Red Sox

1-2-3 Inning: Matt Albers

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1-2-3 Inning: Matt Albers

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA

Welcome to the second edition of 1-2-3 Inning, a step inside the Boston Red Sox bullpen and a look at the individuals who make up this cohesive unit. Last week we brought you a unique glimpse at Alfredo Aceves (did you know he wanted to be a dentist?). Now up, Matt Albers.

Albers, 28, signed with the Red Sox this offseason after playing the previous five seasons for the Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles. Albers started off strong in his first year with the Red Sox, boasting an ERA of 1.50 in April and later throwing 13.1 scoreless innings in July (4-4, 4.28 ERA on the season). But after giving up 16 runs in August (12.34 ERA for the month), he pitched a scoreless 0.2 innings on Tuesdays win against the Yankees, leaving two men on base. With just a month left in the regular season, Albers looks to pick up where he started in April.

He talked to CSNNE.com about embracing the pressure of Fenway Park, playing for his hometown team, and his dream location for a baseball game.

1. Albers was selected by his hometown Houston Astros in the 2001 amateur draft. Even though he had an idea he would be playing for his childhood favorite team, there was so much excitement on that day that years later, he says it seems like a blur.

When I was real little my favorite player was Jose Cruz. I barely remember this but my parents told me stories about how I was running around saying I was him. Then when I was growing up, the Killer Bs were huge, so (Craig) Biggio, (Jeff) Bagwell, even (Lance) Berkman and those guys. I was a big Astros fan.

The Astros drafted me on the intention of me being a draft-and-follow and going to junior college. I had talked to them about that before, so I had a pretty good idea Houston was going to draft me and they said itd probably be on the second day. I talked to a few other teams, but it was really the Astros, my hometown team, that really went after me.

I have a couple of my Astros jerseys at my house. I actually have one from my first Big League start. They were throwbacks jerseys against San Diego. I have this 1970s rainbow stripe Astros jersey. Actually, I think it might be at my parents house but Ive got to steal it back from them.

2. After playing three seasons in Baltimore, where Red Sox fans pack Camden Yards, Albers was familiar with the high pressure environment surrounding the Red Sox. After quickly settling in with his new team, he has found a comfort in Boston that translated on to the mound early on.

When I got here everybody, not just the relievers, was really cool about making me feel welcome. The bullpen is kind of a tight-knit group and thats nice because thats how it needs to be. Youre picking each other up -- one guy goes in and then the next guy and there are runners on base, the bullpen sticks together and I think that makes for a good group.

Pitching wise Ive started throwing my slider a lot more. Being able to throw that to both sides of the plate and also my fastball, I have better command with overall. With that comes comfort when Im out there and having confidence.

Every time we go out there I try not to put any extra pressure on myself because thats really easy to do. You get caught up in the situation and you always have a full house here, a lot going on. Its kind of pressure-packed every outing, which is nice. I enjoy that. So I think just the combination of all those things helps.

You kind of get used to the pressure. Its tough to explain. I think once you go through it more and more -- when I came into the league I was pitching in Houston at home in front of family and friends, that kind of put extra pressure on myself. When youre young, youre trying to find a spot on the team and fit in. I think kind of the same thing here, but just try to focus on pitching and put that out of your mind and not get too caught up in the moment.

3. Albers is a self-admitted low-key guy who likes to return home in the offseason. But if he could pick one place in the world to play ball, it would have a different scenery than Houston.

Ive been to Cabo San Lucas (Mexico), they have really nice weather. Its sunny and has some nice views. A background on the beach, thatd be cool. When I was there it was like 85 degrees and sunny every day. The landscape and the views are pretty nice. Wed probably need a regular mound, not sand, but thatd be pretty nice.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCameratoNBA.

NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

CHICAGO -- Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

Fueled by a home run trilogy from their emotional utilityman, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.

Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs' title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night.

"It feels good to hear World Series," Kershaw said. "It's been a long time coming for this team."

After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers after they led the majors with 104 wins during the regular season. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball's most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles' last championship in 1988.

"Every night it is a different guy," Turner said, "and this is one of the most unbelievable teams I've ever been a part of."

Kershaw will be on the mound again when the Dodgers host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the ALCS at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers.

Los Angeles made the playoffs eight times in the previous 13 seasons and came up short of its 22nd pennant each time, often with Kershaw shouldering much of the blame. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner took the loss when his team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field.

The ace left-hander was just OK during his first two starts in this year's postseason, but Los Angeles' offense picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez's powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts and improved to 6-7 in the playoffs - matching Burt Hooton's club record for postseason wins.

"To get to be on the mound tonight and get to be going to the World Series on the same night, it's a special thing," Kershaw said. "Who knows how many times I'm going to get to go to the World Series? I know more than anybody how hard it is to get there. So, I'm definitely not taking this one for granted."

When Kenley Jansen retired Willson Contreras on a liner to shortstop for the final out, the party was on . The Dodgers poured out of the dugout and mobbed their dominant closer near the mound, and a small but vocal group of Los Angeles fans gathered behind the visitors' dugout and chanted "Let's go Dodgers! Let's go Dodgers!"

On the field, manager Dave Roberts hugged Lasorda and told the iconic skipper the win was for him.

"I bleed Dodger blue just like you," Roberts said. "Thank you, Tommy."

Hernandez connected on the first two pitches he saw, belting a solo drive in the second for his first career playoff homer and then a grand slam in the third against Hector Rondon. Hernandez added a two-run shot in the ninth against Mike Montgomery.

The 26-year-old Hernandez became the fourth player with a three-homer game in a league championship series, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS). Hernandez's seven RBIs tied a postseason record shared by four other players who all did it in a Division Series.

Troy O'Leary was the previous player to have seven RBIs in a playoff game, for Boston at Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS.

It was a stunning display for a player with 28 career homers who remains concerned about his native Puerto Rico, which is recovering from a devastating hurricane. He delivered a historic performance in front of his father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., who was diagnosed with a blood cancer related to leukemia in December 2015, but got word last November that he was in remission.

"For me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special," said Hernandez, who also goes by Kik�. "My body's here, but my mind's kind of back home. It's hard being away from home with what's going on.

"All I want to do right now is go to my dad and give him a big hug."

Kris Bryant homered for Chicago, but the NL Central champions finished with just four hits in another tough night at the plate. Each of their eight runs in the NLCS came via the long ball, and they batted just .156 for the series with 53 strikeouts.

Long playoff runs in each of the last two years and a grueling five-game Division Series against Washington seemed to sap Chicago of some energy, and its pitching faltered against sweet-swinging Los Angeles. Jose Quintana was pulled in the third inning of the final game, and the Cubs never recovered.

"They executed their plan," Bryant said. "They pitched great and the bullpen was lights out. That makes for a tough time scoring runs."

Turner and Taylor helped put it away for Los Angeles, contributing to a 16-hit outburst while closing out a pair of impressive performances.

Turner singled home Taylor in the Dodgers' five-run third, giving him seven RBIs in the series and 24 throughout his postseason career. Taylor finished with two hits and scored two runs as the Dodgers, who have won five straight NL West titles, improved to 7-1 in this postseason.

Taylor's versatility helped Los Angeles cover for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the series with a back injury, but is expected to return in the next round. Coming off a breakout season, the 27-year-old Taylor hit .316 with two homers and scored five times against the Cubs.

"I couldn't be happier to be a part of this and be with these guys," Taylor said. "It's been an unbelievable year, and I'm just super excited."

OUT WITH A BANG

Hernandez joined Kennedy (2002), Adrian Beltre (2011), Reggie Jackson (1977 vs. the Dodgers) and Babe Ruth (1928) as players to hit three home runs in a postseason series clincher.

LIGHTS OUT

Dodgers relievers have thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, a postseason record.

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.