Red Sox

Dodgers force third World Series Game 7 in last four years with 3-1 victory

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Dodgers force third World Series Game 7 in last four years with 3-1 victory

LOS ANGELES -- Joc Pederson sliced a drive over the left-field wall, pounded his chest and danced around the bases , taking as many twists and turns as this World Series itself.

Of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers forced the Houston Astros to Game 7.

Chris Taylor hit a tying double off Justin Verlander during a two-run rally in the sixth inning , Corey Seager followed with a go-ahead sacrifice fly and the Dodgers beat the Astros 3-1 on Tuesday night to push this dramatic Fall Classic to the ultimate game.

Pederson homered in the seventh against Joe Musgrove, connecting off the right-hander for the second time in three games and making it a record 24 long balls that have been hit in this Series. Pederson pranced all the way to the plate, pointing at the Dodgers' dugout and rubbing his thumbs and index fingers together to indicate what a money shot it was.

"You kind of black out in a situation like that. So I'm going to have to re-watch it to see what I did," Pederson said.

It was the third home run of the World Series for Pederson, demoted to the minors from mid-August until early September, then left off the NL Division Series roster. He had hit just one previous opposite-field homer in the big leagues this season, and teammates offered to pay him to go the other way.

"People are trying to get me encouraged to using the whole field," he said. "I'm not very good at it."

Yu Darvish starts Wednesday for the Dodgers, trying to win their first title since 1988, and Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw will be ready in the bullpen after getting knocked out in the fifth inning of Game 5.

"I can give you 27 innings," Kershaw said. "I'll be ready to go, whatever they need."

Lance McCullers Jr. gets the ball for the Astros in the first World Series Game 7 ever at Dodger Stadium and the first since 1931 between teams that won 100 games during the regular season.

Darvish was chased in the second inning of Game 2, when McCullers pitched Houston to a 5-3 victory.

"You've got two teams with a bunch of dogs in the clubhouse. No one is afraid," McCullers said.

Two nights after a 13-12, 10-inning slugfest under the roof at Minute Maid Park, pitching dominated.

George Springer's third-inning home run against starter Rich Hill had given a 1-0 lead to Verlander and the Astros, trying for the first championship in their 56-season history. On Halloween night, a title for a team with orange in its colors seemed appropriate.

But it served only to set up the 10th blown lead of the Series, the fifth by Houston, as Verlander fell to 9-1 with the Astros.

Dodgers relievers combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Brandon Morrow retired Alex Bregman on a grounder to strand the bases loaded in the fifth, winner Tony Watson got Marwin Gonzalez to line out to leaping second baseman Chase Utley with two on and two outs in the sixth and Kenta Maeda escaped two-on trouble in the seventh when third baseman Justin Turner gloved Jose Altuve's grounder and made a short-hop throw that first baseman Cody Bellinger scooped just in time.

"The pick is big," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.

After wasting a ninth-inning lead in Game 2 and losing Game 5, Kenley Jansen retired six straight batters on 19 pitches for the save and ended it by striking out 40-year-old pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran.

This will be the third World Series Game 7 in four years. The home team had won nine straight since 1979 before San Francisco triumphed at Kansas City in 2014 and the Chicago Cubs captured their first title since 1908 at Cleveland last year.

Ten of the last 12 teams that won Game 6 to force a seventh game also won the title, but the Dodgers lost the previous six World Series in which they trailed 3-2. They have won just one of their six championships at home, in 1963.

A heat wave over and the skies overcast, the temperature dropped to 67 degrees at game time from 103 for last week's opener, and there was a slight drizzle in the middle innings.

Los Angelenos with a laid-back reputation were on their feet for two-strike counts against Astros batters, a wave in Pantone 294 - also known as Dodger blue.

"We feed off the crowd, for sure," Taylor said. "We feel we have a huge home-field advantage."

Yuli Gurriel, who made a racist gesture toward Darvish in Game 3, was booed loudly during introductions and each time he batted, and Hill stepped off the rubber to allow the crowd extra time to jeer.

Verlander has 11 postseason wins but dropped to 0-4 in the Series with Detroit and Houston, which acquired him from the Tigers on Aug. 31 to win on nights like this. He allowed just one baserunner before Austin Barnes singled leading off the sixth. Verlander bounced a pitch that hit Utley on the front of his right foot, and Taylor sent a 97 mph fastball down the right-field line as Barnes came home. Seager followed with a sacrifice fly to the warning track, a ball that likely would have landed in the pavilion in last week's hot air.

