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Brewers cruise after early push, force Game 7

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell wanted energy from the Miller Park faithful. The Miller Park faithful wanted more baseball. Everybody got their wish.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 7: Tonight, 8:09 ET/7:09 CT on FS1

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MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell wanted energy from the Miller Park faithful. The Miller Park faithful wanted more baseball. Everybody got their wish.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 7: Tonight, 8:09 ET/7:09 CT on FS1

View Full Game Coverage

Shedding the offensive funk induced by the Dodgers' quality pitching in the first five games of the National League Championship Series, the Brewers busted loose for four runs in a nine-batter opening inning of Game 6 on Friday night, putting them well on their way to a 7-2 win over the Dodgers that bought a chance to play -- and for those fans to cheer -- another day.

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

Game 7 is Saturday night. The winner gets the Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

Jesus Aguilar led the way with three hits, two runs scored and three RBIs, but to extend the season, the Brewers had to buck their recent postseason history -- and another dose of David Freese. This NLCS began just like the Brewers' last, in 2011 against the Cardinals; a split of Games 1 and 2 at Miller Park, followed by losses in two of the three road games to send the Brewers back to Milwaukee one loss away from elimination.

That time, Freese smashed a three-run homer in the first inning of Game 6, part of a four-run opening inning against Shaun Marcum that sealed Milwaukee's fate. This time, Freese did it against Wade Miley while making a rare start as a leadoff man, hitting the game's fifth pitch into the visitors' bullpen for a 1-0 Dodgers lead.

But this time, the damage stopped there. The Brewers answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning against Hyun-Jin Ryu, and while Freese delivered another RBI with a double in the fifth, he was double-switched out of the game after that and Milwaukee's fans with long memories could exhale.

By then, the lead was in hand.

The Brewers entered the day 5-for-35 with runners in scoring position and batting .219 as a team in the NLCS, though Counsell hoped aloud that some crowd noise would help apply pressure to Dodgers pitchers. Whether it was the crowd or misses by Ryu or better at-bats by Brewers hitters, the result was a nine-batter first-inning rally that featured five hits, beginning with Lorenzo Cain's leadoff infield single.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Brewers plate 4 runs in the 1st inning

Aguilar and Mike Moustakas were a combined 6-for-39 (.154) in the NLCS, including 0-for-8 with six strikeouts with runners in scoring position, as Aguilar stepped to the plate with two on and two outs, but they drilled successive doubles for a 3-1 lead. Erik Kratz, 1-for-11 in Games 1-5, followed with a run-scoring single to make it 4-1.

In the second inning, Christian Yelich laced his fourth hit of the NLCS -- and his first extra-base hit -- in his 22nd at-bat with a one-out double. When Ryan Braun followed with another double, it was 5-1, and the Brewers could begin mapping a pitching strategy to 27 outs -- plus 27 more outs on Saturday.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Braun belts an RBI double to right-center

It went like this: Miley for 13 outs, Corey Knebel for five, Jeremy Jeffress for three and rookie right-hander Corbin Burnes for six at the end of the game.

That combination, which notably didn't include lefty relief ace Josh Hader, set the Brewers up nicely behind their best starting pitcher, Jhoulys Chacin, in Game 7. Hader will be well-rested after not appearing in Games 5 or 6.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Outs > Runs: It's been a fascinating series for armchair managers, and Game 6 was no exception. In the fifth inning, pinch-hitter Brian Dozier snapped Miley's streak of eight batters retired in a row by taking a four-pitch walk. When Freese cut the Dodgers' deficit to 5-2 and Miley walked Max Muncy on four more pitches to bring the tying run to the plate with one out, Counsell decided it was time to tap the bullpen and called for Knebel, who has served as a sort of middle-inning "closer" for the Brewers since a restorative 10-day break in late August and early September completely turned his season around. Knebel drew the Dodgers' two most dangerous right-handed hitters, Justin Turner and Manny Machado, and retired them both. Turner flied out to center field and Machado, who was booed lustily all night, struck out on a foul tip.

The next critical decision involved Knebel in the bottom of the inning, when Alex Wood walked Travis Shaw leading off the frame and hit Kratz with two outs ahead of eight-hole hitter Orlando Arcia. Counsell sent Domingo Santana to the on-deck circle, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sensed a bluff and was right. When Los Angeles intentionally walked Arcia to load the bases, Counsell called back Santana and sent up Knebel, who had no at-bats on his ledger in college, the Minor Leagues or the Majors, because unlike many prospects to begin their careers as starting pitchers, he's long been a reliever.

Knebel struck out, but that kept him in the game to pitch a scoreless sixth as Counsell pieced together those outs with a Game 7 in the back of his mind.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Knebel tosses 1 2/3 shutout relief frames

SOUND SMART
Before Freese's homer, the Dodgers had gone 111 at-bats since Turner's go-ahead shot in Game 2. The Brewers entered the day having gone 86 at-bats without a homer since Arcia's shot in Game 3. These teams finished first and second in the NL in regular-season homers (Dodgers: 235, Brewers: 218).

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Aguilar wasn't running out of the batter's box on a fly ball down the right-field line leading off the seventh inning against Kenta Maeda, and he had to scramble to second base for a double. The Dodgers challenged after one replay showed Aguilar might have briefly lost contact with the bag as he slid in, but after the replay review, it was determined the call would stand.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Aguilar beats throw to second, call stands

That was a huge call, because Aguilar took third on Arcia's groundout and scored with two outs when Maeda bounced a wild pitch past Yasmani Grandal, who had just entered the game to catch, pushing the lead back to four runs.

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

Milwaukee Brewers

Aguilar sparks Crew's tone-setting rally in G6

First baseman's 2-run double fuels pivotal 1st frame vs. LA
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

MILWAUKEE -- The first blow came from the old nemesis, recast as a leadoff man -- another David Freese homer to silence another October crowd at Miller Park. The counter came collectively, the Brewers matching the jab with one, two, four of their own, the fruits of an ear-splitting rally that manager Craig Counsell said "lifted the roof off the place."

Safe at second, Mike Moustakas' arms flung up. On his back after sliding past home, Ryan Braun basked. Counsell sighed in the dugout, overcome with relief. It wasn't only how the four-spot against Hyun-Jin Ryu motored the Brewers toward a 7-2 win in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night. It was the ripple effects their first-inning rally set in motion, long before the ink on their series-evening win was dry.

View Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- The first blow came from the old nemesis, recast as a leadoff man -- another David Freese homer to silence another October crowd at Miller Park. The counter came collectively, the Brewers matching the jab with one, two, four of their own, the fruits of an ear-splitting rally that manager Craig Counsell said "lifted the roof off the place."

Safe at second, Mike Moustakas' arms flung up. On his back after sliding past home, Ryan Braun basked. Counsell sighed in the dugout, overcome with relief. It wasn't only how the four-spot against Hyun-Jin Ryu motored the Brewers toward a 7-2 win in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night. It was the ripple effects their first-inning rally set in motion, long before the ink on their series-evening win was dry.

View Full Game Coverage

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 7: Tonight, 8:09 p.m. ET/7:09 CT on FS1

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

"Especially after they jumped ahead on David Freese's homer, I thought it was incredibly important for us to answer back as quickly as possible, keep the crowd into it, keep the pressure off of us," Braun said. "I think it was inspiring for us for the rest of the game and encouraging for us to move into tomorrow."

Fueled by 43,619 fans, the Brewers could almost cruise the rest of the night to force a winner-take-all game on Saturday. They now set up as well as possible for that game: their relief corps rested, the momentum squarely on their side. Not only did the four-run first allow the Crew to save Josh Hader for Saturday, when it will take an even more all-hands-on-deck approach to run prevention. But it also marked a positive turnaround for several of Milwaukee's important hitters, like Jesus Aguilar, whose two-run double opened the scoring.

Aguilar doubled again and added an RBI single later in the night as well, marking the slugger's most productive game of the postseason. A force in the middle of the Brewers' lineup in his first full year, Aguilar entered play 5-for-32 (.172) this postseason.

"Tomorrow it can be somebody else, but tonight it was me," Aguilar said. "I'm really happy about it. It means I am getting hot, and hopefully I stay hot."

Aguilar was far from the only slumping Brewers hitter. Milwaukee entered Friday having scored just three runs over its previous 22 innings, and just seven combined over the three games of this NLCS in Los Angeles. Aguilar, Moustakas and Erik Kratz came in particularly cold, combining to go 7-for-50 (.140) in the series prior to the inning.

But that all changed after Lorenzo Cain led off against Ryu with an infield single, then advanced to second on a Christian Yelich grounder. Braun walked, setting up a two-on, one-out situation for Aguilar, who poked his two-bagger into the right-field corner.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Aguilar records 3 hits, 3 RBIs in Game 6

"Aggie's hit, you couldn't describe it as any bigger," Counsell said. "The first inning was loud from then on."

Moustakas then pulled a similar double to score Aguilar, scoring on Kratz's opposite-field hit a batter later. All told, it marked just the seventh time in 491 half-innings this postseason that a team put up a four-spot or better, according to MLB Network research. Two of the previous six involved a grand slam (Ronald Acuna Jr., Jackie Bradley Jr.).

The four-run output was the largest in any inning this postseason for the Crew, and it came directly after what Kratz called "a gut punch" from Freese, who has made a career of hitting dramatic postseason home runs. Freese is better remembered for his famous walk-off in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, but few in Milwaukee forget that he earned NLCS MVP Award honors that year as well, after hitting .545 with three home runs in six games against the Brewers.

Freese's first-inning homer in Game 6 that year, also at Miller Park, put the series on ice for St. Louis. His first-inning homer in this Game 6 only lit a fire under the Crew.

"Then, the energy was back," Aguilar said. "I can't wait for tomorrow."

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Jesus Aguilar

Machado looks past G6 boos: 'I just want a W'

Shortstop finishes 0-for-4 in Dodgers' 7-2 loss
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

MILWAUKEE -- Manny Machado was not interested in acknowledging Brewers fans or their boos in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 7: Sat., 8:09 p.m. ET/5:09 PT on FS1

View Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- Manny Machado was not interested in acknowledging Brewers fans or their boos in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 7: Sat., 8:09 p.m. ET/5:09 PT on FS1

View Full Game Coverage

But he heard them. And he heard the "Manny sucks!" chants. It is fair to wonder if they affected him in a 7-2 loss on Friday night to Milwaukee, which forced a decisive Game 7 on Saturday night. Machado, who became Milwaukee's postseason villain following a controversial collision with Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar in Game 4 at Dodger Stadium, went 0-for-4 on a night that the Dodgers' 2-3-4-5 hitters went a combined 1-for-15 with one walk and five strikeouts.

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

"It was a tough loss for us today," said Machado, when asked about the hostile crowd. "We have to come back tomorrow and play better baseball."

But did the boos bother him?

Machado entered the game hitting .316 (6-for-19) with one double, one home run, three RBIs and a .935 OPS in the first five games of the series. He struck out swinging with a runner on first and one out in the first inning, popped out to shortstop in the third, struck out swinging with runners on first and second and two outs to end the fifth and grounded out with one out in the eighth.

"We lost the game, you know?" Machado responded. "We didn't hit. We didn't execute. We've got to do a better job tomorrow. Tomorrow it's leave it on the line, leave everything on the field."

If there is any chance he was rattled he would not admit it. Machado was asked several times about being booed and his reaction, but he never directly answered the question. But the boos were loud and they grew louder with each and every at-bat, reaching a crescendo in the eighth inning.

"That was loud," Aguilar said. "The fans, they did what they think they needed to do. They did it tonight. I think it [put] on a little pressure and that was good for us."

Machado dragged his left leg into Aguilar on a groundout in Game 4. It looked intentional, although Machado denied it. Afterward, Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich called Machado "dirty" and dropped a couple expletives, firing up Brewers fans who had their first opportunity to tell Machado how they felt.

Video: NLCS Gm4: Machado, Aguilar argue, later makeup

"I can't speak for Manny, but sometimes I think that makes the game more fun," Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor said. "When the crowd is into it, you can kind of build off that."

"Boos don't bother me, boos don't bother him," Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said. "Fans don't bother me. I don't think they bother any of these guys. It just makes us more locked in. If it's me they're booing, it makes me locked in even more."

Video: NLCS Gm6: Crowd erupts after Miley fans Machado

If Machado was locked in Friday, he did not have his best game. The Brewers' pitching probably deserves some credit for that.

So, Manny, one more time: How much would you personally love to silence Brewers fans and break their hearts with a big Game 7?

"I just want a 'W,' I just want a 'W.' That's all we want," Machado said. "Get them tomorrow. We've got one more game. We know we've got one of our best pitchers on the mound. I think we like our odds."

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Manny Machado

Which team will the Red Sox be pulling for?

One opponent would give Boston a bigger edge in World Series
MLB.com @AndrewSimonMLB

The Red Sox shouldn't fear any team. Boston proved that, not only by winning 108 games in the regular season, but also by cruising past the 100-win Yankees in the American League Division Series and the 103-win Astros in the AL Championship Series.

But when it comes to Boston's World Series opponent, there is reason to believe the AL champs should have a preference, even if they would never say so.

The Red Sox shouldn't fear any team. Boston proved that, not only by winning 108 games in the regular season, but also by cruising past the 100-win Yankees in the American League Division Series and the 103-win Astros in the AL Championship Series.

But when it comes to Boston's World Series opponent, there is reason to believe the AL champs should have a preference, even if they would never say so.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 7: Tonight, 8:09 p.m. ET on FS1

The Brewers and Dodgers will play a decisive Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday night in Milwaukee, after the Brewers won Game 6, 7-2, on Friday night. Both teams obviously are talented and formidable, and either would present the Red Sox with plenty of challenges.

:: World Series schedule and results ::

Even so, here are five reasons why Boston should hope to see Milwaukee at Fenway Park for Tuesday night's Game 1, rather than Los Angeles.

1. The Dodgers lean left
Yes, Boston has handled J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia and Dallas Keuchel well this postseason. But in a much larger sample during the regular season, the Sox ranked first in the Majors in OPS against right-handed pitchers (.817), compared with 18th against southpaws (.719). That gap was less severe when looking only at starting pitchers (.802 vs. .759), but still significant. Among Boston's hitters, only Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Steve Pearce had at least a .750 OPS off lefties.

The Dodgers likely would put three southpaws in their four-man rotation: Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill. Now that Gio Gonzalez is out due to injury, Wade Miley is the Brewers' only lefty starter. L.A. also can choose from Alex Wood, Julio Urias, Caleb Ferguson and Scott Alexander to stock its bullpen.

2. Boston handles heat
Brewers pitchers used a fastball (four-seamer, two-seamer/sinker or cutter) 64.5 percent of the time this season, the fourth-highest rate in MLB. The Dodgers were 26th, at 55.8 percent. The only pitchers likely to be on the Brewers' roster who are particularly offspeed-heavy, compared to the league average, are starter Jhoulys Chacin and reliever Jeremy Jeffress.

Why does that matter? The Red Sox ranked first in the Majors in batting (.288), third in slugging (.485) and first in wOBA (.368) against fastballs this season. Those numbers are even better this postseason, with Boston batting .318 and slugging .524 against heaters -- compared with .176/.261 against other pitches -- despite facing some tough opponents.

3. L.A. has the patience factor
During the regular season, Red Sox relievers had MLB's ninth-highest walk rate (9.8 percent). That has shot up to 15.2 percent this postseason, thanks in large part to shaky closer Craig Kimbrel (6 1/3 innings, six walks), plus Matt Barnes (6 1/3 innings, six walks), Heath Hembree (3 1/3 innings, four walks) and Ryan Brasier (7 innings, four walks).

Video: ALCS Gm5: Kimbrel earns the save to clinch pennant

The Dodgers are well equipped to take advantage of continued strike-zone issues, having led the Majors in walk rate this season (10.2 percent). The Brewers ranked 16th, at 8.6 percent. Notably, L.A. also swung at the lowest percentage of all opponent pitches (43.5 percent) and had the lowest chase rate out of the zone (23.8 percent), so don't expect the Dodgers to help out opponents struggling with their control.

4. The Dodgers' starting rotation can go toe-to-toe with Boston
Ryu struggled in the NLCS but was terrific in the NL Division Series and had a 1.97 ERA during the regular season. Hill, who resurrected his career with Boston late in 2015, is a savvy veteran. Walker Buehler has dynamic stuff and posted a 2.62 ERA as a rookie. And most importantly, Kershaw shook off a rough start in Game 1 of the NLCS -- and the narrative surrounding his postseason performance -- to dominate Milwaukee in Game 5. The Brewers, of course, have run their pitching staff in a non-traditional fashion this postseason, out of necessity. It has worked. With that said, Gonzalez's injury erases one option for Milwaukee, which will have used its top two starters (Miley and Chacin) in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS, respectively. It's reasonable to wonder if the experiment could hold up through yet another round against Boston's stellar offense, which just rolled over Houston.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw fans 9 over 7 IP, scores run in win

5. The Brewers' bullpen might hit a wall
This is related to the last point, but it's worth considering on its own. This postseason, Dodgers relievers have thrown 37 1/3 innings, or about 42 percent of the team's total. Brewers relievers have thrown 53 2/3 innings, or about 63 percent of the team's total, although the bullpening strategy blurs that line, somewhat.

More to the point, Milwaukee has leaned on its top bullpen arms. Josh Hader (six games, seven innings), Corey Knebel (eight games, 9 1/3 innings), Jeffress (seven games, 6 2/3 innings), Joakim Soria (seven games, 4 2/3 innings) and Corbin Burnes (six games, nine innings) have gotten a lot of work at the end of a long season, with Jeffress and Soria enduring some significant struggles along the way. This group figures to go all out in Game 7 of the NLCS, with Hader, in particular, almost certain to log multiple innings. If so, there could be a price to pay in a matchup with the Sox.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Aguilar, 'pen spark Brewers to force Game 7

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Boston Red Sox

Trade bait? These players could be

All four LCS teams had highest share of production from swaps
MLB.com @mike_petriello

There's more than one way to build a contending team, obviously. Just look at how the four clubs that reached the League Championship Series this year constructed their rosters.

They can all point to successes in the Draft, both high picks (like first-rounders Walker Buehler and Andrew Benintendi) and low (11th-rounder Joc Pederson or 33rd-rounder Tyler White). They've hit it big by spending in free agency, like with J.D. Martinez or Lorenzo Cain. They all have plenty of examples of little-noticed minor moves that ended up producing surprising breakout stars, like Jesus Aguilar, Justin Turner or Max Muncy, and they've all found gems on the international market, either professionally (like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda) or as amateurs (like Xander Bogaerts, Jose Altuve and Yasiel Puig).

There's more than one way to build a contending team, obviously. Just look at how the four clubs that reached the League Championship Series this year constructed their rosters.

They can all point to successes in the Draft, both high picks (like first-rounders Walker Buehler and Andrew Benintendi) and low (11th-rounder Joc Pederson or 33rd-rounder Tyler White). They've hit it big by spending in free agency, like with J.D. Martinez or Lorenzo Cain. They all have plenty of examples of little-noticed minor moves that ended up producing surprising breakout stars, like Jesus Aguilar, Justin Turner or Max Muncy, and they've all found gems on the international market, either professionally (like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda) or as amateurs (like Xander Bogaerts, Jose Altuve and Yasiel Puig).

The point is that there's no one right way to do this. You have to add talent any way you can, and the best teams take those players and make them better. But there is one common thread running through these four clubs, one that could inform you about what to expect in the upcoming Hot Stove season. Each of them added about a third of their team value this year via trade. Each of them has found more value in trade than they have in free agency. 

Think about the names we're seeing on the final four clubs acquired via trade. When we point out that huge names Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Christian Yelich, Gerrit Cole, Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, Rick Porcello, Manny Machado, Chris Taylor, Travis Shaw, Corey Knebel, Rich Hill and Mike Moustakas all initially landed with their current club via trade, we're just scratching the surface -- there's also Ryan Pressly, Joe Kelly, Enrique Hernandez, Brock Holt, Steve Pearce and so many others.

In fact, if you look at breakdowns of the different avenues of how each team acquired production this year (expressed in Wins Above Replacement), you can see that for each of our final four teams -- and Major League Baseball as a sport -- the largest share of 2018 production was procured via trade.

Obviously, free agency still has a big role. Cain and Martinez are probably the two largest success stories of teams being aggressive and spending for free agents from last offseason (as we attempted to point out at the time), and the final four have also benefited from Jhoulys Chacin, David Price, Mitch Moreland, Josh Reddick, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon and others. This offseason, Machado, Bryce Harper and Patrick Corbin are going to get enormous contracts -- and they're going to deserve them.

But the once-historic 2018-19 free-agent class no longer looks quite so dynamic, thanks to age and injury. When we look back at last offseason, some of the biggest moves ended up coming via trades -- Yelich and Cole, but also Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Andrew McCutchen, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Kemp, Corey Dickerson, Joey Wendle and Dee Gordon. At least part of the reason is access to younger stars, since baseball has been trending towards youth for years.

All of which is to say that while we focus on Harper and Machado this offseason, the most interesting action might not be in who signs McCutchen, Andrew Miller, Zach Britton or Adam Jones. It might be in who makes the best trade, like Milwaukee did for Yelich. Here are 15 potential names to keep in mind.

C J.T. Realmuto, Marlins
Ever since the Marlins tore it down last offseason by trading Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna and Gordon, the question has been whether they'd continue by trading Realmuto (.277/.340/.484, 21 home runs), who has two seasons left before free agency and is probably the best all-around catcher in the game. It would be nice if Miami could build around him, but if it can't sign him to an extension, we're going to hear his name in many rumors.

Video: Frisaro on Marlins' offseason plans for Realmuto

Working in the Marlins' favor is that the state of catching in the game right now is weak, with many clubs needing a boost, and likely top free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal has done himself no favors with his high-profile struggles in the postseason. Wilson Ramos and Jonathan Lucroy are available as well, but neither is of Realmuto's caliber.

Possible fits: Rays, Red Sox, Nationals, Astros, Rockies, Brewers, Braves

SP Madison Bumgarner, Giants
This can't happen until the Giants name a new general manager, and in some ways it's difficult to envision the new hire arriving and immediately trying to move such an iconic player. Then again, the reason San Francisco even needs a new GM in the first place is that it has finished last and fourth in the past two years. Since the 2016 All-Star break, only the Orioles and White Sox have fewer wins. Change is coming -- and Bumgarner becomes a free agent after 2019.

Video: LAD@SF: Bumgarner K's Kemp to avoid early damage

Possible fits: Yankees, Braves, Angels, Astros, Brewers, Nationals

3B Nolan Arenado, Rockies
We'll admit that the Rockies don't seem likely to want to move Arenado, especially since their weak offense was already an issue even with him, and their main goal ought to be a long-term extension to keep him in Denver alongside Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, and a good young starting rotation for many years to come. That said, he's entering his final year before free agency, and if they can't reach an agreement, they might not want to simply watch him leave next offseason -- and young Ryan McMahon is ready now.

Possible fits: Phillies, Braves, Indians (if Jose Ramirez plays second), Cardinals, Angels

Video: NL WC: Arenado robs Bryant on remarkable diving stop

1B Paul Goldschmidt, D-Backs
1B Jose Abreu, White Sox
1B Brandon Belt, Giants
1B/RF Jose Martinez, Cardinals
1B Carlos Santana/Justin Bour, Phillies

Let's toss in all of these first basemen together, for one very big reason: the list of free-agent first basemen this offseason is grim. Pearce, Lucas Duda and Matt Adams have their uses, but there might not be a single starting quality first baseman out there. If you want one, you'll need to get one via trade.

In some cases, these are strong hitters in their 30s entering the final years of their contracts (Goldschmidt, Abreu). In others, it's the Phillies desperately needing to move one or both of Santana or Bour to allow Rhys Hoskins to come back to first from the outfield, improving the defense. The Cardinals would do well to find an American League home for the defensively challenged Martinez, while the Giants, if they decide to move Bumgarner, might just want to do it all and trade the constantly underrated Belt too.

Possible fits: Red Sox, Angels, Mariners, Yankees, Twins, Rockies

LF Kyle Schwarber, Cubs
Yes, Schwarber will forever be a legend in Chicago because of what he did in the 2016 World Series, but there was an argument to trade him that offseason, and there remains one today, especially since the firing of hitting coach Chili Davis seems unlikely to be the only change made to what ended up being an unsatisfying offense.

Video: CIN@CHC: Schwarber's homer leads to limbo in 'pen

While Schwarber did improve his defense somewhat, he's turned out to be more of a good player than a great one, with large career platoon splits (.349 OBP/.509 SLG vs righties, just .300 OBP/.308 SLG vs lefties) and probably better suited to some time at DH in the AL -- especially if the Cubs can get pitching in return. He still has three more years left before free agency.

Possible fits: Astros, Rays, Twins, Mariners (if free agent Nelson Cruz departs)

RF Nicholas Castellanos, Tigers
Speaking of corner outfielders who rely far more on slugging value than defense, Castellanos has one more year before free agency, and he just hit .298/.354/.500 with 23 home runs for Detroit. (Along with negative-25 Outs Above Average, the lowest mark in the game.) The rebuilding Tigers are unlikely to contend in his final year, and he would also fit best on an AL team looking to add some slugging and has DH time available. 

Possible fits: Astros, Rays, Twins, Mariners

2B Scooter Gennett, Reds
2B/OF Whit Merrifield, Royals
2B Cesar Hernandez, Phillies

Need a second baseman? There are actually decent options in the free-agent market -- DJ LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, Brian Dozier or Daniel Murphy -- but teams might also be interested in this younger trio, who are team-controlled for one (Gennett), two (Hernandez), or four (Merrifield) years. 

Video: CLE@KC: Merrifield singles to take MLB lead in hits

If it's power you want, Gennett turned himself from a light-hitting Brewer into a slugging Red, putting up a line of .303/.351/.508 and 50 home runs over the past two years. Merrifield doesn't have that power, but he's stolen 79 bases in 2017-18 and can also play the outfield, to go with his .296/.347/.449 line. Hernandez has spent the past three years as a league-average bat, setting a career-high with 15 homers in 2018, and the Phillies might be motivated to make room to get Scott Kingery back to his natural second-base position.

Possible fits: Dodgers, Indians, Nationals, Red Sox, Twins, Rockies

SP Jon Gray, Rockies
Finally, a change-of-scenery starter. Gray looked like he'd be the next Rockies ace, but he's clearly been surpassed by Kyle Freeland and German Marquez, and he didn't even make Colorado's National League Division Series roster. It's not even about Coors Field in Gray's case, because his career splits are about even. It's that he's been so up and down in his short career that he was even sent to the Minors last summer, yet still had a strikeout rate (24.6 percent) as high as Noah Syndergaard or Clayton Kershaw.

Gray wouldn't come cheaply, because he's still young, talented and would come with three more years of control before free agency. Then again, this could be a good avenue for the Rockies to add the offense or relief pitching they badly need, and a team like the Astros might do wonders to bring out the best in Gray.

Possible fits: Astros, Twins, A's, Brewers, Cubs, Nationals, Mariners

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

Orlando Arcia's acrobatic lunge and dramatic yell on an up-and-in pitch was the stuff of action movies

In the bottom of the seventh inning of Friday's NLCS Game 6 at Miller Park, Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia was locked in. Trying to add to the Brewers' lead over the Dodgers, he was facing right-hander Kenta Maeda and looking to do some damage.

So when Maeda threw a fastball up and in, it caught Arcia off guard, and he reacted in kind ... with a dramatic shout and backwards lunge that wouldn't be out of place in a stylized action movie. 

Rumors: Morton, Brantley, Myers, J. Gray, Braves

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 

Morton, Keuchel among Astros' key free agents
Oct. 19: After their hopes of back-to-back World Series titles were dashed by the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Astros now turn their attention to an offseason in which they have a number of key free-agent decisions to make.

The rotation could have a different look next season, with Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel entering free agency. Morton has pondered retirement, but he indicated that he'd like to continue his career after Thursday's season-ending loss.

"I'd love to keep playing, I'd love to be an Astro," Morton said, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. "I'd love to be part of this again. Ultimately, it's not really up to me. It's not solely up to me."

Tweet from @Chandler_Rome: Charlie Morton, who is 34 and a pending free agent: ���I���d love to keep playing, I���d love to be an Astro. I���d love to be part of this again. Ultimately, it���s not really up to me. It���s not solely up to me.���

If Morton decides he wants to come back for one more season, he might be open to accepting a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to finish his career with Houston. Keuchel, though, is expected to seek a multi-year deal.

Houston does have several internal options who could step into the rotation if needed, including Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh, Josh James and top prospect Forrest Whitley.

On the other side of the ball, the Astros' don't have to worry about losing anyone from their core of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer, but utility man Marwin Gonzalez is set for free agency. Houston could look to bring Gonzalez back, as his ability to play all over the diamond while providing above-average offensive production (112 wRC+ from 2014-18) makes him an important part of the roster.

The Astros are also expected to have some turnover at the catching position, with Martin Maldonado headed for free agency and Brian McCann's $15 million club option unlikely to be picked up. Evan Gattis will be a free agent as well, though he made just two appearances behind the plate in 2018. The Astros will probably let Gattis walk, opening up more at-bats for Tyler White at designated hitter in 2019.

To address their need at catcher, Houston could pursue Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos in free agency, or explore a trade for the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto.

What will Indians' outfield look like in 2019?
Oct. 19: With Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall set to hit the open market, the Indians have question marks at all three starting outfield spots for next season. As a result, Brantley is a logical candidate to receive the $17.9 million qualifying offer, in the opinion of MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.

After getting just 101 games and 1.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), per FanGraphs, from Brantley over 2016-17, the Indians nonetheless exercised his $12 million option for '18. The move worked out, as Brantley made the All-Star team and produced 3.5 WAR. Brantley also recorded 10.0 WAR from '14-15, so his '18 production wasn't out of the blue.

Moreover, Bastian thinks the Indians could pursue free agent Andrew McCutchen if Brandon Guyer's $3 million option isn't picked up. Guyer's primary role was to platoon against southpaws, and he posted a 120 wRC+ in those situations this past season, compared to a 34 mark vs. righties. McCutchen performed well vs. lefties (128 wRC+) and righties (118 wRC+) in '18, so he wouldn't need to be held to a strict platoon role. More >

Trading Myers a potential option for Padres this offseason
Oct. 19: With first baseman Eric Hosmer signed to a long-term deal and Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe staking claim to the corner-outfield spots, the Padres don't have an obvious position for Wil Myers in 2019.

San Diego has an opening at third base, but Myers struggled defensively in limited action at the position this past season. Although Myers could improve as he gains more experience at the hot corner, he likely brings the most value to the club as a left fielder.

As a result, MLB.com's AJ Cassavell expects general manager A.J. Preller to explore a trade this offseason that would clear some of the outfield logjam.

Dealing Myers makes the most sense for the small-market Padres, but his contract -- Myers is owed $74 million from 2019-22, with most of that coming in the latter three years -- could be a deterrent. San Diego would also be selling low, as Myers played just 83 games this past season. Thus, Preller might have to trade Reyes or Renfroe instead to fix the situation.

"We'll get into the offseason and talk about what's the best configuration for our club," Preller said. "We have some depth at different positions that I'm sure will be discussed with other teams as well. ... [We'll] figure out what's the best mix." More >

Could Rockies look to trade Gray?
Oct. 19: The Rockies' rotation was surprisingly a strength of the team in 2018, with Kyle Freeland and German Marquez enjoying breakout seasons, but Opening Day starter Jon Gray was a disappointment.

Although he fanned 183 batters, Gray allowed more earned runs than anyone in the National League (98), posting a 5.12 ERA over 172 1/3 innings. His FIP was much lower at 4.08, mirroring a career trend (lifetime 3.68 FIP, 4.65 ERA).

The right-hander has shown flashes of ace potential in four big league campaigns, but he hasn't put it all together yet, and his future role is a major question mark for Colorado.

According to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, the Rockies didn't act on the inquiries they received about Gray before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But with Gray's tantalizing stuff and three remaining years of team control, the trade requests aren't likely to go away this offseason. And after Gray was left off the NLDS roster, Colorado might be more open to dealing him this time around.

Braves could be active on trade market, may take cautious approach to free agency
Oct. 19: While the Braves may have at least $60 million to address their multiple needs, which include a catcher, a corner outfielder, bullpen depth and a frontline starter, they may take a cautious approach to the free-agent market to avoid deals that hinder them down the road.

"We're not going to just walk in the store and buy because we have money in our pockets," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "If we don't find the right deal with something we like, there's still other opportunities to shop. There could be opportunities next season. If you start signing guys to big, long deals, if you feel good about the deal, you do it now. I wouldn't force a deal right now that would limit you in years from now."

Atlanta, though, could be active on the trade market, as the club has significant prospect depth from which to deal. Exploring a trade for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto could be a top priority.

Of course, that doesn't mean the Braves should be completely ruled out as potential suitors for some of the top free agents on the market. While they are unlikely to make offers to Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, they could target left-hander Patrick Corbin, or potentially seek a reunion with closer Craig Kimbrel. Both hurlers would fill needs for the club.

Atlanta also hasn't ruled out re-signing right fielder Nick Markakis or catcher Kurt Suzuki, though they would prefer to add a surefire starting catcher so Tyler Flowers can move to a backup role.

"I don't think with our club, with what we have, that the value is going to be there in the free-agent market," Anthopoulos said. "It doesn't mean it won't. We'll certainly explore it. But if I could sit here in the middle of October, I'd say it's more likely we go the trade route. It's not ideal to give up young assets, but it's also not ideal to do a deal you don't believe in -- that may look good for a year or two, and then in years three, four and five, it does not." More >

Cardinals eyeing left-handed relievers
Oct. 19: The bullpen was a weak spot for the Cardinals in 2018, even with the emergence of flamethrowing Jordan Hicks and a strong campaign from Bud Norris, who was signed to a Minor League contract before the season. The left side was particularly troublesome, and as a result, St. Louis is expected to make improving that area a priority this offseason.

The free-agent market will have several options who fit that bill, including Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Tony Sipp and Justin Wilson.

In recent years, the Cardinals haven't done well when giving Major League deals to free-agent relievers. In fact, St. Louis committed a total of $68.25 million combined to Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, Luke Gregerson, Brett Cecil and Seunghwan Oh for a cumulative WAR of 0.3.

But president of baseball operations John Mozeliak indicated that the club's lack of past success in that area won't be a deterrent in the coming months.

"We did choose to [be aggressive in that market] a few years back, and it has not been a home run. We get it," Mozeliak said. "That's not going to create some paralysis for us now. We understand the volatility of it. And trying to get it right is what we're going to continue to do." More >

Kimbrel delivers first scoreless appearance of 2018 postseason in ALCS Game 5
Oct. 19: The Red Sox beat the Astros, 4-1, in ALCS Game 5 on Thursday to win the American League pennant and advance to the World Series, with closer Craig Kimbrel throwing a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Red Sox win the American League pennant

It was Kimbrel's first scoreless appearance of the entire postseason. Although he is 5-for-5 in save chances, the right-hander has allowed five runs over 6 ⅓ innings while yielding six hits, six walks and two hit batsmen in this year's playoffs. With Kimbrel struggling on a big stage, it's fair to wonder how much he has hurt 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 -- especially if he can rebound in the Fall Classic.

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 >

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.

Longest stretches between WS appearances

MLB.com @AndrewSimonMLB and @mattkellyMLB

Ronald Reagan was president, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts ruled the airwaves and "E.T." was phoning home the last time the Brewers played in the World Series. But after a 7-2 victory over the Dodgers on Friday night, Milwaukee is just one win away from finally turning the clocks forward.

It's been 36 years since the powerful "Harvey's Wallbangers" lineup -- which included Gorman Thomas, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Cecil Cooper, and stud pitchers Pete Vuckovich and Rollie Fingers -- led the Brewers to the 1982 American League pennant before falling to the Cardinals in seven games. The Fall Classic hasn't been back to Wisconsin since, but if it does return this year, Milwaukee's 36-year wait would constitute the fifth-longest stretch in MLB history for a franchise between World Series appearances.

Ronald Reagan was president, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts ruled the airwaves and "E.T." was phoning home the last time the Brewers played in the World Series. But after a 7-2 victory over the Dodgers on Friday night, Milwaukee is just one win away from finally turning the clocks forward.

It's been 36 years since the powerful "Harvey's Wallbangers" lineup -- which included Gorman Thomas, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Cecil Cooper, and stud pitchers Pete Vuckovich and Rollie Fingers -- led the Brewers to the 1982 American League pennant before falling to the Cardinals in seven games. The Fall Classic hasn't been back to Wisconsin since, but if it does return this year, Milwaukee's 36-year wait would constitute the fifth-longest stretch in MLB history for a franchise between World Series appearances.

Here's a quick look at the few fanbases who had to wait longer than Crew fans to see their club make it back to the game's biggest stage.

1. Cubs: 71 years (1945-2016)
Billy goats, black cats, Gatorade gloves and Steve Bartman. North Siders had no shortage of reasons to believe their team was cursed throughout the majority of the 20th century, which saw the Cubs last win it all in 1908. Chicago made it back to the Series, and lost, seven more times between then and '45, when they fell to the Tigers in a seven-game series that spawned that famous Curse of the Billy Goat. Then the drought really began, as the Cubs notably blew commanding leads in both the '84 and 2003 National League Championship Series before the tides finally turned with stars Jon Lester, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo -- and an almighty Game 7 rain delay -- in 2016.

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Cubs win World Series with Game 7 win

2. White Sox: 46 years (1959-2005) and 40 years (1919-59)
Many South Siders believed their own team suffered from a curse -- that of the scandalous Black Sox in 1919 -- though there was plenty of bad baseball mixed in, too. The White Sox finished as high as second place just once between '20 and '56, before Hall of Fame manager Al Lopez began turning the 'Go Go Sox' into form.

Fellow Hall of Famers Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Early Wynn and Billy Pierce captured the AL pennant for Chicago in 1959, but could not defeat the Dodgers in the World Series. The White Sox suffered through three more postseason exits before finally ending their 88-year championship drought with a commanding performance in Oct. 2005, when they lost just one game over three series.

Video: 2005 WS Gm4: Chicago White Sox are World Champions

3 (tie). Athletics: 41 years (1931-72)
Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack famously built two separate dynasties in Philadelphia, and then sold many of each dynasty's star players in the years following. After losing their third straight World Series appearance to the Cardinals in seven games in 1931, the A's fell to last place within a span of four years and largely stayed in the second division through the next several decades.

A move to Kansas City in 1955 did little to change the fortunes of the A's, who were largely viewed as a quasi-farm team for the mighty Yankees throughout the decade. But eccentric owner Charlie Finley bought the club in '60 and, slowly, turned the club around. The A's drafted Reggie Jackson with the second overall pick in '66, moved west to Oakland in '68 and became the second franchise to win three straight World Series by the end of '74.

Video: 1972 WS Gm7: A's win World Series

3 (tie). Indians: 41 years (1954-95)
Behind the likes of shortstop Lou Boudreau, outfielder Larry Doby, and pitchers Bob Lemon and Bob Feller, the 1948 Indians soared to 97 wins and a championship. The club remained a force in the years to come, finishing in the top two in the AL six more times form '49-'56, including 111 victories and a pennant in '54 -- when the New York Giants swept the Tribe in the World Series. But there rough times in Cleveland after that. Between 1960-93, the Indians finished higher than fourth just once (third in '68). Finally, the franchise struck gold again in the mid-90s behind a terrific core of position players, including Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel. After coming in second in the new AL Central division in the 1994 strike year, Cleveland stormed to 100 wins in '95 before eventually falling to the Braves in the Fall Classic.

5. Brewers: 36 years (1982-present)

6. Braves: 34 years (1914-48)
The Braves' drought came two cities ago. Before Atlanta, and before Milwaukee, the Braves began in Boston, where they finished off a sweep of the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1914 World Series. But the Braves went into a funk after that, back when only the winner of the eight-team National League advanced the Fall Classic. After placing second and third in 1915 and '16, the franchise didn't place better than fourth again until '47. The '48 club then won 91 games to beat out the Cardinals for the NL pennant, behind a starting rotation led by the famous duo of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain. However, the Braves fell to the Indians in the World Series, and five years later departed for Milwaukee.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Postseason Picture: There's a Game 7 tonight

MLB.com

For the first time in the 2018 postseason, there will be a Game 7, as the Dodgers and Brewers square off in one game for the National League pennant on Saturday night after Milwaukee beat Los Angeles, 7-2, in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series at Miller Park on Friday. Jesus Aguilar drove in three runs with a pair of doubles and an eighth-inning single to cap the scoring. 

