Jose Altuve, Astros Advance to World Series with ALCS Game 7 Win vs. Yankees

The Houston Astros held serve at home in the American League Championship Series, defeating the New York Yankees 4-0 in Game 7 on Saturday to clinch the franchise's second-ever trip to the World Series. 

After losing three straight games at Yankee Stadium and facing elimination coming back to Minute Maid Park, the Astros returned home to defeat the Yankees in the last two games to win the AL pennant for the first time. 

Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis both hit solo home runs. Brian McCann chipped in with a two-run double in the fifth inning to cap off Houston's offensive output. 

After winning 101 games during the regular season, the Astros will be in search of their first victory in a World Series game when they take on the Los Angeles Dodgers beginning Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

Houston's only previous trip to the Fall Classic came in 2005, when it was swept by the Chicago White Sox in four games. 

Per ESPN Stats & Info, based on the records of Houston and Los Angeles, this kind of championship matchup hasn't happened in 47 years:

The game began as a pitching duel between CC Sabathia and Charlie Morton. Both starters held the opposition scoreless through the first three innings. 

The Astros were making Sabathia work hard, especially after the former AL Cy Young winner needed just seven pitches in the first inning. He gave up at least one hit and one walk in the next three innings. 

Fortunately for Sabathia, Aaron Judge is very tall in right field. The likely 2017 AL Rookie of the Year made a spectacular defensive play for the first out in the second inning by robbing Yuli Gurriel of a home run:

It's easy to get wrapped up in Judge's prodigious power, which produced 52 home runs during the regular season, but ESPN's Jerry Crasnick noted he's also an excellent defender:

Things would remain scoreless until the fourth inning when the Astros finally broke through off Sabathia on Gattis' solo homer that just missed the Crawford Boxes in left field:

Per ESPN's Jayson Stark, Gattis had been in a power slump dating back to the middle of summer before getting Houston on the board:

Sabathia's night—and possibly his Yankees career, since he will be a free agent—ended three batters later after giving up a walk to Brian McCann and a Josh Reddick single. It was not a good two-day stretch for New York starting pitchers, as noted by Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

Going back to Game 6, there were indications the Astros offense was on the verge of ending its series-long slump. Houston exploded for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take what was a two-run game and make the final 7-1.

Mike Axisa of CBS Sports wrote about what Houston's lineup was doing in the first five games against Yankees pitching:

"The Astros, as a team, went into Game 6 hitting .147/.234/.213 in the ALCS. Altuve went hitless in Games 3-5 in New York before picking up the two-run single and solo homer in Game 6. Carlos Correa went 2 for 12 in Games 3-5 before going 2 for 4 in Game 6. McCann? He was 0 for the postseason before his double broke the scoreless tie."

After Sabathia wobbled his way through 3.2 innings, the Astros finally broke down the dam in the bottom of the fifth with three runs off reliever Tommy Kahnle.

Before Houston's offense got going, though, the defense stepped up in a big way behind Morton. After Greg Bird started the fifth inning with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch before being thrown out at the plate on a perfect throw from third baseman Alex Bregman to Brian McCann. 

MLB.com's Joe Posnanski had this assessment of what went down on Bregman's play to get Bird out and keep the score 1-0:

The Yankees' Achilles heel all season has been playing on the road. They were the only playoff team with a losing record away from home during the regular season (40-41), and they went just 1-6 away from Yankee Stadium in the postseason. 

This was the first playoff series since the 2004 NLCS, featuring the Astros and St. Louis Cardinals, in which the home team won all seven games. 

New York began the ALDS against Cleveland being shut out 4-0 when Trevor Bauer threw 36 curveballs out of his 99 pitches. That blueprint carried through to Game 7 of the ALCS for Morton and reliever Lance McCullers, per ESPN's David Schoenfield:

Even though the Yankees' young core missed out on an opportunity to reach the World Series this year, their future remains incredibly bright. Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Didi Gregorius are all under the age of 28, and they will have a full season of Sonny Gray in the rotation in 2018. 

The Astros were the best team in the AL for most of the season, despite finishing one game behind Cleveland in the overall standings. They struck gold on Aug. 31 by adding Justin Verlander to their starting rotation, pairing him with Dallas Keuchel, and closed the season by going 21-8 from Sept. 1-Oct. 1. 

Three years ago, when the Astros were in the midst of their fourth straight season with at least 90 losses, Sports Illustrated predicted they would win the 2017 World Series. 

