Notes: Ortiz turning things around against lefties


Notes: Ortiz turning things around against lefties

By SeanMcAdam

BALTIMORE -- David Ortiz is off to a far better start this season than either of his last two seasons. But somewhat lost in that better start is Ortiz's resurgence against left-handed pitching.

Granted, it's a relatively small sample size, but through the first 22 games, Ortiz was hitting a sizzling .360 -- 9-for-25 -- against lefties.

That's quite an upgrade for someone who hit a measly .222 against them last season. But Ortiz isn't terribly surprised by his start, noting that, over the course of his career, he's actually hit lefties relatively well (.259 lifetime).

"I'm just trying to be more patient,'' said Ortiz before taking batting practice Wednesday afternoon. "I watch my video and I saw that it wasn't like they were getting me out; I got myself out much of the time, chasing bad pitches.

"When they bring a lefty in or you're facing a lefty, it's all about not chasing bad pitches. I'm just trying to be more patient because I know I've been hitting lefties my whole life. But it gets to the point where you don't pay attention to it and the next thing you know, it's haunting you.''

Ortiz fell into a hole early against lefties last year, and, desperate to show that he belonged in the lineup against them, started trying to do too much. The harder he tried, the more he chased pitches out of the strike zone, playing into opponents hands.

"I wanted to show everyone,'' recalled Ortiz, "but they weren't even giving me stuff to hit. When pitchers see that you're not chasing those sliders in the dirt or the two-seamer in the dirt, they figure 'That's not working anymore; I've got to either throw strikes or walk him.'

"This year, I've been taking my walks. (Seven in 32 plate appearances against lefties, compared to eight in 53 plate appearances against righties.) I tried to wait for a pitch I can hit and not try to pull everything. I had been walking away from my game the last few years because I was trying to do too much against them.''

Before he returned to the Red Sox on a one-year option last fall, manager Terry Francona warned Ortiz that he might sit against some lefties if he didn't perform better. Ortiz accepted that, but wanted a concession from Francona -- if he hit better against them, he could stay in the lineup more often.

To date, Francona has been true to his word. With Ortiz off to a better start, Ortiz has been out of the starting lineup just twice in the first 22 games. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have faced nearly as many lefty starters (10) as righties (12).

"At one point (in the offseason),'' said Ortiz, "I said to myself: 'You've hit lefties before; what is it you're not doing that you used to?' I figured out that I was chasing their pitches and getting away from my game. I went out there trying to show the whole world that I can hit lefties, but they weren't giving me anything to hit.'

Josh Beckett seemed to have plenty on his mind when he stared down Luke Scott in the fourth inning. But hours later, he bristled when asked by reporters about the incident.

Scott flipped his bat after crushing a pitch from Beckett some 423 feet, over everything in right field. As he rounded the bases, Beckett followed him with his eyes and seemed to be yelling at the Baltimore outfielder.

"Not my deal,'' shrugged Beckett initially when asked about Scott's reaction.

Asked if he was upset with Scott's reaction, Beckett said: "Those things have a way of working themselves out.''

An angry Beckett could be seen demanding a new ball from the umpire after Scott's homer. He then had an animated conversation with home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth as he left the mound following the third out.

Asked what he said to Culbreth, Beckett snapped: "Is this TMZ? I thought we were talking about a baseball game. We want to know about bat flips and talking to umpires. Why don't we just stick to the game?''

Terry Francona, asked about the Beckett-Scott flareup, said he didn't notice much.

"I don't watch that,'' said Francona. "Our guys flip their bats some times, too.''

On another night, Kevin Youkilis might have been the hero. But Wednesday night, he was more like a footnote.

Youkilis homered to left with two on in the eighth off Koji Uehara, helping the Sox erase what had been a 4-0 Orioles lead.

"I was just looking for a fastball to drive,'' recounted Youkilis, "I got one at 2-and-0 and just missed it. Then I was fortunate enough to get one up in the zone that I could hit out there to left-center field. But in the end it didn't matter because we lost the game.''

The homer was Youkilis's fifth homer of the season, but only the second three-run homer the Sox have hit in 23 games.

"We just haven't clicked on all cylinders yet,'' said Youkilis. "This team has a lot of great hitters that aren't where they should be. That's the greatest thing we have going for us right now. We have hitters that are .300, .290 hitters that aren't hitting there. That means a lot of balls are going to fall in that haven't fallen in.''

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

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

Sometime over the next 10 or so days, either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians will win the 2016 World Series.

Naturally, that will mean one of baseball's two longest-suffering franchises will end their championship drought. Either the Cubs will win their first title since 1908, or the Indians will win for the first time since 1948.

That alone should make for an epic World Series.

But there's another bit of history at stake, too - one of legacies.

In addition to the great discomfort felt by Red Sox ownership -- which fired the manager of one participating team and was seemingly happy to hold the door open for the exit of an executive now running the other - it will also almost certainly result, eventually, in either Terry Francona or Theo Epstein being enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

Epstein would go down as the architect who helped two star-crossed franchises win titles - the Red Sox in 2004, and the Cubs this fall.

The Red Sox went 86 years between championships; the Cubs would be ending a run of futility that stretched across 108 seasons.

That would provide Epstein with an unmatched resume when it comes to degree of difficulty. It's one thing to win it all; it's another altogether to do so with the Sox and Cubs, two clubs, until Epstein's arrival, linked in ignominy.

Epstein could become only the fourth GM in modern history win a World Series in both leagues. Frank Cashen (Orioles and Mets); John Schuerholz (Royals and Braves) and Pat Gillick (Blue Jays and Phillies).

He would also join a short list of executives who have won three rings, a list that includes contemporaries Brian Cashman and Brian Sabean.

Of course, Epstein can't claim to have constructed the entire Cubs roster, no more than he could have done when the Red Sox won in '04.

In Boston, Epstein inherited key players such as Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. Similarly, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras pre-date Epstein's arrival on the North Side.

But Epstein is responsible for nearly the remainder of the roster, and hiring manager Joe Maddon, the coaching staff and most of the Baseball Operations staff, including GM Jed Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod.

Francona's influence on the Indians is just as obvious.

Hired in late 2012 after spending a year in the ESPN broadcast booth, he inherited a team which had suffered through four straight losing seasons. In the five previous years before Francona's hiring, the Indians averaged just over 72 wins per season.

Since his arrival, the Indians have posted four straight winning seasons, with two playoff appearances, while averaging 88 wins per season.

It hasn't seemed to matter to the Indians that they've been without two of their three best starters (Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco) this postseason or arguably, their best offensive player for all but 11 games this season (Michael Brantley).

The Indians don't make excuses for injuries, or bemoan their modest payroll. Under Francona, they just win.

This postseason, he's made up for the absences in the rotation by masterfully utilizing reliever Andrew Miller anywhere from the fifth to the ninth inning.

A third World Series would put Francona in similarly rare company. Only 10 managers have won three or more World Series and just six have done so since World War 2 - Walter Alston, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Bruce Bochy Sparky Anderson and Casey Stengel.

The individual accomplishments of Epstein and Francona won't take center stage this week and next -- that attention will, rightly, go to their respective beleaguered franchises.

But the subtext shouldn't be overlooked. Once the partying and the parades come to an end, a path to Cooperstown for either the winning manager or winning president of baseball operations can be cleared.


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.