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Jose Altuve hits three home runs, powers Astros past Red Sox 8-2 in ALDS Game 1

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The Astros got to Red Sox starter Chris Sale early and never let up, slugging their way to a 8-2 victory in Game 1 of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park on Thursday.

Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve hit back-to-back solo home runs off of Sale in the bottom of the first inning to stake starter Justin Verlander to an early 2-0 lead. The Red Sox chipped away at the deficit in the top of the second, scoring a run on what would have otherwise been a base running blunder by Dustin Pedroia. Mitch Moreland and Pedroia both drew walks with one out. After Rafael Devers struck out, Sandy Leon singled to right field. Moreland was thought to have scored easily, but Reddick fired a strike to third base to get Pedroia, who appeared to be tagged just before Moreland touched home plate, which was the ruling on the field. The ruling, however, was overturned upon replay review and the Red Sox got the run. The Red Sox scored again in the fourth thanks to a Devers sacrifice fly, knotting the game up at two apiece.

Sale faltered again in the bottom of the fourth. Evan Gattis doubled down the left field line and Reddick singled on a ball Jackie Bradley, Jr. appeared to catch on a dive in shallow left-center field. Replay review overturned the ruling on the field, giving Reddick his single. With two outs, Marwin Gonzalez ripped a double to right-center, plating both Gattis and Reddick to put the Astros up 4-2. In the fifth, Altuve hit another solo home run almost exactly to the same spot as his blast in the first inning. That moved the lead to 5-2.

The wheels further spun for Sale in the sixth. Gattis led off with another double down the left field line. Reddick drew a walk, which ended Sale’s night. Unfortunately for Sale, reliever Joe Kelly couldn’t strand either of his inherited runners. Yuli Gurriel singled to load the bases, then Brian McCann brought home two more runs with a single to shallow right field.

Verlander exited after six innings, giving up the two runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts. He was solid if unspectacular, but given the way other starters have fared so far this postseason, he looked like Cy Young.

In the seventh inning, Altuve blasted his third solo home run of the game, this time off of Austin Maddox, to make it an 8-2 game. It’s the 10th time since 1903 a player has homered three times in a playoff game. The last to do it was the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval in Game 1 of the World Series against the Tigers in 2012. The last second baseman to do it was the Angels’ Adam Kennedy in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Twins in 2002. It’s only been done five times in total this millennium (Albert Pujols and Adrian Beltre are the others).

Chris Devenski worked a scoreless seventh for the Astros, sandwiching a Sandy Leon pop-up with strikeouts of Devers and Bradley. Will Harris and Francisco Liriano combined to pitch a scoreless eighth. Joe Musgrove came on in the ninth, setting down Pedroia, Devers, and Sandy Leon in order, finalizing the 8-2 victory.

The series will continue on Friday as the Red Sox and Astros do battle at Minute Maid Park at 2 PM ET on Friday. Drew Pomeranz will start for the Red Sox opposite the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel.

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.