Red Sox

Sweeney enjoying strong start

737184.jpg

Sweeney enjoying strong start

BOSTON When the Red Sox acquired outfielder Ryan Sweeney from the As in December as part of the trade that also brought closer Andrew Bailey to Boston, most observers and evaluators thought the Sox were getting a light-hitting, good-fielding player.

Sweeney -- who entered this season with a career average of .283, a .346 on-base percentage, and .341 slugging percentage -- has spent the early part of this season surprising those folks.

He is batting .361, fourth in the American League, sixth in the majors, with a .345 OBP, and .556 slugging percentage. Most of his plate appearances, 42, have been in the second spot, where he is hitting .308 (.333 OBP, .487 SLG) with seven doubles and three RBI.

Sweeney leads the major leagues with 12 doubles. In 108 games last season he hit just 11 doubles.

Its always good to get off to a good start with a different team, said Sweeney, who also played two seasons for the White Sox, who drafted him in the second round in 2003. Im enjoying it. The guys have made it an easy transfer and Im just having fun.

Sweeney, who turned 27 in February, said he hasnt made any substantial changes at the plate. But getting regular playing time has helped. He averaged just 95 games and 284 at-bats over the last two seasons with the As.

Not really anything different, he said. Just getting consistent playing time and feeling good. I havent really changed anything. I felt good going from spring training into the regular season, so Ive just tried to stay consistent every game and every at-bat, not giving an at-bat away, even if were up by 10 or down by a few runs or whatever it is.

In spring training manager Bobby Valentine said Sweeney didnt really know himself as a hitter. Sweeney began making adjustments this spring to understand himself better at the plate.

Little things in spring training, just kind of like moving my hands a little bit moreand having a fluid stance, he said. But obviously throughout the year you adjust to different things when different things feel good. But right now I havent really had toIm just trying to go up there and see a hit.

He attributes some of the success to having other left-handed hitters David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez around.

Adrian and Big Papi help me a lot, he said. Just to be able to watch them and talk to them about different approaches to different pitchers and just the way they go about their business in the cage and approaches to their swing and different things. Being able to watch them as a left-handed hitter helps me out a lot.

Sweeney is batting .397 against right-handed pitching this season, just .111 against lefties. He has not made a start against a lefty, going 1-for-9 with three strikeouts overall. It just a matter of time, he believes, before all those numbers change.

My first three years in Oakland and all, before that I was always a starter and I always faced lefties and I was always in there against whoever. It didn't really matter, he said. But sometimes in baseball, you do the match-up thing and last year with not playing a whole lot and not getting to face lefties at all really, I think you kind of get put in that category where maybe people think you can't hit lefties anymore. I dont have a problem facing them. Its just that I havent gotten a lot the last couple of years. So when you go up there and you havent faced them for a couple of years you're not really comfortable facing them,. Especially when youve got guys that are pretty good left-handed pitchers or guys coming out of the bullpen. Thats their one job, is to get you out.

There is another column in his stat line hed like to improve. After 21 games he is still without a home run. In Wednesdays starting lineup only Will Middlebrooks, making his big league debut, and Marlon Byrd, who struggled in the National League before a trade and his first game with the Sox on April 23, also had zeros in the home run column.

Obviously Id like to hit for power but my swing is such a line drive swing that I hit line drives all the time, he said. But in BP I can do it. Its just figuring that out when I can transfer it on certain counts, maybe take bigger swings. But Im just going to try to be the player that I am right now and see how that works out.

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

MORE:

“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.
 

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

cubs_javier_baez_101817.jpg

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez sensed he was ready to bust out of his slump and give the Chicago Cubs the lift they needed.

As breakthroughs go, this was a big one. Just in time to keep the season going for the defending champs.

Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

"We have to be much more offensive," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

Baez finally got going with a pair of solo drives .

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to help the Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

"They're the world champs, and you know they're going to fight to the end," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "So today, they did. We got beat today."

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. He had been watching videos and felt his timing was starting to come back in recent trips to the plate.

"I just need to take a step back and see what's going on," he said.

Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley , who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

"Great to have this win, because if not we were going home tomorrow," Baez said. "But I feel like we're still not on track as a team. But I think if we get back on track, everybody as a team, we're going to be the best again."

Contreras' 491-foot homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez sent a towering drive out to left.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

"Hopefully, it's not a goodbye, it's a thank you, obviously," Arrieta said. "I still intend to have another start in this ballpark. If that's where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there."

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

"The only frustrating thing is we fell a run short," Turner said. "We played a great game, they played a great game. They just hit one more ball over the fence than we did."

FINISHING UP

Maddon said Davis would not be available on Thursday.

"So other guys got to do it," Maddon said. "We have to be much more offensive. It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

QUOTABLE

Chicago's Kyle Schwarber on all the Cubs' runs coming on homers in the series: "That's fine. A run's a run, anyway you can get them in. Obviously, we want to manufacture some runs, but we won a ballgame 3-2 hitting homers; I'll take that, too."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: The Dodgers turn to Kershaw to try to wrap up the series. The three-time NL Cy Young winner went five innings in Game 1, allowing two runs, and has a 4.76 ERA in two postseason starts this year.

Cubs: Quintana pitched five innings of two-hit ball in Game 1, one day after his wife, Michel, was taken off the team plane in Albuquerque with a medical ailment.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE