First Pitch: Friday, September 9


First Pitch: Friday, September 9

By ArtMartone

Welcome to First Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Thursday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(

DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY: In his essential Nation STATion column, Bill Chuck shows why it doesn't really matter if the Red Sox make the playoffs as the division winner or the wild card. The Boston Globe (which quoted Chuck in its story) agrees.

Good thing, because these guys are hardly looking like division winners these days. (

Andrew Miller's continuing struggles ( highlighted the Sox' ongoing pitching woes, which has been at the heart of this recent 7-losses-in-10-games downturn. Take it from ESPN's Buster Olney:

.bbpBox112078609971298304 background:url(http:a3.twimg.comprofile_background_images146607075busterback2.jpg) 131516;padding:20px; p.bbpTweetbackground:fff;padding:10px 12px 10px 12px;margin:0;min-height:48px;color:000;font-size:18px !important;line-height:22px;-moz-border-radius:5px;-webkit-border-radius:5px p.bbpTweet span.metadatadisplay:block;width:100;clear:both;margin-top:8px;padding-top:12px;height:40px;border-top:1px solid fff;border-top:1px solid e6e6e6 p.bbpTweet span.metadata span.authorline-height:19px p.bbpTweet span.metadata imgfloat:left;margin:0 7px 0 0px;width:38px;height:38px p.bbpTweet a:hovertext-decoration:underlinep.bbpTweet span.timestampfont-size:12px;display:block The Red Sox have allowed 51 runs in eight games since the start of September.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet ReplyBuster Olney

So who knows? Maybe there's still hope for Tim Wakefield to make a contribution; he'll get another chance to do so Tuesday. ( And pitching coach Curt Young remains confident in John Lackey. (Boston Herald)

One thing's for sure: Wild card or division winner, they won't be playing very long in October with pitching like this.

AND THAT'S WHY . . . Joe Posnanski thinks Dan Wheeler is Boston's X-factor. (

SIGN OF THE TIMES: It can't be a good thing that the Red Sox are part of old friend David Pinto's Massive Tie Scenario (, since that means their playoff spot isn't mathematically safe.

BIRD LOVERS: Still, the Sox didn't lose any ground yesterday thanks to those suddenly resurgent Orioles, who beat the Yankees in 10 innings for the second straight day. (New York Daily News) The dastardly Francisco Cervelli took a shoulder-to-head blow in a home-place collision with Nick Markakis, but he stayed in the game and -- even though he's had at least three other concussions in his career -- refused a concussion test after the game. (New York Daily News) That's Cervelli . . .

ALL RIGHT FOR YOU: Nick Swisher came out of yesterday's game in the eighth inning, admitted to reporters that something was bothering him physically, but when asked what it was, replied: "I'm not going to tell you." (New York Post)

A BARGAIN AT ANY PRICE: Alex Rodriguez recently bought a 24 million house in Miami. (

SURRENDER TO THE VOID: Dan Shaughnessy says neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees are going to win the World Series. (

THIS IS IT: The Rays probably aren't either, but they're (rightfully) looking at this weekend's series against the Red Sox as their last, best chance to get back into the postseason picture. (St. Petersburg Times) The Times' John Romano, however, tells Tampa Bay fans -- however few there may be -- not to get their hopes up, because history isn't on their side.

WE TAKE OUR JOY WHERE WE CAN GET IT: The Tampa Tribune points out that Rays' left fielders are outperforming Carl Crawford this year. Well, yeah, but who isn't?

ENJOY THE PRESENT, BECAUSE THE FUTURE BELONGS TO US: The Tribune also notes that the Rays are well-positioned going forward because of their pitching surplus.

NOT SURPRISING, SINCE MOST OF THEIR BEST PLAYERS ARE SITTING ON THE BENCH IN BOSTON: The PawSox lost the opener of their playoff series to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. (

WHY, IN MY TIME . . . Never thought I'd hear Bill Lee waxing poetic about the good old days and railing about how the world's gone to hell in a handbasket, but here you go. (

EVERETT ARRESTED: In sad but unsurprising news, troubled ex-Red Sox outfielder Carl Everett has been arrested on domestic-violence charges. (

ELIGIBILITY RULES: There's been quite the Should-Justin-Verlander-Be-The-MVP? debate raging on local talk radio, and's Tracy Ringolsby says the answer is an unequivocal yes. Or at least he says Verlander should absolutely be considered . . . which undercuts the "Pitchers Aren't As Important As Everyday PlayersPitchers Have Their Own Award" argument.

OLD FRIENDS: Chris Narveson -- he was part of the haul in the Byung-Hyun Kim deal, remember? -- pitched well for a while before the roof caved in on him and the Brewers in a 7-2 loss to the Phillies in what could an NLCS preview (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) . . . Jason Bay, showing signs of life, drove in five runs in a doubleheader against the Braves, but the Mets lost both games (New York Daily News) . . . David Ross homered and drove in two runs in one of those games, continuing what has been a fine year for him as the Braves' backup catcher. (Rotoworld)

AND FINALLY . . . Leave it to our old friend Repoz to discover both a picture of Tony La Russa playing maracas for Carlos Santana, and the fact that Joe Morgan (the Hall of Famer, not Walpole Joe) will be leading the world's largest chicken dance (or, as the proud sponsors call it, the World's Largest Chicken Dance) next Saturday. (

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.