Sox flex muscles, down Phils, 7-5


Sox flex muscles, down Phils, 7-5

PHILADLEPHIA -- Citizen's Bank Park has the well-earned reputation of being one of the game's best hitting environments, a point illustrated once more Saturday night.

The Red Sox hammered out six extra-base hits, including four homers, and held off the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-5.

The Phillies outhit the Sox 15-11, but stranded plenty of scoring opportunities. From the fifth inning through the eighth, the Phils had at least two hits in every inning and yet came away with just one run in that span.

The Sox got solo homers from Mike Aviles, Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a two-run shot from David Ortiz. Saltalamacchia, a night after getting stiches for a laceration of his left ear, had a single, homer and double in four at-bats.

Three Boston relievers limited the Phillies to a single run over the final three innings with Alfredo Aceves getting the last four outs for his ninth save.

Ryan Sweeney helped bail the pitching staff out in the seventh when he went a long way to the warning track in right-center to make a spectacular diving catch off Carlos Ruiz, saving two runs in the process.

Jon Lester didn't allow a hit the first time through the Phillies order, but then got knocked around a little. In one stretch from the third inning through the fifth, they were 6-for-10, with the big blow coming on a three-run homer from Freddy Galvis.

Lester came out after six, having thrown just 90 pitches as Valentine went to his bullpen.

STAR OF THE GAME: Ryan Sweeney
Sweeney had only one hit -- a double -- as part of the 11-hit attack, but he turned in the play of the game with a spectacular diving catch in the seventh inning to take away what would have been a two-run double by Carlos Ruiz.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
One night removed from a trip to the hospital for stitches in his ear, the catcher returned to the lineup with a vengeance, collecting three hits -- a homer, single and double -- while knocking in a run and scoring two.

Getting rocked for seven runs on nine hits is bad enough, but Blanton added to his own troubles by committing not one but two errors fielding his position.

TURNING POINT: The Phils had runners at second and third and one out, trailnig by three, when Rich Hill came in to face Juan Pierre. He got Pierre on a harmless grounder to third that froze the runners.

BY THE NUMBERS: Jon Lester has made four career starts at Citizen's Bank Park and the Red Sox are a perfect 4-0 in those games.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "I'm good for tomorrow, plus, I'm due to hit a bomb.'' Jarrod Saltalamacchia, in a late night text message Friday from the hospital to manager Bobby Valentine.

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.