On Buchholz's balk


On Buchholz's balk

Josh Beckett. Daniel Bard. David Ortiz. Kelly Shoppach. Adrian Gonzalez. Dustin Pedroia. Kevin Youkilis. Carl Crawford. Jacoby Ellsbury.

This season, at one point or another, every guy listed above has been used as an example of whats wrong with the Red Sox. Whether its their performance on the field, how they carry themselves off it, or things theyve said to the media, each player in his own way has come to define the selfishness and entitlement that many believe has left Bostons clubhouse burnt beyond recognition and in desperate need of cleansing.

This week, its Clay Buchholz's turn in the grinder.

Admittedly, the backlash against Buchholz for refusing to pitch on Sunday night is nothing compared to the firestorm that some of his teammates have faced. Mostly, because its not that big of a deal. Still, if you listen closely enough, there are plenty of people moaning about Buchholzs balk. Who cite his refusal to step up in place of Josh Beckett as just another reason to hate this team; another piece of unmitigable evidence as to why Ben Cherington should have a deadline fire sale and re-start the Sox from scratch.

In a way, I understand the animosity. After all, its not like they were asking Clay to pitch on three days rest, or even four. It was five days; his normal schedule. And the team was clearly in need of a lift why else would they ask at all?

But for those hating on Buchholz, there are a few things to consider:

In his five previous seasons, he's thrown more than 100 innings only once.

With 12 more innings this season, Buchholz will have thrown 92.1, which will mark the second highest total of his entire career and we're barely halfway through June.

In his four previous starts, he's thrown 111, 108, 125 and 103 pitches. It's only the third time in his career that he's had a stretch of four (or more) starts with 100-plus pitches, and the first time since 2010.

Earlier this season, he watched the Sox push Beckett a little harder than many people believed they should most notably, in his 126-pitch effort against the White Sox on April 29 and now Beckett's on the DL with a sore shoulder.

Buchholz is less than year removed from a back injury and subsequent back surgery that destroyed his 2011 season.

So, in a perfect world, do you wish that Buchholz barged into Bobby V's hotel room in Chicago and demanded the ball on Sunday night? Yeah, sure. Of course you do.

But can you understand why Buchholz wanted to stay focused, on schedule meaning the schedule he'd been operating under since walking off the mound last week in Miami and continue to build upon this remarkable mid-season turn around?

I can.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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.