Red Sox

Haggerty: Red Sox offense historically good

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Haggerty: Red Sox offense historically good

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON So many around the Red Sox are accustomed to hulkingoffensive numbers and punishingly professional at bats over the last decade.

Some have probably become a bit spoiled at this point in the golden era of baseball in Boston, and simply expect offensive prowess and hitting greatness as an automatic right.

But relative newcomers like John Lackey and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have witnessed offenses outside of the Friendly Fenway confines firsthand, and know just how good they have it playing pepper with theGreenMonsteron Yawkey Way.

Weve got a lot of good players, man," Lackey said. "We got some guys that can swing it. Its fun to watch, for sure. "Youre okay sitting over there on the benchfor some extra home half innings to watch ralliesand get a lot of offensive run support. I was hoping for things like that. Thats one of the reasons I came here. I spent so many years in Anaheim and it wasnt exactly like that. So its fun to watch.

The Sox have always scored a ton of runs and fared exceedingly well at Fenway Park this season, but theyve taken it to ridiculous levels over the last month. Not only are the Sox 18-4 during the month of July, but theyve also mercilessly beaten down mediocre pitching staffs during the dog days of the season. They've averaged 5.56 runs per game during the season and lead all of baseball with 567 runs scored, but they're averaging a shade under seven runs per game in July.

It happened again on Wednesday night as Bruce Chen was reminded just how fringe a journeymen he really is by an efficient Red Sox attack that cranked out double-digit hits for the 11th straight game at Fenway. The Sox have posted double-digit hits 52 times this year to tie them with the Texas Rangers for the lead in Major League baseball, and theyve posted double-digit runs 16 times this season with the latest coming inthe 12-5 drubbing of Kansas City.Much of the effectiveness comes from their unrelenting lineup depth.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia have wreaked havoc on opposing teams pitchers and defense at the top of the lineup. The trio of Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz have formed the pitchers version of a meat grinder in the heart of the order and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Marco Scutaro have given the Sox opportunistic offensive playersat the bottom third of the lineup.

Ortiz has his ideas about the special sauce thats making the Sox perform so well when they walk up to the dish.

I think it's Ellsbury and Pedroia," he said. "Theyre making it tough on everyone else. What theyre doing at the top of the lineup is ridiculous. You dont get that on daily basis from your first and second-hole hitter. It puts so much pressure on the pitcher that Im pretty sure it will get the pitcher out of control a little bit.

There is no weakness, no safe haven and no escape for all but the best of big league hurlers toeing the rubber against Boston, and the Red Sox know it each time they dig in to hit. David Ortiz has taken part in some historic offensive lineups in Boston during his time playing tag team partners with Manny Ramirez, but even the designated hitter admitted this one might just be the best.Not the 2003 team that ranks among the best Sox hitting lineups of all time, or the 2004 and 2007 teams dangerous enough to capture the World Series. But the very Sox team that's taken up residence during the summer of 2011.

Its fun. It is fun especially the way we started out the season, said Ortiz. Everybody around here gets ready to play and win ballgames. I dont know, don't want to talk about it too early because weve got two months left, but everything Ive seen from head to toe is what you really want to be a part of.

The numbers back it up as well. The Sox are first in nearly every important offensive category, and their robust month of July has seen them post an .886 OPS during the prolific month a mark that is the teams highest since putting up a .945 OPS during June of 2003 and ranks up with their best months of the 1996 (.904 in June) and 1950 (.914 in May) Sox seasons.

Thats exactly the kind of total base and run-scoring machine GM Theo Epstein envisioned when he coaxedall the pieces together this winter, and the players are recognizing just how unique things are right in the middle of their batting binge.

Weve got a good ball club from top to bottom," Saltalamacchia said. "The one thing we have is confidence and were going to go out there and play our game. "Getting guys comfortable and getting guys at bats, thats when youre going to start seeing things like this. We just needed to get healthy.

Youve got guys here that are established. We had a couple of guys in Texas that were established like Mike Young, but here youve got guys that have been around the game for a long time. They bring a lot to the game and help each other out.

The only thing not getting helped out right now: the ERA of opposing pitching staffs unlucky enough to come across the Red Sox hitters during one heck of a hitting spree.

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

NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

CHICAGO -- Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

Fueled by a home run trilogy from their emotional utilityman, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.

Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs' title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night.

"It feels good to hear World Series," Kershaw said. "It's been a long time coming for this team."

After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers after they led the majors with 104 wins during the regular season. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball's most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles' last championship in 1988.

"Every night it is a different guy," Turner said, "and this is one of the most unbelievable teams I've ever been a part of."

Kershaw will be on the mound again when the Dodgers host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the ALCS at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers.

Los Angeles made the playoffs eight times in the previous 13 seasons and came up short of its 22nd pennant each time, often with Kershaw shouldering much of the blame. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner took the loss when his team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field.

The ace left-hander was just OK during his first two starts in this year's postseason, but Los Angeles' offense picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez's powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts and improved to 6-7 in the playoffs - matching Burt Hooton's club record for postseason wins.

"To get to be on the mound tonight and get to be going to the World Series on the same night, it's a special thing," Kershaw said. "Who knows how many times I'm going to get to go to the World Series? I know more than anybody how hard it is to get there. So, I'm definitely not taking this one for granted."

When Kenley Jansen retired Willson Contreras on a liner to shortstop for the final out, the party was on . The Dodgers poured out of the dugout and mobbed their dominant closer near the mound, and a small but vocal group of Los Angeles fans gathered behind the visitors' dugout and chanted "Let's go Dodgers! Let's go Dodgers!"

On the field, manager Dave Roberts hugged Lasorda and told the iconic skipper the win was for him.

"I bleed Dodger blue just like you," Roberts said. "Thank you, Tommy."

Hernandez connected on the first two pitches he saw, belting a solo drive in the second for his first career playoff homer and then a grand slam in the third against Hector Rondon. Hernandez added a two-run shot in the ninth against Mike Montgomery.

The 26-year-old Hernandez became the fourth player with a three-homer game in a league championship series, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS). Hernandez's seven RBIs tied a postseason record shared by four other players who all did it in a Division Series.

Troy O'Leary was the previous player to have seven RBIs in a playoff game, for Boston at Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS.

It was a stunning display for a player with 28 career homers who remains concerned about his native Puerto Rico, which is recovering from a devastating hurricane. He delivered a historic performance in front of his father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., who was diagnosed with a blood cancer related to leukemia in December 2015, but got word last November that he was in remission.

"For me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special," said Hernandez, who also goes by Kik�. "My body's here, but my mind's kind of back home. It's hard being away from home with what's going on.

"All I want to do right now is go to my dad and give him a big hug."

Kris Bryant homered for Chicago, but the NL Central champions finished with just four hits in another tough night at the plate. Each of their eight runs in the NLCS came via the long ball, and they batted just .156 for the series with 53 strikeouts.

Long playoff runs in each of the last two years and a grueling five-game Division Series against Washington seemed to sap Chicago of some energy, and its pitching faltered against sweet-swinging Los Angeles. Jose Quintana was pulled in the third inning of the final game, and the Cubs never recovered.

"They executed their plan," Bryant said. "They pitched great and the bullpen was lights out. That makes for a tough time scoring runs."

Turner and Taylor helped put it away for Los Angeles, contributing to a 16-hit outburst while closing out a pair of impressive performances.

Turner singled home Taylor in the Dodgers' five-run third, giving him seven RBIs in the series and 24 throughout his postseason career. Taylor finished with two hits and scored two runs as the Dodgers, who have won five straight NL West titles, improved to 7-1 in this postseason.

Taylor's versatility helped Los Angeles cover for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the series with a back injury, but is expected to return in the next round. Coming off a breakout season, the 27-year-old Taylor hit .316 with two homers and scored five times against the Cubs.

"I couldn't be happier to be a part of this and be with these guys," Taylor said. "It's been an unbelievable year, and I'm just super excited."

OUT WITH A BANG

Hernandez joined Kennedy (2002), Adrian Beltre (2011), Reggie Jackson (1977 vs. the Dodgers) and Babe Ruth (1928) as players to hit three home runs in a postseason series clincher.

LIGHTS OUT

Dodgers relievers have thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, a postseason record.

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. 

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“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.