Red Sox

Notes: Third straight strong start for Beckett

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Notes: Third straight strong start for Beckett

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Three starts do not a season make, but this much is known about Josh Beckett in 2011: he looks a lot more like the Josh Beckett who dominated hitters in 2007 and 2009 then he did last year.

Beckett didn't get the win in the Red Sox' 4-2, 11-inning victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Thursday night, but that took nothing away from his performance: eight innings, two runs allowed on three hits, and 125 pitches, the second-most he's ever thrown in a game.

"I made pitches when I needed to -- except for one,'' said Beckett.

That one, a 3-and-2 pitch to Torii Hunter with a man on in the seventh, resulted in a game-tying homer for the Angels. Until then, Beckett's only hit allowed was a Baltimore chop by Erick Aybar to lead off the sixth. Beckett had held the Angels hitless through the first five innings.

In his last three starts, Beckett had thrown 23 innings and allowed just three earned runs. His ERA for the season stands at 1.93. Thursday night, he faced three batters over the minimum.

"It's nice to have confidence in all my pitches,'' said Beckett. "I have that right now.''

"He was,'' concluded Terry Francona, "tremendous.''

So tremendous, in fact, that Francona sent Beckett out for the eighth after he was at 108 pitches.

Francona noted that all of the Red Sox pitchers are working with an extra day of rest and Beckett will get another before his next turn, thanks to Monday's off-day in Baltimore. The fact that the the team's three best relievers -- Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon -- had all pitched Wednesday in Oakland also influenced his decision to send Beckett back out.

"From the first pitch of the game,'' the manager obsereved, "he threw all of his pitches for strikes . . . He pitched like he's supposed to.''

The Sox seemed to win almost in spite of themselves, stranding 15 baserunners and going just 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

Boston had 10 walks and 8 hits and still managed only four runs in 11 innings.

"I'll take 15 runners stranded with a win,'' said Adrian Gonzalez, who snapped a 2-2 tie in the 11th with a run-scoring double. "It doesn't matter how many hits you get or how many you strand if you come away with a win.''

Gonzalez hasn't had the kind of impact he might have liked through the first 18 games. He has just one homer and before Thursday night, he was tied for fourth on the team in RBI.

But with the game on the line Thursday, Gonzalez came through, roping a double to right to plate J.D. Drew, snapping a 2-2 tie in the top of the 11th.

"I was looking for a ball up,'' he recounted, "just looking for a sacrifice fly. Angels reliever Rich Thompson threw a cutter up-and-in and it stayed flat and I was able to get to it.''

Gonzalez labeled the at-bat ''the situation you want to be in, especially in extra innings.''

Kevin Youkilis left the game in the middle of the second inning after fouling a ball of his left shin during a first-inning at-bat.

He underwent x-rays, which were negative. Youkilis will be re-evaluated again Friday.

"He's pretty sore,'' said Francona after the game.

The injury forced Francona to insert Marco Scutaro at short and move Jed Lowrie, who had started the game at short, to third.

It also meant that Scutaro was the team's cleanup hitter for the rest of the night.

Dustin Pedroia first rolled, then jammed his surgically-repaired left foot into the second-base bag in the third on a successful steal attempt.

"It was kind of like a stinger,'' said Pedroia. "It took a couple of minutes to get the feeling back in there.''

Trainer Mike Reinold and Francona came out to check on Pedroia, who remained in the game.

Pedroia reached base five times in six plate appearances with three singles and two walks.

Jason Varitek's struggles continued at the plate. He was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts (plus a walk and a hit batsman) to drop his average to .043. He has just one hit in 23 at-bats with nine strikeouts.

When asked about his slump, Varitek, utilizing some gallows humors, responded in mock outrage: "I'm freaking locked in!''

Turning more serious, he noted that he was "a little too fast left-handed. It's getting in there and settling down. Fortunately, I can help us win games in other ways.

"I can't hit much worse. I've never hit this bad. I need to use my eyes a little better.''

"If we're shaking hands after a game,'' said Francona, "Varitek did enough.''

While unwilling to say his view of the catchingsituation has changed any, Francona said before the game he also plans to use Saturday in the thirdgame of the series with Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching.

"Iwanted to catch both Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia two games eachhere,'' said Francona. "Tek's done such a good job with Beckett.''

Varitek will also catch Daisuke Matsuzaka Saturday.

Saltalamacchiahas struggled defensively, unable to slow other teams from running onhim. The Angels, of course, are a particularly aggressive team on thebasepaths.

Francona added that he'll have to monitor Varitek's catching load due to the captain's age (39).

"That'ssomething we need to think about,'' said Francona. "He's not 70 and heworks hard at being in good shape. But I just want to make sure he'snot being asked to do too much.''

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

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.