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Top 10 thrills from Sox-Astros instant classic

From dazzling defense to a HR controversy, Game 4 has it all
MLB.com @RichardJustice

HOUSTON -- You will never watch a better baseball game, and isn't that the bottom line? Sometimes, this sport -- particularly this sport in October -- delivers something so good we need a day or two to roll it around in our hearts and minds and appreciate what we've just witnessed.

The Red Sox and Astros played this one like a Game 7 because, all things considered, it may end up being almost that important. We may look back a few days from now and see that the American League Championship Series was decided on Wednesday night.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- You will never watch a better baseball game, and isn't that the bottom line? Sometimes, this sport -- particularly this sport in October -- delivers something so good we need a day or two to roll it around in our hearts and minds and appreciate what we've just witnessed.

The Red Sox and Astros played this one like a Game 7 because, all things considered, it may end up being almost that important. We may look back a few days from now and see that the American League Championship Series was decided on Wednesday night.

View Full Game Coverage

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 5: Tonight, 8:09 p.m. ET/7:09 CT on TBS

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

That's why at-bats were tense and long, and a line of relievers -- 10 in all -- paraded in from both bullpens. Plays that were made -- and plenty that weren't -- will gnaw through the offseason.

So hats off to the Red Sox, who twice came from behind and then held on for dear life at the end to beat the Astros, 8-6, in Game 4 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park.

Boston leads the best-of-seven series, 3-1, and is one victory from its 14th AL pennant. Don't turn out the lights just yet. Boston's pitching has been pushed to the limit -- David Price will start Game 5 on short rest tonight -- and the Astros have aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole lined up for Games 5 and 6.

Postseason gear: Red Sox | Astros

First, though, let's appreciate Game 4 for all its spectacular moments and captivating theater with 10 plays that helped make it an instant classic:

1. Andrew Benintendi flies through the air
This game ended the only way it could: with the Red Sox left fielder making a sweet diving catch of an Alex Bregman liner with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. How perfect is that? Had he not come up with the ball, the Astros probably win, and the ALCS looks completely different. On an evening when bodies flew here, there and everywhere, flipping over rails, diving across foul lines, when both teams did themselves proud, Benintendi saved the best for last. If you hear a rumor that Red Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione got so excited he fell out of his seat, you didn't hear it here.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Statcast™ measures Benny's game-ending catch

2. Jose Altuve's home run that wasn't
The Astros second baseman hit a ball just over the wall in right field with a runner on base in the bottom of the first inning. Home run, right? Hey, it's complicated. As Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts leaped near the wall in an attempt to steal the home run, his glove appeared to come into contact with at least a couple of fans. Umpire Joe West believed Betts would have caught the ball if not for the fans and ruled fan interference. A replay review supported his call. The Astros did not agree. More >>

Video: Must C Curious: Altuve out on fan interference

3. Mookie Betts, Gold Glover
Don't run on Mookie. Those two Gold Gloves should be a reminder of that. Astros outfielder Tony Kemp learned that lesson when he led off the bottom of the eighth with a single to right and attempted to stretch it into a double. Betts made a laser throw to shortstop Xander Bogaerts to get Kemp. The Astros trailed by three at the time, and Betts' play probably saved the Red Sox a run.

Video: Must C Cannon: Betts nabs Kemp at second with laser

4. Steve Pearce head over heels into the dugout
No play typified the urgency of this game more than the Boston first baseman flipping over the railing and landing on his back in the Astros dugout in pursuit of a Josh Reddick foul pop in the seventh with the Red Sox leading, 7-5. He didn't get to the ball. Instead, he gave Red Sox Nation a highlight moment to appreciate. More >>

Video: ALCS Gm4: Pearce flips over into Astros' dugout

5. Jackie Bradley Jr. hits another one
The Red Sox center fielder is making October his personal stage. The Astros had just taken a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth when Bradley came to bat with a runner on base and two outs in the top of the sixth. You can guess the rest. His two-run home run gave him nine RBIs in the ALCS and the Red Sox a lead they never relinquished. More >>

Video: Bradley delivers clutch hits in Games 2-4 of ALCS

6. Reddick keeps the Astros in the game
We had so many spectacular defensive plays in this one that they started to feel routine. Reddick made a huge one with a diving grab of a Betts liner in the top of the ninth inning with the bases loaded. It cost the Red Sox at least one run and kept the Astros within striking distance for the bottom of the inning.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Reddick makes a tremendous diving catch

7. Kemp and a different kind of home run
We love home runs that are these big booming shots that rattle the glass in windows and disappear into the night air. That's not the kind the Astros left fielder hit in the bottom of the fourth inning. He looped a Rick Porcello pitch just over the wall and inside the right-field foul pole. Statcast™ clocked its exit velocity at 89.7 mph, the softest home run in the postseason since the technology arrived in 2015. Still counted. More >>

Video: ALCS Gm4: Kemp hits 89.7-mph HR down right-field line

8. Craig Kimbrel's grit
The Red Sox closer got the final six outs to do something he'd never done in his nine-year Major League career. That would be a save of more than four outs. Never mind that he has allowed a run in four straight appearances or that looks like someone who could use a couple of days to catch his breath. He helped get the Red Sox to the threshold of a dream.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Kimbrel seals win with Benintendi's help

9. Josh James and 102 mph
The former 34th-round Draft choice of the Astros burst onto the scene late in the season after blowing away hitters in the Minor Leagues. When Astros manager AJ Hinch called upon him in the top of the third inning, his first three pitches were 100.9 mph, 101.2 mph and 102.4 mph. Does that qualify as electric stuff? He's the first Astros pitcher to hit 102 mph in the pitch tracking era (2008-present). More >>

Video: ALCS Gm4: James K's Devers on 5 100-plus-mph pitches

10. Altuve is doing that Willis Reed thing
He refuses to give in to a knee injury that has left him with a pronounced limp and forced Hinch to use him as a DH. Yet he still continues to hit and hustle. He legged out a third-inning double and hit the second-base bag so hard he needed a few minutes to walk off the pain and remain in the game. He hustled home on a Reddick single moments later.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Altuve checked by trainer after long double

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.

Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Jose Altuve, Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Josh James, Jackie Bradley Jr., Tony Kemp, Craig Kimbrel, Steve Pearce, Josh Reddick

Benny Ballgame! Catch puts Sox a W from Series

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

HOUSTON -- What wound up as one of the most thrilling postseason victories in Red Sox history nearly turned into a soul-crushing defeat.

But Andrew Benintendi wasn't going to allow it to happen -- not after all the madness that had led up to the final play of an epic Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, which featured four hours and 33 minutes of riveting action.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- What wound up as one of the most thrilling postseason victories in Red Sox history nearly turned into a soul-crushing defeat.

But Andrew Benintendi wasn't going to allow it to happen -- not after all the madness that had led up to the final play of an epic Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, which featured four hours and 33 minutes of riveting action.

View Full Game Coverage

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 5: Tonight, 8:09 p.m. ET on TBS

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

With the bases loaded and two out, and closer Craig Kimbrel on the ropes, the Astros sent their best player to the plate in Alex Bregman. He hit a sinking liner to left which was sure to tie the game if it dropped.

Instead, Benintendi raced in to make a magnificent catch which ended the zany, 8-6 win over the Astros on Wednesday night that gave the Red Sox a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and put them one victory from reaching the World Series.

"I felt like I got a good jump on it," Benintendi said. "It wasn't hit that hard. I got in on it real good."

The safe play would have been for Benintendi to let it drop and make sure it didn't go by him.

But this classic contest between two heavyweight teams that led the Majors in wins this season wasn't about playing anything safe.

Benintendi went for it and secured the victory with a five-star catch, according to Statcast™. It was his first five-star snag in 23 chances this season. He had been 0-for-22 in such opportunities. With just a 21 percent catch probability, the fearless 24-year-old needed to cover 45 feet in 3.2 seconds.

Why did Benintendi decide to play it so aggressively?

"I don't know, I thought I could catch it. I timed it up well," Benintendi said. "That's when it was either do or die. I'm glad I caught it."

So was radio announcer Joe Castiglione, who has been broadcasting Red Sox games since 1983. As Castiglione made the call on the brilliant catch, he literally fell out of his chair, with the thump audible to all his listeners.

Tweet from @MLB: .@RedSox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione got so excited during the final play, he literally fell out of his seat. Can you believe it? 😂 😂 😂 pic.twitter.com/HdMe6upUpF

And so it goes for these Red Sox, who are giving all of their followers a thrill.

Meanwhile, it was agony for the defending World Series champions, who are now on the brink of elimination.

"The difference in that game was a couple of inches," Astros manager AJ Hinch said.

The Red Sox were beside themselves with emotion after Benintendi's snag.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Statcast™ measures Benny's game-ending catch

"I gave him a kiss after the game," said Brock Holt, who is Benintendi's best friend on the team. "Right on the cheek. I said thank you."

Meanwhile, Kimbrel tried to come up with ways he could thank his left fielder.

"I gave him a big hug," Kimbrel said. "He might get a big Christmas present."

Video: Watch an extended cut of Benintendi's catch

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

Boston Red Sox, Andrew Benintendi

Fan interferes with Betts on potential Altuve HR

MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- It took less than 30 minutes into the Red Sox's 8-6 victory over the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park to give everyone something to talk about.

The Astros trailed, 2-0, in the first inning when Jose Altuve sent a long fly ball off Rick Porcello that looked to have reached the seats in right field for a game-tying homer. The ball appeared to hit Mookie Betts' outstretched glove in home run territory before it caromed back onto the field, but crew chief Joe West, manning the right-field line, called interference on the play as a fan's hands made contact with Betts' glove, possibly causing it to close and preventing him from completing the catch.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- It took less than 30 minutes into the Red Sox's 8-6 victory over the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park to give everyone something to talk about.

The Astros trailed, 2-0, in the first inning when Jose Altuve sent a long fly ball off Rick Porcello that looked to have reached the seats in right field for a game-tying homer. The ball appeared to hit Mookie Betts' outstretched glove in home run territory before it caromed back onto the field, but crew chief Joe West, manning the right-field line, called interference on the play as a fan's hands made contact with Betts' glove, possibly causing it to close and preventing him from completing the catch.

View Full Game Coverage

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 5: Tonight, 8:09 p.m. ET/7:09 CT on TBS

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

A crew-chief review could not definitely determine if the fan had reached into the field of play and the call would stand. Altuve was called out, and George Springer, who had singled to right-center, was sent back to first base.

"I've got zero control, so it's hard for me to say something when it doesn't matter what I said," Altuve said. "They're not going to change it. I normally don't get mad about umpires' calls. That one I was a little upset.

"I looked at the replay and it's tough. That's the only thing I can say. It's really hard."

Betts said he felt the fan's hand just as he was about to make the catch.

"I got a good jump on it, and I was pretty positive I was going to be able to catch it," he said. "But as I jumped and went over, reached my hand up, I felt like somebody was kind of pushing my glove out of the way or something. And I got to see a little bit of the replay. I guess they were going to catch the ball and pushed my glove out of the way."

West, speaking with a pool reporter after the game was over, said: "[Altuve] hit the ball to right field. [Betts] jumped up to try to make a catch. The fan interfered with him over the playing field. That's why I called spectator interference."

Asked what he saw that prompted the initial interference call, West said, "Well, when [Betts] jumped up to reach for the ball, the spectator reached out of the stands and hit him over the playing field and closed his glove."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Betts on fan interference, almost catch

The official rule states:

(e) (3.16) Spectator Interference: When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

Further, Rule 6.01(e) states: No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator's interference.

There is no doubt that the call had a major impact on the game, and we have the numbers to prove it. According to win expectancy data provided by Tom Tango, had the ball been ruled a home run, the Astros' win expectancy would have jumped to 52.6 percent. But because it was an out, their win expectancy fell to 31.7 percent, a drop of more than 20 percentage points.

Part of the issue may have been the lack of a proper camera angle in the ballpark to make a definitive determination about where the ball was when Betts was attempting to catch it.

Tweet from @Mike_Ferrin: Screen shot from TBS of why they likely didn���t have a ���definitive��� look at Betts glove in the crowd pic.twitter.com/HZKuqMRhSW

"We have a replay system and we have the video," manager AJ Hinch said. "But it doesn't matter what we think, anyway. They're going to tell us what they want to rule."

The furthest Hinch would go when pressed about the ball's location was to repeat his observation that the umpiring and replay crews saw it the way they did, and that was that.

"I asked for a review," Hinch said. "And, obviously, they're going to give it to us. And they reviewed it and came back with the same outcome. So once the fan reaches past that line of the fence, I mean, we're going to penalize hitters every time. And so that changed the whole inning."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Hinch on fan interference call on Altuve

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said his first thought was that Altuve would be called out.

"[Betts] didn't reach over the fence; he was actually parallel with the wall," Cora said. "That's the rule and we got the out."

Postseason close calls involving fans

Instead of tying the game, the Astros ended the inning without scoring.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Cora on fan interference on Altuve's HR

"I was expecting that ball to go out," Altuve said. "The moment I saw the ball on the warning track, I said, 'OK, that's a double.' Two runs, the game ended up two runs, that makes me a little bit more upset."

The play, and the call, sparked a large response on social media, from a wide range of people watching either in person or at home on TV.

"Wow! I agree with call, just can't believe they got it right! Kudos to replay. Bet they have taller fences in Houston next yr." tweeted Hall of Famer Chipper Jones.

"Couldn't agree more. Make taller fences. Betts was going to catch it." former Brave Jeff Francoeur tweeted.

Tweet from @JeffFrancoeur: Couldn���t agree more. Make taller fences. Betts was going to catch it. https://t.co/KSoRz9ipnN

"That would've been an amazing catch by Betts!!!! They better call Altuve out." tweeted former All-Star pitcher Mark Mulder.

Video: Watch an extended cut of the crucial fan interference

Hinch, though, had arguably the best line of the night. Asked if they needed more cameras in the park to be able to see the best angles, Hinch deadpanned, "Yeah, earlier we started the day with, 'Do we have too many cameras in the park," a reference to the sign-stealing controversy that engulfed the pregame conversation. "So, yeah, I wish we had an angle that was perfectly along the fence line that would show. That's the one camera that we don't have."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Astros on fan interference call

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros

These teams came back from 3-1 deficits

13 teams have reeled off three straight wins to buck the odds
MLB.com

There are few things more imposing for a team than being down three games to one in a seven-game series, but it can also be freeing. Once a club is backed into that corner, the pressure's off; either it wins three games in a row or it tips its cap and goes home for a long winter.

That's the situation the defending champions, the Astros, find themselves in heading into Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. They'll turn to Justin Verlander at home to force a return trip to Boston this weekend for Game 6 and, they hope, Game 7.

There are few things more imposing for a team than being down three games to one in a seven-game series, but it can also be freeing. Once a club is backed into that corner, the pressure's off; either it wins three games in a row or it tips its cap and goes home for a long winter.

That's the situation the defending champions, the Astros, find themselves in heading into Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. They'll turn to Justin Verlander at home to force a return trip to Boston this weekend for Game 6 and, they hope, Game 7.

The odds are against the slow starters: Through 2017, only 13 teams out of 84 had come back to win a best-of-seven series after dropping three of the first four contests. Here's a look at each of those 13 "miracle" clubs and how they came all the way back to win. 

2016 World Series: Cubs over Indians
Cleveland was familiar with 3-1 deficits, having seen Lebron James and the NBA's Cavaliers come back from a 3-1 hole against the Warriors just a few months prior. But Ohioans would see their club fall on the other side this time around, thanks to a Cubs team that was desperate to end a 108-year championship drought.

Kris Bryant, as he did throughout the '16 postseason, came up clutch with a homer to wake up the Wrigley Field crowd in Game 5, and Addison Russell's grand slam in Game 6 sent the series back to Wrigley. Then, in one of the most memorable Fall Classic contests ever, the Cubs withstood Rajai Davis' dramatic two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman -- and a momentous rain delay -- to pull ahead on Ben Zobrist's 10th-inning RBI double. Mike Montgomery closed out the bottom half, and the "Curse of the Billy Goat" was finally over.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Romo gets popup, sends Giants to Series

2012 NLCS: Giants over Cardinals
Not only did the Giants come back in this series; they did so with authority. After winning their final three games on the road to defeat the Reds in the NLDS, San Francisco outscored St. Louis 20-1 over the final three contests to punch its second World Series ticket in three years. A resurgent Barry Zito pitched into the eighth in Game 5, and Ryan Vogelsong struck out nine in Game 6. Series MVP Marco Scutaro notched three hits in the finale to help San Francisco seal the franchise's first-ever victory in a winner-take-all Game 7.

Video: Red Sox topped Indians in memorable 2007 ALCS

2007 ALCS: Red Sox over Indians
Boston looked to be in fine shape after rocking AL Cy Young winner CC Sabathia in Game 1, but the Tribe stormed back for three straight victories to get Cleveland riled up for its first Fall Classic appearance in a decade. The Indians played the All-American Rejects' hit song "It Ends Tonight" over the loudspeakers before Game 5, but the Red Sox had other ideas. Josh Beckett dominated with 11 strikeouts to send the series back to Fenway Park, where J.D. Drew hit a grand slam to spur Boston to a 12-2 rout in Game 6. Red Sox employees played "It Ends Tonight" again before Game 7, and the home club ended things decisively, 11-2, to punch its second World Series ticket in four years.

Video: 2004 ALCS Gm 4: Roberts' steal sparks epic comeback

2004 ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
Eighty-six years of Bambino-sized baggage was wiped away over four magical nights in October, starting with Dave Roberts' daring steal and David Ortiz's walk-off homer in Game 4. Ortiz delivered again in a 14-inning marathon the following night to make the Fenway faithful believe, and Curt Schilling's "bloody sock" performance in Game 6 in the Bronx made him a folk hero in Boston. Johnny Damon's Game 7 grand slam seemed to lift whatever burden was left from the Red Sox's shoulders, as the self-proclaimed "idiots" became the first team to erase a 3-0 postseason deficit before sweeping the Cardinals for Boston's first championship since 1918.

Video: #WeKnowPostseason: Looking back on the 2003 NLCS

2003 NLCS: Marlins over Cubs
Steve Bartman will always be the symbol of this heart-breaking series for the Cubs, but the North Siders had plenty of other chances to claim their first NL pennant since 1945. Beckett, the Marlins' emerging ace, twirled a two-hit shutout in Game 5, and Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez's error after Bartman's fateful reach helped the Marlins tie (and eventually win) Game 6. Chicago even held a 5-3 lead through four innings of Game 7, but could not hold on as Florida prevailed despite being outscored by two runs in the series.

1996 NLCS: Braves over Cardinals
The Braves' 1990s run was one of the most dominant by any team, but this series represented one of Atlanta's toughest tests. St. Louis was able to break through against Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine to win three of the first four contests, but -- like the Giants did in 2012 -- the Braves absolutely surged over the Cardinals once their backs were against the wall. Atlanta's three-headed monster of John Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine returned to form, but they didn't need to do all that much as Braves hitters ambushed St. Louis pitchers and outscored the Cardinals 32-1 over their last three victories.

Video: 1986 ALCS Gm5: Henderson's series-changing homer

1986 ALCS: Red Sox over Angels
Fatalism was near its peak in Boston when the "cursed" Red Sox quickly fell behind the Halos and appeared on the verge of another postseason exit. The Angels were within one strike of their first pennant in Game 5 before Red Sox center fielder Dave Henderson blasted a dramatic go-ahead grand slam, setting up an eventual 7-6 win in 11 innings. Given new life, Boston pulled away in the final two contests at Fenway Park before heartbreak struck again on a famous grounder through Bill Buckner's legs in Game 6 of the World Series.

Video: WS1985 Gm6: Denkinger calls Orta safe at first base

1985 World Series: Royals over Cardinals
Kansas City epitomized the phrase "never say die" in '85, overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS before doing it again on the biggest stage. The Royals outscored the Cardinals 28-13 in this series, but still needed a controversial call from umpire Don Denkinger to squeak out a 2-1 win in Game 6 and stay alive. K.C. capitalized on its good fortune with an 11-0 blowout of the Cardinals in Game 7, with ace Bret Saberhagen twirling a five-hit shutout to seal the franchise's first World Series championship.

1985 ALCS: Royals over Blue Jays
As mentioned, this Royals club really was a team of destiny. Kansas City took full advantage of the first year of the best-of-seven LCS format, starting with Danny Jackson's eight-hit shutout in a must-win Game 5. George Brett hit his third homer of the series to power the Royals to a 5-3 win in Game 6, and the star trio of Saberhagen, Charlie Leibrandt and Dan Quisenberry helped K.C. close out Game 7 at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium.

Video: PIT@BAL: Stargell helps Pirates win World Series

1979 World Series: Pirates over Orioles
The '79 "We Are Family" Pirates were probably one of the loosest World Series champions, with captain Willie Stargell leading a big comeback over a supremely talented Orioles squad. Stargell hit an even .400 with three homers -- including a crucial dinger late in Game 7 -- to become the first player to capture the regular season, NLCS and World Series MVP Awards all in the same season. Pirates pitchers held Baltimore to two total runs over the last three games as Pittsburgh earned its second seven-game World Series triumph over the Orioles in a span of nine years.

Video: WS1968 Gm7: Tigers win the World Series

1968 World Series: Tigers over Cardinals
If you like vintage pitching performances, this series is for you. Bob Gibson outdueled Denny McLain, baseball's last 30-game winner, in Games 1 and 4 to put St. Louis on the verge of a second straight title, but Mickey Lolich stemmed the tide with his second win of the series in Game 5 in Detroit. McLain came back on two days' rest to nearly twirl a shutout in the Tigers' 13-1 rout in Game 6, setting up a dream winner-take-all matchup between Gibson and Lolich in St. Louis. The aces traded zeroes for six frames before Jim Northrup hit a two-run triple over Curt Flood's head in center field, and that was all Lolich -- also pitching on two days' rest -- would need in Detroit's 4-1 win.

1958 World Series: Yankees over Braves
Hank Aaron and the Braves shocked the Yankees with a seven-game triumph in '57, and came oh so close to doing it again the following autumn. Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette -- who beat the Yankees three times in '57 -- combined for victories in three of the first four games, but the Yankees finally solved Burdette with six runs off the righty to stay alive in Game 5. Spahn went into the 10th inning in Game 6 before giving up a pair of runs, and Braves pinch-hitter Frank Torre lined out to end the game with Aaron representing the tying run at third base. That was the break the Yankees needed, as Bob Turley pitched 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in relief and the pinstripes beat Burdette again, 6-2, in Game 7 in Milwaukee.

1925 World Series: Pirates over Senators
The legendary Walter Johnson had finally claimed his first championship with a heroic Game 7 performance in '24, but his luck ran out in another Game 7 the following year. Monsoon-like rain and heavy fog created perhaps the worst playing conditions of any World Series game in history, and the Senators' two blown leads didn't do anything to boost Johnson's morale. Kiki Cuyler's eighth-inning, two-run double off Washington's ace erased an original 4-0 deficit for the Pirates, who pulled off the first 3-1 comeback in postseason history.

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

These 10 qualifying-offer choices won't be easy

MLB.com @castrovince

Since its 2012 inception, baseball's qualifying offer system has provided a fascinating little cat-and-mouse game between teams and their potentially departing players.

For those who need a refresher in this process, teams have until five full days after the conclusion of the World Series to make a one-year qualifying offer to their free agents, and the players have 10 days to accept or reject the offer. This year's qualifying offers will reportedly be valued at $17.9 million. Those who reject the offer are tied to Draft pick compensation, meaning their former teams can recoup a pick when the player signs elsewhere (the many ins and outs with regard to the placement of those picks are reviewable here).

Since its 2012 inception, baseball's qualifying offer system has provided a fascinating little cat-and-mouse game between teams and their potentially departing players.

For those who need a refresher in this process, teams have until five full days after the conclusion of the World Series to make a one-year qualifying offer to their free agents, and the players have 10 days to accept or reject the offer. This year's qualifying offers will reportedly be valued at $17.9 million. Those who reject the offer are tied to Draft pick compensation, meaning their former teams can recoup a pick when the player signs elsewhere (the many ins and outs with regard to the placement of those picks are reviewable here).

Sometimes, qualifying offers are no-brainers for both parties. That will, in all likelihood, be the case with Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin and Craig Kimbrel in this offseason's market. Their teams will make the offer, and they will turn the offer down to explore greener pastures. Actually, 95 percent of all qualifying offers made since 2012 have been turned down, so this process is generally used as a means for teams to pick up picks, not to actually extend relationships.

But free agency has changed in a big way the past couple years, and the ever-rising value of the qualifying offer -- as well as the value teams place on the picks they're giving up to sign players tied to compensation, thereby affecting open-market offers -- makes many of these decisions more nuanced for both sides.

Here are 10 examples in this offseason's free-agent class in which there are good arguments for and against a club extending the offer, along with guesses as to what will go down.

A.J. Pollock, CF, D-backs
Pollock can be an electric player when healthy, but he's not healthy enough. He's played just 237 games over the past three years, and the lost time has dragged down his overall offensive contributions. And with the D-backs trying to pare down their franchise-record payroll, a $17.9 million investment would be a risky expenditure.

Verdict: There are very valid arguments for passing on Pollock, but at the same time, there is doubt that he'd accept a one-year deal at age 30 without exploring what this market light on center fielders has to offer him. So this feels like a worthwhile gamble for a club that needs to stockpile depth in the system.

Andrew Miller, LHP, Indians
Elite relievers still fared pretty well for themselves in last year's otherwise depressed free-agent market, but it's an open question whether Miller still qualifies as elite after a 2018 season in which shoulder, knee and hamstring issues limited him to 34 innings. His once-unhittable slider simply wasn't the same in the Indians' brief postseason appearance. But few relievers in the open market possess the kind of pedigree that Miller has.

Verdict: With nearly $100 million committed to 11 players and Francisco Lindor and Trevor Bauer due for big raises in arbitration, the Indians' budget might be stretched too thin to offer Miller what would amount to a one-year pillow contract worth slightly more than Wade Davis' standard-bearing average annual value.

Michael Brantley, LF, Indians
Obviously, the Tribe's financial picture is no different here, so there would be risk in making the offer to a player who logged just 101 games played in 2016-17. But Brantley's healthy and productive '18 (.309/.364/.468) make him ripe to test the market in advance of his age-32 season.

Verdict: Brantley's increasingly rare bat-to-ball skillset (he had the highest contact rate in MLB this year) offsets many of the concerns about his age and injury history. He has ample incentive to turn down the qualifying offer, which means the Indians have ample incentive to make the offer.

Yasmani Grandal, C, Dodgers
Grandal's 2018 (.241/.349/.466 slash) may have been his finest season yet, and he's well-regarded for his pitch-framing. But he has lost playing time in the past two postseasons to Austin Barnes, including after some high-profile passed balls in this National League Championship Series. And only two catchers -- Yadier Molina and Buster Posey -- will enter 2019 with an average annual value higher than the value of this qualifying offer.

Verdict: Recent defensive issues aside, Grandal was probably baseball's second-best catcher this year behind J.T. Realmuto, and he'll only be 30 next season. The offer seems worth the risk for a team with deep pockets.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Dodgers
Ryu has made just 40 starts since 2014, having endured a litany of injury issues, including shoulder surgery. So on the surface, there's little reason to extend him the offer. That said, with a 1.97 ERA and 198 ERA+ in 15 regular-season starts in 2018 and some high-profile success on this postseason stage, maybe the decision is not quite as clear-cut as we would have thought going into 2018.

Verdict: This free-agent market has depth in the starting realm, so $17.9 million for one year of Ryu, with his inherent health risks, would probably not rate as good value.

DJ LeMahieu, 2B, Rockies
LeMahieu had a brief and unsustainable offensive surge in 2016, when he won a batting title and enjoyed a huge power surge. Since then, he's actually rated as a below-average offensive contributor. But LeMahieu is still a solid all-around player with strong defensive value up the middle.

Verdict: With the free-agent market pretty well stocked at second base (Daniel Murphy, Ian Kinsler, Brian Dozier, etc.) and some good infield talent in their system, the Rox should pass on making this offer.

Jed Lowrie, 2B, A's
At 34, Lowrie enjoyed a homer surge in 2018, but his numbers overall fell right in line with his strong 2017 output (120 OPS+ marks both years). He's enjoyed a two-year run of good health after many issues in that department in the past.

Verdict: Hard to imagine the necessarily frugal A's risking a $17.9 million investment in a single player, especially a 35-year-old player. More likely, the two sides will try to work out a multi-year extension of what has been a fruitful relationship.

Marwin Gonzalez, UTL, Astros
Gonzalez could not approximate his 2017 offensive impact (.907 OPS, 23 homers, 34 doubles) this year, as his numbers tumbled back in line with his career norm. But he'll be 30 next season, can play all over the diamond and has had some huge hits in this postseason to remind us what an important player he is to the Astros.

Verdict: The overall offensive regression this season is real, but so is the value of versatility in today's game. Gonzalez can probably land an attractive multiyear guarantee (albeit not at $17.9 million in average annual value), so the offer appears worthwhile.

Charlie Morton, RHP, Astros
Morton has hinted at retirement to spend more time with his growing family, but the prevailing sentiment is that he'll likely come back for at least one more year. He had a brief disabled list stint with a shoulder issue late in 2018, but, ultimately, finished with his second-highest innings total (167) and a career-best ERA (3.13).

Verdict: This is the rare situation in which the qualifying offer might make a lot of sense for both sides. The Astros would lock Morton in for one year at a rate commensurate with his impact, and Morton would have the flexibility to walk away a year from now after earning a nice premium for an extension of his services.

Nick Markakis, RF, Braves
Markakis' All-Star bid and offensive resurgence (.297/.366/.440) was one of the great stories of the season and a big reason why the Braves won the NL East ahead of schedule. His durability (at least 155 games played in 11 of the past 12 seasons) is an added asset, though he is entering his age-35 season.

Verdict: As good as Markakis was on measure in 2018, his numbers did tumble in the second half, and his age likely means Atlanta could work out a more team-friendly deal with him than the $17.9 million qualifying offer, if the club is so inclined.

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.

