Reeling Red Sox look to stop slide in series finale vs. Rays

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Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora is growing increasingly frustrated with his team as it enters the finale of its four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Red Sox have lost the first three games of the series, and Wednesday’s poor showing left Cora simmering in the clubhouse. Boston managed just five hits in a 4-1 loss.

“We’re not playing good baseball right now,” Cora said. “There’s a lot of mistakes, and it’s costing us games. We need to start playing better baseball if we want to be the team that we envisioned in spring training.”

While the Red Sox have dropped 11 of their last 16 games, Tampa Bay is 8-4 in its last 12 — including 8-1 against AL East opponents.

The injury-riddled Rays drew praise from Cora after Wednesday’s contest.

“They play 27 outs, and they’re playing good baseball,” he said. “When you see them on the other side, it’s impressive what they’re doing. They have a lot of injuries, and they’re playing very hard.”

Taylor Walls homered in Wednesday’s victory for Tampa Bay, which took an early 3-0 lead behind ace Shane McClanahan.

The 25-year-old McClanahan earned his 10th victory and made a strong case to start next week’s All-Star Game, allowing one run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings to lower his ERA to 1.71.

Right-hander Drew Rasmussen (5-3, 3.11 ERA) will take the mound for Tampa Bay in the series finale. He tossed four scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds last Saturday, allowing four hits while striking out six.

Rasmussen, 26, was making his second start following a three-week stint on the injured list due to an ailing hamstring. He hasn’t thrown more than 88 pitches in any of his 14 appearances this season.

Alex Verdugo is 3-for-6 against Rasmussen, who is 1-0 with a 2.30 ERA in five career games (three starts) against the Red Sox.

Boston will counter on Thursday with rookie right-hander Kutter Crawford (2-2, 4.50), who received a no-decision after allowing one run on four hits over five innings against the New York Yankees last Saturday.

Crawford, 26, owns a 38-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12 games (three starts) this season.

Boston is monitoring the status of second baseman Trevor Story (hand) and reliever Matt Strahm (wrist) after both players were injured in Tuesday’s game. X-rays on both players were negative, and they’re listed as day-to-day.

The Red Sox have lost their last five meetings against Tampa Bay, which could have second baseman Brandon Lowe back in the lineup this weekend. Lowe has been out since May 16 with a lower-back injury.

Rays manager Kevin Cash has been pleased with how his team has responded despite missing several key players to injury, including shortstop Wander Franco (fractured right hamate bone) and outfielders Kevin Kiermaier (left-hip inflammation) and Manuel Margot (right-knee sprain).

“You’ve got to make the most of the roster that you have,” Cash said. “Look, it presents really quality opportunities for some young players that, with good health and good fortune, might not be getting that this year. We’ve gotten a lot of it, and hopefully we’re going to continue to find ways to be better from it.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.