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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Umpires Gift A 4-1 6-Inning Win To The Red Sox Against The Tigers In A Rainstorm

There is no other way to describe tonight's rain-shortened game at Fenway Park than bizarre. The Red Sox (53-51, 27-28 home) earned a very cheap 4-1 win (their fourth straight) vs. the Tigers (54-50, 26-29 away) in six innings.

Justin Verlander's (11-7) 63-game streak of going 6+ innings ended thanks to Mother Nature and a high pitch count (107). Truth be told, he didn't have it either (5 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 earned, 6 strikeout, 4 walks).

Detroit said they would file a complaint with the commissioner's office (Bud Selig should get that memo in about four months) since the game was called when they had the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the sixth. I can't say I've ever seen a contest end prematurely with the go-ahead run at the plate, it was very shady.

After not being traded, lazy slug Josh Beckett responded by pitching 2.2 innings then leaving with "back spasms." Shocking that such an incredible, well-conditioned athlete that never breaks down could fall victim to that. I can't hate on a guy for being injured but with his checkered history, who knows what the real story might have been.

Luckily, Clayton Mortensen (1-0) wanted to pitch and he threw 2.2 innings of scoreless relief. Franklin Morales recorded one out and appeared to be in trouble after an infield hit and walk loaded the bases. However, he ended up getting credit for his first save of the season which should go down as one of the cheapest in MLB history.

Miguel Cabrera walked with the bases loaded in the third to make it 1-0 Tigers but Mortensen put out Beckett's fire by getting Prince Fielder to fly out to end the inning.

The Red Sox scored all of their runs in the fourth on Pedro Ciriaco's RBI single, a bases loaded walk by Jacoby Ellsbury and two runs scored on Carl Crawford's infield hit/Omar Infante's error.

In their last regular season meeting of 2012, Aaron Cook (2-4) faces Rick Porcello (7-6) tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) as the Red Sox go for a three-game sweep and their fifth win in a row.

UPDATE 8/1: Daniel Nava was placed on the DL with a left wrist sprain. Catcher Ryan Lavarnway was called up from Pawtucket to take his place in Boston. Also, Craig Breslow arrived and is active which means that Mortensen was optioned back to the PawSox.

Red Sox Mostly Stand Pat At Trade Deadline: Acquire Craig Breslow, Deal Away Lars Anderson In Separate Moves

We all tried to lie to ourselves for the last few weeks but we should have known all along that the Red Sox wouldn't do anything big at the 2012 MLB Trade Deadline. Josh Beckett is still here (although he could be moved in a waiver deal in August) and he'll start tonight against Justin Verlander and the Tigers.

Boston made two minor moves: they traded right-handed reliever Matt Albers and PawSox outfielder Scott Podsednik to the Arizona Diamondbacks for lefty reliever Craig Breslow; PawSox first baseman Lars Anderson was sent to the Cleveland Indians for Double-A knuckleballer Steven Wright (not the comedian), who will report to the Portland Sea Dogs.

A New Haven, CT native and Yale graduate, Breslow actually appeared in 13 games for the Red Sox in 2006 before being released after the season. It seems like ever since then (maybe because Theo Epstein also went to Yale), Boston had always coveted him and tried to bring him back.

He's played for six MLB teams (Padres, Red Sox, Indians, Twins, A's and Diamondbacks) over seven seasons. Understandably given his role, Breslow isn't much of a name nationally but he's been one of the best and most consistent players at his specialized position. His career ERA is 3.02 with a 1.24 WHIP. Earlier in his career, he was regarded as a lefty specialist but now he faces righties as well. In 40 appearances for Arizona this season, he had a 2.70 ERA with 1.18 WHIP and 42 strikeouts in 43.1 innings.

Albers had a misleading 2.29 ERA this season in 39 1/3 innings with 25 strikeouts and 15 walks. He played for Boston the last year and a half after signing as a free agent. After an outstanding first half in 2011, he came crashing back to Earth and while his numbers look good in 2012, Bobby Valentine clearly didn't trust him since he never pitched in late innings or particularly tough situations.

That trade means that Franklin Morales will probably have the chance to go back to the starting rotation since now Boston has three lefties in the bullpen: Breslow, Andrew Miller and Morales.

Podsednik (.387 average in 19 games with the Red Sox) was outstanding in his brief time with Boston this season. However, he's 36 and after he got hurt then rehabbed in Pawtucket, he lost his spot with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford returning to action. Who knows how much he has left in the tank anyway?

Once upon a time, Anderson was a big-time prospect but playing first base, he was never going to find consistent playing time with Adrian Gonzalez (signed through 2018) ahead of him and light years better to begin with.

The best we can hope is that they can get rid of Beckett via a waiver deal; today was the non-waiver deadline. Until then, please boo him as much as possible if you go to a game that he starts. Boston had a chance to really shake it up but rookie GM Ben Cherington didn't have the balls to find a way to trade Beckett (who has 10-5 veto rights) or something else that would change the chemistry in that toxic clubhouse. So yeah, looks like the Red Sox still aren't going anywhere in 2012. Oh joy.

UPDATE 7/31: Clayton Mortensen was brought up for tonight from Pawtucket since Breslow isn't in town yet.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Red Sox Come Home, Win 3rd Straight Thanks To Another Fine Start By Buchholz

We are less than 16 hours away from the 2012 MLB Trade Deadline and at least for the moment, it doesn't appear that the Red Sox will do anything big. Still, there is time left for them to pull something off but in the interim, Boston (52-51, 26-28 home) won its third straight overall with a 7-3 win vs. Detroit (54-49, 26-28 away) tonight at Fenway Park.

It was the start of the Red Sox' longest homestand of the season (10 games) and Clay Buchholz (9-3) once again pitched like the ace that he's been since the All-Star break. He gave them eight solid innings (3 runs, 2 earned, 5 hits, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks) to earn the win.

Boston's offense knocked around Max Scherzer (10-6) and reliever Phil Coke. In 6.1 innings, Scherzer allowed five earned runs on seven hits with nine strikeouts and two walks. How many times do you have to hear that strikeouts really aren't that important? I'll say it again: they are one of the most overrated things in baseball. A 5-3 lead in the eighth became 7-3 when Will Middlebrooks (13th of the season) roped a two-run shot off the light tower against Coke to put it out of reach.

Austin Jackson led off the game with a solo homer (his 11th of the season) for the 1-0 Tigers lead, what turned out to be their only one of the game.

Carl Crawford (2 runs) and his one functioning arm/elbow drove in Jacoby Ellsbury with an RBI triple in the first then he scored on Dustin Pedroia's ground out.

Miguel Cabrera tied it in the second for Detroit with an RBI single. Pedroia put Boston ahead one last time with a two-run shot (his 9th of the season) that just made it over the Monster in the sixth.

Alex Avila provided the Tigers' last run with an RBI double in the seventh. Kelly Shoppach tripled (really) and Ellsbury knocked him in with a single in the seventh for a 5-3 Red Sox advantage.

Adrian Gonzalez (run) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both had two hits in the win for Boston but as usual, what occurred off the field was far more interesting for this group of clowns.

After making an out in the eighth, Ryan Sweeney punched a door and injured his hand so he's likely headed to the DL. Guess he didn't want to be dealt from here. With Twitter, now everyone is aware of all the trade rumors involving Josh Beckett (5-9). If he's on the mound tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) against Justin Verlander (11-6), well then it's official: the terrorists have won and there is no reason to pay attention for the rest of 2012. He would be a classic case of addition by subtraction.

UPDATE 7/31: We probably won't see Sweeney again this season. He's expected out up to eight weeks after breaking his hand last night. Ryan Kalish has been recalled to take his spot.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Felix Doubront & Pedro Ciriaco Run New York, Everybody Knows That

With only 60 games (basically two months) left of the 2012 regular season, now is not the time to celebrate simply getting back to .500 (for the 55th time).

However, the Red Sox (51-51, 26-23 away) should be happy after they took two of three games in New York (60-41, 31-19 home) this weekend and went 3-3 on a brutal road trip against the two best teams in the AL (Rangers and Yankees). Felix Doubront pitched well tonight and Pedro Ciriaco had an RBI single in the 10th that scored Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2 runs, 2 walks) as Boston outlasted the Yankees 3-2 in 10 innings at Yankee Stadium.

After losing on Friday, the Red Sox won nail-biters last night (8-6) and tonight to make the season series 6-3 in favor of New York. There are nine remaining so you will have plenty more baseball games that are well over three hours long no matter what.

Trade bait Ryan Sweeney's two-run double in the second gave Boston a 2-0 lead it would carry until the sixth. New York cut it to 2-1 on Red Sox killer Russell Martin's solo homer (his 12th of the season) then he tied it with an RBI single in the seventh.

Jacoby Ellsbury (double) and Adrian Gonzalez (run) both had two hits for Boston while Nick Swisher added two hits for the Yankees. Somehow the Red Sox survived grounding into five double plays-the most they had recorded in over seven years.

Doubront and Ciriaco have been by far Boston's best players against New York this season. In three starts, Doubront has gone 18.2 innings and only allowed five earned runs on 12 hits. Ciriaco is 11-for-22 in five games against the Bronx Bombers with six RBIs. He has provided the winning hits the last two games as well (RBI triple on Saturday night in the 9th). Call it a small sample size, beginner's luck or not having a book on either guy yet but whatever the reason, two of the most unlikely players have carried the Red Sox to wins against their archrivals.

This evening, the young lefty went 6.1 innings and allowed one earned run on four hits with eight strikeouts and five walks. A high pitch count (109) was the only thing to complain about regarding one of the best outings of his career.

Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda went eight innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and a walk.

Andrew Miller wiggled out of a jam (runners on the corners, 1 out) in the seventh but Alfredo Aceves (2-6) blew the save (5th time he's done that) by giving up Martin's hit in the eighth (charged to Miller). It didn't matter though since he stayed out there and eventually got the win following 2.1 innings. He struck out two and didn't allow a hit besides Martin's, the downside was that he threw 37 pitches.

The only thing I fear from these last two days is that the Red Sox front office will feel like they've figured things out so there is no need to make a big move (trading Josh Beckett). I really hope that is not the case since they should realize that he had less than nothing to do with either win or any positive things to come out of the weekend. They have until 4 p.m. on Tuesday to do the right thing and get him out of here before fans' heads explode with anger and frustration.

Boston returns to Fenway Park for its longest homestand of the season: 10 games (3 vs. Detroit, 4 vs. Minnesota and 3 vs. Texas). Their next road game is Thursday, August 9 in Cleveland which kicks off the longest road trip of the season: also 10 games.

Clay Buchholz (8-3) faces Max Scherzer (10-5) tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN). Beckett (5-9) is scheduled to take the fall against Justin Verlander (11-6) on Tuesday (7:10 p.m., NESN) and Aaron Cook (2-4) gets Rick Porcello (7-6) on Wednesday (7:10 p.m., NESN).

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Celtics Unveil Their 2012-13 Regular Season Schedule

It feels funny saying this as we get into the dog days of summer but the 2012-13 NBA regular season is really not that far away. Before we know it, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Co. will be back on the Garden parquet looking for Banner 18. I am also looking forward to seeing how Jason Terry integrates himself to his new surroundings along with rookie Jared Sullinger's adjustments to the rigors of the NBA.

Last night, the Celtics unveiled their full 82-game schedule that begins with what promises to be a highly-anticipated visit to see Ray Allen and the Miami Heat on Tuesday, October 30 which is a national broadcast on TNT.

I gotta say that other than the fact that it was condensed, I enjoyed the 66-game schedule of last season. Looking over all these games (many which will be mostly meaningless), I'm reminded how the NBA regular season is generally too long but I digress.

Boston's home opener is Friday, November 2 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks, not exactly a marquee opponent. Other highlights in November include an Eastern Conference semifinals rematch with the Sixers on Friday, November 9 in Boston; San Antonio comes to TD Garden the night before Thanksgiving (Wednesday, November 21) and Oklahoma City is here the night after Thanksgiving (Friday, November 23) in what will undoubtedly be two of the best home games of the season.

Boston and Philadelphia have a home-and-home series on December 7 (ESPN) and 8 before Terry gets his first game against his former team-the Dallas Mavericks-who visit on Wednesday, December 12 (ESPN). Celts take a trip to San Antonio on Saturday, December 15 and they play in Brooklyn on Christmas afternoon (ESPN, 12 p.m.) against the Nets. The C's close out 2012 with three games on the West Coast (Clippers-TNT, Warriors, Kings).

The Celtics-Knicks rivalry begins again on Monday, January 7 as Boston travels to New York. The Knicks make their first appearance in Boston on Thursday, January 24 for a TNT game. C's head coach Doc Rivers's first game against his son Austin is on Wednesday, January 16 as the New Orleans Hornets come to the Garden (ESPN). The Heat's first contest in Boston is Sunday, January 27 (ABC).

We get both of the Celtics-Lakers battles in February with Los Angeles coming to Boston on Thursday, February 7 (TNT) then the C's in LA on Wednesday, February 20 (ESPN). The annual grueling West Coast trip is in the end of February as Boston hits Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland and Utah around the time of the NBA trade deadline.

March finds Jeff Green and the Celtics visiting Kendrick Perkins and the Thunder on Sunday, March 10 (ABC). Another matchup against the Heat in Boston on Monday, March 18 (ESPN) is followed by a trip to New Orleans on March 20 and sneaky tough back-to-back games at Dallas (March 22) and Memphis (March 23).

Regular season games in April usually don't have much significance unless you're jockeying for home court advantage (which the Celtics should be). Boston's home schedule ends on Tuesday, April 16 vs. the Pacers then the regular season concludes the next night in Toronto.

So there you have it, get some rest since the NBA season starts in basically three months. With college football and the NFL getting underway in September, not to mention MLB playoffs in October, the time should fly by very quickly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Well At Least We Know The Red Sox Aren't Going To Go Winless The Rest Of The Way

Conveniently, with the Red Sox' season fully going down in flames, I've been off the grid for a few days. Yes, I kept up with the pathetic sweep by the Blue Jays last weekend but not enough to write anything of substance.

