Red Sox

Haggerty: Sox stars lack shine in series opener

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Haggerty: Sox stars lack shine in series opener

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
Whenever the baseball calendar flips over to August and the Red Sox are pitted against the Yankees, its an automatic fact of AL East life that the best players on either side will need to elevate their games.

That needs to be the case in a three-game series between the ancient baseball rivals with first place on the line, and that simply wasnt the case in Friday nights opening act.

Prized left-hander Jon Lester suddenly misplaced the strike zone after five dominant innings against the dangerous Yankees lineup, and slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez pulled an 0-for-4 at the plate that snapped a 14-game hitting streak for the middle-of-the-order slugger.

Both of their baseball supermen blinked against Major League Baseballs version of the Legion of Doom, and it caused the Sox to come up just a smidgen short. When Lester and Gonzalez dont roll out playing high level baseball against a team like the Yanks, the chances of winning drop to something comfortably between unreasonable and unlikely. Thats exactly what happened in a 3-2 loss to New York at Fenway Park Friday night, and its why the Sox were lamenting a narrow defeat dotted with only a couple of legit turning points.

We thought we did a good job getting Bartolo Colon out of there, but we just couldnt get to their bullpen, said Dustin Pedroia. Weve got to come out and swing the bats a little bit better.

The game actually hinged on Gonzalez fanning to end the bottom of the fifth inning with the bases loaded and two outs after Bostons offense forced Bartolo Colon to the showers after only 4 23 innings. Yankees manager Joe Girardi called on lefty Boone Logan, and the southpaw reliever overwhelmed Bostons offensive linchpin in the pivotal at bat.

Its actually been a little bit of a struggle for Gonzalez against the Yankees this season with a .211 batting average and nine strikeouts in 38 at bats against the Bronx Bombers a set of numbers that have left him on the periphery of the impassioned hardball rivalry that he couldnt wait to be a part of heading into the season.

I just wasnt able to hold back, lamented Gonzalez about the pitch from Logan that retired the first baseman on a check swing strike three.

The lengthy-but-fruitless bottom of the fifth inning caused Lester to gather a little rust in the Sox dugout, and he looked little like the dominant lefty that fanned seven Yankees through the first five innings while working both sides of the plate like a Picasso.

In the sixth inning all the artistry turned ugly, and Lester walked No. 9 hitter Eduardo Nunez to start the inning. He couldnt recover fast enough once things got rolling for the Yankees offense and he coughed up three runs before finally stopping the bleeding.

The final numbers three runs allowed and seven strikeouts in six innings of work were more than passable, but Lester couldnt summon greatness when he needed to.

The strapping lefty prides himself on being a stopper for the Sox, and was his own worst critic when he couldnt find a way to prevent a Nick Swisher double down the left field line that ultimately plated the game-winning run. The lefty very nearly escaped a bases loaded, nobody out jam, but thats something that doesnt happen every often against a good offensive lineup like the Yankees.

Lester is also 2-1 with a 5.00 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this season, and will need to be better going forward against Bostons hated rivals if they harbor serious hopes for the AL East.

It seemed like for five innings we dictated both sides of the plate, and in the sixth inning they did, said Lester. You cant give these guys free bases. I need to do a better job of once we get those two outs of buckling down and getting that third out.

The Sox hurler liked the pitches he threw to Curtis Granderson and Swisher that really did the necessary damage for New York, but he still needs to discover some way to simply make that one pitch during winninglosing time.

I just have to do a better job. You tip your hat to Swisher because he hit a pretty good pitch, but I just have to do a better job of getting him out one way or another, said Lester. I have to get the out, minimize the damage to two runs and maybe thats the difference in the game.

Both Lester and Gonzalez are going to need to start getting better immediately if the Sox hope to cool down the red-hot Yankees, and finish strong in August and September before the real season begins.

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

ALCS: Judge, Sabathia help Yankees beat Astros, 8-1

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ALCS: Judge, Sabathia help Yankees beat Astros, 8-1

NEW YORK - Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer and a made pair of sparkling catches, leading CC Sabathia and the Yankees over the Houston Astros 8-1 Monday night and cutting New York's deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.

Sabathia allowed three hits over six scoreless innings for his first postseason win in five years. Todd Frazier hit a go-ahead, three-run homer for the Yankees, who stopped a seven-game ALCS losing streak dating to Sabathia's victory over Texas in 2010.

Sonny Gray starts Game 4 Wednesday on 11 days' rest, likely against Brad Peacock or Lance McCullers Jr.

Back in the Bronx after a pair of 2-1 losses in Houston, the Yankees led 8-0 after four innings. Houston scored on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth before postseason star Jose Altuve grounded into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know whom they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

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The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE