Red Sox

Notes: McDonald, Varitek connect in the clutch

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Notes: McDonald, Varitek connect in the clutch

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Follow @dannypicard
BOSTON -- Few plays actually decide a ballgame. One which took place with two outs in the top of the ninth Tuesday night did.

Trailing 3-0 in the top of the ninth, the Toronto Blue Jays got a two-run homer from Jose Bautista to close within a run of the Red Sox, then put the potential tying run on second in the person of Edwin Encarnacion.

John McDonald flared a single to left. Left fielder Darnell McDonald charged the ball and threw a strike to catcher Jason Varitek who blocked Encarnacion from the plate while applying a game-ending tag and a 3-2 win.

"I was just trying to get the ball in as quickly as I could,'' recounted McDonald. "It was a great job by the captain (Varitek); it was a do-or-die play . . . It felt real good to close out a game on a play like that.''

Because of the potential game-tying run in scoring position, McDonald was playing in shallow left for just such an occasion.

"Sometimes a shallow throw is tougher than one from deeper in the outfield,'' said McDonald. "I was just trying to grab it and throw a four-seamer as fast I could to the plate.''

At the plate, Varitek was preparing for a bang-bang play, sticking his left leg out to impede Encarnacion while not sacrificing his entire body in a collision the way San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey did earlier this season, resulting in a season-ending injury.

"You've got to stay in there,'' shrugged Varitek of the position of danger. "You don't win in that battle.''

But Varitek credited McDonald with air-mailing him a perfect throw on the fly, allowing Varitek to swipe and tag almost in one motion.

"It's all about the throw,'' said Varitek, "because a perfect throw allows you time to brace yourself a little.''

Varitek also credited McDonald with great preparation, noting that the McDonald practices throws from all three outfield positions nearly every day in pregame drills, learning the proper angles.

Nobody in the Red Sox bullpen expected to hear thephone ringing in the fourth inning. Not while their starter was throwing ano-hitter.But that was the reality of Tuesday nights game at FenwayPark, and the Red Sox bullpen came through to pick up exactly where the injuredJon Lester left off.Matt Albers, Franklin Morales, Daniel Bard, and JonathanPapelbon each got their shot to save the day against the Toronto Blue Jays, andpreserve a 3-0 lead that Lester walked off the mound with after the top of thefourth.Albers ended up getting the win his third of the season after pitching two scoreless innings of one-hit ball while striking out two andwalking two. It marked the 10th time Albers has pitched more than one inningthis season. Only, this call to the mound came out of nowhere.Albers was just glad he had time to warm up while the RedSox hit in the bottom of the fourth.It really wasnt too much different, said Albers afterBostons 3-2 win. Obviously, you dont think that Lesters going to come outof the game, but once we heard the phone ring, we kind of knew what thesituation was. They said, Youre in the game, so I was able to get pretty muchloose out in the bullpen, which helped, instead of just going on the field andhaving to get loose from scratch. It really wasnt too much different thannormal.Morales came in and pitched a scoreless seventh, and Bardpitched a scoreless eighth. But Papelbon allowed a pair of runs in the ninth,on Jose Bautista two-run home run that just got over the front of the GreenMonster.I actually felt like the one pitch I made to Bautista wasone of the better pitches that I made tonight, said Papelbon. Theres 29ballparks that that balls a can of expletive. Cant do nothing about it.Still, Papelbon picked up his 18th save of the season,capping the type of bullpen relief one dreams about when their starter getstaken out early with an injury.You cant speak highly enough for our bullpen, said Lester.They picked me up tonight. They picked the team up. Especially after a rough game Monday in which the bullpen worked 6 23 innings. I needed to eat some innings up today, and unfortunately, Iwasnt able to do that. Dustin Pedroia made his secondappearance of the season in the cleanup spot Tuesdaynight. He went 1-for-4 with a solo home run that gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead inthe third inning.Hes made six career starts as the No. 4 hitter, and has homered in each of his last four games as the cleanup hitter. The last Red Sox cleanup hitter to hit home runs in four straight starts wasManny Ramirez. Clay Buchholz (lower back strain) is going to North Carolina on Wednesday to get checked out, and manager Terry Francona made it known that they are going to be extremely cautious with his injury going forward.

Clay is going to go see Dr. Brigham Wednesday Francona said. He has an appointment at eight oclock. I think hes on a 5 a.m. flight. Hell be thrilled about that. And then hopefully well get him looked at, and then go from there.

I dont know that theres many players that play right now that dont have some soreness somewhere. But we want to make sure if he pitches because hes probably going to be sore for a while that hes not hurting himself. Not only for his sake, but for ours."

Jed Lowrie still has discomfort in his shoulder, which has prevented him from hitting. He has, however, taken grounders and is getting better, according to Francona.

Jed took some groundballs, said Francona. Hes done everything but hit. He still has that discomfort and he doesnt want to hit, but his strength is really improving, which is good.
Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

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.