Red Sox

McAdam at the ALCS: Tigers painfully stay alive

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McAdam at the ALCS: Tigers painfully stay alive

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

DETROIT -- Pity the poor Detroit Tigers. They're trying to beat two opponents at once.

First, the Texas Rangers, whom they defeated 5-2 in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series Tuesday night thanks to three leadoff homers, nominally making the ALCS a series again -- "nominally" because as tough as the Rangers have been, the Tigers aren't faring well against their other opponent: Time.

The race is on to determine if the Tigers can win the pennant and get to the finish line before their entire team is decimated by injuries.

Problems started in Game 5 of the Division Series when Delmon Young had to come out of the game with a pulled oblique muscle. Thanks to that pull, Young wasn't on the original ALCS roster submitted by the Tigers.

Manager Jim Leyland noted that oblique pulls frequently take weeks to fully heal.

But that was before Magglio Ordonez broke his ankle in Game 1 of the Division Series. Then, all of a sudden, an oblique didn't seem that serious. Young was activated and in the lineup for Game 2, in left field.

He left that game, however, and hasn't been back on the field since.

Then came Game 3, when, even when the Tigers were winning, they were losing.

Former Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez opened the fourth by launching a missile into the right field seats, pulling the Tigers even at 1-1.

But almost immediately, it was obvious that something wasn't right. Martinez took forever to get himself around the bases, a pace made even more curious by the fact that Martinez might be the very last hitter in the big leagues to style a home-run trot.

It soon became obvious that Martinez wasn't just taking in the scene, but rather, had suffered a pulled right intercostal muscle with his home-run swing.

As he walked gingerly from the plate to the dugout, he slammed his helmet in frustration, then quickly disappeared up the tunnel to the clubhouse, followed in short order by the Tigers' trainer.

"He's OK," shrugged Jim Leyland of Martinez. "He felt a little strain, but he's all right."

In the Tigers clubhouse, Martinez himself wasn't so sure. He described the feeling as "a sharp pain . . . real uncomfortable."

"I'm pretty sore," said Martinez. "I got some treatment and was able to finish the game. We'll see how it feels Wednesday."

(Ever mindful of playing the game the right way, Martinez asked Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba to explain to Texas starter Colby Lewis that the ultra-slow home run trot was born out of necessity and not a chance to show up the opposition).

Asked if he could have played the field -- at first or behind the plate -- after the incident, Martinez allowed himself a smile: "I don't know, but it's a good thing I'm a DH."

Reminded of the litany of injuries that the Tigers already face with Young and Ordonez, Martinez interjected: "We don't need another one, believe me. We don't need anyone hurt. This kind of opportunity to get to the World Series doesn't get to you very often. I will do anything I can to go out there and play."

The Rangers did Martinez and the Tigers a favor in the next inning when Martinez came to the plate with two out and runners at the corners and, facing a guy who could barely lift a bat -- much less swing one -- promptly walked him on five pitches.

In the seventh, Martinez was able to put a decent swing on a pitch and flied to center.

Wednesday and Game 4? Who knows.

"As of right now, I'm playing tomorrow," said Martinez with determination.

"Ah, we're limping a little bit right now," said teammate Al Avila. "You want to be limping; you don't want to be completely on crutches."

Since the Tigers had to summon Young -- unsuccessfully, it would now seem -- to replace Ordonez, it seems likely they don't have a backup for Martinez, either.

"We're tough," concluded Leyland.

Not that, at the moment, they have a choice.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

For the glass-is-half-full folks, there are those back-to-back Eastern Division titles. For the glass-is-half-empty folks, well, there are those two first-round playoff ousters (though both their conquerers made it to the World Series, and one of them won it). But, here on Thanksgiving night, there's plenty for Red Sox Nation to be thankful for, starting with . . . 


YOUR GOOD HEALTH

We know you don’t need the Red Sox to know you how important the most basic elements of life are. But sometimes, the typical fantasy land of baseball can grab our attention. The death of 17-year-old Sox prospect Daniel Flores (above) this month from complications because of cancer didn’t take away only a potentially great baseball career. It took away a beloved, hard-working young person from the people who loved him. He had just made millions of dollars in July for his talent on the field, but what does such a windfall matter compared to one’s health? His cancer was both rare and fast-moving, per the Boston Globe.

MOOKIE, JACKIE, XANDER, BENINTENDI, DEVERS

The kids deserve some love. They probably won’t be together on the Red Sox forever. Heck, the group could get broken up this winter. But while any of the Killer B’s (plus a D) remain on the Sox, there should be a sense of optimism. Two straight 93-win seasons may have resulted in a first-round exit, and 2017 didn’t meet expectations for some individual performances. But you know what? The youths are still damn good, and there’s time for them to show us they can be even better.

INSANELY GOOD PITCHERS IN CHRIS SALE AND CRAIG KIMBREL

Neither hogs the spotlight once the game ends or says too much. Sale doesn’t even have Twitter. But the righty closer and lefty starter both do two things exceedingly well: make batters swing and miss, and prevent runs. When both pitch, your seat at the park may well be worth the price of admission. (But we won’t ask what you paid for those seats.) Sale didn’t take down Pedro Martinez’s Sox single-season strikeout record this year, finishing with five fewer than Martinez’s 313 in 1999. But he could have done it. And with a little more rest next year, one can envision him plowing his way through playoff opponents too.

ALEX CORA'S NEW DIRECTION

A first-time manager’s not a sure thing, but as Sox owner John Henry noted, there was a feeling it was time for a change. It’s a little early to be thinking ahead to a New Year’s resolution, but a manager who better connects with his players and brings a different vibe to the day-to-day scene is reason to feel the Sox are following the right road map. Plus, if nothing else, Cora took that awesome picture walking toward Fenway.

A CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SPREE MAY BE AROUND THE CORNER

We don’t want to be too materialistic. But Uncle Dave Dombrowski couldn’t let you buy everything you wanted last year. The credit card companies needed him to step back for a year. Now he’s ready to spend. He might not close down Bloomingdale’s for the day for you to do your private shopping, but if you need a couple great jackets to complete your look, it sounds like he’s ready to get you some designer threads. He probably feels there won’t be too many chances to have a moment like this with you, at this stage of your life, and he wants to make the most of it.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel.