Red Sox

Adrian Gonzalez has arrived

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Adrian Gonzalez has arrived

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

This is what weve all been waiting for, even if we never knew exactly what this was.

But after 40 games, its official: Adrian Gonzalez has arrived.

From the moment Theo mortgaged the farm to bring A-Gon to Boston, and even after the team invested 154 million to ensure that hed stay, there was something about Gonzalez that Sox fans couldnt understand.

Gonzalez was the Great Unknown. Which is to say, we knew he was going to be great, we just didnt know how.

Of course, in the general sense, we did. For years, we watched the highlights, saw the stats, and then, once the deal became official, listened as every one of baseballs most respected minds wet themselves over how unbelievable Gonzalez would be in this lineup, in this stadium, with that big, fat wall in left field. We came into this season with every expectation that Gonzalez would be the best hitter on the Red Sox, if not in the entire American League.

Still, something about him remained a mystery. Despite the resume and the references, it didnt feel real.

The problem was this: For all wed read and seen and heard about Gonzalez, wed yet to really live it.

Can you say that about any major acquisition? Sure, but this was different.

Unlike Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett or even John Lackey, Gonzalez had never excelled on the big stage. He has as many career playoff home runs and RBI as I do. Hes also only played in four career postseason games, but really, thats the point. Hed just never been there. Wed never heard Bob Costas or Joe Buck deliver a drawn-out, sappy, romanticized monologue on the wonders of Adrian Gonzalez. Wed never seen him take a team to typically unattainable heights. He has a catalog of great seasons, but no moments that define his greatness.

Also, unlike Manny Ramirez or Carl Crawford, Gonzalez had never faced Boston in a big situation. Hed never instilled the fear of God in Sox fans. We never knew what it was like to be faced with his greatness, so it was hard to have as much respect for what he could do. Gonzalezs played three career games against Boston, and had one hit. And considering that came in the seventh inning of a game played out in San Diego, theres a good chance you didnt see it.

And thats the overriding theme. Gonzalez was a guy whod spent the last five years emerging, and then solidifying his spot among the greatest hitters in all of baseball. And for the most part, you just didnt see it.

Its strange to have that experience with a superstar in this day and age, with the 24-hour sports cycle haunting our every move, Baseball Tonight and the MLB Network making every team important, fantasy baseball making every player important, and the Internet making the whole world feel as cramped as a Fenway Park bathroom, but Gonzalez slipped through the cracks.

You knew he was there (especially if he was on your fantasy team), and that he was always on the Sox radar, but you never really knew him. There were no big sponsorships, or cool commercials. He did the Home Run Derby once, hit two homers in the first round and faded back into the crowd. He lived, breathed and succeeded in obscurity.

None of that mattered once he came to Boston. Regardless of anything you didnt know about him then, you knew what he was supposed to be now. He was the present and the future of this team. He was amends for Teixeira. At Fenway, he was maybe even better. You knew what to expect, you were just waiting for it to happen.

And at first it didnt.

For his first month in Boston, Gonzalez, again, was unlike any superstar weve had. He wasnt outspoken or quirky or flashy or really, much of anything. In fact, while we spent most of that time lamenting Crawfords struggles, Gonzalez remained in obscurity. He did nothing great, nothing awful. He hit .314 in that first month, but he had as many home runs (1) as Darnell McDonald. When he took the plate, there was nothing special or unique. Nothing to separate him form the pack. He didnt fidget psychotically like Nomar; he calmly stepped into the box. He didnt wave the bat menacingly like Manny; he set his feet, rested the bat on his shoulder and didnt move until the pitch was on its way. He didnt spit fire and glare angrily at the pitcher like Ortiz; Gonzalez looked out at the mound with a focused, non-descript stare, like an MIT student honing in on an algorythm. He was just blah. We learned nothing about him . . . or, in retrospect, maybe we learned everything about him. Regardless, unlike Crawford, there was never any concern over what Gonzalez might do.

We were never exactly sure what we were waiting for. We just knew it was coming, and that thered be no questions once it arrived.

Needless to say, the wait is over.

In 13 games this month, Gonzalez has more home runs (8), than any other Red Sox has for the entire season, and only Kevin Youkilis' season total of 22 RBI can top the 19 Gonzalez has knocked in since the first of the month. He leads or is tied for the team lead in hits, runs, batting average, doubles, homers, RBI, slugging and OPS. Hes kept the same demeanor, but instead of looking like a college kid attacking a math problem, it's now more like a nuclear technician diffusing a warhead. What once looked stoic and unaffected is now unflappable and you can see how much that scares the hell out of the other team. You can see how we works, how he will work, and how much better Boston will be for it.

Now, we're finally learning what Adrian Gonzalez is all about.

And it was definitely worth the wait.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

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Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. combined on a three-hitter, Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Astros reached the World Series for only the second time by blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP , and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve , the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron JudgeGary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."

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Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

UPDATE: The deal is for three years, per Ken Rosenthal.

BOSTON — We’re just waiting on an announcement now.

A pair of national reports on Saturday afternoon, one from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal... 

...And another from MLB Network and FanRagSports.com's Jon Heyman...

have firmed up Alex Cora’s expected hiring as Red Sox manager. Both reported that Cora, the Astros bench coach, is expected to take the job once Houston's season ends, which could come as soon as Saturday night after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. 

Heyman reported a contract offer has already been made to Cora. 

A baseball source said this week that there was “not a doubt” Cora, the Astros bench coach, would wind up with the Red Sox gig. It’s unclear when exactly the offer was made to him, but one had not been made as of midday Wednesday, the source said. 

Cora, 41, a former Red Sox infielder (2005-08) who's also worked in the media and is the most sought-after managerial candidate at the moment, appeared the front-runner since the outset of what proved a small search for the Red Sox.

Earlier, Boston Globe reported that the Washington Nationals were interested in Cora after they fired Dusty Baker on Friday.