Yankees' Rodriguez celebrates his solo home run against Red Sox's Dempster in the sixth inning of their MLB American League Baseball game in Boston

Yankees outlast Red Sox to claim series in Fenway


This one had a little bit of everything packed into a crisp four hours and 12 minutes.

– After Boston grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Ryan Dempster drilled Alex Rodriguez with a 3-0 pitch to open the second. It was at least Dempster’s second attempt to hit him, but the plunking didn’t get Dempster ejected. It did result in warnings for both sides and an early exit for a furious Joe Girardi.

– The Yankees rallied to tie the game after the HBP and then took the lead in the third on an RBI groundout from A-Rod. That lead lasted about 10 minutes, as David Ortiz delivered an RBI groundout of his own in the bottom of the third.

– In the fourth, the Red Sox executed some perfect small-ball after a Jarrod Saltalamacchia leadoff double. Daniel Nava advanced him with a bunt, and Stephen Drew plated him with a fly to left. All of which was rendered pretty moot when Will Middlebrooks followed with an opposite-field homer, making it 5-3.

– In the fifth, with everyone still wondering when CC Sabathia might retaliate for the earlier incident, he blew his last good chance by giving up a double to David Ortiz with Dustin Pedroia on first. He later intentionally walked Saltalamacchia after a 3-0 count. With the bases loaded, he walked Daniel Nava, scoring the sixth Boston run.

– The Red Sox, not satisfied with five unhorrible innings for Dempster, pressed their luck. Which is something that tends to happen when a team has only three reliable relievers, all of whom pitched the day before. Dempster gave up a leadoff homer to A-Rod and still the Red Sox stayed with him. He was finally pulled with the bases loaded, and rookie Drake Britton surrendered a triple to Brett Gardner. 7-6 Yankees.

– The Yankees, too, kept their starter in for some ungodly reason, yet it didn’t bite them. Sabathia walked Middlebrooks to start the bottom of the sixth, but he bounced back with a strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury before being removed. Shawn Kelley came in and got two right-handers to end the inning.

– That was it for most of the excitement in what turned out to be a 9-6 Yankees win. We did see three HBPs after the warnings were issued, none of which resulted in ejections. We saw umpire Brian O’Nora get hit in the throat by a fastball that Chris Stewart flat-out missed, stumble around for a couple of minutes and then stay in the game. We saw the Red Sox get two men on in the bottom of the ninth against Mariano Rivera, who was riding a streak of three straight blown saves, only to have the game end on a lineout to left from Salty.

The story here will be A-Rod, A-Rod, A-Rod. Yet this came down to a battle of the bullpens, and the Yankees won it. Absent Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Miller and Matt Thornton (and Daniel Bard, too, if you’d like), the Red Sox are short of guys they can trust, and manager John Farrell decided to use all three of his those guys (Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow) to protect a five-run lead on Saturday. The Yankees had all of their guys available, and their four relievers combined to allowed two hits in 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Boston’s five relievers allowed two runs, three inherited runs and eight hits in those same 3 2/3 innings.

As for Rodriguez, it was definitely his best game since his return; he collected three hits for the first time and hit his second homer. The Yankees are 7-5 with him in the lineup. Sabathia improved to 11-10 despite giving up six runs and walking five. Dempster fell to 6-9, though the Red Sox had won each of his last six starts (Dempster went 1-0 with five no-decisions in the span).

Concerns over Jon Lester’s throwing ability much ado about nothing

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Going into Thursday night’s NLCS Game 5, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts planned to have his team be annoying and distracting on the base paths for Cubs starter Jon Lester. Lester, you see, has a hard time making throws when he’s not pitching from the rubber, as seen here.

The Dodgers got an immediate opportunity to test their strategy, as Enrique Hernandez drew a four-pitch walk to start the game in the bottom of the first inning. Hernandez was taking leads between 15 and 25 feet, just taunting Lester to throw over to first base. Lester never did. And despite being given the luxury of such a large lead, Hernandez never attempted to steal second base.

