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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

For Once, The Rays Don't Look Like Much of a Threat in the AL East

Due to major injuries to starting pitchers Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the Rays are a bit of a mess at the moment. Since manager Joe Maddon took over in Tampa Bay (11-16 overall, 4-9 away) I have always been in awe of what they can do with tight pockets and few fans. Honestly, I have feared the Rays more than the Yankees in recent history since they usually seem to give the Red Sox fits.

However, this season could be a bit of a trip back to their shitty Devil Rays past as Boston (13-14 overall, 6-8 home) beat them 7-4 tonight at Fenway Park in their first (of 19) meeting of the season. John Lackey (4-2) had his second straight really good outing that lasted eight innings (2 earned runs, 6 hits, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk). It was actually 7-2 in the ninth before the Rays scored two runs on an infield single by Yunel Escobar and throwing error by Xander Bogaerts.

With one runner on base, Red Sox manager John Farrell made the curious decision to put in closer Koji Uehara. Still, he struck out Ben Zobrist on three pitches to end it for his sixth save of the season. Other than Lackey, Shane Victorino (4 for 4, double, 2 RBIs) was the main attraction. We know that he can't do it for a full season anymore but he is certainly valuable when Boston can get him on the field.

Former Red Sox great Erik Bedard got the start and actually only allowed one run but in typical fashion he threw way too many pitches (104) in just five innings. That meant that Boston did their damage vs. Tampa Bay's crappy middle relievers. Victorino had driven in Boston's first run in the fifth with a sacrifice fly which is what Evan Longoria answered with in the next frame. For once, the Red Sox hung a crooked number (5) on the scoreboard in the sixth. A.J. Pierzynski (2 for 4, run) started it with an RBI single then Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Victorino knocked in a combined four runs with doubles.

Andover's Ryan Hanigan cut it to 6-2 in the seventh with an RBI single but David Ortiz regained the five-run advantage with an RBI single in the eighth. Tomorrow (7:10, NESN) is the sixth time that Boston can get back to the .500 mark in April (they've failed the previous five occasions) as Felix Doubront (1-3) fights for his job against Chris Archer (2-1). There are three Game 7s in the NHL tomorrow night so if you can focus primarily on this contest then you are a very sick person.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Goodnight Red Wings, Bring On The Canadiens!

So it turns out that we all overestimated the Red Wings. Boston only needed five games in the first round to get rid of them. The B's knocked out the Red Wings 4-2 this afternoon at TD Garden to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. Montreal. Even when they cut it to 3-2 late in the third period, you never really felt like Detroit posed that much of a threat to rally either in this particular game or in the series as a whole.

Tuukka Rask (31 saves) had another excellent start, he was one of the main reasons that Boston won so handily (outscoring Detroit 14-6 in the series). Jimmy Howard tapped out in Game 4 with the flu and was never heard from again. Don't blame Jonas Gustavsson though who only allowed three goals in each of his outings and received four goals of support from his overrated, mostly too young or too old teammates.

Boston made sure to never really let Detroit possess much hope in Game 5. Loui Eriksson scored on a backhander during a power play at 3:27 of the first period. His first goal of the postseason (and first since May 2008 with Dallas) was assisted by Dougie Hamilton and Rask.

One of the only Red Wings forwards to show up in the series-Pavel Datsyuk-tied it at 14:41 in the second period on a rebound also during a power play (only their second power play goal of the series). 5:15 after that, Zdeno Chara did what winning captains do as he scored a backbreaking power play goal with 3.8 seconds left in the frame. Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug assisted on Chara's second goal of the postseason.

Milan Lucic scored a goal for the second straight game, putting Boston up 3-1 at 4:27 of the third period. His third goal of the postseason was assisted by Krug who did most of the work by intercepting the puck on a lazy clear by Johan Franzen and passing to Looch who was wide open in front of Gustavsson (29 saves).

Henrik Zetterberg had the honor of scoring Detroit's final goal of 2013-14. It was another rebound after Rask had made an unbelievable save. I suppose that made for a few tense minutes at the Garden but Jarome Iginla kicked off the mild celebrations with an empty netter. All that was left was one of the best traditions in pro sports: the handshake lines after playoff hockey series have ended.

The series with the Canadiens won't start for a while, probably Friday or Saturday at TD Garden due to both teams getting out of the first round so early and Northeastern having graduation there on Thursday. We feared Detroit since they owned Boston in the regular season; Montreal was the only other team to dominate the B's consistently and their recent playoff history with Boston shows that they'll probably be in for another long and frustrating series. Let's get our rest before we lose our minds cheering against those extremely hateable losers.

UPDATE 4/28: Chara is a finalist for the Norris Trophy along with Nashville's Shea Weber and Chicago's Duncan Keith. It is the sixth time that Z has been nominated and he won it in 2009. When is the last time the Bruins had three players nominated for major awards in the same season?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Bruins Take a Commanding 3-1 Series Lead on Jarome Iginla's 1st Career OT Winner

I would have said the exact same thing (well maybe worded a little differently) if the Bruins had lost Game 4: this was a huge result. By rallying for a 3-2 OT win over Detroit on Jarome Iginla's tip in, Boston goes back to TD Garden with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to eliminate Detroit in Game 5 on Saturday afternoon (3, NBC).

The first period was the best of the series for the Red Wings and conversely the worst for the Bruins. Niklas Kronwall gave Detroit a 1-0 lead at 11:00 with a blast from the point on the power play that Tuukka Rask (35 saves) never saw. Without Rask, the B's could have found themselves down 2 or 3-0 in the first period as Detroit outshot them 15-5.

The team that had scored first won the first three games and the odds were even more in the Red Wings' favor when they went up 2-0 at 4:27 of the second period on Pavel Datsyuk's goal. Boston finally started to wake up and they received a huge goal by Torey Krug at 10:14 on the power play. His first of the postseason was assisted by Patrice Bergeron (or should I say Mr. Selke?).

Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard was in the pregame warmups but left with the flu so he was a last-second scratch. Red Wings backup Jonas Gustavsson (37 saves) was actually really good and I feel like he earned the start for Game 5 as well. It only took 1:15 in the third for Boston to tie it up. Carl Soderberg made an unbelievable pass from behind the net to Milan Lucic out front for an easy goal. That was Looch's second of the postseason and Dougie Hamilton had the second assist.

I forgot to mention that it shouldn't have been decided in overtime since Brad Marchand missed not one but two of the easiest goals he'd ever have in his career. It was scary in the extra session that Boston dominated so much (outshooting Detroit 12-3) but thankfully, Iginla tipped in Hamilton's shot at 13:32. Believe it or not, that was the first overtime winner in the playoffs in Iginla's illustrious career. Hamilton notched another helper on it as well.

Boston has won the last three games in the series so they have all the momentum plus Rask has allowed just four total goals in four games. He made the save of the game and one of the best in the postseason by stuffing Justin Abdelkader's breakaway attempt in the first minute of overtime. The B's have extra incentive to get rid of the Red Wings since the Canadiens are sitting around and waiting for their next opponent.

UPDATE 4/25: Another day, another major award nomination for a Bruin. Today Tuukka Rask was named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy (top goaltender) along with Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop and Colorado's Semyon Varlamov. I might be seeing this through my black and gold colored glasses but like Patrice Bergeron and the Selke Trophy, I feel like Rask is the favorite for this too.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

There's Dumb and then There is Michael Pineda

It's about time that Red Sox-Yankees had some new drama since admittedly the last few years have been pretty blah for the alleged best rivalry in MLB. Tonight shall forever be known as the night that Michael Pineda overdosed on pine tar. He had gotten away with having it all over his hand two weeks ago when New York (12-9 overall, 6-6 away) beat Boston (10-12 overall, 5-7 home) 4-1 at Yankee Stadium but it was a different story in the friendly confines of Fenway Park.

Red Sox manager John Farrell pointed out the pine tar all over Pineda's neck (I'm serious) and the Yankees hurler was ejected with two outs in the bottom of the second. Boston had already scored twice in the first inning and they went on to post a 5-1 victory that will perhaps propel them out of the depths of mediocrity that they've been stuck in since the opening series in Baltimore.

Let's not have Pineda's utter stupidity completely overshadow what was John Lackey's best performance as a Red Sox (8 innings, 1 earned run, 7 hits, 11 strikeouts, 0 walks), in the regular season at least I know he had some great ones last postseason. It's the second time in his career that he's had 11 Ks & 0 BBs vs. New York (the other was when he was an Angel) and he became only the fourth Red Sox pitcher to do that (joining Pedro Martinez, Jim Lonborg and Cy Young).

Pineda figures to be suspended by MLB, how long is another question but he also screwed his team over since his manager Joe Girardi had to burn through four additional relievers. Boston went up 2-0 in the first on RBI singles by Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, 2 runs) and A.J. Pierzynski (walk). The Red Sox pushed two more runs across in the third against David Phelps on a ground rule double by Mike Napoli (3 for 4) and a wild pitch.

Alfonso Soriano's sacrifice fly in the sixth produced New York's only run. Brock Holt (2 walks) continued his fine play with an RBI single in the eighth that drove in Xander Bogaerts (single, run). You hate to see him used in non-save situations but Farrell always plays Koji Uehara when he's warmed up so he went out there in the ninth and struck out the side to end it.

To kill time before Bruins-Red Wings Game 4 tomorrow night (8, NESN), we will probably see about 1.5 innings of the series finale between the Red Sox and Yankees (7:10, NESN Plus). CC Sabathia (2-2) faces Felix Doubront (1-2) and they both suck so both teams could put up big numbers as they try to clinch the three-game series.

Patriots 2014 Regular Season Schedule Announced

You have to hand it to the NFL, they are the only pro sports league in America that can make something as mundane as schedule unveilings into a must-see event every year. Tonight on the NFL Network, every team found out what their 2014 regular season will look like (granted they already knew the opponents just not the particulars). Of course with the 2014 NFL Draft two weeks from tomorrow not to mention months and months of training camp, preseason, injuries and transactions to take place, it is pointless to project wins and losses. Still, you know that the Pats are good for at least 10 wins every season in the sad sack AFC East.

New England opens up in Miami on Sunday, September 7 (1, CBS) and they close Sunday, December 28 vs. Buffalo (1, CBS). In between that, they have five primetime games (3 Sunday, 1 Monday and 1 Thursday) plus keep in mind that flex scheduling starts as early as Week 5 this season so they could possibly be in more than we know at the moment.

