Daily Dose: Tamed TigerFriday, October 18, 2013
With runners on first and third, no outs and down by two runs, there are few hitters on the planet a manager would rather want stepping to the plate than Miguel Cabrera.
That was the scenario in the seventh inning of Thursday's ALCS Game 5. After back-to-back singles from Jose Iglesias and Torii Hunter set the table, Cabrera stepped in against Junichi Tazawa in an at-bat that had the potential to change the course of the game and the series. It's a situation in which Cabrera has undoubtedly come through many times.
Thursday night wasn't one of them, as Cabrera grounded into a double play that, while getting a run home, effectively ended the last real scoring threat the Tigers had on the evening. The run cut the Red Sox' lead to 4-3, and the Sox would eventually win by the same score. Cabrera finished the night 1-for-3 with an RBI single.
It was a rally that fell just short after the Red Sox jumped out to an early 4-0 lead against Anibal Sanchez, the American League ERA leader during the regular season. Sanchez allowed three runs in the second inning and another in the third before settling down, eventually getting through three more innings without further damage. He fell to 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA through two ALCS starts.
The biggest thorn in Sanchez' side was Mike Napoli, who's tormented Tigers pitching all series. It was Napoli's solo home run late in Game 3 that accounted for all the runs scored in the game, and his homer in the second inning of Thursday's game was also the first run for either side. Napoli finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored, and he's hitting a cool .375/.412/.875 through the series' first five games.
Jon Lester was less effective than in his Game 1 loss, but he did enough to earn the win this time around. In total, the lefty lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on seven hits. Three relievers combined to throw the other 3 2/3 innings, allowing just three hits and a run. Tazawa was responsible for all three hits.
He was also responsible for the run, but it was the runs he didn't allow at the hands of Cabrera that proved to be the difference in the game. The two teams -- and, possibly, the two players -- will meet again Saturday in Boston for Game 6.
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Abreu Chooses His Sox
We're still a few weeks from the hot stove, but the White Sox have already bolstered their lineup for next season.
It was reported throughout Thursday that the White Sox were the frontrunners for the services of 26-year-old Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, and late Thursday it was announced the two sides had agreed to a deal pending a physical. The deal is reportedly for six years and $68 million. Abreu was said to have chosen the White Sox over the Red Sox and Astros.
Abreu is the latest in a line of MLB-ready Cuban defects to sign big deals in recent years. Yoenis Cespedes broke onto the scene with the A's in 2012, and Yasiel Puig is on the short list of candidates for the NL Rookie of the Year Award this year.
Both those players have posted impressive numbers since leaving Cuba, but Abreu is arguably the most accomplished of the three at the beginning of his MLB career. Abreu played five seasons with the Cuban Serie Nacional, hitting .453/.597/.986 with 33 home runs and 93 RBI in 66 games in 2010. He went 9-for-25 with three home runs and nine RBI in this year's World Baseball Classic.
The White Sox are banking on that power, making him the highest paid international free agent in history. The previous mark was set by Yu Darvish, who signed a six-year, $56 million contract with the Rangers shortly ahead of Cespedes in early 2012.
The deal likely spells the end of Paul Konerko's time in Chicago, at least as an everyday player. The 37-year-old is a free agent this offseason, and he's said to be contemplating retirement. If he does return, it will be in a reserve role.
National League Quick Hits: Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he expects both Hanley Ramirez (rib) and Andre Ethier (ankle) to play in Friday's Game 6. Ramirez has been removed in each of the past two games ... the Cubs interviewed Rays bench coach Dave Martinez for their open manager position. Former Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch, former Nationals and Indians manager Manny Acta and Padres bench coach Rick Renteria have also interviewed for the job ... Allen Craig (foot) is scheduled to take live batting practice at Busch Stadium on Friday. Craig is working towards a return as a designated hitter should the Cardinals advance to the World Series ... the Phillies re-signed Michael Martinez to a minor league contract, while John Lannan elected free agency after being removed from the 40-man roster previously ... the Dodgers claimed Mike Baxter off waivers from the Mets, designating Alex Castellanos for assignment.
American League Quick Hits: Alex Avila left Thursday's Game 5 with a left knee patellar tendon strain. He's being called day-to-day ... Indians reliever Clay Rapada elected free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster earlier this month ... the Orioles will interview former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee next Tuesday for their vacant pitching coach position ... Indians re-signed Matt Capps to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.