After defeating the Tigers 4-3 in Game 5 on Thursday night, the Red Sox are just one win away from their first World Series appearance since 2007. They’ll attempt to finish things off in Game 6 of the ALCS tonight at Fenway Park in Boston. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. ET while the game will be broadcast on FOX.
Here’s a quick look at the pitching matchup and some random notes:
Max Scherzer will be tasked with keeping the Tigers’ season alive. The AL Cy Young Award favorite took a no-hitter into the sixth inning back in Game 2 and ended up striking out 13 batters while allowing just one run over seven innings. Of course, the Tigers wasted his strong performance after David Ortiz hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a walkoff single in the ninth. Scherzer has allowed four runs while striking out 26 batters in 16 innings of work this postseason, including two starts and one relief appearance.
The Red Sox will turn to Clay Buchholz to pitch them to a pennant. The 29-year-old had an uneven performance back in Game 2, allowing just one run over the first five innings before being tagged for four runs in the sixth. He gave up two home runs in that start, which are still the only homers by Detroit during the series. Buchholz has allowed eight runs on 15 hits and three walks in 11 2/3 innings over his two starts this postseason.
The big question for the Tigers is whether Alex Avila will be ready to play after he was forced to leave Game 5 with a left patellar tendon strain. If not, Tigers manager Jim Leyland could simply go with Brayan Pena behind the plate, though he told reporters yesterday that he hasn’t ruled out using Victor Martinez at catcher while having Miguel Cabrera start at DH and Ramon Santiago or Don Kelly at third base. We should know for sure later this afternoon.
According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, Red Sox manager John Farrell said yesterday that Xander Bogaerts will make his second straight start at third base in Game 6. The 21-year-old stepped in for Will Middlebrooks in Game 5 and went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be back behind the plate for Boston after David Ross caught Game 5. Meanwhile, Jonny Gomes will get the nod over Daniel Nava in left field once again.
“Second place is first loser” — some jerk, probably.
The funny thing about “winning is everything” culture in sports is that it’s revered, primarily, by people with the least amount of skin in the game. Self-proclaimed “Super Fans” and talk radio hosts and guys like that. People who may claim to live and breathe sports but who, for the most part, have other things in their lives. Jobs and families and hobbies and stuff. Winning is everything for them on the weekend at, like, Buffalo Wild Wings or in their man cave.
Athletes — whose actual job is to play sports — like to win too. They’re certainly more focused and committed to winning than Joe Super Fan is, what with it being their actual lives and such. But you see far less “winning is everything” sentiment from them. In interviews they talk about how they hate to lose but, with a little bit of distance, they almost always talk about appreciating efforts in a well-played loss. They rarely talk about big losses — even championship losses — as failures or choke jobs or disgraces of one stripe or another.
All of which makes this story by Tim Rohan in the New York Times fun and interesting. It’s about championship rings for the non-championship winners. The 2014 Royals — winners of the A.L. pennant but losers of the World Series — are featured, and the story of rings for World Series losers is told. Mike Stanton, who played on a ton of pennant and World Series-winning teams with the Yankees and Braves, talks about his various rings and how, even though the Braves lost in the World Series that year, 1991 is his favorite.
Also mentioned: George Steinbrenner’s thoughts about rings for World Series losers. You will likely not be surprised about his sentiments on the matter.
For the next day and a half you’ll hear a lot about the non-tender deadline and/or players being tendered or not tendered a contract. Here, in case you’re unaware, is what that means.
By midnight on Wednesday teams have to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. If they do, the team retains control over the player. Now, to be clear, the team is not simply “tendering” the player the actual contract specifying what he’ll be paid. Think of it as more of a token gesture — a placeholder contract — at that point the team and the player can negotiate salary for 2016 and, if they can’t come to an agreement over that (i.e. an agreement avoiding arbitration) they will proceed to submit proposed salaries to one another and have a salary arbitration early in the spring.
If the team non-tenders a player, however, that player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign anywhere with no strings attached.
Basically, the calculus is whether or not the team thinks the player in question is worth the low end of what he might receive in arbitration. Or, put differently, if the guy isn’t worth what he made in 2015, he’s probably going to be non-tendered.
MLB Trade Rumors has a handy “Non-Tender Tracker” which lists the status of the couple hundred arbitration eligible players and whether or not they’ve been tendered a contract. We’ll, of course, make mention of notable non-tender guys as their status for 2016 becomes known over the next day or two.
New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.
Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.
The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.
It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.
Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.