First Pitch: Tuesday, August 30


First Pitch: Tuesday, August 30

By Art Martone

Welcome to First Pitch, a quick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at least the corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapup of Monday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's And That Happened (

SHOWDOWN . . . SORT OF: Terry Francona says he wants to win the division title. (Providence Journal) Adrian Gonzalez, on the other hand, merely wants to make sure they make the playoffs (Boston Herald), though you can see why he'd feel that way after all those years in San Diego. Whatever, the Red Sox are rested ( and ready for three games against the Yankees at Fenway Park, beginning tonight.

The edge isn't quite as sharp as it might be, since the Sox and Yanks have far and away the two best records in the American League ( and, barring a catastrophic collapse, will both be in the postseason one way or the other. Still, it's Red Sox and Yankees with first place on the line in the final quarter of the season. As the man once said, getcha popcorn ready. (nbcsports)

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT: On her Twitter account, NESN's Heidi Watney says Clay Buchholz told her he's been cleared to begin throwing on Tuesday.

SPEAKING OF GONZO (OR, AS TITO CALLS HIM, 'GONZI') . . . he's the A.L. Player of the Week. (

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TED: If Ted Williams were alive, he'd be turning 93 today. Bill Chuck of's Nation STATion -- who shares his birthday with the Splendid Splinter -- gives us nine things to know about No. 9.

SOLID SECOND: The Red Sox come in at No. 2, behind the Phillies, in the Power Rankings of both ESPN and Hardball Talk.

FACTS, SCHMACTS: After giving a ton of evidence that shows what happens in the regular season between two teams means nothing in the playoffs, the New York Post's Joel Sherman shifts gears and says it's imperative for the Yankees -- who've lost 10 of their first 12 meetings with the Sox this year -- to start beating Boston.

HALF A LOAF: If they're going to start tonight, they'll have to do it without Alex Rodriguez, who's visiting a hand specialist about his left thumb injury. (New York Daily News) But it looks like they'll have Derek Jeter (New York Post), who originally seemed questionable for the series.

HAPPY PLACE: The Yanks come to Fenway in a good frame of mind, having beaten the Orioles in Baltimore Monday night (New York Daily News) and gotten word that the starting time of that unwanted Sept. 8 makeup game has been switched to 1:05 p.m. (New York Daily News)

YOUR ACTIONS BELIE YOUR WORDS: Danny Knobler of wants to know why, if this series is so important, the Yankees are starting Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett in two of the games. Actually he thinks he knows why: So they can "figure out which of their shaky starting pitchers they can possibly hope to rely on in October".

MAKE THAT FOUR THINGS: Bleacher Report lists five things that need to change for the Yankees to beat the Red Sox in October. Unfortunately for the Yanks, the No. 1 thing on the list is already impossible, because . . .

GIVING UP THE GHOST: It looks like they won't have Pedro Feliciano or Damaso Marte back this season. (

AROUND THE A.L. EAST: The Rays, so excited about pulling within 6 12 games of the Yankees in the wild-card race just a day ago, lost a game in the standings as they fell to the Jays, 7-3 (Tampa Tribune). And now they get to step into the Texas furnace. (Tampa Tribune). Good luck.

OLD FRIENDS: Adrian Beltre went 1-for-4 in a rehab start at Triple-A Round Rock (ESPN Dallas) and should be back with the Rangers on Thursday.

WHAT'S NEXT? LOCUSTS? As if things aren't bad enough for the Mets, packs of stray dogs from nearby auto-body shops are roaming the outskirts of CitiField (New York Post), "menacing visitors as they exit the ballpark".

AND FINALLY . . . Please support the annual WEEINESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, which runs today and tomorrow.

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.