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BOSTON (AP) — Somehow Marcus Semien Jersey , Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora looked at Mookie Betts’ MVP season and saw room for improvement.Not the .346 batting average that was the highest in the major leagues. Not the career-high 32 homers, either.But Betts drove in just 80 runs last year while spending almost all of his time as the leadoff hitter for the Red Sox. That seemed like a missed opportunity, so Cora is planning to bat Betts second this season and move Andrew Benintendi to leadoff.“If you play 162 games, you’re going to come up 162 at-bats with nobody on,” Cora said.Betts tied for the major-league lead with 129 runs scored, but he had the fewest at-bats with runners on base in baseball (among batters with at least 600 plate appearances). He is expected to get more batting behind Benintendi, whose .366 on-base percentage was third on the team behind Betts (.438) and J.D. Martinez (.402).It’s one of the few changes Cora has planned for a team that won a franchise-record 108 games in his first season and its fourth World Series since 2004.Here are some other things to look for from the defending champions:ON REPEATAfter going 86 years without a championship, the Red Sox have won four this century. But they haven’t won back-to-back World Series since 1915-16.Cora isn’t pretending there’s any other goal.“One thing about repeating,” he said, dismissing popular theories of a championship “hangover” that prevents back-to-back winners. “I think it’s who you have in the clubhouse and what they want to do.”The last major league team to win two (or more) World Series in a row was the 1998-2000 New York Yankees. But Cora notes that since then, several other teams have come close enough to debunk the notion that there’s some sort of hex.The Phillies made it back to the Series after winning it all in 2008, the Giants won three times in five years and the Los Angeles Dodgers have won back-to-back NL pennants.“We do believe we’re going to do it,” Cora said. “We’ve got a good team.”CLOSING TIMEThe biggest offseason departure is closer Craig Kimbrel, who remained unsigned in this offseason’s curious free agent market after turning down Boston’s $17.9 million offer.Kimbrel saved 42 games and struck out 96 batters in 62 innings last year. He had six saves but also a 5.91 ERA during the postseason, and Cora went to starter Chris Sale to close out the Game 5 clincher of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.Reliable setup man Joe Kelly has signed with the Dodgers.In their place, the Red Sox are auditioning Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier and Tyler Thornburg. (Another option , knuckleballer Steven Wright, has been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for human growth hormone). None has impressed this spring.Cora has said he might use more than one pitcher in the role, depending on matchups.NEW FACESThe Red Sox have won three straight AL East titles, and they have done it with virtually the same roster.Last year, they signed J.D. Martinez during spring training, and then added Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi midseason. Pearce, who was the World Series MVP, and Eovaldi, who pitched six innings of relief in the 18-inning Game 3, were both re-signed this offseason.ROOKIES TO WATCHTop prospect Michael Chavis hit four homers in 11 spring training games but already has been optioned to Triple-A. Bobby Dalbec, who also plays first and third base, could get the call if the team needs help at one of the infield corners.ON DECKThe Red Sox open the regular season at Seattle on March 28 and then complete their West Coast swing in Oakland and Arizona before returning to Boston to raise their championship flag at Fenway Park on April 9 against the Toronto Blue Jays. NEW YORK (AP) — Their ace got booed off the mound, loudly. Their manager let things get out of hand. And their backup catcher wound up pitching.“It was an embarrassing day today,” New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius said.Not much else to say after the Yankees absorbed the most-lopsided loss in their distinguished, 396-game postseason history, routed by the Boston Red Sox 16-1 Monday night in the AL Division Series.Now down 2-1 and in danger of being eliminated in the best-of-five matchup, they’ll turn to CC Sabathia on Tuesday night in hopes of saving their season. Rick Porcello starts for Boston.“No choice but to flush,” manager Aaron Boone said. “The good thing about today is it’s one game. And as awful of a night as it was for us Reggie Jackson Jersey , we got to turn the page. And tomorrow’s obviously do or die.”Luis Severino looked out of sorts from the start. There was a TBS report that he began to warm up only 10 minutes before the game began, but Boone insisted he had enough time to get ready. Severino also said there was no issue.“I always go to the bullpen 10 minutes before the game,” Severino said. “I warm up quickly.”The game fell apart quickly, too.Severino was tagged for six runs on seven hits and two walks in three-plus innings. Jeered as he walked to the dugout during a seven-run burst in the fourth, it soon was 10-0.By the seventh, the stands had started to empty. The fans who left early missed a bit of history — Austin Romine became just the second position player to pitch in a postseason game.The second-string catcher actually hit 90 mph with his fastball. And he squarely hit Brock Holt’s bat, and the result was a two-run homer in the ninth that gave Holt the first cycle in postseason history.“I was just trying to get it over the plate,” Romine said.Romine joined Toronto infielder Cliff Pennington, who pitched in the 2015 AL playoffs against Kansas City, as non-pitchers to take the hill at this time of year.“No, I didn’t envision myself getting into the playoffs in this role,” he said.Holt’s homer helped the Red Sox post the biggest rout of the Yankees in postseason play, surpassing Arizona’s 15-2 pasting in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series.A sellout crowd arrived early at Yankee Stadium, loudly chanting and cheering even before the teams lined up for pregame introductions. Clearly, no one rooting for the home team expected anything like this.Catcher Gary Sanchez dropped a pitch on a stolen base that set up Boston’s first run. Left fielder Andrew McCutchen was slow to retrieve a hit that proved costly. And Boone was slow to pull a struggling Severino, admitting he could’ve made the move sooner, rather than waiting until Boston loaded the bases in a hurry.“I mean, in hindsight because he didn’t get an out , sure,” Boone said.And when Boone did call for a reliever, he summoned a starter, Lance Lynn, rather than someone from the deep New York bullpen.Lynn promptly walked Mookie Betts on four pitches to force home a run that made it 4-0, then gave up a three-run double to Andrew Benintendi.“Lance had a little bit of trouble, obviously, coming in there. So it just turned into a really bad inning for us,” Boone said.It was a sharp turnaround for Severino.Severino started New York’s postseason with four shutout innings in the AL wild-card win over Oakland last Wednesday. The performance also alleviated fears in the Bronx — temporarily, anyway — the 24-year-old righty had put past playoff troubles behind him.Instead, coming off a career-high 19 wins, he exited with a 1-2 record and a 6.26 ERA in six postseason starts.“Of course, I’m disappointed,” Severino said.



M.C. Klein

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