Verlander prevented more damag e when Turner fouled out and the right-hander fanned Bellinger, who struck out four times for the second time in the Series.

Springer homered for the third straight game and fourth time in the Series, one shy of the record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977 and matched by Utley in 2009.

Brian McCann singled leading off the fifth and Gonzalez doubled past Turner and down the left-field line. Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander, and Springer was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Morrow relieved as the crowd booed manager Dave Roberts' decision, and Hill slapped at four cups of liquid in the dugout, sending them spraying against the wall

"With Verlander on the mound, that was going to be the game," Roberts said.

Appearing in his sixth straight Series game, Morrow got Bregman to ground to shortstop on his second pitch.

Watson walked Reddick leading off the seventh, Evan Gattis pinch hit for Verlander and Maeda relieved. Gattis bounced to shortstop, just beating Utley's throw from second to avoid a double play. Springer reached on an infield single, and Bregman's fly to deep center allowed pinch-runner Derek Fisher to tag up and advance to third, bringing up Altuve.

Walking down the dugout steps after his groundout, Altuve slammed his helmet.

Afterward, attention quickly turned to Wednesday.

"I think it seems fitting," Roberts said. "These two teams mirror one another."

Pederson sat in the interview room with his older brother, Champ , who has Down Syndrome.

"I have a feeling that everything is possible," Champ said. "I'm not going to say they have it, but I'm just going to say they will find a way."

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Drellich: It's the bench where Martinez creates roster dilemma

Drellich: It's the bench where Martinez creates roster dilemma

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Now that J.D. Martinez is about to join the fold, the Red Sox have some roster intrigue. But it's not at first base with Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez. It sits on the infield with Brock Holt, Blake Swihart and Deven Marrero.

The ideal Red Sox lineup right now — or at least, the version we think we will see when Martinez is officially inked — has Moreland sitting out more often. Still, remember that we are talking about an ideal. Someone will get hurt. Multiple players, in fact. And even if everyone is healthy, we're in an era where teams prioritize depth and keeping players fresh.

"We've got guys that can play the infield and can play the outfield,” manager Alex Cora said Tuesday. "I'm comfortable with that. I'm comfortable with a roster that's very versatile. That's very important. Guys that can complement each other. I've been talking about rest the whole week. It's very important with the travel and schedule and workload, it's very important to have versatile players on your roster.”

In Martinez, Moreland, and Ramirez, there'll be three players on a daily basis for two spots: first base and designated hitter. Martinez just received a $110 million contract to start, likely at DH. So that leaves Ramirez and Moreland to share time at first.

Ramirez has the leg up. He has the bigger bat and the bigger salary. Plus, Cora on Tuesday said he looks at Ramirez as his No. 3 hitter. It would be odd for Cora to declare as much and then put Ramirez in, say, a platoon with the left-handed hitting Moreland once Martinez is officially signed.

“As of now?” Cora said Tuesday. “Hanley Ramirez.”

With that in mind, here’s a quick review (and projection) of the other starting roles:

C: Christian Vazquez
1B: Hanley Ramirez
2B: Eduardo Nunez
SS: Xander Bogaerts
3B: Rafael Devers
LF: Andrew Benintendi
CF: Jackie Bradley Jr.
RF: Mookie Betts
DH: J.D. Martinez 

Make no mistake, Martinez’s arrival will have ripple effects. The Sox traded outfielder Bryce Brentz to the Pirates for cash, clearing a 40-man spot for Martinez, whenever his deal becomes official. (It shouldn’t be long, barring any problems with a physical.) Brentz, a depth right-handed hitting outfielder with pop, was one of a few players the Sox have in camp out of options.

Moreland may well lose some at-bats with Martinez in the fold. Ramirez might too. Unless Ramirez mashes, the Sox will have reason to limit his playing time. At 497 plate appearances, a vesting option kicks in for 2019.

“I was supposed to be in a platoon role last year, split time last year, and I played more than I ever have in my career,” Moreland said Tuesday. “A lot of things can happen. He's a great guy. He's going to be a great addition for us, and looking forward to welcoming him with open arms and watching him help us win.”

Moreland's going to get his crack again this year, you can bet on it. And he also may need some down time himself.

