Red Sox

McAdam: Sox want health over playoff positioning

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McAdam: Sox want health over playoff positioning

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
TORONTO -- All things considered -- and frankly, there isn't much to go on yet except the team's say-so -- the Red Sox emerged from the Josh Beckett vigil pretty well.

Team doctors determined that Beckett is merely suffering from an ankle sprain, and not, as had been feared in a worst-case scenario, some tendon or ligament damage.

The hope in the organization is that this is all relatively minor and that Beckett will miss only one start. Given that the Red Sox had already planned to give him an extra day between his next two scheduled starts, that's a relatively rosy scenario.

(Disclaimer: the Red Sox issued no statements about the severity of the sprain itself. A minor sprain would mean being sidelined for a week or so. A more significant sprain could end up costing Beckett more time, as it has for San Francisco lefty Jonathan Sanchez.)

Again, though, let's assume that Beckett's sprain is relatively minor in nature and that he'll return to the rotation well before the post-season.

Under that scenario, the Red Sox will have their top two starters available for the Division Series. The prospect of trying to win a World Series with Jon Lester, augemented by the likes of Erik Bedard and John Lackey, was not promising.

But it's possible that the uncertaintly surrounding Beckett, the team's desire to manage his return with caution, and the fact that just 21 games remain on the schedule that the team's hope of overtaking the New York Yankees for the A.L. East crown is in serious jeopardy.

At least twice in the next week, the Red Sox will send out lesser starting pitchers when Beckett's and Bedard's turn come around.

Kyle Weiland will be plugged in for a spot start Saturday and it's likely that Tim Wakefield -- who goes for elusive career win No. 200 Wednesday night -- will get another turn that he might not have received otherwise when the Sox return home from their current six-game homestand.

The Sox trail the Yankees by 2 12 games in the East with 21 games (22 for the Yankees), and though a tie (record) would go to the Sox, by virtue of winning the season series between the two, the chase is decidedly uphill for the Sox.

The three remaining games between the clubs are in New York, where the Sox are 5-1 this year. Still, that's an advantage for the Yankees.

It's quite possible that the dropoff from Bedard and Beckett to Weiland and Wakefield (or Alfredo Aceves or anyone else the Sox choose for those spot starts) could mean the difference of a game or two in the standings.

The Sox have, all along, professed a strong preference for getting their pitching staff in order over finishing first in the division, so don't expect them to be re-arranging the rotation in final week to win games and edge out the Yankees.

Moreover, it's likely that the matter of playoff seeding could be entirely up in the air in the final week. For much of the season, it was widely assumed that Texas would finish with a better record than Detroit, and thus, host the wild-card entry in the ALDS.

But heading into Wednesday's games, the Rangers' lead over the Tigers were just a half-game. So while the Red Sox' half-hearted quest for first could well go down to the final days, so, too, could the identity of their first-round opponent. It's tough to devise a strategy to face a certain team over the other when the other teams in question are involved in some jockeying of their own.

Opening on the road may not be as problematic for the Red Sox at it could be for others. The Sox own the best road record in the majors.

Now, like it or not, it would seem they're going to put that success to the test, starting in the Division Series.

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