Red Sox

Pedroia breaks out in home opener

191542.jpg

Pedroia breaks out in home opener

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Jon Lester sauntered through the home clubhouse following Friday afternoons majestic home opener while wrapped in a towel, and announced to nobody in particular Yall can breathe now before heading straight to his locker.

Those waiting to exhale in the Red Sox dugout did so after finally forcing their way into the victory column with a hard-to-come-by 9-6 win over the New York Yankees on Opening Day at Fenway Park, and there were plenty of heroes to be singled out after winning time.

Sox general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona both gave notable speeches before the game to reassure the beleaguered troops, but there is only so much idle talk can accomplish amid a historically epic fail masquerading as the start to Bostons baseball season.

Instead it was the teams diminutive heart and soul shouting with his bat and thumbing the doubters with his defiant attitude that paved the way for victory.

Dustin Pedroia was all set with losing, and shaped the redemptive tone for the rest of his teammates when he lashed a Phil Hughes offering high into the Green Monster seats in the first inning.

The long ball arrived after John Lackey already labored through a two-run top of the first, and the Sox needed something to spark them.

It was fun, man, said Pedroia. It was fun being at home. We needed it. We have a lot of expectations and we dont want to let anybody down, man. Thats our thing. We want to play hard, win and have fun doing it.

The solo dinger was Pedroias third straight Opening Day homer at Fenway Park, but this one was clearly the grandest given the turmoil his ballclub was mired in after starting winless in their first six games. Pedroia joined Fred Lynn as the only Sox player to go deep in three straight home openers: the sweet-swinging centerfielder did it from 1978-80 with an entirely different group of Red Stockings.

The Sox second baseman also finished with three hits and two more RBIs in the second inning, and gave the Sox an offensive jolt theyd desperately been searching for.

The team was yearning for a defiantly Pedroia attitude just as much as the on-field production, and he had that in man-sized amounts as well.

The second baseman flipped off his elbow guard with braggadocio as he circled second base during his first inning home run trot, and then fired off inspirational words to a dugout full of players as he jogged back in. Then he hit the dirt safely at home plate in the second inning after scampering from second on an Adrian Gonzalez single.

One could almost feel the energy filling back into Bostons reserves now that their inspirational leader was willing them to victory, and his teammates followed suit.

Most of Sox regulars are used to this kind of thing, but for the news guys it was their first viewing of Pedroia in Full.

I noticed it playing against him, but once youre in the same room with him he takes it to a whole new level, said reliever Bobby Jenks. It almost seems like the more pissed off he gets the better he gets.

There must have been an Olympic swimming pool-sized amount of frustration running through Pedroias little body during the long losing streak, and some it was released during that cathartic home run jaunt.

But theres still enough to go around even after the leadoff homer and 3 RBI performance in his home debut.

Theres ample digging left to escape the 1-6 hole Boston has created to start the season, and Pedroia is opting for the team route to solving their troubles rather than accepting back pats and Atta boys for one days work.

We just need to continue to play well and continue to work, said Pedroia. I came in here thinking we need a win, and we need to find a way to do it. I dont care if its the ugliest win of all time. We needed that win.

The Boston win was ugly, but Pedroias performance was far from it.

The former Rookie of the Year and MVP would seem to be right where he needs to be with a .296 batting average after seven games, but all that still matters to him is raising his club out of the doldrums while grinding out games and blocking out the negativity surrounding a team off to a potentially disastrous beginning.

Were 1-6. We dont care whatever you guys say or write. Were just grinding. Were just going to play baseball, said Pedroia. Weve got a lot of great players on this team and a lot of great pitching. Well find ourselves.

We all want to do well. We all want to get a hit every time up. So does Youk. So does Carl. So does everybody else.

The difference today: Pedroia started getting those hits early and set down the gauntlet for the rest of his teammates to follow.

Once again the Little Sox Generals unbending attitude show them the way to victory when they needed it most, and things are a little better in Boston at least for a day.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

mlb_rob_manfred_081414.jpg

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

cy_young_corey_kluber_chris_sale_111517.jpg

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE