Hartford Courant from Hartford, Connecticut on October 5, 2016 · C4
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Hartford Courant from Hartford, Connecticut · C4

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016
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C4 WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2016 THE HARTFORD COURANT SP RTS Jacobs Continued from Page CI some great ones. "Our guys are well-prepared. They are tough, and they're smart. Any words of wisdom at this point, we're more anxious to get on the field." The Red Sox won 93 regular season games in 2016, and New England knows Farrell won none of them. The Red Sox lost 69 games, and Farrell lost all of them. That's the way it is in New England. Every fan with a beer can in his or her hand and speed dial to the local radio talk show knows more than the Red Sox manager. It is especially true, resoundingly true, with Farrell. Francona will win the AL manager of the year. And if he doesn't, Farrell will. According to the vox populi of New England, of course, Farrell probably should finish last. He pinch ran pitcher Steven Wright onto the disabled list. For a time during the middle of the season, with injuries running high, he turned the bullpen into a horror show. The Red Sox win the laughers, and they lose the nail-biters. That is the critical narrative. And when the lists of advantages and disadvantages are made by media and fans heading into the best-of-five ALDS, the Red Sox side will have a ton of checks. One won't be the manager. With two starting pitchers out, Cleveland is a serious underdog. The only way the Red Sox can blow it, the wisdom goes, is if Farrell and Craig Kimbrel conspire to blow it. Or if David Price, despite the $217 million contract, still can't figure out a way to win in the postseason. The cruel truth is if Farrell, 54, hadn't been diagnosed with cancer in August 2015, he might not even have returned as manager. Torey Lovullo performed well in finishing 27-20 as interim. The champagne of Farrell winning the 2013 World Series title had long since been washed away by two last-place finishes. Before he could go worst to first, he had already gone first to worst. New baseball boss Dave Dombrowski kept Farrell, but he also re-signed Lovello as bench coach as a safety measure. Cleared of lymphoma, a survivor in so many ways, Farrell pressed on without complaint. In March, Jessica Moran, a Comcast SportsNet reporter who covered the Red Sox, resigned because of her relationship with Farrell. While Farrell was in the process of getting a divorce and had been separated from his wife for a couple of years, he appeared FRANK FRANKLIN II I ASSOCIATED PRESS MANAGER JOHN FARRELL has the Red Sox in position to make a postseason run, but many in New England don't appreciate all he has done. PHIL LONG ASSOCIATED PRESS INDIANS MANAGER Terry Francona is a close friend of the Red Sox manager, but he's looking to lead Cleveland past his former team. through the spring and most of the summer to be one public-relations disaster or one losing streak away from being fired. Yet here's the thing. Farrell has proved to be a terrific manager of men, even if he has holes as a manager of games. Some guys oh, say, Bobby Valentine have a terrific baseball IQ and always seem to be setting clubhouse fires. It should be noted none of the great cries of exasperation about Farrell have come from the clubhouse. He is a good communicator. He doesn't hang players out to dry in public, just as Francona didn't to the consternation of many. He is steady. He is a rock. Fans make fun of rocks. Athletes love to know what to expect. They love rocks. Farrell had to navigate his way through the erasure of fatty Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo from the lineup. He had to live with the early-season failures of Clay Buchholz and the criticism that he, as an old pitching coach, couldn't re-mold Clay. Of course, nobody else could either. He had to live with Eduardo Rodriguez taking forever to recover from a knee injury in spring training. He had to endure all the slings and arrows of a bullpen soap opera that had so many twists and turns and changing characters. Were there in-game screwups? Of course there were. From Wright pitching in the rain with a knuckleball going nowhere to an ineffective Price staying in too long the other night and getting hammered, any Red Sox fan can make a list. Yet here the Red Sox are: AL East champs, first place in the toughest division in baseball. Here the Red Sox are with the majority of experts picking them to face the Cubs in what figures to a most memorable World Series. "I'm extremely proud of what John has done this year," Francona told reporters over the weekend. "And it's tough to compete against one of your best friends. I kind of consider it an honor to actually compete against him." The two met as players with the Indians in the late '80s. Farrell was Francona's pitching coach in Boston. When Farrell went for chemo treatment last year, who was there to accompany him? It was Francona, of course. "We've shared a lot of things," Farrell said. "We shared a lot of experiences here in Boston. I cherish my friendship with him, to the point where you confide in one another even in your darkest moments during stretches in the season. "I can't say enough about the guy. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and the teams he put together, but we'll have time for friendship later." From Francona to Mike Napoli, there are subplots to this series. And Farrell kept insisting it will have no impact on how the games are played. His focus was of the effectiveness of his right-handed pitching against the slew of left-handed and switch-hitting Indians. Big key, he said. His focus was on getting Ortiz a few days rest after all the retirement hoopla. "He was on fumes," Farrell said. He liked talking about how the pitching came together in the second half and how, faced with 31 of the final 46 games on the road, the Red Sox would finish 46-35 away from Fenway Park. The Red Sox do not have home-field advantage against Cleveland or Texas and, if Farrell was beloved by Red Sox fans, those would be road numbers they would rejoice in. Instead, New England waits for him to screw up. As he talked about how the seventh inning was the most important inning of all, you could hear everyone from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Conn., gasping about what he'll do in the seventh. Yet this is the guy who stuck with Rick Porcello and Hanley Ramirez, two guys who dragged him to the cellar in 2015. He nurtured Porcello as he returned to a two -seam, sinkerball pitcher with command and got away from the four-seamer and vainly trying to overpower hitters. The result is a guy who should win the Cy Young Award. Ramirez, meanwhile, became one of the pleasant bounce-back stories of the year. Steady. Patient. Farrell. This is the guy who when pressed on Kimbrel's late-season problems Tuesday, announced, "No change in who is our closer. It's Craig Kimbrel." A guy who has helped resurrect Buchholz to the point where he is the Game 3 starter. A guy who talks about how Buchholz dramatically reduced his maddening pickoff attempts as a sign of new found confidence and calmness. New England awaits Buchholz to somehow screw up Game 3. Farrell can't wait to see him succeed. Can you imagine if the Red Sox win it all against Theo Epstein's Cubs? Farrell would have two titles. Same as Francona had. Then what are we going to say New England? Jays Continued from Page CI base. The roof was open at Rogers Centre, where all 24 previous postseason games had been played with it closed. Bautista led off the second against Chris Tillman with his fifth postseason homer. Mark Trumbo, who led the major leagues with 47 home runs, gave Baltimore a 2-1 lead in the fourth with a two -run homer off Marcus Stro-man. Ezequiel Carrera's RBI single chased Tillman in the fifth. When Toronto pinch-hitter Melvin Upton Jr. flied out to the warning track in left field to end the seventh, Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was nearly struck by a can that was thrown from the stands. Center fielder Adam Jones angrily gestured toward the seats, and Showalter came out to register his displeasure with the umpires. Blue Jays fans tossed bottles and debris on the field during Game 5 against Texas last year, upset at the call that let Odor score from third after catcher Russell Martin's throw back to the mound deflected off Shin Soo Choo's bat. For Starters Stroman allowed two runs and four hits in six innings, struck out six and walked none. Tillman gave up two runs and four hits in 4 lA innings. I ishing 10-9 in the regular season with the Orioles. The Rangers were 3-4 against the Jays in 2016, including 1-3 at Rogers Centre in early May. Tempers flared between the teams during a game in Arlington on May 15. Rangers' second baseman Odor objected to a late slide by Bautista in the eighth inning. Odor punched Bautista square in the face, an image that left an indelible mark on the season. Odor was fined and suspended for seven games. A Fort Worth Star-Telegram report is included. MARK BLINCH I THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP THE ORIOLES' Hyun Soo Kim gets under a fly ball as a can falls past him during the seventh inning of an American League wild card game against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Tuesday. Kim made the catch on Melvin Upton Jr.'s drive. Extra, Extra! This was the second extra-inning wild card game. Kansas City rallied to beat Oakland 9-8 in 12 innings in 2014. Robbie Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, who starred for the Blue Jays and Orioles, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Rangers Next Up The Texas Rangers and the Blue Jays will meet again in the postseason in the ALDS. The best-of-five series between the Rangers and Blue Jays begins with Game 1 on Thursday in Arlington, Texas. "In the end we have to win three games," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said Tuesday afternoon. "Of course, it would always be nice to face the team that beat you the year before and beat them, that would be a lot sweeter." Toronto beat Texas in five games a year ago. The Rangers won the first two games in Toronto before the Blue Jays won twice in Arlington, and the decisive, controversy-laden Game 5 back at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays finished tied for second with the Orioles in the AL East at 89-73. They hosted the wild card game after fin- ORIOLES AB R H Bl JAYS AB R H Bl AJonescf 5 110 Travis 2b 5 110 Kim If 4 0 0 0 Dnldson 5 12 0 3b Reimold 1 0 0 0 Encrncn 4 113 ph-lf lb M.Mchdo 4 0 10 Butistarf 3 111 3b Trumbo 4 112 Ru.Mrtn 4 0 0 0 dh c Wietersc 4 0 0 0 Tlwtzki 4 0 0 0 ss C.Davis 3 0 0 0 Sunders 2 110 lb dh Schoop 4 0 0 0 M.Upton 10 0 0 2b ph-dh Bourn rf 4 0 10 Smoak 10 0 0 ph-dh J.Hardy ss 4 0 0 0 Pillarcf 4 0 10 Carrera If 4 0 2 1 TOTALS 37 2 4 2 TOTALS 37 5 9 5 Baltimore 000 200 000 00-2 Toronto 010 010 000 03-5 DP: Baltimore 3. LOB: Baltimore 3, Toronto 3. 2B: Donaldson (1), Saunders (1), Pillar (1). HR: Trumbo (1), Encarnacion (1), Bautista (1). SB: Bourn (1). IP H R ER BB SO Tillman 4 'A 4 2 2 1 4 Givens 2 y3 0 0 0 0 3 Hart ys 0 0 0 0 0 Brach l'i 2 0 0 1 2 O'Day 1 0 0 0 0 1 Duensing lA 0 0 0 0 1 Jimenez L (0-1) 0 3 3 3 0 0 IP H R ER BB SO Stroman 6 4 2 2 0 6 Cecil ys o o o i o Biagini i 0 0 0 0 2 Grilli 1 0 0 0 0 1 Osuna 1 y3 0 0 0 0 2 LirianoW(l-O) 1 0 0 0 0 1 Umpires: Home, Gary Cederstrom; First, Ted Barrett; Second, Eric Cooper; Third, Bill Welke. T: 3:25. A: 49,934 (49,282). UConn Continued from Page CI successful, they've done the work, they'll be successful." UConn is averaging 226.8 passingyards, ranked 72nd out of 128 FBS teams. Bryant Shirreffs (92 of 147, 1,058 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions) was among the national leaders in completion percentage through two games. In three since, he has gone 53 of 98. "There's really not much negative to say, other than the fact that he left a pretty good amount of production on the field Thursday night," Diaco said of Shirreffs. "There were a lot of passes that didn't connect. It's not on Bryant. I don't think we practice enough, some of the throws he didn't connect on. It looks like it's simple to chuck it up in the air and have it land perfectly in the basket, but it's not, and it's a fundamental technique that needs to get worked on. If we expect him to connect on those when they present, we need to work on it. That's on me, on us, we need to help him be better in the situations he was in Thursday. I know there's another step there for us in the evolution of our offense." Arkeel Newsome has four catches. He had 45 last season, second on the team to Thomas. "I want Arkeel Newsome to get the ball a bunch more than he's gotten it," Diaco said. "I'd like to see Tyraiq Beals get more touches. He's kind of an electric player that would be fun to get the ball in space, also. But you can also spread it around so much. I'd like to see Aaron McLean 6 feet 5 get some top -shelf balls on corners and see what that looks like. But I don't think they need to step up." Diaco praised Houston, which scored 28 second-quarter points, but added, "In that second quarter when it was 7-0 and 14-0, and you have some opportunities to connect on game-changing plays and we're just not connecting. There were moments where just another couple of inches can become all the difference. Whether it would have ended any different or not, it didn't need to end with that type of disparity. They're a great team but that's also not a representation of where we're at." Said Davis: "Anybody can tell Noel is making plays out there. He's a great playmaker and I know we have plenty of others around him. There have been a bunch of plays where we're just one block away from busting this thing open, so that gives us a lot of confidence, knowing we're just a few inches away from really executing and getting this thing together." Health Improving Diaco said UConn, which will have eight full days of rest before Saturday's game against Cincinnati (11:30 a.m., Rentschler Field) is as healthy as it has been in weeks. All three left guards who have missed time - Tommy Hopkins, Brendan Vechery, Trey Rutherford - are putting in full work in practice. Linebacker Omaine Stephens is operational. Again, though, Diaco will have to gauge theirO work in practice before deciding on roles. Rutherford, the third option at left guard, started last week, for instance, when all three returned to practice. ... Field position is of the utmost importance to Dia-co's approach, so he values punting - particularly with Justin Wain and that unit, for the most part, functioning very well. Still, there is sometimes second-guessing. Facing fourth-and-4 at the Houston 38 late in the first quarter of a scoreless game at Houston, Diaco elected to punt instead of attempt a 55-yard field goal or go for the first down. Wain's punt went for a touchback. "Is it worth it?" Diaco said. "You punt it and it's 18 yards. If you had a crystal ball, you'd say, What would be worth it here?' " ... UConn has forced just two turnovers this season after forcing 25 last season -18 interceptions, seven fumble recoveries. "It's huge," Diaco said. "We've really drilled down on that and addressed it. It's a huge piece. We need to be more disruptive with the football, not only when it's saddled in the arm, but when we're attacking the pocket and when it's in the air."

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