Red Sox

Victor Martinez settling into his new digs

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Victor Martinez settling into his new digs

Associated Press
DETROIT -- As Victor Martinezprepares to spend more time at designated hitter, he can look back onadvice he once received from former teammate Travis Hafner, who hasbeen among baseball's best at that specialized role."He told me that you have to do alot. Maybe people think that it's easy to be a DH. It's hard," Martinezsaid. "You have to keep warm. You've got to go into the weight room andrun the bike and do stuff, stretch yourself. You can't just sit therefor a half an hour, an hour, until you get at bat again and just go outthere and hit. It's not like that."
With a smile on his face andexcitement in his voice, Martinez was at Comerica Park on Saturday forTigerFest, Detroit's annual winter fan event. The Tigers signedMartinez this offseason, and they hope the 32-year-old switch-hitterwill be part of a powerful middle of the batting order that alsoincludes Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez.Martinez has been a catcherthroughout his career, but general manager Dave Dombrowski has saidhe'll be the team's primary DH. He's still expected to fill in behindthe plate at times, but Martinez may need to adjust after starting 106games at catcher last season with the Boston Red Sox."I came here to win," Martinez said."If they need me to play DH, I'll be a DH. If they need me behind theplate, I'll be behind the plate."Martinez hit .302 with 20 home runsand 79 RBIs in 127 games with Boston last season. If he produces likethat again, it will be a nice boost for a Detroit team that is tryingto contend for the AL Central title after going 81-81 in 2010.Martinez is familiar with Detroitafter playing for division foe Cleveland from 2002-09. He hit acareer-high 25 homers for the Indians in 2007, when they came withinone victory of reaching the World Series with him as their catcher andHafner as the designated hitter."I was in this division pretty muchmy whole career, and I always liked the way the Tigers approached theirorganization, their team," Martinez said. "This organization - theyjust want to get better."Alex Avila is expected to beDetroit's No. 1 catcher. He hit just .228 last year, but he'll be eightyears younger than Martinez on opening day and should have everyopportunity to improve as a hitter.Avila says he's looking forward to working with Martinez."It's going to be a nice marriagebetween us, as far as the catching and both of us working with thepitching staff, and obviously producing offensively to help the teamwin," Avila said. "It should make for a good partnership."Martinez, who can also play firstbase, started more games at catcher last season than he had since 2007,and it didn't appear to hurt his hitting. Still, the Tigers added himfor his bat, not his glove, and they probably wouldn't mind reducinghis grueling workload behind the plate if it helps him stay healthy andeffective offensively."It's tough," Detroit manager JimLeyland said. "There's an old saying that the first couple at-batsduring the course of the game weren't too bad, but for catchers, as thegame went on, the third and fourth at-bats, it gets a little tough."Perhaps the one concern surroundingMartinez is his career .225 average at Comerica Park. He's hit onlyfour homers there in 169 at-bats.Martinez is quick to creditDetroit's pitchers for that - and now he won't have to face themanymore. As for the ballpark's effect on his home run total, he'll justtry to hit the ball to the gaps and see what happens."I say myself, I'm not a home runhitter. I hit my 20, but I'm more a line drive hitter," Martinez said."I might hit some triples. Watch out."That's quite a statement from Martinez, who has three triples in his entire career, but right now anything seems possible."I'm like a little kid with a newtoy," Martinez said. "I just want to get this thing started. I can'twait. This is going to be a fun ride."

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.

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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