Red Sox

Ellsbury does it again with walk-off HR, 4-3

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Ellsbury does it again with walk-off HR, 4-3

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON It wasn't meant to be for Tim Wakefield tonight, but the same certainly can't be said for Jacoby Ellsbury.

On a night when the 45-year-old right-hander was seeking the ultimate birthday present by capturing his 200th career win in front of the home fans at Fenway Park, it was Ellsbury who once again stole the show.

The Sox center-fielder crushed a pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning for a solo homer to the center field bleachers and powered the Sox a 4-3 victory at Fenway Park with his 18th bomb of the year.

It was the second straight walk-off hit for Ellsbury in consecutive nights and continues a magical comeback campaign for the leadoff hitter extraordinaire. It was also the seventh walk-off win of the season for the Sox.

Cleveland wasnt without its own highlights in this one though.

Rookie second baseman Jason Kipnis hit a home run in his fourth consecutive game, Ezequeil Carrera knocked in the game-tying run and Carlos Carrasco matched Wakefield pitch-for-pitch on what he wanted to be his big day at the Fens.

A David Ortiz two-run double in the first inning gave the Sox an early lead, and Wakefield got his potential winning run when David Ortiz scored on a potential double play broken up by Josh Reddicks hard slide into second base.

Unfortunately for Wakefield he came up just short in his second attempt at his 200th career win when a pair of doubles erased Bostons 3-2 lead. The Carrera ground-rule double down the right field line was the final straw for Wakefield. The venerable knuckler was pulled by Terry Francona in favor of reliever Randy Williams, and set up the ninth inning heroics.

The Ellsbury home run made a winner out of Jonathan Papelbon (4-0) after working a scoreless frame in the top of the ninth.

Player of the Game: Jacoby Ellsbury might just take this away as an honorary award. For the second straight night Ellsbury collected the walk-off hit and this time did it in style with a bomb to centerfield in the bottom of the ninth. It was Ellsburys 18th home run of the year after sitting at 20 home runs for his career heading into this season, and continues his sterling resume for both Comeback Player of the Year and MVP when votes are cast at the end of the season. Ellsbury has really tossed the team on his back over the last few months and is playing like a superstar in the words of David Ortiz. Ellsbury has been Bostons best player from beginning to end this season, and now hes doing it in the clutch as well.

Honorable Mention: Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth to notch the victory and was also the winning pitcher in Tuesday nights game against the Indians as well. Papelbon has allowed zero runs and only one hit over his last eight games with 10 strikeouts, and has been nearly automatic at the back end of the bullpen this season. Though ERA is highly overrated for relief pitchers, Papelbons number has dropped to 3.35 for the season as well.

The Goat: Terry Francona elicited plenty of boos from the crowd when he stalked out to the mound to take the ball from Tim Wakefield in the seventh inning with the game tied at 3-3 and it seemed the booing was two-fold at Fenway Park. Some wanted to see Wakefield pitch his way out of the inning and perhaps claim that 200th career victory with a Sox rally in the bottom of the seventh, and some thought the Sox skipper should have gone to the bullpen after six full innings from the 45-year-old Wakefield. Certainly Francona must have been trying to coax an extra inning out of Wakefield with Erik Bedard starting on Thursday with a limited pitch count, and it didnt work out this time around.

Turning Point: Randy Williams came into Wednesday nights game with a 3-3 tie in the seventh inning and the go-ahead run in scoring position for the Indians, and the left-hander managed to wriggle out of the jam by fanning Cleveland slugger Asdrubal Cabrera. Williams then pitched a clean eighth inning before handing the ball off to Papelbon for the ninth, and gave the Sox exactly what they were looking with two strikeouts and no hits in 1 13 innings of relief. Once Williams had shut down the Tribes rally, the door was open for the Sox to engineer a late inning rally.

By the Numbers: 0-for-4 the numbers next to Jacoby Ellsburys name in each of the last two games when he stepped up to the plate with the game on the line in the ninth inning, and then promptly delivered in both instances.

Quote of Note: I didnt know what to do with myself when I was running around the bases. I was excited. I had never experienced that in the big leagues and it was fun. Jacoby Ellsbury talking about the rush of slamming a walk-off home run at Fenway Park.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

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

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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

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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.