ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game Six

Red Sox emerge victorious in Game 6 of ALCS, will return to the World Series

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It was the Tigers’ game to lose, but ultimately, the Red Sox won it. Shane Victorino delivered a timely grand slam in the bottom of the seventh to give the Red Sox a three-run lead. In doing so, he tasked the sterling Red Sox bullpen with getting six outs to punch their ticket to the World Series. Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara were more than up for the task.

Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz was effective through five innings, but as he attempted to make his way through the Tiger lineup for a third time in the sixth, he wore down. It was to be expected, as he missed half the season due to bursitis in his right shoulder. Reliever Franklin Morales was of no help to Buchholz either, failing to strand runners that were on base for him when he entered the game with no outs.

But even after the Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning, it felt like the Red Sox still had the momentum. The Tigers could have blown the game wide open, but Brandon Workman closed what was a gaping wound and got them out of trouble. As long as they could keep the game close, they knew they had a chance against the Tiger bullpen, which ranked among the worst in baseball during the regular season, and which they took advantage of previously in the series.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland kept starter Max Scherzer in the game to start the bottom of the seventh inning. The right-hander had worked his way out of several jams, getting strikeouts when he needed them most. It wasn’t to be after Jonny Gomes led off the inning with a double and Xander Bogaerts drew a one-out walk. Leyland went to his bullpen, asking them to preserve their one-run lead.

They couldn’t. Lefty Drew Smyly allowed a line drive up the middle to Jacoby Ellsbury,  mishandled by shortstop Jose Iglesias, loading the bases up with one out. Leyland brought in right-hander Jose Veras to pitch to Shane Victorino, who was once again a full-time right-handed hitter rather than a switch hitter. Veras got ahead of Victorino 0-2, but hung a curve ball that he wishes he could have back. Victorino smashed it into the stands in left field atop the Green Monster, taking the Red Sox from down 1-2 to ahead 5-2. In terms of odds, the Sox went from 63.5% underdogs at the end of the top of the seventh to 94 percent favorites after the grand slam.

From there, it was a matter of the Red Sox bullpen doing its job. Craig Breslow shut the Tigers down in the top of the eighth and Koji Uehara finished the job in the top of the ninth. Uehara struck out Iglesias with — what else — a splitter in the dirt, sending the Red Sox back to the World Series for the first time since 2007, when they swept the Rockies. They will match up against the Cardinals at home in Games 1 and 2, starting on Wednesday. It will be a rematch of the 2004 World Series, which the Red Sox won to break the 86-year-old “Curse of the Bambino”.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.