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Wade Miley signs with Milwaukee Brewers on minor league deal

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The Milwaukee Brewers have signed left-hander Wade Miley to a minor league contract, according to USA Today.

Miley, who played for the Baltimore Orioles last season, is guaranteed $2.5 million if he can make the major league team. In a contract loaded with incentives, he can make up to $5.7 million if he makes 29 starts this season.

Over a seven-year career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and Orioles, Miley has a lifetime record of 66-74 with a 4.38 ERA.

With the Orioles last season, Miley had the worst season of his career, with an 8-15 record and a 5.61 ERA.

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Relieved Rays enjoy earning AL pennant in MLB’s strange, tough 2020 season

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SAN DIEGO — Three days of rising anxiety turned into one night of euphoria for the Tampa Bay Rays, who became the new American League champions on Saturday night after finally dispatching the Astros in seven games with a 4-2 victory to advance to the World Series in the MLB playoffs.

“The last three days were pretty agonizing,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We definitely added to our stress levels. That’s a really good team over there. I would have rather gotten it done in Game 4 or 5 than in Game 7.”

There may be more than 2,000 aeronautical miles between Petco Park and the Rays’ home at Tropicana Field, where this game would have taken place under normal circumstances, but that did little to diminish the manner in which they played these games, despite not playing a single game in front of fans all season.

“I feel bad that fans haven’t been able to be at the parks,” said Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay’s starter who also won Game 7. “Our families haven’t been able to see us unless they’re in quarantine. My mom flew in from New Jersey but I can only see her from 15 feet away. But the silver lining to this is get to the postseason and it’s just not the same. But I’ve looked across at the dugout and I know the guys that we’re playing, they care and they want to win. Probably more so this year than any other year, the motivation is doing it for each other. You adhere to protocols, you social distancing from families at home. Telling their kids they can’t hug them. This has brought out a level of humanity and empathy that you wouldn’t see in a normal season.”

This atmosphere may have been similar to that of a travel team game at eight in the morning, empty stands and little to no outside energy. But the intensity on the field during games was major league quality. Celebrating on the field was a bit awkward, with players looking unsure what they should be doing as they congregated on the infield as they accepted the AL championship trophy.

“It’s been very, very intense,” Cash said. “I cannot sit here and say if we were in the Trop our home or at Yankee Stadium or Minute Maid that they wouldn’t have been very intense in those ball parks. But the intensity of what our players show and what the opposition has shown has made everything very, very tense for all of us. I didn’t (sleep last night). I don’t know if I went to bed. A lot of anxiety. We’ve all watched ‘Four Days in October.’ I didn’t want to see it again.”

The Rays, who had the best record in the AL, will end their 16-day stay in San Diego and fly to Arlington on Sunday, ready to appear in the franchise’s second World Series. It hardly matters that only a few hundred people, mostly family and a smattering of reporters, security guards and the stadium DJ, actually witnessed in person what transpired at Petco Park over the past two weeks.

The 2020 American League pennant will carry the same weight as any previous championship flag, even if it came in a pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season. Someone was going to be crowned AL champs this season, and even if it did take four additional tension-filled days after they took a commanding 3-0 series lead, the Rays were more than eager to fire up a few victory cigars in what turned into a seven-day marathon to put away the Astros.

Tampa Bay just played an unprecedented 12 postseason games in a 13-day span, five games in five days against the Yankees in the ALDS, one day off and then seven in seven against Houston. All the while they shared the same hotel with the Yankees first and then the Astros, a five-story resort in nearby Carlsbad where one club occupied two floors, the other two different floors and one floor provided the buffer.

“This wasn’t easy,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “We played five straight days in the (division series), seven straight days in the (championship series). These guys responded.”

The Rays players were in quarantine in a St. Petersburg hotel the final week of the regular season, sharing that space with the visiting Phillies first and then the Blue Jays during the wild-card round before arriving in San Diego.

Several Rays players chose to be joined by wives and children in quarantine. However, parents were not allowed to do so, leaving them to wave and yell to their sons from about 20 feet away after games.

Reliever Shane McClanahan made his major league debut during the Yankees ALDS and gave up a full-count walk to Kyle Higashioka, only the second big leaguer he had ever faced. Afterward, McClanahan could only speak to his parents over the phone. He said the first thing his father said to him was, “So, a 3-2 walk, eh?” He said he replied, “Yeah, great to talk to you, too, dad.”

Such is big league life in 2020.

Another major difference that these players have already grown accustomed to, no wild champagne-drenched clubhouse celebrations. Those are considered a no-no this season, at least until after the World Series. Instead, the Rays had a dance-off in front of their dugout after beating the Yankees. This time they slipped inside their clubhouse, but it was anything but the normal Animal House-style craziness you’d see in any other year than 2020. Let’s just say there won’t be a need to deep clean the clubhouse carpets.

“We’ve done a great job to make it as fun as possible,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “There’s confetti and silly string. But there’s nothing better than popping bottles and having that seep in and burn your eyes.”

The Rays, who play at 30-year-old Tropicana Field, initially gushed over the Padres’ luxurious and expansive home clubhouse that has been their home for the past two weeks. When asked about the differences between their home and their Petco facilities soon after their arrival on Oct. 2, reliever Nick Anderson answer by asking, “Are you trying to get me in trouble?”

No amount of canned crowd noise could ever duplicate the feeling of a real 40,000-plus crowd. But none of that matters to these Rays. They’re going to play under the brightest lights possible, even if it will be difficult for some baseball fans to know who they’re watching.

“We don’t have too many household names that a ton of people are going to know,” veteran outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “But we know the very well above-average players that we have in there. We’re just a bunch of scrappy, hard playing guys and we show it on the field and we know how to win games and that’s all that’s important to us.”

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Kenley Jansen shows the vintage form Dodgers ‘know and love’ in dominating Braves

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ARLINGTON, Texas — After retiring the final batter with a 94 mph fastball on Friday night, and striking out the side, Kenley Jansen glared at the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ dugout with an intensity rarely seen from the personable right-hander. The meaning behind it, Jansen said, was basically, “Let’s go!”

To the rest of the Dodgers, it represented something else: Kenley Jansen — the good Kenley Jansen — is back.

Jansen recorded the final three outs of Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. This time the lead was by only two runs, half the cushion of his Friday outing, representing his first save since the Dodgers’ first postseason game 17 days ago. Jansen, who faced the bottom of the Braves’ order, was helped by a sliding catch from Joc Pederson to open the inning, then got routine fly outs from Nick Markakis and Pablo Sandoval. Six pitches, three outs to force a Game 7.

“If we wanna get to where we wanna be, and holding that trophy at the end of the year, we’re gonna need him,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. “He’s gonna be a big part of it. Two huge outings, not only for us but for him personally. And you can just see the confidence he has on the mound, attacking guys. That’s the Kenley Jansen I and all of us in there know and love.”

Jansen wasn’t bad this season — he finished with a 3.33 ERA, 33 strikeouts and nine walks in 24⅓ innings — but once again he wasn’t consistently dominant. The velocity on his cutter began to dip below 90 mph toward the end of the regular season, and he began the playoffs on unstable footing.

After Jansen failed to protect a three-run lead against the San Diego Padres in Game 3 of the division series, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts temporarily removed him from high-leverage situations. His next appearance was with a 14-run lead in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the NLCS. But Roberts noticed a smoother, more repeatable delivery in that outing. After Jansen struck out the side to easily hold a four-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 5, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager said he saw someone who was pitching confidently again.

On Saturday, Jansen threw his cutter 90 to 91 mph and mixed it with a two-seamer that neared the mid-90s.

“The game’s honoring him,” Roberts said of Jansen. “I couldn’t be more happy and proud of him.”

Jansen, 33, has spent the past few weeks searching to get his upper half and his lower half in sync, a continual problem for someone with a 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame. A few days ago, through conversations with longtime pitchers Charlie Hough and Rick Honeycutt, both of whom still have ties to the organization, Jansen was able to rediscover the clean, simple delivery of his early years. The consistency, he believes, is starting to come.

“Ain’t no roles in the playoffs,” Jansen said when asked about being temporarily removed as the team’s closer. “It’s, ‘When can you be in the best position to help your team win?’ I’ve been here for a long time, and it’s nothing else to have a ring here with the organization. That’s the last thing I feel like I need to accomplish here. We want it. We want it for everyone, and the fans deserve it, and it’s about winning a championship here.”

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Houston Astros’ comeback bid in ALCS falls short, ending turbulent year

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SAN DIEGO — The Houston Astros spent this odyssey of a season as baseball’s biggest villains.

When Aledmys Diaz flied out with a runner on first to end Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, the bad guys finally lost.

Ridiculed, roasted and ripped all year long, the Astros still summoned enough October heart and poise to reach the brink of another World Series. Manager Dusty Baker’s club even came agonizingly close to matching the biggest playoff comeback in baseball history in a wild ALCS.

Although they couldn’t quite conjure one more incredible postseason feat, this playoff run should be a source of pride for these Astros long after the boos stop. Although if fans are allowed back in most stadiums in 2021, this tarnished franchise probably won’t hear the end of the heckling anytime soon.

Houston fell behind early and never caught up in a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 7 on Saturday night, coming up short of an astonishing series comeback after three consecutive victories. After winning two of the previous three AL pennants and the 2017 World Series championship, the Astros played the entire season under a large, dark cloud created by revelations of the franchise’s sign-stealing tactics during 2017 and 2018.

The Astros’ wild year began in January with the firings of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. But several Astros veterans from those tainted seasons remain on the team, and the players weren’t sanctioned. They reported to spring training in February only to face widespread condemnation from their fellow major leaguers as the team that every other team loved to hate.

The Astros were relentlessly ripped by their opponents and castigated online from spring training onward. They were soundly booed and serenaded by the banging of trash cans whenever opponents’ fans were allowed to be around them during this coronavirus-shortened season. A fan even got a megaphone and broadcast his condemnation of the 2017 Astros into Petco Park from an apartment balcony beyond the outfield fence in Game 4 of this ALCS, calling them out individually by name as cheaters.

Some Astros ignored the hate, while others reveled in it. The beloved Baker took over on the bench and immediately provided a level of respectability, but the Astros were set to face a long regular season as the most reviled team in the majors — until the coronavirus pandemic upended everything.

When baseball finally got back underway in July, the Astros played in largely empty stadiums where opposing fans couldn’t boo or heckle them — although they tried. Fans gathered outside Dodger Stadium to express their displeasure when the team buses brought the Astros to Chavez Ravine for a regular-season series against the Dodgers, who lost the 2017 World Series to Houston in seven games.

After an offseason of turnover and injury losses, the defending AL champions struggled through a mediocre regular season and made the playoffs only due to the expanded field. At 29-31, they had their worst season by winning percentage since 2014. That’s when they swiftly returned to the superb big-game form they’ve displayed so consistently over the past four years — whether or not they knew what pitches were coming.

Houston swept favored Minnesota in the wild-card round and then bashed 12 homers in a four-game division series victory over Oakland. The Astros lost the first three games of the ALCS by a combined 11-5 to the deep, talented Rays. Rather than giving up, Houston became the second team in baseball history to win three straight after being down 3-0 in a playoff series.

Houston’s follow-up to its 2019 pennant is even more impressive in the absence of Gerrit Cole, who signed with the Yankees, and Justin Verlander, who needed Tommy John surgery. The Astros also went into October without much of their preseason bullpen due to injuries to closer Roberto Osuna and right-handers Brad Peacock, Austin Pruitt, Chris Devenski and Rogelio Armenteros, while veteran reliever Joe Smith opted out before the season began.

Houston’s lineup of veteran hitters simply kept slugging, and the Astros got enough solid pitching from Zack Greinke and his fellow starters to stay competitive all the way to the brink of the World Series.

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