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Houston Astros star duo Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa down Red Sox with two homers in ALCS Game 1 win



HOUSTON — Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker had the highest of praise for his second baseman and shortstop after Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa fueled a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday night.

“It’s kind of like Tom Brady and [Rob] Gronkowski,” Baker said after the game. “They know how they think. They know probably what they eat for dinner, what they like and what their kids like.”

Altuve’s two-run home run in the sixth inning tied the game at 3-3 while Correa’s solo shot in the seventh put the Astros in front for good.

It’s the fourth time Altuve and Correa have homered in the same postseason game, the most by a pair of infield teammates in MLB history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The only pair of teammates who have accomplished the feat more often was Correa and former teammates George Springer.

“Two swings changed the course of the game,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.

Altuve added a sacrifice fly in the eighth, which provided the final margin of victory for the home team.

“He is just so dangerous,” Correa said of Altuve. “His track record in the playoffs is insane, and he just inspires me. He inspires me without saying much.”

Altuve returned the praise. “He is amazing. He likes this kind of game. He wants to go out there and hit big homers. It seems like he expects to go out there and do it, so if you’re expecting something, eventually you’re going to make it happen, and that’s him.”

In fact, Correa said he visualizes his at-bats in the on-deck circle, though he may not have seen himself hitting a high change-up from Red Sox reliever Hansel Robles into the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park. It ignited the crowd as Correa dropped his bat and pointed to his wrist before beginning his home run jog.

“It’s to my teammates,” Correa explained. “When the playoffs start, they always tell me ‘it’s your time now to go out there, hit homers.’ They told me to hit the watch, when I hit the homer.

“I did it in Chicago [in the ALDS] the first time on my own, and today they told me ‘if you hit a homer, hit them with the, it’s your time.'”

Correa’s blast was his 18th career postseason home run while Altuve hit his 20th, tying him with Derek Jeter for third most all-time.

“It means a lot,” Altuve said. “Derek Jeter is one of the greatest baseball players ever, greatest persons to ever play the game, and just to hit as many homers as him, it means a lot to me.”

Correa added about Altuve: ” When I walk into that clubhouse in spring training and I see this guy that has won MVPs, Silver Sluggers, batting titles, Gold Gloves, Hank Aaron Awards. Every single award you can imagine, he has won it, and then he shows up to spring training wanting to work on different things to get even better.”

The two players were nearly outshined by Red Sox center fielder Kike Hernandez, who had four hits including two home runs — the second of which came in the ninth inning to cut the lead to one. Hernandez has 29 total bases over his last four postseason games. Only Reggie Jackson, a current Astros advisor, has accomplished that feat over four playoff games.

“Enrique is en fuego,” Cora said.

Hernandez was about the lone bright spot on offense for the Red Sox, who had just four hits in the final 6.1 innings. While their offense was stalling, Altuve and Correa went to work on the comeback for Houston.

“I was hoping it would be them,” Baker said. “It’s a pleasure to be watching them up close and personal. Those are some clutch guys.”

Game 2 is Saturday afternoon.

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MLB Players Association to make counteroffer to league in Monday meeting



The Major League Baseball Players Association plans to make an in-person labor proposal to the league on Monday, sources told ESPN, countering MLB’s offer last week that did little to loosen the gridlock that has gripped the sport after the league locked out the players Dec. 2.

Should the players’ offer do little to advance the negotiations that thus far haven’t yielded any substantive progress, the scheduled start to spring training in mid-February will grow that much unlikelier. And the longer discussions on a new collective-bargaining agreement last, the more they jeopardize Opening Day on March 31.

The gap between the players and league remains significant, with the union seeking major financial gains in a number of areas and owners trying to hold firm with what they currently pay in salaries. Other issues players have said remain a priority include anti-tanking measures and fixing service-time manipulation.

Any concessions players make in their offer could provide a roadmap to the negotiations. Before implementing the lockout, the league asked the union to drop three areas of discussion: earlier free agency for players, salary arbitration after two years instead of three and changes to the revenue-sharing plan. The union did not agree to the condition when presented with it Dec. 1, and the league left the bargaining table, locking out the players hours later.

Forty-three days later, the league returned to the union with an offer that included paying players with two to three years of service based on a formula, slight modifications to the draft lottery it previously had proposed and a mechanism that would reward teams with draft picks when top prospects who started on opening day rosters win awards.

The proposal did little to entice players, who after losing financial ground during the previous labor agreement want to make gains this time around.

News of the MLBPA’s expected counterproposal was first reported by The Associated Press

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Robot umpires at home plate moving up to Triple-A for 2022, one step away from major league baseball



NEW YORK — Robot umpires have been given a promotion and will be just one step from the major leagues this season. Major League Baseball is expanding its automated strike zone experiment to Triple-A, the highest level of the minor leagues.

MLB’s website posted a hiring notice seeking seasonal employees to operate the Automated Ball-Strike system. MLB said it is recruiting employees to operate the system for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters and Tacoma Rainiers.

The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game in July 2019 and experimented with ABS during the second half of that season. The system also was used in the Arizona Fall League for top prospects in 2019, drawing complaints of its calls on breaking balls.

There were no minor leagues in 2020 because of the pandemic, and robot umps were used last season in eight of nine ballparks at the Low-A Southeast League.

The Major League Baseball Umpires Association agreed in its labor contract that started in 2020 to cooperate and assist if commissioner Rob Manfred decides to use the system at the major league level.

“It’s hard to handicap if, when or how it might be employed at the major league level, because it is a pretty substantial difference from the way the game is called today,” Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer, said last March.

MLB said the robot umpires will be used at some spring training ballparks in Florida, will remain at Low A Southeast and could be used at non-MLB venues.

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Tampa Bay Rays say split-season plan with Montreal rejected by MLB



ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays‘ proposed plan to split the season between Florida and Montreal has been rejected by Major League Baseball.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced the news on Thursday.

“Today’s news is flat-out deflating,” Sternberg said.

The idea of playing in both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal has been discussed over the past several years after attempts to build a new full-time ballpark locally failed.

Montreal had a big league team from 1969, when the expansion Expos began play, through 2004. The Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals for the 2005 season.

The Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the team has played since its inaugural season in 1998, expires after the 2027 season.

Since Sternberg took control in October 2005, the once-struggling franchise has been a success on the field but not at the box office.

Despite reaching the World Series in 2008 and 2020, the Rays have annually ranked near the bottom in attendance. The Rays averaged about 9,500 for home games last season, 28th in the majors and ahead of only Miami and Oakland.

St. Petersburg mayor Ken Welch feels a new stadium in his city remains a possibility. Governmental officials have been working on a redevelopment plan for the Tropicana Field site.

“We are working with our county partners and city council to put together the best plan possible, which will work in conjunction with my planned evolution of the Tropicana Field master development proposals,” Welch said in a statement. “With this collaborative approach, I am confident we can partner with the Tampa Bay Rays to create a new and iconic full-time home for Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg while also achieving historic equitable economic growth.”

Sternberg said the team will definitely explore options in the Tampa Bay area.

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