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Betts' steal wins free tacos for America

Well, we didn't have to wait long. In what may have been the earliest Steal a Base, Steal a Taco of all-time, Mookie Betts stole a base in the bottom of the first inning (on the first pitch!) and now we all get free tacos from Taco Bell on Nov. 1:

We did a Sox-Dodgers draft, the No. 1 pick is ...

MLB.com

The fun of this World Series -- in addition to the gorgeous stadiums, historic franchises and rabid fan bases -- will be in its stars. This feels like one of those Fall Classics that we'll look back on in 30 years and marvel at how many legends played in it.

The fun of this World Series -- in addition to the gorgeous stadiums, historic franchises and rabid fan bases -- will be in its stars. This feels like one of those Fall Classics that we'll look back on in 30 years and marvel at how many legends played in it.

:: World Series schedule and results ::

So we thought: If we had the opportunity to put together a team just picking the best players from both the Red Sox and the Dodgers, to win one game, how would we do it? Thus, we got together MLB.com analyst Mike Petriello and MLB.com national correspondent Will Leitch to make them face off against each other. They each get to pick any player from the World Series roster for this one game.

The parameters: Eight position players, one designated hitter, one starter and three relievers for 13 roster spots. Leitch got the first pick. Who has the better team? One thing is for certain: There are almost too many great players to go around.

1. Will Leitch: Mookie Betts, CF, BOS
The first pick strikes me as a reasonable spot to pick the best all-around player in the postseason. I might play Betts in center field or I might play him in right … but I won't be playing him at second base.

2. Mike Petriello: Justin Turner, 3B, LAD
The Dodgers had a .612 winning percentage this season with Turner in the lineup and .483 without him. We're now a half-decade into his tenure as one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball.

Video: Turner on World Series return, matchup with Red Sox

3. Leitch: Chris Sale, SP, BOS
I know this is early, but Sale is the guy I want. Just don't get anything pierced, Chris.

4. Petriello: Manny Machado, SS, LAD
Including the postseason, Machado has 40 homers this year and seemingly as many controversies. He plays a better shortstop than you think he does, and along with Turner, I've locked down a huge advantage on the left side of the infield.

5. Leitch: J.D. Martinez, DH, BOS
This theoretical one-game playoff is at Fenway Park, so I don't have to hide Martinez in the field.

Video: J.D. Martinez on Red Sox's approach to hitting

6. Petriello: Cody Bellinger, OF/1B, LAD
Perhaps a risky choice here given his postseason struggles and the fact that Will will start the lefty Sale, but the talent is undeniable. And besides, how many players do you know who regularly play first base and center field? Who does that?

7. Leitch: Max Muncy, 1B, LAD
Roy Hobbs Muncy: Look out Fenway light poles.

8. Petriello: Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
In what almost seemed like a "down year" given another disabled list trip and much discussion about his declining velocity, Kershaw still managed a 2.73 ERA and two outstanding postseason starts in three tries -- not to mention closing out Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Video: Kershaw on the possibility of winning a World Series

9. Leitch: Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS
We expected Bogaerts to be a superstar so quickly that we've totally slept on how quietly great he has become.

10. Petriello: Andrew Benintendi, LF, BOS
The familiarity with the Green Monster helps, but Benintendi mainly feels like he does everything well, if nothing particularly great.

11. Leitch: Yasiel Puig, RF, LAD
For some reason, it feels like I need to keep Puig and Sale on the same team. (And probably still separated.)

Video: NLCS Gm7: Puig smashes 3-run homer to center in 6th

12. Petriello: Kenley Jansen, RP, LAD
We need three relievers apiece, so I'll start by grabbing the one who certainly looks like he's shaken off his season-long struggles to resemble his formerly great self again. In 19 games since Sept. 1, including the postseason, Jansen has a 1.89 ERA, a .152 batting average against and a 25:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That'll play.

13. Leitch: Rafael Devers, 3B, BOS
Devers turns 22 on Wednesday. He's going to be in this league so long it will someday seem impossible to imagine him this young.

14. Petriello: Craig Kimbrel, RP, BOS
Kimbrel and the Red Sox insist that he's fixed a pitch-tipping issue that led to some of his problems this month, and if that's true, then I have two of the best closers who ever lived at near full strength on my team.

Video: Braun talks with Kimbrel on MLB Tonight

15. Leitch: Yasmani Grandal, C, LAD
It has been a rough postseason so far … but the breakout is coming.

16. Petriello: Enrique Hernandez, UT, LAD
Hernandez is my second baseman almost by default -- Ian Kinsler hasn't hit in two years, Brian Dozier has been totally forgotten and Brock Holt won't play against lefties -- but that undersells him, since he can play all over and finally hit righties this year.

17. Leitch: Pedro Baez, RP, LAD
Probably time to start grabbing some relievers. You'll notice my pattern here: I like veterans.

18. Petriello: Jackie Bradley Jr., CF, BOS
With Bellinger, Benintendi and now Bradley, my outfield defense is outstanding, and Bradley has started to slug, too. He's hitting .260/.344/.489 since the All-Star break, postseason included.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Bradley Jr. named MVP of the ALCS

19. Leitch: Matt Barnes, RP, BOS
Putting my faith here in the lifelong New Englander.

20. Petriello: Steve Pearce, DH/1B, BOS
Pearce has long been one of the better lefty-mashers in the game, which I like against Sale, and he's a perfectly capable first baseman, too.

21. Leitch: Eduardo Rodriguez, RP, BOS
Gotta have a lefty specialist … so I'll go with the qualified starter.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Rodriguez strikes out Springer to end game

22. Petriello: Ryan Brasier, RP, BOS
Now I have a bullpen of Jansen, Kimbrel and the rookie who has allowed eight runs in 49 2/3 innings (postseason included) this year. Good luck with that.

23. Leitch: Joc Pederson, LF, LAD
Pederson may go 0-for-4 to start the game and then blast a three-run home run when I need it most.

24. Petriello: Chris Taylor, UT, LAD
Along with Hernandez and Bellinger, I now have the flexibility to cover any spot on the field, and Taylor can slug a bit as well. With Pearce likely playing DH in the American League park, I might end up with Hernandez at first and Taylor at second. It doesn't matter. No one stays put at one spot for long.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Taylor robs Yelich to save a run

25. Leitch: Ian Kinsler, 2B, BOS
This is a seasoned vet who surely has one big postseason moment left in him.

26. Petriello: Austin Barnes, C, LAD
That's right, I picked the nominal "backup" Dodgers catcher instead of any Boston catcher, but that's because no Red Sox catcher can hit and I'm not convinced Grandal is actually going to start ahead of Barnes anyway.

Tweet from @mike_petriello: So @williamfleitch and I drafted teams of #RedSox & #Dodgers for a hypothetical one-game playoff. Who did a better job?https://t.co/cvvnmUwwEp

Leitch's team
Catcher: Grandal
Infielders: Muncy, Kinsler, Bogaerts, Devers
Outfielders: Pederson, Betts, Puig
Designated hitter: Martinez
Starting pitcher: Sale
Relief pitchers: Baez, Rodriguez, Barnes

Petriello's team
Catcher: Barnes
Infielders: Machado, Turner, Taylor, Hernandez
Outfielders: Bellinger, Benintendi, Bradley
Designated hitter: Pearce
Starting pitcher: Kershaw
Relief pitchers: Jansen, Kimbrel, Brasier

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

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

Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers

Double rainbow appears over Fenway before G1

They say you can find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But what if the pot of gold can mean any kind of treasure? Like, say, a World Series matchup of classic teams in America's oldest baseball stadium? Yeah, that sounds fitting. 

With rain falling throughout the day in Boston before clearing up in time for Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, Fenway Park played host to an amazing and beautiful rainbow cascading over the stadium: 

Roberts opts to sit Bellinger, start Hernandez

Able to come off bench for Game 1, NLCS MVP Award winner joins unique club
MLB.com

BOSTON -- The Dodgers come up with postseason lineups that break dramatically from tradition.

Brian Dozier got the leadoff start in Game 1 of the World Series, the fifth leadoff hitter manager Dave Roberts has used in the past five games. Roberts said he wanted to get Dozier as many at-bats as possible against Chris Sale, because Dozier is 12-for-47 with three homers in his career against the Red Sox lefty from his time with the Twins.

