Houston closed out Boston in the ALDS on Monday, edging out the Red Sox 5-4 in a back-and-forth game that featured two aces pitching in relief and a rain delay that never was.
Pitching on three days’ rest, Chris Sale was excellent for most of ALDS Game 4 after relieving a struggling Rick Porcello to start the fourth inning, holding the Astros off the scoreboard for his first four frames while striking out six. However, he left a changeup over the plate to Alex Bregman to lead off the eighth inning and the Houston third baseman launched it over the Green Monster to tie the game. Sale had another run charged to his ledger after Craig Kimbrel gave up a go-ahead RBI single to Josh Reddick.
Rafael Devers made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth inning when he led things off against closer Ken Giles with a Green Monster-aided inside-the-park home run. Giles bucked down after that, though, retiring the next three in order to push the Astros to their first ever ALCS (they were still in the National League the last time they made the LCS).
Sale’s appearance – even if it might have made more sense to just start him if he was going to pitch – wasn’t altogether surprising. The Red Sox had their backs up against the wall and he’s one of the best hurlers in the game even on short rest. What was surprising was seeing Justin Verlander jog in from the bullpen for an appearance.
Coming into Monday, between the majors and minors, Verlander had made 422 regular and postseason appearances. All 422 of them came as a starter. The postseason is certainly a different animal and everything is on the table, but it was a surprise to see manager A.J. Hinch turn to Verlander on short rest not only for his first relief appearance but in the middle of an inning, especially when he has other viable relief options. Verlander promptly served up a go-ahead, two-run home run to the first batter he saw in Andrew Benintendi and he didn’t record a strikeout over his 2 2/3 innings.
Of course, the second-guessing of the Verlander decision is much quieter now that the Astros have advanced. Houston will have to go to a backup plan for Game 1 of the ALCS, but lucky for them they have another former Cy Young winner in Dallas Keuchel.
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Cubs Win Another Pitcher’s Duel
For the second time in three NLDS games, the Nationals have carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. They are 0-2 in those contests.
Max Scherzer showed that his hamstring issue was a non-issue Monday, taking a no-no into the seventh inning before Ben Zobrist broke it up with a one-out double. Mad Max was then pulled by manager Dusty Baker, and reliever Sammy Solis promptly gave up a game-tying RBI single to Albert Almora. The Cubs broke the tie in the next frame when Anthony Rizzo blooped one into no man’s land to plate pinch-runner Leonys Martin.
The Cubs have scored just eight runs through the first three games of the series, but they’re now one victory away from advancing to their third straight NLCS. On Tuesday they’ll hand the ball to former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, who is coming back from a hamstring injury of his own. He’ll be opposed by Tanner Roark.
Outside of the eighth inning of Game 2 when they exploded for four hits and five runs, the Nationals’ offense has been non-existent this series. In the other 26 NLDS frames, the Nats have a mere seven hits and two runs. It was Jose Quintana who held the Nationals in check Monday, yielding one unearned run with seven strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings. Washington will obviously need to get their offense going if they want to avoid being eliminated in the NLDS for the fourth time in six years.
Severino Superb for Yanks
Luis Severino was determined on Monday to make sure his Wild Card clunker against the Twins wouldn’t be the lasting memory of him this postseason.
After making it through just one-third of an inning versus Minnesota, Severino became only the fourth pitcher in all four LDS series so far to last seven innings in the Yankees’ Game 4 victory on Monday. The young right-hander yielded a couple home runs on the night, but he permitted just four hits, walked one and struck out nine. Severino’s pitch count got to 113, but he was still hitting triple digits in the seventh.
Trevor Bauer wasn’t quite as lucky. In fact, he was very unlucky as the usually reliable Indians defense let him down. A Giovanny Urshela error in the second inning opened the door to four unearned runs, and Bauer – who was pitching on short rest – was unable to get out of the frame. The Tribe finished the game with four errors on the night and six of the seven runs they surrendered were unearned.
Even after losing both games in the Bronx, the Indians have to feel pretty good about sending Corey Kluber to the hill for Game 5 on Wednesday, Kluber’s struggles in Game 2 be damned. However, the Tribe will have to get a bit of a playoff monkey off their back, as they’ve lost five straight potential series clinchers in the postseason since getting up 3-1 on the Cubs in last year’s World Series.
The Yankees will have CC Sabathia toe the rubber Wednesday. The 37-year-old gave up four runs -- two earned -- over 5 1/3 innings in Game 2 last Friday. Sabathia, of course, was drafted by Cleveland and spent seven and a half years of his major league career there.
Darvish Deals for Dodgers
If only Yu Darvish could make every start on 13 days’ rest.
Darvish looked sharp with the extra rest on Monday in Arizona, yielding only one run while striking out seven over five-plus innings as the Dodgers finished off a sweep of the Diamondbacks. The right-hander served up a solo home run to Daniel Descalso, but it was one of only two base knocks he allowed on the night and he didn’t issue a free pass.
Cody Bellinger was the other hero for the Dodgers in the victory, slugging a long opposite-field home run, driving in a pair of runs and making a few nifty defensive plays in the field. One of them resulted in him getting turned upside down in the Dodgers’ dugout after making a reaching catch.
Zack Greinke floundered for the second straight start this postseason, allowing two home runs and three runs while walking five batters over five-plus innings. It’s the first time since August of 2014 and just the ninth time in his career that Greinke walked five-plus batters in a game. In two outings this postseason, he gave up seven runs while posting an ugly 5/6 K/BB ratio across 8 2/3 frames.
It was a dominant series from the Dodgers, as they have advanced to the NLCS for the fifth time in the last 10 years. Maybe this time they’ll move on to the World Series.
Quick Hits: Dustin Pedroia will meet with doctors on Tuesday to determine whether he needs left knee surgery … Indians manager Terry Francona said before Monday's ALDS Game 4 that Edwin Encarnacion (ankle) is "working towards" being available as a pinch-hitter … Eduardo Nunez will not require surgery on his ailing right knee … Blake Treinen had surgery last Friday to remove a cyst from his right middle finger … The Twins signed manager Paul Molitor to a three-year contract extension … Brandon Guyer will undergo surgery Wednesday to repair the extensor tendon in his left wrist … Guillermo Heredia underwent surgery Monday to repair a Bankart lesion in his right shoulder … The Angels acquired Felix Pena from the Cubs in exchange for cash or a player to be named later … According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Mets have reached out to Brad Ausmus about their managerial vacancy …