Shane Victorino stopped switch-hitting again. For the Red Sox, it’s a good thing he did. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh, Victorino drove a Jose Veras curve down the left field line into the seats atop the Green Monster. The Red Sox took back the lead, 5-2 with six outs left in the game.
The seventh inning started with Max Scherzer looking to continue his sterling performance against the Red Sox, but Jonny Gomes led off with a double off of the Monster, just inches from becoming a game-tying solo home run. After Stephen Drew struck out, Xander Bogaerts impressively worked the count to draw a walk, ending Scherzer’s night.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought in lefty Drew Smyly to face the left-handed Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury hit a rocket back up the middle, but shortstop Jose Iglesias was able to field it cleanly. In an attempt to shovel the ball to second baseman Omar Infante, the ball got away from Iglesias, so the Tigers weren’t able to record an out anywhere, loading the bases.
Leyland came out again to bring the right-handed Jose Veras into the game. And that is where it was lost. Victorino watched the ball sail deeper and deeper into the left field, pumping his fist as it landed in the seats. It is his second career post-season grand slam, joining Jim Thome as the only two players to have two career grand slams in the playoffs. Victorino hit one off of CC Sabathia, then with the Brewers, in the NLDS back in 2008. It is also the second timely grand slam in the ALCS for the Red Sox, as David Ortiz took Joaquin Benoit deep in Game 2.
If the Red Sox can record six more outs, they will be on their way to the World Series.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.