Red Sox

Notes: Lackey settling down in second half

191542.jpg

Notes: Lackey settling down in second half

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.comFollow @maureenamullen
By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Dont look now but John Lackey continues to build up a respectable second half to his season.

Granted Lackey coughed up three runs in the first inning on a monstrous Eric Hosmer blast and ended up working around 11 hits allowed in his 5 23 innings of work, but the big lug did just enough to improve his season record to 9-8 in a 12-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.

Its the first time Lackey has owned a winning record this season.

I felt pretty good. I felt strong," Lackey said. "I wish the first inning could have gone smoother, so I could have had a little more in the tank to get deeper into the game. It didnt and it kind of turned into a grind. But we got it done.

But Lackey recovered once the Sox offense started cranking up in the bottom of the first inning, and only allowed three earned runs in 5 23 innings while mixing together his fastball, curveball and change-up mix. The start continues a pretty amazing trend for Lackey as hes allowed 15 runs in the first inning (17 innings pitched in all) and 51 runs in every other inning pitched (96 13 innings pitched).

After the first he kind of settled down, started throwing strikes and was going after guys, said Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He pitched well.

The win puts Lackey on a 4-0 stretch in his last four starts with a 2.42 ERA in those outings and more importantly hes given the Sox a chance to win in each of those four games. Its also the first as a member of the Red Sox that Lackey has won four consecutive decisions.

My arm strength has been better and I definitely have had good life on my fastball, said Lackey. Everything kind of works off that and whether I can locate that first.

Sure Lackey is getting the benefit of some pretty amazing offensive support, but hes also throwing the ball with much more effectiveness after a disabled list stint to rest his cranky right elbow.

Josh Reddick might be the only big league ballplayer that strides to the plate with bagpipe music playing for his at bat soundtrack, and said there are a few good reasons for it. The song is A Cadence to Arms by the Dropkick Murphys with Scruffy Wallace providing the bagpipes solo, and is a tribute to Reddicks Irish heritage along with his favorite movie The Boondock Saints".

They originally had the wrong song playing for me when I got up to the plate, so I decided to change it. I dont even know what the song was. Im not much of a hard rock fan. But Mark Wagner always used this song when he went to hit and I really liked it. So I started using it and Ive hit pretty well with it, so I dont see the bagpipes going away anytime soon.

Reddick said hes never met Wallace or the Dropkicks before despite their strong presence in the city of Boston, but that should change once the bands gets word of Reddicks musical choice.

Jacoby Ellsbury smacked his fourth leadoff home run of the season in the bottom of the first frame, which is tied for the third most in a Red Sox single season. Nomar Garciaparra has the most with the seven leadoff home runs he cranked in a single season during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1997. Ellsbury already ranks fourth in Red Sox history with his seven career leadoff home runs that put him in a tie with Harry Hooper and Dwight Evans.

Adrian Gonzalez turned in his Major League-leading 19th three-hit game of the year in Wednesday nights victory. He has multiple hits in each of his last four games and is quietly batting .533 (16-for-30) during his current seven-game hitting streak.

According to the Fox Sports broadcast team in Kansas City, Sox catcher Jason Varitek signed the broken bat from his eighth inning at bat against Royals outfielder Mitch Maier when the position player had moved onto the mound to pitch. The splintered, signed bat was then given to Maier, who didnt appear to register anything higher than 84-mph on the radar gun.

Dustin Pedroia might have been moved out of the No. 4 hole in the Sox lineup after an epic night at the plate on Tuesday, but he didnt slow down a bit back in his customary No. 2 spot.

Pedroia hammered a 2-2 fastball from Bruce Chen into the second row of the Green Monster seats for his 14th home run of the season, and extended his career-best hitting streak to 24 games. Pedroias home run came back-to-back after Jacoby Ellsbury opened the bottom of the first inning against the Kansas City Royals with a solo home run off Pesky Pole in right field.

The hitting streak is a career-best for Pedroia and also stands the longest hitting streak by a Sox second baseman in franchise history.

It eclipsed the 23-game hitting streak put together by Sox second baseman Del Pratt during the 1922 baseball season.

Pedroia was pulled from Wednesday night's game early with the idea that he could use the extra rest on a Thursday afternoon getaway day game at Fenway Park

Although Kevin Youkilis was not in the original starting lineup, he talked his way in.

He came in and said Theres really no reason for me not to play. I feel good. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. All I did was change the lineupand listened to Pedey screaming. Youkilis said he was doing really well so we dont want to keep him out of there if we dont need to."

Dustin Pedroias screaming, to which Francona was jokingly referring, was because Youkilis return to the lineup bumped Pedroia from the clean-up spot to his customary No. 2 slot in the lineup. Pedroia, who is hitting .304 with 13 home runs and 51 RBI overall this season, is batting .429 (6-for-14) with two home runs and three RBI in three games in the No. 4 spot.

Josh Reddick, though, was bumped from the starting lineup to the bench. Reddick was in the original lineup, playing right field and batting eighth. When Youkilis was added, Yamaicao Navarro was moved from third base in the original lineup to left field, with Darnell McDonald moving from left to right.

Facing left-hander Bruce Chen, Francona thought it was a good game to give Reddick a day off, with the right-handed McDonald and Navarro starting.

Redds done great, Francona said. But I kind of like the idea of seeing Navarro out there, especially against the lefty.

Youkilis was pulled from the game, like Pedroia, for extra rest before tomorrow' day game.

Carl Crawford is also getting the night off. He is batting .152 with two home runs against lefties. He is 1-for-11 with six strikeouts in the first two games of the Kansas City series.

He hasnt had much success against this guy, Francona said. Weve got a quick turnaround tomorrow with a day game. I think it makes sense. The last couple of nights he was jumping a little bit. Will be good for him.

Jed Lowrie, who has been on the DL with a left shoulder strain since June 17, took early batting practice on the field today for the first time. He hit left-handed on the field and expected to hit right-handed in the cage. Lowrie, who also took infield practice as he has for several weeks, wasnt looking for anything in particular in his BP session.

Just swinging really, he said. Taking the right amount of swings. Im not really at the stage where Im worried about the timing or anything like that. Its just making sure I get out there and swing and my shoulder can withstand the workload.

Lowrie said his shoulder felt good.

It starts to fatigue but I think thats normal, he said. Thats been the constant feeling throughout because I continue to push it every day. If I didnt get that feeling, I feel like I didnt put enough work in that day. I want to push it to the point that its going to fatigue. Find the line but not cross it.

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

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

NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

dodgers_yu_darvish_101717.jpg

NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have a tough lineup, a talented pitching staff and a manager making all the right moves.

Yup, it's beginning to look a lot like 1988.

Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles improved to 6-0 in this postseason, setting a franchise record for consecutive playoff wins. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip - on a long foul ball in the first inning.

"The focus has certainly been heightened in the postseason," manager Dave Roberts said.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to the club's last championship 29 years ago.

Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

"I think we've won four games in a row before," Chicago slugger Kris Bryant said. "Obviously, it's going to be a tougher road. But it'll make the story that much better. Can you imagine that?"

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. Their patient lineup is coming up big in key spots and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline.

Not even a return to Wrigley could get the Cubs back on track after a rough stay in Los Angeles. Chicago manager Joe Maddon juggled his lineup, inserting Kyle Schwarber into the No. 2 slot and benching slumping second baseman Javier Baez, but the defending World Series champions were shut down by another Dodgers starter and more stellar relief from the NL West champions.

"I really didn't change much approach-wise from first inning until the end of the game," Darvish said through a translator. "I just kept pitching the same way."

Making their third straight appearance in the NLCS, the weary Cubs also hurt themselves with a couple of big mistakes. Carl Edwards Jr. walked Darvish on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, continuing a rocky postseason for the reliever and leading to a round of boos from a frustrated crowd of 41,871.

A passed ball brought home another run in the eighth, and pinch hitter Kyle Farmer hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1.

