Category Archives: MLB

Astros hammer Nationals to take 3-2 lead in World Series

The Houston Astros handed the ball to Gerrit Cole, and he gave them a firm grip on the World Series.

Minus ailing ace Max Scherzer, the Nationals were no match in this Washington wipeout.

Cole looked exactly like the stud who dominated baseball most of this season, bouncing back from a Game 1 clunker to pitch the Astros to a 7-1 win Sunday night and a 3-2 lead.

Slumping rookie Yordan Álvarez and Carlos Correa hit early two-run homers off emergency starter Joe Ross, George Springer added another postseason drive and Houston won its third straight at Nationals Park.

What a turnaround, too — outscored 17-7 overall at Minute Maid Park, Houston hammered Washington 19-3 at Nationals Park.

Scherzer beat Cole in the opener, and was the Nats’ best hope to slow Houston. But he was scratched just 3 1/2 hours before game time because of an irritated nerve near his neck, an injury that could finish him for the Series.

With the road team winning every time so far, Houston heads home with two chances to claim its second title in three years.

Justin Verlander gets the first try when he starts against Stephen Strasburg in Game 6 on Tuesday night. Cole threw three-hit ball for seven innings, nicked only by Juan Soto’s home run in the seventh, and struck out nine.

Justin Verlander gets the first try when he starts against Stephen Strasburg in Game 6 on Tuesday night. Cole threw three-hit ball for seven innings, nicked only by Juan Soto’s home run in the seventh, and struck out nine.

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Cole’s mix of 99 mph heat and sharp breaking balls induced a bevy of bad swings from the Nats as he improved to 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA this postseason. It might’ve been his final start for Houston — he’s eligible for free agency and figures to command a steep price.

Standing tall on the mound, Cole was unflappable in the face of 43,910 fans who went from fired up to furious to flat-out frustrated.

The crowd gave Ross a huge ovation when he walked onto the field for warmups, sympathetic to his situation — he had pitched a total of two innings in almost a month.

Cole ended his outing by getting Victor Robles on a called third strike, a pitch the TV zone showed to be off the plate. Robles chucked his bat, helmet and gloves, and crowd soon began a derisive chant at umpire Lance Barksdale. Cole led the majors in strikeouts this year, was second to Verlander in wins and topped the AL in ERA. Yet he hardly looked like an October star in Game 1, giving up five runs over seven uneven innings.

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Astros fire assistant GM Brandon Taubman

The Houston Astros fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman on Thursday after firstly denying a news article that Taubman had taunted female journalists in the baseball team’s clubhouse about the signing of a pitcher accused of domestic violence.

“We were wrong,” the Astros said in a statement, referring to the club’s first claim that Taubman’s “inappropriate comments were not directed toward any reporter.”

Taubman’s “conduct does not reflect the values of our organization and we believe this is the most appropriate course of action,” the Astros said.

The team also directly apologized to Sports Illustrated and its reporter Stephanie Apstein, who on Monday broke the news of Taubman’s heckling of the reporters about pitcher Roberto Osuna. The reversal by the Astros came, the team said, after a two-day investigation by officials from Major League Baseball, who questioned members of the media.

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Taubman repeatedly yelled “Thank God we got Osuna, I’m so f—— glad we got Osuna” in the direction of three female reporters Saturday night after the Astros defeated the Yankees to win the American League pennant and secure a World Series berth, according to Sports Illustrated’s article.

One of the reporters subjected to the taunts was wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet.

That reporter, according to a subsequent account by NPR, has tweeted continually about domestic violence in recent years, and Taubman complained last year that her tweets of domestic violence hotline phone numbers had been posted “moments after Osuna entered several Astros games in relief.”

Osuna, while playing with the Toronto Blue Jays, was arrested for alleged domestic violence in May 2018 against the mother of his young child. He later was hired by the Astros.

Although his criminal case later was dropped after the alleged victim went to Mexico and declined to testify against him, Osuna was suspended for 75 games by Major League Baseball. The Astros presently are down 0-2 in the World Series against the Washington Nationals

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Aaron Hicks returns to Yankees’ lineup

Giancarlo Stanton was on the field for batting practice previous to Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, but the Yankees slugger is unclear when his right quadriceps strain will permit him to play the outfield or run the bases. In the meantime, Aaron Hicks got the start in center field, playing there for the first time since Aug. 3.

“It’s pretty similar to 48 hours ago. Just going to see what we can do,” Stanton said. “It’s not the best, but I’m able to hit. We’re at least that far right now. I don’t have much time. Time is not on my side right now. I’m doing what I can.” Stanton sustained the injury legging out a second-inning infield single in ALCS Game 1 at Houston’s Minute Maid Park on Saturday night. He played six more innings before being removed for defense, slugging a sixth-inning home run, but he did not appear in the Yanks’ 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Astros in Game 2 on Sunday night.

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Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that if this were the regular season, Stanton’s injury is significant enough that it would require a stint on the injured list.

New York is reluctant to substitute Stanton on the ALCS roster, because doing so would render him ineligible to play in the World Series.

“We’re trying to strike that balance,” Boone said. “I feel like we’re in a good spot, lineup-wise. Obviously, it gets tougher the further you go, especially when you only have a three-man bench anyway. So those are all things that we have to consider.” If the Yankees were to make an injury substitution, their candidates include infielder/outfielder Tyler Wade — who was on the ALDS roster, but later subbed out in favor of Hicks — or a pair of first basemen in the right-handed-hitting Luke Voit and left-handed-hitting rookie Mike Ford.

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Freese, 2011 Series MVP, retires after 11 seasons

David Freese, the 2011 World Series Most Valuable Player with the St. Louis Cardinals, revealed his retirement on Saturday after 11 seasons.

“Padres, Cardinals, Angels, Pirates, and Dodgers. You took a 23-year old kid out of college and pushed him to 36,” wrote Freese in a social media post, thanking all the clubs he was a part of during his career.

“Can’t thank you enough for that. Needed it. Will never stop thinking about the days I got to be around such wonderful people playing this game. As I move forward with the next phase of my life, I am forever grateful to all of you and the game of baseball.”

Freese, 36, spent the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers playing mostly first base, and also spent time with the Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates.

He was a career .277 hitter and even better in the postseason, with a .299 average. Freese made his final entrance Wednesday in a deciding Game 5 of an NL Division Series, striking out as a pinch hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers. They lost 7-3 to the Washington Nationals. Freese had started Game 1 at first base.

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He made his major league debut with St. Louis in 2009 and turn out to be a postseason star two years later.

Freese batted .545 with 12 hits in the NL Championship Series in 2011. He also set an MLB postseason record with 21 RBIs and earned MVP honors in the NLCS and World Series.

Freese was an All-Star in 2012, when he played in a career-high 144 games after injuries had dogged him in previous years. In Game 1 of the NLCS versus San Francisco, he hit a two-run homer off Madison Bumgarner.

In his first 25 postseason games, Freese batted .386 with six homers, 25 RBIs and a .739 slugging percentage in 100 plate appearances. Only Carlos Beltran (.824) and Babe Ruth (.744) had higher slugging percentages in the same number of plate appearances.

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Anibal Sanches, Miles Mikolas get NLCS Game 1 starts

The Nationals and Cardinals have tabbed starters for Game 1 of the NLCS, set for Friday night in St. Louis.

The visiting Nationals will send veteran Aníbal Sánchez to the hill to oppose Miles Mikolas, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and Anne Rogers, respectively. While the Nationals haven’t set the rest of their rotation yet, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt has set up Adam Wainwright for Game 2, Jack Flaherty for Game 3, and Dakota Hudson for Game 4.

Sánchez, 35, was quite good in his NLDS Game 3 start versus the Dodgers, limiting them to a lone run while scattering four hits and a pair of walks with nine strikeouts over five innings. Sánchez is, in a lot of ways, an afterthought when considering the Nationals’ rotation which boasts Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.

The Cardinals know well enough not to undervalue Sánchez, who posted a 3.85 ERA across 30 regular season starts.

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Mikolas, 31, enjoyed a major league career rebirth last year after spending several years in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants. In 2018, he led the league with 18 wins while posting a 2.83 ERA in 200 2/3 innings.

He ended sixth in NL Cy Young voting. He wasn’t able to follow up with the same level of success this year, finishing the regular season leading the league with 14 losses along with a 4.16 ERA.

Mikolas was good in his NLDS Game 1 start against the Braves, though, allowing a lone run over five innings. He also tossed a perfect inning of relief in Game 4.

The Cardinals will start Adam Wainwright in Game 2 of the NLCS, followed by ace Jack Flaherty in Game 3 and Dakota Hudson in Game 4.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said X-rays presented nothing broken on the hand of catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was hit by a pitch in Washington’s win on Wednesday night. Suzuki was going to go through concussion protocol once the Nationals arrived in St. Louis.

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Atlanta Braves’ Brian McCann to retire after 15-year career

After a decade and a half in the major leagues, Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann is calling it quits.

The former All-Star told reporters after the Braves’ NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals that he is retiring. Thanks to a one-year contract signed last offseason, McCann’s career will end with the same team with which he spent his first nine seasons in MLB.

“This is it for me,” McCann said. “I’m going to go home and be a dad, and play with my kids … It’s time to go. Fifteen years. It’s done.”

In 15 years as a major leaguer, McCann racked up a .262/.337/.452 career line with 1,590 hits and 282 home runs, all while directing pitching game plans behind the plate. McCann was a perennial All-Star during his first tenure with the Braves, delivering one of the most dangerous bats from the catching position in the league and accruing seven All-Star nods.

From 2008 to 2016, McCann posted at least 20 homers in every season

A nine-year streak bested only by Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra at the catching position.

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After hitting free agency following the 2014 season, McCann signed a five-year deal with the New York Yankees, where he saw less accomplishment until he was traded to the Houston Astros. There, he won his first career World Series ring in 2017.

McCann later returned to the Braves for one last ride, the perfect setting for a man who was born in Atlanta, grew up in Georgia and was drafted by the Braves back in 2002.

“I went to high school here. I grew up here. I got to play nine years to start my career here,” McCann said. “I grew up with some of my heroes growing up, and got to come back and play with the new generation. I’d say that’s a success.” Of course, McCann’s legacy is also described by who he was as a teammate, and the reviews there are quite positive.

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Rays chase Verlander early, beat Astros to even ALDS

The Tampa Bay Rays never disbelieved themselves, even with Justin Verlander looking to end their season.

Willy Adames homered and made a extraordinary relay throw from shortstop, and the Rays chased the Houston ace early in beating the Astros 4-1 Tuesday night to even their AL Division Series at two games apiece.

With their second victory in two days over one of baseball’s best pitchers, the Rays believe the rest of the country is finally getting a taste of what they’re capable of achieving.

”Hey, I hate to say it: About time, because we have a really good team over here,” Tommy Pham said.

”To win 96 games in this division (the AL East) with New York and Boston is an impressive feat,” he added. ”All year, we’ve been getting talked down. And now, with the last two games, the way we played, the whole world has seen how good of a team we are and how well-rounded we are.”

The series shifts back to Houston for a decisive Game 5 on Thursday night.

Astros star Gerrit Cole is scheduled to pitch for the heavily favored AL West champs, who led the majors with 107 wins this season and have one more chance to close out the feisty Rays. Tyler Glasnow is expected to start for Tampa Bay.

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The winner plays the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series.

Verlander, starting on short rest after dominating the wild-card Rays in Game 1, looked uncomfortable on the mound at Tropicana Field and was pulled in the fourth after giving up four runs.

Verlander, whose eight career ALDS victories are a major league record, yielded three runs in the first. Adames homered leading off the fourth to make it 4-0, and the eight-time All-Star didn’t make it through the inning.

”A good approach for those guys in the first, and then honestly, I need those infield singles to be caught. When you don’t have it, you need the balls that are put in play to go your way, and they didn’t,” said Verlander, who only started on short rest three other times during his career, including the 2011 ALDS, when he started Games 1 and 3 after Game 1 was suspended in the second inning.

The Rays helped themselves by playing stellar defense, especially with the Astros threatening to cut into their three-run deficit in the fourth.

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Astros turn to Verlander, looking to close out Rays

After getting walloped by the Rays 10-3 Monday in Game 3 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field, Hinch flipped the win switch to on, announcing the Astros will be going with Verlander on short rest Tuesday to try to close out the Rays. The Astros lead the series, 2-1.

Hinch made the right move because he has the best insurance policy right behind Verlander in Gerrit Cole, who has won 17 straight games.

Cy Old will go Tuesday and, if needed, Cy Young will pitch Game 5 in Houston on Thursday. Hinch is betting on Verlander so there will be no need for a Game 5 starter, and Cole would be good to go in Game 1 of the ALCS. That would put Verlander in line to be on regular rest for Game 2.

“He’s one of the best pitchers in the world,’’ Hinch said. “No more complicated than that. He’s ready, and it’s his game.’’

