Red Sox

Inconsistencies plague Sox offense

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Inconsistencies plague Sox offense

CHICAGO -- To look at some of the numbers, the Red Sox' offense has been plenty good enough.

Entering Friday's action, the Red Sox were second only to Texas in runs scored among American League teams. What's more, they lead all of baseball in extra-base hits and were tied for third in doubles.

But Boston's offense has also been ridiculously inconsistent. When they're not scoring in double figures -- as they've done 10 times, as much as any team in either league -- they seem to be in danger of scoring just a couple.

Or, like Friday, none at all.

The Sox were shut out for the third time this season Friday. They had chances right from the beginning when the first two hitters of the game -- Scott Podsednik and Dustin Pedroia -- reached base. But despite the first-and-second, no-out opportunity, the Sox couldn't score.

They put the leadoff man on base in three of the first five innings, but came up empty.

In his final three at-bats, Dustin Pedroia came up with four runners in scoring position -- and six baserunners overall -- and made the final out each time.

The frustration took its toll on Pedroia in the seventh when his opposite-field liner toward the right field line was hauled in by Cubs outfielder David DeJesus, leaving the bases full of Red Sox teammates. Enraged, Pedroia slammed his helmet with both hands into the ground down the first base line.

"We hit some balls good, man. We just hit it right to 'em,'' said Pedroia. "We're not trying to be (lousy); everyone's trying, man. We're not playing good. Today we didn't play good. We scored no runs. You can't win a game if you score zero runs.''

The inability to score much has haunted the Red Sox of late. Friday marked the seventh time in the last 11 games in which they scored three runs or fewer. Unsurprisingly, they're just 1-6 in those seven games.

"We had some balls hit hard,'' lamented Kevin Youkilis. "It just stunk. It really did. (The scoreboard didn't reflect) how we swung the bats. We swung the bats pretty good. It's just, man, we couldn't get anything to fall.''

In addition to hard-hit balls by Pedroia to right which were caught by DeJesus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia sent Alfonso Soriano to the warning track in left with a runner on and one out in the fifth before Soriano made a catch with his back against the ivy-covered wall.

Youkilis himself is in a 3-for-30 funk since the start of the last homestand, dropping his average to .212 for the season.

"They said it evens out, so if it evens out, I'm in good shape,'' said Youkilis. "Today was frustrating. Every at-bat was great and I didn't have anything to show for it. It's discouraging. It's good to drive the ball, but nothing fell in.''

The Sox have run into top starters in the past week, including Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and, Friday, Ryan Dempster.

But Youkilis doesn't want to use that as an excuse for the team's offensive failings.

"You can always say it's good pitching,'' he said, "but as a hitter, you have to go out there and hit. They always say good pitching will beat good hitting. But this team has great hitting and it's not getting the job done. And it's frustrating.''

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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