Michael Brantley, Marwin Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal, DJ LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, Nick Markakis, Andrew Miller, Charlie Morton, A.J. Pollock, Hyun-Jin Ryu

Rumors: Machado, Yanks, Morton, Kershaw, Storen

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 

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

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

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

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

Cashman, though, wouldn't take the bait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kershaw was referencing the 10-day period after the World Series in which he will be mandated to make a decision of whether to opt out of the two years and just over $70 million remaining on a seven-year, $215 million contract he signed with the Dodgers prior to the 2014 season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eovaldi, Keuchel turn in strong performances in ALCS Game 3
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.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Eovaldi K's 4, allows 2 ER over 6

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. 

Video: ALCS Gm3: Keuchel on his start, Astros' Game 3 loss

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. 

Marlins add more international bonus pool money with eye on three Cuban prospects
Oct. 16: The Marlins created more financial flexibility on Tuesday to make an aggressive run at the three coveted Cuban prospects they've been pursuing this offseason, trading Minor Leaguers Adonis Giron and Brayan De Paula to the Astros for $500,000 in international bonus pool money, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. 

The latest of their three trades this offseason is believed to have pushed Miami's international bonus pool ahead of the Orioles' $6.7 million for the MLB high. That would put them in a more favorable position to sign Cuban prospects Victor Victor Mesa, his brother, Victor Mesa Jr., and Sandy Gaston, who were each granted free agency by MLB a few weeeks ago, making them eligible to sign at any time.

Video: Hill discusses hosting Mesa, Gaston at showcase

Tuesday's trade was the Marlins' third this offseason that was largely geared at adding international talent. On Oct. 10, they traded right-hander Kyle Barraclough to the Nationals for $1 million and on Oct. 6, they traded right-handed pitching prospect Ryan Lillie to the Reds for $750,000. 

Before the two deals, the Marlins had $4.3 million in their international allotment, behind only the Orioles. 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. More >

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.

MLB shows support for Spirit Day

MLB.com

Major League Baseball is taking a stand against bullying. The 30 clubs will again support Thursday's Spirit Day -- a worldwide, largely social media-based anti-bullying effort targeting LGBTQ youth -- as part of National Bullying Prevention Month.

Spirit Day, as well as MLB's Shred Hate initiative -- which aims to combat bullying in schools and is now supported by 10 MLB clubs (the Twins, Nationals, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Phillies, Rangers, Pirates and Red Sox) -- is part of MLB's commitment to using its platform to help reduce incidents of bullying amount young people.

Major League Baseball is taking a stand against bullying. The 30 clubs will again support Thursday's Spirit Day -- a worldwide, largely social media-based anti-bullying effort targeting LGBTQ youth -- as part of National Bullying Prevention Month.

Spirit Day, as well as MLB's Shred Hate initiative -- which aims to combat bullying in schools and is now supported by 10 MLB clubs (the Twins, Nationals, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Phillies, Rangers, Pirates and Red Sox) -- is part of MLB's commitment to using its platform to help reduce incidents of bullying amount young people.

"We want every kid that may love baseball, whether they're LGBTQ youth or not, to feel welcome and safe," said MLB vice president and special assistant to the Commissioner Billy Bean, a former Major League outfielder who is openly gay. "[We want to] let them know that they are a part of the baseball family and we're going to stand up right beside them."

Spirit Day was created in 2010 as a response to LGBTQ youth who have taken their own lives as a result of bullying. Millions wear purple on the day as a sign of support and to speak out against bullying.

Several MLB clubs will be wearing pins or purple clothing in support of Spirit Day, in addition to joining the social media campaign and supporting anti-bullying programing at local schools.

The Brewers will take donations to the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and match up to $10,000 for the day. Royals mascot Sluggerrr will be on hand at a local Kansas City-area school for an anti-bullying program featuring videos from several Royals players.

Tweet from @Brewers: Join us as we celebrate #MLBSpiritDay tomorrow & help support @ARCWisc. We will match an additional contribution of up to $10,000 for those who donate in honor of Spirit Day!More: https://t.co/5fAZje8fd8 pic.twitter.com/VXNBS2f9QM

"We're the sport of Jackie Robinson," Bean said. "The one unique part of LGBTQ diversity awareness is the LGBTQ is every race, every gender, every age, every nationality. We're a part of everyone. ... The more inclusive that we can become, the more opportunities we're going to have to have the best and brightest people want to work in our sport and participate as athletes, and definitely when they walk through the turnstiles, they're going to feel welcome."

The Red Sox, in partnership with Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon's Gordon Family Foundation, have made a $200,000 pledge to support its neighborhood LGBTQ health center, Fenway Health. The donation will benefit Fenway Health's youth, anti-bullying and anti-violence programs, including its Violence Recovery Program and the Sidney Borum, Jr. Health Center, which provides safe, non-judgmental care for young people ages 12-29.

"Spirit Day is meant to bring attention and awareness to bullying among LGBTQ youth, and there is no better way to affect real change related to this kind of abuse -- whether its verbal or physical -- than by supporting the great work being done right in our own neighborhood at Fenway Health," said Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy in a team release. "We are lucky to have a facility in our community with the highest level of leadership and expertise in this area, and are thankful to Mike and Christina Gordon for their partnership, generosity and thoughtfulness around this important topic."

Professional sports and the LGBTQ community haven't always been a natural fit, with inclusion efforts being a relatively new push in the space -- throughout its history baseball has only had two players (Glenn Burke and Bean) come out as gay, and neither did so publicly until after their careers -- but it's been a focus of MLB's in recent years, particularly since Bean's hiring as MLB's first Ambassador of Inclusion in 2014.

Some of MLB's biggest stars -- Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado, Javier Baez, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Francisco Lindor, Sean Doolittle, George Springer and Justin Verlander -- participated in a Shred Hate PSA titled "Join Our Team" for National Bullying Prevention Month.

Video: Top MLB players speak out to end bullying

"Sometimes in the sports world, we're a step or two behind, because we try to build up an image -- all sports do -- of masculinity," Bean said. "And sometimes it takes a great athlete to make a comment that is accepting and really breaks a barrier."

Spirit Day and the Shred Hate campaign will have a unique spotlight today with all eyes on Game 5 of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Astros in Houston, the lone postseason contest scheduled for the day.

