Chris Sale
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Red Sox stave off Yankees to take 1-0 lead in ALDS

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There were no almost- no-hitters, no slugfests, no decisive victories during the Yankees-Red Sox’ first game of the ALDS on Friday night. Instead, J.A. Happ imploded within the first three innings, Boston’s bullpen staved off a near-disastrous rally in the sixth, and the Red Sox eventually edged past the Yankees with a 5-4 finish to take a 1-0 lead in the ALDS that felt anything but overpowering.

For the first five innings, everything appeared to go according to plan — at least when Chris Sale was on the mound. The Red Sox’ lefty dazzled in five scoreless frames, allowing just three hits and striking out eight batters while sitting on a comfortable 5-0 lead. The run support came courtesy of J.D. Martinez, who cleared the Green Monster with a two-run blast in the first inning, as well as an RBI single from Steve Pearce and Xander Bogaerts‘ sac fly in the third.

All five of those runs were credited to Yankees’ lefty J.A. Happ, who called it quits after posting five runs, a walk, and two strikeouts over the first two innings and allowing back-to-back hits to kick off the third. He was replaced by a carousel of relievers as manager Aaron Boone threw everyone from Chad Green to Lance Lynn, Zach Britton, and David Robertson at Boston’s lineup. They combined for six innings of four-hit, five-strikeout ball against their AL East rivals and prevented the Red Sox from gaining an even greater advantage as the Yankees’ offense tried to even the score.

After Sale stepped off the mound in the sixth, it looked like the Yankees’ time had finally come. Aaron Judge roped a line drive into center field, then was replaced on the basepaths as Brett Gardner ground into a force out in the next at-bat. Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit went back-to-back with a pair of singles, and Voit’s base hit knocked in the Yankees’ first run of the night off of right-handed reliever Ryan Brasier. Things didn’t get any easier for the Red Sox’ bullpen from there: Gregorius grounded into another force out to plate a second run, then advanced to second on a wild pitch; Miguel Andujar took a walk following a six-pitch at-bat; and Gary Sanchez drew another walk off of Brandon Workman to load the bases. With a tie-breaking opportunity in hand, Gleyber Torres stepped up to the plate… and brought the inning to a crushing end with a swinging strikeout.

The Yankees continued to edge closer in the final innings of the game, first with Voit’s run-scoring force out against Matt Barnes in the seventh, then with Aaron Judge’s second postseason home run, a 382-footer off of Craig Kimbrel in the top of the ninth. It was the only blemish on an otherwise-perfect pitching line from Kimbrel, however. Following nail-biting performances from Workman and Barnes (and a surprisingly mellow appearance from Game 3 starter Rick Porcello), he came through with three straight strikeouts to secure a four-out save and cap the Red Sox’ first win of the ALDS.

On Saturday, Boston will try for a second straight win as they head into Game 2 of the ALDS with lefty David Price, who’s scheduled to face off against Yankees’ right-hander Masahiro Tanaka at 8:15 PM EDT.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.