Red Sox

Rajai Davis knows what three straight playoff wins look like

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Rajai Davis knows what three straight playoff wins look like

BOSTON — The last time a team won three straight playoff games, Rajai Davis was in the unfortunate position to have a front-row seat.

Davis, the Red Sox pinch-runner and backup outfielder, famously hit a Game 7 home run in the World Series last year against the Cubs. That Game 7 proved to be the Cubs’ third straight win over the Indians, completing a comeback after Cleveland held a 3-1 advantage in the Fall Classic.

“They’re thinking, they just want to get it over with,” Davis said Saturday. “You know, I know that’s how we were. [You don’t want it going] the extra games because you never know what can happen. Especially they’re coming here, to our home park, so it’s a matter of: we [the Red Sox] got to take care of tomorrow. 

“We got to go out and do it. We have to just play better than them. We have to want it more than them. If we don’t want it more than them, they’re gonna win, that’s the bottom line. They wanted it more than us up till now. Until we want it more than them, we got to play better. We got to show it.”

Doug Fister has the ball for the Sox in what could be their final game of 2017. He had an interesting little take on the matter.

“Talking with a buddy last night about it, there's nothing to lose, with everything to lose,” Fister said.

Without getting too existential, it stands to reason that the team with a big advantage does all of a sudden acquire a pressure: they are now supposed to win. But Davis felt the pressure remains with the team trailing in the series.

“I think the pressure’s all on the other team, on the team that has to come back — but you still have to win,” Davis said. “I mean it takes a lot to win in this game. You got to do a lot of things to win ball games. You know, No. 1 pitching. No. 2 defense. And no. 3 you got to put some runs together. At least one, you know, if you’re gonna shut ‘em out. But it takes a lot to win.”

Asked if watching the Cubs last year gave him reason to believe in the Sox now, Davis noted the differences in the two teams. 

"Cubs had definitely a different team than we have right now,” Davis said. “I don’t remember how many games they won, they had the personnel to really do that, to pull that off. They had the pitching. They had everything that they needed. We have all those things, but it’s putting it together tomorrow. And that’s the key. Can we put it together tomorrow? If we do, we’ll win.”

Steadiness, unsurprisingly, was what was preached Saturday. The Sox did appear calm and relaxed when the clubhouse was open to the media after Saturday’s workout. There was no big team meeting planned, with the coaching staff striving for normalcy. The Sox do feel they’ve been tested enough times that they’re not in an unfamiliar place.

The Sox have acknowledged the firepower of the Astros isn’t something the Sox can match one-for-one at the plate. Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Saturday that his team isn’t yet looking toward the next round, however.

“We're happy with where we're at because we're in the best position possible coming into this series where we won both games,” Hinch said. “But we have pretty good perspective on this team. I don't see any sense of entitlement. I don't see a team that's starting to look forward to the next series. We're not there yet. That mentality will be entrenched in this team and our guys will respond accordingly. 

“So you want to draw up a 2-0 lead in any five-game series, sign me up. I'm in. It's a tremendous opportunity, but it's only an opportunity that you can move on to the next game and get to the finish line. We do need to play well to beat these guys. We're at their home stadium, it is a tough place to play. Our guys are keeping all that in perspective and go into Game 3 as hungry as ever.”

*  Sox manager John Farrell again left the door open for a potential start for David Price later in the series. “Anything as it relates to who would start in Game 4 on Monday, we'll get to that when we get through tomorrow,” Farrell said. “But we have a couple of different ways we can go with that in terms of the starter for Game 4. … I would anticipate he'll be available tomorrow. So how that impacts going forward, it's too early to tell.”

*  Mookie Betts (left wrist) and Dustin Pedroia (left knee) should be good to go on Sunday. “A hundred percent of what he is right now,” Farrell said. 

*  Farrell said Chris Sale is available in relief in Game 3. (But reasonably, it’s hard to imagine the Sox would actually use him.)

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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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