Nieves eager to start new job as Red Sox' pitching coach


Nieves eager to start new job as Red Sox' pitching coach

BOSTON New Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves has talked with all his pitchers, including some who are out the country (such as left-hander Franklin Morales, who is playing in the Venezuelan League, and Alfredo Aceves, who is in Mexico). Hes even talked with some who are no longer with the team. Nieves, 47, had served as the White Sox bullpen for the past five seasons, learning under pitching coach Don Cooper. Prior to that, he had served as a pitching coach in the White Sox organization since 1999. It was a pleasure being with Don for so many years, Nieves said. Hes great, not just a mentor but a great friend. We were able to do everything together. We even travelled together in spring training, roomed together. It was everything. I will still talk to him and well still be friends. 
"But its exciting to meet a new group of guys and to get to know everyone's program. Its so important. One of the things that I enjoy the most is the fact that manager John Farrell already has a rapport with many of the Red Sox pitchers, built during his time as the team's pitching coach from 2007-10. So its almost a continuation. As a first-time pitching coach on a major league staff he just wants to say hello to his pitchers, get to know them, give them a chance to get to know him. Hes been watching video, learning their tendencies.  In January, hell visit with some. Hopefully as many as possible within the time frame, Nieves said. I know its hard for them because it would be a one-day situation in which I leave home in the morning, come back. I dont want to take a lot of time. I know this is a very precious time for them, too, which is the holidays, family, the tradition. Listen, well spend enough time together during the season. But its nice to be able to see as many guys as I can reach. It will be great. And also the catchers. Its very important to me just to get acquainted with them. One of the first trips he will make will be to Mississippi to see Daniel Bard. As we were talking on the phone he was going to the woods, he was hunting. So he gave me about 15 minutes of his time for that, Nieves said. But we were just talking on the phone and he said he was going to start throwing in January. Hell probably start throwing a little long toss now. But just to see him throw and play catch with him and see what the progress is what the plan is. Itll be great. Bard will be Nieves' major reclamation project after the right-handers disastrous 2012. I didnt see him early, Nieves said. I think by the time the White Sox played the Red Sox, he wasnt around. So I never really had  a chance to really see him, only through video. But we want to get back to the 2011 Bard and thats a guy that is in there. Another important goal for Nieves is establishing accountability for the starting pitchers. A strong starting five can only lead to success for the entire staff, he believes.  Its an aspect of the team that certainly needed improvement last season. You know something, you dont have to  have five No. 1 guys or five No. 5 guys in a rotation to be successful, he said. I think you expect your 1-2-3 to be consistent, hopefully your 4 and 5 eventually. Its nice when they eventually pick and choose during the course of the season they throw like a 1 and 2 maybe for a month-and-a-half, you never know,. Youve seen flashes of Gavin Floyd doing it before with the White Sox and he picked up maybe when Jake Peavey was not as good. So its important to have a couple guys going well at the same time. Also, like John said when we talked previously in our interview, you help your bullpen stay fresh and thats important. I think accountably for the starting five is very important. It was proven in Chicago and were going to stress that here. You see it with teams like Tampa bay. When  you have a strong five its nice to keep you bullpen nice and healthy, and not only healthy but fresh.

Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"


Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

BOSTON – At the end of the day, it was simply a game where the Bruins allowed themselves to get outworked in the third period and overtime. 

The B’s held a three-goal lead in the second period and still enjoyed a two-goal lead in the third period, but eventually dropped a frustrating, futile 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was clear to most speaking after the game that the Bruins eased up on the gas pedal once they’d scored their fourth goal of the game in the second period, and simply watched as the Sabres stomped all over them in the game’s second half. 

“I think we might have been a little bit too scared to play [in the third period], you know? We tried to just flip the pucks away, and didn’t make any plays trying to get it in the zone. Instead we should have just kept going like we did in the first two periods,” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals early in the loss to allow the Bruins to build up the three-goal lead. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We got one point. I think we didn’t play our game in the third period. We kind of stopped playing and they were all over us, and you know, it’s on us. We were the ones that gave them their point, but the first two periods were good. It’s just another learning session.”

To Pastrnak’s point, the Bruins were outshot by a 15-6 margin in the final 20 minutes of regulation and 21-6 overall in the third period and overtime prior to Ryan O’Reilly’s game-winner during 3-on-3 play. It was at this point the Bruins certainly missed stalwart stay-at-home defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller in the D-zone, and fell short of qualified penalty killers while trying to burn off a Brandon Carlo interference call at the end of the third period. 

All of that caught up to them once the Bruins loosened their grip on the Sabres, but certainly the feeling is that the loss should’ve been avoidable even if some of the circumstances made it difficult for the Black and Gold. It also should have been avoidable against a Sabres hockey club that was dreadful last season, and is again one of the doormats in the Atlantic Division in the early going thus far. 

“Those are the games you can’t lose. We obviously didn’t do the job there in the third and close it out, but we’re going to have to regroup and work on our game and be better for the next one,” said Brad Marchand. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We relaxed a bit and we started losing a few battles in the wrong areas, and you know, they just played better than we did.”

It’s mystifying that any team would need a crash-and-born loss like Saturday night in order to learn any lessons moving forward, and it certainly might have been a different story for the Bruins if they weren’t missing a few big defensive pieces. But that’s not how it went down for the Black and Gold as they sagged under rising pressure from the Sabres, and simply stopped working when the chips were on the table late in Saturday night’s game. 

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0


Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON - Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest, too, before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.