Red Sox notes: Crawford collects first hit


Red Sox notes: Crawford collects first hit

By Sean McAdam

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In an effort to get newcomer Carl Crawford to relax some, Terry Francona dropped him from third to seventh in the Red Sox lineup Sunday.

Whether that was the key or not, Crawford, hitless in his first two games, broke out a little, with a single in the second and another in the seventh inning.

Crawford hit a cue shot down the third base line that landed just an inch or two inside the foul line, getting him going and snapping his hitless streak at eight at-bats.

"It was a relief to finally get the first hit,'' Crawford said after the Sox dropped a 5-1 decision to Texas. "That way, I can get that out of the way and focus on just trying to get better. I didn't know for sure if it was going to be fair or foul.

"Those are the kind of little things that kind of get you going sometimes, so hopefully, that's the start of something.''

Changing teams and signing a mega-contract (seven years, 142 million) was a new experience for Crawford and he acknowledged that, perhaps in an effort to justify his deal, he tried too hard.

"It's my first time doing this,'' Crawford said. "For me, I was probably pressing a little bit, wanting to do well so bad, you forget to just relax and play ball. I probably had a little case of that. Hopefully I can relax from here on out. Once you get that first hit out of the way, it feels like just doing what you normally do.''

Compared to Jon Lester Friday and John Lackey Saturday, Clay Buchholz didn't pitch terribly Sunday. But he didn't pitch well enough to get the Red Sox their first win, either.

Buchholz had the good sense to only allow home runs with the bases empty. Problem was, he did it four times -- David Murphy in the second, Ian Kinsler in the third, Mike Napoli in the fifth and Nelson Cruz in the seventh.

The only other hit Buchholz allowed was a single to Michael Young in the second. But the four homers were more than enough for the Rangers.

"I thought two of the homers were hit well and two of them weren't hit that well,'' recounted Buchholz. "That's the way it goes. I'd rather give them up with nobody on base than with a couple of guys on.

"Today didn't seem like a big struggle for me. Nobody on, behind in the count a couple of times, I'm not going to give in . . . I'd rather give up a hit than walk a guy, then have that guy score. All in all, I think I left four pitches up in the zone and I don't think they mishit one all series. You've got to tip your cap sometimes.''

The four homers off Buchholz were not a career high. He gave up five to Toronto on Sept. 29, 2009.

"He didn't have an inning over 18 pitches,'' said Terry Francona. "He didn't have to pitch out of jams, he didn't have long innings. He just gave up the four solos.''

Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a rough series. He was 0-for-3 Sunday, making him 0-for-10 in the opening series with five strikeouts.

"The one thing that Salty does so well is work the count and swing at strikes, and you can see how anxious he is right now, swinging at a lot of first-pitch strikes," said Francona. "He's just got to relax right now and do what he can do and not try to get it all back in one at-bat.

"He swung at a lot of first pitches this series. I think he was just overanxious.''

Francona absolved Saltalamacchia for any blame regarding the 26 runs the Rangers tallied in the series.

"Results aside, I think Salty does a very good job with the pitchers,'' said Francona. "If a ball is over the middle, that's the way the game is. And the Rangers are good enough where if you make a mistake, they hit it a long way. A tough three-game series isn't going to change our view of Salty.''

Jonathan Papelbon made his first appearance of the season, getting in an inning of work in the eighth with the Sox already trailing 4-1.

Papelbon yielded a leadoff double to Andres Blanco, hit Kinsler and gave up a run-scoring double to Michael Young. After intentionally walking Josh Hamilton to load the bases, Papelbon then struck out Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy in succession.

The Sox were outscored 26-11 in the three-game series despite effectively limiting the damage done by Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP.

Hamilton had three hits in the series, but two were singles. His only extra-base hit was a double when the Rangers were well ahead in the eighth inning of the opener. He added an RBI single in Saturday's win.

The Sox walked Hamilton intentionally twice, with mixed results. On Saturday, with first base open, they walked him in the fourth to bring up Adrian Beltre who foiled the strategy with a grand slam off John Lackey.

Sunday, they walked him in the eighth before Papelbon struck out the next three hitters.

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

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.