Red Sox

Nation STATion: Goal mining

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Nation STATion: Goal mining

By Bill Chuck
CSNNE.com

This is the time of the year when we watch the game, the scoreboard, and the box scores. As we play out the final month of the season, we move beyond team results and we get involved with the accomplishments of individual players, checking on how close they might be to reaching individual goals and milestones.

There are innumerable numbers that can be crunched in this fun process; here are just nine:

1. We all had high expectations for Adrian Gonzalez when he was acquired last December, and he has exceeded so many of them. Gonzo is on the verge of having 200 hits in a season for the first time in his career. He leads the majors with a career-high 189 hits, already exceeding his 2007 previous high of 182. With 11 more hits, Gonzo will become the twelfth different Sox player to have over 200 hits in a season, a feat that has been accomplished 23 times in Sox history. Wade Boggs did it seven times while he was with the Sox and, much to my surprise, Ted Williams never reached that level in a season.

I want to add another A-Gon watch: Only two Red Sox have ever had at least 20 homers, 100 RBI and 200 hits. Jim Rice did it four times, and Mo Vaughn did it twice. Adrian Gonzalez is trying join them this season. He has 23 homers and 103 RBI, so all he needs are the 200 hits. And only Rice and Vaugh have ever had at least 20 homers, 100 RBI, 200 hits and 100 runs scored for the Sox. Gonzalez has 95 runs scored.

But here is one even better. Gonzo has 41 doubles. No Red Sox player has ever has had at least 20 homers, 100 RBI, 200 hits and 40 doubles.

2. From Larry Lucchino on down, Red Sox Nation entered the season with serious concerns about Bostons catching. The Jarrod Saltalamacchia-Jason Varitek combo has proven to be effective behind, and at, the plate. They lead all AL teams catchers in homers and they trail Atlanta by just four (28 to 24) as Brian McCann has 23 by himself. In addition, this is only the second time in Sox history that they have had two catchers who have hit at least 10 homers in a season: Saltalamacchia has 14 and Varitek has 10. The only other time this happened in Boston history was in 1962 when Jim Pagliaroni hit 11 homers, and Bob Tillman hit 14. Interestingly, the last time this was done in AL was by the 2009 Cleveland Indians who had double figure homers from Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach, two former Sox backstops.

3. With all the good vibes in the column, I must spoil the mood by pointing out that John Lackey is trying to avoid having the worst single season ERA in team history for any Sox pitcher who had at least 20 starts. This ignominious record is currently held by Pedros brother, Ramon Martinez, who had a 6.13 ERA in 27 starts in 2000. Lackeys ERA is now an ugly 6.11.

In addition, Lackey leads the league having hit 18 batters, the Red Sox team record is 20, jointly held by Bronson Arroyo (2004) and Howard Ehmke (1923).

4. Back to positive business. We are going to be hearing a lot about Jonathan Papelbon from here on through what will be a very busy off-season for the Sox. This 2012 free-agent-to-be in 2007 struck out a career-high 84 batters. So far this season, he has struck out 72. He is also seeking a milestone in whiffs. He has 494 strikeouts in his career hoping to reach the 500 mark in a Sox uniform.

5. Jon Lester finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting last year and he wont reach that level this year, but it does not mean he has had a bad season. In fact, with 14 wins he still has a chance to tie his career high in wins that he set last season with 19. In addition, he hopes to have his first sub-3.00 ERA. Its currently 3.05, the lowest of his career. He wants to reach the 200 innings pitched mark for the fourth straight year (he has 165). He also wants to keep his winning percentage over .700. His .708 is the best among all active pitchers with at least 100 decisions. All good, from Jon Lester.

6. Things had been even better from Josh Beckett who has resumed the position as ace of this staff. But as Sean McAdams reports, the Beckett situation could prove very ugly. One of the things that a top pitcher does is go deep into games. In 2009, Beckett had 26 games in which he threw at least six innings. Beckett was on his way to number 23 yesterday before his ankle derailed him. He was also hoping to pitch 200 innings for only the fourth time in his career, hes at 173.2 innings now and I think we all will be relieved when he gets past 174.

Heres a neat one: Beckett has a chance to cut his ERA from last season by more than half. He ended last season with a 5.78 ERA and his ERA now is a career low 2.49. His WHIP is also at a career low 0.985.

7. There were bad vibes all around regarding Jacoby Ellsbury and his sore ribs last year at this time. This year, life for Ellsbury is different as he plays just about every game and is hitting .312. He has also joined an elite club: only 16 times has a Sox centerfielder hit at least 20 homers. While Jacoby Ellsbury has 24, he wont be able to catch Tony Armas 43 of 1984. However, Jacoby still can do something that no member of the Red Sox has ever done. He already has 36 steals and he is trying to become Bostons first-ever 30 homer30 steal player.

8. Dustin Pedroia does it all and I love to watch him play. He already has a career high 18 homers and is on the verge of surpassing his 2008 career high 83 RBI, he has 77. Two more homers this season would make him just the second second baseman in Sox history with at least 20 homers. Bobby Doerr did it three times with a high of 27, which he achieved in 1948 and 1950. Pedey is trying to tie Doerr in another category as well. Doerr, Pete Runnels, and Billy Goodman are the only Sox second basemen who hit over .300 three times each. If the Muddy Chicken maintains his .304 average, it will be his third time as well.

9. David Ortiz is having a stellar season in his contract year and he is trying to win the designated hitter triple crown (lead all DHs in home runs, RBI and batting average). Amongst players who qualify for the batting title and have played at least 50 percent of their games as a DH, Big Papi leads with 28 homers (KCs Billy Butler is second with 18), 89 RBI (Butler is second with 83), and trails only the Tigers Victor Martinez in batting average, .324 to .313.

So those are just nine for you to follow. No, Im not forgetting the most obvious; we all wish and hope that before this season ends that we can join in the celebration as Tim Wakefield wins the 200th game of his career.

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.

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.