Red Sox

Scutaro, Reddick play bigger than their bodies


Scutaro, Reddick play bigger than their bodies

By Joe Haggerty Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON In the battle of the little guys, the Red Sox finally came out on top in the end.

It looked like it was going New Yorks way when solo homers by Eduardo Nunez and Brett Gardner seemed to be the difference between winning and losing, but then Bostons own support guys brought home the come-from-behind 3-2 victory in the tenth inning at Fenway Park.

Marco Scutaro finished off a 4-for-4 performance at the plate with a double off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the eighth inning that kick-started the game-tying rally, and Josh Reddick belted an RBI single in the bottom of the tenth that catapulted Boston to their eighth walk-off win of the season.

The win was a big statement from both Scutaro and Reddick that theyre willing and able once the playoffs begin, and battles like the 4 hour, 15 minute marathons against the Yankees become a nightly occurrence. The timing was uncanny for Scutaro, who said something clicked for him during batting practice and then proceeded to go out and put on an offensive clinic by spraying line drives and beating out infield hits.

For a guy that had struggled a bit against Rivera in his career aside from a walk-off homer when Scutaro was still a member of the Oakland As, the infielder looked comfortable slapping a double off the Green Monster scoreboard as the first hitter in the ninth frame. He moved to third on Jacoby Ellsburys sacrifice bunt with nobody covering third base, and then scored the tying run when Dustin Pedroia rocked a sacrifice fly out to left field.

It was something that Scutaro needed after starting the homestand in a 2-for-15 rut, and feeling some level of urgency with Jed Lowrie coming off the 15-day disabled list Monday as prime playing time competition at the shortstop position. Lowrie had earned the bulk of the playing time earlier in the season prior to his shoulder problems, and Scutaro will need to maintain a high playing level to secure as many starting nods as possible.

Scutaro scoffed at the question when asked if he was feeling any pressure to raise his level of play with Lowrie vying for at bats at the shortstop spot, and indicated it was all about the team. But since its an impossibility that both Lowrie and Scutaro will be in the starting lineup once the postseason arrives, its a case of the let the best shortstop win starting in Minnesota.

Scutaro got a nice little head start to the competition Sunday night in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Baseball.

Ive been kinda battling all year with my mechanics and my timing," Scutaro said. "But today during batting practice I felt something clicking in and I took it in during the game."

Does Scutaro feel like he needs to keep things up if he wants to play regularly?

Cmon man. Cmon man. Were just trying to win games here," he said. "It doesnt matter who is in the lineup. Weve got a mission here to just win. I dont care. When our regular guys go down, youve other guys like Reddick and Dan Wheeler are doing a great job. Thats what it is all about on winning teams.

Reddick is actually in a bit of the same category with a potential return of J.D. Drew looming as he builds up strength in his troublesome left shoulder. There are many around the Sox organization that still expect Drew to make a push for his right field job in the final two months of the season, and some that still view Reddicks game-to-game at bats as a tad too undisciplined for the OPS-loving Red Sox crew.

Reddick played into a lot of those beliefs in his first four at bats by watching few pitches pass by him and swinging at offerings far out of the strike zone a combination of things that can make Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan cringe. But the young right fielder also showed off his growing experience and mental toughness by clearing all of that from his mind, and exploding on a hanging Phil Hughes curveball in the bottom of the tenth inning for an RBI single toleft field that scored Darnel McDonald with the game-winning Sox run.

You put all those other at bats from that night in the past, and you focus on whatever you can to help win the game," Reddick said. "I got a first pitch curveball and I didnt miss it. I watched the way Hughes was pitching Papi Ortiz and I was sitting on the pitches he started him off with and I got a hold of it. I barreled it pretty well and I knew it was going to get in even though Brett Gardner has got pretty good speed.

Its my first walk-off hit in a long time, so it makes it that much more fun to enjoy the experience. And not to get the crap beat out of me in the wild postgame celebration.

Instead of kicking himself for stranding nearly double-digit runners on the bases in a fruitless loss to the rival Yankees, Reddick collected his first walk-off hit in the big leagues. The right fielder also executed the other big play in the game when he cut down Russell Martin at second base attempting to stretch a single into a double. Eduardo Nunez followed with a solo home run that would have ending things for the Sox had Martin been on base.

It was Reddicks fourth outfield assist of the season, and a sign that the youngster is beginning to get comfortable with the gigantic grass pasture otherwise known as right field at Fenway Park.

And speaking of comfortable, it appears that both Scutaro and Reddick are getting comfortable against the Yankees in their stints here in Boston, and that will make all the difference when things get more difficult for the Sox down the stretch.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0


Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. combined on a three-hitter, Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Astros reached the World Series for only the second time by blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP , and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve , the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron JudgeGary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."


Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

UPDATE: The deal is for three years, per Ken Rosenthal.

BOSTON — We’re just waiting on an announcement now.

A pair of national reports on Saturday afternoon, one from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal... 

...And another from MLB Network and's Jon Heyman...

have firmed up Alex Cora’s expected hiring as Red Sox manager. Both reported that Cora, the Astros bench coach, is expected to take the job once Houston's season ends, which could come as soon as Saturday night after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. 

Heyman reported a contract offer has already been made to Cora. 

A baseball source said this week that there was “not a doubt” Cora, the Astros bench coach, would wind up with the Red Sox gig. It’s unclear when exactly the offer was made to him, but one had not been made as of midday Wednesday, the source said. 

Cora, 41, a former Red Sox infielder (2005-08) who's also worked in the media and is the most sought-after managerial candidate at the moment, appeared the front-runner since the outset of what proved a small search for the Red Sox.

Earlier, Boston Globe reported that the Washington Nationals were interested in Cora after they fired Dusty Baker on Friday.