Red Sox

Notes: Lackey decent, Ellsbury still hitting

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Notes: Lackey decent, Ellsbury still hitting

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
Boston -- John Lackey took the loss as the Sox fell to the Rays, 4-0, Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park, snapping a six-game win streak over his seven previous starts. He went 6 23 innings, giving up four runs, three earned, on six hits and three walks, with seven strikeouts, a wild pitch and two hit batters. He also tied a season high with two home runs.

It was his eighth quality start in 21 outings this season. He has held opponents to three runs or fewer in six of his last eight starts since July 9, going 6-1 with a 3.93 ERA in that stretch.

Hes been giving us about the same every time out, Francona said. He gives up the last run, which is the fourth run, but they kind of one-runned him to death. But on a lot of nights thats plenty good enough for us to win. Good velocity coming out of the chute today.

The two hit batters give him 16 total this season, tied for fifth-highest ever by a Sox pitcher in one season. He also threw a season-high 125 pitches, the second highest total of his career, after 131 pitches against the Rangers one Aug. 9, 2009, while with the Angels.

Jacoby Ellsburys triple leading off the sixth inning, landed in the triangle in deep center field, bouncing around before Rays' center fielder B.J. Upton could retrieve it. Ellsbury had thoughts of an inside-the-park home run, but third base coach Tim Bogar held him at third.

I had my back turned, Ellsbury said. Bogies my eyes in that situation. So, obviously if hes going to send me hes going to do it when Im halfway between second and third. But its definitely a hard decision.

It was his third triple of the season.

His third-inning steal of second base gave him 32 for the season, and 168 in his career, tying him with Carl Yastrzemski for third on the Sox all-time list. Only Harry Hooper (300) and Tris Speaker (267) have more stolen bases with the Sox.

Ellsbury had an extra-base hit in all three games of the series, the first time he has had an extra-base hit in three straight home games. He leads the Sox with 25 extra-base hits, 10 home runs and 38 RBI since June 30.

Alfredo Aceves struck out the side in the eighth inning, the first time with the Red Sox and third time in his career he has done so.

Gonzalez has been feeling a little beat up, Francona implied. He said a neck issue, which has nagged Gonzalez, may be affecting the first baseman's power at the plate.

"I think he still feels it, but I think about every player in the league right now is probably not perfect," Francona said. "Thats just the way it is, especially guys that play every inning of every day. It may have cut into his power a little bit but you play and you continue to play. If theres ever a chance when we can give them a couple of days off wed probably do it. Probably not a good time to do it right now."

While Gonzalez is batting .281, going 16-for-57 in 15 games this month, he has just four extra-base hits, all doubles. He has not hit a home run since July 30 in Chicago, his only homer since the All-Star break. He has just seven doubles since then.

J.D. Drew, on the DL since July 20 with a left shoulder impingement, will travel with the team to Kansas City. He has been taking batting practice in the cage, but has not progressed to on-field BP. He is expected to do so in Kansas City. After that he will be reevaluated before being sent on a rehab assignment, which will be determined by the medical staff, Francona said.

Left-hander Rich Hill, who had Tommy John surgery in June, will stay in Boston to continue his rehab and meet up with the team in Texas.

Left-hander Andrew Miller is scheduled to start Fridays game in KC. He has not since July 31 against the White Sox in Chicago and has pitched just three innings since then, 2 23 innings against the Indian s on Aug. 4 and a third of an inning on Aug. 10. Francona said Miller will be monitored in his outing.

Well certainly keep an eye on him, Francona said. There's certainly been enough time in between where . . . we keep an eye on him. Hes going to throw an extended side today. Hes thrown, warmed up a lot. Hasnt necessarily been in games but it shouldnt get in the way. I think what happens is say he throws 85-90-95 pitches, I just think you come out of that start a little more sore than normal . . . or stiff. Thats probably a better word.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

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Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. combined on a three-hitter, Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Astros reached the World Series for only the second time by blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP , and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve , the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron JudgeGary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."

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Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

UPDATE: The deal is for three years, per Ken Rosenthal.

BOSTON — We’re just waiting on an announcement now.

A pair of national reports on Saturday afternoon, one from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal... 

...And another from MLB Network and FanRagSports.com's Jon Heyman...

have firmed up Alex Cora’s expected hiring as Red Sox manager. Both reported that Cora, the Astros bench coach, is expected to take the job once Houston's season ends, which could come as soon as Saturday night after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. 

Heyman reported a contract offer has already been made to Cora. 

A baseball source said this week that there was “not a doubt” Cora, the Astros bench coach, would wind up with the Red Sox gig. It’s unclear when exactly the offer was made to him, but one had not been made as of midday Wednesday, the source said. 

Cora, 41, a former Red Sox infielder (2005-08) who's also worked in the media and is the most sought-after managerial candidate at the moment, appeared the front-runner since the outset of what proved a small search for the Red Sox.

Earlier, Boston Globe reported that the Washington Nationals were interested in Cora after they fired Dusty Baker on Friday.