View Full Game Coverage

BOSTON -- The Dodgers come up with postseason lineups that break dramatically from tradition.

Brian Dozier got the leadoff start in Game 1 of the World Series, the fifth leadoff hitter manager Dave Roberts has used in the past five games. Roberts said he wanted to get Dozier as many at-bats as possible against Chris Sale, because Dozier is 12-for-47 with three homers in his career against the Red Sox lefty from his time with the Twins.

View Full Game Coverage

Then there's Cody Bellinger, who is the newest member of one of the most unique clubs in the history of baseball.

On Tuesday, he joined Atlanta outfielder (and former Dodger) Mike Devereaux as the only other non-pitcher to win the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award and not start Game 1 of the World Series. Devereaux, who was a primarily a bench player, made three starts during the 1995 NLCS. He drove in the game-winning run in Game 1 and hit a three-run home run in Game 4 against the Reds to win the prize. He played in five games off of the bench for the Braves in the World Series victory against the Indians.

It was a tough call for Roberts, who instead went with Enrique Hernandez in center field. Hernandez started against almost all opposing lefties this year, but he was 1-for-14 with eight strikeouts in the NLCS.

"I thought about it," Roberts said. "For anyone that has not seen Chris Sale is tough, but to be a left-handed hitter, just makes it that much tougher and we should not compromise defense with either decision."

It's worth noting that Fred Lynn won the ALCS MVP Award for the Angels in 1982, Mike Scott won the NLCS MVP Award in '86 and Jeffrey Leonard won the NLCS MVP Award for the Giants in '87, but those honors came while playing for the losing side.

Austin Barnes, who started five of the last six NLCS games after Yasmani Grandal's defensive meltdown in Game 1, started Game 1 of the World Series. But Roberts didn't rule out a start for Grandal before the World Series is over.

"I see it happening," Roberts said. "I don't know which game. Obviously, it's going to be predicated on how Austin is playing. That's one part of it. Seeing if there's a spot that makes sense to get Yasmani back in there. I expect him to still impact us in some way. We have some good players on the bench and I expect to use them all."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger

Cora: Chance that Betts starts at 2B 'very slim'

Manager reluctant to give up superstar's excellent defense in right field
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- The chances of Red Sox star right fielder Mookie Betts starting at second base when the World Series shifts to Los Angeles for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) have been downgraded to "very slim," according to manager Alex Cora.

Without the designated hitter at Dodger Stadium, moving Betts to second base would have allowed Cora to keep regular starting left fielder Andrew Benintendi and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in the outfield, along with star slugger J.D. Martinez (who made 93 starts at DH and 57 starts in the corner outfield spots this season), as Cora said Martinez will start every game in the World Series.

View Full Game Coverage

BOSTON -- The chances of Red Sox star right fielder Mookie Betts starting at second base when the World Series shifts to Los Angeles for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) have been downgraded to "very slim," according to manager Alex Cora.

Without the designated hitter at Dodger Stadium, moving Betts to second base would have allowed Cora to keep regular starting left fielder Andrew Benintendi and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in the outfield, along with star slugger J.D. Martinez (who made 93 starts at DH and 57 starts in the corner outfield spots this season), as Cora said Martinez will start every game in the World Series.

View Full Game Coverage

"He's the best defensive right fielder in the big leagues," said Cora. "He's not going to be the best defensive second baseman in the big leagues. You start moving a lot of parts, it looks like, obviously offensively, we can keep everybody together. But at the same time, is it worth it putting him at second?"

There could be occasions when Betts shifts to second base for an inning or two to accommodate in-game substitutions.

:: World Series schedule and results ::

"Kind of like [Chris] Taylor with [the Dodgers] and [Enrique] Hernandez," said Cora. "They move [them around]. There might be one inning when we feel like, 'OK, go to second, because we're going to hit.' And then we hit and then he'll go back to the outfield. But we have to be prepared."

• World Series G1: Lineups, matchups, FAQs

Ian Kinsler is Boston's primary starter at second base. Brock Holt plays there sometimes against righties.

Betts has gotten some work in at second base in the days leading up to the World Series, including a tutorial on turning double plays with Dustin Pedroia.

Dress for the Fall Classic: Shop AL champs gear

In 2014, his rookie season, Betts played 14 games at second when Pedroia was injured. He also played there six innings in a game this season when Kinsler left with an injury. Aside from that, Betts has been used exclusively in the outfield in the Majors. He's a two-time Gold Glove Award winner and is likely to win again this season.

"We don't throw too many ground balls, they don't hit too many ground balls," said Cora. "I'm not worried about him making the plays but in the outfield, he's that good. It's the World Series. I'm not going to complain about it. We knew the rules coming into the tournament a while ago that we were going to play X amount of games in the National League, and good for us that if it goes seven, we only play three over there."

So with Betts set to play the outfield, the question is who will come out of the lineup in Los Angeles. In Game 3, the Dodgers have a righty starting in Walker Buehler. If American League Championship Series MVP Bradley starts a road game, it would likely be Game 3.

The Dodgers are expected to start lefties in their other two home games. Bradley has a .546 OPS against lefties in 137 plate appearances this season, including the postseason. Benintendi, also a left-handed hitter, has a .700 OPS against lefties.

If Benintendi sits, Cora expects to play Martinez in left, Bradley in center and Betts in right. When Bradley sits, it will be Benintendi in left, Betts in center and Martinez in right.

No bullpen warmup this time for Price
Given that David Price's sparkling effort in Game 5 of the ALCS came a day after he threw extensively in the bullpen during the late innings of Game 4, it was fair to wonder if he would repeat that routine leading into his start in Wednesday's World Series Game 2.

"No, I'm not going to do that tonight. I had a good catch out there a little bit ago, so I'll carry that into tomorrow," said Price.

Price tends to throw more than other pitchers the day before he starts.

Video: Price on postseason outings, importance of starters

"Just something that makes my delivery just flow a little bit better, kind of puts my arm more on time for every throw. Just puts me in a position to execute every pitch," said Price.

For a change, Price enters a postseason series without having to talk about never having won a playoff start. He finally got that elusive victory in Game 5 at Houston.

"Yesterday we had media day. I got to look forward to it for the first time in a long time," said Price. "Today it's definitely a weight lifted off of me for sure. Not like food tastes better or anything like that. But it was time. And I'm definitely glad that the time came and we moved past it. And I look forward to doing the same thing tomorrow."

Family affair
For Cora, the World Series has turned into a family reunion. His daughter, mother and brother, Joey, who is a coach for the Pirates, were all in town.

How many family members are in Boston for the World Series?

"Too many. It's getting expensive," quipped Cora. "We've got 25, I think."

Video: Cora discusses Puerto Rican pride before World Series

Cora chuckled about the most avid baseball fan in his family -- his mother, Iris -- not attending the ALCS.

"She said, 'I'll see you in the World Series.' I got mad at her," said Cora. "Honestly. I was like, when I didn't see her, I thought she was playing -- 'I'm going to surprise him.' And then she didn't come, and I called her and I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' She said, 'I'm sorry.' I felt bad afterwards. 'World Series or bust.' That's what she said."

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

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts, David Price

Players choose their favorite playoff moments

MLB.com @castrovince

As the years pass, we forget so much of the postseason experience. We forget the debates over who should be the 25th man on a particular roster. We forget the name of the umpire who called that borderline pitch a ball in a big spot. We forget which form of snack food we consumed while stress-eating in the late innings. We forget the final scores and, heck, some of us even forget actual series outcomes.

What we're more likely to remember are single, signature moments -- huge hits, dramatic dingers, dazzling defensive gems that make us jump or fall out of our chair -- or vague-but-vivid tableaus from the overall experience.

As the years pass, we forget so much of the postseason experience. We forget the debates over who should be the 25th man on a particular roster. We forget the name of the umpire who called that borderline pitch a ball in a big spot. We forget which form of snack food we consumed while stress-eating in the late innings. We forget the final scores and, heck, some of us even forget actual series outcomes.

What we're more likely to remember are single, signature moments -- huge hits, dramatic dingers, dazzling defensive gems that make us jump or fall out of our chair -- or vague-but-vivid tableaus from the overall experience.

That's the stuff that survives.

So just before the start of another enthralling October, we asked a bunch of active Major Leaguers -- 85 in all, from a wide variety of teams -- for their favorite postseason moment of their lifetime. We got a lot of different answers, from commonly cited moments like the Derek Jeter "Flip Play" for the Yankees against the A's in the 2001 ALDS ("Such a weird, instinctual play," Rockies shortstop Trevor Story said) to not-so-commonly-cited ones like Carlos Guillen's walk-off push bunt to advance the Mariners past the White Sox in the 2000 ALDS ("That one I remember, because I was there with my dad, top deck, right behind the foul pole, with our backs against the glass at Safeco," Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd said) to more general takes on title runs ("Every single night growing up, we were tuned into Channel 23, TBS, to watch the Braves, so it was sick seeing them win it [in '95]," Red Sox pitcher David Price said).

:: World Series schedule and results ::

We can't list every single answer here, so we picked out 10 that elicited either the most or the best responses.

2011 World Series, Game 6: The David Freese Game

No surprise that Freese's elimination-game glory has a special place in the hearts and minds of many current players, though it is a little jarring to note how long ago -- in baseball years, at least -- this night really was.

"I was in high school in Venezuela," said Marlins right-hander Pablo Lopez, emphasizing that point.

Texas was up, 7-5, one strike away from its first World Series title with two aboard and Freese at the plate. But when Freese lifted a fly ball over the head of a leaping Nelson Cruz in right field to bring home both runners, it was a brand-new ballgame.

"I remember I had a big test the next day," Lopez continued. "I said I was going to go to bed early, but I was like, 'I'm going to watch the ninth inning.' Then it was a tie game, and I stayed up like two extra hours, because I couldn't stop watching that game. To me, that game was just, like, mind-blowing."

With sleep-deprived fans watching every second, Josh Hamilton's two-run homer in the 10th put the Rangers back ahead, but the Cardinals came roaring back again with Lance Berkman's two-out, two-strike, game-tying single in the bottom of the inning. And in the 11th, Freese permanently cemented his place in postseason lore with the leadoff, walk-off winner off Mark Lowe to set up Game 7.

Video: Freese's walk-off homer sends Series to Game 7

"He's pretty humble about it," said Pirates starter Jameson Taillon, who was a Minor Leaguer at the time but later became teammates with Freese. "But that type of moment can change your life. We were in St. Louis [recently], and they were interviewing people at the Ballpark Village across the street, asking, 'What's your favorite postseason moment?' Every person from age 20 to 80 said David Freese's home run. That's cool."

Nine players we surveyed picked Freese's heroics as their favorite postseason memory, so it "won" this poll.

Although, in the interest of full disclosure, one of those players was Freese himself.

"I'll tell you what," he said, "I enjoyed the triple more. People always talk about the homer, but that triple was sweet. Down to the last strike, last out, got it done. More importantly, the Game 7 finish to cap it off. Game 6 isn't as cool if we don't get it done."

2001 World Series, Game 7: The Luis Gonzalez Game-Winner

At a time when America needed a healthy diversion and distraction most, the World Series certainly delivered, with the D-backs and Yankees going the distance.

"There was a lot of stuff wrapped up in post-9/11 playoff baseball that year," said Nats reliever Sean Doolittle, one of three players to pick this moment. "So, I feel like the whole country was super invested in the playoffs and World Series, because the Yankees were in it and all of the storylines and everything. It was just such an emotional World Series, emotional playoffs."

And it all came down to the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, with the score knotted at 2, the bases loaded, one out and arguably the greatest closer in history -- Mariano Rivera -- on the mound. Luis Gonzalez swung at Rivera's 0-1 offering and hit the flare that found the outfield grass.

Video: Must C Classic: Gonzalez walks off, wins World Series

"Infield pulled in, Luis Gonzalez blooper base hit," Tigers catcher James McCann said. "I remember that one pretty vividly."

2004 ALCS: The Red Sox Comeback

Think about the gift this Sox team gave not just to Bostonians desperate to end an 86-year World Series title drought, but to a generation of ballplayers who now know nothing on the postseason stage is impossible. Because if a long-cursed club can come back from a 3-0 hole in a best-of-seven series against the juggernaut Yankees, why should anybody roll over?

That's why five players surveyed picked not just any one moment of this comeback (such as Johnny Damon's Game 7 grand slam), but the comeback itself.

"It was just so historic in that rivalry," Padres catcher Austin Hedges said. "I always loved the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, and that comeback, I've watched the [ESPN '30 for 30' documentary] on it like five times."

Video: ALCS Gm7: Damon extends the lead with a grand slam

Added Angels pitcher Justin Anderson: "If it's on TV, I'll always stop to watch it."

For Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill, a Boston native, that series was personal both then and now.

"Red Sox winning, with our manager [Dave Roberts] stealing second base," Hill said.

2005 National League Championship Series, Game 5: The Albert Pujols Homer

Back in that prehistoric era in which the Astros were still in the NL Central, they played two epic NLCS rounds against the Cardinals in 2004 and '05. The Cards prevailed in a seven-game thriller in '04 that, with the Red Sox and Yankees doing their aforementioned thing over in the AL, didn't get the eyes it deserved. In '05, the Astros got their revenge, but not before Pujols hit a home run bigger than the great state of Texas.

It was 4-2 Astros in the top of the ninth, two on, two out, with Brad Lidge on the hill and Pujols at the plate. Lidge got ahead 0-1, and then "The Machine" flipped on. Pujols hit the ball -- or what was left of it -- to the train tracks at Minute Maid Park to give the Cards the go-ahead run in a 5-4 win.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Pujols jacks a mammoth three-run shot

"People that were there say you could hear a pin drop, that it was dead silence," Brewers first baseman Eric Thames said. "Lidge was the most dominant closer in the game at that time."

That the Astros went on to win Game 6 feels almost trivial here, because, for a couple of surveyed players, the memories of the homer have somehow exceeded the memories of the ultimate series result.

"The swing," Thames said. "Bam! Smell ya! I can imagine being a player on that [Astros] team, and it was like your heart was ripped out."

Taillon -- who, yes, was already quoted earlier in this piece, but couldn't limit himself to just one memory -- was watching on TV from his Houston-area home and can attest to that feeling.

"I was, like, a fan fan, bigtime Astros fan," he said. "That one hurt."

2002 World Series, Game 2: The Barry Bonds Homer

The Giants lost this game. The Giants lost this Series. The "Rally Monkey" and his cohorts on the Angels would have the last laugh.

But when the game's most feared slugger hits a ball an estimated 485 foot for a solo shot in the ninth inning off one of the game's best closers in Troy Percival, people remember.

Video: 2002 WS Gm2: Bonds hits a monster shot to right field

Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez remembered.

"It disappeared in the sky," he said of Bonds' blast.

Actually, it went through a tunnel halfway up the right-field bleachers at Angel Stadium, bouncing off a concession stand.

"That was so impressive," Gonzalez continued. "The Giants are down in the ninth inning, and the guy just silenced the entire stadium when he hit that homer. That's a homer that I'll always remember."

2006 NLCS, Game 7: The Endy Chavez Catch

Back in the days before catch probabilities, the eye test was all we had to evaluate the difficulty of an outfield defensive gem. But we're pretty sure, all these years later, that our eyes did not deceive us on the night of Oct. 19, 2006.

What we thought then is still true now: Chavez's catch, which robbed Scott Rolen of a two-run home run in a 1-1 tie in the sixth, was incredible.

Video: NLCS Gm 7: Chavez makes a spectacular catch

Even though the Mets went on to lose that game after Yadier Molina's uncatchable homer in the ninth, Mets fans will always appreciate Chavez's great glovework and his throw to double up Jim Edmonds at first. And nobody in Shea Stadium that night was more appreciative than the man on the mound, Oliver Perez.

"You ask anybody, and they say it's one of the best moments in baseball," a present-day Perez said. "The way he jumped to the ball, that was amazing, because he's a shorter guy [5-foot-11]. To get that ball and get the double play was amazing."

2013 NL Wild Card Game: The Pittsburgh Crowd

When the Pirates advanced to the postseason for the first time in 21 years, it was an occasion fit for a party. But the sold-out crowd at PNC Park was dressed for a funeral, with all-black attire as the go-to garb. Between that intimidating attire and the sheer sound of a crowd expunging two decades of sub-.500 finishes from their memory, it was an atmosphere, from the introductions onward, that those who were on hand won't soon forget.

"Andrew McCutchen kind of led that team to the playoffs," then-Pirates reliever Jared Hughes said. "That moment when they called his name and he tipped his hat to the crowd and they went nuts is what I remember most."

Johnny Cueto had the unfortunate assignment as the starter for the visiting Reds, who never had an answer for the Pirates or the crowd in a 6-2 loss.

Video: NL WC: Pirates fans cause Cueto to drop the ball

"The crowd was electric," then-Pirates catcher Russell Martin remembered. "They were chanting Cueto's name, and Cueto ended up fumbling the ball on the mound and kind of started laughing. The next pitch, I hit a home run to extend our lead, 2-0. … The energy and the sound of the crowd as I was rounding the bases? I'll never forget that. It felt like the ground was shaking beneath me."

2015 ALDS, Game 5: The Jose Bautista Bat Flip

The Blue Jays and Rangers had staged a scintillating series, and it was 2-2 in the top of the seventh of the Game 5 finale, when the Rangers took the lead in the weirdest way imaginable (or, really, unimaginable). Martin, at catcher, was throwing the ball back to pitcher Aaron Sanchez, and the ball hit Shin-Soo Choo's bat and rolled toward third. Rougned Odor hustled home from third, and, after an 18-minute review of the situation, the umpires ruled it was, indeed, a live ball and the run counted.

"Just to think about the way they scored the go-ahead run," said Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar. "I had never felt lower on a baseball field."

But in the bottom of the inning, Bautista hit the three-run home run that they'll be talking about in Toronto for an eternity, with a bat flip that would both cause future fracases and cement his legend up north.

Video: Must C Clutch: Bautista's blast puts Blue Jays ahead

"Then, I had never been higher," Pillar added.

Heck, even at least one member of the losing team still gets goosebumps over this one.

"You felt the crowd, and it was special," then-rookie Ranger Nomar Mazara said. "We lost, but I had a great time."

2010 NLDS, Game 1: The Roy Halladay No-Hitter

Sometimes the thing that's not supposed to happen happens. Lineups that advance to October are, by default, good, and they have ample time to prepare for an opposing pitcher or, at the least, adjust to what he's doing in-game. It was one thing when Don Larsen, of all people, was perfect in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. But given the increasingly sophisticated video and statistical scrutiny of the opposition in the modern day and the overall decline of the complete game itself, an October no-hitter in more modern times just felt pretty impossible.

Until Roy Halladay did it on Oct. 6, 2010.

Video: CIN@PHI Gm 1: Halladay's historic 27 up and 27 down

"I was watching that game, and that was, like, unbelievable," Marlins third baseman Brian Anderson said. "I was watching that one all the way, watching how he attacked each hitter. I think that was really special to watch."

Halladay's gem has taken on added gravity in the wake of his tragic death last winter.

"I just remember him being part of so many underperforming teams and never being able to shine in the spotlight," Mets reliever Jerry Blevins said. "Then he gets a chance in the postseason and really proves what type of pitcher he is and on what level he is."

2016 World Series, Game 7: The Rajai Davis Homer, and the Cubs' Curse-Breaking 10th

Take a World Series matchup that features both 108-year and 68-year championship droughts, add a Game 7 that goes to extra innings, sprinkle in a little recency bias and it's no surprise that what happened at Progressive Field on the night of Nov. 2, 2016, garnered eight votes in our survey, including a few votes even from players who had nothing to do with it.

"I was in San Diego, sitting outside, and it was like 75 degrees," Pirates pitcher Steven Brault said. "Sitting outside on my parents' patio with a group of my family and a few of my friends watching the game, then the game was just incredible."

No moment from that game was more incredible than Davis' game-tying, did-that-really-just-happen dinger off Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the eighth. End result aside, that's still the moment that best defines the insanity of that evening.

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Davis ties game with clutch two-run homer

"That was a good pitch, 100 [mph] down and in, and he turned on it for a homer," White Sox pitcher Jace Fry said.

Added Twins catcher Chris Gimenez, who was with the Tribe then: "Everyone in the dugout blacked out. Nobody remembers it. I mean, we remember it, but next thing you know, we were on the field celebrating like we won the World Series."

In a true "fish in a barrel" situation, we asked Davis for his favorite postseason moment of all-time.

"That's my best one," he said with a smile. "I'm not being biased. It's just my favorite moment. If I told you how many times I've watched it, it wouldn't look good for me."

Knowing Davis' homer was bound to be the pick of every Indians player who was around in 2016, we thought we might get a little variety by posing our question to rookie pitcher Shane Bieber, who was still in the Minors back then.

Nope.

"Raj's home run," he said, beaming. "I was losing my mind that game. I was in San Jose at my buddy's house. I was just absolutely losing my mind between that homer and then the back and forth and the rain delay. The whole thing was crazy."

And of course, we surveyed a few Cubs, too. So… care to guess which moment 2016 World Series MVP Ben Zobrist went with as his postseason pick?

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Zobrist grinds out hit for go-ahead run

"Getting that hit down the line [to score the go-ahead run in the 10th]," Zobrist said. "They play it at Wrigley on the video before we run out on the field, and, every time I see it, I still get chills from that moment. It still reminds me of rounding first and getting to second and not being able to contain yourself, feeling the elation. I always think of that when I see it."

That's why we watch. And that's why we remember.

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

Machado unfazed by controversy, Fenway boos

MLB.com @RichardJustice

BOSTON -- Manny Machado was offered an opportunity to apologize. Or to, you know, set the record straight. On the eve of his first World Series, that would seem to be a nice little "kick the storyline down the road" way to go.

The Dodgers shortstop -- acquired from the Orioles at the All-Star break -- could have acknowledged what pretty much everyone in the game knows: At times, he has let his raging competitive fire get the best of him.

BOSTON -- Manny Machado was offered an opportunity to apologize. Or to, you know, set the record straight. On the eve of his first World Series, that would seem to be a nice little "kick the storyline down the road" way to go.

The Dodgers shortstop -- acquired from the Orioles at the All-Star break -- could have acknowledged what pretty much everyone in the game knows: At times, he has let his raging competitive fire get the best of him.

On the other hand, why bother? Is there anything that could change the narrative at this point? Besides, Machado seems to be holding up just fine as the designated villain of this postseason. What's a few boos compared to playing in a World Series?

:: World Series schedule and results ::

"It's unbelievable to be here," Machado said. "Everyone dreams about this. It's not easy getting here. Lot of obstacles. Lot of hard work. I'm truly blessed. It can't come any quicker."

That said, he also knows what's coming. When the Red Sox and Dodgers are announced before Game 1 of the World Series tonight at Fenway Park, Machado is going to get the loudest boos, and he's fine with that.

• Dress for Fall Classic: Get NL champs gear

That's a reaction to a hard slide into Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia in April 2017 and to a string of plays this postseason in which Machado -- and let's phrase this gently -- could have used better judgment, especially in his kicking of Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

Can fans in Boston boo any louder than Brewers fans did at Miller Park last week in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS?

"We're going to get booed no matter what," Machado said. "We're not in our territory. We're going to go out and try to compete as well as we can and leave it on the field and come out with a victory tomorrow."

Video: BOS@BAL: Pedroia exits game after collision at second

Back to that chance to apologize. When Machado was asked on Monday if he sometimes does things in the heat of the moment that he regrets, he was blunt.

"You know what?" he said. "When you're on the field, things stay on the field. You play hard for your ballclub. You're trying to win games. You're trying to get to the World Series. I got here. I'm trying to win the World Series. Whatever happened on the field, happened on the field. There's really nothing more to say."

• World Series Game 1: Lineups, bullpens, FAQs

So there.

"The game's changed," Machado said. "We're unfortunate that we have social media, Twitter, you know, Instagram and all that stuff. Just going to keep playing the game. Going to keep worrying about my team, keep worrying about winning a World Series."

Video: NLCS Gm7: Machado on win over Brewers, reaching WS

Some of the people who know him best swear by his character. One of those is Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce. He and Machado were teammates for three-plus seasons in Baltimore, and Pearce calls him "the best person I know in the game" while acknowledging he does occasionally cross lines.

