Red Sox

Red Sox close out regular season with 4-3 loss to Astros

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Red Sox close out regular season with 4-3 loss to Astros

BOSTON -- Jose Altuve ran away with the AL batting title.

The AL West race wasn't any closer.

Altuve coasted to his third AL batting crown despite going hitless in two at-bats and the Houston Astros rallied for their 101st win on Sunday, cruising into the playoffs with a 4-3 victory over Boston in a preview of the Division Series matchup.

"This is the first time I've won a batting title and the team's going to go to the playoffs," said Altuve, who is also among the favorites for the AL MVP.

"I think every single player in the big leagues, after they win a World Series, would like to win an MVP. That would make me really proud. But to me we're still in the middle of the season and haven't done what we want to do."

The Astros posted their best record since earning 102 victories in 1998, winning the division by 21 games over the second-place Los Angeles Angels. The best-of-five ALDS against Boston begins Thursday in Houston.

Altuve finished the season with a .346 average to easily win the batting title over Avasail Garcia of the Chicago White Sox; Colorado's Charlie Blackmon was the best in the NL, at .331.

"He's just been consistent," Astros starter Collin McHugh (5-2) said. "He's as consistent a player as there is in major league baseball."

One day after the Red Sox won to clinch the first back-to-back AL East titles in franchise history, the teams used lineups filled largely with backups. Houston had already replaced starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel with McHugh, and Boston manager John Farrell scratched ace Chris Sale after Saturday's win so he could rest up for the playoffs.

The Astros scored four times in the seventh inning to rally from a three-run deficit. Yuli Gurriel had two doubles and the go-ahead sacrifice fly for Houston, which won the four-game series 3-1 and took the season series against Boston 4-3.

McHugh pitched six innings, allowing three runs to improve to 16-0 in September and October since 2014. Tyler Clippard pitched the ninth for his fifth save for Houston.

"Obviously, we've got a glut of great pitchers to choose from," McHugh said. "I want to pitch. I'm up for pitching. However innings get doled out, I want some."

The Astros started four regulars, and the Red Sox started two.

"We had planned to give a number of guys a day off after we did clinch," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "But you're still looking to evaluate all the way through the final out. ... While it might have been a little bit more relaxing, you're still going out to try and compete and try to win a ballgame."

HOW THEY SCORED

The Red Sox got three in the fourth against McHugh when rookie Rafael Devers hit a two-run double, advanced on a single and scored on a passed ball.

Boston took a 3-0 lead into the seventh, when the first two batters reached to chase Brandon Workman, and then Fernando Abad (2-1) gave up RBI singles to Juan Centeno, Colin Moran and Tony Kemp. Gurriel's sacrifice fly broke the 3-3 tie.

BUNTS

The Red Sox had not finished first in consecutive years since winning the pennant (and World Series) in the division-less AL in 1915-16. ... The Red Sox matched last year's total of 93 wins. Farrell is the only manager ever to lead the Red Sox to three first-place finishes.

GETTING THEIR WORK IN

With three off days before the start of the playoffs, Astros pitcher Justin Verlander threw in the bullpen after Saturday's game to get his work in. Keuchel preferred to face live batters, manager A.J. Hinch said, and threw from the Fenway mound before Sunday's game.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Astros: OF Josh Reddick was seen by the trainer and should be able to work out on Tuesday, Hinch said. "If he can get a couple of good workouts in, he'll be available on Thursday," Hinch said. "The health part of it will be answered by then."

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia sat out his second straight game to rest a sore left knee.

UP NEXT

The teams begin the ALDS on Thursday. ... The last teams to play each other in a regular-season finale and then in a postseason opener were the 2013 Reds and Pirates.

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Don’t confuse the goal of a normal spring training with the likelihood one will follow.

Tyler Thornburg’s time with the Red Sox has been an ordeal. He’s optimistic he can have a regular spring training after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in June, a surgery that included the removal of a rib which is now on display at his parents’ house. 

He said Saturday, in fact, there’s a “very good chance” of a normal spring. But there’s also a chance his build up to regular-season form runs unevenly. And that would be OK.

“I started throwing Oct. 2, that’s when they kind of gave me the go-ahead to go tossing,” Thornburg said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “So I’ve been building up slowly since then, just trying to make sure we don’t have any setbacks or things like that, and ramp it up at a good pace. I’m throwing at 120-140 feet, so it’s about the pace I’d normally be on, granted I’d know 100 percent before where I was [under normal circumstances]. So things could be a little different."

Consider a few other things Thornburg said Saturday at Foxwoods.

“I don’t really think any of us really know how quick I’m going to bounce back necessarily as far as how quickly the recovery’s going to go in spring training after an outing,” Thornburg said. “But hopefully I mean it’s fantastic, and we can kind of just keep going.”

A bit of natural uncertainty. He missed an entire season, and the reason he missed an entire season is had a lot going on medically. 

What appeared to be a shoulder injury was far from your usual, say, rotator cuff matter. His was a nerve issue.

“Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus, where all the nerves run down,” Thornburg said. “I’d be sitting there watching a game and just a nerve thing would hit me and I’d almost get knocked over by it. As well as the first rib was getting pulled up and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves they had to go and dissect all that off there.”

So the injury wasn’t simple, and now, the recovery process is really a whole body matter. 

"There’s a lot off things your arm has to get used to between using different muscles, as well as my arm was kind of working through a scenario where it was trying to overcompensate for this and [trying] to relieve that,” Thornburg said. “So just worked a different way. Now your body has to remember how to actually properly work again. It’s a lot of neuromuscular stuff.”

Thornburg noted the possibility too he could be ready to go to start the season but not really ready to go back to back yet. Would the Sox then carry him on the big league roster, or continue to build him up elsewhere? 

Velocity won’t be there right away for Thornburg, he said: “But I mean that’s what spring training is for for most guys anyway.”

There’s a lot of optimism, but naturally, there’s a lot to be seen. 

“The rehab process, it's been a massive rollercoaster,” Thornburg said. “It really has. But I mean, I've been trying to take it week to week which has been a lot easier. There's the good days and bad days, just different kinds.”

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Coming off a phenomenal season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel spent the offseason in Boston. Not to be closer to Fenway Park, but for proximity to something far more important: the city’s first-rate medical community.

Kimbrel’s daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November with a heart issue.

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“It’s been a lot,” Kimbrel said Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “My wife and I, we’ve kept it kind of private. But when she was born, she had some heart defects so we decided to stay in Boston and work with Children’s Hospital and just been going through that ordeal and it’s had its ups and downs but she’s doing great right now."

Focusing wasn't always easy in season, but Kimbrel said his daughter's condition has motivated him even more.

“They always say when you have a child, things change and they have," he said. "I’m definitely more focused towards her and her needs and our family needs. It’s just one day at a time and give everything I got. It’s real easy to look at her and understand everything I’m doing is for her and it makes it a lot easier.”

Kimbrel and his wife, Ashley, found out early in the 2017 season that they would be staying in Boston for the winter and were preparing.

“Everything has kind of gone as planned so far,” Kimbrel said. “She’ll have another surgery during spring training, so I’ll come back to Boston for a week and do that, but it’s been good. It’s definitely been tough, but one of the happiest, joyful times of our life.”

"Being in Boston, we feel blessed, because the doctors are the best in the world. Being able to work with them has been great.”

Kimbrel said his wife has stayed in touch with Travis Shaw’s wife. The Shaw family has had a similar experience, Kimbrel said.

“It seems like they’re doing pretty good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s been very encouraging to see.”

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