"[Thursday] is just one moment, but it's a wonderful moment to allow a very important segment of our society to feel loved and welcomed and supported," Bean said.

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

Relive the madness of the Mookie Betts fan interference in ALCS Game 4 with these tweets

Game 4 of the ALCS got off to a wild start Wednesday night. After the Red Sox scored two runs in the top of the first inning, it appeared that Jose Altuve had evened the game up for the Astros on a deep fly ball to right field. Instead, Mookie Betts leaped for the ball and came into contact with some fans as he tried to make the catch. 

As the play was reviewed to rule the call on the field of fan interference would stand, everyone on Twitter tried to figure out what exactly transpired on the play.

Behind Kershaw, LA takes 3-2 NLCS lead to MIL

MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Until there's a World Series ring on his finger, Clayton Kershaw will do just about anything to put one there, as he showed the Brewers on Wednesday.

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

View Full Game Coverage

LOS ANGELES -- Until there's a World Series ring on his finger, Clayton Kershaw will do just about anything to put one there, as he showed the Brewers on Wednesday.

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

View Full Game Coverage

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

The future Hall of Famer pitched like one in what could turn out to be his final Dodgers start, stifling the Brewers for seven innings on three hits in a 5-2 Game 5 victory at Dodger Stadium that gave Los Angeles a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.

The series shifts to Milwaukee, with Game 6 on Friday (and Game 7 on Saturday, if necessary) and the Dodgers needing one win for their first back-to-back World Series appearances since 1977-78. When a best-of-seven MLB series has been tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has gone on to win the series 42 of 60 times (70 percent). Teams leading 3-2 with Games 6 and 7 on the road have gone on to take the series 29 of 49 times (59 percent). The Dodgers are 5-1 with a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series.

"It wasn't as easy maybe as last year to get to this point," said Kershaw. "I realize we've got some work to finish it off and get back. It doesn't really matter how you get there, but thankful that we are here now, for sure."

Kershaw -- the Game 1 loser to the Brewers when he was charged with five runs (four earned) in three-plus innings -- rebounded like a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner. Kershaw said he wasn't thinking about Game 1, but his manager was.

"You could see the same look that you always see, there's a determination and when you get a champion like him that gets hit around a little bit, he's going to respond, and that's what he did today," said Dave Roberts.

Kershaw struck out nine with a curve he could throw for strikes and a slider that darted (season-high 19 swinging strikes), retired the last 13 batters he faced and rested a bullpen that was on fumes after throwing eight scoreless innings in Tuesday night's marathon walk-off win. Of his 98 pitches, 66 were sliders or curveballs. He also walked twice, put down a sacrifice bunt and scored a run.

"In Game 5 of the NLCS, we're going to have guys probably pitching out of their comfort zones all over the place," said Kershaw. "And that was evident today when they were prepared to take me out after five innings. It's definitely in the back of your mind that you want to try to go as deep as possible when the bullpen was taxed as much as it was yesterday."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw on being one win away from WS

Homerless for a third consecutive game, the Dodgers changed their offensive approach, putting balls in play, using the big part of the field and aggressively running the bases (steals by Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor and Manny Machado). Six of nine hits went to center field.

"The little things played a big part today," said Roberts.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Bellinger swipes second, call is confirmed

After Lorenzo Cain's RBI double off Kershaw in the third inning gave the Brewers a 1-0 lead, the Dodgers tied the game on an RBI single through a drawn-in infield by Austin Barnes in the fifth inning with Kershaw's spot next and Yasiel Puig in the on-deck circle. Roberts said Puig was a decoy and he was sending Kershaw back out to pitch the sixth, but Milwaukee couldn't be sure of that.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Barnes drives in Taylor with an RBI single

"Kershaw was going to hit, we would have had a strikeout or infield groundout," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "We brought the infield in and tried to be aggressive there. So I would agree that that [Barnes hit] was the at-bat of the game. And I think that certainly we get to their bullpen and they've got to do some work in the bullpen. So that changed things, for sure."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw discusses his at-bat in the 7th

The Dodgers took the lead in the sixth on RBI singles by Max Muncy and Puig. They added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on a Justin Turner RBI single and a Brian Dozier RBI groundout.

Puig makes impact off bench in Game 5 victory

Video: NLCS Gm5: Turner drives in Kershaw with RBI single

Muncy's one-out hit -- an uncharacteristic bouncer through the left side of the infield for the pull hitter -- scored Turner to break the tie and chased Brandon Woodruff, who had been pitching since the second batter of the game. Counsell used Wade Miley as a one-batter decoy starter to influence Los Angeles' lineup construction. Miley is expected to start Game 6.

Muncy's hit followed Machado being nicked by a pitch, and Machado scored on Puig's two-out single up the middle.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Muncy, Puig give Dodgers lead in the 6th

Kershaw -- who can opt out of the final two years of his contract after the World Series -- added to Dodgers postseason records for wins (nine), starts (22), innings pitched (140) and strikeouts (153). He's 3-5 in NLCS games and 9-8 overall in the postseason.

"It's just a classic case of he executed a lot of pitches today," said Counsell. "He didn't execute in Milwaukee and he executed today. I don't think it was a vastly different game plan; it's simple execution."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kershaw said a third-inning, two-out strikeout of Jesus Aguilar that left the bases loaded and started the 13 straight outs was the turning point in his start.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw escapes bases-loaded jam with K

"Any time you can work yourself out of situations like that, that's going to make or break the game," he said. "Minimizing damage as best you can as a starting pitcher is huge. In the playoffs you probably don't get many chances to work out of jams because you're going to get taken out of the game because the magnitude of the game is so large."

Video: Dodgers win pivotal Game 5, take 3-2 NLCS lead

SOUND SMART
Kershaw joined Jim Palmer (1971 Orioles), Don Drysdale ('63 Dodgers) and Bill Dinneen ('03 Americans) as the only players with at least two walks (batting) and at least nine strikeouts (pitching) in a postseason game all-time, according to Stats LLC.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw draws 2 walks in Game 5 win

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Barnes' single scored Taylor, who led off the fifth on an infield single, taking second on shortstop Orlando Arcia's throwing error, then stealing third base.

"Having the confidence and trust in your ability to get out there and know that the guy's a little slow to the plate and we can take advantage of that and to go on the first pitch was big time," said Turner.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Taylor, Dodgers manufacture run to tie game

HE SAID IT
"Just thinking that I have to get Woodruff out." -- Kershaw, who allowed a Game 1 homer to Woodruff, on what he was thinking when Woodruff relieved one batter into the game

Video: NLCS Gm5: Watch Slo-mo footage of Game 5 of the NLCS

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw

Miley removed after 1 batter, will start Game 6

Veteran lefty replaced by righty Woodruff after walking Bellinger
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

LOS ANGELES -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell put the plan in motion on Monday, when, tucked in a small room on the ground floor of Dodger Stadium, he publicly tabbed Wade Miley as his Game 5 starter. Privately, Miley was warned "things may be different." But it wasn't until more than a full day later that Miley learned he was a pawn, cast by Counsell to star in the back-and-forth battle that has defined this National League Championship Series.

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

View Full Game Coverage

LOS ANGELES -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell put the plan in motion on Monday, when, tucked in a small room on the ground floor of Dodger Stadium, he publicly tabbed Wade Miley as his Game 5 starter. Privately, Miley was warned "things may be different." But it wasn't until more than a full day later that Miley learned he was a pawn, cast by Counsell to star in the back-and-forth battle that has defined this National League Championship Series.

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

View Full Game Coverage

By the time Miley toed the rubber Wednesday afternoon, on three days' rest, he remained one of the few who knew the truth: No matter how Miley handled Dodgers leadoff man Cody Bellinger, the left-hander's day would then be done. Brandon Woodruff would follow, jogging out from Milwaukee's bullpen in the right-field corner to commence the Brewers' fourth bullpen game of the postseason and third of the NLCS.

"That's," Counsell said, "what we were going to do all along."

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

How history remembers the scheme and if it's mimicked in Octobers to come will probably hinge on how the series ends for the Brewers, starting on Friday, when their season will be on the line following Wednesday's 5-2 loss in Game 5 to the Dodgers, which put them down, 3-2, in the best-of-seven series.

But first, the certainties: Milwaukee will still return to Miller Park in what Counsell called "a position of strength," even facing elimination after letting Game 5 slip away.

Miley, arguably their top starter, is now set to start Game 6. Jhoulys Chacin, the other pitcher in that conversation, will prep for a possible Game 7. Both will be on full rest. Both will be backed by the full support of Milwaukee's vaunted bullpen, with Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel all having sat out Game 5. It is as enviable a position as possible for the Brewers, given the circumstances.

"We're sitting in a very good spot and we have a great opportunity," Counsell said. "And I know you're going to play, 'What if we could have captured another of these games?' But we're still going home and have a chance with this thing, with a bunch of guys in really good shape."

How long Miley's leash will be Friday remains to be seen. With Chacin available and several other Brewers relievers able to throw multiple innings, the smart money is on Miley functioning as something in between a traditional starter and the opener he was used as Wednesday, when he walked Bellinger on five pitches before giving way to Woodruff.

The goal, Counsell admitted, was "to get matchups." In that way, it was a chess move thematic of this series, which has pitted Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Counsell against each other in a near-constant battle for platoon advantages.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Counsell on Miley strategy, Woodruff

"It's not my job to question it," Miley said. "We're trying to get to the World Series. This is the strategic side of it. I was in. Everybody bought in."

Woodruff struck out eight over 5 1/3 largely effective innings after Miley's exit, but Woodruff took the loss after allowing a go-ahead single to Max Muncy in Los Angeles' two-run sixth. Woodruff and Miley were both informed of the plan early Wednesday morning after Milwaukee used seven pitchers in its 13-inning Game 4 loss.

"Seeing the situation from last night," Woodruff said,"I could read between the lines."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Woodruff K's 8 over 5 1/3 innings in relief

The few who were in on it were sworn to secrecy. But as first pitch approached, word began to trickle out. Counsell tapped Mike Moustakas on the shoulder, with news an early mound visit would be coming. Ryan Braun was told. In the clubhouse, Miley spun his chair toward Christian Yelich, catching the outfielder off guard.

"I'm probably going to go out there and throw about four of those things," Miley said.

"What are you talking about?" Yelich said.

"I'm only throwing to the first batter," Miley said, before heading to the bullpen.

Woodruff watched in hiding as Miley warmed up, remaining in the bullpen tunnel until the two teams exchanged lineup cards.

"Then I came out," Woodruff said. "I was told not to inform anybody. I was told to keep it to myself."

It is unclear how aware the Dodgers were. Starting Miley kept the left-handed-hitting Joc Pederson and the right-handed-hitting Yasiel Puig (who had reverse splits this year) out of Roberts' starting lineup, but he moved the left-handed-hitting Bellinger to leadoff and started Max Muncy at second base. Roberts stacked his lineup with all righties against Miley in Game 2.

"You've got to prepare for the unexpected," Roberts said.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Roberts on unconventional usage of Miley

It's probably unwise to expect anything less going forward, with the Brewers' backs against the wall.

"We've got two starters lined up and we've got a bullpen that's going to get a day off," Counsell said, "and some key guys who are going to get multiple days off and be ready to go in a two-game stretch where we can use them."

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Wade Miley, Brandon Woodruff

Potential LCS game time changes on Saturday

MLB.com

As a result of two competitive League Championship Series, we have two "if necessary" games currently scheduled for Saturday. That means that game times could shift depending on how many games need to be played.

Here is how it breaks down.

As a result of two competitive League Championship Series, we have two "if necessary" games currently scheduled for Saturday. That means that game times could shift depending on how many games need to be played.

Here is how it breaks down.

SATURDAY SCHEDULE

If there are two games:
ALCS G6: HOU-BOS, 5:09 p.m. ET (TBS)
NLCS G7: LAD-MIL, 9:09 p.m. ET (FS1)

If the NLCS is over:
ALCS G6: HOU-BOS, 8:09 p.m. ET (TBS)

If the ALCS is over:
NLCS G7: LAD-MIL, 8:09 p.m. ET (FS1)

Milwaukee Brewers, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros