Inconsistencies plague Sox offense


Inconsistencies plague Sox offense

CHICAGO -- To look at some of the numbers, the Red Sox' offense has been plenty good enough.

Entering Friday's action, the Red Sox were second only to Texas in runs scored among American League teams. What's more, they lead all of baseball in extra-base hits and were tied for third in doubles.

But Boston's offense has also been ridiculously inconsistent. When they're not scoring in double figures -- as they've done 10 times, as much as any team in either league -- they seem to be in danger of scoring just a couple.

Or, like Friday, none at all.

The Sox were shut out for the third time this season Friday. They had chances right from the beginning when the first two hitters of the game -- Scott Podsednik and Dustin Pedroia -- reached base. But despite the first-and-second, no-out opportunity, the Sox couldn't score.

They put the leadoff man on base in three of the first five innings, but came up empty.

In his final three at-bats, Dustin Pedroia came up with four runners in scoring position -- and six baserunners overall -- and made the final out each time.

The frustration took its toll on Pedroia in the seventh when his opposite-field liner toward the right field line was hauled in by Cubs outfielder David DeJesus, leaving the bases full of Red Sox teammates. Enraged, Pedroia slammed his helmet with both hands into the ground down the first base line.

"We hit some balls good, man. We just hit it right to 'em,'' said Pedroia. "We're not trying to be (lousy); everyone's trying, man. We're not playing good. Today we didn't play good. We scored no runs. You can't win a game if you score zero runs.''

The inability to score much has haunted the Red Sox of late. Friday marked the seventh time in the last 11 games in which they scored three runs or fewer. Unsurprisingly, they're just 1-6 in those seven games.

"We had some balls hit hard,'' lamented Kevin Youkilis. "It just stunk. It really did. (The scoreboard didn't reflect) how we swung the bats. We swung the bats pretty good. It's just, man, we couldn't get anything to fall.''

In addition to hard-hit balls by Pedroia to right which were caught by DeJesus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia sent Alfonso Soriano to the warning track in left with a runner on and one out in the fifth before Soriano made a catch with his back against the ivy-covered wall.

Youkilis himself is in a 3-for-30 funk since the start of the last homestand, dropping his average to .212 for the season.

"They said it evens out, so if it evens out, I'm in good shape,'' said Youkilis. "Today was frustrating. Every at-bat was great and I didn't have anything to show for it. It's discouraging. It's good to drive the ball, but nothing fell in.''

The Sox have run into top starters in the past week, including Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and, Friday, Ryan Dempster.

But Youkilis doesn't want to use that as an excuse for the team's offensive failings.

"You can always say it's good pitching,'' he said, "but as a hitter, you have to go out there and hit. They always say good pitching will beat good hitting. But this team has great hitting and it's not getting the job done. And it's frustrating.''

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.