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With Kyle Schwarber leading off, Red Sox offense is approaching postseason records

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Kyle Schwarber’s grand slam, Eduardo Rodriguez’s huge start lead Red Sox to ALCS Game 3 victory over Astros

The thing that often goes forgotten about the Red Sox hitting three grand slams in a single postseason series, the first time in MLB history that’s ever happened, is that it takes three people getting on base first.

If they advance to the World Series, the Sox could certainly set a postseason record for home runs. They already have 20 in just eight games. The record is 34 set by the Tampa Bay Rays last year, but they took 20 games to do it.

For manager Alex Cora, this isn’t the way he envisioned it going down.

For the majority of July, August and September, Cora was frustrated that his offense was taking too many big swings. His hitters were chasing pitches out of the zone at a wild rate, with their 31% chase rate ranking as the worst in the majors heading into September.

“It’s about controlling the strike zone,” Cora said on Aug. 17 after a particularly disheartening sweep at the hands of the Yankees, who held them to five runs in three games. “That’s it.”

Cora wanted a simple approach. He wanted to see contact. He wanted to move baserunners. And his hitters weren’t listening.

“For a while there in September, it didn’t look too promising,” Cora said Tuesday before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. “The last week of the season didn’t look too promising to be honest with you, against all those lefties and the way we swung the bat.”

Over the final week of the season, when the Sox were clinging to a postseason spot, they averaged just four runs per game.

“The last series with the Nationals, it was kind of hard to see the ball,” Hunter Renfroe said Tuesday. “I think it was kind of a rough few days for the hitters, as far as, like, the shadows and stuff in Washington.”

As soon as the regular season ended, it was like a switch flipped.

Cora decided to move Kyle Schwarber to the leadoff spot, and all of a sudden the Red Sox offense had a brand new personality.

“It feels really good right now with this lineup,” Cora said. “He controls the strike zone. He can go deep. He is not afraid to hit with two strikes. …

“When we traded for him, we were in a really good position, but he was hurt, and then there were some setbacks after we got him, and we weren’t able to play him right away. I always said that it was like for Christmas you’re on vacation with your kids and everything, and then all the gifts are under the tree, but they’re back home, and then for us, our guy, we knew he was going to have an impact. But we had to be patient. Well, we were patient. We didn’t play good baseball. The Rays played great, and then they did what they did, and they won the — they kind of, like, won the division in August.”

But the Red Sox are winning the postseason.

They entered Tuesday scoring seven runs per game in the playoffs, which would be the second-highest all-time of any team to play at least eight playoff games.

Their .941 OPS ranks second all-time to just the 1932 Yankees, who had a .942 OPS behind Babe Ruth as they won the World Series in four games over the Chicago Cubs.

In every way, the Red Sox offense has been historic since the postseason began.

But what pleases Cora most isn’t the power totals. It’s the way the Sox are taking their singles, moving baserunners and not chasing bad pitches.

Finally, after three months of preaching, his hitters are listening to him.

“I think we’re doing a better job staying in the strike zone,” Cora said. “You see the walks, you see the at-bats, some long at-bats, some favored counts. …

“It’s just a different ballgame. I keep saying, you’re not shooting for your numbers, you’re just shooting for wins… You’re trying to produce. Now the willingness to go the other way, to advance runners, to take pitches comes into play.”

Said Renfroe, “I think it’s kind of simple: We’re trying to attack heaters in the zone and trying to attack pitches in the zone.”

So simple that for three months, the Red Sox struggled at it.

They often credit Schwarber, who is not the most conventional leadoff hitter in that he’s a slow baserunner, but he gets on base with the best of them. His .391 postseason on-base percentage ranks 23rd all-time.

“Having a good hitter like him at the top of the lineup brings so many different dynamics,” Christian Arroyo said.

The Sox are hitting homers at a historic pace. But they’re getting on base in front of those guys. And that’s what pleases their manager most.

“We’ve been able to adjust,” Cora said. “We’re in a better place.”

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Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. undergoes back surgery, team says

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Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. was playing with back pain this whole season, says Austin Rivers

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. underwent lumbar spine surgery, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

He is out indefinitely, the release said. The surgery was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett at the Carrell Clinic.

Porter, 23, has had three back surgeries, including two since the Nuggets drafted him in 2018. Porter had been playing hurt all season before tweaking his back against Houston on Nov. 6. He was dealing with a nerve issue in his back, as The Denver Post first reported.

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Keith Urban comes to Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in August

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Keith Urban comes to Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in August

ST. LOUIS – Keith Urban is coming to the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre on August 19, 2022 featuring Ingrid Andress.

“The Speed of Now World Tour” is Urban’s first tour in four years.

FOX 2 will be giving away tickets every day from December 6 to December 10.

“I’ve always considered myself a live performer first,” Urban said. “It’s what I’ve always done and it’s what my music needs to live and breathe.  Our shows are all about living in the moment.  They’re a totally interactive and immersive experience where everyone can participate in whatever way they want – sing, dance, do whatever.”

His tour kicks off on May 27 in Las Vegas. It ends on November 5 in St. Paul Minnesota.

Tickets go on sale Friday, December 10 at 10 a.m.

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New cannabis manufacturing facility to open in St. Louis this month

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New cannabis manufacturing facility to open in St. Louis this month

ST. LOUIS – A Michigan-based company will open a new cannabis manufacturing facility in St. Louis starting this month.

C3 Industries is a multi-state, vertically integrated cannabis company with headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, according to a press release.

The 15,000-square-foot facility will produce high-quality concentrates and cartridges under the company’s brand “Galactic Meds.” Those products will be made available for sale early next year.

C3 has partnered with Kiva Confections to bring its “award-winning,” premium edible brands to Missouri, including Lost Farm gummies, Camino gummies, Petra mints, Terra chocolate bites, and Kiva Bars. The Kiva line will be launched sometime next year, according to the press release.

The St. Louis facility also will produce C3’s own line of cannabis concentrates, cartridges, and pre-rolls called “Cloud Cover Cannabis,” beginning late next year.

“Products manufactured in this facility will supply dispensary locations across the state of Missouri, including C3’s five High Profile Cannabis Shop locations in St. Charles, Columbia, St. Robert, Cape Girardeau, and Sunset Hills,” the press release states.

In 2018, C3 began production operations in a 36,000-square-foot indoor cultivation and manufacturing facility in Portland, Oregon. Within six months, the company’s “Cloud Cover Cannabis” premium indoor flower brand became one of Oregon’s top cannabis brands.

The company then launched facilities in Michigan and Massachusetts this past October.

“C3 is proud of our track record of working closely with the communities in which we operate facilities, supporting local organizations, and employing local residents, and St. Louis will be no exception,” C3 Industries CEO Ankur Rungta said in the press release.

“Our partnership with Kiva, one of the country’s most popular cannabis brands, is a testament to our expert manufacturing capabilities and is an exciting milestone for C3. We look forward to producing best-in-class cannabis products in the new facility and supplying Missouri dispensaries with a portfolio of best-selling products across all categories.”

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