Tigers blast Yankees, move on to World Series

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Tigers blast Yankees, move on to World Series

DETROIT (AP) Prince Fielder waved his arms franticly, gleefully calling off his teammates before catching the final out.

From the moment Fielder signed his massive contract in January, an entire city had been waiting for a moment like this.

Max Scherzer capped a stupendous stretch for Detroit's starting rotation, and the Tigers advanced to the World Series for the second time in seven years by beating the New York Yankees 8-1 Thursday for a four-game sweep of the AL championship series.

Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta hit two-run homers in a four-run fourth inning against CC Sabathia, who was unable to prevent the Yankees from getting swept in a postseason series for the first time in 32 years.

"Yeah, we did it," Cabrera said. "It's an unbelievable feeling. ... Four more wins, guys. Four more wins."

Scherzer took a no-hit bid into the sixth against a New York starting lineup that was again without Alex Rodriguez, who flied out with two on in the sixth as a pinch hitter.

Austin Jackson added a solo shot in the seventh for Detroit, and Peralta hit another homer an inning later.

The game ended with Fielder, Detroit's 214 million acquisition, catching Jayson Nix's popup. The Tigers spilled onto the field for a celebration that began near second base and eventually moved closer to the third-base line.

General manager Dave Dombrowski hugged manager Jim Leyland - who is in the final year of his contract - while owner Mike Ilitch rubbed Leyland's right shoulder.

"I've got a great bunch," Ilitch said. "We don't have one hot dog in the bunch. They're all great guys. ... The Tigers are something special."

Detroit won its 11th American League pennant and first since 2006. The Tigers have five days off before the World Series starts Wednesday at defending champion St. Louis or 2010 winner San Francisco.

After scoring in just three of 39 innings during the series, New York heads home to face unpleasant questions about its future following a postseason of awful hitting, benched stars and veterans showing the wear and tear of age. Rodriguez, the 275 million third baseman, was out of the starting lineup for the third time in the playoffs. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera could only watch following season-ending injuries.

The Yankees hit .188 in the postseason and .157 in the LCS. New York went quietly in the ninth inning, with the Comerica Park crowd chanting "Sweep!" while the last three batters made out in order.

Detroit outhit New York 16-2 in the finale and 46-22 in the series. The Tigers' starters are 4-1 with a 1.02 ERA in this postseason.

Without a World Series title since 1984, Detroit lost to Texas in last year's ALCS and then signed Fielder in the offseason. The excitement of that bold move subsided a bit when the Tigers struggled to a 26-32 start in the AL Central, but they overtook the Chicago White Sox in the final 10 days of the regular season and won the division with an 88-74 record, matching the Cardinals for the fewest wins among the 10 playoff teams.

In the postseason, their rotation has been impeccable. Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister allowed only two earned runs against the Yankees. New York was shut out once and totaled six runs in the series.

"Unbelievable. It's why we're here right now because out pitching," Cabrera said. "Wow!"

Scherzer allowed a run and two hits in 5 2-3 innings in the finale, struck out 10 and walked two.

"I really had my changeup and my slider going," he said. "When I can combine that with my fastball, that's what makes me effective."

The Yankees lost Jeter to a broken ankle in the opening game, and the slumping Rodriguez was benched for Game 3. He was out of the starting lineup for Game 4 too, but A-Rod did have one last chance to turn his postseason around when Scherzer was lifted for left-hander Drew Smyly with two outs in the sixth and the Tigers up 6-1.

As Smyly finished warming up, Rodriguez popped out of the dugout to pinch hit for Raul Ibanez, but with runners at the corners, he hit a routine fly to center field. He grounded out in the ninth, completing a 3 for 25 (.125) playoffs with no RBIs.

The Yankees failed to win a game in a postseason series for only the fifth time. They hadn't been swept since a best-of-five ALCS against Kansas City in 1980. The last team to sweep four straight against them had been Cincinnati in the 1976 World Series.

Detroit also beat New York in the division series in 2006 and last year. The Tigers became the first team to win three straight postseason series against the Yankees, according to STATS, LLC.

New York never led in this series - the only other time that's happened to the Yankees was when they were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1963 World Series.

After a rainout Wednesday, Game 4 started under a sunny sky, and Detroit immediately took the lead on series MVP Delmon Young's RBI single. Young became the first player with four game-winning RBIs in one postseason series, STATS said.

Avisail Garcia drove in an unearned run in the third with a single before the Tigers broke it open in the fourth. Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, made it 4-0 with a towering drive to left field. Peralta drove in two more runs with his shot to the same part of the ballpark.

After Andy Dirks doubled, Sabathia was pulled. He allowed five earned runs and 11 hits in 3 2-3 innings.

When the fourth inning finally ended, the crowd at Comerica gave the Tigers a standing ovation, sensing that an even bigger celebration wasn't too far off.

Scherzer made sure of that. The right-hander was terrific down the stretch for the Tigers before his throwing shoulder acted up near the end of the regular season. He made it through 5 1-3 innings in the division series against Oakland without allowing an earned run, then kept the Yankees off the scoreboard until Eduardo Nunez tripled in the sixth for New York's first hit and scored on Nick Swisher's double.

Swisher, likely playing his last game with the Yankees, was 1 for 35 with runners in scoring position in his postseason career before that hit. He struck out with two on and two outs in the third.

About the only thing the Yankees had done well in this postseason was pitch, and Sabathia failed to keep that going. He didn't have much help from his defense. Teixeira, a four-time Gold Glove winner at first base, misplayed two grounders in the third - one for an infield hit and one for an error.

New York's hitting was abysmal thoughout the playoffs. Robinson Cano was at .075 (3 for 40) with no home runs, including a 29 at-bat hitless streak. Curtis Granderson 3 for 30 with 16 strikeouts, Nick Swisher .167 (5 for 30) with two RBIs and Russell Martin .161 (5 for 31) with one RBI.

NOTES: Detroit closer Jose Valverde, who allowed four runs in Game 1, did not pitch again in the series. ... Cabrera has a hit in a record 17 straight LCS games. He's reached base in all 20 of his postseason games with the Tigers, a team record. ... Sabathia was 4-0 in his previous eight postseason starts. ... Thursday was the 35th anniversary of Reggie Jackson's three-homer game for the Yankees in the World Series against the Dodgers. ... New York scored seven runs at Baltimore in the division series opener, then was held to four or fewer in the next eight games. The Yankees' longest previous stretch like that in postseason play came in 2001, when they were held to four or fewer run in all seven games of the World Series by Arizona.

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

The Cubs are preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson, hoping the talented, frequently injured pitcher can stay healthy and provide insurance for their rotation.

Anderson posted a telling message on his Twitter account on Monday night, hinting at what would be another offseason check mark for the defending World Series champs.

The physical for the agreement — first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network — won't just be a formality as Anderson underwent back surgery last March and appeared in only four games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

But Anderson fits on paper as a left-hander who will turn only 29 on Feb. 1 and won't have to carry front-of-the-rotation responsibilities or feel Opening Day urgency on a team with five projected starters.

The Cubs had been willing to gamble around $6 million on Tyson Ross, who recently signed a similarly structured one-year deal with the Texas Rangers as he recovers from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The calculus would essentially be the same with Anderson. The Cubs have to factor in last year's grueling playoff run into early November, this season's sky-high expectations, the organization's lack of high-end, upper-level pitching prospects and the uncertainty surrounding the 2018 rotation.

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Anderson finished sixth in the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year voting with the Oakland A's, but he's reached the 30-start mark only one other time and never accounted for 200 innings in a single season.

Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2011 season, and the injuries piled up from there, dealing with a strained right oblique, a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left index finger.

Anderson had such a fragile reputation that he accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers after a strong platform year in 2015 (10-9, 3.69 ERA). The Dodgers only got 11 1/3 innings out of Anderson, who didn't pitch during a playoff run that ended at Wrigley Field in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs stayed exceptionally healthy while winning 200 games across the last two seasons and need to be prepared in case John Lackey sharply declines at the age of 38 or Mike Montgomery experiences growing pains while transitioning from the bullpen.

Whether or not Anderson is ultimately the answer, the Cubs will be looking to place a sixth starter into their plans.

"I don't know if a six-man rotation on a permanent basis is the wave of the future," team president Theo Epstein said earlier this winter. "But we certainly endorse it on a temporary basis as a nice way to pace guys for the whole season.

"We can get them some rest, whether you do it in April to preserve depth and ease guys into the season, especially after a deep October and November run. Or after the All-Star break in the summer to kind of get through the dog days and give guys a little bit of a breather as you ramp up for the stretch run.

"I think it would be tough to pull off all season long. But it's something that (could certainly work) in the right spot."

The start of preseason brings the return of hope for the Fire

The start of preseason brings the return of hope for the Fire

A year ago there was hope surrounding the Fire. Hope that general manager Nelson Rodriguez, entering his first offseason with the club, and new coach Veljko Paunovic could spark a turnaround at the club. Those new faces, coupled with an overhauled roster, meant there was hope that things could be better.

Rodriguez and Paunovic had not yet failed with the Fire so there was still that hope that they had a magic touch.

That eroded as the season unfolded and the team’s shortcomings were quickly apparent. The reworked defense seemed to be improved, but the midfield was typically overwhelmed.

Now, after the Fire finished last in Major League Soccer for the second consecutive year, that innocent hope that a new coach and general manager bring is gone. Fans have seen Rodriguez and Paunovic fail and, even though they inherited a team that was not an easy one to turn around, there will be more skepticism.

This year there is hope again, but instead of coming in the form of new management, it comes in the form of accomplished players. Juninho (a three-time MLS All-Star and three-time MLS Cup winner), Dax McCarty (an MLS Best XI selection in 2015) and Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goalscorer in the Polish Ekstraklasa in 2015-16) on paper make the Fire a better team. Can they mesh into a cohesive team that will actually perform better in matches?

“You’d like to think so,” Rodriguez said on Monday at the team’s media day at the PrivateBank Fire Pitch on the North Side. “It’s an inexact science, or at least for me it is. I know others will be more brash and saying it’s all there and all the pieces are together. Until they’re on the field, until they’re in the hotel rooms, until they’re off the field at team meals you never really know.”

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Rodriguez did say that this group is “very different” than last year’s.

“You can talk about all these clever ways to change culture, but the best way to have a winning team is to have winners as part of your team,” he said. “With those four guys (including goalkeeper Jorge Bava) at least we’ve added certified winners.”

So with two former MLS All-Stars arriving in central midfield, arguably the team’s biggest weakness last season, and a proven goalscorer, the pieces are there for the Fire to be better. Now it’s up to Paunovic to put the pieces together in a winning way.

“Obviously we have high expectations because we believe we did this job so far in offseason by the acquisitions that we had and the guys that are still to come,” Paunovic said. “It’s going to be a better team, more competitive.”

Even with the additions, the roster isn’t finished yet. Two trialists are in camp with the Fire, right backs Drew Beckie and Boyd Okwuonu. Beckie is a 26-year-old Canadian who played the 2016 season with the Carolina Railhawks in the North American Soccer League. Importantly, Beckie has a green card and would not count against the Fire’s international roster spots.

Okwuonu, 23, was drafted by Real Salt Lake in the second round of last year’s draft but was not retained. He has represented the U.S. at youth levels, including as a part of the Olympic qualifying team last year.

Right back has been an opening on the roster since Rodrigo Ramos’ loan was not renewed and no player has been added to fill that spot yet so those two could be fighting for a contract. Rodriguez said further additions to defense and midfield are still possible.

“Preseason is going to tell us where we have to improve,” Paunovic said. “Of course, theoretically we all know that there are a couple of spots still to reinforce and a couple of spots that we have to improve. For us now during all this time we are open to all the possibilities.”

The roster appears to be better, but even Rodriguez admitted he had hope last year.

“I was confident last year and the results of last year were bitterly disappointing and utterly unexpected by me," he said. "I have to believe our roster is better, whether that roster comes together the way we imagine, time will tell.”