Rays shell Lester, 7-4


Rays shell Lester, 7-4

BOSTON With three home runs including a Matt Joyce third-inning grand slam the Rays knocked Jon Lester from the game after just four innings.

The Rays took the first game in the three-game series, 7-4.

In his previous nine starts, he had given up just four home runs total. The three homers tied a career high, for the third time (along with April 1, 2011 at Texas and June 18, 2011, against Milwaukee) for the most home runs Lester has given up in a game.

Lester had a crisp 1-2-3 first inning to start the game, and Kevin Youkilis RBI single in the bottom of the frame gave him a brief lead. But, he gave up three walks one more than his past three starts, spanning 20 innings, combined. His ERA climbed from 3.95 to 4.72.

Lester has had just one shorter outing this season, April 17 against the Rangers in his third start of the year when he lasted just two innings. Other than that outing and Fridays, he had averaged just over 6 23 innings per start.

The Rays added back-to-back home runs in the fourth a two-run shot by No. 9 hitter Elliot Johnson and a solo shot by Carlos Pena, who leads all batters with six home runs off Lester.

The grand slam was the second Lester has allowed in his career, along with one by Paul Konerko in the fourth inning on Sept. 30, 2010, in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Rays right-hander Alex Cobb, making just his 11th big league start, held the Sox to two runs on three hits over the first five innings.

The Sox added a run in the fifth when Scott Podsednik singled, stole second, and scored on Adrian Gonzalez's double off the wall in left field.

They got two more in the sixth when the Rays sent three relievers to the mound. J.P Howell walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Daniel Nava, the only two batters he faced, to lead off the inning. Saltalamacchia scored on Marlon Byrds single to center off Burke Badenhop and Nava scored on Mike Aviles sacrifice fly. Badenhop was done after he hit Dustin Pedroia with a pitch. Left-hander Jake McGee ended the Sox threat by retiring David Ortiz on a flyout to right.

But, that was all the damage the Sox could do.

The benches emptied when Sox lefty Franklin Morales hit Luke Scott with a pitch with two on and no outs in the ninth. Morales also hit Will Rhymes with a pitch last week in Tampa Bay. Rays lefty Matt Moore hit Adrian Gonzalez last week in the first game of the two-game series. It was a day after Gonzalez had said he would hit a home run in the game. Moore hit Gonzalez with the first pitch of his first at-bat. Dustin Pedroia was also hit Friday night, in the sixth inning by Burke Badenhop.

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.