Link-O-Rama: Lester or Beckett in Game 1?

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* Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald reports that the Red Sox will likely start Jon Lester in Game 1 of the ALDS, followed by Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Beckett was MVP of the World Series in 2003 and MVP of the ALCS in 2007, and has a sparkling 7-2 record and 2.90 ERA in 87 postseason innings. Then again, Lester has been the Red Sox’s best pitcher this season and has a 2.25 ERA in 36 postseason innings himself. Can’t go wrong either way, really.
* On a related note, Brad Penny turned in another strong start last night, holding the Cubs to one run over eight innings. Penny and John Smoltz now have a combined 3.24 ERA in 11 starts back in the NL after going 9-13 with a 6.24 ERA in 32 starts for the Red Sox. Helluva league, that NL.
* After a decade with the Orioles and the 10th-most games in franchise history, Melvin Mora is preparing for life away from Baltimore once his $8 million option for 2010 gets declined. Mora was a 28-year-old utility man when the Orioles got him from the Mets as part of the haul for Mike Bordick in mid-2000, but since then he’s been one of the best third basemen in the league while making two All-Star teams and hitting 158 homers.
* David Brown of Yahoo! Sports did a great interview with Denard Span, who has emerged as one of the best all-around players in the league after once looking like a bust.
* Brandon Webb reiterated yesterday that he’s not interesting in an incentive-laden contract, so if the Diamondbacks want to keep him from becoming a free agent they’ll need to pick up his $8.5 million option for 2010. “I’ve got to go out and see what’s best for me,” Webb said. “I think I can get [$8.5 million] anywhere I want.” And he’s probably right.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.