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  • Reports: Tigers settle on Gardenhire as manager
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    The Detroit Tigers will hire Ron Gardenhire to manage the club through what is expected to be a rebuilding phase.

    • Multiple outlets reported late Thursday that Gardenhire will replace Brad Ausmus, whom the team chose not to retain when his contract expired at the end of the season.

      Terms of Gardenhire's contract were unknown. He also interviewed for the Boston Red Sox's vacant managerial job.

      Gardenhire, 59, comes with plenty of experience in the American League Central Division. He managed the Minnesota Twins for 13 seasons from 2002-14.

      He guided the Twins to six Central championships and compiled a record of 1,068-1,039 (.507 winning percentage). His only playoff series win came in 2002 in the American League Division Series.

      He spent this season as a bench coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks and missed five weeks early in the season after undergoing prostate cancer treatment.

      Ausmus led the Tigers to the postseason in his first year at the helm. Since then, Detroit struggled in a division that saw Kansas City appear in two consecutive World Series followed by the Cleveland Indians reaching the Fall Classic last season.

      This year, the Tigers finished a league-worst 64-98 and traded away veteran stars Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez.

      Detroit will have the top pick in the 2018 draft.

  • Verlander tasked with saving Astros' season
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    HOUSTON -- From the moment he waived his no-trade clause and accepted relocation to Houston, Astros right-hander Justin Verlander was deemed a franchise savior, an ace capable of leading his new club to the promised land of its first World Series championship.

    • On Friday night at Minute Maid Park, the Astros will hand Verlander the ball with their postseason lives hanging in the balance. Following three consecutive road losses to the New York Yankees, the Astros return home for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on the brink of elimination and with Verlander standing in the gap.

      This seemed an unlikely scenario when Verlander delivered a complete-game gem in Game 2 last Saturday, allowing one run on five hits and one walk with 13 strikeouts in a tense 2-1 victory. Yet now, with its offense scuffling, Houston needs Verlander to be great once more.

      "Obviously, I know this is one of the main reasons I was brought here," Verlander said. "I think so far I've done what they've asked or what they've needed of me to help the rotation and help get deep in the playoffs.

      "This is obviously the biggest game for the Astros up to this point for this season. The expectations are there. My teammates, I'm sure, are expecting a lot of me. And I expect a lot of myself. So, this is why we play the game. And I love these opportunities to pitch in these atmospheres, these type of games. It should be a lot of fun."

      While the Astros' collapse from a 2-0 series lead has been twofold, with both the bullpen and offense playing a significant role in the drastic swing in momentum, the sudden inability of the lineup to generate runs represents the most dramatic and puzzling development for Houston.

      After pacing the majors in runs (896), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.478), plus ranking second to the Yankees in home runs (238) during the regular season, the Astros have mustered just nine runs and one homer this series with a paltry slash line of .147/.234/.213.

      The bullpen drew ire after blowing a four-run lead with nine outs left in Game 4 and on the brink of a 3-1 series lead with Dallas Keuchel up next in the rotation, but the Astros' offense has been consistently inept throughout, even during victories in Games 1 and 2.

      "We're obviously going to have a game plan going against a pitcher," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "If we can stay disciplined in that game plan, all the better. But the pitcher has to adapt to us, as well.

      "(Wednesday) is a good example. (Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka) pitched us differently in Game 5 than he did in Game 1. He did expand the strike zone. We chased it a little bit.

      "But for us it's trying to find the pitch to hit, and that's about it. If he doesn't give it to you, the game will tell you to take a little bit more. Easier said than done. If this offense is as good as it's been for this season, we are one good stretch from getting back to where we need to be."

      New York right-hander Luis Severino will get the start with the Yankees one victory away from claiming their first AL pennant since 2009. Severino lasted four innings and allowed one run working opposite of Verlander in Game 2, departing early after taking a sharply hit ground ball off his left wrist that same inning.

      Severino was miffed at Yankees manager Joe Girardi for pulling him despite being physically able to continue. He will get another chance to pitch deeper into the game with equal effectiveness.

      The Yankees' resilience has been the story of this postseason. New York staved off three elimination games against the top-seeded Cleveland Indians in the AL Division Series, winning the finale on the road at Progressive Field. After Keuchel and Verlander produced brilliant starts in succession for the Astros to open the ALCS, the Yankees fought back once the series shifted to the Bronx.

      And now, for a second consecutive round, the Yankees can eliminate a higher-seeded opponent on the road. Their pitching has been superior, their hitting has been clutch, and the Yankees not only have the Astros backed into the ropes, but they have momentum on their side.

      "That is what we've kind of talked about, and that's kind of what we've stuck to around here, and that's what you try to do: win a game on Friday night," Girardi said. "Again, we're facing a great pitcher and facing a great opponent. But we have to win one game, and that's what we'll stick to."

  • Indians OF Brantley undergoes right ankle surgery
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley underwent surgery on his right ankle and will require four to five months of rehab, the team announced Thursday.

    • Brantley, a two-time American League All-Star, missed 50 games over the final two months of the regular season due to the injury.

      Brantley was active for the AL Division Series against the New York Yankees but was just 1-for-11.

      The surgery was performed Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., and was designed to strengthen damaged ligaments in Brantley's right ankle.

      Complicating matters is the fact that the Indians are facing a decision on whether to pick up Brantley's $12 million option for next season or pay him a $1 million buyout. The team must decide within 72 hours after the conclusion of the final game of the World Series.

      Brantley batted .299 with eight homers and 52 RBIs in 90 games this season.

      This was the second consecutive injury interrupted season for the 30-year-old Brantley. He played in just 11 games in 2016 due to two surgeries on his right shoulder.

  • Oops: Ump admits he was 'dead wrong' on Granderson call
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    A home plate umpire admitted he was "dead wrong" after a call that led to Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon's ejection on Wednesday night in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    • After conferring with his crew, ump Jim Wolf ruled that the Dodgers' Curtis Granderson fouled off a two-strike pitch in the dirt that in-house replay appeared to show he did not make contact with as Chicago led 3-2 in the eighth inning.

      Wolf originally called Granderson out before Dodgers manager Dave Roberts protested. The umpires met, but did not call for a crew chief replay review, before Wolf overturned the decision.

      Maddon emerged to argue the call to all six umpires and was subsequently ejected for the second time in the series.

      As it turns out, Maddon was dead right.

      "(I was) dead wrong," Wolf told a pool reporter after the game. "I talked myself into the whole thing."

      Granderson proceeded to strike out on the next pitch and the Cubs held on for a 3-2 victory.

      That fact did not assuage Maddon after the game.

      "I'm not gonna sit here and bang on umpires," Maddon told reporters. "... But that can't happen. The process was horrible. To have that changed -- if Granderson hits the next pitch out, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap."

      Wolf said he heard "two distinct, separate sounds" on the play, the first being what he thought was the ball bouncing in the dirt in front of catcher Willson Contreras.

      The play is not currently reviewable under MLB rules.

      Maddon was ejected in Game 1 after arguing a play at the plate that was overturned due to the slide rule.

      Los Angeles leads the best-of-seven series 3-1. Game 5 is Thursday night in Chicago.

  • Cubs must overcome Kershaw to stay alive
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    CHICAGO -- For the first time in almost three weeks, the Los Angeles Dodgers will try to bounce back from a loss.

    • The stakes could not be much higher this time around. Los Angeles holds a decisive 3-1 lead over the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series and has the opportunity to close out the series in Game 5 on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

      A win would vault the Dodgers into the World Series for the first time since 1988. A loss would push the series back to Los Angeles and give the defending champion Cubs a renewed sense of hope.

      The Cubs staved off elimination with a 3-2 victory Wednesday night in Game 4. The outcome snapped a six-game postseason winning streak for the Dodgers, whose previous loss was Sept. 29 against the Colorado Rockies.

      "I wouldn't say that the pressure is on us," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "I think that we're in a pretty good spot. We've got our No. 1 pitcher going tomorrow, and we've got two of the guys at the back end rested.

      "I can't speak to their mindset (on the Cubs), but I still like the position we're in."

      The Dodgers will turn to left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who went 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA during the regular season. Kershaw has five career postseason victories and needs one more to match Burt Hooton's franchise record.

      In the series opener against the Cubs, Kershaw allowed two runs on four hits in five innings in Los Angeles' 5-2 victory on Saturday. He walked one and struck out four in a no-decision.

      "I feel good," Kershaw said. "I don't feel any different than when I feel normal. I feel normal, which is great."

      The Cubs will counter with left-hander Jose Quintana, who faces the Dodgers and Kershaw for the second time this series. The Colombia native gave up two runs on two hits in five innings in his first appearance. He walked two and fanned four.

      "'Q' has been great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's ready to play all the time. The stuff's really been spiking in a positive direction. Velocity has been up. Curveball has been better. I know one thing, he'll be ready to pitch."

      Chicago will be without its top bullpen pitcher, closer Wade Davis, after his marathon 48-pitch appearance to finish off Game 4. The pitch count was Davis' highest in a save situation in his career.

      Maddon said he would rely on a bullpen by committee that includes right-handers Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, Hector Rondon and John Lackey as well as left-handers Brian Duensing and Mike Montgomery.

      "This is where the guys got to pretty much do their jobs," Maddon said.

      That has not been an easy task for Cubs relievers during the postseason. The team also has struggled at the plate, particularly against the hard-throwing bullpen of the Dodgers.

      Los Angeles right-hander Kenley Jensen did not pitch in Game 4, so he will be well-rested to back up Kershaw.

      "It's a good feeling when we wake up (Thursday), we know Clayton's taking the mound," Roberts said. "As far as our mindset, the psyche, we know we're going to be in for a battle, and we'll be ready."

      One bit of encouragement for the Cubs is Kershaw's mediocre postseason career record: 5-7 with a 4.57 ERA in 20 games (16 starts). Quintana's first three career postseason appearances (two starts) have all come this month, and he has no decisions with a 1.59 ERA.

  • Cubs' Baez breaks out in big way
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    CHICAGO -- For 20 consecutive postseason at-bats, Javier Baez failed to collect a hit, forcing Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon to weigh the value of Baez's value as a defender against his inability to make things happen at the plate.

    • However, with the Cubs on the brink of elimination Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baez finally broke though. And by doing so, the star second baseman helped the Cubs remain alive in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.

      Baez homered twice in the Cubs' 3-2 victory in Game 4 at Wrigley Field. He went deep in the second and fifth innings against Los Angeles starter Alex Wood.

      "Since the (NL Division Series), I've been trying to get a base hit so hard," Baez said after the Wednesday night win that drew the Cubs within 3-1 in the NLCS. "Tonight, I just said to myself not to try too much, and I didn't, and there you have it. I had two good contacts, and (we won) the game by one run."

      The Cubs continue to live by the home run. Chicago has scored all seven of its NLCS runs via the long ball. That continued Wednesday, when Baez and catcher Willson Contreras sparked the Cubs with a combined three solo homers.

      While the Cubs struggled to produce offensively throughout the series, Baez and first baseman Anthony Rizzo became the faces of Chicago's woes from the plate. Rizzo is hitting .077 in the NLCS.

      After Baez finally ended his personal drought by homering in his first two at-bats Wednesday night, he and his teammates realize the Cubs' work is far from over. Chicago still needs to win three consecutive games, starting with Game 5 at Wrigley Field on Thursday, to reach the World Series.

      The season-saving Game 4 victory proved to be a step in the right direction, both for the Cubs and Baez, who admitted Wednesday night that worrying about his family back in his native Puerto Rico played into his on-field frustrations.

      "Just give him credit for sticking with it," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "(It has been a) very difficult start to the postseason for him, and that's what he can do."

      Now, the Cubs -- who face Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Thursday -- must find a way to keep producing if they are again to fight off elimination.

      "We have so much talent on this team -- it's any guy on any given day, and it takes a lot of pressure off of everybody," Rizzo said. "Javy was obviously struggling a little bit from the plate. But the way he carried himself, his spirits were easy and he comes out today and hits two big home runs for us, and one was the deciding factor."

      Like everyone in the Cubs' confident clubhouse, Baez understands the importance to not taking too much comfort in finding a way to win to extend the series. Now, it's just a matter of staying true to the one-game-at-a-time mentality that Maddon always preaches.

      At this point, the Cubs don't have much of a choice.

      "(It's) great to have this win, because if not, we were going home tomorrow," Baez said. "But I feel like we're still not on track as a team. But I think if we get back on track, everybody as a team, we're going to be the best again."

  • MLB postseason roundup: Yankees take 3-2 ALCS lead
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven outstanding innings, and the New York Yankees scored four runs against Dallas Keuchel in a 5-0 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday.

    • The Yankees lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. They are one win from their 41st pennant and the first since 2009.

      Tanaka (1-1) posted his second postseason win by allowing three hits and working out of a few minor threats. He struck out eight and walked one in a 103-pitch outing as New York improved to 6-0 at home in the playoffs.

      Keuchel (1-1), who took his first postseason loss, brought a 13-inning playoff scoreless streak against the Yankees into the game, and it lasted one more inning before Greg Bird hit an RBI single. Aaron Judge drove in his 10th run of the postseason with a double in the third.

      Cubs 3, Dodgers 2

      CHICAGO -- Javier Baez hit two home runs, and Chicago staved off elimination with a victory over Los Angeles in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

      Willson Contreras also hit a solo home run for the Cubs, who trimmed their series deficit to 3-1. Jake Arrieta (1-0) allowed one run on three hits in 6 2/3 innings in what may have been the soon-to-be free agent's final appearance with Chicago.

      Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner each hit solo home runs for the Dodgers. The loss snapped a six-game postseason win streak for Los Angeles, which remains one victory shy of reaching the World Series for the first time since 1988.

      The Dodgers' Alex Wood (0-1) allowed three solo home runs and a single in 4 2/3 innings in his first career postseason start.

  • ALCS turnaround shows Yankees' depth, quality
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees didn't just send the Houston Astros home on the brink of elimination Wednesday night. They filled the air at Yankee Stadium with an almost palpable feeling of inevitability that the World Series is coming back to the Bronx.

    • New York's 5-0 win behind seven scoreless innings by Masahiro Tanaka in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series completed a three-day dismantling of Houston.

      During that span, the high-powered offense that carried the Astros to 101 wins this season was absent, their relief pitching was exposed to be a weakness and their Yankee-killer, ace Dallas Keuchel, was finally laid low.

      Yes, when the series returns to Houston on Friday, the Astros will have Justin Verlander pitching as a bulwark against this rising Yankees tide. But right now the Yankees simply look like the better team. You see it in the long, grinding at-bats and the way the lineup feels as long as an assembly line. And you see it in how effective every pitcher has been.