With four more victories, the Astros will make that bold prognostication a reality. 

 

 


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Alex Cora Reportedly to Sign 3-Year Contract as Manager of Red Sox

Alex Cora's wait to become a manager in Major League Baseball is reportedly coming to an end.

According to a report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal on Saturday, Cora and the Red Sox have agreed in principle to a three-year deal once the Houston Astros' season is over.

After retiring following spring training in 2012, Cora spent four years working as an analyst for ESPN. The Astros hired him as a bench coach prior to the 2017 season.

Before working with the Astros, Cora had multiple interviews with teams over the previous few years, including the Washington Nationals, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins after the 2015 season, per Rosenthal.

Despite being well-regarded enough to get interviews before, Cora had no significant managerial experience on his resume. The 14-year MLB veteran did manage a winter ball team in Puerto Rico and was Puerto Rico's general manager for the 2017 World Baseball Classic when it reached the final before losing to Team USA.

Cora did have the support of Astros players as he sought after a managerial job.

"He's a player's guy," Astros' centerfielder George Springer told Abbey Mastracco of NJ Advanced Media on Oct. 15. "It's easy to forget how hard it is when you're not playing the game and he hasn't forgotten that. He's into the game, he's for informational and he's going to be good someday somewhere."

Cora also has the benefit of a long MLB career under his belt to understand what players need to make it through the grind of a long season and how to handle the media questions in good and bad times.

The hiring of Cora represents a shift in philosophy for the Red Sox, whose last three managers all had previous experience in the job.

It's hard to argue with the results produced by Terry Francona and John Farrell, who combined to win three World Series titles and made the playoffs nine times from 2004-17. The less said about Bobby Valentine's one-year run in 2012, the better.

Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski has never shied away from making a move if he thinks it will improve his team. Farrell was fired after the 2017 season despite winning back-to-back American League East titles.

Cora inherits an excellent situation in Boston with young talent such as Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers to build around. The pitching rotation has an excellent one-two punch in Chris Sale and David Price, assuming the latter can stay healthy in 2018 after throwing 74.2 innings last season.

The pieces are in place for Cora to succeed as a manager right away. The media in Boston does bring added pressure to the job, but he's well aware of it after playing with the Red Sox from 2005-08.


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World Series 2017: Dates, Ticket Info, Top Odds and Predictions

The 2017 World Series begins Tuesday, though we still don't know the matchup that will determine Major League Baseball's champion. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers earned their spot in the World Series Thursday night with a dominant 11-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. 

Los Angeles' opponent could be known as soon as Friday if the New York Yankees defeat the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. 

Despite not knowing the official matchup for this year's World Series, there are some things to be taken away from the postseason so far that will help build anticipation for what's going to happen. 

         

2017 World Series Schedule

Game 1 (Oct. 24): New York Yankees/Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Game 2 (Oct. 25): New York Yankees/Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Game 3 (Oct. 27): Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Yankees/Houston Astros

Game 4 (Oct. 28): Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Yankees/Houston Astros

Game 5* (Oct. 29): Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Yankees/Houston Astros

Game 6* (Oct. 31): New York Yankees/Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Game 7* (Nov. 1): New York Yankees/Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

*if necessary

         

Ticket Information: Stubhub.com

        

World Series Odds (via OddsShark.com)

Los Angeles Dodgers (-110)

New York Yankees (+190)

Houston Astros (+500)

The Dodgers clinched their first trip to the Fall Classic since 1988 by defeating the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs in five games to win the NLCS. 

This franchise has been on the cusp of breaking through over the past five seasons, reaching the NLCS in 2013 and 2016. Los Angeles has won five consecutive division titles, the longest active streak in MLB, and posted the league's best record in 2017 (104-58). 

The NL West champions had a chance to sweep their way into the World Series Wednesday against the Cubs, but Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis held Los Angeles' bats in check by allowing four hits in a 3-2 Game 4 win. 

Despite Chicago's win, the Dodgers were still in complete control of the series, as noted by Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times

"The Cubs still just had five hits, scoring all their runs on home runs," he wrote after Game 4. "They are still just batting .163 in this series. They still don't have a bullpen, because they used closer Wade Davis for 48 pitches to save their season."

Since Game 3 of the Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, pitching has been the story of Los Angeles' playoff run. Over the past six games, the Dodgers allowed nine runs in six games. 

Pitching is what made the Dodgers the best team in baseball during the regular season. They led the NL with a 3.38 ERA, including an MLB-best 3.39 ERA from their starting rotation. 

