Wednesday, May 22, 2013
You have to be happy with the nine-game road trip (6-3) just completed by the Red Sox: they won two of three in Tampa Bay, swept Minnesota and while they struggled in Chicago, at least their ace Clay Buchholz (7-0) does what a stopper has to-end a losing streak for his team. Boston (28-19 overall, 15-9 away) beat the White Sox (21-24 overall, 10-10 home) 6-2 tonight at US Cellular Field.
It's hard to tell by his final line: seven innings, one earned run, five hits, four strikeouts and three walks but Buchholz had to battle himself in the first few innings before settling down and dominating the overmatched White Sox.
Boston never trailed as David Ortiz (2 hits, run, stolen base-seriously) hit a two-run single in the first inning. Chicago scored a run in the third on Alex Rios' groundout but that was all they'd get until a ninth inning homer in garbage time by Paul Konerko (2 hits).
It took a while but the Red Sox added some insurance runs in the eighth on Will Middlebrooks' sacrifice fly and Mike Napoli (hit, run, 3 walks) scored a run on a passed ball. Daniel Nava added a two-run single in the ninth for the final margin.
It has been a rough start to 2013 for free agent to be Jacoby Ellsbury but this might have been his best game so far: he was on base four times via two singles and two walks plus he scored a run.
With Boston nursing a 4-1 lead, Koji Uehara had a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts for his 10th hold of the season. Andrew Bailey returned to action for the first time since April 28 and his homer allowed to Konerko luckily didn't mean anything. Better to get that out of the way before he's thrust into a save situation.
The weather is supposed to be terrible for what I like to call the unofficial start to summer-Memorial Day weekend-but the Red Sox will be entertaining an old friend and decent opponent. Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians (26-19, 1st in AL Central) come to Fenway Park for four games beginning tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN). Ryan Dempster (2-4) faces Zach McAllister (3-3) then it's John Lackey (2-4) vs. Justin Masterson (7-2) on Friday (7:10 p.m., NESN), Jon Lester (6-1) vs. Scott Kazmir on Saturday afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN) and Felix Doubront (3-2) vs. Corey Kluber (3-3) on Sunday afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN).
I'm already sick of the Tito returning to Boston angle that I'm sure every shitty Red Sox beat reporter will be trotting out. Ugh, try and be original for once gentlemen. After the Indians leave, the Red Sox have a bizarre stretch with two games against the Phillies at Fenway then two games at Citizens Bank Park against the Phils. Weird scheduling bro.
Remember when the Bruins were down 4-1 in the third period against the Maple Leafs in Game 7? Since Boston rallied for a once-in-a-lifetime 5-4 overtime win, they haven't looked back and continue to gain momentum. Tonight, they put the Rangers on the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 2-1 win at a funereal Madison Square Garden. The Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the series with a chance to sweep New York on Thursday (7 p.m., CNBC).
Daniel Paille had the game-winner on a classic Paille goal at 16:29 of third period. Shawn Thornton tipped Gregory Campbell's shot and it went over Henrik Lundqvist (32 saves) but then somehow took a U-Turn when it was about to cross the goal-line like a putt by Tiger Woods. No worries though as Paille was alert the whole time and was able to knock it in for his second goal of the playoffs.
This was a game that showed all of New York's warts, why they are going to get bounced from the playoffs and in all likelihood, burned out head coach John Tortorella will lose his job this summer. Lundqvist was amazing, a different guy than the one in Game 1 and especially Game 2. He stopped two breakaways in the first period then stood on his head in the second period as Boston blitzed New York (outshooting them 14-5).
The Rangers scored first (for the first time this series) as Taylor Pyatt tipped Ryan McDonagh's shot from the point at 3:53 of second period for his second goal of the postseason. I never got that worried though because the B's were creating so many chances. Eventually, if they kept getting them I felt like it was inevitable that Lundqvist would crack.
Nathan Horton hit the post in the second period but Johnny Boychuk finally solved the code and wristed a shot by Lundqvist 3:10 into the third period. It was the 11th goal for Bruins defensemen this postseason which leads the NHL and Boychuk's fourth goal of the playoffs which is also tops for defensemen. Daniel Paille and Thornton assisted on it with the latter winning a rare faceoff then screening Lundqvist. Boychuk almost added another later in the frame but he hit the post.
