Red Sox

McDonald finds his groove vs. Royals

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McDonald finds his groove vs. Royals

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

McDonald collected a season-high three hits, smacked an important home run that helped chase Kansas Citys lefty out after the sixth inning, and was in the middle of an eighth-inning rally that pushed the game out of reach in a 6-1 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

McDonald actually credited a bunt single in Saturday nights loss as the little thing that helped spark the athletic outfielder, and get him into an offensive flow thats seemingly eluded him all season.

Hey, whatever works.

Its funny how this game works. The littlest things will get you going, said McDonald. The bunt yesterday and just getting on base were little things that just got me going.

I was able to put some good swings on the ball. This team has been throwing a lot of fastballs with two strikes, so I was looking for it and was able to put a good swing on it. Its no secret that the more at bats you get, the easier it is to get your timing down. The main focus for me is to just try and swing at good pitches. Just put quality swings on the baseball . . . Im feeling good at the plate right now.

The three hits pushed McDonalds batting average up to .196 on the season after it had been below his playing weight for far too much of the year. The performance also had Terry Francona stressing exactly how important McDonald could be if he can punish left-handed pitching down the stretch and into the playoffs just as he did during the summer of 2010.

With nary a whisper of the Sox moving on any waiver deadline deals, it appears that Theo Epstein and Co. are evaluating exactly what they have already on the roster before heading out with the shopping cart to the trade market.

McDonald made a nice little statement on Sunday.

We need that," Francona said. "That right-handed bat playing that position is big for us. He hit up in the lineup and he did some things. That was a big part of us winning. Hes been in and out, I guess. Hes been a little inconsistent. One thing we do know is that if he gets a pitch he can hit it out of the ballpark. Today he got some hits also, but hes that threat and if he can hit homers that would be huge.

McDonald finished 2-for-3 against lefty Danny Duffy with a home run on Sunday and upped his season average against left-handed pitching to .229 (17-for-70) with five home runs. His numbers need to continue climbing over the seasons final six weeks if he wants to fend off all comers for a potential playoff roster spot, and thats foremost on his mind at this point.

Its important for me to hit and to contribute, said McDonald. Thats my job; to hit lefties. So to be able to go out and have a day like I did definitely feels good.

Theres no doubting that Sundays three-hit performance was a good start for McDonald.

But it has to be just that if the good-natured fourth outfielder wants to hold on to the nice little niche hes carved out for himself in Boston over the last two years.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

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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