Red Sox cruise to second straight win


Red Sox cruise to second straight win

By Maureen Mullen

BOSTON -- On Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, the Red Sox finally accomplished what they had been previously unable to do this season: Win consecutive games. With John Lester turning in another strong performance, the Sox beat the Blue Jays 8-1. The win improves their season record to 4-10.

Lester limited the Jays to one run in six innings (plus two batters in the seventh) on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts. He threw 110 pitches a season high with 65 strikes. While it was his third consecutive quality start, it was just his first win of the season, improving to 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA.

Jesse Litsch (1-1) took the loss for Toronto, going six innings, giving up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

The Jays took a brief lead in the second inning. Aaron Hill opened the frame with a walk , went to second on J.P. Arencibias single to right, and advanced to third on Travis Sniders double play. After Juan Rivera walked, with Jayson Nix at the plate, Rivera broke for second base, drawing a throw from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. With Nix in a rundown, Hill crossed the plate before Nix was tagged.

In the bottom of the inning, consecutive one-out singles by Jed Lowrie, J.D. Drew, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia tied the score. Jacoby Ellsburys home run to right, put the Sox up, 4-1. It the teams first three-run homer of the season. Ellsbury now leads the Sox in home runs, with three, stolen bases (3), and is tied for the lead with three RBI (with David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez).

The Sox extended their lead in the sixth. With two outs Ortiz singled to center, Lowrie reached on Nixs error at third and Drew walked. Saltalamacchia single to right scored Ortiz and Lowrie, with Drew ending the inning getting thrown out at the plate. The three RBI are the most for Saltalamacchia since he tallied four on May 5, 2009, while with the Rangers.

The Sox added two runs in the eighth. Loading the bases with no outs, Lind could not handle Lowries grounder down the first-base line, scoring Gonzalez, who doubled to left-center, and Youkilis, who was hit by a pitch for the 70th time in his career (behind only Mo Vaughn with 71 all-time on the Red Sox list).

Lesters day was done after allowing an infield single toArencibia to open the seventh, and an error by Lowrie on Sniders grounder put two runners on. Daniel Bard, Felix Doubront, Bobby Jenks, and Dan Wheeler combined to hold the Jays scoreless the rest of the way.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

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.