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Astros knock four homers to take a 1-0 lead over Cleveland in the ALDS

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It began as a classic pitchers duel but, as so often happens in Minute Maid Park, especially in the postseason, the longball ended up being the story of the game. The Astros rode four dingers — from Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Martin Maldonado — to beat Cleveland 7-2 and take a 1-0 lead in the ALDS.

Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber started off as expected, holding opposing batters hitless through three, with Verlander continuing to no-hit Cleveland into the fourth. In the bottom of the fourth Alex Bregman broke up the no-no with a solo homer on a 2-1 sinker to make it 1-0 Houston. Later in that inning Josh Reddick singled in Yuli Gurriel to make it 2-0.

Houston added two more in the fifth via a George Springer leadoff homer which made it 3-0. Two pitches later Jose Altuve jacked a sinker to the same part of the ballpark to make it 4-0.

The Indians clawed back in the top of the sixth. Yan Gomes led things off with a single — the first Indians hit of the game — and then, after a Jason Kipnis strikeout, Francisco Lindor singled him to second. A Michael Brantley walk loaded the bases and that was all A.J. Hinch needed to see from Justin Verlander, who was lifted for Ryan Pressly.  Pressly’s first pitch to Jose Ramirez was a curve in the dirt which allowed Gomes to score from third and the other runners to move up 90 feet. Despite first base now being open, Terry Francona allowed Pressly to pitch to Ramirez. He grounded out to first and Lindor scored to make it 4-2. That’s all they’d get in the inning.

Houston would go down in order in their half of the sixth and Cleveland would follow suit in the seventh. Martin Maldonado led off the bottom half of the seventh saw a fastball up in his eyes and sent it out to left field to make it 5-2 Champs. They weren’t done, though, as George Springer reached and then, after Francona brought Trevor Bauer into the game, Springer reached second on a groundout and then came around to score on an Alex Bregman single to left center. It looked as though there may have been a play at the plate on Springer at home, but Bauer cut it off and the run scored. 6-2 Houston.

Cleveland once again went quietly in the eighth while Houston added even more insurance via a Tyler White double. He was lifted for pinch runner Myles Straw, who was promptly singled in by Josh Reddick to make it 7-2. Cleveland failed to score in the ninth and that was the ballgame.

When last we saw the Astros in the postseason they were riding longballs which leapt out of Minute Maid Park. They have begun this postseason in much the same way.

Report: White Sox discussing trade for Joc Pederson

Joc Pederson
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A number of teams are making calls about Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson these days, as is the general nature of the offseason. Per Jason Kinander of FanSided, there have been some preliminary trade discussions between the Dodgers and the White Sox, though a formal deal doesn’t appear imminent and any potential competition from other clubs is still unknown.

Pederson, 26, has enjoyed quite a run with the Dodgers over the last five years. A perennial 25-home run hitter (when healthy), he slashed .248/.321/.522 with 56 RBI, an .843 OPS, and 2.7 fWAR through 443 plate appearances during the 2018 regular season. Following the Dodgers’ unsuccessful postseason campaign, Pederson agreed to a one-year, $5 million contract in advance of the arbitration deadline, and is currently slated to remain under team control through the 2020 season.

Despite his relative affordability and clear value to the club, shedding Pederson from their roster would allow the Dodgers to pursue the kind of right-handed hitters they need to balance out their 2019 lineup. It’s not certain what the White Sox are prepared to give up, but Kinander mentions right-hander Carson Fulmer, lefty reliever Aaron Bummer, and recent draft pick/third baseman Bryce Bush as a few possibilities.