Red Sox

Valentine: Saltalamacchia 'did a very good job tonight'

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Valentine: Saltalamacchia 'did a very good job tonight'

BOSTON The bright spots in this Red Sox season have been difficult to find ,but Jarrod Saltalamacchia provided at least a glimmer of one in the Red Sox 5-4 loss to the Yankees Wednesday night at Fenway Park.Returning to the lineup for the first time since he left the game against the Blue Jays Friday night with back spasms, Saltalamacchia went 3-for-3, falling a single shy of the cycle, reaching base in all four plate appearances including a walk, with two runs scored and an RBI. He led off the ninth inning with a home run into the right field seats, his 24th homer of the season, to pull the Sox within a run.Salty had a couple of days off and his back was a little tight after he hit the triple but he stayed in there and played great, said manager Bobby Valentine. I think Saltys had a really good year for us this year, totally unappreciated by some. But did a very good job tonight and for most of the season. A walk, double, triple and homer. Thats pretty good.Saltalamacchia set a career high with three extra-base hits. His fifth-inning triple, his first hit of the night, was his first triple of the season and first since Sept. 19, 2011, against the Orioles.I got the hardest part out of the way the triple, he said. After that my back started to get tighter. I was trying to focus on that and staying in the game.It was the first time in his career that he reached base in four plate appearances.I wasnt trying to do too much because of the back, he said. I wasnt trying to overswing. I was standing in on balls, not trying to pull anything. Felt pretty good.After taking game one on Tuesday from the Yankees, the Sox stayed in Wednesdays game until their final at-bat, showing, perhaps, more fight than they have in some recent games.Im not going to say more of a fight, Saltalamacchia said. The Yankee series always means a little more to Boston fans and us. I dont think weve changed our approach,. We want to win. We dont want to lay down for anybody. We havent changed our approach.Although Saltalamacchia is hitting just .232 for the season, with a .293 on-base percentage, he is slugging .480, third among major league catchers entering Wednesdays game. He also entered the game tied for second-most home runs by major league catchers. His 24 home runs are the most by a Sox catcher since Jason Variteks 25 in 2003.If I finish the season doing well, you feel good, Saltalamacchia said. One guy cant win all the games. David Ortiz is out and thats taken a big hit on our offense. It would be better if the team went into the offseason feeling better where were at. I wasnt thinking too much about my swing, just trying to put good at-bats together.

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

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

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

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe 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.

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. 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.

Contreras' homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez's landed beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

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.

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.

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans.

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