Justin Verlander

Tigers’ fortunes hinge on Justin Verlander

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Justin Verlander’s Game 1 start against the A’s was easily the best of his postseason career. In allowing one run  over seven innings, he picked up his fourth win in nine starts and lowered his October ERA from 5.57 to 4.96.

Now one wonders if he might need to be even better in Thursday’s decisive Game 5.

The Tigers simply aren’t doing much scoring. They’ve totaled 11 runs while splitting the first four games against the A’s. Three of those came on Oakland errors. In all, they’ve had eight extra-base hits, which is the same number the Giants had against the Reds on Wednesday alone.

Add to that the fact that the eighth and ninth inning guys have been a mess. Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde have combined to allow five runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in the series. They also amassed a 5.59 ERA in 27 1/3 innings during September.

Ideally, Verlander will just go the full nine in outdueling rookie Jarrod Parker. He’s never done it in the postseason, but he had six complete games during the regular season this year.

Anything less and the Tigers are in big trouble. It seems nearly unfathomable that the A’s will rough up Verlander, but as we’ve seen the last two days, they don’t need to do much scoring to win.

Report: Dodgers could pursue three-year deal with Rich Hill

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Rich Hill #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs in game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.

Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.

The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.

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.