Red Sox

Buchholz gives Sox a chance, but can't hold on in 9th

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Buchholz gives Sox a chance, but can't hold on in 9th

BOSTON -- Clay Buchholz thought he was done.

With runners on first and third with one out in the ninth inning of a 3-3 game, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine came strolling out to the mound at Fenway Park.

Thinking nothing of it, Buchholz extended his arm and began to place the baseball in the hands of Valentine, while taking a step towards the dugout. For this wasn't the pitching coach coming out to talk this over. This was the manager coming to make a pitching change, so he thought.

But Valentine never took the ball, and Buchholz' day wasn't over. But the decision certainly was up to him.

"I just wanted to make sure he believed -- like I did -- that he had enough," said Valentine after the game. "And he said, 'Guaranteed.'"

"I thought he was coming out to get me, and he was like, 'I'm just coming to check on how you're doing,'" said Buchholz. "And I was like, 'Go back to the dugout, and I'll try to get a ground ball double play right here.'"

That never happened.

After the mound visit, Anthony Gose stole second, and after falling behind in the count and first base open, Buchholz intentionally walked the left-handed hitting Kelly Johnson to load the bases and face Omar Vizquel with one out.

And Vizquel took an 0-2 cutter the other way to left field, that scored Rajai Davis on a sacrifice fly, to give the Toronto Blue Jays a 4-3 lead, which then ended Buchholz' night, and ended up being the game-winning run.

"It was supposed to be a cutter in," said Buchholz after the 4-3 loss. "And I didn't get it in."

"All year long, Clay's been totally honest with me," said Valentine. "After eight innings he felt great. So, he wasn't really stressed there in the ninth."

Buchholz finished the game having thrown 121 pitches and allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out four in 8 23 innings. It marked his sixth loss of the season.

"He kept making good pitches," said Valentine after the loss. "He just kept making good pitches the whole night. They scored three runs in that fourth inning where they had their fast runners on, and they hit balls off the end of the bat. A single to left, a short sac fly. Only guys on their lineup that can score on a sac fly. He made good pitches the whole night. He deserved better."

It comes a day after Valentine called out his struggling rotation, saying, "Guys are tired of playing from behind, I'll guarantee you that," following a Saturday night loss that saw Daisuke Matsuzaka pulled in the second inning after spotting the Blue Jays five runs.

If there is anyone on the Red Sox pitching staff that has given them their best chance to not play from behind, it's Buchholz. And his first three scoreless innings proved just that, as Boston took a 2-0 lead into the fourth.

Buchholz then gave up three runs. Nothing was hit too hard though. And it wasn't like Buchholz was getting racked. Because he then retired 13 in a row, up until Davis' single in the ninth with one out. David eventually scored the game-winning run on Vizquel's sacrifice fly.

But Buchholz was glad to see Valentine not take him out of the game, when he walked out to the mound in the ninth. If a run was going to score, it was going to be against Buchholz. He just didn't execute. But at least, throughout the game, he did something that the Red Sox' other starters haven't. he gave them a chance to win.

"We're trying to get deep into games, and that's sort of what I've been preaching for the last three months or so," said Buchholz after the loss. "So it's good to see him come out to the mound and not already have the call on someone else to come in."

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press

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.