Red Sox hope days off serve as relief


Red Sox hope days off serve as relief

By MaureenMullen

BOSTON Perhaps Wednesdays rain-out combined with Thursdays scheduled off-day will be the elixir for what has been ailing the Red Sox.

Definitely, turn the page, you know, said David Ortiz in the Red Sox clubhouse, shortly after the announcement that Wednesdays game against the Rays had been postponed because of the weather. Make things better and start winning ballgames.

Ortiz has seen signs of his team coming out of its 2-9 quagmire to start the season.

Oh yeah, better swinging and better contact, he said. The things that you want to see. Its just a matter of time things are going get better. They cant get no worse.

What has surprised him most about the Sox start?

Not winning, he said. We expect to win and its not happening. Its ugly because at one point you want to start winning. We had a good series against the Yankees and then we got Tampa that were playing . . . theyre probably worse than us . . . We got to change things and make sure they get better.

With the offense hitting a combined .230, going 7-for-52 (.134) with runners in scoring position, and the pitching staff posting a combined ERA of 6.77, theres plenty of blame to be shared. Ortiz said its on the players, and not the manager or coaches.

Its the players, man, Ortiz said. Its us. Fans and everybody got our back. We need to bounce back and try to win some games. We can't ask more than the fans being great and I know its depressing and I know that its early in the season, but this is the Red Sox, man. Im not used to that. Ive been here nine years and Im not used to that. I mean I look at it and its frustrating. I never used that word but I have to now.

But, manager Terry Francona sees it differently. The staff and players are one unit, he said.

I think its up to us, Francona said. I think thats the biggest thing is its up to us. I mean, I appreciate what Davids saying but as a staff I dont think we want to point fingers. Its our job to certainly to understand where we need to play better. But I dont ever want them to feel like its us against them. Its easy to stand up here and pat them on the back, and we got to do that a lot. When things arent going well I think its important to be there for them. I want them to feel that way.

Its highly unusual to have consecutive days without a game on the baseball calendar. Francona hopes his team can use the down time to its advantage.

Were not going to win, were not going to lose, he said. That would be the hope. I dont think theres anything that happens that we dont try to have be our benefit. If youre going to sit around, OK, guysll hit in the cage, theyll lift, youll get the bullpens, guys that get a chance to not throw. But anything, we always try to look to take advantage of.

The mental break can also be beneficial.

I dont think thatll hurt, Francona said. I dont think thatll hurt one bit. Justifiably, were all answering questions, but you have to. To be able to step away for a day, hopefully thatll help.

Having a mostly veteran team can help. Most of them have been through something like this at some point in their careers.

It needs to be helpful, Francona said We know where were at. Were very aware of that. Weve been through a lot with these guys, with a lot of them. And the new guys we like. So, rather than bail on them we just want to help, help make it better. We created a nine-game fiasco early in the season. Now weve got to figure out a way to make it.

But hes not going to manufacture gimmicks to get his team out of its slump.

I dont think were trying to come up with stuff, he said. Everything we do we try to come up with common-sense reasons. When you start coming up with stuff its probably not going to be based on common sense and going against things you believe in. The biggest thing is to go with things you believe in and keep doing it and have a good reason for it.

He hopes his team can stay loose. But, he knows that perception can misguided.

Its a lot easier to play loose and aggressive and confident when you're winning, he said. Theres a fine line there. When the media walks in and youre not having a party they say youre tight. If you lost and theyre loud, OK, theyre not tight, they dont care. What we need to do is win.

And that will be the best elixir of all.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp: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.