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Chicago White Sox beat Minnesota Twins to clinch American League playoff spot

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CHICAGO — If the Chicago White Sox thought ahead to the day their rebuilding plan would come together, they could not have envisioned what the scene looked like. But they will take it.

Riding the mix of power and athleticism that has fueled Chicago’s sudden rise to the top of the American League, the White Sox came from behind to beat the Minnesota Twins 4-3 on a chilly day on the South Side on Thursday. In doing so, Chicago became the American League’s first team to clinch a spot in this season’s expanded playoff field. The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched a spot in the National League bracket on Wednesday.

Fittingly, it was Jose Abreu who fueled the win, further adding to his burgeoning case for AL MVP consideration. His 17th homer to left field in the fourth tied the game at 1-apiece and sparked a roar from the White Sox’s dugout that echoed through empty Guaranteed Rate Field before synthetic crowd noise joined the celebration.

The homer gave Abreu 50 RBIs in Chicago’s 50 games, as he became the first player in the majors to reach 50 and the first player to do it in 50 games since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2013. Abreu tied the game again in the seventh, this time legging out an infield single to plate Jarrod Dyson from third. That set up the winner, a line drive double to left by Eloy Jimenez to score pinch runner Yolmer Sanchez.

“For me, that was a really special moment,” Jimenez said. “It’s really fun, you know. At the beginning of the year, I would have been disappointed if we didn’t make the playoffs. Now, we’ve made it, and we have to continue to play hard and win our division.”

From there, the Chicago bullpen took it to the finish line, with Alex Colome retiring pinch hitter Williams Astudillo on a fly to center to end it. With the last out, the White Sox had made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

“Everybody in there is extremely happy,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work over the years. Hopefully, it’s just a first step, and we continue to move forward.”

But like so many things with this odd 2020 season, it didn’t feel like the White Sox had clinched anything. They lined up and shook hands after the game, not unlike how they would after a normal win. There was a minor bout of celebrating in the dugout. The cardboard cutouts in the stands wavered in the stiff breeze. The, everyone adjourned to clubhouse for showers and Zoom calls conducted with interviewers and interviewees alike clad in face masks.

“Trust me,” Renteria said. “Behind the mask, I’m smiling ear to ear.”

Still, while they could not have foreseen that the circumstances would be so odd, this was the day the White Sox hoped for when, led by general manager Rick Hahn, they embarked on a full-on reset of the organization, starting with the blockbuster trade that sent former Chicago ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox.

What was already a four-year streak of losing seasons stretched to seven, including the franchise’s first 100-loss season in nearly 50 years in 2018. But this season, the White Sox have emerged as one of baseball’s most potent offensive teams and head into the stretch run with the AL’s best record (33-17).

There through it all has been Abreu, who signed with Chicago out of Cuba in 2014. He led the AL in RBIs last season and on Thursday became the third White Sox player to drive in at least 50 in each of his first seven seasons with the club, joining Ray Durham and Willie Kamm.

Still, in the first season of Chicago’s window of contention, the players know better than anyone that Thursday was but a first step.

“It was just a big hug [when I saw Abreu],” said shortstop Tim Anderson, who has also been with the White Sox for the bulk of the rebuild. “He’s been here longer than me, but we’ve been here, and our hard work paid off. We’re headed in right direction, but we’ve got to keep going.”

There were no fans at Guaranteed Rate Field to see it. Only the players and coaches, a smattering of ballpark officials and stadium employees, a few members of the media. In a pandemic-free universe, the park would have been packed, but then again, the White Sox would have 150 games behind them and but five playoff spots to pursue. There is plenty left to prove.

“We’re not done,” Renteria said. “This is just one phase of it. Hopefully, we’re continuing to be better.”

Still, the destination is the one the organization aimed for: The White Sox are returning to October baseball.

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Peter Frates’ memorabilia auctioned for ALS support

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BEVERLY, Mass. — Dozens of items of sports memorabilia collected by Peter Frates, whose battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease helped spread the ALS ice bucket challenge, are being auctioned to help people still fighting the disease.

Frates, a former Boston College baseball player who lived in Beverly north of Boston, died Dec. 9 after a seven-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He and his family inspired the spread of the ice bucket challenge and helped raise millions of dollars for research into the disease, which has no cure.

Proceeds from the online auction that started Tuesday will benefit the Pete Frates Family Foundation, which assists ALS patients and their families with the cost of home health care, his father, John Frates, told The Salem News.

“The best part of this is that the money is going to a fantastic cause that’s obviously near and dear to our hearts,” he said. “Knowing that it’s helping people in need is what’s important.”

The items being sold include a David Ortiz jersey Frates wore to the Red Sox star’s retirement celebration and a Boston Bruins jersey given to him when he was an honorary captain for a 2018 playoff game.

The online auction ends Friday.

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Tamp Bay Rays reduce to 13 pitchers for World Series

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Outfielder Brett Phillips and left-hander Ryan Sherriff have been added to the Tampa Bay Rays‘ roster for the World Series. Right-hander Aaron Slegers and left-hander Jose Alvarado were dropped Tuesday before the opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tampa Bay goes with 13 pitchers, one fewer than during the AL Championship Series against Houston, which was played on seven consecutive days. The World Series has off days after Games 2 and 5.

The Dodgers did not make any changes from their NL Championship Series roster against Atlanta and will carry 15 pitchers and 13 position players.

Phillips was 0 for 2 in the Division Series against the New York Yankees, appearing in three games, and he played once without an at-bat in the first round against Toronto.

Sherriff has not pitched since the final day of the regular season on Sept. 27. He figures to be used at high-leverage times against Dodgers left-handed batters, a group that includes Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Max Muncy.

Sherriff joins Aaron Loup, Josh Fleming, Shane McClanahan and Ryan Yarbrough as lefties in the bullpen.

Slegers pitched 3 2/3 innings over two appearances against the Astros and had one appearance against the Yankees.

Alvarado pitched 1 2/3 innings over two games against Houston.

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World Series 2020 predictions — Will Tampa Bay Rays or Los Angeles Dodgers win, MVP, most home runs and more

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The two best teams in baseball meet in the 2020 World Series, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the Fall Classic for the third time in four years, looking for their first title since 1988, and the Tampa Bay Rays looking for their first crown in their second World Series appearance.

Before things get going Tuesday night (8:09 p.m. ET) from Arlington, Texas, we asked some of our resident MLB experts for their picks on which team will win the series, who will be MVP, which player will hit the most home runs, which pitcher will have the most strikeouts and more.

Below are our panel’s picks with analysis from some of our experts.


World Series winner

Dodgers: 10 votes
Rays: 5 votes

Dodgers in 5 (2 votes)
Dodgers in 6 (6 votes)
Dodgers in 7 (2 votes)

Rays in 6 (2 vote)
Rays in 7 (3 votes)

What is your pick and why?

Jeff Passan: Dodgers in 6. These two teams are so similar. Their philosophies, their roster breakdowns, their baseball worldview. The Dodgers are simply the more talented version, which is no knock on the Rays, who all year have been the second-best team in baseball and earned their position the hard way. And yet from the start of the season, I’ve predicted the Dodgers would win the World Series because their philosophy, roster, worldview and especially talent are simply better than the 29 others’. Nothing this postseason has changed that reality.

David Schoenfield: Dodgers in 6. I was tempted to pick the Dodgers in four. World Series sweeps happen more often than you might think — four since 2004 — and we haven’t had one since Giants-Tigers in 2012, so we might be due for one. That feels a little disrespectful to the Rays, however, who went 40-20 for a reason and beat the Yankees and Astros in do-or-die games. Still, the Rays’ offensive struggles aside from Randy Arozarena are a big concern, as is their swing-and-miss game (they led the majors in strikeouts). Also, Tampa Bay’s top relievers are all right-handed, which worked against the righty-heavy Yankees and Astros lineups, but with four lefty hitters the Dodgers will be more difficult to shut down in the late innings.

Dan Mullen: Dodgers in 6. I know the Rays can really pitch, but I just don’t see them having enough arms to keep this Dodgers lineup quiet — especially when L.A. hitters start seeing Tampa Bay’s relievers for a second or third time. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Rays won a game or two early, but just like the Braves found out, it’s really, really hard to get that fourth win against this Dodgers team.

Joon Lee: Rays in 7. The Rays were my preseason World Series pick because of the way they built their roster — a group of players with versatility and competence, a rotation top three as formidable as any in baseball with Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton, and an incredibly deep bullpen featuring fireballers such as Diego Castillo, Peter Fairbanks and Nick Anderson. The team’s loaded group of relievers helped carry the Rays to this point, and I believe it will carry Tampa Bay to its first World Series title in an abnormal postseason with fewer off days.

Kiley McDaniel: Rays in 7. I’m leaning to the Rays, in bold disobedience of the odds (anywhere from 53% to 68% series odds to the Dodgers, depending on the source), because I trust the Rays’ bullpen and manager more than the Dodgers’. The Dodgers have a clear edge offensively, but the Rays have a defensive edge and a slight pitching edge. I think the Rays also have an edge in Kevin Cash’s feel for tactics and managing a pitching staff.


MVP

Mookie Betts (5)
Tyler Glasnow (3)
Cody Bellinger (2)
Corey Seager(2)
Clayton Kershaw (1)
Brandon Lowe (1)
Charlie Morton (1)

Who will be the World Series MVP and why?

Passan: Mookie Betts. For the many things the National League Championship Series illustrated, perhaps none was as clear as what makes Betts among the best players in baseball. It’s easy to fixate on offensive statistics because there is an inherent objectivity to them. Defense tends to be an eye-of-the-beholder thing. Except, seemingly, when it comes to Betts, who put his propensity for the spectacular on display in the final three games of the series. He didn’t win NLCS MVP because Seager put on a historic show of hitting. Betts’ glove never stops, and between that and a bat that looked on the verge of getting white hot, Betts is the best bet.

Schoenfield: Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has only the eighth-best odds on the board, with Betts the betting favorite, but this isn’t merely wishful thinking. For starters, Betts hasn’t been driving the ball much in the postseason (no home runs in 12 games) and you could really pick any Dodgers hitter, but you’re just guessing. With Kershaw starting Game 1, he’s the starter guaranteed to get two starts if it’s a short series, so logic says to bet on him — whatever his World Series history.

Mullen: Corey Seager. The month of October has been a reminder of just how good Seager can be when he’s healthy. We’re talking about a 26-year-old shortstop who not that long ago was in the middle of the Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Javier Baez and Carlos Correa (and I could go on, shortstop is a really good position in baseball right now) conversation as the best in the game. He has had an OPS over 1.000 against both righties and lefties this postseason, which is going to be important as the Rays try to mix-and-match relievers against the heart of L.A.’s lineup.

Lee: Charlie Morton. Morton signed with the Rays back in 2018 for two years, $30 million, marking one of the franchise’s biggest free-agent signings ever, and he has been a dynamite postseason performer, becoming the fifth pitcher since 1913 to allow no more than one earned run in five consecutive postseason starts. I think this series is going seven games, and Morton will ultimately find himself pitching a Game 7 once again en route to a Tampa Bay title.


Most home runs

Randy Arozarena (5)
Max Muncy (4)
Cody Bellinger (2)
Joc Pederson (2)
Mookie Betts (1)
Corey Seager (1)

Who will hit the most home runs in the series?

Steve Richards: Randy Arozarena. Have you been watching the playoffs so far? This guy is absolutely on fire, like Barry Bonds in the 2002 World Series on fire. Won’t the Dodgers just pitch around him, because pretty much no one else in the Rays’ lineup is hitting a lick? One would think so, but this is 2020 — nothing goes the way you’d think it would.

Mullen: Max Muncy. You could pick almost any hitter near the top of the Dodgers’ lineup and have a decent shot of getting this question right, unless Randy Arozarena’s Hank Aaron impression continues into the World Series. Muncy’s power hasn’t quite been there after dealing with elbow and wrist injuries during the regular season, but I really like the way he looked at the plate in the NLCS. He drew a team-high nine walks and belted two home runs, including that monster Game 3 grand slam, and had another long ball kept in the yard by the Arlington wind.

Alden Gonzalez: Joc Pederson. Pederson averaged 99 mph exit velocity on his batted balls during the National League Championship Series and finally seems to be getting back to who he was after a slugging regular season. He’ll sit against lefty starters such as Blake Snell and Ryan Yarbrough but will be a weapon off the bench in those games and will play a major role in this series. Pederson was huge in the 2017 World Series and has batted .375/.400/.500 this postseason.


Most strikeouts

Tyler Glasnow (8)
Walker Buehler (5)
Clayton Kershaw (1)
Blake Snell (1)

Which pitcher will have the most strikeouts?

Gonzalez: Tyler Glasnow. Glasnow averaged more than 14 strikeouts per nine innings during the regular season and has struck out 25 batters in 19⅓ innings this postseason. Starting Game 1 lines him up to start again in Game 5 and potentially be a bullpen option in Game 7. It’s simple math, really. Also — it’s that upper-90s fastball and nasty curve.

Mullen: Walker Buehler. The Rays struck out more than any team in baseball this season, and as long as the blister problem doesn’t force his pitch count up again, Buehler should rack up K’s while pitching deeper into games than Glasnow and Snell will on the Rays side.


The final out

Which pitcher will get the final out?

Kenley Jansen (8)
Diego Castillo (3)
Nick Anderson (1)
Peter Fairbanks (1)
Brusdar Graterol (1)
Clayton Kershaw (1)

Which hitter will make the final out?

Ji-Man Choi (2)
Joey Wendle (2)
Mike Zunino (2)

One vote each: Willy Adames, Randy Arozarena, Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Brandon Lowe, Hunter Renfroe, Corey Seager, Will Smith, Justin Turner

What is your prediction for the final out of the series?

Schoenfield: Now, it’s worth noting Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did not go to Jansen in the ninth inning with a one-run lead in Game 7 of the NLCS. But Jansen had also pitched in Games 5 and 6, while Julio Urias was rolling in Game 7. Because I have the series ending in six games, we don’t have to contemplate what might happen in Game 7 here. Jansen looked much better in those two outings and should be the ninth-inning guy … at least until he struggles. Which he won’t. He gets the job done.

Mullen: When Zunino comes to the plate, it’s a pretty good bet the at-bat will end in a strikeout, a home run … or a long fly ball caught just short of the fence. Given how big Globe Life Field plays and how many home runs we’ve seen Dodgers outfielders take away so far this postseason, I’ll bet on the latter. Plus, who doesn’t want to see a World Series-ending home run robbery? Not long ago we were all wondering if Jansen could be trusted in a high-leverage role after his NLDS Game 2 struggles, but he suddenly looked like the Jansen of old in three scoreless outings against the Braves. Having two travel days means Roberts can set up his pitching, and that will likely funnel Jansen back to the closer role.

Richards: Roberts gets all sentimental with the Dodgers holding a big lead in Game 5 and calls on Kershaw to finish off the Rays so he can be at the center of the long-anticipated celebration. Kershaw fans Wendle — and the Dodgers and their ace have their title.

Eric Karabell: I’ve Tampa Bay winning it, and it’s a total guess, of course, as to which Rays pitcher closes it out because it could be any of 10 fellows on this versatile staff. But let’s say Anderson and Fairbanks pitch earlier in the game, leaving Castillo the pick to be at the center of the victory scrum. The last batter? Bellinger, who will have a great series — until that final at-bat.

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