Phillies roar early; Yankees advance

Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber crushed home runs as the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the San Diego Padres, 2-0, on the road in their National League Championship Series opener on Tuesday.

Harper blasted a 368-foot shot into left field off Padres pitcher Yu Darvish to open the scoring in the top of the fourth inning at Petco Park.

Schwarber then obliterated an inviting Darvish cutter in the top of the sixth inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.

San Diego, who upset the Los Angeles Dodgers in a raucous division series victory last Saturday, were unable to get their bats into the game in the face of a gem from Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler delivered seven scoreless innings with just one hit and eight strikeouts to lay the foundations for a crucial win against the underdog Phillies.

Phillies closer Jose Alvarado had a nervous start to the bottom of the ninth inning, allowing Jurickson Profar and Juan Soto to get on base, before sealing the win with the outs of Manny Machado and Josh Bell in quick succession.

The winner of the best-of-seven NLCS will meet either the New York Yankees or the Houston Astros in the World Series.

The Yankees advanced to an American League Championship Series showdown with the Astros after downing the Cleveland Guardians, 5-1, earlier Tuesday.

Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge bagged home runs to give the Yankees a 3-2 series victory in a game that had been delayed 24 hours after rain washed out play on Monday.

“We know we’ve got a big challenge now going to Houston but we look forward to it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the win, paying tribute to the hitting of Stanton and Judge.

“When those guys are rolling it makes it challenging,” Boone said.

“For (Stanton) to get us off to that start in the first was huge.”

The Yankees were always in the driving seat after jumping on starter Aaron Civale early on.

Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes meanwhile stymied the Cleveland bats, allowing just three hits, one run, and one walk before departing after the fifth inning.

Civale’s rocky start saw Gleyber Torres walk before Anthony Rizzo advanced to first base after being hit by a pitch.

Stanton then stepped up to smash a line drive to right-center field for a three-run shot that left the Yankees 3-0 up.

Josh Donaldson then singled on a ground ball prompting Cleveland skipper Terry Francona to yank Civale from the mound for Sam Hentges.

Francona admitted later that pulling starting pitcher Civale in the first inning had been a tough call.

“I felt terrible taking him out that quickly, but I just didn’t think we could give up any more,” Francona said.

Hentges got through the remainder of the inning with no more damage but then saw Judge crush a home run into right field in the bottom of the second for a 4-0 lead.

Cleveland pulled a run back in the top of the third when Jose Ramirez’s sacrifice fly scored Austin Hedges.

But Rizzo restored the Yankees’ four-run cushion at the bottom of the fifth, singling to score Torres.

“Every game is its own game. They beat us today,” Francona said.

“We pushed them about as far as we could and they came out and beat us today, so they get to move on and we don’t.”

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