Red Sox

Lowrie ready, remains on fire at the plate

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Lowrie ready, remains on fire at the plate

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Jed Lowrie has been a man without a position to call his own so far this season and for much of his big-league career. Throughout spring training and into the season, manager Terry Francona reiterated that Marco Scutaro, who played hurt most of last season while the team was decimated by injuries, would be his starting shortstop.

But with the way Lowrie has been hitting, he should be a man with a spot somewhere in the lineup.

Lowrie went 4-for-5 Monday with a home run, two runs scored and four RBI -- matching career highs in hits and RBI for one game -- as he helped the Red Sox to a 9-1 win over the Blue Jays. So far this season Lowrie is hitting .516 (16-for-31), with eight runs scored and nine RBI (tying for the team lead with Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz).

"He's swinging the bat really well. That's the understatement of the day, said manager Terry Francona. The first inning we scored, we had a chance to strand runners. We had two punchouts with the bases loaded and he comes up and hits that first ball into right field to kind of get us going. Then we just kept adding on.

So far, Lowrie has hit in every spot in the lineup except cleanup and ninth. In his first career appearance in the leadoff spot, on Saturday, he went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, two RBI, and a home run. His first-inning single that day was the first hit the Sox had gotten in their first plate appearance of a game this season.

In seven games on the homestand, Lowrie put together a seven-game hitting streak, going 15-for-24, with eight runs scored, nine RBI, a walk, three strikeouts, and two home runs, hitting an unworldly .625.

Lowrie takes his numbers in stride.

Yeah, sure. I hit .400 in college. I hit .300 in the minor leagues, he said. I mean, this is a hot streak and one that you just continue to work and extend as long as possible.

Thats what this game is about. Its about winning and you have fun when you win. I think thats how were going to win a lot of games is by getting contributions from everybody.

In the first inning, Lowrie came up with the bases loaded, two outs, and no score. Batting right-handed against Toronto lefty Ricky Romero, Lowrie sent the first pitch, a 94-mph fastball, into right field scoring J.D. Drew and Dustin Pedroia. It was all the runs the Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka would need.

Just keep it simple, Lowrie said of his approach to the at-bat. Get a pitch to hit and put a good swing on it. Had a couple of opportunities and had two outs. I was able to get a good pitch and drive it the other way and drive in a couple of runs.

Romero wants to get ahead in a situation like that and hes coming off two good batters Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis where he was able to get strikeouts. Hes looking to get ahead so I just tried to stay within myself and get that good pitch.

Lowrie has been limited for much of the past two seasons by injury and illness. Getting a chance now with Scutaro under the weather the past few days with a flu-like illness, Lowrie has made the most of his opportunities.

Against left-handed pitching, the switch-hitter is batting 10-for-17 (.588) with a 1.059 slugging percentage. For his career, he is hitting .386 (34-for-88) with seven home runs and a .693 slugging percentage against lefties since his debut on July 21, 2010.

Thats good for him, said Jason Varitek. He went through what he went through last year with his illnesses and to see that, that was two big hits today. Romeros got good stuff.

Lowries lone out in Mondays game came against a right-handed pitcher, striking out against Casey Janssen.

It was a little bit of a letdown, Lowrie said. I got one good pitch to hit and fouled it straight back. And then I chased a fastball up. Hes got a good curve ball and thats kind of his mix. He throws the high hard one and then the curve ball in the dirt. I chased the high one.

As he left the field after his last at-bat the Fenway crowd treated him to a warm ovation.

I didnt know if that was for me, he said. I didnt know what it was but I heard it. I figured once I got back to the dugout people had appreciated what Id done today.

Lowries numbers arent likely to stay as lofty as they currently are. They will come back to a more worldly level. Until then, he should be somewhere anywhere in the lineup.

I know I say it a lot but I just come to the park and prepare myself to play every day, Lowrie said. It might get redundant but thats what I do.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.
 

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez sensed he was ready to bust out of his slump and give the Chicago Cubs the lift they needed.

As breakthroughs go, this was a big one. Just in time to keep the season going for the defending champs.

Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

"We have to be much more offensive," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

Baez finally got going with a pair of solo drives .

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to help the Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

"They're the world champs, and you know they're going to fight to the end," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "So today, they did. We got beat today."

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. He had been watching videos and felt his timing was starting to come back in recent trips to the plate.

"I just need to take a step back and see what's going on," he said.

Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley , who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

"Great to have this win, because if not we were going home tomorrow," Baez said. "But I feel like we're still not on track as a team. But I think if we get back on track, everybody as a team, we're going to be the best again."

Contreras' 491-foot homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez sent a towering drive out to left.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

"Hopefully, it's not a goodbye, it's a thank you, obviously," Arrieta said. "I still intend to have another start in this ballpark. If that's where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there."

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

"The only frustrating thing is we fell a run short," Turner said. "We played a great game, they played a great game. They just hit one more ball over the fence than we did."

FINISHING UP

Maddon said Davis would not be available on Thursday.

"So other guys got to do it," Maddon said. "We have to be much more offensive. It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

QUOTABLE

Chicago's Kyle Schwarber on all the Cubs' runs coming on homers in the series: "That's fine. A run's a run, anyway you can get them in. Obviously, we want to manufacture some runs, but we won a ballgame 3-2 hitting homers; I'll take that, too."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: The Dodgers turn to Kershaw to try to wrap up the series. The three-time NL Cy Young winner went five innings in Game 1, allowing two runs, and has a 4.76 ERA in two postseason starts this year.

Cubs: Quintana pitched five innings of two-hit ball in Game 1, one day after his wife, Michel, was taken off the team plane in Albuquerque with a medical ailment.

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