Red Sox

First Pitch: Thursday, September 1

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First Pitch: Thursday, September 1

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Wednesday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

HAVING A BLAST: Tuesday night's fireworks were all well and good, but Wednesday night's were more to the Red Sox' taste.

The Sox got three two-run homers -- from David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and, of all people, Jason Varitek -- in pounding out a 9-5 win over the Yankees (csnne.com) that put their A.L. East lead back to 1 12 games and assured them that, no matter what, they'll still be in first place when New York leaves town tonight. More importantly, it was a night when all the wrongs from Tuesday were righted (csnne.com), not the least of which was a little calming of the roiled waters by David Ortiz. (cbssports.com) It also was a night that, once again, exposed the Yankees' rotation woes (New York Daily News) -- and if you think that was bad, just wait a few hours (New York Post) -- and showed off one of the Red Sox' anticipated October strengths. (Boston Herald)

And they even managed to play it in under four hours. No wonder we all feel like Charlie Sheen (youtube.com) this morning.

YEAH, RIGHT: John Lackey was adamant he didn't hit Francisco Cervelli on purpose Tuesday, but apparently the MLB powers-that-be didn't believe him. (weei.com) Really, who did?

FIXES NEEDED: Tony Massarotti points out the Red Sox still have some problems as September dawns. (boston.com)

FIXES ATTEMPTED: One of them is finding a right-handed-hitting outfielder who can, you know, actually hit. (Nothing personal, there, Darnell McDonald.) Toward that end, the Sox beat the midnight deadline to acquire players and have them eligible for the postseason by picking up Conor Jackson from the A's. (csnne.com)

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW: This came hours after Theo Epstein told reporters it was unlikely the Sox would do anything on the trade front. Epstein also discussed Ryan Kalish's season-ending neck surgery and the recent signings of Trever Miller and Joey Gathright, while tapdancing around the question of whether or not he'd be interested in becoming GM of the Cubs. (csnne.com)

CONSECUTIVE-GAME STREAK ENDS AT ONE: It looks like J.D. Drew's comeback is on hold. (csnne.com) Insert your own joke here.

LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DID IT: There was a rare Mo Vaughn sighting at Fenway on Wednesday (Providence Journal), and he came bearing advice on how to hit at home for David Ortiz . . . even though Ortiz has been with the Red Sox longer (1,261 games) than Vaughn (1,046).

ON THE MATT: The second of Jessica Camerato's 1-2-3 Inning features on Red Sox relievers focuses on Matt Albers. (csnne.com)

WINNING A LOSING GAME: FoxSports' JonPaul Morosi looks at five teams that improved themselves during the August waiver trading deadline period . . . and one of them was the Rangers, a potential Red Sox playoff opponent. But ESPN's David Schoenfield shows why the trade deadline "rarely is the cure for a team's ailments". (Or, to put it another way: Do the names Carlos Beltran and Ubaldo Jiminez ring a bell?)

OLD FRIENDS: Jason Bay celebrated the news that the Mets may shift him to center field next year (!) with a three-hit performance in New York's 3-2 win over the Marlins (New York Daily News) . . . Derek Lowe not only held the Nationals to one run on three hits over six innings, he also hit his first career home run on a night when he got the win and Craig Kimbrel broke the rookie saves record (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) . . . Victor Martinez hasn't caught since Aug. 4 because of a sprained left knee (rotoworld) . . . Jeremy Hermida's journey around the major leagues has a new destination: San Diego. He was claimed on waivers from the Reds by the Padres (signonsandiego.com) . . . It looks like shoulder surgery is in Hanley Ramirez' future (Palm Beach Post)

AND FINALLY . . . Did a moth change the course of the A.L. East race?? (AP via si.com)

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. 

MORE:

“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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