Red Sox

Successful Red Sox homestand marks turning point

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Successful Red Sox homestand marks turning point

BOSTON The Red Sox opened their first homestand of the season, back in April, by taking the first three games from the Rays. They went on to lose the next five one to the Rays, and two each to the Rangers and Yankees. The finale of that homestand, a Sunday night game against the Yankees, was perhaps, mercifully rained out.In the previous game, on April 21, the Sox had suffered what has been their most crushing defeat of the season, turning a nine-run lead in the fifth into a 15-9 loss. The bullpen blew up by historic numbers, facing 22 batters in the seventh and eighth innings, with 14 runs scored. The 13 earned runs allowed by the pen were the most since giving up 15 in a 17-2 loss to the Twins on Aug. 10, 1994. The 14 total runs allowed were the most since giving up 17 in a June 19, 2000, 22-1 loss to the Yankees.After that game, with a record of 4-10, manager Bobby Valentine said he thought his team had reached its low point of the season.I think weve hit bottom, Valentine said back then. And if this isnt the bottom, then well find some new ends of the earth.While his team has yet to play with its full roster, Valentine has not had to go looking for those new ends of the earth.After trouncing the Blue Jays, 10-4, at Fenway Park Wednesday afternoon, the Red Sox reached their best record of the season, five games above .500, at 40-35. They reached .500 at home, at 21-21.Since falling to 4-10 after the April 21 loss, to start the season, the Sox have gone 36-25, tied for the second-most wins in baseball in the time, trailing only the Yankees 37.Valentine believed his team would turn things around. And, while things are not perfect, there are still uncertainties, and injuries have taken their toll, the teams just-completed nine-game homestand gives reason to join Valentine in his belief.The Sox finished the homestand with a record of 7-2, and have won nine of their last 11. They have won their last five series and have taken 11 of 15 series since May 10, going 11-3-1.I believed it, Valentine said I wasnt sure of it, but I believed it. Things were going so wrong and we couldnt catch a break. We had a season full of bad things happen. And things turned around because guys believed it, too, and they played hard every night that they came out.In the homestand, the Sox hit 16 home runs, the most theyve hit in a homestand of nine or fewer games since 20 homers on a nine-game homestand May 14 23, 1996, according to Elias.The Sox swept three games from the Marlins to open the homestand, then took two of three from the Braves and Blue Jays."That was definitely a good homestand for us, said Cody Ross. We got off on the right foot against the Marlins and just kept going, scoring runs, pitching well, playing good defense. It's nice to play like that at home.The Sox have lost 837 player-games to the disabled list more than the 803 games lost all of last season with 19 players serving 21 stints. But the players who have been brought in have contributed.Theres something to be said to what GM Ben Cherington and all the crew are doing, getting so much depth for us, said Adrian Gonzalez. Weve had a lot of our outfielders go down and weve had guys that have picked up and done an unbelievable job, as well as Daniel Nava coming up, and up and our pitching staff. Guys that weve called up have done a great job. We got a couple of guys in Triple A that have done a great job for us up here. So its really been an attribute to the fact of the roster, the team, our organization.With Wednesdays win, they have scored at least 10 runs for the 12th time this season, the most in the majors, going 11-1 in those games.We played great, said Dustin Pedroia. We played good ball. Now we just got to go to the West Coast and keep it going. Weve pitched great, played good defense and were swinging the bats really good. So, we got to keep it going.The Sox open a seven-game trip Thursday, with four games in Seattle and three in Oakland, before returning home to close out the first half with four games in three days against the Yankees."Collectively, as a group, we all knew that that April 21 loss to the Yankees was the cellar and it was not going to get any worse than that, said Ross. But with that being said, you still have to go out and play and perform and since then we've been having fun. Our main thing is to win series. We did that here. Now we can go on the road with some confidence and make a run before the All-Star break."

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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