Red Sox

Drellich: No point in worrying about Chris Sale

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Drellich: No point in worrying about Chris Sale

BOSTON -- Freak-out city needs to chill.

There are at least 24 issues, things, concerns, matters, and worries for Red Sox fans to dwell on and grumble about. A handful are actually reasonable. 

The injuries are mounting, for example. Home runs are few and far between. The Yankees are approaching, though still a long shot to take the American League East.

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Whatever you want to steam about, just make sure Chris Sale isn’t on your list. Forget him.

This just in: Sale has been the best pitcher in the American League arguably all year, even if the Indians’ Corey Kluber may now win the Cy Young. Sale’s performance in Tuesday’s 9-4 loss to the Blue Jays was poor, but he’d given up four home runs in a game just once before. The chances he gives up that many gopher balls in a playoff game are slim to none.

The ultimate reason not to ride the freak-out train over Sale is this: if he actually is in trouble, if he’s actually in a bad rut that carries over into the postseason, the Sox are sunk. Done. Finished.

Sale is not a variable. He is not an X-factor. More than anyone else on the Sox and arguably any pitcher anywhere, he is a given — and has been, and must continue to be.

If the sun explodes, we’re all going to go up in flames without North Korea's help. Sale is the Red Sox’ sun. Do you sit around every day worrying about the sun exploding?

You don’t become a given unless you’re the best of the best. And when you’re the best of the best, a bad outing or a rough stretch doesn’t change the overall outlook.

“You can’t have a good day at work every day,” Sale said Tuesday after allowing five runs in five innings. “Unfortunately, what I do is amplified because we’re here and we’re in the thick of it, but I’ve got to win games and I’m not doing that. And I’m as frustrated as anybody on the planet right now about that. You pick your head up, you pick your teammates up and show up tomorrow ready to go."

The Sox could get by without Eduardo Nunez. Maybe, just maybe, they can get by with Dustin Pedroia limited by his left knee.

But Sale? No way. You have to assume he’s going to pitch like he has most of the year: excellently, and if not that, quite well. He’s the starting point on the map, and there’s no map without him.

Sale didn’t hit his spots Tuesday. That’s happened more often in the second half than it did in the first half. But he’s still striking out the world, still throwing strikes.

If rest is the thing Sale needs to regain some of his command, he has a chance to gain a ton now. The Division Series doesn’t start until Oct. 5, next Thursday. 

Not that there's a sense Sale needs anything in specific to be effective moving forward. He's not going to be parked in front of video tape on Wednesday. 

"A lot of what I do is based off of feeling," Sale said, "so no, I’m not a big fan of looking at my mistakes."

Neither Sale nor Sox manager John Farrell indicated whether the plan is to get Sale back in a game during the regular season — assuming the Sox lock up the division and don’t need Sale to pitch in Game No. 162. But the chances of the Sox exposing him to the Astros seem very low.

Even on Tuesday, Farrell noted how familiarity can play into Sale’s off nights, and fostering familiarity for the Astros would seem a poor play. Whether familiarity really is the issue or it’s just a matter of command is hard to say definitively, but if the Sox are going with the former line of thinking, they should stick to it.

"I think there is familiarity," Farrell said. "When you look at the last dozen starts, we’ve been pretty exclusively in the American League East. He’s been a guy we’ve lined up against all divisional opponents. So whether it’s five or six starts against New York, four against Toronto, four or five more against Tampa, that’s familiarity within a division. When he’s had a time gap against an individual team, he’s certainly had the upper hand. There might be some familiarity."

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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.

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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.

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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). 

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