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Sunday, May 31, 2015

In Their First Rematch Since Last Year's Crushing MLS Cup Loss, Revolution Tie Galaxy 2-2

It is still May (for a less than an hour) but the 2015 Red Sox' (22-29) season already looks hopeless. That means once again we need something to distract us in the sports wasteland known as summer with Patriots training camp and preseason games still over two months away. I'm not trying to convert anyone (that's not my style) but only noting that the Revolution (5-3-6) appear to be a title contender in MLS for those that care. New England lost in heartbreaking fashion-2-1 in overtime-in the 2014 MLS Cup vs. Los Angeles (5-4-6) and on Sunday, those budding rivals met at Gillette Stadium in basically a monsoon.

They tied 2-2 in a up-and-down match that featured about as exciting a first half as you'll ever see (in MLS at least) before a dull second half that had no goals and few chances for either side. New England has tied its last three matches and they are winless in their last five (0-1-4) so they really could have used three points despite the fact that they are in second-place in the East (four points behind D.C.). Nothing was officially announced tonight but midfielder Jermaine Jones left in the first half with a groin injury and it sounds pretty serious. You feel terrible for him because he had just been called up earlier in the day for the US National team's exhibitions at Holland and Germany later this week. At 33 you never know, that might have been his last shot to represent the U.S. Ugh, hopefully that is not the case though.

The Revs grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute thanks to their quickest goal of the season. Midfielder Scott Caldwell served a perfect cross to the far post where midfielder Teal Bunbury ran onto it and one-touched the ball into LA's net. That was Bunbury's third goal of the season and Caldwell's fourth assist of the season as he becomes one of the team's rising stars.

The Galaxy responded soon after that as they scored a pretty goal in the 18th minute. Rookie midfielder Ignacio Maganto volleyed in a blast from outside the box that Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth had no chance to stop. Would you believe that was his first career goal? It had been the seventh straight match that New England had scored the first goal, which shows their need to tighten things up once they get a lead. Granted, they were missing defender Chris Tierney and star midfielder Lee Nguyen vs. LA because both had accumulated too many yellow cards in previous matches.

LA made it 2-1 in the 27th minute on a beautiful back heel by Maganto that was finished by standout forward Gyasi Zardes (another USMNT member). Perhaps the most notable development of the game, well besides Jones' injury, was the final goal. Revs midfielder Diego Fagundez has showed plenty of promise the last few years but head coach Jay Heaps doesn't seem to have much confidence in the youngster. Fagundez got the start tonight and he came through with a gorgeous free kick goal in the 37th minute. He bent the direct kick around LA's wall and past a diving Penedo. It was his first goal of the season and it couldn't come at a better time for his confidence.

Not including their Open Cup match vs. Charlotte on June 17 at Harvard, three of New England's next four matches are on the road. That tough June starts with a meeting with the Timbers (5-5-4) on Saturday (10:30, CSN) in Portland. The Revolution never seem to play well on the West Coast and the Timbers have one of the better home field advantages in Major League Soccer at Providence Park so getting a positive result there will be a chore.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Finally, A Reason To Watch the Red Sox This Season (Well At Least Every 5th Game)

Hey gang, remember the Red Sox? They had a nice run for a while, huh? What ever happened to them? Oh that's right, they are headed on a course straight for their third last-place finish in the last four seasons. That is until tonight when rookie lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez proved to be something of a revelation in his MLB debut. The former Oriole (obtained in the Andrew Miller trade last season) and highly touted prospect went 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing only three hits with seven strikeouts and two walks as Boston (22-26 overall, 12-14 away) won the series opener 5-1 over Texas (23-25 overall, 6-14 home) at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

Obviously one starting pitcher in baseball can't make that much of a difference on a bad team but at least this gives us a reason to watch again (when he's on the hill). The reason I hadn't written about the Red Sox in weeks is that just like last year, not only are they terrible but they are also boring which is a deadly combination for an MLB team. I don't know about you but I'd like to have something to watch this summer when there is literally nothing else going on in the sports universe. That's where you come in, Red Sox.

Maybe this will be the high point of Rodriguez's career; at least we saw that he has this type of ability against a quality lineup. The same can't be said for the rest of Boston's sorry rotation. The plan before his gem was to send him back to Pawtucket but there is no chance that will happen. The immortal Nick Martinez (4-1) held the Red Sox in check until the fifth when Mookie Betts (3 for 5, triple) drove in Blake Swihart (2 for 4, run) with an RBI single.

