Red Sox

Prior: 'Things will work out'

735408.jpg

Prior: 'Things will work out'

Mark Prior wants nothing to do with what ifs and if onlys.
What ifs are bad, those are bad questions, Prior said. Theres been a lot of, Well, do you know why? Why is a bad question. What if? is a bad question. Its just easier to focus onI dont want to sound psycho-babblebut its easier just to wake up every day and say, This is what were doing today. These are the things I need to accomplish. And at the end of the day you can look back and say, OK, I did all these things. It was a good day. You start adding a bunch of good days up, hopefully good things happen.
Still, no one could blame Prior, whose career was derailed by injuries, if he indulged in such reflection. The first-round pick of the Cubs in 2001, and second overall pick behind Minnesotas Joe Mauer, Prior finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2003, his second season in the majors, going 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA in 30 starts. But, he has not appeared in the major leagues since 2006, when he started nine games for the Cubs, positing a record of 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA.
Im not going to lie and say there havent been times when I was close to saying enoughs enough, he said. But I try to view everything as positive. It gave me a chance to hang out with my family, and watch my kids be born and grow up, things a lot of players dont get to see, at least get to experience fully. Theres been a lot of support from my family, agent, friends. They all know what Ive been trying to work for. So it hasnt been completely negative. There have been trials but in life theres always trials. So you just put your head down and grind away and things will work out for the best.
Since he last appeared in the big leagues an Aug. 10, 2006, loss with the Cubs in Milwaukee the right-hander who is still just 31 has pitched at every level in the minors and has even done a stint with an independent team. After signing a minor league contract with the Red Sox on May 2 and working out in extended spring training at the teams complex in Fort Myers, Prior was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on June 1.
He is as close to getting back to the big leagues now as he has been at any point in the last six years.
I honestly dont focus too much on that, Prior said. Thats my goal. I want to get to the big leagues. Id love to do it here in Boston and have an opportunity to win a championship. But on an everyday basis, I know if I just trust and stick with my routines and the process and showing up every day, just be a professional, things will work out. Whether that works out in being in Boston, only time will tell and only one person knows that answer.
And right now, Ive been down the road of what-ifs: What if Im here in two weeks? What if Im doing this in two weeks or four weeks? Its too much to comprehend. Its better just to focus on day by day, hour by hour, what you got to do and take care of yourself and prepare yourself to just try to be successful on the field.
So far, Prior has been very successful on the field with the PawSox. In four appearances, spanning 5 23 scoreless innings, he has given up three hits with four walks and 13 strikeouts. He has a whopping 20.6 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio. On June 5, he went 1 23 innings against Indianapolis, recording all five outs on strikeouts, giving up two hits.
Hes been throwing the ball very well, better than I expected, said PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur. Velocitys been consistently 90, 91, 92. Hes got a slurve, half slider, half curveball. Working on his changeup, hasnt thrown it maybe once or twice. Its a work-in-progress pitch. But his fastball has been very effective. Hes been able to elevate it whenever he wants. He just seems like hes got decent command of it, which is always the first thing you need in pitching.
From what Ive seen so far, I think hes going to get back to the big leagues if he stays healthy because hes only going to get stronger. Hes still 31. Thats not that old. Ill never say 31s too old, because theres still some good years left.
From what hes shown in the four outings here, I think if he keeps progressing the way he has in the time hes been with us, he could help us or he could help somebody.
Prior is strictly a reliever now. Of his 106 big league games, in which he posted a career record of 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA, Prior never made a relief appearance. Working out of the bullpen has been a big adjustment for him, physically and mentally. But he knows his best chance to get back to the big leagues is likely to be in the bullpen.
Id love to start maybe again, but I dont think thats physically something Im capable of doing at least right now, he said. I dont know if we were having this conversation in five or six years, maybe things would be different. But I think right now my best bet of staying healthy and getting to that next level is relieving.
But, what hes doing and what hes trying to accomplish is impressive to those around him.
Im sure its tough, said PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. These guys are pretty good out here and to get back to that standard, especially a guy that was so elite like he was, just to get back and compete, Im sure its tough. But the expectations and knowing that you threw 95 100 mph and now youre dealing with 88 93, 94 at best right now, and 88 -92 probably comfortably and knowing that he doesnt have that to go to anymore, hes got do things different.
And we think theres more there. Goose Gregson, the Sox Gulf Coast League pitching coach and other evaluators in extended spring training sent him up here, they thought there was more there.
But the way hes been throwing, thats enough. Its pretty impressive. Hes got a good little slider, and can throw a changeup and above all hes got the experience. You cant teach that. Hes been a great guy around here, a hard worker.
Now, though, Prior is looking to his past experiences for guidance. Hes not dwelling on them.
You look to the past for experience and knowledge, not to make mistakes, he said. You dont look to the past as a precursor to the future, so to speak. You try to learn from your mistakes and your history. But trying to dwell on the past, you wont move forward. And again, this is not baseball. Its life. And if youre worried about what happened 10 years ago, youre not going to be worried about whats happening tomorrow.

NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

dodgers_yu_darvish_101717.jpg

NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have a tough lineup, a talented pitching staff and a manager making all the right moves.

Yup, it's beginning to look a lot like 1988.

Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles improved to 6-0 in this postseason, setting a franchise record for consecutive playoff wins. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip - on a long foul ball in the first inning.

"The focus has certainly been heightened in the postseason," manager Dave Roberts said.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to the club's last championship 29 years ago.

Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

"I think we've won four games in a row before," Chicago slugger Kris Bryant said. "Obviously, it's going to be a tougher road. But it'll make the story that much better. Can you imagine that?"

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. Their patient lineup is coming up big in key spots and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline.

Not even a return to Wrigley could get the Cubs back on track after a rough stay in Los Angeles. Chicago manager Joe Maddon juggled his lineup, inserting Kyle Schwarber into the No. 2 slot and benching slumping second baseman Javier Baez, but the defending World Series champions were shut down by another Dodgers starter and more stellar relief from the NL West champions.

"I really didn't change much approach-wise from first inning until the end of the game," Darvish said through a translator. "I just kept pitching the same way."

Making their third straight appearance in the NLCS, the weary Cubs also hurt themselves with a couple of big mistakes. Carl Edwards Jr. walked Darvish on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, continuing a rocky postseason for the reliever and leading to a round of boos from a frustrated crowd of 41,871.

A passed ball brought home another run in the eighth, and pinch hitter Kyle Farmer hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1.

Darvish departed after striking out Addison Russell in the seventh, pausing for congratulations from his whole infield before heading to the dugout. The Japanese right-hander allowed six hits, including Schwarber's first-inning homer, in his second career playoff win - both this year. He struck out seven and walked one.

Tony Watson got two outs, Brandon Morrow worked the eighth and Kenley Jansen closed it out after Ross Stripling gave up two hits in the ninth. With Roberts pushing the right buttons, Los Angeles' bullpen has yet to allow a run in the series.

"I think everybody's just been attacking," Morrow said. "That's the No. 1 thing."

The only four-game postseason sweep for the Dodgers came in the 1963 World Series against the New York Yankees. If Los Angeles can finish off Chicago on Wednesday, the Dodgers would have five days off before hosting the Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series opener.

"We knew today was the most important game, and now tomorrow's the most important game," Ethier said. "We're going to come out and figure out how to get the job done again."

Schwarber's sixth career postseason homer got Chicago off to a fast start, but Jon Jay struck out with two on to end the inning. The Dodgers responded with Ethier's leadoff drive in the second and Taylor's second homer of the series in the third, a mammoth shot to center off losing pitcher Kyle Hendricks.

"We had a chance obviously, early," Maddon said. "We hit some balls well early in the game, and then he settled in."

Ethier had two hits in his first start of this year's playoffs after he missed most of the season with a herniated lumbar disk. Taylor also had two hits and is 4 for 14 for the series, helping make up for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager to a back injury.

ON THIS DAY

Tuesday was the 13th anniversary of Roberts' memorable stolen base for Boston in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. The Red Sox were three outs from elimination when Roberts ran for Kevin Millar, swiped second and scored on Bill Mueller's single.

Boston went on to rally past New York and sweep St. Louis for its first World Series championship since 1918. Roberts said he never mentions the steal to his players, but it comes up occasionally.

"Yu Darvish about two weeks ago I guess was surfing the internet, and there was an `aha' moment," Roberts said. "He ran across the stolen base and kind of put two and two together and didn't realize that was his manager. So he proceeded to kind of awkwardly approach me about it and talked about my goatee and how I could steal a base."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Wood, who had a career-high 16 wins this season, will make his first appearance since Sept. 26. He was lined up for Game 4 of the NLDS, but the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks in three games.

Cubs: Arrieta has pitched just 14 1/3 innings since Aug. 30, including four innings of two-hit ball against Washington in Game 4 of the NLDS. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner was hampered by a right hamstring injury at the end of the season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

ALCS: Judge leads way as Yanks come back from 4-0 deficit, tie series with 6-4 win

yankees_aaron_judge_101717.jpg

ALCS: Judge leads way as Yanks come back from 4-0 deficit, tie series with 6-4 win

NEW YORK -- With a soaring shot headed for Monument Park, Aaron Judge got New York back on course for another memorable October.

Yankee Stadium sounds like it's ready, too.

"That ballpark is alive," Judge said after this latest rousing rally.

Judge ignited a comeback with a home run , then hit a tying double during a four-run eighth inning to spur the unflappable Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and tie the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Baby Bombers trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored when Gary Sanchez hit a go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

"I didn't know what to do after I touched home plate," Judge said. "I can't describe it."

