Red Sox

Buchholz looks to return to form

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Buchholz looks to return to form

BOSTON Clay Buchholz has been working on ways to improve his outings and his 9.09 ERA. He lasted just 3 23 innings in his last outing with the bullpen going 13 13 innings in Sundays 17-inning loss to the Orioles. He has pitched seven innings just once, and has not had a quality start in his six outings. He has already given up 33 earned runs this season. In 14 starts last season, he gave up 32 earned runs.

He addressed some of his issues before Thursdays series opener against the Indians. Buchholz is scheduled to pitch Friday.

Its been a rough six starts to start the season off. Theres been times where in an outing youre thinking about, OK, this is going to be the outing that changes everything. And then something, a big inning happens and it brings you back to square one. So thats what Ive been doing, figure out a way to minimize the damage in those big innings. I was just telling a couple guys, the innings split, theres been four innings where Ive given up 18 runs in just those four innings this year. Thats about half the runs that Ive given up all year. So find a way to get through that big inning without letting it get too big.

Do you need one or two good starts to get on a roll?

Yeah, thats usually how it works. Its just like the hitters being contagious as far as somebody catching fire, another guy catches fire and then the whole lineup is hitting. I think its the same thing with us. Everybody else has been pitching pretty good. Im like that last link as far as getting this team on a roll and taking the pressure off everybody else. Taking the pressure off the bullpen being able to throw six, seven innings every time out. Let the bullpen do their job instead of having to come in in the fourth or fifth inning.

How difficult has the start of the season been for you?

Its not the most comfortable situation. I dont think anybody ever goes out on the mound and expects to do bad or doesnt expect to do good. So when things go wrong out there you just have to find a way to slow the game down and minimize the big innings and minimize damage.

Do you feel like people are picking on you?

No, not really. I think it comes with the territory. Im part of this organization for a reason. I believe everybody on this team can help this team win. Whenever you put a guy out there for five or six outings in a row and it doesnt turn out the way it should or you want it to, its a little frustrating for everybody.

What are some of the things youve been working on specifically since your last start?

I think mechanically staying over the rubber. If you rush to home plate, that causes the pitches not to go where they want to go and I think thats been a big deal. When trouble starts happening you try to make the pitches better than they need to be and by doing that they get worse. So its something that goes on when the game gets quick out there. Guys forget what they need to do to throw a pitch where they need to throw it and get an out. So thats basically it. I think all the pitches are there. The last couple starts when Ive been able to throw a pitch for a strike I think its been the hitters have been able to get in a sequence with me because Id throw a fastball, then a changeup, then a curveball, then a fastball again. So its been sort of a deal where they could sort of guess with me. So I got to change that up a little bit and go out and if something bad happens, get the ball back and keep playing.

Has the game been speeding up on you?

Not to the point where it did right when I got up here but I think it speeds up on everybody. The big thing is if you can step off the mound, and take a deep breath, and gather yourself and your thoughts and not let the last hitter affect what youre doing with the next one.

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.