Red Sox

Haggerty: Thomas, Schilling can't leave well enough alone

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Haggerty: Thomas, Schilling can't leave well enough alone

NEWARK, NJ The similarities between Tim Thomas and Curt Schilling are striking.

Both were playoff heroes adorned with awards and adulation. They were lauded as folk heroes in Boston after bringing champions to a sports city drunk on success. Both are highly intelligent individuals with interests well beyond the respective sports theyd mastered.

Both defined nebulous, vague terms like "clutch" and "gutsy" while overcoming odds in situations that couldnt possibly have harbored hopes for success.

Thomas was never supposed to make it after falling through the cracks of pro hockey and winding up in Finland as a goaltender as renowned for his love of cheeseburgers as his ability to stop the puck. Instead he became only the second goalie in NHL history aside from Philadelphia Flyers legend Bernie Parent to capture the Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season.

Schilling has the bloody sock hero footage and the paeans written about him after he helped slay the Yankees in 2004. The Big Schill endured game-day surgical procedures on his ailing right ankle to Frankenstein his way through pitching a baseball game, and dominated the best teams in baseball on one leg.

Those feats of strength take the kind of fortitude, courage and determination that both Thomas and Schilling have in spades as they walked the walk of champions.

But unfortunately time doesnt stand still for sports heroes, and thats been the case for this pair of athletes quickly plummeting from grace.

The tragic part: their fall has been due to some of the same qualities that made them great in the first place.

Schillings 38 Studios video game company has been nothing short of a business nightmare.

He took tens of millions of dollars from the state of Rhode Island before working himself into a corner where he couldnt meet payroll or make loan payments back to the state that bankrolled him. The always-opinionated Schilling was finally at a loss for words for once in his life something that many of his teammates never thought theyd see out of the bombastic blowhard.

For Schilling, the video game company sprouted from the same outsized ego that brazenly proclaimed he was coming to Boston to end an 86-year curse.

Unfortunately creating a phenomenally successful video game in such a competitive market proved much more difficult than unleashing a 96-mph heater on the outside corner.

The sight of the outsized Sox pitcher rushing through long lines of media members while hurriedly refusing to answer questions about where all the money went is something nobody could have envisioned eight years ago.

But it all started with the belief that Schilling knows everything about everything.

By the same token, Thomas me-against-the-world mentality has long insulated him against the long odds and sure-to-be disappointing ending his career seemed headed for. He braved through the minors and Europe looking for a chance, and he finally got that in Boston.

The burning desire to prove others wrong pushed him to a pair of Vezina Trophies and four All-Star appearances in a career that had most recalling Johnny Bower.

But that isolated, self-involved view also erected a giant wall between the 38-year-old goaltender and the rest of his teammates.

That wall was constructed on harsh words while blaming defenseman for mistakes in front of his net that led to goals, or just plain bizarre behavior from an eccentric personality that at times seemed like hed have been more comfortable in a Michigan militia rather than serving brilliantly as a hockey playoff hero.

Now Thomas has uprooted his family from their full-time home in Boston for a sprawling property in Colorado near Colorado Springs that sources indicate has a bunker in case any wrath of God type stuff starts happening around the world.

His no-trade clause expires on July 1.

Thomas isnt in control of the situation for the first time in a long time as trade rumors swirl around him after a tumultuous 2011-12 season that saw him butt heads with ownership and management. Skipping out on the White House and using his Bruins bully pulpit for his own political agenda is something that scares the heck out of advertisers and sponsors. At a certain point, word came down from high that he needed to shut up, and he complied for the remainder of the season.

But Thomas isnt a guy that likes to be told he cant speak his mind, and the Bruins as an organization have tired of the bizarro world stuff their goaltender has concocted over the years.

So what does Thomas do when it appears his NHL address might change at 38 years old? He once again puts up his me-against-the-world blinders and sends out whispers that hes considering taking a leave of absence for the entire 2011-12 season.

Sure Ken Dryden once took a sabbatical and Dominik Hasek took off a season at 38 years old before playing four more years. (Hasek actually wants to return to the NHL next season.)

But dont be foolish: Thats not what this is about.

Is it a leverage play by Thomas so he wont be traded away from the Bruins?

Is it a threat so that the Bruins will only trade him where he wants to go?

In true passive-aggressive fashion hes not talking about it, just as he refused to talk about his politics when he started making big waves by refusing to take part in a team-wide photo opportunity with President Obama. The stubborn Thomas clearly believes hes been wronged, and hes going to do everything in his power to make life difficult for those he feels have wronged him.

Its impossible for Thomas to let slights brush off him or hide his true feelings when its colored each of his actions and words since January.

That dead-eye determination and unwillingness to bend is what made Thomas a sports savior for the Black and Gold in the first place.

But just like Schilling, what has made once made Thomas great is also proving to be at the heart of his undoing.

Both Boston sports legends were true larger-than-life folk heroes, but now theyre once again flawed human beings, staining legacies that were better left untouched.

NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have a tough lineup, a talented pitching staff and a manager making all the right moves.

Yup, it's beginning to look a lot like 1988.

Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles improved to 6-0 in this postseason, setting a franchise record for consecutive playoff wins. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip - on a long foul ball in the first inning.

"The focus has certainly been heightened in the postseason," manager Dave Roberts said.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to the club's last championship 29 years ago.

Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

"I think we've won four games in a row before," Chicago slugger Kris Bryant said. "Obviously, it's going to be a tougher road. But it'll make the story that much better. Can you imagine that?"

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. Their patient lineup is coming up big in key spots and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline.

Not even a return to Wrigley could get the Cubs back on track after a rough stay in Los Angeles. Chicago manager Joe Maddon juggled his lineup, inserting Kyle Schwarber into the No. 2 slot and benching slumping second baseman Javier Baez, but the defending World Series champions were shut down by another Dodgers starter and more stellar relief from the NL West champions.

"I really didn't change much approach-wise from first inning until the end of the game," Darvish said through a translator. "I just kept pitching the same way."

Making their third straight appearance in the NLCS, the weary Cubs also hurt themselves with a couple of big mistakes. Carl Edwards Jr. walked Darvish on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, continuing a rocky postseason for the reliever and leading to a round of boos from a frustrated crowd of 41,871.

A passed ball brought home another run in the eighth, and pinch hitter Kyle Farmer hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1.

Darvish departed after striking out Addison Russell in the seventh, pausing for congratulations from his whole infield before heading to the dugout. The Japanese right-hander allowed six hits, including Schwarber's first-inning homer, in his second career playoff win - both this year. He struck out seven and walked one.

Tony Watson got two outs, Brandon Morrow worked the eighth and Kenley Jansen closed it out after Ross Stripling gave up two hits in the ninth. With Roberts pushing the right buttons, Los Angeles' bullpen has yet to allow a run in the series.

"I think everybody's just been attacking," Morrow said. "That's the No. 1 thing."

The only four-game postseason sweep for the Dodgers came in the 1963 World Series against the New York Yankees. If Los Angeles can finish off Chicago on Wednesday, the Dodgers would have five days off before hosting the Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series opener.

"We knew today was the most important game, and now tomorrow's the most important game," Ethier said. "We're going to come out and figure out how to get the job done again."

Schwarber's sixth career postseason homer got Chicago off to a fast start, but Jon Jay struck out with two on to end the inning. The Dodgers responded with Ethier's leadoff drive in the second and Taylor's second homer of the series in the third, a mammoth shot to center off losing pitcher Kyle Hendricks.

"We had a chance obviously, early," Maddon said. "We hit some balls well early in the game, and then he settled in."

Ethier had two hits in his first start of this year's playoffs after he missed most of the season with a herniated lumbar disk. Taylor also had two hits and is 4 for 14 for the series, helping make up for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager to a back injury.

ON THIS DAY

Tuesday was the 13th anniversary of Roberts' memorable stolen base for Boston in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. The Red Sox were three outs from elimination when Roberts ran for Kevin Millar, swiped second and scored on Bill Mueller's single.

Boston went on to rally past New York and sweep St. Louis for its first World Series championship since 1918. Roberts said he never mentions the steal to his players, but it comes up occasionally.

"Yu Darvish about two weeks ago I guess was surfing the internet, and there was an `aha' moment," Roberts said. "He ran across the stolen base and kind of put two and two together and didn't realize that was his manager. So he proceeded to kind of awkwardly approach me about it and talked about my goatee and how I could steal a base."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Wood, who had a career-high 16 wins this season, will make his first appearance since Sept. 26. He was lined up for Game 4 of the NLDS, but the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks in three games.

Cubs: Arrieta has pitched just 14 1/3 innings since Aug. 30, including four innings of two-hit ball against Washington in Game 4 of the NLDS. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner was hampered by a right hamstring injury at the end of the season.

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ALCS: Judge leads way as Yanks come back from 4-0 deficit, tie series with 6-4 win

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ALCS: Judge leads way as Yanks come back from 4-0 deficit, tie series with 6-4 win

NEW YORK -- With a soaring shot headed for Monument Park, Aaron Judge got New York back on course for another memorable October.

Yankee Stadium sounds like it's ready, too.

"That ballpark is alive," Judge said after this latest rousing rally.

Judge ignited a comeback with a home run , then hit a tying double during a four-run eighth inning to spur the unflappable Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and tie the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Baby Bombers trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored when Gary Sanchez hit a go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

"I didn't know what to do after I touched home plate," Judge said. "I can't describe it."

The Yankees overcame three errors and have roared back from a second straight 0-2 series deficit - they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth to cap a three-hitter and get the save . Before a sellout crowd of 48,804, New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs and won for the 18th time in its last 21 home games.

"Every home game has been special," manager Joe Girardi said. "I just feel like the fans are back. And I see things that I haven't in a while, and it reminds me a lot of when I was playing here."

Yankee Stadium will be rocking again when Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday. It's a rematch of the series opener, when Keuchel outdid the Japanese right-hander in a 2-1 Astros win.

An AL MVP candidate mired in a sluggish October, Judge sparked the Yankees by chasing McCullers, who baffled the Yankees with his power breaking ball.

Except for the last one.

Judge launched a curveball into the netting above center field's Monument Park for New York's second hit.

"I thought Aaron's home run just lit a little spark," Girardi said.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch pulled McCullers after 81 pitches, Didi Gregorius tripled off Chris Devenski and Sanchez brought Gregorius in with a sacrifice fly.

Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a single to left, and pinch-hitter Chase Headley, in a 1-for-18 postseason slide, singled. He lost his balance stepping on first, fell en route to second, then took a step back before continuing on and getting his left hand in ahead of Jose Altuve's tag.

"Just stumbled and stumbled and stumbled and finally went down," Headley said. "I went from one of the best feelings of my career to one of the worst in just a matter of seconds."

Headley was awarded second after a video review, and the ballpark boomed when crew chief Gary Cederstrom gave the signal. It got so loud that on-deck hitter Brett Gardner said he "kind of blacked out for a second."

Gardner brought in Frazier on a groundout, and Judge came to bat with the bundled, buzzing crowd on its feet.

He lunged for a low slider and drilled a double high off the left-field wall as a fan in a longsleeve yellow shirt reached down and touched the ball. Pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury came home with the tying run, and Gregorius grounded a single just beyond shortstop Carlos Correa's reach to put runners at the corner. Sanchez, who had been 0 for 13 in the series, scored them both with a slicing drive that skipped to the wall in right-center.

"Those guys came up big for us today," Girardi said.

Judge had multiple hits for the first time since the AL wild-card game against Minnesota. He's still just 7 for 37 with 22 strikeouts in the playoffs, but he's 4 for 13 (.308) with three walks in the ALCS. He also homered in an 8-1 Game 3 win.

Judge said he used to dream about postseason at-bats in Yankee Stadium as a minor leaguer.

"The dreams aren't the same as reality," he said. "To be out with the crowd and the atmosphere, it was unbelievable."

The 35-minute bottom of the eighth was the latest stunning comeback for New York, which has overcome deficits of three or more 11 times this year, including in the wild-card game against Minnesota.

Houston had not lost consecutive games since Sept. 8-10 at Oakland and had the major leagues' best road record during the regular season. The Astros are hitting .153 in the series.

"We're not going to hit the panic button because we lost two games in a row," Correa said. "We got Keuchel going tomorrow."

McCullers cruised in his first start since Sept. 30 and turned over a 4-1 lead to his bullpen.

"He was awesome," manager A.J. Hinch said. "And really proud of him because I know how important this start was for him."

Yankees starter Sonny Gray pitched one-hit ball through five innings. His teammates have yet to score for him in four career postseason starts while he's still on the mound, including twice with New York this year.

Houston took a 3-0 lead in the sixth after George Springer walked leading off and Josh Reddick reached on catcher's interference by Austin Romine - inserted into lineup for his defense.

Yuli Gurriel lined a three-run double off David Robertson for a 3-0 lead in the sixth and second baseman Starlin Castro misplayed Brian McCann's seventh-inning grounder for his second error, allowing Marwin Gonzalez to score from second.

Winner Chad Green gave up an unearned run over two innings.

"All of a sudden, the pressure's back on the other team," Frazier said. "It's the best place to play and the loudest place in baseball to play. No doubt about it."

OUT, SAFE, OUT

The fourth inning ended strangely . Judge was doubled off first on Sanchez's popup, but the Yankees successfully challenged that Judge beat first baseman Gurriel to the base. Houston then appealed that Judge missed retouching second on his way back to first. Judge - realizing he would be called out on the challenge - decided to race McCullers' appeal throw to second and was tagged out. He would have voided the appeal attempt if he had beaten the throw.

"The coaching staff kind of gave me a heads up," Judge said. "So I said, `All right, let's go. Got to try something.'"

Adding to the strangeness: throughout the challenge, McCullers was digging around the mound with his hands, scooping up beads off his necklace, which broke during the play.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Tanaka has been receiving treatment on his leg after being struck by Reddick's liner in Game 1. He did not expect it to be an issue Wednesday.

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