How will Mike Lowell do in Sox camp?

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Rob Bradford of WEEI checks in from Fort Myers where he spoke with Theo Epstein about the awkwardness that will be the Mike-Lowell-in-camp dynamic:

“I don’t know that it will be that dicey. As I’ve said, it’s one of
those things that will take care of itself. Mike’s priority is our
priority, which is to get him healthy. Until that happens, there’s
really not much that can be done. He’s going to be a little bit behind
everybody else because of the surgery he had. we’re going to do
everything we can to help get him healthy. Once he gets healthy, it
will take care of itself. If he’s really impressive and impressive to
other clubs, maybe something can be worked out. If not, I’m sure
there’s nowhere else where Mike would rather take a bit of a lesser
role than here.”

That’s about as honest as an assessment as you’ll hear from a GM. Most of the time in such situations you’ll hear the front office say “we think Mike Lowell will be a big contributor, etc, etc.,” even if it’s not plausible. Maybe so that the player’s ego isn’t bruised, maybe because they think that by doing so it will make the guy a more attractive trade target.  It seems, however, that Lowell and Theo and are going to be spending this spring openly and honestly shopping the guy.

Not that it’s completely honest. Because really, does anyone think that the Red Sox want to keep Lowell on the team, riding the pine, making $12 million to be a utility guy who can’t play up the middle?  I don’t, and if the Sox can’t find a trading partner I’d be shocked if they didn’t simply cut Lowell in the interests of a more flexible bench.  I mean, its not like they’re not going to be paying most of his salary even if they trade him.

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.