World Series 2017: Astros vs. Dodgers Early Odds, Schedule and Preview

After the Houston Astros' 4-0 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, the World Series is officially set as the Los Angeles Dodgers prepare to host the 'Stros in Game 1.

This will mark the first time the Astros and Dodgers have met in the World Series and the first time Houston has reached the World Series since relocating from the National League to the American League.

The Astros and Dodgers have both experienced lengthy droughts in terms of making it to the Fall Classic, which creates a fresh feeling surrounding the series.

Here is everything you need to know about when and how to watch the 2017 World Series, as the Astros vie for their first championship in franchise history and the Dodgers hope to secure their first since 1988.

     

World Series Odds (via Westgate Las Vegas' Jeff Sherman)

Dodgers: -140

Astros: +120

Current as of Saturday, Oct. 21. Check OddsShark for continually updated odds.

     

World Series Schedule

Game 1 (Tuesday, Oct. 24): Astros at Dodgers, 8:09 p.m. ET, Fox

Game 2 (Wednesday, Oct. 25): Astros at Dodgers, 8:09 p.m. ET, Fox

Game 3 (Friday, Oct. 27): Dodgers at Astros, 8:09 p.m. ET, Fox

Game 4 (Saturday, Oct. 28): Dodgers at Astros, 8:09 p.m. ET, Fox

Game 5* (Sunday, Oct. 29): Dodgers at Astros, 8:16 p.m. ET, Fox

Game 6* (Tuesday, Oct. 31): Astros at Dodgers, 8:09 p.m. ET, Fox

Game 7* (Wednesday, Nov. 1): Astros at Dodgers, 8:10 p.m. ET, Fox

* denotes if necessary

     

The Dodgers led Major League Baseball with 104 wins during the regular season and were atop the league for much of the season, but the Astros were never far behind, finishing with 101 victories.

L.A. has lost just one postseason game thus far, while Houston has had to overcome some adversity, including blowing a 2-0 lead over the Yankees in the ALCS before overcoming a 3-2 series deficit to win in seven games.

There is nationwide appeal when it comes to the 2017 World Series, as the Astros and Dodgers play in two of the biggest markets in the United States.

Even so, there is a certain charm attached to both teams since many of their best players are homegrown and not bought off the free-agent market.

That is true of the Astros, as AL MVP candidate Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa, third baseman Alex Bregman and outfielder George Springer were drafted or signed as amateurs.

As for the Dodgers, first baseman Cody Bellinger, shortstop Corey Seager and starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw have all been drafted and developed too.

There are many similarities between the Dodgers and Astros, as they both boast starting rotations bolstered by aces who have thrived in these playoffs, in addition to deep, powerful lineups that can light up the scoreboard at will.

The Dodgers have a pitching advantage overall since their starting four of Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood trumps that of Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr.

Verlander has been the most dominant of them all, though, as he joined an exclusive list after shutting down the Yankees twice in the ALCS, per Elias Sports Bureau (h/t ESPN Stats & Info):

Houston ranked second in Major League Baseball during the regular season with 238 home runs, led by Springer's 34 and 24 apiece from Altuve and Correa.

The Dodgers are no slouches in that department either, as six players hit at least 20 home runs during the regular season, including Bellinger and his 39.

Outfielder Enrique Hernandez had just 11 dingers, but he crushed three to go along with seven RBI in Game 5 of the NLCS, becoming the first player in postseason history to accomplish that feat, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

There isn't much separation between the Dodgers and Astros, which suggests a seven-game series could be in store with a razor-thin margin for error.

As MLB.com's Mike Petriello pointed out, the Dodgers may have the advantage because of the fact that the ALCS went seven games, whereas L.A. beat the Chicago Cubs in five in the NLCS:

The biggest key may be the performance of the bullpens since Los Angeles has a significant edge in that regard during the playoffs thus far.

The Dodgers are led by closer Kenley Jansen and have a 0.94 bullpen ERA, which is best among all playoff teams.

That, coupled with L.A.'s knack for coming through in the clutch with big, two-out hits late in games, gives the Dodgers the slightest of advantages in their pursuit of a seventh World Series title.

Prediction: Dodgers in seven

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Pitching Coaches Chris Bosio, Dave Righetti Reportedly Fired by Cubs, Giants

The Chicago Cubs' Chris Bosio and the San Francisco Giants' Dave Righetti, both pitching coaches for their respective teams, were reportedly fired Saturday.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Bosio's ouster, while ESPN.com confirmed a report by FanRag Sports' Robert Murray that Righetti will transition to a front office role with the organization.