Los Angeles' offense finished 12th in MLB with 770 runs scored and 11th with 221 home runs. This isn't a lineup that is going to overpower opposing pitchers, so their rotation and bullpen have to be on point to end their 29-year championship drought. 

One thing working in their favor is whoever their AL opponent ends up being, the Houston Astros or the New York Yankees will have to play the first two games in Los Angeles. 

The Yankees hold a 3-2 series edge against the Astros heading into Friday's Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. Road games have not been kind to New York this postseason, which owns a 1-4 record away from Yankee Stadium in Houston and Cleveland. 

At home, the Yankees were an AL-best 51-30 during the season and 6-0 in the playoffs. They went 40-41 away from New York during the regular season, but the problems extend beyond just their record. 

"Aaron Judge, who struck out an unfathomable 16 times in 20 at-bats against Cleveland, was a quiet 1-for-7 in the games at Houston," wrote Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today. "Gary Sanchez went 0-for-11 in the first three games of the ALCS. Greg Bird was the only one to fare well in Houston, with a home run among his two hits in seven at-bats."

Judge, Sanchez and Bird have looked more comfortable at home than on the road this postseason. It doesn't help they have to face Justin Verlander Saturday in Game 6 after he pitched a complete game against the Yankees with 13 strikeouts.

Between starting pitching, bullpen and offense, the Yankees look like the most complete team left in the playoffs. They will need those three to start hitting away from New York if they want to add a 28th championship to their mantle. 

The Dodgers are the best team left at preventing runs. They are going to throw Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Rich Hill at whoever their AL opponent is, with Kershaw and Darvish likely being used multiple times. 

It's rare when the best team in baseball during the regular season wins the World Series. It happened last year with the Cubs, but before that, the last team with the best record outright to be crowned champion was the 2009 Yankees. 

The Dodgers will follow Chicago's example from 2016 to win their first championship since Kirk Gibson hobbled around the bases after hitting a walk-off homer against Oakland Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley 29 years ago. 

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Dodgers Advance to World Series over Cubs Behind Enrique Hernandez’s 3 HRs

For the first time since 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers will play in the World Series after defeating the Chicago Cubs, 11-1, in Game 5 of the 2017 National League Championship Series. 

Enrique Hernandez was the offensive hero for Los Angeles with three home runs and seven RBI, including a grand slam in the top of the third inning. Clayton Kershaw exorcised his playoff demons with one run allowed on three hits with five strikeouts over six innings to lead the Dodgers to their first NL pennant in 29 years. 

                   

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Dodgers Advance to World Series over Cubs Behind Enrique Hernandez’s 3 HRs

For the first time since 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers will play in the World Series after defeating the Chicago Cubs, 11-1, in Game 5 of the 2017 National League Championship Series. 

Enrique Hernandez was the offensive hero for Los Angeles with three home runs and seven RBI, including a grand slam in the top of the third inning. Clayton Kershaw exorcised his playoff demons with one run allowed on three hits with five strikeouts over six innings to lead the Dodgers to their first NL pennant in 29 years. 

                   

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Hanley Ramirez Undergoes Shoulder Surgery, Vows to Return Stronger After Injury

Boston Red Sox designated hitter Hanley Ramirez underwent shoulder surgery Tuesday, and he vowed on Twitter to come back stronger for the 2018 season:

Ramirez had an excellent 2016 campaign in a Red Sox uniform. His .866 OPS marked his best in a season since 2013, when he only played in 86 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers due to injuries.

The 33-year-old took a step back in 2017 with a .242/.320/.429 slash line and 23 home runs in 133 games. Ramirez battled injuries throughout the season, including to his oblique, hamstring and shoulders.

His bat will be crucial for the Red Sox in 2018 as they look to win a third straight American League East title and get over the hump in the playoffs after losing in the division series each of the past two seasons.

Boston is facing big questions this offseason, particularly at manager since the team fired John Farrell after the 2017 season. Ramirez's health going into next season is another question mark for the franchise, though having a procedure done now gives him four months to get ready for spring training.

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Portland, Montreal Reportedly Target Cities for MLB Expansion

Major League Baseball is reportedly looking into expansion and possible realignment that would eliminate the American and National Leagues.  

Per Tracy Ringolsby of Baseball America, Portland, Oregon, and Montreal would be the target cities if MLB decides to expand for the first time since 1998. 

Ringolsby also noted one proposal, if MLB expands to 32 teams, "would be to geographically restructure into four divisions," instead of the current two-league, six-division format.  

