Red Sox

Lester ends his season with a dud


Lester ends his season with a dud

By Sean McAdam

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester tried to make history Thursday night. Unfortunately for him, he didn't make it past the fifth inning.

Bidding to become the first Red Sox lefty to win 20 games in a season since Mel Parnell in 1953, Lester was stung for eight runs in four-plus innings as the Red Sox suffered their third straight loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Lester had a 2-1 lead by virtue of a two-run homer from his batterymate, Victor Martinez. But he surrendered that lead in the third inning, then allowed a grand slam to Paul Konerko in the fourth and a two-run homer to Dayan Viciedo in the fifth before being yanked.

"We all wanted him to do well,'' said manager Terry Francona. "That wasn't the outcome we were looking for.''

"Just one of those days,'' shrugged Lester, who ended his season 19-9 with an ERA of 3.25. "Bad day to have one of them. Obviously, I would have liked to end on a little better note that than. But that's the way it is.''

Lester had won his last six starts to emerge as a dark horse in the A.L. Cy Young Award debate and had lost only once in his previous nine outings.

But almost from the beginning, Lester struggled with command, issuing two walks in the first two innings en route to a five-walk outing, tying a season high.

The big blow was Konerko's blast, his 39th of the season, putting the game effectively out of reach in the fourth and dashing Lester's bid to become the first Red Sox pitcher since Josh Beckett in 2007 to record a 20-win season.

"Like I've said, it's more disappointing not making the playoffs,'' he said of falling short of 20 wins. "Would it have been nice? Yeah, I'm not going to lie to you. But regardless of all that, we didn't make the playoffs. We didn't meet our goal this year and that's more disappointing than the win-loss record.''

Lester acknowledged that he did think about reaching the 20-win plateau.

"Not a lot, but I did think about it,'' he said. "It's something that's obviously there and you can't hide from it. I don't think thinking about it had any bearing on the outcome of tonight's game. I just didn't go out and execute pitches.''

The grand slam allowed to Konerko was the first one Lester has allowed in the major leagues.

While Lester didn't reach 20, Victor Martinez did, belting his 20th homer in the third inning.

It marked the fifth time Martinez has hit 20 or more homers since 2004, more than any other catcher in baseball.

Martinez leads all catchers with 76 RBI and is tied with John Buck for the most homers for catchers.

The game was delayed 21 minutes in the bottom of the sixth because of a power outage on the South Side of Chicago.

The Red Sox finishd 1-6 aganst the White Sox in 2010.

For most teams, reaching the 90-win milestone is a measure of asuccessful season. The Sox need to sweep their weekend series against the Yankees to reach 90 wins in 2010 . . . but Terry Francona isn't sure that's terriblysignificant.

"It's kind of like the differencebetween hitting .300 and .299,'' said Francona. "It's a nice roundfigure. But I don't know it really significant. If we get stuck on 88or 89 or 91, it's not going to change our year. I guess on yourbaseball card, it does look a lot better. But other than that, I don'tknow what it really means.''

Teams figured thatwinning 90 games will keep them in the playoff hunt, but in theultra-competitive A.L. East, it would only mean third place behind TampaBay and New York.

''I don't think we thought that winning 90 would guarantee anything,'' said Francona. ''I reallythink we were pretty realistic and that we'd better win more than that.I don't think we were kidding ourselves that that would beenough.''

The Sox have 95 or moregames in five of Francona's seven seasons. They won 86 in2006.

Francona said he didn't plan to change anything for the final weekend,with the Yankees, the opponent, still going for the divisiontitle.

"We've doneit the same way the whole time,'' saidFrancona. "We're always trying to win. We're always going to try towin. You kind of play yourself into your position; we've playedourselves out of contention. We're going do what's right for us.They've played themselves into contention, but depending on how muchthey want to win the division, that's up tothem.

"Everybody's got their own decisions to make.''

Francona was asked if Jed Lowrie, who's been playing more or less regularly down the stretch, mightcompete for a starting job in spring training.

''Itprobably depends on who's here,'' said Francona. "Nobody ever said hecouldn't play every day. It will be important to see how this wintergoes in terms of strength and getting his agility back after missing large chunks of the last two seasons, first with a wrist injury and then with mono. Because there'sa lot of things he does -- he commands the strike zone, hit from bothsides of the plate, hit the ball into the gap, he'sintelligent.

"Playing every day at shortstop, if youwear down, it shows. I said the other day, if he's good enough to be aneveryday player, that a nice dilemma for us.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0


Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON - Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest, too, before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

UPDATE: The deal is for three years, per Ken Rosenthal.

BOSTON — We’re just waiting on an announcement now.

A pair of national reports on Saturday afternoon, one from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal... 

...And another from MLB Network and's Jon Heyman...

have firmed up Alex Cora’s expected hiring as Red Sox manager. Both reported that Cora, the Astros bench coach, is expected to take the job once Houston's season ends, which could come as soon as Saturday night after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. 

Heyman reported a contract offer has already been made to Cora. 

A baseball source said this week that there was “not a doubt” Cora, the Astros bench coach, would wind up with the Red Sox gig. It’s unclear when exactly the offer was made to him, but one had not been made as of midday Wednesday, the source said. 

Cora, 41, a former Red Sox infielder (2005-08) who's also worked in the media and is the most sought-after managerial candidate at the moment, appeared the front-runner since the outset of what proved a small search for the Red Sox.

Earlier, Boston Globe reported that the Washington Nationals were interested in Cora after they fired Dusty Baker on Friday.