Bosio had been Chicago's pitching coach since 2012, and was in charge of the staff that led the Cubs to a World Series title last season.

According to Nightengale, Cubs manager Joe Maddon is considering replacing Bosio with Jim Hickey, who served as the Tampa Bay Rays' pitching coach from 2006 through 2017 and was the pitching coach in Tampa for Maddon's entire tenure as manager with the organization before leaving for the Cubs.

After leading Major League Baseball with a 3.15 ERA during the 2016 regular season, the Cubs dipped to seventh in 2017 at 3.95.

They also posted a 4.52 ERA during the playoffs, and the bullpen struggled mightily with the exception of closer Wade Davis.

Righetti had been San Francisco's pitching coach since 2000, helping lead the Giants to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

The 2017 campaign was a nightmarish one for the Giants from top to bottom, however, as they finished 64-98 and missed the playoffs.

Missing ace starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner for a large chunk of the season due to injury, the Giants ranked 16th in Major League Baseball in team ERA at 4.50.

In addition to their coaching exploits, Bosio and Righetti both have extensive resumes as Major League pitchers.

Bosio was primarily a starter from 1986 through 1996 with the Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners, posting a career record of 94-93 with a 3.96 ERA.

Righetti was a two-time All-Star, two-time Rolaids Reliever of the Year and an American League Rookie of the Year who pitched 16 seasons with the New York Yankees, Giants, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox.

He transitioned from a starter to a reliever and finished his career with an 82-79 record, 252 saves and a 3.46 ERA.

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MLB Playoffs 2017: Updated Championship Series, Bracket, Schedule, Predictions

There's nothing quite like playoff baseball, and there is no denying the fact that the American League and National League Championship Series have lived up to their advanced billing thus far.

The four biggest markets in the United States are in the mix to reach the World Series, and both series have featured wild momentum swings creating doubt regarding precisely what Fall Classic fans will bear witness to.

Here is a rundown of the remaining schedule for both the ALCS and NLCS, as well as predictions for which team will prevail in each series.

      

ALCS Schedule (Yankees lead 3-2)

Game 6: Friday, Oct. 20 at 8:08 p.m. ET, Yankees at Astros

Game 7 (if necessary): Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8:08 p.m. ET, Yankees at Astros

     

NLCS Schedule (Dodgers lead 3-1)

Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 19 at 8:08 p.m. ET, Dodgers at Cubs

Game 6 (if necessary): Saturday, Oct. 21 at 4:08 p.m. ET, Cubs at Dodgers

Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, Oct. 22 at 7:38 p.m. ET, Cubs at Dodgers

     

Astros vs. Yankees Predictions

Much like in the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians, the New York Yankees appeared to be dead in the water in the ALCS after falling behind 2-0 to the Houston Astros.

A trip to the Big Apple cured all of the Yanks' ills, however, and they now hold a 3-2 series advantage with the action shifting back to Houston.

New York has momentum firmly on its side following an 8-1 win in Game 3, a stirring 6-4 win in Game 4 that saw it erase a 4-0 deficit late and a 5-0 triumph in Game 5.

As pointed out by ESPN Stats & Info, though, the Yankees have been a much different team home and away during this postseason:

They have the advantage of needing just one win in two opportunities, but the Bronx Bombers will be faced with a huge challenge in Game 6 in the form of Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander.

Verlander shut the Yanks down in Game 2 to the tune of a complete-game, five-hit, one-walk, one-run, 13-strikeout performance.

Although the Astros' prolific offense has plated just nine runs in five games thus far, they aren't likely to need many runs in Game 6 if Verlander turns in a similar showing.

Houston has a leg up in Game 6 despite the do-or-die situation, but it would shift back to the Yankees' favor in a potential Game 7.

While the Yanks are 1-4 on the road during the playoffs, that one win was a huge one with New York beating the Indians in Game 5 of the ALDS to advance.

Also, Yanks third baseman Todd Frazier somewhat downplayed Houston's home-field advantage in comparison to what New York experienced at Yankee Stadium, per Joe Rivera of Sporting News:

The Game 7 pitching matchup isn't yet set in stone, but the Yankees would almost certainly utilize CC Sabathia with the Astros likely turning to Charlie Morton.

Houston could go with Lance McCullers Jr. on short rest, but based on its bullpen's struggles, that would be a significant risk.

New York battered Morton for seven runs in 3.2 innings in Game 3, while Sabathia went six strong, allowing just three hits and no runs.

Sabathia is no stranger to high-pressure situations in the playoffs, and he has pitched great in the 2017 postseason thus far with a 2.30 ERA and .186 batting average against.

Also, if either Game 6 or Game 7 becomes a bullpen game, it gives the Yanks a significant upper hand.

With so much tilted in New York's favor at this juncture, the pieces are in place for a Game 7 win and 41st trip to the World Series in franchise history.

     

Dodgers vs. Cubs Predictions

The reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs lived to fight another day Wednesday when they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLCS and staved off elimination.

Still, Chicago is in dire straits needing three more wins in a row to have an opportunity to defend its World Series title.

One thing that bodes well for the Cubs is the fact that they have come through in the clutch with their backs against the wall dating back to last year's playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Joe Maddon's club plays its best when the stakes are highest, but the Dodgers have been a well-oiled machine to this point.

Wednesday marked their first loss of the playoffs, and it was only a one-run margin of defeat despite Cubs shortstop Javier Baez's heroics with two home runs.

On top of that, the Cubs burned their only reliable bullpen option in Game 4 with closer Wade Davis going two innings and throwing 48 pitches.

That means Chicago will have to find other options late in Game 5 unless starter Jose Quintana is able to go the distance.

A complete game is unlikely against the Dodgers' lineup, however, considering how patient they have been at the plate throughout the series, per Ned Colletti of SportsNet LA:

Ace Clayton Kershaw's playoff struggles are no secret, but the Dodgers are in a good spot with their perennial Cy Young Award candidate on the mound in Game 5 with a chance to punch their ticket to the World Series for the first time since 1988.

Los Angeles can play free and easy in Game 5 knowing it will have two more chances to close out the series at home in the event of a loss Thursday.

Giving the Cubs any hope is a dangerous proposition, though, as the Indians learned after taking a 3-1 lead in the World Series last year.

With Kershaw on the bump and the likes of Justin Turner, Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig swinging hot bats for the Dodgers, however, they will take care of business at Wrigley Field in Game 5 and await the winner of the ALCS.

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Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor HRs Push Dodgers to 1-0 NLCS Lead over Cubs

On the strength of a go-ahead, solo home run by outfielder Chris Taylor in the sixth inning and an insurance homer by Yasiel Puig in the seventh, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-2 on Saturday in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium in L.A.  

Although the Dodgers got just five innings out of ace Clayton Kershaw, five relievers combined to throw four innings of no-hit baseball in the victory.

Kershaw allowed four hits, one walk and two earned runs to go along with four strikeouts in the no decision, while Cubs starter Jose Quintana gave up two hits, two walks and two earned runs with four strikeouts in his five innings of work.

Kenta Maeda was the winning pitcher for the Dodgers, Hector Rondon took the loss for the Cubs, and Kenley Jansen was credited with the save.

Although the Dodgers flipped the script in comparison to Game 1 of last year's NLCS against the Cubs by coming out on top, things looked ominous for L.A. in the fourth inning.

Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. connected with a two-run home run off Kershaw to put the Cubs ahead 2-0, as seen in this video courtesy of Fox Sports MLB:

The homer was the first extra-base hit of Almora's postseason career, but it marked a continuation of his success against lefties, as he hit a scorching .342 off them during the regular season.

Chris Emma of 670 The Score noted how far the 23-year-old has come:

In stark contrast, the home run was another black mark on Kershaw's checkered playoff resume, as he became the first pitcher in Dodgers history to allow five homers in a single postseason, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Kershaw's offense picked him up in the following inning, though, when Puig cut the deficit to 2-1 with an RBI double and shortstop Charlie Culberson tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

It was a big moment for Culberson, who started in place of the injured Corey Seager after it was announced earlier in the day that Seager was being left off the NLCS roster because of a back ailment.

After the Culberson sac fly, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pinch hit for Kershaw with catcher Kyle Farmer.

Farmer grounded out and left a man in scoring position, but MLB.com's Mike Petriello praised the decision to pinch hit in that situation:

While the move didn't pay dividends in that moment, the Dodgers bullpen made Roberts look like a genius by locking down the Cubs the rest of the way.

They also benefited from Taylor's big bat, as he put Los Angeles on top 3-2 in the sixth with a solo shot off Rondon, who replaced Quintana:

The Dodgers added to their advantage in the seventh when Puig led off the inning by cranking the first home run of his playoff career:

Puig has been an offensive catalyst for the Dodgers during these playoffs, which seemed unlikely as recently as one year ago.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times pointed out that it wasn't long ago that Puig had fallen out of favor with the organization:

Another important insurance run was tacked on later in the inning when Culberson scored on a Justin Turner single.

Culberson was initially ruled out, but upon review, it was determined that Cubs catcher Willson Contreras blocked the plate with his leg and did not provide Culberson a lane, so he was called safe.

That decision incensed Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who was tossed from the contest after arguing.

After the game, Maddon expressed dismay with the rule, but didn't blame the umpires for their decision, according to ESPN.com's Jesse Rogers:

"I cannot disagree more with the interpretation of the rule, however, I will defend the umpires. The umpires did everything according to what they've been told. From day one, I've disagreed with the content of the rule. That was a beautifully done major league play that gets interpreted tantamount to the soda tax in Chicago."

The three-run cushion was more than the Dodgers needed to hold on to the victory with Tony Watson getting two outs in the eighth and Jansen recording the final four outs of the ballgame.

Los Angeles improved to 4-0 in the playoffs after sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS, and its struggles late in the regular season appear to be a thing of the past.

The Dodgers will have an opportunity to take a commanding 2-0 series lead on the defending World Series champions Sunday when Rich Hill takes the mound to contest Jon Lester.

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Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor HRs Push Dodgers to 1-0 NLCS Lead over Cubs

On the strength of a go-ahead, solo home run by outfielder Chris Taylor in the sixth inning and an insurance homer by Yasiel Puig in the seventh, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-2 on Saturday in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium in L.A.  

Although the Dodgers got just five innings out of ace Clayton Kershaw, five relievers combined to throw four innings of no-hit baseball in the victory.

Kershaw allowed four hits, one walk and two earned runs to go along with four strikeouts in the no decision, while Cubs starter Jose Quintana gave up two hits, two walks and two earned runs with four strikeouts in his five innings of work.

Kenta Maeda was the winning pitcher for the Dodgers, Hector Rondon took the loss for the Cubs, and Kenley Jansen was credited with the save.

Although the Dodgers flipped the script in comparison to Game 1 of last year's NLCS against the Cubs by coming out on top, things looked ominous for L.A. in the fourth inning.

Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. connected with a two-run home run off Kershaw to put the Cubs ahead 2-0, as seen in this video courtesy of Fox Sports MLB:

The homer was the first extra-base hit of Almora's postseason career, but it marked a continuation of his success against lefties, as he hit a scorching .342 off them during the regular season.

Chris Emma of 670 The Score noted how far the 23-year-old has come:

In stark contrast, the home run was another black mark on Kershaw's checkered playoff resume, as he became the first pitcher in Dodgers history to allow five homers in a single postseason, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Kershaw's offense picked him up in the following inning, though, when Puig cut the deficit to 2-1 with an RBI double and shortstop Charlie Culberson tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

It was a big moment for Culberson, who started in place of the injured Corey Seager after it was announced earlier in the day that Seager was being left off the NLCS roster because of a back ailment.

After the Culberson sac fly, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pinch hit for Kershaw with catcher Kyle Farmer.

Farmer grounded out and left a man in scoring position, but MLB.com's Mike Petriello praised the decision to pinch hit in that situation:

While the move didn't pay dividends in that moment, the Dodgers bullpen made Roberts look like a genius by locking down the Cubs the rest of the way.

They also benefited from Taylor's big bat, as he put Los Angeles on top 3-2 in the sixth with a solo shot off Rondon, who replaced Quintana:

The Dodgers added to their advantage in the seventh when Puig led off the inning by cranking the first home run of his playoff career:

Puig has been an offensive catalyst for the Dodgers during these playoffs, which seemed unlikely as recently as one year ago.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times pointed out that it wasn't long ago that Puig had fallen out of favor with the organization:

Another important insurance run was tacked on later in the inning when Culberson scored on a Justin Turner single.

Culberson was initially ruled out, but upon review, it was determined that Cubs catcher Willson Contreras blocked the plate with his leg and did not provide Culberson a lane, so he was called safe.

That decision incensed Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who was tossed from the contest after arguing.

After the game, Maddon expressed dismay with the rule, but didn't blame the umpires for their decision, according to ESPN.com's Jesse Rogers:

"I cannot disagree more with the interpretation of the rule, however, I will defend the umpires. The umpires did everything according to what they've been told. From day one, I've disagreed with the content of the rule. That was a beautifully done major league play that gets interpreted tantamount to the soda tax in Chicago."

The three-run cushion was more than the Dodgers needed to hold on to the victory with Tony Watson getting two outs in the eighth and Jansen recording the final four outs of the ballgame.

Los Angeles improved to 4-0 in the playoffs after sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS, and its struggles late in the regular season appear to be a thing of the past.

The Dodgers will have an opportunity to take a commanding 2-0 series lead on the defending World Series champions Sunday when Rich Hill takes the mound to contest Jon Lester.

