Giants, Rangers still have to be favored, but . . .

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The good news for Rangers and Giants fans: in Major League Baseball history, 35 teams have been up 3-1 and then lost Game 5. Of those 35 Game 5 losers, 24 still went on to win the series. The good news for Giants fans: 17 of those Game 5 losers had to go on the road for Games 6 and 7, and 12 of those ended up winning the series. So yes, the odds still favor the plucky underdogs from Texas and San Francisco. Purely on history, the Rangers have a 67% chance at going on to the World Series and the Giants a 71% chance.

But as a great philosopher once said: never tell me the odds.

Why? Because of the 1987 NLCS. Because of the 2002 World Series. Neither of those Giants teams ever had a 3-1 lead, but each took a 3-2 lead on the road for games 6 and 7, and each of those teams woofed the final two. I like Matt Cain’s chances in a Game 7 better than Atlee Hammaker’s, and for all of the hostility in Citizens Bank Park, they don’t have the power of the Rally Monkey on their side in Philly, but you just know that Giants fans feel like they’ve been here before.  I still worry about the Phillies’ offense, but the juju of it all is in their favor, and that’s not nothing.

The Rangers, in my mind, are in a much, much better position. They’re at home. They face a shaky Phil Hughes tonight. If worst comes to worst they have the best postseason pitcher in baseball going in Game 7. Nothing in life, and especially nothing in baseball is guaranteed, but I’d probably give the Rangers something better than the two out of three odds history gives them.

Tense times for Philly, San Francisco, New York and Texas partisans. Awesomely entertaining times for the rest of us. Here’s to a fantastic weekend of playoff baseball.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.

Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.

Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.