Red Sox

First Pitch: Red Sox offense has lost its grip

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First Pitch: Red Sox offense has lost its grip

OAKLAND -- Cody Ross, surveying the carnage in the wake of a hugely disappointing road trip, let out an audible sigh when he was asked about the underperforming Red Sox lineup.
The same lineup that scored a grand total of 14 runs in seven games.
The same lineup that hit a not-so-robust .200 (48-for-240) for the trip.
The same lineup that was a brutal .114 (5-for-44) in the last seven games.
Yes, that one.
The same one, by the way, that is still ranked second in the American League in runs scored, third in the league in slugging and first in extra-base hits.
"I mean . . . I don't know . . . there's really no words for it,'' concluded Ross after Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Oakland, which sent the Sox back home with a 2-5 mark in the seven games against the A's and Seattle Mariners. "That's baseball.''
It's just not very good baseball on the part of the Red Sox.
In the seven games out west, the Red Sox offense went south. Only once did the team score more than two runs in any one game. Until the road-trip finale, only one player had more one RBI (Jarrod Saltalamacchia).
The Sox managed seven homers on the trip, but tellingly, six of them came with the bases empty.
"Our offense has just been that terrible,'' said Ross. "There's no need to sugarcoat it. It sucked, basically.''
Actually, the trip continued a season-long pattern. The Sox have the second-most runs in the game as a team and when the trip began had the second-biggest run differential of any team in the American League.
But that speaks to the Sox' habit of piling on in one-sided games. Twelve times they've scored double figures in runs.
In lower-scoring games, however, they seem unable to come up with the necessary hit when it's needed the most. When the Sox score four runs or fewer, they're a lowly 7-35.
Certainly, no blame can be assigned to the pitching on the trip. In the seven games, the Red Sox got quality starts six times. And even when they didn't -- Daisuke Matsuzaka's one-inning-plus implosion Monday night -- they got seven innings of one-run relief from the bullpen, keeping the game within reach.
Not that the offense took advantage.
"As good as our offense is,'' said Ross, "to get three-hit Wednesday . . . I think we scored all of eight runs (actually, 14) for the road trip. That's crazy. We've scored eight runs in an inning before and against really good teams. Out here we played two teams that are sub-.500 and got the crap beat out of us.''
The culprits were eveerywhere. Three players -- Saltalamacchia, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia -- combined to knock in almost half (six) of the 14 runs for the tripl
Adrian Gonzalez, whom the Sox are paying handsomely to produce runs, didn't drive home a single run until he singled home Ortiz in the sixth inning of the final game on the trip.
"We're all pressing,'' acknowledged Ross. "We're all trying to get something going. We're not getting that big hit when we need it. We can't seem to push anything across.''
Perhaps the Yankees, coming to town for a four-game set which will wrap up the first half, are just the tonic. The Yanks are without their two best starters (CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte) and their mere presence may create some energy and excitement at Fenway, enough to rouse the slumbering Boston attack.
That's the hope, from the Red Sox' perspective, anyway. Nothing else seemed to work on the road, including and especially their bats.

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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