Red Sox

Notes: Sox pitchers go on the defensive

191542.jpg

Notes: Sox pitchers go on the defensive

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In 2010, the Red Sox pitching staff made 21 errors, the most of any staff in the American League. Toward that end, in the first pitchers and catchers workout Tuesday, the Sox focused on pitcher's fielding practice (PFP) and what the Sox label "game awareness."

The latter, explained Terry Francona, is "just talking. And it's just what it sounds like -- walking through some of the things that are important to us, trying to slow the game down when the game speeds up on pitchers. It's just a way to to talk about things that are important to us.

"We do so many drills, but there are some psychological things and some things they need to think about that we want to spend time talking about, including situational approaches, holding runners at second when we"re not in a bunt play, slide-stepping, why we"re slide-stepping . . . "

As for the team"s unusually high error total on the mound, Francona couldn"t offer one primary reason.

"I think the biggest reason is the game starts going too fast," said Francona. "You see a ball bounce off a pitcher's shin, and they run over to try to make the play and instead of planting their feet, they try to made the play sidearm and fire it away. Throwing balls to first base, we (at times tried) to be too quick. We were sloppy and we made too many errors, too many things happened that don't help you win games."

Despite the issues, the Sox didn't hold much PFP during the season.

"The reason we don"t do it too much,"" Francona said, "is you can"t do it full speed in-season. The times when it really helps is when guys have their arms loose and they can throw the ball full speed and run, and the guys can't do that during the season. So doing it is almost a little bit of 'cover your ass,' instead of helping. So we don't do it a lot."

After tests revealed that Brandon Duckworth and Tony Pena were exhibiting some shoulder weakness, the pair were held out of throwing Tuesday and will undergo further testing.

Typically, pitchers are tested in the spring to provide a baseline for future comparisons during the season and Duckworth and Pena were "a little bit on the weaker side on strength," said Francona. "When they're on the lower end of that spectrum, we just want to a little bit of testing to make sure there isn"t something there that shouldn"t be there."

Also, Jason Bergmann has been shut down "for the near future," according to Francona, "until we can kind of get a better grasp" on some pain in his shoulder.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

cubs_javier_baez_101817.jpg

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO - Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley, who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

Contreras' homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez's landed beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

yankees_gary_sanchez_didi_gregorius_101817.jpg

ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE