Red Sox

Sox need pitching staff to pitch in

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Sox need pitching staff to pitch in

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
The Red Sox' troubles, it now seems obvious, go beyond trying to find ways to find at-bats for David Ortiz on the upcoming nine-game tour of National League ballparks.

In the bigger picture, the offense has sputtered in recent days. The Sox managed just five runs in the final two games of their interleague series with the San Diego
Padres, and even when they struck for 14 runs in the opener Monday, much of that was the result of the Padres' bullpen largesse and not anything the Sox were doing with the bats.

And the issues, which pre-date the whole dilemma surrounding the DH for the next week a a half, are likely to remain for the forseeable future.

The loss of outfielder Carl Crawford is a significant one. Sidelined with a hamstring pull on the first night of the recent homestand, Crawford had emerged from his April
slump as a big contribtor who had helped provide length to the Boston lineup.

From May 1 until he was injured last weekend, Crawford hit .295 with a slugging percentage of .476, piling up 16 extra-base hits over a span of 43 games.

Gone, too, is shortstop Jed Lowrie, who was limited by a sore shoulder for the last few weeks, but still offered some pop in the seventh hole of the batting order.

Suddenly, the Red Sox face the prospect of playing most of their games with the likes of Darnell McDonald, J.D. Drew and Marco Scutaro hitting fifth, sixth and seventh rather than the trio of Ortiz, Crawford and Lowrie.

And the same lineup which seemed to routinely be scoring double figures in runs only a while ago, now feature a dramatic falloff after the cleanup position.

The prospect of a sputtering offense highlights how unproductive the bench has been since the start of the season. McDonald, a valuable role player a year ago, has contributed almost nothing this season. His paltry OPS of .364 is less than half of his .766 OPS a year ago and he has just one extra-base hit in 40 plate appearances this season.

Then there's Mike Cameron, whose .161.227.287 line speaks volumes. At 38, less than a year removed from abdominal surgery, Cameron appears, frankly, to be done.

Moreover, the unavailability of Lowrie has further depleted the team's reserves. Instead of having Marco Scutaro serving as a quality and experienced utility man, the team is left with Drew Sutton, a journeyman 4A player whose limitations are
increasingly evident the more he plays.

None of this would matter as much if the Sox were getting somethinganything from J.D. Drew, who has been both unproductive and disinterested for much of the season.

Drew's .656 OPS is more than 200 points below his career figure of .878. and his play continues a pattern of general decline that began last season.

"I don't get it,'' said a talent evaluator from an American League team when recently asked about Drew. "There doesn't seem to be anything physically wrong with him and I don't see anything has changed in terms of his bat speed. But he's clearly not the same player he was.''

All of which puts greater pressure on the top four hitters in the lineup -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis -- to continue carrying the offense for the forseeable future.

Ellsbury and Gonzalez have been locked in almost from the beginning, while Pedroia and Youkilis have ramped up of late. Since getting confirmation that his knee was structurally sound (and receiving an injection of Synvisc), Pedroia has been streaking, scoring 11 runs over those 12 games while compiling a line of .413.525.696.

In roughly that same stretch, Youkilis has been equally hot, taking full advantage of Pedroia being on base more and driving in runs at nearly 1.5 per game (17 in the last 12) while fashioning an OPS of 1.123.

If there's any consolation, it's two-fold.

First, the Red Sox have built the best record in the American League since May 11, going a blistering 27-10 in that span, and, as such, have something of a cushion to protect against a mid-season slump.

Second, the competition isn't exactly daunting. Other than a three-game visit with the Phillies the next week, the Red Sox face the Pirates, Astros and Orioles in 10 of their next 16 games leading up to the All-Star break.

Just as the hitting carried the team in its recent five-week stretch, it's time for the pitching to chip in and get the Sox to the break in one piece.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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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