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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bring on the Colts

The 2007 Patriots cease to amaze even the biggest homer fan. They're not only beating teams, they're embarrassing them. Have you ever heard an opposing team whine in the NFL that the other team was running up the score? The Redskins were saying such things after being run out of town, 52-7 yesterday at Gillette. They were supposed to be a test (4-2 coming in) since they had a great defense but they looked awful. The Colts took care of the Panthers, setting up one of the biggest regular season games in NFL history: Pats at Colts next Sunday.

Nobody has even come close to slowing down the Patriots offense. And the thing that separates them from almost every other great team in history is that they have a defense that is pretty solid as well. Brady ran for two touchdowns and threw for three more. Mike Vrabel looked like an albino Lawrence Taylor. He had 13 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 caused fumbles and he caught a touchdown on the goal-line. Apparently, Washington never watched film leading up to this game as anyone in New England (including my Golden Retriever) could have told you that when Vrabel is on on the two tight end, goal-line formation, he's going to have a ball thrown his way. Colvin recovered one of Vrabel's strip-sacks and returned it 11-yards for a touchdown. Ty Warren scooped up the other two fumbles.

The Redskins didn't have a chance. Jason Campbell, who is supposed to be an up-and-coming quarterback looked completely confused. He threw a pick to Asante Samuel on a long pass that didn't have a prayer. It was a Bledsoe special, just throwing it downfield to a covered receiver. One of the most promising signs for the Patriots was Lawrence Maroney, who had 14 carries for 75 yards and caught two passes for 37 yards. It got so bad for the Skins that Matt Cassell scrambled for a 15-yard TD late in the fourth.

Were the Pats running it up? Yeah and what's the big deal with that? This isn't Pop Warner, it's not high school and it's not some I-AA school bending over to a top-25 team in College Football. This was supposedly two good teams. They're both getting paid so why shouldn't the Pats run the plays to the best of their abilities. More and more people nationally are starting to hate the Patriots which will only fuel them. The only thing that isn't good about scoring 'til you drop is that you don't want to leave the franchise (Brady) in there when they're comfortably up 35+ in the fourth quarter. Some overzealous goon will take a cheap-shot at him if they're not careful.

Almost forgot to mention that Moss had a sick td. They did the fake spike again near the goal-line which would have worked last week but Brady misfired. This time, it was a charm. Moss is truly a freak. Welker continued to go to work, 9 catches for 89 yards and a score. Seymour came back but didn't get out there for many plays. He seemed rusty but he'll have another week of practice to get up to speed for Indy. That game should be phenomenal. The Colts and Pats are on completely different planets from all the other NFL teams. Indy is the defending champs and they've beat the Patriots three times in a row. Oh and the Pats choked in the AFC Championship last year to them. Think revenge will be on the menu Sunday in Indy? You can book that.

Red Sox sweep Rockies to win their second World Series title in four years

Every season is different. It's silly to compare and just be happy if you're lucky enough to see your favorite team win it all. That being said, no World Series title will ever top 2004. The circumstances were too crazy and the drought had been way too long. Still, if you care about baseball and the Red Sox, last night was immensely satisfying. They were the best team in baseball for a majority of the year, clinched the World Series with a 4-3 win in game four against the completely shell-shocked Rockies. Thanks for coming folks, drive home safely.

Ellsbury led off the game with a double and two batters later, Ortiz knocked him in with an RBI single. From there, the two starting pitchers-Jon Lester and Aaron Cook-had quick, effective innings until Mike Lowell hit a double in the 5th followed by an RBI single by Varitek. Lowell led off the 7th with a solo shot but Brad Hawpe answered with a solo bomb in the bottom of the inning, making it 3-1. Pinch hitter Bobby Kielty (in his only World Series at-bat) delivered big-time in the top of the eighth, homering on the first pitch he saw from Rockies reliever Brian Fuentes. The Rockies made it interesting as Garrett Atkins finally did something, hitting a two-run home run off of an exhausted Hideki Okajima.

One last time, Papelbon entered with one out in the eighth and proceeded to mow down all five men he faced. The exclamation point was the final out as Paps struck out pinch hitter Seth Smith with a high fastball. Lowell was named the MVP afterwards and deservedly so. He batted .400 in the World Series and played his typical outstanding defense. There were plenty of other candidates: Papelbon, Ellsbury, Ortiz. No matter, all year the Red Sox were about the team, not the individual. Nobody exemplified that more so than Lowell, who had a career-year at the plate (when many thought he was washed up two years ago).

Enough can't be said about Lester's start. In two abbreviated seasons in the majors, this had to have been his most effective outing, especially considering the stage. He went 5.2 innings, giving up three hits, walking three and striking out three. For the most part, he had favorable counts and as a result didn't run up his pitch count too early-a negative trait that has plagued his early career in the majors.

The Rockies simply were done after game two. That game was hanging in the balance and Holliday getting picked off first was the first huge nail in the coffin. They had a great run to make it to the World Series but they ran into a buzzsaw: the Red Sox.

Everybody from the 2007 Red Sox, from the players to the manager, his staff and the front office all deserve credit. Francona did all the right things-which is nearly impossible in such a fickle market like Boston. While the front office certainly missed on some free agents-Lugo, Drew and trading for Gagne, you have to be pumped about the future with Pedroia, Ellsbury, Papelbon, Lester, Beckett, Okajima, Dice-K, etc. The 2004 team was a veteran group that had been on the cusp in 2003. This year was a few seasons in the making. A terribly flawed Sox team made the playoffs in 2005 but was promptly swept by the White Sox. Last year, injuries killed the Red Sox as a contending team was reduced to playing out the string in September. Coming out of spring training, this squad was expected to be good and they exceeded expectations virtually all season. They probably won't provide as money get-rich quick books for assorted baseball writers but they got the job done nonetheless. The 2007 Red Sox were a great team and they had fun doing it, what more could you want?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

pair of rookies lead Red Sox to brink of second World Series title in four years

Every move that Red Sox manager Terry Francona makes, seems to turn to gold this postseason. Last night, he had rookie outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury start in center and bat lead-off. Was the rookie fazed? Not in the least bit, he went 4-for-5 (3 doubles) with 2 runs and 2 RBIs. AL Rookie-of-the-year favorite Dustin Pedroia went down to the two spot last night and continued to rake. He went 3-for-5 (double) with 2 RBIs and a run. The Sox won game three 10-5 and now take a commanding 3-0 lead in the 2007 World Series.

The Sox have now won six straight games this postseason and seven overall in its last two World Series appearances. Dice-K was the early story of the game as he pitched five scoreless innings (before Javier Lopez allowed some of his inherited runners to score in the sixth) and knocked in two runs with an RBI single in the third. Boston exploded for six in the third as Ellsbury led off with a double and Pedroia reached on a bunt single. Ortiz laced an RBI double (making his lineup inclusion at 1B look perfect). The Rockies walked Manny to get the bases-loaded but Lowell made them pay by grounding a two-run single up the middle. Manny tried to score on Varitek's single but was tagged out at home in a bang-bang play. No matter, as Dice-K followed up a Lugo walk with his biggest contribution of the season for the Sox. Ellsbury closed out the inning with an RBI double thereby ending the night (2.2 innings) for the immortal Josh Fogg.

The Rockies relievers held the Sox bats down for the next four innings. Colorado scored two in the sixth and then Matt Holliday greeted Okajima with a three-run blast to center to cut the deficit to one (6-5 Sox in the seventh). Okajima settled down and got three outs to end the frame. Jacoby had another RBI double in the eighth followed by Pedroia's two-run double that really iced the game in the eighth. Boston added one more in the ninth on a Varitek sac-fly. Papelbon came on with two guys on, two outs in the eighth and retired Holliday. Papelbon closed out the ninth for his second save of the series.

Jon Lester gets the ball tonight against Aaron Cook. Lester can put a real Hollywood ending on this special season for the Red Sox. He was diagnosed with cancer last year and now has contributed to the 2007 best team in baseball. Why not end it all tonight? The Rockies are unquestionably on the ropes, so it's time to sweep this series. It'll be interesting to see who sits tonight. Youkilis sat last night so you'll figure he'll have to get in tonight. However, Francona doesn't want to sit Lowell and the lineup is completely weaker without Ortiz's monster bat. This hasn't been a contest so far, the Sox have outplayed Colorado in every phase of the game. It would only be fitting to have another unsung player (Lester) step up in a postseason that has been filled with new heroes (Youk, Ellsbury, Drew, Pedroia, Okajima).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Frauds no more

Stop me if you've heard this before: an overrated Boston College football team, loses an important late-season game that it had to have. Their season goes down the tube as they are relegated to a garbage bowl before New Year's in Podunk, USA. Well the script looked to be eerily similar until Matt Ryan and the Eagles woke up just in time last night, stunning host Virginia Tech 14-10 in a rain-soaked Lane Stadium.

BC was down 7-0 at halftime (after a controverisal Hokie touchdown; no way Royal got a foot down even though they reviewed it and it still stood). After a third-quarter field goal, the Hokies carried a 10-0 lead into the fourth quarter. Ryan had probably the worst half of football in his college career: 9-for-21 for 54 yards.

When he threw a pick with a little over six minutes left in the fourth quarter, his Heisman campaign looked dead while BC's BCS hopes were gone as well. Ryan and Co. responded though. They went 92 yards in 9 plays for the first TD, ending with a 16-yard toss to WR Rich Gunnell. Luck was on the Eagles side on the next play as they rolled the dice and hit an onside kick. A Hokie touched it but it deflected right to BC. The Eagles calmly went 66 yards in 7 plays for the clinching score. On the winning touchdown, Ryan did something he had done twice earlier on the drive. He basically ran around the pocket to buy time before delivering a pass to running back Andre Callender. The throw was something that'll be replayed a million times this season and beyond. Ryan threw across his body (all arm as the commentators said) and just put enough on it to get it beyond multiple Tech defenders to Callender, who was uncovered in the back of the end zone. The play ended with 11 seconds left on the game clock. Wow. Ryan finished a respectable 25-for-52 for 285 yards, 2 TD's and 2 INT's. Florida sophomore QB Tim Tebow is probably still the front-runner but if BC can make it to the BCS Championship, Ryan will be the main reason why and will deserve the hardware.

BC still has to win its last four games but as I've said all along, last night was the biggest one. None of the four remaining teams: Florida State, Maryland, Clemson or Miami are currently ranked nor will they be when the teams meet. The Eagles can still stumble but after last night, who would doubt them this season? Ryan and Coach Jags seem to have that elusive Flutie magic back at the Heights.

Two games away from glory

One of the tell-tale signs of a great team is when they can win games in many different ways. The Sox had been pounding the ball the last three games. They found themselves in an old-fashioned pitchers duel last night but still came out on top, 2-1 in game two of the 2007 World Series.

Curt Schilling vs. rookie Ubaldo Jimenez is a classic mismatch in such a big game. No question, Jimenez (he of the 100 mph fastball and dirty off-speed stuff) has an electric arm while Schilling is surviving on smarts and guile. Was there any doubt that Sox would do just enough to pull this one out? Chalk it up to 2004 or the team's success this year, whatever the reason the Sox just have an air of inevitability about them in these playoffs. When they're on (working opposing hurlers and getting good starts from its rotation), they're nearly impossible to beat.

The Rockies scored in the top of the first but the Sox slowly waited out Ubaldo, scoring one in the fourth and fifth. He was gone before the end of the fifth, having only given up two runs on three hits but he walked five. Schilling was gone one out into the sixth, surrendering only the one run on four hits, striking out four. The MVP of this game for the Sox was Hideki Okajima. He fell apart in the second half of the season as he wore down but last night, he looked like the lights out Okajima of May-July that made the All-Star game. Hideki got seven outs without allowing a hit or walk while striking out four. Papelbon recorded the last four outs, giving up one hit and striking out two.

Matt Holliday was the bulk of the offense for the Rockies, he had four of their five hits. As a team they struck out ten times and left 14 on base. Seeing them in the dugout in the late innings, they hardly resembled the freight train that reeled off 21 of 22 wins to make it here. They looked rattled, they look over matched.The Sox scored its first run on a Varitek sac fly which plated Lowell. Lowell had the biggest hit as his RBI double scored Ortiz. Drew was on base all four times he came to the plate: two hits, a walk and hit by a pitch.Once again, after Schilling left the game, you sensed that this could be his last game starting for the Red Sox at Fenway. Unless, this series comes back to Fenway (unlikely), he is probably done here. One more big game performance like that will look good as he tries to get into the Hall of Fame.

The series shifts to Colorado tomorrow night and as my buddy KC said, "all the Sox have to do is win one of the next two games because Beckett in game five is a lock of the century." So there you go. Matsuzaka in game three and Lester in game four don't exactly conjure up images of shutouts or no-hitter's. However, they're facing journeyman Josh Fogg and Aaron Cook (coming off a long injury layoff) so who knows what to expect from those two. I have a feeling the next two games will be slug-fests. The Sox clearly have the better bullpen so things couldn't look better after two games.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

We'll know a lot more about BC football after tonight

Boston College (#2 in all the polls) travels to ACC foe, no. 8 Virginia Tech in a game that will in all likelihood show whether BC is a contender or a pretender in 2997. If they survive this test, they could very well find themselves in the BCS Championship, assuming they take care of four winnable ACC games to wrap up the regular season.

The Eagles have looked very good at times this season but they also haven't played any legitimate teams or in real tough environments. Tonight should be another story. The Hokies are playing well after getting blown out by LSU in week two. They have the typical Virginia Tech traits: stout defense and outstanding special teams. Their offense is shaky but they have a good running back (Brandon Ore) and enough play-making receivers to make some noise.

Lane Stadium is always cited as one of the toughest places to play in college football. Virginia Tech is 13-2 all-time on Thursday nights (both losses though have come to BC, including one last season). It's put up or shut up time for BC. They've snuck up on most people nationally, who haven't seen many of their games. The general consensus is that they're an overrated team that has profited from a crazy rash of upsets in college football and a soft schedule thus far. This game could do a million different ways, it'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Rockies fail to show up in game one

It can't be that easy? Right? The Sox continued their torrid play from Games 5-7 vs. Cleveland and just decimated the Rockies, 13-1 in game one of the 2007 World Series. The Rockies looked every bit like the team that had eight days off, not the one that reeled off 21 wins in its last 22 games. Beckett is clearly the best pitcher in MLB as we speak. He went seven dominant innings last night, giving up six hits, one earned run and striking out nine.

The offensive tone was set by leadoff man Dustin Pedroia, who belted the second pitch he saw just over the lip of the Monster. The Sox scored two more in the first then both teams had one in the second. Two in the fourth and seven in the fifth officially made this a laugher for the home team. So many hitters for the Sox-Pedroia, Youk, Ortiz, Manny-are all currently locked in. It's something to behold as everyone looked dangerous last night. Ortiz and Manny led the way with three hits and two RBIS apiece. Lugo even had three hits, Varitek and Drew each had two hits and two RBIs while Pedroia (two RBIs) and Youk (two hits, three runs, RBI) are on fire.

Rockies starter Jeff Francis didn't have a puncher's chance against that lineup. A soft-throwing lefty, he didn't hit his spots at all and was gone after four innings (six earned runs). The Rockies bullpen which had been one of the team's biggest strengths in its great October run was awful last night. Morales gave up seven earned runs and Speier walked three straight batters with the bases loaded. Every at bat from the Red Sox seemed like a hitting clinic. They weren't swinging at any balls and fouling off tough pitches before putting the fat pitches in play (usually where the Rockies defense wasn't). All told, they had 17 hits and 8 walks.

Still, going in everyone picked the Sox to win game one. Nobody was going to beat Beckett, who now has 35 strikeouts and two walks, going 4-0 in the 2007 playoffs. Just filthy numbers for this stud. Regardless, let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's only one game. If the Rockies take game two (like the Indians did in the ALCS), it makes things much more complicated since the next three would be at Coors Field in Denver. The away team in the league championship series and World Series is only looking to get a game before they head home. If the Sox win tonight, a sweep is a very real possibility but if they lose we could have ourselves a series. It's Ubaldo Jimenez, a 23-year-old rookie who throws 100 mph vs. Schilling. In its last four games, the BoSox have outscored opponents 43-6.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We're going back to the World Series

Three years after breaking 86 years of misery, the Boston Red Sox find themselves back in the World Series. No comeback will ever top the 2004 ALCS but the 2007 Red Sox submitted a pretty nice comeback of their own. Down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians, Boston roared back, winning the last three by a combined score of 30-5.

Game 7 actually was pretty tight for a while. The Sox scored single runs in the first three innings off Indians starter Jake Westbrook but it could have been much worse as they grounded into three double plays (they set a playoff record with 14). Dice-K came out and retired the first eight men he faced. The Tribe struck back with a run in the fourth and one in the fifth to cut the lead to one. Dice-K left after five (two runs, six hits, three strikeouts) and gave way to Okajima, who pitched two scoreless innings of his own. The Indians squandered its chance when the 3rd base coach held Lofton on what would have been the tying run. Blake grounded into a double play on the next at bat.

Pedroia was the hero of the night as he hit a two-run homer into the monster seats in the seventh. He followed that with a three-run double in the eighth. Youk knocked him in with a bomb off the Coke bottles. Game over. Papelbon pitched the final two innings for the save.
This had to be the most predictable comeback in Red Sox history. They just seemed to have nothing going right in games 3-4. The Indians are a worthy team but they're too young and inexperienced in the playoffs to get the job done in the ALCS. Once Beckett won and the series shifted back to Boston, they were cooked. Their bats were silenced and the bullpen was taxed. Plus, Carmona and Sabathia produced zero wins between them in the series.

Beckett deservedly received the ALCS MVP but it also could have gone to Youkilis, who is smoking the ball or Manny. The World Series starts Wednesday at Fenway. Who knows what to expect from the Rockies? They're legit and they have that absurd run but predicting what'll happen in the World Series is nearly impossible. Beckett will start on normal rest in game one.

Brady's six-pack drowns hapless Dolphins

All you need to know about the Patriots game against the Dolphins is that it was 42-7 at the half. Read that again. The Patriots have become that dominant high school football team that simply rolls over the competition. Have you ever seen an NFL team look this dominant through seven games?
Brady tossed a career-high six touchdowns: two to Moss, two to Welker (former Dolphin), one to Stallworth and one to Kyle Brady. The two Moss touchdowns (giving him 10 on the season) will be what people remember from this cake-walk. They were both jump balls. Brady just threw it up there while Moss outjumped/outmaneuvered multiple Miami DB's. Just crazy. Guess nobody should have doubted Moss. I think it's safe to say he still has something left in the tank. Art Shell saying he doesn't have the legs and skills anymore will go down as one of the great errors in judgment in recent memory. Still the funniest play of the game had to be the kick-off after Miami scored its first TD. They did a short kick which Willie Andrews promptly returned 70 yards for a score.
Matt Cassell actually saw the field in the fourth but promptly threw a pick-6 to Jason Taylor. Tom Brady went in one last time and drove the Pats quickly down the field. In case you had forgotten how unstoppable this team was. Brady has 27 touchdowns in seven games. His career-high for a season is 28. You had to feel bad for the Dolphins in this one; Trent Green is out for the rest of the season (maybe forever) and yesterday Ronnie Brown (their only offensive threat) tore his ACL. He's out for the rest of the season. So New England is not only beating teams, they're taking out players.
The defense gave up some garbage time touchdowns but who could blame them for a little lapse in the second half? They knew it was over. Maroney made a short cameo: carrying it six times in the first half before never seeing the field again. Who knows if he was pulled because of the groin injury or maybe it was just saving him from getting hurt when the game was decided. Hopefully Lawrence is alright since Morris (broken collarbone) seems to be out for a while longer and Faulk, Evans and Eckel cannot carry the load. When the weather starts getting bad, the Pats will need some semblance of a running game to grind the clock in playoff games. But that's something to worry about for another day. Let's bask in this win a little longer. The Redskins come into Foxboro on Sunday in what could be a decent game. The Skins have a good defense, up and coming QB and nice running backs. Unfortunately, their coach is 89-year old Joe Gibbs.
The Colts held serve against the Jaguars tonight so now it's only two weeks until the expected showdown on unbeaten teams: Pats at Colts. ESPN is already creaming itself over that one.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

game #172

Get your cliche book ready, it all comes down to this game sports fans. After 162 regular season games and nine playoff games, the Sox and Indians face-off tonight in a do-or-die game seven at Fenway. The Sox rolled over the Tribe, 12-2 last night in a game that didn't even seem that close. J.D. Drew was the hero (no joke) as he hit a first inning grand slam and later added another RBI. It was 10-1 Boston after three innings, meaning they took all the intrigue out of this one. Carmona couldn't get out of the third inning and the Indians bullpen that had been so dominant suddenly looks tired and very vulnerable. The only lineup change was Ellsbury (finally!) played for Crisp. Hopefully the rookie gets back out there tonight.

It's like I said a few days ago, playoff series can change in the blink of an eye. The Sox were dead in the water, down 3-1 while Cleveland had all the momentum in the world. However, the Indians failed to slay the Red Sox while they were down. Instead they've been pounded the last two games as Boston's lineup looks fearsome top to bottom while most every Indian outside of Victor Martinez looks to have no confidence at the plate. Travis Hafner might as well just take game seven off, he's of no use to the Tribe at this point.

Schilling shook off some early shakiness (a solo shot by Martinez) and went seven innings, giving up both runs on six hits and striking out five. As usual with Schill, he didn't walk anyone. He got a great ovation from the Fenway crowd when he walked back to the dugout after the seventh. You hope for his sake, he gets another chance to pitch (in the World Series) before his Sox career is likely over. Looks doubtful that the club will bring him back after this season but that's a matter for another day. Game two of the ALCS was a hiccup for Big Schill, last night he proved once more that he lives for the big moment. You can love him or hate him but you have to give the guy credit: he's the greatest big game pitcher of his generation.

Dice-K gets the ball tonight against Jake Westbrook. Common sense says that Westbrook, who pitched well and won in game three can't possibly repeat that performance. He's just not that good and the Sox have simply worn out much better pitchers-Sabathia and Carmona. While it would be great to see Dice-K pitch well tonight, the thing the Sox have going is that they can call on a host of pitchers-Wakefield, Beckett, Okajima, Papelbon, et. all to relieve Matsuzaka as soon as he shows he's done/doesn't have anything. I'm not a betting man but you have to like the Sox' chances tonight. They seem to have everything going in their favor at the moment but you can never what will happen in huge situations like this one. Should be a dandy.

Friday, October 19, 2007

They're shipping up to Boston (whoooooaaaaaaa)

In the playoffs, things change quickly. The Sox rolled in game one vs. Cleveland and looked poised to win game two after Manny and Lowell went back-to-back. Things turned in game two as the Indians came back and finally won in 11 innings. They beat Dice-K on Monday and knocked around Wakefield and Delcarmen on Tuesday to go up three games to one.

I would have written a blog before last night's game but I forgot/didn't want to jinx things/was too depressed. Now, after watching Beckett pitch another gem, the series is coming back to Boston for the last two games (if necessary). After last night, I think you can say without a shadow of a doubt that Josh Beckett is the most dominant starting pitcher in baseball right now. It's not even close really. Who else is up there? Peavy, Webb, Zambrano, Hamels, Wang, Sabathia, Carmona? Those guys all had solid regular seasons but almost all of them have faltered in the playoffs while Beckett has been just filthy (1.17 ERA in three postseason starts). Don't forget, he was also the only 20 game winner in baseball this year. If he doesn't win the Cy Young this year, it's a joke.

Sabathia has had three straight bad starts in the playoffs (one against the Yankees and two vs. the Sox). What's the deal with him? Not a good clubhouse spread? Or maybe that's the problem, it's really good and he is daydreaming about all the food he is going to dominate when he hits the showers. Whatever the case, ole' C.C. hasn't done anything special when it's counted. He throws hard but he's lost his control and he also doesn't seem to have secondary pitches to lean on. Major league hitters will eventually catch up to a fastball, no matter how hard it is.

Youkilis got things started with a solo homer in the first but Cleveland came back with one in the bottom of the first to tie it up. It was the first time all series that the Sox had scored first. Still, things didn't look promising as the Sox couldn't get any bounces to go their way: Manny missed hitting another home run by inches and Lowell hit a sure double that just went foul. The Sox finally scored two in the top of the seventh off Sabathia, who was shaky all night but somehow managed to make it to the seventh. Pedroia hit a double then Youk got a triple that Sizemore and Gutierrez misplayed in the outfield. Boston added three in the eighth to make the final score, 7-1.

The key to game obviously was Beckett, who went eight innings and only allowed five hits while striking out 11-which tied a playoff career high. The other most important factor was that Pedroia had two hits and Youk had two hits while Kielty, Varitek, Lugo and Drew all had a hit. Our lineup had been seriously exposed in the series as nobody outside of Youk, Ortiz, Manny or Lowell-to a lesser degree-could do anything. Drew, Crisp, Lugo and Varitek have pretty much been automatic outs. The media and fans freaked out about Francona pitching Dice-K (who had no shot) in game 4 over Beckett. The other main concern was not shaking up the lineup which had completely fallen apart. Ellsbury had played so well in limited time, why not throw him in there? He's not much of a drop-off defensively from Coco.

We'll have to wait and see 'til game six if stubbornly loyal Tito changes anything. It's Schilling against Carmona on Saturday night (a rematch of game 2) at Fenway. Should be a classic. Schilling didn't have much last time out so odds are that won't happen again. Oddly enough, you'd have to say the pressure lies on the Indians now. They're a great team and they proved that by jumping out the 3-1 lead. However, you get the feeling that they were playing over their heads a bit during the three game win-streak while the Sox were barely treading water. We're not unbeatable but I think we resemble last night's performance more than the garbage on display in game 3 and 4. The bottom line is that the Sox need a starting pitcher other than Beckett to last longer than 4.2 innings. If we can decent outings out of Schilling and Dice-K (holding my breath) in a possible game seven, then you have to like our chances. No question, Cleveland did not want to come back to Fenway for another game(s). Tomorrow night should be fun, first pitch is at 8:21 pm.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cleveland rocks indeed

After Beckett shutdown the Indians in Game 1, what bias Sox fan didn't see the Sox rolling in five games? Well it ain't going down like that son. The Indians outlasted the Sox on Saturday night, putting up seven in the painful 11th inning at Fenway against a bunch of ineffective Sox relievers. The Indians proceeded to beat Dice-K and the BoSox, 4-2 on Monday to go up 2-1 in the series.

Things have turned so quickly. Tomorrow night: Tim Wakefield vs. Paul Byrd is basically a must-win for Boston. Down 3-1 to the Indians and having to beat Carmona and Sabathia again is nearly impossible. Nobody knows what to expect from Wakefield, who has had cortisone shots in his back and been very erratic since he was on fire for most of the year (17 wins).
Manny and Ortiz got on base all ten times they came up on Friday. Manny hit a two-run homer on Saturday followed by Lowell's solo shot. Everything was lined up for the Sox to go up 2-0 heading to Cleveland. Schilling for once just couldn't deliver in the big game. Jhonny Peralta cranked a three-run bomb off him and Sizemore hit a solo home run too. Once it gets to extra innings, anything can happen. All our good relievers had been used by the time Gagne began to blow the game.

The Sox couldn't capitalize on their opportunities in game three. They loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning but Varitek popped out and Crisp somehow grounded into a double play. Stuff like that seems to always come back and bite teams in the playoffs. Kenny Lofton (I'm serious) hit a two-run bomb off Dice-K, who predictably was nothing special. He didn't make it thru the fifth as the Indians simply waited him out-the strategy the Sox used for C.C. and Fausto.

There's nothing else to say, gotta win tomorrow or our chances will plummet. This is a very solid Indians team. They do everything and have no glaring weaknesses plus they play great at home. Come on Wakefield, the knuckle ball better be dancing tomorrow night at the Jake.

Line 'em up, knock 'em down

The extra hyped game between the Patriots (5-0) and the Cowboys (5-0) lived up to the endless slobbering......for three quarters anyway. The Pats faced their first second-half deficit of the season (24-21) but they simply turned it up a notch-that the Cowboys couldn't match-and outscored Dallas 27-3 to close it out. Tom Brady tossed five TD's (a career high) and the funny thing is that it could have been seven. Randy Moss had one TD but another two were called back due to a shaky offensive pass interference call and a nearly impossible catch that was overturned.

No matter, Wes Welker stepped up and had his best game in the NFL (2 TD's, 11 catches and great kick returns) while Donte' Stallworth continued his fine work from last week with another long catch and run for a score plus a 100-yard receiving game. Kyle Brady caught the other TD. We're quickly seeing how each wideout brings his own skills and abilities. Combine them all together and you basically have an All-Pro team. Moss dominated the first few weeks. Teams have started to double him the last two games and now the supporting cast has really stepped up. There's no defense that can stop all of these weapons, led by Tom Brady.

Sammy Morris was ineffective before getting hurt early in the second half meaning that the wily veteran Kevin Faulk saw the most action of the last few years for him. He was decent and the truth is that these Pats are so high-powered, they don't even really need a running game. Now I realize that in the playoffs you need to be able to grind yards and hopefully Maroney and Morris will be healthy by then. Who knows how hurt either of them are?

Ben Watson also left with an ankle injury, hopefully he bounces back soon since he's such a beast. Marcellus Rivers and Kyle Brady do not possess any of the physical talents of Watson. The Pats defense easily faced its stiffest test with the Cowboys solid offense. Romo had a good game but he didn't make the big plays consistently. The Cowboys had a lot of success with Julius Jones and Marion Barber but they couldn't run much as they quickly fell behind by more than one score.

If this was the class of the NFC, the Patriots have nothing to worry about come Super Bowl time. The Cowboys are pretty good but the Pats and Colts are on another planet this season. New England travels to Miami this weekend. The Dolphins always play them tough, especially down there but this year's team (0-6) is probably the worst team in the NFL or at least the AFC (Rams in the NFC). You can't help but feel like the Patriots first unit could put up 40 in the first three quarters or so. Let's just hope its not 100 degrees down there or worse, a pouring rain, slopfest. No matter, nothing can slow this team down.

Bizarro World: BC edition

Without a doubt, this college football season has been the most unpredictable I can ever remember. As #1 LSU fell at Kentucky on Saturday while #2 Cal choked against Oregon State, I could only laugh as I realized that BC (27-14 winners over Notre Dame) would move up to #3 in the country.

The polls that came out on Sunday had BC #3 in the BCS, #3 in the AP poll and #2 in the USA poll.

The victory over the pathetic Fightin' Irish was a forgone conclusion. It wasn't a question of who would win, rather how much would BC hang on ND. Give Notre Dame some credit. They're just awful this year but they hung around a much more talented Eagles squad. They simply couldn't make the plays or get the stops when they needed them. Now, BC's out of conference (joke) schedule is over, it's five ACC games between BC and dare I say, the BCS title game in New Orleans. Can you imagine that?

Trying to predict what'll happen a few months down the road is completely useless this season. Its best to take it week to week and try to anticipate where the biggest challenges lie. With that said, BC's toughest game is the next one: a week from Thursday at suddenly rejuvenated Virginia Tech. It'll be a national game and the Hokies are always great on Thursday nights, especially at home. We'll reassess things after that game.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Keep Torre

So, clearly, I bleed orange and blue, but that doesn't preclude me from having an opinion on the three-ring circus in The Bronx. I'll say this: I don't root against the Yankees.

Some pinstripe-faithful, however, go out of their way to root against the Metropolitans (last year's NLCS game seven was spent next to a grease ball clapping for the home run by _Fuckin'_). I think it's lame, dude. I think they do it because it's not fun to be a Yankee fan anymore. This excellent Page 2 opinion column by Jeff Pearlman explains how there's no joy in the journey if all the fun is predicated on the ride's success.

That said, it must suck to be a Yankee fan. Mets fan took shit at the end of this year, but we were in contention on the last day of the season. There's tons of fans around the country that can't say that. And, with all this talk about the Mets' historical collapse, all they did was play .500 ball since June. It's not like it was a surprise that they didn't pull it out to any fan that paid close attention.

Torre should stay. Being 14 1/2 back, when? In June? And still being able to make the playoffs, and have the team perform and grow? You don't think Torre did a good job this year? You're out of your fucking mind if you think Torre should be fired. The Indians were just a little bit better. There was nothing Torre could have done to make Wang a better big-game pitcher, nothing to make Roger Clemens five years younger, no way to make Jeter hit slappers down the line. He couldn't hit, pitch, or field. But he turned that team into one that more resembled a '96 or '98 Yankees team than a 2003 Yankees team, and for that alone, he should stay.

A-Rod signs unthinkable $30 million a year contract with the Chicago Cubs, with part ownership of the team built into the back-end of the deal.

Jorge Posada, upset with the contract offer he receives from The Bronx, moves crosstown to Queens to sign a 3-year, $21 million deal to catch for a young Mets pitching staff.

Mariano Rivera signs an unreal 3 year, $45 million deal. He blows three saves next year, seven the second, and his fastball tops out at 89 in the third.

Joe Torre becomes a broadcaster for ESPN baseball the same day he's fired from the Yanks.

Don Mattingly (or Joe Girardi) becomes manager of the club, leads the Yanks to World Series title with Hughes and Chamberlain as the future's 1-2 in the rotation.

Mets trade OF Lastings Milledge and P Mike Pelfrey to Florida Marlins for P Dontrelle Willis.

Mets win the World Series next year, after signing Andruw Jones to play right field, and fielding a staff of Pedro, Dontrelle, Olllie and Mr. Maine.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Smell ya later Angels

Well that was pretty easy huh? Thanks to a combination of factors: Beckett's dominant game one performance, the Angels rash of injuries/lack of hitters and the Ortiz-Ramirez duo (baseball's undisputed best 1-2 punch), the Sox rolled in Game 3, 9-1 in Anaheim. Curt Schilling proved once again that he's a big game pitcher, even though he lacks the power stuff from most of his career. Big Schill pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up six hits, with one walk and four strikeouts. His postseason record is now 9-2 with a 1.93 ERA.

Ortiz and Manny capped off a great series for both as they went back-to-back in the fourth, giving the Sox a 2-0 lead that they'd never relinquish. Ortiz had the big two-run homer in the first game and Manny provided the walk-off three-run bomb on Friday night. For the short series, Papi was 5-for-7 with 5 runs, 6 walks, 2 HR's and 3 RBIs. Manny was 3-for-8 with 3 runs, 5 walks, 2 HR's and 4 RBIs. It seems like they both were never in the zone at the same time during the season. Ortiz battled myriad injuries all season and Manny took most of September off. It looks like both of them are tearing the cover off the ball at the exact same time which is bad news for opposing teams.

This never really seemed like a series. Beckett was lights out in game one and game two was close but you had the feeling the Sox would pull it out in Fenway. Yesterday was a forgone conclusion with Schilling against one of the Weavers (albeit the better one, Jered). The Sox move on to the ALCS, which begins Friday in Boston. The Yankees staved off elimination last night with a win but it's hard to see them beating Cleveland two more times (particularly if they have to face Sabathia/Carmona again). My gut instinct is I'd rather see the Sox face the Indians. It's time for someone else to make the ALCS, not just the Yankees and Sox. As fans we certainly eat up the rivalry but something different would be nice. Bigger picture, I think the Sox matchup better with the Indians since the Yankees owned us the second half of 2007 and they'd have big momentum if they can come back from down 2-0. We'll see how it plays out but you have to be happy if you're a Red Sox fan, they look very balanced and solid at the perfect time.

the Song Remains the Same

The Patriots beat the Browns, 34-17 at Gillette yesterday in a game that shouldn't have been that close. It was 20-0 at halftime. The funny thing is that the Pats played their worst game of the season and still won comfortably, improving to 5-0. Brady threw 3 TD's, making it the fifth straight game (tying Steve Young's record to start a season) with at least three touchdown passes.

The theme of yesterday for the Patriots was showing off the other weapons. Randy Moss has deservedly gotten the lion's share of the credit (along with Brady) for the first four weeks. The Browns chose to double cover him which left among others, Donte' Stallworth and Ben Watson open. Stallworth had his easily his best performance for New England, catching four passes for 65 yards (including a nifty 34-yard catch and run for a score) plus a 12-yard run on a reverse. Watson had his first career 100-yd game (6 catches, 107 yards) and two touchdowns.
The ageless Junior Seau had two first-half picks and Asante Samuel added another. Randall Gay had a bad game as he was beaten for a touchdown catch by Kellen Winslow and slipped in coverage which led to another Browns score. Gay redeemed himself with a garbage time strip and 15-yard fumble return for a TD.

Sammy Morris had his second straight 100-yd game (21 carries, 102 yards) subbing for Laurence Maroney. It is still incredible how Belichick and the Patriots can turn retreads like Morris and Seau into guys making big contributions on championship-caliber teams. Next week looks like New England's first big test: at the unbeaten Cowboys. Dallas has been on a roll and that should continue tonight at hapless Buffalo. It'll be exciting to see how the Patriots matchup against such a dynamic offense while also being put up against a talented defense. Plus its at Texas Stadium. Is it too early to say it could be a Super Bowl preview? That has probably never been said in Week 6 of a NFL season but as long as Romo doesn't get hurt tonight, it'll be the plot for next Sunday. I can't wait.

BC Football, #4 in both polls

Boston College at 6-0 is ranked No. 4 in both polls, after stomping Bowling Green, 55-24 on Saturday in Chestnut Hill. It just goes to show you how crazy this college football season has already been. The Eagles-thanks to a bad conference, three straight easy home games and a Heisman-caliber QB-have reaped the benefits. Let's make this clear though: the season is half over and BC has six games left that could all end up losses (OK, maybe not at Notre Dame next weekend, although the pathetic Irish got its first win, at UCLA on Saturday).

After ND, BC has its toughest game of the season: a Thursday night showdown at Virginia Tech (who moved up to no. 10 after a nice win over Clemson). The next week, Bobby Bowden's team of thugs and criminals travels to Boston and the Seminoles are currently ranked 21st. Who knows what to expect from them though? They've been the classic talented but woefully underachieving team in recent years, coincidentally coinciding with Bowden's increasing senility. The last three games are at Maryland, at Clemson and home to Miami. All three teams are certainly beatable for BC, especially this year. Still, the Eagles Achilles heel in recent years has been losing the late-season games that would put them in good bowls. We'll see if Coach Jag can reverse that trend. Early returns show that he was a great hire. He's opened up the BC offensive playbook and the defense has played well despite battling a ton of key injuries. Tom O'Brien isn't exactly setting the world on fire down at NC State. The Wolfpack is already one of the worst teams in the ACC which is saying something.

It's time to let the Superfrauds enjoy their lofty (unearned) ranking and see what they're made of over the last six games. Truth be told, they really haven't been tested and the marquee wins against Wake Forest and Clemson get worse by the week as both teams continue to struggle.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Chris Berman saying "G-Men"

The G-men, today, looked as big as blue as ever looked, at least on defense. They didn't register nearly as many sacks as they did against the Iggles offensive offense last week, but they did expose Chad Pennington's weak arm, even without getting statistical credit for it. "The Chad" threw a duck up in the right corner of the endzone in the second half that (rookie stud) Aaron Ross gobbled up; Ross also glombed another one in the 4th to seal it, taking it back for six. He emulated the Jumpman logo on the way past the white line, which made me happy, then made me sad, because he looked like a ballerina doing it. Dainty and shit.

extra cheese with onions: The Giants offensive and defensive lines dominated most of this game. As I've gotten older I've realized that football has everything to do with the big, fat man pushing each other.

plain, no sauce: Eli's first half stats. He finished respectably (13 of 25 for 186), but if he didn't have such a shitty 1st half, we'd still have stories this week about he's taken "the leap" to being an elite QB. Now, we'll get "Eli's too inconsistent" stories, since he had a QB rating of zero in the 1st half.

Pitchers and catchers in five months, Mets/Phills equally shitty
While I've been ruminating on the Mets season, I've had the privalege of watching the Philadelphia Phillies remember that they're from Philadelphia. I've said this to my dad as the season wound down - they know how this will end - and thankfully, we won't have to hear more about the epic collapse of the Metsies. Although, playing .500 ball since June and never leading your division by more than five for most of the season hardly makes this a collapse as much as a fulfillment of this team's destiny.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

16-0? Really?

I try not to be the biggest homer on the block (which is hard in Massholeland where seemingly everyone drinks the Red Sox/Patriots kool-aid on a daily basis) but it's hard to find anything negative about the 4-0 New England Patriots. They make it look too easy. Last night, they went to Cincinnati and beat an average Bengals team, 34-13. Brady had three more TD's, including two to Moss.

Normally when people bring up a modern team going undefeated in the NFL, it cannot be taken seriously at all. It's nearly impossible to go 16-0 in today's league because each game exists solely upon itself. Every week there's upsets and parity has been a key theme of the last 10 years in the NFL. The Patriots seem intent on putting all conventional wisdom aside as they trample hapless opponents, one after another. Looking ahead, a few games stand out as the ones most likely to trip up the Pats (if possible): at the Cowboys (Oct. 14), at the Colts (Nov. 4), at the Ravens (Dec. 3) and vs. the Steelers (Dec. 9). Thus far, the Colts and Patriots appear to be the teams to beat league-wide. The Cowboys are really starting to come on strong but one has to wonder how much that is a measure of them and how much it highlights the inferiority of the NFC.

The Dolphins, Jets and Bills are all god-awful. Miami is 0-4 (possibly the worst team in the league) while the Jets and Bills both check in at 1-3. You can print the AFC East Champs t-shirts right now. There's not a more sure bet in sports. These teams have all had some good games against far superior New England squads in recent years so it wouldn't be surprising to see one of them hang around a game before the Pats put them away.

Even when the Pats went 14-2 in 2004 and won the Super Bowl, it didn't resemble this powerhouse. That year they always came out on top thanks to many small plays and general coaching advantages. Now, it looks like it'll be hard to find teams that can make a game of it. Sammy Morris had a 100-yard game last night as Maroney sat with a groin injury. The Pats have scored 38 in their first three games and then 34 last night. They've given up 14, 14, 7 and 13. For the 2007 New England Patriots, the sky is the limit as the late, great Notorious B.I.G. once rapped.

October Dreams

Well it took some unexpected help (thanks Orioles) and longer than expected but the Sox finally clinched the AL East (for the first time since 1995) on Friday night as they defeated the Twins while the Orioles made a comeback and then beat the Yankees in extra innings. The next night, Cleveland lost-insuring the Sox would have the best record in the AL and home-field throughout.

The Angels come to Fenway tomorrow to open up the five-game ALDS while the Yankees travel to Cleveland. On the NL side, the Phillies host the red-hot Rockies (absolutely sick game vs. the Padres) and the Cubs go to Arizona. I'm no fan of cliches but here's one anyway regarding postseason baseball: you can throw the regular season out the window. Sure all those games seemed important at the time but the end (getting to the playoffs) was for more important than the means. If you get to October these days, whether it be by Wild Card or winning a division, you're golden. Anything can happen. That being said, the Sox did themselves a big favor by getting home-field advantage. Fenway as anyone could tell you gives the Sox a huge edge in any series.
As the playoff picture started to come into focus late in the regular season, I was genuinely scared of the Angels. They hit, they run and they pitch. They don't score a ton of runs but they have two real good starting pitchers (Lackey and Escobar) and one of the best closers in the game (K-Rod). Not to mention the fact that Vlad Guerrero is one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Nonetheless, at this moment it looks like Boston is catching a break by playing the Angels in the first round and not the Indians. The Indians have been on a roll and the Angels limped into the playoffs. More importantly, a bunch of Angels are banged up: Vlad, Gary Matthews, Figgins and Escobar. Obviously, by October every baseball player is in rough shape since the season is such a grind but it seems like those guys just mentioned aren't anywhere near 100%.

Beckett gets the ball to face Lackey tomorrow, followed by Dice-K vs. Escobar on Friday and then Schilling vs. Weaver on Sunday in Anaheim. The Red Sox have owned Lackey this year and while putting Dice-K ahead of Schilling seems a little strange, you have to be confident that Curt can step up once again in the postseason.

After having a bunch of key contributors (Manny, Coco, Youkilis) out in September, Boston started to get everyone back in the last few games. And even more surprising, J.D. Drew finished off a torrid September. Meanwhile, Lowell is having a career year (he set the RBI record for Red Sox 3B) and Ortiz has been absolutely ripping the ball lately.

What does it all means? Who knows. The four teams in the AL particularly are so evenly matched. I have confidence the Sox will get by the Angels, I'm saying in 4. The playoffs are all about momentum and winning game one would be huge for the Sox. As for the other series: Yankees in 5, Cubs in 4, Rockies in 4.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Phillies are awesome!!!

The Phillies improbably run could not have come at a better time. Penn State has suffered two demoralizing losses in a row. Joe Paterno is coaching like he just discovered the forward pass(and this is possible since he was 54 when the foward pass was legalized) and the Rich Kotite/Pat Ryan led Eagles are officially the worst team in the NFC East. They are terrible. My fantasy football team is awful, thanks to Larry Johnsons -1.2 yards a carry.

I love watching the Mets lose almost as much as I love watching the Phillies win. I mean it was a dream set up. So many things had to go the Phillies way in September. Guillermo Mota is my hero. I still have beef with Charlie Manuel though. Start Abraham Nunez at third every game!!! Only bring in Dobbs if you need runs. You can sacrifice offense for defense when you have Utley, Rollins, Howard, etc all starting!!

I want to play the Padres for obvious reasons. Their lineup cannot possibly exploit the Phillies pitching staff, and our lineup can hit anybody.