Category Archives: MLB

World Series 2020: Champs! The Dodgers end L.A.’s 32-year title drought

The Kirk Gibson home run had endured, but it had also run its course. The clip remained a constant presence around the Los Angeles Dodgers, consuming their broadcasts and playing on a near-constant loop at their stadium. It stood as the seminal moment from a bygone era, of a championship captured more than three decades earlier. A new memory had long been desired.

“We’ve heard it a lot, and we’ve seen a lot of highlights, and it’s fantastic,” Dave Roberts, the fifth-year manager, said. “But we wanna make our own mark on Dodgers history.”

On Tuesday night, in a neutral stadium 1,400 miles away, at the conclusion of a bizarre campaign played amid a global health crisis, these Dodgers ultimately made their mark.

Their 3-1 triumph over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series won them their first championship since Gibson famously hobbled to the batter’s box in 1988, a fitting coronation for a dominant franchise.

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Tony Gonsolin, counted on to function as a traditional starter, recorded only five outs.

But four relievers — Dylan Floro, Alex Wood, Pedro Baez and Victor Gonzalez — retired 13 of the next 14 batters, keeping the game within reach long enough for the Dodgers to get past an electric Blake Snell and tap into the Rays’ bullpen.

After Rays manager Kevin Cash turned to Nick Anderson with one on, one out and the top of the order due up a third time in the sixth, the Dodgers’ offense finally came alive. Mookie Betts doubled, Austin Barnes scored on a wild pitch, and Betts slid home safely on a grounder to the right side.

Betts, the offseason acquirement who has somehow exceeded expectations, tacked on an important insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth, and Julio Urias cruised past the finish line, leading the Dodgers to the title — 16 days after the Los Angeles Lakers did the same.

The Dodgers, division champions for eight consecutive years, are finally champions again.

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Washington Nationals re-signing Josh Harrison to one-year contract

The Washington Nationals have agreed to terms with utility player Josh Harrison on a one-year, $1 million contract, the team informed Thursday.

Harrison spent the 2020 campaign with the Nationals after signing with them in July, less than a week after he was released by the Philadelphia Phillies. The 33-year-old hit .278 with two doubles, three home runs, 14 RBIs, six walks and 11 runs scored for Washington. He hit .309 as a starter.

Harrison can make an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses as part of the deal: $50,000 for 200 plate appearances and additional increments of $50,000 up to 400. He made 91 plate appearances in 33 games during the 60-game 2020 season.

Harrison, a right-handed hitter, is a two-time All-Star who has started games at second base, third base, shortstop, designated hitter and both corner outfield spots during his 10 years in the majors.

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He played eight seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates before joining the Detroit Tigers in 2019 and has compiled a career .273 batting average with 56 homers, 291 RBIs and 384 runs.

He was a National League All-Star in 2014 and 2017 for Pittsburgh. But Harrison hit .175 with one homer in 36 games for the Tigers last year before getting released in August 2019.

He had signed a minor league contract with the Phillies in November before they let him go in July.

“You never know where you’re going to end up in this game,” Harrison said last month. “I’m blessed. I was fortunate enough to find a situation like this when it didn’t work out with Philly. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better place, a better group of guys.”

Harrison is the first free-agent question addressed by the Nationals. Players entering free agency this offseason include infielders Ryan Zimmerman and Asdrúbal Cabrera, outfielder Michael A. Taylor, catcher Kurt Suzuki and pitchers Sean Doolittle and Roenis Elías.

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Tampa Bay Rays take game 2 to even the series one game apiece

Through all the struggles, all the moments when it looked like he should be dropped down in the lineup or out of it altogether, Brandon Lowe believed.

He had built himself into one of the American League’s best hitters, and no slump, not even one during the playoffs, could derail that. The Tampa Bay Rays kept believing in Lowe, too. And in Game 2 of the World Series, both were rewarded handsomely for their faith.

Lowe became the first player ever to hit two opposite-field home runs in one World Series match, and the Rays’ bullpen bent but didn’t break as they held on for a 6-4 triumph Wednesday night to even the series at one game apiece.

The 26-year-old Lowe, an All-Star two years ago as a rookie and a down-ballot MVP candidate this year, had endured a brutal postseason: 6-for-56 with 19 strikeouts and not one multi-hit game among the 15 the Rays had played. And yet Tampa Bay never wavered — he sat only one game and pinch hit in it — confident that Lowe would find his swing.

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Lowe, hitting in the No. 2 hole, punished a 95 mph fastball from rookie starter Tony Gonsolin out to left field, giving the Rays an early advantage. He piled on with a two-run shot off rookie Dustin May in the fifth inning, pushing the Rays’ advantage to 5-0.

In the meantime, Rays starter Blake Snell hadn’t permitted a hit, striking out two Dodgers in each of the first four innings.

Following the fourth, Snell bounded off the mound, shouting into the expanse of Globe Life Field, to no one and everyone among the crowd of 11,472. He looked like his Cy Young-winning self, his fastball, curve ball and slider confounding a group of Dodgers hitters who in Game 1 piled up eight runs through power, patience and proficiency wielding the bat.

Lowe’s multi-homer game was the 55th in World Series history, the seventh by a second baseman and the first by a Rays player. And it continued Tampa Bay’s trend of needing home runs to score. They set a record with 28 home runs this postseason, and entering the World Series, nearly 72% of their runs had come via the longball.

The return of the Lowe who helped lead the Rays to the AL East title was a welcome sign for a Tampa Bay team whose offensive struggles were of paramount concern — particularly with the prospect of falling down 0-2 to the Dodgers. Lowe had hit .269/.362/.554 with 14 home runs in 56 games during the regular season and ranked just behind Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. in wins above replacement.

Now, after a Thursday off-day, the teams return for Game 3 with the best pitching matchup of the series: Dodgers ace Walker Buehler versus Rays stalwart Charlie Morton.

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MLB owners approve New York Mets sale to Steve Cohen

Steve Cohen’s bid to buy the New York Mets was accepted by Major League Baseball’s Ownership Committee, all but assuring the hedge fund titan will be the team’s new owner, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Ownership Committee, chaired by Pittsburgh Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting, reviewed the vetting of Cohen and details of the proposed transaction, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the matter is private.

MLB refused to comment.

The next step in the process is a review by the commissioner’s Executive Council, after which the proposed sale will be voted on by a full slate of owners.

Cohen needs 23 votes for approval.

The final vote may take place soon after the World Series. Also on the Ownership Committee are Chicago White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, Chris Ilitch of the Detroit Tigers, Paul Dolan of the Cleveland Indians and Fred Wilpon of the Mets. Wilpon likely had to recuse himself.  Cohen met virtually with the Ownership Committee weeks ago.

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Cohen, who already holds an 8% stake in the Mets, has agreed to pay a record $2.42 billion for the team he grew up rooted for as a kid on Long Island.

Under terms of the deal Cohen will hold a 95% stake in the team. The current owners, the Katz and Wilpon families, will keep 5%.

Cohen will assume control of a franchise that even in a non-COVID season loses at least $50 million annually.

That said, with a net worth of more than $10 billion, according to Bloomberg, Cohen has the resources to sustain annual losses while still investing in players.

His facility to finance the purchase without investors was key in his winning an auction that included Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris and a group led by former big-league Most Valuable Player Alex Rodriguez.

The sellers gained control of the Mets for $391 million in 2002. Cohen has already said he would name former Mets executive Sandy Alderson as the team’s president once approved.

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Los Angeles Dodgers tab Clayton Kershaw to start Game 1 of World Series

Clayton Kershaw, who avoided an emergency relief appearance over the last two matches of the just-completed National League Championship Series, will start Game 1 of the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced on Monday.

Kershaw, who will be making his fifth career World Series start, will oppose Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow on Tuesday (first pitch from Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, is 8:09 p.m. ET).

Walker Buehler, who pitched on Saturday, will be pushed back to Game 3 for the Dodgers, giving him five days of rest and still lining him up to start a potential Game 7.

The Rays have tabbed left-hander Blake Snell as their Game 2 starter, but the Dodgers are still unclear, manager Dave Roberts said. His other three starters — Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias — all pitched in Sunday’s Game 7, and some might be counted on out of the bullpen in the World Series opener.

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Kershaw was initially scratched from Game 2 of the NLCS

Due to back spasms Kershaw was initially scratch but was able to recovered in time to start Thursday’s Game 4, permitting one run through the first five innings before running into trouble in the sixth.

The 32-year-old left-hander made himself available out of the bullpen for Games 6 and 7, but Roberts wanted to avoid using Kershaw in hopes of saving him for a potential World Series opener.

Cody Bellinger is expecting to play behind Kershaw even though his right shoulder popped out of its socket during an emphatic celebration with Enrique Hernandez after his game-winning home run in Sunday’s seventh inning.

The Dodgers’ center fielder said he feels “pretty good” and expects to be ready by Game 1, but Roberts said Bellinger’s shoulder was “still a little bit sore” during Monday’s optional workout.

Bellinger has experienced something similar at least three other times, he said, and Roberts said it’s more of a concern hitting than it is playing defense.

“It was an exciting time, it was pure adrenaline — a thing where you just black out,” Bellinger said of his celebration. “Obviously I wish I didn’t do it, but it was such a cool moment for me. It was just pure excitement.”

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Houston Astros survive to force Game 6 vs Tampa Bay Rays in ALCS

The Tampa Bay Rays had a shot to advance to the World Series and send the Houston Astros packing for the second consecutive night at San Diego’s Petco Park on Thursday. And for the second straight night, they did not get it done.

The Astros have prevailed with a 4-3 Game 5 triumph in dramatic fashion as Carlos Correa hit a walk-off homer in the ninth inning.

Let’s dive in on the key storylines and things to know from Game 5. 

Correa’s been possibly the most vocal Astros player this postseason when it comes to wanting to silence the team’s critics. After a lackluster offensive regular season (.264 average with a 92 OPS+ and five homers), Correa is now hitting .342/.457/.816 with six homers in the playoffs.

Yes, more home runs in the postseason than regular season. He’s now two homers away from tying the record for the most homers in a single postseason (see the note in the Arozarena section below for more on this). 

Further, Correa’s clutch exploits in the playoffs are notable. His three career walk-off hits tie David Ortiz for the most ever in the postseason (via ESPN Stats and Info). Correa also hit a walk-off homer the ALCS last year, coming vs. the Yankees in Game 2.

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The Astros went with a bullpen game, which is just a game full of relievers. Luis Garcia started the game and worked two innings, he was followed by Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb, Brooks Raley (it was all rookies through this point, by the way), Josh James and Ryan Pressly. They got through the nine innings permitting just three runs on seven hits. All this with their backs against the wall. 

The Rays used John Curtiss as an opener.

That is, a pitcher who throws around one inning before giving way to the pitcher — usually of the opposite hand — who is designed to pitch the most innings in the game. That was Josh Fleming, who was usually a starter in 2020. Curtiss went 1 1/3 innings before Fleming went three. 

Overall, it was a commendable effort from both pitching staffs. Lots of the big names were either unavailable of carrying in big postseason workloads. 

The Astros are trying to run this thing to the distance after trailing 0-3 while the Rays are looking to avoid facing the chance of joining the 2004 Yankees in making dubious history and losing four consecutive games after taking a 3-0 lead.

The pitching matchup is the same as Game 1 with Blake Snell going for the Rays and Framber Valdez getting the ball for the Astros.  Of the 39 teams in the MLB playoffs to ever face a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, the Astros now join the 1998 Braves, 1999 Mets and 2004 Red Sox as the only teams to force a Game 6.

Both the Braves and Mets lost Game 6. The Red Sox won out to make history. The Astros are looking to be the second team to do that, but they’ll need to get Game 6 first. 

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Voit, Torres homer as Yankees beat Rays 5-1 to force Game 5

The New York Yankees staved off playoff elimination after taking down the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 in Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Thursday.

Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres each hit home runs for the Yankees, who benefitted from stellar pitching all night. Starter Jordan Montgomery tossed four innings of one-run ball before giving way to the bullpen, which tossed five no-hit innings and permitted just one baserunner on a walk.

The Rays had a chance for a big third inning after putting runners on second and third with no outs, but they could only score one run off a Brandon Lowe RBI groundout.

Tampa Bay had just three hits on the night. New York and Tampa Bay are tied at two games apiece in their best-of-five series. New York took Game 1 by a 9-3 score before Tampa Bay won the next two games 7-5 and 8-4.

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New York’s pitching left much to be desired in Games 2 and 3.

The infamous Game 2 featured the Yankees opting for an opener strategy and starting 21-year-old Deivi Garcia, who permitted one earned run in one frame before giving way to starter-turned-long reliever J.A. Happ. 

The southpaw proceeded to allow four earned runs in two-and-a-third innings, and the Yanks eventually lost 7-5.

In Game 3, starter Masahiro Tanaka arguably found himself on the wrong end of strike zone luck but ultimately permitted five earned runs in just four innings of work en route to an 8-4 loss.

Facing elimination in Game 4, the Yanks needed a strong start from Jordan Montgomery and a stellar bullpen outing to beat the pesky Rays, and they collectively got the job done.

Despite a shaky third inning, Montgomery was largely fantastic and wiggled his way out of potentially precarious situations.

He allowed a leadoff first-inning single but soon induced a double play.

In the fourth inning, Montgomery put runners on first and second with two outs, but he got Kevin Kiermaier to ground out and end the frame.

The Yankees’ collective pitching efforts have now led to a Game 5 where they’ll start staff ace Gerrit Cole, who has far and away been the team’s best and most consistent pitcher. He’ll be opposed by Rays ace and left-hander Blake Snell, however, in a match that looks like a low-scoring nail biter on paper.

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Arozarena leads Rays in 8-4 victory over Yankees

Randy Arozarena homered for the third consecutive game and Kevin Kiermaier and Michael Perez also went deep for the Tampa Bay Rays, who beat the New York Yankees 8-4 Wednesday night to move within one victory of reaching the AL Championship Series for the first time in 12 years.

New York’s Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer off rookie Shane McClanahan to center field in the eighth inning to become the first player with a home run in each of his team’s first five games of a single postseason. Stanton has six homers in those five games. McClanahan made his major league debut in Game 1 on Monday night.

The Rays took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Division Series. Game 4 is Thursday night at Petco Park, which has yielded 16 home runs in three matches — nine by Tampa Bay.

The Rays are looking to advance out of the ALDS for just the second time. They reached the 2008 World Series before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. Arozarena, a 25-year-old rookie from Havana who’s nicknamed “The Cuban Rocket,” is having a breakout postseason. He homered off Gerrit Cole in the first inning of Game 1, a 9-3 Yankees victory, and off rookie Deivi García in the first inning of Game 2, a 7-5 Rays win.

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He hit a shot deep to left leading off the fifth Wednesday night to chase Masahiro Tanaka and give the Rays a 5-1 lead.

Arozarena went 3 for 4 with a walk.

He leads all players in the postseason with 12 hits in five games. He went hitless in five postseason plate appearances in 2019 for St. Louis, which traded him to Tampa Bay in January.

“He has to be the best baseball player on earth right now,” Rays starter Tyler Glasnow said after Tuesday night’s victory. “What he’s doing is phenomenal.”

Kiermaier hit a three-run shot into the home run deck in right off Tanaka with no outs in the fourth to make it 4-1. Joey Wendle was aboard on a leadoff single and Willy Adames on a walk.

Perez hit a two-run shot to left off Chad Green in the sixth. Kiermaier was aboard on a leadoff double. It was the 11th home run by a No. 9 hitter this postseason, the most all-time.

Charlie Morton got the win after holding the Yankees to two runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. He struck out six and walked two in winning his fifth straight postseason decision.

Tanaka took the loss after permitting five runs and eight hits in four-plus innings. He struck out four and walked one. The Yankees loaded the bases twice in the third inning and got only a sacrifice fly by Aaron Judge. Aaron Hicks hit an RBI double in the fifth.

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Manager Aaron Boone will turn to rookie Deivi Garcia to start Game 2 for New York Yankees

By taking the mound in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series versus the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, rookie Deivi Garcia will make history.

The 21-year-old Dominican-born pitcher will become the youngest player to make a postseason start in New York Yankees franchise history (at 21 years and 140 days).

Despite only six major league starts under his belt, manager Aaron Boone said he opted to go with Garcia due to the maturity he has displayed this campaign.

According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, the only other 21-year-old to make a postseason start for the Yankees was Whitey Ford in Game 4 of the 1950 World Series (21 years, 351 days).

“We deliberated on that a lot over the last several days,” Boone stated Monday ahead of Game 1 of the ALDS at Petco Park in San Diego.

“Masa [Masahiro Tanaka] will now go in Game 3. So just like slot and Deivi in between [Game 1 starter Gerrit] Cole and Masa was the way we wanted to go.

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“I think the way he’s pitched, and the way he’s handled himself and handled every situation so far. I felt like I wanted to go this way a couple days ago but wanted to continue to flesh it out because we could. Ultimately today, this morning, decided this is the way I wanted to go. I just felt [we had] a lot of good options there, [different] ways we could have gone. I don’t worry about him not being able to handle it, mentally, emotionally and all those things and I know he’s looking forward to it.”

The rookie right-hander concurred.

“Super excited,” Garcia said of his reaction upon hearing the news from Boone. “When they finally told me that I was going to get the ball for Game 2, what can I say? Just so excited about it. At the same time, very thankful for the opportunity and I will try to go out there and do the best I can.”

Tuesday’s start will also make Garcia the fifth-youngest player in American League history to make a postseason start, and the youngest player born outside the United States to make a playoff start in the AL.

Overall, only Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Julio Urías (20 years, 68 days) and Fernando Valenzuela (five times) were younger in making a postseason start among players born outside the U.S. Garcia, who stated he idolized Hall of Fame starter Pedro Martínez growing up in the Dominican Republic, reiterated that it was an honor to make pinstripes history.

Including a subpar outing at Fenway Park, Garcia finished the coronavirus-shortened 2020 regular campaign with a 4.98 ERA in 34⅓ innings pitched.

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Longtime MLB catcher Francisco Cervelli announces retirement

Longtime MLB catcher Francisco Cervelli is retiring from baseball, he announced on Instagram. Cervelli said he is hanging up his spikes because it’s time to “put my health before my career.”

The 34-year-old had seven documented concussions throughout his career, including one that ended his 2020 campaign in August. “Today, I retire happy and fully satisfied, because I gave my heart and soul to this wonderful game,” Cervelli wrote.

“I am retiring because the time has come to put my health before my career. For a long time, I put baseball first, through countless concussions and injuries, because this game was my life; my whole world. But it’s clear to me now that my future holds so much more. For the first time in a long time, I know my health and wellness needs to be the leadoff. It’s time.”

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Cervelli initially signed with the Yankees as a 16-year-old international free agent out of Venezuela in 2003.

An infielder as an amateur, he moved behind the plate in pro ball and reached the big leagues in 2008.

Cervelli spent 2008-14 with New York, mostly as a backup catcher, before moving on to the Pirates (2015-19), Braves (2019), and Marlins (2020).

Pittsburgh gave Cervelli his first extended opportunity as a starting catcher and he blossomed, hitting .270/.368/.384 with 25 home runs in 416 games from 2015-18.

He also rated well as a pitch-framer and became a fan favorite thanks to his high-energy, hard-nosed style of play. Cervelli was liberated in Aug. 2019 after the Pirates committed to Jacob Stallings behind the plate. Cervelli took a foul tip to the face mask on Aug. 22 this year and was diagnosed with a concussion. He landed on the injured list 15 times in parts of 13 seasons.

Cervelli retires as a career .268/.358/.382 hitter with 605 hits and 41 home runs in 730 games. He won a World Series ring with the 2009 Yankees and banked nearly $40 million in player contracts during his career.

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