Gerrit Cole
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Astros take 2-0 ALDS lead with Gerrit Cole gem

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The Astros delivered a knockout performance against the Rays on Saturday, claiming a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series after defeating their rivals 3-1. A series-clinching win could come as soon as Monday’s Game 3.

Gerrit Cole lead Houston’s star-studded lineup with one of the best postseason performances of his career to date. He twirled 7 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and striking out 15 of 27 batters as the Rays tried — and failed — to get even a single run across the plate. Per MLB Stats, he’s now struck out at least 10 batters per start in 10 consecutive outings (dating back through August 7), and his 15 strikeouts hold up as a new franchise postseason record.

Cole was matched by Rays’ starter and defending AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, who tossed three scoreless innings of his own before giving up a no-doubter to Alex Bregman in the bottom of the fourth. He finished his first career postseason start with 3 1/3 frames of four-hit, one-run, five-strikeout ball.

With Cole dealing and Tampa Bay’s bullpen a close eye on things, the Astros didn’t find many opportunities to build up their lead. They got another break in the bottom of the seventh; with runners on second and third and one out, Martín Maldonado snagged a cutter from Emilio Pagán and returned it to left field for an RBI single.

Things got dicey in the eighth. Cole issued back-to-back strikeouts to Brandon Lowe and Travis d'Arnaud, but started to make the Astros nervous after Kevin Kiermaier lashed a double to right field, followed by a seven-pitch walk to Willy Adames. With 118 pitches under his belt, Cole handed the ball to Roberto Osuna, who completed the inning with a final, decisive strikeout against Yandy Díaz.

The Astros fared little better in the ninth. Osuna led off the inning with two hits to Austin Meadows and Tommy Pham; one wild pitch and an eight-pitch walk later, the Rays had the bases loaded with no outs. Avisaíl García worked a full count against Osuna, then plated the Rays’ first run of the night on a force play. Luckily for the Astros, however, they escaped with a final groundout from Kiermaier, preserving their two-run lead — and the win.

If the Astros intend to go for the sweep, they’ll need to do so in Florida. The Rays are set to host Game 3 on Monday afternoon, with a potential Game 4 slated for Tuesday. Should the ALDS get pushed out to a full five games, the series tie-breaker will return to Houston for Game 5.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: