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Red Sox-Astros G3: Nunez back, Altuve at DH

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- After the Red Sox earned a home split with a crucial 7-5 win over the Astros in Game 2 on Sunday night at Fenway Park, the stage is set for the type of classic American League Championship Series many expected from the teams that finished the regular season with the top two records in the Major Leagues.

"At this point, we might as well just treat it as a five-game set, and we're starting on the road," said Boston righty Rick Porcello. "We've got to do what we did in New York and come ready to play Game 1 and go from there."

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- After the Red Sox earned a home split with a crucial 7-5 win over the Astros in Game 2 on Sunday night at Fenway Park, the stage is set for the type of classic American League Championship Series many expected from the teams that finished the regular season with the top two records in the Major Leagues.

"At this point, we might as well just treat it as a five-game set, and we're starting on the road," said Boston righty Rick Porcello. "We've got to do what we did in New York and come ready to play Game 1 and go from there."

View Full Game Coverage

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 3: Today, 5:09 p.m. ET/4:09 CT on TBS

Meanwhile, when the series continues today at Minute Maid Park, the defending World Series-champion Astros will try to get rolling again after the Sox handed them their first loss of the postseason.

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

Starting lineups
Red Sox: Mookie Betts (two doubles, two runs) got going in Game 2, and that's always a big thing. As Betts goes, so go the Red Sox. If J.D. Martinez (0-for-7 in the series) can get going in Houston, the Astros will truly feel the brunt of Boston's high-powered attack. Eduardo Nunez will be back in the lineup with lefty Dallas Keuchel pitching for Houston.

1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Steve Pearce, 1B
6. Eduardo Nunez, 3B
7. Ian Kinsler, 2B
8. Christian Vazquez, C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Astros: Manager AJ Hinch inserted Jose Altuve as the designated hitter for Game 3 after the 2017 AL MVP banged his bum right knee in Game 2 and was limping afterwards. Marwin Gonzalez will play second base and Tony Kemp got the start in left field. Also, veteran catcher Brian McCann will start and catch Keuchel like he did in Game 3 of the ALDS.

1. George Springer, CF
2. Jose Altuve, DH
3. Alex Bregman, 3B
4. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
5. Marwin Gonzalez, 2B
6. Josh Reddick, RF
7. Carlos Correa, SS
8. Brian McCann, C
9. Tony Kemp, LF

Who are the starting pitchers?
Red Sox: Eovaldi gets the ball in Game 3, just as he did at Yankee Stadium in the ALDS. The Red Sox are hoping for a similar performance, as Eovaldi sparkled (seven innings, five hits, one run, no walks, five K's) en route to victory in his postseason debut. He fired seven pitches at 100 mph or more in that one, the most by a traditional starting pitcher in any MLB game this season.

Astros: Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, gets the nod. The lefty continued his career-long playoff success with a solid start in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Indians, allowing two runs in five innings before the Astros added 10 late runs to secure a sweep. He has a 3.28 ERA in nine postseason outings and a 7.46 ERA in four career starts against the Red Sox. Keuchel held Boston to one run in 5 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the 2017 ALDS.

Video: Must C Conclusion: Red Sox hold on, knot ALCS at 1

How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Red Sox: The Red Sox are starting to gain confidence in their postseason bullpen. Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and Joe Kelly have all had strong results of late. Closer Craig Kimbrel, who has given up at least one run in all three of his outings this October, is trying to find his groove. If Boston needs length in Game 3, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez can provide it.

Astros: Houston's bullpen will be about as rested as it could be, considering relievers threw only two innings in Game 2 on Sunday ahead of Monday's off-day. Closer Roberto Osuna has yet to pitch in this series, though he did warm up in Game 1 before the Astros blew it open in the ninth inning.

Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Red Sox: None.

Astros: None.

Any injuries of note?
Red Sox: First baseman Mitch Moreland has reached base in both of his plate appearances as a pinch-hitter and is getting closer to making his first start since suffering a right hamstring injury in Game 2 of the ALDS. With a lefty going for the Astros in Game 3, Moreland likely won't start until Game 4.

Astros: Gonzalez hurt his back and neck when he crashed into the Green Monster in Game 2, but he said he would be fine for Game 3.

Video: ALCS Gm2: Betts drills an RBI double in the 8th

Who is hot and who is not?
Red Sox: After his two-hit performance in Game 2, Betts could be poised to take over. When he is hot, the Red Sox are a different team. … Devers is earning more playing time. The 21-year-old is hitting .360 (9-for-25) since Sept. 25. … Nunez is hitting .143 in the postseason, and Boston could use some production from him against lefties.

Astros: Bregman doesn't have a hit in the ALCS (0-for-3), but he has drawn six walks and been hit by a pitch, giving him a .700 on-base percentage. … Altuve is 1-for-8 in this series, and Reddick (1-for-7), White (0-for-5), Gurriel (2-for-9) and Gonzalez (1-for-8 with a homer) have also scuffled. … Springer (3-for-8) leads the Astros in hits and RBIs (four) in the ALCS. He has a hit in 11 consecutive playoff games, which is a club record. The MLB record is 17, shared by Derek Jeter (1998-99), Hank Bauer (1956-58) and Manny Ramirez (2003-04).

Video: Springer hits safely in 11 straight postseason games

Anything else fans might want to know?
• This is the 16th time the Red Sox have been tied with their opponent after the first two games of a postseason series. Boston is 9-6 in those series, winning the past three.

• This is the eighth time the Astros have been tied with their opponent after the first two games of a postseason series. Houston is 2-5 in those series.

• Since the start of last year's postseason, the Astros are 10-1 at Minute Maid Park.

• Boston started the 2017 ALDS by getting routed in the first two games in Houston. The Astros won that best-of-five series in four games.

• Houston has homered in an MLB-record 14 consecutive postseason games.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros

Machado discusses his lack of hustle

MLB.com @_dadler

Whether the Dodgers can make it back to the World Series for a second straight season, and whether they can flip last year's script and win it, will depend heavily on Manny Machado.

For Machado personally, this postseason could also have longer-term implications -- it's one last big showcase before the superstar shortstop hits free agency this winter, with the chance to command a massive deal as one of the two marquee names on the market, along with Bryce Harper.

View Full Game Coverage

Whether the Dodgers can make it back to the World Series for a second straight season, and whether they can flip last year's script and win it, will depend heavily on Manny Machado.

For Machado personally, this postseason could also have longer-term implications -- it's one last big showcase before the superstar shortstop hits free agency this winter, with the chance to command a massive deal as one of the two marquee names on the market, along with Bryce Harper.

View Full Game Coverage

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Tonight, 9:09 p.m. ET on FS1

Through three games of the National League Championship Series, Machado has played like a star. After a brief slow-ish start to the playoffs (which still included the decisive two-run homer in the Dodgers' Game 2 Division Series win over the Braves), Machado has posted three multihit efforts and a pair of home runs in his past four games. In the NLCS, Machado is 5-for-11 with a homer and a double.

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

But his effort came into question after he didn't hustle on a groundout to shortstop in the fourth inning of Game 2. And in an interview with Ken Rosenthal for FS1, which will air prior to Game 4 tonight, Machado acknowledged that he had no excuse for not running hard, but also said that he isn't going to change the way he plays the game.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado said in the interview, which was published in The Athletic. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am.

