Beckett brushes off early frustration, limits Twins offense


Beckett brushes off early frustration, limits Twins offense

MINNEAPOLIS -- After the first inning Tuesday night, it seemed like Josh Beckett might have an abbreviated start. The only question was whether he'd leave because of Bobby Valentine or home plate umpire Adrian Johnson.

Beckett, handed a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, gave up a base hit to the first hitter he faced, and after a fielder's choice, proceeded to walk the next three hitters, forcing in a run.

The pitcher gave long stares to Johnson, unhappy with being squeezed on some borderline pitches. When the inning was over, 37 pitches later, he turned toward Johnson and, TV replays showed, shouted that because of Johnson's strike zone, Beckett had had to get "five (expletive) outs.''

But perhaps it wasn't all bad. Beckett righted himself after that, allowing just one run over the next five innings and, tellingly no more walks as the Sox cruised to an 11-2 win.

"He got a little frustrated, possibly, but it really turned up his competitive fluids,'' said Valentine. "He wasn't going to be denied the victory. After the first inning, he threw strikes, got ahead and he wasn't going to let this one get away. We needed that kind of performance.

"He was into it. I haven't seen Josh like that. It really seemed like that this was a game he really wanted.''

Beckett wouldn't discuss his displeasure with Johnson's strike zone ("We won. I want to talk about that''), and he didn't necessarily agree with Valentine's assertion that the reaction might have been a benefit to him.

"I don't know,'' said Beckett. "Sometimes I think you can waste too much energy with that stuff. Today, it apparently helped our guys because they scored 11 runs. (But for me) it's a waste of energy and I don't need to waste energy.''

Whatever the motivation, Beckett was far more economical after the first. He needed just 63 pitches for the final 15 outs after needing 37 for the first three.

And he fanned the side in the sixth inning, finishing with a flourish.

"I probably threw a few more strikes,'' said Beckett of his turnaround. "They were pretty aggressive after (the first inning). It was really about the offense today. They were really on their game.

"It was a battle for me today. I felt like the stuff was there, but the location was a little bit off. I was a little bit effectively wild, especially after the first inning."

This was Beckett's first road win since last Aug. 24 at Texas.

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.