Michael Cuddyer a first-time All-Star at age 32

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I can’t summon up a lot of angst about this one.  No, Michael Cuddyer isn’t one of the AL’s top 10 outfielders.  One could argue about whether he’s in the top 20.  Still, I think every guy who sticks around as a nice regular for 12-15 years should get to experience an All-Star selection once.

Cuddyer, a free agent-to-be, is in his 11th season and very possibly his final season with the Twins.  He’s been a regular the last eight of them, hitting as many as 32 homers and driving in as many as 109 runs.  Along the way, he’s played whatever posititon the team has asked for him.  He was drafted as a shortstop, converted to third base and established himself as a full-time right fielder in the majors, only to return to the infield at both second and third when needed the last couple of years.

This season, Cuddyer shook off a positively horrible start — he went 16 straight games without an RBI to begin the season — to rebound to .286/.356/.459 with 11 homers and 32 RBI.  The .815 OPS ranks him eighth among AL outfielders.

In the end, Cuddyer is likely only in this position because Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau got hurt.  Also, a healthy Denard Span would have been a better choice for the AL roster.  Based on 2011 play alone, I’d rather have seen the AL team carry Alex Gordon in the outfield and then Scott Baker over Aaron Crow, leaving the Twins and Royals with their one rep apiece.

But I’m not upset over Cuddyer’s pick.  It’s a nice reward for a guy in the midst of a fine career who may never have such an opportunity again.

Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s grand slam keys 8-2 Red Sox win over Astros in ALCS Game 3

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The Red Sox plated five runs in the top of the eighth inning to put Game 3 of the ALCS out of the reach, taking an 8-2 victory over the Astros on Tuesday night in Houston. Four of those eighth-inning runs came on a grand slam to right field by Jackie Bradley, Jr. off of reliever Roberto Osuna, turning their two-run deficit into a back-breaking six-run deficit.

Both teams traded blows in the first inning, with the Red Sox plating two runs on a J.D. Martinez double and a Xander Bogaerts ground out against starter Dallas Keuchel. The Astros got a run back in the bottom half against starter Nathan Eovaldi when Marwin González brought home Jose Altuvé with a single.

Keuchel settled down from there. He ultimately gave up the two runs on four hits with a pair of walks and no strikeouts across five innings. Eovaldi wouldn’t give up another run until the fifth, when Alex Bregman doubled home Altuve. Eovaldi yielded the two runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts in six innings.

Steve Pearce, added to the lineup because of the left-handed Keuchel, smashed a solo home run down the left field line in the sixth against right-handed reliever Joe Smith, breaking the 2-2 tie. Two innings later, all hell broke loose against Osuna. Osuna got Martinez to fly out for the first out, allowed a single to Bogaerts, then got the second out when Pearce gorunded out to third base. Rafael Devers kept the inning alive with a single. Osuna loaded the bases by hitting Brock Holt with an 89 MPH slider, then forced in a run when he hit Mitch Moreland with a 96 MPH fastball. Bradley came up and worked a 1-1 count before depositing a 94 MPH fastball into the right field seats to drastically create space between the Red Sox and Astros.

In the bottom of the eighth, with a healthy five-run cushion, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly combined to keep the Astros off the board. Eduardo Rodríguez got the ball to start the ninth with a pair of lefties slated to bat. Tyler White pinch-hit for Brian McCann but struck out. Evan Gattis then pinch-hit for Tony Kemp and grounded out. Rodríguez cleaned out the inning by striking out George Springer, ending the game in an 8-2 victory for the Red Sox.

The Red Sox will take their 2-1 series lead into Houston on Wednesday night. Rick Porcello will oppose Charlie Morton for an 8:39 PM ET start. A Red Sox win tomorrow would bring them one win away from returning to the World Series for the first time since 2013 and it would leave the defending champion Astros one loss away from elimination.