Bad first hampers Beckett


Bad first hampers Beckett

BOSTON -- Returningfrom a dismal road trip -- on which theywere able to win just two of seven from Seattle and Oakland, teams withsub-.500 records to face the Yankees, with the American Leagues best record,the Red Sox needed Josh Beckett, their erstwhile ace, to prove that he couldagain take on that mantle.
They got anything but in the first inning.

Beckett faced nine batters and gave up five runs, on four hits, a hit batter, a walk, and two sacrifice flies, throwing 33 pitches, just 15 strikes, in the inning. It was the first time he had allowed five runs in an inning since Aug. 13, 2011, at Seattle. He walked in the first run of the game, the first time he gave up a run on a walk since April 18, 2009, when he walked Baltimores Nick Markakis in the fifth inning.

Derek Jeter hit Becketts first pitch of the game for a single to center field. With just seven pitches, Beckett loaded the bases with no outs. He didnt get a called strike until the 21st pitch, and it was the first strike that wasnt hit safely or fouled off. On a 1-and-2 count to Yankees No. 8 hitter Eric Chavez, with his 26th pitch, it was the first time Beckett had been ahead in a count.

In all, Beckett went five innings, giving up six runs on eight hits and two walks with five strikeouts, and a hit batter. He threw 90 pitches, 49 strikes, as his ERA rose from 4.06 to 4.13.

It was tough, Beckett said. I was battling myself, especially in that first inning. I kind of sped up my mechanics there in the middle innings especially out of the windup it made a difference. The stretch was pretty tough.

Beckett gave up a run in the second, but held the Yankees scoreless over his last three innings. Surprisingly, he left with the lead, in line for the win, as the Sox batters got to Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, whose performance was just as futile as Becketts. Staked to a five-run lead in the first, he gave it all back in the bottom of the inning.

Becketts potential win, though, was wiped out when the bullpen faltered, keeping the right-handers record at 4-7.

Beckett appeared to be a completely different pitcher in the third and fourth than he was in the first two innings. He faced the minimum number of batters in the third and fourth. Including the final out of the second, he struck out four straight batters, two on curveballs, two on 93-mph fastballs.

I think I got to locate some balls, he said, of adjustments he made. The balls I didn't locate, they hit the gaps. The first inning that didn't seem like that was the way it was going.

Beckett and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had several lengthy discussions on the mound.

I was just thinking to get down in the zone, Beckett said. I was really struggling. I think in the first inning I just wanted to throw a strike, I didn't care where they hit it. I was just really battling myself with that. I think the second inning it was better, I kind of spread things out. I was having a hard time getting my arm up.

He faltered in the fifth, giving up a lead-off single to Alex Rodriguez before striking out Robinson Cano. After Rodriguez stole second, Beckett walked Mark Teixeira, setting up a double steal with Nick Swisher batting. A nifty play by Nick Punto at second base, and Saltalamacchia, to cut down Rodriguez attempting to score on Nick Swishers one-hop liner prevented a run. Raul Ibanez flied out to Ryan Kalish in center to end the inning.

But, that was as far as Beckett would go. With a doubleheader Saturday, manager Bobby Valentine had hoped to get more out of Beckett.

Well, five innings was good but it could have been a lot worse, Valentine said. But six innings would have been perfect and I just didnt see him having it in him.

It was the first time Beckett faced the Yankees this season. In 2011, he went 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA and 38 strikeouts in five starts against New York. He has made 27 starts in his career against the Yankees, more than any other team. Beckett was asked if perhaps the familiarity is giving the Yankees an edge.

No, he said. I mean you got to make pitches against them. Theyre good. Everybody talks about rival this, rival that. It's not that. It's just that both these teams have been really good for a long time so it automatically plays itself up like that. Theyre a good team. we're a good team. They've been a good team for a long time. we've been a good team for a long time. You just got to make pitches. Today was one of those nights where it was warm and balls were flying, so it makes it even more important to make pitches.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.