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Sox ride Eovaldi's gem, JBJ's slam to ALCS lead

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

HOUSTON -- The most legendary flame-thrower from Alvin, Texas -- or perhaps anywhere -- was sitting in the front row of the stands behind home plate, a direct line from the pitcher's mound.

But the man on the mound for the Red Sox was the most impactful Alvin native during Tuesday's Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. With Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan looking on, Nathan Eovaldi pumped in fastballs between 95.5 and 101 mph as the Sox took an 8-2 victory and a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.

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HOUSTON -- The most legendary flame-thrower from Alvin, Texas -- or perhaps anywhere -- was sitting in the front row of the stands behind home plate, a direct line from the pitcher's mound.

But the man on the mound for the Red Sox was the most impactful Alvin native during Tuesday's Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. With Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan looking on, Nathan Eovaldi pumped in fastballs between 95.5 and 101 mph as the Sox took an 8-2 victory and a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.

View Full Game Coverage

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Wednesday, 8:39 p.m. ET on TBS

The biggest hit that solidified the win for Eovaldi was a grand slam to right by Jackie Bradley Jr. with two outs in the top of the eighth against Astros closer Roberto Osuna.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Bradley Jr. launches a grand slam

Papi reacts to JBJ's slam like a fan

Video: ALCS Gm3: Bradley discusses grand slam, gets doused

It had been a tight game throughout the first seven innings, but the Astros helped Boston extend its lead when Osuna hit pinch-hitters Brock Holt and Mitch Moreland back-to-back to load them up for Bradley, who mashed the sixth grand slam in postseason history for the Red Sox. It was the first postseason slam in MLB history for a non-pitcher or pinch-hitter in the ninth slot in the batting order.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Moreland plates a run with a hit-by-pitch

Before the game turned into a rout, Eovaldi was nails. The righty went six innings while scattering six hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out four, following up with a strong encore to his tremendous outing at Yankee Stadium in Game 3 of the AL Division Series. Of his 92 pitches, 60 were for strikes.

While Bradley's knock was the biggest of the game, Steve Pearce also came up clutch, launching a towering homer to lead off the top of the sixth, breaking a 2-2 tie. It was Pearce's first career postseason homer.

After losing Game 1 at Fenway, the Red Sox have responded and regained home-field advantage in this clash of titans between the two winningest teams in the Majors this season. In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams that win Game 3 on the road to grab a 2-1 advantage have gone on to take the series 27 of 36 times (75 percent).

Video: ALCS Gm3: Pearce crushes a solo shot to left field

Unlike the last time Eovaldi pitched in Houston, back on June 20 when he allowed three consecutive homers while with the Rays, he held the defending World Series champion Astros in check in this one.

Just like in Game 2, the Red Sox got out to a fast start. And again, it was Mookie Betts setting the tone with a leadoff single. Andrew Benintendi followed with a single to left. J.D. Martinez then broke his 0-for-7 ALCS drought by lacing an RBI double down the line in right. Xander Bogaerts made it 2-0 with a fielder's-choice grounder to short.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Martinez, Bogaerts lead Sox to 2-run 1st

The Astros responded in their half of the first when Marwin Gonzalez laced an RBI single to right to make it a one-run game.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Gonzalez flares an RBI single into right

Eovaldi settled down nicely in the middle innings, but Jose Altuve got a key two-out walk in the fifth. Alex Bregman stepped up next and smashed a double under the glove of third baseman Rafael Devers to tie the game at 2.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Bregman hits an RBI double to left

After that, the momentum went to Boston and stayed there.

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

Boston Red Sox, Nathan Eovaldi, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez, Steve Pearce

Gio leaves in 2nd inning after injuring ankle

Lefty lands awkwardly trying to field comebacker by Puig
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

LOS ANGELES -- Gio Gonzalez was never long for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, with the Brewers planning to go to their bullpen aggressively as they have all postseason. But they didn't expect to dip into their relief corps as early as they had to Tuesday night against the Dodgers.

Gonzalez's outing ended up even shorter than expected when the Brewers replaced him with Freddy Peralta in the second inning, after Gonzalez appeared to injure his left ankle attempting to field a Yasiel Puig comebacker. Puig led off the second by topping a one-hopper back to the mound, which deflected off Gonzalez's glove as he leaped to field it. Gonzalez landed awkwardly on his left ankle, then limped after corralling the ball up the third-base line.

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LOS ANGELES -- Gio Gonzalez was never long for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, with the Brewers planning to go to their bullpen aggressively as they have all postseason. But they didn't expect to dip into their relief corps as early as they had to Tuesday night against the Dodgers.

Gonzalez's outing ended up even shorter than expected when the Brewers replaced him with Freddy Peralta in the second inning, after Gonzalez appeared to injure his left ankle attempting to field a Yasiel Puig comebacker. Puig led off the second by topping a one-hopper back to the mound, which deflected off Gonzalez's glove as he leaped to field it. Gonzalez landed awkwardly on his left ankle, then limped after corralling the ball up the third-base line.

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It went as an infield single for Puig.

Gonzalez's reaction prompted a visit from Brewers manager Craig Counsell and head athletic trainer Dan Wright, who initially kept Gonzalez in the game. After the conference, Gonzalez made a pickoff throw to first before delivering a pitch to the next batter, Austin Barnes. Counsell and Wright then emerged again from the dugout to remove Gonzalez, who was visibly upset to leave the game.

The left-hander had labored through an eventful first, walking two and allowing the Dodgers to strike first on an RBI single from Brian Dozier. Gonzalez threw just 10 of his 26 pitches for strikes in the frame. The one-inning outing matched Shaun Marcum's start in Game 6 of the 2011 NLCS for the shortest in Brewers postseason history, with both facing seven batters but Gonzalez pitching into the second inning. Gonzalez's start in Game 1 of the NLCS (two innings) is Milwaukee's third-shortest in the playoffs.

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Gio Gonzalez

Red Sox get offense from unlikely sources

MLB.com @feinsand

HOUSTON -- Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a grand slam in the eighth inning, after Steve Pearce's first career postseason home run gave the Red Sox the lead in the sixth, lifting Boston to an 8-2 win and a 2-1 advantage in the American League Championship Series against the Astros on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Wednesday, 8:39 p.m. ET on TBS

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HOUSTON -- Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a grand slam in the eighth inning, after Steve Pearce's first career postseason home run gave the Red Sox the lead in the sixth, lifting Boston to an 8-2 win and a 2-1 advantage in the American League Championship Series against the Astros on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Wednesday, 8:39 p.m. ET on TBS

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With runners on first and second, Astros closer Roberto Osuna hit back-to-back batters, the second of which gave Boston a 4-2 lead. That set up Bradley's slam, which is the sixth one in Red Sox postseason history.

Before Bradley's homer, Pearce drilled a Joe Smith fastball into the seats over the high wall in left field in the sixth inning, his majestic blast putting the Red Sox back on top of the Astros, 3-2.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Pearce crushes a solo shot to left on TBS

Alex Bregman had tied the game in the bottom of the fifth with a double off the glove of third baseman Rafael Devers, sending the packed house at Minute Maid Park into a frenzy. With one swing eight pitches later, Pearce quieted the fans down and re-energized the Red Sox's dugout.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Bregman hits an RBI double to left on TBS

Pearce's homer came off the bat at 107 mph, the second straight at-bat in which he scorched a ball in the triple-digit range for exit velocity. His deep fly to left field in the third measured 101.1 mph, but Kemp made a leaping catch at the wall, taking away at least one Boston run and possibly two.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Kemp makes a fantastic jumping grab on TBS

The Red Sox had jumped out to a quick lead in the first inning, pouncing on Dallas Keuchel just as opponents had done all season.

Mookie Betts opened the game with a single to center, then Andrew Benintendi singled to left field, putting runners at first and second.

J.D. Martinez, who was 0-for-7 in the first two games of the series, followed with a double to right field, scoring Betts for a 1-0 lead. With runners at second and third and nobody out, the Astros' bullpen began to stir in case Keuchel required an early hook.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Martinez rips an RBI double to left on TBS

Keuchel, who had a 6.88 ERA in the first inning this season, finally recorded the first out of the game on Xander Bogaerts' groundout to shortstop, though Benintendi scored on the play to make it 2-0 in Boston's favor.

Pearce was unable to get Martinez home from third with his ground ball to second, though at 98.9 mph off the bat, he certainly gave it his best shot. Eduardo Nunez hit a hard liner to second, where Marwin Gonzalez -- starting in place of Jose Altuve, who served as Houston's designated hitter -- caught it to end the inning.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Boston Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez, Steve Pearce

David Ortiz's reaction to Jackie Bradley Jr.'s grand slam during ALCS Game 3 was priceless

Jackie Bradley Jr. hit his second career grand slam in the top of the eighth inning during Boston's 8-2 ALCS Game 3 victory on Tuesday. This was the first time since 2013 (Shane Victorino during Game 6 of the ALCS) that a Red Sox player has hit a grand slam in the postseason. So, it was quite the treat to see David Ortiz react to JBJ's slam. It was epic:

Hernandez apologizes for criticism of LA fans

Dodgers catcher says comments after G3 were taken out of context
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Enrique Hernandez apologized on Tuesday for his criticism of Dodgers fans following a 4-0 loss in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night.

Hernandez said on Monday night that fans didn't show much energy, although he emphasized much of it could be attributed to the Dodgers' inability to score against the Brewers. But that fact did not stop Hernandez from saying "the stadium had no energy, the fans had no energy."

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LOS ANGELES -- Enrique Hernandez apologized on Tuesday for his criticism of Dodgers fans following a 4-0 loss in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night.

Hernandez said on Monday night that fans didn't show much energy, although he emphasized much of it could be attributed to the Dodgers' inability to score against the Brewers. But that fact did not stop Hernandez from saying "the stadium had no energy, the fans had no energy."

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:: NLCS schedule and results ::

He also was upset that fans booed catcher Yasmani Grandal, who could not block a wild pitch that led to the Brewers' second run. Grandal, who later allowed a passed ball, was benched for Game 4.

"If they think that they can do it, go ahead," Hernandez said. "Put on your gear and go catch 99 [mph] with breaking balls that have a lot of movement."

Hernandez took to social media to back away from his comments.

"By now you've probably seen my comments about last night's game," he said on Twitter. "The truth is, I suffer from ED. I think a lot of us suffer from it from time to time. So tonight, let's all bring it. We can conquer Energy Deficiency together."

He further explained in a lengthy post: "On a serious note, I'd like to apologize to all who thought that I was blaming the fans for last night. That's not what I said nor will I EVER say such a thing! I was really frustrated after the game and as a competitor, I was frustrated because of the way we played and the way I performed. I haven't done anything this series but that doesn't affect me that much as long as we win; last night we didn't and it got to me.

"Calling Dodger Stadium 'home' is truly a privilege and a blessing!!! Something I don't ever take for granted! The atmosphere there is one that you can't find anywhere else. Last night felt off, it was just a weird day overall."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he dropped his head and shook his head when he first heard Hernandez's comments.

"You can't call the fans out," he said.

Roberts talked to Hernandez about it on Tuesday. Hernandez told him that his comments were taken out of context.

"I really don't think it's going to affect the outcome of this game," Roberts said. "I'm confident that the players won't let it affect their performance. Things can be more magnified as they should, but if it's not going to impact the game, in my opinion, I don't try to exert the bandwidth to kind of deal with it."

Kershaw's last Dodgers start?
With a contract opt-out decision looming whenever this season ends, every Clayton Kershaw start in the last couple of weeks has potentially been his last as a Dodger, none more so than Wednesday's Game 5 against the Brewers. He knows it and explained before Game 4 how he's processing that.

"Trying not to," he said. "I think it's hard enough to try and win a postseason game. I know more than anybody knows that. So, I think for me it's just trying to focus as much as I possibly can on the Brewers and getting ready for tomorrow's start. And putting everything else on the back burner as best I possibly can."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw on yearly playoff contention

Kershaw said he has not made a decision yet and he has 10 days after the end of the World Series to decide if he'll stay for the final two years of his contract or test free agency.

"So, should be a busy 10 days," he said.

Roberts, like Kershaw, said he's tried to put the topic out of his head.

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

Lineup shuffle
The bottom half of the Dodgers' lineup had a much different look in Game 4. Brian Dozier started at second base, Hernandez started in center field, Yasiel Puig started in right field against left-hander Gio Gonzalez and Austin Barnes started behind the plate.

Matt Kemp is 8-for-25 with one double, two home runs and seven RBIs in his career against Gonzalez. Puig is 1-for-14. Roberts is betting Gonzalez is pulled early, like Game 1, giving his team the platoon advantage once the Brewers replace him.

"Yasiel, he hasn't had good history versus Gio, but I still believe that Yasiel at home, the defense, we expect him to probably see Gio one time, and I like him in the lineup," Roberts said. "I like his energy."

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

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

Los Angeles Dodgers

Nunez replaced by Devers after infield single

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

HOUSTON -- After Red Sox third baseman Eduardo Nunez legged out an infield single in the top of the fourth inning of the Red Sox's 8-2 win over the Astros in Tuesday's Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Rafael Devers came on to pinch-run for him.

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Wednesday, 8:39 p.m. ET on TBS

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HOUSTON -- After Red Sox third baseman Eduardo Nunez legged out an infield single in the top of the fourth inning of the Red Sox's 8-2 win over the Astros in Tuesday's Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Rafael Devers came on to pinch-run for him.

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Wednesday, 8:39 p.m. ET on TBS

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Nunez grimaced as he sprinted down the line at a speed of 29.6 feet per second, according to Statcast™, which was actually well above his season average of 27.5.

In the bottom of the first, Nunez face-planted while chasing a foul ball. And when he made a misplay later in the inning on a grounder by Yuli Gurriel that should have been a double play and was instead just a force at second, Nunez appeared to stumble just before he fielded the ball.

In the bottom of the fifth, with the Red Sox leading, 2-1, and Jose Altuve on first following a walk, Devers was unable to corral Alex Bregman's shot down the third-base line, and it went for a game-tying RBI double.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Bregman hits an RBI double to left on TBS

Nunez has had a barrage of leg injuries the last two seasons, and he had issues with both legs late in the regular season.

In Game 1 of the 2017 AL Division Series against the Astros, Nunez stumbled running to first in his first at-bat and had to be removed from the roster with a right knee injury.

Video: BOS@HOU Gm 1: Nunez injures knee, carried off field

Tuesday's ailment didn't look as serious.

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

Boston Red Sox, Rafael Devers, Eduardo Nunez

Mookie Betts and Justin Verlander were awestruck by Tony Kemp's incredible leaping catch in Game 3

Astros outfielder/second baseman Tony Kemp stands at 5-foot-6 -- the same listed height as Jose Altuve -- but just like his teammate, Kemp stands tall when the moment strikes. 

That moment came in the third inning of Tuesday's ALCS Game 3 at Minute Maid Park. With two on and two out, Boston's Steve Pearce lofted a fly ball toward the Crawford Boxes in left field. Breaths were held as Kemp raced back and leapt up into the air, extending every inch of his frame and coming down with the ball. It was a great, run-saving catch that was confirmed after a replay review.

Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, seated behind home plate, didn't flinch on a Brian McCann foul tip

Game 3 of the ALCS brought some famous baseball faces in the stands with Jeff Bagwell, Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio enjoying the game on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park. Biggio, of course, spent 20 years in an Astros uniform and with a quick foul tip, it appeared he could still possibly handle game situations.

Bullpen's stumble puts Astros in 2-1 ALCS hole

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- A bullpen that was supposed to be a strength faltered badly. An offense which had been so potent at home in the postseason the last two years scuffled. And now the Astros find themselves two losses away from elimination.

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Wednesday, 8:39 p.m. ET/7:39 CT on TBS

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HOUSTON -- A bullpen that was supposed to be a strength faltered badly. An offense which had been so potent at home in the postseason the last two years scuffled. And now the Astros find themselves two losses away from elimination.

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Wednesday, 8:39 p.m. ET/7:39 CT on TBS

View Full Game Coverage

The Red Sox wrestled control of the American League Championship Series away from the defending champs, getting a tiebreaking homer from Steve Pearce in the sixth inning and a grand slam in the eighth from Jackie Bradley Jr. to thump the Astros, 8-2, in Game 3 on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.

Boston leads the best-of-seven series, 2-1, heading into Game 4 on Wednesday in Houston. In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams that win Game 3 on the road to grab a 2-1 advantage have gone on to take the series 27 of 36 times (75 percent).

Video: ALCS Gm3: Bradley Jr. launches a grand slam on TBS

Pearce, who played 21 games for the rebuilding Astros in 2012 before going on to play for every team in the AL East, clocked a 1-0 pitch from Astros reliever Joe Smith in the sixth and sailed it high over the left-field wall for a one-out homer to break a 2-2 tie. Smith was appearing in a game for the first time since Sept. 29, a span of 17 days.

Things went from bad to worse for the Astros in the eighth, when closer Roberto Osuna allowed five runs while recording just two outs. He hit Mitch Moreland with a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run, and Bradley -- whose three-run double gave the Red Sox the lead for good in Game 2 -- provided the exclamation point with a grand slam to right for an 8-2 lead.

Astros starter Dallas Keuchel, whose first-inning struggles in the regular season are well-documented, allowed the first three batters of the game to reach, two of whom scored. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi singled, and J.D. Martinez shot an RBI double to right to score Betts. A groundout by Xander Bogaerts scored Benintendi for a 2-0 lead.

The Red Sox led, 2-1, in the third when Keuchel walked a pair with two outs but was bailed out by Tony Kemp, who made a terrific leaping catch against the wall in left field for the final out of the inning, saving at least one run. Keuchel sent down seven of the final eight batters he faced in finishing five innings.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Kemp makes a fantastic jumping grab

In the fifth, the Astros tied the game when Alex Bregman, who had singled and walked in his first two plate appearances, shot a double under the glove of Rafael Devers at third to score Jose Altuve, who raced home from first base despite a sore knee.

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

Houston Astros, Dallas Keuchel, Roberto Osuna, Joe Smith

Rumors: Kluber, Paxton, MadBum, Grandal

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.

Eovaldi, Keuchel turn in strong performances in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series
Oct. 16: With not only a national audience of fans watching, but also potential suitors in free agency, Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel each turned in formidable performances during Boston's 8-2 win in ALCS Game 3 on Tuesday. 

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

Eovaldi, Keuchel turn in strong performances in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series
Oct. 16: With not only a national audience of fans watching, but also potential suitors in free agency, Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel each turned in formidable performances during Boston's 8-2 win in ALCS Game 3 on Tuesday. 

Ahead of ALCS Game 3, MLB.com's Mike Petriello broke down how both Eovaldi and Keuchel could be among the most coveted free agent starting pitchers this offseason.

Eovaldi, who Boston acquired from Tampa Bay ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline explicitly to make starts such as Tuesday's, allowed two runs on six hits and two walks over six strong innings while averaging a whopping 98.8 mph on his four-seam fastball and topping out at 101 mph. Eovaldi's blemishes came in the fifth inning, when he walked Jose Altuve in a full count with two outs and then surrendered a game-tying double to the red-hot Alex Bregman. Eovaldi eventually got out of the fifth with no more damage and returned to toss a scoreless sixth. 

Eovaldi's stock appears to be on the rise after undergoing multiple surgeries to repair his pitching arm, including two Tommy John operations. After missing all of the 2017 season and the first two months of '18 while recovering from the latest tear in his right elbow, Eovaldi bounced back to go 6-7 with a 3.81 ERA over 12 regular season outings -- and he's been even better in his first career postseason. In addition to Tuesday, Eovaldi tossed seven scoreless innings in the Red Sox's 16-1 win over the Yankees of Game 3 of the AL Division Series last Tuesday,. 

Keuchel on Tuesday gave up three of the four hits he surrendered and two runs in the first inning -- a one-run double to J.D. Martinez and an RBI groundout to Xander Bogaerts -- then threw four scoreless frames to finish his outing. He also issued two walks, and left with a 2-1 deficit, as the Astros' loss fell on the shoulders of their bullpen. 

Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, may have seen his stock drop some in 2018 after two All-Star appearances over the three seasons prior, but the left-hander is nonetheless considered one of the better starting arms that will be available in free agency. After being limited in consecutive seasons due to injuries (left shoulder pain in '16 and neck discomfort in '17), Keuchel eclipsed the 200-inning plateau for the third time in '18, going 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA. 

Kluber, Paxton, MadBum among SP trade candidates who could shake up offseason
Oct. 16: Last offseason, clubs had limited options when it came to free-agent starting pitchers, but the market was bolstered by the availability of Gerrit Cole, who was traded to the Astros and ended up being one of the best additions any team made over the past year.

In a story for the New York Post on Tuesday, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman shared a handful of names who could do the same for the market if they are made available this offseason, with the Indians' Corey Kluber, the Mariners' James Paxton and the Giants' Madison Bumgarner among them.

Based on contract escalators tied to his finishes in Cy Young Award voting, Kluber is expected to be owed $17 million for next season, with club options for 2020 and '21 that could be worth up to $17.5 million and $18 million, respectively.

Sherman argues the Indians would still be prohibitive favorites in a weak AL Central even if they traded Kluber, who will turn 33 years old in April and has struggled in each of the past two postseasons, as the club could use that money to address other needs on the roster.

As for Paxton, Sherman notes that the Mariners have few ways to significantly improve their situation, given their old, expensive core and poor farm system. Trading the big left-hander, who can become a free agent after the 2020 campaign and has never thrown more than 160 1/3 innings in a season, could be a way to address some of their needs.

Bumgarner, meanwhile, has a $12 million club option for 2019 and should draw significant trade interest despite showing signs of decline in '18. Per Sherman, it could make sense for the Giants to deal the left-hander now, as they are unlikely to be serious contenders in '19 and would be taking a major risk by signing him to an extension.

Also part of Sherman's list were the D-backs' Robbie Ray and the Cardinals' Carlos Martinez, who both dealt with injuries in '18 but have displayed ace potential in the past. Ray can become a free agent after 2020, while Martinez is controllable for five more seasons if his club options are picked up for '22 ($17 million) and '23 ($18 million).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Complete list of free agents this offseason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's not fair: Eovaldi deals 96-mph cutter

On Monday, third baseman Alex Bregman posted video on Instagram of his Astros hitting back-to-back-to-back home runs off Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi when he was with the Rays during the regular season. At the time, Eovaldi said he was not bothered by the video.

In the first inning of Tuesday's ALCS Game 3, Eovaldi offered a response to Bregman's post in the form of an unhittable cutter to George Springer:

Machado: Hustling is 'not my cup of tea'

MLB.com @_dadler

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

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

View Full Game Coverage

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

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

View Full Game Coverage

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

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

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

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

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

Before Game 4, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was jokingly asked about Machado's comments, particularly the last one.

"My cup of tea? A win tonight would be my cup of tea," Roberts said.

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

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

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

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

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

Video: NLCS Gm2: Arcia makes long throw to retire Machado

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

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Manny Machado

Schoop joins Brewers' lineup for Game 4

Counsell likes matchup of second baseman vs. lefty Hill
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

LOS ANGELES -- After a 10-for-51 September, two hitless at-bats during the National League Division Series and being absent from the box scores in the first three games of the NL Championship Series, Jonathan Schoop found himself starting at second base for Game 4 of the NLCS on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

"I think [Dodgers starter] Rich Hill's stuff and Johnny's swing, and where the ball is probably going to end up, where Rich throws it a lot, it's a good matchup," said manager Craig Counsell. "When you compare it to our other options, it's the option I like best tonight."

View Full Game Coverage

LOS ANGELES -- After a 10-for-51 September, two hitless at-bats during the National League Division Series and being absent from the box scores in the first three games of the NL Championship Series, Jonathan Schoop found himself starting at second base for Game 4 of the NLCS on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

"I think [Dodgers starter] Rich Hill's stuff and Johnny's swing, and where the ball is probably going to end up, where Rich throws it a lot, it's a good matchup," said manager Craig Counsell. "When you compare it to our other options, it's the option I like best tonight."

View Full Game Coverage

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

The other options were right-handed hitter Hernan Perez or left-handed hitter Travis Shaw, who have each started against left-handers in the postseason.

But Counsell instead went with Schoop, the former American League All-Star acquired from the Orioles on July 31 to help bolster what was at the time a sagging Milwaukee offense. He joined Shaw, Perez, Mike Moustakas and Orlando Arcia in an infield with many moving pieces, though Schoop never found consistent success at the plate.

He slashed .202/.246/.331 in 134 regular-season at-bats, with four home runs. The biggest was a go-ahead grand slam against the Giants' Madison Bumgarner on Sept. 9 at Miller Park, part of a five-RBI day that helped the Brewers sweep San Francisco amid a late-season surge that led then to the NL Central crown.

From that day through Monday, Schoop was 5-for-34 with a double and 12 strikeouts.

He has handled his struggles "probably as good as you can handle it," said former Orioles teammate Wade Miley, who is poised to start Game 5 for the Brewers on Wednesday. "Obviously he wants to play every day. For him, he's played 162 games in Baltimore for multiple years. It's probably hard to come off the bench like he did, but he's still there supporting his teammates day in and day out. He's going to try to do whatever he can to help the team win."

Miley saw Schoop at his best. In 2017, Schoop hit 32 home runs and drove in 105 runs while making his first All-Star team.

"From what I've seen he's a superstar," Miley said. "I don't know. He just needs at-bats, I guess. But it's hard. We've got a really good team over here. He came in in August and this is how we play. He'll be good again."

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Jonathan Schoop

David Price took a moment to maintain the bullpen mound, so he's literally a #PitcherWhoRakes

The Red Sox won in David Price's ALCS Game 2 outing on Sunday, 7-5. Across 4 2/3 innings, the lefty struck out four. And while he did give up a home run and five hits, he almost cut his postseason ERA in half. When it came to Game 3 in Houston, on Tuesday, he proved he could straight rake -- no, not that kind of raking ... literal raking.