"He plays hard," Pearce said, "and sometimes, emotions get the best of him. But I know what kind of guy he is off the field. He's a great guy."

Has anyone tried to fix Machado's ways?

"Players talked to him," Pearce said, "but that's just who he is. He's a great player. It's just who he is. He's not trying to hurt anybody."

Video: Looking at Machado's tenure with Dodgers since trade

In other words, to have Machado on your team, you have to accept every part of Manny. In the last five seasons -- all but three months with the Orioles -- Machado established himself as a dazzling talent. Not only did he average 34 doubles and 28 home runs, but he also played third base at such a high level that he became the first player who fans in Baltimore compared favorably to Brooks Robinson, which is the highest compliment an Orioles player can receive.

This season, Machado asked to move back to shortstop, his original position, and has proven himself all over again in recent weeks.

He has an .813 OPS in 11 postseason games for the Dodgers, and it was a full-count bunt single in Game 7 of the NLCS that opened the door for Cody Bellinger's two-run home run on the way to a 5-1 Dodgers victory and second straight World Series trip.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Bellinger belts 2-run homer, scores Machado

At 26 years old, Machado is expected to be one of the two most sought-after free agents this offseason, along with Bryce Harper. Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp said anyone who thinks Machado is a dirty player should sit back and watch the offers pour in over the winter.

"Years ago, you slide like that into second base, it's a normal play," Kemp said. "Flipping guys, taking them into left field, that used to be normal. Go Google it. It's baseball. I'm not going to tell him how to play the game. He plays the game the way he wants to. He's a grown man. He loves to play the game. He's passionate about the game. He wants to win.

"That doesn't say anything about the character of the teammate. He's a great teammate. The guys love him in the clubhouse. Manny's gonna be Manny, and he's gonna play hard. In the offseason, it's really going to show how much of an impact player he is. Teams are going to be paying a lot of big bucks for that, and he deserves it."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Manny Machado

Brewers reflect on falling short, promising future

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Tuesday was a day to look back and to look ahead for Brewers general manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell. They met the media for the first time since falling to the Dodgers in the seventh game of a National League Championship Series that couldn't have been much closer.

Here's how it went by the numbers:

MILWAUKEE -- Tuesday was a day to look back and to look ahead for Brewers general manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell. They met the media for the first time since falling to the Dodgers in the seventh game of a National League Championship Series that couldn't have been much closer.

Here's how it went by the numbers:

Brewers hitters: 24 runs, .678 OPS, 10-for-56 RISP
Dodgers hitters: 23 runs, .633 OPS, 11-for-56 RISP

Brewers pitchers: 3.15 ERA, 82 strikeouts
Dodgers pitchers: 3.18 ERA, 79 strikeouts

Brewers wins: Three
Dodgers wins: Four

NLCS Game 7 not an end but a beginning

In the end, only the last numbers mattered.

"We spend a lot of time playing the long game in this organization, so stats in the NLCS are irrelevant," Counsell said. "It's who wins the most games. They won four; we won three. That tells you it was close. Either way, it was a good series. You're trying to find ways to win games. When you get to the playoffs, it's just 'try to find a way to win games.'"

Having three days to digest the 5-1 loss that ended the Brewers' season, would Counsell do anything differently to try to win Game 7?

"The play of the game was the [Christian] Yelich ball that was caught," Counsell said, referring to Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor's fantastic catch of a Yelich line drive with the tying run at second base in the fifth inning. "That was a huge momentum play in the game. I don't know how much it changes any of the pitching decisions we had to make. From that perspective, it probably didn't change much. But with the feeling in the game, it had a chance to change things in the game.

"Decision-wise, I don't know. I don't think pitching-wise there's anything we would have done differently. We had [three] guys pinch-hit; none of them got hits. So order-wise, maybe we could have done that differently. But they were all going to have to take at-bats against pitchers that weren't probably great matchups. So, no."

Video: Must C Catch: Taylor ranges to make run-saving grab

Added Stearns: "Whenever they tell you to go home and whenever you can't play anymore, it hurts. The longer you play in the season and you're not the team that wins the final game, it hurts a little more. But from an organizational perspective … I think we put ourselves on a national stage and made everyone proud to be associated with the Brewers. That's a rewarding aspect of this for me. We genuinely believe we are set up to succeed going forward."

So to turn the focus forward, here's the start of the Brewers' offseason to-do list:

Free agents
Curtis Granderson
Gio Gonzalez
Wade Miley

Mutual options
Mike Moustakas ($15 million, $1 million buyout)
Joakim Soria ($10 million, $1 million buyout)

Club options
Jeremy Jeffress ($3.175 million, no buyout)
Jordan Lyles ($3.5 million, $250,000 buyout)

Arbitration eligible
Xavier Cedeno
Zach Davies
Junior Guerra
Jeremy Jeffress (if option declined)
Dan Jennings
Corey Knebel
Erik Kratz
Jimmy Nelson
Hernan Perez
Manny Pina
Tyler Saladino
Domingo Santana
Jonathan Schoop
Travis Shaw
Stephen Vogt

Decisions on the options will come within three days of the end of the World Series, Stearns said. Free agents are free to sign elsewhere beginning five days after the World Series. And the non-tender date (the date by which teams must decide whether to move forward with their arbitration-eligible players or cut them loose) is Nov. 30.

Not surprisingly, Stearns declined to declare whether the Brewers would exercise their half of Moustakas' mutual option, though he did praise Moustakas' contributions to the Brewers down the stretch.

And the Brewers offered no hints about how they planned to proceed with Schoop, who earned $8.5 million last season and would get a raise in arbitration despite performing so poorly for Milwaukee after a July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline move from Baltimore (.202/.246/.331 in 134 plate appearances) that he was relegated mostly to bench duty during the postseason.

Video: DET@MIL: Schoop smokes RBI double to left in the 4th

"That's a discussion that we're going to have to continue to have here over the next couple of weeks to a month," Stearns said. "Obviously, Jonathan has proven that he is a quality Major League player. He has had really impressive stretches throughout his career, and unfortunately for both him and us, we didn't see one of those stretches when he was a Brewer. We'll sit down to see if we can determine why, and then we'll go forward."

More highlights from Tuesday's wide-ranging news conference:

On whether any specific positions will be prioritized this winter:
"I think we're going into the offseason like we've gone into every offseason since I've been here: with an open mind about how we can improve the organization as a whole," Stearns said. "That's at the Major League level, that's throughout our organization. From a specific standpoint, a positional standpoint at the Major League level, we have the vast majority of our team returning. So I don't know that I would pinpoint a particular area or two that we see that absolutely must be addressed. I certainly imagine that we are going to show up in Spring Training with a slightly different-looking roster than the one we have right now, perhaps in ways that we don't envision."

On the projected depth of the starting rotation:
"We certainly like our numbers, and we do feel we have depth at that position," Stearns said. "We're always going to look to get better. We're always going to look to improve. But we think we have a number of high-upside, high-quality arms who are continuing to improve, and some who are entering that sweet spot in their careers. That's fun for us to see."

On the timeline for Nelson:
"He is going to go through a normal offseason," Stearns said. "He will begin to ramp up his throwing program at the appropriate time like he has done in seasons past, and we will see where he is when he gets to Spring Training. If he is still pain-free and feels good, then we will ramp him up accordingly. If we feel like we need to slow it down a little bit and go at a more modest pace, then we'll do that. The goal here is and always has been to get a healthy Jimmy Nelson back on a Major League mound, and we are focused on the health rather than the timeline."

On whether top prospect Keston Hiura could crack the big leagues by the end of next season:
"Look, I think it's a possibility," Stearns said. "I think we also have to recognize Keston hasn't played a day above Double-A, so there's a lot of growth left there for him."

Video: Hiura on earning Fall League Player of the Week award

On the timeline for infield prospect Mauricio Dubon coming off left ACL surgery:
"We anticipate Mauricio will be ready for Spring Training," Stearns said. "He's gone full force into his rehab. He's done a great job."

On getting over the disappointment of missing the World Series:
"I think right now," Counsell said, "you're still a little bit mad, sad, humbled for sure, in what's gone on here. Your desire doesn't change -- it's still the same. We've got a lot of work to do. It's not a lot of different work, it's just really hard to get to where we got. It's really hard. Really good teams cannot get to that point. That's what's so daunting about it, and what's so inspiring about is because you have to work for it again."

