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With pennant in sights, J.D., Devers go deep

MLB.com @feinsand

HOUSTON -- Following a slow start to his postseason, J.D. Martinez showed signs of life during Boston's Game 4 win at Minute Maid Park. In Thursday night's Game 5, he showed the Astros why he's been one of the most impactful hitters in the league this season.

Martinez launched a home run against Justin Verlander with one out in the third, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead as they try to advance to the Fall Classic with their fourth win of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series. Three innings later, Rafael Devers added a three-run blast to open a 4-0 lead.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Following a slow start to his postseason, J.D. Martinez showed signs of life during Boston's Game 4 win at Minute Maid Park. In Thursday night's Game 5, he showed the Astros why he's been one of the most impactful hitters in the league this season.

Martinez launched a home run against Justin Verlander with one out in the third, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead as they try to advance to the Fall Classic with their fourth win of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series. Three innings later, Rafael Devers added a three-run blast to open a 4-0 lead.

View Full Game Coverage

For Martinez, it was his second home run of the postseason and his first since a key three-run blast against the Yankees in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.

Video: ALCS Gm5: J.D. Martinez smashes a solo HR on TBS

Verlander appeared to have his former Tigers teammate struck out on his 0-2 pitch, a slider that looked to stay in the strike zone. But home-plate umpire Chris Guccione called it ball one. The Red Sox slugger made the most of his second chance, belting a Verlander curveball over the left-field wall. He's now driven in one run in three consecutive games.

In the sixth, Mitch Moreland opened the inning with a double and Ian Kinsler followed with a single. Up came Devers, who lifted the first pitch high into left field, dropping it into the front corner of the Crawford Boxes near left-center and silencing the sellout crowd at Minute Maid Park.

Through the first four games of the ALCS, the team that scored first was 4-0.

Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez

Brewers fans flock for free burgers

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

MILWAUKEE -- The closest George Webb from General Mitchell International Airport is less than two miles away on Howell Avenue.

It took only a few minutes to get there.

MILWAUKEE -- The closest George Webb from General Mitchell International Airport is less than two miles away on Howell Avenue.

It took only a few minutes to get there.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 6: Fri., 8:39 p.m. ET/7:39 CT on FS1

The line out the door Thursday afternoon nearly reached the street, causing a bit of an issue for hungry Brewers fans looking to find a parking spot and stuffed Brewers fans looking to leave after they devoured their free hamburgers. You see, George Webb restaurants give away free burgers any time the Brewers win 12 consecutive games. It happened for just the second time in the promotion's history recently when the Brewers won their final eight games of the regular season, including a one-game playoff over the Cubs, before winning three games over the Rockies in the National League Division Series and Game 1 against the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

George Webb paid up Thursday. They handed out thousands of burgers between 2-6 p.m.

I have lived in Philadelphia since 1999, but I grew up in the Milwaukee suburbs of West Allis and New Berlin. I was just 11 years old in 1987, the same season Paul Molitor had his historic 39-game hitting streak. I never got my free burger because of school and because it rained all day. But I remember my grandfather Art telling me that he stood in line to get his. He wouldn't miss it.

I mean, who doesn't love a free burger?

But sometimes things work out. I happened to be put on NLCS coverage for MLB.com, which means I happened to get an unexpected trip home when the Brewers advanced. My flight from Los Angeles on Thursday landed in the afternoon, which allowed me plenty of time to get my rental car and get the free burger.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the 30 George Webb restaurants had enough ground beef and buns for 200,000 burgers. Each restaurant was stocked to handle at least 3,000.

Full disclosure: the burgers are not the world's greatest. But George Webb is a local institution and experience. It famously hangs two clocks side-by-side on the wall. The legend is that a Milwaukee ordinance prohibited 24-hour restaurants in the late '40s and early '50s, so the original George Webb set the clocks one minute apart. That way he could say his place closed and reopened every day in compliance with the ordinance.

"Teenage years, it was a 2-o'clock, get-your-burger-place," said Milwaukee resident Joel Regazzi, who waited in line at the Howell Avenue restaurant. "Nice place. You can come here and [for] five bucks, you can get a bag of burgers."

Regazzi brought his buddy Kevin Nowak from South Milwaukee. Nowak said he watched every game of the Brewers' winning streak.

"I was just hoping for our team to get to the playoffs," he said. "Well, it comes along with free burgers this time."

It is a good bet they will be back in line again the next time it happens. Maybe they won't have to wait another 31 years.

George Webb last paid up in 1987, when the Brewers opened the season with 13 consecutive wins. The chain said it gave away 168,194 burgers at the time, but who's counting?

That experience in '87 remains etched in the minds of Brewers fans, which is why many of them stood in line again Thursday. A Brewers' 12-game winning streak is like an asteroid flying past Earth. Nobody knows if they will ever see it again, so you better run outside and take a look. Or in this case, take a bite.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers

Erik Kratz once made $2,000 on a dare to faceplant during Opening Day introductions

The Brewers were off on Thursday, as they rested up for the critical Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, which will be back at Miller Park on Friday. If the Brewers lose, their season will be over, but if you're wondering whether veteran catcher Erik Kratz is tense, you don't have anything to worry about.

Rumors: Realmuto, Kimbrel, Yanks, Phils

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.

• Complete list of free agents this offseason 

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

• Complete list of free agents this offseason 

Will Realmuto be with Marlins in 2019?
Oct. 18: J.T. Realmuto's future with the Marlins has been a persistent storyline since the club began its rebuild by dealing Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon last offseason, and that's unlikely to change during the coming months.

Realmuto, who will be 28 years old on Opening Day in 2019, has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining, and as MLB.com's Joe Frisaro notes, the Marlins will likely need to present him with a path to contention within that timeframe to convince him to sign a long-term deal.

According to Frisaro, the Marlins will try to do that this winter but are also expected to explore trade scenarios for the backstop to keep their options open.

Realmuto made the All-Star team for the first time in 2018, hitting .277 with a personal-best 21 homers, 74 RBIs and .825 OPS. He also posted a 38 percent caught-stealing rate -- 10 percentage points above the MLB average -- and allowed just eight passed balls in 951 innings behind the plate.

The Nationals, Astros, Phillies, Red Sox, A's and Rockies are among the contenders that could be in the market for a catcher, though the Marlins' asking price will likely remain lofty. More >

Kimbrel's postseason struggles continue in ALCS Game 4
Oct. 18: The Red Sox may have won ALCS Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead over the Astros in the series, but it took a spectacular diving catch from left fielder Andrew Benintendi after closer Craig Kimbrel once again put Boston in a precarious situation.

Kimbrel entered in the eighth inning for a six-out save and allowed a run, as Houston cut its deficit to 8-6. The right-hander then walked the bases loaded in the ninth inning before Benintendi corralled Alex Bregman's line drive to end the game.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Kimbrel on struggles, closing out Game 4

Although he is 4-for-4 in save chances, Kimbrel has allowed at least one run in each of his four postseason appearances while yielding six hits, five walks and two hit batsmen in 5 1/3 innings. As Kimbrel continues to struggle on a big stage, it's fair to wonder how much he is hurting his stock with free agency upcoming after the season.

Kimbrel has long been one of the most dominant closers in baseball, and he had another strong campaign in the 2018 regular season. However, he also showed some signs of regression, posting a career-high 3.13 FIP with a 3.1 K/BB ratio (1.42 FIP, 9.0 K/BB ratio in '17).

Recent history may also give teams pause when it comes to the size of Kimbrel's next contract, as the lucrative deals given to big-name closers such as Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Wade Davis and Mark Melancon in the past few offseasons haven't gone as well as the signing clubs likely hoped they would.

Still, most teams will likely view Kimbrel as the best available option among the free agents with closing experience, and given the ever-growing importance of relievers in today's game, there shouldn't be a shortage of clubs interested in his services.

Yankees expected to pursue Machado after Gregorius undergoes Tommy John surgery
Oct. 18: With Didi Gregorius recovering from 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.

And as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman notes in an article for Fancred Sports, there's good reason for that speculation. New York has tried to land Machado before, and Machado's interest in joining the Yankees was documented back in August, when Heyman reported that people close to the slugger were suggesting that the club was his first choice in free agency.

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).

And while Machado's lack of hustle has been a topic of conversation during the postseason, teams may be willing to overlook that problem given his immense talent.

Gregorius has been worth 8.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) over the past two seasons, per FanGraphs, 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.

Another possibility, if New York doesn't land Machado this winter, could be Giants second baseman Joe Panik, who is expected to be on the trade market, according to Heyman. Panik, who was an All-Star in 2015 and won a Gold Glove Award in '16, has been beset with injuries much of the last few seasons. But he turns 28 at the end of the month, and is under team control for another three years. The Yankees could have him at second with Gleyber Torres at shortstop. Panik would also provide a left-handed bat to replace the left-handed-hitting Gregorius in the Yankees lineup, which is heavily right-handed.

Granted, the rotation is arguably a greater area of need than the offense, with Luis Severino struggling in the second half and CC Sabathia, J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn hitting free agency. Adding a starter such as left-hander Patrick Corbin, who is expected to be one of the Yankees' free-agent targets, according to another report from Heyman, may be the club's top priority.

But as Heyman points out, the Yankees could be in position to sign multiple top free agents, considering they won't be subject to the luxury-tax repeat-offender penalty after staying under the threshold in 2018.

Phillies set to make run at Machado, Harper
Oct. 18: Will Manny Machado and Bryce Harper join forces in Philadelphia? According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an appearance on "The Rundown" on Thursday, the Phillies are prepared to pursue both players, and many expect them to come away with at least one.

"People around baseball are going to be surprised if [the Phillies] don't get at least one of these two players, and maybe both," Heyman said.

Heyman had a similar report back in September, writing for Fancred Sports that multiple rival executives believed that the Phillies could land both superstars.

However, as Heyman pointed out Thursday, it could ultimately be tough for any team to pull that off, as both players are looking to break the bank in free agency. Furthermore, any club looking to sign either player will have plenty of competition.

Video: Heyman on Mariners, Phillies free agent rumors

Nats planning to make strong effort to retain Harper
Oct. 18: As fan bases and front offices around the Majors dream of having Bryce Harper in the fold next season, the only team Harper has ever played for is holding out hope that the impending free agent will be back.

According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for Fancred Sports, the Nationals plan to make a strong effort to retain Harper this offseason, though they are also formulating an alternative plan in case he opts to sign elsewhere.

This comes after Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reported last week that the consensus within the Nats organization is that the club does not want to eclipse the competitive balance tax threshold after doing so in each of the past two seasons.

If Harper is signed for roughly $30 million annually, it could considerably hinder the Nationals' ability to address other needs on the roster. However, it doesn't sound like that will prevent Washington from making a major push to re-sign its homegrown star.

Janes also reports that if Harper signs, it could mean center fielder Adam Eaton goes on the trade block. Eaton has only played in 118 games during two seasons with Washington due to injury, hitting .300/.394/.422.

Morton tagged for three runs in ALCS Game 4 showcase start
Oct. 17: Bound for free agency this offseason, Astros right-hander Charlie Morton wasn't needed at all in the postseason before his start on Wednesday night in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against Boston.

But in what could have been his final showcase as a starter for potential suitors, Morton didn't make it out of the third inning, getting tagged for three runs on three hits in 2 1/3 innings, including a Rafael Devers two-run single in the first and a Xander Bogaerts RBI double in the third, which chased him from the game. He struck out two, walked two, hit a batter and uncorked two wild pitches.

Morton said before Tuesday's Game 3 that he would not be Houston's starter for Game 7 of the ALCS if the series were to make it that far. He could be available out of the bullpen, as he was in Game 7 of last season's World Series, but he indicated that it would be unlikely due to the composition of Houston's relief corps.

"I'm more than willing to go down [to the bullpen]," Morton said. "But even with just having [Collin McHugh] and [Lance McCullers Jr.] down there for some length, and [Josh James] as well, it doesn't seem like there's been a pressing need for a guy that's usually starting to go down there."

The right-hander will likely be one of the most coveted free-agent starters despite his Wednesday struggles, as he has gone 29-10 with a 3.36 ERA and a 10.4 K/9 rate in 55 regular-season starts over two years with Houston. He was also outstanding in the World Series last year, allowing two runs in 10 1/3 innings and getting the final 12 outs of Game 7.

Granted, there's a chance that Morton, who has pondered retirement, will never enter free agency, as he might be willing to accept a possible $17.9 million qualifying offer to stay in Houston for one more year before calling it a career.

Cashman has no comment on Machado's lack of hustle, says Sanchez isn't available
Oct. 17: Since news broke that shortstop Didi Gregorius would need to undergo Tommy John surgery -- he had the procedure Wednesday -- speculation has increased about the Yankees' intention to pursue Manny Machado in free agency.

Tweet from @TMKSESPN: ICYMI: Brian Cashman joins the guys to discuss Severino tipping pitches, Greg Bird's role on the team, Jacoby Ellsbury's future and more.🔊https://t.co/qmnQZ2htBO

Meanwhile, Machado has drawn some negative attention for his lack of hustle in the NLCS vs. the Brewers. Although Machado's name wasn't specifically mentioned, Brian Cashman was asked about the situation when the Yankees general manager called into "The Michael Kay Show" on Wednesday.

"If somebody is an otherworldly talent that doesn't run hard to first base all the time, would that be somebody the Yankees would want to put in their clubhouse?" Kay asked.

Cashman, though, wouldn't take the bait.

"Boy, you're really good at what you do," Cashman said, good-naturedly. "You're trying to Jedi mind trick me into answering a question that would put me into the abyss at MLB."

Video: MLB Now looks at Machado not running out a grounder

However, Cashman did have an emphatic answer when asked whether he had any pause about moving forward with Gary Sanchez as the Yankees' starting catcher after the slugger's disappointing season.

"I believe in Gary Sanchez," Cashman said. "Clearly it's up to us to continue to find ways to unlock what he's capable of.

"I'm already getting phone calls, to be honest, clubs trying to knock on our door to see if he's available, and he's not."

Kershaw dazzles in what could be last Dodgers start, still undecided on opt-out clause
Oct. 17: Clayton Kershaw is expected to opt out of his contract with the Dodgers after this season and test the free-agent market, according to a recent report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. The 30-year-old left-hander tossed seven strong innings in Los Angeles' 5-2 win in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Brewers on Wednesday, giving up one run on three hits, walking two and striking out nine to help give the Dodgers a 3-2 series lead.

Kershaw was asked prior to the game whether he had made a decision on the matter within the context that he could be making his final career start with the Dodgers should they fail to advance to the World Series.

"I have not made a decision," Kershaw said. "And to my understanding you get 10 days after the World Series. So should be a busy 10 days."

Kershaw was referencing the 10-day period after the World Series in which he will be mandated to make a decision of whether to opt out of the 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.

When asked if he had been processing things differently this postseason given his well-accoladed history with Los Angeles, and the potential that this could be his last with the Dodgers, Kershaw said: "Trying not to. I think it's hard enough to try and win a postseason game. I know more than anybody knows that. So, I think for me it's just trying to focus as much as I possibly can on the Brewers and getting ready for [Wednesday's] start. And putting everything else on the back burner as best I possibly can."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts echoed Kershaw's sentiment and focus when he was asked about Kershaw's uncertain future with the club. 

"You bring it up to my attention and I'm sure -- I guess it's a reality," Roberts said. "But I think that for me it's just thinking about [Wednesday] with Clayton pitching for us. And so I don't get too far ahead of that, no."

Kershaw, 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 likely be able to sign for more than the two years he has left on his current pact with the Dodgers. More >

Storen hoping to make comeback after missing 2018
Oct. 17: More than a year removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery, reliever Drew Storen is hoping to make a comeback in 2019, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported via Twitter on Wednesday.

The right-hander underwent the procedure Sept. 26, 2017, and missed the entire '18 campaign while recovering. Per Heyman, the 31-year-old free agent is throwing his full arsenal of pitches and is ready to showcase himself to Major League clubs.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Drew Storen sat last year out after Tommy John surgery but he���s throwing his full arsenal of pitches now & is ready to showcase for teams. Storen, still only 30, appears ready to go as the video suggests: pic.twitter.com/qXuj4PcUX3

Storen posted a 4.45 ERA over 54 2/3 innings with the Reds in '17, but he owns a lifetime 3.45 ERA with 99 saves in eight big league seasons.

Oh wants to return to KBO
Oct. 17: Seunghwan Oh wants to return to the Korea Baseball Organization after three seasons in MLB, the Rockies reliever told Korean news outlets Wednesday.

Oh has a guaranteed $2.5 million salary with the Rockies for next season, as the vesting option in his contract kicked in after he made 70 appearances this year. But the 36-year-old's preference appears to be to go back to the league where he pitched his first nine professional seasons. Oh first left the KBO for Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball in 2014, then jumped to the Major Leagues in 2016.

"I am a bit exhausted after spending five seasons in Japan and the United States," Oh said. "I feel like I want to return to the KBO while I still have the energy to help the team and pitch in front of home fans. I can't make this decision alone. I'll have to speak with my agency about the next season."

Oh also said, "It's not easy living in a foreign country. You have to face the opposing hitters on the mound, and there are a lot of other things you have to battle off the field. Everything away from the stadium is an extension of competition."

If Oh does, in fact, leave the Majors, the Rockies would have to replace a key bullpen spot for 2019. After the Rockies acquired him in July, Oh became an important member of what was at times a shaky relief corps in Colorado, posting a 2.53 ERA in 25 appearances down the stretch with 24 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings. Oh pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in the Rockies' NL Wild Card Game win over the Cubs, keeping the game tied in the 10th and 11th innings. He allowed two runs in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Brewers, but pitched a scoreless inning in Game 3.

Adam Ottavino, probably the team's best reliever this season, is also set to become a free agent. Without Oh, addressing the bullpen this winter, which would already have been a priority for the Rockies, would become even more critical.

Blue Jays could have significant roster turnover this offseason
Oct. 17: The Blue Jays began their rebuild during the 2018 season by shipping out a number of veterans, including Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Roberto Osuna and Curtis Granderson, and that process could continue this offseason.

On Wednesday, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca detailed an extensive offseason plan for Toronto that involves the club trading catcher Russell Martin and designated hitter Kendrys Morales while eating a large portion of both players' salaries.

Nicholson-Smith also suggests that the Jays trade infielder Aledmys Diaz for right-hander Sonny Gray, whom the Yankees are known to be shopping. With Didi Gregorius recovering from Tommy John surgery, Diaz would give the Yanks insurance at shortstop in case they don't sign Manny Machado.

As part of Nicholson-Smith's plan, the Jays would come away with free-agent starter Trevor Cahill and deal for Marlins reliever Adam Conley as well, while picking up first baseman Justin Smoak's $8 million club option and declining infielder Yangervis Solarte's $5.5 million club option.

Per Nicholson-Smith, if this plan is executed, the Jays will open up more playing time for youngsters while also putting themselves in position to have some attractive targets to move before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Hinch: Altuve would otherwise be on DL

All-Star in lineup at DH, 'giving 100 percent' despite knee pain
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- The sore right knee that has plagued Astros second baseman Jose Altuve for the second half of the season is so debilitating that manager AJ Hinch admitted prior to Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday that Altuve would be on the disabled list if this were the regular season.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- The sore right knee that has plagued Astros second baseman Jose Altuve for the second half of the season is so debilitating that manager AJ Hinch admitted prior to Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday that Altuve would be on the disabled list if this were the regular season.

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

View Full Game Coverage

"If it was any other time of the year, he wouldn't be in the lineup or wouldn't be playing," Hinch said. "He'd probably be on the DL or under different circumstances. But he's showing up every day, good spirits, ready to go, giving 100 percent of what he's got. And he should be commended and appreciated."

Altuve, last year's AL Most Valuable Player Award winner, injured his right knee sliding into second base in a game at Coors Field in Denver in late July and has played through pain since. The injury forced Altuve to go on the disabled list for the first time in his career, and he aggravated the injury sliding into second base during Game 4 on Wednesday.

Altuve started at second base the first two games of the series before Hinch moved him to designated hitter in Games 3 and 4 to rest his knee. Hinch had hoped to have him back at second base for Game 5, but the knee aggravation made that a non-starter.

"When we went out to see him at second base, we knew he wasn't going to come out of the game, but you've got to give him a little bit of a blow there to take a few seconds to let the pain subside and then the ovation was incredible for that," Hinch said. "So the fans appreciate him, his teammates revere him. The production that he's doing on one leg is pretty incredible. And he's trying not to talk about it. And, therefore, I am."

The Astros haven't given an official diagnosis of what's wrong with the knee, but it's possible he's headed for surgery in the offseason. Despite the injury, Altuve reached base safely in the Astros' first seven games of the postseason, scoring at least one run in six of those games.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Correa on Altuve playing through injury

Kent throws first pitch
Describing himself as a proud and insanely jealous Astros fan, former second baseman Jeff Kent spoke admiringly about the 2018 Houston ballclub while wistfully looking back at his own 17-year Major League career.

Kent loves what the Astros are doing these days. But he also feels pangs, as he did when they won the World Series last year, remembering how close he was to winning a title when he was a player.

"I was a Game 7 loser with the Giants [in 2002], and we were one game away from going to the World Series with the Astros," Kent said. "So yes, I'm proud and grateful that I was part of a program making transitions, but I'm jealous as all get out because I'm a competitor and I wanted it to be me [winning the World Series] and not someone else."

Kent was invited back to Minute Maid Park by the Astros to throw the ceremonial first pitch before Game 5 of the ALCS. Accompanied by his youngest son, 15-year-old Kaeden, Kent reflected fondly on his two seasons with the Astros, who made it to Game 7 of the NLCS before falling to the Cardinals in '04.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Former Astro Jeff Kent tosses pitch on TBS

Kent hit a memorable home run that postseason, launching a walk-off three-run homer in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the NLCS that put the Astros ahead in the series, 3-2.

"Some of the old folks still remember me around and talk about that," said Kent, who lives near Austin. "It's pretty special. It's not so special anymore, now that these [current] Astros have outdone us all when we were playing, winning the World Series. But yes, it's neat to talk about. It's one of maybe the top three highlights of my career."

Kent, compared to most big leaguers, had a somewhat odd, reclusive personality when he played, opting out of most of the socialization that takes place on a day-to-day basis in the clubhouse over the course of a long season. But he was also known as a fierce competitor who detested losing, and he had a laser-sharp focus that made him one of baseball's more admired teammates.

Kent heaped praise on the current crop of Astros, especially when he was asked specifically about second baseman Jose Altuve, who is contributing mightily this month despite playing with a painful right knee.

"Impressive," Kent said. "His stature, his personality, the way he carries himself, the way he hustles, the way he plays through pain, the way he can shorten his swing up, make his swing big when he has to … he has all the tools.

"I'm jealous, because I wish I had either played with him, or jealous because he's a hell of a ballplayer and he could have been better than I was. And proud, because I wore the Astros uniform, and he's doing the same thing, and he won a championship."

Worth noting
Astros pitchers walked 18 batters in 35 innings in the first four games of the ALCS. That's an uncharacteristic performance from a team that finished fourth in the Major Leagues during the regular season for the fewest walks allowed.

Hinch hinted the high walk total had more to do with the Astros pitching around the zone and the Red Sox hitters doing a good job of being patient rather than Houston's staff suffering from a lack of command.

"Sure, we want to throw perfect strikes," Hinch said. And this lineup will make you be a little more careful than perhaps the 30th-ranked offense. But I just think it's this time of year where everything is so precise and you make a few mistakes along the way and vice versa. The first part of the series, we were drawing all the walks -- Game 1 and part of Game 2. So it's a tough league, a tough series."

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

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve

Utley weighs in on Machado's 'villain' role

Veteran infielder believes Machado can thrive despite potential distractions
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LOS ANGELES -- Chase Utley is one of the very few people in baseball who knows what Manny Machado might feel on Friday when he steps onto the field at Miller Park for Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

Utley has been the villain, too.

LOS ANGELES -- Chase Utley is one of the very few people in baseball who knows what Manny Machado might feel on Friday when he steps onto the field at Miller Park for Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

Utley has been the villain, too.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 6: Fri., 8:39 p.m. ET/5:39 PT on FS1

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

Utley famously took out Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada on a hard slide into second base in Game 2 of the 2015 NLDS at Dodger Stadium. The play broke Tejada's leg. The controversy surrounding it prompted Major League Baseball to create a rule to better protect infielders. It became known as the Chase Utley Rule. But in the immediate aftermath of an emotionally charged series, New York fans wanted retribution. Utley expected that. He expected to be booed when the series moved to Citi Field in Queens for Games 3 and 4.

Utley did not, however, expect death threats against his family.

"I mean, from a personal perspective, it was not the best of times," Utley said on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. "I'm all for the home team booing the opposing player and giving him a hard time. But not when it extends past the baseball field, when it gets a little out of hand."

Machado is likely to be booed following an altercation with Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar in Game 4, but the vitriol from Crew fans is unlikely to match the levels in New York. Machado dragged his left leg over Aguilar's right leg on a play at first base. It appeared intentional. Aguilar and Machado exchanged words. Benches and bullpens cleared, but nobody threw punches and nobody got hurt.

Aguilar and Machado later appeared to patch things up.

Still, Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich afterward called it a "dirty play by a dirty player." He then dropped a couple expletives, making his feelings about Machado perfectly clear. Some of Yelich's teammates seem to feel the same way.

Machado essentially has shrugged his shoulders about the entire incident. He never apologized. In fact, he does not think he did anything wrong. If he is going to join Utley, Nyjer Morgan (remember "Alberta" Pujols in the 2011 NLCS?) and Roger Clemens (who chucked a broken bat toward Mike Piazza in the '00 World Series) and others as postseason villains, he seems perfectly fine with it.

Video: Must C Collision: Utley's hard slide injures Tejada

"I mean, I'm expecting to go out there and win," Machado said, asked if he expects to be booed in Milwaukee. "That's what I'm expecting."

Do boos bother Machado?

"I'm expecting to go win," Machado repeated. "I want to go win. I've got one more game to win to get where we want to go."

The boos never bothered Utley.

Video: LAD@NYM Gm3: Utley booed, Tejada cheered in intros

"They were loud," Utley said. "But to be honest with you, I was kind of used to that playing in New York so often, the rivalry that [the Phillies] had with the Mets. So from that aspect, it was similar. You try to tune out as much as you can and focus on whatever you're doing on the field. As a big leaguer, I think what separates the men from the boys are the guys that can tune that out."

Utley expects Machado to be just fine in front of Wisconsin's finest. Who knows? Maybe they motivate him.

Video: NLCS Gm4: Machado on altercation with Aguilar

"I think anytime you can quiet the crowd, it makes you feel good," Utley said. "I would imagine it will be status quo. He'll go about his business the same way. Obviously, he's had a lot of attention even prior to this, just because of the type of player he is. He's a talented player. I don't think it'll be a distraction."

So what did Utley think about Machado's run-in with Aguilar?

"I didn't talk to him about it, but I mean, I don't care, honestly," Utley said. "Nothing bothers me, really."

Machado seems to feel the same way, too.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Manny Machado, Chase Utley

Nats set to make strong push to retain Harper

MLB.com

After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Bryce Harper is set to become a free agent for the first time.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the outfielder.

After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Bryce Harper is set to become a free agent for the first time.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the outfielder.

Nats planning to make strong effort to retain Harper
Oct. 18: As fan bases and front offices around the Majors dream of having Bryce Harper in the fold next season, the only team Harper has ever played for is holding out hope that the impending free agent will be back.

According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for Fancred Sports, the Nationals plan to make a strong effort to retain Harper this offseason, though they are also formulating an alternative plan in case he opts to sign elsewhere.

This comes after Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reported last week that the consensus within the Nats organization is that the club does not want to eclipse the competitive balance tax threshold after doing so in each of the past two seasons.

If Harper is signed for roughly $30 million annually, it could considerably hinder the Nationals' ability to address other needs on the roster. However, it doesn't sound like that will prevent Washington from making a major push to re-sign its homegrown star.

Janes also reports that if Harper signs, it could mean center fielder Adam Eaton goes on the trade block. Eaton has only played in 118 games during two seasons with Washington due to injury, hitting .300/.394/.422.

Phillies set to make run at Harper, Machado
Oct. 18: Will Bryce Harper and Manny Machado join forces in Philadelphia? According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an appearance on "The Rundown" on Thursday, the Phillies are prepared to pursue both players, and many expect them to come away with at least one.

"People around baseball are going to be surprised if [the Phillies] don't get at least one of these two players, and maybe both," Heyman said.

Heyman had a similar report back in September, writing for Fancred Sports that multiple rival executives believed that the Phillies could land both superstars.

However, as Heyman pointed out Thursday, it could ultimately be tough for any team to pull that off, as both players are looking to break the bank in free agency. Furthermore, any club looking to sign either player will have plenty of competition.

Video: Heyman on Mariners, Phillies free agent rumors

Will Yankees chase Harper, Machado in effort to catch up to Red Sox?
Oct. 11: After spending much of the season chasing the Red Sox in the American League East and then losing to Boston in the ALDS, the Yankees will be looking to close the gap with their offseason moves.

One way they could do it? A spending spree that results in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado wearing pinstripes, as Newsday's Anthony Rieber wrote Wednesday.

That type of plan isn't as outrageous as it sounds, especially after the Yankees stayed under the luxury-tax threshold in 2018 -- which means they won't be subject to the repeat-offender penalty next season. Without that restriction, the Yankees will likely look to significantly increase their payroll.

Of course, the rotation is arguably a greater area of need for New York than the offense, with Luis Severino struggling in the second half and CC Sabathia, J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn hitting free agency. Adding a starter such as Patrick Corbin, who is expected to be one of the Yankees' free-agent targets, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, may be the club's top priority.

Rizzo: Harper 'in our plans' for future
Sept. 30: Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Sunday before the season finale that the club wants impending free agent Bryce Harper back.

"Of course he's in our plans," Rizzo said. "He's a guy we would love to have. He's a part of our family. He's a big part of this roster, performance-wise. Like I've always said with these type of deals, you're not betting on the baseball player, you're betting on the person. He's a person we'd like to have with us."

Rizzo's comments came in response to Harper saying he would "absolutely love to be" with the Nats long term, provided the club was interested in re-signing him.

"Am I in the [Nationals'] plans, you know? I don't know," Harper said. "It's hard to think about ... It's like, 'Well, it could all be over in a second.' It's kind of crazy.

"I've always said, 'If I'm in those plans, I'd absolutely love to be here.' But if I'm not, there's nothing I can do about it. There's nothing I can do. I would love to play next to Victor Robles or Juan Soto or Adam Eaton. I'd love to. But am I in those plans? I have no idea." More >

Harper expresses desire to remain with Nats
Sept. 25: As Bryce Harper prepares to become a free agent for the first time this offseason, the outfielder told the Washington Post that he would "absolutely love to be" in Washington long term.

"I think about other cities, but I love it here," Harper said.

"When I talk about D.C., I get giddy. I get happy. Because it's me. It's what I know," Harper said. "I don't know anything else. I don't know what it feels like to play for the Dodgers. I don't know what it feels like to play for the Yankees. I don't know what it feels like to play for anybody that you look at." More >

Cora: Sale 'doing well,' ready to start Game 6

Kimbrel converting saves despite struggles; Vazquez delivering clutch hits
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

HOUSTON -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale played catch on Thursday and went through everything else in his normal between-starts ritual, but he did not throw a bullpen session.

However, manager Alex Cora said that the lanky lefty remains on track to start Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday if the Astros are victorious in Game 5 on Thursday. Otherwise, Sale would be in line to pitch Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale played catch on Thursday and went through everything else in his normal between-starts ritual, but he did not throw a bullpen session.

However, manager Alex Cora said that the lanky lefty remains on track to start Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday if the Astros are victorious in Game 5 on Thursday. Otherwise, Sale would be in line to pitch Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.

View Full Game Coverage

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

Sale was hospitalized from Sunday into Monday with a stomach illness, but he finally seemed to be turning a corner on Thursday.

"He's doing well," said Cora. "He went through everything. He's feeling better as far as, like, eating solids, all that. So he'll be ready for his next start."

Given Sale's disrupted schedule this week, Cora said it won't be necessary to throw off a mound before a potential Game 6 at Fenway Park.

"No, no, we're good with it," said Cora. "I mean, as long as he doesn't feel weak or whatever. I saw him, actually, [earlier] in the hotel. I said, 'How you feeling?' 'Oh, much better.' And then he came here around the same time I was here, 'How you feeling?' 'Much better than earlier today.' That's good. He doesn't look as skinny as yesterday. Yesterday I was like, wow, you could see it in his face. But he's in good spirits, he feels better. He's eating better, which is great."

Show and tell?
The struggles of Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, who is 4-for-4 in save opportunities in this postseason, continues to be a topic.

Cora offered something new on Thursday, suggesting there might be a tell with Kimbrel's slider, which is preventing other teams from swinging at it.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Cora on Kimbrel's struggles, 6-out save

"There's something with his slider, I think. There has to be something going on, because there's a lot of takes," Cora said. "Quality ones, too. They keep taking it, and that started in New York. Hopefully our video system is good and we can find what's going on and we can fix it. Although there's no fastball command, the quality of the sliders are good and they're not offering. Either they have a good game plan or it's paranoia from my end."

Tough call
Believe it or not, Cora's toughest decision in his team's zany 8-6 win in Game 4 was not whether to stick with Kimbrel amid his harrowing struggles.

"Actually, it was early in the game with Rick [Porcello]. See how far I could stretch him out, because it looked bad, but was it that bad?" Cora said. "Ground-ball base hit, the [Tony] Kemp home run, which I think we went to the wrong spot. It wasn't hit hard. That was the hardest, honestly, because we needed four, at least four, to make it happen. At one point I was like, 'Oh God, are we going to be able to pull this off?' And he did. Give him credit. He did."

Vazquez providing a lift
Entering the postseason, the Red Sox weren't getting any offense from the catching position. Though Christian Vazquez (4-for-19 in these playoffs) isn't exactly setting the world on fire, he has come up with some key hits.

Vazquez homered in the clinching Game 4 of the AL Division Series at Yankee Stadium. He belted a key two-out double in Game 4 of the ALCS that set up the go-ahead two-run homer by Jackie Bradley Jr.

Video: Must C Clutch: Bradley Jr.'s go-ahead 2-run homer

"I keep telling him it's night and day compared to early in the season. I don't know what happened," said Cora. "I don't know what happened early in the season."

Boston believed that Vazquez would be the team's catcher of the future when it signed him to a three-year, $13.55 million contract in Spring Training.

"I doubt he took it for granted. Probably he was putting pressure on himself. I know a lot of people were talking about it," said Cora. "Then he gets hurt, Sandy started playing well, and if you want to play, you've gotta play better. Since his workouts in Fort Myers [Fla.], he did everything right. He's doing an outstanding job with [catching instructors] Jason [Varitek] and [Chad Epperson] and [Rich Gedman]."

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

Boston Red Sox, Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale, Christian Vazquez

Crew gone cold? 3 reasons behind quiet bats

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

MILWAUKEE -- Whether or not the Brewers sprint from behind and into their first World Series in 36 years, they'll be remembered this October for proving one thing: Bullpening can work. At least with the right relievers. At least in a short series.

But like any other run-prevention strategy, it can't work without the bats. That's the conundrum the Brewers find themselves in, facing elimination with the National League Championship Series shifted back to Milwaukee. The pitching? That's been solid; Brewers hurlers have held Dodgers hitters to a .220 batting average, striking out 61 over 47 2/3 innings.

View Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- Whether or not the Brewers sprint from behind and into their first World Series in 36 years, they'll be remembered this October for proving one thing: Bullpening can work. At least with the right relievers. At least in a short series.

But like any other run-prevention strategy, it can't work without the bats. That's the conundrum the Brewers find themselves in, facing elimination with the National League Championship Series shifted back to Milwaukee. The pitching? That's been solid; Brewers hurlers have held Dodgers hitters to a .220 batting average, striking out 61 over 47 2/3 innings.

View Full Game Coverage

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 6: Friday, 8:39 p.m. ET/7:39 CT on FS1

But their lineup has gone cold, held to three runs over its last 22 innings, while the Dodgers grabbed a 3-2 series advantage.

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

"We have to find ways to score more runs," Ryan Braun said. "We picked a bad time to go through a rough stretch offensively."

How did the Brewers' offense get here, and how do they turn it around?

Christian Yelich has turned mortal
Yelich is far from the only culprit, with Braun, Jesus Aguilar and Mike Moustakas a combined 14-for-80 (.175 average) this series. But more than anyone else, it was Yelich who propelled the Brewers into the position they're in, posting a 1.534 OPS during the 12-game winning streak Milwaukee saw snapped in Game 2. The Brewers have scored just 10 runs in the four games since, with Yelich going 3-for-16. He does not have an extra-base hit in his past 36 plate appearances, including 24 against the Dodgers.

Dodgers-Brewers G6: Lineups, matchups, FAQs

"I'm getting opportunities, getting pitches to hit, just missing them," Yelich said. "Not executing. I gotta figure it out."

Yelich would likely benefit from Lorenzo Cain getting going as well. Cain notched three hits in Game 1 and two in Game 5, but he went 1-for-15 with one walk in between.

Gear up for the NLCS

It's worth noting that Yelich continues to draw walks, meaning he's still getting on base at a solid clip. But with a lineup-wide brownout, it becomes more essential to have Yelich getting more than one base at a time.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Yelich on Game 5 loss, rebounding in Game 6

They're either not making hard contact, or not enough contact in general
After leading NL hitters in hard-hit rate during the regular season, Yelich has regressed to just under league-average during the postseason. Again, he's not alone. Aguilar has seen his hard-hit rate sliced by a third, while Moustakas' is cut nearly in half.

But as a team, the Brewers are actually getting more hard-hit fly balls/line drives, percentage-wise, than they did during the regular season. What's different? Their strikeout rate, for one. The Brewers struck out at a 26.5 percent clip over the first five games, up from 23.5 percent during the regular season. For reference, the White Sox led MLB teams with a 26.3 percent strikeout rate.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Braun talks about loss, facing elimination

They lack the big hit
Teams gladly sacrifice contact if it leads to extra-base hits, but those have been lacking. Slap-hitting Orlando Arcia hit the only Brewers homer over three games in Los Angeles, and Milwaukee is yet to get a round-tripper this October from either Moustakas or Braun, who combined for 48 during the regular season.

Still, Arcia's homer off Walker Buehler in Game 3 alone was more power than the Dodgers mustered over the three games at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles was able to find other ways to win. The Brewers largely weren't because they went 3-for-19 (.158) with runners in scoring position over the past three games.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

Milwaukee Brewers

With Didi out, Yanks expected to pursue Machado

MLB.com

Manny Machado has been one of the game's best players since debuting in 2012, and he is set to cash in as a first-time free agent this offseason.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the infielder.

Manny Machado has been one of the game's best players since debuting in 2012, and he is set to cash in as a first-time free agent this offseason.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the infielder.

Yankees expected to pursue Machado after Gregorius undergoes Tommy John surgery
Oct. 18: With Didi Gregorius recovering from 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.

And as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman notes in an article for Fancred Sports, there's good reason for that speculation. New York has tried to land Machado before, and Machado's interest in joining the Yankees was documented back in August, when Heyman reported that people close to the slugger were suggesting that the club was his first choice in free agency.

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).

And while Machado's lack of hustle has been a topic of conversation during the postseason, teams may be willing to overlook that problem given his immense talent.

Gregorius has been worth 8.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) over the past two seasons, per FanGraphs, 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.

Another possibility, if New York doesn't land Machado this winter, could be Giants second baseman Joe Panik, who is expected to be on the trade market, according to Heyman. Panik, who was an All-Star in 2015 and won a Gold Glove Award in '16, has been beset with injuries much of the last few seasons. But he turns 28 at the end of the month, and is under team control for another three years. The Yankees could have him at second with Gleyber Torres at shortstop. Panik would also provide a left-handed bat to replace the left-handed-hitting Gregorius in the Yankees lineup, which is heavily right-handed.

Granted, the rotation is arguably a greater area of need than the offense, with Luis Severino struggling in the second half and CC Sabathia, J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn hitting free agency. Adding a starter such as left-hander Patrick Corbin, who is expected to be one of the Yankees' free-agent targets, according to another report from Heyman, may be the club's top priority.

But as Heyman points out, the Yankees could be in position to sign multiple top free agents, considering they won't be subject to the luxury-tax repeat-offender penalty after staying under the threshold in 2018.

Phillies set to make run at Machado, Harper
Oct. 18: Will Manny Machado and Bryce Harper join forces in Philadelphia? According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an appearance on "The Rundown" on Thursday, the Phillies are prepared to pursue both players, and many expect them to come away with at least one.

"People around baseball are going to be surprised if [the Phillies] don't get at least one of these two players, and maybe both," Heyman said.

Heyman had a similar report back in September, writing for Fancred Sports that multiple rival executives believed that the Phillies could land both superstars.

However, as Heyman pointed out Thursday, it could ultimately be tough for any team to pull that off, as both players are looking to break the bank in free agency. Furthermore, any club looking to sign either player will have plenty of competition.

Video: Heyman on Mariners, Phillies free agent rumors

Cashman has no comment on Machado's lack of hustle
Oct. 17: Since news broke that shortstop Didi Gregorius would need to undergo Tommy John surgery -- he had the procedure Wednesday -- speculation has increased about the Yankees' intention to pursue Manny Machado in free agency.

Meanwhile, Machado has drawn some negative attention for his lack of hustle in the NLCS vs. the Brewers. Although Machado's name wasn't specifically mentioned, Brian Cashman was asked about the situation when the Yankees general manager called into "The Michael Kay Show" on Wednesday.

"If somebody is an otherworldly talent that doesn't run hard to first base all the time, would that be somebody the Yankees would want to put in their clubhouse?" Kay asked.

Cashman, though, wouldn't take the bait.

"Boy, you're really good at what you do," Cashman said, good-naturedly. "You're trying to Jedi mind trick me into answering a question that would put me into the abyss at MLB."

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 has 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.

Manny Machado

Key 2018-19 free agents for all 30 MLB teams

MLB.com

An impressive collection of talent will hit the open market when free agency gets underway this offseason, and players are eligible to sign with a new team five days after the conclusion of the World Series. Here is a division-by-division breakdown of the key free agents for all 30 Major League clubs.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

An impressive collection of talent will hit the open market when free agency gets underway this offseason, and players are eligible to sign with a new team five days after the conclusion of the World Series. Here is a division-by-division breakdown of the key free agents for all 30 Major League clubs.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Atlanta Braves
Key free agents: RHP Brad Brach, 1B Lucas Duda, 3B Ryan Flaherty, OF Nick Markakis, C Rene Rivera, RHP Anibal Sanchez, C Kurt Suzuki, LHP Jonny Venters

Markakis was a valuable member of a youthful Braves club in 2018, providing veteran leadership and making the All-Star team for the first time in his career. Atlanta has a stellar farm system that is loaded with pitching prospects, which is one of the reasons why Sanchez is unlikely to be back after his impressive rebound campaign. But without an obvious replacement for Markakis in right field, the door remains open for the soon-to-be 35-year-old to return. Suzuki has formed a productive catching tandem with Tyler Flowers over the past two seasons, but the 35-year-old may be too expensive to bring back for a part-time role.

Miami Marlins
Key free agents: None

The Marlins' roster is replete with players who are at the early stages of their big league careers, putting them years away from free agency. After trading multiple big-name players last offseason, Miami will likely now look to deal veterans Starlin Castro and Martin Prado, as they are owed nearly $27 million combined in 2019.

New York Mets
Key free agents: LHP Jerry Blevins, OF Austin Jackson, C Devin Mesoraco, RHP AJ Ramos, INF Jose Reyes

There's a chance the Mets won't bring back any of these players after they combined for -1.7 Wins Above Replacement in 2018, per FanGraphs. With Travis d'Arnaud, T.J. Rivera and Juan Lagares returning from injuries, the Mets have obvious replacements for Mesoraco, Reyes and Jackson next year. Blevins is more likely to be back than Ramos, whose recovery from right shoulder surgery is expected to extend into next June and possibly longer.

Philadelphia Phillies
Key free agents: 3B/OF Jose Bautista, INF Asdrubal Cabrera, LHP Aaron Loup, C Wilson Ramos

All four players on Philadelphia's list were acquired late in the 2018 campaign as the Phillies made a playoff push that ultimately fell short. Instead of bringing back Ramos, who is sure to fetch a sizable multi-year deal, the Phils may give 25-year-old Jorge Alfaro another chance to show he can handle starting duties behind the plate. Cabrera could be a fallback option if the Phillies are unable to land Manny Machado in free agency.

Washington Nationals
Key free agents: OF Bryce Harper, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Kelvin Herrera, RHP Greg Holland, 1B Mark Reynolds, C Matt Wieters

Harper will be one of the top free agents available this offseason, and the Nats will likely make a major push to keep him in Washington. The club might also be interested in bringing back Holland and Hellickson, but the two righties are sure to draw interest from other clubs after boosting their value with the Nats. Washington is expected to try to upgrade at the catcher spot, which could leave Wieters looking for a new home.

NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs
Key free agents: RHP Jesse Chavez, LHP Jorge De La Rosa, LHP Jaime Garcia (club option), LHP Cole Hamels (club option), OF Jason Heyward (can opt out of his contract), RHP Brandon Kintzler (club and player options), 2B Daniel Murphy, RHP Pedro Strop (club option), LHP Justin Wilson

The Cubs have many decisions to make this offseason, most notably regarding the $20 million club option for Hamels, who was acquired from the Rangers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and recorded a terrific 2.36 ERA over 12 starts. They also have a bevy of bullpen arms that are set to depart or have club options. The Cubs could try to retain Chavez and Strop, and Murphy could also be back (particularly given Addison Russell's suspension), as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke highly of the second baseman's contributions after his acquisition from the Nationals.

Cincinnati Reds
Key free agents: RHP Matt Harvey

Cincinnati elected to keep Harvey at the non-waiver Trade Deadline instead of flipping him to a contender, and now face a decision about the right-hander, given that he has expressed openness to returning and the Reds will be seeking starting pitching depth this offseason. Outside of Harvey, the Reds don't have any key departures or options to worry about this winter, though Scooter Gennett and Billy Hamilton are due for free agency following the 2019 season.

Milwaukee Brewers
Key free agents: LHP Gio Gonzalez, OF Curtis Granderson, RHP Jeremy Jeffress (club option), LHP Dan Jennings, C Erik Kratz, RHPJordan Lyles (club option), LHP Wade Miley, 3B Mike Moustakas (mutual option), IF Eric Sogard, RHP Joakim Soria (club option)

The Brewers have most of their pitching depth locked up beyond this season, with Gonzalez, an in-season acquisition, and Miley, who was initially signed to a Minor League contract before the season, the only two starters set for free agency this offseason. Soria, a key piece of the Brewers' bullpen in their playoff run, has a $10 million team option for 2019, while closing option Jeffress has a much cheaper $3.175 million team option. The 38-year-old Kratz and 37-year-old Granderson are also bound for free agency. Given their security all over the roster, the Brewers are set to contend again in 2019 even if they don't make a big offseason splash.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Key free agents: IF/OF Josh Harrison (club option), IF Jung Ho Kang (club option), SS Jordy Mercer

After making a splash by trading for Chris Archer in 2018, the Pirates appear to be mostly set with their pitching staff but will be looking for a bat in the offseason, likely at shortstop, especially if they don't end up bringing Kang back after his late-season cameo. Even if they don't make a Manny Machado-sized splash at shortstop, the market is deep this offseason, with Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis and Adeiny Hechavarria among the names that will be in play. It seems unlikely that the Pirates will pick up Harrison's $10.5 million option.

St. Louis Cardinals
Key free agents: 1B Matt Adams, RHP Bud Norris, C Francisco Pena, RHP Tyson Ross

Adam Wainwright already avoided free agency by agreeing to a one-year deal to return for his 15th season with the Cardinals. Improving the bullpen to build around Jordan Hicks will be a priority for the Cardinals, especially with the departure of Norris, who provided stability at closer for much of the season. Though Adams likely won't be on the Cardinals' radar again, St. Louis is thought to be looking for an impact left-handed hitter, with needs at outfield and third base.

NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks
Key free agents: RHP Clay Buchholz, LHP Patrick Corbin, RHP Randall Delgado, 2B Daniel Descalso, LHP Jake Diekman, 3B Eduardo Escobar, 1B Paul Goldschmidt (club option), OF Jon Jay, C Jeff Mathis, OF A.J. Pollock, C Chris Stewart, OF Yasmany Tomas (player option)

The D-backs could lose two key contributors this winter, with Corbin and Pollock likely to exceed Arizona's price range, but Buchholz, Descalso and Mathis are strong candidates to return. Neither Goldschmidt nor Tomas is expected to hit the open market. The D-backs are sure to pick up Goldschmidt's $14.5 million club option for 2019, and Tomas will undoubtedly exercise his player options for '19-20, valued at $15.5 million next year and $17 million in '20, after spending all of '18 in the Minors.

Colorado Rockies
Key free agents: C Drew Butera, OF Carlos Gonzalez, OF Matt Holliday, 2B DJ LeMahieu, RHP Seunghwan Oh (club option), RHP Adam Ottavino, OF Gerardo Parra

The Rockies will have to decide whether they want to compete for LeMahieu this winter or if they're ready to turn the reins at second base over to one of their middle-infield prospects, Garrett Hampson and Brendan Rodgers. They also face decisions in the outfield, where Gonzalez, Parra and Holliday are impending free agents, and in the bullpen with Ottavino and Oh, who has a $2.5 million option for 2019 with a $250,000 buyout.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Key free agents: RHP John Axford, 2B Brian Dozier, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Daniel Hudson, LHP Clayton Kershaw (opt out), SS Manny Machado, RHP Ryan Madson, LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Machado is among the headliners in this year's star-studded free agent class, and longtime Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw could add his name to the mix if he opts out of his contract. The Dodgers will try to retain Machado, whom they acquired from the Orioles at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but they'll have stiff competition as he's likely to cash in for a big payday. The oft-injured Ryu posted a 1.97 ERA through 15 regular season starts in 2018 and pitched well in the playoffs to improve his stock heading into free agency.

San Diego Padres
Key free agents: C A.J. Ellis, SS Freddy Galvis

The Padres' 2018 roster will remain mostly intact with only Galvis and Ellis entering free agency, and both are candidates to return. Ellis is less likely to be re-signed, however, with young catchers Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia in the mix. San Diego may also let Galvis walk if he wants a multi-year deal, with Fernando Tatis Jr. (San Diego's No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) nearing big league readiness and Luis Urias (San Diego's No. 4 prospect) likely to take over as the club's starting second baseman in 2019.

San Francisco Giants
Key free agents: OF Gregor Blanco, RHP Madison Bumgarner (club option), LHP Derek Holland, C Nick Hundley, RHP Mark Melancon (can opt out of his contract), OF Hunter Pence, 3B Pablo Sandoval

The Giants are expected to pick up Bumgarner's $12 million option, and Melancon is almost certainly staying put for the final two years of his four-year, $62 million deal, but the club will likely part ways with veterans Pence and Blanco. The Giants may try bring back Holland, who enjoyed a bounceback campaign and anchored an injury-riddled Giants rotation in 2018, and Hundley, who capably backed up Buster Posey.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Baltimore Orioles
Key free agents: OF Adam Jones

The O's list has just one man on it, as they traded nearly every player on an expiring contract, including Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Brad Brach, during their 2018 roster purge. Baltimore would have dealt Jones as well, but he was unwilling to waive his 10-and-5 rights. Jones may be interested in returning, but he would likely need to accept a significantly reduced role as the Orioles look to the future.

Boston Red Sox
Key free agents: RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Craig Kimbrel, 2B Ian Kinsler, IF Eduardo Nunez (player option), 1B/OF Steve Pearce, 2B Brandon Phillips, LHP Drew Pomeranz, LHP David Price (can opt out of his contract), LHP Chris Sale (club option)

Even if the Red Sox pick up Chris Sale's $15 million club option for 2019, which they likely will, and David Price doesn't opt out of the four years and $127 million remaining on his contract, they still have a number of important players hitting free agency. Kimbrel is the biggest name among them, though it's unclear if Boston will be willing to hand out a big contract for a player who regressed some from '17 to '18 and was shaky in the playoffs. The Red Sox will probably look to re-sign Eovaldi, who excelled after joining the club in a July trade (3.33 ERA, 2.88 FIP).

New York Yankees
Key free agents: LHP Zach Britton, OF Brett Gardner (club option), LHP J.A. Happ, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, RHP Lance Lynn, OF Andrew McCutchen, RHP David Robertson, LHP CC Sabathia, 2B/OF Neil Walker

The Yankees have a busy offseason ahead of them, especially on the pitching side of the ledger. Even if prospect Justus Sheffield is ready to claim a rotation spot behind Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, that still leaves two open starting jobs. Meanwhile, the Yankees' vaunted bullpen could lose two key pieces in Robertson and Britton. Gardner was New York's longest-tenured player in 2018, but the club may pass on his $12.5 million club option ($2 million buyout) after the veteran outfielder posted a .690 OPS this past season.

Tampa Bay Rays
Key free agents: OF Carlos Gomez, RHP Sergio Romo

Romo was an integral member of the Rays' pitching staff for much of the 2018 season, racking up 25 saves and making five appearances as an "opener." However, he recorded a 10.00 ERA in September and will be 36 years old on Opening Day in '19. The cost-conscious Rays may opt to move on and give an opportunity to a younger alternative. As for Gomez, the veteran outfielder is unlikely to be back after posting a .634 OPS over 118 games in 2018.

Toronto Blue Jays
Key free agents: RHP Tyler Clippard, RHP Marco Estrada, 1B Justin Smoak (club option), INF Yangervis Solarte (club option)

Much like Baltimore, Toronto dealt many impending free agents during the 2018 season, including Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Steve Pearce, Curtis Granderson and John Axford. With Rowdy Tellez looking ready for an expanded role at first base, the Jays could pick up Smoak's reasonable $8 million club option and then trade the veteran this offseason. Estrada is likely gone after recording a 5.27 ERA with a 4.97 FIP in 61 starts over the past two years, as the Blue Jays can likely get similar production from a younger and cheaper pitcher.

AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox
Key free agents: RHP Jeanmar Gomez, RHP Miguel Gonzalez, RHP Nate Jones (club option), LHP Hector Santiago, RHP James Shields (club option)

The White Sox are close to emerging from their rebuild, and the club could look for more pitching help this offseason, since Michael Kopech is now sidelined for 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. They have a $4.65 million option for Jones that they could exercise, but it seems unlikely that they'd exercise Shields' $16 million club option.

Cleveland Indians
Key free agents: RHP Cody Allen, OF Michael Brantley, OF Melky Cabrera, RHP Carlos Carrasco (club option), OF Lonnie Chisenhall, OF Rajai Davis, 3B Josh Donaldson, OF Brandon Guyer (club option), LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Oliver Perez, IF Adam Rosales, RHP Josh Tomlin

Miller headlines a productive crop of prospective free agents departing Cleveland this season, with outfield and the bullpen being the two areas that stand to be hit hardest by the departures. Allen, Brantley and Miller are eligible for the $17.9 million qualifying offer. The Indians do have some security in the bullpen with midseason acquisitions Brad Hand and Adam Cimber both controllable for several more seasons, but bolstering the relief corps will be an offseason priority for the Tribe, who got subpar seasons from both Allen and Miller in 2018. Outfield is also an area of need, especially if Brantley departs, with no clear-cut starter at any of the three spots entering the offseason.

Detroit Tigers
Key free agents: SS Jose Iglesias, LHP Francisco Liriano, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Iglesias, Liriano and the retiring Victor Martinez are the key departures for the rebuilding Tigers, who also dealt impending free agent Mike Fiers to the A's in August. The Tigers will likely be in the market for a shortstop, as they don't have an immediate heir lined up in the event of Iglesias' departure, and will likely look to add to the rotation.

Kansas City Royals
Key free agents: SS Alcides Escobar, RHP Jason Hammel (mutual option), RHP Wily Peralta (club option)

After trading Jon Jay, Lucas Duda, Kelvin Herrera and Mike Moustakas this season, the Royals figure to let Escobar walk, as Adalberto Mondesi is now their starting shortstop. The Royals will almost certainly pay a $2 million buyout to get Hammel off the books instead of exercising his $12 million mutual option for 2019, but they could bring back Peralta, their closer, on a cheaper $3 million team option, especially since they'll likely be looking for bullpen help this offseason.

Minnesota Twins
Key free agents: RHP Matt Belisle, 2B Logan Forsythe, C Chris Gimenez, 1B/DH Joe Mauer, 1B/DH Logan Morrison (club option), RHP Ervin Santana (club option)

The most pressing offseason question for the Twins will be at first base with the possible departure of Mauer to either free agency or retirement and Morrison's disappointing performance in 2018, after which the Twins are not expected to pick up his $8 million option for 2019. The departures of Forsythe, Brian Dozier (traded to Dodgers) and Eduardo Escobar (traded to D-backs) also leave openings in the middle infield for the Twins. The Twins need lots of help in the bullpen and could always use more starting depth, with Santana's option unlikely to be picked up.

AL WEST
Los Angeles Angels
Key free agents: RHP Jim Johnson, RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Junichi Tazawa, OF Chris Young, OF Eric Young Jr., RHP Blake Wood

The Angels will retain much of their core. Johnson will likely draw interest on the open market for clubs in need of dependable bullpen arms. Richards pitched well in 16 starts this season, but will be out of action until 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Young also suffered a season-ending injury (labral tears in both hips) but is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

Houston Astros
Key free agents: DH Evan Gattis, UTIL Marwin Gonzalez, LHP Dallas Keuchel, C Martin Maldonado, RHP Charlie Morton, LHP Tony Sipp

Keuchel figures to be one of the most sought-after starting pitchers on the market this winter. The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner has spent his entire career with the Astros, but could anchor another team's staff in 2019. Morton also figures to draw considerable interest coming off his first All-Star season at age 34. Maldonado will be part of a deep class of veteran backstops.

Oakland A's
Key free agents: LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Edwin Jackson, OF Matt Joyce, 2B Jed Lowrie, C Jonathan Lucroy

The A's looming free agents are headlined by a pair of veterans in Lucroy and Lowrie. Lucroy is more likely to return with Franklin Barreto ready to take over as Oakland's everyday second baseman. Joyce is likely the odd man out in a crowded A's outfield. It's unclear if the A's will try to retain any of their veteran starting pitchers.

Seattle Mariners
Key free agents: 2B Gordon Beckham, DH Nelson Cruz, LHP Zach Duke, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, OF Cameron Maybin, RHP David Phelps, UTIL Andrew Romine, OF Denard Span (mutual option), RHP Adam Warren

Cruz represents the biggest free agent choice for the Mariners this winter. Both sides have expressed interest in a reunion, but Seattle must decide whether it wants to commit to a multi-year deal with the 38-year-old slugger or utilize that money elsewhere, with needs on the pitching staff and in center field. Span has a $12 million mutual option with a $4 million buyout. Iwakuma left the Mariners in September to pursue pitching opportunities in Japan.

Texas Rangers
Key free agents: SS Elvis Andrus (can opt out of his contract), 3B Adrian Beltre, C Robinson Chirinos (club option), RHP Bartolo Colon, RHP Doug Fister (club option), RHP Yovani Gallardo, LHP Matt Moore (club option), LHP Martin Perez (club option)

The Rangers are awaiting Beltre's decision on his baseball future, and if the third baseman opts to continue playing, they could re-sign him. Andrus could opt out of his contract, leaving four years and $58 million on the table, but is more likely to stay put. The Rangers will likely pick up Chirinos' option, and decline their options on Moore and Fister. Perez's option is for $7.5 million and it remains to be seen what Texas will do with the left-hander coming off a down year. Colon and Gallardo aren't expected to return.

Thomas Harrigan is an editor for MLB.com.

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.