Red Sox

Melancon deal doesn't solve Sox problems

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Melancon deal doesn't solve Sox problems

Wednesday represented a flurry of activity for the Red Sox, who traded two players for reliever Mark Melancon and signed free agent utilityinfielder Nick Punto.

But when it was over, the Red Sox hadn't made much progress toward solving their most obvious needs -- the back end of their starting rotation and a closer.

They merely gave themselves more options from which to choose, which is a polite way of saying that they succeeded in making things, for the time being at least, more complicated.

Melancon is unlikely to start 2012 as the team's closer. If he does, it should be read as an indcitment of the front office.

All of which isn't to suggest that Melancon is without value. He's young (26), apparently healthy (following Tommy John surgery earlier in his career) and controllable (he doesn't reach free agency until after the 2016 season).

And Melancon provides a quality arm, someone who can help in the seventh or eighth innings. Entrusting Melancon with the ninth inning, however, is another matter altogether.

For now, there's little evidence that Melancon can handle closing in the American League East. He converted just 80 percent of his save opportunties in the N.L. Central in 2011.

It's worth noting that against opponents from the A.L. East -- the Astros happened to play the division in interleague play last season -- Melancon allowed A.L. East batter to hit .351 with a 1.061 OPS.

True, it's a relatively small sample size (seven games). But it suggests that the Melancon may need more experience -- or another quality pitch -- before he can handle the toughest outs in the toughest lineups.

Just because Melancon isn't yet equipped to close doesn't mean the deal wasn't worthwhile.

Kyle Weiland profiles as a back-end starter and the Red Sox have plenty of candidates for that slot, including Alfredo Aceves, Felix Doubront and Andrew Miller. It was all but certain that Weiland was going to start the season at Triple A.

If he develops into much more than depth starter in the big leagues, most scouts will be surprised.

For the Sox, moving Jed Lowrie was the bigger gamble. Lowrie had value around the game, thanks to his versatility and affordability. At the very least, he can be a useful, flexible part of a big league roster, capable of playing all four infield positions and providing some pop at the plate -- at least from the right side.

But Lowrie was given chance after chance to establish himself as something more with the Red Sox, and outside of three terrific months -- July and August in 2010 and mid-April through mid-May of 2011 -- never truly made his case as an everyday player.

Only once in four seasons did he play more than half a season, his career stalled by a series of injuries and infirmities -- everything from a lingering wrist injury to mononucleosis to a shoulder issue.

Perhaps, with a fresh start and an opportunity to play every day, Lowrie will make good on his potential. But the Red Sox essentially replace Lowrie within hours of his departure with the signing of Nick Punto, a veteran utility piece who, like Lowrie, is a switch-hitter.

Roughly translated, then, the Sox got an older, more experienced version of Lowrie Wednesday and traded a potential back-end starter for a late-inning reliever with upside.

In the strictest sense, that represents a small step forward in terms of roster-building for 2012.

What it doesn't represent, for now at least, is any clearer sense of who's going to be getting the toughest outs. It gives the Sox more options without precluding further moves, some of which will surely be coming.

Or else.

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 - Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest, too, before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. 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.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win 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.

Combined, they throttled the Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 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 after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

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 struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.

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.