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

Milwaukee Brewers

Trout extension remains priority for Angels

MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- Now that the Angels have their new manager in place, their attention could shift to another key business matter this offseason: Exploring the possibility of a contract extension for star center fielder Mike Trout.

The two sides have not begun any formal talks, but owner Arte Moreno said Monday that attempting to lock up Trout, who is under contract for two more seasons, remains a priority.

ANAHEIM -- Now that the Angels have their new manager in place, their attention could shift to another key business matter this offseason: Exploring the possibility of a contract extension for star center fielder Mike Trout.

The two sides have not begun any formal talks, but owner Arte Moreno said Monday that attempting to lock up Trout, who is under contract for two more seasons, remains a priority.

"We've talked about this a lot of times," Moreno said following Brad Ausmus' introductory news conference at Angel Stadium. "Sometimes you have things on the back of your mind, and sometimes you have things on the front of your mind. That's one of those things that's always on the front of your mind because he's been here for eight years or so. We've known him a long time. He's such a pleasant person. He's such a great person and then you get this great athlete that you watch."

Video: Ausmus discusses being named the Angels' next manager

Trout, 27, is under control through the 2020 season after signing a six-year, $144.5 million contract extension in March 2014. He is set to earn $34 million in each of the final two years of his current deal.

Already a two-time American League MVP Award winner and a seven-time All-Star, Trout is coming off what he considers to be his best year to date. He batted .312 with a career-high 1.088 OPS, 39 home runs and 24 stolen bases, while also improving his defense in center field.

"I think this is my best overall season, offensively and defensively," Trout said last month. "The last few years defensively was kind of down, and I think the time and hard work that I put in to get the defensive statistics up showed."

Video: Must C Combo: Trout flashes glove, hits two home runs

For all of Trout's individual achievements, the Angels have yet to win a playoff game since he broke into the Majors in 2011. Their only postseason berth over that span ended in a sweep at the hands of the Royals in the 2014 AL Division Series.

Moreno acknowledged that the Angels will have to address a few holes this offseason to field a competitive team.

"We need starting pitching," Moreno said. "Bullpen help. We blew a lot of games in the last two to three innings, so just more depth, more strength in the bullpen. Offensively, probably a left-handed bat with some power to play first base. Just to fill in."

Video: OAK@LAA: Trout leaves to standing ovation in the 2nd

The Angels will likely have approximately $30 million to spend on upgrades this winter if they want to keep their Opening Day payroll commensurate with what it's been in the previous two seasons.

"I'm not going to tell you that we're going to spend a ton of money, but we're going to spend money," Moreno said.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter.

Los Angeles Angels, Mike Trout

Rumors: Realmuto, Eovaldi, Astros, Oh, Pomeranz

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 

What would it take to pry Realmuto from Marlins?
Oct. 23: If the Marlins decide the listen to offers for catcher J.T. Realmuto this offseason, the Braves, Nationals, Phillies and Astros could be among the interested clubs.

So what would it take to actually land the All-Star backstop? According to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, Atlanta may be able to provide Miami with an optimal return by dangling some of its elite pitching prospects.

The Braves have six pitchers -- Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Touki Toussaint, Luiz Gohara and Kolby Allard -- on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list. Atlanta also has Mike Foltynewicz, Kevin Gausman and Sean Newcomb penciled into the 2019 rotation, and the team will look into adding a frontline starter.

With that much depth and only one or two rotation spots to fill, the Braves could somewhat comfortably offer multiple pitching prospects for Realmuto, who has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility remaining.

Beyond Realmuto, Bowman also names the Mets' Zack Wheeler and the Pirates' Starling Marte as potential trade targets for the Braves. Wheeler can become a free agent after the 2019 season, while Marte is signed through '19 with club options for '20 ($11.5 million with a $2 million buyout) and '21 ($12.5 million with a $1 million buyout). More >

Eovaldi hasn't talked new deal with Red Sox yet
Oct. 23: Nathan Eovaldi is open to returning to the Red Sox when he enters free agency after the World Series, but he hasn't discussed a new contract with the club yet, according to weei.com.

"I'd love to be back," Eovaldi said on Monday. "But nothing's popped up yet."

Eovaldi has significantly boosted his stock since the Rays traded him to the Red Sox for prospect Jalen Beeks on July 25. After the deal, the right-hander recorded a 3.33 ERA with a 2.88 FIP over 12 appearances (11 starts) in the regular season. He's gone on to record a pair of wins and a hold in his three appearances (two starts) during the postseason, helping the Red Sox reach the World Series.

While the flamethrowing Eovaldi has tantalized onlookers with his potential throughout his career, he has struggled to find consistency, posting a lifetime 4.16 ERA. He has also made just 46 appearances since the outset of 2016, as he underwent Tommy John surgery that season, missed all of '17 and didn't debut until May 30 this year. But if he continues his recent surge in the Fall Classic, he'll hit the open market as one of the top available starters.

Astros to focus on starting rotation, catching in offseason
Oct. 23: Although the Astros' 2018 season ended in disappointing fashion with a 4-1 loss to the Red Sox in the ALCS, Houston won't need a major overhaul to be serious contenders for a World Series title again in '19. However, that doesn't mean the club is preparing for a quiet offseason. President of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow pinpointed the starting rotation and the catcher position as priorities.

Of the four Astros who made 30-plus starts this past season, two -- Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel -- are set for free agency. So is backstop Martin Maldonado. And catcher Brian McCann will likely be joining them, as Houston isn't expected to pick up his $15 million club option for 2019.

MLB.com's Brian McTaggart does not expect the Astros to re-sign Keuchel, but Houston could bring back Morton, who has pondered retirement but said after the ALCS that he would like to return to the Astros in 2019. Both hurlers are eligible to receive one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offers.

The club also has a number of internal candidates for the rotation, including Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh, Josh James and top prospect Forrest Whitley, so they won't be left scrambling if Keuchel and Morton both depart. However, the Astros may need to fill more than two rotation openings if Lance McCullers Jr. is forced to miss any time with a right elbow injury, which manager AJ Hinch indicated is a possibility in an appearance on MLB Network Radio.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: "There's some concern there."#Astros manager AJ Hinch on the status of Lance McCullers' elbow injury, and the potential for a lost 2019: pic.twitter.com/R6z4hq1ppq

The Astros may look elsewhere for a catching upgrade, and they'll have several options, with Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos available as free agents and the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto potentially on the trade block.

"We need to have three or four more catchers we can rely on that can catch this pitching staff," Luhnow said. "They'll be working for a manager who was a catcher and the demands are pretty high for our catchers. It's definitely an area of focus for us this offseason, no question." More >

Video: Luhnow on free agent market, starting rotation

Rockies expect Oh to remain in MLB next season
Oct. 23: Although Seunghwan Oh told reporters in South Korea last week that he wants to return to pitch in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said Monday that the club expects the right-hander to be back in 2019, according to the Denver Post.

"From what we have been told, it was much ado about nothing regarding Oh," Bridich said. "His comments to the Korean media were not specifically about 2019. It was more about ending his career there.

"Our understanding is that he has every intention of honoring his current contract."

Oh, 36, recorded a 2.53 ERA over 25 appearances for the Rockies after being acquired from the Blue Jays in a July trade. His $2.5 million option (with a $250,000 buyout) vested for 2019 when he reached 70 games this past season.

Despite investing considerable resources in the bullpen over the past few years, the Rockies have received underwhelming results from many of their signings, including Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Mike Dunn, Jason Motte and Chad Qualls. And with Adam Ottavino potentially departing as a free agent, it makes Oh an even more important part of Colorado's 'pen for 2019.

Pomeranz added to Boston's World Series roster
Oct. 23: The Red Sox finalized their World Series roster ahead of Game 1 vs. the Dodgers on Tuesday, surprisingly adding left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who posted a 6.08 ERA in the regular season and hasn't pitched since Sept. 30.

The Dodgers' lineup features a number of left-handed hitters, including Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson, so Pomeranz could be a factor out of the bullpen during the Fall Classic. This will provide the southpaw with a chance to put himself back on the radar with free agency looming.

