McAdam on the ALCS: Martinez, Tigers still alive

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McAdam on the ALCS: Martinez, Tigers still alive

DETROIT -- Ahead in the American League Championship Series three games to one, with an opportunity to win the pennant and advance to the World Series?

Yes, Victor Martinez has been there.

Now, he's on the other side, playing from behind, trying to buy himself and the Detroit Tigers one more game.

He would rather be ahead, of course, rather be the team just a win away from the pennant instead of the one fighting off elimination.

But you don't get to choose. Martinez and his Tigers still have to win the next two games. Otherwise, Thursday's valiant 7-5 victory over the Texas Rangers will be cold comfort.

And experience has taught Martinez that leading 3-to-1 isn't any sort of guarantee.

Or have you forgotten the 2007 ALCS.

Martinez, then with the Cleveland Indians, led the Red Sox 3-to-1 with Game 5 at (then) Jacobs Field. But Josh Beckett pitched what was perhaps the best post-season game ever and the Red Sox went home to finish off the comeback in seven games.

In 2011, it's role reversal.

"This is the fun part of it," said Martinez. "We're just going to go out there, play hard and see what happens. We've got nothing to lose. We're just taking it day-by-day, game-by-game.

"I was on the other side in '07. We were up 3-1 and just one win away from the World Series and everything escaped. So, anything is possible at this point. Anything is possible."

It was hard to think otherwise, given how Game 5 played out Thursday for the Tigers.

The first omen came in the sixth with the game tied at 2-2. Ryan Raburn was on first when Miguel Cabrera smoked a ball down the third base line.

Adrian Beltre was positioned behind the bag, hopeful of a double play, but the ball struck the third base bag and shot over Beltre's head as Raburn scored all the way from first.

Then, with Cabrera on second, Martinez pulled a ball into the right field corner which right fielder Nelson Cruz laid out for, only to have the ball snake behind him as Martinez got himself a triple.

Martinez was asked if he entertained any thoughts of an inside-the-park homer.

"Never!" said Martinez with mock alarm. "To hit one inside-the-park, Nelson Cruz would have to have a heart attack."

Martinez snorted with laughter over his own self-deprecating remark.

Then, there was manager Jim Leyland sticking to his pre-game promise that relievers Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde would not be used in relief because of their recent workloads.

Instead, Leyland announced that Phil Coke would be his choice to close out the game. He remained steadfast even as the Rangers scored a run in the ninth and put the go-ahead run on base.

"People may not like (the fact that he kept Benoit and Valverde out)," said Leyland, "but it was not a tough decision. You know why? In my heart, it was the right decision. No question about it. No-brainer for me."

Coke hung on, the Tigers earned themselves at least one more game and Martinez got to play the role of sage.

His hard-won wisdom from 2007 had already been shared with Tigers teammates. He's let the younger ones know that these opportunities don't come along often and, when the Tigers got pushed to the brink, he reminded everyone of how the other team needs four wins -- not just three.

"Never take anything for granted . . . never," said Martinez. "Never. You never take anything for granted in this game. When you have the chance to finish off somebody, you better finish them off. I learned that from experience. We just keep playing, keep swinging and see what happens."

Martinez knows from experience what can happen when a team thought to be out gets a win and builds some momentum.

Limited by injuries, playing through pain and still behind, the Tigers are guaranteed nothing. But the fact that they are still going says a great deal about them.

Everything from this point forward is a bonus.

"If you see the injuries and everything around the way these guys are playing, how can you not be satisfied?'' asked Leyland. "Would I rather be up 3-to-2? Yes. But I have no problems no matter how this turns out. We're going to keep playing. And that's good."

It certainly beats the alternative.

Report: White Sox scouting Red Sox' minor league affiliates for possible trade

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Report: White Sox scouting Red Sox' minor league affiliates for possible trade

Though the chances are slim the Red Sox and White Sox make a blockbuster trade before the MLB trade deadline, Chicago is at least sending resources to Boston's minor league affiliates to scout their prospects.

ESPN Boston's Scott Lauber first reported Friday the White Sox were scouting Double-A Portland (home of Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi), but Ken Rosenthal adds they were also at their Single-A and Triple-A affiliates.

Though one would assume the Red Sox are seeking prospects for a potential return on Chris Sale, Rosenthal thinks it could be "for reasons other than Sale" and that some believe the White Sox are "simply laying groundwork for off-season trade."

Stay tuned for more.

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

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Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels:

QUOTES

* “He just had very good command the entire night. Stayed ahead in the count [and] pitched to all quadrants of the strike zone. He used his four-seamer in on some powerful right-handed hitters in their lineup.” John Farrell on Rick Porcello’s performance.

* “We needed a win bad and swung the bats well and played good defense. That’s a big win for us.” Rick Porcello said after his win in an interview with NESN.

* “24 hours ago we were probably in a much different place mentally after a ball game like tonight.” Farrell on the win.

“That was probably the first time I sat on off-speed pitches this whole year. I took a chance, took a gamble.” Jackie Bradley Jr. said on his home run.

NOTES

* Rick Porcello completed his first game in a Red Sox uniform in the 6-2 win. The CG was the fifth of his career and his first since he threw three in 2014. The righty has 14 wins, one win shy of tying his career high.

* Xander Bogaerts had his first multi extra-base hit performance of the season since June 11. He’s only done that twice this season. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

* David Ortiz logged his 85th RBI of the season in the win and Mookie Betts his 67th. Heading into Friday night’s game, the two were one of five pairs of teammates ranking in the top 20 in RBI. The list includes Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, Adam Duvall and Jay Bruce and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

* Dustin Pedroia has now reached base safely in 32 straight games.

STARS

1) Rick Porcello

Porcello had his first complete game in a Red Sox uniform, stopping Boston’s losing skid at four games.

2) Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts finished with a double and a home run -- the only Boston hitter with multiple hits. He also led the Red Sox with three RBI and scoring twice in the win.

3) Dustin Pedroia

In addition to walking in his first two at-bats, Pedroia had a base hit -- and another walk -- scoring twice on the night.

First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

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First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

First impressions of the Red Sox 6-2 win over Los Angeles:

Rick Porcello is not fazed by his fellow staff members’ struggles.

Although his teammates continue to deal with frustrations on almost a nightly basis, Porcello got the job done and put Boston in a position to win once again.

The second-inning double by Daniel Nava should have been a single, had Jackie Bradley Jr. not misplayed a funny hop. If that hit is a single, the next ground ball is a double -- and the following grounder ends the inning.

One of the most impressive components of his outing was dealing with Cole Kalhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to finish his outing after already facing them three times on the night.

Xander Bogaerts had his first multi-hit game in a week.

Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t a long time -- but that can feel like a long time given the shortstop’s output this year.

It was also his first multi extra-base hit performance since June 11.

Oddly enough, those are his only two games of that kind this season.

In addition to the win, Porcello did the bullpen a favor.

Not necessarily because the relievers needed rest, but with Ziegler’s last two rough nights, they could use a break.

Although Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz got warm late, it was more so to keep them fresh for the coming games since they haven’t thrown much.

Additionally, he gave an example for the Red Sox starting rotation that they are in fact capable of going the distance.

Tim Lincecum is barely a shell of what he used to be.

That first inning was hard to watch. The former Cy Young Award-winner threw eight straight balls, and somehow managed to work past. Even his final throw to first base in he opening frame looked like it was going off the mark.

Just hard to watch in general, which made it all the more shocking that the Red Sox couldn’t score against him.

Good for them that he never adjusted, and they took advantage of it in the ensuing innings.