Rays, Red Sox, Cardinals may be fallbacks for Ryan Madson

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Ryan Madson likely had a smile on his face back in early November when Jonathan Papelbon signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Phillies.

That deal set the bar high for free agent closers, and Madson — with stats similar to Papelbon’s in recent years — probably figured he would also cash in.

But the market for relievers has since crashed, and there is no longer a line of teams looking to spend big on bullpen help. So where does Madson turn?

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Rays, Red Sox and Cardinals “will be interested” in Madson “when and if” his current price drops. They won’t be offering four-year deals, and Boston and St. Louis can’t guarantee him a ninth-inning job out of the gate, but they’re all three projected to contend in 2012. And that might be worth something to Madson if, as expected, he’s unable to find the kind of massive contract he was looking for when this offseason began.

Astros extend winning streak to 11 games

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The Astros rallied late to keep their winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games with a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon. The club is now 48-25, leading the Mariners by a full game in the AL West.

The Royals took a 4-2 lead after three innings, but Brian McCann knocked in a run with a single in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit to one run. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. The Astros kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more runs on RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth on Correa’s sacrifice fly.

Starter Lance McCullers allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Tony Sipp worked a scoreless seventh. Ken Giles did the same in the eighth. Hector Rondon finished off the win in the ninth, working around a one-out walk with a game-ending double play.

After winning all 10 games on their road trip against the Rangers, Athletics, and Royals, the Astros will head home for a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Each club is below .500.