      Even with Verlander pitching in Game 6, trying to equal his complete-game effort against the Yanks in Game 2, it's hard to image Houston ultimately won't be hurt by the issues New York exposed this week.

      "(In) the playoffs ... if they get you to crack a little bit on your game plan, then they've got you," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "We haven't stayed in our game plan quite well enough (or) made adjustments."

      Houston averaged a whopping 5.5 runs per game this season, but the offense has been whisper quiet in the ALCS. The Astros have nine runs in the five games with a .147 team batting average.

      "Coming in, their bullpen was so much more heralded than the starting rotation, and the starters have really stepped up against us," Hinch said. "We've lost a little bit of our offensive adjustments and a little bit of our offensive mojo. And some of that is the anxiety that gets created around at-bats."

      There is good reason for the anxiety. The Astros haven't gone through an offensive drought like this. Only once in the regular season did they fail to score more than two runs in three straight games. That has now happened in four out of five.

      The series turned in New York's 6-4 win on Tuesday in Game 4, when the Astros blew a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning. Aaron Judge finally broke through against Lance McCullers Jr. with a home run, and then Hinch couldn't find a reliever in his bullpen who could turn off the assembly line. The Yankees hit all of the most-trusted relievers: Chris Devenski, Joe Musgrove and closer Ken Giles.

      The catalyst to the Yanks' offense was the re-emergence of Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird. All three struggled as New York lost the first two games of the series by 2-1 scores. They are all hitting now. Judge is batting .455 in the series with six RBIs. Sanchez drove in a total of five runs the past two games. Bird is hitting .308 in the series.

      "They got hot again and away we go," Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier said. "The way we're playing right now is beautiful. I think we're going to be electric in two days. We've got Verlander, and we want a piece of him. We know what he did to us last time. We want to keep doing what we're doing and get him out of the game early."

      Judge said, "We never lost our confidence. Our confidence is high. We're looking forward to the challenge of the next game. We feel like we have momentum. We fight to the last out."

      The Yankees have Luis Severino for Game 6 and CC Sabathia lined up if there is a Game 7. Houston has managed only one run in 10 innings against that duo so far.

      "I give our guys a lot of credit for how resilient they are," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "how they continue to fight and never give up and understand (to) take it one game at a time and don't panic."

      That's exactly what Houston must try to do now against a club that is starting to look like the team of destiny. And the Astros may be feeling it like a python around the chest.

      Speaking of Keuchel, Hinch said, "Once you get behind in the playoffs, you have to be pretty perfect -- or at least it feels that way."

      And of the Yankees adding on runs in the fifth and seventh innings, he said, "You can feel the game shortening."

      Looking to Friday, Hinch said, "The message to this team is going to be keep fighting the fight. This series isn't over."

      He could be right, but after three days in New York, it sort of feels as if it is.

  • Yankees on verge of historic second comeback
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees, the most accomplished franchise in American sports, are on the verge of an unprecedented baseball feat. The Houston Astros, meanwhile, are trending toward sadly familiar territory.

    • The Yankees moved to the edge of the World Series with a 5-0 victory over the Astros on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. New York leads the series three games to two and will try to win the pennant in Game 6, scheduled for Friday night in Houston.

      The 41st trip to the World Series in team history would be different than any other for the Yankees -- or anyone else in baseball history, for that matter.

      The Yankees, who dropped the first two games of the ALCS after storming back from an 0-2 deficit to knock off the Cleveland Indians in the best-of-five AL Division Series, are trying to become the second team to reach the World Series by overcoming a pair of two-game deficits and the first to do it after twice trailing two games to none. The 2012 San Francisco Giants trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series, respectively, before winning the World Series.

      One could argue the Yankees, if they win Game 6 or 7, would have mounted three enormous postseason comebacks to advance to the World Series. They trailed the Minnesota Twins 3-0 in the AL wild-card game before earning an 8-4 win. It was the second-biggest deficit overcome in the six-year history of the wild-card games.

      "It's just crazy to think how far our backs were against the wall -- even in the wild-card game," Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier said. "To think what we've done, it's been pretty special."

      The youngster-infused comebacks -- six members of New York's lineup Wednesday are younger than 30 years old -- have infused the corporation-like Yankees with an underdog mentality they haven't been associated with since 1996. That year, a New York squad that featured the 20-something "Core Four" overcame an 0-2 deficit in the World Series to knock off the Atlanta Braves and win the franchise's first title since 1978.

      "Watching our fans brings back a lot of special memories for me as a player," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was the starting catcher on the 1996 team.

      The memories that are bubbling to the surface for the Astros and their fans are decidedly less pleasant. If Houston can't win the next two games, the 2017 ALCS will rank with the playoff heartbreaks the franchise endured in the 1980s and again in 2004 and 2015.

      In 1980, the Astros blew multi-run, late-inning leads in Games 4 and 5 against the Philadelphia Phillies in the best-of-five NLCS. The next year, after a strike-shortened season, Houston won the first two games of the NLDS against the Dodgers, but the Los Angeles rallied to win the final three games of the best-of-five series.

      The 1986 Houston squad frittered away a four-run lead in Game 3 of the NLCS and a three-run lead in Game 6 against the New York Mets.

      In 2004, the Astros came back from an 0-2 deficit to win three straight games against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS before falling in extra innings in Game 6 and dropping a 5-2 decision in Game 7. Two years ago, Houston was six outs away from eliminating the top-seeded Kansas City Royals in Game 4 of the ALDS before the Royals scored seven unanswered runs that sparked their run to the franchise's second championship.

      In Houston's only World Series appearance, the Chicago White Sox swept the Astros in 2005.

      On Tuesday, the Astros were up 4-0 in the seventh and nine outs away from a three games to one series lead with Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander ready to start Games 5 and 6.

      "I don't think we're carrying the weight of the past," said Astros pitcher Collin McHugh, one of 11 players remaining from the 2015 team. "It'd be great (to win) for the city, it'd be great for this franchise and organization."

      McHugh's words sound good, but the burden the Astros are beginning to carry was obvious to designated hitter Carlos Beltran, who felt compelled to speak to the team after seeing too many downcast faces following the Game 5 loss.

      "Sometimes you see people acting different than the way they acted in the regular season," Beltran said. "I just don't want people to feel down, and I don't want people to feel sorry about themselves. We all want to go out there and make it happen."

      No one more so than the 40-year-old Beltran, who hit a record-tying eight homers for the Astros during the near-miss 2004 postseason.

      "You know what, yeah, you get back here, you think about it," Beltran said. "We were able to play Game 7, we lost against the Cardinals. But now we get the opportunity to make it happen here. That's the goal."

      If they can't make it happen? Then the Yankees will make history, and the Astros will repeat it.

  • Cubs confident they can make Dodgers sweat
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have a history of coming from behind when their season is on the line.

    • If the Cubs -- who erased a three-games-to-one deficit in the 2016 World Series to capture their first championship since 1908 -- are to return to the Fall Classic, they will have to pull off a comeback achieved just once in baseball history.

      A 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday night put the Cubs within a loss of being eliminated. The Dodgers are just a victory away from their first World Series appearance since 1988 heading into Game 4 at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, but the Cubs' recent history of comebacks provides them with confidence they can do it again.

      Even so, they also realize they are running out of time.

      "We are down, but we're not out -- we have a pulse," Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said after the Tuesday loss. "As the saying goes, we really need to take it one game at a time. Now, we've got to win them all."

      The Boston Red Sox pulled off the only escape from a 3-0 postseason deficit, beating the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

      The Cubs again struggled to score runs on Tuesday night when they couldn't manage anything more than Kyle Schwarber's first-inning solo home run. Now, with their season on the line, they will hope their bats can catch fire while Jake Arrieta takes the mound looking to extend the series to a fifth game on Thursday at Wrigley Field.

      Arrieta is just 1-3 with a 3.77 ERA in five career starts against the Dodgers, who beat him in his only start against Los Angeles this season. But given the dire reality of the must-win game, Arrieta knows how much a solid outing on Wednesday could do for the Cubs' chances.

      Arrieta, a free agent at season's end who could be making his final start for the Cubs on Wednesday, said the feeling in the clubhouse remains upbeat despite the series deficit.

      "The mood is really very similar to the way it is in our clubhouse every day," Arrieta said before the Game 3 loss. "You know, we really don't ever expect that to change."

      Said Cubs shortstop Addison Russell: "We've got nothing to lose -- we just have to go out and play our hearts out."

      The Dodgers will counter with left-hander Alex Wood, a 16-game winner during the regular season who has not pitched since Sept. 26. Wood became the first Dodgers pitcher in more than a century to win his first 11 decisions en route to finishing 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA.

      The 26-year-old Wood has made four postseason appearances -- all in relief -- and faced the Cubs twice this season. He allowed two runs (one earned) in 3 2/3 innings of a no-decision at Wrigley on April 10 and blanked Chicago on two hits over five innings to earn the win on May 26.

      "I'm really excited to have it be my turn and hopefully throw well and pass the torch on to the next guy," Wood said. "I'm very excited."

      With a strong showing by Wood and continued dominance by the Los Angeles bullpen, the Dodgers would carry a seven-game unbeaten streak into the World Series.

      The Cubs, meanwhile, would be swept in the NLCS for the second time in three years after the New York Mets won four straight games against Chicago in 2015.

      "(We're) just getting after it tomorrow," Dodgers left fielder Andre Ethier said Tuesday night. "(We have to) come back with the same intensity, embrace all the emotion, embrace all the energy that is flying around this ballpark, on the team, and get the job done.

      "Like I said, you can't give opportunities and too much open space for a team like the Cubs to get back in it. So tomorrow's the most important game. We've got to figure out a way to close it out tomorrow."

  • Dodgers continue postseason perfection
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    CHICAGO -- Twenty-nine years have gone by since the Los Angeles Dodgers last reached the World Series.

    • During that time, half a dozen presidents have lived in the White House. The Berlin Wall came down. Something called the Internet turned out to be pretty important.

      All the while, Los Angeles' boys in blue tried and failed to return to the Fall Classic.

      Now, the Dodgers are on the doorstep. They hold a commanding 3-0 advantage over the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series after cruising to a 6-1 victory Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

      Yet Dodgers manager Dave Roberts insists that he is not thinking about what is at stake for his team.

      "No," Roberts said without hesitation. "I think that right now, we're just laser focused on trying to win baseball games. If that presents itself, obviously it will be great. But right now our focus is on (Wednesday's opposing starter) Jake Arrieta and trying to figure out a way to win a baseball game tomorrow night."

      The Dodgers have figured out how to win plenty of games so far this month. They improved to 6-0 during the postseason, which marks the best streak in franchise history.

      Streaky play is nothing new for Los Angeles, which posted a remarkable 43-7 record from June 7-Aug. 5, only to drop 11 consecutive games in early September. That was the longest drought by any team this season.

      Now, the Dodgers are the right kind of streaky once again.

      "We're kind of back to being the fun Dodgers now the way we've played so far," said left-hander Alex Wood, who will take the mound in Game 4. "And that energy is back in our clubhouse."

      The energy was apparent on the field during Tuesday's win. Andre Ethier and Chris Taylor each went deep, and Yu Darvish drew a bases-loaded walk to subdue a Wrigley Field crowd that arrived ready to party.

      Instead, thousands of dejected Cubs fans left before the final out.

      "There is nothing inspirational I could possibly say that's going to make a difference," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We've just got to go out and play our normal game tomorrow."

      Trouble is, the Dodgers' normal game has proved to be better.

      A talented rotation featuring Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood challenges opposing hitters because each starter features a different style. Meanwhile, the Dodgers bullpen did not allow a hit in 29 consecutive at-bats before Cubs catcher Alex Avila singled off Ross Stripling in the ninth inning Tuesday.

      In each game of the series, the Cubs have scored first. In each game, the Dodgers have stormed back.

      "You have a lot of guys (on this team) that don't take things for granted," Ethier said. "You know things aren't going to always come easy, and you don't have many opportunities when you're in this position.

      "I think that's something we try to pass on to some of the younger guys is don't take these opportunities for granted, and going back to that five NL West championships in a row. This doesn't really happen, and you can't get complacent to think that year after year, this is going to be a thing."

      The World Series has not been a thing for the Dodgers in nearly three decades. The team never has been closer to returning to the top of the mountain than it is now.

      "These guys are really good over there -- NLCS three years in a row and a World Series champion," Ethier said. "So they know how to win. We're the ones who have to knock them off, and that's what we're trying to do."

  • MLB playoff roundup: Dodgers go up 3-0 on Cubs
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    CHICAGO -- Chris Taylor homered and drove in two runs, and Yu Darvish allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers moved to within a victory of the National League pennant with a 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

    • The Dodgers, who last reached the World Series in 1988, can advance with a win in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.

      Darvish struck out seven, scattered six hits and walked just one as Los Angeles took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS. Darvish also drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning.

      Taylor broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with a 444-foot solo home run to dead center field. Taylor provided the Dodgers with a 3-1 lead with a fifth-inning RBI triple down the third base line that scored Joc Pederson, who led off with a double.

      Yankees 6, Astros 4

      NEW YORK -- Gary Sanchez hit a tiebreaking, two-run double with one out in the eighth inning as New York stormed back to beat Houston and even the American League Championship Series 2-2.

      Aaron Judge started the comeback by opening homering off Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. on the first pitch of the seventh. Judge then tied the game in the eighth with a long double off the left field wall against Ken Giles (0-1).

      After Judge moved to third on a base hit by Didi Gregorius, Sanchez laced Giles' 2-0 fastball to deep center field, scoring both runners. McCullers held the Yankees to one run on two hits in six-plus innings before the Astros' bullpen imploded.

  • Astros look to Keuchel to get back on track
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka and Dallas Keuchel twice squared off in a postseason setting.

    • Both games went in favor of Keuchel and the Houston Astros.

      The next matchup will occur Wednesday in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, where one team will move within a game of clinching a berth in the World Series.

      The series is tied 2-2 after New York rallied for a 6-4 victory in Game 4 on Tuesday. Aaron Judge homered off Lance McCullers Jr. before New York scored four runs in the eighth. Judge's double tied the score, and Gary Sanchez's two-run double off Houston closer Ken Giles gave New York the lead.

      "This is a great series," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "This is two really good teams fighting for the chance to represent the American League. I don't think anyone thought the series was over two games ago."

      The first postseason meeting between Tanaka and Keuchel occurred in the 2015 AL wild-card game in New York. In Houston's 3-0 victory, Keuchel struck out seven and allowed three hits in six innings while Tanaka allowed two runs on four hits in five innings.

      The second playoff meeting occurred in the ALCS opener on Friday in Houston. Keuchel allowed four hits in seven scoreless innings while striking out 10. Tanaka gave up two runs on four hits in six innings during the Astros' 2-1 victory.

      "He's a very good pitcher," Keuchel said of Tanaka. "And if it weren't for some extraordinary performances, we'd be singing his praises multiple times.

      "When I've pitched against him in the regular season and in the postseason, it's a feeling that you have to be on top of your game because there's not going to be a lot of runs produced from our part. That brings a challenge."

      In Game 1, Keuchel threw one changeup. In the 2015 wild-card game, he threw the pitch five times. During the regular season, he threw it 13 percent of the time. He threw just seven changeups May 11 in a start at New York.

      "It was just the fact that I had some really late movement on my two-seam and my slider was really good, the cutter was decent," Keuchel said of Game 1. "So, I didn't feel the need to change speeds with the changeup, and hopefully that comes into play (Wednesday)."

      Including his two playoff wins over Tanaka and the Yankees, Keuchel is 6-2 with a 1.09 ERA in eight starts versus New York, with three of those outings occurring against Tanaka.

      Overall, the left-hander is 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five postseason appearances (four starts). Before beating the Yankees again, Keuchel allowed one run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Boston Red Sox.

      "We haven't done a whole lot off him in the starts we've seen him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Hopefully seeing him twice in one series, our guys are able to adjust a little quicker."

      It will be the second postseason series Keuchel is appearing in for a second time. He started Game 3 of the 2015 ALDS against Kansas City, then three days later, he allowed three runs in the eighth inning in a relief appearance in Game 5.

      The Yankees are hoping to become the fourth team to win an LCS after losing the first two games since it expanded to a best-of-seven in 1985. New York is 5-0 at home in the postseason after pulling off its biggest postseason comeback at home since Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox.

      Tanaka finished an inconsistent regular-season with a dynamic 15-strikeout showing against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 29. He followed it up with two outstanding postseason starts.

      The right-hander pitched seven dominant innings in a 1-0 victory in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians before running into Keuchel again.

      "I think the biggest thing is that I was able to experience the 2015 wild-card game," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I think having that experience under my belt has helped me pitch the way I'm pitching right now."

      Tanaka will be pitching Wednesday on four days' rest. Although he went 5-3 with a 4.04 ERA in eight starts on four days' rest this year, Tanaka said he believes it is not a big deal by now.

      "I feel comfortable pitching four days' rest," Tanaka said. "Obviously I've done that through the season and on top of that, I've been here for four years and done that as well. So yes, I do feel comfortable."

  • Yankees feast on Astros' bullpen
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    NEW YORK -- In the sixth inning Tuesday, the specter of Houston Astros co-aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander loomed over the remainder of the American League Championship Series.

    • Then the seventh and eighth innings of Game 4 happened, and the New York Yankees' bullpen-heavy blueprint suddenly looked a little sturdier than the Astros' top-heavy rotation approach.

      The Yankees busted out for six runs over their final two at-bats against Lance McCullers Jr. and wave after wave of overwhelmed Astros relievers. New York rallied to beat Houston 6-4 and tie the series at two games apiece.

      Game 5 is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Thanks to the Yankees' stunning comeback, it will not, as it appeared for a little while Tuesday, serve as a pennant-winning coronation for the Astros, who are scheduled to send Keuchel to the mound against Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.

      Keuchel has thrown 13 scoreless innings in two career playoff starts against New York, whom he blanked over seven innings Friday in a Game 1 win.

      "That's always in the back of your head," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Keuchel pitching Game 5. "I was focused on trying to keep it as close as we could. Give us a chance to win. Bullpen, just do your job, and they did."

      The Astros entered the seventh inning up 4-0 behind McCullers, who had allowed one hit and one walk while completing six innings for the first time since June 8. However, manager A.J. Hinch sent McCullers out for the seventh, which began with Aaron Judge crushing a first-pitch homer to center field.

      Hinch then pulled McCullers, and the performance of four relievers proved why he went as far as he possibly could and then some with his starter. Chris Devinski gave up a triple and a sacrifice fly to the first two batters he faced, Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, before Joe Musgrove recorded the final two outs of the seventh.

      Yankees right-hander Chad Green, who allowed an unearned run in the seventh, threw a perfect eighth inning to set the stage for the completion of the comeback in the bottom of the frame.

      "Tack-on runs are the difference in a lot of games," Yankees infielder Chase Headley said. "For us to be able to climb back in it a little bit, and then (for) 'Greenie' to go back out there and get us back in quick, that's a big deal."

      Musgrove gave up singles to Todd Frazier and Headley to open the eighth, at which point Hinch went to closer Ken Giles for the six-out save. Giles wound up retiring just one of the five batters he faced, and he gave up the go-ahead hit, a two-run double by Sanchez, that made Yankee Stadium shake as it did during the Yankees' dynastic years.

      "It's painful," Giles said. "I let the whole team down."

      The Yankees ended up sending 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, which lasted nearly 40 minutes.

      "It's not a great visual from my side of the dugout," Hinch said. "We just couldn't get the inning to end. We were trying to match up and make pitches. They were putting really great at-bats together."

      Aroldis Chapman threw a perfect ninth inning to earn the save for the Yankees, whose relievers have combined to post a 2.09 ERA in 43 innings this month.

      Astros relievers, on the other hand, have a 6.21 ERA in 24 1.3 innings, a performance that threatens to render irrelevant the brilliance of Keuchel and Verlander, the latter of whom was acquired Aug. 31 and is in line to start Game 6 on Friday night.

      Counting the postseason, Keuchel and Verlander have combined to go 12-2 with a 1.74 ERA in 14 starts.

      Hinch spoke confidently of his relievers Tuesday night, but it sure looks as if the best way for the Astros to reach the World Series for the second time is to make sure nobody other than Keuchel and Verlander sees the mound over the next two games.

      "Dallas Keuchel, he's pretty good at getting deep in the game," Hinch said. "We'll hand the ball to this bullpen with the lead tomorrow feeling good about it if that's the case."

      After Tuesday, so will the Yankees.

  • Red Sox's Ramirez, Rodriguez undergo successful surgeries
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Boston Red Sox first baseman and designated hitter Hanley Ramirez underwent successful left shoulder surgery on Tuesday and is expected to be ready for the start of the 2018 season, the team announced.

    • Ramirez, 33, had a left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement procedure performed by Dr. James Andrews at the Andrews Institute in Pensacola, Fla.

      "Hi my people, went in for left shoulder surgery today, keep me in prayers. Coming back stronger in '18, love you all #RedSoxNation @RedSox," Ramirez wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday accompanied with a picture of himself in a hospital bed.

      Ramirez, a 13-year veteran and three-time All-Star, had a career-worst .242 batting average with 23 home runs and 62 RBIs this past season, his third full campaign with the Red Sox after joining the team on a four-year, $88 million contract.

      The former National League Rookie of the Year has a $22 million vesting option for a fifth year with 1,050 plate appearances between the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

      Ramirez needs 497 more plate appearances for the option to kick in after 553 trips to the plate in 2017.

      Boston also announced that left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez underwent a successful right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction surgery on Tuesday. The procedure was also performed by Dr. Andrews.

      Rodriguez, 24, is expected to return to pitching in six months, per the team.

      The young southpaw posted a 6-7 record with a 4.19 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) last season, his third in the big leagues. Rodriguez is 19-20 with a 4.23 ERA in 66 career appearances (65 starts).

  • Home is where runs are for Yankees
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    NEW YORK -- Throughout the postseason, the New York Yankees are proving to be a different team offensively at home than on the road.

    • The Bronx dominance helped the Yankees rally from a 2-0 deficit in the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, and now the Yankees hope it helps them stage a comeback against the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series.

      New York will try to remain unbeaten at home in the postseason and even the ALCS at two games apiece Tuesday in Game 4 against Houston.

      New York posted a league-leading 51-30 record at home during the regular season. In four postseason home games, the Yankees have scored 24 times despite hitting .232 (29-for-125). They produced 14 of those runs on eight homers after Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge slugged three-run shots in an 8-1 win Monday.

      "We're somewhat built for this ballpark, number one," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "No. 2, you're familiar with it. You're familiar with everything that you do on a daily basis. You have your routine and you're able to be in your routine.

      "I find that baseball players like routine. We're told where to be all the time. Whether it's in spring training, this is what time we report, we have (batting practice), this is what time we meet. I think the routine is normal for them, and I think it helps."

      Despite amassing more runs (eight) than hits (seven) on Monday, the Yankees raised their series batting average from .159 to .183 and earned their first ALCS win since beating the Texas Rangers in Game 5 in 2010 at home. The Yankees are now looking to post consecutive ALCS wins for the first time since winning the first two games in 2009 against the Los Angeles Angels.

      The Yankees will be trying to get the split knowing Houston's ace pitchers are looming. Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel will pitch Game 5 on Wednesday, and right-hander Justin Verlander would start Game 6 on Friday in Houston, if necessary.

      Meanwhile, Houston will try to get its offense going again. Despite holding the series lead, the Astros have scored five times just and are hitting .169 (15-for-89). Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are a combined 9-for-23 (.391), while the rest of the team is 6-for-66 (.090).

      Among the more notable players slumping for Houston, George Springer is 1-for-11 with four strikeouts while Josh Reddick is 0-for-10.

      The Astros also hope that Lance McCullers Jr. can deliver a better outing than Charlie Morton's 3 2/3 innings in Game 3.

      McCullers was named the starter for Tuesday after the Monday defeat. Manager A.J. Hinch kept his explanation short by saying: "He's really good."

      McCullers was very good against the Yankees in New York on May 12 when he struck out seven and allowed four hits in six scoreless innings in a 5-1 win. He allowed three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings during a 13-4 home loss to the Yankees on June 30.

      McCullers is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three career outings against New York.

      The right-hander ended the regular season with a 7-4 record and a 4.25 ERA. His ERA rose due to some late-season struggles that saw him go 0-3 with an 8.63 ERA in his final eight starts. In three starts since returning from a back injury, he was 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA.

      He made one appearance in the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, allowing two runs on three hits in a relief appearance in Game 4. Houston lost 10-3, though he wasn't involved in the decision.

      McCullers said of his Tuesday night start, "It's a big game for us. It's a big game for the team. The Yankees have a great home record and are a great team. And we do the job putting ourself in the situation getting up 2-0.

      "We knew it was going to be hard-fought innings, hard-fought games. It's a big situation to be able to pitch in, put us within a game of the World Series."

      Sonny Gray will make his second postseason start for the Yankees, and he hopes it goes better than the first.

      Gray started Game 1 of the ALDS on Oct. 5 in Cleveland and allowed three runs on three hits in 3 1/3 innings while throwing 73 pitches in a 4-0 loss. He gave up a solo homer to Jay Bruce, and he has allowed 12 homers in 68 2/3 innings since being acquired from the Oakland Athletics.

      Due to the long layoff between starts, Gray pitched a simulated game before Game 1 in Houston while getting looks at the Astros' lineup from the dugout during the games.

      "I feel good -- I got to work on a lot of stuff," Gray said. "That's something that has been pretty beneficial to me. I've thrown a handful of bullpens and got to throw a sim game the other day. The positive thing is, I feel really good. I feel fresh and should be ready to go."

      Gray's postseason debut for New York also continued his trend of recent struggles. He went 2-4 with a 4.58 ERA in his final six regular-season starts.

      Over his career in the postseason, Gray is 0-2 with a 3.31 ERA.

      Gray is 4-3 with 3.09 ERA in nine career starts against the Astros. He last faced the Astros on June 20 in Oakland, and he allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings.

      Houston's current roster holds a combined .287 (31-for-108) average off Gray. Altuve is hitting .367 (11-for-30) against the right-hander, while Correa is 1-for-14 (.071).

      "I know these guys pretty well," Gray said. "I think they know me pretty well. I've faced them quite a bit."

  • Yankees veteran Sabathia schools Astros
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    NEW YORK -- When CC Sabathia signed his first professional contract in 1998, Carlos Correa was three years old. When Sabathia made his major league debut in 2001, Alex Bregman was seven years old. When Sabathia won the Cy Young Award in 2007, Jose Altuve was 17 years old.

    • All of which is to say the elder statesman taught the young Houston Astros a thing or two Monday night, when the 37-year-old Sabathia tossed six shutout innings and earned the win as the New York Yankees got back into the American League Championship Series with an 8-1 victory in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium.

      The Astros lead the best-of-seven series two games to one. Game 4 is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

      The power of his youth long gone after logging nearly 3,700 professional innings, Sabathia nonetheless flummoxed the prolific and patient Astros by mixing sliders, changeups and the occasional 90-92 mph fastball in authoring a scoreless outing for the first time in 22 career postseason starts back to 2001.

      "It's weird, me being 37, (using) smoke and mirrors, getting a shutout," Sabathia said with a grin.

      It might have been weird, but it wasn't a surprise to the Yankees, who are becoming accustomed to watching their second-oldest player (Matt Holliday was born six months before Sabathia in 1980) thrive on the October stage in the autumn of his career. Sabathia has a 2.30 ERA and has allowed just 17 baserunners over 15 2/3 innings in three starts this month.

      "He's a bulldog," said Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier, who provided Sabathia all the support he'd need with a three-run homer in the second inning. "Look at the size of him. He looks like a bear out there just on the mound, just ready to pounce on somebody."

      The Astros entered Monday ranked first among remaining playoff teams in postseason batting average (.293), tied for first in extra-base hits (21) and second in OPS (.846), but Sabathia allowed just a quartet of singles as well as four walks while striking out five. He was particularly stingy with runners in scoring position, a situation in which Houston batters went 0-for-4 with a walk.

      Sabathia wriggled out of his biggest jam in the third, when he allowed three straight batters to reach with two outs before inducing Correa to pop out weakly to short on a 91 mph fastball.

      "He can pitch with the elevated fastball," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's got a pretty good breaking ball, especially when he gets you in the swing mode. We were a little swing happy tonight against him, and he took advantage of being able to pitch in the outer parts of the strike zone."

      The Astros stranded four runners in Sabathia's final two innings and left runners on the corners in the sixth, when Sabathia fielded a slow comebacker by Josh Reddick, who was a downright ancient 14-year-old when Sabathia made his major league debut.

      Sabathia then proved his competitive fires haven't aged a day by cursing at Reddick as he walked off the field. It was quite the exclamation point to the longest scoreless postseason start by a pitcher age 37 or older since 37-year-old Pedro Martinez threw seven shutout innings in Game 2 of the 2009 National League Championship Series.

      "That was just me being me, man," Sabathia said of the exchange with Reddick.

      All these years later, that's still good enough.

  • Trailing 2-0, Cubs turn to Hendricks vs. Dodgers
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 16, 2017

    CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs return home in a two-games-to-none hole in the National League Championship Series and with plenty of questions left unanswered after back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    • Will their struggling offense find a way to recover? What's wrong with a bullpen that yielded late runs in both losses, including surrendering a walk-off, three-run home run Sunday night in Chicago's 4-1 setback in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium?

      With time now running short on his team's World Series title defense, Cubs manager Joe Maddon realizes that if his team is going to bounce back, it has to be soon.

      Heading into Game 3 on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, Maddon points back to the NL Division Series against the Washington Nationals, when many of the same concerns arose before Chicago found a way to win and advance.

      "I obviously wanted to win one out of those two (games in Los Angeles). We didn't. That's reality," Maddon said Monday. "There is reality and there is fantasy. People like to tend to deal with fantasy. It's reality. So we've got to come back here and get ourselves back together."

      In need of a win, the Cubs will turn to Kyle Hendricks, who pitched four innings in the NLDS-clinching victory last week over the Nationals. Chicago won both of Hendricks' NLDS starts, but the Cubs will need to find a way to produce some offense after scoring just three runs and collecting only seven hits in the two weekend losses to the Dodgers.

      Hendricks is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in three career starts against the Dodgers, whom he will face for the first time this year on Tuesday night. Despite the Cubs' 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven series, Hendricks said Monday he doesn't consider Tuesday a must-win.

      "Our team doesn't really approach games like that," Hendricks said. "You hear the way Joe (Maddon) speaks about it. For us, this is just Game 170, I think it's going to be. So, yeah, we're down 2-0. Obviously we know we need to get wins at this point. But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball."

      The Dodgers head into Tuesday still unbeaten in the postseason and confident after Justin Turner's ninth-inning, three-run blast Sunday night. Yu Darvish takes the mound for Los Angeles, having won his lone playoff start to date this year. On Oct. 9 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he allowed one run, two hits and struck out seven over five innings in a 3-1 victory.

      Darvish has allowed just two earned runs and struck out 28 in his past four outings dating back to the regular season. The right-hander will make just his second career start against the Cubs, after allowing two runs in 4 1/3 innings during a loss with the Texas Rangers in 2016.

      The 31-year-old Japan native hopes to continue the mastery that the Dodgers have had in silencing Chicago's bats in the first two games of the series. But as much as the Cubs have struggled to hit thus far, Darvish realizes he has to be careful with a lineup that possesses plenty of dangerous hitters.

      "They've got (a) really good lineup from top to bottom, and they play as a team so there is nobody in that lineup that I can get easy on," Darvish said. "So it's going to be a battle, and I just want to take one pitch at a time, one guy at a time."

  • Cubs' Maddon expects to be fined for critical comments
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 15, 2017

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Sunday he expects to get fined for his comments criticizing a call at home plate getting overturned in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday.

    • Charlie Culberson scored the final run of the Los Angeles Dodgers' 5-2 win after it was ruled Chicago catcher Willson Contreras did not clear a path to home plate.

      "I expect it," said Maddon, who was scheduled to meet with MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre on Sunday.

      Maddon said he has no problem with the fine, which will be donated to charity.

      Maddon, however continued to express frustration with the ruling.

      "The only thing I'll say is the more I watch it, it was a tremendous baseball play on our part," Maddon said. "I could not be happier with the technique, and you can also argue about the bad base running on their side.

      Maddon was ejected in the seventh inning after arguing the overturned call with plate umpire Lance Barksdale.

      Barksdale initially called Culberson out on a throw from left fielder Kyle Schwarber on a single by Justin Turner.

      Following a video review, umpires ruled Contreras violated the obstruction rule for not clearing a path for Culberson.

      After the game, Maddon did not hide his disdain for the rule, which came into place in 2014, three years after San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey fractured his left ankle during a play at the plate in May 2011.

      "I saw a great baseball play," Maddon said after the game. "I saw (Kyle) Schwarber come in on a grounded ball, use his feet perfectly, make a low, great throw to the plate that could have been cut off, had we needed it to be, but did not because we chose to have it go to home plate. Perfect skip-hop, great play by Contreras.

      "The ball kind of taking Willson towards the line, towards foul territory. He catches the ball, and his technique was absolutely 100 percent perfect."

  • Red Sox interview Cora, ask to talk with Gardenhire
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 15, 2017

    Astros bench coach Alex Cora took a break from Houston's playoff run to interview for the Boston Red Sox's vacant managerial position Sunday.

    • Cora met with Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on the Astros' off day. Houston, which won the first two games of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, plays Game 3 on Monday at Yankee Stadium.

      The Red Sox previously asked for and received permission from the Astros to speak with Cora, 41.

      Dombrowski told the Boston Herald in an email that the interview "went fine."

      Baseball analyst Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and The Athletic reported that Cora is the Red Sox's top choice.

      Multiple media outlets reported that the Red Sox also asked for permission to interview Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire. The former Minnesota manager spent the last year in Arizona after compiling a 1,068-1,039 record in 13 years with the Twins.

      Gardenhire, 59, was the 2010 American League Manager of the Year.

      Cora played for the Red Sox from 2005-08, part of a 14-year major league playing career that included time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals.

      ESPN reported that Cora is also a possible managerial target of the Mets and the Detroit Tigers.

      "He's very sharp, sees the game in an extraordinarily deep way, has really connected well with players in our clubhouse and spent a lot of time developing relationships and being the bench-coach liaison to the clubhouse that I asked him to be," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "For him to be able to learn, to grow, to evolve, become a better bench coach, continue to learn the game, those are characteristics as to why he is a hot name in every opening that's coming up so far and why one day he's going to manage, whether it's now or later."

      Boston fired manager John Farrell after the season even though the team won the AL East with a 93-69 record. The Red Sox fell in four games to the Astros in the AL Division Series. Farrell, who led the Red Sox to the 2013 World Series title, had a 432-378 record over five seasons in Boston.

  • Former White Sox pitcher Webb dies in ATV accident
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 15, 2017

    Daniel Webb, who pitched from 2013-16 for the Chicago White Sox, died Saturday night in an ATV accident in Humphreys County, Tenn.

    • According to WKRN in Nashville, police said Webb was killed when his ATV hit an object in the woods. The ATV rolled over and Webb broke his neck.

      Webb, 28, was recently married with a newborn child.

      "Daniel left many friends within the Chicago White Sox organization, and we are all shocked and stunned by the news of last night's terrible accident," the team said in a statement released Sunday. "He was a terrific young man with a full life ahead of him. All thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends as they deal with today's tragic news."

      Webb was 7-5 with a 4.50 ERA with 93 strikeouts over 110 innings in his major league career, all with Chicago.

      Webb was released by the White Sox last November and was a free agent since being cut.

  • Yankees try to dig out of another 2-0 hole
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 15, 2017

    NEW YORK -- For the second straight week, the New York Yankees are returning home facing a 2-0 deficit against an opponent who won at least 100 games in the regular season.

    • After rallying against the 102-win Cleveland Indians, the question is can New York do it again in the American League Championship Series against the 101-win Houston Astros?

