Red Sox

Tension remains high between umpires, teams

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Tension remains high between umpires, teams

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
Earlier this month when Torontos Edwin Encarnacion was thrown out at the plate as the potential tying run in the ninth against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, ending the game and sending the Blue Jays to defeat. Manager John Farrell expressed his displeasure.

We should still be playing, Farrell said. That play is right in front of the home plate umpire.

We don't have the benefit of replay but the wide margin (with) which he missed the tag, (I'm) a little bit surprised that the call went that way."

Although not completely conclusive, replays appeared to show that Encarnacion was safe.

The Mariners have twice been victims of walks issued on three balls, including one that resulted in the only run in a 1-0 loss to the Padres.

Several players throughout baseball, and at least one manager, the Rangers Ron Washington, have called out the umpires for what is perceived to be poor performance.

Then Tigers manager Jim Leyland, in the wake of being ejected along with two of his players, commented on what he sees to be a heightened sense of conflict between umpires and teams.

There's just too much tension, Leyland told the Grand Rapids Press. You can feel it. Managers, players, coaches are on edge. Umpires are on edge. Its not a good situation. That usually causes blow-ups.

"Umpires miss a call. The manager makes mistakes. Players make mistakes. That's just part of the game. But I just think that for whatever reason, it seems to me this year we've been on a campaign to try to ease the tension, and it seems like the tension's more -- throughout baseball. I'm not just talking about the Tigers."

Leyland is not the only one that sees heightened tensions.

Yeah, Ive noticed it, said Jonathan Papelbon, who was ejected in the ninth inning of a game against the As last month, the first time in his career hes been tossed. Have you noticed it? A lot more run-ins, right?

There were 16 ejections in baseball in the first five days of July. But, according to SABR guru David Vincent, there were 118 ejections through July 19 this season, compared to 111 through the same date in 2010, a negligible 6 percent increase. Through the end of June there were 93 ejections this season, compared to 83 last season, a 12 percent increase, but down from 114 in 2008 and 116 in 2005, a 20 percent decrease for the same time period.

Commissioner Bud Selig addressed Leylands comments last week at the All-Star Game.

"Jim is right in some sense Selig told the Detroit Free Press. We need to remove some of that tension."

Because of Leylands stature and tenure in the game, his words carry weight.

Hes been obviously doing this a lot longer than a lot of us have, especially from that perspective, said Jason Varitek. Is there more tension? Id have to be out there every single day to say if theres more. Is there something on both sides that we could continue to do as players, as umpires, as managers, as coaches? Yeah, we can do a lot to make this game better in most regards.

What can be done about it?

I think John Farrell said it best when he said at the end of the day, the umpires dont have to answer to anybody and we have to answer to the media, Papelbon said. I think that was a pretty good statement.

Id like to see there somehow be a way of, theyve got to answer to somebody and theyve to have some kind of protocol to where if they dont do their jobs, theres got to be consequences and repercussions. Just as if we dont do our jobs theres consequences. If I dont get out there and make pitches, if Dustin Pedroia doesnt go out there and make plays, we lose our jobs. And I think its only fair you get the best people out there to do the best job.

I dont know what the answers are, Varitek said. But the goal is to continue to work together to better the product on the field. The product on the field is to see Mariano Rivera face Adrian Gonzalez in a one-run game with the bases loaded. How we continue to make sure that is the most important thing, both on the players side and on the umpires side, we need to continue it. If players have to be more respectful, we need to be more respectful. Whatever it is, I think in anything the lines of communication need to become more expanded, between all of the above.

The Sox and Orioles got through their three-game series in Baltimore without incident, unlike their four-game set in Boston before the All-Star break , when there was a total of five hit batters and eight ejections, including that of right-hander Kyle Weiland in his major league debut in the series finale.

Through 96 games the Sox have eight total team ejections this year, led by manager Terry Franconas three. At the same point last season, they had five. Of course, half of their ejections this season came in that Baltimore series. Varitek was ejected along with Papelbon in the game against the As in June. It was the fifth time he has been tossed and first since May 28, 2009. He takes responsibility for his most recent ejection.

Oh yeah, he said, when asked if he thought he deserved to be ejected. But that was part of the situation of different things that go in games and I had a responsibility. I was in a different spot to where I had to keep Pap in the game.

The players, managers, and fans often have the benefit of replays that the umpires dont. They are able to get several angles of a play in varying speeds, when the umpires must make a call immediately in real time.

There are times where there is tension, and there are some crews where its very smooth, said Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale. I was in a conversation with someone, I wont name names, but outside of the game, and one interesting thing is that TV, media, the power of the pencil, the blogs, the tweeting, you can scrutinize pretty quick, right at hand without putting a lot of thought into it. With replays, we can get four different angles. When I was speaking to an umpire, and I wont name names, but they get one view.

Theres a break in the action, so television goes to a replay. I say that because I think, not that it adds, but umpires know that youre able to go look at things, replays, and come out and start barking at them, start yelling at them. So I think in some ways maybe its not unfair but they know that thats happening.

And then on the flip side I think there is an ethic of personality: How do you deal with the person in a judgment situation? How do you talk to them? How do you come across? How do you handle yourself? How do you present yourself? Their reaction? I think all that plays a part. I think theres a mounting experience. You go through these periods, whether its young umpires, umpires getting more mature as they get into their eighth, ninth, 10th year, veteran umpires you kind of know their personalities and the line that you can step to. So I think its a number of things. Its just not one thing.

Varitek has spent his 15-season career working with any number of umpires, getting to know them, being able to read their personalities. As with any situation in life, there are different personalities involved. And those different personalities respond differently to different situations.

Theres times I had some enjoyable work back there, and that cant be forgotten in all this, too, Varitek said. I think the doors need to be open on both ends to allow communication to better the product. The end result of the product is that we get to see Mariano Rivera face Adrian with bases loaded with two outs.

Its probably just like any relationship. There are some days Im quiet as a mouse. Ive learned to talk more and theres other days where its a constant dialogue. I think the more there's a dialog the better you can learn each other and move on. I think theres a level of respect you have to have back there, because youre not dealing with them for two or three pitches. Youre dealing with them for a couple hundred pitches a night. Theyre going to make mistakes, were going to make mistakes. I may see a pitch a certain way, but you build. You let them establish what their zone is, and then you work with it, with what it is.

There are things that have been done, and are continuing to be done to improve the situation.

One thing Ive heard some players say, that if they get fined, its in the papers, its in the media, said Hale. And with umpires you dont know. But the umpires have communicated with us, the organizations. Different things come up, when you hear you should have handled that situation a little differently. And were dealing with that. Thats just their way. Unless you start changing the protocols, so to speak, we really dont know what happens to the umpires. But you got to think there is something, disciple or repercussions. We just dont know. Say what you want to, but thats the business.

As far as on-field stuff, organizations can send their comments about a situation, some stuff to the major league office. Thats the way it is.

I think where were at, at this level, and the people involved, I think they look at it. I think they read it. You have hearings about different things. So, your word or your opinion, I think it has some weight. I really do think so. Decision-making people thats up to them. But I dont think it gets ignored. Professionally, I dont think they do that.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

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ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

HOUSTON -  Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

CHICAGO -- Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

Fueled by a home run trilogy from their emotional utilityman, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.

Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs' title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night.

"It feels good to hear World Series," Kershaw said. "It's been a long time coming for this team."

After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers after they led the majors with 104 wins during the regular season. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball's most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles' last championship in 1988.

"Every night it is a different guy," Turner said, "and this is one of the most unbelievable teams I've ever been a part of."

Kershaw will be on the mound again when the Dodgers host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the ALCS at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers.

Los Angeles made the playoffs eight times in the previous 13 seasons and came up short of its 22nd pennant each time, often with Kershaw shouldering much of the blame. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner took the loss when his team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field.

The ace left-hander was just OK during his first two starts in this year's postseason, but Los Angeles' offense picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez's powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts and improved to 6-7 in the playoffs - matching Burt Hooton's club record for postseason wins.

"To get to be on the mound tonight and get to be going to the World Series on the same night, it's a special thing," Kershaw said. "Who knows how many times I'm going to get to go to the World Series? I know more than anybody how hard it is to get there. So, I'm definitely not taking this one for granted."

When Kenley Jansen retired Willson Contreras on a liner to shortstop for the final out, the party was on . The Dodgers poured out of the dugout and mobbed their dominant closer near the mound, and a small but vocal group of Los Angeles fans gathered behind the visitors' dugout and chanted "Let's go Dodgers! Let's go Dodgers!"

On the field, manager Dave Roberts hugged Lasorda and told the iconic skipper the win was for him.

"I bleed Dodger blue just like you," Roberts said. "Thank you, Tommy."

Hernandez connected on the first two pitches he saw, belting a solo drive in the second for his first career playoff homer and then a grand slam in the third against Hector Rondon. Hernandez added a two-run shot in the ninth against Mike Montgomery.

The 26-year-old Hernandez became the fourth player with a three-homer game in a league championship series, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS). Hernandez's seven RBIs tied a postseason record shared by four other players who all did it in a Division Series.

Troy O'Leary was the previous player to have seven RBIs in a playoff game, for Boston at Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS.

It was a stunning display for a player with 28 career homers who remains concerned about his native Puerto Rico, which is recovering from a devastating hurricane. He delivered a historic performance in front of his father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., who was diagnosed with a blood cancer related to leukemia in December 2015, but got word last November that he was in remission.

"For me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special," said Hernandez, who also goes by Kik�. "My body's here, but my mind's kind of back home. It's hard being away from home with what's going on.

"All I want to do right now is go to my dad and give him a big hug."

Kris Bryant homered for Chicago, but the NL Central champions finished with just four hits in another tough night at the plate. Each of their eight runs in the NLCS came via the long ball, and they batted just .156 for the series with 53 strikeouts.

Long playoff runs in each of the last two years and a grueling five-game Division Series against Washington seemed to sap Chicago of some energy, and its pitching faltered against sweet-swinging Los Angeles. Jose Quintana was pulled in the third inning of the final game, and the Cubs never recovered.

"They executed their plan," Bryant said. "They pitched great and the bullpen was lights out. That makes for a tough time scoring runs."

Turner and Taylor helped put it away for Los Angeles, contributing to a 16-hit outburst while closing out a pair of impressive performances.

Turner singled home Taylor in the Dodgers' five-run third, giving him seven RBIs in the series and 24 throughout his postseason career. Taylor finished with two hits and scored two runs as the Dodgers, who have won five straight NL West titles, improved to 7-1 in this postseason.

Taylor's versatility helped Los Angeles cover for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the series with a back injury, but is expected to return in the next round. Coming off a breakout season, the 27-year-old Taylor hit .316 with two homers and scored five times against the Cubs.

"I couldn't be happier to be a part of this and be with these guys," Taylor said. "It's been an unbelievable year, and I'm just super excited."

OUT WITH A BANG

Hernandez joined Kennedy (2002), Adrian Beltre (2011), Reggie Jackson (1977 vs. the Dodgers) and Babe Ruth (1928) as players to hit three home runs in a postseason series clincher.

LIGHTS OUT

Dodgers relievers have thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, a postseason record.