Red Sox

ALDS: Trevor Bauer blanks Yankees as Indians take Game 1, 4-0

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ALDS: Trevor Bauer blanks Yankees as Indians take Game 1, 4-0

CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer made Aaron Judge look silly, and made his manager look like a genius.

One year after nearly costing the Indians a trip to the World Series, Bauer helped them take the first step back.

Named a surprise starter for Game 1, Bauer chopped Judge and New York's other big bats down to size, and Jay Bruce drove in three runs as Cleveland began chasing its first World Series title in 69 years with a 4-0 win over the Yankees on the Thursday night in the opener of the AL Division Series.

Bauer struck out Judge three times , twice getting the MVP candidate looking. He allowed just two hits in 6 2-3 innings before manager Terry Francona, who chose to start the right-hander over ace Corey Kluber, turned to baseball's best bullpen, using Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen to finish the three-hitter.

Allen came in with two on and two outs in the eighth to face Judge, who struck out for the fourth time and the rookie angrily snatched at his bat frustration. Allen then worked the ninth for a save.

Judge's verdict on Bauer was unanimous in New York's clubhouse.

"He was mixing his pitches well, he was using the corners extremely well," he said. "You've got to tip your cap sometimes. We've just got to pick ourselves up and get ready for tomorrow."

New York's now got to face Kluber, an 18-game winner during the regular season. He'll start Game 2 on Friday against CC Sabathia.

Bruce connected for a two-run homer in the fourth off Sonny Gray and added a sacrifice fly in the fifth as the Indians began a journey to try and end the majors' longest Series title drought.

Eyebrows were raised when Francona picked Bauer instead of Kluber, and the eccentric right-hander, perhaps best known for slicing a pinkie open while repairing a drone during last year's postseason and bleeding all over the mound in Toronto, delivered a performance that started October just right for the Indians.

"The mindset was to go out there like a closer in the first inning and put up a scoreless inning at all costs," Bauer said. "And then if I was still in the game, do it again in the second inning and the third and on until I was taken out of the game. So no-hitter, 10-hitter, or whatever, that was the mindset. I never really strayed from that."

Coming off their win over Minnesota in the wild-card game Tuesday, when Judge homered in his playoff debut, the Yankees came in with momentum.

Bauer stopped the Bronx Bombers cold.

He struck out eight and took a no-hitter into the sixth before Aaron Hicks doubled with one out. It was the longest no-hit bid by a Cleveland pitcher in the postseason, bettering Hall of Famers Bob Feller (1948) and Early Wynn (1954), who both went four innings.

Bauer improved to 3-0 this season against the Yankees.

"His curveball was really good," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's as good as we've seen it, and he's been pitching better. You look at his second half, and he had better command. We didn't get many free base runners, which we have in the past off of him, and he was really good."

Taking the mound to his usual thundering warm-up music, "The Pursuit of Vikings," an intimidating song by Swedish metal band Amon Amarth, Bauer didn't mess around.

He struck out Judge in the first watching a curveball. Bauer, who is 11-1 in his last 14 starts, struck out Judge again in the fourth, but the All-Star reached on a wild pitch. Bauer, though, regrouped by getting Gary Sanchez to bounce into a double play before he freezing Didi Gregorius for his sixth strikeout.

Bauer got help from All-Star-second baseman-turned-center fielder Jason Kipnis, who made a diving catch to rob Chase Headley in the third. As Kipnis slowly got to his feet, Bauer raised both arms above his head, pumped his fist and screamed to salute his teammate.

Bruce gave the Indians a 3-0 lead in the fourth with a towering homer to right.

After Edwin Encarnacion walked, Gray came inside with a 0-1 fastball and Bruce got around on it. As his shot cut through the fall night, Judge appeared as if he might be able to make a play near the wall, but the 6-foot-7 slugger could only watch as Bruce's shot sailed into the seats.

Bruce nearly caught Encarnacion on the bases, and as he finished a home-run trot that was more of a sprint, Cleveland's fans hollered "Bruuuuuuuce" like a crowd at a Springsteen concert.

The Indians are 43-9 since Bruce arrived in an Aug. 9 trade from the New York Mets.

"I'm very, very fortunate to be here," Bruce said. "I couldn't have fallen into a better situation. Obviously, when you get traded and you're in trade rumors, it's usually a contender or a team that's contending at the moment. For whatever reason, I ended up here. And this has been a blast so far."

Because of his personality and unorthodox training techniques, it took Bauer time to feel comfortable with his Cleveland teammates. But they've grown to appreciate his quirky ways and the fact that he's a gamer.

Bauer said Wednesday that he was "miserable" and depressed earlier this season, when he was struggling and unable to help.

"It was like I was on the team but didn't feel like I was contributing, which is a terrible feeling for any competitor," he said. "You want to be one of the main guys out there with your teammates and contributing."

He's doing his part now.

KIPNIS' KATCH

Kipnis was well aware that his move to center was questioned.

"That's all I've been hearing is I shouldn't be playing center field," he said. "Tonight was the first ball in the gap that I had to go and get, and it was a fun one."

Bauer appreciated Kipnis' exceptional effort, calling it "the biggest play of the game. I was pretty pumped up about that."

OVERWORKED

New York's starters have gone only 3 2-3 innings, forcing the bullpen to log 13 1-3 innings already in the postseason.

"Physically, they're fine," Girardi said.

Cora wants to see quick changes in Red Sox hitting approach

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Cora wants to see quick changes in Red Sox hitting approach

FORT MYERS, Fla.  -- At Fenway Park at least, there may be no need to implement silly mechanisms to increase pace of play. Alex Cora’s vision for the Sox offense could speed us along.

The Sox of yore strove to work counts for the sake of booting a starter out of the game early. A higher pitch count made it easier to get into a presumably weaker bullpen.

The difference now is manifold. For one, relievers are simply better. 

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“We used to wait them out. But that was 10 years ago, 13 years ago,” Cora said Thursday morning, before the Red Sox first exhibition game of the spring. “It's been a while. It's a different game. I had a conversation with Mikey [Lowell] about that. I was like, ‘Mikey, the starters, they go four or five innings.’

“[They don’t] bring in the 87-88 [mph] cutter/sinker/breaking ball guy. Now the guy in the sixth inning is 97 with a great off-speed pitch, secondary pitch. I'm a big believer when you get to that starter, if you can get him right away, get him. Either he'll get you or you'll get him.”

And everyone is very directly trying to "get” one another. Attack plans are both more deliberate and more easily accessible these days. The proliferation of analytics has led to better scouting reports. Waste pitches may still be thrown with some sense of purpose, but there is a trend toward maximizing efficiency. See Chris Sale, who has talked a lot about the need to reduce wasted pitches -- not necessarily the same as a purposeful pitch outside of the zone , but still in the same vein. You don't necessarily need a fastball to set up your amazing curveball, or may not need it as frequently.

The best offense in the majors in 2017 belonged to the world champion Astros, and they saw the second fewest pitches per plate appearance of anyone in the majors, 3.78. Cora was their bench coach.

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Now, you can still have a great offense and work counts. The team the Astros beat in the American League Championship Series, the Yankees, had 3.98 pitches per plate appearance in the regular season, the second-most. The Red Sox were seventh, at 3.94.

Another effect rooted in the same causes: Lineup construction doesn’t mean quite as much. A left-right balance may be helpful throughout the regular season, at least, but it doesn’t have to drive the boat.

“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter,” Cora said. “You put the best lineup out there. I hate to bring up last year, because I want turn the page, but you saw what happened at the end. We had five righties [in the Astros lineup consecutively], it didn’t matter. If you can hit, you can hit. 

“They’re good hitters. Throughout the minor leagues, you face lefties and righties and all of a sudden, your first month in the big leagues and you can’t hit lefties. I never got that. Probably have to make that decision later on, but it doesn’t matter.”

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Lineup protection isn’t a priority, either, from the sound of it.

“I believe in lineup construction, that’s most important,” Cora said recently. “You’ve got David [Ortiz] and Manny [Ramirez], you pick your poison. You’ve got Miguel [Cabrera] and Victor [Martinez], you pick your poison. You decide when to challenge who at certain times. But I think it’s making that lineup long enough to keep putting pressure on the opposition. 

“The way the league is pitching sometimes, it doesn’t matter who is hitting behind you. It’s a matter of how they attack you. There are certain teams [where] this is how you’re going to attack this guy, regardless of the situation, and they’re going to go there. If they walk him, they walk him. And if they strike him out, they strike him out. If they put together a good at-bat and they get on base, so be it. It’s a lot different because of the way stats are attacking guys. So for me, it’s all about construction."

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Yankees GM believes Red Sox are still AL East favorites

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Yankees GM believes Red Sox are still AL East favorites

The Yankees really outdid themselves this offseason, adding slugger Giancarlo Stanton to their already powerful batting order.

Bringing Stanton to New York is a pretty horrifying prospect for anyone in the AL East. Especially considering the Bronx Bombers already have Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius.

Most MLB fans are already leaning toward crowning the Yankees AL East champions.

But Brian Cashman says not so fast.

The Yankees GM believes that there's still work to do in order to top the Red Sox, and rightfully so. His team is still in the early portions of spring training. 

“They’re the AL East champs, so we’re not on equal footing,” Cashman said to media on Wednesday. “We were the Wild Card. They had the title within the division last year. I don’t know if they’re putting a flag up for it or not, but they are the AL East champs, we are not. So we are not on equal footing until we take that away from them, while at the same time preventing anybody that finished behind us from surpassing us and joining the fray.

Cashman even goes on to compliment the roster moves the O's and Blue Jays have executed this offseason.

“Toronto’s done a lot of work on its roster. Baltimore is starting to make some signs. So, no, we’re not on the same ground because they are the AL East champions, and until someone takes that away from them, you’ve got to pay homage.”

Does anyone actually buy the Yanks are underdogs to the Sox? Probably not.

But Cashman wants to make sure he is respectful and wouldn't want to provide any extra motivation for Boston to feed off.

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