The Yankees overcame three errors and have roared back from a second straight 0-2 series deficit - they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth to cap a three-hitter and get the save . Before a sellout crowd of 48,804, New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs and won for the 18th time in its last 21 home games.

"Every home game has been special," manager Joe Girardi said. "I just feel like the fans are back. And I see things that I haven't in a while, and it reminds me a lot of when I was playing here."

Yankee Stadium will be rocking again when Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday. It's a rematch of the series opener, when Keuchel outdid the Japanese right-hander in a 2-1 Astros win.

An AL MVP candidate mired in a sluggish October, Judge sparked the Yankees by chasing McCullers, who baffled the Yankees with his power breaking ball.

Except for the last one.

Judge launched a curveball into the netting above center field's Monument Park for New York's second hit.

"I thought Aaron's home run just lit a little spark," Girardi said.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch pulled McCullers after 81 pitches, Didi Gregorius tripled off Chris Devenski and Sanchez brought Gregorius in with a sacrifice fly.

Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a single to left, and pinch-hitter Chase Headley, in a 1-for-18 postseason slide, singled. He lost his balance stepping on first, fell en route to second, then took a step back before continuing on and getting his left hand in ahead of Jose Altuve's tag.

"Just stumbled and stumbled and stumbled and finally went down," Headley said. "I went from one of the best feelings of my career to one of the worst in just a matter of seconds."

Headley was awarded second after a video review, and the ballpark boomed when crew chief Gary Cederstrom gave the signal. It got so loud that on-deck hitter Brett Gardner said he "kind of blacked out for a second."

Gardner brought in Frazier on a groundout, and Judge came to bat with the bundled, buzzing crowd on its feet.

He lunged for a low slider and drilled a double high off the left-field wall as a fan in a longsleeve yellow shirt reached down and touched the ball. Pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury came home with the tying run, and Gregorius grounded a single just beyond shortstop Carlos Correa's reach to put runners at the corner. Sanchez, who had been 0 for 13 in the series, scored them both with a slicing drive that skipped to the wall in right-center.

"Those guys came up big for us today," Girardi said.

Judge had multiple hits for the first time since the AL wild-card game against Minnesota. He's still just 7 for 37 with 22 strikeouts in the playoffs, but he's 4 for 13 (.308) with three walks in the ALCS. He also homered in an 8-1 Game 3 win.

Judge said he used to dream about postseason at-bats in Yankee Stadium as a minor leaguer.

"The dreams aren't the same as reality," he said. "To be out with the crowd and the atmosphere, it was unbelievable."

The 35-minute bottom of the eighth was the latest stunning comeback for New York, which has overcome deficits of three or more 11 times this year, including in the wild-card game against Minnesota.

Houston had not lost consecutive games since Sept. 8-10 at Oakland and had the major leagues' best road record during the regular season. The Astros are hitting .153 in the series.

"We're not going to hit the panic button because we lost two games in a row," Correa said. "We got Keuchel going tomorrow."

McCullers cruised in his first start since Sept. 30 and turned over a 4-1 lead to his bullpen.

"He was awesome," manager A.J. Hinch said. "And really proud of him because I know how important this start was for him."

Yankees starter Sonny Gray pitched one-hit ball through five innings. His teammates have yet to score for him in four career postseason starts while he's still on the mound, including twice with New York this year.

Houston took a 3-0 lead in the sixth after George Springer walked leading off and Josh Reddick reached on catcher's interference by Austin Romine - inserted into lineup for his defense.

Yuli Gurriel lined a three-run double off David Robertson for a 3-0 lead in the sixth and second baseman Starlin Castro misplayed Brian McCann's seventh-inning grounder for his second error, allowing Marwin Gonzalez to score from second.

Winner Chad Green gave up an unearned run over two innings.

"All of a sudden, the pressure's back on the other team," Frazier said. "It's the best place to play and the loudest place in baseball to play. No doubt about it."

OUT, SAFE, OUT

The fourth inning ended strangely . Judge was doubled off first on Sanchez's popup, but the Yankees successfully challenged that Judge beat first baseman Gurriel to the base. Houston then appealed that Judge missed retouching second on his way back to first. Judge - realizing he would be called out on the challenge - decided to race McCullers' appeal throw to second and was tagged out. He would have voided the appeal attempt if he had beaten the throw.

"The coaching staff kind of gave me a heads up," Judge said. "So I said, `All right, let's go. Got to try something.'"

Adding to the strangeness: throughout the challenge, McCullers was digging around the mound with his hands, scooping up beads off his necklace, which broke during the play.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Tanaka has been receiving treatment on his leg after being struck by Reddick's liner in Game 1. He did not expect it to be an issue Wednesday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE