Red Sox

Nationals stymie Sox in Dice-K's return, 4-2

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Nationals stymie Sox in Dice-K's return, 4-2

BOSTON Before the game, manager Bobby Valentine said he was anxious to get Daisuke Matsuzakas first start in his Red Sox managerial tenure over with because he had no idea what to expect.

Matsuzaka gave Valentine five innings, giving up four runs on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts and a home run. He threw 80 pitches, 52 strikes, facing 20 batters. But Valentine may still not be sure what he can expect from the Japanese right-hander.

The Sox lost their second straight game, 4-2, to the Nationals at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon.

Matsuzaka started out strong. He struck out Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman, both swinging at sliders, with a Bryce Harper fly out sandwiched in between, in the first inning. He needed just 12 pitches, nine for strikes, in the inning.

Despite a lead-off, first-pitch home run by Adam LaRoche in the second, Matsuzaka looked solid through the first three innings when he faced one batter over the minimum. He had five strikeouts in that span three swinging at sliders, one looking at a slider, and another looking at a 91-mph fastball.

But he ran into trouble in the fourth, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk. A nice double play started by Adrian Gonzalez sliding catch in right field and then doubling Ian Desmond off first, saved Matsuzaka from more damage.

The Sox offense, meanwhile, could do little with Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez. In five previous starts against the Sox, Gonzalez had not gone more than six innings and had not allowed fewer than three runs.

In the first four innings, though, the Sox had just one baserunner when David Ortiz doubled to lead off the second then took third on a wild pitch. But that was as far as he got.

The Sox had baserunners in the fifth and sixth innings, without being able to score, before driving Gonzalez from the game in the seventh after a one-out walk to Will Middlebrooks and a single by Mike Aviles.

Right-hander Craig Stammen entered the game and walked pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney. Lefty Michael Gonzalez entered to face pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a first-pitch two-run single off the wall in left field. But Gonzalez struck out Daniel Nava, looking at a 92-mph fastball, and got Dustin Pedroia to pop out in foul ground to first baseman Adam LaRoche to end the Sox threat.

Franklin Morales relieved Matsuzaka to throw three perfect innings with three strikeouts. Alfredo Aceves pitched a perfect ninth.

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO - Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley, who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

Contreras' homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez's landed beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans.

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