The Red Sox won the American League pennant with a 4-1 victory over the defending World Series champion Astros in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on Thursday night. Starter David Price was dominant over six innings, and Rafael Devers belted a three-run homer in the sixth as Boston advanced to its first World Series since 2013. Price yielded only three hits and struck out a postseason career-high nine.

For the first time in the 2018 postseason, there will be a Game 7, as the Dodgers and Brewers square off in one game for the National League pennant on Saturday night after Milwaukee beat Los Angeles, 7-2, in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series at Miller Park on Friday. Jesus Aguilar drove in three runs with a pair of doubles and an eighth-inning single to cap the scoring. 

The Red Sox won the American League pennant with a 4-1 victory over the defending World Series champion Astros in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on Thursday night. Starter David Price was dominant over six innings, and Rafael Devers belted a three-run homer in the sixth as Boston advanced to its first World Series since 2013. Price yielded only three hits and struck out a postseason career-high nine.

Here is a full breakdown of where things stand, with key dates for the LCS and World Series, as well as a complete breakdown of home-field advantage through the Fall Classic. 

Bracket

NL Championship Series (2-3-2 format): Dodgers vs. Brewers (series tied, 3-3)
Game 7, Saturday at 8:09 p.m. ET on FS1

It all comes down to one game for the NL pennant, with the Dodgers seeking to reach the World Series for the second consecutive year, and the Brewers seeking their first Fall Classic berth since their only appearance in 1982, when they lost to the Cardinals in seven games.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Brewers plate 4 runs in the 1st on FS1

Los Angeles will turn to rookie right-hander Walker Buehler with a trip to the World Series on the line. Buehler was strong during the regular season, posting a 2.62 ERA in 24 appearances (23 starts), as well as the NL West tiebreaker with the Rockies, in which he tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings. But the 24-year-old has struggled so far in the postseason, having given up nine runs in 12 innings (6.75 ERA) between starts in the NL Division Series against the Braves and the NLCS against the Brewers. In NLCS Game 4, he gave up four runs in seven innings in a 4-0 loss.

The Brewers will give the ball to veteran right-hander Jhoulys Chacin as they try to advance to the World Series for the second time in franchise history. Chacin has been stellar in his first postseason, tossing 10 1/3 scoreless frames in two starts, one in the NLDS against the Rockies and one in NLCS Game 3 at Dodger Stadium.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Knebel fans Machado to escape jam on FS1

Both clubs had to go to their bullpens early on in Game 6, with Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu going three innings, and the Brewers' Wade Miley going 4 1/3. But dominant left-hander Josh Hader hasn't been called upon since Game 4, and Clayton Kershaw, who started Games 1 and 5, will be available should the Dodgers need him in relief.

The last time the Dodgers played in a Game 7 of a postseason series was in last year's World Series loss to the Astros. Los Angeles last played an NLCS Game 7 in 1988, beating the Mets en route to an eventual World Series victory over the A's. The only postseason Game 7 in which the Brewers have ever played was Game 7 of the 1982 World Series against the Cardinals, a 6-3 loss.

World Series presented by YouTube TV (2-3-2 format)
Red Sox vs. Dodgers or Brewers, Game 1 at Fenway Park on Tuesday at 8:09 p.m. ET on FOX

Boston has reached the Fall Classic for the first time in five years, and for the fourth time since breaking an 86-year drought by sweeping the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series. The Red Sox have won in each of their last three trips to the World Series ('04, '07 and '13), and haven't lost a World Series since 1986 against the Mets. The only current Red Sox player who was on the roster the last time Boston was in the World Series is Dustin Pedroia, who played in only three games this season due to a knee injury, and won't return until 2019.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Devers clubs clutch 3-run HR off Verlander

With ace Chris Sale unable to start ALCS Game 5 because he was still recovering from a stomach ailment, the left-hander will be well-rested for a potential start in Game 1 of the World Series. In three appearances (two starts) this postseason (starts in ALDS Games 1 and ALCS Game 1), Sale has a 3.48 ERA, with opponents hitting .171 against him.

Home-field advantage in the World Series is no longer based on the result of the All-Star Game. Home field (Games 1-2 and 6-7) in this best-of-seven series goes to the team with the higher regular-season winning percentage, regardless of whether the team is a Wild Card winner or a Division Series winner. That's the Red Sox, whether they face the Dodgers or the Brewers, by virtue of Boston's 108-54 regular-season record.

Video: ALCS Gm5: J.D. Martinez smashes a solo HR to left

Though the Red Sox went 57-24 at Fenway Park during the regular season, they are 2-2 there this postseason, and undefeated so far on the road, clinching both the ALDS (Yankee Stadium) and the ALCS (Minute Maid Park) away from home.

Freese adds to Game 6 lore with leadoff HR

Dodgers first baseman also hits RBI double in 7-2 loss
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

MILWAUKEE -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a hunch about David Freese in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 7: Sat., 8:09 p.m. ET/5:09 PT on FS1

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MILWAUKEE -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a hunch about David Freese in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night.

NLCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 7: Sat., 8:09 p.m. ET/5:09 PT on FS1

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He started Freese at leadoff for just the fourth time in his 10-year career and the first time since 2016 -- ostensibly with matchups on his mind, but maybe history, too. Freese promptly opened the game by crushing a home run to right-center field against Brewers left-hander Wade Miley at Miller Park.

Freese doubled in the fifth inning to plate the Dodgers' only other run in the 7-2 loss, resulting in a decisive Game 7 on Saturday night.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Freese hammers an RBI double to left-cente

Freese has hit nine home runs in his postseason career, three of them in Game 6s. He went 3-for-4 with one home run and three RBIs in Game 6 of the 2011 NLCS, when the Cardinals beat the Brewers to clinch a trip to the World Series. He went 2-for-5 with one triple, one home run and three RBIs in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, when the Cardinals beat the Rangers in 11 innings, 10-9.

Freese tripled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to score two runs and tie the game against Texas. He then hit a walk-off homer against Mark Lowe in the 11th to win it.

Freese left the game in the fifth when pitcher Alex Wood entered the game, taking his spot in the lineup.

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, David Freese

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 br