Boston Red Sox

MLB Playoffs: Jose Altuve blasts 3 HRs as Astros cruise past Red Sox

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MLB Playoffs: Jose Altuve blasts 3 HRs as Astros cruise past Red Sox

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve had just arrived in the Astros dugout after launching his third home run of the game when George Springer grabbed his right biceps and examined it, as if searching for an explanation for his teammate's extraordinary pop.

"He makes sure he stays on top of his gym routine, whatever it is," Springer said. "The dude is just a joke."

The major league batting champion put on an unprecedented show of power Thursday as Houston roughed up Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox 8-2 in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.

Buoyed by chants of "MVP" in each trip to the plate, the 5-foot-6 Altuve hit solo homers in the first and fifth innings off Sale. He connected again in the seventh off reliever Austin Maddox to give Houston a quick boost in the best-of-five series.

"As soon as I cross the white line, I feel the same size as everyone else," Altuve said.

It was just the 10th time a player hit three homers in a postseason game, and first since Pablo Sandoval for the Giants in the 2012 World Series opener against Detroit. Babe Ruth did it twice (see full recap).

Bauer helps Indians blank Yankees in Game 1
CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer made Aaron Judge look silly, and made his manager look like a genius.

One year after nearly costing the Indians a trip to the World Series, Bauer helped them take the first step back.

Named a surprise starter for Game 1, Bauer chopped Judge and New York's other big bats down to size, and Jay Bruce drove in three runs as Cleveland began chasing its first World Series title in 69 years with a 4-0 win over the Yankees on the Thursday night in the opener of the AL Division Series.

Bauer struck out Judge three times , twice getting the MVP candidate looking. He allowed just two hits in 6 2-3 innings before manager Terry Francona, who chose to start the right-hander over ace Corey Kluber, turned to baseball's best bullpen, using Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen to finish the three-hitter.

Allen came in with two on and two outs in the eighth to face Judge, who struck out for the fourth time and the rookie angrily snatched at his bat frustration. Allen then worked the ninth for a save.

Judge's verdict on Bauer was unanimous in New York's clubhouse.

"He was mixing his pitches well, he was using the corners extremely well," he said. "You've got to tip your cap sometimes. We've just got to pick ourselves up and get ready for tomorrow" (see full recap).

Best of MLB: Red Sox clinch AL East, get Astros in ALDS

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Best of MLB: Red Sox clinch AL East, get Astros in ALDS

BOSTON —The hard chopper bounced off first baseman Mitch Moreland's glove and high into the air. Second baseman Brock Holt jumped to glove the ball and flipped it to first, where David Price was covering.

When the Boston Red Sox needed him, Price was there.

The one-time ace came out of the bullpen in relief of Drew Pomeranz and squelched a dangerous seventh-inning rally on Saturday, helping the Red Sox beat the Houston Astros 6-3 and clinch the first back-to-back AL East titles in franchise history.

With the win, the Red Sox avoided a possible tiebreaker against the rival New York Yankees.

"That was important: Just get it done today," outfielder Hanley Ramirez said afterward in the Red Sox clubhouse, where music blared, the lockers were covered in plastic and players wore goggles to protect their eyes from the spray of beer and domestic sparkling wine.

With the Boston win, the Yankees were left with a wild-card spot and a one-game matchup against the Minnesota Twins for the right to play Cleveland in the best-of-five AL Division Series. The Astros' loss meant the Indians, with the tiebreaker over Houston and 101 wins entering Saturday, clinched the best record in the AL (see full recap).  

Rockies clinch postseason berth with Brewers loss
DENVER — The Colorado Rockies sprayed soda around the clubhouse and even did a bit of dancing after clinching their first postseason berth since 2009.

Then, they had to go play a game - pressure free, of course.

Colorado sewed up the second NL wild-card spot courtesy of St. Louis' 7-6 win over Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon. Former Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio recorded the final out for the Cardinals.

The Rockies will face Arizona in the NL wild-card game Wednesday night.

Colorado fans trickling into Coors Field before the game against Los Angeles let out a roar after the final out. The Cardinals-Brewers game was shown on the scoreboard.

In the clubhouse, the Rockies wildly celebrated after gathering in front of a TV. Ian Desmond showered his teammates with soda, Jonathan Lucroy raised his hands in triumph, Nolan Arenado let out a scream and Carlos Gonzalez broke into a dance (see full recap). 

Nationals ace Scherzer exits with apparent leg injury
WASHINGTON — Nationals ace Max Scherzer has been pulled from his start against Pittsburgh because of an apparent injury to his right leg.

The NL East champions didn't provide immediate word on the extent of Scherzer's condition Saturday night.

Scherzer stumbled on a 2-2 pitch to Josh Bell in the fourth inning. Scherzer then began to throw a full-count pitch, but abruptly stopped when time was called.

Washington manager Dusty Baker, pitching coach Mike Maddux and team trainers visited the mound and quickly took out Scherzer.

This was Scherzer's final tuneup before the Nationals play the Chicago Cubs in the Division Series beginning Friday.

Scherzer leads the National League with 268 strikeouts. He is 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA.

The two-time Cy Young winner had given up one hit and struck out five in 3 1/3 scoreless innings when he was hurt.

Yankees get AL wild card; Judge hits 52nd HR
NEW YORK — In a way, manager Joe Girardi figures, Aaron Judge and some of the young New York Yankees without any postseason experience already have gotten the feel of playoff pressure.

The Yankees wound up with an AL wild-card spot Saturday, beating Toronto 2-1 on Judge's 52nd home run shortly before Boston clinched the AL East crown.

New York needed two wins and two losses by Boston to force a tiebreaker Monday at Yankee Stadium. Instead, the Yankees will host Minnesota in the wild-card game Tuesday.

"I started thinking about that the last couple of days where in a sense they're elimination games for us," Girardi said. "We were five down coming home from the road trip and our guys just continued to play well. They continued to play loose. They continued to make pitches, grind out at-bats and that was encouraging to me because it's not like we've had a chance to turn it off and I like that."

The wild-card winner will face Cleveland in the best-of-five AL Division Series. Boston, which beat Houston about 20 minutes after the Yankees won, is set to take on the Astros in the playoffs (see full recap). 

Best of MLB: AL East race getting interesting between Yankees, Red Sox

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Best of MLB: AL East race getting interesting between Yankees, Red Sox

NEW YORK -- Twelve minutes into Aaron Hicks' return from 3 weeks on the disabled list, Tampa Bay had loaded the bases in the first inning when Wilson Ramos drove a changeup toward the Yankees' bullpen in right-center field.

"Oh, gosh," New York rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery thought to himself on the mound.

Hicks raced from center to the 385-foot sign and leaped to get his glove above the wall. He snagged the ball in the webbing, squeezed it tight and limited Ramos to a sacrifice fly with his Hollywood grab.

After nearly falling behind on a grand slam, the playoff-bound Yankees beat the Rays 6-1 Tuesday night to clinch home-field advantage if they end up in the AL wild-card game next week (see full recap).

Sale gives up 4 HRs, Red Sox lose to Jays
BOSTON -- Chris Sale has had a few setbacks as Boston has rolled down the stretch and back toward the postseason.

Tuesday was another one of those nights.

Sale matched a career worst by giving up four home runs in a playoff tuneup, including a pair to Josh Donaldson, and the Red Sox lost 9-4 to the Toronto Blue Jays.

"You can't have a good day at work every day," Sale said. "Unfortunately, what I do is amplified because we're here and we're in the thick of it. To survive, you've got to win games. I'm not doing that, and I'm as frustrated as anybody on the planet about that."

Boston's magic number over the Yankees in the AL East is three with five games remaining (see full recap).

Cardinals deny Cubs from clinching
ST. LOUIS -- Tommy Pham and Randal Grichuk homered and drove in two runs each and the St. Louis Cardinals denied the Chicago Cubs a chance at clinching the NL Central with an 8-7 victory Tuesday night.

Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko also homered for St. Louis, which remains 2 1/2 games behind the second Wild Card spot. Zach Duke (1-1) got the win with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Juan Nicasio earned his fifth save.

The Cubs were seeking to clinch the Central division with either a win or a Milwaukee loss against Cincinnati, but the Brewers beat the Reds 7-6.

Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez allowed three runs (two earned) and four hits in 4 1/3 innings. Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (14-10) allowed five runs (three earned) and six hits in three innings, his second shortest outing this season (see full recap).

Twins rally past Indians, close in on WC
CLEVELAND -- When Brian Dozier's home run cleared the right-field wall, Minnesota's dugout burst into joyous celebration with players excitedly bouncing off each other.

The turn-around Twins are just one win from the playoffs.

Dozier's three-run homer in the eighth inning pushed Minnesota to the brink of the postseason as the Twins, with manager Paul Molitor using a club record 10 pitchers, rallied for an 8-6 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday night, handing the Indians just their third loss in 32 games.

Dozier connected for his 33rd homer against Bryan Shaw (4-6) as the Twins, a 103-loss team in 2016, lowered their magic number for clinching a playoff berth to one (see full recap).