Red Sox

First pitch: Wins in New York something to build on

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First pitch: Wins in New York something to build on

NEW YORK -- At various points along the way in their season to date, the Red Sox have won games that looked to be a springboard to the run for which they've been waiting.

Most recently, Cody Ross's walkoff, three-run homer against the Chicago White Sox two weeks ago at Fenway seemed to be that launching pad. That dramaatic victory, however, was followed by three straight dispiriting losses -- and five in the next six games -- that sent them not soaring, but instead, plummeting.

Perhaps that's why not even Bobby Valentine, who expressed unbridled enthusiasm for his team Friday afternoon -- maintaining that they were "headed in the right direction'' and eminently capable of going on a streak that would soon carry them "10, 15, 20 games over .500 -- refused to take the bait in the aftermath of his team's 3-2 win over the New York Yankees Sunday night.

"I don't know that it does anything for (Monday),'' shrugged the manager. "We're playing a tough Detroit team. But I like the way the guys played.''

But if the Red Sox can't make something of back-to-back last-at-bat wins in Yankee Stadium, then this season may truly be a lost cause.

In the clubhouse, there seemed to be more hope that the Sox could build off the weekend wins.

Adrian Gonzalez, finally hitting with authority, predicted that the Sox should brace themselves for, in effect, two straight months of a playoff-like pressure-cooker, with each game providing some sense of urgency.

"We put ourselves in the position where that's basically what we've got,'' said Gonzalez. "We need to win every game.''

Dustin Pedroia, seated next to Gonzalez in the visitor's clubhouse, put a finer point on it.

"It couldn't have come at a better time,'' said Pedroia. "We need to win. We can build on this, get back home and play good ball. I hope (these) are huge. We just have to continue to build ballgames and let the momentum build up.''

It's been precisely that momentum that the Sox have been unable to sustain through the first 102 games. They've been locked in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back rut for much of the year.

Valentine, taking the macro approach, said the club has to focus on winning series, but the win Sunday was their first in the last three. The Sox can't afford to lose any more ground, not with six teams in front of them in the crowded American League wild card chase.

In the near term, the two late-inning wins might serve another purpose. General manager Ben Cherington has said for the last week that he would be watching his team closely on the road trip to determine his approach to the non-waiver trading deadline.

The Sox might not have wowed him with their play -- they finished an admittedly difficult road trip against the top two teams in the A.L. at 3-3 -- but Saturday and Sunday's victories may have, if nothing else, bought them some time.

"Obviously, we're playing as hard as we can,'' said Pedroia. "We feel that we have a great team, so hopefully (Cherington) sees that and knows that we have a championship-caliber team. We just gotta go play like it.''

That, of course, has been the hard part. Whether they were hamstrung by injuries or damned by their own underachievement, the Sox have, at no time, resembled the "championshoip-caliber team'' of which Pedroia spoke.

And whether they get help from a move or two by Cherington before Tuesday afternoon, time is running out on them.

If beating the Yankees twice -- on the road and in their final at-bats -- doesn't spur them, what will?

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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