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Playoff Reset: Red Sox vs. Indians ALDS Game 1

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The Game: Boston Red Sox @ Cleveland Indians, ALDS Game 1
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Rick Porcello (Red Sox) vs. Trevor Bauer (Indians)

The Upshot:

  • This series features the top two run-scoring lineups in the American League, with Boston averaging 5.42 runs a game and Cleveland averaging 4.83. Both teams can hit the ball deep, but neither is overly-dependent on the longball, with the Sox 7th in homers in the AL, the Indians 10th. They both get on base like crazy and hit balls in every gap you can find. Not that there aren’t power guys all over the place too. Two on Boston — Mookie Betts and David Ortiz — are MVP candidates and a third, Hanley Ramirez, joined those two in the 30-HR club. For the Indians, Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli hit 34 a piece. Both Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis rattled 40+ doubles off the walls. The Indians led the AL in steals and both teams are excellent on the base paths overall. Boston catchers, however, led by Sandy Leon, have controlled the running game pretty darn well. Look for a lot of guys on both teams trying to stretch singles into doubles and trying to go from first-to-third.
  • Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.15), a top Cy Young contender this year, is no stranger to the Indians by virtue of his time in Detroit. He faced the Tribe once this season: back in May, when he allowed two runs in five and two-thirds. The Indians are heavily left-handed and/or switch hitting, but the righty Porcello was actually better against left-handers in 2016 than righties, allowing a lower average, OBP and slugging percentage against them and allowing fewer homers and striking out a lot more of them despite facing lefties more than he faced righties. Take that, platoon advantage.
  • Bauer(12-8, 4.26) gets the nod for Cleveland. He started against Boston in May and allowed four runs in five innings. He had one relief appearance against them in the season’s first week and allowed two runs in an inning. Facing off against the Red Sox offense — the best in the game by a pretty big margin — isn’t easy for anyone, of course.
  • Cleveland’s big advantage is in the bullpen. Yes, the Sox made a big splash in snagging Craig Kimbrel last winter, but he has been erratic at times this year and is not the Kimbrel you might remember from his Braves days. The Indians, in contrast, have Andrew Miller, who can be deployed at any time and can handle multiple innings, like some latter-day Goose Gossage. And that’s before you get to Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, each of whom have been dominant at times and who, along with Miller, can really make for short games.
  • The Red Sox won the season series against the Indians four games to two, and they outscored Cleveland 31-18. That said, almost all of those games were a long time ago and one of them was an August makeup game of a rainout. Head-to-head tells us nothing here.
  • Cleveland’s injuries are a big problem for them, particularly the loss of starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. Corey Kluber is going to pitch, but he is coming off of a leg injury last week, so he’s worth watching. We’ll get into more of that as the series wears on and other pitchers take their turn for Cleveland.
  • Terry Francona, former Red Sox manager, meets John Farrell, his former pitching coach, who now helms Boston. If you look around I’m sure there are one or two or a hundred articles about that in the Boston media, but this is not some Darth Vader-Obi-Wan confrontation. To the extent there is drama about it, it’s in the press, not between the principles.

While the Blue Jays and Rangers series may be the most evenly matched, this one may be more intriguing and more exciting. It certainly has greater star power, which is why it’s in prime time as opposed to drive time. While you can expect a lot of tight camera shots of David Ortiz and Terry Francona, there is talent all over this field and pouring out of each dugout. It should be exciting.

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”