Athletics

Reddick drives in series-winning run as Astros eliminate Red Sox in ALDS

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AP

Reddick drives in series-winning run as Astros eliminate Red Sox in ALDS

BOX SCORE

BOSTON -- Justin Verlander outpitched Chris Sale in a relief role reversal of aces, and the Houston Astros advanced to their first AL Championship Series, rallying past the Boston Red Sox 5-4 Monday in Game 4 of their playoff matchup.

Houston will open the ALCS on Friday, either at Cleveland or at home against the New York Yankees. The Indians held a 2-1 edge over the Yankees going into Game 4 of the AL Division Series on Monday night.

With Verlander and Sale - the Game 1 starters - both pressed into relief, the Astros prevailed to win the ALDS 3-1.

Alex Bregman homered off Sale to tie it in the eighth and Josh Reddick hit an RBI single off closer Craig Kimbrel later in the inning.

The Astros last reached the league championship series in 2005 as a National League team, and were swept in the World Series by the White Sox.

Carlos Beltran added to his legacy of postseason success with an RBI double in the Houston ninth for a 5-3 lead. Red Sox rookie Rafael Devers opened the bottom of the ninth with an inside-the-park homer off Ken Giles, the ball hitting above center fielder George Springer's leap and bouncing off the angled Green Monster.

Giles retired the next three batters for a six-out save.

Springer and Yuli Gurriel each had three hits for the AL West champions, and Reddick's go-ahead single made up for misplaying a fly ball into a home run in Game 3 to force a fourth game.

Verlander allowed just one hit: A two-run homer to Andrew Benintendi - the first batter he faced - that gave Boston a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Verlander wound up with the win in his first pro relief appearance after making 424 starts in the majors and minors.

The big-hander, acquired late in the season from Detroit, also beat Sale in the playoff opener and is now 7-0 for his new team. Verlander went 2 2/3 innings in relief of starter Charlie Morton.

Sale pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits, striking out six.

On a rainy day at Fenway Park - the fourth straight day game - the Red Sox again saw a starter struggle early, with Rick Porcello giving up Houston's eighth first-inning run of the series. The reigning AL Cy Young winner, who led the AL with 22 wins last year and the majors with 17 losses in 2017, gave up two runs in three innings, walking three and striking out four while allowing five hits.

Like Houston, the Red Sox called on their ace in relief.

Sale was sharp before giving up Bregman's leadoff homer in the eighth. He allowed a one-out single to Evan Gattis before closer Kimbrel came on with two outs, walked Springer and gave up Reddick's single.

Xander Bogaerts also homered for the AL East champion Red Sox, and Hanley Ramirez had two hits a day after going 4 for 4 in Boston's only postseason win since the end of the 2013 World Series.

SEE YA:
Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected by home plate umpire Mark Wegner in the bottom of the second inning after coming out to argue a called third strike on Dustin Pedroia. The previous batter, Jackie Bradley Jr., had also been called out strikes on a close pitch.

It is the 19th ejection of Farrell's career and his third this season.

INTERFERENCE:
The Red Sox ball girl was called for interference when she tried to field Gattis' fair-ball grounder down the third base line in the eighth. Instead of a potential double, Gattis was sent back to first; pinch-runner Cameron Maybin took second on a wild pitch and scored the go-ahead run on Reddick's single.

WASTED OPPORTUNITIES:
The Red Sox loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning and failed to score. They also ran themselves out of the third inning, when they got two singles and a double without getting a run.

Benintendi led off with a single and then got doubled off first on Mookie Betts' hard liner to third. Mitch Moreland doubled, and then got thrown out at the plate - easily - on Ramirez's single to left. The Red Sox had 29 runners thrown out at the plate this season, the most in the majors.

PLAYING THE SCHEDULE:
The teams finished Game 3 before 6:30 p.m. on Sunday but didn't find out until about 11 p.m. what time they would be playing Game 4, because TV wanted to keep the Yankees in prime time. That left the Red Sox and Astros with a brief afternoon window before the rain began to fall, as expected.

The game started on time and was not delayed, but the rain kept the grounds crew busy raking drying agent on the infield.

A's land Piscotty without giving up any of their top prospects

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USATSI

A's land Piscotty without giving up any of their top prospects

The A’s finalized their trade for St. Louis outfielder Stephen Piscotty, sending two minor league infield prospects to the Cardinals in return.

Shortstop Yairo Munoz and second baseman Max Schrock were ranked 13th and 17th, respectively, on the A’s current list of prospects by mlb.com.

Both have upside but it’s fair to say Oakland pulled off this deal for a starting outfielder without giving up any of the premium guys in their farm system. A quick rundown on each prospect:

Munoz, 22, hit .300 with 13 homers, 68 RBI and 22 stolen bases last year split time between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. His raw talent and all-around tools made him an intriguing prospect. Munoz primarily is a shortstop but bounced all around the infield last season. The A’s even experimented with him in center field, and it would have been interesting to see if Munoz could have emerged as a possibility in center at the major league level eventually.

But with prospects climbing through the system such as shortstop Jorge Mateo, third baseman Sheldon Neuse and, over at second base, top prospect Franklin Barreto — not to mention shortstop Richie Martin, a former first-round pick whose hitting has held him back thus far — the A’s appear to have dealt from depth in trading Munoz.

Schrock, 23, was acquired in August 2016 from the Washington Nationals for reliever Marc Rzepczynski. He hit .321 for Midland last season and made the Texas League Midseason and Postseason All-Star teams. He’s an offense-first second baseman who impressed with his all-around approach and knowledge of the strike zone. A’s manager Bob Melvin praised Schrock in his first look at him last spring in major league camp. At 5-foot-8, he’s the type of player that naturally will get overlooked when compared to other more highly touted guys in a farm system.

The A’s just dealt another second baseman from their system in Joey Wendle earlier in the week. But with Barreto considered the A’s second baseman of the future, and Chad Pinder available to handle second as well being starter Jed Lowrie, Oakland was in good enough shape depth-wise to deal Schrock.

Interesting to note: Thursday’s trade was the first between the A’s and Cardinals since 2009, the season Oakland shipped Matt Holliday to St. Louis after a disappointing first half of the season. Since the 2014 trade deadline, the A’s have swung trades with 24 of the other 29 teams in the majors.

A's acquire local outfielder from Cardinals

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USATSI

A's acquire local outfielder from Cardinals

UPDATE (8:15am on Thursday) -- The A's acquired Stephen Piscotty, the team announced.

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It appears the A’s have checked one very large item off their to-do list at the Winter Meetings.

They’ve agreed to a trade for St. Louis outfielder Stephen Piscotty, according to a report from FanRag Sports. The A’s have not announced any deal, but Jon Heyman reports that two minor leaguers are going back to the Cardinals. Those players have not been identified.

If a deal is in place, there won’t be any announcement from the A’s until Piscotty has taken a physical. There’s no indication of how quickly that will happen.

Piscotty, who is from Pleasanton and attended Stanford, is not a household name. But if this trade reaches the finish line, it’s an impact addition for Oakland. Piscotty would assume one of the starting outfield corner spots; the majority of his major league starts have come in right field, but he appeared at all three spots for the Cardinals and even saw brief time at first base.

He fills a need that Oakland’s front office considered its most crucial of the winter — a right-handed hitting corner outfielder, which will allow the A’s to move their most dangerous hitter, Khris Davis, from left field to designated hitter.

Piscotty turns 27 in January, and he’s under team control for the next six years. He’s guaranteed $29.5 million over the next five seasons — a very manageable sum — and the A’s will hold a $15 million club option for 2023 that includes a $1 million buyout.

Piscotty made his big league debut in 2015 and followed up with an excellent 2016, when he hit .273 with 22 homers and 85 RBI. Last year was a step back — he finished at .235 with nine homers and 39 RBI in 107 games. But it’s worth noting that Piscotty dealt with quite a burden off the field, as his mother was diagnosed with ALS. He left the Cardinals for a period after her diagnosis.

Reports out of St. Louis were that the Cardinals were looking to find a trade that brought him closer to home.

A major league scout who has seen Piscotty plenty over the years said that for a man of his size, 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Piscotty shows good athleticism defensively and has an above average arm, with an above-average power bat that can play well for either corner outfield spot. The A’s can decide which spot fits best for Piscotty and returning right fielder Matt Joyce, with Chad Pinder likely to fit into the equation at one of the corner spots as well.

Oakland remains on the lookout for a left-handed reliever, likely to be found via free agency.