x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Phillies wrap up the East and aim to stay top of the world

Raul Ibanez belts a two-run homer and drives in three runs as the Philadelphia Phillies captured their third straight National League East title.

Raul Ibanez hits a two-run homer as the Phillies beat the Astros to seal their division win.
Raul Ibanez hits a two-run homer as the Phillies beat the Astros to seal their division win.

Raul Ibanez belted a two-run homer and drove in three runs as the Philadelphia Phillies captured their third straight National League East title by beating the Houston Astros 10-3. Eight starting players posted either a hit or an RBI as the Phillies won their third consecutive division title for the second time in franchise history.

"It can never get old when you win and you're happy," said the Phillies' centre fielder, Shane Victorino. "We're going to another postseason. We've got an opportunity to be World Series champs again. We have to take it one step at a time. We can't worry about the World Series. This is the first step toward a repeat, and hopefully this is the first of many celebrations we're going to have." Philadelphia actually clinched the title moments before the Wednesday win was in the bag because of the Atlanta Braves' 5-4 loss to the Florida Marlins.

The Phillies will now have an opportunity to defend their World Series title after winning the crown for the second time by beating the Tampa Bay Rays last season. "It was a rougher year for us this year because everybody was gunning for us," said the Phillies' shortstop, Jimmy Rollins. "The last couple of years we were kind of a dark horse. We were right there, but we were never out in the lead. We were just trailing in and catching everybody at the end. We stood up to the test in the regular season and now we have to stand up to the test in the postseason."

The Phillies will start their National League division series next Wednesday. Ibanez hit his 34th home run of the season, Victorino added his NL-leading 13th triple, and Pedro Feliz had two hits and an RBI for Philadelphia. Starting pitcher Pedro Martinez allowed three runs in four innings, while Kyle Kendrick (3-1) registered the win after three innings of relief. In other National League action, the Braves and the Chicago Cubs did nothing to help their play-off chances. The Braves' home defeat by the Marlins not only ended their division title hopes, it hit their wild-card ambitions hard, leaving them three games behind with four to go.

The Cubs were on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline in the first of a double-header at home to the Pittsburgh Pirates before going on to lose the second game 8-2. In the American League, the Detroit Tigers moved a step nearer to clinching the Central Division by beating their only rivals for the title, the Minnesota Twins, 7-2. The Kansas City Royals beat the East Division winners, the New York Yankees, 4-3, and the Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago White Sox 5-1 just hours after it became known that their manager, Eric Wedge, will be allowed to leave, but were beaten 1-0 in the second game of a double-header.

* With agencies