Red Sox

McAdam: Sox win with pitching -- imagine that!

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McAdam: Sox win with pitching -- imagine that!

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
For much of the season, the Red Sox have been so busy beating other teams into submission that the notion of winning game with their pitching seemed almost quaint.

This, despite having a rotation full of high-profile -- to say nothing of high-salaried -- starters. Often in the first three months, the starters were the recipients of such powerful offensive backing that they became almost afterthoughts. It may be too strong to suggest that the Sox were winning in spite of their pitching, but surely they often won independent of their pitching.

Of late, however, the offense has sputtered thanks to a cocktail of injuries (Carl Crawford, Jed Lowrie); interleague play and the absence of the DH; and plain old law of averages.

It didn't help that the Sox began treating the notion of putting Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield (to accommodate David Ortiz) as an exercise as fraught with as much danger as navigating a tightrope over shark-infested waters.

Suddenly the same team that had amassed double figures in runs six times in the spam of a dozen games as recently as mid-June was now desperate for a run, any runs.

Entering Thursday, Red Sox position players had not driven in a single run in the previous 20 innings.

What to do, what to do?

Enter Lester, who had the crazy notion of beating the Phils at their own game. Before Thursday, exactly one-third of Philadelphia's victories had come in games in which they scored three runs or fewer.

And beyond the desire to snap a two-game losing streak and avoid being swept, Thursday seemed as good a time as any to lean on the rotation since the lineup was missing both Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis and feature Darnell McDonald hitting second and Jason Varitek hitting fifth.

Leater was brilliant on the early going. He didn't allow a hit until the fourth and by the end of the sixth had permitted just two baserunners.

(It should be duly notes that the Sox were aided by Gonzalez's smoking liner back to the mound with one out in the fourth which struck Cole Hamels on the right hand and forced him from the game the following inning).

Lester insisted that he didn't approach the start with the idea of singlehandedly beating the Phils.

"Obviously you want to have a quality start," said Lester, "and go out there and battle and not give up a lot of runs. But you can't worry about losing streaks or anything like that. You just have to go out and execute pitches."

Which he did, again and again.

"Jonny held on and kept us in the game long enough," said Jason Varitek. "Jonny was the story."

Eventually, the offense provided enough, albeit from some unlikely sources. Varitek slammed two solo homers and Drew Sutton and Marco Scutaro contributed four hits between them.

Still, for a change, this one was all about the starter.

Winning with pitching -- what a concept.

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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