had been working on a handshake agreement since early November, when his five-year contract expired.

The Yankees were swept by four games in the AL Championship Series and haven’t reached the World Series since winning in 2009. It is the franchise’s longest title drought since an 18-year gap between 1978-96.

Cashman’s main goal during the offseason is trying to re-sign AL MVP Aaron Judge.

Judge hit an American League-record 62 homers this season with a .311 batting average and 131 RBIs. He turned down the Yankees’ offer on the eve of opening day of a seven-year contract that would have paid $213.5 million from 2023-29.

While Judge remains on the market, Cashman was able to re-sign Anthony Rizzo on Nov. 15 to a two-year contract worth $40 million after turning down a $16 million player option.

Cashman has been the Yankees general manager since 1998. He has been with the organization since 1986, when he was a 19-year old intern in the scouting department. In his 25 seasons as GM, the Yankees have reached the postseason 21 times, including four World Series championships and six American League titles.