Red Sox

Questionable umpiring leaves Sox with bad taste

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Questionable umpiring leaves Sox with bad taste

BOSTON On the verge of falling to 1-5 on the six-game homestand, 1-6 in their last seven, 14-19, and two games under .500 for the first time since May 19, the frustration from the Red Sox dugout was evident in the home half of the ninth inning Sunday afternoon, after the Nationals took a 4-3 lead in the top of the inning.

In the top of the inning, Alfredo Aceves had walked pinch-hitter Bryce Harper with one out, then gave up a two-out double to Nats No. 9 hitter Roger Bernardina on a 2-2 fastball that scored Harper.

With one out in the bottom of the inning and Mike Aviles on first base representing the tying run, Scott Podsednik struck out, bringing Dustin Pedroia to the plate.

Entering the at-bat Pedroia was just 3 for his last 23 since returning to the lineup Tuesday after sitting out six games with a thumb injury.

With a count of 1-2, Pedroia fouled off a 94-mph fastball from Nationals closer Tyler Clippard. With that, manager Bobby Valentine emerged from the Sox dugout, jawing at home plate umpire Al Porter the whole way.

Arguing balls and strikes earned Valentine an immediate ejection, his second of the season.

But, it wasnt just that pitch and it wasnt just one pitch that had Valentine upset. It was the cumulative effect of the series.

"Alfredo struck the guy out on a pitch that the whole ball is on the plate and he calls it a ball, Valentine said. Then he hits an RBI (double).

Valentine was referring to the 1-2 pitch from Aceves to the left-handed hitting Bernardina. According to MLB.coms Gameday View graphics, Valentine is right. The fourth pitch to Bernardina was within the strike zone, making it the third strike of the at-bat, and ending the inning.

It was a fastball set up away and caught it on the inside corner, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. From what I saw it was a pretty good pitch.

Im not going to complain, Aceves said. What do you think of the umpires? I cant complain. Its been like that for years.

But on the pitch that was called a ball for a 2-2 count?

He could have called it a strike, yeah, Aceves said. I missed the spot, but like Ive been saying, theyre tough hitters and we have to make our pitches. Unfortunately he didnt call it a strike, and like I said, its been that way for 10 years or more than that. Weve got to come back and play against the Marlins and win that series.

But, with calls like that, it can force a pitcher and catcher to re-examine their strike zone.

Its tough, Saltalamacchia said. I felt like early in the game we got some pitches that kind of went our way and then later on in the game, I think Ace made a great pitch, 2-2, that from what I understand, what I saw, was a strike. But nobodys perfect and we understand that. All we ask is just a better look at everything.

But, he knows as a catcher, complaining doesnt always do any good.

I dont think it does, he said. When I argue, its protecting the pitcher. I want him to get every pitch that he can. Ace is battling. He did a great job, made a great pitch 2-2 that I felt got us out of that inning, and had a chance to win the game. When it comes down to it, thats what we want to do, we want to win. Were not asking them to expand the strike zone. Were not asking them to completely tighten it up. We just want it to be equal on both sides and just kind of tighten up and get a better look at every pitch.

And when the hitters are uncertain, it can take away confidence. The third pitch to Pedroia, a called strike making the count 1-2 was out of the strike zone according to MLB.coms graphics.

You have to talk to the hitters, Valentine said. The game is simple: Throw it over the plate, call it a strike. Don't throw it over the plate, call it a ball. It's simple. That's all. That's all anybody asks. I know it's been going on for 100 years. I'm not the first one to say it. But this was a pretty lousy series.

Adrian Gonzalez went 2-for-13 in the series, with a home run and a double. Both hits came in Fridays game. On Sunday he went 0-for-4, ending three innings, leaving four runners on base.

Asked his thoughts on the umpiring, Gonzalez replied:

Theyve been great all year. Thats all Ive got to say. And he walked out of the clubhouse.

Pedroia, though, was not so reticent.

Yeah, its pretty disappointing, he said. Were trying to compete, everyone is, both teams, and you dont want the umpires to come into play and stuff like that. Its hard enough playing the game against good pitching and good players. So its pretty disappointing.

Saltalamacchia went 0-for-4 Sunday with four strikeouts.

From a hitters aspect of it, I dont know too much because I swung at pretty much everything he threw, Saltalamacchia said. But I felt there were some pitches they could definitely have went our way. But just the way game is, you know. You cant really rely on the umpires. We got to do it ourselves and thats what it boils down to.

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

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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

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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.

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