Remember, after Verlander defeated the Rays in Game 1, Kevin Cash said, “We got Verlander-ed.’’ It is simple and it’s also a testimony to how good the Rays are because Hinch is saying, “If you are going to beat us, you are going to have to do it in five games and go through Verlander and Cole.”

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Verlander acknowledged he has not been used in a situation like this in the last few years, saying, “Closest we came was out of the bullpen a couple years ago in Boston. I mean, the thought process is five-game series are pretty crazy and we’ve got to win. Never know what can happen. You can’t put all your eggs in one basket and say, ‘If we lose [Tuesday], we’ve got Justin and Gerrit on Game 5.’ It’s a crazy game.

“The last couple days, I’ve felt pretty good. A.J. and I have been discussing it. He made the call.’’ This series is all about Big Game starters. The Astros got it in their first two starts with Verlander and Cole throwing 14 ²/₃ innings of shutout baseball and the Rays got it Tuesday from Mr. Elimination Game, Charlie Morton, who did his winning thing once again through five innings.

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Buehler, Muncy lead Dodgers past Nats in NLDS opener

The Dodgers crushed the Nationals on the mound and at the plate, extending the supremacy that led to a franchise-record 106 victories in the regular season right on into the playoffs.

Walker Buehler allowed one hit over six innings, Max Muncy drove in three runs and Los Angeles capitalized on mistakes to beat Washington 6-0 in Game 1 of their NL Division Series on Thursday night.

”Oh, they’re good. They’re really good,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. ”That’s why they have been in the postseason so many years in a row.”

Buehler struck out eight, walked three and retired his final seven batters after earning the start over veterans Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, whose 2.32 ERA was lowest in the majors this season. ”Walker, time and time again, just knows how to temper, control his emotions and transfer that into the delivery, the execution of pitches,” expressed Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

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Washington’s Patrick Corbin stumbled through a rocky first inning.

He issued four walks, joining Art Reinhart of the St. Louis Cardinals as the only pitchers to walk that many in the first inning they ever pitched in the postseason.

Reinhart walked four – including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig – in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the 1926 World Series against the Yankees.

”That first inning was the game,” Roberts said. ”That really set the tone.”

Corbin walked three in a row with two outs in the 31-pitch inning. Yan Gomes was charged with a passed ball, too, and Muncy drew a free pass with the bases loaded to put the Dodgers in front.

”Walked a lot of guys, chased a lot of bad pitches,” Martinez said. ”When you’re walking guys and not hitting, it’s tough to win ballgames.” Corbin gave up two runs – one earned – and three hits in six innings. The left-hander struck out nine and finished with five walks.

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Dodgers to start Walker Buehler in Game 1 over Clayton Kershaw

Buehler was selected over Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu to start for the Dodgers on Thursday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series versus the Washington Nationals.

Nothing Buehler said could opaque the magnitude of news that was announced by manager Dave Roberts on the eve of the series opener.

This was more than a simple reshuffling of the rotation. This was a change of the guard. This was a shift in franchise doctrine.

The designation monopolized by Kershaw over the last decade now belongs to the slight-but-brash 25-year-old right-hander born and raised in Kentucky.

If any confusion over that remained in the wake of Buehler being named the Game 1 starter, clarity was provided by Roberts’ explanation of how the decision was made.

“We just felt that with Walker getting an opportunity to pitch the first game, also potentially a Game 5, gives us the best chance to win,” Roberts said, “regardless of opponent.” Ryu started instead of Kershaw last year in Game 1 of a NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, but that was more of a case of the front office wanting to show off its creativity. The pitchers’ rest and Kershaw’s availability to start in a potential Game 5 were contemplated.

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The decision has symbolic importance to a franchise that’s foundation is drafting and developing its own players. Selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, Buehler was the first player selected by the Dodgers under current scouting director Billy Gasparino.

Of course, that by itself doesn’t make the decision to start Buehler in Game 1 the right one. Symbolism won’t win the Dodgers a World Series. Buehler, Kershaw and Ryu pitching well might. Roberts still hasn’t revealed the order in which Kershaw and Ryu will follow Buehler in the rotation.

Starting pitching could very well determine this series.

The most dominant stretches of their 106-win season concurred with periods in which Buehler, Kershaw and Ryu routinely made six-plus- or seven-inning starts.

If they are pitching into the seventh or eighth innings of games, they should win handily.

Their recent track records could be a source of worry.

Buehler finished the season with a 14-4 record and 3.26 earned-run average, but he failed to pitch more than five innings in three of his last five starts. He posted a 4.50 ERA in September.

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