"Should I have run on that pitch? Yeah … but I didn't and I gotta pay the consequences for it. It does look bad. It looks terrible. I look back at the video and I'm like, 'Whoa, what was I doing?'"

Machado said that it's not because he's hurt, he just hasn't always run hard on those plays.

"I've been thinking about it, and it happens every time. There's no excuse for it, honestly," Machado told Rosenthal. "I've never given excuses for not running. I'm not hurt, there's no excuse. But I've been the same player … I've been doing this for [seven] years, I'm in The Show for [seven] years, I've done the same thing for [seven] years, I've been the same player."

Manager Dave Roberts said that for all Machado does well offensively and defensively -- and at times exceptionally -- sometimes you just pick your battles.

"There's no perfect player," Roberts said. "A guy that posts every inning is hard to come by these days. For me, the net, it's not even close."

Machado said that he takes the blame for the lack of effort, but that he hasn't been able to change since he got to the Majors -- although he said one day he might "figure it out."

"Before I even step out of the box, I look to the shortstop, he has the ball in his hands and I'm like, 'I'm out.' … I mean, what am I going to do?" Machado said.

"Should I have given it a little more effort? One hundred percent. [It's] my fault like always, I mean that's just my mentality when I'm in the game. [There are] things that you learn, things that you gotta change. I've tried changing it for eight years, and I still can't figure it out but, one of these days I will."

Video: NLCS Gm3: Brewers turn DP on Machado's illegal slide

Machado not running out every ground ball won't stop him from getting a blockbuster deal in free agency, and it may not cost the Dodgers significantly on the field, either. But it's drawn visibility on the postseason stage, as have a couple of questionable takeout slides into second base, including one that resulted in a double play in Game 3 due to a violation of MLB's slide rules.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Manny Machado

J.D.: 'Release by Astros made me who I am'

Martinez must conquer original organization to get chance at WS title
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

HOUSTON -- Fittingly, the journey that J.D. Martinez is on as he tries to win a World Series for the first time in his career will take him to Minute Maid Park this week.

Martinez and the Red Sox come to town tied, 1-1, in this American League Championship Series. Games 3 through 5 are in Houston from today through Thursday.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Fittingly, the journey that J.D. Martinez is on as he tries to win a World Series for the first time in his career will take him to Minute Maid Park this week.

Martinez and the Red Sox come to town tied, 1-1, in this American League Championship Series. Games 3 through 5 are in Houston from today through Thursday.

View Full Game Coverage

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 3: Today, 5:09 p.m. ET on TBS

It is back to the old stomping grounds for the masher in the middle of the Boston batting order.

Martinez, who debuted with Houston in 2011, had hoped to play a big role for a then rebuilding Astros franchise, one that was confident it would eventually climb to the top of baseball's mountain.

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

But Martinez had those hopes taken away coldly on March 22, 2014, when he was released by the club that had drafted and developed him due to a logjam in the outfield.

The Astros did turn into a powerhouse, winning the World Series last year.

Gear up for the ALCS

Martinez turned into a powerful hitter -- one of the finest and most dangerous in the game. First, he went to Detroit and made a name for himself. Then Martinez became a trade acquisition for the ages with the D-backs last summer. And with the spotlight of Boston on him after signing as a free agent back in February, Martinez has swiftly turned into one of the most impactful acquisitions in Red Sox history.

So in a way, everything worked out for both sides.

Red Sox-Astros G3: Lineups, matchups, FAQs

Although hindsight is always 20/20, the decision for the Astros to let Martinez go when they did is defensible when you look at the pedestrian numbers he had there. In 975 plate appearances from 2011-13, Martinez slashed .251/.300/.387 with 24 homers and 126 RBIs.

Martinez has made 2,792 regular-season plate appearances since leaving the Astros, slashing .307/.371/.586 with 171 homers and 480 RBIs. The timing was unfortunate for Houston, because Martinez had just started to discover the art of launch angle during the winter before he was released. But his launch party would start in Detroit, before continuing to other destinations.

Video: ALCS Gm1: Martinez on coming to Boston this season

All of that brings us to this week and Martinez's tantalizing opportunity to stick it to the Astros and stop their path short of a second straight World Series title. To do that, he will have to break out of his early ALCS funk; the right-handed hitter is 0-for-7 with a walk and three strikeouts.

Before Game 2, Astros manager AJ Hinch had called Mookie Betts a ticking time bomb. And there Betts was, breaking out of his postseason rut with a two-double performance later that night. Now it could be Martinez's turn to do the same.

Part of the reason Martinez has the ability to go off and carry the lineup like he has done several times this season is due to the fire the Astros built within him by releasing him at the age of 26.

Video: ALCS Gm1: Betts on learning from J.D. Martinez

"I think it made me who I am," Martinez told MLB.com earlier this season. "I've always been hungry, but when people ask what drives you -- 'How do you stay so driven throughout this whole thing?' -- you just don't stop. It's every single day. The people that know me and the people that love me and are in my life see it.

"My brother-in-law came up to me and was like, 'Dude, I admire your life and what you do and everything you do. It's amazing. I wouldn't want it for me. Because the amount of time you spend in this game, the amount of time away from your family, that's stuff you'll never get back.'

"But it's my passion, it's my love, it's what I love to do. To me, that took my [intensity] to another level where when you have something taken away. … It's like the famous expression, you don't realize you love something until it's gone."'

Now it is the baseball that is so often gone when Martinez steps to the plate.

This season, Martinez hit .330 with 43 homers and an MLB-leading 130 RBIs. He bashed a three-run homer to help sink the Yankees in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.

Video: MLB Tonight breaks down J.D. Martinez this season

It is likely that Martinez will have something to say about the ALCS before it is over.

But if he does "do damage," as the slogan for this Red Sox postseason drive goes, revenge against his former team won't be what drives him. In a way, Martinez is thankful to the Astros.

"I mean, I learned a lot from Houston. And you know what? It made me who I am and there's really no animosity there," Martinez said. "In a sense, they did me a favor by allowing me to leave and going to play on another team. And if it wasn't for that, I probably wouldn't be here right now. Who knows where I would have been?"

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez

Chacin up to task, gives Crew 2-1 NLCS lead

Jeffress wobbles in ninth before wrapping up five-hit shutout
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

LOS ANGELES -- When the Brewers last played a baseball game at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers put up a football score. They set a stadium record with 21 runs on Aug. 2, largely at Jhoulys Chacin's expense in a game so lopsided that Milwaukee sent not one but two position players to the mound.

"I know people might talk a lot about that," Chacin said with a shrug before taking the mound Monday with much higher stakes.

View Full Game Coverage

LOS ANGELES -- When the Brewers last played a baseball game at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers put up a football score. They set a stadium record with 21 runs on Aug. 2, largely at Jhoulys Chacin's expense in a game so lopsided that Milwaukee sent not one but two position players to the mound.

"I know people might talk a lot about that," Chacin said with a shrug before taking the mound Monday with much higher stakes.

View Full Game Coverage

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Tonight, 9:09 p.m. ET/8:09 CT on FS1

This time, the Brewers' steadiest starting pitcher all season gave the people something else to talk about -- and so did manager Craig Counsell, who sent Jeremy Jeffress back to the mound to acquire the final three outs with another wobbly postseason performance. Chacin delivered a shutout into the sixth inning and Jeffress escaped a ninth-inning scare to finish it -- a 4-0 win that put Milwaukee back on top in the National League Championship Series, two games to one.

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

"I've been ready for this for almost 10 years," said Chacin, the 30-year-old onetime journeyman who parlayed a solid season in San Diego into a two-year deal with the Brewers, then became their de facto ace. "Now I am just enjoying this part of my career, enjoying pitching in the playoffs, and with a really good team. And hopefully I get a chance to be in the World Series."

Don't look now, but a team that allegedly doesn't have enough starting pitching is two victories shy of the World Series -- in no small part because of strong starting pitching. Including Chacin's 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Dodgers, Milwaukee's starters -- "initial out-getters" is more accurate, since Counsell has blurred the lines of pitching roles for going on a month now -- have a 0.35 ERA through six postseason games.

The offense once again came from all corners of the lineup. Ryan Braun doubled home a run in the first inning, Travis Shaw smashed a triple into the wind and scored on a wild pitch in the sixth, and surprise October slugger Orlando Arcia hit a fly ball in the seventh that rode that wind to the right-field seats for a two-run home run, his third long ball of the postseason.

Meanwhile, Chacin teamed with Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria, Josh Hader and Jeffress on a five-hit shutout in which none of the relievers threw more than 21 pitches. That sets up well for the next two games in as many days.

The effort also handed the Dodgers their first shutout at home in the postseason since Game 1 of the 1983 NLCS against the Phillies.

Video: NLCS Gm3: Chacin, 'pen pitch Brewers to shutout win

"Our guys that we're giving the ball to at the start of the game, they're doing a heck of a job, man," said Counsell. "They're setting the tone, really, for games. They're putting us in a very advantageous position to use our guys in the bullpen. And that's going to lead to wins."

Three of the Brewers' five wins in these playoffs have been shutouts, though this one didn't come easily. Jeffress, who entered the night with a 7.71 ERA in the postseason, surrendered a leadoff single to Dodgers Game 2 hero Justin Turner to open the ninth before Manny Machado doubled and Yasiel Puig walked one out later.

But Jeffress escaped, striking out struggling Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal and pinch-hitter Brian Dozier to push the Brewers within two victories of the World Series.

"I've said it all year: I strive for those moments," Jeffress said. "That's like an extra adrenaline rush. I didn't really want it to get like that, but when those times come, you just have to stay within yourself and continue to be the pitcher you are."

Jeffress closes out LA, rewards Crew's faith

Video: NLCS Gm3: Jeffress K's Dozier to seal Game 3 win

In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams that win Game 3 on the road to grab a 2-1 advantage have gone on to take the series 27 of 36 times (75 percent).

But that history lesson was just the start of why Game 3 had the potential to pivot the series. After Milwaukee's stout bullpen squandered a three-run lead with nine outs to go in Game 2, the Brewers sent Chacin to the mound opposite talented Dodgers rookie Walker Buehler. They were eager to take a game ahead of a possible bullpen day started by Gio Gonzalez in Game 4, with left-hander Wade Miley scheduled to pitch on short rest in Game 5.

Crew tabs Miley for Game 5; Gio for Game 4

That left a lot on Chacin's shoulders, and he carried the load. With his sensational slider providing the punchout pitch for five of his six strikeouts, the right-hander blanked L.A. on three hits, yielding to the bullpen with one out in the sixth after third baseman Mike Moustakas' throwing error put a runner in scoring position with less than two outs for the second straight inning.

The bullpen took it from there.

"It doesn't matter who is the hero, if it's going to be Orlando or Braun or the bullpen," Chacin said. "It doesn't matter who does the job; if we do the job and win the game, that's all that matters."

Video: NLCS Gm3: Counsell on trusting Jeffress in the 9th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Orlando magic: Arcia has three home runs in the Brewers' last 28 innings, matching his total from 348 at-bats during a regular season in which he was twice demoted to the Minor Leagues to work on his hitting. He joined Roberto Perez (2016) and Willie Randolph (1981) as the only players in history to follow a regular season of three or fewer home runs with three or more in the playoffs.

"Every player is going to have their ups and downs, and this year was definitely a lot of downs for me, and things weren't going my way so they sent me down," Arcia said. "I was able to work on stuff, recognize pitches, and especially breaking balls. And now I do my adjustments and things have been working better. Now we're up here in the playoffs."

Arcia boosts Crew with 3rd postseason HR

Video: NLCS Gm3: Arcia cranks 2-run HR in 7th on FS1

Caught looking: The Dodgers' best chance for a big inning against Chacin came in the second, when Puig's double put runners at second and third with one out for Grandal, who struck out on an elevated four-seam fastball. Chacin's emotional reaction showed the importance of that out; it allowed him to intentionally walk Enrique Hernandez to get to Buehler in the nine-hole. The Dodgers' pitcher fouled off one two-strike slider and looked at another just below the zone, but Chacin threw the pitch again and got the called third strike he was seeking.

Because of Chacin's ability to alter the shape and velocity of his slider, veteran catcher Erik Kratz isn't exactly sure what he's going to get when he calls for it.

"You call it, and he's got about four," Kratz said with a laugh.

Video: NLCS Gm3: Chacin K's a pair to escape huge jam in 2nd

Stranded: Chacin stranded a runner at second base with a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, then combined with reliever Knebel to do it again with a 2-0 lead in the sixth after Moustakas' throwing error. Naturally, the very next ball in play was a 110.5-mph grounder right at the third baseman Moustakas, who converted this time. Knebel then fired a 97-mph fastball past Cody Bellinger to end the inning.

Video: NLCS Gm3: Knebel K's Dodgers with 4 high heaters

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Braun, the Los Angeles native and the only player remaining from Milwaukee's last postseason team in 2011, provided an early Brewers lead when he followed Christian Yelich's walk with a double to left field that left Braun's bat at 112.9 mph, according to Statcast™, matching the second-highest exit velocity for any of his base hits in 2018. Yelich moved fast, too, posting an elite 30 feet per second sprint speed while going first to home in 9.87 seconds for a 1-0 advantage.

Video: NLCS Gm3: Yelich sprints home on Braun's double

HE SAID IT
"In that sixth inning, we're there on the mound together, with [Chacin's] years bouncing around from team to team, got a nice contract this offseason; and somehow I come from Scranton, Pa., to be on the mound with him. I have so many stories like that. We're so intertwined. … In this moment, you don't sit back and think about it, but in November and December when it's snowing and there's football on, that's when you think about that kind of stuff. If you don't I think you're selling yourself short in the experience." -- Kratz, reflecting on the winding road he and Chacin took to the 2018 Brewers

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Brewers benefited from the "Chase Utley" slide rule to escape a budding Dodgers rally in the fourth. Bellinger grounded into a 3-6 force play with no outs, with Machado out at second. But the Brewers challenged, arguing that Machado had violated the slide rule. Machado raised his arm as he slid into Brewers shortstop Arcia, whose throw to first was too late for a double play. Machado also slid to the left of the bag and didn't maintain contact, which a runner must attempt to do by rule. The Brewers' hunch paid off. The replay official in New York determined that Machado did not engage in a bona fide slide and impeded Arcia with his arm. It resulted in a double play. A groundout by Puig to a diving Moustakas ended the inning one batter later.

It was the second time the Brewers questioned a Machado slide into Arcia.

"On the first one, I didn't think there was anything wrong. On the second one, definitely felt a little more," Arcia said. "He grabbed my knee towards the end, and that's when I turned around and said something to the umpire."

Video: NLCS Gm3: Brewers turn double play on overturned call

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jhoulys Chacin, Jeremy Jeffress

Houston needs Jose Altuve to find his swing

MLB.com @feinsand

HOUSTON -- The Astros dropped their first game of the 2018 postseason with their loss in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on Sunday, but Houston accomplished its goal of seizing home-field advantage, sending the series home to Minute Maid Park with an opportunity to take control.

Can the Astros hold down the highest-scoring offense in the league? The Red Sox broke out for seven runs in Game 2, pouncing on Gerrit Cole early before tacking on a pair of late runs to give Craig Kimbrel some much-needed wiggle room.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- The Astros dropped their first game of the 2018 postseason with their loss in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on Sunday, but Houston accomplished its goal of seizing home-field advantage, sending the series home to Minute Maid Park with an opportunity to take control.

Can the Astros hold down the highest-scoring offense in the league? The Red Sox broke out for seven runs in Game 2, pouncing on Gerrit Cole early before tacking on a pair of late runs to give Craig Kimbrel some much-needed wiggle room.

View Full Game Coverage

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 3: Today, 5:09 p.m. ET/4:09 CT on TBS

If Houston is to bounce back with a win in Game 3, here are three keys that would help the Astros' cause:

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

Get Altuve's bat going
Jose Altuve followed up his 2017 AL MVP Award-winning regular season with a superb postseason, starting off with a three-homer game against the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS and never slowing down. Altuve slashed .310/.388/.634 with seven homers and 14 RBIs during the Astros' 18-game march to the championship, proving his regular season was no fluke.

The second baseman had another solid season in 2018, though he missed about four weeks from late July to late August with a right knee injury, one he aggravated during Game 2 of the ALDS against the Indians. The knee seems to still be bothering Altuve, prompting manager AJ Hinch to use Altuve as the designated hitter for Game 3.

Red Sox-Astros G3: Lineups, matchups, FAQs

"It's bugging him," Hinch said. "He's doing everything he can to play. He doesn't want to make a big deal out of it, and I know moving him to the DH spot brings the first couple of questions about it, but he'll do anything we ask, which is commendable."

Altuve was 0-for-7 to start the ALCS before hitting an RBI single in the ninth inning of Game 2 against Kimbrel. When Altuve is at his best, so are the Astros; he had a .910 OPS in the team's 92 wins with him in the lineup, a number that dropped to .681 in their 45 losses when he played.

Shop Astros postseason gear

Video: ALCS Gm3: Hinch provides update on Altuve's knee

Make Eovaldi work hard
Unlike many other starters, Boston's Game 3 starter Nathan Eovaldi doesn't typically get hit hard in the first inning. His 3.86 ERA in the opening frame is in line with the second (3.43), third (4.19) and fourth (3.12), while he tends to be at his strongest in the fifth, where he's posted a minuscule 1.12 ERA.

When Eovaldi gets to the sixth, that's where things fall apart (8.18 ERA), but despite his stellar seven-inning performance against the Yankees, it's been far more common for Eovaldi to be out of a game long before then.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Eovaldi ready to face another hostile crowd

In his 11 regular-season starts after being traded to the Red Sox, Eovaldi pitched more than five innings only four times, including only twice in his final nine starts. The hard-throwing righty is susceptible to pitch-count issues, and he hasn't thrown 100 pitches in a game since June 26.

"They have lot of aggressive guys in the lineup," Eovaldi said. "They swing early in the counts. Not too many of them like to walk."

Video: Alex Bregman's high OBP in postseason

That may be more of a perception than a truth; Astros hitters have drawn 29 walks in five postseason games, and their 7.03 plate-appearances-per-walk rate is the lowest of the five AL postseason teams. In the first two games of the ALCS, Houston has walked 15 times, with Alex Bregman drawing six of them by himself.

If the Astros can work deep counts and prevent Eovaldi -- a Houston native who will be pitching in front of family and friends -- from getting on a roll, they could get to the bullpen sooner rather than later. And speaking of the bullpen …

Take advantage of Boston's relief corps
The Red Sox bullpen pitched well in Game 2, as Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and Rick Porcello combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings after taking the ball from David Price with two outs in the fifth.

But Porcello -- Boston's Game 4 starter -- won't be available out of the bullpen in Game 3, leaving Barnes, Brasier, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brandon Workman as the group charged with getting the ball from Eovaldi to Kimbrel.

The first four pitchers in that group have combined for 16 2/3 innings of one run-ball (none earned) in the postseason, holding hitters to a .059 average and no extra-base hits. Those are stunning stats given that Boston's bullpen had been considered its weak link. Oddly enough, the reliever that has struggled the most this month has been Kimbrel, who left the Fenway fans holding their breath in the ninth inning of Game 2 before ultimately closing it out.

Video: Must C Conclusion: Red Sox hold on, knot ALCS at 1

"We're going to use him in spots that we feel he's going to be successful," Boston manager Alex Cora said of Kimbrel. "Hopefully he pitches a lot the next three days, and that will be good news for us."

Kimbrel has faced 17 batters this postseason, allowing four hits (including a home run and a double), two walks and a hit batsman. He nearly gave up huge home runs to both Gary Sanchez and Bregman, though both fly balls settled on the warning track to take Kimbrel off the hook.

Video: ALCS Gm2: Bregman on his final at-bat in Game 2

During the past two postseasons, Kimbrel's ERA in five outings is 8.44. If the Astros are down by a run or two in the ninth, the sight of Kimbrel on the mound isn't going to necessarily be an unwelcome one for Houston.

Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve

If Yanks don't sign Machado, here are some options

MLB.com @castrovince

The doctor came back into the room where Didi Gregorius, with his elbow ailing and his future in question, was awaiting word on the MRI results.

"Give it to me straight, Doc," Gregorius said, fearing the worst -- Tommy John surgery, which would delay his availability for the 2019 season.

The doctor came back into the room where Didi Gregorius, with his elbow ailing and his future in question, was awaiting word on the MRI results.

"Give it to me straight, Doc," Gregorius said, fearing the worst -- Tommy John surgery, which would delay his availability for the 2019 season.

The doctor took a deep breath, gathered his thoughts. Moments like these are difficult, and he was cognizant of Gregorius' feelings.

Finally, he looked his patient in the eye.

"Well," the doctor said, "it sure looks like the Yankees will be signing Manny Machado!"

OK, in case it wasn't abundantly clear, that's a totally made-up story. But it's not all that different from the way in which last week's surprising Gregorius news was reported. The dot-connecting between Gregorius' injury and Machado's pending free-agent availability was instant and obvious, and the Machado-to-the-Bronx chatter isn't likely to die down anytime soon.

Video: NLCS Gm1: Machado's 115.6-mph homer opens the scoring

But having consulted the Collective Bargaining Agreement, I can confidently tell you there is no Major League Baseball bylaw that stipulates that the Yankees must sign Machado. As a matter of fact, there actually are some decent arguments against signing Machado, such as:

• The bidding is likely to begin at 10 years. The Yankees know too well how a superstar contract can easily -- and sometimes quickly -- morph into an albatross contract, and they might be leery of going down that road after Year 1 of the Giancarlo Stanton experience (which itself followed the Alex Rodriguez experience) was far less fruitful than envisioned.

• Remember: If the Yankees go over the luxury-tax threshold, they'll have to pay 20 cents on every dollar spent above $206 million in 2019. If the Yanks are still going to try to stay below or near the threshold, the starting pitching market needs to be their No. 1 priority -- even ahead of the "generational infielder" market.

• We've heard time and again that Machado wants to be a Yankee, but how would he handle the severe scrutiny of playing for this club? He's had instances, including during Game 2 of this NLCS, in which he's been criticized for a lack of hustle. That's the kind of thing that would blow up even bigger in the Bronx.

• Would Machado be comfortable ceding shortstop to Gregorius when Didi returns? Or is his heart dead-set on sticking to that particular position?

Having said all of the above, should the Yankees sign Machado if they're comfortable with the contractual terms?

Well, duh. Of course they should.

But let's explore some non-Machado means of shoring up the Yankees' infield, because, as we've seen time and again in baseball, sometimes the sexiest option in the here and now isn't always the most attractive one in the long term.

1. Trade for Nolan Arenado
To be clear, I don't seriously expect the Rockies to trade Arenado on the heels of consecutive postseason appearances, even though there are serious concerns the club won't have the means to re-sign the Scott Boras client when he hits free agency after 2019. They are far more likely to take him into the season and see what develops.

Video: COL@LAD: Arenado belts a solo homer to left field

But if the Yankees came calling with a package fronted by American League Rookie of the Year candidate Miguel Andujar, that's something the Rox -- even with the enormous associated defensive downgrade -- would at least have to consider.

2. Trade for Paul Goldschmidt
This is more realistic. After falling short of October, the D-backs are open to offers on their signature stars, and Goldschmidt is a year away from free agency. There are not a lot of obvious landing spots, because most contenders are fairly well aligned at first base, but Greg Bird's struggles this year and the obvious questions about whether Luke Voit will turn back into a pumpkin in 2019 make the Yankees a potential landing spot for a guy who could/should be top three in the National League MVP voting for the fourth time this year.

Video: ATL@ARI: Goldschmidt belts an opposite-field solo HR

Obviously, this move would still require a stopgap solution at short and would solve nothing on the defensive front with Andujar, who is a clear candidate to move to first base after a rookie year in which advanced metrics such as defensive runs saved and UZR had him as one of the worst hot-corner defenders on record. But the Yankees saw a young second baseman named Robinson Cano improve defensively after a terrible rookie showing, so riding it out with Andujar is not without precedent.

3. Sign a second baseman
Clearly, the in-house shortstop stopgap solution is Gleyber Torres. And if the Yankees move Torres to short in place of an injured Gregorius, well, it would appear somebody's got to play second base.

Video: NYY@BOS: Yankees set team HR record on Torres' blast 

Daniel Murphy might be the most interesting name here. While his right-knee woes, which included microfracture surgery last offseason, make him a big injury risk, the thought of what his left-handed pull power could do with the short porch at Yankee Stadium is awfully enticing. Of course, a defensive infield featuring Murphy at second, Torres at short (where he's not as sharp as he is at second) and Andujar at third is suboptimal, on paper. But at least it's not costing you the $35 million a year it might take to land Machado. And Murphy can move to first when Gregorius comes back.

If Murphy's a no-go, then Jed Lowrie is a switch-hitting veteran coming off two terrific years in Oakland (his OPS+ in both 2017 and '18 was 20 percent better than the league average). Other second-base bats include Brian Dozier, Logan Forsythe, DJ LeMahieu and Ian Kinsler, all of whom are right-handed hitters.

4. Sign a glove-oriented shortstop or an infield rover
This would be the cheapest, simplest and, yes, least sexy external solution to the Gregorius concern.

The shortstop market will offer several options, including Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis (whose 325 consecutive games played streak makes him baseball's current "Iron Man," for whatever that's worth) and late-season Yankees pickup Adeiny Hechavarria.

Utility types available will include Eduardo Escobar, Marwin Gonzalez, Daniel Descalso, Asdrubal Cabrera and old friend Neil Walker (who might better approximate his 2017 numbers with an actual Spring Training). Though their value rests more in their versatility, Escobar, Gonzalez and Cabrera -- all of whom are switch-hitters -- could be directly applied to short in Gregorius' stead, then go back to roaming when he returns. Gonzalez is just turning 30, which, combined with the way he's stepped up for the Astros on the postseason stage the last two years, makes him possibly the most attractive -- and, yes, most expensive -- option here.

5. Keep it in-house
And this the least sexy option of all. It would revolve around the Yankees expending all their energy -- and dollars -- elsewhere on the roster (primarily the rotation) while shifting Torres to short and giving the likes of Ronald Torreyes and/or Tyler Wade the at-bats at second.

Hey, you know what feels a heck of a lot more likely than this option?

The Yankees signing Machado.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

New York Yankees, Didi Gregorius, Manny Machado

This is what Sox need to do to take Game 3

MLB.com @feinsand

HOUSTON -- The Red Sox avoided disaster in Game 2, bouncing back from their series-opening loss to earn a split at home as the American League Championship Series moves down to Houston for the next three games.

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 3: Today, 5:09 p.m. ET on TBS

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HOUSTON -- The Red Sox avoided disaster in Game 2, bouncing back from their series-opening loss to earn a split at home as the American League Championship Series moves down to Houston for the next three games.

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 3: Today, 5:09 p.m. ET on TBS

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:: ALCS schedule and results ::

David Price didn't get the postseason win he craved, but the lefty kept the Red Sox close before turning a one-run lead over to the bullpen in the fifth inning Sunday night. The bullpen took it from there, closing out the win to even up the best-of-seven series.

As the ALCS shifts to Minute Maid Park, how can the Red Sox regain home-field advantage with a win in today's Game 3? Here are three keys for Boston:

Jump on Dallas Keuchel early
Would the Astros be better off employing an "opener" on days Keuchel starts? The former AL Cy Young Award winner has struggled in the first inning this season; his 6.88 ERA in the opening frame is far and away the highest for the left-hander this season.

If you added the combined runs Keuchel has allowed between the second (12), third (8) and fourth (7) innings this season, they are only one more than the 26 he has surrendered in the first.

"I would like to start off a little bit better most of the time, but I think a lot of the time I was overanxious and not letting myself kind of calm down from the pregame warm-up," Keuchel said. "I thought I did a pretty good job in Cleveland of really kind of maintaining my adrenaline and emotion out there. I'll probably try to do the same thing against Boston [today], get in a little bit early, kind of let myself recuperate and go at it."

Boston's offense has been consistently steady through the first four innings this season, posting an OPS between .739 and .781. The fifth has been the key for the Red Sox, whose .937 OPS is higher than in any other inning.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Keuchel on Red Sox lineup, velocity

Get J.D. Martinez's bat going
Since his three-run homer against J.A. Happ in the first inning of the AL Division Series, Martinez has been quiet at the plate. In his past five games, Martinez is hitting .176/.304/.176 with no extra-base hits.

J.D.: 'Release by Astros made me who I am'

Martinez has still drawn four walks during that stretch, but the Red Sox's offense operates at its peak when the slugger is doing damage to opposing pitching.

Game 3 might not set up great for Martinez, who is 2-for-11 (.182) lifetime against Keuchel. One of those two hits did leave the park, so perhaps Martinez can come up with one big swing early against the Astros' left-hander.

Video: NYY@BOS Gm1: Martinez drills 3-run HR in 1st on TBS

Contain George Springer
Last year's World Series Most Valuable Player has carried his postseason dominance into 2018, posting a .409/.458/.909 slash line with three home runs and an AL-high seven RBIs through Houston's first five games.

"There is a calmness to him despite him being an energy provider and having him be a spark plug for us," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "The world slows down a little bit for him, when everything around him speeds up."

Springer carries an Astros-record 11-game postseason hitting streak into Game 3, though Nathan Eovaldi presents a difficult challenge. Springer is 1-for-9 (.111) in his career against Eovaldi, though the hit was a sixth-inning, go-ahead home run this past June 20 that lifted the Astros past the Rays.

As Houston's leadoff hitter, Springer's job is to get on base for Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. Nobody has figured out how to hold Springer down since he struck out four times in Game 1 of last year's World Series, leaving the Red Sox with a tall task ahead of them.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Eovaldi ready to face another hostile crowd

Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez

Machado slide-rule violation results in DP

Bellinger ruled out at 1st after Brewers' successful challenge
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LOS ANGELES -- The Brewers benefited from the "Chase Utley" slide rule in the Dodgers' 4-0 loss in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Monday.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Tonight, 9:09 p.m. ET/6:09 PT on FS1

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LOS ANGELES -- The Brewers benefited from the "Chase Utley" slide rule in the Dodgers' 4-0 loss in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Monday.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Tonight, 9:09 p.m. ET/6:09 PT on FS1

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Cody Bellinger grounded into a 3-6 force play with no outs in the fourth, with Manny Machado out at second. But the Brewers immediately challenged, arguing that Machado had violated the slide rule into second base. Machado raised his arm as he slid into Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia. He also slid to the left of the bag.

Video: NLCS Gm3: Roberts on Machado's controversial slides

The Brewers' hunch paid off. The replay official in New York determined that Machado failed to engage in a proper slide and impeded Arcia with his arm.

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

"We talk about it a lot when you go into second base that you have to really make an attempt to hold on to the bag or not try to -- it's a safe play, as far as trying to protect the infielder," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "And so Manny knows that. We talk about it all the time. And they looked at the review and they got it right. Because you do have to make a very good effort to hold on to the bag, and apparently we didn't."

It resulted in a double play, and a groundout by Yasiel Puig ended the inning one batter later. Bellinger probably would have beaten the throw from Arcia, even if Machado had not done anything. He reached first base in just 4.17 seconds, showing elite sprint speed (30.3 ft/sec).

"I don't even know the rule," Bellinger said. "I thought I was going to be safe, whether he slid into the base or not. I definitely didn't see it, but I definitely would have been safe."

But the Brewers had their eye on Machado. They took issue with his slide on a fielder's choice by Bellinger in the second inning, too. They did not challenge that play.

"[Umpire Jim Wolf] said Orlando [Arcia] didn't try to make a throw on that [first] play, and that is a factor in whether they will consider an illegal slide if the guy doesn't attempt to finish the double play," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Well, the next time he did try to complete it. And we made a throw to first. And Machado was past the bag on the slide, and so we checked it immediately. And our guys in the replay room did a nice job being aggressive with the call."

Video: NLCS Gm3: Machado gets arm up on slide into secon

Todd Zolecki has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Manny Machado

A free-agency lesson the LCS teams can teach us

Is this the best way to build a championship bullpen?
MLB.com @williamfleitch

The changing attitude about MLB front offices -- about age, about longevity, about long-term contracts, about free agency in general -- has changed how we are looking forward to the 2018-19 Hot Stove season. What once looked like an unprecedented amount of impending spending now looks like ... well, one wonders if it will look a little like last offseason.

But one place, at least theoretically, in which evolving attitudes in baseball should benefit some free agents is the increasing reliance on bullpens. Starters, wins, "quality starts": All of these are decreasing in value as teams try out new strategies with "openers" and "bullpen games" and swingmen.

The changing attitude about MLB front offices -- about age, about longevity, about long-term contracts, about free agency in general -- has changed how we are looking forward to the 2018-19 Hot Stove season. What once looked like an unprecedented amount of impending spending now looks like ... well, one wonders if it will look a little like last offseason.

But one place, at least theoretically, in which evolving attitudes in baseball should benefit some free agents is the increasing reliance on bullpens. Starters, wins, "quality starts": All of these are decreasing in value as teams try out new strategies with "openers" and "bullpen games" and swingmen.

If there were ever a time when free-agent relievers should be valued, and ready to cash in, it would be now. There are plenty of excellent ones out there, after all, from Craig Kimbrel and Adam Ottavino to Zach Britton and Andrew Miller to David Robertson and Joe Kelly. Those guys all have to be looking at how this postseason has been managed, particularly by the Brewers, and salivating. The long-ignored middle reliever has never been more valued.

Complete list of free agents this offseason

But is free agency really the way to build a championship-quality bullpen? Should teams open up their wallets for these guys? After all, the big spenders on relievers this past offseason were the Colorado Rockies, who spent $106 million on Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, who had ERAs of 4.13, 5.93 and 6.49, respectively. You could find endless Minor League kids to give you better than that, and they're cheap, too.

So what's right? Let's look no further than the four teams in the League Championship Series and see how they built their bullpens. Did they buy arms, build them or trade for them? What's the right strategy? How do you get this far?

Boston Red Sox
Via trade: Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez
Via Draft: Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman
Via free agency: Ryan Brasier
Via waivers: None
Porcello and Rodriguez have only been relievers this particular offseason and will go back to starting next season. (And maybe again in these playoffs.) Barnes and Workman haven't been in another organization this decade. Brasier is the only free-agent signing, and he's a little bit of the exception that proves the rule. He pitched in Japan last year and, until July, hadn't pitched in the Majors since 2013. The Red Sox signed him to a Minor League contract in Spring Training and promoted him in July. He won't even be arbitration eligible until 2020, so while he was technically signed as a free agent, he was never sought after on the open market like your typical Hot Stove free agent.

Video: Ryan Brasier talks about his comeback to the Majors

Houston Astros
Via trade: Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly
Via Draft: Josh James, Lance McCullers Jr.
Via free agency: Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith
Via waivers: Collin McHugh
More than any other team left, the Astros have embraced free agency as a way to help out their bullpen. Both Rondon and Smith were signed this past offseason, within days of each other. Smith was the higher-priced addition, at two years, $15 million, while Rondon got two years at $8.5 million. They were both perfectly fine this season, if not spectacular, and it's worth noting that James, Osuna, Pressly, McHugh and McCullers were all better and are probably higher on the bullpen depth chart at this particular moment. Sipp, the other free-agent signing, has been outstanding this season, with a 1.86 ERA as the team's lefty specialist. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Astros signed him to a three-year, $18 million contract before the 2016 season ... and he was lousy in both 2016 and 2017 before finally turning it around this year. He was left off the postseason roster for all three rounds during the Astros' World Series run last year. He, so far, has only faced one batter this offseason. (He did get him out.)

Video: HOU@BAL: Rondon strikes out Stewart, earns the save

Los Angeles Dodgers
Via trade: Dylan Floro, Ryan Madson, Alex Wood
Via Draft: Caleb Ferguson
Via free agency: Pedro Baez, Kenley Jansen, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias
Via waivers: None
This is where the moniker "free agent" loses some of its utility. Urias, Baez and Jansen have pitched with only the Dodgers their entire careers and were all international signings as teenagers. They are technically considered free-agent signings, but only technically. (Though Jansen, of course, signed an extension.) Maeda was signed out of Japan in January 2016. Jansen is probably the only pitcher who counts as a free agent here, and it's arguable if he ever really hit the open market.

Video: NLCS Gm2: Jansen retires Yelich for clutch save

Milwaukee Brewers
Via trade: Xavier Cedeno, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Freddy Peralta, Joakim Soria
Via Draft: Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff
Via free agency: None
Via waivers: Junior Guerra
And here, we have the most damning argument of all against signing big free-agent relievers. The best, most innovative bullpen in either LCS was constructed by a front office that steadfastly avoided big-ticket items. Hader was acquired as one of the lesser names in the Carlos Gomez trade and has blossomed into the best relief weapon in the sport. Someone's going to sign Kimbrel and Ottavino to massive, lengthy contracts this offseason. It's not going to be Milwaukee. It's already covered its bases elsewhere ... both more cheaply and more efficiently.

 Video: NLCS Gm1: Woodruff pitches 2 perfect innings, homers

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

FA Buzz: Machado, Grandal, Braves, Harper

The latest MLB free agent and trade rumors for Hot Stove season
MLB.com

As the postseason concludes, Hot Stove season begins. MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

Machado, Grandal on opposite tracks in postseason
Oct. 16: One run of postseason games might not outweigh the full body of work of the regular season, but it leaves an impression. And two of the Dodgers' key free-agents-to-be, Manny Machado and Yasmani Grandal, have been trending in opposite directions this October.

As the postseason concludes, Hot Stove season begins. MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

Machado, Grandal on opposite tracks in postseason
Oct. 16: One run of postseason games might not outweigh the full body of work of the regular season, but it leaves an impression. And two of the Dodgers' key free-agents-to-be, Manny Machado and Yasmani Grandal, have been trending in opposite directions this October.

Machado, one of the two marquee names hitting the market this winter along with Bryce Harper, has been heating up. After a slow-ish start to the playoffs -- which still included the decisive two-run homer in the Dodgers' Game 2 NLDS win over the Braves -- the superstar shortstop has three multi-hit efforts and a pair of home runs in his last four games. In the NLCS, Machado is 5-for-11 with a homer and a double (although there have been questions about his hustle after he didn't run hard on a groundout in Game 2).

Grandal, on the other hand, has struggled offensively and behind the plate. He's hitting just .136 this postseason (3-for-22) with one homer. But Grandal's defense has been the most visible issue. He's had two nightmarish games in the NLCS, both of which have resulted in the Dodgers replacing him with Austin Barnes for the following game.

In Game 1, a one-run loss, Grandal had two errors and two passed balls -- becoming the first catcher in postseason history with multiple errors and multiple passed balls in the same game. Barnes then started Game 2. Grandal returned for Game 3, but had another tough night in another Dodgers loss. He couldn't block a wild pitch in the sixth inning, which brought home a run for the Brewers, and he had a passed ball in the eighth. After that, Barnes will start Tuesday's Game 4.

That's now two straight postseasons Grandal has lost playing time to Barnes. Last year, Barnes started 13 of the Dodgers' 15 playoff games at catcher, including all seven World Series games, compared to just two starts for Grandal.

Even after Grandal's impressive 2018 regular season -- he hit the second-most home runs among catchers (24) and the third-highest wRC+ (125, meaning he was 25 percent better than a league-average hitter) -- that's not what potential suitors want to see in October out of a free-agent target, especially one who could be an important signing at a critical position.

Braves enter winter with flexibility to address needs
Oct. 15: The Braves could be major players in free agency. The club will have considerable financial flexibility with at least $60 million to spend this winter, reported MLB.com's Mark Bowman. 

Atlanta enters the offseason with needs at catcher and in the outfield, bullpen and starting rotation. The Braves could go a number of directions once free agency opens, but they'll likely make another run at Marlins All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto and explore the trade market before any aggressive signings, per Bowman. They could also pursue D-backs pitcher Patrick Corbin, one of the top arms on the market.

Tweet from @mlbbowman: Today���s session with Anthopoulos confirmed the Braves will have plenty financial flexibility. Specifics weren���t revealed, but it appears they���ll have at least $60M to fill multiple needs: Catcher, OF, Bullpen depth, a SP, but only if Corbin or another frontline option makes sense

After being eliminated by the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, the Braves' first move of the offseason was signing manager Brian Snitker to a two-year contract Monday that includes an option for the 2021 season.

Giants could pursue Harper, but competition expected to be fierce
Oct. 15: Although Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the two biggest names set to hit free agency this offseason, play different positions, the markets for both players will surely dovetail in some way.

For instance, the Giants are expected to be one of the suitors for Harper, and their pursuit could be indirectly affected by the Yankees, as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out Saturday.

With the news that shortstop Didi Gregorius is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery, many now speculate that the Yankees will make a greater push for Machado.

If that happens, and New York comes away with Machado, it could in turn make the Dodgers -- Machado's current team -- more likely to make a serious push for Harper. That could be bad news for the Giants, as Los Angeles will likely be able to outbid San Francisco for Harper and is arguably a more attractive landing spot for the superstar outfielder.

Could Goldschmidt be a fit for Yankees?
Oct. 15: Facing a critical juncture this offseason after missing the playoffs in 2018, the D-backs are reportedly expected to listen to offers for a number of their top players, including Paul Goldschmidt.

• Complete list of free agents this offseason

The problem for Arizona, as ESPN's Buster Olney noted via Twitter, is that there aren't a lot of obvious fits for Goldschmidt, as many contenders are set at first base. However, Olney speculates that the Yankees could enter the mix for the six-time All-Star, who can become a free agent after the 2019 season.

Tweet from @Buster_ESPN: As has been reported, the D-Backs will listen to offers on their best players, including Paul Goldschmidt. Most contenders are locked in at 1B for 2019; the Cubs have Rizzo, for example. Total speculation: One team that could be a great fit for a Goldschmidt deal -- the Yankees.

Tweet from @Buster_ESPN: This is all speculation... To add: for Goldschmidt, hitting in Yankee Stadium as he went through his free-agent season, in the middle of a deep lineup, could be a great development for him, as well.

New York's current options at first base include in-season acquisition Luke Voit and Greg Bird, who hasn't been able to stay healthy or consistently produce during his big league tenure. The Yankees will need to decide if either player is a long-term answer.

Voit seemingly has the inside edge to earn a starting job in 2019, as he hit .322 with 15 homers in only 47 games with the club and became an everyday lineup fixture down the stretch. But Voit will be 28 on Opening Day, and he'll need to show that his 2018 performance was not a fluke.

Meanwhile, Goldschmidt remains one of the best hitters in baseball, recording a .290 average with 33 homers and a .922 OPS in 2018, and he could help the Yankees close the gap with the Red Sox and Astros in the American League.

Rockies facing big questions this offseason
Oct. 15: Before the Rockies make a bid for their third straight postseason appearance in 2019, they will need to answer a number of pressing questions about their roster this offseason, which Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post broke down Sunday.

Among those questions is what to do about impending free agents DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez and Adam Ottavino. Saunders considers it unlikely that the Rockies will re-sign LeMahieu and Ottavino, and he speculates that the club could look to move on from Gonzalez as well, even though the outfielder has expressed interest in returning.

While that would give Colorado three big holes to address, it doesn't necessarily mean the club will look to the free-agent market for replacements, especially considering the mixed results the Rockies have gotten from recent signings such as Ian Desmond, Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, a quartet that will take up a sizable portion of the payroll in 2019. The Rockies may also look to work on a contract extension with Nolan Arenado, who can become a free agent after next season.

As a result, greater importance will likely be placed on low-cost youngsters such as David Dahl, Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, Brendan Rodgers and Raimel Tapia in 2019.

Does Gregorius' injury set stage for Machado to join Yankees?
Oct. 12: With Didi Gregorius set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the shortstop position is now an unexpected question mark for the Yankees.

The speculation, of course, is that Gregorius' injury may only increase the Yankees' interest in impending free agent Manny Machado, who was already expected to be on the club's offseason radar as a potential option at third base.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Could the didi news trigger yankees��� interest in Machado? MM has played a much better ss in LA, is believed interested in yankees.

Machado, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner at the hot corner, struggled defensively at shortstop with the Orioles this season (-18 defensive runs saved), but he has been much improved since joining the Dodgers in a July trade (6 DRS).

Machado's interest in joining the Yankees was documented back in August, when MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported for Fancred Sports that people close to the slugger were suggesting that the club was his first choice in free agency.

Gregorius has been worth 8.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) over the past two seasons, so the Yankees aren't going to be in a hurry to move on from him. But the shortstop can become a free agent next offseason, and signing Machado would give the Yankees extra leverage in contract negotiations with Gregorius, as well as insurance in case his recovery from Tommy John surgery doesn't go smoothly.

The Yankees could also sign Machado and then work out an extension with Gregorius to secure the left side of their infield into the next decade, but they would need to trade or find a new position for third baseman Miguel Andujar.

Kershaw could exercise opt-out clause
Oct. 12: Clayton Kershaw is expected to opt out of his contract with Los Angeles after this season and test the free-agent waters, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Kershaw, 30, has two years and just over $70 million remaining on a seven-year, $215 million contract he signed with the Dodgers prior to the 2014 season.

The '14 NL MVP Award winner and three-time NL Cy Young Award winner has dealt with lingering back issues the past three seasons and was limited to just 26 starts this year, so it is far from certain that the left-hander would be able to find a suitor for another longterm deal. However, he'd like be able to sign for more than the two years he has left on his current pact with the Dodgers.

Video: ARI@SD: Corbin goes scoreless in final start of 2018

Cashman: Yankees will try to trade Gray
Oct. 12: When the Yankees acquired Sonny Gray from the A's in July 2017, it wasn't just a short-term move. Gray is under team control through '19, and he was expected to be an important part of New York's rotation at least until the end of that season.

It hasn't worked out that way. After posting a 4.90 ERA over 30 appearances (23 starts) in 2018, Gray was left off the Yankees' American League Wild Card Game and ALDS rosters. And now, he may now be on his way out of town.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday that the club will try to trade Gray this offseason.

"It hasn't worked out thus far," Cashman said. "I think he's extremely talented. I think that we'll enter the winter, unfortunately, open-minded to a relocation. Probably, if he can maximize his abilities, it will more likely be best somewhere else. But then it comes down to the final decision of the price, in terms of trade acquisition and matching up with somebody. If we match up, then I think, yeah, it's probably best to try this somewhere else."

Although Gray's value is down, New York can sell the fact that the righty recorded a 3.17 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP and a 9.9 K/9 rate on the road (6.98 ERA, 1.90 WHIP, 6.8 K/9 rate at Yankee Stadium) as proof that he can still be a viable big league starter in a different environment.

Yankees expected to pursue Corbin
Oct. 11: The Yankees are expected to target left-hander Patrick Corbin in free agency this winter, according to a report from MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman on Thursday.

New York will be looking to bolster its starting rotation after a shaky playoff performance in its Division Series loss to the Red Sox -- Luis Severino, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia all struggled.

Happ and Sabathia will both be free agents this offseason. The Yankees could try to re-sign one or both of the left-handers, per Heyman.

Corbin, 29, is coming off a career year with the D-backs. He made the National League All-Star team for the second time in his career and set career-best marks with a 3.15 ERA, 1.050 WHIP and 246 strikeouts in 33 starts. More >

Cardinals re-sign Wainwright for 2019
Oct. 11: The Cardinals' pitching staff next season will once again include Adam Wainwright. The longtime leader of the rotation agreed Thursday to a one-year contract for 2019, which will be his 15th season with the club.

The two sides ended any speculation about the right-hander's future when they announced the extension, which will follow a five-year, $97.5 million contract that expired with this season. Financial terms of Wainwright's next deal were not disclosed by the club.

Wainwright's return further fills a rotation teeming with options for 2019. The Cardinals have several other starters -- including Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Michael Wacha, Jack Flaherty, Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Austin Gomber, John Gant and Daniel Poncedeleon -- also under contract. More >

Bryant turns down $200 million extension
Oct. 10: The Cubs made an attempt to lock up Kris Bryant to a multiyear deal in the neighborhood of $200 million, but the superstar third baseman turned down the deal in recent months, a source confirmed to MLB.com on Wednesday. ESPN's Dave Kaplan was the first to report the offer and its rejection. The club has not confirmed such an offer.

Bryant and agent Scott Boras are inclined to proceed on a year-by-year salary increase through arbitration before Bryant becomes a free agent after the 2021 season. Bryant earned a record $10.85 million in 2018, the highest salary a player has earned in his first year of arbitration.

Should Bryant plan to wait out his final four years of club control and hit the free-agent market, the Cubs could face the possibility of losing him for nothing. In that context, Bryant might be a valuable trade commodity as a former National League MVP Award winner who is under club control for three more seasons. More >

Marlins deal Barraclough amid push for Mesa brothers
Oct. 10: The Marlins continue to build up more international dollars for their pursuit of Cuban prospects Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr. and Sandy Gaston.

On Wednesday, they traded right-hander Kyle Barraclough to the Nationals for an undisclosed amount of international bonus pool money. It was the Marlins' second trade in four days after dealing prospect Ryan Lillie to the Reds on Saturday, also for international pool money.

Before the two deals, the Marlins had $4.3 million in their international allotment, the second most of any team. Only the Orioles, at $6.7 million, have more. How much that gap has narrowed isn't yet known.

Victor Victor Mesa, 22, and Victor Jr., 18, are both outfielders. Gaston is a 16-year-old right-hander. Victor Victor Mesa is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the top international prospect on the market, and Gaston is ranked 16th. Major League Baseball recently cleared the three players as free agents, and on Friday they had a showcase in front of about 75 scouts at Marlins Park. More >

Keuchel, Eovaldi to make free-agent cases

Veteran starters oppose each other in Houston for Game 3 of ALCS
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