Red Sox

Red Sox complete sweep of Jays, 7-1; extend A.L. East lead to 5 1/2

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Red Sox complete sweep of Jays, 7-1; extend A.L. East lead to 5 1/2

TORONTO -- The Boston Red Sox stumbled into Toronto mired in a four-game losing streak.

Thanks to some timely hitting from Mitch Moreland, they left Canada for a showdown in New York against the second-place Yankees riding high after a sweep of the struggling Blue Jays.

Moreland had a pinch-hit homer and drove in four runs, Hanley Ramirez added a solo blast and Boston beat Toronto 7-1 on Wednesday night.

"It's a testament to the guys in our clubhouse," manager John Farrell said of the turnaround after his team was outscored 38-10 over its skid. "They're driven, they're task-oriented, they don't dwell on what's happened previously. We felt like we needed to do that, coming off a tough series where we got swept at home."

Rick Porcello allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings as the AL East-leading Red Sox moved 5 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees, who were swept in a doubleheader by Cleveland. New York and Boston begin a four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.

"We definitely have a good feeling, obviously," Porcello said.

Ramirez connected for the second straight game as the Red Sox finished 8-1 in Toronto this season. Boston is 10-3 overall against the Blue Jays with six meetings remaining at Fenway Park in September.

"They're in first place for a reason," Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ said of Boston. "They were tough this series."

Pinch-hitting for Chris Young against right-hander Tom Koehler (1-7), Moreland hit a second deck drive in the seventh, his 18th. It was the third pinch-hit homer of Moreland's career.

Moreland added a two-run single in Boston's four-run, bat-around eighth.

"Insurance runs are huge," Moreland said. "It just helps everybody settle in a little bit more."

Moreland is batting .346 (28 for 81) with 19 RBIs in his past 27 games.

"He's in a good place," Farrell said.

Ramirez also reached the second deck with his homer, a leadoff shot off Happ in the fifth.

"The last couple of nights, he's put some really good swings on some pitches," Farrell said.

The homers helped Porcello (9-15) finish August at 5-1 with an ERA of 4.04.

Toronto's only run came on a homer by Raffy Lopez in the third. The last-place Blue Jays lost for the 10th time in 12 games.

"Obviously it's been real tough," manager John Gibbons said. "We haven't played good enough baseball lately."

CRIME SPREE, PART 1

After Xander Bogaerts bluffed a steal from second in the eighth, Rafael Devers took off from first base, arriving ahead of the throw from catcher Lopez. Bogaerts made it to third when second baseman Rob Refsnyder's throw pulled Darwin Barney off the base. "(Bogaerts) kind of hung Devers out to dry a little bit," Farrell said. "The start and stop kind of puts us in a tough spot. Thankfully we were able to get out of it."

CRIME SPREE, PART 2

Boston went 11 for 11 in stolen base attempts in the series. The Red Sox have 24 steals against Toronto this season, the most by any team against an opponent.

OBSTACLE COURSE

Bogaerts drew a two-out walk in the third and Devers followed with a broken bat grounder to second. As Bogaerts ducked to avoid the jagged flying barrel, he was struck by the batted ball and ruled out.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP David Price (left elbow) threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Wednesday. Price had not thrown off a mound since July 22 against the Angels, when he allowed six runs in five innings. ... 2B Dustin Pedroia (left knee) ran the bases for a second straight day and remains on track to return during Boston's upcoming series with the Yankees. ... 3B Josh Rutledge had surgery on his left hip Tuesday and will miss the remainder of the season.

Blue Jays: 1B Justin Smoak (sore calf) was held out of the starting lineup, just the second time this season he has not played. ... 3B Josh Donaldson got the day off. ... 2B Devon Travis (right knee) suffered a setback in his rehab, decreasing the likelihood of a return this season. Travis has not played since June 4. ... SS Troy Tulowitzki said he has a "difficult rehab" ahead this winter as he recovers from torn ligaments in his right ankle. Tulowitzki will not return this season.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: RHP Eduardo Rodriguez (4-4, 4.19) starts Thursday's series opener against the Yankees. Rodriguez is 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in eight career starts against New York. LHP CC Sabathia (10-5, 3.82) starts for the Yankees.

Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (6-8, 5.04) starts Thursday as Toronto begins a four-game series in Baltimore. Estrada is 1-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three starts against the Orioles. RHP Jeremy Hellickson (8-7, 4.88) starts for Baltimore.

ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

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ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

HOUSTON -  Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

CHICAGO -- Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

Fueled by a home run trilogy from their emotional utilityman, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.

Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs' title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night.

"It feels good to hear World Series," Kershaw said. "It's been a long time coming for this team."

After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers after they led the majors with 104 wins during the regular season. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball's most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles' last championship in 1988.

"Every night it is a different guy," Turner said, "and this is one of the most unbelievable teams I've ever been a part of."

Kershaw will be on the mound again when the Dodgers host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the ALCS at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers.

Los Angeles made the playoffs eight times in the previous 13 seasons and came up short of its 22nd pennant each time, often with Kershaw shouldering much of the blame. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner took the loss when his team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field.

The ace left-hander was just OK during his first two starts in this year's postseason, but Los Angeles' offense picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez's powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts and improved to 6-7 in the playoffs - matching Burt Hooton's club record for postseason wins.

"To get to be on the mound tonight and get to be going to the World Series on the same night, it's a special thing," Kershaw said. "Who knows how many times I'm going to get to go to the World Series? I know more than anybody how hard it is to get there. So, I'm definitely not taking this one for granted."

When Kenley Jansen retired Willson Contreras on a liner to shortstop for the final out, the party was on . The Dodgers poured out of the dugout and mobbed their dominant closer near the mound, and a small but vocal group of Los Angeles fans gathered behind the visitors' dugout and chanted "Let's go Dodgers! Let's go Dodgers!"

On the field, manager Dave Roberts hugged Lasorda and told the iconic skipper the win was for him.

"I bleed Dodger blue just like you," Roberts said. "Thank you, Tommy."

Hernandez connected on the first two pitches he saw, belting a solo drive in the second for his first career playoff homer and then a grand slam in the third against Hector Rondon. Hernandez added a two-run shot in the ninth against Mike Montgomery.

The 26-year-old Hernandez became the fourth player with a three-homer game in a league championship series, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS). Hernandez's seven RBIs tied a postseason record shared by four other players who all did it in a Division Series.

Troy O'Leary was the previous player to have seven RBIs in a playoff game, for Boston at Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS.

It was a stunning display for a player with 28 career homers who remains concerned about his native Puerto Rico, which is recovering from a devastating hurricane. He delivered a historic performance in front of his father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., who was diagnosed with a blood cancer related to leukemia in December 2015, but got word last November that he was in remission.

"For me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special," said Hernandez, who also goes by Kik�. "My body's here, but my mind's kind of back home. It's hard being away from home with what's going on.

"All I want to do right now is go to my dad and give him a big hug."

Kris Bryant homered for Chicago, but the NL Central champions finished with just four hits in another tough night at the plate. Each of their eight runs in the NLCS came via the long ball, and they batted just .156 for the series with 53 strikeouts.

Long playoff runs in each of the last two years and a grueling five-game Division Series against Washington seemed to sap Chicago of some energy, and its pitching faltered against sweet-swinging Los Angeles. Jose Quintana was pulled in the third inning of the final game, and the Cubs never recovered.

"They executed their plan," Bryant said. "They pitched great and the bullpen was lights out. That makes for a tough time scoring runs."

Turner and Taylor helped put it away for Los Angeles, contributing to a 16-hit outburst while closing out a pair of impressive performances.

Turner singled home Taylor in the Dodgers' five-run third, giving him seven RBIs in the series and 24 throughout his postseason career. Taylor finished with two hits and scored two runs as the Dodgers, who have won five straight NL West titles, improved to 7-1 in this postseason.

Taylor's versatility helped Los Angeles cover for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the series with a back injury, but is expected to return in the next round. Coming off a breakout season, the 27-year-old Taylor hit .316 with two homers and scored five times against the Cubs.

"I couldn't be happier to be a part of this and be with these guys," Taylor said. "It's been an unbelievable year, and I'm just super excited."

OUT WITH A BANG

Hernandez joined Kennedy (2002), Adrian Beltre (2011), Reggie Jackson (1977 vs. the Dodgers) and Babe Ruth (1928) as players to hit three home runs in a postseason series clincher.

LIGHTS OUT

Dodgers relievers have thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, a postseason record.