Homer happy Red Sox take down Gio, A's 5-3


Homer happy Red Sox take down Gio, A's 5-3

April 20, 2011

OAKLAND (AP) A short turnaround against a pitcher throwing better than anyone in the majors presented a tough environment for the Boston Red Sox to come up with their first road win of the season.Kevin Youkilis and Jed Lowrie homered off the previously untouchable Gio Gonzalez and the Red Sox ended their season-opening seven-game road skid by beating the Oakland Athletics 5-3 on Wednesday."It's a little late, but it feels good," manager Terry Francona said. "If we bog ourselves down with what we did two weeks ago, that's what we're going to do: bog ourselves down. We need to try to stay in the moment and win."Clay Buchholz (1-2) allowed a leadoff home run to Coco Crisp and nothing else in 5 1-3 innings as the Red Sox snapped the longest road losing streak to start a season in franchise history.Despite building a 5-1 lead, there were some tense moments late for the Red Sox. Crisp's one-out RBI single off Bobby Jenks in the eighth inning cut Boston's lead to three runs, but Jenks recovered by striking out Daric Barton. Jonathan Papelbon escaped the jam by striking out David DeJesus.The A's added another run in the ninth on Landon Powell's RBI single before Papelbon got pinch-hitter Josh Willingham and Cliff Pennington to end the game for his third save."We didn't take advantage of some situations when we had them," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "We had some of our better hits up in certain situations and didn't necessarily come through. We had our chances, we did."Gonzalez (2-1) came into the game having thrown 17 straight scoreless innings and having allowed only one run in three starts for an 0.47 ERA. But he allowed an RBI single to Carl Crawford in the second, a solo homer to Youkilis in the fourth and the two-run shot by Lowrie in the sixth in a rare off performance for an Oakland starter.In the previous turn through the rotation, A's starters gave up just one earned run in 33 2-3 innings for an 0.27 ERA. Gonzalez was touched for four runs and eight hits in six innings in a game played in a steady rain."It's definitely a little bit of pressure," Gonzalez said. "It was kind of a tough act to follow. ... These guys were swinging. They weren't going to let us go and just walk over them. That's a tough team to keep down. If you make a mistake they're going to make you pay for it and that's exactly what they did."Gonzalez had good stuff as evidenced by his nine strikeouts but was done in by the homers from Youkilis and Lowrie as the A's lost for just the sixth time in their past 24 home games against Boston.J.D. Drew added his first homer of the season, a solo shot, in the seventh off Jerry Blevins to help the Red Sox win for the fourth time in five games after a 2-10 start."Now we can just sort of relax a little bit and not have to worry about how we haven't won on the road," Buchholz said. "I think everybody swung the bats well yesterday and had some good battles at the plate today, scored some runs for us. I think everybody will start turning around and we'll start taking pressure off ourselves and go out and play."Buchholz allowed 10 runs in five innings on the way to a pair of losses in Oakland last season and got off to a rough start in this game as well when Crisp homered to right field on Buchholz's first pitch.But Buchholz stranded a pair of runners in both the second and fifth innings and pitched around Mark Ellis' one-out double in the fourth before being relieved by Daniel Bard with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning.Bard struck out Pennington and then escaped the jam by retiring Crisp on a popup. Crisp's out came one pitch after his line drive to left field landed just inches foul."That was the game right there," Francona said. "The game can be won in the sixth or the seventh. For me that was it. He came in and stopped it. We started it back up again, but that's what he's there for."Buchholz allowed one run and six hits in 5 1-3 innings.Notes: Ellis' double in the fourth was the 200th of his career. Ellis also made Oakland's major league-worst 20th error in the top of that inning when he dropped a ball on a potential force at second. ... Lowrie was 2 for 4 and is batting .480 this season against lefties. ... Crisp's homer was just the eighth of the season for the A's. ... LHP David Purcey, acquired from Toronto earlier in the week, made his Oakland debut with two perfect innings of relief. ... This marked the 99th anniversary of the first game played at Fenway Park, a 7-6 Boston win in 11 innings over the Yankees in 1912.

Cubs beat Dodgers, head home with 3-2 lead in NLCS


Cubs beat Dodgers, head home with 3-2 lead in NLCS


LOS ANGELES -- Jon Lester pitched seven sharp innings, Addison Russell hit a tiebreaking homer and the Chicago Cubs moved one win from their first World Series trip in 71 years by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday.

The Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series and will have two chances to wrap up that elusive pennant back home at Wrigley Field.

"The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now," manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs' first opportunity to clinch comes Saturday night in Game 6, when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw faces major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

"That's a game we expect to win," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. "This series certainly isn't over."

Emerging star Javier Baez was in the middle of everything for the Cubs, a common theme this October. The second baseman made a sensational defensive play when the game was still close in the seventh, and his three-run double capped a five-run eighth that made it 8-1.

After busting out of his postseason slump Wednesday, Russell hit a two-run homer for the second straight game. This one was a sixth-inning drive off losing pitcher Joe Blanton that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead.

By winning consecutive games in Los Angeles, the Cubs took control of the best-of-seven series after getting shut out in Games 2 and 3.

Of course, there's no need to remind longtime fans that the Cubs were in the same favorable position 13 years ago - heading home to Wrigley Field with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS.

But even with ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood starting the final two games, Chicago collapsed against the Marlins in one of its most excruciating failures.

More than a decade later, the franchise is still chasing its first World Series championship since 1908.

Baez had three of Chicago's 13 hits, matching the team's total in Game 4, when the Cubs snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak and won 10-2.

Lester allowed one run and five hits, improving to 2-0 in three playoff starts this year. He has given up two runs in 21 innings.

The left-hander struck out six and walked one.

Anthony Rizzo's run-scoring double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.

Los Angeles tied it in the fourth on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI groundout.

After scoring their first run, the Cubs stranded six runners through the first five innings before finding success against the Dodgers' third reliever.

Russell homered on an 0-1 pitch from Blanton, who gave up a single to Baez leading off the sixth. Baez stole second and scored on Russell's shot to center field that put the Cubs ahead on another unusually hot night at Dodger Stadium.

Chicago jumped on struggling Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda from the start. Dexter Fowler singled leading off the game and scored on Rizzo's double to right two batters later.

Maeda gave up one run and three hits in 3 2/3 innings, struck out six and walked two in losing for the second time in three postseason starts. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings with a 6.75 ERA over three appearances.

The Dodgers' defense fell apart in the eighth when the Cubs extended their lead to 8-1.

Gonzalez tried flipping Russell's slow roller to reliever Pedro Baez, who came over to cover first and bobbled the ball for an error.

Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras followed with a single, and the runners moved up on pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.'s sacrifice bunt. Fowler reached on an infield single to first, with Gonzalez losing a foot race when Fowler slid into the bag, scoring Russell.

Kris Bryant reached on an infield single to third, with the Dodgers unsuccessfully challenging the call that he was safe.

The Dodgers thought they'd finally escaped the inning on a double play when Rizzo lined to Kike Hernandez, who forced Fowler at second. But the Cubs challenged the call and it was reversed, allowing Chicago to prolong the inning. Baez got yanked after walking Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Ross Stripling came on to face Baez, who doubled to deep right, driving in three more runs.

With the Dodgers trailing 3-1, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong end of a video review for the second straight game.

With Baez playing way out on the outfield grass in shallow right field, the slow-footed Gonzalez tried to take advantage with a drag bunt leading off the seventh. Baez rushed in for a barehanded scoop and off-balance throw, but Gonzalez initially was called safe by first base umpire Ted Barrett. The Cubs challenged and the call was overturned.

In Game 4, Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second after sliding with his left hand stretched toward the tip of the plate while Contreras applied the tag near Gonzalez's upper left arm. The Dodgers challenged, and the video review upheld umpire Angel Hernandez's call.


Vin Scully was back at Dodger Stadium for the first time since ending his 67-year career behind the microphone earlier this month.

The 88-year-old Hall of Fame announcer attended as a spectator and proclaimed, "It's time for Dodger baseball!" from an upstairs suite.


Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur isn't on the NLCS roster, but he's contributing. A day after his bat was borrowed by Rizzo to hit a home run, Szczur revealed during an in-game TV interview that Russell wore a pair of his underwear leggings Wednesday after leaving his own at home.


Dodgers: Kershaw takes the mound in Chicago on an extra day of rest. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. Overall, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.

Cubs: Hendricks' 2.13 ERA was tops in the majors this season. The right-hander allowed a solo homer in 5 1/3 innings of Game 2, his longest career postseason start. The Cubs lost 1-0 to Kershaw.