Moreland, 32, had a fractured toe in 2017. His 149 games played were nonetheless a career high. Jackie Bradley Jr. was slowed by injuries last season, as was Mookie Betts, as was Hanley Ramirez, as was even Martinez. 

All it takes is one. An injury in the outfield, for example, could give Martinez more time in left field, in turn opening up the DH spot, in turn opening up more time at first base for Moreland.

Martinez had a sprained right foot to start the 2017 season and played in 119 regular-season games. He had an injury when he first got to Arizona as well (because he was hit by a pitch). He also had a fractured elbow in 2016, when he played 120 games.

People wonder too, well, what happens when Dustin Pedroia comes back? Where does Nunez play? It’s the same principle. Pedroia’s coming off major knee surgery. Nunez is coming off a knee injury of his own. Neither of these guys would do well to be in the lineup every day.

So, what is the real roster intrigue to open the season? If everyone is healthy on Opening Day — and that's also a big if — the bench is tricky.

Assuming the Sox carry 13 position players and that Sandy Leon remains the backup catcher, they'll have to choose two from these three: Brock Holt, who has experience and a $2.2 million salary but also has minor-league options; Deven Marrero, who's the surest defender they have; and Blake Swihart, who's not well versed on the infield but has upside as an athlete and at the plate. Swihart and Marrero do not have options.

Holt, who turns 30 in June, by virtue of his salary, has to be considered a favorite to stick around. At the same time, he's the only one the Sox could freely stash in the minors. Swihart and Marrero have upside that makes them appealing not only to the Sox, but to other teams as well.

Demote Holt? Trade one of Swihart or Marrero? Figure someone's hurt to begin Opening Day?

(Swihart conceivably could be carried as a second catcher, but it'd be hard to see the Sox parting with Leon, whose receiving is so well liked.)

Here's a fuller visual for you:

CATCHERS 
1. Christian Vazquez
2. Sandy Leon

INFIELDERS
3. Mitch Moreland
4. Eduardo Nunez
5. Xander Bogaerts
6. Rafael Devers
7. Hanley Ramirez

OUTFIELDERS
8. Jackie Bradley
9. Andrew Benintendi
10. Mookie Betts
11. J.D. Martinez

BENCH
12. Brock Holt?
13. Deven Marrero?
14. Blake Swihart?

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Report: Price help persuade Martinez to join Red Sox

Report: Price help persuade Martinez to join Red Sox

Despite what he termed "so much more negativity" in Boston, David Price helped convince former teammate J.D. Martinez to join the Red Sox, USA TODAY reports.

“It is tough here,’’ Price told USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale. "There’s just so much more negativity. I’ve never been one for negative stuff. I like surrounding myself by positive people. Even if my wife starts talking negatively, I let her know. I just can’t stand it.

“I can remember [Vanderbilt] coach [Tim] Corbin is always preaching that positive, positive word, positive vibe, positive environment. I feel like I’m the same way. I try to find the positive in everything.

“Sometimes, that’s tough.’’

Price, who played parts of two seasons (2014 and '15) with Martinez with the Detroit Tigers, had a warning about that tough environment the Red Sox' newest big-money acquisition is getting himself into:

"Oh yeah, he’ll get booed,’’ Price said, laughing. “I told JD he will love the guys here in this clubhouse, but also told him he’ll get booed. He’s a quiet, soft-spoken guy, but he’ll handle it. Besides, everyone gets booed. I heard Big Papi [David Ortiz] get booed many times in Fenway.

“I’m ready to turn that page, and start that new chapter.’’

Price reiterated some of the points he made when talking to the Boston media last week, mostly, that he's "learned a whole lot" after last season. And he's keeping a lower profile on social media.

“I don’t think I would have changed anything last year,’’ Price says, “but I learned the way not to do things. I learned a whole lot. I’m a leader. I need to lead better. I know that.

“I rarely get on social media anymore,’’ Price said. “There’s nothing but negativity, that’s all it is. I can tweet out John 3:16, and I’m going to get crushed. There’s no point. No point. I used to really enjoy it, especially Twitter, interacting with everybody. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I really enjoyed it.

“Now, I go weeks without even opening Twitter. I can’t remember the last time I read mentions or used Twitter for anything. I definitely miss it. I miss the interactions with the fans. But I’m ok with it.’’

“I’ve never been through anything like it,’’ Price said of last season. “There was so much going on. So much. It was a very trying year.

“If I wasn’t making the amount of money I was making it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal. But I’m an easy target.’’

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