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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Red Sox Are 1st AL Team To 50 Wins This Season, Thanks To Walk-Off Error By Blue Jays

Who knows if they'll keep it up the rest of the season but for now, we can reasonably conclude that things are going the Red Sox' way when it comes to wins and losses. Boston (50-34 overall, 28-16 home) beat Toronto (40-41 overall, 18-24 away) 5-4 at Fenway Park to take three of four in the series and keep the best record in the AL. This is only the fourth time in franchise history that they've reached 50 wins before July, the last time was in 2008.

The Red Sox concluded June as the first team in the American League to reach 50 wins and it happened in bizarre fashion since Shane Victorino's easy chopper to first baseman Josh Thole (a defensive sub for Adam Lind who left with back tightness) went under his glove and allowed pinch runner/journeyman Jonathan Diaz to score the winning run. Did I mention that Brandon Snyder (2 for 4) had a two-run double in the second for Boston? Or how about how Ryan Dempster (5.1 innings, 2 earned runs, 7 hits, 2 strikeouts, 3 walks) and Craig Breslow wiggled out of a bases loaded no out jam in the sixth without allowing a run?

Ryan Lavarnway fittingly began the strange game with an ground-rule RBI double in the second. Toronto cut it to 3-2 in the fourth on Colby Rasmus' (2 hits) RBI single and a ground out by Maicer Izturis.

Jonny Gomes put Boston back up by two runs with an RBI double in the fifth. The Blue Jays tied it with solo homers for Jose Reyes in the seventh and Jose Bautista (3 hits) in the ninth which spoiled the fourth save in five days for Koji Uehara (1-0).

Daniel Nava was 2 for 4 with a run in the victory while Edwin Encarnacion (2 for 5 with run) and Rajai Davis (2 for 5 with run and stolen base) each had multiple hits in the loss.

Andrew Miller pitched 1.2 scoreless innings of relief for the Red Sox with a pair of strikeouts, his sixth hold of the season.

Boston gets tomorrow off before they wrap up the final series of this long and productive homestand (5-1) with an interleague matchup: three games against San Diego (40-42 overall, 3rd in NL West). John Lackey (5-5) faces rookie Robbie Erlin (1-0) on Tuesday (7:10, NESN), Jon Lester (8-4) is scheduled to take on Edinson Volquez (6-6) on Wednesday (7:10, NESN) and on the Fourth of July (1:35, NESN) rookie Allen Webster (0-2) gets the ball opposite Eric Stults (6-6).

Friday, June 28, 2013

Koji Uehara Scoffs At Your Days Off As He Converts His Third Save In As Many Nights

Baseball seasons are so long that oftentimes you stumble into the right role for a player when it was only supposed to be a temporary solution. I don't want to get too ahead of myself here but by notching his third save in three games, I think that Koji Uehara looks very promising as a closer this season for the Red Sox. Boston (49-33 overall, 27-15 home) beat Toronto (39-40 overall, 17-23 away) 7-5 tonight at Fenway Park for their fourth straight win that put them a season-high 16 games over .500.

Staked to a 5-0 lead in the fourth, Red Sox rookie pitcher Allen Webster had everything lining up for his first MLB win. However, when he left after six innings the Blue Jays had cut it to 5-4 and Andrew Bailey (remember him?) allowed a solo homer to Edwin Encarnacion (2 for 3, 2 RBIs, walk) in the seventh that tied it at five and handed Webster a no-decision.

Boston manager John Farrell pushed all the right buttons against his former team as Jonny Gomes-pinch hitting for Daniel Nava (2 for 3, run)-came through with an RBI single in the seventh which put the Red Sox back on top for good. Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked with the bases loaded for the final margin.

Andrew Miller (1-2) got four outs in relief for his first win of 2013 then Uehara had his third consecutive clean ninth with two strikeouts for his fourth save of the season. Dustin Pedroia was 3 for 5 with a triple and run plus Jose Iglesias was 2 for 4 with a run and stolen base. New London CT native Rajai Davis was 2 for 4 with two stolen bases and a run for the Blue Jays.

Stephen Drew had a two-run triple in the second but he left in the fourth with a hamstring injury following a double. It is truly shocking to see a warrior like one of the Drew brothers get hurt. I'm sure he'll be right back in the lineup tomorrow. Mike Napoli had an RBI single in the third and Jacoby Ellsbury (2 for 5, run) knocked out overrated Josh Johnson with a two-run single in the fourth.

For once, Toronto got back into a game by playing small ball and not simply relying on homers. Jose Bautista and Encarnacion had RBI singles in the fifth while Adam Lind added a sacrifice fly. Maicer Izturis trimmed it to 5-4 Boston with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Boston and Toronto face each other tomorrow afternoon in a rare 4:05 p.m. start on NESN. Felix Doubront (4-3) takes on mighty Esmil Rogers (3-3) and people have been talking about this matchup for weeks, haha yeah right.

UPDATE 6/29: Drew isn't on the DL (yet) but the Red Sox called up Jonathan Diaz from Pawtucket. Diaz is in the lineup today at third base, making his MLB debut. To make room on the roster, Clayton Mortensen was designated for assignment.

Let The Tanking Begin! Pierce & Garnett Shipped To Nets For 5 Players & 3 Future First-Round Picks

The end of the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett era with the Celtics officially came to a bizarre end tonight as both were shipped to Brooklyn in a blockbuster deal along with Jason Terry that totally overshadowed the mostly dull 2013 NBA Draft (in terms of possible star players in the future). The Nets will send in return Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph (drafted by Boston last year), the expiring deal of Kris Humphries, Reggie Evans and Keith Bogans along with three first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Once Doc Rivers went to the Clippers earlier this week, you knew that this day was coming soon especially since Pierce was owed an option for next season by Sunday. Rivers, KG and Pierce would have preferred to stay together but the players wouldn't have been able to join the Clippers this season because of an obscure NBA rule so the Celts had to find a new suitor: enter the Nets who have money to burn and seats to fill at the Barclays Center. This makes Brooklyn-a playoff team last season-much more of a contender. They should win the Atlantic Division and home court at least in the first round of the playoffs when their new additions mesh with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.

It will be strange to see both of these guys in Brooklyn, who just hired Jason Kidd to be their head coach. Pierce spent his entire career with the Celtics (since 1998!) and KG was here since 2007 but it felt like even longer. Both are locks to make the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. Boston has now fully committed to tanking next season (for Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker?) and they are basically guaranteed to be awful for a few seasons. Who can blame them though? Getting lottery picks (to use or trade) is the only way for the C's to rebuild since truth be told Boston is not a coveted destination for most quality free agents. Losing Doc meant they had less of a drawing card and now without KG and Pierce, expect plenty of empty seats at TD Garden in 2013-14.

You have to wonder if Boston's final step is to trade Rajon Rondo-the only player they have left with any real value. In some ways it's tough to see them centering the new look team around a guy that's such a pain in the ass and anything but a leader. Oh and they still don't have a head coach. Yeesh. We wish KG and Pierce well, their jerseys will be retired in the rafters someday soon and we'll always have the 2008 NBA title plus six playoff bids in all six seasons that they were teammates.

What do the next few years have in store for the Celtics (other than many losses)? Your guess is as good as mine at this puzzling moment.

UPDATE 6/28: Instead of Evans, former PC star MarShon Brooks (who was also originally drafted by Boston) was included in the package to the Celtics.

UPDATE 6/30: To create another roster spot and free up a little salary, the Celtics waived guard Terrence Williams.

Celtics Get Much Bigger & Whiter In The Draft, What Is This 1985?

I tried not to get my hopes up too much but the Celtics had their highest first round pick (No. 16) in years so I was excited. Needless to say, tonight's events at the 2013 NBA Draft involving the Green and White didn't thrill me (more on that in a subsequent post). Boston selected Gonzaga power forward Kelly Olynyk in the first round then traded cash to the Pacers for a second-round pick (53rd) that they used on Colorado State center Colton Iverson.

I'm a huge college hoops fan and I actually like watching West Coast Conference games mostly because I always stay up late so I know more about Gonzaga, St. Mary's, BYU etc. than most. Olynyk is talented but it's hard to see him making a big leap in the NBA facing much more talented, athletic and tough opponents. In the mid-major WCC, he was able to dominate (17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds) against mainly scrubs. What gives him a chance is that he can shoot three-pointers and is pretty adept at shooting from all over the court. That should help him since even though he's seven feet tall, I don't think he'll be spending much time backing guys down in the paint.

As for Iverson, I don't know nearly as much as him despite the fact that the Mountain West Conference has been really good the last few seasons. He's a tough rebounder but the fact that he went this late in what I predict will go down as one of the worst drafts in recent memory doesn't bode well for his future in the NBA. Besides, late second-round picks are basically extra bodies for summer league and training camp. If you hit on one great but you can't expect to find that many gems.

Here's the best highlight reel I could find on YouTube of Olynyk this past season with the Bulldogs.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Still Hate John Lackey But I Can Admit That The Man Is Pitching Well

Lackey and Stephen Drew are the only two guys currently on the Red Sox that I refuse to cheer for with Jonny Gomes just missing out on the list. Granted, I can appreciate when any of them do something positive to help the team and right now, Lackey (5-5) might be Boston's best starting pitcher. Haha seriously. This afternoon was probably his best outing in a Red Sox (47-33 ovearll, 25-15 home) uniform, which isn't saying much, as Boston beat Colorado (39-40 overall, 16-23 away) 5-3 during interleague play at Fenway Park.

Against the highest scoring team in the National League, Lackey went seven innings and allowed two earned runs on eight hits with a career-high 12 strikeouts and no walks. Staked to a 5-1 lead, Junichi Tazawa gave up a solo homer to Michael Cuddyer in the eighth but Koji Uehara was able to get a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts for his second save (first as the closer).

There was plenty to like in Boston's mini two-game sweep of Colorado. For one thing, their offense had double digit hits (10). Wilin Rosario (double) gave the Rockies a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in their first at bats but the Red Sox scored three in the first then added two in the third which turned out to be enough.

Shane Victorino (3 for 4 with double, 2 runs) had an RBI single that scored Jacoby Ellsbury (double), David Ortiz (2 walks, run) notched an RBI double and Daniel Nava made it 3-1 with an RBI single.

Mike Napoli had an RBI single in the third and Nava drove in the last run with a sacrifice fly. Cuddyer extended his hit streak to 23 games with a solo homer off Lackey in the sixth.

Fresh off an 11-game win streak that put them back over .500 and vaulted them into the AL East race, the Blue Jays (39-38, 5th in AL East) visit Fenway for four games this weekend beginning tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) with Jon Lester (7-4) facing ex-Yankee Chien-Ming Wang (1-0). Felix Doubront (4-3) takes on Josh Johnson (1-2) on Friday (7:10, NESN). Rookie Allen Webster (0-2) gets his fourth MLB start against Esmil Rogers (3-3) on Saturday afternoon (4:05, NESN). Canadian Ryan Dempster (5-8) closes it out on Sunday afternoon (1:35, NESN) versus Mark Buehrle (4-5). Boston is 5-4 against Toronto so far this season.

Wrapping Up A Wonderful Season For The Bruins

The Bruins had their final interviews this afternoon at TD Garden as they packed their stuff and headed out for a shortened summer vacation. The most interesting part of this day is all the hidden injuries that are revealed to the media: the showstopper was from Patrice Bergeron who on top of all his other serious maladies suffered a punctured lung after Game 6 and was in the hospital until tonight. Zdeno Chara (hip flexor), Dennis Seidenberg (hamstring) and Jaromir Jagr (head and back) were the other key players with major injuries. Nathan Horton is set for surgery on his shoulder this offseason.

Boston GM Peter Chiarelli actually admitted that he told defenseman Andrew Ference and Jagr (free agents to be) that they won't be back in the Hub next season. You knew that Jagr was just a rental when they obtained him at the trade deadline and with Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton all pushing for minutes, Ference's time was up. Still, it is a real shame to say goodbye to the pro athlete in Boston that has embraced the city more than any other currently here. Of course that doesn't mean much if he can't play but Ference is everything you'd want in a veteran leader: tough, smart, great with the media and steps his game up when it matters the most. He played with the Bruins for seven years and won a Cup in 2011 as well as reaching the Stanley Cup Final this season. I will always be a Ference fan.

Signing Horton is a priority and obviously Bergeron is going to get a long-term extension to hopefully keep him with the Bruins for his entire career. Finally, Boston's main goal in the next few weeks is to sign Rask to a huge deal. He earned it with a great playoff run, proving that he is a franchise goaltender for them to build around.

UPDATE 6/29: Horton told Chiarelli that he's going to test free agency and won't sign a contract with the Bruins. Ugh.

Aaron Hernandez: Released By The Patriots & Charged With Murder

Earlier this week, it was easy to say this was one of the worst times in Boston sports history: Ray Allen won an NBA title with the Heat, Doc Rivers left for the Clippers and the Bruins fell in the Stanley Cup Final to the Blackhawks. That all seems trivial and insignificant with the unthinkable chapter that unfolded today, the Patriots released tight end Aaron Hernandez and he was charged with the first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd and he also faces five other gun-related charges.

Now is not the time or place to lament the bind this puts the Patriots in next season. Hernandez was a great player but seriously, who cares? From the beginning when this started to unfold last week, I think most objective people had a feeling that this was going to get very ugly. Still, it was surreal to see Massachusetts State Police drag Hernandez out of his mansion in North Attleboro this morning then watching him appear in the Attleboro district court this afternoon.

There really isn't much to take away from a shocking event like this besides the fact that just like in real life, we can't assume that we know a single thing about a person even if they are famous-celebrities or athletes. Professional sports teams these days do their best to keep the knuckleheads in check and it's not like they can ever expect something horrific like this to transpire involving one of their players.

That is the only time I'm going to mention this since A) Hernandez is not on the Patriots anymore and B) I have nothing productive to add.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Red Sox Clobber Rockies With Season-High 20 Hits In A Convincing 11-4 Win At Fenway

As far as most people were concerned, the Red Sox' 2013 regular season unofficially started tonight as the Bruins lost Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final last night thus ending their excellent campaign. Boston (46-33 overall, 24-15 home) acquitted themselves quite nicely in its first game under the true spotlight as they rolled 11-4 over Colorado (39-39 overall, 16-22 away) during interleague play at Fenway Park.

To start a nine games in 10 days homestand, the Red Sox had a season-high 20 hits while Ryan Dempster (5-8) turned in a quality start: six innings, two earned runs on six hits with four strikeouts and two walks. The immortal Juan Nicasio (4-4) gave the Rockies no shot as he was roughed up for seven runs (six earned) on 12 hits in 2.1 IP.

Everyone in Boston's lineup had at least one hit, led by Jacoby Ellsbury (3 runs, double, walk), Dustin Pedroia (4 RBIs, two runs, double, stolen base), Daniel Nava (RBI) and Jose Iglesias (2 runs, double) who all had three hits. Shane Victorino was 2 for 5 with a double, run, RBI and stolen base, Mike Napoli was 2 for 5 with two RBIs and a walk and Stephen Drew was 2 for 5 with a triple (that should have been a homer) and a run.

By the time the third inning was over, the Red Sox were comfortably ahead 7-1. Pedroia and Nava had RBI singles in the first before Wilin Rosario (3 for 4) had a solo homer off Dempster in the second. Pedroia and David Ortiz added RBI doubles in the second for a 4-1 Boston lead. Napoli had an RBI single later in the frame followed by RBI singles by Victorino and Pedroia in the third.

