Red Sox

Notes: Bard once again rock solid out of pen

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Notes: Bard once again rock solid out of pen

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY It starts to get old after a while.

Daniel Bard comes into a hairy baseball situation with no discernible escape, and manages to make it look easy while wriggling out of the mess. The flame-throwing Bard did it again on Sunday when he waltzed into a sticky situation in the seventh inning with the tying run on base and nobody out in a 3-1 ballgame against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Getting out of that jam was the biggest part of that game, said catcher Jason Varitek, who had an excellent view of Bards nuclear stuff from behind the plate.

Jon Lester couldnt put out the fire, and instead Bard came in to retire Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, and Melky Cabrera in a row to escape the jam and preserve what became a 6-1 victory for the Sox. Escobar looked like he was trying to sacrifice the two runners over, but laying down a bunt on a 100-mph fastball motoring through the strike zone is a lot easier said than done.

It was the 48th scoreless outing out of 57 total games pitched for Bostons top reliever this year, and another shred of evidence that Bard is as close to automatic as it gets out of the bullpen these days.

It was another day for a 100-mph hurler thats allowed only 3 of 29 inherited runners to score this season, and ranks third in the American League with the 10 percent inherited runners allowed this season.

Im able to pitch for strikeouts in that situation until I get that first out, said Bard. That was big. Youre saving the game even though youre not necessarily saving the game. My job is maintaining the lead and the easiest way to do that is to strike a guy out and then get a ground ball.

Bard is no longer in the middle of a 26 13 inning scoreless streak like he was during the month of July, but he leads the Sox with 57 outings this season and is second among AL relievers with a .115 batting average against for right-handed hitters.

Thats not easy. But at that point in the game Lester had pitched so well and we wanted to stay away from Alfredo Aceves, said Francona. We figure well go with Bard, and if he has to work hard enough then well go with somebody else. It just depended on how it went. But Id rather leave somebody else with a clean inning. Hes our best getting out of those innings.

Bard proved why hes the best once again when things got tight against the Royals.

Jason Varitek smacked an RBI triple to the right field gap in Sundays win over the Royals a hit that was made notable because it had been four years and 406 games since his last triple on June 24, 2007 against the San Diego Padres.

I like to space them out, joked Varitek after the game was over. Maybe the next inning I needed some oxygen. With two outs I need to make sure its something I can get to third on, and I felt like it was something I shouldnt have a problem getting to.

Its not like Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford . . . trust me.

Carl Crawford rocketed a home run in the seventh inning and has now hit safely in 20 of his last 32 games since returning from the 15-day disabled list on July 18. He is batting .287(58-for-202) in his last 53 games.

The Red Sox have hit 85 home runs on the road this season to lead the Major Leagues, and have a commanding lead over second-place St. Louis, who entered Sunday with 75 road homers this season.

Funny scene after the game with 24-year-old rookie Ryan Lavarnway readying for his first trip traveling with the Sox, and sporting a nice suit jacket that still had all of the tags on it as he walked around the visiting clubhouse.

Carl Crawford still found himself batting in the seventh spot over the weekend despite a plethora of injuries to many of Bostons best positional players, and some saw the situation as a reflection on Crawfords struggles this season.

While some of that may be true, it appears to be more about leaving the Sox left fielder in a lineup position thats become comfortable to him and getting the most out of Crawford. In 65 at bats this season in the top five spots in the Sox lineup, Crawford is hitting a scant .125 and has gathered up virtually no offensive momentum in whats been a lackluster season.

Sox Manager Terry Francona said that he had talked with bench coach DeMarlo Hale about moving Crawford up into the leadoff spot or the No. 2 hole given Jacoby Ellsburys absence in the lineup, but the big ticket free agent hasnt been a very good fit there all year.

Crawford has also stabilized at the plate a bit, and entered Sunday hitting .278 during the month of August. The last thing Francona wanted to do was change things around for his left fielder and potentially send him into another funk.

You just dont really want to bounce Crawford around too much, said Terry Francona of his outfielder that went into Sundays game hitting .251 on the season. "We just didnt think it made sense. But we did talk about it.

Some guys are creatures of habit, Francona explained. You get to like the four and five guys of your lineup, you can move other guys where youre keeping the essence of your batting order kind of the same, balance, things like that. But sometimes you cant. Just want to protect people.

Instead Marco Scutaro was given the leadoff spot over the last two games for the Sox a position where he filled in ably many times last season when Ellsbury was limited to 18 games due to fractured ribs.

Ellsbury was still sore on Sunday after getting drilled with an 88-mph fastball in the upper back on Friday night, and Francona indicated that the Sox centerfielder may miss the beginning of the Texas series as well.

David Ortiz hit for the second straight day in Kansas City, and was exuberantly running sprints through the Sox clubhouse in his flip-flops much to the amusement of Dustin Pedroia. Ortiz said that hes feeling good and was in high spirits watching the Little League World Series in the visiting clubhouse prior to Sundays series finale.

Ortiz is expected to be completely out of the protective boot on his right foot on Monday, but would still likely be a couple of days away from returning to the Sox lineup when they arrive in Texas.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

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

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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

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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 baseball-reference.com.

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.

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