Red Sox

Nation STATion: 81 down, 81 to go

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Nation STATion: 81 down, 81 to go

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

With the victory over the Hapless Astros Friday night, 81 Red Sox games were in the books. Baseball is funny in that while it is precise about its stats, despite the fact that 81 games is the official halfway point in the season, invariably all the games leading up to the All-Star break are usually regarded as the first half.

But here at Nation STATion we are celebrating 81 games with 81 stats so that you have plenty of tools to decide whether to look at the season as half done or half to go. As you try determine whether the Sox glass is half full or half empty, just remember that GM Theo Epstein sets his offseason goals on assembling a team that can win 95 games, the number he sees as enough to make the postseason. The Sox are 47-34, which projects to 94-68 which means that Theo is on target. But (isnt there always a but?), in the Town Meeting we attended at the end of January, when asked how many wins it might take to win the AL East this season Theo said, "It might take more than 95 games to win the division." Right now, it looks like he may be right.

Here are your first 81:

1. The Sox record is 47-34 (.580), which is second best in the AL East, second best in the AL, third best in the majors.

2. The Sox have scored 422 runs, second only to the Yankees who have played 80 games.

3. The Sox have allowed 338 runs, just slightly better than the MLB average of 343. They rank 13th in the majors.

4. The Sox have allowed only 20 unearned runs. The Sox have committed just 41 errors, second in the AL to the Rays who have just 40.

5. Their 1.04 run differential per game is second in the majors, second in AL, second in their division. Ill give you a second to guess whos first. Times up. The Yankees have a 1.49 run differential per game.

6. As a team, the Sox are hitting .274, the best in the majors. The MLB average is .252, so they are better by a lot.

7. Their OPS (On-base Plus Slugging percentage) is .792, second only to the Yankees .793.

8. The Sox have hit 91 homers, the sixth most in the majors.

9. The Sox have allowed only 71 homers, 18 teams have allowed more.

10. We like it when our team draws walks, but not when they permit walks. Sox pitchers have walked too many batters this season giving up 268. The MLB average is 260.

11. The Yankees have drawn 320 walks, the only team with more than Bostons 306. This means the Sox average 3.77 walks a game.

12. The Sox lead the AL with 169 doubles, only the Astros (?!?) have more.

13. The season started off miserably. However, before the month ended, things were looking better. In April, the Sox were 11-15 .423, but still pretty good considering they started 2-10.

14. In April, Adrian Gonzalez had 33 hits and Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Jed Lowrie each had 25.

15. In May, they went 19-10 .655. It really was their best month of the year. Jon Lester picked up four wins and Jonathan Papelbon had two wins and five saves. The team had a seven-game and a five-game winning streak.

16. In May, Adrian Gonzalez had 42 hits and Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz each had 38.

17. June was a strange month. They went 16-9 .640 and had a nine-game winning streak. But after the winning streak, they ended the month 7-8.

18. In June they outscored the opposition 152 to 95, thats over two runs a game.

19. In June, Adrian Gonzalez had 40 hits, Jacoby Ellsbury had 34, and Dustin Pedroia had 32.

20. Weather has wreaked havoc with everyone this season. In 2009 the Sox had four rain-shortened games in which they 2-2. They had none in 2010, but this season they are 1-1 in rain-shortened games.

21. The Sox are 3-2 in extra-inning games.

22. Their longest game this season was a 14-inning win over Oakland on June 4.

23. The average team has played 24 one-run games. The Sox have played 18 and are 9-9.

24. Frame of reference: The Giants are 23-12 in one-run games, the As are 12-18, the Tigers are 7-9, and the Yankees are 9-11.

25. Heres a stat that reflects the strangeness of this season: The Sox are 27-19 (.586) against teams with a .500 or better record, the best record in the AL. On the other hand, they are 20-15 (.571) against below .500 teams, second to the Yanks.

26. More strangeness: The Sox are 22-16 (.578) at home, the 10th best record in the majors. But they are 25-18 (.581) on the road. I guess its good news that the Sox have 43 more games at home to go this season.

27. This is interesting: the three teams with the best road records in the AL are the Rays (26-16), the Yanks (21-13), and the Sox (25-18).

28. The Sox had 400 hits at Fenway and 376 hits on the road.

29. Usually, the Sox have a great record against the NL, but this year they are just 8-8. The Yanks are 12-4 in interleague play this year.

30. The Sox have a 30-23 record against right-hand pitchers this year. Thats good for fifth in the majors and second in the AL to the Yankees (yes, again).

31. They have 533 of their 776 hits against righties.

32. The Sox have a 17-11 record against left-hand pitchers this year. Thats good for fourth in the majors and second in the AL to oh, cmon, the Yankees.

33. The have 243 of their 776 hits against lefties.

34. Lefty Adrian Gonzalez leads the Sox with 33 hits against lefties. Sox heart and soul, Dustin Pedroia has 30 hits and Big Papi (another lefty) has 28 hits.

35. The Sox had 100 hits on the first pitch they saw from a pitcher,

36. The 7th inning is their most productive with 107 hits and 74 runs (theyve only allowed 30 runs). Theyve only scored 35 4th inning runs.

37. The Sox had one 20-hit game, one 19-hit game, two 18-hit games, one 17-hit game, and two 16-hit games.

38. They were held to two hits once and four hits five times.

39. Jacoby Ellsbury in the 60th game against the Yankees, and Marco Scutaro in the 81st game against the Astros, are the two Sox who led off the game with homers.

40. They had 200 hits with runners in scoring position. They had 19 hits with the bases filled.

41. You know how many grand slams the Sox have? Out of 87 opportunities they have hit none, zero, nada.

42. They are hitting .253 with the bases filled, .259 with runners in scoring position, and .261 RISPw 2 outs.

43. Then there is Adrian Gonzalez. The first half Sox and AL MVP is hitting .375 with the bases filled, .386 with runners in scoring position, and .400 RISPw 2 outs.

44. Overall, Gonzo is hitting .349 with 16 homers, 73 RBI and an OPS of .995.

45. Gonzalez is hitting .380 at Fenway and .322 on the road and .374 against righties and .300 against lefties.

46. When the Sox are ahead, A-Gon is hitting .350, when they are behind .327. In wins he has hit .372, but dont blame losses on him because he has hit .316 when the Sox are defeated.

47. In the first three innings of a game he is hitting .402 and has hit .439 on the first pitch he sees each at bat. Hes hitting .345 when he leads off an inning. Stop me, because I could do 81 items on Gonzalez alone.

48. The other key Sox acquisition, Carl Crawford, hasnt fared as well. CC is hitting .243, 51 points below his lifetime average.

49. Terry Francona has sought the perfect spot for him in this lineup and the sixth slot is what has suited him best. Hes hit .344 there.

50. He has repeatedly told people that he is not comfortable as a leadoff batter and batting first this year he has proven not to be a liar as hes hit .094. What is of concern is that should not also pertain to leading off an inning. This season hes only hitting .167 as the first batter up. Lifetime he has hit .286 leading off an inning.

51. Carl Crawford has a .275 OBP, the same as Bill Hall and Juan Uribe, but not as high as Brandon Crawford (no, they are not related) who has a .276 OBP and .202 BA for the Giants.

52. Carl Crawford has been hit by three pitches this season the same number as last year. That doesnt interest me as much as the fact that he has grounded into two double plays, the same number as last year.

53. Of Carl Crawfords 64 hits, three were walkoffs and three were with the bases full.

54. Crawford had three 4-hit games, 13 2-hit games, and 26 games in which he had one hit. Yeah, he had 25 games with no hits (thats 51 games with one hit or less).

55. Crawford was 8-for-12 in stolen bases. He has 55 career steals of third and is still looking for his first with the Sox.

56. Crawford has been so-so in left, but right field has been ugly. Sox right fielders are hitting .219, the worst in the majors. Then again, the Phillies right fielders are only hitting .220, so dont despair too much.

57. Oh my, look at the number! Were up to 57 and we need to talk pitching. Sox pitchers had a 4.35 ERA at home and 3.59 on the road, yet they allowed 28 homers at home and 43 on the road.

58. They walked more batters at home, 137 to 131, and struck out more batters on the road, 295 to 271.

59. Heres a really good pattern: the team ERA in April was 4.24, in May it was 4.01, and in June it was 3.58.

60. In the Sox wins, their team ERA is 2.25, but in their losses its 8.16.

61. Sox starters were 36-23 with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.270 WHIP.

62. Sox relievers were 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.267 WHIP.

63. With runners in scoring position, Sox pitchers held the opposition to a .236 batting average. RISPw 2 outs they are even tougher with a .226 BAA.

64. With the bases empty the pitchers batting average against is .238, with the sacks full its .283 (ouch!).

65. The Sox used eight starting pitchers in the first half:

Jon Lester 17 starts
Josh Beckett - 15
Clay Buchholz - 14
John Lackey - 12
Tim Wakefield - 10
Daisuke Matsuzaka - 7
Alfredo Aceves - 4
Andrew Miller - 2

66. Frame of reference: Before you think the Sox were unfairly bit by the injury bug, know that the Rockies used 10 starters and the Yanks and the Rays each used seven starters.

67. Josh Beckett was the best Sox pitcher in the first half, by a lot. Probably more than the Sox would care to admit. He is 6-3 with a 2.20 ERA. His WHIP of 0.929 is enormously better than his 1.535 WHIP last year and a lot better than Jon Lesters 1.242.

68. Becketts WHIP of 0.929 is better than Cole Hamels 0.940 (which leads the NL) and Jered Weavers 0.932 and his league leading 1.97 ERA.

69. Josh Beckett was the only Sox pitcher with a complete game or a shutout. But more than that, in 98 innings he only allowed 60 hits. Thirty-eight hitless innings is the equivalent of over four no-hitters.

70. Jon Lester is 10-4, but with a 3.43 ERA and in 110.1 innings has given up 98 hits, the most on the team.

71. Lester may have given up the most hits, but John Lackey has given up the second most, 82, and they came in just 70 innings. For much of the season for Lackey, WHIP has been more about whiplash as hits were whizzing past him so frequently (it could have also been him turning to shout disdain at his fielders). Among the starters, Lackeys 1.557 WHIP is the worst. So is his 6.81 ERA.

72. Frame of reference: Since 2010, among starters, only Kyle Davies, John Lannan and Javier Vasquez have a worse WHIP than Lackey. The good news is Lackeys WHIP in June was 1.239, which is good for him.

73. Clay Buchholz has a bad back, is on the DL, and the Sox need him back. Hes had a so-so season in that he has already given up more homers than all of last year (10 to nine), has an ERA of 3.48 compared to 2.33 last year, and hasnt gone past 7.1 innings in any start. On the other hand, hes 6-3 and the Sox are 9-5 in his starts.

74. The Sox used 16 relief pitchers in the first half:

Daniel Bard appeared in 37 games
Jonathan Papelbon - 32
Matt Albers - 26
Dan Wheeler - 24
Bobby Jenks - 17
Alfredo Aceves - 16
Tim Wakefield - 9
Rich Hill - 9
Tommy Hottovy- 8
Hideki Okajima- 7
Scott Atchison - 7
Michael Bowden - 6
Franklin Morales - 5
Dennys Reyes - 4
Felix Doubront - 3
Daisuke Matsuzaka - 1

75. Bard got off to a rocky start, but his ERA in 11 June appearances was 0.00. In fact in the 36 appearances since Opening Day, when he surrendered four runs, Bard has pitched 39 innings and given up 18 hits and has an ERA of 1.38 and a BAA of .141.

