Yanks clinch division with rout of Red Sox

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Yanks clinch division with rout of Red Sox

From Comcast SportsNet

NEW YORK (AP) -- Yankees fans broke out in in a raucous roar in the seventh inning, momentarily startling Alex Rodriguez. The slugger stepped out of the batter's box and saw the news on the center field scoreboard: Baltimore had lost, New York was the AL East champion.

A couple of innings later, the Yankees finished off a 14-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox for their 13th division title in 17 years after a thrilling back-and-forth race for the crown with the Orioles.

"This year we had to fight, scratch and claw," Nick Swisher said.

Covered in bubbly and wearing his new AL East champions hat, Derek Jeter sounded almost relieved.

"This was difficult. Come into the last day of the season, nobody knows what's going on. We've been taking it one day at a time for quite some time," Jeter said. "It feels good."

With the new playoff format, the Yankees' next move is to wait.

Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson each hit a pair of homers. Cano went 4 for 4 and tied a career high with six RBIs as New York (95-67) finished two games ahead of Baltimore and secured home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. The Yankees will open on the road Sunday against the winner of Friday's wild-card game between Baltimore and Texas.

"To have the best record and not know where you're going is strange," manager Joe Girardi said.

In front of fans poised to party from the first pitch on the final night of the regular season, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the last-place Red Sox to win their second consecutive division crown.

When Freddy Garcia struck out Ivan De Jesus looking to end it, third-string catcher Francisco Cervelli pumped his fist and his teammates hugged and slapped fives on the field. They put on their newly printed champion shirts and hats while fans feted them with a standing ovation as "New York, New York," blared over the loudspeakers. The team walked off the field to chants of "Let's go Yankees!"

"Now the real season starts," Jeter said.

Getting to the postseason, though, wasn't easy.

New York led the division by 10 games on July 18 but the Orioles caught up on Sept. 4 and were tied with the Yankees after 10 different days in September. Many players credit Girardi with keeping the clubhouse calm during that stretch.

"He's very even-keeled," Granderson said. "You never see him get too excited or down."

The Yankees rode the long ball all season, and the four homers in the finale set a franchise record at 245.

Hiroki Koroda (16-11) shut Boston down with an encouraging performance after struggling through much of September. He allowed two runs and seven hits over seven innings.

With New York heading into the playoffs without career saves leader Mariano Rivera -- he tore a knee ligament shagging flies in May -- the rout gave the Yankees a chance to rest Rafael Soriano, who threw 43 pitches over two innings of the 12-inning, 4-3 comeback win Tuesday night. It is the first time since 1981 that the Yankees have been in the postseason without Rivera on the roster.

Bobby Valentine brought the lineup card out to the umpires for what might have been his final time as manager of the Red Sox, who finished last in the AL East at 69-93 in his first season leading the club. Boston, in the cellar for the first time in two decades, ended the year with eight straight losses, their longest skid since losing nine in a row in 2001. The Red Sox lost 26 off their last 33 games.

"Very disappointing season. Extremely disappointing," Valentine said.

Granderson hit his career-best 42nd homer in the second, a three-run shot off Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-7), making his first start since Sept. 19. Cano then connected in the third for a 5-1 lead. One batter later Matsuzaka was finished, most likely ending his six-year career with Boston.

Cano hit his 33rd homer in the fifth, following Rodriguez's double. It was A-Rod's first extra-base hit since Sept. 14.

Cano has been on quite a tear, hitting .615 (24 for 39) during a stretch of nine straight multihit games that lifted his average to .313.

"It's a great feeling," Cano said. "It just came up at the right time."

Granderson matched his teammate with a solo shot to right-center leading off the seventh for a 10-2 lead.

The Yankees narrowly avoided what would've been their biggest blown division lead in team history -- they led by six games in 1933 and finished seven back of the original Washington Senators.

This summer's skid was brought on as CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Rodriguez got hurt. The Yankees stumbled through August -- often looking old and tired. But New York went 19-8 down the stretch, thanks to two stirring comeback victories led by 40-year-old Raul Ibanez.

Girardi thinks the group was able to make a run after losing the division lead because they were old -- well, experienced.

"I think having that experience in there when it got to zero no one panicked," he said of the division lead. "They had the same personality every day. The looseness, some of the guys were goofy."

Sandoval happy to return to the field after shoulder surgery

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Sandoval happy to return to the field after shoulder surgery

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For the first time in months, Pablo Sandoval met up with his Red Sox teammates Wednesday, breaking from his rehab program two hours away in Fort Myers.

Sandoval, who underwent shoulder surgery in April to repair a torn labrum, has been working out six days per week at the club's spring training complex and appeared noticeably lighter.

"I just starting taking ground balls two days ago,'' said Sandoval. "I feel a little better. I'm happy to be back here with my teammates and happy that I'm starting to work in the field.'' 

Sandoval said his surgically repaired left shoulder is "not back to normal, but it's feeling a lot better. I've started doing a lot of things in the field -- ground balls, playing catch, handling the ball, working out.''

He plans to see Dr. James Andrews soon, and hopes to get clearance to start swinging a bat.

Sandoval appeared to make some veiled references to his weight and conditioning, saying "you learn a lot. You learn from all the mistakes you make, all the things in the past. I have good people around me, supporting me every single day.''

He added that he feels "way different'' than he did in spring training.

"Now that I've learned my lesson,'' he said, "I can do a better job out there. Everything out there is not easy. You have to work hard to learn all the things you were doing wrong. I'll keep working hard and do everything I can to be a better person on the field and off the field.''

As he grinds through conditioning and rehab, Sandoval said he's motivated by "my little boy (Leon). Every time I wake up, I want to do everything for (him), so he can see me back on the field, playing baseball.''

He deflected a question when asked what role he envisioned for himself next February at the start of spring training.

"Whatever,'' he said. "I'm just going to do best that I can. I just want to prepare myself to be better next year.''

Sandoval met with John Farrell Wednesday afternoon.

"He's in good spirits,'' Farrell said. "I think he feels good with all the work he's done. To date, he's done a good job with what he's been capable of doing. The one thing that's clear in getting to know Pablo, I see a guy who's got a lot of pride. Maybe things haven't worked out the way he anticipated through the first two years.

"But it's clear through my conversation with him that he's motivated, he feels like he's got a lot to prove. And I think when you combine his ability with the drive and motivation, this has got a chance to prove to be a productive player here in Boston.''

Meanwhile, Sandoval acknowledged that the Red Sox had not seen him at his best in his two seasons with the club.

"I know that I can prove more and do a better job out there,'' he said. "Things happen for a reason. I'm happy, but I'm not satisfied with the things I'm doing. I'm just going to keep working hard, continue my rehab and be better for next year.''

Sandoval said he misses the game, but watches the Red Sox on TV "every single day.''

"This (time down) is a bonus for me,'' he said. "I want to play, but at the same time, I (get) to see my baby growing up.''

 

All signs point to Rodriguez returning to rotation Sunday, Buchholz to bullpen

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All signs point to Rodriguez returning to rotation Sunday, Buchholz to bullpen

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It won't be made official until Thursday, but all signs point to Eduardo Rodriguez returning to the Red Sox' starting rotation Sunday night against the Kansas City Royals.

That, in turn, should also result in Clay Buchholz going back to the bullpen after three spot starts recently.

Rodriguez, who pulled himself out of his last scheduled start Sunday in Detroit when he wasn't confident that he could compete with a strained left hamstring, threw a three-inning simulated game Tuesday and emerged from that session convinced that he was heading toward a return to the rotation.

But just to make sure, the Sox want Rodriguez to test himself physically Thursday morning before the Sox complete their road trip with a game here Thursday afternoon.

"He went through some aggressive long toss today,'' said John Farrell of Rodriguez, "and came out that feeling fine, no restrictions in the hamstring. We'll take this each work day at a time. Once we get through tomorrow, we'll have a little bit more clarity going forward.''

Buchholz threw 94 pitches while allowing a run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings Tuesday night, so he wouldn't be available out of the bullpen for a few days.

"He's going to need a couple of days down regardless,'' noted Farrell.

 

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.