Red Sox

Aceves turns in another disappointing outing

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Aceves turns in another disappointing outing

BOSTON -- Last season Alfredo Aceves was one of the Red Sox most valuable and versatile pitchers. This season, he has been a pale shadow of that pitcher. And while the Red Sox season has been lost for some time, Aceves increasing volatility both on the mound and away from the mound has made him into an increased liability, a threat to any hope the team might have of salvaging wins in this wasted season.

Aceves demonstrated that Saturday afternoon in the 12th inning against the Orioles at Fenway Park. In just two-thirds of an inning, he gave up three runs on three hits, giving the Sox their fourth straight loss. He took the loss, falling to 2-10 with a 5.31 ERA. He is also tied for the major league lead with eight blown saves.

Aceves entered in the 12th inning, with the score tied, 6-6, and gave up a lead-off double to Adam Jones. After getting Matt Wieters to fly out, he gave up a ground-rule double to Jim Thome, scoring Jones with the go-ahead run. Aceves struck out Mark Reynolds then gave up an RBI single Endy Chavez. That ended Aceves outing, but Chris Carpenter entered and gave up a run-scoring single to Manny Machado, with the run charged to Aceves.

You saw it, manager Bobby Valentine said. He threw first-pitch changeup. Jones swung and missed that. Then he threw I think a cutter away that wound up a double. Got Wieters on a pop-up. Didnt advance the runner. Good job there. And threw a cutter to Thome that he left out over the plate, bounced over the wall. Thought he could get Chavez. He got a base hit.

But, it is not just Aceves latest outing that is disturbing. It is his recent outings and rash behavior that are cause for concern.

Since Aug. 23, Aceves has appeared in nine games, spanning 16 13 innings. In that stretch, he has allowed 19 earned runs on 22 hits and eight walks with 14 strikeouts and four home runs. In that span he has posted a record of 0-3 with two blown saves and an ERA of 10.47.

The Sox have lost the last 10 games in which Aceves has appeared. He has not appeared in a winning effort since Aug. 18, when he earned a save against the Yankees.

In the stretch going back to Aug. 23, when he was charged with a blown save and a loss to the Angels at Fenway, Aceves has also had a string of disconcerting incidents. On Aug. 24, he a meltdown in the bullpen, in which he ripped his uniform jersey off, followed by a heated discussion ending with him slamming the door to Valentines office. On Aug. 25 he was suspended for three games for conduct detrimental to the team. On Sept. 1 in Oakland, he inexplicably interfered on a pop foul, crossed up Dustin Pedroia on pick-off attempts to second base, then got into a heated exchange with Pedroia in the dugout. On Sept. 12 against the Yankees he showed insubordination and disrespect to Valentine when he was lifted from the game by giving the ball to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and circling to the back of the mound to avoid the manager.

His behavior is clearly not the kind that is conducive to healthy team environment.

I have no idea, Valentine said, when asked if the incidents are affecting Aceves pitching. He wasnt pitching very well before that.

Thats not entirely true. In 58 appearances before his string of disturbing behaviors and performances that is, before Aug. 23 -- Aceves posted an ERA of 3.94 with 25 saves. His poor behavior and performances began shortly after Andrew Baileys season debut on Aug. 14. Prior to that Aceves had been the closer. But, Aceves has also served other roles this season.

How to explain Aceves recent performances compared to earlier in the year. Perhaps losing the closers job and the lack of a defined role has affected Aceves? As has become his habit after a poor outing, Aceves was not available after the game.

Its kind of like a box of chocolates right now: You never know what youre going to get, Valentine said. Hes got 94 mph. Hes got a breaking ball. Hes throwing a cutter. Hes just getting hit.

"You're going to have to ask him but he's probably frustrated like we all are," said Cody Ross. "Nobody's really thriving right now. But we're professionals. We got to keep grinding, keep working, keep playing hard and try to win. The fans want to come and see us win. It would be nice to do that for them."

Perhaps Aceves is tired?

He cant throw enough, Valentine said. Hes always wanting to throw. Hes in the bullpen. Theres nothing arm-wise. He pops it when he needs to. Hes the only guy that I had left out in the bullpen Saturday thats ever pitched in that situation this year. So, wish he could have given us a couple innings.

Aceves outing wasted four perfect innings from Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Bailey, and Mark Melancon, who pitched the eighth through the 11th, respectively, in relief of Aaron Cook. It was just the second time since 1920 that the Sox had four consecutive pitchers throw at least one perfect inning in a game. Aceves couldnt sustain that.

Perhaps Aceves is preparing differently now than he was earlier?

No difference in preparation, said pitching coach Randy Niemann. He hasnt made very good pitches. Thats all I can say. Not a lot to say. Hasnt made good pitches.

Aceves hasnt made good pitches. Neither has he made a decent pitch to be kept on the staff. The Sox decided not to take any disciplinary action against Aceves when he showed up his manager on the mound on Sept. 12. But is he doing them any good in the bullpen? Would it be better to shut him down, send him home, and let another pitcher take those innings?

Based on Aceves recent performances, its becoming apparent what he can offer. Why not take a chance on someone else? At this point, what else is there to lose?

ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

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ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

HOUSTON -  Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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.