Red Sox

McAdam: A second-guesser's delight

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McAdam: A second-guesser's delight

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - It was a game, naturally, that seemed to have an endless number of turning points, and, correspondingly, innumerable opportunities to second-guess strategy.

If you could stay awake long enough to watch the Red Sox' maddening 5-3, 13-inning loss to the Los Angeles Angels Thursday morning, you could pick apart a dozen or so plays or sequences or moves.

We'll keep it to a three.

Twice, Terry Francona lifted middle-of-the-order hitters for pinch-runners.

In the eighth, after Adrian Gonzalez reached on a swinging bunt (which scored the first Boston run) and took second on reliever Fernando Rodney's throwing error, Francona lifted him for pinch-runner Marco Scutaro.

Scutaro got to third when Kevin Youkilis lined a hard single to left, but was stranded there when David Ortiz flied to center.

That left Scutaro, hitting .197 when the game began, hitting in the third spot in the order. His spot would comeup two more times when the Sox would have liked Gonzalez's bat there. But that's the tradeoff made for the short-term gain in speed on the basepaths.

Ironically, Scutaro made the biggest out of the game when he was cut down at the plate in the 12th trying to score from first on a Wall double from Kevin Youkilis with one out.

It took a perfect relay, but left fielder Vernon Wells to shortstop Erick Aybar to catcher Jeff Mathis did the trick.

"We were all on the top step of the dugout, thinking maybe we'd get to go home," said Francona. "It turns out we didn't."

Also, Francona chose to lift Ortiz for Darnell McDonald in the 10th after Ortiz worked a two-out walk.

McDonald would get stranded at home in that inning, then came up in the 12th after Scutaro was thrown out at home. He got an infield single, moving Youkilis to third, but Jed Lowrie grouding out to first for the final out of the inning.

Mike Cameron seemed to be overly aggressive in the ninth, though his manager absolved him of any blame after the game.

Cameron was on first and Jed Lowrie was on second with no outs when Jordan Walden tossed a wild pitch. As catcher Hank Conger scrambled to get the ball, Lowrie took off for third and Cameron for second.

Conger threw to third hoping to get Lowrie, but the ball got past third baseman Alberto Callaspo and struck third-base umpire John Hirchbeck on the foot, with the ball tricking to short.

That was enough for Lowrie to score. But Cameron, motoring from second, was thrown out sliding into the bag for the first out of the inning. And though it's
impossible to think that the inning would have unfolded the exact same way had Cameron eithe been safe or remained in scoring position at second, the out seemed more costly when Carl Crawford followed with a double to left-center.

"I thought their guy shortstop Erick Aybar made a pretty good play,'' said Francona. "He's running, full-speed, barehands it . . . when that ball goes by third, Cam's going. It's unfortunate because if it doesn't hit the umpire, it probably rolls into the corner.

"Again, it's unfortunate, but it's hard to blame Cam for running right there. The result was terrible. I don't second-guess what he was doing. Aybar ended up making a pretty good play.''

In the ninth, Hideki Okajima began his third inning of relief, having come into the game with one out in the seventh.

Appearing to tire, Okajima gave up back-to-back hits, putting runners on the corners.

Francona opted for Tim Wakefield from the bullpen when hard-throwing Daniel Bard might have been the more logical choice.

Wakefield walked Peter Bourjos to fill the bases, then allowed a sacrifice fly to Aybar.

Had Bard came in there, he might have been able to get Aybar on a strtkeout, keeping what was then an insurance run off the board.

Then again, knowing that Bobby Jenks (arm cramp) was unavailable, Francona knew he would have to use his relievers sparingly, holding Bard out until the 11th and, as it turned out, 12th inning, too.

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

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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