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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Now That's What I Call A Baseball Game! (Ducks Eggs and Tomatoes Being Thrown)

If you were enough of a loser (like me) to sit through five hours and 17 minutes (spoiler: I didn't really pay attention until hockey was over), at least the Red Sox rewarded us with a 6-4 win in 14 innings over the White Sox are U.S. Cellular Field. We could get wrapped up in the details like Chicago's (8-7 overall, 6-3 home) losing pitcher-Luery Garcia-is actually a utility infielder. Nope, Boston (6-9 overall, 4-5 away) snapped its three-game losing streak despite going 3 for 17 with runners in scoring position and leaving 16 on base.

The Red Sox only had six total hits so this victory was all about Chicago's wretched bullpen which allowed 15 walks. Each team had a golden opportunity to end it much earlier but both obviously choked. The White Sox were up 3-1 in the eighth before they allowed a sacrifice fly to A.J. Pierzynski in the eighth and Grady Sizemore in the ninth.

Jonny Gomes put Boston up 4-3 in the 11th thanks to a-you guessed it-sacrifice fly. Temporary closer Edward Mujica failed as he allowed an RBI single by Tyler Flowers in the home half of the frame. Things finally came together in the 14th as Chicago had run out of pitchers so they were forced to use Garcia who allowed a two-run double to Jackie Bradley Jr. Chris Capuano (1-0) had two scoreless innings of relief and he recorded the first two outs of the 14th before Burke Badenhop got the last out with a runner on first for the vultured save.

Boston led 1-0 in the first on Xander Bogaerts' (2 walks, stolen base) RBI single. Chicago tied it in their first at bats thanks to a throwing error by Ryan Roberts. Alexei Ramirez smoked a two-run homer in the sixth for a 3-1 White Sox advantage.

Dustin Pedroia returned to go 2 for 6 with three runs, two walks and a stolen base. The unsung heroes that made this all possible was Boston's bullpen: 8 innings, 4 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts. Craig Breslow got four outs, Junichi Tazawa had two outs and Andrew Miller worked two scoreless innings.

It felt like it happened a week ago but Clay Buchholz (6 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned runs, 2 walks & 6 strikeouts) and John Danks (6 innings, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts) were both pretty good on another chilly night in Chitown.

Both teams will be going for the series clincher tomorrow night (8:10) as young ace Chris Sale (3-0) faces Jon Lester (1-2). Runs have been at a premium for Boston all season but they'll really need to dig deep to get anything vs. Sale. Lester has only allowed two earned runs in each of his three starts. For your sake, I hope you haven't seen much if anything of the last two night's games. I know more playoff hockey is on but you should at least click over to what should be a wonderful pitchers' duel.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It Can't Get Much Uglier Than This for the Red Sox

If you tried to draw up about the worst possible game in April for the Red Sox, Tuesday night's frozen contest at U.S. Cellular Park would do the trick. Chicago (8-6 overall, 6-2 home) beat Boston (5-9 overall, 3-5 away) 2-1 on a walk-off throwing error by Xander Bogaerts. Oh and it was in the 30s with a million empty seats at that big generic dump of a stadium. The Red Sox have now dropped eight of their last 11 games which is completely unacceptable particularly this early in the season.

More than his underachieving teammates (who combined for three total hits, three), Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy was really solid with his third straight quality start (6 innings, 1 earned, 3 hits, 8 strikeouts, 4 walks). The catch is that he's yet to record a decision as Boston continually struggles to put any runs on the scoreboard for any of their starting pitchers but especially him and Lester thus far.

White Sox rookie Erik Johnson (not the Avalanche defensemen) was even a little better than Peavy. He went 6.2 innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with nine strikeouts and two walks. Chicago's bullpen combined for 2.1 innings broken up between Scott Downs (1 inning), Jake Petricka (2 outs), Donnie Veal (1 out) and Daniel Webb (last out which earned him the win).

Before the error, the only runs in the game came via home runs. Adam Dunn went deep against his former teammate and good pal Peavy in the second inning. Daniel Nava answered with a long blast, his second of the season, in the fourth inning. The problem with Boston's lineup is that they aren't doing anything right now. Dustin Pedroia is still out (although he did pinch run) and Mike Napoli-who's been their best hitter-gruesomely dislocated his finger trying to slide headfirst into second base (Little League coaches everywhere weep) in the ninth.

The Red Sox received a scoreless seventh from Junichi Tazawa but it was a certainty that they'd give up a run with the likes of Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop and Chris Capuano called on to keep it tied. In a way, it's kind of good that the game didn't go extra innings so the Red Sox didn't have to burn more of their bullpen than they had to.

Napoli was called day-to-day with his finger while Pedroia is reportedly coming back to full-time action tomorrow (8:10, NESN). Clay Buchholz (0-1) faces John Danks (1-0). It's hard to see Buchholz succeeding in crappy weather so get ready to watch him struggle. On second thought, the NHL playoffs start on Wednesday which is great news for the Red Sox: less people (myself included) will be focusing on them.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Another Crappy Weekend for the Red Sox, Who Dropped 3 of 4 in the Bronx

Nobody is really paying attention yet (and why should they?) but the Red Sox certainly aren't doing anything special to make us want to watch good old April baseball. By losing 3-2 to the Yankees on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, Boston (5-8 overall, 3-4 away) showed that they still lack any type of spark to get them going. They scored a combined total of 11 runs in the four games. Who knows, maybe manager John Farrell's ejection in the fourth inning-disputing a double play that ended up scoring a run for New York (7-6 overall, 4-3 home)-will be the start of something.

Dustin Pedroia was a late scratch to the lineup with a sore wrist (something that'll be checked in Boston tomorrow) while Derek Jeter was already out with a quad injury. So yeah, ESPN must have been thrilled that two of the biggest stars in the game were on the bench or in the clubhouse for a primetime game. Oh and Koji Uehara was still unavailable but he did throw long toss so that is a positive development.

It was a classic Felix Doubront (1-2) start as he looked terrible but somehow ended up with good numbers (6.2 innings, 3 earned runs, 7 hits, 2 strikeouts and 3 walks). Ivan Nova (2-1) was another guy coming off a horrid previous start yet he bounced back with 7.1 innings, two earned runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and zero walks.

You knew that it was going to be a strange game when Jonathan Herrera's RBI single in the second inning plated the first run. Carlos Beltran (3 hits, double) hit a two-run homer in the third, a Yankee Stadium special that went 353 feet (one or two rows deep in left field).

Francisco Cervelli hurt his hamstring on the play but he was ruled safe at first in the fourth which allowed Brian McCann to score a run. Mike Napoli cut it to 3-2 with a solo shot (his 3rd of the season) in the sixth inning.

The Red Sox had enough chances to score again but they couldn't take advantage. Public Enemy No. 1 in that regard was Mike Carp who struck out with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning. You have to wonder if his days are numbered here, especially when Shane Victorino returns. They also hit many balls that landed on the warning track or that Yankee outfielders (Jacoby Ellsbury and Ichiro) made great plays on. David Robertson is on the DL and Mariano Rivera is retired but Shawn Kelley retired Boston 1-2-3 in the ninth with two strikeouts for his third save of the season.

Boston gets a day off on Monday, only their second of the season and first since the day after Opening Day when they went to the White House. I'd say that this team needs another break. They'll return on Tuesday for three games in Chicago against the White Sox (7-6 overall, 2nd in AL Central). All 8:10 p.m. starts, Jake Peavy (0-0) faces his former club and rookie Erik Johnson (0-0) on Tuesday, Clay Buchholz (0-1) takes on John Danks (0-0) on Wednesday and Jon Lester (1-2) meets fellow ace Chris Sale (3-0) on Thursday in what should be a beauty of a pitcher's duel.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bruins Capture Their 2nd Presidents' Trophy

By virtue of their 4-1 win over the hapless Sabres on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, the Bruins (54-18-9) earned the Presidents' Trophy (best record in the NHL) for only the second time in team history. Neither the game against Buffalo (21-51-9) nor tomorrow's regular season finale in New Jersey (likely Martin Brodeur's last game) are relevant since the B's won't see either in the postseason.

Their focus shifts to Detroit (38-28-15) who they will meet in the first round of the playoffs, probably starting on Thursday in Boston. They couldn't have picked a tougher eighth seed since the Red Wings were 3-1 against the B's in the regular season and outscored them 15-7.

The only real news to come out of Saturday's game for the B's is that it appeared Daniel Paille suffered his third concussion of the season. Ugh, poor guy. That would be a sneaky big loss since everyone knows how valuable Boston's fourth line can be especially come playoff time when few teams can match their abilities. Plus, it also means that worthless Jordan Caron would be in the lineup and nobody wants that.

Boston will be not only the favorite in the Eastern Conference but in the NHL as a whole heading into the postseason. Anything can happen but they are in very good shape to get back to the Stanley Cup Final for the second year in a row and third time in the last five years. Cross our fingers that they get through the game with the Devils unscathed. There is no reason to test their depth any further when it matters most.

UPDATE 4/13: Game 1 is Friday at TD Garden (7:30), Game 2 is Sunday afternoon (3, yes Easter Sunday) in Boston then Game 3 is Tuesday (7:30) in Detroit and Game 4 is Thursday (8) in the Motor City.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Celtics Beat Bobcats 106-103, Sigh

I must admit two things up front before this quick post: 1) there is nothing I hate more in sports right now than watching the Celtics win; 2) I can't remember when was the last time I watched so much of a C's (24-55 overall, 16-24 home) game this season. Boston outlasted Charlotte (40-39 overall, 17-23 away) 106-103 at TD Garden. The Celtics snapped a beautiful nine-game losing streak and the Bobcats dropped their first game in the last six contests.

Pregame, things looked all lined up for another Celtics loss. Rajon Rondo sat with a "bruised left shin" (oh NBA/tanking) but on the other side, former UConn legend Kemba Walker was also out. Former Celtic Al Jefferson (32 points, 10 rebounds) was basically unstoppable which playoff-bound Charlotte didn't seem to figure out until it was too late in the fourth quarter.

During that long losing streak, the C's had perfected the art of completely crumbling in the fourth quarter after usually being competitive up until then. This was a different story since it was back and forth (29-28 Bobcats after one quarter and 57-55 Celtics at halftime). Boston opened that up to 84-75 heading into the fourth.

All five Celtics starters were in double figures led by Phil Pressey (10 points, 13 assists, 3 steals). Avery Bradley had 22 points, Jared Sullinger added 20 points and seven rebounds while Brandon Bass (9 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Jeff Green (6 turnovers) both scored 18. The loss dropped the Bobcats back to seventh in the Eastern Conference (they've already clinched a spot) and proved how much they need Kemba to have a chance to beat anyone even in the weak East.

The next highest scorer for Charlotte was Gary Neal who put up 13 points off the bench. Chris Douglas-Roberts added 12 points while Gerald Henderson (11 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) each snuck into double figures.

Boston hit four more 3-pointers (11-7) and five more free throws (13-8). Charlotte hung around by dishing out 11 more assists (33-22), they had eight less turnovers (20-12) and scored 14 more points in the paint (50-36). The Celts also took advantage of nine more points off turnovers (23-14).

Only three more games left in 2013-14 for the Celtics, beginning with tomorrow night (7:30, CSN) in Cleveland (32-48). Right now, Boston is tied with Utah for the fourth-worst record in the NBA. The only teams that the Celtics have a chance to drop past are Utah and Orlando (23-56). Every loss counts guys, make it happen!

Who Needs Ellsbury or Uehara When You've Got Sizemore and Mujica, Wait What?

Does it get any better than Red Sox-Yankees in April? The cold temperatures, empty seats at Yankee Stadium and games that really don't mean that much. With that said, Boston's (5-6 overall, 3-2 away) 4-2 win over New York (5-6 overall, 2-3 home) tonight in the Bronx sure was pleasing. Jon Lester (1-2) had his worst (6.2 innings, 2 earned runs, 6 hits, 6 strikeouts, 2 walks) of three starts this season but at least the Red Sox won for a change.

Hey gang, did you know that CC Sabathia (1-2) lost a ton of weight? 'Tis true, he also has a dead arm and is a sliver of what he used to be on the mound (literally and figuratively). For a while it looked like the ghost of CC would get the win as Alfonso Soriano's (2 hits) solo homer in the second was the only run through five innings. Boston's bats finally woke up in the sixth thanks to Jonny Gomes' (2 hits) solo homer, his first of the season.

That was nothing though compared to Grady Sizemore's (2 hits) three-run blast later in the inning, his second homer of the season. Sabathia went seven innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits with nine strikeouts and two walks. Boston still needs to improve its hitting with runners on base: they were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left six on base.

Lester was cruising until the seventh when a tight strike zone caught up to him. Kelly Johnson's RBI single cut it to 4-2 Red Sox and ended Lester's night. Junichi Tazawa got four outs then turned it over to Edward Mujica. Yes, the guy that was so shaky in the home opener got a chance to close since Koji Uehara's shoulder was stiff. Yikes!

Naturally, Mujica had a 1-2-3 ninth with one strikeout on 13 pitches. Why did we ever doubt him? After splitting the first two games, the teams meet tomorrow afternoon (1:05, NESN) as John Lackey (2-0) takes on Hiroki Kuroda (1-1).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

He's Still the Same David Ortiz

It's hard to call any MLB game before say late August a must-win but it was clear that the Red Sox needed a jolt of life after scuffling through the first week plus of the 2014 regular season. Obviously David Ortiz (double) would be the one to deliver them out of their funk as he crushed a go-ahead three-run homer (his second roundtripper of the season) around Pesky's Pole in the eighth to spark a 4-2 win Boston this afternoon at Fenway Park vs. Texas.

The Red Sox (4-5 overall, 2-4 home) were able to take two of three from the Rangers (4-5 overall, 2-4 away) who are understandably a shell of themselves with the litany of injuries that they have already suffered in spring training and early on this season. Ortiz's usual heroics saved what had been a really solid outing by Jake Peavy (6.2 innings, 1 earned run, 3 hits, 8 strikeouts, 4 walks) that looked like it would be wasted.

Boston held a 1-0 lead on Dustin Pedroia's infield single and throwing error by the Rangers starting pitcher Robbie Ross in the third inning. Mitch Moreland tied it for Texas with a solo homer into a bullpen in the seventh then Alex Rios put them up 2-1 with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. The teams combined for nine hits as reliever turned spot starter Ross was effectively wild (5.1 innings, 1 run, 2 hits, 4 strikeouts, 6 walks).

Andrew Miller (1-0) allowed the run to Texas in the eighth but he still "earned" the win. Koji Uehara pitched a 1-2-3 ninth on 11 pitches including a strikeout for his second save of the young campaign.

Are you ready for Red Sox-Yankees? Me neither! However, we'll just have to deal with it as they meet four times this weekend in the Bronx. Sickly Clay Buchholz (0-0) opposes Michael Pineda (0-1) tomorrow night (7:05, NESN), Jon Lester (0-2) takes on anorexic C.C. Sabathia (1-1) on Friday night (7:05, NESN), John Lackey (2-0) gets Hiroki Kuroda (1-1) on Saturday afternoon (1:05, NESN) then Felix Doubront (1-1) wraps up what promises to be a very long series on Sunday night (8:05, ESPN) vs. Ivan Nova (1-1).

It is the first of 19 games against the Yankees over six series. This will be Boston's first look at Jacoby Ellsbury (assuming he can make it through the next few days healthy) in a New York uniform.