Red Sox

PawSox notes: Atchison shines in emergency start

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PawSox notes: Atchison shines in emergency start

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

PAWTUCKET, R.I. Right-hander Scott Atchison was a last-minute replacement for starter Alfredo Aceves in the Pawtucket Red Sox' season-opening game at McCoy Stadium Thursday night, and was more than up to the challenge.

Aceves was scratched moments before game time because he was being recalled to Boston as a replacement for the injured Matt Albers (strained lat muscle). In stepped Atchison, and the veteran reliever went 4 23 innings, allowing just three hits and one run with no walks and eight strikeouts. He left with the PawSox trailing, 1-0, and wasn't involved in the decision as Pawtucket rallied for a 2-1 victory over the Rochester Red Wings.

Outstanding job by Atchison . . . with the short notice and then giving us almost five innings like that, said first-year PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. You just never know what youre going to get when a pitcher is pressed into service on short notice. But he did an outstanding job. He was very efficient, allowed us to extend him and win, lose, or draw in that game, we pitched very well.

Atchison threw 68 pitches, 49 for strikes.

We kind of had a pitch count in mind, Beyeler said. We were just going to kind of see what we could get. He was just being so efficient and getting some outs that we just kept going.

It was not an unfamiliar situation for Atchison. Last June 12 with the Red Sox he was called upon to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was a game-time scratch. Atchison went three innings against the Phillies that day and the Red Sox went on to win the game. It was his only start of the season, in 54 combined appearances between Pawtucket and Boston.

Well, Ive been through it before, he said. To be honest, as a starter -- before, when I was doing it when I was younger -- I always thought about it all day long, and I probably drove myself crazy with that.

"Thursday there wasnt near as much time to think about it. Just go out and make your pitches. I tried to treat it as similar to a relief appearance as I can. Im not going to go throw 45 to 50 pitches in the pen, like some starters do before their start. I just kind of go with how I would warm up to come in in the middle of an inning and go with that from the first and give it everything I got till I run out of gas.

The PawSox went ahead in the sixth on Juan Carlos Linares double off the outfield wall, 400 feet away in straightaway center, scoring Lars Anderson and Drew Sutton.

Hes a dangerous hitter, said Beyeler, who also had Linares last season in Portland. Hes a guy thats going to swing the bat. Hes an aggressive hitter. He got into one there.

Rich Hill earned the win, going 2 13 scorelessinnings, giving up three hits with no walks and four strikeouts. HidekiOkajima followed Hill, going one scoreless inning with one strikeout.Michael Bowden earned the save with a perfect ninth inning.

Shortstop phenom Jose Iglesias had two of the PawSox' hits, both singles.

Iggy did a good job tonight jumping on some fastballs, getting some hits and getting on base, Beyeler said. Its always good for the young guys to get off and get some good hits to start with, put the ball in play and feel like they belong up here.

PawSox and Red Wings pitchers combined for 23 strikeouts, 13 and 10 respectively. It was the most strikeouts by Pawtucket pitching since recording the same number on May 5, 2009.

Reliever Jason Rice was one of the extra players who joined the Red Sox on their trip to Houston before the start of the season on Texas. It was a great experience to go out there, he said. I got to chat with Tim Wakefield near the bucket during BP. It was amazing. I never understood how it is to travel with the big-league club, but from the bus to the plane, to the snacks going up and down the aisle, it was awesome, it was a great experience. I hope there are many more to come."

Rice, who was acquired in the Triple-A phase of the 2008 Rule 5 draft from the White Sox, turns 25 next month. He has never pitched above the Double-A level. Making the trip was an honor, he said. He was a non-roster invitee to spring training, his first big-league camp. Being around the major-league players, he said, was helpful.

Oh, a tremendous amount, he said. Just being around those guys, Wakefield and Jon Lester and Josh Beckett and Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon, he said. I got to chat with all of them at some point, and just to talk to them and ask them little things that might help me be successful. Im going to try to incorporate a little bit into my game this year and hopefully end up this year with them and win a championship with them.

With his build and delivery, Rice evokes memories of Tom Gordon. Mention this to Rice, and its sure to draw a smile. Gordon is his pitching idol.

I watched him a lot when he was with the Yankees and he set up for Mariano Rivera, and when he was with the Phillies, Rice said. He was hurt when he was Arizona a little bit. But I got to watch some film on him during spring training when he was with the White Sox, when he was a closer. I just wanted to see his curveball and his fastball and everything. I want to meet him one day if possible. But I do like to watch Flash Gordon throw the baseball.

Rice had 13 saves for Portland last season, finishing 44 games in his 48 appearances. He has not been told how hell be used this year, except out of the pen, and thats fine, he said.

Its not just the players who get pumped up for for Opening Day. Im really excited, said hitting coach Chili Davis before the game. Im as excited as these guys are. I went to bed last night thinking about it and I woke up this morning thinking about it.

This was Davis first season opener since 1999, when he was the Yankees designated hitter.

Davis had some words of optimism for those concerned about the Red Sox 0-6 start.

In 1991 the Twins started off 2-9, he said. We did all right that year.

Davis and the Twins won the World Series in 1991.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

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.