Lester ends his season with a dud


Lester ends his season with a dud

By Sean McAdam

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester tried to make history Thursday night. Unfortunately for him, he didn't make it past the fifth inning.

Bidding to become the first Red Sox lefty to win 20 games in a season since Mel Parnell in 1953, Lester was stung for eight runs in four-plus innings as the Red Sox suffered their third straight loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Lester had a 2-1 lead by virtue of a two-run homer from his batterymate, Victor Martinez. But he surrendered that lead in the third inning, then allowed a grand slam to Paul Konerko in the fourth and a two-run homer to Dayan Viciedo in the fifth before being yanked.

"We all wanted him to do well,'' said manager Terry Francona. "That wasn't the outcome we were looking for.''

"Just one of those days,'' shrugged Lester, who ended his season 19-9 with an ERA of 3.25. "Bad day to have one of them. Obviously, I would have liked to end on a little better note that than. But that's the way it is.''

Lester had won his last six starts to emerge as a dark horse in the A.L. Cy Young Award debate and had lost only once in his previous nine outings.

But almost from the beginning, Lester struggled with command, issuing two walks in the first two innings en route to a five-walk outing, tying a season high.

The big blow was Konerko's blast, his 39th of the season, putting the game effectively out of reach in the fourth and dashing Lester's bid to become the first Red Sox pitcher since Josh Beckett in 2007 to record a 20-win season.

"Like I've said, it's more disappointing not making the playoffs,'' he said of falling short of 20 wins. "Would it have been nice? Yeah, I'm not going to lie to you. But regardless of all that, we didn't make the playoffs. We didn't meet our goal this year and that's more disappointing than the win-loss record.''

Lester acknowledged that he did think about reaching the 20-win plateau.

"Not a lot, but I did think about it,'' he said. "It's something that's obviously there and you can't hide from it. I don't think thinking about it had any bearing on the outcome of tonight's game. I just didn't go out and execute pitches.''

The grand slam allowed to Konerko was the first one Lester has allowed in the major leagues.

While Lester didn't reach 20, Victor Martinez did, belting his 20th homer in the third inning.

It marked the fifth time Martinez has hit 20 or more homers since 2004, more than any other catcher in baseball.

Martinez leads all catchers with 76 RBI and is tied with John Buck for the most homers for catchers.

The game was delayed 21 minutes in the bottom of the sixth because of a power outage on the South Side of Chicago.

The Red Sox finishd 1-6 aganst the White Sox in 2010.

For most teams, reaching the 90-win milestone is a measure of asuccessful season. The Sox need to sweep their weekend series against the Yankees to reach 90 wins in 2010 . . . but Terry Francona isn't sure that's terriblysignificant.

"It's kind of like the differencebetween hitting .300 and .299,'' said Francona. "It's a nice roundfigure. But I don't know it really significant. If we get stuck on 88or 89 or 91, it's not going to change our year. I guess on yourbaseball card, it does look a lot better. But other than that, I don'tknow what it really means.''

Teams figured thatwinning 90 games will keep them in the playoff hunt, but in theultra-competitive A.L. East, it would only mean third place behind TampaBay and New York.

''I don't think we thought that winning 90 would guarantee anything,'' said Francona. ''I reallythink we were pretty realistic and that we'd better win more than that.I don't think we were kidding ourselves that that would beenough.''

The Sox have 95 or moregames in five of Francona's seven seasons. They won 86 in2006.

Francona said he didn't plan to change anything for the final weekend,with the Yankees, the opponent, still going for the divisiontitle.

"We've doneit the same way the whole time,'' saidFrancona. "We're always trying to win. We're always going to try towin. You kind of play yourself into your position; we've playedourselves out of contention. We're going do what's right for us.They've played themselves into contention, but depending on how muchthey want to win the division, that's up tothem.

"Everybody's got their own decisions to make.''

Francona was asked if Jed Lowrie, who's been playing more or less regularly down the stretch, mightcompete for a starting job in spring training.

''Itprobably depends on who's here,'' said Francona. "Nobody ever said hecouldn't play every day. It will be important to see how this wintergoes in terms of strength and getting his agility back after missing large chunks of the last two seasons, first with a wrist injury and then with mono. Because there'sa lot of things he does -- he commands the strike zone, hit from bothsides of the plate, hit the ball into the gap, he'sintelligent.

"Playing every day at shortstop, if youwear down, it shows. I said the other day, if he's good enough to be aneveryday player, that a nice dilemma for us.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

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.