Red Sox

Bobby V. and questions of 'what if?'

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Bobby V. and questions of 'what if?'

Bobby Valentine was fired today, and everyone wants to throw a parade. But before we get too wrapped up in the planning, lets take a quick look back at the season. Real quick. I promise.

Bobby Valentine managed the first half of the year without his closer, his MVP-caliber center fielder and his 20M a year left fielder. Over those first few months, he also saw his former MVP second baseman fall victim to a nagging thumb injury, his first baseman (and one of the AL's best hitters) slump like a chump, his No. 1 and 2 pitchers revert back to Little League and his No. 4 starter fall off a psychological cliff. All while spending 24 hours a day tumbling in a dryer of certifiable media insanity.

At the All Star Break, the Sox were 2.5 games out of the Wild Card.

Less than two weeks later, just as Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia re-joined the line-up, Andrew Bailey was getting closer and Clay Buchholz had established himself as a legitimate ace, Valentine lost David Ortiz for the season (minus one game). Ortiz may have been a pain in the ass but he was also hands down the most reliable and essential aspect of that line-up.

On the day Ortiz went on the DL July 18 the Sox were one game back in the wild card.

After that, with the offense unable to make up for the absence of its best hitter and the pitching staff still a mess, everything slowly spun out of control. On August 10, they were 5.5 games back. On August 20, they were seven back. On August 25, they were 9.5 back, and then finally said uncle essentially trading Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett for James Loney.

Post- trade, Valentines fourth rate line up went 10-27; leaving the Sox with their worst record since 1966.

Obviously, along the way, Valentine pulled plenty of crap that's more than worthy of the criticism hes received and will continue to receive for the next couple hundred years. Theres no question that he needed to be fired this morning. Its all part of the process of cleansing that clubhouse and taking another swing at a fresh start. But for all the anger, frustration and criticism, it's fair wonder what would have happened if Ortiz had stayed healthy. Or if at any point, Valentine had been afforded the services of his entire roster at the same time.

It may not have made a difference. In fact, there's a good chance that nothing could have saved this team from eventual collapse. And maybe that's the point. But all things considered, Valentine tread water for much longer than he should have this season, and had far less to do with the disaster than history will remember.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

ALCS: Judge home run sparks New York, Yankees beat Astros 6-4 to even series

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ALCS: Judge home run sparks New York, Yankees beat Astros 6-4 to even series

NEW YORK -  With a soaring shot headed for Yankee Stadium's Monument Park, Aaron Judge got New York back on track for another memorable October.

Judge ignited a rousing rally with a home run, then doubled during a four-run eighth inning to spur the unflappable New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and tie the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Baby Bombers trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored when Gary Sanchez hit a go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

The Yankees overcame three errors and have roared back from a second straight 0-2 series deficit - they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth to cap a three-hitter. New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs and won for the 18th time in their last 21 home games.

Yankee Stadium will be rocking again when Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday. It's a rematch of the series opener, when Keuchel outdid the Japanese right-hander in a 2-1 Astros win.

An AL MVP candidate marred in a sluggish October, Judge sparked the Yankees by chasing McCullers, who baffled the Yankees with his power breaking ball.

Except for the last one.

Judge launched a curveball into the netting above center field's Monument Park for New York's second hit.

"Once we're within striking distance like that, anything can happen," Judge said.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch pulled McCullers after 81 pitches, Didi Gregorius tripled off Chris Devenski and Sanchez brought Gregorius in with a sacrifice fly.

"I thought Aaron's home run just lit a little spark," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a double to left, and pinch hitter Chase Headley then did the same - only after falling between first and second base, taking one step back, then heading for second and sliding in ahead of Jose Altuve's tag.

"Panic," Headley recalled. "I went from one of the best feelings of my career to one of the worst in just a matter of seconds, but fortunately it worked out."

Brett Gardner brought in Frazier on a groundout, and Judge came to bat with the bundled crowd on its feet.

He reached down to stay with a slider and drilled a double high off the left-field wall as a fan in a longsleeve yellow shirt reached down and touched the ball. Gardner came home with the tying run, and Gregorius grounded a single just beyond shortstop Carlos Correa's reach to put runners at the corner. Sanchez, who had been 0 for 13 in the series, scored them both with a slicing drive that skipped to the wall in right-center.

Houston had not lost consecutive games since Sept. 8-10 at Oakland and the major leagues' best road record during the regular season. The Astros had just three hits and are hitting .153 in the series.

Yankees starter Sonny Gray pitched one-hit ball through five innings but again had no run support. His teammates have yet to score for him in four career postseason starts while he's still on the mound, including twice with New York this year.

Houston took a 3-0 lead in the sixth after George Springer walked leading off, and Josh Reddick reached on catcher's interference by Austin Romine - inserted into lineup for his defense.

Robertson walked Altuve and struck out Carlos Correa before Yuri Gurriel lined a three-run double past Frazier and all the way to the wall. Gurriel got hung up between second and third as Altuve scored, and he was tagged out by Judge to end a rundown.

Houston added a fourth run when second baseman Starlin Castro misplayed Brian McCann's grounder in the seventh, allowing Marwin Gonzalez to score from second. It was Castro's second error of the game.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Ron Gardenhire to interview with Red Sox Wednesday

Ron Gardenhire to interview with Red Sox Wednesday

BOSTON — Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire's interview for Red Sox manager is scheduled for Wednesday, a baseball source told NBC Sports Boston. He'll be the third to interview for John Farrell's old job, following favorite Alex Cora on Sunday and Brad Ausmus on Monday — and may be the last to interview as well. 

The Sox could move quickly from here. Announcing hiring is tricky this time of year, because MLB doesn't want personnel moves to detract from the playoffs. 

But if Cora ends up the choice, as is most likely, his introduction is further complicated by the fact that his team, Houston, is still playing — and could be playing in the World Series.

MORE:

Cora, who would be a first-time manager unlike Ausmus and Gardenhire, is close with Red Sox second baseman and leader Dustin Pedroia and is drawing interest across the game.

Gardenhire would be something of a safe hiring, considering his 13 years as manager of the Minnesota Twins. A few days shy of his 60th birthday, Gardenhire would have to prove he could handle a vastly different market than Minnesota, and also connect with players despite being older than both Ausmus (48) and Cora (41). 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE