Thursday, October 31, 2013
The Bruins were in danger of losing their third straight game and second in as many nights when Zdeno Chara came to the rescue. He scored a power play goal, his second goal of the season, with 2:50 left in regulation. Boston (8-4-0) still had some work to do but after surviving overtime, Jarome Iginla potted the only strike in the shootout as the Bruins outlasted the Ducks (10-3-1) 3-2.
Tuukka Rask (21 saves) started again even though he took the loss in Pittsburgh last night but he didn't seem fazed by the heavy workload. His teammates on the other hand looked dead for the most part (zombie alert!) as they managed one shot on goal in the first period, one! Devante Smith-Pelly had given Anaheim a 1-0 lead 1:52 into the game on a one-timer from Mathieu Perrault and Dustin Penner, before the crowd could settle into their seats with their elaborate costumes.
Carl Soderberg could have found himself back in the press box (as a healthy scratch) soon if he continued to coast but he bought himself some time by scoring his first NHL goal, at 12:45 of the second period to knot it at one. Chris Kelly had sent him in alone and he jammed it over the line past Jonas Hiller (21 saves). With the second assist, Ryan Spooner picked up his first point in the NHL.
The B's fell asleep again, late in the second period as Perreault turned and shot low by Rask who might have been screened. Smith-Pelly and Cam Fowler had the assists. Chara's goal came only eight seconds into the power play that he drew (tripping on Patrick Maroon). David Krejci was on the doorstep but he passed it to Chara who shoveled it in, Torey Krug had started the sequence by keeping the puck in Anaheim's end and shuttling it to Krejci-always a good plan.
It was the first overtime game for the Bruins this season and they normally struggle in shootouts but they got it done. Spooner was stopped, Nick Bonino was denied, Iginla scored, Corey Perry was stopped, Soderberg was stuffed and Ryan Getzlaf shot it off the post to end it. Considering the caliber of opponent and the fact that Anaheim had more rest, this was a very nice two points for the Bruins who lost Johnny Boychuk in the second period and had to play with five defensemen for the rest of the game.
Boston finishes this tough couple days (three games in four nights) at the Islanders (4-5-3) on Saturday (7, NESN). Despite their less than impressive record, New York is much improved (they pushed the Penguins to seven games in the first round of the playoffs last spring) but that's usually a place that the Bruins roll and put up big goal totals.
The Patriots' (6-2) offense might be in the crapper through the first eight games but you can't pin their red zone and third-down troubles on kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Sadly, he's been their best offensive player through the first two months (think about that) and today he was recognized with the AFC Player of the Month award for his outstanding October.
It is the second time in Gostkowski's career that he has earned this recognition, the other one was in October 2008 so I guess there is something about kicking in the fall in New England that he enjoys or something. Nines were wild for him as he went 9 for 9 on field goals and 9 for 9 on PATs in October. For the season, he's hit 20 of 21 field goals with two over 50+ yards (including a career-high 54-yarder vs. New Orleans on Oct. 13) and all 17 of his extra points for 77 total points. His 20 field goals are tops in the league and 77 points is second behind Denver's Matt Prater.
Believe it or not, this is his eighth year in the NFL but he's only made the Pro Bowl once before (2008). If he keeps this pace up, he might want to reserve a hotel room in Hawaii before the season is over. Then again, let's hope the Patriots are still playing then so he doesn't have to go.
UPDATE 11/2: Pats put Tommy Kelly on season-ending IR with his knee injury. You have to feel bad for him, especially since he spent all those wasted years in Oakland. Rookie guard Josh Kline was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster.
If you had told me in 2003 right after the Red Sox lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS that the next year they'd win the World Series (for the first time in 86 years) then twice more in the next decade, I would have laughed for about an hour. Tonight was one of those special moments that sports singularly provides as Boston beat St. Louis 6-1 in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series to win the series 4-2. They are the first team in MLB to win three titles in the 21st century.
The Cardinals finally figured out they didn't have to pitch to David Ortiz, he walked in four out of five plate appearances (two intentionally) but still scored two runs and picked up the World Series MVP trophy. John Farrell became only the sixth manager in MLB history to win a title in his first year with a club (last one ironically was Terry Francona here in 2004). Red Sox became only the second team in MLB history (Twins, 1991) to finish in last place in their division one season then win the World Series the following season.
This was the first time since 1918 that the Red Sox had won the title at Fenway Park, giving the night some legit historical significance. Red Sox also became the first team in MLB to win three times in the past decade and this was their eighth title in franchise history. You can't help but be astounded at how much changed in one season: Boston was the worst team in the AL in 2012 and now they're back on top for the eighth Boston sports title since 2000 (3 for Patriots and Red Sox; 1 for Bruins and Celtics).
The easy storyline is John Lackey (6.2 innings, 1 earned run, 9 hits, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk) who picked up the clinching win. I think that's well established by now so I'd rather focus on Koji Uehara getting the last three outs in a 1-2-3 9th capping his insane run as Boston's closer. You want more unlikely heroes? How about Stephen Drew (2 hits) hitting a solo homer and Shane Victorino driving in four runs after he missed Games 4 and 5 with back problems.
Michael Wacha is a great young pitcher, one of the best in MLB, but his magic carpet ride came to a screeching halt as he allowed six earned runs in 3.2 innings. Boston actually scored all the runs they needed on Victorino's bases-loaded double in the third to make it 3-0. The Red Sox tacked on three more runs in the fourth on Drew's solo homer into their bullpen, Mike Napoli's RBI single and an RBI single by Victorino. In past years, you'd worry about something bad happening to the Red Sox but I have to admit that once they got up five or six runs, I was very confident that it was all but over.
In probably his last game for the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury was 2 for 4 with a double, walk and two runs scored. St. Louis' only real chance to threaten (or at least make it interesting) came in the bottom of the seventh, Junichi Tazawa came in with the bases loaded and two outs but he got one-legged Allen Craig to ground to first. Did you know his foot was hurt? The only run for the Cardinals came on Carlos Beltran's RBI single earlier in the seventh.
Rookie Brandon Workman had a 1-2-3 eighth which set the table for Uehara's last appearance of the season. Fittingly, this incredible journey ended with him striking out Matt Carpenter (3 for 5, double) to end it.
Every championship is different and I hate to compare them; you have to appreciate each one and I think we will certainly do that after all the garbage and drama of the last few seasons on Yawkey Way. 2004 is what everyone will always remember for obvious reasons, 2007 was complete domination and this year was about restoring pride in this beloved team. Mission accomplished, what else can you say? The Red Sox exceeded all expectations except their own, they were a likable team that had fun playing baseball and enjoyed being around each other. What more do you want? Enjoy the parade on Saturday.
UPDATE 11/2: The Red Sox picked up Jon Lester's option for 2014 ($13 million) and declined Matt Thornton's.
UPDATE 11/4: Boston made qualifying offers (1 year, $14 million) to Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew. They didn't make offers to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Joel Hanrahan and John McDonald so they are free agents that can sign with any team and that club doesn't have to give up a draft pick.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Nobody does timing like MLB, so wouldn't you know that one day before Game 6 of the World Series, they decided to hand out all the Gold Glove awards for 2013. Befitting a team that is one win away from its third World Series title in 10 years, the Red Sox went 2 for 3 on Tuesday (are you listening Stephen Drew?): Dustin Pedroia picked up his third while Shane Victorino won his fourth overall (in his first year in Boston).
It wasn't all roses and sunshine as Jacoby Ellsbury lost out to Adam Jones (you can hear Scott Boras' cash register close however briefly) for some reason. Showing how important defense is, St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina and pitcher Adam Wainwright both captured Gold Gloves in the National League.
I love statistics but often times I feel like the abundance of new ones in baseball bogs it down. Basically, you can make an argument for anyone ever and still not win. Gold Gloves are neat and most of the players gets bonuses in their contracts for winning one but I feel like Derek Jeter repeatedly winning one when he had no range left a permanent sour taste in our mouth.
There might as well not even be an NFL Trade Deadline since so few teams pay attention to it. I pity the poor writers who have to cover it, forcing them to just guess what might happen: "sure, Tony Gonzalez and Jared Allen will be traded." I guess it's fitting that New England has made deals in consecutive years and today they were the only team to make a move: they traded a fifth-round pick in 2014 to the Eagles for defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and a sixth-round draft pick in 2014.
From as far as I know, Sopoaga isn't the second coming of Warren Sapp but the Pats can still use him just the same. With no Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly the last few weeks, New England's normally reliable run defense has been conquered by mediocre running backs like Chris Ivory and Lamar Miller running up the middle more than usual against the depleted defensive line not to mention no Jarod Mayo either. You can only count on undrafted rookies for so long before eventually they wear down or become in over their heads. Chris Jones has been awesome while Joe Vellano hasn't done nearly as much.
At 32, Sopoaga is playing on his third team (49ers, Eagles, Patriots) in the matter of a couple years. Coming from Philly, I'm sure he'll be content to get back to a winning franchise and a team with a legitimate shot to make the Super Bowl (assuming they clean many things up).
The other main news involving the Patriots today was that they put offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer on IR which was expected after he broke his leg on Sunday.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
You have to feel for the Celtics, they are going to be truly awful this season (at least we hope so in order to get a lottery pick in a loaded draft next June) and their 2013-14 regular season-opener tomorrow night in Toronto (7, CSN) couldn't possibly come at a worse time for local sports fans: directly against Game 6 of the World Series with the Red Sox having a chance to clinch at Fenway Park plus Bruins-Penguins in Pittsburgh for the first time since the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
Celtics vs. Raptors is a crappy enough game to begin with but if you planned on tuning over during the constant commercials of the baseball game on Fox, you have one less reason to pay attention to the Celts: forward Jared Sullinger was suspended for one game stemming from his domestic violence incident in August with his girlfriend. The good news for him and the team is that the charges were dropped yesterday in court but I think the C's are doing the right thing by taking a somewhat hard line on this. The team is going to be bad enough as it is, no reason for people to hate the players and management before they even get started.
Anyways, Tank for Wiggins!
So here we are, a moment that nobody on the outside could have reasonably expected when the season began in April: the Red Sox lead the Cardinals 3-2 in the 2013 World Series and they're coming back to Boston for two chances at their eighth World Series crown in franchise history. Boston took two out of three at Busch Stadium (the only loss being Game 3 aka Obstructiongate), including tonight's 3-1 pitcher's duel as Jon Lester (2-0) certified his place in MLB postseason history and Adam Wainwright (0-2) simply couldn't match his brilliance.
Game 6 is Wednesday (8:07, NESN) at Fenway Park with John Lackey facing Michael Wacha. Obviously Mr. Redemption himself will be able to deliver the first World Series title for the home team at Fenway since 1918 (vs. the Cubs); talk about a storybook/movie ending if that's how it goes down.
Tonight belonged to Lester: he went 7.2 dominant innings, allowing one earned run on four hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. All season, we've joked about Jacoby Ellsbury cashing in this offseason but Lester has also earned a juicy extension with his legendary October (4-1, 1.56 ERA, 29 strikeouts, 8 walks). Holy shit!
Speaking of postseason icons, David Ortiz (3 for 4, double, RBI) is 11 for 15 in the World Series with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs. If the Red Sox win, how do you choose between those two for World Series MVP? Boston had nine hits compared to only four for St. Louis. Xander Bogaerts was 2 for 4 with a run.
Wainwright (7 innings, 3 earned runs, 8 hits, 10 strikeouts, 1 walk) was way better than Game 1 but he still couldn't find a way to beat Lester or Boston. Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz had back-to-back doubles in the first as Boston got out to an early 1-0 lead for a change. Matt Holliday tied it with a long home run to center in the fourth but the Red Sox answered with two runs in the seventh on a double by David Ross and single by Ellsbury.
Lester only threw 91 pitches but John Farrell put closer Koji Uehara in with two outs in the eighth. He promptly struck out fat slob/pinch hitter Matt Adams on three pitches, stranding David Freese (2 hits, double) at second base. Uehara recorded his seventh save of the postseason with a 1-2-3 ninth including a strikeout of leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter.
As a Red Sox fan, we couldn't ask for anything more than this. They play great at home and these last two wins in St. Louis had to have taken their toll on the Cardinals' psyche. None of that matters if Lackey gets shelled or Wacha is lights out but who would bet against this team at this point?
Monday, October 28, 2013
Even in professional sports, the best teams-ones that win championships-often defy logical explanation, that's what makes them so fun to follow. Isn't that how you would describe the Red Sox in 2013? An overachieving group that consistently finds ways to squeeze everything out of their diverse talents. In the biggest game of the season, Clay Buchholz was limited to four innings but five relievers helped Boston hold off St. Louis 4-2 in Game 4 of the 2013 World Series at subdued Busch Stadium.
The Red Sox' win tonight makes it 2-2 and guarantees a Game 6 back at Fenway Park, now the question is who will be playing for a title in that one. Game 5 is tomorrow night (8:07, Fox), the third game in three nights in St. Louis with Jon Lester (1-0) facing Adam Wainwright (0-1). After Game 3's bizarre ending, Game 4 staked its claim in baseball history as pinch runner Kolten Wong was picked off first base by Koji Uehara (1st save) to end it.
Boston received contributions from many guys as usual but Felix Doubront (2.2 innings of relief, 3 strikeouts) picked up the win and Jonny Gomes hit the deciding three-run homer in the sixth inning. Carlos Beltran gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead in the third with an RBI single but ironically he was the guy at the plate when Wong committed his most unforgivable of mistakes. It was only Uehara's third successful pickoff of his MLB career.
Naturally, Stephen Drew tied it in the fifth with a sacrifice fly that scored David Ortiz (3 for 3, double, 2 runs, walk) who is hitting 8 for 11 (.727) in the World Series. Lance Lynn (0-1) cruised through the first four innings but he started to fall apart after Boston forced him into long at bats and increased his pitch count.
If the Red Sox win two more games, Gomes' three-run blast in the sixth will go down in Boston sports lore. It was a no-doubter and he celebrated right out of the box but don't tell Braves hardo catcher Brian McCann about that fun detail. He was a last-minute addition to the lineup since Shane Victorino's back tightened up on him.
Craig Breslow's magic is gone but Red Sox manager John Farrell hasn't seemed to figure that out yet. He keeps throwing him out there which isn't resulting in positive outcomes for Boston. Tonight he allowed an RBI single to Matt Carpenter (2 for 5, run) that cut it to 4-2. Junichi Tazawa was summoned to face Matt Holliday with runners on first and second but he retired him on a grounder to second to end the threat.
The last time John Lackey pitched in relief was in 2004 and he hadn't done it in the playoffs since his rookie year (2002) but this evening, he pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for the hold. Who could have imagined that scenario the last few years with all of his drama and poor performances for the Red Sox?
Lester will need to give Boston's taxed bullpen some innings tomorrow night but he should be up to the task after pitching very well in his previous postseason outings. They are at home but now the pressure falls squarely on St. Louis because if they lose Game 5 then they'd have to win twice in Boston which is a tall order for any team even one as good as they have proven to be this October.
Normally I try to leave the crappy clichés to television reporters and bad writers (not saying I'm taking home any Pulitzers these days) but what else can you say about the Patriots-Dolphins game this afternoon at Gillette Stadium then it was a tale of two halves? Miami (3-4 overall, 2-2 away) rolled out to a 17-3 halftime lead but New England (6-2 overall, 4-0 home) outscored them 24-0 in the second half on their way to a 27-17 victory.
This was a nice win for the Pats given the way they started plus the Bills and Jets also lost so they gained a game on all three AFC East "rivals." The bad news and this keeps happening way too much this season is that it looked like Sebastian Vollmer suffered a serious leg injury so he'll be out for the rest of the season.
Something is clearly wrong with Tom Brady's hand (not to make an excuse), you could see it was puffed up which explains why he's looked so average for most of this season but particularly the last few weeks. Today he went 13 of 22 for 116 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. It was a day for role players as Aaron Dobson (4 catches, 60 yards), Brandon Bolden and Steven Ridley (14 carries, 78 yards) had the touchdowns for the Patriots.
The Patriots defense forced three turnovers, granted one was in garbage time on an interception by rookie Duron Harmon, but Marquice Cole had a pretty interception after Devin McCourty tipped it inbounds to him and Rob Ninkovich recovered a fumble. Also, Chandler Jones (1 sack) blocked a field goal and Chris Jones (7 tackles, 3 solo, 1 sacks, 2 tackles for loss) continued to play very well in the middle of the defensive line-he looks like a great undrafted rookie free agent signing (they got him on September 11).
The Dolphins played like a team that has now lost four games in a row after a 3-0 start and now laughable talks of challenging the Patriots for the AFC East crown. Ryan Tannehill is ok (22 of 42 for 192 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions) but they don't use his athleticism and mobility enough. He's not a great passer which makes sense since he played wide receiver for most of his time at Texas A&M. They also lack playmakers on offense, throwing money at Mike Wallace (3 catches, 41 yards) predictably has backfired although Lamar Miller (89 yards rushing, 23 yards receiving) seems like a keeper at running back.
Miami's basic offense of rolling Tannehill out worked in the beginning as Brandon Gibson caught a 4-yard touchdown in the first quarter (before he left with a knee injury) then Daniel Thomas caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Stephen Gostkowski finally gave the Patriots some points with a 34-yard field goal but the Dolphins had all the momentum after Caleb Sturgis' 52-yard field goal with 30 seconds left in the first half.
Dobson caught a 14-yard touchdown from Brady after a great move then Logan Ryan (5 tackles, 2 sacks, pass deflected) forced the fumble recovered by Ninkovich at Miami's 13. Three plays later, Bolden ran for a 2-yard touchdown and New England never looked back from there. Gostkowski's 48-yard field goal with eight seconds left in the third quarter handed them their first lead at 20-17 and then Ridley's 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth put it out of reach for the Dolphins.
Nothing is a given for the Patriots this season with all their injuries and obvious struggles but they get a gift by hosting the Steelers (2-5, 4th in AFC North) next Sunday (4:25, CBS). Pittsburgh is so bad that they lost at Oakland this afternoon (21-18) and their season is going nowhere fast.
UPDATE 10/28: Vollmer has reportedly had surgery today on his broken leg, his timetable to return is unknown.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
When the Patriots lost last Sunday on a call that had never been made before in NFL history, we shrugged our shoulders (after throwing things at the TV) and said, oh well "it's only October." It was a much different story tonight as the Red Sox lost 5-4 to the Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2013 World Series at Busch Stadium. St. Louis takes a 2-1 lead in the series with Game 4 tomorrow night (8:15, Fox).
The winning run came home on an obstruction call against Will Middlebrooks vs. Allen Craig that negated what would have been one of the most famous double plays (Pedroia to Salty to Middlebrooks and back to Salty). It's impossible to make a full-proof case either way on that plus Salty was dumb to throw it to third to begin with; what I'm more interested in is the fact that it apparently had only decided a game once before in MLB history (a 2004 regular season game: Tampa Bay vs. Seattle) so it will keep us up at night wondering why this had to happen?
Of course, this ignores the fact that Boston was lucky to be hanging around in many ways. They are struggling to hit again like in the ALCS (aside from Game 1's blowout). The Red Sox only had six hits tonight while the Cardinals had 12. Likewise, St. Louis left 12 men on base and Boston only left six. In the biggest start of his career, Jake Peavy could only give his team four lousy innings. You get the point.
St. Louis wasted no time grabbing a pair of runs in the first on RBI singles by Matt Holliday (double, run) and Yadier Molina (3 hits, walk). Joe Kelly (5.1 innings, 2 earned runs, 2 hits, 6 strikeouts, 3 walks), another child that throws nearly 100 MPH for St. Louis kept Boston scoreless through the first four innings before Xander Bogaerts tripled to lead off the inning and pinch-hitter Mike Carp drove him in with a fielder's choice.
Starting in place of Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava proved his worth with an RBI single in the sixth that tied it at two. Holliday hit a clutch two-run double in the seventh to put the Cardinals back on top at 4-2. The Red Sox refused to die as they scored twice against Carlos Martinez on Nava's fielder's choice and Bogaerts' chopper up the middle.
Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal blew the save but picked up the cheap win. The good news for the Red Sox is that both Martinez and him threw 20 pitches apiece in high leverage situations; that should tax them if they're used in Game 4. Keep in mind Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara all worked as well but Breslow (5) and Uehara (3) were kept to a minimum amount of pitches.
Both leadoff hitters had two hits as Jacoby Ellsbury was 2 for 5 with a run (they've gotta find a way to get him running) while Matt Carpenter was 2 for 5 with two runs. Fat lard Matt Adams was 2 for 5 with a double for St. Louis.
I'm confident in terming tomorrow night's game a must-win for the Red Sox; they won't win three in a row (facing elimination) against the Cardinals, they're too good and I doubt that their pitching would crack like that. If you're positive, Boston's most talented pitcher Clay Buchholz takes the ball and they've been so resilient all season. However, he's been shaky in this postseason plus all these rumors swirl about his bizarre health status. Another kernel of positivity: St. Louis starter Lance Lynn stinks so maybe Boston's bats from Game 1 will reappear. All I do know is that it should be another hell of a game, let's just hope this time it doesn't end on some cheesy call (either way) that makes us want robot umpires.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
The way it played out, Boston choking away a game tonight vs. New Jersey seemed like some sort of cosmic retribution for them stealing two points from San Jose on Thursday. Make no mistake, the Sharks are excellent and the Devils suck but both teams are still in the NHL so on any given night yada yada. The Bruins (7-3-0) should have hung on but the Devils (2-5-4) were able to score two power play goals 23 seconds apart in the third period en route to a gut punch of a 4-3 win at dejected TD Garden.
Two factors: it is October and 2) the way they won with 0.8 seconds left vs. San Jose made this a little easier to take than the normal anal probe. Boston actually came out in the first period like a refreshed team that wasn't playing its third game in four nights (for the first time this season). They pumped three goals behind Martin Brodeur (25 saves) who is just a shell of what he used to be even a few years ago let alone a decade. It's tough to pin this on Tuukka Rask (28 saves) since all four of New Jersey's goals came on the power play including the tying goal which was a 6-on-3.
Power play specialist Torey Krug fluttered a wrist shot past Brodeur 7:52 into the contest, his fourth of the season from Jarome Iginla and David Krejci. The fun times continued as Iginla scored his second in as many games 1:27 later off a Devils skate. Dougie Hamilton and Rask both assisted on that fluky goal. Adam Henrique answered at 11:24 after Rask kicked a rebound right to him. Granted, his defensemen didn't do their job to clear the puck out of the zone. It was all good though (or at least we thought) as Lucic barreled down the left wing and snapped one past Brodeur for his sixth point (3 goals, 3 assists) in his last four games. It was also his team-leading sixth goal of the season from Krejci and Iginla.
Rask is human so you can't expect him to only give up one or two goals every night. The backhander that Damian Brunner snuck by him had to be the softest that the animated Finn has allowed in his nine starts. Not only was it weak but the timing was rough since New Jersey climbed back in at 3-2 with 28 seconds left in the second period.
Boston's meltdown started when Krug was rightfully called for a four-minute penalty (high sticking that drew blood). Before that was halfway through, Patrice Bergeron of all people accidentally flung the puck in the crowd in Boston's own end. Yikes, Zdeno Chara had done that earlier which led to Brunner's goal. New Jersey pulled Brodeur and quickly cashed in. Marek Zidlicky's shot from the point got by Rask who was completely screened by Steve Bernier at 18:52. Before the Bruins had a chance to recover, they were out of position and Rask was fishing the puck out of the net after Andy Greene's one-timer at 19:15. Goodnight everyone and drive home safely!
The B's are nice enough to let us really focus on the Patriots and Red Sox tomorrow then Red Sox on Monday before they return on Wednesday (8, NBCSN) in Pittsburgh (7-3-0). That'll be the first meeting of the Bruins and Penguins since Boston swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Gee, that'll be an entertaining game. NBCSN must be drooling for their rivalry night, it's a little better than Bruins-Sabres from last week.
Friday, October 25, 2013
This weekend marks the unofficial halfway point for all the NFL teams playing their eighth game of the regular season, crazy right? New England (5-2) hosts Miami (3-3) on Sunday (1, CBS) at Gillette Stadium in their first of two meetings between the AFC East rivals (and I use that term loosely). Both teams really need a victory, the Pats have lost two out of their last three sandwiched around an improbable comeback win over the Saints while the Dolphins have lost their last three games after a nice 3-0 start.
Today the injury reports came out and for our purposes, Miami's is irrelevant because they didn't list anyone at less than probable. Haha that's no fun guys! On New England, Leon Washington and Tommy Kelly continue to be out making you wonder when they'll return this season and if they'll have any impact (well at least Kelly already did, Washington not so much).
Seven Patriots are questionable: Michael Hoomanawanui (knee), Brandon Bolden (knee), Tavon Wilson (hamstring), Danny Amendola (concussion), Aqib Talib (hip), Marcus Cannon (shoulder) and Julian Edelman (thigh). Amendola and Talib obviously are the most important, I'm assuming that Edelman is playing since he hasn't missed any action yet (shocking I know), and they both returned to practice this week which is always a good sign.
We'll have to wait until Sunday to see who else will join Kelly and Washington on the sidelines, keep in mind seven players are deemed inactive on gamedays from the 53-man roster.
UPDATE 10/27: Dolphins inactives-DBs Jamar Taylor and Will Davis; QB Pat Devlin, RB Mike Gillislee, OT Dallas Thomas, OGs Danny Watkins and Will Yeatman. Patriots inactives-Talib, Josh Boyce, Steve Beauharnais, Kelly, Washington, Jake Bequette (how is he still on the team?) and Chris Barker.
If you are not a moron, you had to know that Game 1 was an anomaly. There was no way the Cardinals, a proud team that had won 97 games in the regular season-just like the Red Sox-was that bad. St. Louis showed what they're made of in 2013 by winning Game 2 of the World Series 4-2 tonight at chilly Fenway Park. This evens the series at one and ensures that the next three games will all be at Busch Stadium. Oh and it snaps that silly nine-game win streak by Boston in the Fall Classic dating back to 2004 vs. St. Louis.
Cardinals rookie pitcher Michael Wacha (1-0) was really good: six innings, two earned runs on three hits with six strikeouts and four walks. John Lackey (0-1) beat Justin Verlander in the ALCS but he couldn't beat Wacha who seems destined to be a star-he's only 22! Lackey went 6.1 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
Just like in the regular season, the Red Sox simply can't score runs when Lackey is on the mound. Another troubling trend: their bats disappeared much like they did for most of the ALCS. Boston only had four total hits in Game 2, two by David Ortiz. Speaking of Big Papi, he ruined Wacha's shutout bid with a two-run homer (his 17th career postseason bomb) that just sneaked over the Monster in the sixth for a 2-1 lead.
St. Louis had taken its first lead in the last six World Series game vs. Boston with a ground out in the fourth by Yadier Molina that scored Matt Holliday who had tripled. The Red Sox bullpen-its biggest strength vs. Detroit-showed wear and tear or perhaps just came back to Earth and Craig Breslow gave up the tying run on Matt Carpenter's sacrifice fly in the seventh. He compounded that by allowing another run on the same play since he airmailed a pointless throw to third base.
Carlos Beltran (2 hits) added an RBI single later in the frame which gave the Cardinals a 4-2 lead which was more than enough for their young fireballers in the bullpen. 22-year-old Carlos Martinez struck out three in two scoreless innings while greybeard Trevor Rosenthal (23!) struck out the side in the ninth on 11 pitches (very Koji-like) for his first save of the series.
Boston really could have used this win since Game 3 is Joe Kelly vs. Jake Peavy-who knows what to expect from him after the debacle in Detroit?. Before this series started, I think most rational fans thought this would go six or seven games either way. Good news for baseball and tough luck for your hearts: I agree that it is going to last a while.
There is also some lineup moves to make in order to hopefully spark Boston's offense. It is time for Daniel Nava to start in left field now that Jonny Gomes isn't unbeaten anymore in games he starts (7-1). I'm also hoping that David Ross starts over Jarrod Saltalamacchia who made an error in the seventh and was 0 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts. I would love to see worthless Stephen Drew take a seat as well but I'm not holding my breath on that. He's too good defensively for manager John Farrell to abandon his boy.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
After the bush league crap pulled by John Scott last night, it was refreshing to enjoy a hockey game for hockey reasons, in October no less. The Bruins pulled out an improbable win as David Krejci scored with 0.8 seconds left in regulation for a 2-1 victory over the Sharks at TD Garden. San Jose (8-1-1) entered without a loss in regulation and plenty of rest while Boston (7-2-0) had played the night before and had to fly back (albeit a short trip) to face the NHL's top team.
Tuukka Rask (38 saves) beat his Finnish homeboy Antti Niemi (15 saves) as truthfully San Jose dominated most of the game but that doesn't matter since the B's earned the two points at the end. It didn't feel like there would be enough time left but Adam McQuaid put a shot on net that Krejci beautifully redirected for his second goal of the season. Milan Lucic had the other assist on Krejci's buzzer-beater (who knew those existed in hockey?).
San Jose came out flying in the first period, outshooting Boston 16-3 but Rask held the fort as they say. The Bruins actually got on the board first too which was shocking. Jarome Iginla potted his first as a Bruin (one night after it looked like he did that but it was wiped away by Lucic's tip in). Krejci and Dennis Seidenberg assisted at 18:48 as Iginla somehow snuck it by Niemi from no angle.
There is a reason the Sharks entered as the NHL's highest-scoring team, Patrick Marleau tied it up just 18 seconds into the third period after Rask let up a rebound to him. Marc-Edourard Vlasic had the assist on San Jose's lone goal.
Selfishly, I was happy that the Bruins and Sharks didn't go into overtime because I wanted to watch the World Series but there is no way I could have predicted that excellent ending. It helps take a bit of the sting away from the Red Sox' 4-2 loss in Game 2. The B's are off tomorrow but they host the Devils (1-5-4) on Saturday (7, NESN) in another game that goes up against the World Series (Game 3 starts at 8:07 on Fox). The Devils are off to a terrible start but former Bruins Michael Ryder and Jaromir Jagr are putting up points so it'll be fun to see them back at the Garden.
If you didn't know any better, you'd think that the Cardinals were the Rays or Tigers (from this postseason) given the countless amount of mistakes (mental and physical) they made in an 8-1 loss to the Red Sox tonight at Fenway Park in Game 1 of the World Series. Game 2 is tomorrow night (8:07, Fox) with John Lackey facing prized rookie Michael Wacha.
Jon Lester (1-0) is an ace in the playoffs, not so much in the regular season but who cares if he pitches like this in October? He went 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing only five hits with eight strikeouts and a walk. The supposedly unbeatable Adam Wainwright (0-1) was merely mortal, in five innings he allowed five runs (3 earned) on six hits with four strikeouts and a walk. St. Louis was charged with three errors (two by Pete Kozma) but that doesn't even include a popup that Wainwright and Yadier Molina let drop in front of them-the only way that Stephen Drew will ever get a hit.
After such a tight six-game series in the ALCS vs. Detroit, Boston went to many lengths to win their ninth World Series game in a row. Primetime Mike Napoli had a three-run double in the first then the Red Sox added two more runs in the second on an RBI single by Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, 2 runs). Ortiz wasn't finished as he clubbed a two-run homer in the seventh for a commanding 7-0 advantage.
Xander Bogaerts had a sacrifice fly in the eighth which made it 8-0 but Matt Holliday (2 hits) showed some pride by hitting a solo homer in the ninth so the Cardinals avoided the shutout.
Besides the beating, the main storylines coming from this lopsided victory was the health of Clay Buchholz and Carlos Beltran. Buchholz was moved back to starting Game 4 (we'll believe it when we see it) so Jake Peavy gets the ball in Game 3 while Beltran ran into the right field wall in the third to rob Ortiz of another grand slam but he left with a rib contusion.
Wacha has been great in the postseason but it's a tough spot to put a rookie in: against an experienced guy like Lackey and down 1-0 in the series on the road. There is no way that St. Louis can make nearly as many mistakes the rest of the series but then again, we said something like that during the ALDS and ALCS. Oh by the way, Boston has won its last nine World Series games dating back to 2004 vs. St. Louis.
I honestly can't imagine what it's like to have to root for the Sabres these days, talk about a hopeless franchise. Not only is Buffalo (1-9-1) the worst team in the NHL but they also employ the reprehensible John Scott. Boston (6-2-0) wrapped up its three-game road trip 3-0-0 with a 5-2 win tonight at First Niagara Center.
I really don't want to devote much time to talking about Scott but I have to mention the fact that his elbow to Loui Eriksson's head caused the former to miss most of the third period. What's more, Eriksson stayed overnight in Buffalo (not fun for anybody, concussed or not) while his teammates returned to Boston.
Scott's usual bullshit overshadowed Chad Johnson's (14 saves) first win in a Bruins uniform. I think you could stick many household items or appliances in net vs. Buffalo and you'd still come out on top. The Sabres have scored a grand total of 15 goals in their first 11 games of this sure to be forgettable campaign.
Milan Lucic (2 goals, 1 assist) and Torey Krug (2 goals) were forces while David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Carl Soderberg each notched two assists in the win. They already fired their head coach so there are only a few moves left for the Sabres to make: since Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek are impending free agents (and by far their best players), why not trade them during the season since why would they want to come back? You may as well get something in return.
There have been so few B's games but one of the emerging subplots is Iginla's lack of goals. It looked like that was over 11:01 in this matchup of Atlantic Division rivals but Lucic got credit for tipping it past Miller. Krejci had the other assist on Lucic's fourth goal of the season. Looch took a puck in his face later in the first period (get a visor dude!) but because he's a hockey player, he returned with a large gash next to his nose.
As if to show that he was fine, Lucic made it 2-0 40 seconds into the second period with a beautiful tape-to-tape pass from Iginla. Not that anyone was watching since this opposed Game 1 of the World Series (Red Sox vs. Cardinals) but the NBCSN executives must have pulled their Buffalo Wild Wings lever to make this competitive. Cody Hodgson had a power play goal at 8:21 that went off his skate (not intentional).
The Bruins answered less than three and a half minutes later as Dougie Hamilton roofed a feed from Brad Marchand and Soderberg. Johnson showed why he's lucky to be in the NHL by allowing a very soft goal to Nikita Zadorov at 15:10. The weak backhander was the first of his NHL career.
Krug said goodnight to Buffalo with a 4-on-4 goal at 4:17 from Reilly Smith and Soderberg. He made Buffalo pay in the best manner, by scoring a power-play goal that came with Scott rotting in the penalty box. The Bruins handled Scott's hit the right way by having Adam McQuaid square off with him, then Scott was done for the night.
The Bruins face a real NHL team tomorrow night at TD Garden: the Sharks (8-0-1), the only team left in the league not to have lost in regulation. It's the second night of a back-to-back, hence why Tuukka Rask was resting comfortably on the bench. They will need him since San Jose has scored an NHL-best 40 goals.
UPDATE 10/24: Scott is suspended indefinitely by the NHL while he awaits a hearing with the league. Unfortunately, Eriksson was diagnosed with a concussion so he's out indefinitely as well.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
As we all know, there is nothing that the Patriots love more than a bargain. When said bargain involves a guy that they know very well, time to get them some Kleenex to wipe up from all their excitement. Today, New England signed defensive end Andre Carter, the same player that had 10 sacks in 2011 (14 games) with the Pats before suffering a season-ending quad injury.
The good news is that Carter is a smart veteran that always kept himself in excellent shape. The other side is that he's 34 and was sitting at home for the first seven weeks of this season after he was released by the Raiders during the preseason. As always, we can't read too much into statistics from Oakland (a black hole, get it?) but in 12 games last season with the Raiders, Carter had 13 tackles, six assists, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and three stuffed runs.
I'm not Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia or head coach Bill Belichick so it's hard to explain where Carter will play since I believe he's solely a defensive end. I know they've put Chandler Jones inside at times but he's having a great season rushing the quarterback with 6.5 sacks so I don't really understand that. New England had an open roster spot so they didn't have to make a corresponding move to accommodate Carter.
I doubt that he'll be able to play on Sunday (1, CBS) vs. Miami (3-3) but who knows? Bottom line is that this is a very low-risk move (I'm sure he's making peanuts) with the potential to be a nice boost for Jones to have another legitimate pass rusher (double digit sacks 4 times in Carter's NFL career) playing with him. If he's healthy, Carter will help the Pats this season since their defense has lost most of its best playmakers (Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly and Aqib Talib) for at least a few weeks or in some cases the rest of the season.
UPDATE 10/23: Pats officially signed Carter to a one-year deal today while adding DT Sealver Siliga to the practice squad and releasing CB Travis Howard from there.
UPDATE 10/24: I hadn't even noticed it during Sunday's game but I guess Logan Ryan grabbed his crotch as he went into the end zone. Not on Roger Goddell's watch, think of the children (Mrs. Lovejoy from the Simpsons voice)! Today, the Patriots rookie cornerback was fined $10,000 for his low-rent Michael Jackson impression.
Monday, October 21, 2013
I'll save the vitriol for local sports talk radio for the next few days since this topic should dominate it: the Patriots (5-2 overall, 2-2 away) got jobbed this afternoon at MetLife Stadium as the Jets (4-3 overall, 3-1 home) "beat them" 30-27 in overtime on Nick Folk's 42-yard field goal. Folk had missed a 56-yard field goal (don't ask my why the Jets attempted it) before that but was bailed out by a penalty that was supposedly called for the first time in the NFL: Chris Jones (10 tackles, 2 sacks) pushed a fellow Patriots defensive lineman forward to try and block the kick.
I realize that nobody outside of New England will feel bad for the Patriots, in fact I'm sure many fans of other teams were eating this shit up. I will admit that they didn't play well (Jets had the ball for 46:13 to Patriots' 23:40) but nobody deserves to lose in the bogus manner that they did. I can't remember a Patriots game ending in more controversial fashion.
In a way, New York should have captured this in regulation but the Pats got the ball back late to drive for a tying 44-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 16 seconds left. With a different outcome, this would have been remembered as Rob Gronkowski's (career-high 8 catches, 114 yards) remarkable 2013 debut. Instead, we get to hear about that stupid penalty for weeks or at least until the Red Sox start play in the World Series on Wednesday.
Give credit to the Jets as well, rookie quarterback Geno Smith (17 of 33 for 233 yds, TD, INT) is definitely improving. Not having Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Aqib Talib caught up with the Patriots who made Jeremy Kerley (career-high 8 catches, 97 yards; 12-yard touchdown catch) and David Nelson (4 catches, 80 yards) look like Pro Bowlers. Oh and Chris Ivory ran for 104 yards.
This wasn't the first time in his up and down season that Tom Brady (22 of 46 for 228 yds) looked human. In fact, both him and Smith threw pick-6s: rookie Logan Ryan intercepted Smith and returned it 79 yards for a score late in the first quarter while Antonio Allen stepped in front of Gronk on the second play of the second half and returned it 23 yards for the touchdown.
Other than Gronkowski, nobody else on the Patriots offense could get anything done. Brandon Bolden (1-yard) and Stevan Ridley (17-yard) both had touchdown runs but they didn't do much other than that. Kerley opened the scoring with a 12-yard touchdown catch. Bolden's jaunt and Ryan's return gave New England a 14-7 lead after the first quarter. Folk cut it to 14-10 early in the second quarter but the Pats were in good shape following Ridley's run.
The Patriots had won six in a row against the Jets and 12 straight vs. the AFC East. The Jets did all the scoring in the third quarter, to retake the lead, on Allen's interception return, a surprisingly mobile (for one play at least) 8-yard run by Smith and a 37-yard field goal by Smith. Gostkowski's 39-yard field goal were the only other points in the fourth quarter.
New England got the ball first in overtime and could have won it if they marched down the field and scored a touchdown but it wasn't to be. This victory pulls New York to within a game of the Pats and they split the season series. Chandler Jones (11 tackles, 8 solo, 2 sacks) was a beast but he could have used more help from some of his lesser talented teammates on the defensive side of the ball.
The Pats are back at Gillette Stadium on Sunday (1, CBS) vs. the Dolphins (3-3) in another early season AFC East showdown. Miami was predictably exposed today in a 23-21 loss at home to the Bills (3-4). Keep in mind that like the Jets, Miami always seems to give the Pats some trouble in at least one of their two annual contests. The sooner we can put this afternoon's debacle behind us, the better. In that way, it's a really good thing for our own sanity that the Red Sox will create a welcome diversion as much as we want.
UPDATE 10/21: The Pats waived defensive tackle Andre Neblett who I'm not quite sure if he exists or not.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
The Red Sox are going to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, a rematch of 2004, after Boston knocked out Detroit in six truly thrilling games. Tonight at Fenway Park, the Red Sox beat the Tigers 5-2 thanks to a clutch grand slam by Shane Victorino in the seventh inning that put them ahead 5-2. Craig Breslow got a 1-2-3 eighth and ALCS MVP Koji Uehara pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts for his third save of the series (plus 1 win). Game 1 of the World Series is Wednesday (8:07, Fox) at Fenway.
The themes built up over the previous five games continued one more time: Max Scherzer (0-1) was excellent (6.1 innings, 3 earned runs, 4 hits, 8 strikeouts, 5 walks) but his bullpen was not. Boston's bullpen was superb, well other than Franklin Morales who allowed a two-run single to Victor Martinez that temporarily put Detroit ahead 2-1 in the sixth. I don't blame Morales as much as John Farrell for that mind-numbing move since Morales is terrible. Oh well, no reason to worry about that blunder too much now. Haha let's just hope Morales isn't on the World Series roster.
Clay Buchholz (5 innings, 2 earned runs, 4 hits, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks) pitched at a snail's pace but he was better than Game 1. After Morales failed, Brandon Workman (who should have been the first reliever) got five outs and Junichi Tazawa (1-0) retired Miguel Cabrera for the third time in the ALCS, in this instance there were runners on first and second with two outs.
Compared to Prince Fielder though, Cabrera had the greatest ALCS in history. Prince proved what a dog he is by hitting .182 in six games with no RBIs. He's gone 20 postseason games without a homer or RBI, how's that even possible? His series was best summed up by him getting caught too far off third then belly flopping five feet short of the bag for a soul-crushing double play.
Jacoby Ellsbury drove in budding superstar Xander Bogaerts (double, two runs, two walks) for a 1-0 Red Sox lead in the fifth. The rookie also drew a key walk vs. Scherzer in the sixth that led to him getting pulled a few batters later and Victorino's memorable grand slam over the Monster. Bogaerts will start every game in the World Series and deservedly so. I'd love to see Will Middlebrooks at third base and Bogaerts at third but Stephen Drew's excellent dive and throw to first likely earned him more leeway despite him being 1-for-20 (even Prince thinks that's bad) with nine strikeouts in the ALCS.
You can't say enough about the importance of not going seven games with Detroit. The Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers last night so they don't have much of a headstart on Boston plus thanks to the stupid All-Star Game, the Red Sox have homefield advantage. Both teams are gunning for their third World Series crown in the last decade and Boston swept St. Louis in 2004 (you might have heard about that). Anything can happen in the World Series but I expect it to be extremely competitive, think ALCS, but the Cardinals are deeper and more fundamentally sound than the Tigers who self-destructed much like the Rays in the ALDS.
This is the 11th time in franchise history that the Red Sox have made the World Series (6-4) and fourth time it is against St. Louis: Cardinals beat them in seven games in 1946 and 1967 before Boston returned the favor nine years ago. Four more wins!
Just for the fact that it was Saturday night, I'd give you a pass for missing out on the Bruins-Lightning game. Add in that it occurred at basically the same time as Red Sox-Tigers Game 6 of the ALCS and I understand why few paid attention to the Black and Gold on this night. It was a surprisingly one-sided affair as Boston (5-2-0) beat Tampa Bay (5-3-0) 5-0 at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
After topping the Lightning 3-1 in the opener on October 3 at TD Garden, the B's have outscored them 8-1 in two games. They'll meet twice more: in November and March. I'm sure Tampa Bay will be happy to play other teams since they are 5-1-0 against clubs not named the Bruins so far this season.
Boston played its best game (yes I know they are seven games in) thanks to a complete effort from the entire team: goals from all four lines and a defenseman while Tuukka Rask (23 saves) picked up his first shutout of the season. Tampa Bay hinted at this being a blowout as they allowed a goal 1:32 into the proceedings. David Krejci redirected a pass by Milan Lucic for his first goal of the season. Jarome Iginla had the second assist.
The B's opened it up in the second period with three goals, their top 20 minutes of the season. Adam McQuaid scored on a wrister from the point that was deflected by a Lightning for his first goal of the season at 4:37. Boston hit Tampa Bay with a pair of goals 55 seconds apart late in the second which turned this into a laugher and gave us more liberal time to check out the Red Sox game.
Patrice Bergeron finished off a pretty rush by Reilly Smith and Loui Eriksson at 14:52 for his second goal of the season. Believe it or not, Chris Kelly already matched his goal total from last season (3) when he scored tonight from Brad Marchand and crazy Carl Soderberg. That signaled the end for Ben Bishop who was pulled in favor of the immortal Anders Lindback.
Other than a few fights, the Lightning never really pushed back or forced Rask to make too many difficult stops. Given their abundance of offensive talent, that was strange. Another surprising element was Shawn Thornton's snipe 34 seconds into the third period. Daniel Paille assisted on his first goal of the season.
If Boston brings this same effort on Wednesday in Buffalo (8, NBCSN), they could honestly beat the Sabres (1-8-1) by double-digits. I know that isn't realistic but the B's looked that good this evening while the Sabres are that hopeless. Haha should be fun!
Saturday, October 19, 2013
I don't want to jinx it since it has been such a long time coming, but it appears that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will finally make his 2013 debut on Sunday (1, NBCS) vs. the Jets (3-3) then home vs. Denver on Sunday Night Football. Today's injury report came out and both teams are banged up.
Danny Amendola (concussion), Tommy Kelly (knee) and Leon Washington are all out for New England while former Patriot/Invisible Man Greg Salas (knee) and Santonio Holmes (foot) leave New York with some pretty grimy options for rookie Geno Smith to pass to. Aqib Talib is doubtful (hip) so I'd be shocked to see him on the field on Sunday.
There are many things to loath about the Jets: their players, coaches or fanbase all make it way too easy for others. What I'm trying to say is that despite all that, I admire how New York doesn't screw around with its injury report. Salas and Holmes are the only guys they mention that aren't probable.
The Patriots were not impressed with that refreshing honesty as they piled eight guys that are questionable onto the report: Michael Hoomanawanui (knee), Dan Connolly (concussion), Brandon Bolden (knee), Matthew Slater (wrist), Julian Edelman (thigh), Marcus Cannon (shoulder), Tavon Wilson (hamsting) and Gronk (back). It's interesting to note that they don't mention his arm anymore.
I learned my lesson from Week 2's ugly ugly win by the Patriots that while they own the Jets at the moment, they always seem to have tight games vs the Jets for whatever reason. Stay tuned as I update this while the weekend goes by.
UPDATE 10/19: Wilson and Talib are out but the good news is that Gronk made the trip to NY/NJ so he appears to be playing tomorrow. We shall see.
UPDATE 10/20: Patriots inactives are Wilson, Talib, WR Josh Boyce, OL Chris Barker, Amendola, Kelly and Washington. Jets inactives are Brady Quinn, Holmes, Salas, LB Troy Davis, G William Campbell, T Ben Ijilana and T Oday Aboushi.
Friday, October 18, 2013
All season long, one of the Red Sox' M.O. has been bouncing back from normally crushing losses. That has carried over to the postseason as Boston beat Detroit 4-3 in Game 5 of the ALCS tonight at Comerica Park. Koji Uehara recorded (2nd save of the series, 4th of the postseason) the first five-out save in MLB this October, which featured two strikeouts.
The Red Sox lead the series 3-2 with two chances to win at Fenway Park: Game 6 is Saturday and Game 7 would be Sunday but let's not hope it gets to that.
Two themes from the entire series continued in Boston's favor: they won their third one-run game and it's all thanks to their top-notch relievers. After being basically unhittable in Game 1, Anibal Sanchez (1-1; 6 IP, 4 runs, 3 earned runs, 9 hits, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks) came back to Earth in a big way. Jon Lester (1-1) was also better in Game 1 but tonight was all about surviving. He went 5.1 innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
The Red Sox scored all their runs in the first three innings, specifically three in the second and one in the third. Suddenly red-hot Mike Napoli (3 for 4, double, 2 runs) started the surge with a solo homer (his second of the ALCS) to dead center that was estimated to travel 460 feet. Lester's personal catcher David Ross even helped himself at the plate with two hits including an RBI double. Jacoby Ellsbury (walk, 2 stolen bases) reached on an infield single that scored rookie Xander Bogaerts (who batted eighth, started at third base and hit a double). Napoli made it 4-0 on a wild pitch by Sanchez.
Napoli's last run, which turned out to be huge, was a quality baserunning play. Completely different from Miguel Cabrera getting thrown out by Jonny Gomes at home plate in the first to end the first inning. Detroit has to be the slowest team in MLB, that's one thing the Red Sox have tried to exploit. Cabrera did what he does best: he kicked off Detroit's rally with an RBI single in the fifth.
Ross had run over Tigers catcher Alex Avila so he had to leave in the fourth inning with a knee strain. Enter backup catcher Brayan Pena who drove in a run with a single in the sixth. A run scored but Junichi Tazawa did his job by getting Cabrera to ground into a double play in the seventh-one of three turned by the Red Sox in Game 5. Craig Breslow got two outs, one of which was the hopeless Prince Fielder (1 for 4, saw 10 pitches) before Tazawa retired the last five Detroit batters in the game.
Game 6 is a rematch of Game 2 with Max Scherzer taking on Clay Buchholz. Scherzer was incredible but his bullpen totally let the team down as Boston rallied for the 6-5 win. I still like Buchholz's chances to have a good outing given his talent level. You have to feel like the Red Sox have the momentum too since they've won three out of the last four games (2 of 3 in Detroit) to put the Tigers on the brink of elimination.
