A trio of rookies starred as the Tampa Bay Rays began the road back to the World Series with a 5-0 win over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series (ALDS). 

After posting an AL-best 100-62 record during the regular MLB season, the Rays got standout performances from pitcher Shane McClanahan and hitters Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena as they opened their defence of the AL pennant at Tropicana Field. 

McClanahan scattered five hits in five shut-out innings on Thursday, striking out three without walking a batter in his first postseason start. 

The Rays became the first team in MLB playoff history to have two rookies post an extra-base hit and another rookie toss a scoreless start in the same game, per Stats Perform.

His team-mates gave him run support early, as Franco doubled home a run in the first, then came around to score on a Yandy Diaz single. The 20-year-old phenom would add another double in the seventh.

Nelson Cruz, who at 41 is more than twice as old as his Dominican countryman Franco, went deep in the third for his 18th postseason home run. 

Not to be outdone, the breakout star of the 2020 playoffs – though still technically a rookie – Arozarena added a majestic solo shot to left in the fifth inning, then stole home in the seventh. 

According to Stats Perform, Arozarena is the first player in MLB postseason history to hit a home run and steal home in the same game. 

Tampa Bay will send another rookie to the mound in Game 2 as Shane Baz takes the ball against Red Sox veteran Chris Sale. 

The Houston Astros opened the other ALDS with an emphatic 6-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox as Lance McCullers Jr. was dominant on the mound for the home side. 

McCullers allowed four hits and did not walk a batter in 6.2 shut-out innings while striking out four, making him the first Astros pitcher to go at least that long in a postseason game without a walk since Brandon Backe against the White Sox in the 2005 World Series.

In 15 career postseason games, McCullers has a 2.87 ERA and has struck out 9.62 batters per nine innings. 

Yordan Alvarez entered the game with just 14 hits in 58 postseason at-bats (.241) but he was the hitting star for Houston in Game 1.

The designated hitter reached base three times in four trips to the plate, driving in a run with a double in the third inning and another with a solo homer in the fifth. 

While Alvarez did the heavy lifting, Jose Altuve provided the highlight of the night with a nifty slide to score from third on an Alex Bregman grounder to third base in the third inning. 

Game 2 is Friday in Houston with the Astros sending Framber Valdez to the mound against Chicago's Lucas Giolito. 

 

Dodgers at Giants

Eternal rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have each won 107 games this season, and they open their National League Division Series (NLDS) with Walker Buehler and Logan Webb on the mound on Friday. 

No team does more with less than the Tampa Bay Rays. It hasn't yet paid off in a World Series title, but that day could be drawing near.

Following the best regular season in history, the 100-win Rays are set to open Thursday's American League Division Series (ALDS) against the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the New York Yankees 6-2 in Tuesday's Wild Card game. Playing in the postseason has become commonplace for Tampa Bay – the Rays lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games in last season's World Series after falling to the Houston Astros in the 2019 ALDS.

This season was particularly gratifying for the budget-conscious Rays, who had the AL's best record in consecutive seasons for the first time. They should have no fear facing the Red Sox following an 11-8 record in the season series, including 7-3 at home.

Tampa Bay went a franchise-record 51–25 against the AL East in a year when four of five times won 90 games, the first time that's happened since baseball went to six divisions in 1994. The Rays accomplished all this with 61 different players, including 38 pitchers, both franchise records.

While the core of this year's Rays team is much the same as last season, their scheduled starting pitchers for Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS are rookies Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz. Tampa Bay will become just the second team in postseason history to start rookie pitchers in the first two games of a playoff series, joining the 2012 Oakland Athletics in the ALDS (Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone).

McClanahan, 24, went 10-6 with a 3.43 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 25 starts in his rookie campaign and the 22-year-old Baz - the team's number one prospect – has just three starts on his major league resume. McClanahan allowed more than three runs just three times in his 25 starts and Baz totalled 18 strikeouts and surrendered only six hits in 13.1 innings as a major leaguer.

The left-handed McClanahan relies heavily on heat and his fastball velocity of 96.5 mph was the fourth highest by an AL starter (minimum 750 thrown as a starter) this season. Only Gerrit Cole (97.7), Nathan Eovaldi (96.9) and Dylane Cease (96.7) were better. McClanahan handled the Red Sox very well this season, posting a 2.81 ERA in three starts with 18 strikeouts in 16 innings.

When the Rays opened the 2020 postseason against the Toronto Blue Jays, their first two starters were Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow. Due to budget constraints for a team that ranked 26th in payroll this season at $76.6million, Snell was traded to the San Diego Padres in the offseason and Glasnow was limited to 14 starts due to a season-ending elbow injury.

 

An injury to their ace and the trade of a former Cy Young Award winner hardly mattered as the Rays led the AL with a 3.67 ERA. Elite pitching has become the norm for Tampa Bay, which has a 3.64 ERA since the start of the 2019 season, a mark bettered only by the mega-payroll Los Angeles Dodgers (3.16) during that span. Dodgers' pitchers Trevor Bauer and Clayton Kershaw – both of whom won't be pitching this postseason – earned a combined $69m this season, just $7.6m less than the entire Rays payroll.

The Rays bullpen is also a major strength and another area where they seem to have an unrivalled ability to find contributors from out of nowhere. The relievers underwent an overhaul during the season and saves leader Diego Castillo was traded to Seattle in late July. J.T. Chargois was acquired as part of that deal, and he went 5-1 with a 1.90 ERA in 25 appearances.

Tampa Bay's relievers led the majors with 58 wins and topped the AL with a 3.23 ERA, holding opponents to a .224 batting average despite pitching a major league-high 703 innings. While that is a lot of innings for a bullpen to cover, Andrew Kittredge led the team with 57 appearances to rank tied for 99th in MLB.

While the Rays and their uncanny ability to develop pitching consistently garners most of the headlines, this season's club also features a potent and diverse offense that scored a franchise-record 857 runs, second most in the majors behind the Astros (863). Just as impressive is Tampa Bay scoring a major league-best 312 runs in the seventh inning or later, with the next-closest team the San Francisco Giants (276).

Austin Meadows spearheads the line-up and is coming off a career-high 106 RBIs this season, one every 4.89 at-bats. That is the third-best RBI rate of any qualified AL player this season. Ahead of Meadows are Toronto's Teoscar Hernandez (4.74) and Jose Abreu (4.84) of the Chicago White Sox. Meadows is the first Tampa Bay player to reach 100 RBIs since Evan Longoria in 2010.

Prized rookie Wander Franco made his major league debut on June 22 and sparked the Rays to a 46-24 record the rest of the way. The 20-year-old Franco reached base in 43 consecutive games at one point, tying Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest such streak by a player 20 years or younger. Franco's .439 on-base percentage against lefties since the All-Star break ranked fifth in MLB.

Randy Arozarena has already proven he can flourish in the postseason. He was the talk of the 2020 playoffs after he slashed .377/.429/.831 and set postseason records for home runs (10) and hits (29) en route to winning MVP honours in the AL Championship Series (ALCS). Arozarena's 2021 was not nearly as devastating, but he did become just the third player in franchise history to collect 20 steals and 20 home runs (BJ Upton and Tommy Pham).

Tampa Bay can mash with the best of teams, ranking tied for third in the AL with 222 home runs, including five players with at least 20. Brandon Lowe finally stayed injury-free, and the result was 39 home runs and 99 RBI, including the first three-homer game by a left-handed batter in team history.  

Those 39 homers tied him for second in Rays history in single-season homers, trailing Carlos Pena's 46 in 2007. Lowe, Mike Zunino (33) and Meadows (27) combined for 99 home runs, tied for third most of any team-mate trio in the majors.

Zunino only batted .216 but he crushed left-handed pitching to the tune of a major league-high .868 slugging percentage (minimum 100 plate appearances). His 33 home runs were the most by a Rays catcher and all came while catching. That total was two shy of the AL record while catching, set by Ivan Rodriguez in 1999.

Nelson Cruz was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in July and the 41-year-old provided exactly what the Rays hoped with 13 homers and 36 RBIs in 55 games with strong leadership. He has always loved to hit at Fenway Park with a .343 life-time average, 14 home runs and 44 RBIs in 49 games at baseball's oldest park. Cruz's batting average at Fenway ranks third among active players (minimum 100 at-bats).

The Rays had the AL East locked up weeks ago and even the best record in the AL wasn't a huge challenge, so they haven't played pressure-packed games in a while. Still, with nothing left to play for this past weekend, they won two of three at Yankee Stadium and proved they have no problem turning it on when necessary.

A case can easily be made that no team is heading into the postseason with such a high level of both offense and pitching as the Rays. Tampa Bay have truly become the city of champions lately with the success of the NHL's Lightning and NFL's Buccaneers and the Rays could very well add their name to that list.

The Tampa Bay Rays added to their season-long list of eye-popping statistics as they rolled past the Boston Red Sox 12-7 at Fenway Park on Tuesday. 

Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino combined to go seven-for-nine with a double, a triple, four home runs and eight runs batted in as the first-place Rays built a 12-1 lead before Boston tacked on six runs in the final two innings. 

Cruz homered in the third and fith innings to reach 30 for the season, making the 41-year-old the oldest MLB player to reach that mark. Zunino is close behind Cruz on the season, hitting his 28th in the fourth inning and 29th in the sixth. 

According to Stats Perform, they are the second visiting duo to each have at least two home runs and at least four RBIs in the same game at Fenway Park since Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris of the New York Yankees on May 30, 1961.

While those two were going deep, Wander Franco was getting on base once again. The rookie walked in the seventh to extend his on-base streak to 37 games, breaking a tie with Mantle to put him behind only Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (43) in consecutive games reaching base for a player 20 years old or younger. 

The Tampa Bay win and another Yankees loss extended the Rays' American League (AL) East lead to nine and a half games. 

 

Astros storm back to beat Mariners, Angels spoil Snell's brilliant outing

The Houston Astros trailed the Seattle Mariners 4-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth inning, but Alex Bregman's two-run homer tied the game and Carlos Correa won it 5-4 for Houston with a walk-off ground-rule double in the 10th. 

San Diego Padres starter Blake Snell was perfect through six innings but ended up taking the loss when Jo Adell hit a two-run single with two outs in the seventh on the way to a 4-0 Los Angeles Angels win. Snell has held opposing hitters to a .071 batting average over his last four starts, which Stats Perform says is the lowest since Johnny Vander Meer held batters to a .063 average over four games – including his back-to-back no-hitters – in 1938. 

Avisail Garcia hit his 25th home run while Eric Lauer and two Milwaukee Brewers relievers held the Philadelphia Phillies to five hits in a 10-0 victory. The Brewers lead the National League (NL) Central by 11 games over the Cincinnati Reds.

Ozzie Albies homered for the fourth successive game, his two-run shot in the seventh giving the Atlanta Braves the lead for good on the way to an 8-5 victory over the Washington Nationals. Albies also drove in runs with a fourth-inning sacrifice fly and an eighth-inning single. 

 

 

Cole leaves injured as Yankees lose again

Gerrit Cole left in the fourth inning with hamstring tightness and the New York Yankees lost 5-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays, their eighth defeat in 10 games in a skid that began immediately after a 13-game winning streak. With their sixth straight win, the Blue Jays are now two games back of the Red Sox in the American League wild card race. 

 

Pujols hits another homer in St Louis

Albert Pujols got a standing ovation from the fans in St Louis, where he starred for 11 seasons, before hitting his 206th home run in the city and the 679th of his career.

 

Hitting a homer directly after getting a standing ovation is so awesome. pic.twitter.com/EdJGzkmOdS

— MLB (@MLB) September 8, 2021

 

Tuesday's results 

Minnesota Twins 3-0 Cleveland Indians
Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 Detroit Tigers
Baltimore Orioles 7-3 Kansas City Royals
Tampa Bay Rays 12-7 Boston Red Sox
Atlanta Braves 8-5 Washington Nationals
Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 New York Yankees
New York Mets 9-4 Miami Marlins
Milwaukee Brewers 10-0 Philadelphia Phillies
Cincinnati Reds 4-3 Chicago Cubs
San Francisco Giants 12-3 Colorado Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers 7-2 St Louis Cardinals
Houston Astros 5-4 Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers 3-1 Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Angels 4-0 San Diego Padres
Chicago White Sox 6-3 Oakland Athletics

 

Blue Jays at Yankees

Luis Gil has yet to surrender a run in three career MLB starts and the Yankees (78-60) will hope for more of the same as they try to stop Alek Manoah and the streaking Blue Jays (75-62). 

Youngster Jo Adell crushed a go-ahead grand slam to guide the Los Angeles Angels to a stunning 8-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in MLB on Tuesday.

With the scores locked at 2-2 and bases loaded at the top of the ninth inning, the 22-year-old stepped up to deliver his first home run of the season at the perfect time for the Angels.

Adell hit a Gregory Soto fastball high over left-field, which came after he was seen receiving advice from Mike Trout in the batting cage pre-game following a poor recent run.

"He pulled me aside and told me I've been having really good at-bats and spitting on the pitches I can't handle but to stay on the fastball," Adell said. "Something was in the zone hard, and I was ready to attack.

"It was electric. When I hit it, I just turned and Trout was at the stairwell at the dugout so I just looked over and just went crazy. The whole experience was great."

Cruz's two-homer game, Webb stars

Nelson Cruz plated five runs with a two-homer game in the Tampa Bay Rays' 10-0 triumph over the Baltimore Orioles. He hit a three-run shot in the fifth inning, before adding another two with a sixth-inning homer. Mike Zunino also homered for the fifth straight game.

Emerging right-hander Logan Webb starred on the hill allowing only two runs over a career-high seven and one-third innings as the San Francisco Giants defeated the New York Mets 3-2. Pete Alonso spoiled his shut-out bid after seven scoreless innings.

Giancarlo Stanton smashed his 19th home run of the season as the New York Yankees won 2-0 over the Boston Red Sox in the second game of their double, after winning the opener 5-3.

Jose Abreu slugged a three-run homer just beyond Josh Harrison's reach and over the left-field wall in the Chicago White Sox's 9-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

 

Sickening head injury for Bassitt

There was a major concern from the White Sox win after A's starting pitcher Chris Bassitt was hit in the face by a line drive. Blood appeared to spill from the right side of Bassitt's head, before he was taken from the field on a cart. The A's have since released a statement confirming he is conscious and on his way to hospital.

 

Pham's 486-foot home run

Tommy Pham hit the longest home run of the season, his 13th of the campaign, making it 4-3 in the San Diego Padres' 7-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies. Pham's solo shot measured a monstrous 486 feet. Fernando Tatis Jr crushed his 34th home run of the season in the same inning.

 

Tuesday's results 

New York Yankees 5-3 Boston Red Sox
Washington Nationals 12-6 Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees 2-0 Boston Red Sox
Chicago Cubs 2-1 Cincinnati Reds
Atlanta Braves 2-0 Miami Marlins
Tampa Bay Rays 10-0 Baltimore Orioles
Los Angeles Angels 8-2 Detroit Tigers
Milwaukee Brewers 2-0 St Louis Cardinals
Seattle Mariners 3-1 Texas Rangers
Chicago White Sox 9-0 Oakland Athletics
Kansas City Royals 3-1 Houston Astros
Cleveland Indians 3-1 Minnesota Twins
Colorado Rockies 7-3 San Diego Padres
Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 Philadelphia Phillies
San Francisco Giants 3-2 New York Mets
Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Mets at Giants

The San Francisco Giants (78-42) have a good lead atop the National League West although they will be tested by the New York Mets (59-60) in the third and final game of their series.

The Los Angeles Dodgers fortified their chances to repeat as World Series champions by acquiring starter Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner as MLB teams completed a historic trade deadline scramble that saw 10 different 2021 All-Stars change teams.

The Dodgers, who trail the Giants by three games in the highly competitive National League West, were able to orchestrate a blockbuster deal to plug the hole in their rotation left by Trevor Bauer, who remains on leave as he is investigated for sexual abuse.

Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and eight-time All-Star, steps into a formidable rotation that still features Walker Buhler, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias – plus left-hander Danny Duffy, who was acquired from the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

Turner is batting .322 this year with 18 home runs and has 21 stolen bases, earning him his first All-Star selection earlier this month. He will add his combination of speed and power to a Los Angeles lineup that already leads the National League in runs scored.

In return for the two All-Stars, the Dodgers sent four minor league players to the Washington Nationals, including a pair of top-50 prospects in catcher Keibert Ruiz and pitcher Josiah Gray.

The Nationals were among the biggest sellers at the deadline, sitting in fourth place in the NL East and having just announced that 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg will undergo season-ending neck surgery.

On Thursday, Washington sent relief pitcher Brad Hand to the Toronto Blue Jays and dealt slugger Kyle Schwarber to the Boston Red Sox. The fire sale continued on Friday, with the Nationals sending catcher Yan Gomes and infielder Josh Harrison to the Athletics and trading veteran lefty Jon Lester to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The other notable sellers at the deadline were the Chicago Cubs, who gutted nearly the entire core that helped them win the World Series in 2016.

Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo each played a vital role in that championship five years ago but were sent packing this week with all three playing in the final seasons of their contracts.

The New York Mets added Baez, who will likely start at shortstop until Francisco Lindor is healthy then play second base, as well as pitcher Trevor Williams in exchange for 2020 top draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong.

Bryant, who had previously said he would consider re-signing with the Cubs this offseason, yielded a modest return in a trade with the NL West-leading Giants.

The Cubs also had the leading closer on the market, sending Craig Kimbrel to the crosstown White Sox for second baseman Nick Madrigal and pitcher Codi Heuer.

Rizzo was the first to go, traded Thursday to the New York Yankees, whose first basemen have slugged an MLB-worst .323 this season.

The Yankees are in third place, thanks mostly to an anemic offense that has scored the second-fewest runs in the American League, but took huge strides at the deadline. Earlier on Thursday, the Yankees secured towering slugger Joey Gallo in a trade with the woeful Texas Rangers, giving the Bronx Bombers two new power threats from the left side of the plate.

Despite entering Friday fourth in the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays dealt two prospects to the Minnesota Twins for right-handed starter Jose Berrios. Even if Toronto misses the playoffs this season, Berrios is still just 27 and remains under team control through 2022.

The Atlanta Braves drew attention around the league for being buyers, despite star center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. being out for the rest of the season. The Braves made multiple deals on Friday and since the All-Star break have added catcher Stephen Vogt, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and four outfielders: Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario.

Elsewhere in the NL East, the Philadelphia Phillies also strengthened their position by acquiring All-Star pitcher Kyle Gibson from the Rangers and by re-uniting with infielder Freddy Galvis.

Add in earlier trades that sent Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays, Adam Frazier to the San Diego Padres and Eduardo Escobar to the Milwaukee Brewers to reach 10 of this year’s All-Stars moved at the deadline, the most ever.

The Tampa Bay Rays made a high-impact move ahead of MLB's July 31 trade deadline, acquiring veteran slugger Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins on Thursday in a four-player deal. 

Locked in their perennial struggle with the big-money Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees atop the American League (AL) East division, the Rays swooped for one of the most reliable power bats on the market. 

Winner of the AL's Silver Slugger award at designated hitter the last two years, Cruz was named to the All-Star Game for the seventh time in his career this season. 

Despite turning 41 on July 1, Cruz had 19 home runs and 50 RBIs along with a .294 batting average and .537 slugging percentage for the last-place Twins. 

Heading into Thursday's game, Rays designated hitters had 13 home runs and a .395 slugging percentage, third-worst in the American League ahead of only the Texas Rangers (.380) and Detroit Tigers (.265).

Austin Meadows has been the primary DH for the Rays, starting 48 games there including Thursday's contest against the Cleveland Indians, but he can play the outfield.

Cruz, however, is purely a hitter. He has not made a defensive appearance since playing four games in right field for the Seattle Mariners in 2018. 

Entering Thursday, the Rays were 57-39, one game back of the Red Sox in the division and two and a half games ahead in the AL wild card standings. 

In addition to Cruz, Tampa Bay landed minor league pitcher Calvin Faucher in the trade while sending minor league pitchers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman to the Twins. 

Heading into the season, MLB.com ranked Ryan as the Rays' 10th-best prospect and Strotman number 17 in the organisation. 

 

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