Red Sox

McAdam: Beckett's 100-win goal still in reach

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McAdam: Beckett's 100-win goal still in reach

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

Back in February, without being asked, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett set the bar.

Sitting on a picnic table outside the Red Sox Player Development Complex in Fort Myers, Beckett almost casually noted that he had never been part of a 100-win team in his career, and added that for the 2011 Red Sox to achieve that milestone would be "kind of cool.''

It wasn't exactly a Joe Namath moment, or even Dick Williams promising that a team that finished ninth out of 10 teams the season before would somehow win more than it would lose. But still, there it was -- the gauntlet.

Beckett seemed to be challenging himself and his teammates. The winter had brought the Sox newcomers Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, while the injuries which had crippled the Sox in 2010 were largely healed.
General manager Theo Epstein is fond of saying that the Sox start out every year believing it will take a mininum of 95 wins to reach the postseason in the American League East. Win 95, goes the thinking, and you're in, regardless of what the New York Yankees do.

But a hundred wins? Sure, why not, thought Beckett.

And now, in the final month of the season, the number doesn't seem very far away.

The Red Sox are 83-53 (.610) after their first 136 games. They would need to go at least 17-9 (.653) in their final 26 games to crack 100 victories.

"I think it's a realistic goal,'' said Beckett Thursday, "and obviously still is, or we wouldn't be talking about this. It's just something that I've always wanted to do.

"I think a lot of it stems from the run that the Atlanta Braves went on when I was with Florida. Every year, it seemed like they'd win 99, 100, even 102 games. And I remember thinking, 'That would be fun to do one year.' And I felt like coming into spring training, we had a really good chance to do that."

Of course, not long after Beckett said the Sox were capable of greatness, they stumbled badly out of the gate, losing their first six games. After a dozen games, the Sox were just 2-10.

One hundred wins? Just finishing above .500 looked like it might be a challenge in mid-April.

But, of course, the Red Sox righted things. They played .655 ball (19-10) in May, .640 (16-9) in June and a scorching .769 (20-6) in July before dropping off some in August (17-12, .586).

Beckett liked the notion of achieving something few teams achieve. In the last 25 years, only 12 teams have won 100 games in the American League. From 1986 through 1997, only three teams did it.

In the National League, the 100-win barrier has been reached 14 times.

Since 1986, six different N.L. franchises have done it; five have done it in the A.L.

Amazingly, no Red Sox team has won 100 games since 1946, 65 years ago.

Not that Beckett's pre-emptive boast had his teammates doing the math in their heads, or figuring out how many wins per months they would need to get to 100.

"I think our guys are really good about staying day-to-day,'' said Beckett. "It's 'Let's win today; let's not worry about yesterday or tomorrow.'

"I think a lot of it starts with the position players. They're the guys who go out there every day. They stay in the moment. When we have 90 wins, they think of winning 91. They don't think, 'We've got to get to 100.' They don't do that.

"When it's all said and done and we don't end up (reaching 100) but we get to the playoffs, I think everybody is still going to be just as happy. I think it was more my goal than a team goal.''

Getting it accomplished in the American League East -- with 18 games against the Yankees and 36 more with Tampa and Toronto -- would make the achievement that much more special.

"That's a pretty damn consistent season,'' said Beckett. ''You can't have a bad month. I know we had a bad start to a month in April. But you can't have a bad month (and reach it). You can't.''

Beckett asked how many games the Sox would have to win of the remaining 26 to reach 100. Told they'd need to go 17-9, he paused to do the math.

"I think we've done that a few times this year,'' he said with a smile.

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

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

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe 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.

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. 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.

Contreras' homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez's landed beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

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.

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE