Red Sox

Morales key to victory in unheralded role


Morales key to victory in unheralded role

By Joe Haggerty Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Boston Red Sox bullpen guys not named Bard and Papelbon can sometimes get a little overlooked in the day-to-day business of the baseball team.

The hard throwers get much of the attention, and understandably so with the high 90s heat, dozens of saves and holds and little bit of bullpen swagger needed to get the job done in pressure situations.

True to form Sox lefty Franklin Morales didnt get the win, the save, or anything else statistically to show for Bostons 3-2 walk-off win sparked by Jacoby Ellsburys ninth inning single up the middle. But the hard-throwing southpaw was one of the biggest keys to victory when he held down the Cleveland Indians offense in the seventh and eighth innings following six frames from starter Josh Beckett.

He was extremely big," Terry Francona said. "He goes out and gives two innings, and he was nice and cleanly efficient with his pitches so we could send him out there for the second inning. He pitches well and were not scoring many runs, so he sets it up that we can with Papelbon in the ninth. The way our pitching performed set it up so that our offense could get going for the walk-off win.

Morales dropped his ERA under 4.00 for the season with his two innings of shutdown ball, and said that his concentration has been much better recently as the steady work has sharpened him in the pen. The Venezuelan hurler has fanned nine hitters in last 6 23 innings for the Sox a stretch that includes six appearances in an 11-day span thats helped Morales enter into a happy zone of throwing strikes, getting ahead of hitters and preying on people with his renewed curveball.

You know what? I felt great and I just tried to go out there and make all my pitches. Thats what I do, said Morales. I tried to have good concentration on the mound, and throw all my first pitches for strikes.

I started to throw curveball more in the last couple of weeks, and I feel great. Ill pitch in any situation that Tito feels comfortable putting me in and Im just going to do what I can to help the team win.

It was those two scoreless innings of relief with Morales allowing only a single hit and fanning three Tribe hitters that held everything in check for the bottom of the ninth inning Boston heroics. Morales hasnt allowed a run in 12 of 14 appearances since coming off the 15-day disabled list with a left forearm strain on June 28, but pitcher and manager both agreed Tuesday nights stint was his finest yet in a Red Sox uniform.

Everything was based off Morales command of the curveball and mixed in perfectly with the considerable heat hes already bringing to the table from the left side and the southpaw executed flawlessly.

He had good command of his curveball, so he was able to mix that in pretty much anytime that he wanted to, said Jason Varitek. I asked him to elevate some balls and he elevated them. I asked him to go down with some balls and he was able to do that too. He pitched well.

Morales may have a 0-0 record on the season and no saves for the Sox headed into the baseball stretch month of August, but its nights like Tuesday night that reveal just how valuable the veteran left-hander has been for a Sox ballclub that didnt feel the need to pick up any bullpen help at the trade deadline.

With Morales and the rest of the unheralded bullpen guys quickly and quietly going about their work, there simply wasnt the need.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement


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


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

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.