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MLB playoffs 2021 – Best plays and moments from Atlanta Braves-Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros-Boston Red Sox

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This year’s 2021 MLB playoff action has been nothing short of drama and highly tense moments.

The Boston Red Sox are the grand slam-hitting machines of the 2021 MLB playoffs. The reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers entered Tuesday in an 0-2 hole but bounced back in Game 4. Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa has been called out, and Austin Riley is poised to be the Atlanta Bravespostseason hero.

Behind Kyle Schwarber and Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston crushed Houston in Game 3 of the ALCS. The tables turned in Game 4 with the Astros exploding for a 7-run ninth inning. The rally that helped the Astros even the series came, precisely, on the 268th pitch of the night.

With ample action to unpack from both series, here are the best plays and moments from Tuesday’s games:

Braves lead the series 2-1

Do the Dodgers have an unhealthy relationship with adrenaline?

That may explain a team that has shown a remarkable ability to get off the mat over the last couple of postseasons when they appeared to be down for the count. One. Two. And just as you start sounding out the “three,” Cody Bellinger sends a jolt of electricity through Dodger Stadium.

You might think that the ballpark was full of anticipation when Bellinger strolled to the plate with two on in the eighth and his club down three runs to the Atlanta Braves. But it didn’t feel that way. Instead, it felt more like everyone was all too aware of the cliff the Dodgers were teetering over. Three runs, five outs to go, and an 0-3 chasm straight ahead.

And then Bellinger connected, taking Braves reliever Luke Jackson out to right-center. Just like that, a former MVP who slogged through a baffling regular season in which he hit a mind-boggling .165, had tied the game.

The anticipation that seemed to be lacking before that emerged. What came next felt inevitable. You know the rest. Chris Taylor singled. Stole a base. Mookie Betts doubled in the go-ahead run. Kenley Jansen trotted in from the bullpen before a thundering crowd to close it out.

It happened so fast. The momentum that the Braves began building with a win in Milwaukee 10 days before, gathered steam with four straight wins in Atlanta after that, and appeared to be sizzling at full speed … disappeared when Bellinger pulled the plug with one crack of the bat.

Suddenly the pressure is on the Braves. Yes, they still lead the series 2-1, and that would be enough solace most of the time. But it was only last year when the Braves had the Dodgers down on the mat. One. Two … and three never came. That bit of very recent history is flashing through the mind of every Braves fan, not just because they lost Game 3, but because of how they lost it. It all sets up what should be a whale of a Game 4 on Wednesday. — Bradford Doolittle

Series is tied 2-2

While the borderline pitch Nathan Eovaldi threw to Houston catcher Jason Castro on a 1-2 count with two outs in the ninth inning will define Game 4 of the 2021 ALCS, Boston had plenty of opportunities earlier in the game to pull away before that. Throughout the evening, the Red Sox were unable to capitalize, going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving 11 men on base.

The heart of the order showed up Tuesday, with third basemen Rafael Devers and shortstop Xander Bogaerts recording hits and accounting for Boston’s two runs, but the rest of the lineup failed to make much of an impact.

The Red Sox also failed to receive much from their bullpen. Reliever Garrett Whitlock — the biggest lockdown pitcher of their relief corps this season — gave up the game-tying home run to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve. Eovaldi allowed four runs after the curveball to Castro did not go his way. After Eovaldi’s struggles, Alex Cora turned to Martin Perez, who promptly allowed four hits, three runs and one walk in 0.1 innings pitched.

For Red Sox fans, blaming the umpire represents an easy way out for Tuesday’s loss. The team received plenty of chances to make sure the controversial call from umpire Laz Díaz would not play a factor. While Houston’s pitching staff is depleted, do not underestimate the Astros’ offense ability to change a game’s outcome the rest of this series — just as it did in Game 4. — Joon Lee.



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MLB Players Association to make counteroffer to league in Monday meeting

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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

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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

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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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