Dodgers making progress on extension with Clayton Kershaw

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Ken Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers are making progress with starter Clayton Kershaw on a seven-year contract extension worth in excess of $180 million. The 25-year-old left-hander enters his third and final year of arbitration going into 2014 after which he would be eligible for free agency. That the Dodgers would eventually sign Kershaw to an extension seemed inevitable; the only question was the exact amount of cash involved.

Kershaw’s contract will be based in no small part on those signed recently by Tigers ace Justin Verlander (seven years, $180 million) and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (seven years, $175 million).

Assuming the first year of the contract would be near the average annual value ($25-26 million), the Dodgers would owe $20 million or more to five players going into the 2014 season: Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Zack Greinke. Their 2014 payroll already stands at $163 million without factoring in the arbitration eligibility of Kershaw and potentially four other players.

Kershaw has a league-best 1.88 ERA on the season and led the NL in that category in each of the previous two seasons as well, winning the Cy Young in 2011 and finishing as the runner-up to R.A. Dickey last year.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.