Red Sox

McAdam: Sox choose terrible time for slump

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McAdam: Sox choose terrible time for slump

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Say this for the 2011 Red Sox: they sure can pick a bad time to have a losing streak.

They endured their first right out of the starting gate, losing the first six games of the season, eventually dropping 10 of their first 12.

As such, they had their professional obituaries written. Entire research departments were assigned to complete this sentence as many different ways as possible: "No team which began the year 2-10 has ever . . ."

The Sox insisted that they would be fine, and, indeed they were. They also insisted that had their losing streak come in mid-season, it would have gone virtually unnoticed. But it didn't, so it wasn't.

Now, a week into September, it's happening again. At the precise time when playoff matchups are just now coming into focus, the Sox are skidding again.

They lost three of four to Toronto this week, dropping games in every conceivable fashion. They lost when they didn't hit (1-0 Monday); they lost when their bullpen sprung several leaks (11-10 Wednesday); and they lost when they failed to pitch or hit (7-4 Thursday).

That made it three series losses in a row for the first time since the final 10 days of June. (Then, no one much cared or noticed, as the Sox themselves had presciently forecast back in April.)

Now, people are paying attention. And some of the low-grade panic setting in is not without merit.

Stumbling to the finish line is not the preferred method of preparation for the playoffs and with the post-season set to begin three weeks from Friday night, some issues need addressing.

Despite weeks worth of auditioning, they've yet to find a trustworthy option for the seventh inning. Perhaps Alfredo Aceves is the logical solution since Bobby Jenks is most assuredly not. Nor, for that matter, is the second-half version of Matt Albers.

The starting rotation may be in shambles, what with the temporary unavailability of Josh Beckett and Erik Bedard. Until they return to health, the likes of Andrew Miller, Tim Wakefield and John Lackey need to do a better job keeping their teammates in games.

Finally, there's the inconsistent lineup, which has the unnerving habit of being shutout one game (Monday) and scoring 14 runs the very next (Tuesday). It would help if Dustin Pedroia (one hit in four games in Toronto) and Kevin Youkilis (no RBI since coming off the DL a week ago) reverted to form.

The team is still pointed toward the post-season but their position isn't exactly unassailable; the Tampa Bay Rays are six games back in the loss column heading into Friday's game, the first of seven between the clubs in the next 10 days.

Now would be a good time to start playing better. Even a team whose timing has been bad since the start should realize that.

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

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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