Tonight, I caught much of the game on the radio as Boston (49-49, 24-21 away) edged Texas (57-39, 30-17 home) 2-1 at sauna-like Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It snapped a four-game losing streak for the Red Sox and also handed them their first win of the season against the Rangers (1-3).

Mike Aviles broke the 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth with a bloop RBI single that scored Daniel Nava, who came on as a defensive replacement for Carl Crawford in the seventh. The Red Sox bullpen was fantastic as Vicente Padilla (4-0) pitched a scoreless eighth despite giving up a hit and beaning Adrian Beltre. Closer Alfredo Aceves retired the Rangers on eight pitches for his 21st save of the season.

It was a weird night as Ian Kinsler was ejected in the first inning for arguing a strike call and Beltre had to leave after getting hit in the head by Padilla's pitch.

Clay Buchholz didn't get credit for the win but once again, he performed like Boston's much-needed ace/stopper. In seven innings, the Lonestar State native allowed one earned run on four hits with three walks and a strikeout.

Rangers rookie Martin Perez pitched very well in a spot start. In six innings, the young lefty allowed one earned run on five hits with two walks and a strikeout.

Boston went ahead 1-0 in the fourth on Kelly Shoppach's RBI double that scored Cody Ross. Texas tied it in the sixth as Josh Hamilton's ground out plated Elvis Andrus.

Don't get your hopes up for tomorrow night (8:05 p.m., NESN) as Josh Beckett (5-8) takes on Derek Holland (6-5) in the series finale. There is no way the Texas Toughguy will be able to shut down that lineup and/or concentrate in his natural habitat.

The Patriots Will Sign All The Tight Ends In The World, Thank You Very Much

If accumulating tight ends directly correlated to wins in the NFL, the Patriots would be undefeated this season.

With only two days left until 2012 training camp starts for veterans on Thursday, New England signed veteran Visanthe Shiancoe to a one-year deal.

A third-round pick of the Giants in 2003 out of Morgan State, Shiancoe made his name in Minnesota (five seasons) after four forgettable years in New York. Looking at his career stats, the first thing that pops out is that he's never missed a game in nine years in the NFL. That's incredible since tight end is a pretty physical position so he's obviously a tough guy.

The Vikings have been a mess the last two seasons but he's still managed to put up decent numbers basically without an NFL-caliber quarterback throwing to him-sorry Joe Webb, Christian Ponder, etc. Shiancoe has 36+ catches in the last four seasons and at least 409 receiving yards every year in that span. His best season was 2009 when Minnesota made it to the NFC Championship Game before Brett Favre did his usual chokejob. Shiancoe had a career-high 56 catches, 566 receiving yards and a career-high 11 touchdowns.

For his career, he's caught 243 passes for 2677 yards (11.0 yards per catch) and 27 touchdowns with a career-long reception of 79 yards.

With fellow newcomer Daniel Fells starting camp on the PUP list (physically unable to perform), Visanthe is already positioned as New England's third tight end. Given that Rob Gronkowski is coming off ankle surgery and Aaron Hernandez has missed games in both seasons in the NFL, Shiancoe is cheap and potentially a valuable insurance policy should one of the two main guys get hurt again at any point this season.

UPDATE 7/25: The Pats released running back Joseph Addai (damn, he must be washed up to be cut before training camp even started) and signed local guy Tim Bulman. The defensive lineman went to Boston College and BC High and he's from Milton, Mass. He played the last four seasons with the Houston Texans.

Every Team Can Use A Good Reverend On Their Side

It is not often that you can say this in the NBA but Keyon Dooling's worth in the locker room, on the bench and on the practice court are more valuable than his limited role in games at this point.

The Celtics re-signed the veteran combo guard to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum ($1.35 million). Boston won't make much national news with this move since Dooling only averaged four points and 1.1 assists in 14.4 minutes (46 games) during his first season with the Green.

However, if you watched him in the playoffs or better yet, caught any of his weekly interviews on the Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich, you realize that he is a natural leader. His two greatest contributions to the Celts: mentoring mercurial point guard Rajon Rondo and also, bringing "flexin" to Boston's bench celebrations in the postseason along with Marquis Daniels.

Dooling is a winner and a pro that realizes a good thing when he sees it. Who knows how many more years he'll be in the NBA (he's 32)? That's why he's coming back to the Celtics, he got a taste of what it was like last season and he wants more as they strive for another deep playoff run next spring. He was even willing to take a pay cut (he made $2.2 in 2011-12), something that is very rare in the NBA or pro sports in general these days. Guys like him are always welcomed back with open arms.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Red Sox Absolutely Have To Trade Josh Beckett, It's The Only Solution

Honestly, what else will it take for the Red Sox to realize that trading Josh Beckett in the next 10 days would be the best move they've made in years? The Texas Toughguy (5-8) just doesn't care anymore and the team will never get anywhere with him stinking up the clubhouse and dugout, not to mention his often abysmal starts.

Tonight, Boston (48-46, 25-26 home) was down 4-0 in the second inning and never really had a chance (I've said that before) as Toronto (46-47, 21-27 away) won the series opener 6-1 at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox' offense certainly didn't help matters as they only avoided a shutout by scoring a run in garbage time-down 6-0 in the ninth with a fielder's choice by Mike Aviles. Boston had nine hits, including two apiece from Will Middlebrooks and Kelly Shoppach but as a team they were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Aaron Laffey (2-1) added seven shutout innings to the six he threw at Fenway nearly a month ago. He allowed eight hits with four strikeouts and no walks.

Beckett went six innings but he gave up five runs (four earned) on seven hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.

The Blue Jays scored twice in the first, on Edwin Encarnacion's (2 runs, single, walk) fielder's choice and J.P. Arencibia's RBI single. Toronto added two more in the second on a two-run double by Colby Rasmus (run, triple).

Adam Lind (2 hits) had an RBI single in the fifth and my man Yan Gomes pushed across the final run with an RBI single in the ninth. Toronto went 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Aaron Cook (2-2) faces Carlos Villanueva (4-0) tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) in the middle game of this three-game set.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Big Changes In Store For The Patriots Radio Broadcasts Starting Next Month

I'm a sucker for professional sports on the radio. In our busy lives, we often find ourselves stuck in cars going from one place to another, especially on weekends when you have a significant other. That means that we're forced in those situations to turn to Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins and Patriots games on the radio. Lucky for us, all those local crews deserve high marks.

Today, New England's senior duo of those four major teams had some big news as Patriots radio color commentator Gino Cappelletti has retired. What's more, his longtime partner Gil Santos said this upcoming season will be his last after he nearly died following last season.

Cappelletti is 78 and he's worked at Pats games for 32 years after a legendary playing career with the Boston Patriots. Santos is 72, they've been together for 28 total years including the last 21 in a row. During that time in the booth, New England has gone from a complete afterthought and laughingstock in the NFL to one of the top franchises in professional sports. They've been able to cover six Super Bowls, including five in the past decade (three won by the Patriots).

It will be weird not to hear those familiar voices once the fall rolls around. No doubt, they had both slipped in recent years (especially Gino) so we knew this day would eventually come sooner rather than later. Sports Hub midday host and former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak was introduced last season as a sort of third set of eyes and ears (he was on the sideline). It hasn't been officially announced yet, but expect him to go upstairs with Santos beginning in the 2012 preseason next month-August 9 vs. New Orleans is the opener.

It's hard to imagine who will fill Santos' chair since he's one of the top play-by-play NFL broadcasters in the business. He has an outstanding voice and he's a true pro that always strikes the perfect balance between the fast-paced action and enjoying the scene. His calls from all the important playoff wins of the past decade are classic. "It's good, it's good!"-after Adam Vinatieri's field goal beat the Rams in Super Bowl 36 being perhaps his most famous line.

Similar to the Red Sox finding a new PA announcer for the recently deceased Carl Beane, the Pats will need to take their time to make the right decision. Unfortunately, Gil Santos don't just grow on trees.

Cody Ross' 3-Run Walkoff Blast Gives Red Sox Their Best Win Of The Season

Cody Ross hit his third 3-run homer in the last 24 hours as the Red Sox walked off with a truly awesome 3-1 win against the White Sox at Fenway Park this evening.

Boston (48-45, 25-25 home) is finally trending upwards as they took three out of four against the AL Central leaders from Chicago (50-42, 26-20 away).

Kevin Youkilis was a healthy scratch tonight and the White Sox certainly missed his potent bat in their otherwise weak lineup. Still, things looked good for them as they led 1-0 headed into the bottom of the ninth.

Carl Crawford singled against Matt Thornton (2-6) before Dustin Pedroia grounded into a fielder's choice. Adrian Gonzalez (2 hits) singled against Thornton which prompted Chicago rookie manager Robin Ventura to turn it over to his closer Addison Reed. Three pitches later Ross ended it with a shot down the left field line and over the Monster (his 16th of the season). It was the fifth walkoff hit of his career and third homer in that instance.

The Red Sox' celebration was pretty great too as Nick Punto ripped off Ross's jersey (apparently that's why he's nicknamed Shredder) and Alfredo Aceves (1-6) dumped an entire jug of blue Gatorade that sprayed all of his teammates. More of that please.

Chicago rookie lefty Jose Quintana was lights out as he pitched eight scoreless innings. Boston could only get five hits against him but he struck out two and didn't walk anybody.

Clay Buchholz was almost as excellent. In eight innings, he allowed one earned run on six hits with six strikeouts and one walk. If he wants to be the ace that the Red Sox currently lack, that would be fantastic. Normally, he has the second-best run support in MLB (ironically behind teammate Felix Doubront) but that was nowhere to be seen tonight.

The White Sox pushed across their lone run in the fourth on Alex Rios's sacrifice fly which scored Adam Dunn.

Boston actually had two nice chances to score: Pedro Ciriaco tripled with two outs in the third but Jacoby Ellsbury struck out. Then Will Middlebrooks had a quality at bat but grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the seventh.

Normally (or at least earlier this season), this was a prototypical game that the Red Sox most definitely do not win. It is a proven fact that they have really struggled in low-scoring close games the last few years. So if they go anywhere in 2012, you can bet this result will be one that every writer, player and fan points to. Not Bobby V though, he always has to be a contrarian no matter what the question.

The nose-diving Blue Jays (45-47, 5th in AL East) arrive in Fenway tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) for three games. Josh Beckett (5-7) faces Aaron Laffey (1-1) then it's Aaron Cook (2-2) vs. Carlos Villanueva (4-0) on Saturday night (7:10 p.m., NESN) and Jon Lester (5-7) against Henderson Alvarez (5-7) on Sunday afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN).

With no Jose Bautista (on the DL) and possibly no Brett Lawrie, Toronto looks ripe to be swept as the Red Sox go for their third straight series win after the All-Star break. After that, Boston goes to Texas (three games) and New York (three games) in what can only be described as the road trip from hell, at least in terms of difficulty to say nothing about those miserable places.

Shorthanded Celtics Drop Their First Game In Las Vegas, To Jimmer & The Kings

Apparently, there are bigger things in the NBA than a summer league game in mid-July. Shocking, I know. Especially when the Boston Celtics are the only insane team to appear in both Orlando and Las Vegas this summer.

With the Courtney Lee deal going down before tip-off, the Celts were down three players as JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore and Sean Williams packed up and left for Houston (their new NBA home). With nine players, the C's (2-1) hung around for longer than expected (tied 38-38 at halftime) before losing 91-82 to the Kings (2-3) tonight at the Thomas and Mack Center.

In their final summer league contest, Jimmer Fredette led Sacramento with 19 points (9 for 10 on free throws) and five assists. Rookie Thomas Robinson was a beast on the boards with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Tony Mitchell scored 13 points, Yancy Gates had 11 points and Dominique Johnson added 10.

Speaking with the NBA TV commentators during the first half, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers admitted that Boston's brass loves Dionte Christmas (19 points) so it looks like he'll get an invite to their training camp in the fall. Jamar Smith and Craig Brackins both notched 14 points while Jonathan Gibson (another guy singled out by Rivers) had 12 points. Jared Sullinger grabbed 10 rebounds.

Boston has two games left in the summer: Saturday (10:30 p.m. vs. 2-1 Milwaukee) and Sunday (6:00 p.m. vs. 1-2 Clippers). Expect them to add a few healthy bodies since I doubt they can go through another 40 minutes with nine players. If Danny Ainge is reading this, I'm available and I'd love a business trip to Vegas.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hope You're Taking Notes Because Danny Ainge Is Crushing It This Summer

I honestly don't think this summer could realistically be going much better for the Celtics.

With little money and few roster spots available, Boston has re-signed Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green while also adding Jason Terry. The only notable player to leave has been Ray Allen so I think you have to say that the team has improved immeasurably thus far since Wilcox and Green didn't appear in the playoffs (in Green's case all season).

Today, the C's acquired guard Courtney Lee from the Rockets in a sign-and-trade deal; Houston gets guard E'Twaun Moore, forward JaJuan Johnson and forward Sean Williams. In addition, swingman Sasha Pavlovic was sent to the Portland Trail Blazers along with two second-round picks and cash considerations.

Lee gets a four-year deal worth $21.5 million according to Yahoo! Sports.

With Avery Bradley expected out for training camp and the beginning of next season, Lee will likely start at least until Bradley returns. That shouldn't be a problem since Lee has started nearly half (135 of 287) of the games he's played in his four NBA seasons.

A first-round pick in 2008 by Orlando (22nd overall) out of Western Kentucky, Lee went to the NBA Finals in his rookie season yet he was traded to the Nets before the next season. After one year with the Nets, he's spent the last two in Houston. I can't explain why he's been on three teams in four years since as far as I know, he's not a headcase or anything. All I can surmise is that it means he is coveted by other teams so for whatever reason, he keeps getting moved.

In 2011-12 with the Rockets, Lee averaged 11.4 points per game, 1.2 steals, 83% from the free throw line, 40% on 3-pointers and 43% from the field in 58 games (26 starts). His best individual season was 2009-10 with the Nets. In 71 games (66 starts), he put up 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 87% on free throws and 43% from the field.

Lee is 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds so he's able to check the bigger shooting guards in the NBA without many problems. When you combine him with Bradley and Terry, you sense that will be one of the Celtics' biggest strengths next season.

Moore was having a good summer with Boston's summer league squad but he's not a true point guard so he faced an uphill battle to get any playing time behind Rajon Rondo. Johnson was a first-round pick in 2011 so he's the guy that could potentially do something in Houston or elsewhere (I read he'd request a trade from there). He barely played in his rookie season and he didn't do anything really this summer. Johnson is very skinny so he doesn't really have a position despite being 6-foot-10. He seems like a nice kid so hopefully he can find his game at some point, he was a great college player at Purdue.

As for Williams, there was no way he would return to the Celtics. He is awful and won't be in the NBA in a year. Ditto for Sasha, he wouldn't have made the team with this infusion of talent since he barely played last season.

For His Next Career, Matt Light Will Attempt The Impossible: Make ESPN's NFL Coverage Watchable

I won't lie and tell you that I enjoy ESPN's NFL coverage or that I even watch it (by choice). If i'm tuning in to shows about the NFL, it's gotta be the excellent NFL Network. Sure, sometimes it'll be on at the gym or I flip over to ESPN during commercials of other things I'm watching. Still, it is basically awful with the legions of former players (Cris Carter) and coaches (Herm Edwards) masquerading as clowns.

Into that mess steps former New England Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light. After retiring this spring, Tom Brady's old left tackle was looking for a new career as I'm sure he's not ready to sit around the house all the time or endlessly play golf and talk about the glory days.

From and ESPN PR
"Three-time Super Bowl champion and former New England Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light is joining ESPN’s NFL analyst team. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Light will appear on NFL Live, NFL32 and SportsCenter. He will also contribute features to Sunday NFL Countdown.

Light, who visited ESPN as a guest NFL analyst in May, will make his debut Monday, July 23.

“Matt is a great addition to our ESPN team because he sees the world and the game of football from a refreshingly different perspective than most,” said Seth Markman, ESPN senior coordinating producer for NFL studio shows. “He has an engaging personality and he’s unafraid to offer honest opinions, which fans will appreciate.”

Light said, “I'm really looking forward to joining the ESPN family and getting a chance to see the game from a different side. I'm obviously depending heavily on my rugged good looks and ability to avoid run-on sentences to succeed in this new role.”

You'll remember that former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi is also a fixture of ESPN's non-stop football coverage so it's not all bad. Light has a pretty solid sense of humor and the Purdue graduate seems like a smart guy so let's hope that he can mold both of those strengths into a quality on-air persona. Lord knows there is enough one-note NFL commentators (hi Tom Jackson) littering the airwaves.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cody Ross & Adrian Gonzalez Combine For 10 RBIs In Red Sox' Rout Of White Sox

Pedro Hernandez's Major League debut was nothing to write home about as far as he or his team was concerned. More importantly, Red Sox fans went home happy as Boston pummeled Chicago 10-1 tonight at Fenway Park.

White Sox (50-41, 26-19 away) manager Robin Ventura left his rookie in to receive a serious beating. In four plus innings, Hernandez (0-1) allowed eight earned runs on 12 hits (three home runs) with two strikeouts and a walk.

Cody Ross (3 for 6, 2 HRs, double, 3 runs, 6 RBIs) and Adrian Gonzalez (3 for 4, 4 RBIs, run, HR) formed a lethal 3-4 combination for the Red Sox' (47-45, 24-25 home) reconfigured batting order.

Felix Doubront (10-4) became the first Red Sox pitcher to reach double-digit wins this season. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have combined for the same amount as Doubront, just like Boston mapped it out. In six innings, Doubront allowed one earned run on four hits with two strikeouts and three walks. He was helped out by two double plays turned by his defense.

Having Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, 3 runs, double) and Carl Crawford (2 runs, single) makes a difference at the top of the order, huh?

Paul Konerko's RBI single in the first inning marked the 10th straight game that the visiting team has scored at least one run in the first at Fenway.

Things picked up immensely for the Red Sox as Gonzalez tied it with an RBI single in the first then Ross hit a pair of three-run bombs (his 14th and 15th of the season) in the third and fourth inning.

Gonzalez went back-to-back with Ross in the fourth then capped off this laugher with a two-run single in the sixth.

With the big lead, Matt Albers, Mark Melancon and Andrew Miller pitched three perfect innings of relief with three strikeouts.

Dustin Pedroia is expected to be activated off the DL tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN), hopefully he's discovered a bionic thumb or something so he doesn't hurt it for the 12th time this season. Clay Buchholz (8-3) faces Jose Quintana (4-1) in the finale as Boston goes for the series win.

UPDATE 7/19: In their first minor move shortly before the trade deadline, the Red Sox dealt PawSox pitcher Justin Germano to the Cubs for cash considerations.

I Say That Dont'a Hightower's AFC Rookie Of The Year Campaign Starts Now

Trust me when I tell you that soon enough, you will likely fall in love with Patriots rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

The stud out of the University of Alabama agreed to a four-year deal today with New England, meaning that their entire draft class (seven players) of 2012 will report to training camp on time. Ironically, the youngsters are due to arrive tomorrow in Foxborough.

Picked 25th overall in the first round, Hightower was obtained after the Pats traded up with Denver to get him. They shipped the Broncos the 31st overall pick and a fourth-round selection (126th overall) as well. That alone should tell you how intent they were on getting him since New England pretty much never trades up for anybody.

For the Crimson Tide who were BCS champions, Hightower last year was a first-team All-America selection by the Associated Press and a second-team All-SEC selection. He started 12 games for Alabama, leading them with 85 tackles (11 for a loss), four sacks, eight quarterback hits, one interception and one forced fumble.

Everyone knows that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Alabama head coach Nick Saban are very close friends so there is no doubt that they talked about Hightower often the last few seasons and before the draft. If he wasn't that good or a complete knucklehead (doubtful since he was a captain), odds are that Saban would have let Belichick know.

He could be a bust but from what we've seen in college, Hightower has all the physical tools and attributes to be a successful NFL player. He was one of the most outstanding linebackers in the nation, at one of the best programs and in the top conference (SEC). You can't be much more prepared out of college than that. At 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, he's a freak athlete that is big enough to play middle linebacker but fast enough to play outside linebacker. That gives Belichick a bunch of options and a major playmaking ability which is something the Patriots defense can always use.

I expect much more from him initially than New England's other first-round pick: defensive end Chandler Jones of Syracuse. Jones seems like a project whereas Hightower is polished. We shall see I guess but if you watch college football regularly and you root for the Patriots, you have to be understandably excited about Dont'a's potential.

Look Out Adam McQuaid: Bruins Add Another Fringe Defenseman To The Mix For 2012-13

Another day and another nameless guy brought in by the Bruins to a two-way contract.

This afternoon, they announced the signing of defenseman Aaron Johnson to a one-year, two-way contract for the 2012-13 season. It's worth $650,000 at the NHL level and $105,000 at the AHL level with the Providence Bruins.

Believe it or not, Johnson actually played in 56 games for the worst team in the NHL-the Columbus Blue Jackets-last season. He had three goals, a career-high 13 assists and 16 points. Johnson was -12 with 26 penalty minutes. Don't feel bad if you're never heard of him, I hadn't either. I think Rick Nash is the only Blue Jacket that's known by the outside world. Name me a more obscure pro sports team in the the big four sports in America?

A third-round pick by Columbus in 2001 (85th overall), Johnson is 29, 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds. The left-handed shot already played for five NHL teams (Blue Jackets, Islanders, Blackhawks, Oilers, Flames) before coming to Boston which is always a bad sign.

For his NHL career (281 games), he has 17 goals and 45 assists for 62 points. He's +1 with 217 penalty minutes and 225 shots on goal.

In 2010-11, Johnson had 35 points in 72 games with the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) after signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Nashville Predators two summers ago.

Let's be honest, the best Johnson can hope for is he'll grab the last spot on the third defenseman line. More likely, he'll find himself in the TD Garden press box often as a healthy scratch or competing in Providence.

He will soon learn it's a big step up from the Blue Jackets to the Bruins but regardless, we wish him luck.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adrian Gonzalez Picks Up His Biggest Hit In A Red Sox Uniform-3-Run HR-As Red Sox Beat White Sox 5-1

Only the Red Sox in 2012 would pick up one of their best wins of the season but have it completely overshadowed by a freak injury to their most valuable player.

Adrian Gonzalez came through in the clutch and late in the game for once with a three-run homer in the eighth (his 7th of the season) as Boston (46-44, 23-24 home) began a seven-game homestand with a 5-1 win against the White Sox (49-40, 25-18 away) this evening at Fenway Park.

During Gonzalez's homer, over the Monster and off lefty reliever Leyson Septimo, David Ortiz (run, hit, walk) stumbled around second base and limped home. He walked gingerly to the dugout and was replaced. Mike Aviles (stolen base) followed up with an RBI single later in the inning but the Fenway crowd was stunned at another potentially serious injury to a Red Sox player. Ortiz will get an MRI tomorrow on his Achilles.

Aaron Cook dazzled for seven innings: one unearned run on five hits with no strikeouts or walks. Vicente Padilla (3-2) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with a strikeout for the win and closer Alfredo Aceves had a scoreless ninth despite the fact that he warmed up thinking they would need a save.

Cook was ultra efficient: 97 pitches (66 strikes), 15 out of his 21 outs were on ground balls and the game was over in two hours and 40 minutes. Can he pitch every game please?

Carl Crawford had a single, two runs and a walk in his first game of 2012 for the Red Sox. Batting ninth, Pedro Ciriaco heated up after a quiet weekend with three more hits including a double.

Kevin Youkilis (3 for 4, 2 doubles, run) did his best to star in his first return back to Fenway as a visitor. Unfortunately for Youk, his teammates couldn't do much (combining for two hits) other than starting pitcher Dylan Axelrod who went 6.2 innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits with eight strikeouts.

After a classy and deserved standing ovation before his first at bat, Youk singled and eventually scored on an error by Gonzalez. It turned out to be Chicago's only run. They were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left four on base.

Gonzalez tied it with an RBI single in the bottom of the first. Boston went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position, they left seven on base.

One positive for the Red Sox is that the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays-the three teams they can realistically finish higher than in the AL East this season-all lost tonight.

Tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) Mr. Perfect Game turned bum Philip Humber (3-4) takes on Jon Lester (5-6). Even though Lester has been garbage this season, you have to think this is a good matchup for him since Humber has been repeatedly hammered since his fluke perfect game in April.

UPDATE 7/17: The MRI showed no tear in Ortiz's Achilles which is good news. He's wearing a boot and thinks he'll be out a week but the Red Sox are expected to make a decision tomorrow whether to put him on the DL or not (something they hate doing for some reason).

In other Red Sox news, Franklin Morales is being moved back to the bullpen so Boston will return to a 5-man pitching rotation.

UPDATE 7/18: Ortiz is on the DL and expected out for at least two weeks. Mauro Gomez was recalled from Pawtucket.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Different City But Same Team & Same Result

The Boston Celtics are staking their claim as the best team in the 2012 NBA Summer League. After going 4-1 in Orlando last week, they begin their stay in Las Vegas with a one-sided 87-69 blowout of the Atlanta Hawks this afternoon at Cox Pavilion.

The C's (1-0) led from start to finish and had five players score in double figures. Rookies Kris Joseph and Jared Sullinger (7 rebounds) helped Boston cruise to victory with 14 points while Dionte Christmas and Jonathan Gibson scored 11 and Jamar Smith had 10.

Rookie Fab Melo had his best game of the summer (which isn't saying much) with seven points and five rebounds and E'Twaun Moore added nine points.

Atlanta (1-2) fielded a team with basically no NBA experience so its no wonder they got walloped. Rookies Mike Scott (6 rebounds) and John Jenkins paced the Hawks with 12 points while Keith Benson put up 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Boston rolled since they shot 5.7% better from the field (41.8-36.1), hit seven more 3-pointers (9-2) and made seven more free throws (22-15).

The Celtics led 23-16 after one quarter and 49-31 at halftime. Boston were up by as many as 23 points as their chemistry forged last week in Orlando started to take over. The Hawks cut it to 10 in the third quarter but still trailed 67-52 heading into the fourth.

Boston plays Chicago (0-0) tomorrow night (10 p.m., NBA TV).

Patriots Still The 6th Most Valuable Team In The World, Red Sox No. 24 According To Forbes

Nothing can keep the New England Patriots' value down, as evidenced by Forbes Magazine's latest rankings of the world's 50 most valuable sports franchises.

Just like last year, Bob Kraft's NFL team is sixth with an estimated value of $1.4 billion (up from $1.37 billion in 2011). He bought the downtrodden team in 1994 for $175 million which was an NFL record for that time. Remember when he tried to move them to Hartford, CT? That dumb idea seems like a million years ago. I'm no billionaire or even millionaire, but I'd say that was a good investment and decision to stay in Foxboro.

The Patriots are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers, behind soccer superpowers Manchester United ($2.23 billion) and Real Madrid ($1.88 billion), the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys ($1.85 billion) and Washington Redskins ($1.56 billion).

That makes New England the third most valuable NFL franchise and fourth most lucrative American sports team. Don't ask me how the Redskins are higher, perhaps uberbozo Dan Snyder made up his profits, it wouldn't surprise me.

Everyone knows the NFL is the undisputed king in America and with profit sharing not to mention insane contracts for broadcast rights with four major networks, all 32 NFL teams are in the top 50. If you're looking to make money, the average NFL team is worth $1.04 billion with 15 over that insane mark. Of course, the Jacksonville Jaguars bring up the rear at an estimated value of $725 million. Remind me again why they are still in that backwater market with no team in LA?

The only other Boston team to make the list was the Boston Red Sox who despite all their dumb moves and losing ways the past three years, found themselves sitting at No. 24 overall ($1 billion). You know that burns Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Warner, plus president and CEO Larry Lucchino to be so far behind the Pats so expect them to make an all out marketing blitz (if that's possible) to squeeze even more money from a team that we all wish they had sold years ago.

I Almost Can't Believe It But The Red Sox Won A Series In Tampa Bay

Even Josh Beckett's killer hangover couldn't derail the Red Sox this afternoon as they picked up a series win in Tampa Bay thanks to a 7-3 victory at Tropicana Field.

Boston (45-44, 23-20 away) won two out of three in its first series of the 2012 second half thanks to some solid pitching that held Tampa Bay (46-43, 25-21 home) to nine total runs. Alfredo Aceves made it interesting by walking the bases loaded in the ninth but he got Hideki Matsui to fly out to the warning track to end it.

You must forgive the Texas Toughguy for allowing three runs in the first inning. After all, he was pounding Bud Heavies with Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz the night before at a swanky Tampa hotel (an oxymoron if I've ever made one up). That has to be the reason he's now given up eight runs in the first during his last two starts (5 against the Yankees).

I will give Beckett (5-7) credit (mark it down, since this will rarely happen) but he quieted the Rays' punchless lineup after that. Beckett went six innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.

James Shields (8-6) also allowed three runs in the first for Tampa Bay and he ended up not really recovering. In five innings (113 pitches!), Shields gave up six earned runs on 11 hits with five strikeouts and three walks. For what it's worth, him and Beckett (4.44) have the exact same ERA this season. Wonder if James likes golf?

The Red Sox lineup showed life this weekend thanks to the return of Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, run, double) and Will Middlebrooks (3 hits, double, 2 RBIs, run). Mike Aviles (2 hits, 2 RBIs, run), Adrian Gonzalez (2 hits, run, RBI) and David Ortiz (2 hits, walk) also each contributed multiple hits in the slow as molasses win on Sunday (3 hours, 36 minutes). Would you believe that Aviles (46) and Gonzalez have the same amount of RBIs this season? What a nightmare.

Ben Zobrist led the Rays (3 hits, double, run, RBI, walk) while Will Rhymes (2 hits, run), Carlos Pena (2 hits, run) and Elliot Johnson (2 hits, double and walk) all had good days at the plate. Still, Tampa Bay's playoff hopes likely rest on Evan Longoria's tender hamstring. Without his presence, their offense is awful and the starting pitching has been good but far from great.

After missing the first two games with back spasms (picked up while shaking hands with a kid at the mall, haha or so he said), Gonzalez returned with an RBI single in the first inning.

The Rays went ahead 3-1 on Zobrist's infield single that scored a run and Desmond Jennings' two-run single.

Mike Aviles tied it with a two-run homer in the second, his 10th of the season, and Daniel Nava made it 4-3 in the fifth with his fourth homer of the season. Middlebrooks' two-run single later in the frame was the most vital hit of the entire contest.

Boston had the bases loaded with no outs in the sixth but all they could get was a sacrifice fly by Cody Ross. Regardless, the Red Sox were 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position and they left eight on base Sunday; the Rays were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and they left 11 on base.

Junichi Tazawa made his first appearance since April (replacing Scott Atchison who went on the DL with tightness in his forearm) but he could only get one out. He was pulled after allowing two hits. Mark Melancon bailed him out by pitching 1.2 scoreless innings that included a strikeout but only took 19 pitches.

Some sweaty bald guy named Kevin Youkilis comes to Fenway Park tomorrow with the White Sox (49-39, 1st place in AL Central). After four with Chicago, Boston hosts Toronto for three more games at Fenway.

Bobby V's six-man rotation will be in full effect tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) as Aaron Cook (2-2) takes on Dylan Axelrod (1-2). On Tuesday (7:10 p.m., NESN), Jon Lester (5-6) faces Philip Humber (3-4). Wednesday night (7:10, NESN) brings us that Felix Doubront (9-4) vs. Jose Quintana (4-1) matchup that the world has been clamoring for. Thursday night (7:10, NESN) should be the best game as Franklin Morales (2-2) opposes Jake Peavy (7-6).

If your eyes and ears don't bleed too much from the glut of coverage of Youk's return to Boston, after only a few weeks in the Windy City, also keep in mind that Carl Crawford is supposed to make his 2012 Red Sox debut tomorrow as well. Should be a fun night.

UPDATE 7/16: Scrub Brent Lillibridge was designated for assignment to make room for Crawford on the 25-man roster. Crawford and Youk will both hit second in tonight's respective lineups.

Friday, July 13, 2012

This Could Be A Big Year In Matt Bartkowski's Professional Hockey Career, No Really

If you truly remember anything about Matt Bartkowski's completely anonymous Bruins career (9 total games), you are a hopeless loser just like me.

He has to be the most forgettable player that has appeared in more than one game for the B's the past two seasons. Today, the defenseman signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Black and Gold.

He will make $660,000 in the NHL and $62,500 in Providence (AHL) where he has spent a majority of his time in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Bartkowski played in six games with the Bruins in 2010-11 but had a line of 0 goals, 0 assists, -1 and four penalty minutes.

He actually broke camp with the B's last fall but only appeared in three games (0 goals, 0 assists, -2) before being sent down to Providence for good. The stay-at-home defenseman had three goals, 19 assists and 38 penalty minutes in 50 games with the baby B's.

It goes without saying that it should be a big year in terms of development for Bartkowski. He's 24 and a former seventh-round pick of the Panthers in 2008. This will be his fifth season as a pro so that's generally when a prospect starts to pan out or he tops out in the AHL and ends up playing for most of his career there.

Boston's defensive corps is already pretty stacked but as we all know, those guys tend to go down with injuries the most since they block so many shots and are put in harm's way more than anybody else. Let's hope that Bartkowski (a Pittsburgh native) is able to take that next step and prove that he belongs in the NHL. Otherwise, he might not last in the organization much longer.

The Dream Is Over: Celtics' Unbeaten Summer League Run Goes Down In Flames

After three very solid games in a row to start the 2012 Orlando Summer League, the Celtics laid an egg this afternoon against the Pistons.

Detroit (3-1) led the whole way and coasted to an easy 93-79 victory over Boston (3-1) to hand them their first loss of the week or summer if you will. All you need to know about how one-sided it was: the Pistons shot 12.5% better (48.6-36.1) and dished out 14 more assists (23-9).

Here come the excuses: the Celtics gave their main starters a bit of a break so the bench guys started. Not that it mattered since the Pistons were on fire all game long; credit to Boston for cutting it to seven in the fourth but they were never really in it.

Former Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight looked like Rajon Rondo with a game-high 19 points and 14 assists. Austin Daye had 15 points and eight rebounds, Khris Middleton scored 12 points and UConn product Andre Drummoned added 10 points and eight rebounds.

The two real bright spots for the C's were JaJuan Johnson (17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks), who had his best performance of the week and Kris Joseph (17 points, 11 rebounds), who continues to open eyes. Jamar Smith had 13 points, Jared Sullinger struggled from the field (2-for-9) but still managed 11 points and seven rebounds while Dionte Christmas scored his customary 10 points.

