Red Sox

Haggerty: Pedroia key ingredient for Red Sox

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Haggerty: Pedroia key ingredient for Red Sox

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

KANSAS CITY It sounds like a pretty simple formula: Insert game-deciding situation with a generous helping of Dustin Pedroia and good things are bound to happen for the Red Sox.

Thats how things unfolded Thursday night in Bostons tight 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Sox badly needed a victory, and badly needed a shot of Pedroia in the cleanup spot.

Thats why he is who he is," Terry Francona said. "He does come through and he kinda wills himself to do things. Its a comforting feeling when he has something to say about the outcome of the game.

It seems that Francona only taps Pedroia on the shoulder to hit in the middle of the Sox lineup when its become a dire situation, but its a move that always works. Pedroia finished 3-for-4 while driving in three of Bostons four runs including the game-winning run in the fifth inning with two outs in the inning.

Its getting close to the end of the season and everybody in here is just trying to do their part to help us win games," Pedroia said. "Thats all that this is about. Nobody needs to try and do anything extra. Were all trying to do whatever we can to help us win every single night.

That came after Pedroia slapped a two-run single up the middle in the top of the third on a Luke Hochevar cut fastball also with two outs that put a charge into a Sox offense thats looked far from energetic lately.

Both of Pedroias hits came on solid pitches, and had Hochevar talking about Bostons middle infield MVP candidate like he was a Bond villain or the latest bad guy trying to take down Bruce Willis in the endless Diehard flicks.

Instead its just a 5-foot-8, 165-pound second baseman.

"He was a nemesis. He hit the ball where it's pitched," said Hochevar. "The base hit up the middle that scored two runs I was trying to come in off the plate for a ball and I felt like it was off the plate. He put a good swing on it. He had a good piece of hitting."

At the cleanup slot, Pedroia has hit .481 (25-for-52) with six doubles, five home runs and 14 RBI in 12 games, and has made Francona look like the smartest manager alive.

Or has he?

Its either good managing tonight or horrible managing the rest of the year, cracked Francona with a smirk. Were just trying to balance it out a little bit. Were missing two big bats (David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis) and trying to get a little balance. You can put him anywhere. Hes a good player.

Youre not going to drive in three runs every night, but whether its with the bat, in the field, or on the base paths, hes going to give you everything he has.

Hes one of the best players in the game.

The bottom line: Its unfair to pin everything on one player when guys start to go down with injuries, but it looks like its going to have to be Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury carrying the offense on most nights. Youkilis and Ortiz are both gone with injuries, and it doesnt appear either one will be back soon.

Adrian Gonzalez has morphed into a singles hitter over the last month due to a nagging neck problem, and the Sox would desperately like to get him some rest. But Gonzalez will continue to trot out there as long as Ortiz and Youkilis are missing from the middle of the lineup.

So it comes down to the SI cover boy and Sox energizer bunny to rise up and be much more than the Mouth that Roared, and Pedroia does that over and over again for the Sox. Hes hit safely in 50 of his last 57 games and the batting average has spiked all the way up to a .309 mark after he was struggling along at a .272 clip at the end of June amid concerns about his knee.

All that has changed over the last two months, as hes hit at a .364 clip in his last 170 at bats. Francona and the rest of Pedroias teammates have long since stopped marveling at everything he does on and off the field to hold the Sox together, and instead simply give thanks that he is there constantly willing his team to victory.

Hes that guy even when hes hitting in the two-hole whether its guys at the bottom of the lineup or Ellsbury getting on base, said Beckett.

That guy did it again against the Royals on Thursday night, and hes going to have to do it a few more times before Red Sox reinforcements arrive.

Its the temporary formula for Sox success.

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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