McAdam: Low-scoring wins key to Sox future


McAdam: Low-scoring wins key to Sox future

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
As bad as the Red Sox' offense has been of late -- no more than four runs scored in each of their last seven games -- some context is important here.

The Sox still have the second-best record in the American League and only three teams in all of Major League Baseball have more wins.

The offensive dip is partly attributed to the stretch of games in N.L. parks where the Sox must play without their DH and some injuries which have impacted the lineup's depth.

Those are temporary shortcomings.

"It's the way the season is, man," said John Lackey, who would have won with better run support Wednesday. "You play 162 games and it goes in runs in both directions. You can't expect to get 12 every night. Things happen. We've got a great offense and they'll be back soon."

But here's the troubling aspect of the recent swoon, indeed, the red flag that has existed since the start of the season: the Red Sox seem wholly incapable of winning close, low-scoring games -- exactly the kind of games teams have to win in September and in the post-season.

Sure, the Sox have 45 wins. But many of them have come when they've clubbed the opposition into submission, as they did recently when they reached double figures in run scored six times in the span of 12 games.

But know how many games the Red Sox have won scoring three runs or fewer in 2011? Four, or, roughly once every three weeks.

Contrast that with the Phillies, owners of the best record in either league, who won four of those low-scoring games in the first 18 games of the season and have won a staggering 17 games in which they didn't score more than three runs.

That, too, requires context. The Phillies were built around their starting rotation, which features, arguably, three of the best 10 starters in the game -- Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

Moreover, they play in the National League, where offenses are nearly as potent, and, as the Red Sox would be only too eager to point out, they don't have to face a DH.

But that huge discrepancy reflects how different these teams are and how harder it is for the Sox to win when they don't hit.

"You know how it is," said Dustin Pedroia. "When we all get together and swing the bats well, we score a lot of runs. When we don't, we're not going to score a lot. We've got to do a better job of, when we're not all swinging it well, finding ways to score runs."

And that's at the heart of the matter. The Sox aren't going to always be the offensive juggernaut they were at times in May and June. There are going to be stretches like the first three weeks of the season, and more recently, the last 10 days, when they have to figure ways to win without scoring seven or eight runs.

Maybe the Sox are too powerful for their own good, so dependent on big innings and extra-base hits that they can't find a way to play small ball and win pitching duels.

Maybe it's not realistic that a team with David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez can eek out low-scoring victories.

Other good teams seem to have figured it out. If the Red Sox don't, eventually it's going to cost them.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Cubs reach first World Series since 1945


Cubs reach first World Series 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.