The Yankees are close to landing Russell Martin

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I can’t remember the last time so much has been said so early in the offseason about so minor a free agent as Russell Martin, but I guess that’s what happens when Boston and New York get involved.  The latest: Buster Olney says that he believes the Yankees will soon reach an agreement with Russell Martin.*

Martin retains some on-base skills, but his average and power have dissipated in recent years. Last year he hit .248/.347/.332 before going out with a hip injury.

In New York he’d be Jesus Montero insurance. At least that would be the hope, because it would mean that Montero won the starting job.  If he’s starting it means that things haven’t gone according to plan. Or I guess it could mean that Montero has been traded for some pitching in the wake of Cliff Lee signing with the Mystery Mastodons of Midland, Michigan in the Midwestern League.

In other news: Francisco Cervelli: call your agent.

*Note: in an early version of this I said that Buster reported that the Yankees and Martin would “soon announce an agreement.”  That was obviously me reading Buster’s tweet too quickly and sloppily. Apologies.

Kershaw-Sale anything but a pitcher’s duel

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World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted an ERA above 2.92. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.

And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.

Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.

Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.