Nation STATion: State of Sox (almost) 50 games in


Nation STATion: State of Sox (almost) 50 games in

By Bill Chuck
Special to

Nice for the Red Sox to close out a series in Cleveland with a couple of touchdowns. Slowly but surely, the ugly start of the season becomes a distant memory. As the Sox head to Detroit for a four-game set, Thursday afternoons game is a milestone as it's game number 50 of the season.

With a 27-22 record after Wednesday afternoon's win, the Sox could either equal the records of 2001 and 2009, or match their worst records of this century through 50 games. Take a look at where the Sox stood at the 50 game mark each year since 2000:

2000 29-21
2001 28-22
2002 35-15
2003 31-19
2004 31-19
2005 27-23
2006 30-20
2007 35-15
2008 31-19
2009 28-22
2010 27-23

The 50 game mark is a milestone for a team and for players. It really gives you an initial sense as to what the rest of the season is going to look like.

Heres your Nine to Know: 50-game Red Sox player edition

1. Josh Beckett went on the DL after game 40 last season and at that point was 1-1 with a 7.29 ERA. This year Josh is 4-1, with a league leading 1.69 ERA and is arguably the best pitcher in the AL.

2. At game 50 of last season with Padres, Adrian Gonzalez was hitting .261 with 9 homers and 28 RBI. He had also drawn 11 intentional walks in the offensively challenged San Diego lineup. A-Gon has been huge this year for Boston, hitting .340 with nine homers and 43 RBI. He even has four intentional passes. Right now, he is a leading candidate for AL MVP with Torontos Jose Bautista.

3. Through game 50 last year, Kevin Youkilis was hitting .305 with 10 homers and 29 RBI, 42 walks and 27 whiffs. This year Youk is down offensively hitting .275 with 8 homers and 32 RBI, 31 walks and 43 strikeouts.

4. Through 50 games last year with Tampa, Carl Crawford was hitting .305 with four homers, 23 RBI and 15 stolen bases. As my father used to say, You cant steal first base, which accounts for the mere seven steals that Crawford has this year. With Crawfords 4-for-4 yesterday he is up to .229 with three homers and 16 RBI. Hes also grounded into two double plays this year and while that doesnt sound like much, it equals his total for all last season.

5. Dustin Pedroia had a good day Wednesday hitting his third homer of the season, driving home three to boost his total to 14, and picked up two hits to up his average to .249. All these numbers are down compared to last season when he was hitting .259 with eight homers and 25 RBI. A larger level of concern is that Pedey after 50 games in 2009 was hitting .328, and in 2008, he was hitting .301.

6. Jonathan Papelbon was 1-3 with a 3.00 ERA, 11 saves, and a 1.190 WHIP last year at this time. This year, Pap is 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA, 9 saves, and a 1.065 WHIP. The biggest difference is that last year at this time Papelbon had already walked 11 batters, this year he has only walked three.

7. Jon Lester is going for his first Cy Young Award this season and is off to good start. Lester, with his six shutout innings yesterday, is now 7-1 with a 3.36 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. Last year, Lester was 5-2, 3.15 ERA, also with a 1.29 WHIP. He had 72 whiffs in 65.2 innings last year and this year 70 Ks in 69.2 innings.

8. Last year at this time the enigma known as Daniel Bard had recorded nine holds and had a 2.16 ERA to go with his 1-1 record. He had struck out 28 in 25 innings. This season, Bard also has nine holds, but has a 3.65 ERA and a poor 1-4 record. He has struck out 24 in 24.2 innings.

9. If there is any player who has enjoyed the first 50 games this season a lot more compared to the 50 games last year, it is David Ortiz. With one game to go to the 50 mark, Big Papi is up 38 points, hitting .303 compared to .265 last season. His 10 homers are the same as last season and he is down in RBI this year, 28 to 23. His OPS last season was .886 and this year its a robust .917 with no one questioning his role as DH.

It feels like we have had a whirlwind of baseball already this season, but were only 50 games in. Theres about 70 percent of the season remaining, and thats a lifetime.

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.