Gonzalez homers in the midst of struggles


Gonzalez homers in the midst of struggles

BOSTON With his three-run, go-ahead home run in the seventh inning, Adrian Gonzalez was destined to be the star of Sundays game.

That was until Sean Rodriguezs two-run, go-ahead home run off Alfredo Aceves in the ninth inning proved to be the game winner, as the Rays beat the Red Sox, 4-3, at Fenway Park.

The home run was Gonzalezs only hit in four at-bats in the game. While it gave him a seven-game hitting streak, a season high, Gonzalez has been mired in a slump for his standards.

Since going 2-for-4 against the Indians on May 13, Gonzalez has had more than one hit in a game just once, on May 20 in Philadelphia.

In 13 games since May 14, Gonzalez is 10-for-49 (.204) with three doubles, two home runs, seven RBI, two walks, and 14 strikeouts.

If I have a good game plan and Im able to execute it, with the swing Ive got I should be able to have success, Gonzalez said. Ive just got to game plan better.

As he did in the seventh. The home run just his fourth of the season and second at Fenway off Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson Sunday, into the first row of seats in the Monsters left field corner could be a sign that he is rebounding.

David Ortiz walked to lead off the seventh with Kevin Youkilis on with a single to set the stage for Gonzalezs home run on a 1-0 changeup.

"That was huge. That was huge, Ortiz said of Gonzalezs home run. Especially against Hellickson. He don't give you anything man. He tries to hit his spot always, otherwise, you've got to chase something out of the strike zone. That's what makes him so good."

Gonzalez entered the game just 2-for-14 (.143) with a home run and four RBI against the Rays starter. Hellickson knew almost immediately Gonzalezs ball was gone.

"I thought I made a pretty good pitch to Gonzalez, but he got it up, Hellickson said. I thought it was gone. He put a good swing on it."

"It was big, Valentine said. It put us ahead. If he gets on a roll, we could let him carry us for a little while. It would be good to see him do that."

Gonzalez started the last two games and six of the last eight games in right field. He entered this season with just three games in the outfield, all in right field. But had appeared in the outfield in an American League park just once prior to 2012 on Sept. 30, 2005, while with Texas against the Angels.

Before the game, Valentine said he had no reservations about putting Gonzalez in right field for an afternoon game.

On Saturday, though, in a bit of a head-scratching move, he took Gonzalez out for pinch-runner Che-Hsuan Lin in the sixth inning of a scoreless game for defensive reasons. In the eighth inning on Sunday, though, Valentine again subbed Lin for Gonzalez. This time, however, Valentine moved Gonzalez to first base, with Kevin Youkilis, who started at first, over to third, and Will Middlebrooks coming out of the game.

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.