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Phillips gives the bum's rush to Villar as baseball playoff races heat up

Houston Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar is out at second base as Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips reaches back for the tag

Melissa Phillip/Associated Press

The Globe's Robert MacLeod curates the best of sports on the web Monday to Friday

With about two weeks remaining in the Major League Baseball regular-season schedule, the playoff races are becoming intense and the players are responding with some superlative – if not inventive -- play.

Brandon Phillips, the second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, was the author behind the night's most notable move, executing what is being described as a "butt tag" on Jonathan Villar of the Houston Astros.

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Later, Phillips would say that he was the one who felt "violated" by the play.

How does he think Villar feels?

"That's the way I play," Villar told The Associated Press, steering clear of how it felt getting up close and personal with Phillips' backside. "I'm aggressive. I was trying to make something happen, motivate my team. It's hard to change because that's the way I've always played."

The Reds would romp to a 10-0 victory over the hapless Astros to maintain their 4 1/2-game lead over the Washington Nationals for the second wild card in the National League.

The setback was painful in more ways than one to Houston as the Astros reached the 100-loss plateau for the third consecutive season.

Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers admits that he is concerned about his job security after a September swoon by his club.

Washington's comments came before the Rangers went out to earn a 7-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays and forge a tie atop the American League wild card derby.

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Denard Span of the Washington Nationals stroked a single in the bottom of the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves to extend his hitting streak to 28 games, the longest in the major leagues this season.

Span is now exactly halfway to Joe DiMaggio's famed record of 56 games with only 11 games left.

Should Span gather a hit in each of those games the rest of the way he would have to wait until next season before making a run at DiMaggio's mark.

Span's hit came in the second game of a doubleheader against the Braves, a 4-0 win for the Nationals who won the opening contest 6-5.

The Nationals have now won 21 of their last 27 games to pull to within 4 1/2-games of a wild card berth.

Matt Holliday proves that you can go home again, enjoying a 4-for-4 night at the plate to help the St. Louis Cardinals cruise to an 11-4 win over the Rockies in Denver.

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The victory vaulted the Cards into sole possession of first place in the NL Central after the Pittsburgh Pirates were trumped 5-2 by San Diego.

Matt Harvey, the flame-throwing starter of the New York Mets, has decided to see if he can forgo surgery to try and deal with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Harvey instead will enter into what is being described as a "structured rehabilitation program" of about six to eight weeks to try and deal with the problem.

This process will sound familiar to followers of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Back in 2012, rookie starter Drew Hutchison was shut down in mid-June with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament.

Rest and rehab was prescribed and the result?

Two months later, Hutchison was sent to see the surgeon to have Tommy John ligament replacement surgery

Hutchison has yet to return to play for the big league club.

The Miami Marlins have endured a tough season after they shipped some of their best players to the Blue Jays during a huge 12-player trade back in November.

Now the turmoil has spread to the front office with the news, as reported by Clark Spencer for the Miami Herald, that owner Jeffrey Loria is making most, if not all, of the team's baseball decisions.

Thomas pumped

Former Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has returned to the ice for the first time in more than a year with the Florida Panthers and later tells reporters that he feels "reborn."

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