Red Sox

McAdam: Rangers a daunting playoff foe for Sox

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McAdam: Rangers a daunting playoff foe for Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ARLINGTON, Texas -- With the playoffs on the near horizon and the prospect of a Division Series matchup with the Texas Rangers a distinct -- and sobering -- possibility for the Red Sox, much of the attention has been focused on the team's struggles with the Rangers.

The Sox are 0-4 against Texas this year, have lost 10 of 12 and, since the beginning of 2009, they are 6-17 against the Rangers.

This, surely, looks like a playoff opponent the Red Sox would like to avoid, especially given the fact that the team is even more helpless against C.J. Wilson (4-0, 1.08 in five career starts vs. Boston). Add in the fact that Wilson would pitch the series opener and that the last 16 Division Series winners all won Game 1, and the task is even more daunting for the Sox.

Of course, it should be noted that the lineup Terry Francona used Monday night in the 4-0 loss will not be anything like the one he'll (presumably) have for the playoffs. The Sox are, for the time being, without their leadoff hitter (Jacoby Ellsbury); cleanup hitter (Kevin Youkilis); and No. 5 hitter (David Ortiz). Should the teams meet again in the Division Series, it's a safe bet that Marco Scutaro and Darnell McDonald will not be hitting first and second. Rookie Ryan Lavarnway will not be the team's DH.

But beyond the short-term injury picture and the team's recent struggles with Texas, there are more ominous trends emerging.

The shutout suffered by the Sox Monday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was the ninth this season, an alarmingly high number for a team with the top-ranked offense in the game. Translated, that means about one of every 5.5 losses the team has suffered has been by shutout.

That figure is alarmingly high, even factoring in random slumps and loss of manpower due to injury.

(Taking that figure further, Monday was the 29th time the Red Sox had been held to under three runs, or, an average of once every 4.4 games.)

A second, equally disturbing trend is the team's inability to grind out wins against top starters.

Remember the last two seasons when the Red Sox seemed capable of beating any starter in either league? On one interleague swing in 2010, the Sox beat Ubaldo Jimenez -- at the time, the hottest pitcher in the game -- and Tim Lincecum in the span of only a few days.

Apart from their well-documented success against CC Sabathia this season, the Red Sox haven't been nearly so successful against top starting pitchers.

It's possible to count on one hand the number of times the Red Sox have beaten a front-line starter this year. They've had success against Tampa Bay's James Shields and (before last week) David Price, and have won two games started by Seattle's Felix Hernandez.

But what do Tampa Bay and Seattle have in common? They are, statistically speaking, two of the weakest offensive clubs in the American League, often unable to provide much run support for their starters.

That's not the case with Texas, which can support Wilson (and others in the starting rotation) with some muscle. The same goes for Detroit and Justin Verlander, another potential first-round opponent.

Beyond their success against Sabathia, the Red Sox have shown little evidence that they can beat front-of-the-rotation starters who receive at least moderate run support.

That doesn't bode well for October when, by definition, the quality of the starting pitching improves and lineups must grind out wins in low-scoring games.

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

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