Red Sox

Drellich: In-season trades are winning moves for Sox

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Drellich: In-season trades are winning moves for Sox

CLEVELAND — There was Drew Pomeranz a year ago and Eduardo Nunez in July. Now, there’s Rajai Davis.

The Red Sox have continually pushed forward with in-season trades, and the timing is hard to ignore. As the Sox have soared in August — they’re 16-4 since the non-waiver trade deadline, and nipping at the idle Houston Astros’ heels for best record in the American League — the value of new blood in a clubhouse and a lineup are shining through.

Not every deal is of great impact. See Fernando Abad, who’s essentially MIA. Not every deal of great impact right away, either. See Year 2 Pomeranz, who went toe to toe with Corey Kluber in Wednesday night’s 6-1 Sox win over the Indians. Somehow, that wasn’t surprising in Pomeranz’s best year yet.

But either way, Dave Dombrowski is not one to remain idle at the trade deadline, a stark contrast to the Astros — the team the Sox now could dethrone for home-field advantage in the A.L. playoffs. Houston’s decision not to make any notable upgrades this year brought outspoken disappointment from both the ace of the staff, Dallas Keuchel, and Josh Reddick, the former Sox outfielder.

“You’re aware that if you make a move that’s viewed positively, that it can have a great influence mentally on your team,” Dombrowski said earlier this month on the Baseball Show podcast of the impact of trades. “However, you would not make a move strictly for that purpose. … It really comes down to how your team performs once the players arrive.” 

They’re performing alright.

The Sox’ home runs have spiked this month. One internal theory is that the new, lengthened look to the lineup has contributed significantly, as opposed to things simply evening out after power was scarce most of the year.

It’s a viable contributing factor. Nunez and Rafael Devers show up, and pitchers can’t pitch around the other names as they did previously. There are more threats and more opportunities for mistakes to be capitalized on. 

Nunez ripped his sixth home run since joining the Red Sox on Wednesday night, giving him two more long balls in 22 games with the Red Sox than he had in 76 games with the Giants this season.

Power is something Nunez really showed for the first time in his career last year, with 16 in all. 

“For the last two years I've learned more 'top' than before,” Nunez said, referring to lifting the ball more. “Before I was more [swinging] down, line-drive hitting, ground ball to the opposite field. So I changed my approach.

“We have a little camp in the Dominican with [Robinson] Cano, [Edwin] Encarnacion, [Jean] Segura, all those guys. And we have a hitting coach, that's Luis Merced over there, we figured out that on an inside pitch, I tried to hit the ball to the right field, we decided to pull the ball. We decided it's better to pull the ball.”

Still, the Sox didn’t expect this kind of power. They expected just a lift.

“I don’t know that we were thinking home run,” manager John Farrell said. “He was swinging the bat well. We needed to add to our offense, which, let’s face it, month of July we were stagnant. He’s done that, and the power certainly has been there. He’s such a good high-ball hitter, and that’s where a lot of those home runs have come from, pitches up.”

Now, Davis is here. He’ll play center field, Farrell said after Wednesday night’s game, presumably in an everyday capacity, although that’s to be seen. 

(Deven Marrero was sent back to the minors to make room for Davis, who is to be around Thursday. Blaine Boyer also returned to the roster from the disabled list, with Hector Velazquez sent down.)

Jackie Bradley Jr. may not be down too long with a thumb sprain, but if you’re in the Red Sox clubhouse, it has to sit well with you knowing that even as September creeps up, more help has arrived. Rather instantaneously, too. Bradley gets an MRI in the morning, a trade is made in the afternoon.

“When we found out this morning, picked up the phone and called Billy Beane back today and moved it along at a quicker pace, because we had room on the roster for him,” Dombrowski said.

There’s power in trades, including power that’s unexpected.

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.
 

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez sensed he was ready to bust out of his slump and give the Chicago Cubs the lift they needed.

As breakthroughs go, this was a big one. Just in time to keep the season going for the defending champs.

Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

"We have to be much more offensive," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

Baez finally got going with a pair of solo drives .

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to help the Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

"They're the world champs, and you know they're going to fight to the end," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "So today, they did. We got beat today."

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. He had been watching videos and felt his timing was starting to come back in recent trips to the plate.

"I just need to take a step back and see what's going on," he said.

Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley , who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

"Great to have this win, because if not we were going home tomorrow," Baez said. "But I feel like we're still not on track as a team. But I think if we get back on track, everybody as a team, we're going to be the best again."

Contreras' 491-foot homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez sent a towering drive out to left.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

"Hopefully, it's not a goodbye, it's a thank you, obviously," Arrieta said. "I still intend to have another start in this ballpark. If that's where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there."

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

"The only frustrating thing is we fell a run short," Turner said. "We played a great game, they played a great game. They just hit one more ball over the fence than we did."

FINISHING UP

Maddon said Davis would not be available on Thursday.

"So other guys got to do it," Maddon said. "We have to be much more offensive. It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

QUOTABLE

Chicago's Kyle Schwarber on all the Cubs' runs coming on homers in the series: "That's fine. A run's a run, anyway you can get them in. Obviously, we want to manufacture some runs, but we won a ballgame 3-2 hitting homers; I'll take that, too."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: The Dodgers turn to Kershaw to try to wrap up the series. The three-time NL Cy Young winner went five innings in Game 1, allowing two runs, and has a 4.76 ERA in two postseason starts this year.

Cubs: Quintana pitched five innings of two-hit ball in Game 1, one day after his wife, Michel, was taken off the team plane in Albuquerque with a medical ailment.

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