Pedroia breaks out in home opener


Pedroia breaks out in home opener

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON Jon Lester sauntered through the home clubhouse following Friday afternoons majestic home opener while wrapped in a towel, and announced to nobody in particular Yall can breathe now before heading straight to his locker.

Those waiting to exhale in the Red Sox dugout did so after finally forcing their way into the victory column with a hard-to-come-by 9-6 win over the New York Yankees on Opening Day at Fenway Park, and there were plenty of heroes to be singled out after winning time.

Sox general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona both gave notable speeches before the game to reassure the beleaguered troops, but there is only so much idle talk can accomplish amid a historically epic fail masquerading as the start to Bostons baseball season.

Instead it was the teams diminutive heart and soul shouting with his bat and thumbing the doubters with his defiant attitude that paved the way for victory.

Dustin Pedroia was all set with losing, and shaped the redemptive tone for the rest of his teammates when he lashed a Phil Hughes offering high into the Green Monster seats in the first inning.

The long ball arrived after John Lackey already labored through a two-run top of the first, and the Sox needed something to spark them.

It was fun, man, said Pedroia. It was fun being at home. We needed it. We have a lot of expectations and we dont want to let anybody down, man. Thats our thing. We want to play hard, win and have fun doing it.

The solo dinger was Pedroias third straight Opening Day homer at Fenway Park, but this one was clearly the grandest given the turmoil his ballclub was mired in after starting winless in their first six games. Pedroia joined Fred Lynn as the only Sox player to go deep in three straight home openers: the sweet-swinging centerfielder did it from 1978-80 with an entirely different group of Red Stockings.

The Sox second baseman also finished with three hits and two more RBIs in the second inning, and gave the Sox an offensive jolt theyd desperately been searching for.

The team was yearning for a defiantly Pedroia attitude just as much as the on-field production, and he had that in man-sized amounts as well.

The second baseman flipped off his elbow guard with braggadocio as he circled second base during his first inning home run trot, and then fired off inspirational words to a dugout full of players as he jogged back in. Then he hit the dirt safely at home plate in the second inning after scampering from second on an Adrian Gonzalez single.

One could almost feel the energy filling back into Bostons reserves now that their inspirational leader was willing them to victory, and his teammates followed suit.

Most of Sox regulars are used to this kind of thing, but for the news guys it was their first viewing of Pedroia in Full.

I noticed it playing against him, but once youre in the same room with him he takes it to a whole new level, said reliever Bobby Jenks. It almost seems like the more pissed off he gets the better he gets.

There must have been an Olympic swimming pool-sized amount of frustration running through Pedroias little body during the long losing streak, and some it was released during that cathartic home run jaunt.

But theres still enough to go around even after the leadoff homer and 3 RBI performance in his home debut.

Theres ample digging left to escape the 1-6 hole Boston has created to start the season, and Pedroia is opting for the team route to solving their troubles rather than accepting back pats and Atta boys for one days work.

We just need to continue to play well and continue to work, said Pedroia. I came in here thinking we need a win, and we need to find a way to do it. I dont care if its the ugliest win of all time. We needed that win.

The Boston win was ugly, but Pedroias performance was far from it.

The former Rookie of the Year and MVP would seem to be right where he needs to be with a .296 batting average after seven games, but all that still matters to him is raising his club out of the doldrums while grinding out games and blocking out the negativity surrounding a team off to a potentially disastrous beginning.

Were 1-6. We dont care whatever you guys say or write. Were just grinding. Were just going to play baseball, said Pedroia. Weve got a lot of great players on this team and a lot of great pitching. Well find ourselves.

We all want to do well. We all want to get a hit every time up. So does Youk. So does Carl. So does everybody else.

The difference today: Pedroia started getting those hits early and set down the gauntlet for the rest of his teammates to follow.

Once again the Little Sox Generals unbending attitude show them the way to victory when they needed it most, and things are a little better in Boston at least for a day.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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.