4-homer finale caps Red Sox’s 4th title since ’04

LOS ANGELES — The Boston Red Sox dominated all season, played through pain when necessary and came through when it mattered most, making Chris Sale’s appearance Sunday for the final three outs of a championship the most fitting of final acts.

Sale, a starter who epitomized all of the Red Sox’s best traits, came out of the bullpen and struck out the Dodgers in order in the ninth inning of Game 5 in the World Series to give Boston its fourth World Series title since 2004 with a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Red Sox set up Sale’s final bow by first pounding the Dodgers into submission. World Series MVP Steve Pearce hit two home runs Sunday, while Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez each hit one. The victory was tidy, thorough and never in doubt, providing even more symbolism.

“Best feeling in my life,” said Pearce, who started the season with the Toronto Blue Jays and was dealt to Boston just before the non-waiver trade deadline. “This is what you grow up wishing, that you could be a part of something like this. With that special group of guys out there, to celebrate with them, that was awesome.”

Much as they did while rolling to a major-league-best 108 regular-season victories, the Red Sox also dominated the postseason. Boston lost just once in the World Series, and the Dodgers needed 18 innings and 7 hours, 20 minutes to take Game 3.

The Red Sox went 11-3 overall in the 2018 postseason and were an impressive 7-1 in road games while earning the ninth World Series championship in franchise history, tied for third most all-time with the Athletics franchise (Philadelphia, Kansas City, Oakland). Only the St. Louis Cardinals (11) and the New York Yankees (27) have more.

The Red Sox also became the third franchise to win a World Series in four consecutive appearances, along with the Cardinals and Yankees.

Boston starter David Price, who pounded his chest upon leaving the field after the seventh, went seven-plus innings, giving up a run on three hits and two walks. He struck out five.

Price won his third consecutive postseason start, two in this World Series alone, after not earning a victory in any of his previous 11 playoff starts.

“My confidence was never altered,” Price said. “I always had belief in myself and my abilities. To be able to come through on this stage and in October for myself and my teammates, I know I can do it now. And it’s always a good feeling to have. It’s just good to know.”

Joe Kelly struck out all three batters he faced in the eighth inning, and Sale did the same in the ninth, fanning Manny Machado to end it.

Pearce’s bat put a charge in the Red Sox for the second consecutive game when he hit a two-run home run to center field in the first inning off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. He went deep to left in the eighth inning off Pedro Baez. Pearce also hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Game 4 on Saturday as the Red Sox rallied for a 9-6 victory.

Betts, the likely American League MVP, was just 4-for-19 in the World Series heading into Game 5, but his sixth-inning home run off Kershaw gave Boston a 3-1 lead. Martinez added to that cushion with a home run off Kershaw to left-center in the seventh.

Kershaw, who now has the choice to opt out of his Dodgers contract, was left with yet another postseason disappointment. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has generally been dominating in the regular season, but he fell to 9-10 with a 4.32 ERA in 30 postseason appearances (24 starts).

“Disappointed … yeah, just disappointed,” said Kershaw, who expects to make a decision on his contract within the next three days. “There’s only one team that can win and we know that, but it just hurts worse when you make it all the way and get second place.”

Kershaw gave up four runs on seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts Sunday, finishing this World Series with an 0-2 record and a 7.36 ERA. David Freese hit a leadoff home run in the first inning for the Dodgers, who finished with just three hits in Game 5.

Los Angeles lost in the World Series for the second year in a row, having dropped the 2017 Fall Classic to the Houston Astros in seven games.

“What (the Red Sox) did was well deserved,” said Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen, who gave up game-tying home runs in the eighth inning of both Games 3 and 4. “They are one of the best teams in history. How they played this year, that’s not a fluke that they won 108 games. We did our best, man. We gave all we got. It’s definitely disappointing, it definitely stinks, but you have to keep your head up, work out in the offseason and try to get better.”

The Red Sox not only went 7-0 in the postseason when facing a left-handed starter, but they were 10-0 when they scored the first run of the game.

Boston manager Alex Cora became just the fifth person to win the World Series in his first season as a major league skipper. Bob Brenly with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, Ralph Houk with the 1961 Yankees, Eddie Dyer with the 1946 Cardinals and Bucky Harris with the 1924 Washington Senators also accomplished the feat.

