Red Sox

Bullpen deserves credit for Sox' first win

191542.jpg

Bullpen deserves credit for Sox' first win

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON It may have taken seven games, and it wasnt always pretty, but the Red Sox finally got their first win of the season Friday in their Fenway Park opener, beating the Yankees, 9-6.

While John Lackey (1-1) was credited with the win, the bullpen deserves most of the credit for it.

Lackey went five innings, giving up six runs. After that Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon combined to pitch four scoreless innings, giving up one hit and two walks with five strikeouts, facing two batters over the minimum.

It was hard, said manager Terry Francona. We didnt keep them off the board first five innings. Thats a hard way to win. Our bullpen came in and put up four zeroes. Thats tough to do.

Entering the game, the bullpen combined for an ERA of 8.04, allowing 14 runs with nine walks and 16 strikeouts in 15 23 innings over the previous six games. Even with the jettisoning of left-hander Dennys Reyes (16.20), who was designated for assignment before the game, the bullpens cumulative ERA was still 7.07. After going through last season with one of the worst bullpens in the American League only Baltimore and Kansas City had worse ERAs that was not the result the Sox expected after nearly completely revamping the bullpen, including the additions of Jenks and Daniel Wheeler.

But, in this game, the results were finallywhat they have been looking for.

Papelbon earned the save, throwing a perfect ninth, including striking out Brett Gardner (looking) and Derek Jeter (swinging) before getting Mark Teixeira to fly out.

Well, I think thats what they planned to do, Papelbon said. I think thats the reason why they brought Jenks here. I think as a bullpen unit down there we feel like if you can get the ball to us in the late innings of a game with a lead, we should be able to hold it.

Bard, who had been the only consistently reliable member of the bullpen last season, entered the game with a record of 0-2 and 16.88 ERA in three appearances this season. He pitched a perfect eighth inning to set up Papelbons save.

I felt good, he said. Ive felt good all my outings. They just havent gone that well.

Ive been working on getting some more downward plane on the ball. I was on the side of it my first couple, and just letting the ball be really flat, which makes it easy to see and easy to hit. They werent necessarily hitting the balls hard. But they were consistently getting the barrel to it. So I knew something wasnt right. Normally, if Im throwing my fastball right, its got downhill plane. Even when I miss down the middle theyre pounding balls into the ground, just mis-hits. So, good to see that again.

Jenks came into the game in the seventh inning and issued a lead-off walk to Mark Teixeira, then went to 2-0 on Alex Rodriguez. At that point, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia paid a visit to the mound.

Its just its his first game here, Saltalamacchia said. I can definitely attest to that. You get amped up a little bit and you start trying to overdo some things. He got back to where he needed to be.

I was out there, I think a little over-amped, new everything, new uniform, new home fans and all that, Jenks said. Once I slowed the game down and started pitching again -- I dont want to say it came easier -- but just knowing how to get out of those situations, it made it easier to pitch.

Once I got 2-0, Salty came out and just triggered one of my keys that I use as far as mechanically-wise, Jenks said. Once he did that and he started walking back, I took a second for myself and said, What are you doing? Youve done this thousands of times? And I just stopped worrying about the guy on first base and I just needed to execute a pitch, and I know how to do that. Throw the ball down the middle, get one and rom there you try to get back ahead on the next hitter.

Jenks struck out Rodriguez and retired the next two batters.

With Aceves in the sixth, the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings went exactly how the Red Sox had planned and hoped.

Its awesome, Bard said. Bobby got the heart of the lineup and worked around that lead-off walk, did everything we asked of them. And Pap, thats as good as Ive seen him in two years probably. He looked really good. Its a good thing.

And not a moment too soon.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

astros_justin_verlander_102017.jpg

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

dodgers-hernandez-kershaw-102017.jpg

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.