Red Sox

Wakeup Call: Youk calls for halt to Joba talk

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Wakeup Call: Youk calls for halt to Joba talk

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Friday, February 15:

AUTO RACING
When Michael Waltrip drives in the Daytona 500, he'll have a new car number -- 26 -- in honor of the 20 children and 6 adults killed in Newtown, Conn. (AP)

Nice to see that the Gronk of NASCAR, Brad Keselowski, hasn't mellowed any since the end of last season. (AP)

I'd be willing to wager almost anything that Danica Patrick yesterday became the first race driver ever to reference The Bard in a press conference. (AP)

Having seen 78-year-olds drive on the highway, I have to think James Hylton is making the right decision. (AP)

BASEBALL
Youk to the media: Enough with the Joba stuff, already. (AP)

Ah, the dreaded visa issue! Hey, at least Rafael Soriano didn't say it was his father's birthday. Or that his grandmother died. (CSN Washington)

Looks like the PED Police tracked down Gio Gonzalez as soon as his name surfaced in the Miami New Times report. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

Meanwhile, Danny Valencia's going the I-never-heard-of-that-clinicI-don't-take-PEDsI-have-no-idea-how-I-popped-up-on-that-list route. (CSN Baltimore)

It's spring, and all's bright -- even the Phillies' championship chances -- in Ryan Howard's world. (CSN Philly)

Looks like Mike Trout didn't skimp on those six-hamburger meals at Jim's Lunch this winter; he reported to Angels camp at 240 pounds. (Hardball Talk)

The A's are looking internally for a temporary closer upon learning that Grant Balfour will be sidelined 4-6 weeks because of a meniscus tear . . . though I don't quite understand why they need a closer for exhibition games. (CSN Bay Area)

If they decide to look outside, Jason Isringhausen says he's available. (Hardball Talk)

Not Chad Cordero, though. He signed with the Angels. (CSN Washington)

Not exactly hard time, is it, Mark Grace? (Hardball Time)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Nobody knew Jim Boeheim was feuding with ESPN's Andy Katz prior to Syracuse's loss at Connecticut on Wednesday. But they sure know it now. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

You can probably cancel those NCAA travel plans, Temple fans, after the Owls' stunning loss to Duquesne last night. (CSN Philly)

No. 13 Ohio State avoids a stunning loss of its own with a 12-0 run at the end of the game for a 69-59 victory over Northwestern, whom they've now beaten 32 straight times in Columbus. (AP)

Can't really call it all that stunning, but Minnesota knocks off No. 20 Wisconsin. (College Basketball Talk)

Colorado gets its revenge on Arizona. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
All that talk about Jadeveon Clowney sitting out the 2013 season to protect his status for the 2014 draft? Forget it, says Steve Spurrier. (AP)

The NCAA says no to Jamoris Slaugher's attempt to return for a sixth year at Notre Dame. (AP)

GOLF
Matt Kuchar holds the first-round lead in the Northern Trust Open. (AP)

And Mariajo Uribe holds the second-round lead in the Women's Australian Open. (AP)

HOCKEY
It's official: Erik Karlsson's season is over. (AP)

So's Manny Malholtra's. (AP)

Daniel Carcillo, meanwhile, is determined that a second knee injury in two years isn't going to end his. (CSN Chicago)

The Devils just keep on truckin', don't they? (AP)

One of the teams favored to dethrone New Jersey in the East, the Rangers, lose to the Islanders in a shootout. (AP)

And they do so without the slumping Brad Richards, whom coach John Tortorella benched in the third period. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

That's three in a row in the good column for the Capitals, and six in a row in the bad column for the Lightning. (AP)

Still no word on whether NHL players will be allowed to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics . . . (AP)

. . . but Capitals coach Adam Oates -- who says he "didn't even know" Team Canada existed when he was growing up -- hopes the answer is 'no'. (Pro Hockey Talk)

OLYMPICS
Oscar Pistorius is being charged with "premeditated murder" in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. (nbcsports.com)

As you would expect, companies that employed Pistorius as a sponsor are backing away from him as fast as they can. (NBC's Off The Bench)

PRO BASKETBALL
LeBron James' stathead streak -- consecutive games with 30 or more points on 60 percent or better shooting -- came to an end last night when he missed a 3-pointer with a minute to go and the Heat up by 10. He'll have to be satisfied with Miami's 110-100 takedown of the Thunder in a rematch of last year's finals. (AP)

For Michael Jordan, the rings are the thing in the LeBron-vs.-Kobe debate. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

The Clippers make it clear who owns L.A. (AP)

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lakers owner Jerry Buss has been hospitalized with cancer. (AP)

Playing in your first All-Star Game, in your team's home city, is a thrill for any player. But James Harden may have to miss it because of the ankle injury he suffered Tuesday. (CSN Bay Area)

PRO FOOTBALL
Pressure is building again for the Redskins to change their nickname, but GM Bruce Allen says a) that's not happening and b) it's "ludicrous" to think that the team is trying to offend Native Americans. (AP)

Even though it looks like Andy Reid wants to bring Nick Foles with him to the Kansas City . . . (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

. . . that's not happening, either. (CSN Philly)

If you're trying to figure out whether or not the Bears intend to keep Brian Urlacher, you'll get no clues from the team's new coaching staff. (CSN Chicago)

Terrence McGee calls it "definitely a difficult day" as the Bills cut him loose after 10 years. (AP)

SOCCER
The soccer aficionados give a tepid thumb's up to Gus Johnson's first call of a Champions League match. (NBC's Pro Soccer Talk)

TENNIS
Serena Williams thinks it's "awesome" that she's one win away from becoming the oldest women's player ever to be ranked No. 1. (AP)

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is using the "I didn't know a banned substance was in a supplement I was taking" argument to explain her six-month ban by the ITF for doping. (AP)

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 -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

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

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP , and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve , the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

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.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture 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. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

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

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 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. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

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 went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."

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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.