“First of all, (the Red Sox) gave me a chance,” said Cora, who was on the coaching staff of last year’s champion Astros. “They saw me as a capable manager and they gave me a chance. It’s funny because when they announced (the hiring), we were flying to L.A. last year between the (AL) Championship Series and the World Series, and ironically enough, we win it here, so it goes full circle.”

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Posted in MLB, Top Fantasy Picks

The Red Sox look to take the Series tonight in L.A. Can Kershaw and the Dodgers stay alive?

It sounded like a howitzer. The sound of cork and cowhide echoed off the lumber from Yasiel Puig’s bat as Dodger Stadium roared and shook like an aftershock. Puig’s bomb capped off a four-run sixth inning that felt insurmountable with Rich Hill carving up the Red Sox potent lineup. But then Mitch Moreland teed off Ryan Madson in the top of the seventh, a three-run laser that pulled the Red Sox within one. The next inning Steve Pearce took a Kenley Jensen pitch and hit a solo shot into the Chavez Ravine night sky that tied that game at four. The Red Sox would take the lead on a Rafael Devers RBI single in the ninth and put the game away on Pearce’s bases-clearing double four batters later, all part of a Boston five-run ninth inning.

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After dominating the first two games of the series, it seemed like Boston was on the brink of losing control in Game 4 after Puig’s home run. But the Red Sox did what they’ve done all year long, wear down pitching staffs and come up with timely hits, scoring all nine of their runs after the sixth inning.

The Dodgers were 54-0 when leading by four-runs this season, the only team in baseball to not blow such a lead— until last night. They are just the second team in the last 10 World Series to blow a four-run lead. The only other team? How about the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 against the Houston Astros? Baseball, you’re too cruel.

World Series Game 5: Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers
Time: Sunday, Oct. 28 at 8:15 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

Pitching Matchup: David Price vs. Clayton Kershaw

Three Things to Watch

1. Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of his generation, and a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Fame player, and one of the greatest Dodgers of all-time. Those are all facts. Here is another fact — Kershaw has not been a very good pitcher in the postseason, and many of his starts have cost his team vital October victories. Fact.

Another fact is that Kershaw’s contract allows for him to opt out at the end of this season — which could be tonight if the Red Sox have their way. If Kershaw decides to walk, he will leave $70 million on the table in the final two years of his deal to play somewhere other than Dodger Stadium for the rest of his career. While I think it’s unlikely Kershaw ever leaves L.A., it is still a distinct possibility, and if he does leave, what will his legacy as a Dodger be?

Again, he has an inevitable date in Cooperstown five years to the minute after he hangs up his cleats, whenever that is. But does Kershaw become the Dan Marino of MLB or this generation’s Barry Bonds? One of the all-time greats to never win one?

That debate is typically a discussion that doesn’t allow for much nuance and the team’s those great players play for are hardly ever criticized as heavily. For Kershaw, the debate may be different. He has had so many opportunities to replicate his regular season dominance in the postseason, making 23 playoff starts in his career but posting a 4.29 ERA in those games, almost two full points higher than his career regular season ERA (2.39).

Tonight, Kershaw makes his 24th career postseason start, the fifth in the World Series, where his ERA balloons to 5.49. He’ll face a Red Sox team coming off the highest of highs from last night’s Game 4 comeback, looking to seal the deal. If Kershaw can deliver a typical regular season Kershaw-like start tonight, with his team facing elimination at home, he can at least re-write one chapter in a narrative that has plagued him for the last decade, whether he decides to stay in L.A. or not.

2. David Price

In a very surprising move, Sox manager Alex Cora has opted to throw lefty David Price in tonight’s Game 5. Price has already started once in this series, in Game 2, and was terrific, giving up just two earned runs in six innings, striking out five. His second straight quality start in the postseason after dominating the Astros in Game 5 of the ALCS.

Price, like Kershaw, has been historically below average in the playoffs compared to his typical all-star like regular seasons, with a career ERA of 4.87 in 22 postseason games (13 starts). But another solid outing tonight, especially on short rest, capped off with a World Series title, would re-write the storybook for Price’s career.

This isn’t the first time that Cora has deployed Price unconventionally in this series. Cora tabbed the lanky lefty to pitch two-thirds of the ninth inning as a reliever in the marathon that was Game 3. Price faced three batters and gave up a walk and a hit each.

While the move to pitch Price tonight is certainly going to raise a brow or two, Cora came into this series patching together his pitching staff and is running out of options. Rick Porcello is a no-go after starting Game 3. Nathan Eovaldi, who was likely to start Game 4, instead pitched six brilliant innings of relief during Game 3, leaving Cora with one option for last night’s Game 4, Eduardo Rodriguez.

The only alternative to Price is starting Chris Sale, who would be pitching on full rest. But the way Cora sees it, if the Red Sox can’t win it all tonight with Price and the bullpen, they still would hold a three-games-to-two lead as the series headed back to Boston for Game 6 and a possible Game 7. Sale would pitch Game 6 with two days of extra rest with the night off tonight and the travel day tomorrow. That is probably the best idea considering the noticeable velocity drop and lack of control that Sale has demonstrated the last month or so.

3. Dodgers’ Bullpen Woes

Dave Roberts needs a hug. Outside of Game 3 when he utilized eight different relief pitchers perfectly, every single pitching change he has made in this series has backfired — especially the choice to pitch Ryan Madson, like, at all.

Madson came into last night’s Game 4 having allowed all five of the runners he inherited in this series to score. So when Roberts called on the 38-year-old right-hander to face the left-handed Mitch Moreland with two-on and one out in the seventh, the collective “Oh, no” at Dodger Stadium was tangible through the TV. Madson started Moreland off with an 85MPH changeup up in the zone, and Moreland finished off Madson by knocking the snot out of that changeup — about 20 rows deep. Puig, playing right field, didn’t move. His gloved hand interlocked with the other behind his head said it all. Madson has now allowed all seven inherited runners to score.

But it gets worse for Roberts and the Dodgers bullpen. Kenley Jensen, the Dodgers closer who didn’t pitch in either of the first two games in Boston, has given up two game-tying solo home runs in the eighth inning of back-to-back games. L.A. cannot win this series unless Jensen is mowing down batters. Jensen simply has not been himself for good chunks of this season as he deals with heart complications. If Roberts doesn’t trust Jensen in the late innings tonight, look for him to go with Pedro Baez, who has been unhittable all postseason.

Final Analysis

The Dodgers gameplay is simple: Clayton Kershaw has to be great. Easy, right? Their bullpen is an overused, unreliable, mess running on fumes. Dodgers relievers surrendered all nine Red Sox runs in the final two innings last night. So how can Roberts trust any of them in high leverage situations when no one outside of Baez has proven they can deliver? Boston will be aggressive against Kershaw, hoping to drive him from the game in the early innings in order to feast on more of the Dodgers bullpen. Unless L.A. can flip the script and tag Price in the early goings, I like the Sox to win their ninth World Series title tonight in Tinseltown.

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Posted in MLB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pacers at Cavaliers Game 5

Every time it looks like the Cleveland Cavaliers are about to roll over and end their reign atop the Eastern Conference, they bounce right back with a win. The Cavaliers will try to take the lead for the first time in the best-of-seven, first-round series when they host the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 on Wednesday.

Make this game an InGame today. Swap players like LeBron, DeMar & Oladipo as the game is happening. It’s the new way to play Daily Fantasy Sports.

NBA IG Top 3 (Wizards vs Raptors / Pacers vs Cavs)

Cleveland had a chance to take the series lead in Game 3 and could not hold onto a 17-point advantage in a 92-90 loss, but LeBron James took over down the stretch in Game 4 and guided his team to a 104-100 triumph and tie the series at two games apiece. “We came on the road in a hostile environment and got a big win after a letdown last game,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters after the victory. “I thought we played good enough to win that last game. The guys thought that as well. When you lose a tough game like that it’s hard to bounce back, especially on the road. It’s just tribute to our guys’ character, who they are, and we bounced back and won a tough game.” The Pacers are showing plenty of fight in the series and are undaunted by Cleveland taking back homecourt advantage. “It’s 0-0 and it’s anybody’s series right now,” center Myles Turner told reporters. “And we’ve gotta be the hungry team. We’ve got a road win before, and we gotta go do it again.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Indiana, FS Ohio (Cleveland)

ABOUT THE PACERS: Indiana placed seven scorers in double figures in the Game 4 loss but All-Star Victor Oladipo struggled to 5-of-20 from the floor and Game 3 hero Bojan Bogdanovic went 4-of-13. “I thought we were frantic offensively throughout the game and I just didn’t think we played the game the right way,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told reporters. “I thought there were some quick shots, some heroic shots that were taken throughout this game, and you’re not going to win if you play the game like that.” The positives came up front, where Turner and reserve center Domantas Sabonis combined for 36 points on 16-of-21 shooting.

ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in Game 4 but took the time out to praise the efforts of his teammates. Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood, who all joined the team at the trade deadline, combined for 24 points off the bench. “It means a lot to Rodney, Jordan and Larry,” James told reporters. “It’s their first opportunity in the postseason. It was a must-win for us in a hostile environment. For them to play the way they did meant a lot.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Cavaliers PG George Hill (back) is questionable for Game 5.

2. Pacers PF Thaddeus Young grabbed 16 rebounds on Sunday in his first double-double of the series.

3. Cleveland SG Kyle Korver scored 18 points in Game 4 after going scoreless over 20 minutes in Game 3.

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Posted in NBA

Wizards at Raptors Preview

The Toronto Raptors won the first two games of their first-round, Eastern Conference series over the Washington Wizards but could not find a way to win on the road. The Raptors leaned into some bad habits in a Game 4 loss and will try to correct some mistakes when they host Game 5 on Wednesday.

Make this game an InGame today. Swap players like LeBron, DeMar & Wall as the game is happening. It’s the new way to play Daily Fantasy Sports.

NBA IG Top 3 (Wizards vs Raptors / Pacers vs Cavs)

Toronto won a franchise-record 59 games during the regular season and earned the top seed in the East for the first time while playing a band of basketball that encouraged ball movement and 3-point shooting, but some of those traits were hard to find down the stretch in Game 4’s 106-98 setback. “At some point we’ve got to make sure we keep our composure and execute,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters. “We missed some shots we normally make. … We turned down some good looks I thought we’d normally step into.” The Wizards allowed an average of 122 points in the first two games of the series but cut that number down to 100.5 in the next two. “You have to have resolve to win in this league,” Washington coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “We’ve had some tough moments this year with (point guard) John (Wall) missing half the season, but we found it, and it put us in a position to make the playoffs through resolve. You win playoff games, and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games, and one of them has to be on the road.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBATV, NBCS Washington, TSN 1/4/5 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE WIZARDS: All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal fouled out of Game 4 with just under five minutes left, but Wall took over down the stretch and finished with 27 points and 14 assists in the win. “Just go in attack mode,” Wall told reporters. “Even when Brad’s in the game, he’s telling me, ‘Be aggressive.’ At the same time, I’m trying to find him. I’m trying to keep him going and play my game. That gets my teammates involved and makes the job easier for those guys. They are knocking down shots and cutting for me, and I’m going to get my opportunities to score the ball.” Wall is averaging 26.3 points, 13 assists and three steals in the series.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS: DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 35 points in Game 4 but was just 10-of-29 from the floor. “I took some shots that I wish I could have had back,” DeRozan told reporters. “But it’s just my mindset going out there and being aggressive, wanting to win, wanting to feel like I was doing whatever it took offensively to push us to a win. But with that came some bad shots that I will definitely understand next time.” DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (7-of-15) combined for more than half of Toronto’s shot attempts in the loss.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Raptors PG Fred VanVleet (shoulder) was limited to a total of three minutes in the first four games but participated in practice on Tuesday.

2. Beal averaged 29.5 points in the two home games after averaging 14 at Toronto in the first two contests.

3. Washington PF Mike Scott scored four points on Sunday after averaging 15.3 points in the first three contests.

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Posted in NBA

MLB World Series Game 5 Recap

Indians vs Cubs (Indians lead 3-2)

Aroldis Chapman usually never works much more than an inning as Chicago Cubs closer. With a win-or-be-eliminated situation in the World Series Game 5, Cubs manager prepared Chapman to be ready to enter the game earlier if needed to. Chapman worked a season-high 2 2/3 innings in relief to preserve a one-run lead as the Chicago Cubs stayed alive in the World Series Game 5 with a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

Chapman struck out four, including Jose Ramirez for the final out to secure his fourth postseason save. He threw 42 pitches to 10 hitters and secured Chicago’s first World Series win at Wrigley Field since Game 6 of the World Series on Oct. 8, 1945 against Detroit. The Cubs now trail 3-2 as the World Series shifts back to Cleveland for Game 6 on Tuesday (Enter Contests). Game 7, if necessary, would be played Wednesday in Cleveland.

Game Highlights

Chicago denied the Indians’ bid to clinch their first World Series championship since 1948. Cubs’ starter Jon Lester improved to 3-1 in the postseason (1-1 in the World Series) after allowing two runs over six innings. He threw 90 pitches with 42 coming in his final two innings. Indians starter Trevor Bauer (0-2 in the series and the postseason) gave up three runs in a four-inning outing.

Jose Ramirez gave the Indians a 1-0 lead by hitting a two-out home run to left on an 0-1 pitch. It was his first home run of the postseason. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant matched it in the fourth with a leadoff home run to left, his second of the postseason, as the Cubs started to rough up Bauer in what turned into a three-run fourth. Cleveland cut a 3-1 deficit in half in the sixth off Lester as Francisco Lindor’s two-out base hit to center scored Rajai Davis.

In the seventh, Mike Napoli reached on a leadoff single off reliever Carl Edwards Jr. and advanced to second on a passed ball. The Cubs then turned to Chapman, who closed the inning without any scoring. Chapman struck out Yan Gomes to open the eighth but was out of position when first baseman Anthony Rizzo stopped a Rajai Davis grounder down the line but had no one to throw it to. Davis, the potential tying run, then stole second with one out and third with two gone. However, Chapman ended the threat by striking out Lindor looking.

Despite the loss, the Indians return to Cleveland with two chances to clinch the World Series. The last time the Indians clinched the World Series at home was in 1920 against Brooklyn Dodgers.

Posted in MLB

Fantasy Hockey NHL Finals

Game 5

It’s the back against the wall routine now for the San Jose Sharks. No room for error as the Pittsburgh Penguins could finish the fantasy hockey NHL 2015/16 season as soon as tonight. With a win, the Penguins could finally put there hands on the Stanley Cup at home, in front of their fan, a feat that they’ve never accomplished in their 49 year existence and three Stanley Cup conquest. In fact, of the 11 major sports championships won by Pittsburgh professional teams since the Pirates claimed the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field — six Super Bowls, three Stanley Cups, two other World Series — not one was won on home turf or home ice. Also, Penguins’ Matt Murray could become the fifth goalie to lead his team to a Stanley Cup in his rookie year — Ken Dryden(1970-71), Patrick Roy(1985-86), Cam Ward(2005-06) and Antti Niemi(2009-10) are the first four. The Sharks have waited 25 years to reach their first NHL finals. With 36 years-old’s and former captains of the team Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau not getting any younger, this could be their last chance at the cup.  Game 5 happens starts Thursday night at 8PM ET. Here are FanPicks (click to play) top NHL picks.

Player Pos Team Last Game FP Last Two Games FP Avg  Last Four Game FP Avg Last Ten Game FP Avg
Evgeni Malkin C PIT 23 10.7 10.6 10.9
Eric Fehr W PIT 18.5 7.2 4.9 4.3
Melker Karlsson W SJ 18.5 6.2 4 4.5
Phil Kessel W PIT 18 15.2 12.1 15.1
Ian Cole D PIT 15.5 6.2 3.7 3
Carl Hagelin W PIT 9 7.5 6.9 7.4
Kris Letang D PIT 9 8 8.1 8
Brenden Dillon D SJ 7.5 3 2.1 1.4
Joe Pavelski C SJ 7.5 3.5 7 13.3
Chris Tierney C SJ 6 4.5 4.2 5
Olli Maatta D PIT 6 5.5 4.8 4.5
Patrick Marleau C SJ 6 4 9.1 7.3
Joel Ward W SJ 3 10.2 11.3 9.7
Logan Couture C SJ 3 4 11.2 11.8
Joonas Donskoi W SJ 3 9.7 10.7 7.4
Tomas Hertl C SJ 3 9.7 9.1 10
MarcEdouard Vlasic D SJ 1.5 3.5 3.9 6
Sidney Crosby C PIT 1.5 4.5 6.9 11
Matt Cullen C PIT 1.5 3 2.4 2.8
Brian Dumoulin D PIT 1.5 2 1.2 3.5

Fantasy Hockey NHL Game 5 Notables

  • Melker Karlsson will skate on the San Jose Sharks top line with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, with Tomas Hertl (lower body injury) still expected to be out.
  • Penguins winger Phil Kessel has at least one point in 15 of 22 playoff games. He leads Pittsburgh with 10 goals and 21 points.
  • Before being held without a point in Game 4, Sharks winger Joel Ward had at least one point in four of his previous five games. He has one goal and one assist in the Final.
Posted in NHL