76. Papelbon is 16-of-17 in save opportunities and is 2-0 on the season in 31.2 innings. Nothing to complain about, yet we still do it. His BAA is .242, his ERA is 3.69, and his WHIP is 1.137.

77. The Mariano frame of reference: Rivera is 21-of-24 in save opportunities and is 1-1 on the season in 32 innings. His BAA is .233, his ERA is 1.69, and his WHIP is 0.969.

78. Four Sox pitchers earned saves: Jonathan Papelbon had 16, Aceves, Daniel Bard, and Scott Atchison had one each.

79. Three Sox pitchers were both relievers and starters:

Alfredo Aceves started four games and relieved in 16.
Tim Wakefield started 10 games and relieved in nine.
Dice-K started seven games and relieved in one.

80. Josh Reddick hitting .450 has been a nice addition. Mike Cameron (.149) was a needed subtraction. If Mike Cameron was still as good a player as he is as good a guy the Sox would have been really happy and Mike would still be with the ballclub. Unfortunately, that wasnt the case and his nine hits, including three homers, are now history. Darnell McDonald (.115) is probably packing his bags.

81. Let me end with my favorite quirky Adrian Gonzalez stat: While Carl Crawford leads the team with four triples (he has 109 in his career), like Jed Lowrie, Gonzo has three triples this season (he now has 11 in his career) good for second most on the team. Of all the batters with at least the 16 homers that Gonzalez has this season, the only one with more triples is Curtis Granderson who has 21 homers and seven triples. Maybe Gonzo doesnt have speed to burn, but he simply finds a way to do it all.

There you have it, 81 stats in honor of the first 81 games of the Adrian Gonzalez era. My apologies to David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury both of whom are having All-Star seasons and didnt get attention here. Also, stats simply cant measure the emotional role that Dustin Pedroia plays, but we should have included more of him. On the other hand, stats simply cant measure the lack of emotional role that J.D. Drew plays, and at least we didnt include more of him.

Ill tell you what, come All-Star break well put together another list and include many of the stats we have left out.

In the meantime, tell your friends about Nation STATion and remind them that there are only 81 games to go.

Bill Chuck can be reached at walkoffs@gmail.com.

NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have a tough lineup, a talented pitching staff and a manager making all the right moves.

Yup, it's beginning to look a lot like 1988.

Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles improved to 6-0 in this postseason, setting a franchise record for consecutive playoff wins. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip - on a long foul ball in the first inning.

"The focus has certainly been heightened in the postseason," manager Dave Roberts said.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to the club's last championship 29 years ago.

Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

"I think we've won four games in a row before," Chicago slugger Kris Bryant said. "Obviously, it's going to be a tougher road. But it'll make the story that much better. Can you imagine that?"

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. Their patient lineup is coming up big in key spots and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline.

Not even a return to Wrigley could get the Cubs back on track after a rough stay in Los Angeles. Chicago manager Joe Maddon juggled his lineup, inserting Kyle Schwarber into the No. 2 slot and benching slumping second baseman Javier Baez, but the defending World Series champions were shut down by another Dodgers starter and more stellar relief from the NL West champions.

"I really didn't change much approach-wise from first inning until the end of the game," Darvish said through a translator. "I just kept pitching the same way."

Making their third straight appearance in the NLCS, the weary Cubs also hurt themselves with a couple of big mistakes. Carl Edwards Jr. walked Darvish on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, continuing a rocky postseason for the reliever and leading to a round of boos from a frustrated crowd of 41,871.

A passed ball brought home another run in the eighth, and pinch hitter Kyle Farmer hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1.

Darvish departed after striking out Addison Russell in the seventh, pausing for congratulations from his whole infield before heading to the dugout. The Japanese right-hander allowed six hits, including Schwarber's first-inning homer, in his second career playoff win - both this year. He struck out seven and walked one.

Tony Watson got two outs, Brandon Morrow worked the eighth and Kenley Jansen closed it out after Ross Stripling gave up two hits in the ninth. With Roberts pushing the right buttons, Los Angeles' bullpen has yet to allow a run in the series.

"I think everybody's just been attacking," Morrow said. "That's the No. 1 thing."

The only four-game postseason sweep for the Dodgers came in the 1963 World Series against the New York Yankees. If Los Angeles can finish off Chicago on Wednesday, the Dodgers would have five days off before hosting the Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series opener.

"We knew today was the most important game, and now tomorrow's the most important game," Ethier said. "We're going to come out and figure out how to get the job done again."

Schwarber's sixth career postseason homer got Chicago off to a fast start, but Jon Jay struck out with two on to end the inning. The Dodgers responded with Ethier's leadoff drive in the second and Taylor's second homer of the series in the third, a mammoth shot to center off losing pitcher Kyle Hendricks.

"We had a chance obviously, early," Maddon said. "We hit some balls well early in the game, and then he settled in."

Ethier had two hits in his first start of this year's playoffs after he missed most of the season with a herniated lumbar disk. Taylor also had two hits and is 4 for 14 for the series, helping make up for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager to a back injury.

ON THIS DAY

Tuesday was the 13th anniversary of Roberts' memorable stolen base for Boston in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. The Red Sox were three outs from elimination when Roberts ran for Kevin Millar, swiped second and scored on Bill Mueller's single.

Boston went on to rally past New York and sweep St. Louis for its first World Series championship since 1918. Roberts said he never mentions the steal to his players, but it comes up occasionally.

"Yu Darvish about two weeks ago I guess was surfing the internet, and there was an `aha' moment," Roberts said. "He ran across the stolen base and kind of put two and two together and didn't realize that was his manager. So he proceeded to kind of awkwardly approach me about it and talked about my goatee and how I could steal a base."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Wood, who had a career-high 16 wins this season, will make his first appearance since Sept. 26. He was lined up for Game 4 of the NLDS, but the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks in three games.

Cubs: Arrieta has pitched just 14 1/3 innings since Aug. 30, including four innings of two-hit ball against Washington in Game 4 of the NLDS. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner was hampered by a right hamstring injury at the end of the season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

ALCS: Judge leads way as Yanks come back from 4-0 deficit, tie series with 6-4 win

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ALCS: Judge leads way as Yanks come back from 4-0 deficit, tie series with 6-4 win

NEW YORK -- With a soaring shot headed for Monument Park, Aaron Judge got New York back on course for another memorable October.

Yankee Stadium sounds like it's ready, too.

"That ballpark is alive," Judge said after this latest rousing rally.

Judge ignited a comeback with a home run , then hit a tying double during a four-run eighth inning to spur the unflappable Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and tie the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Baby Bombers trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored when Gary Sanchez hit a go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

"I didn't know what to do after I touched home plate," Judge said. "I can't describe it."

The Yankees overcame three errors and have roared back from a second straight 0-2 series deficit - they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth to cap a three-hitter and get the save . Before a sellout crowd of 48,804, New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs and won for the 18th time in its last 21 home games.

"Every home game has been special," manager Joe Girardi said. "I just feel like the fans are back. And I see things that I haven't in a while, and it reminds me a lot of when I was playing here."

Yankee Stadium will be rocking again when Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday. It's a rematch of the series opener, when Keuchel outdid the Japanese right-hander in a 2-1 Astros win.

An AL MVP candidate mired in a sluggish October, Judge sparked the Yankees by chasing McCullers, who baffled the Yankees with his power breaking ball.

Except for the last one.

Judge launched a curveball into the netting above center field's Monument Park for New York's second hit.

"I thought Aaron's home run just lit a little spark," Girardi said.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch pulled McCullers after 81 pitches, Didi Gregorius tripled off Chris Devenski and Sanchez brought Gregorius in with a sacrifice fly.

Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a single to left, and pinch-hitter Chase Headley, in a 1-for-18 postseason slide, singled. He lost his balance stepping on first, fell en route to second, then took a step back before continuing on and getting his left hand in ahead of Jose Altuve's tag.

"Just stumbled and stumbled and stumbled and finally went down," Headley said. "I went from one of the best feelings of my career to one of the worst in just a matter of seconds."

Headley was awarded second after a video review, and the ballpark boomed when crew chief Gary Cederstrom gave the signal. It got so loud that on-deck hitter Brett Gardner said he "kind of blacked out for a second."

Gardner brought in Frazier on a groundout, and Judge came to bat with the bundled, buzzing crowd on its feet.

He lunged for a low slider and drilled a double high off the left-field wall as a fan in a longsleeve yellow shirt reached down and touched the ball. Pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury came home with the tying run, and Gregorius grounded a single just beyond shortstop Carlos Correa's reach to put runners at the corner. Sanchez, who had been 0 for 13 in the series, scored them both with a slicing drive that skipped to the wall in right-center.

"Those guys came up big for us today," Girardi said.

Judge had multiple hits for the first time since the AL wild-card game against Minnesota. He's still just 7 for 37 with 22 strikeouts in the playoffs, but he's 4 for 13 (.308) with three walks in the ALCS. He also homered in an 8-1 Game 3 win.

Judge said he used to dream about postseason at-bats in Yankee Stadium as a minor leaguer.

"The dreams aren't the same as reality," he said. "To be out with the crowd and the atmosphere, it was unbelievable."

The 35-minute bottom of the eighth was the latest stunning comeback for New York, which has overcome deficits of three or more 11 times this year, including in the wild-card game against Minnesota.

Houston had not lost consecutive games since Sept. 8-10 at Oakland and had the major leagues' best road record during the regular season. The Astros are hitting .153 in the series.

"We're not going to hit the panic button because we lost two games in a row," Correa said. "We got Keuchel going tomorrow."

McCullers cruised in his first start since Sept. 30 and turned over a 4-1 lead to his bullpen.

"He was awesome," manager A.J. Hinch said. "And really proud of him because I know how important this start was for him."

Yankees starter Sonny Gray pitched one-hit ball through five innings. His teammates have yet to score for him in four career postseason starts while he's still on the mound, including twice with New York this year.

Houston took a 3-0 lead in the sixth after George Springer walked leading off and Josh Reddick reached on catcher's interference by Austin Romine - inserted into lineup for his defense.

Yuli Gurriel lined a three-run double off David Robertson for a 3-0 lead in the sixth and second baseman Starlin Castro misplayed Brian McCann's seventh-inning grounder for his second error, allowing Marwin Gonzalez to score from second.

Winner Chad Green gave up an unearned run over two innings.

"All of a sudden, the pressure's back on the other team," Frazier said. "It's the best place to play and the loudest place in baseball to play. No doubt about it."

OUT, SAFE, OUT

The fourth inning ended strangely . Judge was doubled off first on Sanchez's popup, but the Yankees successfully challenged that Judge beat first baseman Gurriel to the base. Houston then appealed that Judge missed retouching second on his way back to first. Judge - realizing he would be called out on the challenge - decided to race McCullers' appeal throw to second and was tagged out. He would have voided the appeal attempt if he had beaten the throw.

"The coaching staff kind of gave me a heads up," Judge said. "So I said, `All right, let's go. Got to try something.'"

Adding to the strangeness: throughout the challenge, McCullers was digging around the mound with his hands, scooping up beads off his necklace, which broke during the play.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Tanaka has been receiving treatment on his leg after being struck by Reddick's liner in Game 1. He did not expect it to be an issue Wednesday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE