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.

Sox, Astros look to take a lead, Brewers look to take command in tonight’s LCS action

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The Red Sox and Astros felt each other out for Games 1 and 2 and now things shift to Houston for Game 3. Each team faces a challenge of sorts here, with the Astros facing a right-handed starter for the first time in the series — they have hit better against lefties on the season — and the Red Sox entering the game with some questions about their bullpen, particularly closer Craig Kimbrel. Also of note: each team has a big bit — Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez — which has been cold thus far. Altuve has gone 1-for-8 in the first two games and Martinez is 0-for-7. Altuve is nursing a sore right knee and may be the DH this afternoon. Martinez, of course, will DH for Boston. It’ll be interesting to see if either one of ’em gets of the schneid.

In Los Angeles, the Brewers would take a commanding 3-1 lead with a victory tonight. As noted below, things are set up nicely for them from a pitching perspective, having basically everyone available in what will be, essentially, a bullpen game. The Dodgers have a traditional starter on the mound in Rich Hill, but since Walker Buehler went seven innings and Dave Roberts did not have to use his top relief arms, he’ll likely be calling down to the pen earlier than usual as well. Indeed, expect him to pull out all the stops he can to avoid falling into a 1-3 hole in this best-of-seven series.

Your viewing guide:

ALCS Game 3

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 5:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Dallas Keuchel
Breakdown:

Eovaldi is coming off seven innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks in his Game 3 start against the Yankees in the ALDS. Earlier this year he faced the Astros when he was still with the Rays — as you probably heard by now, that didn’t go too well — but he’s been solid as a rock for Boston since the beginning of September, not allowing more than two runs in any start and blanking the opposition three times. Keuchel is working on seven days of rest since giving up two runs over five innings in his Game 3 of the ALDS. Sometimes people say guys with sinking stuff like his do worse with more rest but I feel like every time I’ve heard that for the past decade, a guy like him has either been just fine on extra rest or has gotten shelled on the allegedly good short rest they get. It’s mostly noise. So much small sample stuff this time of year is noise. Including the fact that Keuchel is 0-1 with a 9.15 ERA over four appearances against the Sox in his career. People say that stuff to have something to say. Like I just did.

NLCS Game 4

Brewers vs. Dodgers
Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Time: 9:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers: Gio Gonzalez vs. Rich Hill
Breakdown:

Gio Gonzalez will start the game, but as was the case in Game 1 when Gonzalez pitched just two innings, look for him to be an opener here once again. In Game 1 Craig Counsell used seven pitchers, with Brandon Woodruff going two innings and Josh Hader going three. Hader pitched yesterday but it was only two-thirds of an inning in which he only threw eight pitches, so expect to see him once again. The Dodgers, blanked yesterday, will need to show that they can do something against the Brewers’ best or this thing isn’t going back to Milwaukee for a Game 6 or 7. As for their starter, Rich Hill hasn’t pitched in eight days, last going four and a third against the Braves in the NLDS, allowing two runs. He’ll be pitching to Austin Barnes after Yasmani Grandal’s boo-inspiring performance in the postseason thus far sends him to the pine.