Boston closes out its week in Orlando with a matchup against the host Magic (2-2) tomorrow morning (10 a.m., NBA TV). After that, the C's will fly to Las Vegas as they are also participating in NBA Summer League in Sin City. Their first game there is on Monday night vs. Atlanta (6 p.m., NBA TV).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Celtics Keeping Rolling In Orlando Summer League, Too Bad The Wins Are Meaningless

The beauty of NBA Summer Leagues is that provided you have a working DVR, you can watch your favorite team play a bunch of games in a short period of time. The results don't mean much and the rosters are made up of many has-beens, never weres and never will-bes but still, there is a reason to pay attention. You could be seeing the next great rookie or guy that comes out of nowhere like Jeremy Lin.

Boston (3-0) is the only unbeaten team left in Orlando as they knocked off Indiana (2-1) 85-77 this afternoon. It's unusual to see a Summer League team, which are usually thrown together at the last minute, have chemistry but the C's appear to work well together.

Six Celtics scored in double-figures led by Jared Sullinger (16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) and E'Twaun Moore (15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists). Kris Joseph (12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals) continues to be the most pleasant surprise for the Green and Dionte Christmas (10 points, 5 assists, 3 steals) has a good chance to make some NBA team while Jamar Smith (12 points) and JaJuan Johnson (11 points, 5 rebounds) both provided a lift off the bench.

The Pacers were a two-man team with Lance Stephenson (19 points, 7 turnovers) hogging the ball and Miles Plumlee (18 points, 8 rebounds) cleaning up inside despite his goofy hairdo.

There was plenty to like about Boston's effort since they basically outworked Indiana in every category which must have drove Larry Bird (sitting courtside) crazy. The Celtics shot 11% better from the field (51.6-40.6), grabbed six more rebounds (37-31), handed out twice as many assists (16-8), made one more steal (10-9) and two more blocks (7-5).

It was tight the whole way but the Celts outscored the Pacers in every quarter. Boston led 18-15 after one quarter and 36-31 at halftime. The C's edged the Pacers 19-18 in the third then both teams exploded in the fourth (30-28 Boston).

Once again, Boston gets the early start (11 a.m., NBA TV) as they face Detroit (2-1) tomorrow afternoon. Look out for UConn big man Andre Drummond on the Pistons, who has the potential to be great in the NBA or a complete bust. Nobody really knows which is part of what makes the Connecticut native so intriguing.

The Bruins' Summer Of Inactivity Continues: 2 More Scrubs Added To Providence

Those of us hoping the Boston Bruins would make any kind of notable moves this summer have been pretty disappointed in the first few weeks since all they've done is basically sign depth guys for the Providence Bruins (AHL).

Today, the B's inked defenseman Garnet Exelby and forward Lane MacDermid to one-year, two-way contracts. Exelby will make $600,000 in the NHL and $130,000 in the AHL; MacDermid will earn $600,000 with the big club and $70,000 in the minor leagues.

At this point, these two players are at different parts of their respective careers. Exelby is 30 (he'll be 31 next month) and he's played 408 games in the NHL (Atlanta, Toronto) over seven seasons. In that time, he scored seven goals, had 43 assists, amassed 584 penalty minutes and his plus/minus was -28 mostly because of a brutal 2007-08 with the Thrashers (-21).

His most recent taste of the good life was 2009-10 with the Maple Leafs. He played for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings' AHL team, last season and piled up seven goals, 14 assists and 177 penalty minutes in 75 games. I can't ever remember seeing him but looking at his stats, he has to be a goon. That is clearly his role, a defensive enforcer.

Here's a fight of his from last season, January 17 vs. Justin Soryal of the Charlotte Checkers.

MacDermid is only 22 (he turns 23 in August) and the Hartford, CT native actually played five games for Boston last season when they were dealing with a bunch of injuries to their bottom six forwards. The former fourth-round pick in 2009 (112th overall by the Bruins) and son of an NHL player (Paul MacDermid) who played 13 years in the league, Lane didn't register any points and was -2 but you will remember him for his first NHL shift: on March 4 he fought Rangers tough guy Mike Rupp in a memorable bout at Madison Square Garden.

More so than Exelby, MacDermid has a much better chance of finding himself back with Boston at some point next season depending on who's hurt and/or playing poorly. He seems to be a guy that knows his role and would be able to play on the fourth line pretty soon. In 69 games for Providence last season, he had four goals and 12 assists along with 121 penalty minutes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Poor David Ortiz, None Of His Teams Can Win Games Anymore

You are forgiven if you missed David Ortiz's abbreviated appearance at the 2012 MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City this evening. It was basically as forgettable as the Red Sox (43-43) this season.

Boston's designated hitter batted seventh for the American League and went 1-for-2 with a single but the National League won 8-0 at Kaufmann Stadium for their third straight win overall. That gives the NL team home-field advantage in the World Series but Boston won't have to worry about that.

In the bottom of the second, Ortiz faced Giants pitcher Matt Cain who started the game. Big Papi gave it a decent ride to left field by the foul pole but Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun caught it for the third out.

Most thought Ortiz would only get one at bat but he stepped to the plate with one out in the fifth and made the most of it by singling to left off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Ortiz eventually reached third base later in the inning but was stranded when Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler flew out with the bases loaded to end the AL's best (and only real) threat.

Ortiz chose to skip the pointless Home Run Derby last night but he still could use a break since he's been the Red Sox' best player in the first half. Along with the rest of MLB, he'll get to relax the next two days before heading to Tampa Bay for a three-game series that begins on Friday night.

You Can't Stop Jonathan Gibson, You Can Only Hope To Contain Him

The Celtics (2-0) staged a nice rally from 17 points down in the first half and 9 points in the fourth quarter as they beat the Nets (0-2) 82-73 tonight in the 2012 Orlando Summer League.

Guard Jonathan Gibson (New Mexico State) went off in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of his 17 points to help Boston take care of Brooklyn. He was 3-for-5 on 3-pointers overall and 4-for-4 from the field in the final frame. Most impressive, he did all his damage in only 14 minutes.

Three other Celtics scored in double-figures: E'Twaun Moore (15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists), Kris Joseph (11 points, 5 rebounds) and Dionte Christmas (10 points). Jared Sullinger (8 points, 12 rebounds) didn't have quite the scoring output of Monday but he made up for it by owning the glass, including four offensive boards. JaJuan Johnson and Jamar Smith each scored eight points as well in the satisfying victory.

Al Thornton led the Nets with 16 points and eight rebounds, showing that his career could get back on track. Providence College alum MarShon Brooks added 13 points and four assists while former No. 3 pick in 2006 Adam Morrison had a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) and rookie point guard Tyshawn Taylor put up 10 points but also seven turnovers.

Boston led 24-18 after one quarter but an extended drought in the second quarter gave Brooklyn a 45-31 advantage at halftime. The Celtics rolled 51-28 in the second half including 30-14 in the fourth quarter.

The C's hit five more 3-pointers (7-2) which made up for six less free throws made (23-17).

After playing in the final game of the day on Tuesday, Boston gets the first one on Wednesday. They'll meet Indiana (2-0), live at 11 a.m. on NBA TV.