Bats carry Sox to fourth straight win


Bats carry Sox to fourth straight win

CHICAGO - A four-game road winning streak at their backs, the Red Sox are bashing teams into submission of late.
The Sox erupted for 10 runs Thursday night in the first game of a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox and have scored 34 runs in the last four games, an average of 8.5 runs per contest.
What's more, the Red Sox are scoring early. They've scored first in all four games on the trip, and in three of the games, they've scored in the first inning.
Thursday, en route to a 10-3 win, the Sox had a 7-1 lead by the third inning. The long ball accounted for seven of the 10 runs they scored.
What's more, they're getting contributions from two players -- Kevin Youkilis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- who weren't providing much at the plate through the first two or so weeks of the season.
Youkilis had a three-hit night, featuring the second grand slam of his career. Over the four games on the trip, he has six hits.
"I'm having better at-bats and doing little things here and there,'' said Youkilis. "I always look at it like it's a long season and you're going to go through stuff. Hopefully, the bad at-bats are a thing of the past and I can keep making strides going forward.''
Bobby Valentine, who was critical of Youkilis's performance two weeks ago, said it was a good sign that Youkilis's grand slam in the third went to the opposite field, a sign, the manager said, that he's starting to get locked in at the plate.
"Anytime I hit a home run is a good sign,'' said Youkilis. "I don't know if it's 'oppo,' or left field -- just taking goodswings and having good at-bats is the key to success. If you have good at-bats as many times as you can, good things will happen. Hitting to right field, left-center... I don't think that's a big deal as much as having great at-bats and putting them together.''
Saltalamacchia, who was hitting under .100 on the last homestand, hit two homers Thursday, giving him three in his last three games.
Over his last five games, the catcher is hitting .476 with two doubles, three homers and seven RBI over his last five games while lifting his average to a more respectable .261.
"Right now,'' said Saltalamacchia, "I'm just trying to put good wood on the ball and stay consistent with my approach. I feel good at the plate. My main focus is obviously trying to work with the pitchers and get us through the games. Those guys are working so hard that I want to be able to help them out as much as I can behind the plate and whatever I can do offensively helps.''

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.