Division Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox - Game Two

Behind David Ortiz’s two-homer night, Red Sox take a 2-0 lead in the ALDS


The Red Sox will head down to Tampa Bay happy campers. After a thorough 12-2 dismantling of the Rays in Game 1, the Sox scored seven runs against 2012 AL Cy Young award winner David Price in seven-plus innings, just enough run support for John Lackey.

The scoring started early, with Jacoby Ellsbury leading off the game with a single, stealing second base and forcing a throwing error to advance to third base, then scoring on Dustin Pedroia’s sacrifice fly. David Ortiz added a well-struck home run to right-center to make it 2-0.

After the Rays clawed back for a run in the top of the second on a Delmon Young sac fly, the Sox scored another two runs in the bottom of the third on a double by Jacoby Ellsbury and an RBI fielder’s choice by Pedroia. The Sox would make it 5-1 in the fourth on an RBI triple by Stephen Drew.

The Rays did a good job against Lackey, tagging him for seven hits and three walks. James Loney struck a big blow in the fifth, driving a two-run double to center to make it 5-3. With Loney on second, the Rays had two opportunities to draw closer or even tie the game, but after Evan Longoria walked, Ben Zobrist struck out to end the rally.

As quickly as the Rays got those two runs, the Red Sox took one back. Ellsbury led off the inning with a single, then used his speed to score from first on a Pedroia double off the Green Monster.

Lackey took the hill for the sixth, but the Rays chased him quickly. Desmond Jennings led off the inning with a single, then advanced to second on Young’s ground out. He came around to score from second on an RBI single to right by Yunel Escobar. Rays manager Joe Maddon then pinch-hit catcher Jose Molina with the left-handed Matt Joyce, prompting Red Sox manager John Farrell to take out Lackey in favor of lefty reliever Craig Breslow. Breslow retired Joyce and then Sean Rodriguez to exit the inning without any further damage. Breslow also pitched a scoreless seventh in support of Lackey. Junichi Tazawa worked around a one-out single by Young in the eighth.

In the bottom of the eighth, Ortiz struck again, leading off the inning with a home run to right field that wrapped around Pesky’s Pole for his second home run of the night. Prior to Ortiz, the last Red Sox hitter to homer twice in a post-season game was Pedroia in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Rays in 2008.

Closer Koji Uehara disposed of the Rays quickly in the ninth, striking out Joyce and Jose Lobaton, then getting Wil Myers to ground out to first to make the 7-4 Sox victory official. He threw 11 pitches, all of them strikes. Now up 2-0 in the ALDS, the two teams will head down to Tampa for Game 3 on Monday. Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz will oppose Rays starter Alex Cobb.

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.