Red Sox

ALDS: Tanaka, Bird keep Yankees alive with 1-0 win in Game 3

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ALDS: Tanaka, Bird keep Yankees alive with 1-0 win in Game 3

NEW YORK - Good thing for Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees that Aaron Judge is 6-foot-7.

Judge prevented a home run to save Tanaka's seven-inning gem, Greg Bird homered off relief ace Andrew Miller and New York edged the Cleveland Indians 1-0 Sunday night in Game 3 to extend their AL Division Series.

"He was brilliant," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Tanaka, who earned his first postseason win. "He gave us everything we needed."

Aroldis Chapman got a five-out save as the Yankees avoided a three-game sweep by the defending AL champions. With two on in the ninth, Chapman struck out cleanup hitter and former Reds teammate Jay Bruce before Carlos Santana flied out to end it.

New York got a splendid performance from Tanaka in an old-fashioned October pitching duel with Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco. Tanaka received a big boost when Judge robbed Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer in the sixth.

Bird came through with the huge hit New York had to have when he connected against Miller in the seventh.

"I was really excited, I'm not going to lie," said Bird, who was pumped up as he returned to the dugout.

Game 4 is Monday night at Yankee Stadium, with young ace Luis Severino scheduled to start for New York. Cleveland will go with Game 1 winner Trevor Bauer on three days' rest, though there's rain in the forecast.

"I consider this normal rest for me. I enjoy pitching on short (rest)," Bauer said. "If I could draw it out, personally, this is how I'd pitch every time."

New York rebounded from a bruising, 13-inning loss Friday in Game 2 that led to heavy criticism of Girardi, booed Sunday night by the home crowd during pregame introductions.

"Not the first time. I kind of expected it," Girardi said, acknowledging it's no fun to hear catcalls. "I've seen them boo players and managers that have a lot more status than I do. So I prepared for it. I prepared my family for it."

This was the Yankees' first 1-0 postseason victory since Game 3 of their 2001 ALDS against Oakland, when Derek Jeter's backhanded flip beat Jeremy Giambi to the plate for a crucial, memorable out.

Judge's grab was the big defensive play Sunday. With a runner on first in a scoreless game, Lindor lofted a sixth-inning drive toward the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. Judge backed up to the wall and barely needed to jump to extend his glove above the fence and make the catch, just to the right of the auxiliary scoreboard.

"Who better to reach up there and grab it than him?" Bird said.

The sellout crowd of 48,614 roared and Judge flashed a bright smile. It was the first time the rookie had robbed an opponent of a home run and the first time Lindor had ever been so denied, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Tanaka tipped his cap in appreciation and held Cleveland down until he was done. The right-hander, beaten 3-0 by Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros in the 2015 AL wild-card game, struck out seven, walked one and allowed three hits.

He whiffed three of his first four batters and was aided by two double plays.

"That's the best performance that I've seen from him," Girardi said.

The biggest test for Tanaka came in the fourth, after Jason Kipnis' one-out triple glanced off the thumb of Judge's glove in deep right field and rolled away.

Tanaka beared down and fanned No. 3 batter Jose Ramirez and Bruce, then turned to shout and slapped his mitt in excitement.

"I came here to pitch in these type of games," Tanaka said through a translator.

Bruce struck out four times batting fourth in place of injured slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who sat out after leaving Game 2 with a sprained right ankle. Michael Brantley filled in for Encarnacion as the designated hitter and went 0 for 2 with a walk.

Tanaka delivered under pressure in his second career playoff start. After going 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA during an inconsistent season, he was pitching on eight days' rest but looked plenty sharp.

In his previous outing, he struck out a career-high 15 over seven scoreless innings in his final regular-season start against Toronto.

Carrasco matched Tanaka into the sixth.

The right-hander, who was 11-2 with a 2.65 ERA in 17 road starts this season, gave up three hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. Also helped by two double plays, he struck out seven and was lifted with the bases loaded.

Miller retired Starlin Castro on a popup to end the inning.

"That's two of the better starting performers you're going to see," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

For the glass-is-half-full folks, there are those back-to-back Eastern Division titles. For the glass-is-half-empty folks, well, there are those two first-round playoff ousters (though both their conquerers made it to the World Series, and one of them won it). But, here on Thanksgiving night, there's plenty for Red Sox Nation to be thankful for, starting with . . . 


YOUR GOOD HEALTH

We know you don’t need the Red Sox to know you how important the most basic elements of life are. But sometimes, the typical fantasy land of baseball can grab our attention. The death of 17-year-old Sox prospect Daniel Flores (above) this month from complications because of cancer didn’t take away only a potentially great baseball career. It took away a beloved, hard-working young person from the people who loved him. He had just made millions of dollars in July for his talent on the field, but what does such a windfall matter compared to one’s health? His cancer was both rare and fast-moving, per the Boston Globe.

MOOKIE, JACKIE, XANDER, BENINTENDI, DEVERS

The kids deserve some love. They probably won’t be together on the Red Sox forever. Heck, the group could get broken up this winter. But while any of the Killer B’s (plus a D) remain on the Sox, there should be a sense of optimism. Two straight 93-win seasons may have resulted in a first-round exit, and 2017 didn’t meet expectations for some individual performances. But you know what? The youths are still damn good, and there’s time for them to show us they can be even better.

INSANELY GOOD PITCHERS IN CHRIS SALE AND CRAIG KIMBREL

Neither hogs the spotlight once the game ends or says too much. Sale doesn’t even have Twitter. But the righty closer and lefty starter both do two things exceedingly well: make batters swing and miss, and prevent runs. When both pitch, your seat at the park may well be worth the price of admission. (But we won’t ask what you paid for those seats.) Sale didn’t take down Pedro Martinez’s Sox single-season strikeout record this year, finishing with five fewer than Martinez’s 313 in 1999. But he could have done it. And with a little more rest next year, one can envision him plowing his way through playoff opponents too.

ALEX CORA'S NEW DIRECTION

A first-time manager’s not a sure thing, but as Sox owner John Henry noted, there was a feeling it was time for a change. It’s a little early to be thinking ahead to a New Year’s resolution, but a manager who better connects with his players and brings a different vibe to the day-to-day scene is reason to feel the Sox are following the right road map. Plus, if nothing else, Cora took that awesome picture walking toward Fenway.

A CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SPREE MAY BE AROUND THE CORNER

We don’t want to be too materialistic. But Uncle Dave Dombrowski couldn’t let you buy everything you wanted last year. The credit card companies needed him to step back for a year. Now he’s ready to spend. He might not close down Bloomingdale’s for the day for you to do your private shopping, but if you need a couple great jackets to complete your look, it sounds like he’s ready to get you some designer threads. He probably feels there won’t be too many chances to have a moment like this with you, at this stage of your life, and he wants to make the most of it.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel.