Red Sox

Top Sox hitters lock on, but stil lacking consistency

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Top Sox hitters lock on, but stil lacking consistency

BOSTON The Boston Red Sox did a pretty fair job of showing exactly what they can do when everything goes right against the big, bad Texas Rangers on Monday night.

They got the pitching and the quality defense, but the real key was the top four hitters in the Sox lineup going ballistic in the 9-2 victory at Fenway Park that nudged them back to the .500 mark.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez went 11-for-18 with eight doubles and eight RBIs while knocking the stuffing out of Yu Darvish, and Ellsbury, Crawford and Pedroia became the first fearsome threesome in franchise history to each whack at least two doubles out of the 1-3 spots in the lineup.

While Sox manager Bobby Valentine wasnt going to start expecting that kind of production every single night, its much closer to the Sox team he envisioned prior to arriving in Boston.

Its going to be hard to get Dustin with three hits and Adrian with three hits every single night, or having Carl and Ellsbury on base all the time, said Valentine, who may not have witnessed some of the hitting binges that Pedroia is eminently capable of providing. But having consistent at bats are what were getting these days. These guys are world class players and theyre playing very well right now.

Of particular importance is Pedroias three-hit, three-double performance out of the No. 3 hole after languishing as a .260-something hitter for much of the season. The second baseman is a career .300 hitter and could truly spark the Sox if he goes on one of his patented hitting tears over the final two months of the season.

Clearly an energized Ellsbury and a confident Crawford have brought bounce to the top of Bostons batting order, but theyll also need consistency on a nightly basis if theyre looking to pile wins together.

The Sox are tops among Major League teams in runs scored this season, but theyve been an all-or-nothing kind of outfit. Theyre also riding on the accomplishments of the first few months of the season. Nine of their thirteen double-digit scoring binges came in April or May, and theres been a steady offensive slowdown as the Sox have trudged through the dog days of their schedule.

So its important to build on Mondays impressive showing against a very good team, and spread out the offensive over multiple nights while their starting pitching unit gets their house in order.

When Ellsbury and Crawford are healthy and they get into the rhythm that they can both be in, thats when this team is going to score a lot of runs. They set the table and they set the tone, said Gonzalez. After that its up to the middle of the order to drive them in. If they can be on base then we can score some runs.

In so many ways the Red Sox win over the Rangers was exactly the way Boston would conjure up a victory blueprint if such a thing existed in baseball. Its no mystery whats needed for the Sox to embark on an epic winning streak in the final 62 games of the regular season.

They need a lot more of what they showed in a short burst against a playoff caliber team, and its up to the big guns in the top four spots of the Boston lineup to provide it for them.

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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