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Playoff Reset: Indians vs. Red Sox ALDS Game 3

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The Game: Cleveland Indians @ Boston Red Sox, ALDS Game 3
The Time: 4:00 PM EDT
The Place: Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Josh Tomlin (Indians) vs. Clay Buchholz (Red Sox)

The Upshot:

Eleven years ago, Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40 ERA) and Clay Buchholz (8-10, 4.78 ERA) competed for an infield spot on the Angelina College Roadrunners. On Sunday, they’ll share the field again, albeit under wildly different circumstances.

Now that the Indians have blazed through their top two starters, they’ll go to Tomlin to lock down a series sweep on the road. Tomlin was the picture of inconsistency in the second half of the regular season, yo-yoing between an 11.48 mark over 26 2/3 innings in August and a 1.69 mark over 26 2/3 innings in September. The Red Sox caught Tomlin during his best performance in August, 7 2/3 innings of three-run ball that ended, unsurprisingly, with his sixth loss of the season.

Buchholz, meanwhile, turned out his least productive season since 2008 with a 4.78 ERA and 0.5 fWAR in 2016. The right-hander split his season between the rotation and bullpen and devoted part of the year to tweaking some of his mechanics, which appeared to aid his late season comeback as Danny Salazar hit the disabled list in September. A possible red flag? He’s been much better on the road than at home, posting a 5.60 ERA and 4.85 K/9 over 72 1/3 innings in Fenway.

Offensively, the Indians appear to have the edge in this one. They’ve tagged Boston starters with 10 runs through the first two games of the ALDS, including four home runs by Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, and Lonnie Chisenhall. While the Red Sox were able to dig their heels in against Trevor Bauer in Game 1, putting up four runs to the Indians’ five, they couldn’t find their footing against Corey Kluber or the Indians’ bullpen in Game 2. Still, with Bauer reportedly expected to make a Game 4 start on short rest, this might be the Red Sox’ best chance of staging a comeback.

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.