The Red Sox are within one game of the World Series.
Mike Napoli went 3-for-4 with a long run home run and Koji Uehara locked down a five-out save as the Red Sox topped the Tigers 4-3 in Game 5 of the ALCS at Comerica Park this evening. Boston now has a 3-2 edge in the series. Four out of the five games have been decided by one run.
While Anibal Sanchez tossed six hitless innings back in Game 1, the Red Sox got to him for four runs (three earned) over six innings this time around. He gave up three of them in the second inning, including a 460-foot blast from Napoli. The fourth run scored on a wild pitch from Sanchez in the third inning. It was just enough for the Red Sox to hang on.
Jon Lester gave up two runs on seven hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings in the victory. The Tigers had their share of chances to make things interesting, but they had rallies spoiled in the sixth and seventh innings due to double plays. Uehara retired all five batters he faced to end it, throwing 27 pitches in the process. It was just his second five-out save of the year.
The best-of-seven series will resume Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park. Max Scherzer will be tasked with keeping the Tigers’ season alive while Clay Buchholz will attempt to pitch Boston to their first World Series appearance since 2007.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.