Rangers win first ever postseason series, advance to ALCS vs. Yanks

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Roy Halladay made history last week, but Cliff Lee continues to rule the postseason.

Lee struck out 11 in a 5-1 victory over the Rays in Game 5 tonight, giving the Rangers their first ever postseason series victory and a date with the Yankees in the ALCS.

The Rangers held a 3-1 lead going into the top of the ninth inning, but Ian Kinsler provided some breathing room with a two-run shot off Rays closer Rafael Soriano. Lee got Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton in order as the Rays went down without much of a fight in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Lee tossed a season-high 120 pitches in the win. He allowed just two runs over 16 innings during the series (1.13 ERA), posting a ridiculous 21/0 K/BB ratio, improving to 6-0 with 1.43 ERA in seven career postseason starts. He’s a postseason cyborg.

Keep in mind that because Lee was needed in Game 5 tonight, C.J. Wilson will oppose CC Sabathia in Game 1 of the ALCS in Arlington on Friday night. Colby Lewis is likely to get the assignment in Game 2, allowing Cliff Lee to pitch on regular rest for Game 3 next Monday.

And what can you say about the Rays? They managed to win the American League East and secure home-field advantage, but lost all three games at the Trop and were held to just two runs along the way. That’s what out-of-this-world pitching will do to you. Now they are faced with an offseason where Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano are all likely to sign elsewhere.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.