Red Sox

First Pitch: Wednesday, August 31

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First Pitch: Wednesday, August 31

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 Tuesday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThat Happened (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

VILLAIN BORN, RIVALRY RENEWED: So as it turns out, all it took to light a spark under the somnolent Red Sox-Yankee tong war was some exuberant handclapping.

That was how Francisco Cervelli celebrated upon completing his rounding of the bases after a fifth-inning moonshot over the Monster Seats. John Lackey took exception to it, and off we went. Lackey drilled Cervelli in the back with the first pitch of Cervelli's next at-bat, words were exchanged, benches were cleared, and, says John Tomase of the Boston Herald, it brought back memories of the old days. It wasn't quite Fisk-Munson, Nettles-Lee, Varitek-Rodriguez or Zimmer-Martinez (or, if you really want to go back, Martin-Piersall or Cronin-Powell), but it was more emotion than we've seen from these two teams in a while.

CC Sabathia was a little upset (ESPN New York), Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild (who has his own history of beanball battles with the Red Sox) was ejected, and all in all it was pretty entertaining. Much more entertaining than the four-hour bore-a-thon of a game, which ended with the Red Sox -- who, as Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe notes incredulously, managed to parlay 13 hits, 4 walks and 2 hit batsmen into two whole runs -- stranding 16 runners and losing, 5-2 (csnne.com), cutting their A.L. East lead over New York to one-half game.

It's hard to get worked up over the series -- though Joe Girardi seems to think it's important (cbssports.com) -- for a number of reasons. First, both teams are all but guaranteed to make the postseason. Second, both the pitching matchups for the next two nights and the schedule the rest of the way favor the Red Sox, so one loss to New York isn't going to send the region into a pre-2004 tizzy. But baseball's always more fun when there's a little edge to Red Sox-Yankees, and now we seem to have it back.

For a night, anyway.

KING ME: Baseball, tiddlywinks, checkers . . . no matter the competition, Larry Lucchino wants to beat the Yankees. (mlb.com)

I YAM WHAT I YAM: Cervelli, who swore up and down he wasn't trying to show anybody up, had a simple explanation for his outburst: "That's Cervelli." (weei.com)

DOESN'T MEAN I HAVE TO LIKE IT: And Lackey, who swore up and down he didn't hit Cervelli on purpose, said he thought the handclaps were "a little excessive, honestly". (csnne.com)

MR. BIG: He'd gone 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against the Red Sox in his first four appearances against them this year, so anything would seem good by comparison. Thus, Sabathia's six-inning, 128-pitch grind was described by Mike Lupica of the Daily News as "tremendous, even though all his numbers weren't". ESPN's David Schoenfield doesn't think that 0-4, 7.20 means much of anything (too small a sample size) and wasn't willing to go as far as Lupica, but agrees that good pitchers know how to get outs when they need them "and Sabathia got them on this night".

WAKE UP: Peter Abraham swims against the tide of Red Sox Nation by disagreeing with the notion that Tim Wakefield should be lifted from the rotation. (Boston Globe) The Sox may have taken the first step in that direction, though, when they skipped over his start this weekend against Texas.

COMEBACK KIDS: J.D. Drew went 3-for-3 and Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-4 in a rehab game with the PawSox in Rochester (Providence Journal), and both should return to the Red Sox' lineup by the end of the week.

COMEBACK KID: Clay Buchholz, meanwhile, started his long road to recovery with 25 throws from 60 feet. (csnne.com) In other words, don't expect to see him for a while . . . if at all this season.

AROUND THE A.L. EAST: Looks like Andy MacPhail, who was hired in 2007 to turn around the Orioles, is about to admit defeat and walk away. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com) His departure, along with the Cubs' opening, could start an interesting game of GM musical chairs this offseason . . . Joe Maddon says the Rays have to "will" themselves to win when the opposing pitcher is on his game, but the will wasn't strong enough in a 2-0 loss to the Rangers (St. Petersburg Times) . . . Somebody claimed B.J. Upton on waivers last week (Tampa Tribune), but Maddon says it was a "procedural" thing and Tampa Bay had no intention of trading him.

TOUGH CHOICE: Today is the deadline for teams to add players to their roster and have them eligible for the postseason. The Rangers -- a potential playoff opponent for the Red Sox -- admit they have interest in the Cardinals' Lance Berkman (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), who would make an already formidable lineup even tougher. But if the Cards hope to trade Berkman and then bring him back as a free agent over the winter, Berkman says forget it; once he's gone, he's gone. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) And that may make the Cards, who'd like to retain him, less willing to make the deal.

BEATING THE HEAT: Red Sox nemesis C.J. Wilson has found a way to stay cool in the kiln-like Texas atmosphere. (ESPN Dallas)

OLD FRIENDS: It was a tough night for Bronson Arroyo (Rotoworld) . . . Hanley Ramirez' comeback is on hold after he felt discomfort in his left shoulder during a rehab game. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

THINK THEY WOULDN'T NOTICE? If you're making 80,000 a year, like this former Giants' employee, you probably don't want to embezzle 1,513,836.28 from the club because it might raise a red flag when you try to get a loan from a bank to buy a house. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

AND FINALLY . . . In true, "Why in my day" fashion, 80-year-old Moose Skowron proposes an old-fashioned solution to a new-fangled problem. (Chicago Tribune)

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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