The Pats play two shitbag teams in a row early on: at Minnesota in Week 2 and vs. Oakland in Week 3 which are basically automatic wins. Things start to get interesting again in Week 4 as they travel to Kansas City for Monday Night Football. Can't wait to hear Gruden compare Tom Brady and Alex Smith, that should be neat. That's followed by another national game as they host Cincinnati on Sunday Night Football.

They won't have to deal with the terrible winter weather in Buffalo (we hope) as they get that out of the way in Week 6. Then it's a short week as they host the Jets on Thursday Night Football. Week 8 finds Jay Cutler and the Bears in Foxborough then Week 9 is the game of the year in the AFC and one of the marquee matchups in the NFL as Peyton Manning and the Broncos visit (surprisingly a 4:25 start but I bet that changes).

Week 10 is New England's bye and they are challenged coming out of that as they travel to Indianapolis in Week 11 for a Sunday Night contest. The following Sunday they host the Lions (before Thanksgiving) then in Week 13 they travel to Green Bay-a pretty cool road trip that they rarely make. Week 14 is their last primetime game as they go to San Diego.

The regular season concludes with three straight games against their AFC East foes: vs. Miami, at New York and vs. Buffalo. There are plenty of other things to distract us (NHL and NBA playoffs, MLB to a lesser extent) but it's nice to at least have this to daydream about when the summer drags along. The draft is always a great event that any true football fan looks forward to every spring.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bruins Begin to Assert Their Dominance over Red Wings with 3-0 Win in Game 3

You won't find a much more impressive or thorough road win in the NHL playoffs than the one turned in by the Bruins tonight in Game 3 of their first round series vs. Red Wings. Boston won 3-0 at Joe Louis Arena to take a 2-1 series lead. The B's have won the last two games and outscored the Red Wings 7-2 overall in the series. Tuukka Rask made 23 saves for his fourth career postseason shutout but truthfully, he didn't have to stop too many spectacular shots besides Justin Abdelkader's backhander in the third period.

Boston never really let Detroit get comfortable as they scored two goals in the first period. The Bruins continued their theme of different players stepping up every game as Dougie Hamilton and Jordan Caron (seriously) potted the first two tallies. Through the first three games, seven different Bruins have scored all their goals.

Hamilton's came on a rush at 9:00 when Detroit gave him way too much space so he roofed a shot past Jimmy Howard (31 saves). Reilly Smith and Patrice Bergeron had the assists. Every Bruins fan has made fun of Caron numerous times or just gotten tired of ripping him so it was nice to see him actually make a nice play. He came off the bench for a line change and bolted right to the net so he was there for the rebound after Shawn Thornton's shot at 15:48. It was his first career playoff goal. Kevan Miller had the second assist.

Much like the second period of Game 2, the Red Wings started to wake up in the second 20 minutes but they weren't able to score so it didn't matter all that much. With the way they dominated puck possession and in terms of quality scoring chances, the B's probably should have won by four or five goals. Patrice Bergeron's audacious empty-netter (from inside his own blue line) at 18:01 sealed it.

Red Wings fans took off after that so when the final whistle blew, the stands were nearly empty. The remaining stragglers were left stunned by the Bruins. Game 4 is on Thursday (8, NESN) and needless to say it is the most important one so far in the series. If Boston wins, I think they'll definitely close out Detroit in five at the Garden on Saturday. If Detroit wins, buckle up because this would probably go seven games. What's better than playoff hockey?

That killer strain of the flu that numerous Bruins picked up finally seemed to have left as Matt Bartkowski played in his first game of the series. That meant that Andrej Meszaros went back to where he belongs-as a healthy scratch in the lineup.

UPDATE 4/24: The three Selke Trophy finalists were named today: Bergeron, LA's Anze Kopitar and Chicago's Jonathan Toews.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What's Up With Clay Buchholz?

There was a time when Clay Buchholz was one of the most talented starting pitchers in MLB. Of course, he could never really put it together for a full season based on his frail body and reluctance to play through any type of pain. Now, those days seem like a distant memory as he continually gets lit up (twice in four starts this season). Today he ruined what was a perfect Patriot's Day in Boston with the Marathon as the Red Sox fell 7-6 to the Orioles at Fenway Park in the four-game series finale which the teams split.

Buchholz (0-2) allowed six earned runs on seven hits in 2.1 pathetic innings. Boston (9-11 overall, 4-6 home) was down 6-0 in the third inning and almost completed another amazing comeback for the second day in a row but you can't expect that against a decent team like Baltimore (9-9 overall, 5-5 away) or any in MLB really outside of maybe the Cubs.

The frustrating part was that Baltimore didn't exactly crush hits around the ballpark, they just kept getting on base vs. Buchholz in the six-run third. Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis had RBI singles, a run scored on a fielder's choice, Steve Clevenger hit an RBI double and Jonathan Schoop ended Buchholz's holiday early with a run-scoring single.

Wei-Yin Chen (3-1) didn't have a great outing by any means but compared to Buchholz, he looked like Nolan Ryan in his prime. He went five innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits with five strikeouts and three walks.

The Red Sox cut the lead in half with three runs in the fifth. Jackie Bradley Jr. started it off with an RBI double, Brock Holt (2 hits, run) had a sacrifice fly and Dustin Pedroia (2 doubles, 2 walks) played wall ball with an RBI double. David Ross made it 6-4 Orioles with a solo homer into the Monster seats, his first home run of the season.

Ryan Flaherty added an RBI single in the eighth for the Orioles which turned out to be a very important run because Mike Napoli hit a solo bomb in the home half of the frame and Boston could have put together a bigger inning if Xander Bogaerts didn't have a careless baserunning blunder.

Baltimore's bullpen is one of the things that will probably hold them back for contending for the AL East all season, personified by mediocre pitcher turned closer Tommy Hunter. Still, he got the job done today at least despite allowing a run on Napoli's ground out. Pinch hitter Mike Carp was the last out as he stranded Pedroia on third and David Ortiz on second. Ugh. The good news regarding him and the utterly useless Jonathan Herrera is that both should see much less playing time in the near future with Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks currently rehabbing in Pawtucket.

Boston's tour of the parity filled AL East (all five teams were separated by two games entering today) continues tomorrow with three games against the Yankees (11-8 overall) at Fenway. Then they have three in Toronto this weekend and three against Tampa Bay in Boston. The Red Sox-Yankees pitching matchups are Jon Lester (2-2) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (2-0) tomorrow night (7:10, NESN), John Lackey (2-2) takes on Michael Pineda (2-1) on Wednesday (7:10, NESN) and Felix Doubront (1-2) opposes not fat CC Sabathia (2-2) on Thursday (7:10, NESN).

Red Sox Win Ugly Game in Gross Way: Walk-Off Error

You are excused if you either didn't watch the Red Sox-Orioles game tonight or at least changed it after Boston went down 5-0 in the sixth inning. Who could have predicted that Boston (9-10 overall, 4-5 home) would rally for a wild 6-5 win at Fenway Park over bumbling Baltimore (8-9 overall, 4-5 away)?

It was tied at five in the bottom of the ninth when Mike Carp lined out to left but David Lough made a terrible relay throw and third baseman Jonathan Schoop ran from the ball like it was a grenade. The bottom line was that Dustin Pedroia scored the winning run as Boston escaped with an improbable 6-5 victory. The best part for all involved (players, fans, media) is that it didn't go to extra innings since Marathon Monday is tomorrow with its customary 11 a.m. start time.

The Jake Peavy of late 2013 made the start and Baltimore scored three in the first inning on a homer by Nelson Cruz (his third of the season, all against Boston), Matt Wieters had an RBI single and J.J. Hardy added a run with a sacrifice fly. Things got worse as Lough had an RBI double in the fifth and Adam Jones (4 hits, double, run) made it 5-0 with a run-scoring single.

For a while, Ubaldo Jimenez looked pretty good but then he remembered how much he always struggles against the Red Sox. Jonny Gomes started the comeback with a three-run bomb in the sixth (his second of the season) and David Ortiz cut it to 5-4 with an RBI single in the seventh. The tying run scored on a fielder's choice by Mike Napoli. Speaking of Nap, he got drilled right on the kneecap in the ninth but somehow stayed in the game on a cold night. Props to him, that had to kill. Coupled with his mangled finger, this hasn't been the best week of his life by any means.

It was a tough night for Lough, he actually was unwittingly Baltimore's last out as he struck out against Edward Mujica (the only batter he faced). For those four pitches, Mujica picked up his first win as a Red Sox (1-1). Boston has won the last two games after dropping Friday's series opener; they'll go for the series win this afternoon as Clay Buchholz (0-1) looks for his first victory of the season against Wei-Yin Chen (2-1).

It should be an emotional day at Fenway with the Boston Marathon going on in the background. Patriot's Day is always a special time in Boston and this year in particular with last year's bombings fresh in our minds should be particularly meaningful. The Red Sox did a great job with a touching pregame ceremony before tonight's contest. Expect more stuff tomorrow dedicated to the victims, first responders and runners.

Bruins Even Series with Convincing 4-1 Win in Game 2

It only took one period (or more accurately half of one) for the Bruins to show that Friday was probably a mirage and they more closely resemble the squad that rolled to a 4-1 win over the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden. Boston evened the series at one heading back to dumpy Detroit for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday (7:30, NESN) and Thursday (8, NESN) respectively. The B's depth, top notch goaltending and superb special teams all added up to a relatively easy victory.

Just like the real Bruins appeared in Game 2, the true Jimmy Howard (25 saves) also made his presence felt. His brutal pass in a Detroit defenseman's skates led to an easy goal for Boston rookie Justin Florek at 7:28 of the first period. Fellow rookie Reilly Smith scored 3:07 after that on a power play (the first of two for Boston). He was on the doorstep and was able to sweep in a rebound, assisted by Loui Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron on his first career NHL postseason goal.

The normally stoic Red Wings clearly lost their cool, capped off by Brendan Smith (Reilly's brother) yapping with Zdeno Chara to end the first. Haha what was he thinking? He's just likely the linesman stepped in before Chara made like a National Geographic movie and destroyed him. All he could do was smile and laugh. Detroit cut it to 2-1 at 13:20 of the second period as Tuukka Rask's (34 saves) rebound deflected in the net off of Luke Glendening's body.

No worries, Boston bounced right back with a very timely goal by Milan Lucic at 18:16 to regain their two-goal advantage. He finished a pretty passing sequence with Jarome Iginla and Torey Krug. Zdeno Chara's power play goal at 2:27 gave the B's a nice cushion in the third period. Iginla and Krug each picked up their second assists on Chara's goal that came after the captain parked right outside the paint vs. Howard and knocked in a loose puck. Boston's penalty kill is a perfect six-for-six this series including four-for-four in Game 2.