      The Yankees get their first opportunity to climb out of their deficit Monday night when they host Houston in Game 3.

      The Yankees are down 2-0 in a best-of-seven for the ninth time and second straight time in the ALCS. In 2012, they were swept by the Detroit Tigers after beating the Baltimore Orioles in the fifth game of the ALDS.

      After a pair of 2-1 losses in Houston when the Yankees did little offensively against Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, they are looking to win their fifth best-of-seven series when losing the first two games. The Yankees won the World Series in 1996, 1978, 1958 and 1956 after dropping the first two games.

      New York enters Game 3 hitting .159 (10-for-63) with 27 strikeouts, four walks and 16 total bases. New York entered Game 3 against the Indians hitting .179 (14-for-78) with 26 strikeouts and 25 total bases.

      "We have a whole lot of baseball left to play with a seven-game series," Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said.. "We're going back home. We've played really well at home all year, especially recently. We haven't lost a playoff game there yet. Hopefully we can keep that streak going."

      The Yankees will hope to include Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in their home success.

      Judge is 1-for-7 with three strikeouts in this series, and 2-for-27 with 19 strikeouts since getting two hits in the wild-card game against the Minnesota Twins. Sanchez is 0-for-7 in this series, 4-for-30 since the wild-card game and hitless in his last 12 at-bats since homering in the sixth inning of Game 4 against Cleveland last Monday.

      "I think they're seeing a lot of good pitching," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "They're making good pitches on those kids."

      Said Judge: "Everyone wants to hit 1,000. I think you can ask everyone in this room. I think they're not satisfied with their stats."

      The Astros are hitting .190 in the series after batting .333 in the ALDS against Boston.

      Jose Altuve is 5-for-8 in this series after going 8-for-15 in the ALDS while Carlos Correa is 3-for-7 with three RBIs, including a homer and the game-winning double that scored Altuve from first base Saturday.

      Houston's dynamic middle infield has put the Astros up 2-0 in a best-of-seven series for the first time in team history. Since the format expanded to best of seven, teams with a 2-0 lead in the LCS have won 25 of 28 series.

      "They're going to be loud," said Astros catcher Brian McCann, who played the previous three seasons in New York. "We took care of business at home, and now we need to go on the road and continue to play good baseball. The Yankees are a team that has been here before, so we need to continue to play good baseball and show up and expect to win."

      Houston would also like to get some more offense from others beyond Altuve and Correa. Houston's other hitters are a combined 3-for-43 against New York, which has posted a 2.20 ERA.

      During the regular season, the Astros led the majors in runs and scored 24 runs on 18 extra-base hits in the ALDS

      "We have just been able to stay present in the moment and win the games the way that they needed to be won," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "We can't ask their pitching to sit it out there over the plate and give up the home run ball that we're pretty good at. We just continue to put up good at-bats and see if we can manufacture some runs."

      CC Sabathia, who pitched 4 1/3 innings in the series clincher in Cleveland will start Game 3. He is 3-3 with a 5.85 ERA in seven career starts in the ALCS with five of those starts for the Yankees.

      Sabathia did not face the Astros during the regular season and is 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three starts against them.

      Houston's pitching has posted a 1.00 ERA and Charlie Morton has a tough act to follow when he starts Monday. He will be pitching two days after Verlander struck out 13 in a 124-pitch five-hitter on Saturday.

      Morton started Game 4 of ALDS last Monday in Boston and did not get a decision after allowing two runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings during an 83-pitch outing. During the regular-season, Morton was 14-7 with a 3.62 ERA with a 51.8 percent ground ball rate.

      Morton is 1-1 with a 5.68 ERA in two starts against the Yankees. He struck out 10 in a 10-7 win at New York on May 14 when he allowed four runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings.

  • MLB playoff roundup: Astros take 2-0 series lead on Yankees
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 15, 2017

    HOUSTON -- Carlos Correa homered and delivered a walk-off double against Aroldis Chapman, salvaging an incredible effort from Justin Verlander and giving the Houston Astros a 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday.

    • With Jose Altuve on first base following a one-out single, Correa lined a 3-2 fastball from Chapman (0-1) into the right-center field gap. Altuve rounded the bases and scored when Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge made his relay toss toward the middle of the infield. The subsequent throw home short-hopped catcher Gary Sanchez, allowing Altuve to score.

      Altuve and Correa both recorded two hits, with Correa scoring once and driving in two runs. The Astros will take a 2-0 series lead to New York for Game 3 at Yankee Stadium on Monday.

      Verlander (1-0) pitched nine innings, allowing one run on five hits and one walk with 13 strikeouts. He threw a whopping 124 pitches (93 strikes).

      Dodgers 5, Cubs 2

      LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor hit a go-ahead home run and Charlie Culberson added an RBI and a run scored as Los Angeles opened the National League Championship Series with a victory over Chicago.

      Culberson started at shortstop only after Corey Seager was not placed on the active roster for the series because back injury suffered in Game 3 of the NLDS. His sacrifice fly in the fifth inning tied the score 2-2.

      Culberson followed Yasiel Puig's home run in the seventh inning with a double to left. He sprinted home on a Justin Turner single but appeared to get thrown out at home when catcher Willson Contreras applied the tag in time while blocking the plate with his foot before he had the ball.

      But on a replay challenge, Culberson was called safe. The official ruing from MLB offices in New York was that Contreras was in violation of the "home plate collision rule." Cubs manager Joe Maddon was ejected for arguing the replay reversal.

  • Injured SS Seager off Dodgers' NLCS roster
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 14, 2017

    The Los Angeles Dodgers left All-Star shortstop Corey Seager off their 25-man roster for the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs due to an injured back, the team announced Saturday.

    • Seager suffered a back injury on Monday night in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was injured on a first-inning slide into second base but played the entire game.

      Seager, 23, missed workouts for three consecutive days because of what manager Dave Roberts described as a "muscular issue" in his back. Roberts said Friday he was "very optimistic" that Seager would play in Game 1 on Saturday.

      Seager batted .295 with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs in 145 regular-season games this season. He went 3-for-11 (.273) with a triple and two RBIs in three games against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. He was the National League's Rookie of the Year last season.

      The Dodgers also dropped reliever Pedro Baez from the NLDS roster, adding infielder Charlie Culberson and outfielder Joc Pederson.

  • Cubs to start LHP Quintana in Game 1
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 14, 2017

    The Chicago Cubs named left-hander Jose Quintana as their starter in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night.

    • The Cubs made the announcement Saturday after manager Joe Maddon still was deciding Friday night between Quintana and right-hander John Lackey as his starter at Dodger Stadium.

      "We'll go back, try to get information, and try to make our best decision," Maddon said Friday night.

      The Cubs used all four of their primary starters across the final two games against the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series. Quintana recorded two outs and threw 12 pitches in a Game 5 clincher on Thursday night that the Cubs won 9-8.

      Lackey, the team's fifth starter, was in the bullpen but did not pitch against the Nationals.

      Quintana went 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA with the Cubs after being acquired in a mid-July trade from the Chicago White Sox. He threw 5 2/3 innings against the Nationals in Game 3 of the NLDS, allowing one unearned run on two hits.

      "I will tell you I am ready," Quintana told reporters Friday.

      The Dodgers announced their rotation Friday with ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw taking the mound in Game 1. He will be followed by Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood -- the same alignment used by manager Dave Roberts during their three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS.