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Indians’ 2-0 ALDS lead comes down to pitching, offense

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Despite some late-season concerns over the state of their pitching staff, the Indians are on the cusp of advancing to the Championship Series after taking two consecutive victories against the Red Sox in the ALDS.

Corey Kluber dazzled in seven scoreless frames, granting the Red Sox six baserunners (three hits; three walks) and striking out seven in the first playoff start of his career. While the Red Sox looked flummoxed at the plate, wasting their only two-on, no-out opportunity against Kluber in the eighth, the Indians dug their heels in against Boston starter David Price.

Price exited after 3 1/3 innings and a three-run shot by Lonnie Chisenhall that all but doomed the Red Sox in their second loss of the series. John Farrell spun his carousel of relievers through 5 2/3 innings, spitting out Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr., Brad Ziegler, Joe Kelly, and Craig Kimbrel in hopes of restraining Cleveland’s offensive drive.

Instead, Barnes was dinged with a Jason Kipnis single in the fourth inning and later tag-teamed with Ziegler on Rajai Davis‘ RBI sac fly in the sixth. The seventh, eighth, and ninth innings passed with little fanfare on either side, and Boston never quite got the break they needed thanks to shutdown performances by Cleveland relievers Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw.

With the win, the Indians notched their ninth postseason shutout in franchise history, the first of its kind since Bartolo Colon and Bob Wickman hurled a combined 5-0 humdinger against the 116-win Mariners in the 2001 ALDS. They’ll go for the sweep against Boston on Sunday, when right-handers Josh Tomlin and Clay Buchholz take the mound at 4 PM EDT.

Yasmani Grandal signs a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox

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The first truly big free agent signing of the offseason has gone down: the Chicago White Sox just announced that they have signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal.

Grandal, 31, was the best catcher available in free agency. He is coming off a fine year with the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he had to settle for a one-year pact in 2019. He hit .246/.380/.468 with 28 homers and 77 driven in. It was his fourth straight season with 20+ homers. While his catching has been criticized due to some high-profile mistakes in the postseason, the two-time All-Star once again proved himself to be one of the best pitch-framers in the game if not the best. Between the bat and the glove he has a claim to being one of the best all-around catchers in baseball.

The signing leaves open the question of what happens to James McCann, who was himself an All-Star this year. It’s not that hard a question, of course, as Grandal is a far superior catcher to McCann in every respect. The Sox could make McCann a backup. Alternatively, they could try to trade him to fill other holes on the roster.

The White Sox finished 72-89 in 2019 but are showing signs of coming out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. This signing pushes them a big step into that direction.