Nick Arenado's (3 for 4 with double) RBI single in the fourth cut it to 7-2 but Iglesias answered with an RBI double. Colorado pretended to make it a tad interesting in the seventh with a run coming in on Victorino's error and Carlos Gonzalez's RBI single but the Red Sox tacked on three additional runs in the seventh and eighth. Pedroia drove in another run with a sacrifice fly, Napoli hit an RBI single and a run scored on Victorino's ground out.

Colorado's Michael Cuddyer was 2 for 5 with a run which was more than enough to keep his MLB-best 22-game hitting streak alive and well. The Rockies' first visit to Fenway since the 2007 World Series is a short one since the series finale is tomorrow afternoon (4:05, NESN) with John Lackey (4-5) taking on Roy Oswalt (0-1) who makes his second start for Colorado.

UPDATE 6/26: Beato was sent back to Pawtucket with reliever Clayton Mortensen reinstated from the DL.

Blackhawks Stun Bruins With Last-Minute Rally To Capture The Stanley Cup

There have been so many brutal losses in the last few years by Boston sports teams: Patriots Super Bowls in 2007 and 2012, Celtics losing Game 7 to Lakers in 2010 NBA Finals and the Bruins Game 7 loss to the Flyers in 2010. It's almost impossible to crack that unwanted starting lineup but tonight's 3-2 loss in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden to the Blackhawks was a very painful new chapter for the B's and their dedicated fanbase.

Chicago won its second Cup in four years and Patrick Kane was the third straight American (joining Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick) to win the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP). The Blackhawks were the better team-by a slim margin-in this series and they are about as likable an opponent as you can imagine but the Bruins and their fans will be left wondering for years what could have been after they blew a 2-1 lead with less than 1:30 left in regulation.

Bryan Bickell tied it at two at 18:44 on a one-timer from Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. It was Bickell's ninth goal of the postseason and it came after a bunch of incredible plays by his teammates to win the puck then find him.

Before the TD Garden PA announcer could even mention that goal, Dave Bolland scored the Cup-clinching goal only 17 seconds later. Yes, Dave Bolland. Michael Frolik's shot went off the post and Bolland was there to sweep in the rebound past Tuukka Rask (28 saves). Johnny Oduya had the second assist on Bolland's third goal of the postseason. He has to be one of the most obscure players to get the game-winner in a Cup-clincher.

Not to say the Blackhawks didn't have injuries but the Bruins were extremely banged up which is part of the reason that their loss felt so rough. Chris Kelly made it 1-0 at 7:19 of the first period as Daniel Paille chipped the puck to Tyler Seguin who gloved it down then sauced it over to Kelly for his second goal of the postseason.

Boston absolutely dominated the first period, outshooting Chicago 12-6, and they should have forged a bigger lead. I was thinking that even before Toews tied it at one at 4:24 of the second period. His 2-on-1 snap shot beat Rask through his five-hole for Chicago's captain's third goal of the postseason, unassisted.

Milan Lucic looked to be the hero for Boston as he put the B's up 2-1 with 7:49 left in regulation. His seventh goal of the postseason was assisted by David Krejci who stationed himself behind Chicago's net and Corey Crawford (23 saves). Looch was out in front to poke in the rebound that he had created.

After the shocking loss, Patrice Bergeron admitted that he had a broken rib and torn cartilage in his ribs from Game 5 on top of a separated shoulder he suffered tonight. It is incredible that he suited up in Game 6 and wasn't a liability by any means. Expect to hear about many more injuries for both teams in the coming days now that the season is finally over.

It's a strange feeling, there won't be any Bruins games until October but it might take a little while to realize that depressing fact. They took us all on an incredible journey this spring/early summer and further bolstered their resume as the most likable squad (by far) in Boston. They survived three rounds of playoffs and went toe-to-toe with the best team in the NHL. Chicago outscored Boston 17-15 in the Final with four one-goal games (3 OT games) and a pair of two-goal games showing how close this series was and also how difficult it is to win a Cup (making us appreciate 2011 even more).

Thank you Bruins, we can't wait for next season!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Doc Rivers Says Goodbye To Boston, Starts New NBA Journey With Clippers

We can't let this bizarre ending that dragged on far too long overshadow the important point: Doc Rivers was wildly successful in his nine years as head coach of the Celtics and was a big part of them being relevant again in the NBA. Now that it appears his time is over in Boston with reports of him going to the Clippers and signing a three-year deal worth $21 million (in return for a first-round draft pick in 2015), we can look back and fully appreciate the excellent run that he had with the Celts.

Doc started out in Boston in 2004-05. The dysfunctional team that he inherited went 45-37 but lost to the Pacers in a seven-game first round series complete with Paul Pierce's meltdown at the postgame press conference with a ridiculous bandage on his head. To get good again, the Celts truly had to bottom out which they successfully did in the next two seasons. Tanking put them in prime position to get the No. 1 or 2 pick (Greg Oden or Kevin Durant) in 2007's draft but as it turned out the ping pong balls didn't bounce their way and they were stuck with the No. 5 pick.

That's when things changed though as Danny Ainge traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen which totally transformed the franchise and returned it to the glory days with a title in their first season, a return to the Finals two years later (2010) and one last memorable run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 vs. Miami.

Let's not get it twisted, coaching in the NBA is largely akin to a babysitting position and less of a teaching role than in MLB, NHL or NFL. More so than any of those other three professional sports, it's a player's league. That's no disrespect to Rivers, he's a very good coach but most importantly, he could handle the huge egos in the Celtics' locker room. It also didn't hurt that he was great with the media (he used to be a fine NBA broadcaster) and a standup guy to boot with the All-American family of athletes. These are admirable qualities and not something you find in your average NBA lifer who has no personality or coaching acumen.

Doc Rivers came to the Celtics at the perfect time and as a result, he was transformed into one of the most well respected coaches in the NBA. His regular season record in Boston was 416-305 (.577%) and playoff record was 59-47 (.557%). He coached in the NBA All-Star Game twice (2008 and 2011) and his teams made the playoffs in seven of nine seasons.

Who can blame him for wanting out? Everybody knows that the C's are about to embark on another rebuilding project that will center around the mercurial Rajon Rondo. Doc has plenty of other interests and he doesn't want to be a coach for life which means after paying his dues once, he wants to coach a contender. The Clippers certainly fit the bill-assuming they re-sign Chris Paul. Rivers leaves impossibly big shoes to fill and I have no clue who the Celtics will choose to replace him. They can go with a young, energetic no-name guy (think Tom Thibodeau) or perhaps an NBA retread like George Karl or Lionel Hollins who have surprisingly found themselves out of a job this spring after leading their respective squads to the playoffs.

It'll be a busy couple weeks for the Celtics as they look for a new head coach, draft a player on Thursday (No. 16) and decide whether to buy out Pierce by June 30 or have him return next season.

Red Sox & Umpires Conspire To Help Tigers Gain 7-5 Win In Series Finale

It figures that on a day when the Red Sox made Justin Verlander look ordinary, they still couldn't come out on top as they lost 7-5 to the Tigers at Comerica Park. Detroit (42-32 overall, 26-13 home) won the series 3-1 as Boston (45-33 overall, 22-18 away) limps home for a nine-game homestand.

After the best outing of his career, Felix Doubront had his typical performance: five innings, three runs (two earned), four hits, two strikeouts and four walks on 104 pitches.

Not sure what's up with Verlander but he's not himself. He went five innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and three walks.

Boston was going to blow the game anyway since it was tied 4-4 in the eighth with Andrew Miller (0-2) on the mound but they got no favors from four blind umpires who ruled that Daniel Nava's catch wasn't actually a catch. It was enough to get John Farrell ejected and from there, Detroit tacked on three more runs with Torii Hunter's sacrifice fly and Prince Fielder's (2 hits, 3 RBIs) two-run single.

The Red Sox tried to rally in the ninth as Jonny Gomes had an RBI double but new Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit (2-0) was able to escape thanks to Hunter's diving catch on Stephen Drew's liner to end it.

Miguel Cabrera (2 hits, walk) had a ground-rule RBI double in the first and Fielder drove in another run with a ground out in the first for a 2-0 Tigers lead.

Boston tied it with two runs in the second on Ryan Lavarnway's RBI single and Jacoby Ellsbury's (2 hits, double, stolen base) sacrifice fly. Detroit went back ahead on Lavarnway's passed ball in the home half of the second.

Mike Napoli's ground out in the third and Shane Victorino's ground out in the fourth put Boston up a run (4-3). Things started to unravel in the seventh as Miller hit Jhonny Peralta with the bases loaded to tie it at four.

Dustin Pedroia was 3 for 5 with two runs and a walk while David Ortiz was 3 for 5. Austin Jackson reached base five times going 2 for 2 with three runs, three walks and a double.

Boston gets a day off tomorrow then they will enjoy a nine-game homestand until July 4: two games vs. Colorado (39-38, 2nd in NL West), four vs. Toronto (38-36, 4th in AL East) and three vs. San Diego (38-38, 4th in NL West). It should be a sneaky challenge since all three teams are .500 or better with the Rockies and Padres representing two of the biggest surprises in MLB while the Blue Jays have currently won 11 games in a row.

Ryan Dempster (4-8) faces Juan Nicasio (4-3) on Tuesday (7:10, NESN) and John Lackey (4-5) opposes Roy Oswalt (0-1) on Tuesday afternoon (4:05, NESN). It's a 2007 World Series rematch with very few of the same guys left on the respective teams!

UPDATE 4/25: A flurry of moves for the Red Sox today as infielder Brandon Snyder was called up from Pawtucket, Will Middlebrooks went to the PawSox and David Ross was moved to the 60-day DL.

Franklin Morales is going back to the DL and Pedro Beato is being recalled from the PawSox.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Blackhawks Win Game 5 3-1 to Take 3-2 Series Lead In The Stanley Cup Final

The Bruins have run out of options, to win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons now they'll have to win their final two games after they fell 3-1 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight at the United Center to the Blackhawks. Chicago will have a chance to capture their second Cup in four years on Monday (8, NBC) at TD Garden. Boston won Games 2 & 3 but Chicago has rallied to win Games 4 & 5.

It would be bad enough to be facing elimination at the hands of a very worthy opponent but the B's also have to worry about the health of one of their most invaluable players-Patrice Bergeron. Between the second and third period, he left the arena in an ambulance and after the game it was reported that he has a spleen injury. Yikes. The only solace for Boston is that if Bergeron can't play in Game 6, his Chicago counterpart Jonathan Toews also seems unlikely to suit up after he suffered what appeared to be a concussion from a hit by Johnny Boychuk in the second period.

Chicago won Game 5 because of the offensive brilliance of Patrick Kane who had their first two goals. Corey Crawford (24 saves) was good but Kane showed that there's a reason he's known for more than his bozo mullet and late-night antics.

Kane opened the scoring at 17:27 after Johnny Oduya's shot broke Dennis Seidenberg's stick then deflected off Toews to Kane who was able to shovel it in past Tuukka Rask (29 saves). It was Kane's eighth goal of the postseason.

He showed off more of his world class skill in the second period as he roofed a backhander over Rask at 5:13. Bryan Bickell and Toews assisted as the former wrapped around the net and Kane once again found himself in front of the net for the rebound.

Boston never had a power play in Game 5 and Bergeron's absence certainly didn't help their sputtering offense. Rask kept them in the game with a couple top-notch saves and Zdeno Chara cut it to 2-1 at 3:40 of the third period. His one-timer from David Krejci and Milan Lucic was such a rocket that it immediately came back out of the top corner of the net.

The Bruins didn't get that much pressure on the Blackhawks for the tying goal but they did take their timeout and won a faceoff in Chicago's end with time running out. Torey Krug tried to keep the puck in the zone at the point but he got blatantly tripped. This led to a Chicago rush and empty-netter by Dave Bolland with 14 seconds left. Look, the B's didn't lose because of that no-call but I just wanted to mention it since it was so obvious.

Carl Soderberg made his NHL playoff debut and believe it or not, he didn't look bad at all. It makes you wonder why Kaspars Daugavins had been playing since Gregory Campbell went down because the Dog man is atrocious. Soderberg started on the fourth line with Rich Peverley and Shawn Thornton but moved up to Bergeron's spot after he left. Something to keep an eye on in Game 6. I shudder to think who would be in the lineup without Bergeron (most likely Jordan Caron or Daugavins).

Aside from our own rooting interest, I hope that the Stanley Cup Final goes the distance (seven games) since this has been such a wonderful series for the sport. It's impossible to predict what exactly will happen Monday but you have to feel like the B's will throw everything they've got at the Blackhawks after coming this far.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Help Wanted: Red Sox Closer

Ever since the Red Sox decided not to pay Jonathan Papelbon two winters ago and let him sign with the Phillies, they have found very little success replacing him. Joel Hanrahan was terrible then out for the season months ago and now Andrew Bailey has blown four saves. This comes after missing most of 2012 with various injuries. At least they ruined Daniel Bard's promising career (the obvious next closer after Papelbon left) by stretching him out last season and trying to convert him into a starter. Ugh.

Tonight, Boston (44-31 overall, 21-16 away) led Detroit (40-31 overall, 24-12 home) 3-2 in the ninth inning of the series opener at Comerica Park. Bailey walked Victor Martinez then allowed a two-run walk-off homer to Jhonny Peralta. After the game Red Sox manager John Farrell alluded to the fact that the Red Sox will change closers, however he left out the important part about who he had in mind for this important job. I'd nominate Junichi Tazawa since Koji Uehara is perfect for the eighth inning and Andrew Miller is way too unpredictable to trust in that role.

Like every walk-off loss, it was a bitter setback since Boston played well enough to beat one of the best teams in the AL in their home park. David Ortiz hit a solo homer in the fourth, his 15th, then Jacoby Ellsbury drove in Jose Iglesias with an RBI single in the fifth. Iglesias had tripled.

Torii Hunter tied it with a bloop two-run single in the fifth for the Tigers. John Lackey had his sixth quality start in his last seven outings: 7 innings, 2 earned runs on 7 hits with 5 strikeouts and 1 walk. For Detroit, former Red Sox prospect Jose Alvarez went five innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks.

Detroit reliever Drew Smyley (3-0) went two scoreless innings with four strikeouts for the win. Ortiz put Boston ahead with an RBI single in the eighth after Shane Victorino doubled and stole third base.

Tomorrow night (7:08, NESN), Jon Lester (6-4) meets Doug Fister (6-4) in a game that at least on paper looks like a nice pitcher's duel. That's assuming Lester is the guy from early in the season and not the bum from the last month.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Blackhawks Win A Wild Game 4, 6-5 In OT To Even Stanley Cup Final At 2

The Blackhawks proved that like the Bruins, they have the ability to bounce back from crushing losses and that's what makes this series an instant classic. For the third time in the first four games, it took overtime to settle things. Chicago ended up outlasting Boston 6-5 in overtime tonight at TD Garden. Brent Seabrook's game-winner gave the Blackhawks a split in Boston (mirroring the split the Bruins earned in Chicago). Now it becomes a best-of-3 with Game 5 on Saturday (8, NBC) at the United Center.

It's hard to believe since they scored five goals but the B's never actually led in this absurd affair. The Blackhawks blew leads of 3-1, 4-2 and 5-4 but that will be forgotten because they picked up their second overtime victory of the series. On the bright side for Boston, similar to Game 1 they get an extra day of rest heading into Game 5 which served them well before.

This was an NHL game straight out of the 1980s with tons of goals and little resistance from the respective defenses and goaltenders. There were four special teams goals as Chicago scored a power play goal and a shortanded goal while Boston potted two power play strikes.

Michal Handzus converted a turnover and 2-on-1 from Brandon Saad 6:48 into regulation. That was just the start the Blackhawks needed after they were shut out in Game 3 (2-0).

Rich Peverley began the barrage on Corey Crawford's (28 saves) weak glove hand with a power play goal at 14:43 of the first period. His second of the postseason was assisted by Andrew Ference and it was Boston's third power play goal of the series.

Chicago continued to use their speed and skill, beating Tuukka Rask (41 saves) twice more early in the second period. Captain Jonathan Toews finally did something, tipping in Michal Rozsival's shot from the point at 6:33. Patrick Kane scored on a rebound at 8:31, prompting Bruins head coach Claude Julien to use his timeout to settle his team down.

Milan Lucic answered with a backhander off a rebound at 14:43, his sixth goal of the playoffs was assisted by Zdeno Chara. Chicago's third line responded with a goal 49 seconds later and Marcus Kruger got past Rask then jammed it home from the side of the net. The B's refused to go away as Patrice Bergeron cut it to 4-3 with a fluky power play goal at 17:22. Bergeron's eighth of the postseason was the result of the puck bouncing off the glass then the top of the net, Zdeno Chara and Jaromir Jagr got the assists.

Jagr and Bergeron teamed up once again at 2:05 in third period to tie it at four. Jagr controlled the puck behind Chicago's net for a while before finding Bergeron out front where he went glove side.

Chicago snapped its 0 for 14 slump on the power play as Patrick Sharp scored on yet another rebound. The Blackhawks had a two-man advantage for 22 seconds, Jagr's penalty was up but they scored with David Krejci still in the box.

The Bruins did their best Blackhawks impression as they tied it 55 seconds later on Johnny Boychuk's blast from the point, you know where it went by Crawford. Boychuk's sixth goal of the playoffs was assisted by Nathan Horton and Krejci.

Boston had some wonderful chances in overtime: Brad Marchand and Bergeron both shot wide while Rask made a glove save on Kane and Adam McQuaid blocked a shot. Seabrook's goal came on a rather innocent play as the Bruins had a couple chances to either take control of the puck or clear it but they couldn't do it. His shot from the point was low and hard plus Rask might have been screened a bit.

The Bruins shook off a triple overtime loss in Game 1 so this loss hopefully won't rattle them too much. My wish is that they don't reflect on this lost opportunity to really take control of the series and put all the pressure on the Blackhawks.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Red Sox Sweep Day-Night Doubleheader With Rays, Continue To Own Tampa Bay This Season

It was a particularly long but ultimately enjoyable day of baseball at Fenway Park as the Red Sox beat the Rays 5-1 and 3-1 in a day-night doubleheader. With the pair of victories, Boston (44-29 overall, 23-14 home) is a mind-blowing 9-2 against Tampa Bay (36-35 overall, 15-19 away) this season. So the Red Sox own the Rays and the Orioles own the Red Sox in 2013, got it?

Alfredo Aceves (4-1) had another good spot start in the first game before the rain came. After a 2:59 rain delay, Boston extended its 4-1 lead with an RBI triple by Shane Victorino (2 hits, 2 runs, stolen base) in the sixth inning. Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, 3 runs) had tripled before Victorino's three-base hit.

The Red Sox never trailed in the first game as Dustin Pedroia had a sacrifice fly in the first inning. Crazy Luke Scott tied it with an RBI double in the second inning but David Ortiz answered with a two-run single in the third then an RBI single in the fifth.

Aceves didn't return after the rain delay (obviously) so Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara and Craig Breslow each pitched in with a scoreless frame for Boston.

Game 2 was the Felix Doubront show with appearances by Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes. Doubront pitched the best (and longest) game of his MLB career: 8 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 6 strikeouts and 0 walks. At 93 pitches, it was surprising when Red Sox manager John Farrell lifted him for closer Andrew Bailey (3-0). Predictably, Bailey blew his third save of the season on Kelly Johnson's solo homer.

No problem, Nava walked to start the bottom of the ninth against Joel Peralta (1-3) which set the stage for a two-run walk-off homer by Gomes (his 5th of the season) over the Monster. Nava's solo homer in the second, his 10th of the season, looked like it might be the only run.

David Ross (concussion) went on the 7-day DL and Clay Buchholz (neck) was placed on the 15-day DL so catcher Ryan Lavarnway and reliever Alex Wilson were called up from Pawtucket. Tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) as we all get ready for Game 4 of Stanley Cup Final, Ryan Dempster (4-7) opposes Jeremy Hellickson (4-3) in the series finale.

We've Seen This Before: Bruins Impose Their Will On More Talented & Overhyped Opponent

The Bruins are a couple lucky bounces away from a 3-0 lead in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final after they blanked the Blackhawks 2-0 in Game 3 tonight at TD Garden. Unlike the first two games, this one didn't require overtime as Boston led from start to finish and basically choked the life out of Chicago. Game 4 is Wednesday (8, NBC) back at the Garden.

You know things are going well for the B's when Chris Kelly (who had zero points in the entire postseason coming into Game 2) has now recorded points in back to back games. And did I mention that Daniel Paille has the game-winner in consecutive Stanley Cup Final victories? Haha yes it is true. Just like in the previous three rounds, Boston's bottom-six forwards are playing better than Chicago's and the Bruins' lockdown defense has taken care of the Blackhawks' stars thus far.

I can't believe it took me this long to mention him but I guess that's an indication of how much we take Tuukka Rask's (28 saves) brilliance for granted at this point. He recorded his third shutout of the playoffs (in the last 7 games) and during this incredible stretch-that's better than any sustained period that Tim Thomas had two seasons ago-he's allowed one goal in three of those other four games. Holy crap!

He's not a one-man team by any means, and it's a team effort to make his job easier, but Rask is certainly giving the Bruins a chance to win in every single contest. Paille broke the deadlock at 2:13 of second period from Kelly and Tyler Seguin. A ferocious forecheck by the new third line resulted in a turnover and the goal, there wasn't much Corey Crawford (33 saves) could do about it.

Besides owning the faceoff dot (24-4 which is unheard of, even for him-the NHL's best), Patrice Bergeron found time to pot his seventh goal of the postseason. It was a power play strike at 14:05 in the second assisted by Jaromir Jagr and Zdeno Chara. Jagr's pass across the goalmouth, confident and at just the right speed, was a glimpse into how he became the fifth leading scorer in NHL playoff history this evening.

With no Marian Hossa (groin injury) and a power play that would make the Rangers cringe (0 for 5 tonight, 0 for 11 in the series), the Blackhawks didn't show much of a pulse until it was too late. Bryan Bickell hit the post right before the final whistle and the hate came from both sides as Chara wailed on Bickell and Brad Marchand wrestled with Andrew Shaw.

Game 4 serves as a de facto must-win for the Blackhawks since I think it's asking too much to have to beat Rask and the Bruins three times in a row with the way that they're rolling. Expect Chicago's best effort (that they can muster) on Wednesday night. Chicago is happy to see no more Game 3s: they fell to 0-4 in them this postseason while Boston is 4-0. What's more, the Bruins are 13-1 in Game 3s under Claude Julien.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Daniel Paille: Stanley Cup Finals Hero

One aspect that makes the NHL playoffs so uniquely excellent is that random guys step up in nearly every game. Take for instance Game 2 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals at the United Center. Boston rallied for a 2-1 overtime victory over Chicago thanks to Daniel Paille's first career OT winner (in regular season or playoffs). The Bruins evened the series at one and head back to Boston for Game 3 on Monday (8 p.m., NBCSN).

For many reasons, the B's definitely gained confidence since they were able to withstand an incredible amount of pressure by the Blackhawks in the first period (outshooting Boston 19-4) and only trailed 1-0. From that point on, Boston started to play their game and their constant hits on Chicago (50-34) started to take their toll.

They are still miles away (3 wins) from another Stanley Cup but if the Bruins do beat the Blackhawks four times, I can basically guarantee that Tuukka Rask (33 saves) will earn the Conn Smythe trophy (playoff MVP). He has been brilliant all postseason and he improved to 4-0 in starts after he allowed four plus goals in the previous game.

Boston has the only winning record on the road in the playoffs (6-3) and this one snapped Chicago's six-game win streak at home. Patrick Sharp gave the Blackhawks a well-deserved 1-0 lead at 11:22 of the first period after a crazy sequence of saves by Rask. His ninth goal of the playoffs (tied for NHL lead with David Krejci) was the only time in the first two games that Chicago has led Boston. Technically, the Bruins never led in Game 2, the same way the Blackhawks were never ahead in Game 1. Bizarre.

Nobody has been a bigger dog this postseason for the B's than Chris Kelly but tonight he took a time machine back to 2011 when he had five goals and eight assists in Boston's Cup run. He was paired with Daniel Paille and Tyler Seguin during this game and would you believe me if I told you that they were the best line on either team? Seriously. After Paille's steal and wraparound attempt, Kelly followed up for the rebound which turned into his first goal of the postseason at 14:58.

After Wednesday's soul-crushing 4-3 loss in triple overtime, I can't imagine many Bruins fans were thinking positive thoughts when Game 2 went to overtime but they calmed our nerves by winning a franchise-best fifth overtime game of the 2013 playoffs.

Poor Jaromir Jagr can't buy a goal no matter what he does, he rang the post early in overtime with a laser of a wrist shot. Paille's goal, his third of the playoffs, was a beauty at 13:48. Adam McQuaid kept the puck in Chicago's zone, Tyler Seguin found Paille and the underrated left wing sniped it off the post but past Corey Crawford (26 saves) and in the net.

For a while it wasn't pretty as it looked like Chicago was going to run Boston out of the United Center but when it came time to wake up, the Bruins showed they are right in this series.

I wish it was Monday night already, the atmosphere at the Garden should be nothing short of incredible. These are two great teams and I expect the rest of the series to be this competitive (albeit not all ending in OT). The B's have a chance to really take control with the next two games at home but it would be silly to underestimate the Blackhawks.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Orioles Still Completely Own The Red Sox, For Whatever Reason

Don't get me wrong, I know the Orioles are a good team but I'd be lying if I told you that I can rationally explain why they have dominated the Red Sox the last three seasons (23-8) and are the only opponent with a winning record (4-1) against Boston so far this year. Tonight at Camden Yards, the O's (39-29 overall, 19-14 home) blanked the Red Sox (41-28 overall, 20-14 away) 2-0.

This came on the heels of Baltimore's 5-4 win in 13 innings on Thursday night. Did I mention that the Orioles have pulled within 1.5 games of the Red Sox so if they sweep Boston this weekend, they would take over first place in the AL East? Yikes, that could definitely happen.

Four pitchers combined on the shutout for the Orioles: starter Chris Tillman (7-2) threw six scoreless innings with three strikeouts, Darren O'Day (seventh), Tommy Hunter (eighth) and Jim Johnson (ninth, 24th save) all had 1-2-3 innings, hence why this game finished in a crisp 2:43.

Ryan Dempster (4-7) pitched one of his better games for the Red Sox but it wasn't good enough: 7.2 innings, 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 4 strikeouts and 5 walks. His arm might fall off (he labored through 122 pitches) but he saved Boston's bullpen since Koji Uehara only faced one batter-J.J. Hardy (who he retired on 3 pitches to end the eighth with two men on).

Baltimore had five hits, led by Manny Machado (3 for 5 with 2 doubles). Boston only had three hits as a team, two by Jose Iglesias (who extended his hit streak to 15 games) including a double.

Chris Davis, who has morphed into Miguel Cabrera Jr., hit an opposite field solo homer in the second (his 22nd of the season) and Nate McLouth scored in the third on Adam Jones' infield single.

Before they drop the puck on Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals (8, NBC), John Lackey (3-5) faces Freddy Garcia (3-3) tomorrow afternoon (4:05, NESN) as the Red Sox try to find a way to beat the Orioles.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

There Is No Way To Sugarcoat Losing The 5th Longest Game In Stanley Cup Finals History

It's been hours since Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals but honestly my brain is complete mush after witnessing the longest game of the postseason. I can't even imagine how the players feel after Chicago rallied for a 4-3 triple overtime win over Boston, the fifth longest contest in Finals history. The Blackhawks snapped the Bruins' five-game win streak by coming back from a pair of two-goal deficits (2-0 and 3-1) and getting all four goals by role players: capped off by Andrew Shaw's game-winner at 12:08.

Game 2 is thankfully an extra day away, Saturday (8 p.m., NBC) back at United Center. B's goaltender Tuukka Rask (career-high 59 saves) was superb but victimized by a pair of fluky goals: Johnny Oduya's goal at 12:14 in the third period went off Andrew Ference's skate and Shaw's goal was the result of the dreaded double deflection.

Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford (51 saves) wasn't as busy as Rask but he held the fort while the B's controlled play in OT (outshooting Blackhawks 29-24). The problem for Boston in the extra sessions is that the best chances went to the last guys they'd want with the puck on their stick: Kaspars Daugavins, Shawn Thornton and Tyler Seguin among others. Of course, Crawford also earned the win by stoning David Krejci (2 assists) twice. Oh and Jaromir Jagr's tip of Zdeno Chara's shot from the point in the last seconds of double overtime went off the post but not in.

True to form, Boston's power play ended up being one of the main reasons they lost. You see the B's got the only two power plays in overtime (too many men on the ice for Chicago in the first overtime and end of the second overtime which ended in the third) but couldn't cash in either of them. The Bruins penalty kill deserved better as they held the Blackhawks to 0 for 3 on the power play including a two-man advantage for 1:17 in the second period.

The B's couldn't have asked for a better start as Milan Lucic scored a pair of goals to give Boston a 2-0 lead early in the second period. It was the fifth straight game that the Bruins had scored first. His first came after tic tac toe passing from Nathan Horton and Krejci, leading to Lucic's fourth goal of the playoffs at 13:11. The best line in the NHL (during the postseason) flexed its muscles again with Lucic causing a turnover in the neutral zone then Krejci dropping off a pass to him to shoot past Crawford 51 seconds into the second period.

Blackhawks rookie Brandon Saad answered at 3:08 with his first goal of the playoffs, from Marian Hossa. A turnover by the Bruins behind the net gave Hossa the puck and he found Saad who buried it past with top-shelf. Great shot.

All seemed to be right though for the Black and Gold as Patrice Bergeron made it 3-1 with a power play goal at 6:09 in the third period from Tyler Seguin and Lucic. Bergeron hammered a one-timer that pinged the inside of the post.

Bruins rookie defensemen Torey Krug didn't do much in the Penguins series but tonight was his first real bad game in the playoffs. His brutal giveaway in Boston's zone led to Chicago's second goal, by another nobody-Dave Bolland at 8:00 from Andrew Shaw. Krug's mistake left Rask out to dry with little chance to stop the odd man rush.

The B's had been 4-1 in OT and the Blackhawks were 3-1 but this was a friendly reminder that A) Chicago is mentally much tougher than Pittsburgh and B) anything can happen in overtime.

The result was depressing enough but the Bruins could be in for worse news tomorrow since Horton left in the first overtime with an upper body injury and never returned. It was bizarre since he wasn't hit, it just looked like his shoulder popped out of the socket or something. Yikes, I'd feel awful for him if he had to miss most of the Finals for the second time in three years. He's been excellent in the postseason and it would leave a huge hole on Boston's top line. I'll guess we'll worry about that later though (fingers crossed).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

When The Red Sox Needed Him Most, Jon Lester Completely Let His Whole Team Down

After surviving a 14-inning game on Monday (a 10-8 win where they used eight pitchers), the Red Sox desperately needed a long outing from Jon Lester tonight. He didn't have to throw a gem, it was more about eating up innings and giving the bullpen a night off. Instead, Lester (6-3) couldn't get out of the fifth inning as he allowed seven earned runs in a 8-3 win by the Rays (35-29 overall, 20-12 home) at dumpy Tropicana Field.

Tampa Bay hit four home runs as the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona, now called Roberto Hernandez (4-6) beat a team that his alter ego used to always struggle against. Hernandez went seven innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.

Other than Jacoby Ellsbury (2 for 5 with 2 runs, stolen base) and Jose Iglesias (2 for 4 with run), nobody on Boston (40-26 overall, 19-12 away) could really get it going at the plate.

The Red Sox actually led twice, very briefly, in the early innings. Dustin Pedroia had a sacrifice fly in the first but former Red Sox great James Loney tied it with a bases loaded walk in Tampa Bay's first at bat. Lester walked four Rays in the first, an awful start for his pitch count that he could never recover from.

Desmond Jennings (3 hits, 3 runs) had a solo homer to center in the second but Mike Napoli's two-run single in the third put Boston back on top 3-2. It was all downhill from there as the Rays scored twice in the third (RBI singles from Ryan Roberts and Jose Molina) before Evan Longoria hit a solo homer to right in the fourth and Matt Joyce (2 hits, walk) ended Lester's night with a two-run blast to right.

Poor Jose De La Torre was summoned for only his third appearance of the season (first since being recalled) and he was greeted with another solo shot by Jennings. He deserves credit though for finishing the game so no other pitchers had to come in for Boston.

It's only fitting that since nobody will watch tomorrow night's game (7:10 p.m., NESN), Alfredo Aceves (2-1) faces rookie Chris Archer (1-1) in the gross series finale. Both teams want that series victory but I predict I won't see any of it or at least care one bit since the Bruins and Blackhawks are facing off in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals (8 p.m., NBC). Baseball can wait for another (slower) day.

UPDATE 6/12: Aceves takes De La Torre's spot on the roster and the rookie goes back to Pawtucket.

UPDATE 6/14: Pedro Ciriaco was traded to the Padres for a player to be named later or cash. Needing another reliever, the Red Sox sent Alex Wilson back to Pawtucket and called up Rubby De La Rosa.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Patriots Certainly Know How To Spice Up The Offseason: By Signing Tim Tebow

Nobody would ever question the NFL's status as the most popular sport in the United States. Still, a reminder every once in a while is always important. Two days before the Bruins meet the Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals and while the Red Sox have the best record in the American League, the Patriots stole all the local and even headlines this afternoon with one simple move: reportedly signing Tim Tebow.

In many ways, we should have seen this coming for years (Tebow has been in the NFL since 2010). New England head coach Bill Belichick went to dinner with Tebow before the 2010 Draft and even though the Pats didn't end up taking him, Belichick has always been enamored with Tebow's intangibles. There is no more polarizing figure in pro sports than Tebow, you either love him or hate him. There really is no in between with him.

The good news is that unlike his last stop-the Jets-the Patriots are the exact opposite franchise in terms of winning, stability, direction and purpose. Yes it will be a media frenzy the first time he shows up at minicamp tomorrow and during training camp in August (assuming he makes it that far) but eventually New England will shut it down in terms of non-stop ESPN hype I mean coverage. Keep in mind this is all forgotten if he's gone before the regular season starts in September.

Since he can't throw, Tebow's role in the NFL has always been up in the air. Know it alls like to say that he could play tight end and the Jets traded two draft picks for him although they ended up just using him as a punt protector and in very predictable running plays. Tom Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL so he won't feel any additional pressure from Tebow, a guy that supposedly couldn't get any other offers after the Jets released him.

As flawed as he is, I still think Tebow is a better quarterback than untested and unproven Ryan Mallett. Tebow took Denver to the playoffs in his first season as a starter (2011) and they upset Pittsburgh before getting blown out in New England-ironically his last start. At the time, Denver's head coach was Josh McDaniels who is now the Patriots' offensive coordinator. He obviously saw something in him to draft him 25th overall in 2010 (way higher than he was projected).

Studying a couple years behind Brady wouldn't be a bad thing. We all hate to think about it but at some point, Brady will retire and the Pats need to think of a successor. Tebow is a winner, a great teammate and a leader. Those are all good qualities to have and who knows, maybe being in a better environment like the Patriots will allow his career to get back on track. It's a no-lose situation for the Patriots since they'll pay him peanuts on a team friendly deal and Belichick can look like a genius again if he gets anything out of Tebow. Conversely, if he stinks then they can say they tried and dump him without any issues.

Belichick has always been tight with Tebow's head coach at Florida-Urban Meyer-and having two former teammates-Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes-in the locker room should help him quickly adjust to this very different culture here.

UPDATE 6/11: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports it is a two-year deal for Tebow with no guaranteed money.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hey, Let's All Gather Round The Dumpster Fire-I Mean The Los Angeles Angels In 2013

The Angels are proof that you can spend a shit ton of money in MLB and assemble an All-Star lineup yet come nowhere close to being .500. Every time you see Los Angeles (haha them or the Dodgers) you think "hey, they'll turn it around at some point." This weekend at Fenway Park is a statement that no, they probably won't.

The teams split a day-night doubleheader yesterday (after Friday's game was rained out) but Boston (39-25 overall, 21-14 home) beat Los Angeles (27-36 overall, 12-18 away) 10-5 this afternoon. With the win, the Red Sox moved a season-high 14 games over .500, improved to an MLB-best 13-6 in day games and 13-6-2 in all series. Oh and they have the best record in the American League.

I'm not saying it's all Angels manager Mike Scioscia's fault since by and large, I think that baseball managers are mostly useless but after 14 years in charge (longest tenured in MLB), hey maybe it's time for a new voice. Just a thought.

Whatever is going on with the Angels, it's clear that this current group isn't working. They missed the playoffs last season and at this pace, they look like they'll out of contention by the All-Star break this year. Explain to me how that's possible with Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Jered Weaver, etc on your club. Weird.

Anywho, Boston took the rubber game by smashing four home runs. Pujols (.241) showed that he's not completely washed up with a solo shot to right center in the first inning but Joe Blanton (1-10) was given the task of winning a game. Haha yeah good luck with that. In five innings of batting practice, he allowed seven runs (six earned) on eight hits with six strikeouts and a walk. He allowed three of the four homers by the Red Sox.

Daniel Nava tied it with an RBI single in the third then David Ortiz crushed a three-run bomb, his 13th of the season, to right center that gave Boston a 4-1 lead it wouldn't relinquish.

Ryan Dempster (4-6) got the ball for Boston and he did enough: six innings, three earned runs, six hits, six strikeouts and two walks. He notched his 2000th career strikeout (which I never would have guessed), only the second Canadian to have done that in MLB (what up Ferguson Jenkins?). If there's one thing that Dempster loves more than strikeouts, it's solo homers. He gave up another one, this time to Alberto Callaspo in the fourth.

Jacoby Ellsbury (walk, run, stolen base) answered with an RBI triple (his sixth of the season) in home half of the fourth. Mark Trumbo (2 hits, 2 walks) had an RBI single in the fifth but that's all the Angels would get until garbage time in the eighth.

Blanton gave up back-to-back solo homers to Mike Carp (6th of the season) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (8th of the season) in the sixth. Salty added a two-run bomb in the seventh.

J.B. Shuck-the guy with one of the best names in MLB had a two-run single in the eighth for Los Angeles. What a waste of Mike Trout's (3 for 5 with 2 doubles, run) many talents.

Boston finished 4-2 on this homestand vs. Rangers and Angels with two more series victories against AL West opponents. Looking ahead, their next 14 games are no joke: three at Tampa Bay (34-28, 4th in AL East), four at Baltimore (35-28, 3rd in AL East) then three at Fenway vs. Rays and four in Detroit. Ouch babe.

The Red Sox are 5-1 against the Rays this season but I don't really expect that to stay so one-sided. Tomorrow night (7:10, NESN), John Lackey (3-5) faces Alex Cobb (6-2)-Tampa Bay's next great young pitcher. On Tuesday (7:10, NESN) Jon Lester (6-2) faces the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona (now Roberto Hernandez who is 3-6) and Wednesday (7:10, NESN) is Clay Buchholz's spot in the rotation but at the moment he's TBD vs. rookie Chris Archer (1-1).

UPDATE 6/10: Will Middlebrooks was recalled from Pawtucket and Pedro Ciriaco was designated for assignment.

Franklin Morales will start on Wednesday for the Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay. Buchholz is supposedly questionable for a start on Friday which doesn't sound very promising.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Nobody In The World Expected The Bruins To Sweep The Penguins, Except They Just Did It

When we are old and grey, this Bruins-Penguins Eastern Conference Finals will be something that we look back to and wonder how the hell it went down the way it did. Boston swept Pittsburgh with a 1-0 victory at TD Garden this evening. The Bruins outscored the Penguins 12-2 for the series including two shutouts by Tuukka Rask (26 saves). Boston advances to its second Stanley Cup Finals in three years, awaiting the winner of Chicago-Los Angeles (Blackhawks lead 3-1 with a chance to close it out tomorrow night at home).

Adam McQuaid provided the game's only goal, a snipe to the top shelf on a one-timer from Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. McQuaid's second goal of the postseason was undoubtedly the biggest of his life given the circumstances. Tomas Vokoun (23 saves) once again was the tough luck loser who gave up six total goals in Games 1, 3 and 4.

For now, let's bask in the absurd stats coming out of this truly ridiculous (in a good way of course) series. The two best hockey players in the world-Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin-had no points, same story with Jarome Iginla, James Neal and Kris Letang. Brandon Sutter and Chris Kunitz were the only Penguins able to solve Rask. What's more, Pittsburgh never led in the entire series and their unstoppable power play was 0 for 15 capped off by 0 for 3 in Game 4.

The B's are the definition of a team where the sum is much better than their parts. On paper, you think they'd be lucky to hang with the Penguins except they controlled the whole series and never let Pittsburgh dictate play. It helps that Rask is playing the best hockey of his career, a big reason why Boston has won nine of its last 10 games (OT loss to Rangers in Game 4 being only setback).

No matter if it's the Blackhawks or Kings, it's hard to believe that anyone is out there still doubting the Bruins. They have beaten three completely different styles of teams (Maple Leafs, Rangers and Penguins) in a row and done it in less time for each successive series. Along those lines, it's also time for Bruins head coach Claude Julien to start to receive way more credit. His teams might be boring to watch at times but the man knows how to get the most of his players and getting everyone to buy in to a specific role.

Personally I'm rooting for Chicago since Bruins-Blackhawks has never happened and it would be the first Original Six Stanley Cup Finals since 1979 (Rangers vs. Canadiens). Chicago won a Cup in 2010-the year before the B's-and apart from that, it's a great city similar in many ways to Boston. If the Kings can find a way to win three straight, they would be an interesting opponent as well since they won the Cup last season and nobody has repeated since 1997 & 1998 (Detroit). I'm sure the B's would like LA to win another game or two to ensure those two clubs will totally be exhausted while they get some extra rest.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Walk-Off Home Runs By David Ortiz Will Never Get Old

It had been almost four years (August 26, 2009 to be exact) but tonight at Fenway Park, David Ortiz proved that he can still hit a walk-off homer with the best of them. Ortiz's three-run shot off Michael Kirkman (0-2) gave Boston (37-24 overall, 19-13 home) a 6-3 win over Texas (36-23 overall, 18-15 away) coupled with a series victory against the American League's top team.

It was the 11th homer of the season for Ortiz and ironically enough his 11th walk-off homer (10th as a Red Sox) and 19th walk-off hit (regular season and playoffs) for Boston. He only needs one more walk-off homer to tie Babe Ruth, pretty elite company huh?

The funny part is that Rangers manager Ron Washington decided to intentionally walk Dustin Pedroia after Jonny Gomes (4 hits, run) had doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth. I'm not sure if Washington was doing lines in the tunnel but I couldn't tell you a logical explanation for pitching to Ortiz with two guys on and no outs. Oh well.

Lefties Derek Holland (6 innings, 2 earned runs, 9 hits, 4 strikeouts, 3 walks) and Jon Lester (6 innings, 3 earned runs, 7 hits, 4 strikeouts, 3 walks) pitched to a standstill, at least according to ESPN's game scores which gave them both a 47.

The Red Sox bullpen was flawless: Junichi Tazawa pitched around a double and single for a scoreless seventh, Koji Uehara had a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts before closer Andrew Bailey (2-0) pitched a scoreless ninth.

Texas actually blew a three-run lead as Jeff Baker hit a two-run bomb in the second and former Red Sox Adrian Beltre (3 hits)-who always seems to kill Boston-added a solo homer in the third.

Dustin Pedroia's (walk, run) two-run double in the third brought Boston within a run (3-2) then Jacoby Ellsbury (4 hits, 2 runs, 2 doubles) tied it by scoring on Mike Napoli's fielder's choice in the seventh.

Weather permitting, the Red Sox get their first look at the underachieving Angels (26-34 overall, 3rd in AL West) this weekend with three games at Fenway. Felix Doubront (4-2) faces Tommy Hanson (2-2) tomorrow night (7:10, NESN), Clay Buchholz (8-0) looks to stay undefeated on Saturday night (7:15, NESN) vs. C.J. Wilson (4-4) and Ryan Dempster (3-6) closes it out Sunday afternoon (1:35, NESN) vs. Joe Blanton (1-9).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bruins Take 3-0 Series Lead On Penguins Thanks To A 2-1 Victory In 2OT

Games like tonight are a wonderful reminder of why the NHL playoffs are second to none. Where else can you say an incredible performance (53 saves by Tuukka Rask), a guy finish a shift on a broken leg (Gregory Campbell) then to top it all off in double overtime, an exquisite goal? The Bruins beat the Penguins 2-1 at TD Garden on Patrice Bergeron's fifth goal of the postseason (2nd OT winner) at 15:19. Boston is one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals as they take a 3-0 lead over Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Brad Marchand had the primary assist but Jaromir Jagr was credited with the second assist and he created the play by losing the puck to Evgeni Malkin then taking it back and starting the rush. For the first three periods, you could say that Rask basically stole the game for the B's since he stood on his head on the way to a career-high in saves. He has clearly psyched out the Penguins (they hit the post four times). In three games (almost 11 full periods with the overtimes), mighty Pittsburgh has scored two goals. Think about that.

David Krejci scored his NHL-best ninth goal of the playoffs just 1:42 into regulation as Pittsburgh somehow lost him at the side of their net and he banked it in off Matt Niskanen's skate. Milan Lucic had the assist on Krejci's fourth goal in three games.

The Penguins blitzed Rask and he couldn't stop every shot although he nearly completed that impossible task once again. Chris Kunitz scored on a one-timer from Paul Martin and Pascal Dupuis at 8:51 in the second period. Keep in mind that Pittsburgh still hasn't led in this series. Tomas Vokoun (38 saves) proved that Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma made the right decision by sticking with him, he was very solid.

Both teams had to kill a pair of penalties in overtime: Pittsburgh's penalty kill came through twice in the first overtime while Boston's had one in each frame to make things extra nerve-wracking (if that's possible).

I can't imagine how the Penguins feel after this loss, they couldn't have done much more but they still came up short. The Bruins are clicking in so many ways which is why they've won eight of their last nine games overall. They'll go for their first sweep of the postseason in Game 4 on Friday (8 p.m., NBCSN). It took Boston three times to put away Toronto. Boston wasn't able to close out the Rangers in four games but they got the job done in Game 5. Maybe now they can do it on the first try.

UPDATE 6/7: Kaspars Daugavins will take Campbell's place but he is expected to skate on the third line. Chris Kelly should center the fourth line with Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton.