Red Sox

Haggerty: These Sox not playoff worthy

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Haggerty: These Sox not playoff worthy

BOSTON There was plenty of hopeful talk in the Red Sox clubhouse on Saturday night after another loss designed to rip the heart right out of the teams chest.

Never mind the batty reaction of Sox closer Alfredo Aceves, who was alternating between blaming the umpire for missing a borderline strike three call and guaranteeing hell get over the loss because his parents are cool.

Forget about a manager in Bobby Valentine that looks more-and-more shell-shocked with each passing day and is proving to be a very poor fit for a bunch of baseball misfits that needed some structure and order in their world.

Dont pay any attention to the slack-jawed, overpaid starting pitcher with no shot of coming from Tommy John surgery this season, who still somehow manages to secure himself a spot among the Sox traveling party. John Lackey is always around at home and on the road, and that is most definitely not a positive thing for the Olde Towne Team.

Instead most will pay attention to light-hitting, scrappy Nick Punto, who hadnt played in nearly two weeks before popping up in Saturdays lineup against his former Minnesota Twins ballclub. Punto was on the St. Louis Cardinals team that came back from the dead last year to shock the baseball world with a World Series win, and essentially experienced a hardball miracle.

These losses are all devastating, said Punto. Its getting to be that time in the year when you look up at the standings and were not in a very good position. There are a lot of teams in the wild card hunt, so we cant afford to lose games.

Theres no doubt that its not good. We were a mediocre team last year in St. Louis. We were a mediocre team until September. We went on a really nice run and got some help from Atlanta, and we came back from a 9 game deficit. There are some similarities with this team this year. We are very mediocre. Were not playing good baseball. We have the talent to be able to do it and we just havent. We have the talent to play good baseball, but the clock is ticking now. We need to get it going.

Thats exactly what the Red Sox will need after dropping their third game in a row to the lowly Twins by a 6-4 score when Joe Mauer smashed a three-run home run in the ninth inning. The ninth inning wiped out a two-run lead built on the back of inspirational clutch hitter Pedro Ciriaco, and illustrated once again why the Red Sox wont be a playoff team this season.

They are not the miracle Cardinals team of last season. They are not last years Tampa Bay Rays waiting for a choke artist group like the Popeyes and Pabst Blue Ribbon Sox to open the door for them.

Instead theyre a ballclub thats lost nine straight games to sub-.500 team. One of the true tests of a playoff-worthy team is the ability to take care of business against lesser squads, and the Sox are left utterly lacking in that category.

The Sox built up some optimism by winning series against the Yankees and Tigers as they entered August, but then they proceeded to drop three straight games against the American League cellar dweller Minnesota Twins.

Once again it was two steps forward and three steps behind for a Boston club thats made it their motto. Punto stressed that the Red Sox are way too talented to play mediocre baseball and serve as bottom-feeders in the American League.

But at a certain point you are what your record says you are as Bill Parcells was always fond of saying. The Red Sox are five games back in the wild card playoff hunt and sit 3 games and counting behind the Orioles and Rays.

The Red Sox are 75-86 over the last calendar year, and are the very picture of mediocre. This is no lovable group of overachievers ready to set the baseball world on its ear. Its a collection of mercenaries, malcontents and millionaire babies ready to turn on each other as the season inevitably implodes into another seismic event that will make them Major League Baseballs laughingstock.

There will be no happy ending or mythic run for this band of Red Sox.

There are merely those players, coaches and management that will be permitted to escape before the inevitably ugly denouement thats coming for a team that hasnt been a legit World Series threat in a long, long time.

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.