Darvish departed after striking out Addison Russell in the seventh, pausing for congratulations from his whole infield before heading to the dugout. The Japanese right-hander allowed six hits, including Schwarber's first-inning homer, in his second career playoff win - both this year. He struck out seven and walked one.

Tony Watson got two outs, Brandon Morrow worked the eighth and Kenley Jansen closed it out after Ross Stripling gave up two hits in the ninth. With Roberts pushing the right buttons, Los Angeles' bullpen has yet to allow a run in the series.

"I think everybody's just been attacking," Morrow said. "That's the No. 1 thing."

The only four-game postseason sweep for the Dodgers came in the 1963 World Series against the New York Yankees. If Los Angeles can finish off Chicago on Wednesday, the Dodgers would have five days off before hosting the Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series opener.

"We knew today was the most important game, and now tomorrow's the most important game," Ethier said. "We're going to come out and figure out how to get the job done again."

Schwarber's sixth career postseason homer got Chicago off to a fast start, but Jon Jay struck out with two on to end the inning. The Dodgers responded with Ethier's leadoff drive in the second and Taylor's second homer of the series in the third, a mammoth shot to center off losing pitcher Kyle Hendricks.

"We had a chance obviously, early," Maddon said. "We hit some balls well early in the game, and then he settled in."

Ethier had two hits in his first start of this year's playoffs after he missed most of the season with a herniated lumbar disk. Taylor also had two hits and is 4 for 14 for the series, helping make up for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager to a back injury.

ON THIS DAY

Tuesday was the 13th anniversary of Roberts' memorable stolen base for Boston in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. The Red Sox were three outs from elimination when Roberts ran for Kevin Millar, swiped second and scored on Bill Mueller's single.

Boston went on to rally past New York and sweep St. Louis for its first World Series championship since 1918. Roberts said he never mentions the steal to his players, but it comes up occasionally.

"Yu Darvish about two weeks ago I guess was surfing the internet, and there was an `aha' moment," Roberts said. "He ran across the stolen base and kind of put two and two together and didn't realize that was his manager. So he proceeded to kind of awkwardly approach me about it and talked about my goatee and how I could steal a base."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Wood, who had a career-high 16 wins this season, will make his first appearance since Sept. 26. He was lined up for Game 4 of the NLDS, but the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks in three games.

Cubs: Arrieta has pitched just 14 1/3 innings since Aug. 30, including four innings of two-hit ball against Washington in Game 4 of the NLDS. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner was hampered by a right hamstring injury at the end of the season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

ALCS: Judge leads way as Yanks rally from 4-0 deficit, tie series with 6-4 win

yankees_aaron_judge_101717.jpg

ALCS: Judge leads way as Yanks rally from 4-0 deficit, tie series with 6-4 win

NEW YORK -- With a soaring shot headed for Monument Park, Aaron Judge got New York back on course for another memorable October.

Yankee Stadium sounds like it's ready, too.

"That ballpark is alive," Judge said after this latest rousing rally.

Judge ignited a comeback with a home run , then hit a tying double during a four-run eighth inning to spur the unflappable Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and tie the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Baby Bombers trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored when Gary Sanchez hit a go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

"I didn't know what to do after I touched home plate," Judge said. "I can't describe it."

The Yankees overcame three errors and have roared back from a second straight 0-2 series deficit - they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth to cap a three-hitter and get the save . Before a sellout crowd of 48,804, New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs and won for the 18th time in its last 21 home games.

"Every home game has been special," manager Joe Girardi said. "I just feel like the fans are back. And I see things that I haven't in a while, and it reminds me a lot of when I was playing here."

Yankee Stadium will be rocking again when Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday. It's a rematch of the series opener, when Keuchel outdid the Japanese right-hander in a 2-1 Astros win.

An AL MVP candidate mired in a sluggish October, Judge sparked the Yankees by chasing McCullers, who baffled the Yankees with his power breaking ball.

Except for the last one.

Judge launched a curveball into the netting above center field's Monument Park for New York's second hit.

"I thought Aaron's home run just lit a little spark," Girardi said.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch pulled McCullers after 81 pitches, Didi Gregorius tripled off Chris Devenski and Sanchez brought Gregorius in with a sacrifice fly.

Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a single to left, and pinch-hitter Chase Headley, in a 1-for-18 postseason slide, singled. He lost his balance stepping on first, fell en route to second, then took a step back before continuing on and getting his left hand in ahead of Jose Altuve's tag.

"Just stumbled and stumbled and stumbled and finally went down," Headley said. "I went from one of the best feelings of my career to one of the worst in just a matter of seconds."

Headley was awarded second after a video review, and the ballpark boomed when crew chief Gary Cederstrom gave the signal. It got so loud that on-deck hitter Brett Gardner said he "kind of blacked out for a second."

Gardner brought in Frazier on a groundout, and Judge came to bat with the bundled, buzzing crowd on its feet.

He lunged for a low slider and drilled a double high off the left-field wall as a fan in a longsleeve yellow shirt reached down and touched the ball. Pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury came home with the tying run, and Gregorius grounded a single just beyond shortstop Carlos Correa's reach to put runners at the corner. Sanchez, who had been 0 for 13 in the series, scored them both with a slicing drive that skipped to the wall in right-center.

"Those guys came up big for us today," Girardi said.

Judge had multiple hits for the first time since the AL wild-card game against Minnesota. He's still just 7 for 37 with 22 strikeouts in the playoffs, but he's 4 for 13 (.308) with three walks in the ALCS. He also homered in an 8-1 Game 3 win.

Judge said he used to dream about postseason at-bats in Yankee Stadium as a minor leaguer.

"The dreams aren't the same as reality," he said. "To be out with the crowd and the atmosphere, it was unbelievable."

The 35-minute bottom of the eighth was the latest stunning comeback for New York, which has overcome deficits of three or more 11 times this year, including in the wild-card game against Minnesota.

Houston had not lost consecutive games since Sept. 8-10 at Oakland and had the major leagues' best road record during the regular season. The Astros are hitting .153 in the series.

"We're not going to hit the panic button because we lost two games in a row," Correa said. "We got Keuchel going tomorrow."

McCullers cruised in his first start since Sept. 30 and turned over a 4-1 lead to his bullpen.

"He was awesome," manager A.J. Hinch said. "And really proud of him because I know how important this start was for him."

Yankees starter Sonny Gray pitched one-hit ball through five innings. His teammates have yet to score for him in four career postseason starts while he's still on the mound, including twice with New York this year.

Houston took a 3-0 lead in the sixth after George Springer walked leading off and Josh Reddick reached on catcher's interference by Austin Romine - inserted into lineup for his defense.

Yuli Gurriel lined a three-run double off David Robertson for a 3-0 lead in the sixth and second baseman Starlin Castro misplayed Brian McCann's seventh-inning grounder for his second error, allowing Marwin Gonzalez to score from second.

Winner Chad Green gave up an unearned run over two innings.

"All of a sudden, the pressure's back on the other team," Frazier said. "It's the best place to play and the loudest place in baseball to play. No doubt about it."

OUT, SAFE, OUT

The fourth inning ended strangely . Judge was doubled off first on Sanchez's popup, but the Yankees successfully challenged that Judge beat first baseman Gurriel to the base. Houston then appealed that Judge missed retouching second on his way back to first. Judge - realizing he would be called out on the challenge - decided to race McCullers' appeal throw to second and was tagged out. He would have voided the appeal attempt if he had beaten the throw.

"The coaching staff kind of gave me a heads up," Judge said. "So I said, `All right, let's go. Got to try something.'"

Adding to the strangeness: throughout the challenge, McCullers was digging around the mound with his hands, scooping up beads off his necklace, which broke during the play.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Tanaka has been receiving treatment on his leg after being struck by Reddick's liner in Game 1. He did not expect it to be an issue Wednesday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE