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Red Sox Notebook: Alex Cora says Chris Sale found something in bullpen ahead of ALCS

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Red Sox Notebook: Alex Cora says Chris Sale found something in bullpen ahead of ALCS

Chris Sale will play a factor in the ALCS. But what that may look like remains to be seen.

Sale hasn’t pitched since Game 2 of the Division Series last Friday, when he was crushed for five runs — including a grand slam — and only lasted one inning. But Red Sox manager Alex Cora confirmed Wednesday that the lefty would have come in to close Monday’s series-clinching Game 4 if they had a lead in the ninth inning.

Still, there are questions on Sale’s current form. His last two starts haven’t looked good. He recorded just seven outs in the season finale against the Nationals before his disastrous postseason outing. But Cora is even more optimistic now about him than maybe before.

“I had a conversation with somebody today and it was music to my ears because they said something about, he found it in the bullpen,” Cora said. “The last time I heard somebody found it in the bullpen was David Price in ’18 and he took off.

“Hopefully he found something in the bullpen but I think we recognized a few things that are going to get him to the point that he’s more balanced and he’s more direct to the plate, he’s over the rubber and if he does that, he’ll be fine. Maybe we’re making a big deal out of it, too. He’s just struggled three times against (the Astros). … But I do believe he feels good where he’s at. He’s going to pitch such meaningful innings in this series and hopefully the World Series and all this talk is going to be in the past.”

Cora has yet to name his starters for Games 1 and 2 against the Astros. Nathan Eovaldi, who hasn’t pitched since Sunday, seems to be the likely choice for Game 1 on Friday. Sale, who’s even more fresh, could go in Saturday’s Game 2, but Cora isn’t showing his cards yet.

“He’ll pitch,” Cora said of Sale. “He’ll be part of this and be an important part of this.”

Cora eyes World Series

The Red Sox are slight underdogs heading into this series against the Astros — who won five of their seven meetings this season, but that was back in June. As they head back to the same place where they clinched a spot in the 2018 World Series, Cora woke up Wednesday morning with a realization of the possibility his team faces now after beating the top team in the American League.

“I woke up today and I was like, ‘We’re four games away from the World Series,’” Cora said. “We win four games and we’re right there. I always said that we have to keep working hard for what we have. The team that we’re going to face, they’re really good. They are. At the same time, they know we’re really good, too. When people start talking about us like that, it’s like, OK, we have something special going on here. But, we’ve got to keep working. We’ve got to keep getting better. We made some mistakes in this series that cannot happen again and that’s the way we see it. …

“But … yeah, I feel that we have a chance to win the World Series. … We feel good about where we’re at. We feel good about the team and now, we talk about … in 2018, you win 11 … and now we’re like, eight games, we need to win eight more games and we’ve done that before.”

Deadline frustration?

When the trade deadline came and went, with the Red Sox adding Kyle Schwarber and relievers Hansel Robles and Austin Davis, there was a notion that the first-place club didn’t do enough compared to their top competitors. Evidently, that was also a feeling inside the Red Sox clubhouse.

“I think we were a little frustrated that we didn’t make more moves,” Eovaldi said Wednesday while appearing on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.” “But picking up the guys we did, Schwarber was a huge pickup, we got Robles who’s been huge for us down the stretch, same with Davis. Schwarber, I think, has been the biggest one so far. The energy that he’s been able to bring into the clubhouse on a day-in, day-out basis … and once we got to the playoffs, we all clicked again.”

After the deadline, the Red Sox went 7-14 in their next 21 games as they fell out of first place, which put them on a track for the Wild Card for the rest of the season. But the deadline additions have certainly provided a boost. Schwarber has been a centerpiece of their lineup, while Robles had a stretch of 17 consecutive scoreless appearances.

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Grading the Week: Time for Jim McElwain to come home again to Colorado State?

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Grading the Week: Time for Jim McElwain to come home again to Colorado State?

Maybe it’s just the two years of Steve Addazio talking here, but Jim McElwain is starting to look pretty good right now.

If the past seven seasons of CSU Rams football have taught us anything, it’s that athletic director Joe Parker could do worse with his next football coaching hire. A lot worse.

Steve Addazio — F

It’s hard to truly put into words how much of a disaster the Addazio Era was for Colorado State.

On a scale of “Nick Saban at Alabama” to “Mike Price at Alabama,” the Grading the Week staff would rate the Daz’s tenure a solid “Les Miles at Kansas.”

There were losses. There were off-the-field allegations. And, yes, we could see the train wreck coming from the moment it left the station. But at least the Daz actually coached a few games at CSU — something Price never got to do after being hired and fired within a few months by the Tide in 2003.

Now, here we are back at the same spot we were two years ago, when Urban Meyer sightings in FoCo were seen as a reason for hope, rather than the impending doom they actually foretold.

The first thing we’d do if we were Parker: Take Meyer’s business card out of the rolodex and light it on fire.

The second: Flip to our old friend Jim and see if maybe, just maybe, he’s interested in getting the band back together at Fort Fun.

Crazy as that sounds, consider this: As poorly as things ended at the conclusion of McElwain’s three years with the Rams, at least the university received $7 million to watch him shuffle off to Florida.

That’s a heck of a lot better than paying Mike Bobo ($1.825 million) and the Daz ($3 million) to go away.

It’s not like we didn’t have a lot of fun while McElwain was stalking the sidelines in green and gold. The Rams went 22-16 in his three years at CSU, culminating with a 10-2 regular season in 2014 that stands as the most successful in the 14 seasons since legendary coach Sonny Lubick was unceremoniously relieved of his duties.

After getting let go by Florida midway through the 2017 season, McElwain’s also comported himself quite well at Central Michigan, going 19-13 with a pair of eight-win campaigns.

There’s even recent precedent to point to in the Mountain West.

Brady Hoke bolted San Diego State for Michigan, got fired from multiple jobs, then returned to the Aztecs and led them an 11-1 season and a spot in this weekend’s conference title game.

Jeff Tedford left Fresno State, where he was an assistant for six years, for greener Pac-12 pastures, only to come back in 2017 as head coach and lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back double-digit-win seasons.

There’s no reason McElwain can’t do the same thing at CSU.

(OK, so maybe there are a few.)

Karl Dorrell — D-

Those calling for Darrin Chiaverini’s head finally got their wish earlier this week.

It’s hard to argue with the CU Buffs head coach’s decision to part ways with the embattled offensive coordinator after the team’s more-dreadful-than-it-sounds 4-8 season.

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Kickin’ It with Kiz: Life lesson college football coaches teach players? Always look out for No. 1.

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Kickin’ It with Kiz: Life lesson college football coaches teach players? Always look out for No. 1.

College football coaches just dump kids and their programs like snake-oil salesmen running out of town.

Fred, independent thinker

Kiz: There will be no tears shed here for Oklahoma losing coach Lincoln Riley to USC or Brian Kelly abandoning Notre Dame for Louisiana State. Can’t blame them for chasing the dream and the green. Ain’t that America? But maybe we should dispense with the balderdash about football coaches being employed to teach life lessons to players, unless the lesson is: Always look out for No. 1. In the case of Kelly, his interest in molding the minds of young men is as phony as the hilariously bad southern accent he adopted when introducing himself to LSU fans at a basketball game in Baton Rouge.

Any rational person marked this game in Kanas City as a loss for the Broncos as soon as the NFL schedule was released. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but it’s fanciful to think Denver’s path to the playoffs goes through K.C. Now, when the Chiefs come to Denver at the end of the season … maybe.

Mr. U, tough cowboy

Kiz: While the Broncos will be 9.5-point underdogs on “Sunday Night Football,” the best reason to believe they have a shot to beat Kansas City? Quarterback Patrick Mahomes can still wing it, but he has lost his Midas touch. K.C. has scored more than 20 points only once in its last five games. Fearless prediction: Although the losing streak will reach 12, the Broncos will end their misery against the Chiefs on the final weekend on the regular season, and that victory just might be enough to earn Denver a playoff berth.

This is why Michael Porter Jr fell to the Nuggets in the NBA draft. There were so many warning signs, and bad backs don’t go away.

Brad, easy rider

Kiz: As the 24-year-old forward recovers from the third surgery on his back, we wish him well. But if MPJ is ever again the player that got Nuggets Nation dreaming about finally bringing the Larry O’Brien Trophy home to this dusty old cowtown, it will be a minor medical miracle.

Major League Baseball wants us to think it cares about the competitiveness and quality of the sport, then puts Rockies owner Dick Monfort as one of the lead negotiators for the owners in their labor dispute with players. Makes sense to me!

Andrew, wee bit sarcastic

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Week 13 NFL Picks: AFC East lead on the line when Patriots visit Bills on Monday night

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Week 13 NFL Picks: AFC East lead on the line when Patriots visit Bills on Monday night

Game of the week

New England at Buffalo

The Patriots are a 2 1/2-point underdog Monday night despite a six-game winning streak in which they have allowed more than 13 points just once. But Buffalo, which has alternated wins and losses over the last six weeks, plays with urgency and ties the Patriots in the AFC East.

Bills 20, Patriots 17

Lock of the week

Washington at Las Vegas

Not a kind schedule for WFT, which beat Seattle and has to travel cross country on a short week while the Raiders were last seen stunning Dallas on Thanksgiving. The Raiders are a 2 1/2-point favorite and move to 7-5 behind Derek Carr’s three touchdown passes.

Raiders 34, Washington 20

Upset of the week

N.Y. Giants at Miami

A lot of big point-spreads so not a lot of choices for straight upsets, but we’ll go with the Giants, who are a 4 1/2-point underdog. Big Blue is expected to be without injured quarterback Daniel Jones so it will be the defense that carries the day and ends the Dolphins’ four-game winning streak.

Giants 13, Dolphins 10


Around the AFC: New England cornerback J.C. Jackson’s price rising with each interception

John Bazemore, The Associated Press

New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson celebrates after an interception in the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C.

Impressive Bengals. Cincinnati has rebounded to beat Las Vegas by 19 and Pittsburgh by 31 points since its bye week and among the most impressive Bengals statistics is their discipline/fundamentals. The Bengals have an NFL-low 43 penalties, nine fewer than any other team and a whopping 37 fewer than seven teams. Cincinnati (7-4), which hosts the Chargers (6-5) on Sunday, have been streaky with three two-game winning streaks. If they beat the Bolts, the Bengals will have their first three-game winning streak since starting 2015 with eight consecutive victories. Cincinnati-Broncos in Week 15 is looming as an intriguing showdown.

Missing Henry. Titans running back Derrick Henry’s worth to his team, already documented and significant, has been amplified since he injured his foot Oct. 31 at Indianapolis. Despite missing the last four games, Henry still leads the NFL in carries (219) and is second in yards (937) and third in touchdowns (10). Tennessee, which is off this week, eclipsed 30 points five times in Henry’s eight games, but have managed 28, 23, 13 and 13 points during his absence (2-2 record); it lost at home to Houston and was routed at New England the last two weeks. Fortunately for Tennessee (8-4), it leads the AFC South by 2 1/2 games and holds the tie-breaker over Indianapolis via the series sweep.

Jackson’s price rising. New England cornerback J.C. Jackson is one of the league’s top bargains this year, playing on the second-round restricted free agent tender of $3.384 million. He might make five times that in 2022 via either franchise tag/long-term deal from the Patriots or hitting the open market. Jackson’s 24 interceptions (seven this year, second-most in the league) are the third-most by a player in his first four years since the 1970 merger. The first-place Patriots face Buffalo’s second-ranked scoring offense (29.6 points per game) on Monday.


Around the NFC: Rams’ veteran stars aren’t playing like it during losing streak

Los Angeles Rams' Matthew Stafford warms ...

Aaron Gash, The Associated Press

Los Angeles Rams’ Matthew Stafford warms up before an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.

Reeling Rams. The Rams (7-4) are still looking for their first win since getting outside linebacker Von Miller and receiver Odell Beckham on the field (0-2). Sunday is a must win against Jacksonville because Los Angeles’ next four games are at Arizona, vs. Seattle, at Minnesota and at Baltimore. Quarterback Matthew Stafford needs to play better for the Rams to have any chance in the playoffs, likely as an on-the-road wild card. During the three-game losing streak, Stafford’s passer ratings have been 71.0, 67.4 and 96.6. The passing game misses Robert Woods, who had 45 catches in eight games before sustaining a torn ACL.

Brady rolls on. Can a defending Super Bowl champion be quietly lurking? We say yes about Tampa Bay, which is 8-3 and third in the NFC behind Arizona (9-2) and Green Bay (9-3). The Buccaneers are 23rd in rushing (95.8 yards per game), but first in passing (305.9). Quarterback Tom Brady, 44, continues to defeat Father Time. He enters Week 13 leading the league in pass attempts (457), completions (309) and touchdowns (30) and second in yards (3,403). The extra regular season game should allow Brady to eclipse 40 touchdowns for the first time since 2007 (50).

49ers surging. Like the Broncos, San Francisco has recovered from an early-season four-game losing streak. The 49ers were 3-5 after losing at home to Arizona in Week 9, but have beat the Rams, Jacksonville and Minnesota by 21, 20, and eight points, respectively. The 49ers (6-5) hold the sixth playoff spot heading to dreadful Seattle (3-8). Sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell is another find by veteran running backs coach Bobby Turner and Co. Mitchell carried 27 times apiece in wins over the Rams (91 yards) and Vikings (133 yards). The 49ers have four of their final six games on the road, including Cincinnati and Tennessee.

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