When NESN's broadcast opened tonight with shot of an empty BB&T Center only a few minutes before the opening faceoff, you realized that this event wasn't as nearly charged as you hoped it would be: Tim Thomas (37 saves) made his first start against the Bruins but he'd probably like to forget it as the Panthers lost 3-2.
Reilly Smith helped Boston (4-2-0) avoid overtime and a pretty bad choke job by scoring a clutch goal with 59 seconds left in regulation. His first of the season was assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug. It never should have been that tight since the B's opened up a 2-0 lead on Florida (2-6-0) in the first period but cruised until the Panthers scored one in the second and one in the third to tie it at two.
Like most of his teammates, Tuukka Rask (27 saves) wasn't at his best. The Panthers are so bad that they drag you down to their putrid level if you're not careful. Daniel Paille scored 3:45 into the game, his first of the season, from Dennis Seidenberg (who sprung him) and Matt Bartkowski. This looked headed to blowout city as Dougie Hamilton added a power play goal, also his first of the season, at 12:47 from David Krejci and Zdeno Chara.
Kris Versteeg gave the Panthers some life with a goal at 12:32 of the second period. All hell broke loose, well not really, when something called Jesse Winchester (which totally sounds like a porn name) poked in a loose puck with six minutes left in regulation. Circle November 7, that's when Thomas will make his first depressing appearance at TD Garden for Florida. Seeing him toil in obscurity in Sunrise, FL was a painful reminder of how much fortunes can change in professional sports. How the mighty have fallen if you will.
This was the first game of a three-game road trip by the B's. They are in Tampa Bay (5-2-0) on Saturday (7, NESN) against the Lightning (who they beat 3-1 in the season opener). They have to clean things up against them because if they have as many lapses and defensive mistakes, the Lightning could actually make them pay unlike the Panthers who struggle to do anything positive.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
After three one-run games in a row, the 2013 ALCS was due for a blowout. Unfortunately, the Red Sox found themselves on the wrong side of that equation as they lost 7-3 to the Tigers in Game 4 this evening at Comerica Park. The all-important Game 5 is tomorrow night (8:07, Fox) back in Motown. This victory ensured that there will be another game(s) at Fenway in the series: Game 6 on Saturday afternoon (4:37, Fox).
The series is even at two now with Detroit's win which truthfully wasn't all that competitive. The Tigers went up 5-0 in the second inning and added two runs in the fourth before the Red Sox scored in baseball's equivalent of garbage time. Jake Peavy (0-1) just didn't have it in the biggest start of his MLB career although who knows how things would have gone if Dustin Pedroia had turned an inning-ending double play (that he usually makes in his sleep) when it was 1-0?
The two main takeaways from this are that Boston has to do something about the bottom of its batting order: Stephen Drew was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and Will Middlebrooks struck out in both of his plate appearances. To plead his case on the field, rookie Xander Bogaerts had a pinch hit double in the ninth and scored a run. Manager John Farrell admitted after the game that Bogaerts could very well be in the lineup for Game 5. Please do that!
Also, the media will prepare a tongue bath for Tigers manager Jim Leyland after he changed his lineup: having Torii Hunter (double, run, 2 RBIs) bat leadoff and Austin Jackson (2 hits, 2 RBIs, walk, run, stolen base) move to eighth couldn't have possibly worked out any better.
Doug Fister (6 innings, 1 earned run, 8 hits, 7 strikeouts, 1 walk) wasn't as sharp as his numbers suggest but he was helped out by a Red Sox offense that went 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position. Boston had 12 hits including five extra base hits but they left 10 men on base.
One of the main positives for the Red Sox to take out of his mostly lifeless loss is that Jacoby Ellsbury (4 for 5, double, run, RBI), Mike Napoli (2 for 4, double, run) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2 for 4, RBI) all broke out of their respective slumps at the plate. And yes, I remember Napoli's home run in Game 3.
Detroit's first two runs came on Jackson's bases loaded walk and a fielder's choice. Hunter's two-run double and Miguel Cabrera's RBI single (2 hits) made it 5-0. When Jackson's infield single scored another run and Cabrera added his second RBI single in the fourth for a 7-0 lead, you knew the Red Sox were done given their struggles at the plate by and large in this series.
Boston did show plenty of pride (no surprise there) with Salty's RBI single in the sixth, Shane Victorino's RBI double in the seventh and Ellsbury's RBI triple in the ninth. Leyland threw his embattled closer Joaquin Benoit out there in the ninth and he had to throw 21 pitches before retiring David Ortiz (irony) on a fly ball to right for the third out. Benoit should be tired or at least shaky if he gets used in Game 5 (ala Game 2).
Game 5 is a rematch of Game 2 as Jon Lester (0-1) faces Anibal Sanchez (1-0). As far as I'm concerned, it's easily the biggest game of the season thus far for the Red Sox. Going up 3-2 and heading home would be a great scenario to find themselves in. Either way, at this time tomorrow one of these teams will be one out away from advancing to the World Series.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
I can't remember the Patriots ever getting bombarded with so many serious injuries-to key players no less-this early in the regular season. That troubling trend continued tonight as reports surfaced on Twitter that linebacker and defensive captain Jerod Mayo had surgery on a torn pectoral muscle so he's not expected to play for the rest of the season. Ah! It happened last in Sunday's improbable win against the Saints and comes only a few days before they face the Jets (3-3) on Sunday (1, CBS) in New Jersey.
This is absurd, it's fruitless to whine about injuries since every team in the NFL gets them but are you kidding me right now? After only six games, the Patriots have lost Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola (multiple times), Matthew Slater, Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and now Mayo. Oh and Rob Gronkowski has been the most talked about player in the NFL (or so it seems around here) the last few weeks but he has yet to step foot in an actual game. Ugh.
New England (5-1) has been able to survive this raft of injuries so far but at some point, this will all eventually catch up with them. Nobody has the type of depth to withstand losing all these vital players for significant periods of time. Replacing Mayo (55 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass deflected) with Dont'a Hightower is OK if not ideal. When you start talking about untested rookie Jamie Collins or special teams hero Dane Fletcher stepping in for the two-time Pro Bowl and 2010 All-Pro, well then you have a problem.
If nothing else, this unfortunately will prove to us one way or another if Mayo was overrated or not. Many people maintain that he piles up inflated statistics but never really makes game-changing plays. I'm not firmly in that camp but I will say that if you're looking for a big play linebacker, Mayo isn't necessarily your first or second option in the NFL. Still, I think we can all agree that he's a very effective player and a guy that has fit in with the Pats seamlessly from day one.
PS how miserable must it be to cover the Pats? Anytime there is a big story like this, it is broken by a national outlet (in this case Yahoo). You spend all that time covering the team but you can't build any good sources so in turn you get scooped every time for the most important stuff that people want to know. Yikes. I'll stick to just blogging about the Patriots thank you very much, no wonder why a majority of their beat writers are so beaten down.
UPDATE 10/16: The Pats publically acknowledged Mayo's injury today, putting him on season-ending IR and re-signing defensive tackle Andre Neblett.
UPDATE 10/17: Devin McCourty regained his captaincy with Mayo gone and the Patriots signed cornerback Travis Howard to their practice squad.
UPDATE 10/18: Rob Ninkovich was also named a captain, in place of Vince Wilfork.