Red Sox

Sox pleased with battles vs. Strasburg

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Sox pleased with battles vs. Strasburg

BOSTON -- Stephen Strasburg was the story coming in, and he was the story coming out of Friday night's game at Fenway Park, in which the Red Sox lost 7-4 to the Washington Nationals.

The 23-year-old righty stuck out 13 batters in six innings, while allowing two runs in six innings, picking up his seventh win in the process.

"Seeing him for the first time, our hitters battled him," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the loss. "He threw a lot of pitches in six innings, for sure. But, like they were saying, he's not just a thrower, he's a pitcher. He had pitches he could throw behind in the count. His split-changeup was a really devastating pitch. We haven't seen that before. His fastball was alive all night long. He's special. He's a very good pitcher, obviously."

As special as Strasburg is, and was on Friday night, Valentine could do nothing but praise his offense afterwards.

"This was a good offensive performance by our team. I know we came up short, but this was a battling performance for us. We're in the ninth inning, we had a couple runs taken away from us. We were still battling at the end there.

"There was no letdown, and the guys didn't get discouraged. I thought there was one good at-bat after another."

The Red Sox fell behind 7-2 after originally taking a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run double by Mike Aviles. And after putting up two more runs against Washington's bullpen in the eighth and ninth innings to cut it down to a three-run game, Valentine would have liked to have one specific pitch back -- a called strike on Kevin Youkilis that ended the sixth inning with the bases loaded.

A worn down Strasburg had thrown 113 pitches and loaded the bases with one out on a Dustin Pedroia single, an Adrian Gonzalez double, and a David Ortiz walk. Strasburg then struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and ended the inning -- and his night -- by punching out Youkilis with a 3-2 fastball that appeared low, forcing Youkilis to lose his cool and get ejected.

"I think that inning should have continued," said Valentine after the loss. "Who knows, we could have tacked on three more, four more runs on this thing.

"That pitch was not a strike."

The other run that was taken away from the Red Sox came earlier, in the third inning, when Nationals right fielder Xavier Nady leaned over into Washington's bullpen and robbed Adrian Gonzalez of a solo home run.

The out was in the midst of a stretch in which Strasburg retired 11 consecutive batters after allowing the two-run double to Aviles in the second inning.

"He's got good stuff," said Gonzalez afterwards. "We knew what we were expecting. We've seen enough of it on TV and on video, so we know what we were going up against. I thought we did a good job. But he was the better man out there."

Still, the Red Sox seemed pleased with the way they battled him.

"He's good, he's got good stuff," said Saltalamacchia. "His fastball, throwing it as hard as he does on both sides of the plate. He's got a good, sharp curve ball. He throws his changeup at any time. It's definitely not a comfortable at-bat. We definitely made him throw some pitches though. We just couldn't come back from that many runs."

And perhaps Gonzalez said it best, when wondering -- out loud -- what could have been, had Youkilis not been called out on strikes with bases loaded in the sixth.

"We were one pitch away from making that game interesting."

On Friday night, that one pitch went to Strasburg.

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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