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said at a September news conference in Seattle that Portland "would be on a list" of potential expansion cities for the league. 

Manfred has also cited Montreal as a city of interest, and the Canadian Press reported in March that a group of investors met MLB's conditions to bring a team back to the city after the Expos left for Washington D.C. after the 2004 season. 

Ringolsby noted other elements of this potential realignment include a reduced schedule from 162 games to 156 games, with playoff teams being made up of the four division winners and the next eight teams by record playing four play-in games for the right to play the division champions. 

MLB last expanded in 1998 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who have since dropped the Devil from their nickname, bringing the league to 30 teams. 

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Marwin Gonzalez Joined Wife Noel in Hospital for Birth of 3rd Child After Game 1

Houston Astros top-level utilityman Marwin Gonzalez experienced multiple highs Friday, helping his team take a 1-0 lead over the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and going to the hospital where his wife, Noel, gave birth to the couple's third child.

Per ESPN's Scott Lauber, Gonzalez received a security escort out of Minute Maid Park following his postgame press conference to be present at a local hospital as his wife was giving birth.

Lauber noted Gonzalez jokingly said he was thinking of naming the couple's new baby boy after either Jose Altuve or Dallas Keuchel.

Before that, Gonzalez played a significant role in Houston's 2-1 win. He threw out Greg Bird at home plate after Aaron Judge singled to end the top of the fifth inning.

The Astros had just taken a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Keuchel had been cruising heading into the fifth, allowing just two singles. The left-hander finished with 10 strikeouts over seven innings.

The Yankees finally got on the board in the top of the ninth when Bird hit a solo homer off Astros closer Ken Giles, making Gonzalez's throw look even bigger in hindsight.

Gonzalez, 28, is having a year to remember. He set career highs with a .303/.377/.530 slash line and 23 home runs with 90 RBI in 134 regular-season games.

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Alex Rodriguez Says PED Suspension Cost Him His Reputation, More Than $40M

Alex Rodriguez's use of performance-enhancing drugs during his Major League Baseball career came at a high cost personally and financially.

In an interview on Undeniable with Joe Buck (via ESPN.com), Rodriguez said he lost his reputation and cost himself over $40 million in salary by taking steroids:

"Yeah, I mean there's so many frustrating things when you look back at that. Number one, you have a guaranteed contract for hundreds of millions of dollars. Literally, you can sit on the couch and get fat. Right, how stupid can you be? ... This thing cost me over $40 million. And it cost me my reputation, and it may have cost me the Hall of Fame and a number of other things."

 

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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2017 MLB Free Agents: Rumors and Predictions for Underrated Stars

This year's free-agent class in Major League Baseball is like the calm before the impending storm set to hit in the winter of 2018 when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado headline one of the most star-studded groups of all time. 

It's important to mention next year when thinking of this winter because there will likely be teams who hold off on making a big-money offer to, say, J.D. Martinez with the hope they can make an offer to get in on Harper. 

That is what makes some of the under-the-radar gems in the 2017 free-agent class so important. Teams will still be seeking upgrades, there will be money to spend, and finding a relative bargain is more valuable than ever. 

Here are the latest rumors about some of the underrated free-agent standouts this winter and where they could end up. 

             

CC Sabathia, Starting Pitcher

CC Sabathia has likely earned some extra money on his next contract with 14 strikeouts and four earned runs in two American League Division Series games against the Cleveland Indians. 

Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the New York Yankees do want to bring Sabathia back but just "on a one-year deal, if possible."

Masahiro Tanaka could be the bigger concern for the Yankees if he decides to opt out of his contract. The right-hander didn't have a banner 2017 with a 4.74 ERA and 35 homers allowed in 178.1 innings, but he got hot at the right time with 15 strikeouts in his final regular-season start against the Toronto Blue Jays and seven shutout innings against the Indians in Game 3 of the ALDS

The Yankees may have some leverage if they only want Sabathia back for 2018. He's 37 years old and is no longer as durable as he was during his prime years, making just 30 starts in a season once since 2014. His 148.2 innings pitched in 2017 was his lowest total ever in a season which he's made at least 27 starts. 

There's also the allure for Sabathia of staying in New York and playing with a talented young team that figures to remain in the playoff mix for a long time to come. 

                    

Eric Hosmer, First Baseman

The Kansas City Royals figure to be the team hit hardest by free agency with Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain poised to earn big multi-year deals. 

Among that trio, Hosmer could be the one Kansas City prioritizes and makes a significant offer to keep around. 

Per Heyman, the Royals will be "willing to make a serious offer (presumably $100 million plus)" with the hopes of enticing Hosmer to stay. 

Hosmer does have long-term ties to the Royals, who drafted him third overall in 2008 and developed him into an All-Star first baseman. He was a key piece in their two-year playoff run in 2014-15 that resulted in the franchise winning a World Series title in 2015. 

The problem for Kansas City is Hosmer's coming off a career year in 2017 with a .318/.385/.498 slash line and tied his career high with 25 home runs. It also hurts that his agent is Scott Boras, who is a master at negotiating the biggest possible deal for his clients.

Heyman did list the Yankees and Boston Red Sox as potential suitors, though Greg Bird's late-season surge has likely earned him favor in New York. The Red Sox will need an upgrade at first base with Mitch Moreland set to become a free agent and Hanley Ramirez likely limited to designated-hitter duties. 

The Royals tried to make one more playoff run with their talented trio in 2017, instead of trading any of them for future assets in July at the deadline. It didn't pay off and the risk is a long-term rebuild with maybe all three of Hosmer, Cain and Moustakas leaving. 

Hosmer may be Kansas City's preferred choice to stay by making him a long-term offer, but the odds are stacked against the Royals in getting him to accept. 

                

Greg Holland, Closer

After missing the entire 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Greg Holland had a terrific comeback campaign in 2017 as a member of the Colorado Rockies. 

The 31-year-old tied for the National League lead with 41 saves, posted a 3.61 ERA in 61 games and had 70 strikeouts in 57.1 innings with the Rockies. 

Because of Holland's success last season, Heyman reported he's going to leave a $15 million option for 2018 with the goal of securing a big long-term contract. 

"Word is, with the new emphasis on the bullpen, (Boras) believes it's time for an explosion of salaries for bullpen stars," Heyman wrote.

Boras and Holland are taking a significant risk with this move. Holland's overall performance in 2017 was strong, but he was bad in the second half with a 6.38 ERA and 1.333 WHIP in 24 innings. 

With Holland having already undergone Tommy John surgery and being over the age of 30, finding a team to invest multiple years with an average salary in the neighborhood of the $15 million he will reportedly leave on the table seems like a stretch. 

The biggest thing working in Holland's favor is he does have the proven closer label attached to his name, and desperate teams seeking help in the back of their bullpen may be inclined to pay extra for his past performance instead of what he will do in the future. 

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Masahiro Tanaka Named Yankees’ ALCS Game 1 Starter vs. Astros

After a thrilling five-game series against the Cleveland Indians, the New York Yankees will begin the American League Championship Series with Masahiro Tanaka starting Game 1 against the Houston Astros on Friday.

The Yankees announced Tanaka as their Game 1 starter:

 

The obvious choices for Yankees manager Joe Girardi in Game 1 were Tanaka and Sonny Gray, who started the first game against the Indians on Oct. 5. 

Gray had the stronger overall season with a 3.55 ERA, 153 strikeouts and 139 hits allowed in 162.1 innings with the Yankees and Oakland Athletics

However, Gray had his struggles down the stretch with a 4.58 ERA and 14 walks in six September starts. He also struggled with his command against Cleveland last week with four walks and three earned runs in 3.1 innings. 

Tanaka has made everyone forget his 4.74 ERA in 2017 with back-to-back dominant outings. He struck out 15 Toronto Blue Jays in seven shutout innings on Sept. 29 and allowed three hits with seven strikeouts in seven shutout innings in Game 3 against Cleveland to keep New York's season alive.

The Yankees and Astros will open the ALCS at Minute Maid Park on Friday with first pitch scheduled for 8:08 p.m. ET.

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Gio Gonzalez Named Nationals Game 5 Starter vs. Cubs in NLDS over Tanner Roark

Facing the Chicago Cubs in the decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series Thursday, the Washington Nationals will use Gio Gonzalez as their starting pitcher.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker announced Gonzalez as his starter for the winner-take-all game, per MLB.com

 

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Joe Girardi Admits He ‘Screwed Up’ Not Challenging HBP in Game vs. Indians

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi is taking responsibility for not challenging a controversial hit-by-pitch call against Cleveland Indians pinch hitter Lonnie Chisenhall during Friday's American League Division Series Game 2. 

"I take responsibility for everything, and I feel horrible about it," Girardi said on Saturday, via MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. "I screwed up. It's hard. It's a hard day for me. But I've got to move forward, and we'll be ready to go tomorrow."

The call came in the bottom of the sixth inning with Chisenhall down 0-2 in the count. Yankees reliever Chad Green threw a pitch that appeared to hit the knob of Chisenhall's bat and into the glove of catcher Gary Sanchez, which would have been a strikeout and ended the inning. 

Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna ruled Chisenhall was hit by the pitch, awarded him first base and loaded the bases for Cleveland. Francisco Lindor hit a grand slam two pitches later that cut New York's lead to 8-7. 

Girardi said after the game Friday he decided not to challenge the call because he didn't want to take Green out of his rhythm while the umpires took the time to review the play, via ESPN.com's Andrew Marchand.

The Indians tied the game in the eighth inning on Jay Bruce's solo home run and won it when Yan Gomes' single scored Austin Jackson in the 13th inning. 

Cleveland holds a 2-0 series advantage over the Yankees with Game 3 scheduled for Sunday at Yankee Stadium. 

 

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Joe Girardi Says He Didn’t Want to Ruin Chad Green’s Rhythm by Challenging HBP

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the decision not to challenge a controversial hit-by-pitch call against Cleveland Indians pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall was the result of wanting to keep relief pitcher Chad Green in rhythm.

Speaking after Friday's 9-8 loss to the Indians in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Girardi explained his reasoning for not challenging the sixth-inning call. 

"I think about the rhythm and never want to take a pitcher out of rhythm and have them stand over there to tell me he wasn't hit," Girardi said, via ESPN's Andrew Marchand.

 

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Ariel Prieto, Diamondbacks Fined for Wearing Apple Watch vs. Rockies

Major League Baseball has issued a fine to the Arizona Diamondbacks and coach Ariel Prieto after he wore an Apple Watch during Wednesday's 11-8 win over the Colorado Rockies in the National League Wild Card Game at Chase Field in Phoenix.      

The league issued a statement Friday saying it found no evidence Prieto used the watch to gain a competitive advantage but wearing it was a violation of on-field rules, via NBC Sports' Craig Calcaterra

"MLB found no evidence that Mr. Prieto used the Apple Watch or cellphone for any purpose in the dugout, nor any baseball-related communication on either device, during Wednesday's game. Despite these findings, Mr. Prieto violated MLB's on-field regulation by having this device in the dugout. As a result, Mr. Prieto and the D-backs have each been fined an undisclosed amount. The amount of the fines will in turn be donated by the Office of the Commissioner to hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico."

On Thursday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported MLB was beginning an investigation into a photo of Prieto wearing what appeared to be an electronic watch during the Wild Card Game.

The Diamondbacks issued a statement following the report, via MLB.com's Steve Gilbert:

"Ariel Prieto has assured us that this was a simple oversight and honest mistake. The watch he wore last night was absolutely not used in any way related to our game, and we will make certain prior to the NLDS that it will not be an issue again. Ariel takes full responsibility and feels terrible that this has been a distraction of any kind."

In September, the league fined the Boston Red Sox after it determined they used an Apple Watch to try to steal signs during a series against the New York Yankees.  

The D-backs hired Prieto as a coach and translator in 2015. The 47-year-old pitched six seasons in MLB with the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Devil Rays from 1995-2001.

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MLB Prospect Bubba Derby Discusses Protecting 2 Girls During Las Vegas Shooting

Milwaukee Brewers minor leaguer Bubba Derby helped to protect two women during the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Sunday in Las Vegas that ended when a shooter opened fire on the crowd from the Mandalay Bay Hotel. 

Speaking to TMZ Sports about the shooting, Derby said he "ended up kinda covering two girls that we had met" at the festival. 

"We were just trying to cover from any kind of fire coming around," he said. "You could hear the bullets ricochet off the ground. We were on the grass area, so you could kinda hear them hitting the grass and hitting the stage."

According to CNN.com, the attack in Las Vegas is the deadliest mass shooting in United States history with at least 59 people killed and at least 527 people injured. 

During a conference call Monday (via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), Derby said "the first thing I did was look for my family" and that he "tried to get as low to the ground as possible" when the shooting started.

A 23-year-old right-handed pitcher, Derby was a sixth-round pick by the Oakland Athletics in 2015. He was traded to the Brewers in February 2016 as part of a package for outfielder Khris Davis. 

 

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Terry Collins Reportedly to Resign as Mets Manager, Move to Front Office Role

After seven seasons as manager of the New York Mets, 68-year-old Terry Collins is expected to announce his resignation.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, he will announce his decision after Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies. He is expected to move to a front office role with the organization.

Collins agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Mets in November 2015 on the heels of the team's run to the World Series, where they lost to the Kansas City Royals

The wheels fell off for the Mets in 2017. Injuries to Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler took away any hopes the team had of competing for a playoff spot. 

It has been expected that Collins would not be back with the Mets next season once his contract expired at the end of the 2017 regular season, though it wasn't clear how his departure would be handled. 

Mike Puma of the New York Post reported Tuesday the Mets were already plotting their move to hire a new manager as soon as this season ended:

"Barring a last-minute change of heart by Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon, the 68-year-old Collins will be informed by team brass as early as Monday that his contract won't be renewed for next season. Collins may then say he is retiring, sparing Wilpon and general manager Sandy Alderson from having to publicly announce the separation as a firing or decision not to renew the manager's contract."

Collins did not end his managing tenure with the Mets on a high note with a 70-91 record this season, but his seven-year stint with the franchise did bring success back to the team after it missed the playoffs every season from 2007-14. 

Managing in New York will always be an attractive option because the market commands so much attention and Mets ownership is capable of spending money to supplement the roster. 

Whoever gets the job next will still have a tremendous pitching staff to work with as well as young offensive talent to build around in the next year or two. This season was a mess, but ownership and the front office should get a fresh start in 2018. 

The Mets were Collins' third managerial job in Major League Baseball. He posted a winning record in each of his three seasons with the Houston Astros from 1994-96 and went 220-237 in three seasons with the Anaheim Angels from 1997-99. 

Collins' greatest success as a manager came with the Mets. He led the franchise to two playoff appearances, including their first trip to the World Series since 2000. 

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2017 MLB Free Agents: Top Rumors Before Regular Season Ends

As 10 teams continue their preparations for the postseason and winning a World Series, the rest of Major League Baseball has its sights set on what is going to happen this offseason when free agency hits.

This year's class is much better than the 2016-17 crop, which featured Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion and Dexter Fowler at the top. Starting pitchers Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish and outfielders Lorenzo Cain and J.D. Martinez are among those seeking long-term contracts.

While it's still early, and it will be months before the free-agent puzzle comes into focus, here's a rumor roundup of what could happen this winter.

             

Royals Eye Hosmer's Return

The Kansas City Royals tried to make one more playoff push with their nucleus of Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer in 2017. They came up short, leaving them in position to start next season without their three best position players.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports did offer some hope that at least one member of Kansas City's free-agent trio could get an enticing offer to return:

"Word is, they are willing to make a serious offer (presumably $100 million plus) to Hosmer, though they expect some big-market competition, perhaps from the Boston Red Sox, possibly the New York Yankees, or others. The Royals can't be sure they can outbid interested big-market teams, but they put a high value on Hosmer."

This isn't a foreign scenario for the Royals. They appeared to be on the verge of losing Alex Gordon after the 2015 season before he decided to re-sign after receiving a four-year, $72 million contract. 

Gordon, like Hosmer, was drafted and developed by the Royals. Hosmer has been a key part of the franchise since his debut in 2011, including winning a World Series in 2015, and he is going to finish this season with a career-best slash line that sits at .319/.385/.496.

The Royals are in danger of paying a player after a career year, but their potential lineup without Hosmer, Cain and Moustakas is scary to think about. Even with that trio this year, they still rank 23rd in runs scored.

Hosmer and Cain are the only Royals regulars with an on-base percentage over .330 this season. They will have a lot of holes to fill anyway this offseason, so making a serious play to entice Hosmer is in their best interest.

           

Indians Keep Tabs on Santana

While the Cleveland Indians have their full attention on finishing the job in the playoffs this year after coming up one win short of a championship last season, their biggest offseason question revolves around first baseman Carlos Santana.

Per Heyman, the American League Central champions want to bring Santana back but it's "just a matter of finances."

Santana is making $12 million in the final season of a six-year deal he signed in 2012. The 31-year-old is hitting a solid .263/.367/.464 with 23 home runs in 2017.

He's also quietly turned himself into an excellent defensive first baseman. The Dominican is tied with the Boston Red Sox's Mitch Moreland for the AL lead with nine defensive runs saved at the position, per FanGraphs.

The Indians aren't traditionally a big-spending team, but with their championship window squarely open, ownership has been more willing than ever to open the pocketbook. They are spending a franchise-record $124.1 million in payroll this season, per Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Cleveland took a big swing last offseason by signing Encarnacion to a three-year contract worth $60 million. He's been a key piece in the middle of the lineup, with 38 home runs and 104 RBI.

Santana remains an essential piece of the batting order. His history with the team could be enough to get them something of a hometown discount. It also helps Cleveland's case that there are many first baseman, including Hosmer, Moreland, Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison, available for teams to bid on.

It still seems like a long shot that Cleveland will be able to keep extending its payroll beyond its position, but another deep postseason run could be enough to convince ownership it's worth keeping the core intact for as long as possible.

                 

Harvey Staying in New York

Despite having the worst season of his MLB career, Matt Harvey is expected to return to the New York Mets in 2018.

Per Heyman, New York "will indeed tender" Harvey a contract for next season.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson previously told Mike Puma of the New York Post it was "highly unlikely" the team would non-tender Harvey.

"We saw some positive things the other day," Alderson said. "Hopefully we can build on those. The velocity was a little better. He just needs some confidence, and we're going to keep running him out there and see what happens toward the end of the season. But let's not assume the worst."

Harvey has fallen off a cliff since helping the Mets reach the World Series in 2015. The 28-year-old has a 5.71 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and 214 hits allowed in 181.1 innings pitched since the start of last season.

Injuries have played a big role in Harvey's decline. He has only made 35 appearances dating back to the start of the 2016 season, and he's never made 30 regular-season starts in a campaign since making his MLB debut in 2012.

Harvey is making $5.125 million this season, his second year of arbitration. He will get a raise in 2018 because the arbitration process is such that a player rarely, if ever, gets a reduced deal from the previous year.

The right-hander's raise will be modest, at best. The Mets found out the hard way this year how valuable just having depth in the rotation can be. At various points in 2017, their disabled list included Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo.

There's no reason to think the 2015 version of Harvey, who had a 2.71 ERA, will come back. The Mets will be happy if he can turn himself into a league-average pitcher next season, lining up behind a healthy Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom in the rotation.

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MLB Names World Series MVP Award After Willie Mays

Major League Baseball announced on Friday that the World Series MVP award will be named after Hall of Famer Willie Mays.

Per MLB Communications on Twitter, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the "annual recognition will forever celebrate the life and career of a legend of the National Pastime."

 

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Minnesota Twins Clinch Playoff Berth for 2017 MLB Postseason

The Minnesota Twins clinched a postseason berth Wednesday by virtue of the Los Angeles Angels' 6-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox, capping off one of the best single-season turnarounds in Major League Baseball history.

This marks the franchise's first postseason appearance since 2010. The Twins know they will play in the American League Wild Card game on Oct. 3, a showdown that will likely come against the New York Yankees barring a stunning collapse by the Boston Red Sox.

Boston's magic number to clinch the American League East is two following Wednesday's 10-7 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Twins went an MLB-worst 59-103 last season, finishing 35.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central. It was the first time Minnesota has lost at least 100 games in a season since 1982.

No team in MLB history has gone from at least 100 losses to the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

Twins manager Paul Molitor said coming into Tuesday's game against the Indians he didn't want his team to get ahead of themselves thinking about the postseason.

"I think part of your job as manager is guarding against being comfortable," he said, via MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger. "You don't want to add pressure or anything like that. Comfortable is when you don a T-shirt and a cap and say you're going to play next week. That's the moment we're trying to get to, but we're not there yet."

Defense has been the biggest year-to-year improvement for the Twins. They went from 28th in MLB with minus-49 defensive runs saved last season to 15th with 11 defensive runs saved in 2017, per FanGraphs.

The lineup, featuring young stars like Byron Buxton and Max Kepler with veterans Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer, has also been much better. To date, they've piled up 798 runs after managing 722 all of last season.

Third baseman Miguel Sano was having a breakout season. He was named to the American League All-Star team and has a .267/.256/.514 slash line in 111 games, though he hasn't played since Aug. 11 due to a stress reaction in his shin.

Even though the Twins are uncertain if Sano will be back for the postseason, they have been able to keep up their stellar play for six weeks without him to keep their championship hopes alive.

In a season that saw the Dodgers have the best 50-game stretch in MLB history and Indians set a new AL record with 22 straight wins, the Twins quietly went about their business to complete a historic turnaround.

Now, the Twins have the opportunity to celebrate their postseason berth and get ready to make a run at their first World Series title since 1991.

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