Rays take 2-0 series lead
The Astros have gotten the pitching they were looking for early on in this ALCS against the Rays. In Game One, they got a dominant performance from the young Framber Valdez. In Game Two, Lance McCullers Jr. went seven innings and allowed just one earned run with 11 strikeouts and no walks. And yet, it hasn’t been enough as they find themselves trailing two games to none in the series. For Game Two, the Astros struggled to get anything going against former teammate Charlie Morton, and on the other side the defense let them down.
That happened first right away in that first inning, when José Altuve made a key error with two outs that allowed the inning to continue. Eventually, with two men on, Manuel Margot — former Red Sox prospect who was traded to San Diego for Craig Kimbrel — smacked a three-run homer. Tampa would add another run on a Mike Zunino homer in the seventh. They really just needed the three, though. Margot made a great catch out in right field early on, but aside from that it was really all pitching. Morton tossed five shutout innings, Peter Fairbanks allowed one run over two innings, and then Aaron Loup and Ryan Thompson combined for a scoreless eighth.
That left things up to Nick Anderson in the ninth. The righty has been dominant for a couple of years now, but he made things interesting here. Houston got one run, but it came on a huge double play with the bases loaded and nobody out. The Rays will take that trade every time. Houston would load the bases again for Alex Bregman in a two-run game, but he flew out to center, and Tampa took their 2-0 series lead.
Game Three will be Tuesday night at 8:40 PM ET. Ryan Yarbrough will pitch for the Rays while José Urquidy takes the ball for the Astros.
Braves win a thrilling series opener
Over in the NLCS, the Braves came into the series as about as big of underdogs as one can be this deep into the postseason. The Dodgers winning almost felt like a foregone conclusion. But, as these things go, it was Atlanta taking the first victory. Heading into this postseason the Achilles heel for this Braves team was their rotation, but as they rolled through the first couple rounds without having to go too deep into that unit, they’ve excelled. This was going to be an entirely different test against the Dodgers. Or so we thought.
Max Fried got the ball for Atlanta to start off the series, and he was tremendous. The lefty got through the first four innings without allowing a run. Meanwhile, the offense wasn’t giving him too much support, but they did give the Braves an immediate edge when Freddie Freeman hit a laser of a solo homer in the top half of the first. That was all for a while, though, as Walker Buehler kept getting out of trouble. In the fifth, the Dodgers finally got their shot when Kiké Hernandez smoked a solo shot of his own, and just like that we were all tied up.
That 1-1 score stayed for a few innings as things tensed up heading into the late innings. In the ninth, the Dodgers sent Blake Treinen out to the mound to face the nine, one, two hitters. He couldn’t get the nine hitter. Austin Riley got a two-seam fastball that stayed flat right over the middle of the plate and he launched a no doubter to left field, giving the Braves their lead back. They’d add three more, too, and left the inning with a 5-1 lead. Mark Melancon came in for a perfect ninth, and that was that. Atlanta, against the odds, struck first in this NLCS.
Game Two will be on Tuesdayat 6:05 PM ET. Ian Anderson, another young pitcher, goes for Atlanta while Clayton Kershaw gets the start for the Dodgers.
Joe Morgan passes away
We have been losing baseball greats left and right of late, and we got more bad news on Monday when we learned former Reds second baseman Joe Morgan passed away. My generation likely knows him more from his broadcasting days, as he spent a long time in the Sunday Night Baseball booth. I will admit I didn’t realize he was even a good former player until my teen years, and it was a while after that when I learned just how good he was. It’s no exaggeration to say he is far and away the best second baseman of the post-integration era, and certainly in the conversation for best second baseman of all time. Playing before OBP was really a stat that was tracked, Morgan was an on-base machine and the engine that made those Big Red Machine teams of the 70s go. The Red Sox, of course, faced Morgan’s Reds in the World Series in 1975.
Rick Renteria and White Sox “part ways”
It wasn’t officially a firing, but whatever you want to call it, it was certainly surprising. The White Sox, one of the more exciting up-and-coming teams in the league who played their way into the postseason and spent much of this summer atop the American League, decided to move on from their manager Rick Renteria. Now, despite the results it’s not as surprising as it may seem, as Renteria has been thought of as one of the worst tactical managers in the league. Chicago is now probably the most attractive managerial opening in the league, and the Red Sox are obviously among them. That opens up some competition, potentially for someone like Alex Cora.
Draft order made official
This has been the assumption for about a month now, but the league finally confirmed that the draft order will be based solely on 2020 record. This was a bit unclear given the shortened schedule, and there was speculation 2019 record could come into play as well. With this system in place, the Red Sox will be picking fourth overall. The first Baseball America mock draft had them selecting high school shortstop Jordan Lawlar.
Aaron Sanchez works out for teams
Aaron Sanchez has always had tantalizing potential on the mound but never was able to get things to work consistently with the Blue Jays. He was traded to the Astros in 2019 and made a great first impression, but slid back after that before getting injured. He hasn’t pitched since, until he worked out for teams last week. About 20 teams were in attendance, and while we don’t have that list I’d be surprised if the Red Sox were not among them given their pitching needs. Don’t be surprised if he comes up as a potential buy-low bargain signing for the rotation.