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Eduardo Rodriguez making a case to be Red Sox’s Game 3 playoff starter


BALTIMORE — Even now, as the wins pile up and the division lead swells, the Boston Red Sox’s starting rotation has a top-heavy feel that inspires a few verses reminiscent of another Boston baseball team from a bygone era.

“Spahn and Sain and pray for rain?” Try “Porcello and Price and roll the dice.”

Well, unless Eduardo Rodriguez keeps pitching the way he did here Tuesday night.

The Red Sox are pulling away in the American League East after their sixth consecutive victory, 5-2 over the Baltimore Orioles, so they might have the luxury of organizing their rotation entering the playoffs. Given their druthers, David Price and Rick Porcello — likely in that order — would start the first two games of a postseason series.

Game 3, though, is anybody’s guess. Based on his last two starts, lefty Drew Pomeranz is gassed after exceeding his previous career high for innings pitched in a single season. If there’s one thing the Red Sox know about right-hander Clay Buchholz, it’s that he’s reliably unreliable. And the only door knuckleballer Steven Wright is walking through these days is the clubhouse in Fort Myers, Florida, where he continues his recovery from bursitis in his right shoulder, the product of an ill-fated pinch-running mishap last month at Dodger Stadium.

That leaves Rodriguez, the talented but still inconsistent 23-year-old lefty who struggled so badly earlier in the season after returning from a spring training knee injury that he was sent to Triple-A. And although he has been far more effective since the All-Star break (3.21 ERA in 12 starts), he’s still prone to the poorly timed stinker, such as his four-run, 2 1/3-inning dud against the New York Yankees last week.

But if Tuesday night was an audition for a Game 3 start, Rodriguez acquitted himself well. Staked to an early two-run lead on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 26th homer of the season — “Not too shabby for a defensive specialist,” Bradley said, nodding to his critics — Rodriguez didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning and pitched into the seventh. At that point the Red Sox had taken a 5-1 lead on David Ortiz’s 539th career homer.

And so that’s what he did. Instead of fuming, arms crossed in the dugout, Upton watched some of Detroit’s best hitters approach the plate with a more focused level of detail. He found himself studying Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, not just in their respective at-bats, but in the moments before as well.

How have the Rangers dominated the Astros in 2016?


The Texas Rangers’ ownership of the Houston Astros feels like it’s never going to end. A day after they beat the Astros in 12 innings, they beat them with a ninth-inning comeback.

The Rangers are 15-3 against the Astros this season with one game remaining between the two teams. The difference between them in the standings is 11.5 games. Little things have made a difference. Twelve of the Rangers’ 15 wins are by two runs or fewer. Eight are by one run.

With one game left, let’s look at who the difference-makers have been.

Matchup MVP: Rougned Odor

Key to the matchup: Getting Correa and Springer out

At this point, the Cubs figure to be a shoe-in to be the National League’s top seed, and so will have to wait out the wild-card game to see who their first playoff opponent will be. That opponent might well be the Cardinals, though the Redbirds will need to right a flagging ship.

As you likely recall, the Cubs bounced back from a Game 1 shutout loss in last season’s NLDS, riding a barrage of home runs to a four-game victory. Besides continued maturation of the Cubs’ prodigious young talent core, the big difference in a rematch would be that the 2015 Cardinals’ leaders in WAR among pitchers (John Lackey) and position players (Jason Heyward) are now members of the 2016 Cubs.

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who has been sidelined with shoulder inflammation, said Monday that he is not ready to resume throwing. He’s been out since Aug. 27 and said Friday that he would reassess his situation Sunday. That re-evaluation has been pushed back to Wednesday.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia did not have much by way of an explanation for Boyd’s performance.

With his seventh-inning double, he extended his hitting streak against the Mets to 18 games, the longest by any player in a single season against the Mets. (And, if you really want to dork out, that doesn’t include his last three spring training games against New York, in which he also hit safely.) His ninth-inning, leadoff single off closer Jeurys Familia sparked a two-run rally and sent the game into extra innings.

So when Murphy came up in the bottom of the 10th with two outs, a runner on first and his team trailing 4-3 (All-Star closer Mark Melancon served up T.J. Rivera’s first career homer in the top of the 10th), it was almost a given that he would come through again. Until he didn’t.

Facing lefty Jerry Blevins, who was brought in expressly for the purpose of retiring the lefty-hitting Murphy, and against whom he was 1-for-10 lifetime, the Nats slugger did exactly what a normal human being would do. Well, at least a normal left-handed hitting professional-baseball-player kind of human being: He struck out.

On the scale of epic baseball anticlimaxes, it wasn’t quite “Casey at the Bat.” But given how unbelievably dominant Murphy has been against his old mates, it wasn’t far from it.

MLB roundup: Strasburg’s return short-lived; Giants’ struggles continue


The Washington Nationals have many of the elements of a championship team in place and might represent the greatest challenge to the Chicago Cubs among the National League teams, but now they must move ahead without Stephen Strasburg, who had to leave Wednesday’s game.

The Nationals are hoping his injury is something minor.

But Wilson Ramos was more stark in his assessment, as mentioned by Jorge Castillo in this tweet:

Tebow, who hasn’t played organized baseball since his junior year at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, in 2005, has been working out with former big league catcher Chad Moeller in Scottsdale, Arizona, since Memorial Day. Tebow spent almost two hours last week at the Southern California’s Dedeaux Field running a 60-yard dash, shagging fly balls, throwing from the outfield and taking swings against former major league pitchers David Aardsma and Chad Smith in his audition for clubs.

For one, they would surely be closer than 2.5 games back in the wild-card race and 4.5 games back in the division, where they currently stand. They would truly control their own destiny — and, by the way, they would probably feel like a team of destiny, too.

The Yankees’ schedule is unforgiving over these last 24 games, besides the seven home and away matchups with Tampa. They have three games against the first-place Dodgers to begin next week, but their other 14 games include seven home and away games against Boston, four at Toronto and three at home against Baltimore. Those happen to be the three teams ahead of them in the AL East. All the experts, with their fancy math equations, would probably still not give the Yankees much of a shot, but, boy, could they make it interesting — and maybe even make the playoffs.

Tebow is not a baseball deal, no matter how often Alderson insisted it was on a conference call with reporters. This is a Bill Veeck move, not a George Steinbrenner move. The Mets are coming off a trip to the World Series, and they are feeling good about their prospects of another trip to the postseason, and so maybe they wanted to spend an off day flexing their marketing muscles by signing a 6-foot-3, 260-pound hulk who can crush fastballs thrown at batting-practice speed.

Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada set to start Saturday vs. Oakland


OAKLAND, Calif. — Boston’s next big thing has arrived.

Yoan Moncada, a 21-year-old infielder who was ranked No. 5 in ESPN Insider Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list, joined the Red Sox on Friday night for the start of a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics. He was not in the lineup but entered as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“[I] fully expect him to be in the lineup [Saturday],” manager John Farrell said before Friday’s game.

Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he has heard Moncada being compared to the Texas Rangers’ Carlos Beltran.

“I’m not using that comparison myself,” Dombrowski said. “I’m just telling you what other people have told me.

“Beltran is a switch-hitter, very good athlete, could run, could play defense, could drive the ball. … You’re talking about a guy who has a chance to go into the Hall of Fame. I don’t want to put that on anybody’s shoulders.”

Dombrowski and Farrell believe Moncada has the skills and temperament to make an impact on the postseason race.

Said Farrell: “He wouldn’t be here if we didn’t feel like he could step in and contribute.”

Trout, who said he was fine hours before Friday night’s 11-8 loss to the Seattle Mariners, crashed his Mercedes into the back of a stationary car on a Los Angeles freeway, where traffic had come to a stop due to a backup from another accident. Trout’s car was left disabled, and occupants of other vehicles involved had to be taken to the hospital.

Trout said he had left a dinner with teammates following Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Cincinnati Reds. He said it was the first car accident he’s ever been involved in.

He declined to go into specifics of the accident but said he was lucky it wasn’t more serious.

Trout said he hasn’t seen a doctor in the aftermath and woke up the next morning without any lingering pain from the crash.

MLB Rumor Central: Could Brewers revisit interest in Yasiel Puig this offseason?

Could the Milwaukee Brewers revisit their interest in Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig in the upcoming offseason?

It’s possible, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports.

Puig was placed on revocable waivers last month. At least one team claimed him. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Friday, citing sources, that the team was the Brewers, who made a “legitimate attempt to complete a deal” for Puig. Nightengale reports the Dodgers and Brewers couldn’t come to an agreement.

Rosenthal adds that Ryan Braun, who’s reportedly drawn interest from the Dodgers, was part of the talks and the Dodgers “only intended to trade Puig in (a) package for a better player.”