Pregame notes: No rest for the lefties


Pregame notes: No rest for the lefties

By Danny Picard

BOSTON -- With the Red Sox having both Wednesday and Thursday off, manager Terry Francona felt it was important to make sure some of his key offensive players didnt get too much rest.Therefore, left-handed hitters David Ortiz, J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury are all in the starting lineup for tonights game against lefty Brett Cecil and the Toronto Blue Jays. Ortiz, Drew, and Ellsbury all started the teams last game Tuesdays 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on the bench. Each came in to pinch-hit in the ninth, but Francona started Jed Lowrie, Darnell McDonald and Mike Cameron in their place, to face tough lefty David Price. But because sitting Ortiz, Drew, and Ellsbury again would give them four straight nights off, Francona thought that would be too much time for them to sit. Thats too long for not playing a game, said Francona prior to Fridays game at Fenway Park. It ends up being counterproductive. Theyve got another lefty Saturday, its a day game after a night game. We can do some shifting the next couple of days. I didn't want to do it tonight. With multiple lefties taking the mound in several upcoming games with Toronto and Oakland, Francona will have to pick and choose his matchups wisely. Not much has worked out real well yet so I can't sit here and say weve pulled all the right strings, because not much has really gone well, said Francona on his roster management against lefties. And were probably going to see left-handers if at all possible. Thats the way it works. Im trying to find the right days, if were going to face guys in a row, find the right day where it helps ours guys a little bit. If were going to sit somebody, I want there to be a good reason. I think well hit everybody. Francona spoke about a half hour after Adrian Gonzalez press conference ended, which officially announced his seven-year 154 million contract extension. The Red Sox manager strongly supported that extension. I know theres some huge decisions that management and ownership has to make, said Francona. For me thats a pretty low risk. We were talking about a lot of years and a lot of money and I cant think of a guy that . . . he gets it. Hes a solid, solid teammate. Hes a really good hitter. If he loses a little bit of speed over the next five years, nobodys going to know. I think its a pretty good move. Francona also believes that the extension takes some pressure off Gonzalez, and helps him focus strictly on baseball. I think its human nature, said Francona. I think the biggest thing, and all players are different but I remember when Pedey was going through it, the fact that he could just come out and play baseball doesnt give you one more thing to worry about. Its probably hard for the normal person to think that guys are worrying about millions of dollars, but your time can be a littler bit limited and when you're young. Slumps are hard enough, but when you start allowing other things to creep in, it can get harder. With former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell returning to Fenway as Blue Jays manager, Francona hinted that Farrell will have his team ready for everything the Sox throw their way. He pays attention, said Francona. He paid attention to everything. Nobody ever accused him of that. Hell give them the full scouting report. Farrell, who spoke to the media after Francona, said that while he does know a lot about Bostons current pitching staff, he acknowledged how deep every teams scouting reports are in 2011. Well I know theyre all good, said Farrell on the Red Sox rotation. They all have good stuff. The fact remains that theres a lot of history with guys on our roster and in our lineup that have faced each pitcher in this rotation multiple times. I cant say that, having worked with guys in the past will have that much of an impact on how these games unfold. Its still going to come down to us executing within the game itself. If our pitchers and their pitchers execute, its got a chance to be a well pitched game on both sides. Certainly, theres some personal knowledge, added Farrell. But I cant ay that what I would give them, cant be found either through our own scouting reports or through video. And todays approach that all players take, theres not a whole lot of secrets.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on

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.