Red Sox

Drellich: Champagne, then pain? Astros clearly outman Red Sox

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Drellich: Champagne, then pain? Astros clearly outman Red Sox

BOSTON — The champagne is nearing for the Red Sox. What follows is not promising.

Information gathering is the theme in this four-game series between the Sox and Astros. Who will tip what tendencies ahead of a presumed meeting in the first round of the playoffs next week? What tendencies do these teams already have in their back pocket, waiting to exploit?

The Sox, whose magic number to clinch the division is down to one with three games to play, better study really hard. Because they’re in trouble once the American League East is wrapped.

They were in trouble before Thursday’s 12-2 loss to the ‘Stros, but a slaughter in the series opener was a snapshot of their perilous state.

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There was yet another bad, short outing from a Red Sox starting pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez, who’s expected to pitch in the playoffs. He recorded five outs.

The Sox were blitzed by an Astros offense that can run circles on Boston's National League lineup.

Houston will cool off some. They torched the Rangers before coming to Fenway Park. Per Elias, the Astros are the first team to win four consecutive games by at least nine runs since 1887.

But the Sox are still underdogs.

The Astros are a better team. The Indians are too. The odds are against the Sox heading into the playoffs. And if you’re not convinced of that at this point, your fandom has impeded your senses, or you can’t see how inferior the Sox offense is in comparison to others’. 

To be clear: the Sox are not a bad hitting team. There’s a difference between being bad and simply being out-matched. The Astros are the best hitting team out there. The Astros have 886 runs. The Sox have 774.

You might prefer to have the Sox' pitching, but any perceived disparity there doesn’t make up for the talent gap at the plate.

“This is not a spring training game,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday, before he pulled his starters in a blowout that looked like a spring training game. “We have to attack it and compete to win the game. It’s important for them, it’s important for the A.L. East, it’s important for seeding. We’re still trying to catch the Indians [for homefield advantage].  

“If I change my mind in game and decide to do something different, I will. Our mentality as a team is not to tip-toe into these games. It’s not to play exhibition games. It’s to win.”

Tip toe? They kicked down the door.

Sox manager John Farrell sounds like a man convinced he’s going to need some real length in his bullpen, given how shoddy the rotation’s been in the regular season’s final turn. That’s some sound thinking, but it also makes clear how shaky even the Sox' strength, pitching, has been.

“This turn through the rotation starts to make you think about how our pitching staff is best comprised,” Farrell said. “If there’s length needed from a couple of guys, all those things are being brought into the mix. We recognize where guys are in terms of workloads, the way they’ve thrown of late, early exits. Yeah, that kind of starts to factor in and are there multiple inning guys needed more so than one-inning guys. Those are all things we’ll take into account.”

Let's issue a disclaimer that's always applicable. The Sox could go deep into the playoffs. How, you ask? By the graces of a sport that affords any team participating in its postseason a reasonable chance.

That’s it, though. That’s all the Sox have to hang their hats on: the usual, somewhat artificial parity of short-series tradition. And maybe a hope that the Astros are just bound to cool off.

Comforting, right? 

The Astros were swept by the White Sox in a three-game series in August. Anything can happen.

The impending champagne bath will be a lot of fun for the Red Sox. What comes after probably won't be.

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Could Nationals' interest in Cora mess with Red Sox' plans?

Could Nationals' interest in Cora mess with Red Sox' plans?

The Washington Nationals will ask to speak to Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora after the ALCS, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported, which could throw a wrench into the Red Sox' plans to name Cora their manager.

The Sox appeared close to naming Cora to replace John Farrell after the Astros season is finished, NBC Sports Boston Red Sox Insider Evan Drellich reported earlier this week. Then the Nats decided to part ways with manager Dusty Baker after consecutive N.L. East titles but Division Series flameouts.

Cora, 41, as Cafardo points out, was once offered a player development job with the Nats, who were the last team he played for (2011) in his 14-plus years as a major league infielder, including 2005-08 with the Red Sox. 

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo obviously has a fondness for Cora, telling MLB.com in 2011:

"I think it comes natural to him to be a teacher. Alex still has a lot left in his tank as a player. But he has my number, and when he’s done playing, he can make a call. It will be well-received."

After interviewing Cora, ex-Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and Ron Gardenhire, who took the Tigers job this week, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told WEEI.com that he was still "undecided" if he'll interview anyone else.


 

ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

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ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

HOUSTON -  Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

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