Red Sox

Bullpen blues return

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Bullpen blues return

The numbers, viewed as a whole, tell one story.
The results, particularly in the last week, tell another.
The Boston bullpen, abysmal in the first three weeks of the
season, has improved greatly since then. Dating to April
23, Red Sox relievers have pitched to a 2.01 ERA, lowering their
collective ERA from 8.44 to 3.09 in that span.
That's the macro view.
Up close and recently, it's not nearly as pretty.
Friday night, the Sox gave up a one-run lead in the seventh
as the Yankees scored four times and took a 10-8 decision in the
opener of a four-game series.
It was the fourth straight loss by the Red Sox, and the fourth
time in the last six losses in which a reliever has been pinned with
the loss.
On the team's disappointing 2-5 trip, much of the fault was
rightly attributed to the anemic offense, which hit .200 in the
seven games and managed to score more than two runs just once.
When an offense isn't producing runs, it stands to reason that
a team is going to lose close-scoring games in the late innings.
But the relievers were allowing the Mariners and Athletics, two of
the worst lineups in the league to score in the late innings, they're
at least somewhat to blame, too.
Alfredo Aceves entered two tie games on the trip and couldn't
keep either tied, dropping to 0-6.
Friday night, back home, it was Vicente Padilla's turn.
All season long, Padilla has been masterful with inherited runners,
stranding 18-of-19. That statistic, in many ways, is the best measure
of a middle or set-up reliever's effectiveness and points to how
valuable Padillas has been to the Sox this season.
But Friday night, in a big spot, he faltered. Brought in to face
Mark Teixeira, he yielded a two-run triple to the triangle, as the
Sox went from leading 7-6 to trailing 8-7.
It then got worse as Padilla allowed an RBI-double to Raul
Ibanez, who later scored on an Eric Chavez single off Scott Atchison.
Of course, Josh Beckett had put both the hitters and the bullpen
in a hole when he allowed six runs in the first two innings. The hitters
had to make up a big deficit, and Beckett's high pitch count forced the
bullpen to have to cover the final four innings.
And that's part of the problem. While manager Bobby Valentine has
done a nice job slotting relievers into the right roles in the wake of
the injury to Andrew Bailey, there's evidence to suggest that the poor
work by the starting rotation (a 4.64 ERA before Friday night,
good for fourth worst among American League teams) has had a negative
effect on the Boston bullpen.
Before Friday's action, the Sox relievers had pitched 253 13
innings, good enough for sixth in the league.
But of the five teams ahead of them in bullpen workload, three
went into Friday with losing records (Detroit, Kansas City and
Minnesota), and another was behind the Red Sox in the standings (Toronto).
The inference is clear: the more you ask of your bullpen, the
harder it is to win.
That's especially true as the season wears on and the hot weather
arrives.
For the Red Sox beleaguered relievers, it would seem, the "Dog
Days'' have already arrived.

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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