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Red Sox survive back-and-forth affair with Astros, win 8-6 to take 3-1 lead in ALCS

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Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday night between the Red Sox and Astros was a thrilling back-and-forth affair with seven lead changes. Ultimately, the Red Sox emerged victorious with a hard-fought 8-6 victory.

The Red Sox wasted no time getting on the board, plating two runs in the top of the first inning against Charlie Morton thanks to a walk, hit-by-pitch, wild pitch, and a Rafael Devers single. In the bottom half, José Altuve hit what appeared to be a game-tying two-run home run to right field off of Rick Porcello. Mookie Betts leaped and was interfered with by fans in the stands, so Altuve was called out instead. The ruling was upheld after review.

In the bottom of the second, the Astros officially scored their first run when Carlos Correa knocked home a run with a single. The Red Sox immediately got it back when Xander Bogaerts doubled in a run in the top of the third, running the score to 3-1. In what would become a trend, the Astros also responded as George Springer drilled a solo homer and Josh Reddick hit an RBI single of his own to tie the game at 3-3. Tony Kemp added a solo homer down the right field line in the fourth to put the Astros on top for the first time. Bogaerts hit another RBI single in the top of the fifth to re-tie the game at 4-4. Correa followed suit in the bottom half, hitting his second RBI single of the game to give the Astros back the lead.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., who hit a soul-crushing grand slam off of Roberto Osuna in Game 3, hit another homer in Game 4, a two-run shot in the sixth off of Josh James. In the seventh, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs and Lance McCullers, Jr. entered to try to put out the fire. He did not, briefly, walking Brock Holt to force in a run and make the score 7-5. McCullers did end up getting out of the inning without any further damage. Just for good measure, though, J.D. Martinez tacked on a run in the eighth with an RBI single to make it 8-5.

Ryan Brasier got five outs and Matt Barnes one in the sixth and seventh. Manager Alex Cora decided to call on Craig Kimbrel for a six-out save when the bottom of the eighth rolled around. The 2018 postseason hasn’t been kind to Kimbrel as he had given up runs in all three of his appearances. Kimbrel gave up hits to the first three batters he faced. Kemp led off with a single but he tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second base by Betts. Kimbrel then hit Alex Bregman with a pitch and surrendered a double to George Springer, putting runners at second and third with one out. Altuve knocked in a run with a ground out to make it 8-6, but Kimbrel saw his way out of the inning by striking out Marwin González.

In the ninth, Cora decided to keep Kimbrel in the ballgame despite his continued struggles. Kimbrel got Yuli Gurriel to pop up to start the inning, but then issued back-to-back walks to Reddick and Correa. Kimbrel got out number two by getting Brian McCann to fly out to right field, then walked Tony Kemp to load the bases. Cora decided to stay with Kimbrel as Bregman came to the plate. Kimbrel threw a first-pitch, 97 MPH fastball that Bregman laced into shallow left field. Andrew Benintendi charged in and dived, catching the ball just in time to save the game, ending it for an 8-6 victory. Of the 18 half-innings, the two sides failed to score in only seven of them.

The Red Sox, now up three games to one in the ALCS, will try to close it out on Thursday night in Houston. If the Red Sox win, they will return to the World Series for the first time since 2013.

Minor League Baseball accuses MLB of making misleading statements

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Yesterday several members of Congress, calling themselves the “Save Minor League Baseball Task Force,” introduced a resolution saying that Major League Baseball should drop its plan to eliminate the minor league clubs and, rather, maintain the current minor league structure. In response, Major League Baseball issued a statement accusing Minor League Baseball of refusing to negotiate and imploring Congress to prod Minor League Baseball back to the bargaining table.

Only one problem with that: According to Minor League Baseball, it has been at the table. And, in a new statement today, claims that MLB is making knowingly false statements about all of that:

“Minor League Baseball was encouraged by the dialogue in a recent meeting between representatives of Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball and a commitment by both sides to engage further on February 20. However, Major League Baseball’s claims that Minor League Baseball is not participating in these negotiations in a constructive and productive manner is false. Minor League Baseball has provided Major League Baseball with numerous substantive proposals that would improve the working conditions for Minor League Baseball players by working with MLB to ensure adequate facilities and reasonable travel. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball continues to misrepresent our positions with misleading information in public statements that are not conducive to good faith negotiations.”

I suppose Rob Manfred’s next statement is either going to double down or, alternatively, he’s going to say “wait, you were at the airport Marriott? We thought the meeting was at the downtown Marriott! Oh, so you were at the table. Our bad!”

Minor League Baseball is not merely offering dueling statements, however. A few minutes ago it released a letter it had sent to Rob Manfred six days ago, the entirely of which can be read here.

In the letter, the Minor League Baseball Negotiating Committee said it, “is singularly focused on working with MLB to reach an agreement that will best ensure that baseball remains the National Pastime in communities large and small throughout our
country,” and that to that end it seeks to “set forth with clarity in a letter to you the position of MiLB on the key issues that we must resolve in these negotiations.”

From there the letter goes through the various issues Major League Baseball has put on the table, including the status of the full season and short season leagues and implores MLB not to, as proposed, eliminate the Appalachian League. It blasts MLB’s concept of “The Dream League” — the bucket into which MLB proposed to throw all newly-unaffiliated clubs — as a “seriously flawed concept,” and strongly counters the talking point Major League Baseball has offered about how it allegedly “subsidizes” the minor leagues.

You should read the whole letter. And Rob Manfred should probably stop issuing statements that, it would appear, are easily countered.