Red Sox

Pregame notes: Buchholz, Crawford close to returning; Bard struggles

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Pregame notes: Buchholz, Crawford close to returning; Bard struggles

BOSTON -- Clay Buchholz threw another bullpen session Friday afternoon, and the expectation is that he'll rejoin the Red Sox rotation sometime in the first two series after the All-Star break.

Buchholz has been sidelined after being diagnosed with esophagitis.

"He'll throw another bullpen soon,'' said manager Bobby Valentine. "He's feeling great. After the break, he'll either slot into the first turn through the rotation or early in the second rotation, depending on whether we and he feel whether he should get on the mound and pitch to some hitters or not.''

Translation: if Buchholz goes on a brief rehab stint, he'll pitch when the team gets home for its first homestand. If he's deemed ready to pitch right away, he'll likely pitch one of the three weekend games at Tampa Bay on July 13-15.

"His bullpen sessions have been very good,'' said Valentine. "His weight is all back, his strength is back.''

Carl Crawford was at Fenway Friday, getting checked out by the medical and training staff. After spending much of the last week with Double A Portland, he'll spend Saturday and Sunday with Pawtucket.

There's been speculation that Crawford could rejoin the team in Tampa Bay after the break, but he isn't ready to commit to that.

"I don't think you'll know until you get there,'' he said. "so we're just taking it day-by-day right now. That's how we're approaching it and we'll see. I'd like to get back as soon as possible. But we'll have to wait and see.''

Crawford said the elbow is "not 100 percent healthy. But I'm able to hit, so I said pretty much whenever I'm able to start hitting the ball and swinging that bat, then I'll play even if the elbow is still some issue.''

As for throwing, Crawford joked that he wouldn't be "hosing anybody at home or anything like that. But I think it's strong enough to where I could hit the cut-off man and get to the ball quick enough that I can stop the guys from advancing.''

Scott Podsednik was at Fenway, too, being examined. He's been on a rehab assignment with Pawtucket after being placed on the DL June 18 because of a groin strain.

It's likely that Podsednik will be added as the 26th man for Saturday's day-night doubleheader. Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to add an extra player for the day.

"He just got examined and he's healthy and ready to go,'' said Valentine. "We're trying to figure out all those options for the 26th man and of course, he'd be one of them.''

Daniel Bard experienced another erratic outing Thursday night pitching for Pawtucket, throwing two wild pitches, hitting two hitters and giving up two hits.

In the previous outing, Bard, believing he had found a key to correcting his mechanics, had a 1-2-3 inning and the Sox were hopeful that he had turned the corner.

But Thursday night was as bad as ever. While at Pawtucket, Bard has made 12 appearances and compiled an 8.78 ERA while walking 10 and hitting 6 others in 13 13 innings.

"I have confidence that Daniel's going to be just fine,'' said Valentine. "I guess he had a control problem once (early in his career at Single A) and he got over it and seemed to get to a very, very high level of performance. And I think he'll do it again.''

Will Middlebrooks was out of the lineup for the fourth straight game after straining his left hamstring last Sunday in Seattle.

"He ran at about 70 percent capacity on Thursday,'' said Valentine. "He felt just okay. He ran Friday and felt closer to 100 percent, so that's where he is. He's close.''

Asked if he thought Middlebrooks would be back in the lineup this weekend, Valentine said: "There's a chance, a chance he could pinch-hit, for sure, maybe even Friday night.''

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.