Red Sox

Notes: Gonzalez still producing despite power dip

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Notes: Gonzalez still producing despite power dip

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE There's no panic in Adrian Gonzalez, and that's one of the things that make him great for the Red Sox.

He's been as good as advertised all season at the plate, but there are some tiny little things that could be construed as concerns when it comes to his offense.

That seems like a pretty peculiar statement, given that the big Boston slugger is leading the American League in batting average (.350) and has turned on enough fastballs to show his quick-wristed power.

But Gonzalez has hit only 2 home runs since July 1, and only 1 in his last 29 games, and is hitting .250 (7-for-28) while managing only one RBI in his last seven games. Thats a fire cry from production the Red Sox have been getting from him all season.

Manager Terry Francona, however, isn't worried.

Sometimes home runs come in bunches. Sometimes they dont, said Francona. I think he was fighting this neck injury early in the year. But I think the good news as that hes still such a great hitter that he can hurt teams in other ways.

That was true Friday night, as he went 2-for-4 with a double in the Red Sox' 6-4 win over the Mariners.

The nice thing from where I sit is that hes not an all-or-nothing guy," said Francona. "He puts the bat on the ball and sprays the ball over the field. Hes just hitting singles right now. We got spoiled when we went though that one period against Toronto in May where he was hitting balls to left field with a lot of power. That was fun to watch, but I dont think anybody really maintain that all season.

Celtics Hall of Fame legend Bill Russell was visiting in the Red Sox dugout at Safeco Field prior to Friday nights game. Boston Mayor Tom Menino also was in attendance after flying to the West Coast on Friday morning.

David Ortiz has homered four times in his last seven games, and is now only one home run away from recording his eighth consecutive 25-homer season with the Red Sox. Ortiz will move out of a tie with Hall of Famer Jim Rice, who had seven 25-homer seasons, on the Red Sox list and sit in sole possession of second place behind the 14 25-plus-homer seasons put together by Ted Williams during his career.

Jed Lowrie ended the longest homerless drought of his career at 44 games with his fifth-inning blast off Blake Beavans. It was his first home run since an April 20 game against the Oakland As that seems like it was six years ago.

Dustin Pedroias sacrifice bunt in the seventh inning was the first sacrifice bunt by a Red Sox cleanup hitter since Ellis Burks did it on Aug. 30, 1990.

Mike Aviles recorded his first RBI for Boston in Friday nights win. He was acquired from Kansas City at the trade deadline.

The J.D. Drew situation is quickly moving to a conclusion of some kind as the oft-injured right fielder took batting practice with the team Friday at Safeco Field and tested the strength of his injured left shoulder.

Drew will keep working out with his Red Sox teammates at Safeco through the weekend, and its expected that the player and team will re-evaluate at the end of the three-game series against the Mariners.

Dont expect Drew to simply get activated and jump back onto the 25-man roster even if everything goes swimmingly through the weekend. It sounds like there may be a decision forthcoming when the team returns to Boston briefly next week.

Drew hasnt played in a game since July 20 and would seem to need a minor-league rehab stint in order to regain his timing. Stay tuned to see what happens with Drew once hes physically able to play.

The Sox have set up their starting rotation for next Tuesday's doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway, and it wont include an outing for lefty Andrew Miller as originally anticipated. Instead Miller may make a start against the Royals in Kansas City next weekend, which would give one of Boston's other starters an extra day of rest.

Jon Lester and Erik Bedard will pitch the doubleheader against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, and John Lackey will pitch the final game of the series on Wednesday.

Miller hasnt made a start since July 31 and a healthy Felix Doubront might be nipping at the leftys heels for a roster spot given his similar ability to start and come out of the bullpen.

Miller is going to be inserted in there most likely in one of the games against the Royals, said Francona. Pitching coach Curt Young and I are kind of sifting through, and we want to use it to our advantage. If one of those guys goes really long in one game then theres a bunch of scenarios. Say Lester or Lackey goes 120 pitches then we could insert Miller and with the days off it brings a lot of possibilities.

Bobby Jenks finally made it to Bostons minor-league complex in Fort Myers and has begun building up arm strength toward a return to the Sox roster. Jenks is slated to throw a bullpen on Tuesday and then will need to throw an additional three bullpens before hes anywhere close to being placed again on the active roster. Its looking more and more like Dan Wheeler is beginning to absorb some of those key innings expected to fall Jenks way when he signed his two-year, 12 million deal with the Sox.

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

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.