Pomeranz isn't far removed from being a quality big league starter, having recorded a 3.32 ERA with a 1.27 WHIP and a 9.4 K/9 rate over 63 appearances (62 starts) in 2016-17. His '18 struggles could reasonably be ascribed to injuries, as he spent time on the disabled list with a left forearm flexor strain and left biceps tendinitis. Pomeranz averaged just 89.5 mph with his four-seam fastball, down from 91.6 mph in '16-17.

Set to turn 30 in November, the 2010 No. 5 overall Draft pick may be a solid buy-low target for clubs in need of rotation depth, and his return to prominence could start in the World Series.

Blue Jays could shop infielders this offseason; Estrada unlikely to return
Oct. 23: The Blue Jays are entering the offseason with an infield logjam that would only be amplified if Troy Tulowitzki makes a healthy return, and as a result the club could be active on the trade market.

Yangervis Solarte's $5.5 million club option will likely be declined, but that still leaves Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Devon Travis, Brandon Drury and Aledmys Diaz vying for spots and top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. waiting in the wings.

If Toronto exercises Justin Smoak's $8 million club option, it will have Smoak, Kendrys Morales (owed $12 million in 2019) and Rowdy Tellez competing for playing time at first base and designated hitter.

According to MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm, the Jays would likely jump at the chance to deal Travis, Drury or Diaz if there's an attractive offer.

Chisholm also considers it unlikely that free agent right-hander Marco Estrada will be back. Toronto could use an innings eater or two at the back of its rotation given the recent injury problems of Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, but Estrada is 35 years old and dealt with recurring back issues while posting a 5.64 ERA in 2018 -- a season in which his salary was $13 million.

Even if Estrada is willing to return to Toronto at a substantially reduced rate, the Blue Jays can likely find a cheaper option who can provide similar or better production.

Per Chisholm, the Jays are expected to spend some money to improve their rotation and bullpen, but aren't likely to make a run at any of the top free agents. Rather, the club's focus will be on adding some undervalued assets on short-term deals, with an eye on moving them at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. More >

How does Escobar's contract impact third-base market?
Oct. 22: Eduardo Escobar was expected to be one of the top third basemen available this offseason, but he won't be hitting the open market after agreeing to a three-year deal with the D-backs on Monday.

With Escobar signed, Manny Machado potentially looking to stay at shortstop long term and Adrian Beltre likely to return to the Rangers if he opts to continue his career, Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas (if his $15 million mutual option isn't picked up) are shaping up to be the most attractive free-agent options at third base, by far. Another factor working in their favor? Neither player is eligible to receive a qualifying offer.

Beyond Beltre, Donaldson and Moustakas, the third-base market will include players such as Pablo Sandoval, Chase Headley, Danny Valencia, Jose Reyes and Luis Valbuena.

Of those five, Sandoval led the way with 0.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), per Fangraphs. The other four produced negative WAR totals, and Headley and Valencia were released before the season concluded.

Donaldson played just 52 games in 2018 due to injury problems, but he is one year removed from recording 33 homers with a .944 OPS in 113 games, and he has an American League MVP Award under his belt.

As for Moustakas, he has belted 66 home runs over the past two years, which ranks fourth in that span among those who have played at least 50 percent of their games at third base, behind Nolan Arenado, Machado and Jose Ramirez.

Even if Machado is willing to move back to third base, not every team can afford him, and only one can sign him, which means Donaldson and Moustakas could be in high demand as fallback options or lower-cost alternatives to the big prize.

World Series presents last chance for impending free agents to shine
Oct. 22: The World Series gets underway tonight, with the Red Sox hosting the Dodgers in Game 1 at Fenway Park. The bicoastal showdown features plenty of interesting subplots, including the looming free agency for a number of key free agents.

Manny Machado is the biggest name among them, though his free-agent case is already cemented. Regardless of how he does in the World Series, he's going to break the bank this offseason. The same goes for Clayton Kershaw, if he decides to opt out of his deal.

But several players have a lot riding on how they perform on baseball's biggest stage.

Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi has already improved his free-agent value over the first two rounds. If he can thrive against the Dodgers, it may only increase the number of teams willing to give him a lucrative multi-year offer.

On the other end of the spectrum are Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel and Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, with both players looking to put their struggles over the first two rounds in the rearview mirror.

The Red Sox think they pinpointed the root of Kimbrel's woes -- with an assist from Eric Gagne, who texted manager Alex Cora during the ALCS to let him know that Kimbrel was tipping his pitches. A dominant World Series from Kimbrel would go a long way toward convincing clubs he is worth a deal similar to those given to big-name closers such as Wade Davis (three years, $52 million), Aroldis Chapman (five years, $82 million), Kenley Jansen (five years, $80 million) and Mark Melancon (four years, $62 million) in the past few offseasons.

Grandal, meanwhile, has notably struggled on offense and defense this postseason. Given the dearth of quality catching options in the game, there shouldn't be a shortage of suitors for the backstop. But Grandal's performance in the World Series -- especially against the Red Sox, who might be in the market for a catcher -- may be a factor when it comes to the size and length of his contract offers. Of course, it's fair to wonder how much Grandal will actually play in the Fall Classic after Austin Barnes started the final four games of the NLCS behind the plate.

And then there's David Price, who can opt out of the final four years and $127 million remaining on his deal. When asked by masslive.com in September if he planned to take that route, Price replied, "Why would I leave here to go to a team that's not as good as this team? I came here to win. I don't worry about all the other stuff. Just come here to win. We're going to have a really good chance to do that."

But if Price follows up his stellar showing in ALCS Game 5 with another gem or two in the World Series, emphatically closing the book on the narrative that he can't pitch in playoffs, it would increase his chances of opting out in search of a longer deal.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Price leads Sox to pennant with 6 scoreless

Report: Seibu Lions will post Kikuchi if left-hander wants to pursue MLB opportunity
Oct. 22: Yusei Kikuchi wasn't ready to discuss his future after the Seibu Lions' season came to an end with a loss in Game 5 of the Pacific League Climax Series on Sunday, but many expect the Japanese left-hander to make a move for Major League Baseball this offseason.

According to a report from the Japan Times, the Lions said Sunday that they would make Kikuchi available to MLB clubs via the posting system if that is the route the southpaw wants to take.

As MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi noted in August, multiple MLB scouts believe Kikuchi has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter in the big leagues.

The 27-year-old has recorded a 2.77 ERA with 903 strikeouts over 1,010 2/3 innings during his career in Japan. He spent some time on the disabled list with left shoulder stiffness in 2018, but still finished with a 3.08 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP over 163 2/3 frames.

After Sunday's loss, Kikuchi said there were no plans yet to sit down with the Lions to discuss his future, and he declined to speculate on his next step.

"The season just ended," Kikuchi said. "I'll spend some time with my family. That's all I'm thinking about."

Pollock shaping up to be best option among available center fielders
Oct. 22: While the corner-outfield market is flush with free-agent options, including Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, Andrew McCutchen, Nick Markakis and Carlos Gonzalez, A.J. Pollock will likely be the most attractive center fielder available this offseason.

As a result, there should be heavy competition for Pollock's services, even though the veteran is set to turn 31 years old this December and has played fewer than 115 games in each of the past three years due to injuries.

Pollock is eligible to receive a $17.9 million qualifying offer from the D-backs, though it's not a foregone conclusion that the club will extend one his way. If he receives a qualifying offer from Arizona and subsequently rejects it, other clubs would need to forfeit one or more Draft picks to sign him, which could give some teams pause.

But Pollock ultimately shouldn't have a problem finding a home, with the Indians, Mariners, Giants, Mets and Rangers among those in obvious need of a center fielder. The Rockies could also be in that mix if they opt to move Charlie Blackmon to a corner-outfield spot and aren't comfortable with David Dahl as the everyday center fielder.

Is Girardi waiting for managerial position to open up in Chicago?
Oct. 22: Joe Girardi was believed to be a frontrunner for the Reds' managerial job before removing his name from consideration Friday. The industry speculation, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, is that Girardi, an Illinois native, is waiting for a manager job to open up with one of the two Chicago clubs.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Girardi surprised reds by pulling out Friday. He had a chance to win job at that point but they never got to point of talking money with him. He also pulled out of rangers derby. Industry speculation: he���s waiting a year on Chicago

Girardi last managed in 2017, taking the Yankees to Game 7 of the ALCS before losing to the eventual World Series-champion Astros. During an 11-year career as a manager with the Marlins and Yankees, Girardi has gone 988-794 (.554) with one World Series title (2009).

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has one year remaining on his contract, and there was some chatter that the club would look to go in a different direction this offseason after it lost to the Rockies at home in the National League Wild Card Game, but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein confirmed that Maddon would be back in 2019.

Rick Renteria will also return next season as the manager of the White Sox, but his future beyond 2019 is uncertain. Another uncertainty is whether the club would even want Girardi at the helm, as the Yankees reportedly moved on from the skipper because he had trouble connecting with young players. The White Sox are in the midst of a rebuild that will see many top prospects reach the Majors within the next one to two years to join those who have already debuted, such as 23-year-old Yoan Moncada, making Girardi a questionable fit.

These 7 pitches could decide the World Series

Fall Classic could come down to these signature offerings
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Nothing magnifies every pitch like a World Series, and this Fall Classic features two of the best staffs in baseball.

There's talent up and down the rosters of the Dodgers and Red Sox, each of whom placed in their league's top five in virtually every major pitching category. But as the Series goes on, a handful of stars figure to be the difference between who holds the Commissioner's Trophy and who circles the 2019 season for redemption. It may come down to how well those pitchers execute their signature offerings, and so here's a look at how each of those deliveries is trending as the '18 World Series begins.

Nothing magnifies every pitch like a World Series, and this Fall Classic features two of the best staffs in baseball.

There's talent up and down the rosters of the Dodgers and Red Sox, each of whom placed in their league's top five in virtually every major pitching category. But as the Series goes on, a handful of stars figure to be the difference between who holds the Commissioner's Trophy and who circles the 2019 season for redemption. It may come down to how well those pitchers execute their signature offerings, and so here's a look at how each of those deliveries is trending as the '18 World Series begins.

Chris Sale: Four-seam fastball
This might be the biggest question mark entering the Series, with the most profound implications: Will Sale, who battled shoulder and stomach ailments through the American League side of the postseason, have his 'A'-level heater?

When Sale's four-seamer crests between 96-100 mph, he's the most imposing starting pitcher in baseball. But we haven't seen that fastball in several months. Sale's downward velocity trend has been noted elsewhere in advance of Game 1, but it's worth highlighting again:

Sale's average four-seam fastball velocity, 2018
April-Aug.:
95.5 mph
Sept.: 93.0 mph
ALDS Game 1: 94.6 mph
ALCS Game 1: 92.0 mph

Video: ALCS Gm1: Sale strikes out 5 over 4 innings in Game 1

Sale's fastball velocity allows him to set up his slider and changeup and be a premier strikeout artist. But his starts can be a slog when that velocity dips. That was the case in ALCS Game 1 against the Astros, when he notably recorded just six swinging strikes over 86 pitches and lasted just four innings. Another brief outing in Game 1 would echo across Boston's bullpen; starter Rick Porcello would need to log more innings from the bullpen, as would the next pitcher on our list …

Clayton Kershaw: Slider
It's been well documented: Kershaw has evolved this season into a breaking ball-dominant pitcher, and in three of his four outings this October he has shown how dominant he can still be with the approach. Kershaw recorded all nine of his strikeouts in NLCS Game 5 on breaking balls, including seven on his slider.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw deals, offense downs Brewers in win

That slider is one of baseball's best pitches when Kershaw has his feel for it, and right now it appears he does. The southpaw showed a healthy 2.3-mph separation between his slider and fastball in Game 5 against Milwaukee, while also featuring the most vertical movement (or "drop") on that pitch since mid-June. The Red Sox hit breaking balls well -- most especially Steve Pearce, whose .630 slugging percentage against curves and sliders led MLB -- but Kershaw can neutralize any lineup when he's right.

Kenley Jansen: Cutter
You're likely familiar with this pitch; Jansen throws it anywhere between 80-90 percent of the time in a given year. But after a rocky second half filled with health scares and home runs, it's noteworthy that Jansen's cutter is back to the pitch we're accustomed to seeing, particularly in terms of velocity:

Jansen's cutter velocity, 2018

Pre All-Star break:
92.1 mph
Aug.: 92.5 mph
Sept.: 91.8 mph
Postseason: 93.0 mph

Video: NLCS Gm7: Jansen racks up 3 strikeouts in Game 7

Jansen's hard-hit rate (balls hit with 95-plus mph exit velocity) is down to a more characteristic 25 percent during the postseason, where he's allowed only four baserunners out of 24 batters faced. He may be called upon for several multiple-inning saves against Boston, and looks like he's back in prime form to do so.

Craig Kimbrel: Knuckle curve
Kimbrel is navigating one of the rockiest stretches of his career, and the way his opponents are spitting on his secondary pitch is likely one reason why. Hitters are holding off on Kimbrel's curve, choosing instead to sit on his elevator fastball.

Kimbrel's swing rate induced on curveballs, 2018

Through Aug.:
38.7 percent
Sept.: 37.5 percent
Postseason: 22.7 percent

When Major League hitters can hone in on one pitch, they do damage, even if it's a fastball as good as Kimbrel's; the Yankees and Astros hit .313 and slugged .438 against his heater over the first two rounds. And Kimbrel has a vested interest in getting hitters to swing at his curve, since it's been one of the best in average allowed and whiff-per-swing rate over the last two seasons. The Dodgers were the most disciplined lineup in baseball this year, and their ability to lay off Kimbrel's hook could be huge in a tight game.

David Price: Changeup
Price got the monkey off his back in ALCS Game 5, and did so with an approach that's worked for many pitchers in October: He took a little something off. The southpaw went with a changeup on roughly 42 percent of his deliveries against Houston for his highest usage rate on that pitch of any start in his career.

It was a break in form for one of the most fastball-reliant starters in the game, but it was super effective. The Astros swung and missed Price's changeup 12 times, struck out against it five times and wound up hitless in 10 at-bats. The Dodgers, meanwhile, posted the NL's highest slugging percentage against fastballs and feature a number of hitters who like to pull the ball. Price's changeup could keep them honest in Game 2, and enable him to go more to his preferred spot inside against righties with his fastball assortment.

Walker Buehler: Four-seam fastball
The Dodgers' young ace possesses one of the best four-seam velocity and spin combinations of any starter in baseball, and it was a dominant pitch in the regular season. No starter who ended at least 100 plate appearances with a four-seamer allowed a lower batting average than Buehler, and only three starters compiled a lower hard-hit rate on the pitch. Thrown in tandem with Buehler's sinker and cutter, this pitch often overwhelms.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Yelich crushes solo homer to right-center

But while Buehler's velocity has remained intact, October adrenaline has made his fastball a little wild. The right-hander has grooved twice as many four-seamers in the heart of the zone than he did in the regular season, and the Braves and Brewers slugged .543 against it. That includes Ronald Acuna Jr.'s grand slam in NLDS Game 3, an at-bat that Atlanta's phenom worked to a 3-1 count thanks to Buehler's errant command. Christian Yelich's home run in NLCS Game 7 also came off a Buehler fastball right down the middle.

There's no question Buehler has the stuff for October, but he'll need to show he can slow the heartbeat appropriately, too.

Nathan Eovaldi: Four-seam fastball
Eovaldi is experiencing anything but a velocity issue. The righty threw fastballs clocked by Statcast™ at 101.6 and 101.1 mph during his strikeout of Astros star Alex Bregman in ALCS Game 5, marking his two fastest pitches of the season. In fact, 11 of Eovaldi's 15 fastest deliveries of 2018 have come in October, and all but one of those top 15 were recorded after the calendar flipped to September.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Eovaldi fans Bregman with 101.6-mph heater

In other words, Eovaldi is peaking at exactly the right time for Boston, which will now in all likelihood possess the two hardest throwers in this series between Eovaldi and Joe Kelly. Velocity isn't the only key to pitching, but it can certainly overwhelm at times -- particularly in pressure situations, like just about every inning of a World Series. The Dodgers, for what it's worth, hit .197 against pitches 98 mph or faster during the regular season, seventh-worst among the 30 MLB offenses. L.A. loves to swing for the fences, but Eovaldi's heat could combat that either at the start of a game or out of the bullpen in relief.

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

Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers