Red Sox rout Rays to take 1-0 lead in ALDS

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After falling behind 2-0 after four innings, the Red Sox scored 12 unanswered runs in support of Jon Lester to emerge victorious in Game 1 of the ALDS. Lester had surrendered two solo home runs, one in the second inning to Sean Rodriguez and one in the fourth inning to Ben Zobrist. But the Red Sox, who led the American League in on-base and slugging percentage, would quickly get to Rays starter Matt Moore.

In the bottom half of the fourth, the Sox pushed across five runs on six hits. The big blows included a two-run double by Jonny Gomes and a two-run double by Will Middlebrooks. It turned out Lester wouldn’t need any additional run support, but that didn’t stop the Red Sox from piling on.

Moore took the hill to start the fifth, which turned out to be a mistake. Jarrod Saltalamacchia pushed across two runs with a one-out double. Finally, manager Joe Maddon took Moore out for reliever Wesley Wright, but Saltalamacchia eventually came around to score on a Jacoby Ellsbury single, the run charged to Moore. Moore finished the day having allowed eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts in four and one-third innings.

The Rays bullpen held the Red Sox at eight runs, giving their offense a slim chance of staging a comeback, but when Jamey Wright came in for the eighth inning, the game was put out of reach. Wright allowed the first five batters he faced to reach base on three consecutive singles followed by two walks, pushing across two runs in the process. Two more would score on a Jonny Gomes 6-4-3 double play and Saltalamacchia’s RBI single, putting the Red Sox up 12-2.

Aside from the two solo shots, Lester was solid, holding the Rays to just the two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven. Junichi Tazawa relieved him in the eighth, recording the final out before giving way to Ryan Dempster, who struck out two in the final frame.

Now leading the series 1-0, the Red Sox will look to extend their lead tomorrow at 5:30 PM EDT as John Lackey opposes David Price, who helped pitch the Rays into the Wild Card playoff game by defeating the Rangers in Game 163 of the regular season.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Free-agent ace Jacob deGrom and the Texas Rangers agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner leaves the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

Texas announced the signing Friday night after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

“We are thrilled that Jacob deGrom has decided to become a Texas Ranger,” executive vice president and general manager Chris Young said in a statement. “Over a number of seasons, Jacob has been a standout major league pitcher, and he gives us a dominant performer at the top of our rotation. One of our primary goals this offseason is to strengthen our starting pitching, and we are adding one of the best.”

Texas went 68-94 last season and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco, as its new manager. The Rangers’ six straight losing seasons are their worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

This latest blockbuster move comes just before baseball’s winter meetings, which begin early next week in San Diego. The Rangers said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson University, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his professional career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons.

New York won 101 regular-season games last season, second-most in franchise history, but was caught by NL East champion Atlanta down the stretch and settled for a wild card.

After declining his 2023 option, ending his contract with the Mets at $107 million over four years, deGrom rejected a $19.65 million qualifying offer in November, so New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation. Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.