McAdam: Beckett's 100-win goal still in reach


McAdam: Beckett's 100-win goal still in reach

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

Back in February, without being asked, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett set the bar.

Sitting on a picnic table outside the Red Sox Player Development Complex in Fort Myers, Beckett almost casually noted that he had never been part of a 100-win team in his career, and added that for the 2011 Red Sox to achieve that milestone would be "kind of cool.''

It wasn't exactly a Joe Namath moment, or even Dick Williams promising that a team that finished ninth out of 10 teams the season before would somehow win more than it would lose. But still, there it was -- the gauntlet.

Beckett seemed to be challenging himself and his teammates. The winter had brought the Sox newcomers Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, while the injuries which had crippled the Sox in 2010 were largely healed.
General manager Theo Epstein is fond of saying that the Sox start out every year believing it will take a mininum of 95 wins to reach the postseason in the American League East. Win 95, goes the thinking, and you're in, regardless of what the New York Yankees do.

But a hundred wins? Sure, why not, thought Beckett.

And now, in the final month of the season, the number doesn't seem very far away.

The Red Sox are 83-53 (.610) after their first 136 games. They would need to go at least 17-9 (.653) in their final 26 games to crack 100 victories.

"I think it's a realistic goal,'' said Beckett Thursday, "and obviously still is, or we wouldn't be talking about this. It's just something that I've always wanted to do.

"I think a lot of it stems from the run that the Atlanta Braves went on when I was with Florida. Every year, it seemed like they'd win 99, 100, even 102 games. And I remember thinking, 'That would be fun to do one year.' And I felt like coming into spring training, we had a really good chance to do that."

Of course, not long after Beckett said the Sox were capable of greatness, they stumbled badly out of the gate, losing their first six games. After a dozen games, the Sox were just 2-10.

One hundred wins? Just finishing above .500 looked like it might be a challenge in mid-April.

But, of course, the Red Sox righted things. They played .655 ball (19-10) in May, .640 (16-9) in June and a scorching .769 (20-6) in July before dropping off some in August (17-12, .586).

Beckett liked the notion of achieving something few teams achieve. In the last 25 years, only 12 teams have won 100 games in the American League. From 1986 through 1997, only three teams did it.

In the National League, the 100-win barrier has been reached 14 times.

Since 1986, six different N.L. franchises have done it; five have done it in the A.L.

Amazingly, no Red Sox team has won 100 games since 1946, 65 years ago.

Not that Beckett's pre-emptive boast had his teammates doing the math in their heads, or figuring out how many wins per months they would need to get to 100.

"I think our guys are really good about staying day-to-day,'' said Beckett. "It's 'Let's win today; let's not worry about yesterday or tomorrow.'

"I think a lot of it starts with the position players. They're the guys who go out there every day. They stay in the moment. When we have 90 wins, they think of winning 91. They don't think, 'We've got to get to 100.' They don't do that.

"When it's all said and done and we don't end up (reaching 100) but we get to the playoffs, I think everybody is still going to be just as happy. I think it was more my goal than a team goal.''

Getting it accomplished in the American League East -- with 18 games against the Yankees and 36 more with Tampa and Toronto -- would make the achievement that much more special.

"That's a pretty damn consistent season,'' said Beckett. ''You can't have a bad month. I know we had a bad start to a month in April. But you can't have a bad month (and reach it). You can't.''

Beckett asked how many games the Sox would have to win of the remaining 26 to reach 100. Told they'd need to go 17-9, he paused to do the math.

"I think we've done that a few times this year,'' he said with a smile.

Sean McAdam can be reached at 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.