Red Sox

Pedroia cleaning up out of the fourth spot

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Pedroia cleaning up out of the fourth spot

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON David Ortiz has seen a lot of Red Sox lineups posted on the clubhouse wall over the last nine years.

Hes seen World Series Championship teams and hes seen baseball clubs that didnt have the goods to crack the postseason. Hes seen plenty of lineup combinations in that time period, and Big Papi has got a little helpful advice for his manager.

It might just be time to think about pushing Dustin Pedroia into the clean-up role on a little bit more of a regular basis.

If Im Tito Im letting him hit clean-up all year and make it easy for us, said Ortiz with a big smile on his face after Pedroia went 4-for-5 with three runs and an RBI to help lead the Sox to a 13-9 romp over the Royals at Fenway Park.

Maybe Terry Francona should start kicking the unconventional idea around a little bit more after Pedroias ten appearances in the cleanup slot have yielded a .559 batting average (19-for-34) with 11 runs, 10 RBI, 10 extra base hits and four home runs over the course of his career.

Its a small sample size, of course, but those are eye-popping numbers.

The Sox skipper admitted Pedroia will probably hit in the clean-up slot again on Wednesday with Kevin Youkilis still out of the lineup with hamstring tightness. He also hazarded the guess that hell hear about it from the verbose former AL Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

Well probably do it again tomorrow, and Ill probably hear about it. Pedroia is a pretty good player, said Francona. The three, four and five hitters all had a pretty solid night. Hes talking enough. Hes probably tired."

Pedroia lined up in the No. 4 spot in the lineup snugly between Adrian Gonzalez in the No. 3 hole and Ortiz himself as designated hitter in the No. 5 spot in the lineup, and he once again flourished in that spot.

The sight of feisty little Pedroia loosening up on deck between two of biggest sluggers in the American League even caused the second baseman to step back and laugh at his 5-foot-8, 165-pound body stacking up in the middle of the Boston batting order with the burly beef of Gonzalez and Ortiz.

A lot of guys swung the bat great," Pedroia said. "David was big for us tonight. Thats what good offensive teams have to do in being consistent. It looks kinda weird, though, when Adrian gets up to the plate and Im behind him. Then David is behind me. Its a little weird.

I use the same approach that I have when I hit second, so Im not trying to do anything different. Tito makes the lineup, he has 1,000 wins and hes trying to do special things so I dont know exactly what hes going to do. Im just trying to help us win and thats basically it.

The Sox second baseman smacked a triple in the first inning to extend his career-best hitting streak to 23 games and tied the franchise record for hitting streak by a Boston second baseman with Del Pratt from the 1922 Red Sox. Pedroia is hitting .392 with 24 runs scored and 17 extra base hits during the hitting streak, and has climbed all the way up to .304 with his batting average after a modest start to his season.

Then he jacked a single and a double in his next two at bats, and was of the way to hitting for the cycle for the first time in his career in just the fourth inning of the nearly four hour baseball game. There was a walk and a single in the two ensuing at bats, and Pedroia had one last at bat in the eighth inning to cap off hitting for the cycle with Royals outfielder Mitch Maier pitching mop up to him.

Pedroia got a decent amount of barrel on the Maier meatball, but didnt have enough oomph to power out a ball that landed safely in Alex Gordons glove at the left field warning track. The second baseman insisted he never stepped out of his normal hitting approach despite the cycle staring him in the face with a possible home run, but he very nearly made it happen anyway.

I knew it, but I was just trying to have a good at bat. Its a little tough when youre facing a position player thats just trying to get it over the plate. I actually hit it pretty good, but I cant supply that much of my own power. I knew I hit it pretty good with the wind blowing out, but it couldnt get there.

Pedroias final chance for the cycle falling just a little short is about the only thing not going right for the red-hot infielder at this point in time.

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

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.