Red Sox

Ellsbury at DH for 'half-day off'

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Ellsbury at DH for 'half-day off'

BALTIMORE Jacoby Ellsbury didnt want to speak much about it, but he filled in as the designated hitter while batting in the leadoff position Thursday night against the Orioles.

Hes been battling a lower body issue the past few weeks thats more nagging than debilitating. Ellsbury was scratched three hours before a home game two weeks ago over the same issue, but the lineup wrinkle Thursday was more about manager Bobby Valentine wanting to give him the trendy half-day off. With David Ortiz out of the lineup, hes been able to sprinkle around some DH time to all of his regulars as a little bonus breather.

Ellsbury has hit .346 (9-for-26) with four runs scored, four doubles, three RBI and three stolen bases in the six games against the Indians and Orioles on the trip, and currently holds a 38-game hitting streak against Baltimore.

So, this was a way to keep his hot bat in the lineup for a Sox team that desperately needs a victory.

The last couple of days weve been concerned about a little leg situation, and this is just being overcautious and aware of the situation, Valentine said. Hes fine. I said do you want a day off? and he said No, noabsolutely not. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I want to play with this.

I dont know if guys like hearing about that stuff. Its a situation where we dont want to make it a big thing by talking about it or by having it become a big thing.

So, its clearly not a big thing. Is everybody clear on that now?

Earlier on this trip, Dustin Pedroia had served as the DH in Cleveland for the first time in his major league career in much the same role.

It stands out a little bit when a Gold Glove caliber center fielder known for his speed and range in the outfield is seemingly wasted in the DH spot, but its about maintenance for players late into the regular season.

The Sox center fielder said his lower body feels fine, and it was simply his turn to get a little bit of a break from his skipper.

Different guys have been doing it, so its just me today, said Ellsbury. Ive played the last couple of days. It felt good.

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

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe 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.

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. 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.

Contreras' homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez's landed beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

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.

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE