Red Sox

Lester lays egg; home struggles continue

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Lester lays egg; home struggles continue

BOSTON With the Red Sox hoping to get above .500 for the first time this season, this was not the kind of outing they needed from their ace.

Jon Lester lasted just four innings, giving up seven runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts against the light-hitting Rays, who at .246 as a team are 10th in the American League.

Of the six hits Lester allowed, half were home runs, tied for most home runs hes allowed in a game.(He also gave up three twice last season -- April 1, 2011 at Texas and June 18, 2011, against Milwaukee).

Lester took the loss, dropping his record to 3-4 while his ERA climbed from 3.95 to 4.72, as the Rays beat the Sox, 7-4, in the first of their three-game set at Fenway Park.

I wasnt good, didnt locate, he said. Felt like I had to throw the ball in a keyhole. Just one of those nights. When I was missing I was missing and when I was around the plate I was down the middle. Didnt make an adjustment. They did a good job of working counts, getting in hitters counts, make me pay for my mistakes.

Despite a crisp 1-2-3 first inning to start the game, Lester said he felt like he struggled from the start.

The whole time, he said. I think really the only at-bat in the whole game where I feel like I threw the ball where I wanted to, every pitch, was the first inning against Luke Scott who struck out looking at a 91-mph fastball. Other than that, just was a battle. Like I said, they did a good job of making me work and working for their pitch and not missing it. Just one of those nights, just frustrating. We worked so hard to get back to .500, played good baseball. I come out and have a performance like this. Its just unacceptable. Got to be better. Plain and simple.

Kevin Youkilis RBI single in the bottom of the frame gave him a brief lead. But, Lester gave up three walks in his outing one more than his past three starts combined. Lester has had just one shorter outing this season, April 17 against the Rangers in his third start of the year when he lasted just two innings. Other than that outing and Fridays, he had averaged just over 6 23 innings per start.

The Rays big blow came in the third on Matt Joyces grand slam, after a one-out walk to Carlos Pena and a single by B.J. Upton, and a two-out walk to Ben Zobrist. The grand slam was the second Lester has allowed in his career, along with one by Paul Konerko in the fourth inning on Sept. 30, 2010, in Chicago.

It looked like he had pretty good stuff going in, said manager Bobby Valentine. In the first inning he was looking pretty good. The game got away from him a little there with the walk to Pena and then the grand slam to Joyce obviously. The strike zone started eluding him and a couple left-handers that dont hit left-handers all that well got him.

The Rays added back-to-back home runs in the fourth a two-run shot by No. 9 hitter Elliot Johnson and a solo shot by Carlos Pena, who leads all batters with six home runs off Lester.

The seven runs allowed matched a season high for Lester. He had given up just four home runs in nine starts spanning 57 innings entering the game. He had held opponents to one or no home run in each of his last 20 starts since Aug. 5, 2011.

Even more perplexing are Lesters home-away splits.

In four starts at Fenway this season, spanning 21 innings, Lester has a 7.71 ERA, giving up 18 earned runs. He has allowed an opponents' batting average of .310 (27-for-87). With five home runs, two doubles, and a triple, (10 walks and 14 strikeouts) opponents are slugging .506 off him.

On the road, he has an ERA of 3.15, an opponents' batting average of .233, and slugging percentage of .349.

Most of the damage at home has come in two starts: Friday night and April 17 against the Rangers, when he gave up seven runs on eight hits in two innings.

Bad starts Ive had just come at home, he said. Theyre kind of skewed by two starts. Its just, thats baseball. If I had an answer, itd fix it. Just not going well right now for me here.

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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