Tuukka Rask (23 saves) was victimized by Pyatt's tip in, which I felt like he still should have stopped, but he stepped up to make a big save on Rick Nash late in regulation when the Rangers decided to press for the tying goal. In the series, Rask has allowed half the amount of goals (5) that Lundqvist has given up which I believe speaks to his performance level and also New York's hopeless offense/power play.
The Rangers had the only two power plays of the game but obviously they did nothing with them. That makes them 0 for 10 in the series and 2 for 38 in the playoffs, haha how is that even possible?
Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr once again had great opportunities to get off the schneid but they couldn't do it. That likely won't matter in this round but the Bruins need at least one of those guys to wake up and find their scoring touch if they want to continue winning in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Only three NHL teams have successfully rallied from an 0-3 deficit so what's the worst that could happen? Oh right, the most recent victim of that Scarlet Letter list was the Bruins in 2010 vs. Flyers in Eastern Conference semifinals. This is the same round with the same goaltender but I'm confident Boston will close it out on in four games since New York appears to have checked out on Torts and his dumb ultra-defensive system.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
When you think of the Patriots, one of the most influential players during their unforgettable dynasty stretch (3 Super Bowls in 4 years) last decade was linebacker Tedy Bruschi. It's hard to come up with a more likable, productive or clutch guy. He was never the most talented player but he always seemed to make plays in the biggest spots, something that has been lacking in the past eight years since New England's last Super Bowl win (2005 vs. Philadelphia). Today, the team revealed that he was rightfully elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame along with former radio broadcaster Gil Santos.
Bruschi was voted in by fans, beating out offensive tackle Leon Gray and head coach Chuck Fairbanks. He'll become the 19th former Patriot to be inducted into their Hall of Fame. It is to be determined when that ceremony will take place next season but whenever it happens, it will definitely be one of the marquee events of the 2013 season during one of the Patriots' home games.
There is a reason that you still see tons of Bruschi jerseys when you go to Gillette Stadium for Pats games. It is basically impossible to not like Bruschi since as corny as it sounds, he stood for everything that was good in pro sports and we were extremely lucky to have him play his entire career (13 seasons) in New England. Not that we didn't know it already but since he retired, you appreciate the fact even more that there are very few Tedy Bruschis in the NFL and especially on the Patriots.
Monday, May 20, 2013
The Red Sox came into Chicago tonight having won an MLB-best five games in a row. They had Jon Lester on the mound against something called Dylan Axelrod. Of course the reverse lock was in effect as Boston (27-18 overall, 14-8 away) fell 6-4 to the White Sox (20-23 overall, 9-9 home) at US Cellular Field.
It was never really close or particularly interesting since Chicago jumped all over Lester (6-1) from the start. Adam Dunn hit a three-run bomb to right in the first inning, Alejandro De Aza had an RBI double and Alexei Ramirez added another RBI double (3 in a row for Chicago) for a 5-0 lead in the second.
Boston got on the board in the third via Jarrod Saltalamacchia's (2 hits) two-run homer (his fifth of the season) to left center but Dayan Viciedo tacked on an insurance run with an RBI single in the fifth. Middlebrooks atoned for his earlier error in a sense, although by then it was too late, with a two-run double in the seventh.
Lester's final line was ugly: six innings, six runs (five earned) on seven hits with two strikeouts and three walks. I guess that he was due for a loss. Axelrod (2-3) threw junk but it worked tonight: six innings, two earned runs on four hits with two strikeouts and a walk. White Sox manager Robin Ventura for some reason decided to take him out after only 83 pitches and he immediately paid for that curious decision since Matt Thornton served up Salty's homer.
The back end of Chicago's bullpen was solid though as Jesse Crain pitched a scoreless eighth for his 13th hold of the season and closer Addison Reed had a scoreless ninth with a strikeout to earn his 15th save of the season.
In the nightly injury to Shane Victorino segment, our favorite crippled Hawaiian left in the sixth inning with hamstring tightness. Listen, we all love the hard-nosed style he plays but it's clear that his body is completely breaking down on him. Oh well, at least the Red Sox signed him to a three-year deal. Ugh!
I'm not ready to fully devote my attention to baseball so I'm thrilled that the Bruins are still alive and playing well. Tomorrow night's Bruins-Rangers Game 3 will certainly distract me from the big Felix Doubront (3-1) vs. Jose Quintana (2-1) matchup (8:10 p.m., NESN) on the Southside of Chicago.
UPDATE 5/21: I forgot to mention yesterday that closer Andrew Bailey was activated and reliever Jose De La Torre was sent down to Pawtucket.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Even the best goaltenders in the NHL have off-days as Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (27 saves) can attest to after a 5-2 Bruins win in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals this afternoon at TD Garden. This one was more wide open from the start than Game 1 with Boston leading 3-2 after two periods and they added two more goals in the third for a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 is Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) at Madison Square Garden and it's not hyperbole to say that New York faces a must-win.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (35 saves) played better than his more heralded counterpart for the second game in a row. Both of these teams make it hard on themselves at times when it comes to goal-scoring but so far this series, you wouldn't know it by the way that Boston has scored eight goals in two games.
When the B's are playing at their peak level, they get contributions from all four lines and all their defensemen. It doesn't get much more spread out than today where Boston had goals from three different lines plus another pair of goals from defensemen.
In a series with such outstanding goaltenders and pathetic power plays, I think scoring first is more important than usual. Boston has done it in both games so I don't think it's a total coincidence that they lead the series 2-0. Torey Krug scored his second goal in as many games at 5:28 of the first period. He showed incredible hands to dig the puck out of his skates then shoot it past Lundqvist, Nathan Horton and David Krejci had the assists.
New York answered 2:33 later as Ryan Callahan outraced Dougie Hamilton and skated in a breakaway which he coolly finished by Rask. Boston scored the first goal in each frame as Gregory Campbell (first goal of the playoffs) made it 2-1 at 2:24 of the second period with a sweet backhander. Krug and Adam McQuaid had the assists as Campbell was able to get to the rebound off a Ranger skate.
Once again, the Rangers quickly responded as Rick Nash woke up from his slumber to score his first goal of the postseason. It was a great goal-scorer's move too as he got past Chara then ripped a low, hard shot into the corner 56 seconds after Campbell's goal.
Skating 4-on-4, Johnny Boychuk (3rd goal of the playoffs) scored what turned out to be the game-winner at 12:08 of the second period. Patrice Bergeron started the play by winning a faceoff back to Marchand who found Boychuk for a wrister. Bergeron also screened Lundqvist.
The roof began to cave in on New York 26 seconds into the third period as Marchand scored a similar goal to his overtime winner in Game 1. He went to the net and Bergeron found him for the tip in, Matt Bartkowski had the second assist on Marchand's second goal of the postseason.
I thought the Bruins had the worst power play in the universe until I saw the Rangers. New York was 0 for 5 on the man advantage today, making them 2 for 36 in the postseason and 0 for 21 on the road. Haha how is that possible? When the B's went up by two, I felt confident and after Milan Lucic went beast mode right at Lundqvist and knocked in his own rebound at 12:39 (his third goal of the playoffs), I knew it was all over. Krejci and Dougie Hamilton had the assists.
The Rangers know how to comeback from a 0-2 deficit, in fact they did it against the Capitals in the first round. However, it will be very hard to do that again especially in the following series. That's why Game 3 is so important for both teams: the Bruins can put themselves in great shape with another win or they'll let New York climb right back into the series.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Slowly but surely the Red Sox are starting to get their mojo back. They were down to their last strike but rallied for a 4-3 win last night in Tampa Bay then tonight they once again made a comeback that resulted in a solid win: 3-2 over the Twins in 10 innings at Target Field.
Jonny Gomes' sacrifice fly scored Dustin Pedroia (who made a couple outstanding defensive plays) with the winning run in the 10th for Boston (25-17 overall, 12-7 away). Koji Uehara was summoned for his first save opportunity with the Red Sox since Junichi Tazawa pitched two innings last night in Tampa Bay. Uehara got the job done with a 1-2-3 10th with two strikeouts against Minnesota (18-20 overall, 9-11 home).
Boston has won their last three games and they improved to 3-1 in extra innings this season. They are also 3-1 on this current road trip.
Clay Buchholz received his third straight no decision but he should deserved to snap that streak with a win. At least his team found a way to come out on top even if they didn't help his own statistics. Buchholz went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits with nine strikeouts and three walks. When the Red Sox have a guy pitching this well, they basically have to win every start he makes. Through the first month and a half of the season, Buchholz is on a short list of the best pitchers in MLB with Mets youngster Matt Harvey, Diamondbacks rookie Patrick Corbin, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez
Twins starter Vance Worley pitched well (6 innings, 1 run, 6 hits, 1 strikeout, 3 walks) but Boston's bullpen was better than Minnesota's and that was the main difference in the final outcome. Andrew Miller went 1.2 perfect innings with three strikeouts, Alex Wilson (1-0) got the last out in the ninth which was enough for his first MLB win then Uehara closed it out.
Former Twins great David Ortiz (3 for 4, walk) drove in Daniel Nava (2 hits, walk) with an RBI single in the first inning. Pedro Florimon must love playing the Red Sox since he hit his second homer of the season-both against Boston-a two-run shot in third which gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead. The Red Sox tied it in the seventh on Jacoby Ellsbury's (stolen base) RBI single.
I wasn't really paying close attention when it happened last week but the Twins won three of four games at Fenway Park. Truth be told, Minnesota is not good so Boston can't let something like that happen again this weekend. Ryan Dempster (2-4) has a chance tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) to clinch the series for the Red Sox against Scott Diamond (3-3)-a distant cousin of former WCW star Diamond Dallas Page.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Brad Marchand was mostly invisible in the first round series against the Maple Leafs. He had three assists, including a helper on Patrice Bergeron's series clinching OT tally in Game 7 but for the most part, he didn't play like himself. That's precisely why Bruins fans have to be psyched with what they saw from Marchand in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals tonight at TD Garden as he scored the game-winner in OT for a 3-2 Boston win over the Rangers. Game 2 is Sunday afternoon (3 p.m., NBC) back at the Garden.
Anything can happen in overtime but it wouldn't be wrong to say that the B's deserved this after David Krejci and Johnny Boychuk hit the crossbar and post respectively in the third period then Boston dominated on a power play in the extra session but couldn't beat Henrik Lundqvist (45 saves). Boychuk even hit the post again which made you wonder if it wasn't their night. In what had to be one of the only odd man rushes of the entire tightly contested game, Marchand redirected Patrice Bergeron's centering pass at 15:40 (2nd longest game in these playoffs). Zdeno Chara had the second assist.
The first period was dull and scoreless but things started to pick up in the second period before a truly wild third period. Chara snapped Lundqvist's shutout streak at 152:23 when his shot somehow eluded the Vezina Trophy nominee (he won it last year too) and trickled past him at 12:23 of the second. David Krejci and Nathan Horton had the assists, continuing their strong playoffs.
New York scored a backbreaking goal with 1.3 seconds left in the frame as Ryan McDonagh's blast from the point found a hole by Tuukka Rask (33 saves). The Rangers used the momentum from that goal to bag another one as Derek Stepan beat Rask with a one-timer just 14 seconds into the third. Truthfully, that was one Rask would like to have back but that only made him even with Lundqvist.
No worries, rookie Torey Krug has been sent here to solve Boston's power play woes and help them win another Cup. Haha or something like that. Playing in his first career NHL playoff game, Krug scored a power play goal at 2:55 from Dougie Hamilton and Marchand. This was a man's goal, not a lucky bounce or break. After Hamilton walked it along the blue line, he passed it to Krug who hammered it home.
New York survived an interference penalty on Derek Dorsett in overtime but that man advantage seemed to really get Boston into attack mode. They peppered the Rangers with shots in OT (16-5) so it felt right for the Hockey Gods that they finished the job.
This game was the grind that everyone expected and the rest of the series should be more of the same. Since the Bruins and Rangers play similar styles and each has great goaltenders while sometimes struggling to score goals, expect plenty of one-goal, low-scoring affairs. After both teams went seven games in the first round, you can bet they'll both be happy to have an extra day off before Game 2. Time to rest their weary legs.