Red Sox

Haggerty: Ellsbury putting it all together now

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Haggerty: Ellsbury putting it all together now

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Jacoby Ellsbury is getting pretty good at this clutch-hitting thing.

Hes always had the explosive athletic ability that allowed him to score all the way from second base on a passed ball, or sporadically turn on a fastball to right field when things fell into place. Hes shown the ability to get hot at the plate like he did during the months of September and October in 2007 when it mattered most to his team, and hes developed into a much better defensive center-fielder as hes learned hitters, tendencies, and reading the ball off the bat in baseball situations.

In other worse Ellsbury has enjoyed the natural learning curve of playing in the Major Leagues, but things have changed for the much better this season.

The outfielder had shown flashes and steadily improved on star-studded World Series-worthy baseball teams in Boston, but it had never all come together for Ellsbury in a single season. The questions cropped up last season whether Ellsbury would ever put the puzzle pieces together when he was limited to 18 games played with oft-discussed fractured ribs.

This season its coming together in a big, big way.

Ellsbury has pieced together every disparate part of his varied baseball skill set at the same time and even better hes added the needed element of performing in the clutch. In essence hes helped carry the Sox in the dog days of summer as they attempt to protect a narrow AL East lead over a New York Yankees club that keeps on winning.

Thats something his teammates are taking note of.

Hes always been a superstar to me, man. Hes got all of these things that he can do really well and hes finally really learned how to play the game, said David Ortiz. Hes worked really hard at it and now hes playing like a superstar. I feel like its dj vu every time he comes up in the ninth inning now, and Im doing the same thing in the dugout every time it happens.

Ellsbury is hitting .317 for the season and has topped 30 stolen bases, but his biggest area of improvement is a power surge thats seen him smack 18 home runs this season.

The 18th and latest big blast was a solo home run off Cleveland righty Joe Smith in the bottom of the ninth that led the Sox to a 4-3 walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth inning the second consecutive game thats seen Ellsbury collect the walk-off hit for Boston in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Hes the first Sox player to provide walk-off hits in consecutive days since former third baseman Butch Hobson did it in 1978, and the first Sox player to do it in consecutive games since David Ortiz in 2006. Hes also made some believers in the Cleveland clubhouse including the pitcher he touched off for the long blast into the centerfield bleachers on Wednesday night.

"He's gotten us the last two nights -- good for him," said Smith, who had held lefties to a .091 batting average before serving up Ellsburys home run. "It happens, it's baseball. I'll come back tomorrow and face him again and keep going after him again."

Ellsbury had 20 career home runs heading into this seasons power surge, and as such hes still getting used to celebrating the walk-off thing with the right amount of giddy enthusiasm and level-headed cool.

I didnt know what to do with myself when I was running around the bases, said Ellsbury, who was 0-for-4 at the plate in each of the last two games when he stepped up to hit in the bottom of the ninth and finished with the walk-off winner. I was excited. I had never experienced that in the big leagues and it was fun.

"I realized it was the ninth inning and I had been 0-for-4 both games. I'm just trying to get on base. The last two days have been pretty good."

Its been well-chronicled just how unique the sleek leadoff man is in Red Sox history, and thats bearing out with some of his accomplishments. Hes fourth in the league with 31 stolen bases, and his 18 home runs rank as the highest homer total for any player in Sox history with 30 or more stolen bases an impressive blend of power and athleticism that should give him a legit shot at becoming Bostons first 3030 player in club history.

The honors are just beginning for Ellsbury, who is quickly and quietly wrapping up Comeback Player of the Year for the American League while putting together a convincing resume for the MVP as well.

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

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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