Notes: Ellsbury hitting his stride at the plate


Notes: Ellsbury hitting his stride at the plate

By SeanMcAdam

BALTIMORE -- The season is almost a month old, but Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be just now hitting his stride.

Ellsbury began the year poorly and found himself dropped in the batting order as manager Terry Francona tried desperately to find a lineup which worked.

Returned to the top of the order last week on the West Coast, Ellsbury has responded as the Red Sox hoped he would.

Thursday night, he had his second three-hit game in as many nights. Since moving to the top of the order in Anaheim, Ellsbury is 12-for-25 (.480) with six doubles, six runs scored and three RBI.

"I'm just trying to have a quality at-bat each time I go out there,'' said Ellsbury. "That's the biggest thing.''

Ellsbury said returning to the top spot in the lineup didn't change his approach.

"Not really,'' he said. "I come to play and prepare exactly the same every single day, no matter where I'm hitting in the lineup. It just happened that I've been swinging the bat well at the top of the lineup. I just try to stick to my game and use my tools.''

In the sixth inning, the Red Sox had runners at second and third and with first base open and two outs. With J.D. Drew due, the Orioles elected to walk him to load the bases and pitch to Saltalamacchia.

The move made sense from a strategic standpoint. Saltalamacchia came into the game hitting just .186 and was 0-for-2 before that at-bat.

But the move hurt Saltalamacchia's pride.

"It kind of ticked me off a little bit,'' acknowledged the catcher.

He couldn't get his revenge immediately, though Saltalamacchia had a nice at-bat which ended in him hitting the ball to the warning track in left-center for the final out.

"The way the ball's been traveling here at night,'' said the catcher, "I knew I hit it good, but I didn't hit it that good (for it to go out).''

But in the eighth, two innings later, Saltalamacchia got a second chance and didn't miss, drilling a single to center with the bases loaded, scoring Jed Lowrie.

"That's the way the game goes,'' said Saltalamacchia. "I was looking to put good wood on it and I did. I felt good at the plate. I fouled some pitches off and then (reliever Mike Gonzalez) threw a real good pitch up and in, and I was able to get on top of it.''

Kevin Youkilis felt some stiffness in his left hip after a first-inning takeout slide at second base. He remained in the game until the bottom of the eighth inning when he was lifted for Jed Lowrie at third base.

"As the game went on, it locked up a little more,'' said Youkilis. "But I should be good to play (Friday night). It was more of a precaution that Tito took me out. I'll play through a lot of stuff, but Tito said it was best to give it a rest so I can play (Friday).''

Fracona gave Marco Scutaro a start at shortstop.

"I want to keep him productive,'' said Francona.

Though there's been no official declaration from Francona, it's clear that Lowrie is the starting shortstop.

"He's pretty professional,'' said Francona of how Scutaro has been handling the reduced playing time. "I don't think he's real happy. I don't think I would be. Again, my responsibility is to put the best team out there and you hope that the players will handle it professionally, which he does.

"I'm not sure I'd want him to be completely happy. I mean, guys want to play. They're competitive.''

Scutaro was 0-for-4 in Thursday's win.

Sean McAdam can be reached at 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.