Hanley Ramirez hit his first home run of May (his first in 85 at bats), a solo shot to left center in the sixth for a 2-0 Red Sox advantage. Martinez (7 innings, 2 earned runs, 9 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks) would fit in well on the Red Sox since he pitched really well but his offense let him down to say the least. Boston got three more insurance runs in the eighth on a gift two-run single for Swihart that was misplayed by Texas second baseman Adam Rosales. Boston's final run came from an infield single by Rusney Castillo that scored the newest member of the team-outfielder Carlos Peguero.

The Rangers' lone run came in the ninth on an RBI single by Josh Hamilton (2 for 4, double) who was playing his first game back in Texas after being reacquired from the Angels. It'll be interesting to see how Rodriguez fares in his second start and so on. Now MLB teams will have more tape on him so he won't be such a mystery. Dustin Pedroia has been batting leadoff lately for Boston and it seems to be working, he was 3 for 5 this evening. Xander Bogaerts got hit on the left forearm with a pitch in the fourth inning and had to leave but his injury was termed a "forearm contusion" which doesn't sound too serious.

Steven Wright (2-1) faces Yovani Gallardo (4-6) tomorrow night (8:05, NESN) in the second game of a four-game set.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Red Sox Avoid The Sweep in Toronto, Thanks to Napoli and Sandoval's Blasts

With their pathetic downward spiral to last-place in the AL East over these last few weeks, the Red Sox had basically become unwatchable. I only saw bits and pieces of the carnage, because who could devote three plus hours to that trainwreck every day/night in early May? At least Boston (14-17 overall, 7-8 away) salvaged something from the trip to Canada with a 6-3 win this afternoon on Mother's Day at Rogers Centre vs. Blue Jays (16-16 overall, 9-7 home).

Clay Buchholz (2-4) actually pitched pretty decently by his very low standards (6.1 innings, 3 earned runs, 7 hits, 3 strikeouts, 3 walks) while Mike Napoli hit a three-run bomb and Pablo Sandoval (double, 2 runs) added a two-run shot of his own. Koji Uehara pitched a scoreless ninth with one strikeout for his sixth save of the season and 100th of his career (combined between MLB and Japan).

It sounds pretty simple but the Red Sox have excelled when they have scored first this season (they are now 9-2). That's why today's start was basically perfect: Mookie Betts tripled to lead off the game and Dustin Pedroia knocked him in with a groundout. Later that inning, Napoli launched his third homer of the season to center. Haha if only Boston could play R.A. Dickey (6 innings, 6 earned runs, 7 hits, 0 strikeouts, 3 walks) more often, then they would be getting somewhere.

Sporting a new gross haircut (hard to believe, I know), Buchholz actually held that four-run lead for over three innings which was a cause for celebration. Framingham native Chris Colabello (3 for 4) continued his hot streak with an RBI single in the fourth which cut it to 4-1. Sandoval's two-run home run to right center in the fifth was also his third of the season.

The Blue Jays got a run in the fifth on Josh Donaldson's RBI double and their final run came in the seventh on a groundout. After getting outscored 7-0 on Friday night and 7-1 on Saturday afternoon, it was nice to see the Red Sox show a slight pulse. Buchholz pitched long enough that new pitching coach Carl Willis (in his first day on the job) only had to see Junichi Tazawa (1.2 scoreless innings) bridge the gap to Uehara. No need to use any of their far less reliable relievers.

In their first West Coast action of the season, Boston headed for Oakland (12-21 overall, 5th in AL West) where they will play three games against the reeling A's. Then it's off to Seattle (14-17 overall, 3rd in AL West) for four games. They don't return to Fenway Park until a week from Tuesday against Texas. Haha who knows what kind of shape the hometown team will be in by then?

In the series opener tomorrow night (10:05) it is Rick Porcello (3-2) vs. former Rays great Scott Kazmir (2-1). Justin Masterson (2-1) faces Drew Pomeranz (1-3) on Tuesday night (10:05. NESN) before things wrap up on Wednesday afternoon (3:35, NESN) with Wade Miley (1-3) taking on Sonny Gray (4-0). If the Red Sox have any hope of becoming a good team in 2015, they need to take at least two out of three vs. the awful A's.