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Todd Frazier Says Yankees’ Game 5 Win vs. Indians Was for Joe Girardi

New York Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier dedicated the team's Game 5 ALDS win over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday to manager Joe Girardi.

Girardi came under fire for a non-challenge in Game 2 of the series that swung the momentum in Cleveland's favor, but Frazier said he and the other players rallied around their manager, according to ESPN.com: "This one is for Joe. He got a lot of criticism after that second game, and we talked a lot, me and him. I couldn't be happier for him. I couldn't be happier for him."

In Game 2, Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was given first base after the home-plate umpire determined he was hit by a pitch.

Replays appeared to show the pitch hitting the knob of his bat, however, which should have resulted in a strikeout and the end of the inning since Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez caught the foul tip.

Instead, Girardi decided against challenging, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor hit a grand slam, and the entire complexion of the game changed.

Cleveland went on to win in extra innings and take a commanding 2-0 series lead, but the Yankees rallied to win three in a row, including a 5-2 triumph on the road in Wednesday's Game 5.

After earning the chance to face the Houston Astros in the ALCS, Girardi discussed the emotional roller coaster he has ridden in recent days:

"The difference between [Game 2] and today is about as big as you can get. I don't know at any point in my career that I felt worse than I did on Friday. As I expressed many times, it's the hurt for the other people that is so hard for me. So the emotions, I mean, these guys had my back and they fought and fought. And again, they beat a really, really good team."

Wednesday's win ensured that Girardi was off the hook, and it kept the Yankees' pursuit of their 28th World Series championship alive.

New York will make its first ALCS appearance since 2012, and it will have an opportunity to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009 when it beat the Philadelphia Phillies.

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Stephen Strasburg Reportedly Expected to Pitch Game 4 for Nationals vs. Cubs

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported that the Washington Nationals are expected to start Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs.

The potential move represents a change of heart, as Nats manager Dusty Baker said Tuesday he would start Tanner Roark since Strasburg is ill, according to ESPN.com's Eddie Matz.

 

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 Assets

While teams are still vying to reach and win the World Series, much of Major League Baseball is already focused on the offseason and what should be an intriguing free-agent signing period.

Although it can be argued that there is a lack of elite talent compared to some of the players who could hit the market in the coming years, there are enough difference-makers out there who could change the MLB landscape depending upon where they decide to sign.

With the offseason quickly approaching, here is a look at the latest rumors surrounding some underrated players with the potential to provide some big-time value.

       

Justin Upton

It may seem odd to characterize a four-time All-Star as underrated, but outfielder Justin Upton has often fallen a bit short of his immense potential over the course of his career.

That changed in 2017, however, when he hit .273 and set career highs with 35 home runs and 109 RBI for the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels.

After such a strong year, it comes as little surprise that MLB Network's Jon Morosi is reporting that Upton is planning to opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

The Tigers traded Upton to the Angels for the stretch run, but L.A. was unable to reach the postseason and may not be in the market for the top of contract Upton figures to get.

Upton is still in his prime at 30 years of age, and his power production is at an all-time high, as he followed up a 31-homer campaign in 2016 with 35 in 2017.

Despite his prowess at the plate, Upton has been somewhat nomadic over the course of his career, enjoying stints with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, Tigers and Angels.

If he signs with a new team this offseason, it will mark his sixth different team in seven seasons.

One team that could be a strong fit after trading outfielders Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson this season is the New York Mets.

Injuries derailed the Mets in 2017 and caused them to miss the playoffs, but they have elite pitching when healthy.

New York has some young hitting talent rising through the ranks; however, it lacks proven stars aside from Yoenis Cespedes, and Upton would provide a major boost to an offense that struggled mightily this season.

       

Eric Hosmer

The Kansas City Royals stand to lose much of the nucleus that helped lead them to a World Series title in 2015.

First baseman Eric Hosmer is part of that group, but Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that the Royals will make a "serious offer" that could exceed $100 million in order to keep him.

Heyman added that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are among the teams that could provide the biggest competition for Hosmer's services.

The 27-year-old veteran is coming off what was arguably his best MLB season, as he hit a career-best .318, matched his career best with 25 home runs and drove in 94 runs.

Hosmer has been a Royals staple since they selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft, and he has developed into one of baseball's most complete first basemen.

In addition to his hitting prowess, the lefty is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, and he reached his first All-Star Game in 2016.

Hosmer even provides some rare speed at the first base position with 60 career stolen bases.

His durability is a major hallmark as well, with just six games missed in total over the past three seasons.

Hosmer's combination of youth and production in all areas should make him a highly sought-after commodity, but since the Royals need some kind of victory in free agency in order to save face with their fanbase, look for them to do whatever is needed in order to keep Hosmer in the fold.

        

Zack Cozart

After playing in relative anonymity for years, Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart broke out in a big way this season.

The 32-year-old veteran set career bests across the board with a .297 batting average, .385 on-base percentage, 24 home runs and 63 RBI en route to his first career All-Star nod.

Cozart stands to land a nice contract in free agency, but Heyman reported that the Reds may make a run at trying to retain him.

If Cozart's surge in power and on-base ability are for real, then he could be a highly valuable piece at the shortstop position.

If his production was an outlier, however, a big contract could be an albatross, especially since he is already potentially exiting his prime years.

The Reds are a team that boasts some impressive offensive players, but they are likely stuck in a rebuild until they can improve their starting rotation significantly.

Cincinnati may still be a few years away from contention for a playoff spot because of that, and the fact that Cozart hasn't appeared in more than 122 games in a single season since 2014 may dissuade a team from making a big financial commitment.

There may not be many playoff-caliber teams in the market for a shortstop, but one destination that makes sense is the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Arizona has shown a penchant for spending in free agency, and since Ketel Marte hasn't established himself as a clear-cut starter, the D-backs are a team to watch in the Cozart hunt.

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Edwin Encarnacion Carried off Field vs. Yankees in ALDS Game 2 with Ankle Injury

Cleveland Indians star Edwin Encarnacion suffered an ankle injury against the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post noted the designated hitter rolled his ankle at second base and it looked "real bad."

Encarnacion is one of Major League Baseball's top sluggers, and he was a key acquisition for the Tribe during the offseason.

In the midst of his first season in Cleveland, Encarnacion produced to the tune of a .377 on-base percentage with 38 home runs and 107 RBI during the regular season.

The 34-year-old veteran entered 2017 having hit at least 34 home runs and driven in at least 98 runs in each of the previous five campaigns, including a .263 batting average, 42 jacks and an American League-best 127 RBI in 2016 for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Encarnacion was part of one of the most fearsome power-hitting lineups in baseball during his time with the Jays, and he is currently the centerpiece of Cleveland's offensive attack.

While the Dominican Republic native doesn't have a history of significant injuries, he has dealt with his fair share of bumps and bruises in recent years.

Prior to appearing in 160 games last season, Encarnacion missed double-digit games in each of his first six full seasons in Toronto.

There is no replacing a hitter of Encarnacion's caliber; and Cleveland doesn't possess a ton of pop off the bench. If Encarnacion is forced to miss an extended period, Lonnie Chisenhall, Austin Jackson and Michael Brantley could all see some extra playing time during the postseason.

While that would put Cleveland at a significant disadvantage in comparison to its usual lineup, the Indians have a strong pitching staff that should at least keep them competitive in the meantime.

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Aaron Judge Finishes with MLB’s Most Popular Jersey of 2017 Season

Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that New York Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge topped the league in jersey sales during the 2017 season.

The MLB tweeted a rundown of the top 10 in terms of jersey sales with Judge beating out a pair of Chicago Cubs in third baseman Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo:

Judge set a new MLB rookie record in 2017 by clubbing 52 home runs.

       

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

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Rockies Clinch 2017 MLB Playoff Berth with Brewers Loss

The Colorado Rockies clinched the the second wild-card spot in the National League on Saturday night by virtue of the Milwaukee Brewers' 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Colorado will face the Arizona Diamondbacks on the road in the NL Wild Card Game for the chance to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.

Colorado enters play against the Dodgers on Saturday with a record of 87-73, while the Diamondbacks are 92-68.

This marks the Rockies' first trip to the postseason since 2009 when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS.

Two years earlier, the Boston Red Sox swept Colorado in the World Series. The Rockies have now reached the playoffs four times in their 25-year existence.

Colorado has been bolstered by a deep and powerful lineup this season, led by a pair of NL MVP candidates in third baseman Nolan Arenado and outfielder Charlie Blackmon.

Arenado is hitting .307 with 37 home runs and 130 RBI, while Blackmon is hitting .329 with 37 homers and 103 RBI primarily out of the leadoff spot.

The Rockies have also received better-than-expected production from a young and experienced pitching staff with four starters winning at least 10 games.

Colorado will have a major challenge on its hands in the NL Wild Card Game, as it went 8-11 against the Diamondbacks this season.

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Boston Red Sox Clinch AL East with Win vs. Astros

The Boston Red Sox clinched their second consecutive American League East division title Saturday with a 6-3 win over the Houston Astros at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox tweeted the following after the win:

Boston's victory means it will begin the ALDS on the road against either the Astros or Cleveland Indians, while the Wild Card Game will be played between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.

      

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

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Pete Mackanin Won’t Return as Phillies Manager After More Than 2 Seasons

The Philadelphia Phillies announced Friday that Pete Mackanin will not return as the team's manager in 2018.

Mackanin will remain with the organization, however, as the Phillies announced he agreed to an extension to become a special assistant to the general manager. 

The Phillies entered play Friday with a 64-95 record this season, and they are just 172-237 in two-plus seasons under Mackanin.

Philadelphia made the decision to move forward with a different manager in 2018 despite signing Mackanin to an extension through 2018 in May, which included a club option for 2019.

Mackanin was named the Phillies' manager during the 2015 season after Ryne Sandberg stepped down.

Philadelphia closed out that season with a respectable 37-51 record under Mackanin, and went 71-91 last season in the midst of a rebuild.

The team took a step back this season from a wins and losses perspective, although they weren't expected to be anywhere near the playoff mix as they continue to develop their young players.

Philadelphia will hire its fourth manager since 2013 to succeed Mackanin, and it remains in search of its first playoff berth since the 2011 campaign.

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Yankees Fan Ejected by Umpire for Tipping Rays’ Pitches to Gary Sanchez

During the eighth inning of the New York Yankees' 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, a fan was ejected for tipping pitches while Yanks catcher Gary Sanchez was at the plate.

According to NJ.com's Randy Miller, Rays catcher Wilson Ramos noticed the infraction, resulting in home-plate umpire Dan Bellino telling ballpark personnel to remove the fan from the stands.

Ramos said after the game that he heard someone yelling, "Away, away, away," in Spanish during Sanchez's at-bat.

Sanchez acknowledged hearing it and noted that he attempted to ignore it: "You could definitely hear the guy scream, 'Outside, outside!' But you don't know if it's going to be a slider or a fastball and you've got to stick to your plan. I think that's the first time something like that happened to me ... but you can't let stuff like that distract you because it can become a distraction."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi also commented on the incident and felt the right steps were taken, saying, "That shouldn't have happened and they were removed from the park."

The Yankees were involved in another controversy earlier in the season when it was determined that the Boston Red Sox illegally used an Apple Watch in an attempt to steal signs from the Bronx Bombers.

Boston was later fined for the infraction.

With Tuesday's win, New York improved to 88-69 on the season and cut its deficit in the American League East standings to three games behind the leading Red Sox.

The Yanks have already clinched a wild-card berth with five games remaining in the regular season, but they are still in the mix to win the division and avoid the dangerous AL Wild Card Game.

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Report: Mets Won’t Renew Terry Collins’ Contract, Robin Ventura Among Options

Mike Puma of the New York Post reported Tuesday that the New York Mets will not renew the contract of manager Terry Collins for the 2018 season.

Puma added that the Mets are considering several options for their next manager, including Robin Ventura, Alex Cora, Kevin Long, Bob Geren and Chip Hale.

While the Mets reportedly have no plans to bring Collins back, Puma noted that they may allow the 68-year-old Collins to announce his retirement rather than saying they are moving on.

All of the managerial candidates Puma mentioned have ties to the Mets organization.

Ventura played third base for the Mets from 1999 through 2001. Most recently, he served as manager for the Chicago White Sox from 2012 through 2016.

Cora is currently a bench coach for the Houston Astros and spent two seasons with the Mets as a utility infielder in 2009 and 2010.

Long has been the Mets' hitting coach since 2015, and he previously acted as the New York Yankees' hitting coach from 2007 through 2014.

The 56-year-old Geren is a veteran manager and coach who managed the Oakland Athletics from 2007 through 2011. He is currently the Los Angeles Dodgers' bench coach, and he was the Mets' bench coach from 2012 until 2015.

Hale is the Athletics' current third-base coach. He served in the same capacity for the Mets in 2010 and 2011, and he was the Arizona Diamondbacks manager in 2015 and 2016.

The Mets own a record of 67-90 this season, which is good for only fourth in the National League East.

New York has reached the playoffs twice in seven seasons under Collins, including a trip to the World Series in 2015 where it lost to the Kansas City Royals in five games.

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Tucker Barnhart, Reds Agree to 4-Year Contract Extension

The Cincinnati Reds announced Friday that they agreed to a four-year contract extension with catcher Tucker Barnhart through 2021 with a club option for 2022.

Reds general manager Dick Williams said the following about keeping Barnhart in the fold:

The 26-year-old is hitting .272 with six home runs and 42 RBI this season.

While Barnhart has been a solid contributor for the Reds at the plate, his greatest impact on the game is made defensively.

According to Fangraphs, Barnhart is first among catchers in Major League Baseball with 22 Defensive Runs Saved. The next closest backstop is Martin Maldonado of the Los Angeles Angels with nine.

After setting career highs last season in games played (115), batting average (.257), home runs (seven) and RBI (51), Barnhart has continued to improve in all aspects of his game and further established himself as Cincinnati's regular catcher.

Barnhart appears to be a runaway choice for the Gold Glove at catcher in the National League, and may even be in the running for the Platinum Glove as the best all-around fielder in the entire NL.

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Mookie Betts Leaves Game vs. Rays with Thumb Injury, Is Day-to-Day

Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts left Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays with a left thumb contusion.

According to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, Betts is considered day-to-day.

The star outfielder exited in the fifth inning and was replaced by Rajai Davis.

Betts has been fairly durable during his young MLB career, but this marks the second time he has dealt with an injury this season after hurting his knee during an August game against the Cleveland Indians.

Although Betts' production is down this season, he is still having a strong year with a .263 batting average, 22 home runs and 90 RBI.

Betts developed into an elite player last season when he hit .318 with 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 122 runs and 26 stolen bases, all of which were career highs.

At the conclusion of the campaign, Betts won the Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove, and he finished second in American League MVP voting behind Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

Betts is one of the few five-tool players in Major League Baseball, and his importance to the Red Sox is immeasurable due to his ability to contribute in all offensive and defensive facets.

This is a crucial part of the season, and the Red Sox can ill afford to be without Betts for an extended period of time.

If Betts does land on the shelf, Andrew Benintendi will have an even greater responsibility to produce in the outfield, while Davis and Chris Young are likely to see expanded roles with utilityman Brock Holt also getting some opportunities.

Although Boston has depth in the outfield, none of the potential replacement options boast a skill set that comes close to rivaling Betts.

Even if Betts' injury isn't serious, Boston has a three-game cushion over the New York Yankees in the American League, so it can afford to play it safe with him.

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Cubs’ Willson Contreras Suspended 2 Games for Umpire Outburst vs. Cardinals

Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was suspended two games by Major League Baseball on Saturday for his outburst against an umpire during the Cubs' 8-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, per Bleacher Report's Scott Miller.

Miller added that Contreras will appeal the suspension.

According to ESPN's Buster Olney, Contreras was also fined an unspecified amount for his actions.

The incident occurred during the fifth inning when home-plate umpire Jordan Baker appeared to incorrectly call a ball rather than a strike on a pitch from Cubs hurler John Lackey to Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez.

Lackey was tossed for arguing, which led to Contreras spiking his mask into the ground and getting ejected too, as seen in this GIF courtesy of SI MLB:

While it didn't appear intentional, Contreras' mask hit Baker's leg after the catcher threw it down.

Contreras is expected to be in the lineup for the Cubs on Saturday while the appeal process plays out.

If Contreras' suspension stands, Chicago will have several options to turn to behind the plate, including Alex Avila, Rene Rivera, Victor Caratini and Kyle Schwarber.

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David Price Activated from 10-Day DL by Red Sox After Elbow Injury

The Boston Red Sox activated starting pitcher David Price from the 10-day disabled list Thursday, according to Greg A. Bedard of Boston Sports Journal.

Price was placed on the DL on July 28 due to inflammation in his pitching elbow.

The southpaw also began the season on the DL with an elbow ailment, and he has made just 11 starts this season.

          

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

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MLB Schedule 2018: League Announces Full Regular-Season Slate

Major League Baseball released a tentative 2018 regular-season schedule Tuesday highlighted by a full slate of Opening Day games.

According to MLB.com's Mark Newman, Opening Day is set for Thursday, March 29, and it will mark the first time since 1968 that every team will be in action on the first day of play.

Also, March 29 is the earliest start date ever for an MLB season with the exception of games played outside the United States and Canada.

Here is a rundown of the 15 Opening Day matchups courtesy of USA Today:

Houston Astros at Texas Rangers

Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics

Cleveland Indians at Seattle Mariners

Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals

Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees

Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers

Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles

Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers

Milwaukee Brewers at San Diego Padres

Chicago Cubs at Miami Marlins

Washington Nationals at Cincinnati Reds

St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves

Another unique feature of the 2018 schedule is a regular-season end date of Sept. 30, which likely means the World Series will end in October rather than November.

Additionally, the Thursday after the All-Star Game will play host to a single game between the rival Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

In an effort to ease the burden on players and in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team will get four more off days in 2018 in comparison to the 2017 season.

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