Red Sox

McAdam at the ALCS: Staying alive

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McAdam at the ALCS: Staying alive

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK -- So this is how it's going to be for the Yankees: uphill, short-handed, and a little humbled.

Last year they rolled over virtually everything in their wake, an unstoppable baseball machine. They were best team that money could -- and, in fact, did -- buy.

CC Sabathia was 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five postseason starts, most on short rest, pitching as if he was worth every cent of the garganuan contract the Yanks had given him the previous winter.

Even Alex Rodriguez got into the act, shedding his reputation for postseason ineptitude and appearing, for the first time, comfortable in his own October skin.

The Yankees weren't challenged much last postseason, at least not until they ran square into Cliff Lee in Game One of the World Series. They swept Minnesota, took a 2-0 lead against Los Angeles of Anaheim, and fairly coasted into the Series.

The whole thing seemed to be inevitable. They had spent 243 million to get the three best free agents on the market and, properly reloaded, they weren't going to be denied.

But not this time. After the requisite pummeling of the Twins again in the ALDS, the Yankees found themselves in trouble just innings into the ALCS, trailing early and needing an eighth-inning rally to avoid a Game One loss. Next came three straight losses, putting the Yankees in the unfamiliar position of having to fight. And not just fight -- fight from behind.

Certainly, Wednesday's 7-2 victory was far from artistic. Not one of Sabathia's six innings was routine innings, as he gave up 11 hits. The double from Rodriguez in the fifth was his first extra-base hit since the end of the regular season. And they still aren't getting any production from Nick Swisher, Marcus Thames or Lance Berkman.

But they got a trip to Texas out of it, which beats the alternative. And afterward, they took some pride in fighting to keep their season going.

"There was a determination," said manager Joe Girardi, summing up his team's pregame mindset. "We have not played extremely well in this series. There was determination that we were going to go out and play our game today."

You could almost see Sabathia huffing and puffing. It seemed he was constantly, perpetually in trouble. And yet, every time he walked off the mound at the close of an inning, he left Rangers baserunners behind, stranded, the offense's hopes dashed again. The Rangers left at least one in every one of his six innings, several in scoring position.

"Scared" would be too strong a word to describe how they played Wednesday. But "resolute" seems about right.

"I think when it's win or go home," said Curtis Granderson, "you know, you've got as much energy as you need."

Whatever they do from here -- and remember, a win Friday only gaurantees them another date with Lee for Game Seven Saturday -- they will do without Mark Teixeira, sidelined for rest of the postseason by a popped hamstring. Teixeira had been hitless before he went down Tuesday night, but at the very least he gave them typically flawless defense. And if you think that aspect of the game is overrated, then you weren't watching his replacement, Berkman, pull a pratfall in foul territory, or Swisher's imitation of a falling redwood tree in the late innings of Game Four.

No one will feel sorry for them, of course, because, ahem, other teams were hit much harder by injuries. And also because they're the Yankees, for whom October sometime seems like a birthright, an entitlement deeded to them down through the years.

And the Yankees are not complaining. In fact, you get the sense that they enjoy scrapping, enjoy getting up after being knocked down, if for no other reason than they like showing people it's not as easy as it sometimes looks for them.

"Obviously, it's not a walk in the park," said Swisher. "We've got our work cut out for us. But to be in the battle we're in right now, man, it's fun. We've got to embrace that chaos and just enjoy the moment. And to be able to enjoy it as a team, it's a lot of fun.

"Fighting is what we do best. We really, really enjoy it."

Which is just as well. Without any margin for error and Lee waiting on the horizon, they're going to get plenty more chances.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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 -For the Los Angeles Dodgers, 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 set a franchise record with its sixth consecutive playoff win. 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.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd NL 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 Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and company to the 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.

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 their 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 Field 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.

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 coming 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 manager Dave Roberts pushing all the right buttons, Los Angeles' bullpen has yet to allow a run in the series.

The Cubs finished with eight hits, one more than in the first two games combined.

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 days off before hosting the Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series opener.

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.

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.

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ALCS: Judge home run sparks New York, Yankees beat Astros 6-4 to even series

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ALCS: Judge home run sparks New York, Yankees beat Astros 6-4 to even series

NEW YORK -  With a soaring shot headed for Yankee Stadium's Monument Park, Aaron Judge got New York back on track for another memorable October.

Judge ignited a rousing rally with a home run, then doubled during a four-run eighth inning to spur the unflappable New York 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.

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. New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs and won for the 18th time in their last 21 home games.

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 marred 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.

"Once we're within striking distance like that, anything can happen," Judge 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.

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

Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a double to left, and pinch hitter Chase Headley then did the same - only after falling between first and second base, taking one step back, then heading for second and sliding in ahead of Jose Altuve's tag.

"Panic," Headley recalled. "I went from one of the best feelings of my career to one of the worst in just a matter of seconds, but fortunately it worked out."

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

He reached down to stay with a 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. Gardner 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.

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

Yankees starter Sonny Gray pitched one-hit ball through five innings but again had no run support. 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.

Robertson walked Altuve and struck out Carlos Correa before Yuri Gurriel lined a three-run double past Frazier and all the way to the wall. Gurriel got hung up between second and third as Altuve scored, and he was tagged out by Judge to end a rundown.

Houston added a fourth run when second baseman Starlin Castro misplayed Brian McCann's grounder in the seventh, allowing Marwin Gonzalez to score from second. It was Castro's second error of the game.

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