Aided by umps, Angels run away with Game 1

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The Angels, who have had three of their last four postseason runs spoiled by the Red Sox, took a big step towards getting the Rally Monkey off their backs with a 5-0 victory in Thursday’s ALDS Game 1.
Boston had plenty of reason to gripe after the game. Torii Hunter should have been rung up on strikes before walking to lead the bases in the third. First-base ump C.B. Bucknor missed Kevin Youkilis’ obvious tag on Howie Kendrick to extend the fourth inning. Bucknor had an even worse call in the sixth, when Youkilis had to jump off first base to make a catch. He clearly came right back down on the bag, yet Bucknor called the runner safe anyway.
That none of those plays came in innings in which the Angels scored means there won’t be any long-term controversy here. Still, those extra pitches Lester was forced to throw added up. Vladimir Guerrero should have been the first out of the fourth, not the last of the third. Jeff Mathis, the easiest out in either lineup, never should have come to the plate in the fourth, yet he made the last out after the blown call on Kendrick. Had things worked out differently, perhaps Torii Hunter never would have made it to the plate to hit his three-run homer in the fifth.
In the end, it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. After an encouraging first inning, the Red Sox turned in mostly atrocious at-bats against an impressive John Lackey, who pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings. The only threat was a two-out rally in the sixth, when Dustin Pedroia singled and Victor Martinez walked. Youkilis went on to work a 3-0 count and then took what was clearly ball four on the TBS pitch trax, only to have an inconsistent Joe West call it a strike. He went on to ground out, and the Red Sox put just one runner on during the final three innings.
The story of the game was Lackey’s performance. He allowed four hits, walked just the one and struck out four. Darren Oliver replaced him in the eighth and retired five in a row to end the game. It was Lackey’s first postseason victory since the 2002 World Series. He had been 0-3 in six outings since. Boston was shut out in the postseason for the first time since 1995.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.

Marlins trade David Phelps to the Mariners for four prospects

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The Miami Marlins have sent reliever David Phelps to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for four prospects. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and Ken Rosenthal had rumors of the deal first, Jon Morosi, Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman (among others) all reported the trade at virtually the same time.

Phelps, 30, had a fantastic 2016 season, posting a 2.28 ERA in 64 games while striking out 11.8 batters per nine innings. He’s not been as strong this year, but he’s still been a solid setup man, posting a 3.45 ERA in 44 games while striking out 51 batters and walking 21 in 47 innings. He throws in the mid-90s and induces grounders. The Mariners could probably use rotation help more than bullpen help, but solid innings are solid innings at one point and improving your pen takes some of the pressure off of your rotation. Phelps will help Seattle with that. He’s under team control for next year too, so this is more than a rental.

The top prospect in the deal is Brayan Hernandez, a 19 year-old outfielder from Venezuela, currently playing in low-A ball. Also in the deal: righty Brandon Miller, righty Pablo Lopez and righty Lucas Schiraldi who, yes, is the son of ex-big leaguer Calvin Schiraldi. None of these guys are blue chippers, but you never know what’ll happen. It’s a volume return for the Fish.

We’ve already seen some big bullpen names move, including David Robertson, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Among others who could be moved:  A.J. Ramos (Marlins); Justin Wilson (Tigers); Addison Reed (Mets); Jerry Blevins (Mets); Brad Hand (Padres); Tony Watson (Pirates); Juan Nicasio (Pirates); Brad Brach (Orioles); Drew Storen (Reds); and Raisel Iglesias (Reds).