Category Archives: MLB

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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Brewers look to wrap up playoff berth vs. Reds

The Milwaukee Brewers aim to punch their ticket to the postseason for the second straight year on Wednesday when they play the second contest of a three-game series against the host Cincinnati Reds.

Milwaukee (87-70) posted its fifth straight win and 16th in 18 outings with a 4-2 victory over Cincinnati (73-84) on Tuesday. The Brewers moved five games ahead of the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets for the final wild-card spot in the National League.

A Milwaukee win on Wednesday or losses by Chicago (versus Pittsburgh) and New York (against Miami) would clinch a playoff berth for the Brewers, although manager Craig Counsell admitted he has an eye on the NL Central title as well. The Brewers reside 2 1/2 games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, who fell 3-2 in a 19-inning marathon at Arizona on Tuesday.

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“I think we’re scoreboard-watching now, and we’re seeing what goes on in those other games,” Counsell said. “We’ll see what goes on in Pittsburgh and see what goes on in Arizona, too.”

Another stellar September has paved the way for Milwaukee, which rode a sizzling final month of the season in 2018 all the way to within one win of a World Series appearance.

“They’ve recognized what’s at stake,” Counsell said. “I think the common theme in both cases is we were chasing something, and that’s lent some urgency to everything we’ve done. And I think our players have responded really well to that sense of urgency.”

The Reds are dealing with a number of illnesses, with infielder Freddy Galvis, utility man Josh VanMeter and right-handers Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson and Keury Mella under the weather. “I think mine was just like a cold,” Cincinnati manager David Bell said after he fell ill last month. “I don’t think I had it as bad as those guys.”

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Dodger’s Adrian Gonzalez season over due to back injury

The Los Angeles Dodgers shut down Adrian Gonzalez for the rest of the 2017 MLB season Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez reported Wednesday. As a result of the move, Gonzalez will be out for the postseason as well. According to SportsNet LA’s Alanna Rizzo, Gonzalez’s back tightened up following the Dodgers’ 9-2 win over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night. Gonzalez went 2-for-4 and hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, which proved to be his final at-bat of the season.

This is another setback for the first baseman after he was transferred to the 60-day disabled list earlier in the season with a back injury. While he slashed .285/.349/.435 with 18 home runs and 90 RBI last season and is a five-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger, Gonzalez hasn’t been the same dominant force he was in his prime during the 2017 campaign. He finishes the year with three home runs, 30 RBI and a .242 batting average, although the Dodgers have still managed to string together a head-turning season and run away with the National League West.

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Los Angeles relied on Cody Bellinger to occupy first base when Gonzalez was previously out and will likely do the same moving forward after this latest setback.

While Gonzalez is one of the better players of his generation, the Dodgers still have more than enough in their potent lineup to compete for a World Series crown even if he is forced to miss significant time.

The Dodgers expect Gonzalez to return at 100 percent in 2018, but for now, the journey into the postseason continues. Los Angeles has clinched the best record in MLB, and it will own home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Dodgers will face the Wild Card winner in the NLDS. The Diamondbacks have already qualified for the Wild Card matchup, while the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals are still mathematically alive for the second spot.

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