Red Sox

Paoletti: O's, what a pain!

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Paoletti: O's, what a pain!

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

On Monday, I took a breather from my NHL playoffs binge to check the Red Sox schedule.

"Three games with Baltimore," I thought. "Nice."

An 8-2 Boston streak was coinciding perfectly with the Orioles' 2-8 skid.

"How gloriously palindromic."

I didn't really think that. That'd be ridiculous if my inner monologue sounded so pretentious.

My real thought was much different. I let it fly aloud to my editor.

"Do you think it's safe to say, 'Oh, good. It's just the lowly Orioles,' again?"

He laughed.

I was thinking about those first few weeks of this 2011 season. Remember? The "Whipping Boy of the A.L. East" started out on a 4-0 tear and eventually positioned itself atop the division. And they stayed there, moving to 6-4, until the middle of the month. My hometown team was 2-9 through the same stretch.

Those weirdos who don't care about the hockey were in a lazy panic.

"What's going on?! Order was supposed to be restored!" they sobbed for five seconds before sobering up. "Well, it is only April."

"Carl Crawford is a bum! Worst trade in the history of--" they began, before getting distracted by something shiny.

It was half-hearted whining at best.

Not even the most sadistic of Sox fans believed that the division would shake down as it was. I didn't either. If there's one thing I've been able to count on in recent years, it's the Orioles being bad at baseball.

Baltimore's "Glory Years" -- 18 consecutive winning seasons from 1968 to 1985 -- are pretty dusty these days. Cal Ripken Jr. and his Iron Man streak (2,632 consecutive games played) kept people in seats during the 80s and 90s. But the team's last winning season was 1997, the year Ripken set his mark. The O's lost to Cleveland that year in the ALCS. Ripkin retired in 2001. Baltimore has never recovered.

Yet, they're still a pain.

Buck Showalter's club is currently up 2-0 in this three game tilt at Fenway South. Their .455 divisional record is better only than Boston's .435 mark. Be honest: if I asked you which club would break Boston's streak over its knee, would you have said Baltimore? No, you liar, you wouldn't have. This team's biggest push in the last 10 years was giving away the "Mr. Potato Head Sports Spud" at home games or something.

But that plastic potato might get the last laugh. No series with The Birds is "safe."

The Red Sox could get swept tonight. I doubt it would have major implications for the rest of the season. If history means anything, it's going to take more than three April wins against the Sox for Baltimore to prove any more than a nuisance.

But what a damn nuisance it is.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

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

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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

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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