Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays - Game 4

Adrian Beltre hits three homers, clubs the Rangers past the Rays and into the ALCS

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Adrian Beltre hit three homers — all solo shots — to lead the Rangers past the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3.  That win makes three which puts the Rangers in the ALCS, making it there by beating the Rays in the division series for the second straight year.

For the Rays, the season ends six days after it was improbably extended. The high drama occasioned by their pursuit of the collapsing Red Sox offset by a division series that was anti-climactic in the extreme. The momentum, if you believe in such things, carried over into their Game 1 drubbing of the Rangers, but after taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning of game 2, they seemed to have no life left in them at all. Mike Napoli took care of them in that game and in Game 3, Beltre today.  Into the postseason with a bang, out with a whimper.

Notes:

  • Beltre was the sixth player to hit three homers in a postseason game.  Reggie Jackson, Adam Kennedy, um, some other guys, and then Beltre.  Points to whoever can name the other three.
  • Matt Harrison struck out nine in five innings. Can’t say he looked extremely dominant — it wasn’t as if he was really overpowering guys — but results is results. And strikeouts lead to big pitch counts, which is why he only went five.
  • Major kudos to Ron Washington and the Rangers front office. Last year there was a sense that Cliff Lee, Hired Gun, was everything. With Lee gone, Jon Daniels pushed a number of buttons, Nolan Ryan opened the purse strings a bit and Ron Washington made it all happen in a way that people, I don’t think, truly appreciate. Just a fantastic organization they got down in Texas.
  • Sean Rodriguez scored from second on a Casey Kotchman single in the fourth. To score he had to barrel into Mike Napoli who is, suffice it to say, is much, much bigger than Rodriguez. Napoli had the plate blocked so the collision was unavoidable, but Napoli took a forearm to the jaw and looked a bit dazed afterward. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s OK and ready to go for the ALCS.
  • Matt Moore relieved Jeremy Hellickson. Believe it or not, it was his home debut. He too gave up a homer to Beltre, but he was impressive all the same. I’ve never seen someone generate his velocity with such an easy, almost lazy delivery. The season is over, but this kid’s future is crazy-bright.
  • Evan Longoria went 1-for-11 with 6Ks in the three Texas wins.  Ouch.
  • It ended up not mattering, but Sean Rodriguez was allowed to score his third run of the game in the ninth when he walked, was allowed to reach second on defensive indifference and then scored on a Casey Kotchman single.  Why on Earth would the Rangers just ignore the runner in that situation? I’ve always hated that. That run didn’t need to score.
  • The attendance was 28,299, which wasn’t a sellout. It’s hard to sell out games at Tropicana Field to begin with, and a weekday 2PM start makes it harder, but that’s still kind of a bummer.

And with that, the Rangers play the waiting game. Do they face the Tigers following A.J. Burnett-pocalypse tonight, or does Burnett hold serve for the Yankees and force a Game 5?  Playoff baseball: it’s, like, totally awesome.

Yankees in, Red Sox out on Edwin Encarnacion

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler AustinGreg Bird combo in 2017.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.

Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.