Red Sox

Astros boost rotation with trade for Justin Verlander

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Astros boost rotation with trade for Justin Verlander

HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros acquired Justin Verlander in a trade with the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night, just before the deadline for having players eligible for postseason play.

The right-hander joins the American League West leaders and a rotation that is led by Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers.

"He adds a boost to our rotation," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "He's been pitching well. We think he'll give us some leadership. He's been in the playoffs before and adds a dimension we didn't have."

The six-time All Star is a playoff veteran having appeared in the postseason five times. He is 7-5 with a 3.39 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 16 career starts in the playoffs.

The 34-year-old Verlander is 10-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 28 starts this season. The Tigers will receiver minor league prospects outfielder Daz Cameron, right-hander Franklin Perez and catcher Jake Rogers as well as a player to be named later or cash considerations in the deal.

It was the second trade of the day for the Tigers who sent outfielder Justin Upton to the Los Angeles Angels for pitching prospect Grayson Long and cash or a player to be named.

Crane is optimistic that Verlander is the piece that can help the Astros make a deep run in the postseason.

"We hope it positions us to get into the playoffs, get by the first round, get into the second round and get to the world series and win it. That's what we've been working at and that's what we'll continue to work at and we want to win."

The Astros spent the week playing their home series against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida because of catastrophic flooding in the area in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. They returned to Houston on Thursday night and will begin a series at Minute Maid Park with the New York Mets with a doubleheader on Saturday.

"We think it will be great for the town," Crane said. "We need a little boost right now. So all the stars may be aligned here. We're hoping that it works out good for us."

Verlander has compiled a 183-114 record with a 3.49 ERA and 2,373 strikeouts in his 13-year career with the Tigers.

After trading both Verlander and Upton the Tigers are now clearly moving forward with a rebuild. Detroit is 58-74 and on track to miss the postseason for a third straight year.

The Tigers drafted Verlander in 2004 with the No. 2 overall pick. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 2006, when Detroit came out of nowhere to win the American League pennant. He led the AL with 19 wins in 2009, but his finest season came in 2011, when he went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and won the AL Cy Young Award and MVP. He also threw his second career no-hitter that season and led the Tigers to their first of four consecutive AL Central titles.

Now Detroit is shedding payroll, although the Tigers still have Miguel Cabrera's huge contract. Verlander did not have a great start this season, but he went 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in August. If he can perform like that down the stretch, he'll certainly give the Astros a much stronger rotation entering the postseason.

The Tigers were happy to get a trio of prospects they believe will help them down the road, and conveyed their thanks to Verlander for his years of work with the team.

"We sincerely thank Justin Verlander for his remarkable 13 seasons of dedication to the organization," Tigers general manager Al Avila said. "Justin has been the face of consistency over the course of his career, and a pillar for baseball in the city of Detroit. He is someone who I believe to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. We wish Justin all the best as he starts a new chapter in his illustrious career."

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.
 

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez sensed he was ready to bust out of his slump and give the Chicago Cubs the lift they needed.

As breakthroughs go, this was a big one. Just in time to keep the season going for the defending champs.

Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

"We have to be much more offensive," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

Baez finally got going with a pair of solo drives .

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to help the Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

"They're the world champs, and you know they're going to fight to the end," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "So today, they did. We got beat today."

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. He had been watching videos and felt his timing was starting to come back in recent trips to the plate.

"I just need to take a step back and see what's going on," he said.

Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley , who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

"Great to have this win, because if not we were going home tomorrow," Baez said. "But I feel like we're still not on track as a team. But I think if we get back on track, everybody as a team, we're going to be the best again."

Contreras' 491-foot homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez sent a towering drive out to left.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

"Hopefully, it's not a goodbye, it's a thank you, obviously," Arrieta said. "I still intend to have another start in this ballpark. If that's where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there."

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

"The only frustrating thing is we fell a run short," Turner said. "We played a great game, they played a great game. They just hit one more ball over the fence than we did."

FINISHING UP

Maddon said Davis would not be available on Thursday.

"So other guys got to do it," Maddon said. "We have to be much more offensive. It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

QUOTABLE

Chicago's Kyle Schwarber on all the Cubs' runs coming on homers in the series: "That's fine. A run's a run, anyway you can get them in. Obviously, we want to manufacture some runs, but we won a ballgame 3-2 hitting homers; I'll take that, too."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: The Dodgers turn to Kershaw to try to wrap up the series. The three-time NL Cy Young winner went five innings in Game 1, allowing two runs, and has a 4.76 ERA in two postseason starts this year.

Cubs: Quintana pitched five innings of two-hit ball in Game 1, one day after his wife, Michel, was taken off the team plane in Albuquerque with a medical ailment.

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