Athletics acquire closer Jim Johnson from Orioles

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UPDATE: FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Athletics have acquired Johnson from the Orioles in exchange for second baseman Jemile Weeks. The Orioles are also expected to receive a player to be named later.

Weeks was once a top prospect with the A’s, but he has fallen out of favor over the past two seasons. He appeared in just eight games at the major league level this year and hit .271/.376/.369 with four home runs, 40 RBI, and 17 stolen bases over 130 games in Triple-A. Still, he doesn’t turn 27 until January, so perhaps the change of scenery will do him some good. He should have a chance to compete for the starting second base job in the spring.

With Johnson’s expected raise in arbitration, the return wasn’t nearly as important as the salary flexibility. The Orioles can now address other areas of need. Tommy Hunter gives them an in-house option at closer, though they could look to the free agent and trade markets for a replacement.

10:22 p.m. ET: Well, here’s a surprise. While we learned earlier today that the Dodgers were “in the mix” to potentially acquire Orioles’ closer Jim Johnson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal now hears that the Athletics are now the “most involved” in trade discussions. Furthermore, Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers no longer expect to acquire him.

Given that Johnson will see his salary rise to around $10 million in his final year of arbitration, he would appear to be an odd fit for the usually cost-conscious Athletics. However, they have a vacancy in the closer role with Grant Baflour on the free agent market. And they would only have to commit one year if they make the trade.

Johnson had his second-straight 50-save season this year, leading the American League once again, but he also led the majors with nine blown saves. The Orioles are essentially shopping him in order to shed salary, so the return could be minimal.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.