Red Sox

Beckett brushes off early frustration, limits Twins offense

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Beckett brushes off early frustration, limits Twins offense

MINNEAPOLIS -- After the first inning Tuesday night, it seemed like Josh Beckett might have an abbreviated start. The only question was whether he'd leave because of Bobby Valentine or home plate umpire Adrian Johnson.

Beckett, handed a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, gave up a base hit to the first hitter he faced, and after a fielder's choice, proceeded to walk the next three hitters, forcing in a run.

The pitcher gave long stares to Johnson, unhappy with being squeezed on some borderline pitches. When the inning was over, 37 pitches later, he turned toward Johnson and, TV replays showed, shouted that because of Johnson's strike zone, Beckett had had to get "five (expletive) outs.''

But perhaps it wasn't all bad. Beckett righted himself after that, allowing just one run over the next five innings and, tellingly no more walks as the Sox cruised to an 11-2 win.

"He got a little frustrated, possibly, but it really turned up his competitive fluids,'' said Valentine. "He wasn't going to be denied the victory. After the first inning, he threw strikes, got ahead and he wasn't going to let this one get away. We needed that kind of performance.

"He was into it. I haven't seen Josh like that. It really seemed like that this was a game he really wanted.''

Beckett wouldn't discuss his displeasure with Johnson's strike zone ("We won. I want to talk about that''), and he didn't necessarily agree with Valentine's assertion that the reaction might have been a benefit to him.

"I don't know,'' said Beckett. "Sometimes I think you can waste too much energy with that stuff. Today, it apparently helped our guys because they scored 11 runs. (But for me) it's a waste of energy and I don't need to waste energy.''

Whatever the motivation, Beckett was far more economical after the first. He needed just 63 pitches for the final 15 outs after needing 37 for the first three.

And he fanned the side in the sixth inning, finishing with a flourish.

"I probably threw a few more strikes,'' said Beckett of his turnaround. "They were pretty aggressive after (the first inning). It was really about the offense today. They were really on their game.

"It was a battle for me today. I felt like the stuff was there, but the location was a little bit off. I was a little bit effectively wild, especially after the first inning."

This was Beckett's first road win since last Aug. 24 at Texas.

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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