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Red Sox survive tense ninth inning to defeat Yankees 4-3, punch ticket to ALCS

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The ALCS is set: the Red Sox will do battle with the Astros. The Red Sox earned that right on Tuesday night when they eliminated the Yankees with a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of the ALDS.

After two scoreless frames, the Red Sox offense jumped on starter CC Sabathia in the third inning, utilizing a hit batter, two singles, and a double to plate three runs. Christian Vásquez tacked on a solo home run in the fourth inning off of Zach Britton to push the lead to 4-0.

Red Sox starter Rick Porcello was humming along. He didn’t yield until the fifth inning, when a Gary Sánchez ground-rule double, a Gleyber Torres single, and a Brett Gardner sacrifice fly gave the Yankees their first run. It would prove to be their only run off of him.

Manager Alex Cora dug into the bullpen beginning in the sixth, calling on Matt Barnes. He tossed a 1-2-3 inning, then gave way to Ryan Brasier for the seventh. Brasier, too, went 1-2-3. The eighth belonged to Chris Sale. Sale — yep, 1-2-3. That bridged the gap to Craig Kimbrel in the ninth. Dominant closer, three-run lead, what could go wrong?

Kimbrel got into immediate trouble, issuing a four-pitch leadoff walk to Aaron Judge followed by a Didi Gregorius single. Kimbrel bounced back by striking out Giancarlo Stanton, but then walked Luke Voit to load the bases. Kimbrel followed that up by hitting Neil Walker with a wayward curve to force in a run, making the score 4-2. Sánchez worked a full count, then lifted a fly ball to deep left field that brought Gregorius home. Mercifully, Kimbrel ended the game by getting Torres to ground out to third base, which became a bang-bang play at first base. Torres was ruled out and the call was upheld on replay review, officially giving the Red Sox a 4-3 win.

The Red Sox are back in the ALCS for the first time since 2013, when they won the World Series in six games over the Cardinals. The Yankees fail to reach the ALCS after falling just shy of reaching the World Series last year.

The ALCS will begin on Saturday in Boston. The NLCS, between the Brewers and Dodgers, begins on Friday, so we have two days of no baseball. We’ll have to rely on each other in this trying time.

Brewers on the brink of their first pennant in 36 years

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A series that had swung back and forth twice already swung back in Milwaukee’s favor last night with a convincing win. That it was convincing — it was not at all close after the second inning — is a key factor heading into today, as Craig Counsell has his bullpen set up nicely to shorten the game if his Brewers can get an early lead.

Josh Hader — who, if you are unaware, has not allowed a run and has struck out 12 batters in seven innings of postseason work — did not pitch yesterday or in Game 5. As such, he’s had three full days off. Given that this is a win or go home day and, if they win, he’s guaranteed two more days off before the World Series, he’s good for two innings and could very well go for three. That’s not what you want if you’re the Dodgers.

But it gets worse. Jeremy Jeffress pitched last night but it was only one pretty easy inning, so he could go two if he has to. Corey Knebel pitched an inning and two-thirds but he could probably give Counsell an inning of work if need be. Joakim Soria didn’t pitch at all yesterday. Between those guys and the less important relievers, all of whom save Brandon Woodruff are all pretty fresh, the Dodgers aren’t going to have any easy marks.

But the thing is: Counsell may not need to go that deep given that Jhoulys Chacin, their best starter of the postseason, gets the start. So, yes, in light of that, you have to like the Brewers’ chances tonight, and that’s before you realize that the home crowd is going to be louder than hell.

Not that the Dodgers are going to roll over — it’ll be all hands on deck for them with every pitcher except for Hyun-Jim Ryu available, you figure — but if they’re going to repeat as NL champs, they’re going to have to earn it either by bloodying Chacin’s nose early and neutralizing the threat of facing Hader and company with a lead, or by marching through the teeth of the Brewers bullpen and coming out alive on the other side.
NLCS Game 6

Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers:  Walker Buehler vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Breakdown:

The most important part of this breakdown — the stuff about the Brewers’ pen — has already been said and, I presume anyway, the starters here will have the shortest of leashes. Chacin’s will be longer, as he has not allowed a run over 10 and a third innings in his first two postseason starts, making him the Brewers’ defacto ace. Every inning he goes tonight makes things much, much harder for the Dodgers once he’s gone as it means Milwaukee will be able to rely more and more on Hader and Jeffress, so the Dodgers had best get to him early.

Buehler has come up weak so far this postseason, having allowed nine runs in 12 innings, including surrendering four runs on six hits over seven innings in Milwaukee’s Game 3 victory. Still, it’s not hard to remember how dominating he was in the second half of the season. If that Buehler shows up and can keep things close, we’ll have a ballgame. If L.A. finds itself in an early hole once again, theirs will be the tallest of orders.