Red Sox

Drellich: Fernando Abad worth look as playoff roster dark horse

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Drellich: Fernando Abad worth look as playoff roster dark horse

BOSTON — The Red Sox left-handed pitching situation is one of the most unclear heading into the playoffs, with seemingly only one bullpen spot on a potential playoff roster locked up: David Price’s.

Now, it might be wise for the Red Sox to rethink their stance on Price and give him a shot at starting — but, for now, he’s viewed as a reliever. 

That gives way to a slew of other questions. If, say, Eduardo Rodriguez does not make a postseason rotation, would the Sox see value in him out of the bullpen? His reverse splits this season — an .850 OPS against lefty hitters compared to .709 vs. right — might discourage the Sox, if they’re looking for match-up help. 

But E-Rod looks more likely to start with Price relegated to relief and Doug Fister struggling.

So, who else behind Price, who won’t be considered a specialist? Based on his usage for most of the year, you’d think Robby Scott would be a lock. You’d think.

Sox manager John Farrell didn’t make it sound a certainty Monday

“That’s his role, that’s his forte,” Farrell said of Scott vs. lefties. “That’s where we’ll take every opportunity to hopefully take advantage of the side arm and the angle that he pitches with.  That’s all going to be within the context of how our roster builds out going forward and more importantly, how we can get him to the mound in the final two weeks.”

Enter Fernando Abad, who has been used (or not used) as though he were an outcast much of the year.

You have to wonder if Farrell will at least give him a thought as a hot hand down the stretch. He probably should, because Abad's had better command, allowed fewer home runs and has considerably more experience. But Abad’s been used in the lowest leverage situations of all Red Sox relievers with at least 20 innings, even lower than Blaine Boyer, per FanGraphs.

In the last 14 days, Abad has been used in higher leverage moments than previously, but still not to the extent of Scott.

Both Abad and Scott have both been excellent against lefties overall. Scott’s faced 70 lefties and held them to a .133 average, while Abad has faced 65 and held them a .190 average. The peripherals are slightly tilted Abad’s way: Scott’s walked eight, Abad’s walked five. Scott’s struck out 17, Abad’s fanned 20.

But of late, Scott hasn’t been quite the same. He has a 6.47 ERA since the start of August, although he’s allowed opponents an average of just .167 in that time, a seven-inning span. He’s given up three home runs in the stretch as well.

Abad, meanwhile, has a 1.86 ERA in the same period, with 9 2/3 innings pitched.

Abad’s had to be patient all year. He had nine days down, sitting from Aug. 14-24. But he’s made good of his opportunities.

“It's part of the game,” Abad said. “So, I’m here, to do whatever they want to me to do. … I got my routine, you know every single day, with [bullpen catcher Mani Martinez]. And I got like two, three days of pitching and throwing a little flat ground to get my arm in shape.”

The biggest difference for Abad this year compared to last has been his command. His walk rate with the Sox last year was 4.2 per nine between Boston and Minnesota, down to 2.6 in 2017.

“I think I last year I [was thinking] too much,” Abad said. “I was thinking too much in the game, you can’t concentrate a lot. So this year I feel like more fresh. To come in the game, I say, oh, I have to throw a first-pitch strike. No matter what pitch it is, breaking ball, changeup, whatever, it has to be a strike.”

Abad, 31, is a free agent to be, and someone’s going to pay him decently to handle southpaws next season. Abad said he’d like to re-sign with the Red Sox next season.

“I want to come back here,” he said. “I’m focused now to come here every day to come here prepare get ready. To go to the playoffs and then World Series.”

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans.

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NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have a tough lineup, a talented pitching staff and a manager making all the right moves.

Yup, it's beginning to look a lot like 1988.

Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles improved to 6-0 in this postseason, setting a franchise record for consecutive playoff wins. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip - on a long foul ball in the first inning.

"The focus has certainly been heightened in the postseason," manager Dave Roberts said.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to the club's last championship 29 years ago.

Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

"I think we've won four games in a row before," Chicago slugger Kris Bryant said. "Obviously, it's going to be a tougher road. But it'll make the story that much better. Can you imagine that?"

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. Their patient lineup is coming up big in key spots and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline.

Not even a return to Wrigley could get the Cubs back on track after a rough stay in Los Angeles. Chicago manager Joe Maddon juggled his lineup, inserting Kyle Schwarber into the No. 2 slot and benching slumping second baseman Javier Baez, but the defending World Series champions were shut down by another Dodgers starter and more stellar relief from the NL West champions.

"I really didn't change much approach-wise from first inning until the end of the game," Darvish said through a translator. "I just kept pitching the same way."

Making their third straight appearance in the NLCS, the weary Cubs also hurt themselves with a couple of big mistakes. Carl Edwards Jr. walked Darvish on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, continuing a rocky postseason for the reliever and leading to a round of boos from a frustrated crowd of 41,871.

A passed ball brought home another run in the eighth, and pinch hitter Kyle Farmer hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1.

Darvish departed after striking out Addison Russell in the seventh, pausing for congratulations from his whole infield before heading to the dugout. The Japanese right-hander allowed six hits, including Schwarber's first-inning homer, in his second career playoff win - both this year. He struck out seven and walked one.

Tony Watson got two outs, Brandon Morrow worked the eighth and Kenley Jansen closed it out after Ross Stripling gave up two hits in the ninth. With Roberts pushing the right buttons, Los Angeles' bullpen has yet to allow a run in the series.

"I think everybody's just been attacking," Morrow said. "That's the No. 1 thing."

The only four-game postseason sweep for the Dodgers came in the 1963 World Series against the New York Yankees. If Los Angeles can finish off Chicago on Wednesday, the Dodgers would have five days off before hosting the Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series opener.

"We knew today was the most important game, and now tomorrow's the most important game," Ethier said. "We're going to come out and figure out how to get the job done again."

Schwarber's sixth career postseason homer got Chicago off to a fast start, but Jon Jay struck out with two on to end the inning. The Dodgers responded with Ethier's leadoff drive in the second and Taylor's second homer of the series in the third, a mammoth shot to center off losing pitcher Kyle Hendricks.

"We had a chance obviously, early," Maddon said. "We hit some balls well early in the game, and then he settled in."

Ethier had two hits in his first start of this year's playoffs after he missed most of the season with a herniated lumbar disk. Taylor also had two hits and is 4 for 14 for the series, helping make up for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager to a back injury.

ON THIS DAY

Tuesday was the 13th anniversary of Roberts' memorable stolen base for Boston in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. The Red Sox were three outs from elimination when Roberts ran for Kevin Millar, swiped second and scored on Bill Mueller's single.

Boston went on to rally past New York and sweep St. Louis for its first World Series championship since 1918. Roberts said he never mentions the steal to his players, but it comes up occasionally.

"Yu Darvish about two weeks ago I guess was surfing the internet, and there was an `aha' moment," Roberts said. "He ran across the stolen base and kind of put two and two together and didn't realize that was his manager. So he proceeded to kind of awkwardly approach me about it and talked about my goatee and how I could steal a base."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Wood, who had a career-high 16 wins this season, will make his first appearance since Sept. 26. He was lined up for Game 4 of the NLDS, but the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks in three games.

Cubs: Arrieta has pitched just 14 1/3 innings since Aug. 30, including four innings of two-hit ball against Washington in Game 4 of the NLDS. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner was hampered by a right hamstring injury at the end of the season.

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