It ended up costing the Dodgers a run. After Justin Turner struck out, Corey Seager lined a single to center field. Hernandez, large lead and all, should’ve been well on his way to third base, but he settled for staying at second base. Carlos Ruiz then flied out to right field on what should’ve been a sacrifice fly. Hernandez instead just advanced to third. Howie Kendrick grounded out to end the inning with the Dodgers having scored no runs.

In the bottom of the second inning with two outs, Joc Pederson dropped down a bunt, but Lester was able to field it and make a bounce-throw to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the inning. Lester stared angrily into the Dodgers’ dugout as he walked off the field. If it were me, I’d have been glaring angrily not because the opposing team was attempting to exploit my weakness, but because the strategy is so poor.

The bunting would continue in the seventh inning as first baseman and noted power hitter Adrian Gonzalez tried to sneak a bunt past Lester on the right side of the infield. Second baseman Javier Baez was able to scoop it up and fire to first. Gonzalez was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned upon replay review.

Lester countered the Dodgers’ bunting and greedy lead-taking by just pitching his game. He went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. The Cubs went on to win 8-4, taking a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. A worthy consideration for the National League Cy Young Award based on his regular season performance, Lester now has a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings spanning three starts this postseason. Turns out, the yips isn’t debilitating if you’re really good at your main job.

Cubs swat their way past the Dodgers 8-4 in NLCS Game 5

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

During the regular season, the Cubs had the second-best offense in baseball behind the Rockies, averaging 4.99 runs per game. It was the best after debiting the Rockies for playing in Coors Field. There was no way, after getting shut out in NLCS Games 2 and 3, that the offense was going to stay dormant much longer. They broke out for 10 runs in a Game 4 victory on Wednesday night. They scored eight more to beat the Dodgers 8-4 in Game 5, taking a 3-2 NLCS lead.

The Cubs took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when leadoff batter Dexter Fowler greeted Kenta Maeda with a single to center field. He’d come around to score on a one-out double by Anthony Rizzo who, like teammate Addison Russell, hadn’t hit much until breaking out in Game 4.

Starter Jon Lester was able to silence the Dodgers’ offense despite their strategy of attempting bunts and taking big leads, knowing Lester has trouble throwing when it’s not from the pitching rubber. They managed just one run, coming around in the fourth inning to knot the game at 1-1 when Howie Kendrick doubled, stole third base, and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez ground out.

Ultimately, Lester lasted seven innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. Addison Russell allowed him to leave with a lead, slugging a two-run home run off of reliever Joe Blanton in the sixth to break the 1-1 tie.

The Cubs tacked on plenty of insurance in the top of the eighth against reliever Pedro Baez, which proved to be rather necessary. Russell reached on an error by Baez, Willson Contreras singled, and Albert Almora, Jr. moved both runners up a base on a sacrifice bunt. Dexter Fowler then hit a single to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, but Baez didn’t break to cover first base. Gonzalez wasn’t able to beat Fowler to the bag, allowing the Cubs’ fourth run to score. Kris Bryant hit a weak grounder to third base and he was able to beat that out as well, pushing across another run in the process. Anthony Rizzo lined out, but Baez prolonged the inning by walking Ben Zobrist. Ross Stripling relieved Baez, but he served up a bases-clearing double to Javier Baez, making it an 8-1 ballgame. Jason Heyward, as has often been the case, popped up feebly, mercifully ending the inning with the Cubs having hung up a five-spot.

Pedro Strop took over for Lester in the bottom of the eighth. He gave up a double to Andrew Toles, then hit Justin Turner to begin the inning. Though Strop was able to induce a ground ball double play from Corey Seager, Carlos Ruiz followed up with a double to left-center to push in a run. Howie Kendrick flied out to send the game to the ninth.

Closer Aroldis Chapman took over with a six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk to Gonzalez, then served up a single to Yasiel Puig. Joc Pederson grounded out, but Josh Reddick knocked in Gonzalez and moved Puig to third with a single to center. Toles plated Puig with a sacrifice fly, making it 8-4. Turner grounded out to shortstop to end the game, finalizing the victory for the Cubs.

The two clubs will take Friday off to travel back to Chicago. Game 6 will take place at Wrigley Field at 8:00 PM EDT. Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers opposite the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks.