Braves 15, Phillies 13: Yes, you read that right

752646.jpg

Braves 15, Phillies 13: Yes, you read that right

From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- Chipper Jones' bad left knee has limited his playing time at the start of his final season, so he says it's important to make the most of his chances."When I am in there, I want to make a splash," Jones said. "I did it tonight."Jones hit a two-run homer in the 11th inning and the Atlanta Braves overcame Carlos Ruiz's seven RBIs to outlast the Philadelphia Phillies 15-13 on Wednesday night.The seesaw game saw the Braves rally from a 6-0 deficit against Roy Halladay, then come back from four runs down in the eighth."It was just a weird game all the way around," said Brian McCann, who hit a grand slam off Halladay. "Stuff you've never seen happen."Befitting the crazy game, McCann was poked in the eye with an errant high-five from teammate Michael Bourn after the homer.Dan Uggla led off the Atlanta 11th with a single. Jones just missed a homer on a ball that landed barely foul to right, then connected against Brian Sanches (0-1). He began his path around the bases with a slow journey to first base as he and his teammates savored the dramatic moment and Braves fans stood and cheered."What a cool moment that was, not only for Chipper, but for the rest of us out there to enjoy that, to watch that," McCann said. "To see him walk down the first base line like that, that's a treat for all of us."Jones' homer ended the Braves' eight-game losing streak to the Phillies, dating back to last season. He said the homer will hold a special place on his career highlights."That's right up there just because the team that we're kind of shooting for in the division obviously is the Phillies," said Jones, who turned 40 on April 24. "Until somebody knocks them off, they're the team to beat."Jones is third all-time among switch-hitters with 458 homers, trailing only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. Including his time in the minor leagues, Jones said it was his 500th homer as a professional."I'm not going to get there at the major league level, but to hit 500 homers as a professional is pretty cool," he said.It was the highest-scoring extra-inning game in the majors since Cleveland beat Kansas City 15-13 in 10 innings in 2006, according to STATS LLC.Ruiz had three hits, including a three-run homer in the seventh and a three-run double in the eighth. He was the first Phillies hitter to drive in seven runs since Ryan Howard against the Yankees on June 20, 2006."He's been awesome for us," said Halladay of Ruiz. "I think that's what hurts most. When you have games like this, your teammates are out there grinding and getting it done and I didn't. And that was the difference, really."That's the toughest one, letting those guys down who really got it done today."Halladay had his worst start in five years. He gave up 12 hits -- one below his career high -- and eight runs in 5 1-3 innings."Honestly, I felt good," Halladay said after seeing his ERA climb from 1.95 to 3.40. "There were some that I didn't execute. It wasn't anything else."Laynce Nix also hit a three-run double for the Phillies.Braves closer Craig Kimbrel couldn't hold a 13-12 lead in the ninth. Shane Victorino's two-out infield hit drove in Juan Pierre, who walked and stole second and took third on a grounder.Halladay was tagged by McCann's fifth career slam in the fifth. The former Cy Young winner had not allowed as many earned runs since May 5, 2007, when he gave up nine runs in 5 1-3 innings at Texas.Martin Prado had three hits and drove in three runs, including a two-run single in the Atlanta eighth.Braves reliever Eric O'Flaherty blew an 8-6 lead before recording an out in the seventh. Ty Wigginton walked, pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr. singled and Ruiz followed with his fourth homer to left for a 9-8 edge.Atlanta's Tommy Hanson gave up eight hits and four runs in 3 2-3 innings. It was his shortest start since he pitched 3 1-3 innings against the Mets on Aug. 6, 2011, in his last outing before he was placed on the disabled list for the remainder of the season with right shoulder tendinitis.NOTES:Phillies LHP Cliff Lee, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle, threw in the bullpen before the game. If he has no discomfort, he plans another bullpen session on Saturday. If all goes well on Saturday, Lee is expected to come off the disabled list. ... Atlanta's Jason Heyward missed his third straight start with soreness around his right oblique muscle before entering the game as a pinch-hitter and remaining in right field. ... The Phillies placed 1B Jim Thome on the 15-day disabled list with tightness in his lower back and recalled C Erik Kratz from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The move was made retroactive to Sunday. ... The three-game series ends on Thursday when Braves RHP Randall Delgado (2-2) starts against RHP Joe Blanton (2-3).

Ben Zobrist, Daniel Murphy and a new Mr. October for Cubs?

maddon_on_win_05-05_640x360_680475203518.jpg

Ben Zobrist, Daniel Murphy and a new Mr. October for Cubs?

Ben Zobrist never made it to the sit-down his camp had scheduled with the Washington Nationals at the winter meetings, which took place at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, not far from his offseason home. 

The Cubs were quietly hitting their multiple bank shot, trading Starlin Castro to the New York Yankees for Adam Warren and getting Zobrist to Chicago for the physical to finalize a four-year, $56 million contract.   

The Nationals found their Plan B for second base by Christmas Eve, agreeing to a three-year, $37.5 million deal with Daniel Murphy, the new Mr. October who crushed the Cubs during the National League Championship Series.

Murphy and Zobrist intersected again on Thursday night at Wrigley Field, the Cubs winning Round 1 of this four-game series between National League heavyweights by a 5-2 score. 

The fans booed Murphy for last year’s NLCS MVP performance with the New York Mets, while Zobrist drew first blood with a two-run single in the fourth inning and a going-for-the-jugular two-run homer in the eighth. At 21-6, the Cubs are dominating every phase of the game after winning the offseason.   

“We knew that we were going to be good,” Zobrist said, “but sometimes you start slow. We got off well the first week and we kept it going. There’s something to be said for getting the ball rolling in the right direction early. And that makes a huge difference.”   

The Cubs wanted Zobrist’s steady presence on defense, his leadership in the clubhouse and a different dimension for their lineup. Zobrist earned his championship ring with the Kansas City Royals, handling New York’s power pitching in the World Series.  

Murphy cooled off by that point after a ridiculous four-homer power surge during the NLCS sweep, which included his memorable momentum-shifting swing against Jake Arrieta in Game 2. Murphy reached so far down for that Arrieta curveball that his left knee almost scraped the dirt, lifting it out toward Citi Field’s right-field seats for a two-run homer and a 3-0 first-inning lead.   

“There’s not enough adjectives to explain how good Jake has been over the last year-and-a-half,” Murphy said. “I think he just put together – I was reading – (something) like the best 25-game stretch of anybody ever. So I was able to get a pitch that he probably felt like he executed pretty well. 

“I didn’t hit it great. I just happened to wrap it around the pole. With Curtis Granderson and David (Wright) in front of me, they had really good at-bats, and our pitching was throwing the ball really well. Fortunately, that kind of ended up being enough for us.”

Something clicked for Murphy, who after an 0-for-4 night is still hitting .382 with four homers and 17 RBI for a first-place Washington team (19-9) the Cubs might face in the playoffs. 

But the Cubs now believe they might have their own Mr. October, who didn’t go that far down the road negotiating with the Nationals. Zobrist turned down four-year, $60 million offers from the Mets and San Francisco Giants for the chance to make history in Chicago. 

“There’s a great mix of the way guys are playing,” Zobrist said, “the way they’re feeling, the way they’re having conversations with each other. It’s the way that they’re just out there having a good time. We celebrate well together. We battle well together.

“That’s great on May 5th to get that feeling already. Sometimes you won’t get that feeling of a good team until later in the season. We’re going to have to weather some storms. We know that. But right now, we’re just trying to play great baseball.”

Cubs' Dexter Fowler still steaming after first-ever ejection

dexter_and_maddon_on_ejection_05-05_640x360_680481347621.jpg

Cubs' Dexter Fowler still steaming after first-ever ejection

Three hours after being ejected, Dexter Fowler was still fuming.

Fowler - who leads Major League Baseball in on-base percentage - only got two at-bats Thursday night against the Washington Nationals before he was directed to hit the showers by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza.

Fowler struck out looking in his first two times to the plate and expressed his frustration with Carapazza on the field after his third-inning at-bat.

It didn't take long for Carapazza to give Fowler the boot.

Here's the rundown of the conversation, according to the Cubs's leadoff hitter:

Fowler: Was that pitch at the top of the zone?
Carapazza: Yes.
Fowler: Are you going to call them away, too, and down? What are we doing? I wanna know the strike zone.
Carapazza: That's enough.
Fowler: Enough of what? I'm asking you a question.

"And he threw me out," Fowler said. "I was surprised he didn't answer the question. He just walked away and said, 'That's enough.' I said, 'You're not gonna answer my question?' And he threw me out.

"I figure I got two more at-bats; I wanted to know the strike zone. Are you gonna call them up? Are you gonna call them away? Whatever. Just let me know. That's all."

Fowler said he has never been ejected from a game in his life at any level.

He admits he's said more than that before and hasn't gotten tossed. And he's also occasionally asked umpires where their strike zone is.

"People have answered my questions and I walked off," Fowler said. "That's all you want is an answer. ... Everybody knows I'm respectful. I wasn't being disrespectful at all. I just asked a question. It sucks I got thrown out of the game."

Fowler has been the Cubs' most productive offensive player this season, but his teammates still found a way to earn a 5-2 victory over the Nationals in his absence.

Joe Maddon was on his way out to argue when Fowler was tossed, but the Cubs manager wasn't as interested in getting into the whole ordeal after the game like his centerfielder was.

"I was arguing that we are a team that does not expand our strike zone," Maddon said. "That was my argument."

Why Dusty Baker believes these Cubs are better positioned than his Kerry Wood/Mark Prior teams

maddon_on_win_05-05_640x360_680475203518.jpg

Why Dusty Baker believes these Cubs are better positioned than his Kerry Wood/Mark Prior teams

The Washington Nationals PR guy made sure a red backdrop spelling out the team’s website and Twitter handle framed Dusty Baker’s pregame media session for the TV cameras. But you could still see an even bigger blue screen covered with Cubs logos and Wintrust advertising inside this corporate conference center.  

There are so many layers to Baker, so much history with a guy who’s spent almost 50 years in professional baseball, building a resume that’s probably one bullet point away from the Hall of Fame and shouldn’t be defined by Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.   

“Boy, this is different than the old interview room,” Baker said Thursday at Wrigley Field. “Look at this place. Before, I was in kind of like the dungeon over there around the corner. And then I walked in here and I saw the lights and stuff and I was ready to ‘Saturday Night Fever.’”

Inside their state-of-the-art clubhouse, the Cubs now have a Celebration Room, which they got to use after a 5-2 victory over the Nationals that pushed their best-in-baseball record to 21-6 with an absurd plus-96 run differential.  

Back managing a star-studded first-place team after two seasons away from the game, Baker knows all about huge expectations after guiding the 2003 Cubs to five outs away from the World Series, and then missing the playoffs with a 2004 team that won 89 games and might have been even better on paper.

So far, the 2016 Cubs are even better than the hype, and Baker believes they will be better positioned to withstand the attrition that wrecked what once looked like a great foundation.   

“I know they have more depth than we had,” Baker said. “They have a better bullpen than we had then, which is no consolation, but that’s why I had to stretch out my starters longer than I even wanted to, because we didn’t have the bullpen. Not to say we didn’t have a good bullpen, but at that time we had to make a big trade in order to make that push.”

A media/fan-driven narrative unfairly labeled Baker as a bad caretaker for young pitchers, and the way it ended with a last-place finish in 2006 probably helps explain the occasional shouting from the stands on Thursday night: “Dusty sucks!”  

“What kind of upset me a little bit is how much money they spent as soon as I left,” Baker said. “But I had to also realize that the Cubs weren’t spending money then because we were in the middle of the transition for the Tribune Company to be sold. 

“When you look back on things, ‘How come you didn’t do this?’ Or, ‘How come we didn’t do that?’ And then again, baseball takes a backseat to baseball business.”        

Baker is a three-time Manager of the Year who has won 1,690 games and already guided three different franchises to the playoffs. Cubs-Nationals would be a fascinating matchup in October.   

“Sometimes people appreciate you more when you’re gone than when you’re there,” Baker said. “On the other hand, I think many times about how I wanted to be the guy that won it in Chicago. We were close. 

“Now I’m in a similar situation in D.C. (The Nationals) haven’t been in existence that long. But baseball’s been in D.C. for a long period of time. This is the third try at baseball in D.C. since I’ve been alive. So now I got a new goal – to be the first guy to manage a team, take it to the World Series and win in D.C.”