Red Sox

Beckett's exit caused by back spasms

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Beckett's exit caused by back spasms

BOSTON On the day he was not traded -- despite much speculation to the contrary -- Josh Beckett took the mound to face the Tigers Tuesday night at Fenway Park, pitted against the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and MVP, Justin Verlander.

At 5-9 with a 4.57 ERA in 17 starts, Becketts outings for most of this season have been unbecoming a starter who once wore the mantle "ace." The Red Sox are just 6-11 in his outings. In his last eight starts, Beckett is just 1-5 with a 5.02 ERA, while the Sox are 1-7 in those games.

Early on, though, it appeared as if the old Beckett had emerged, despite a heavy mist that began before the first pitch and progressed to a steady rain. Beckett struck out leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, swinging at a 91-mph fastball, and retired the first eight batters he faced. No. 9 hitter Omar Infante was the first Detroit batter to reach base, beating out a single to shortstop Pedro Ciriaco.

He looked terrific out there, obviously, the first eight hitters, manager Bobby Valentine said. Throwing out of the windup and tough conditions in the rain.

That hit quickly signaled Becketts struggles. He hit Jackson with a pitch then walked Quintin Berry and Miguel Cabrera, both on five pitches, forcing in a run.

After his last pitch, Beckett called time and signaled to the dugout.

Trainer Brad Pearson went to the mound, followed by pitching coach Bob McClure, and Valentine.

After just 2 23 innings, Becketts outing was done done in by a back spasm, it was announced later.

It locked up on me, just spasmed. Ive had this before, Beckett said. Its been worse. It wasnt getting any better and I obviously couldnt throw a strike.

It was just the last few pitches, four or five pitches out of the stretch.

When he got out of the wind-up the footing just wasnt the same, Valentine said. And his back spasmed up a little. Right now hes got the aftermath of a back spasm. Well take it day by day and see how he feels tomorrow and in between. But it was spasm, lower back.

There was no discussion of Beckett remaining in the game.

No, Valentine said. By the time I got to the mound, the medical staff and he had already talked about it and it was spasming pretty good.

Righthander Clayton Mortensen replaced him given the unenviable task of facing Prince Fielder with the bases loaded. After Fielder launched a long and loud foul ball over the Pesky Pole, Mortensen retired the Detroit slugger, holding the Tigers in check.

Mortensen -- who was called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Pawtucket to take the roster spot of Matt Albers who was traded to Arizona -- earned the win, his first of the season in the big leagues. The Sox scored four runs off Verlander in the fourth, on the way to a 4-1 victory in a game that was called with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the sixth.

Beckett had a similar situation before. In 2010 he slipped on a wet mound in Yankee Stadium on May 18 and landed on the disabled list, missing 56 games before returning on July 23.

New York was kind of like one of those deals when I felt it on one pitch, he said. This wasnt that severe. Like I said, it kept getting worse and I couldnt throw a strike.

The mound was a little sloppy. I think everybody was having trouble with it. You dont usually see Verlander walk that many guys four in five innings. It wasnt in great shape but thats just something you have to deal with.

Hell wait to see how his back feels Wednesday and go from there.

But, when he walked off the field, it was to a chorus of boos from the Fenway crowd. The reaction was highly unusual for an injured player, highly unusual from a home crowd. But, given Red Sox fans increasingly limited patience with Beckett over the last 10 months, perhaps not all that unusual.

You always notice, he said.

It is what it is.

Valentine, though, was surprised by the crowd reaction.

I was talking with the guys. I didnt really take notice of the boos, Valentine said. I dont think he deserved a boo at all. And those who were booing will probably take it back today when they figure out what the situation was.

Becketts reaction to the boos?

None whatsoever, he said.

It was the end to a strange day for him. After not being traded by the 4 p.m. deadline, he had to prepare for his 7:10 start.

I definitely had three hours to calm my mind, he said. Its definitely different. Ive never been through it. It was definitely something different for me.

Beckett said the rumors that had gained traction over the last few days leading up to the deadline did not affect him.

I dont think anything really. I didn't even know anything about it until two or three days ago, he said.

I think everybodys, there was a lot of guys in here whose name was attachedsome people didnt think they were going anywhere. I think a lot of times people try to throw as many things up against the wall as they can. And one sticks and they look like a genius.

Now, that he is still a member of the team, the pressure is on him, as it has been.

I think its been that way all year, he said. We just got to go out and win series. We got a nice little thing going right now. And lets just keep building on that.

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know whom they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

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The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

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NLCS: Turner's 3-run shot in 9th gives Dodgers 4-1 win over Cubs

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NLCS: Turner's 3-run shot in 9th gives Dodgers 4-1 win over Cubs

LOS ANGELES -- Justin Turner savored every last stride as he followed in Kirk Gibson's famous footsteps at Dodger Stadium.

The red-bearded slugger from Southern California knew all about the history attached to this home run trot.

On the 29th anniversary of Gibson's celebrated pinch-hit homer that shocked Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener, Turner added another landmark shot to Los Angeles Dodgers postseason lore.

Turner hit a three-run drive with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

"One of my earliest baseball memories was being at my grandma's house and watching that game in '88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer," said Turner, who wasn't quite 4 years old at the time. "So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist-pump around the bases, but we'll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully."

The dominant Dodgers are two wins away after Turner drove in all four runs in Game 2 to keep Los Angeles unbeaten in the postseason.

He delivered a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey took a few steps onto a walkway and gracefully caught the ball in his glove on the fly.

"It's very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. "Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it."

Another generation of Dodgers fans now has its own historic homer, and these Dodgers are growing increasingly confident they can earn their first trip to the World Series since 1988.

Turner got swallowed up at home plate by another pack of ecstatic Dodgers, just as Gibson did. Unlike Gibson, Turner spiked his batting helmet after rounding third, allowing his unruly red hair to go as wild as the crowd.

"What's not to enjoy about it?" Turner asked. "We have an opportunity to bring a championship back to LA. It's been a long time."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.

Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.

Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches. Maddon said he wanted to save Davis for a potential save on the road, and Lackey would have pitched the 10th inning as well if the Cubs did not have a lead.

"Nobody is a really great matchup against Turner, so it just did not work out," Maddon said.

Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. After taking a slight free-agent discount to stay with the Dodgers last winter, he had another solid season before excelling again in October.

The All-Star third baseman is batting .377 with 22 RBIs in his postseason career. He is 13 for 18 with runners in scoring position (.722), including 6 for 8 this year.

And after a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers' five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.

Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games after splitting the first two.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the win with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen's impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.

Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs' star left-hander.

Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.

Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.

Turner tied it moments later by poking a two-out single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers' improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.

The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.

Lester was the co-MVP of last season's NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers' revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger's double to the left-center gap.

Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season's NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out, but also was stranded.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago's playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team's wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.

Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired from Texas precisely for these moments, and he starts on seven days of rest.

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