First pitch: More of the same from Beckett in Dodgers debut


First pitch: More of the same from Beckett in Dodgers debut

DENVER -- The Red Sox hit the re-set button on their season when they pulled off a nine-player megadeal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last weekend.

Josh Beckett, one of the four Red Sox players to be sent to the Dodgers, tried to do the same in a manner of speaking. Unable to wear his customary No. 19 -- the number is retired by the Dodgers in honor of Junior Gilliam -- he asked for and received No. 61, the same number he wore when he first arrived to the big leagues.

New team, new start.

But Monday's debut was distressingly similar for Beckett: not bad, but not nearly good enough. And most familiar of all, not good enough for him to pick up a win. Beckett has just one since May 20.

In pitching 5 23 innings and allowing three runs for his new team, Beckett pitched the way he frequently did for his old team.

"Josh was OK,'' concluded his new manager, Don Mattingly, after the Dodgers bullpen turned the night into a 10-0 laugher for the Colorado Rockies. "He kept us in the game. At the end of the day, we didn't do enough to win. He ends up giving up three, but he gave us some time to put a run or two on the board.''

The start featured another recurring pattern for Beckett: falling behind early. With the Red Sox, Beckett allowed 23 first-inning runs in 21 starts, the most runs allowed in the first inning by any starter in the American League.

In his Dodgers debut, he stuck to the script, allowing a mammoth homer to right to Tyler Colvin on his second pitch of the game. Asked what he was thinking, two pitches into his Dodger career, Beckett, with charachtestic bluntness, offered: "I thought I made a pretty (expletive) pitch.''

He kicked himself for two other pitches: both in the sixth inning, helping to account for the third and final run charged to him.

Winless in his last seven starts, Beckett wouldn't characterize the outing as progress.

"I felt like I made some pitches when I needed to,'' said Beckett, ''and then didn't make some when I needed to. You try to make the majority of them.''

Unlike a few seasons ago, Beckett doesn't make enough of them consistently. Which isn't to say he can't be successful with L.A., especially considering that he'll make half of his starts in spacious and forgiving Dodger Stadium.

It helps, too, that, with the addition of Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers now have, by far, the best lineup in the N.L. West.

But as is the case with most pitchers in transition, the margin for error is now slimmer.

Beckett proved he can thrive with less than power-pitcher stuff last year when he went into the final week of August with an ERA under 2.40. In the American League East, no less.

Now, in a division designed for pitching, he should do better. When he's not pitching at Chavex Ravine, he can take refuge in cavernous Petco Park and pitcher-friendly San Francisco's AT&T Park.

"I though his stuff was OK,'' said Mattingly. "(Chad) Billingsley just got done rolling off six in a row and he's throwing 92 mph. Josh is throwing 92 mph. Josh can win with his stuff. He kept us in the game. He's still making quality pitches and his breaking ball is good. Again, he's not 96-97 mph anymore but he's stiil a guy with good enough stuff and can locate enough that he's going to win.''

Just not Monday night. And just not very often this season, for that matter.

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.