Notes: Gonzalez driving in runs at record pace


Notes: Gonzalez driving in runs at record pace

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
TORONTO -- The way he's going at the plate right now, Adrian Gonzalez seemingly could knock in runs in his sleep.

With a first-inning homer Sunday, Gonzalez extended his personal RBI streak to nine games. That ties him with San Diego's Jason Bartlett and White Sox' Paul Konerko for the longest such streak this season.

It's also the longest streak for a Red Sox player since Manny Ramirez knocked in at least one run in 10 straight games in 2002.

After that solo homer in the first, he added a groundout to the right side in the third when the Sox had runners at second and third with one out, giving him another RBI.

"He puts the bat on the ball,'' said Terry Francona of his first baseman. "He rolled over on that (groundout), but he got a knack. He understands what he's got to do (to deliver runs) -- if he's got to shorten up, or hit the ball out of the ballpark.''

For his part, Gonzalez pointed to the table-setters in the Boston batting order -- Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia -- for providing RBI opportunities.

''People keep asking about the RBIs,'' said Gonzalez, "but RBIs are all about the guys ahead of you and those guys are doing an incredible job of giving me multiple opportunities every day. They're the ones that get the team going.''

And after five seasons in the National League, Gonzalez has found the Rogers Centre to be a nice place to hit. In five games here with the Sox this year, Gonzalez has four homers.

Nearly lost in the Red Sox' offensive barrage was the work of starter Jon Lester, who was brilliant, allowing just one run on two hits over eight innings.

Of course, it helped that Lester had a 1-0 lead before even taking the mound, a 3-0 lead in the third and a 9-0 lead by the fifth.

"That was real nice,'' acknowledged Lester, who became the American League's first nine-game winner.

Sunday marked the first time in 14 starts this season that Lester didn't walk a single batter.

In fact, starting with his outing against the Yankees last week, Lester has walked just one batter over his last 14 innings.

That followed a stretch in which he walked 17 over five starts.

"There's been a couple of starts where I was a little erratic with my mechanics and just being able to repeat things,'' said Lester. "But the last couple of starts, I've been able to attack a little bit more. And it's easier to do when you have a lead like that.''

Lester faced just three hitters over the minimum and acknowledged that Sunday perhaps constituted his best outing of the season.

"I'd say my fastball command was pretty good today,'' he said, "and that was probably the best changeup I've had in a while.''

Tuesday will mark Carl Crawford's first return to Tropicana Field since leaving the Tampa Bay Rays to sign his seven-year, 142 million deal with the Red Sox last December.

"I've got to treat it like another road trip,'' said Crawford.

Crawford played against the Rays twice in spring training in Port Charlotte, but this will be his first time back at the Rays' major league facility.

"Port Charlotte is nothing like actually going to the stadium for a big-league game,'' he said. "That's going to be a little different. I'm looking forward to seeing how that's going to turn out.''

Crawford hopes that, after eight full seasons in a Rays uniform, fans will remember what he contributed to the franchise.

"I have no ill will toward those guys,'' he said. "You never know, though. You just have to see what's going to happen. It wasn't an option to stay there (because the Rays never made him an offer once he became a free agent). Hopefully, the fans will be smart enough to realize that.''

Following Sunday's win, utility man Drew Sutton was seen shaking hands with teammates and didn't leave with them on their charter flight to Tampa.

Instead, Sutton -- who hit .290 since being recalled -- will return to Pawtucket, likely making room for the return of outfielder Darnell McDonald, who was placed on the DL on the last road trip with a sore quad.

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.