We know that there will be a Game 5 back at the Garden on Saturday, the question is if either team will be trying to eliminate the other that day. Rask has only allowed two total goals so he has to be feeling pretty good about himself. Kevan Miller returned for Game 2 and he definitely brings another physical dimension to Boston. Game 3 is another important one that could go a long way towards determining who takes this series and in how many games.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Well The Bruins Aren't Going to Sweep the Red Wings, That's For Certain

This might be the easiest Bruins game recap that I've ever written. Tonight they dropped Game 1 of the first round to Detroit, 1-0 at TD Garden. The result wasn't that surprising if you watched the game because Boston took way too long to find itself and by the time they did, it was in the third period.

Red Wings superstar Pavel Datsyuk made an incredible move to get open then snap a shot past Tuukka Rask (23 saves) at 16:59 of the third period. He was assisted by Johan Franzen. That's all that Jimmy Howard (25 saves) needed as he posted his third career playoff shutout.

There is no need to panic (yet) for Bruins fans but I will say that I think Game 2 on Sunday (3, NBC) is basically a must-win. I had a hunch this series would go six or seven so I felt like the Red Wings would win a few games but the B's really don't want to be down 2-0 then going on the road.

Boston's top line was mostly non-existent and the second line was just ok. The defense pairings and last two forward lines were remodeled as Chris Kelly (back), Daniel Paille (concussion), Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller (both have flu, I think) were all surprisingly out. It's not like any of those guys is irreplaceable but losing them all at the same time means that the Bruins don't have the depth they normally display.

The B's will also have to change their gameplan a bit in later games too since they didn't possess the puck nearly enough or go on the power play (once). It's nice that they had eight more hits (34-26) than the Red Wings but Detroit didn't seem to mind at all as they owned the puck which is the most important aspect of hockey besides scoring goals which they could also improve on.

UPDATE 4/19: Milan Lucic was fined $5000 (most allowed under CBA) for spearing Danny DeKeyser in the groin last night, Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bruins Capture Their 2nd Presidents' Trophy

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Celtics Beat Bobcats 106-103, Sigh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

He's Still the Same David Ortiz

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Red Sox Beat Rangers 5-1 for Their 1st Win at Fenway Park In 2014

The Red Sox had a lost weekend vs. the Brewers (getting swept in 3 miserable games at Fenway) and the bad feelings started to build up as Will Middlebrooks (calf strain) joined Shane Victorino (hamstring) on the 15-Day DL. With people calmly wondering what was going on with Boston (3-4), they bounced back to defeat Texas (3-4) 5-1 tonight at rainy Fenway Park in the series opener.

It still feels kind of weird to say it but John Lackey (2-0) has morphed into one of the best pitchers in the AL East. He improved to 2-0 thanks to one unearned run on five hits with five strikeouts and two walks. He was done after 95 pitches and he handed the ball over to Chris Capuano who pitched a scoreless eighth for his second hold and Koji Uehara who worked around two hits for a scoreless frame in a non-save situation (did they have to use him there?).

The Red Sox had 14 hits as a team, led by Mike Napoli (3 for 5), A.J. Pierzynski (3 for 5 w/2 runs) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (3 for 4 w/run & 2 RBIs). They still left 11 on base but at least they were 4 for 13 with runners in scoring position which was a dramatic improvement so there's that.

Bradley Jr. gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI single that scored Xander Bogaerts. The Rangers tied it in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Mitch Moreland that scored old friend Adrian Beltre. That's all that Texas would get though as Bradley Jr. added another RBI single in the fourth then the Red Sox notched three important insurance runs in the eighth.

A run scored on a Rangers error, Daniel Nava had an RBI single and Dustin Pedroia's ground out still scored the final run. Boston will be looking to start their first win streak of the season tomorrow night (6:10) as Felix Doubront (1-0) faces Martin Perez (0-0) in the middle game of the series.

Utility infielder Ryan Roberts aka the tatman (since he's covered in tattoos) was signed earlier today for depth and Boston manager John Farrell already said that he'd play tomorrow and possibly Wednesday as Texas uses a pair of lefty starters. Don't expect much from him since he got released by the Cubs, which is never a good omen for your career.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bruins Clinch No. 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference With 5-2 Win Over Flyers

With the 2013-14 regular season rapidly winding down, the Bruins are doing all they can to ensure that their stay in the postseason this spring will be a long one. This afternoon, Boston (53-18-7) clinched the top spot in the East with a 5-2 victory over Philadelphia (39-29-9) at TD Garden. The final score is misleading since it was a 2-2 game late in the third period before the B's scored two quick goals then added an empty netter.

The only thing left for the Black and Gold to accomplish in the regular season is capturing a Presidents' Trophy. That gained some traction as St. Louis lost 4-0 to Colorado meaning the Blues are two points behind the Bruins (with one game in hand). Loui Eriksson had a career-high four points (all assists) as Boston finished 3-0 against Philadelphia a team that they could certainly meet in the playoffs.

The B's never trailed although the Flyers tied it twice before Boston created the separation. David Krejci flipped in a rebound at 15:56 of the first period, his 17th goal of the season assisted by Eriksson and Milan Lucic. Wayne Simmonds made it 1-1 with a power play goal at 14:36 in the second period. Tuukka Rask (24 saves) had made some quality saves and Philly hit a post before they broke through.

Lucic hammered a one-timer past Ray Emery (37 saves) only 19 seconds later as the Bruins took the momentum right back. Krejci and Eriksson assisted on his 23rd goal of the season. Flyers goon Jay Rosehill fought Shawn Thornton earlier in the first but actually showed good hands outside of that as he made a nice move to beat Rask at 16:21.

Overtime beckoned but Boston would have none of it in their penultimate contest at the Garden (in the regular season). Johnny Boychuk cranked a slap shot by Emery following a faceoff win by Patrice Bergeron. It was Boychuk's fifth goal of the season. Lucic had his second goal 31 seconds later, a beautiful passing sequence with Torey Krug and Eriksson resulted in a tip in and two points. Of course Chris Kelly-who else?-bagged the empty netter to give him a fraudulent nine goals (I feel like most of those are from empty netters).

Boston is off until Tuesday (8, NESN) when they'll face Minnesota (40-26-12) at the Xcel Energy Center. After that, they'll be in Winnipeg (35-34-10) on Thursday (8, NESN). It's that time of year where each team has different things to play for: the Wild are basically a lock to make it in the West, the Jets are out and the Bruins are cruising.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Edward Mujica Picked the Right Day to Shit The Bed

If ever there was a day for the Red Sox to fall apart in the ninth inning with very few repercussions, this was it. You see today was the final celebration of the 2013 World Champions as Boston faced Milwaukee in its 2014 home opener at Fenway Park. It was a perfect celebration with the ring ceremony while Boston Marathon victims and the Boston firefighters that were killed last week were all honored as well.

A 2-2 game heading into the ninth turned into a 6-2 win for the Brewers (2-2) after they hung four runs on Edward Mujica in the ninth. In truth, the Red Sox (2-2) had no business winning this game anyway as they only managed five hits as a team. They continued to struggle with runners on base, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and leaving five on base.

Jake Peavy still looked very hittable but he went six innings and only allowed two earned runs on six hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Something called Marco Estrada basically matched him (5.2 innings, 2 runs, 4 hits, 6 strikeouts, 3 walks). Milwaukee's underrated catcher Jonathan Lucroy (double, 2 walks) hit a solo homer in the second inning and Carlos Gomez (4 singles) added an RBI single for a 2-0 Brewers lead.

Boston tied it on an RBI single by Ted Williams I mean Grady Sizemore in the second followed by a solo homer for Will Middlebrooks in the third. His first homer of the season went over the Monster, no doubt somewhere Jenny "Boom Boom" Dell smiled while shooting a show on NESN that'll never air. Former Brewers reliever Burke Badenhop (fantastic name) pitched two scoreless innings in his Red Sox debut. Mujica had pitched a scoreless frame at Baltimore on Wednesday but today he simply didn't have it as Milwaukee knocked him around to the tune of four earned runs on four hits.

Bet you didn't know that Lyle Overbay (who was cut in spring training last year with the Red Sox) was still in MLB. He had the go-ahead two-run double in the ninth for the Brewers while Gomez and Aramis Ramirez-who I think has played for every NL Central team-kept the line moving with RBI singles.

Francisco Rodriguez is Milwaukee's closer and even though it wasn't a save situation, he was summoned for the ninth. He got a 1-2-3 inning including one strikeout in 13 pitches.

Boston's enigmatic fifth starter (really) Clay Buchholz makes his first start of 2014 tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) vs. Wily Peralta. As always with Buchholz, he could pitch a no-hitter or also be out for the rest of the season with a sore throat or broken nail. I guess we'll have to wait and see, the good news for the Red Sox is that they don't have any more openers (0-2) this season as far as I know.

UPDATE 4/6: Will Middlebrooks went on the 15-Day DL with a Grade 1 calf strain (whatever that means). Brock Holt was called up from Pawtucket to take his place.

Friday, April 4, 2014

For the Bruins, the Playoffs Can't Start Soon Enough

It's been really slight but the Bruins have started to ease up a bit with the playoffs now less than two weeks away. This has resulted in their first losing streak in over a month. Tonight they fell 4-3 to the Maple Leafs in overtime at Air Canada Centre. On the one hand, Boston (52-18-7) rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the third period (that's good!), causing heart attacks across Canada but they weren't able to finish the job as Nazem Kadri scored on a rebound to give Toronto (38-32-8) the two points they desperately needed (that's bad!).

The bright side for the B's is that unlike the Red Wings who beat them 3-2 on Wednesday (and have Pavel Datsyuk returning tomorrow night), the bumbling Maple Leafs don't look nearly as scary. Toronto has plenty of work to do just to get into the postseason so there is no need to worry about them.

With Chad Johnson (27 saves) in net, Boston never made it easy as they handed the Maple Leafs a goal and 1-0 lead six minutes in. Matt Bartkowski couldn't clear the puck that was in his skates so Paul Ranger (who should be on the Rangers) was there to put it in. Brad Marchand answered that 56 seconds later with his 23rd goal of the season from Patrice Bergeron. Tyler Bozak scored with 12 seconds left in the first period on a bizarre play: Phil Kessel threw it at the net (in the air) and it went in off Bozak's body.

Dougie Hamilton has been playing better lately, solidifying his role in the playoffs unlike last year but he had a major hiccup when he tried to pass to Zdeno Chara behind Boston's net. Kessel intercepted it and sent it out front to James van Riemsdyk who knew what to do for his 30th goal of the season. There wasn't much else to that period except Milan Lucic whaled on poor David Clarkson.

Speaking of Looch, he cut it to 3-2 at 5:03 with a blast of a one-timer (his 22nd goal of the season) from David Krejci and Bartkowski. Jonathan Bernier (25 saves) got hurt late in the third period, forcing that bum James Reimer to come in. Predictably, he gave up the tying goal almost immediately to Patrice Bergeron on a similar one-timer. Where have I heard that before with these particular teams? Bergeron's 28th goal of the season was assisted by Marchand and Kevan Miller.

It felt inevitable that Boston would win in regulation since they outshot Toronto 17-5 but Bernier and Reimer kept their team's flickering playoff hopes alive. The Bruins finished 2-2 on the road trip and they return to TD Garden on Saturday (1, NESN) to face the Flyers (39-28-9) who they topped 4-3 in a shootout last Sunday. Only six more games left in the regular season, the next step for the B's is to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Red Sox Take Opening Series With Orioles

After losing the season opener on Monday, the Red Sox bounced back to win on Wednesday and tonight 4-3 against the Orioles (a team that has owned them the last few years) at Camden Yards to take the series (2-1). Boston (2-1) showed that it can win a close game, on the road, versus a quality opponent.

This game shouldn't have been so close since once again the Red Sox struggled with runners in scoring position (2 for 10) and they left nine on base. However, they put up 14 hits as a team so they were able to do just enough to scratch out their second straight victory.

It was mostly about the youngsters as Xander Bogaerts was 3 for 4 with two runs, Will Middlebrooks was 2 for 4 with a double and run while Jackie Bradley Jr. was 2 for 4 with a run and RBI. Felix Doubront (1-0) wasn't great (5.1 innings, 3 earned runs, 6 hits, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk) but David Ortiz was (3 for 5 with RBI) like always. I would say the most impressive contribution was Koji Uehara's 1-2-3 ninth for his first of the season; he threw only seven pitches and that included a strikeout!

Boston spread its runs out into four different innings. Middlebrooks killed a possible big inning with a double play ball in the second but a run still scored. Ortiz had an RBI single in the third and David Ross added one in the fourth for a 3-0 Red Sox lead.

Matt Wieters (3 for 4 with run and RBI) gave Baltimore its first run with an RBI double in the fourth, Delmon Young knocked him in with a single. Bradley Jr.'s RBI single in the sixth turned out to be important since Chris Davis (2 for 4 with double, 2 runs) scored a run on Brandon Workman's wild pitch. Things settled down from there as Springfield MA native Chris Capuano had a 1-2-3 seventh with one strikeout in his Red Sox debut. Junichi Tazawa worked around two hits for a scoreless eighth.

The action packed week continues for the Red Sox as they host the Milwaukee Brewers (1-2) this weekend at Fenway Park, the start of a six-game homestand that also includes three vs. Texas (2-1). Tomorrow (2:05, NESN) is the 2014 home opener where Boston will get their World Series rings and celebrate that team one last time.

As for the games, Jake Peavy faces Marco Estrada tomorrow, Clay Buchholz takes on Wily Peralta Saturday night (7:10, NESN) and Jon Lester (0-1) meets Yovani Gallardo (1-0) Sunday afternoon (1:35, NESN) in a battle of aces that should be awesome.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Admit It: the Bruins Were Due For a Loss in Regulation

If you are a realist like me and a Bruins fan to boot, you realize that as good as they are this season, 15-1-1 months like they pulled off in March are insanely difficult to do. That's why tonight's 3-2 loss to the Red Wings are Joe Louis Arena was a sobering reminder that they are human and yes they can lose from time to time (this was their first regulation loss since March 1). By taking the season series 3-1, Detroit (36-26-14) served notice that they'd be a true pain in the ass in the first round of the playoffs should Boston (52-18-6) have to face them.

With a 2-1 lead midway through the third period not to mention outshooting the Red Wings by a wide margin-(35-20) was the final count-this is a game that the B's hardly ever gag away. Credit to Detroit who honestly needed this way more as they try to hold on to a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. It helped them and obviously hurt the B's that Jarome Iginla didn't play (because of either a lower body injury or simply rest for his old bones).

Johnny Boychuk gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 16:50 of the first period with one of his patented Johnny Rockets that got by former Maine star Jimmy Howard (33 saves). Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand assisted on Boychuk's fourth goal of the season.

Detroit's Tomas Tatar tied it at 4:45 of the second period just as Patrice Bergeron's penalty expired. His shot was labeled for the corner, there was nothing that Tuukka Rask (17 saves) could do about it.

The action picked up in the third period as Carl Soderberg's power play goal at 1:10 wrestled back the lead for the B's. Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith assisted on the Angry One Eyed Swede's 16th goal of the season.

The Red Wings responded as another Tomas-Jurco-tied it at 11:06 after a huge pileup in front of Rask's crease. Tatar had the primary assist from kicking the puck over with his skate, all that Jurco had to do was tap it in. Detroit benefitted 1:42 after that from the brilliance of emerging star Gustav Nyquist (who also went to Maine). He was able to steal the puck after Soderberg failed to dump it in deep and then he used his speed to blow past Zdeno Chara who was flat-footed after a sloppy line change.

Boston had won their last nine games on the road (a franchise record) and picked up a point in 16 straight (14-0-2). It's a new month now so time to start some fresh positive streaks. The Bruins get a chance to bounce back right away as they are in Toronto (37-32-8) tomorrow night (7:30, NESN). What more motivation do they need besides the fact that they can shatter the Maple Leafs' postseason dream even further?

Red Sox Pick Up Their 1st Win of 2014, 6-2 Over Orioles

After a day of fun at the White House, the Red Sox came back relaxed as they beat the Orioles 6-2 tonight at Camden Yards. Boston (1-1) received a strong outing from John Lackey (6 innings, 2 earned runs, 3 hits, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk) and three scoreless innings from its bullpen to even the series at one game apiece. Baltimore (1-1) was limited to six hits, the only one for extra bases was a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz (his second homer in as many games).

Ubaldo Jimenez (0-1) once again couldn't find a way to quiet Boston's bats. In six innings, he allowed four earned runs on five hits with six strikeouts and three walks. The Red Sox had 10 hits as a team including four singles (and two runs) by Dustin Pedroia. David Ortiz got Boston on the board with a two-run homer to right in the third inning for a 2-0 lead.

Cruz answered with his two-run homer to right in the fourth but Mike Napoli responded with a two-run bomb to center in the fifth. He added a two-run single in the seventh for a pair of insurance runs. Edward Mujica pitched a scoreless seventh in his Red Sox debut. He handed the ball over to the lockdown pair from last season: Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. Tazawa had to throw 15 pitches and Uehara used 18 pitches but they both got the job done with limited drama in their respective innings of work.

The series finale is tomorrow night (7:05, NESN) with the gross pitching matchup of Felix Doubront vs. Wei-Yin Chen.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's Jarome Iginla's World, We're All Just Living In It

Nobody in the world other than maybe the man himself could have expected Bruins right wing Jarome Iginla to play so well in his first season with the Bruins. He leads the team in goals (31), is second in points (61) and third in plus/minus (+34) which is tied for third best in the league. For his unbelievable last month, he was named the NHL's First Star of March.

The Bruins went an unfathomable 15-1-1 in March and Iginla was a huge reason why they have run away with the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference's top seed. The Presidents' Trophy is also in play too as they lead the Blues by three points (St. Louis has one game in hand) with seven left.

In March, Iginla led the NHL with 13 goals and he added four assists. His shooting percentage was an absurd 31% (13 of 42). He had six multi-point performances and a six-game goal streak to boot. In addition, he put up four multi-goal games and five game-winning goals (March 4 vs. Florida, March 13 vs. Phoenix, March 15 vs. Carolina, March 18 at New Jersey and March 29 at Washington).

His eight game-winners this season are his most since 2007-08. Obviously with a guy that has his type of resume, he has checked off some milestones during this torrid stretch. He scored his 30th goal for the 12th time in 17 NHL seasons and his 560th goal which tied Guy Lafleur for 24th in NHL history.

Nobody will be more motivated on the B's when the postseason rolls around than Iginla who has never won a Stanley Cup in his Hall of Fame career. That has to scare the rest of the Eastern Conference given how well he is playing at this point.

Ready or Not, the 2014 MLB Regular Season is Upon Us

In all honesty, I hadn't thought about the Red Sox basically since they won the 2013 World Series in October vs. St. Louis. Baseball season is way too long and involved that by the time it's over, we all need a break from it in the worst possible way. Well guess what everybody, it's back! Yes, despite it being rainy and in the 30s in New England today, the Red Sox opened up the 2014 regular season with a 2-1 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards.

I can't get too worked about Boston (0-1) until at least the weather gets nice in say June. Likewise, I am happy that baseball is back for the sole reason of what it represents-the end of the miserable winter-but I'm not ready to devote much attention to it what with the Final Four, Frozen Four, NBA and NHL playoffs not to mention World Cup in the way and more important than MLB games in April and May.

Jon Lester (0-1) pitched well (7 innings, 2 earned runs, 6 hits, 8 strikeouts, 1 walk) but the Red Sox went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and they left 12 on base. Is that bad? Baltimore (1-0) received a decent outing by Chris Tillman (5 innings, 1 earned run, 7 hits, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk) and their shaky bullpen (one of the reasons I can't see them being better than the Red Sox, Rays and maybe even Yankees) patched together four scoreless innings. Zach Britton went two scoreless frames for the win.

Other than Lester's fine work, the only real memorable part for Boston was Grady Sizemore (single). Yes the guy who hadn't hit a homer in MLB since 2011 provided the Red Sox' only run with a solo homer to right in the fourth. Can't wait to read a million stories about him being back to the same guy he used to be (yeah right). That tied it at one after a run scored on a double play for Baltimore in the second. Adam Jones was 2 for 4, Baltimore only had six hits as a team but they won so who cares?

Nelson Cruz led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo homer to left. The Red Sox had a chance to rally in the ninth against new Orioles closer Tommy Hunter (really) as Will Middlebrooks was hit by a pitch leading off then Dustin Pedroia (2 hits) had a one-out single. Hunter got David Ortiz to fly out and Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out looking to end it.

There is an off-day tomorrow where Boston gets to visit the White House to celebrate their World Series title (insert terrible Tim Thomas joke here). These teams are back in action on Wednesday (7:05, NESN) when I bet way fewer people will be watching closely since the Bruins are in Detroit at the same time. John Lackey faces Ubaldo Jimenenz in his Baltimore debut.