Mickey Callaway, Mets Reportedly Agree on Contract to Become Team’s Manager

The New York Mets are reportedly set to hire Cleveland Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway as the team's newest manager, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic confirmed the report. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Callaway will receive a three-year contract.

The 42-year-old spent the past four years with Cleveland after a five-year career as a major league pitcher.

He was reportedly one of four finalists for the job along with Joe McEwing, Manny Acta and Kevin Long, per Marc Carig of Newsday.

The other three top candidates, plus Alex Cora who was also interviewed, had a connection with the Mets after spending time with the team either as players or coaches. Callaway has spent his entire career in the American League, but the front office clearly saw enough from him to name him the newest manager.

Many see this addition as a chance to help the young rotation:

The Mets have one of the most talented pitching staffs in the majors led by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, but injuries and poor play led to a 5.01 ERA to rank third-worst in baseball. Meanwhile, the Indians led all teams with a 3.30 ERA despite dealing with their own injuries.

A year after reaching the World Series, Cleveland finished with an AL-best record of 102-60, fueled by a 22-game winning streak over the summer. While the team has some talented hitters, the pitching staff was a big part of the team's success during this stretch, behind the play of Corey Kluber. 

Callaway will hope his expertise will help turn around a Mets franchise that went just 70-92 this season after consecutive playoff berths the previous two seasons. Manager Terry Collins, 68, resigned after seven years with the club, leaving a path for some new young blood in the organization.

 


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Mickey Callaway, Mets Reportedly Agree on Contract to Become Team’s Manager

The New York Mets are reportedly set to hire Cleveland Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway as the team's newest manager, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic confirmed the report. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Callaway will receive a three-year contract.

The 42-year-old spent the past four years with Cleveland after a five-year career as a major league pitcher.

He was reportedly one of four finalists for the job along with Joe McEwing, Manny Acta and Kevin Long, per Marc Carig of Newsday.

The other three top candidates, plus Alex Cora who was also interviewed, had a connection with the Mets after spending time with the team either as players or coaches. Callaway has spent his entire career in the American League, but the front office clearly saw enough from him to name him the newest manager.

Many see this addition as a chance to help the young rotation:

The Mets have one of the most talented pitching staffs in the majors led by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, but injuries and poor play led to a 5.01 ERA to rank third-worst in baseball. Meanwhile, the Indians led all teams with a 3.30 ERA despite dealing with their own injuries.

A year after reaching the World Series, Cleveland finished with an AL-best record of 102-60, fueled by a 22-game winning streak over the summer. While the team has some talented hitters, the pitching staff was a big part of the team's success during this stretch, behind the play of Corey Kluber. 

Callaway will hope his expertise will help turn around a Mets franchise that went just 70-92 this season after consecutive playoff berths the previous two seasons. Manager Terry Collins, 68, resigned after seven years with the club, leaving a path for some new young blood in the organization.

 


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World Series 2017: Known Schedule Info, TV Guide and Predictions

The Houston Astros haven't won a World Series in their franchise history, which dates back to 1962, when they were known as the Colt .45s.

The Los Angeles Dodgers haven't made the Fall Classic since 1988, when they beat the Oakland Athletics in five games.

One drought is going to end soon as the two teams do battle in the 2017 World Series.

Here's a look at the schedule and television guide for each game, in addition to a prediction below.

         

Schedule (via MLB.com)

Tuesday, October 24 (Game 1): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Wednesday, October 25 (Game 2): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Friday, October 27 (Game 3): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

Saturday, October 28 (Game 4): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

*Sunday, October 29 (Game 5): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

*Tuesday, October 31 (Game 6): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

*Wednesday, November 1 (Game 7): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Fox will televise each game, all of which will begin at 8 p.m. ET. MLB.TV subscribers can also live-stream the World Series. An asterisk indicates that the game will be played if necessary.

                   

The Houston Astros Will Win If...

The Astros bullpen has not fared well in the postseason, pitching to a 5.03 ERA. It was 5.70 before Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, but starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. threw four shutout innings in relief of Charlie Morton to shut the door.

The regular season wasn't much better, as the team finished 17th out of 30 MLB clubs in bullpen ERA (4.27).

That being said, it's not like the Houston bullpen is bereft of talented arms. Closer Ken Giles saved 34 games and managed a 2.30 ERA. Chris Devenski (2.68) and Will Harris (2.98) also fared well.

At this point, however, they are probably the only three relievers that would be used in a close game. Manager A.J. Hinch will likely turn to a few pitchers who started earlier this season (Brad Peacock, Joe Musgrove, Collin McHugh) before turning to the rest of the team's traditional relievers.

The starting pitching has been phenomenal in the postseason for the most part, and if that trend continues, it shortens the game, leaving less work for the bullpen. 

In turn, if the Astros' top three relievers return to their regular-season forms, then that will be a huge boost to the team.

                 

The Los Angeles Dodgers Will Win If...

No pitcher in Major League Baseball is better than ace Clayton Kershaw when he is at his apex. The 29-year-old has a lifetime ERA of 2.36, and that mark has sunk under 2.00 in three seasons. He's won the National League Cy Young Award three times and the NL MVP once. He's made the NL All-Star team for seven straight years as well.

It's been a remarkable run for the southpaw, who has earned a 144-64 record during that span. However, he hasn't fared as well in the playoffs, going 6-7 with a 4.40 ERA. Kershaw has also given up six homers in this year's postseason.

That being said, four of those dingers were in one game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the two games against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series since, Kershaw fared better, allowing just three earned runs over 11 innings while striking out 16.

Given the Dodgers' deep bullpen, L.A. doesn't even need Kershaw to be his usual ace self, as the 'pen can shorten the game significantly. That being said, the guess here is that Kershaw silences his postseason critics and tosses two gems in the playoffs, winning Games 1 and 5 thanks to his curveball.

         

The World Series Pick

Although the Houston Astros have the deeper bench and better hitting lineup, the Los Angeles Dodgers have three edges: They have home-field advantage, they have the much better bullpen and their starting rotation is arguably the best and deepest in baseball.

That should be enough to beat the Houston Astros, but it won't be easy. Look for the Dodgers to take the Fall Classic in six games.

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World Series 2017: Known Schedule Info, TV Guide and Predictions

The Houston Astros haven't won a World Series in their franchise history, which dates back to 1962, when they were known as the Colt .45s.

The Los Angeles Dodgers haven't made the Fall Classic since 1988, when they beat the Oakland Athletics in five games.

One drought is going to end soon as the two teams do battle in the 2017 World Series.

Here's a look at the schedule and television guide for each game, in addition to a prediction below.

         

Schedule (via MLB.com)

Tuesday, October 24 (Game 1): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Wednesday, October 25 (Game 2): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Friday, October 27 (Game 3): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

Saturday, October 28 (Game 4): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

*Sunday, October 29 (Game 5): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

*Tuesday, October 31 (Game 6): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

*Wednesday, November 1 (Game 7): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Fox will televise each game, all of which will begin at 8 p.m. ET. MLB.TV subscribers can also live-stream the World Series. An asterisk indicates that the game will be played if necessary.

                   

The Houston Astros Will Win If...

The Astros bullpen has not fared well in the postseason, pitching to a 5.03 ERA. It was 5.70 before Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, but starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. threw four shutout innings in relief of Charlie Morton to shut the door.

The regular season wasn't much better, as the team finished 17th out of 30 MLB clubs in bullpen ERA (4.27).

That being said, it's not like the Houston bullpen is bereft of talented arms. Closer Ken Giles saved 34 games and managed a 2.30 ERA. Chris Devenski (2.68) and Will Harris (2.98) also fared well.

At this point, however, they are probably the only three relievers that would be used in a close game. Manager A.J. Hinch will likely turn to a few pitchers who started earlier this season (Brad Peacock, Joe Musgrove, Collin McHugh) before turning to the rest of the team's traditional relievers.

The starting pitching has been phenomenal in the postseason for the most part, and if that trend continues, it shortens the game, leaving less work for the bullpen. 

In turn, if the Astros' top three relievers return to their regular-season forms, then that will be a huge boost to the team.

                 

The Los Angeles Dodgers Will Win If...

No pitcher in Major League Baseball is better than ace Clayton Kershaw when he is at his apex. The 29-year-old has a lifetime ERA of 2.36, and that mark has sunk under 2.00 in three seasons. He's won the National League Cy Young Award three times and the NL MVP once. He's made the NL All-Star team for seven straight years as well.

It's been a remarkable run for the southpaw, who has earned a 144-64 record during that span. However, he hasn't fared as well in the playoffs, going 6-7 with a 4.40 ERA. Kershaw has also given up six homers in this year's postseason.

That being said, four of those dingers were in one game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the two games against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series since, Kershaw fared better, allowing just three earned runs over 11 innings while striking out 16.

Given the Dodgers' deep bullpen, L.A. doesn't even need Kershaw to be his usual ace self, as the 'pen can shorten the game significantly. That being said, the guess here is that Kershaw silences his postseason critics and tosses two gems in the playoffs, winning Games 1 and 5 thanks to his curveball.

         

The World Series Pick

Although the Houston Astros have the deeper bench and better hitting lineup, the Los Angeles Dodgers have three edges: They have home-field advantage, they have the much better bullpen and their starting rotation is arguably the best and deepest in baseball.

That should be enough to beat the Houston Astros, but it won't be easy. Look for the Dodgers to take the Fall Classic in six games.

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World Series 2017 Schedule: Date, Known TV Coverage and More Details

After one of the more exciting seasons in recent memory, which featured three teams with 100 or more wins, Aaron Judge and the "thumbs down" Baby Bombers, 59 long bombs from Giancarlo Stanton, 22 straight wins from the Cleveland Indians and other notable feats, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers will cap the year in the World Series.

Here's a look at the schedule and television coverage, in addition to three important players to keep an eye on in the Fall Classic. To make things a little more interesting, any 2017 All-Stars will be omitted.

         

Schedule (via MLB.com)

Tuesday, October 24 (Game 1): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Wednesday, October 25 (Game 2): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Friday, October 27 (Game 3): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

Saturday, October 28 (Game 4): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

*Sunday, October 29 (Game 5): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

*Tuesday, October 31 (Game 6): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

*Wednesday, November 1 (Game 7): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Fox will televise each game, all of which will begin at 8 p.m. ET. MLB.TV subscribers can also live stream the World Series. An asterisk indicates the game will be played if necessary.

        

The 3 Most Important Players (Non All-Star Category)

Justin Verlander

In case you did a double take, no, Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander did not make the All-Star Game this year.

In fact, he hasn't made an appearance in the Midsummer Classic since 2013, which is hard to wrap your brain around considering his torrid stretch in an Astro uniform.

Verlander threw 16 innings of one-run ball against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series en route to winning two games and being named the ALCS MVP.

He'll have a tough draw in the World Series, as he'll start Game 2 in Dodger Stadium. However, he'll potentially have to toe the rubber on the road twice if Verlander goes Game 6 like he did in the ALCS.

But the 13-year veteran is battle-tested, and he's clearly stepped up in this year's playoffs. He may not throw nine innings of one-run ball with 13 strikeouts like he did in Game 2 against the Yankees, but Verlander will perform well in the spotlight.

             

Rich Hill

Three of the Los Angeles Dodgers' four postseason starters made the All-Star Game this year. All the fourth one (Rich Hill) did was win 12 games, earn a 3.32 ERA and throw nine perfect innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates before losing a 1-0 heartbreaker in the 10th off a solo home run from Josh Harrison.

You can put two and two together in order to realize that the Dodgers rotation is remarkably deep. Hill has a tough task ahead of him in the World Series, though, if he pitches the second game of the World Series, much like he did in the NLDS and NLCS. That means a face-off with the aforementioned Justin Verlander, so Hill is going to need to be sharp in order to keep L.A. in the game.

Still, Hill has the luxury of a deep bullpen behind him. If he goes five or even six innings without much damage, then he'll have done the job as he can hand the ball off to a collection of excellent setup men.

Hill has done well this postseason, allowing only three earned runs in nine innings and striking out 12. If he continues that trend, then the Hill vs. Verlander matchup in Game 2 (and perhaps Game 6, if the series goes that deep) should be special.

          

Enrique Hernandez

If you take a look at Enrique Hernandez's splits, you'll see that he's an absolute force against left-handers (.946 OPS) but struggles mightily against righties (.499 OPS).

Therefore, you probably won't see him unless Astro ace southpaw Dallas Keuchel is on the mound. That being said, Hernandez should see him twice provided the series goes five games, as the 2015 American League Cy Young winner will pitch Game 1 (and likely Game 5, if the ALCS rotation is followed once again).

Hernandez hit three home runs in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series to propel the Dodgers to an 11-1 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. He has tremendous pop against left-handers and is capable of even hitting one out against Keuchel, who is a master at keeping the ball low in the zone to induce ground balls.

The Hernandez-Keuchel battles should be fascinating to watch on the game's biggest stage.

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World Series 2017 Schedule: Date, Known TV Coverage and More Details

After one of the more exciting seasons in recent memory, which featured three teams with 100 or more wins, Aaron Judge and the "thumbs down" Baby Bombers, 59 long bombs from Giancarlo Stanton, 22 straight wins from the Cleveland Indians and other notable feats, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers will cap the year in the World Series.

Here's a look at the schedule and television coverage, in addition to three important players to keep an eye on in the Fall Classic. To make things a little more interesting, any 2017 All-Stars will be omitted.

         

Schedule (via MLB.com)

Tuesday, October 24 (Game 1): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Wednesday, October 25 (Game 2): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Friday, October 27 (Game 3): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

Saturday, October 28 (Game 4): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

*Sunday, October 29 (Game 5): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

*Tuesday, October 31 (Game 6): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

*Wednesday, November 1 (Game 7): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Fox will televise each game, all of which will begin at 8 p.m. ET. MLB.TV subscribers can also live stream the World Series. An asterisk indicates the game will be played if necessary.

        

The 3 Most Important Players (Non All-Star Category)

Justin Verlander

In case you did a double take, no, Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander did not make the All-Star Game this year.

In fact, he hasn't made an appearance in the Midsummer Classic since 2013, which is hard to wrap your brain around considering his torrid stretch in an Astro uniform.

Verlander threw 16 innings of one-run ball against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series en route to winning two games and being named the ALCS MVP.

He'll have a tough draw in the World Series, as he'll start Game 2 in Dodger Stadium. However, he'll potentially have to toe the rubber on the road twice if Verlander goes Game 6 like he did in the ALCS.

But the 13-year veteran is battle-tested, and he's clearly stepped up in this year's playoffs. He may not throw nine innings of one-run ball with 13 strikeouts like he did in Game 2 against the Yankees, but Verlander will perform well in the spotlight.

             

Rich Hill

Three of the Los Angeles Dodgers' four postseason starters made the All-Star Game this year. All the fourth one (Rich Hill) did was win 12 games, earn a 3.32 ERA and throw nine perfect innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates before losing a 1-0 heartbreaker in the 10th off a solo home run from Josh Harrison.

You can put two and two together in order to realize that the Dodgers rotation is remarkably deep. Hill has a tough task ahead of him in the World Series, though, if he pitches the second game of the World Series, much like he did in the NLDS and NLCS. That means a face-off with the aforementioned Justin Verlander, so Hill is going to need to be sharp in order to keep L.A. in the game.

Still, Hill has the luxury of a deep bullpen behind him. If he goes five or even six innings without much damage, then he'll have done the job as he can hand the ball off to a collection of excellent setup men.

Hill has done well this postseason, allowing only three earned runs in nine innings and striking out 12. If he continues that trend, then the Hill vs. Verlander matchup in Game 2 (and perhaps Game 6, if the series goes that deep) should be special.

          

Enrique Hernandez

If you take a look at Enrique Hernandez's splits, you'll see that he's an absolute force against left-handers (.946 OPS) but struggles mightily against righties (.499 OPS).

Therefore, you probably won't see him unless Astro ace southpaw Dallas Keuchel is on the mound. That being said, Hernandez should see him twice provided the series goes five games, as the 2015 American League Cy Young winner will pitch Game 1 (and likely Game 5, if the ALCS rotation is followed once again).

Hernandez hit three home runs in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series to propel the Dodgers to an 11-1 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. He has tremendous pop against left-handers and is capable of even hitting one out against Keuchel, who is a master at keeping the ball low in the zone to induce ground balls.

The Hernandez-Keuchel battles should be fascinating to watch on the game's biggest stage.

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Astros Become 1st Team to Win the Pennant in Both the AL and the NL

Fact: By defeating the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros became the first team in MLB history to win pennants in both the American League and the National League.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Facts of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: Bob Nightengale

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MLB Playoffs 2017: Updated World Series Odds for Dodgers vs. Astros

When looking back at MLB postseason series history, it's easy to point to one particular X-factor as the reason why a team did (or didn't) emerge victorious.

For example, in the 2004 American League Championship Series, the back end of the New York Yankee bullpen, which was very strong during the regular season, couldn't get the job done in Games 4 and 5 against the Boston Red Sox, who ended up taking the series in seven games after overcoming a 3-0 deficit.

Four guesses for the X-factor in this year's World Series, which features the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, are below.

Here's a look at each of them, alongside the latest World Series odds.

     

Odds

Per David Purdum of ESPN, the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has Los Angeles as a -140 favorite to win the World Series.

           

The Bottom-of-the-Order Bats of the Houston Astros

Any Houston Astro not named Jose Altuve or Carlos Correa failed to do much in the first five games of the American League Championship Series, but the bottom half of the order came alive in the last two contests.

Notably, Evan Gattis smacked a solo shot to break a scoreless tie, and Brian McCann hit a two-run double down the line to help give the Astros a 4-0 win over the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS.

The Astros will need to hit up and down the lineup to compete with the Dodgers, who might have the deepest pitching staff in baseball following the acquisition of ace Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers.

             

The Form of Lance McCullers

The 23-year-old Lance McCullers dazzled in his first two years in the bigs, striking out 235 batters in 206.2 innings and earning a 3.22 ERA.

However, 2017 has been a little more difficult, as McCullers has battled injuries. He struggled in the second half of the campaign as his ERA dipped to 4.25.

That being said, McCullers was lights-out in the American League Championship Series, throwing 10 innings of one-run ball over the course of two games. His only blemish was a solo shot given up to Aaron Judge, who smacked 52 round-trippers in the regular season.

If McCullers can give the Astros a strong outing in Game 3 following starts from staff aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, then that could go a long way toward a Houston World Series victory.

                      

The Health of Corey Seager

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager missed the entire National League Championship Series with a back injury suffered in the previous playoff round.

It's hard to envision Seager missing the World Series, especially considering that he's been making progress, per Dodger manager Dave Roberts.

If Seager can return to his regular-season form, when he hit 22 home runs and managed a .295 batting average in his second straight All-Star campaign, then that will be a huge boost to the Dodger lineup.

Seager was also a reverse-splits hitter this year who actually did better against left-handers (.325 vs. southpaws), so he could be a key addition to the Dodger lineup when they face Astro lefty Dallas Keuchel.

        

The Energy of Yasiel Puig

Outfielder Yasiel Puig is one of the most entertaining players in baseball, and he clearly get the Dodger home crowd going with every bat flip, race around the bases or monster throw from right field.

If he gets hot at the plate or makes a big play or two in the field or on the base paths, then the momentum could shift strongly in the Dodgers' favor when they are at home, as the Los Angeles faithful will go crazy for the fan favorite.

Puig has enjoyed the best power season of his major league career, hitting 28 home runs and smacking 74 runs batted in. He's been scorching hot in the postseason, however, with 12 hits in 30 at-bats.

If he keeps up that hot streak, it could go a long way toward the Dodgers' first World Series title since 1988.

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Joe Girardi on Returning as Yankees Manager: ‘There’s No Guarantees for Me’

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said his future with the club is uncertain following the team's 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night.

"There's no guarantees for me," he said, per Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com.

Added Girardi:

"I love what I do. I've always said the first thing I do is I always talk to my family first. They come first. Because I think when you have a job, I mean, your family has to buy in, too. So I'll sit down, talk to my wife and my kids and where they're at and what they're thinking, and then we'll see what the Yankees are thinking."

General manager Brian Cashman—also in the final year of a contract extension—was cagey when discussing Girardi's season with New York.

"I thought everybody did everything they possibly could to get where we wanted to go—to be the last team standing," he noted. "It is what it is."

He was also asked directly if he'd recommend Girardi should return and sidestepped the question.

"My recommendation will be to talk to our owner and sit down and find out what is next," Cashman said.

The Yankees exceeded expectations in 2017, finishing 91-71—the club's best record since 2012—and making the postseason for just the second time in five years. They did that behind a mix of young talents like Aaron Judge (25), Gary Sanchez (24), Greg Bird (24) and Luis Severino (23); players in their prime like Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, Masahiro Tanaka and Aroldis Chapman; and veterans such as Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Matt Holliday and CC Sabathia.

That blend of young and old coalesced perfectly for New York, making it one of MLB's most exciting teams in 2017 and earning it the nickname the Baby Bombers. And with a stocked farm system, the future appears to be bright for the Yankees.

Whether Girardi will again guide that promising young corps remains to be seen, however.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Joe Girardi on Returning as Yankees Manager: ‘There’s No Guarantees for Me’

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said his future with the club is uncertain following the team's 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night.

"There's no guarantees for me," he said, per Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com.

Added Girardi:

"I love what I do. I've always said the first thing I do is I always talk to my family first. They come first. Because I think when you have a job, I mean, your family has to buy in, too. So I'll sit down, talk to my wife and my kids and where they're at and what they're thinking, and then we'll see what the Yankees are thinking."

General manager Brian Cashman—also in the final year of a contract extension—was cagey when discussing Girardi's season with New York.

"I thought everybody did everything they possibly could to get where we wanted to go—to be the last team standing," he noted. "It is what it is."

He was also asked directly if he'd recommend Girardi should return and sidestepped the question.

"My recommendation will be to talk to our owner and sit down and find out what is next," Cashman said.

The Yankees exceeded expectations in 2017, finishing 91-71—the club's best record since 2012—and making the postseason for just the second time in five years. They did that behind a mix of young talents like Aaron Judge (25), Gary Sanchez (24), Greg Bird (24) and Luis Severino (23); players in their prime like Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, Masahiro Tanaka and Aroldis Chapman; and veterans such as Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Matt Holliday and CC Sabathia.

That blend of young and old coalesced perfectly for New York, making it one of MLB's most exciting teams in 2017 and earning it the nickname the Baby Bombers. And with a stocked farm system, the future appears to be bright for the Yankees.

Whether Girardi will again guide that promising young corps remains to be seen, however.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

World Series 2017: Latest Bracket Results, Odds and Predictions

The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers will meet in the 2017 World Series. It's a battle of two of the regular season's best teams, as Houston and L.A. were just two of three squads to win over 100 games (the other being the Cleveland Indians).

Here's a look at the playoff results so far, in addition to some early odds and predictions.

           

2017 Postseason Bracket

American League

Wild Card Game: New York Yankees 8, Minnesota Twins 4

Division Series (best-of-five): New York Yankees 3, Cleveland Indians 2

Division Series (best-of-five): Houston Astros 3, Boston Red Sox 1

Championship Series (best-of-seven): Houston Astros 4, New York Yankees 3

     

National League

Wild Card Game: Arizona Diamondbacks 11, Colorado Rockies 8

Division Series (best-of-five): Chicago Cubs 3, Washington Nationals 2

Division Series (best-of-five): Los Angeles Dodgers 3, Arizona Diamondbacks 0

Championship Series (best-of-seven): Los Angeles Dodgers 4, Chicago Cubs 1

     

Odds

According to David Purdum of ESPN, the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas lists the Dodgers as -140 favorites to win the World Series.

    

3 Predictions and a Pick

1. Jose Altuve Proves Why He Should Be the American League MVP

The 5'6" second baseman and five-time All-Star has led the league in hitting three straight years and is coming off a career-high .346 batting average this season.

He smacked three home runs in one game against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series and created havoc on the base paths in Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS to provide key wins over the New York Yankees.

Thousands of words can be written about why Altuve is one of the best players in baseball, but he can simply do everything really well. He's one of the most consistent players in baseball and should continue his hot streak in the World Series.

      

2. Battle of the Bullpens Decides At Least 1 Game

The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen, led by closer Kenley Jansen (5-0 record, 41 saves), is one of the best in the business. Last year, it finished fourth in Major League Baseball in ERA (3.38). That ERA has dipped to 0.94 in the postseason, which is the best in the majors.

Houston's bullpen has not fared nearly as well, and that could be a major difference in tight games if both starters depart. The Astros' bullpen ERA was in the bottom half of the league this year, taking 17th out of 30 major league clubs with a 4.27 mark.

The Astros may be able to sneak some innings from their starters if their backs are against the wall in a potential series-clinching game, but they can't afford to use that luxury throughout the entire series.

 

3. Clayton Kershaw is the World Series MVP

Yes, Clayton Kershaw hasn't looked like an ace this postseason, giving up six home runs in three outings. He also hasn't done as well in the playoffs over his career.

That being said, this is the best pitcher in baseball, with all due respect to the Washington Nationals' Max Scherzer, the Cleveland Indians' Corey Kluber and others.

Kershaw is a three-time National League Cy Young winner, a future Hall-of-Famer and perhaps the best pitcher this decade. Somehow, his 2.31 ERA this year was his worst mark since the 2012 season. For his career, he's managed to pitch under the 2.00 ERA mark on three occasions.

He'll take the ball in Game 1 and 5, provided the series goes that far (the guess here is that it will). Look for him to return to his dominant form as he wins both contests.

       

4. Dodgers 4, Astros 2

Los Angeles has the home-field advantage and a significant edge in the bullpen, and that should be the difference in a World Series victory.

The Astros' bats can't be put to sleep for an entire series, which the Yankees found out the hard way in the ALCS, so expect them to take charge for a game or two.

Still, unless the Astros' starting pitchers all go deep into games, L.A. should have the advantage in the late innings, especially in front of their home fans.

That will be the key when the Dodgers hoist the World Series trophy for the first time since 1988.

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Astros’ Huge Game 7 Win Dedicated to Houston After Hurricane Harvey’s Terror

HOUSTON — History summoned on a muggy Saturday night, and it wasn't the mighty New York Yankees it was calling.

Instead, it crooked a finger at Evan Gattis, and the burly designated hitter responded by depositing a CC Sabathia slider high over the left field wall.

It waved at Brian McCann, and the veteran catcher received a pea just above ground level from third baseman Alex Bregman, seconds ahead of a sliding cleat, to tag Greg Bird in as pretty a defensive play as you will ever see.

It hollered toward Jose Altuve, and the 5'6" second baseman carried his bat damn near all the way to first base after punching an opposite-field homer, then emotionally flung the bat, which landed just outside the first base coaches' box.

It motioned to Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr. and the rest of the gang, and in their 56th season, the Houston Astros won a Game 7 for the first time, swatting away the proud Yankees 4-0 to win the American League pennant.

The World Series opens Tuesday in Los Angeles, and the Astros will be there for only the second time in club history.

"We've got a lot of history up there in that light tower, but to go to the World Series for a second time…" Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio said, motioning up toward the retired numbers on display.

"These guys worked hard and played well together. And if you understand what we went through with [Hurricane] Harvey, to be able to give back to the fans, it's incredible.

"The people here needed this. Harvey didn't care what your address was."

Minute Maid Park swayed, roared and approved of this epic, command performance. My goodness, did it approve. The Yankees' half of the ninth was deafening, and the crowd counted down the final three outs.

"Crazy," Altuve said. "Since the first pitch, it was very loud.

"It was the loudest game I ever played."

Houston's lone World Series appearance was so long ago, the team was a National League club. That was in 2005, and the Astros ran into a buzz-saw pitching staff employed by the Chicago White Sox. The next World Series game these Astros win will be the first in franchise history.

Steps away from Biggio on the raucous field postgame as Verlander was accepting the American League Championship Most Valuable Player trophy, Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Famer and executive advisor to Astros owner Jim Crane, teared up.

"It's very special to see this team come together like it did and see the way they played," said Ryan, eyes glistening.

Over 27 years and 816 post- and regular-season games, Ryan was able to pitch in just one World Series contest, in relief—2.1 innings for the New York Mets against the Baltimore Orioles in 1969. From then until his retirement in 1993, he kept on chasing another, without ever catching up.

It's why, from different ends of the spectrum, Verlander and manager A.J. Hinch were emotional on one of the most memorable baseball Saturday nights this area has ever seen.

"This is why you play the game," Verlander said, supermodel fiancee Kate Upton by his side. "You can never expect this."

Said Hinch: "I never knew what it felt like to get to the World Series in any job I've had in 20 years. And now I do. And I have a great appreciation for what it takes to run this journey. We won 100-plus games in the regular season. We won a lot of games in the postseason so far. But it's not easy. This is a grind, and getting through so many ups and downs regardless of how the season goes is awesome when you get rewarded with a chance to win a world championship."

This is an Astros organization that stripped itself down to the studs, losing between 106 and 111 games over three seasons from 2011 to 2013, and then another 92 in 2014 as it was rebuilding around young, would-be stars such as Altuve and Correa.

"When I got here, no one talked about winning," said Hinch, who replaced Bo Porter as manager in '15. "And that was one of the first things that Altuve told me in my office, that he wanted to win. And that represented what the next step was for this organization."

The new Astros' unveiling came in 2015, when they rose up and won an AL wild-card spot, but they slipped last year, failing to make the playoffs before roaring back to win 101 games this year with a total that was second-most in club history behind Biggio's '98 team (102).

"The standards that have been established here, the work that's been put in, the synergy that goes on from the front office to the clubhouse, from ownership … we are really connected because we all have a common goal, and that's to win.

"And I don't care if you're old-school, new-school, analytical, traditional. It's about winning at this level."

Those wins, though, receded into the background briefly when Harvey struck in late August. Thousands were left homeless, powerless, car-less. Even weeks later, you can see displaced locals walking their leashed dogs through lobbies of hotels that have been good enough to extend a helping hand to them.

"Our fans have been through a lot with Hurricane Harvey," Correa said. "I'm just glad we can bring them joy."

One day earlier, with the Astros reeling and one game away from what would have been a stunning elimination after seizing a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series, it was Verlander who dominated over seven innings in winning his second game of this series.

Saturday, Morton, a 33-year-old journeyman who signed a modest two-year, $14 million deal with Houston last November, was spectacular over five shutout innings. Working with a fastball ranging up to 97 mph and a devastating curve checking in around 81 mph, he pumped in 14 strikes out of his 16 first-inning pitches. He threw just six balls over 34 pitches through three innings and a mere eight balls over four innings.

The crowd chanted his name as he pitched ("I was very aware of it," he said). They greeted him warmly out near the right field bullpen when he went to warm up before the game.

"To that degree, this moment is so special to me," Morton said. "I feel in my career like I've let a lot of people down. I feel like I've let a lot of fans down.

"To have people on their feet, it gave me so much energy."

Regarding the strikes he kept pouring into the zone, he said "I honestly felt just aggressive. With everything on the line, you can either ease your way into it, feel around the situation and try to make perfect pitches, or go after guys."

If his pitches weren't perfect in befuddling a Yankees team that finished with just three hits, erstwhile starter McCullers' four innings of one-hit relief were the next-best thing. His curveball is one of the most dominating wipeout pitches in the game. McCullers threw 41 of those babies over his 54-pitch outing. All 10 Yankees swings and misses with him on the mound came against the curve, and all 10 of his 1-2-3, ninth-inning pitches were curves.

"You know, he really does love the moment," Hinch said, and now McCullers and the Astros will have several more days' worth.

For starters, this will be the first World Series that features matching 100-win teams since 1970. Then, Baltimore (108-54) blitzed Cincinnati (102-60) in five games. Along with Houston's 101-61 record this year, the Dodgers went 104-58.

The Astros will wind up playing three of the game's jewel franchises this fall: They knocked out Boston in the Division Series, eliminated the Yankees in the ALCS and hope to prevent the Dodgers from winning their first World Series since 1988 over the next seven to 10 days.

"They're a great team," Altuve said. "It's going to be a fun World Series."

Added Carlos Beltran: "We've got a lot of similarities. They've got a lot of talent, like we do, and they seem to enjoy themselves and have great chemistry."

Just like the Astros. But on Saturday night…well, Los Angeles was still much further away than Harvey, and the sheer heartache of the down-and-out times of the is past receding, ever so slowly.

"I've touched on this before about having the experience of playing into a World Series with a city that kind of needed a boost and something to cheer for," said Verlander, referring to his 2006 and 2010 World Series appearances with Detroit.

"There are a lot of people who are really hurting right now in this city. And it gives the city something to rally around. It gives people something to cheer for that otherwise may not have a lot to be hopeful for.

"And to be a part of that, no matter how big or small it is, whether you're the MVP or the last pitcher in the bullpen, that's something you will never forget."

              

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball. 

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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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World Series 2017 Schedule: Complete Guide for Dodgers vs. Astros

For the first time since 1970, two teams with 100 or more wins will face off in the World Series when the 101-61 Houston Astros play the 104-58 Los Angeles Dodgers.

Houston is looking for its first World Series title in team history. The Astros made the Fall Classic once in 2005, losing four games to zero against the Chicago White Sox.

Los Angeles hasn't made the World Series since 1988, when it beat the Oakland Athletics in five games. The Dodgers have won six titles in franchise history.

Here's a look at the schedule and a complete guide to the World Series for each team.

             

Schedule

Tuesday, October 24 (Game 1): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Wednesday, October 25 (Game 2): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Friday, October 27 (Game 3): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

Saturday, October 28 (Game 4): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

*Sunday, October 29 (Game 5): Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros

*Tuesday, October 31 (Game 6): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

*Wednesday, November 1 (Game 7): Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

Fox will televise each game, all of which will begin at 8 p.m. ET. An asterisk indicates the game will be played if necessary.

     

Los Angeles Dodgers

How They Got Here

Remarkably, the Dodgers were two games under .500 and four games out of first place in late April.

However, L.A. found itself on top of the National League West after a successful May and embarked on a torrid stretch for the majority of the summer, going 56-11 over 67 games.

That sparked talk as to whether the Dodgers could break the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners' record for most wins in a regular season (116), but L.A. then went on a 1-16 skid into mid-September.

The Dodgers still finished with 104 wins and proceeded to sweep the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Divisional Series before beating the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs in a five-game National League Championship Series.

      

Hitting and Baserunning

L.A. has found offensive success through the long ball this year. Five Dodgers hit 21 or more home runs, with rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger leading the team with 39. The 22-year-old also paced L.A. with 97 RBI.

As a team, the Dodgers smacked 221 dingers, good enough for fourth in the National League.

The Dodgers are not going to create havoc on the base paths, but outfielder Chris Taylor is a fast leadoff hitter capable of taking the extra base. He led the team with 17 stolen bases (only two others had 10 or more).

Taylor was the co-NLCS MVP with third baseman Justin Turner, who was the only regular with a batting average higher than .300 (.322 to be exact). Elsewhere, outfielder Yasiel Puig was second on the team with 28 homers, and shortstop Corey Seager finished second with a .295 batting average.

Overall, the Dodgers' lineup is deep and balanced, with nearly everyone capable of hitting a ball out.

           

Pitching and Fielding

The Dodgers' starting rotation is the best in baseball, led by three-time National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.

The 29-year-old finished with 18 wins, 202 strikeouts and a 2.31 ERA this season. Fellow All-Star and southpaw Alex Wood also posted an excellent year, with 16 victories and a 2.72 ERA.

Trade deadline acquisition Yu Darvish and left-hander Rich Hill round out the rotation. Darvish went 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 49.2 innings, while Hill won 12 and punched out 166 batters.

The bullpen is just as impressive and deep, led by closer and NL Cy Young candidate Kenley Jansen, who saved 41 games and went 5-0 with a 1.32 ERA. He's backed by a host of talented relievers, including Brandon Morrow (6-0, 2.06 ERA) and Josh Fields (5-0, 2.84 ERA).

L.A. finished in the middle of the major-league pack in errors and fielding percentage.

      

Houston Astros

How They Got Here

The Houston Astros took first place in the American League West on April 14 and never looked back, nearly leading the division wire to wire throughout the entire season.

Houston's first half of the year was scalding hot, as it went 54-27 to start. The Astros cooled off a bit in the end of July and August, but they maintained a double-digit game lead in the division throughout the entire summer.

A 20-win September helped buoy the team to 101 wins en route to finishing with the No. 2 seed behind the Cleveland Indians in the American League playoffs.

Houston beat the Boston Red Sox three games to one in the American League Division Series before winning a tough, hard-fought seven-game American League Championship Series with the New York Yankees.

     

Hitting and Baserunning

The Houston Astros were the best hitting team in baseball this year, sporting a .282 batting average. They also finished second in home runs with 238.

Second baseman Jose Altuve, a front-runner for the American League MVP award, led the majors with a .346 average.

Shortstop Carlos Correa, outfielder Josh Reddick and utility man Marwin Gonzalez also eclipsed the .300 mark, with first baseman Yuli Gurriel falling just short at .299.

Outfielder and leadoff hitter George Springer paced the team with 34 home runs. He, Altuve and Correa started for the All-Star team.

Altuve also led the Astros with 34 stolen bases. Third baseman Alex Bregman (17) is the only other Astro with 10 or more steals.

      

Pitching and Fielding

The Houston Astros have two dominant aces at the top of their rotation in the form of left-hander Dallas Keuchel and right-hander Justin Verlander, who came over to Houston from the Detroit Tigers after an August trade.

Keuchel finished the season with 14 wins and a 2.90 ERA, and Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA. He also struck out 43 batters in 34 innings.

The X-factor is Lance McCullers, a dominant pitcher for most of his young career who battled injuries in the second half of this season.

McCullers looked like he returned to form in the American League Championship Series, however, most notably when he threw four shutout innings to close the door on the Yankees in Game 7.

Charlie Morton will be the likely fourth starter, and he's earned that right after throwing five brilliant shutout frames in Game 7 to earn the victory.

The bullpen has been inconsistent, finishing 17th in the major leagues in ERA. As Houston showed in this series, however, it can call on one of its other starters to do the job in a series-clinching game.

Houston's fielding has been spotty, as it finished 20th in the league in errors with 99.

        

Prediction

The Houston Astros have the edge at the plate, but the Dodgers have a deeper starting rotation and bullpen. They also have home-field advantage, which is important considering that Minute Maid Park has been raucous this postseason.

In the end, the Dodgers will win the World Series in six, and Clayton Kershaw will be the MVP after winning two games.

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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: Latest Predictions on Potential Matchup

The Los Angeles Dodgers await the winner of Saturday night's game between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, which will decide the American League representative in the World Series.

First pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET at Houston's Minute Maid Park, and FS1 will televise the contest. CC Sabathia will take the mound for the Yankees, and Charlie Morton will do the same for Houston. It's a pitching rematch of Game 3, which the Yanks won at home, 8-1.

Here's a look at three predictions for tonight's game, as well as a quick pick for the World Series.

      

Todd Frazier Delivers in the Clutch

Although Todd Frazier has struggled at the plate this postseason, hitting just .195 with a .250 on-base percentage, his hits have proved to be timely.

An RBI double broke an early scoreless tie in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. Another RBI double knotted Game 2 of the ALCS at one against the tough pitching of Justin Verlander (that was the only run he allowed all series).

Frazier hit a three-run homer in Game 3 of the ALCS to open the scoring and kick-started a key four-run rally in the eighth inning of Game 4.

Frazier's home run came off Morton, and the third baseman has had success against the right-hander throughout his career. In 19 regular-season plate appearances, Frazier has two homers, a triple, two doubles and two singles, totaling a 1.365 OPS.

The former member of the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox, who came over to the Bronx in a July deal, will answer the call once again and deliver a couple of timely hits.

     

Morton Leaves Early

For the record, Morton is a solid pitcher enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. He went 14-7 with a 3.62 ERA this season, striking out more than a batter per inning.

That being said, it's difficult seeing him go deep in this game, especially after he didn't get through the fourth during the Game 3 loss to the Yankees. He has also averaged fewer than six innings per start for the year.

The Yankees are a normally patient team that takes a lot of pitches. That wasn't the case Friday, as many Yankees were hacking away at Verlander's pitches early in the count, but expect the Yanks to return to their roots, take pitches and do anything possible to get on base.

Morton will fare better than he did in Game 3, but he will depart by the middle of the game.

       

Keuchel and McCullers Shut Down Yankees

Normally, a departing starter means a reliever is coming in from the bullpen, but there are no rules in Game 7 of playoff series. Anything can go, such as starter Madison Bumgarner closing out the 2014 World Series or starter Sid Fernandez throwing a few shutout innings in relief of starter Ron Darling in 1986.

Barring a complete game, when Morton leaves, we'll likely see starters Lance McCullers Jr. and Dallas Keuchel in relief. It's conceivable that any of the usual members of the Astros bullpen, which has struggled this postseason, don't enter Game 7.

Although Keuchel struggled in a Game 5 loss, allowing four earned runs in 4.2 innings, he still struck out eight and has dominated the Yankees in the past, notably doing so with 10 strikeouts in seven shutout innings in Game 1.

McCullers' sharp breaking balls can get the best of the Yankees, as they did when he threw six-plus innings of one-run ball (the only run was an Aaron Judge homer to lead off the seventh) in Game 2.

Expect both pitchers to make appearances in this game, with each of them performing well and shutting down the Yankees bats.

             

ALCS and World Series Picks

Take the Yankees to win Game 7 by a score of 5-4 as they jump out to an early lead and hold on late against the Astros bats, which came alive at the end of Game 6 thanks to seven runs, which almost eclipsed their entire run totals for the first five games of the ALCS (nine).

The Yanks will move on to the World Series, where the Dodgers await them. L.A. matches up well with the Yankees, as the Dodgers' starting rotation and bullpen are lights-out. They also have power throughout their entire lineup.

The Dodgers were once 91-36 this season, making folks wonder whether they could set the all-time record for most wins in a season (116). A skid ended that talk, but L.A. has bounced back and looks like the team it was earlier this year after winning seven of eight playoff games.

The other issue for the Yanks is their defense, which can fail them in bunches at times. Notably, they committed three errors in the first inning of Sonny Gray's debut with the team.

Catcher Gary Sanchez has a strong arm, but he has trouble stopping the ball and even catching it for plays at the plate sometimes. Starlin Castro committed two errors in one game this series, and Frazier has a few booted balls on his record as well.

Overall, defense isn't the team's strong suit, and at some point, it could be the team's downfall.

In the World Series, take the Dodgers to win in seven games behind its shutdown rotation and bullpen, which will leave little room for error.

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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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World Series 2017: Schedule Details, Format and Predictions

The Houston Astros and New York Yankees will do battle at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET to decide the American League representative in this year's MLB World Series.

The winner will face the Los Angeles Dodgers, who cruised through the postseason after winning seven of eight games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs.

Here's a look ahead at the World Series schedule and format, followed by ALCS and World Series predictions.

       

Schedule

Tuesday, October 24 (Game 1): AL Pennant Winner at Los Angeles

Wednesday, October 25 (Game 2): AL Pennant Winner at Los Angeles

Friday, October 27 (Game 3): Los Angeles at AL Pennant Winner

Saturday, October 28 (Game 4): Los Angeles at AL Pennant Winner

Sunday, October 29 (Game 5): Los Angeles at AL Pennant Winner

Tuesday, October 31 (Game 6): AL Pennant Winner at Los Angeles

Wednesday, November 1 (Game 7): AL Pennant Winner at Los Angeles

Fox will televise each game, all of which will begin at 8 p.m. ET. An asterisk indicates that the game will be played if necessary.

         

Format

Like the Championship Series, the World Series is best-of-seven, with the first team to win four games taking the crown.

Also like the LCS, the World Series follows a two-three-two system, where the team with home-field advantage hosts the first two and final two matchups (if the latter are necessary).

In previous years, the American League and National League alternated home-field advantage. Then, the winner of the All-Star Game decided which league representative would receive that distinction.

However, the Fall Classic team with the best regular-season record now hosts the extra game. By virtue of finishing with a league-best 104 wins, the Dodgers will receive that advantage this year regardless of whether the Yankees (91 wins) or Astros (101 victories) take Game 7.

One final format note and quirk: The designated hitter can be used in American League parks, but that is not the case for NL fields. Therefore, no DH will be seen in Games 1 and 2, or Games 6 and 7 if the series goes that deep.

       

ALCS Prediction

The pitching matchup for Game 7 of the ALCS is a rematch of Game 3, with the Astros' Charlie Morton and the Yankees' CC Sabathia facing off.

In that contest, the Yankees won 8-1 behind six shutout frames from Sabathia and home runs off the bats of Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge.

Don't expect this contest to be a blowout like last time. First, the Astros should have everyone on their pitching staff available (with perhaps the notable exception of Justin Verlander, who threw seven innings on Friday).

Therefore, if Morton falls into early trouble, we'll likely see starters Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers as opposed to a Houston bullpen that has a 5.70 ERA in the postseason.

That's a big advantage to Houston, in addition to its home-field advantage.

However, the Yankees have one edge as well: They don't have to face flame-thrower Verlander, who has won two games in the ALCS while throwing 16 innings of one-run ball.

Morton is a solid pitcher and much better than what his Game 3 outing (seven earned runs) showed, but the Yankee bats can get to him. Notably, Frazier and Starlin Castro have smacked three home runs apiece off Morton lifetime.

New York also has a fantastic bullpen (third-best in regular-season ERA) and bench that can come in handy during the late innings.

This Game 7 should live up to the hype. It's a toss-up, but give the slightest of edges to the Yankees in a 5-4 victory.

         

World Series Prediction

If the Yankees advance to the Fall Classic, then expect a fantastic series between two teams that hit for power and sport deep pitching staffs.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a couple advantages. Notably, they have ace Clayton Kershaw, who is a three-time NL Cy Young award winner. Kershaw hasn't looked like his usual dominant self this postseason, but to put it simply, this is Kershaw we are talking about. Like Albert Pujols in the ESPN commercial, sometimes, he is a machine.

He'll toe the slab for Games 1 and likely 5 (if the latter is necessary) and might be available in relief if the series goes to a seventh game.

Furthermore, the Dodgers have the best closer in the game in Kenley Jansen, who has saved 88 games and registered a 1.58 ERA in his past two seasons. He hasn't given up an earned run in his last 12 postseason appearances dating back to the 2016 NLCS. If the Dodgers have a late-inning lead, then they have a massive advantage over any team.

The Yankees' main edge is that they have a raucous home-field advantage at Yankee Stadium, where they have won all six of their 2017 playoff games in addition to 51 regular-season contests. They also have a deeper bench (e.g. speed with Jacoby Ellsbury, power with Matt Holliday, defense with Ronald Torreyes).

However, the Dodgers have an extra game at home, which will be the difference in a classic seven-game series. Look for L.A. to win its first World Series in 29 years.

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World Series 2017 Schedule: TV, Live-Stream Coverage for Fall Classic

As the Los Angeles Dodgers bide their time at home, the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros will battle it out in a seventh game of the American League Championship Series Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.

The home field has been kind to both teams to this point, so that means the Astros should have something of an advantage in Game 7. The Yankees will try to counter that edge with veteran pitcher CC Sabathia getting the starting assignment. Charlie Morton will take the mound for the Astros.

The seventh game is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and will be televised by FS1. 

The winner will go to Los Angeles for Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET. The Dodgers won the NLCS, defeating the Chicago Cubs in five games. Dave Roberts' team earned the title Thursday night, and the manager will have a chance to set his pitching rotation and his lineup as the American Leaguers battle it out.

The World Series will be televised by Fox and will be live-streamed at MLB.TV.

Here's a look at the schedule for the Fall Classic:

Tuesday, October 24

Game 1, New York/Houston at Los Angeles, Time TBD, Fox

Wednesday, October 25

Game 2, New York/Houston at Los Angeles, Time TBD, Fox

Friday, October 27

Game 3, Los Angeles at New York/Houston, Time TBD, Fox

Saturday, October 28

Game 4, Los Angeles at New York/Houston, Time TBD, Fox

Sunday, October 29

Game 5, Los Angeles at New York/Houston, Time TBD, Fox, if necessary

Tuesday, October 31

Game 6, New York/Houston at Los Angeles, Time TBD, Fox, if necessary

Wednesday, November 1

Game 7, New York/Houston at Los Angeles, Time TBD, Fox, if necessary

The Dodgers have had a memorable season, and they are surging at the most critical time of the year. 

They were the best team in baseball by a fairly wide margin for three-quarters of the season, and they were on track to win 110 games or more through the middle of August. However, they hit a terrible skid late in the month that carried into the middle of September.

The Dodgers lost 16 of 17 games with the playoffs around the corner, and they did not look like a team that was capable of winning a series against a mediocre opponent, let alone beating other championship contenders.

They came out of their slump in the final 10 games of the regular season, but they appeared to be on shaky ground as they prepared to play the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series. They had been swept in two three-game series by Arizona during their losing skein, and the power bats of Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez loomed large.

However, Roberts and his team had no concerns, and they eliminated the wild-card winners in three straight games. The 2016 World Series champion Cubs were unable to come up with any solutions either.

The Dodgers rolled to an 11-1 triumph in the fifth game and celebrated the National League title at Wrigley Field. Enrique Hernandez, one of the Dodgers' role players, shocked observers with a three-HR performance that included a grand slam in the clinching game.

The Dodgers have been getting clutch hitting throughout the postseason from a number of key performers. Third baseman Justin Turner is hitting .387 with three home runs and 12 RBI, while right fielder Yasiel Puig is hitting .414 with a home run, six RBI and six runs scored.

"This is one of the most unbelievable teams I've ever been part of," said Justin Turner, per Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. "Every night, it's somebody different, something special. You never know what you're going to see, maybe even somebody hit three home runs in a series-clinching game."

Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor both have hit two home runs and driven in four runs, while Logan Forsythe is hitting .316 with six runs scored.

Starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish both have 2-0 records, as does reliever Kenta Maeda. Kershaw has had postseason struggles throughout his career, and while he hasn't been lights out in the postseason, he has a 3.63 earned-run average along with 16 strikeouts in 17.1 innings. Darvish has a 1.59 ERA and an impressive 14 strikeouts in 11.1 innings of postseason work.

If the Yankees survive the seventh game, they will depend on their power bats against the Dodgers. Aaron Judge has hit four postseason home runs to lead the team after belting 52 during the regulars season. Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird have each hit three home runs in the playoffs for the Yankees.

The Astros are led by American League MVP candidate Jose Altuve, who is hitting .405 in the postseason with four home runs and seven RBI. First baseman Yuli Gurriel is hitting .378 with 14 hits in the postseason, while Carlos Correa has three home runs and nine RBI.

While the winner of Saturday's ALCS will have to leave everything on the field to earn the title, that team will be aided by two full days of rest prior to Game 1 of the World Series.

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