Ex-Stanford star hits WNBA title-winning shot for LA Sparks


Ex-Stanford star hits WNBA title-winning shot for LA Sparks

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nneka Ogwumike's short jumper with 3.1 seconds left gave the Los Angeles Sparks a 77-76 victory over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx for their first title in 14 years in the deciding game of the WNBA Finals on Thursday night.

The league MVP joined her teammates in celebration as a stunned crowd slowly filed out after finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Candace Parker had 28 points and 12 rebounds to earn MVP honors of the Finals. It was Parker's first WNBA title.

"She's been through so much," Ogwumike said of Parker. "She's probably the most misunderstood person in the league. I told her I wanted her to get one. She had an awesome game tonight. She's been our leader."

Parker said she listened to one of Pat Summitt's speeches before the game and that motivated her. Her former coach at Tennessee died in late June.

"She would have been proud of our rebounding. It came down to rebounding and defense," Parker said. "I could hear her voice telling me to keep going. She was definitely present tonight."

Rebekkah Brunson made one of two free throws with 23 seconds left to give the Lynx a 74-73 lead. Parker answered with a layup on the other end that Maya Moore countered with a jumper with 15 seconds remaining. Ogwumike's first try for the win was off the mark, but she worked her way over to the loose ball for another attempt that she coolly swished.

Lindsay Whalen's final shot from just inside halfcourt wasn't close, setting off Los Angeles' celebration as Parker and Sparks owner Magic Johnson embraced in a long hug.

Johnson spoke to the team after the loss at home in Game 4 on Sunday. His presence in Minnesota was all the more impressive considering the Dodgers, the other pro club he's invested in, were playing baseball in Los Angeles at the same time in Game 5 of their National League championship series.

"I told them the series wasn't over and that there was still a Game 5 to be played. They had to believe they could do it on a tough home court. This team Minnesota is tremendous," Johnson said. "We just beat the champions so I give them a lot of credit to. Our leaders led us and we had a great coach in Brian and they believed all season long. I told them this was their year. I wanted them to do it for Candace Parker. She deserves to be a champion. Great group of ladies."

Moore had 23 points and 11 assists for the Lynx, who fell short of matching the WNBA record of four championships. The Houston Comets won four straight titles from 1997-2000.

The Lynx played in the finals for the fifth time in the last six years. They won three.

Parker finally had help with the scoring when reserve Chelsea Gray reeled off 11 consecutive points for the Sparks. Gray capped that run with a smooth up-and-under layup to put them in front 60-59 early in the fourth quarter. Parker's putback with 3:06 left gave L.A. a 71-63 lead, putting the Lynx in trouble.

But Moore seized the moment with a 3-pointer that brought Minnesota within four points, and Parker forced an off-balance 3 on the other end.

Whalen stole the ball from Kristi Toliver and finished the fast break with a layup to tie the game at 71, setting up the final flurry.

On the next play, Ogwumike hit a jumper that appeared to come after the shot clock expired. The officials signaled for a review, but never looked at the basket and Los Angeles led 73-71 with just over a minute left.

The WNBA's new postseason format with the field ordered by overall record regardless of conference sure worked well, leading to this classic matchup between the two teams that fought all summer for the top seed and featuring several of the league's biggest stars.

The game was remarkably close, with 11 lead changes and six ties in the first half alone. Moore gave Minnesota its biggest lead of the first 20 minutes with a pair of free throws in the closing seconds of the second quarter to make it 34-28.

The Sparks had an opportunity for a surge when Sylvia Fowles exited with an injury to her right hand, scoring on a fast break while Fowles was wincing in pain by the bench and out of the play and then picking up a bonus point on a free throw for Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve's technical foul.

Augustus and Renee Montgomery knocked down 3-pointers from the top of the key down the stretch of the third quarter, though, and Fowles soon re-entered the game. She made her presence felt with a powerful take to the rim for a layup and a 53-47 lead.


Ogwumike joined Toliver and Essence Carson with three fouls in the first half and played less than 4 minutes in the second quarter.


If the finals return to Minnesota next year, the Lynx could have yet another place in which to try to pop the corks with a major renovation set for Target Center next summer. They'll play across the Mississippi River in St. Paul at Xcel Energy Center, the hockey home of the Minnesota Wild.