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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It is now a three-game series

When you have a superior team in the playoffs (partiucarly in the first round), you have to take care of business as soon as possible. You can't let teams hang around and gain confidence. Unfortunately, the Celtics-the "better team" have forgotten this coach speak.

Didn't see this coming, did you? The Atlanta Hawks beat the Boston Celtics, 97-92, in game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to even the series at 2-2.

The Celtics looked in control at different points, jumping out to a 16-3 lead to start the game then carrying a 10-point advantage into the fourth quarter but they couldn't close out this increasingly pesky Hawks team.

Plain and simple, Atlanta won because of Joe Johnson. The all-star had a game-high 34 points, including a jaw-dropping 20 in the fourth quarter. The Hawks offense was pretty simple in the fourth, give it to Johnson and get out of the way. Boston complied, never really changing things up until it was too late.

Johnson and Josh Smith (28 points, 7 blocks, 6 rebounds) scored all of Atlanta's points in the fourth quarter. Mike Bibby added 18 points and Al Horford (who gets more annoying each game) hauled in 13 rebounds.

Kevin Garnett had 20 points, nine boards and six steals but appeared to lose some of his mojo after getting into a scuffle with Atlanta goof Zaza Pachulia. They were fighting for a rebound in the second then continued to jaw after the whistle had blown. This led to technicals for both players and matching T's for Johnson and Sam Cassell.

A fired up Philips Center, full of as my friend texted me "16,000 Pacmans," went crazy for the rest of the game.

Ray Allen led the C's with 21 points while Paul Pierce had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Pierce's biggest flaw came back to bite him as he went 4 of 8 from the free throw line.

Rajon Rondo had 14 points and 12 assists while James Posey had 10 points off the bench while the rest of the subs were 1 for 9 from the floor.

For the second straight game, the officials were terrible but that's not why they Celtics lost; they simply failed to execute in the fourth, getting outscored 32-17.

The style that brought the C's so much success this season has included crisp ball movement and plenty of drives to the hoop. Boston got away from that last night as they settled for the first shot or tried to go one-on-one too often.

For the game, Atlanta shot 47.8% from the floor to Boston's 41.2%. Threes kept the Celtics in the game (12-4 advantage) since the Hawks dominated free throws made (29-10). The C's had 10 more assists (26-16) which is puzzling and seven more steals (11-4).

The only number that matters is 2-2. This series has become a three-game series and while Boston has the home-court advantage, the pressure is completely on them to avoid what would be a historical upset.

Game 5 is tomorrow night at the TD Banknorth Garden. It's a must-win for the Celts as far as I'm concerned, they can't go to Atlanta down 3-2.

Monday, April 28, 2008

These Aren't Your Grandpa's Rays

Yesterday's 3-0 loss to the Rays constituted a lost weekend for the Boston Red Sox.

They've now lost five in a row and are percentage points behind both Baltimore and Tampa Bay for first place in the new-look AL East. The Rays (14-11) have won six straight.

Boston (15-12) wasted a great outing from Josh Beckett (2-2), who pitched seven innings, giving up four hits, two runs (1 earned), one walk and 13 strikeouts.

On the other side, James Shields (3-1) was just a little better. He pitched a complete game on 99 pitches: allowing two hits and striking out seven.

In the third, Jason Bartlett reached base on a Beckett error then came around to score when J.D. Drew relayed his throw from RF into the ground.

Tampa Bay doubled the lead when rookie sensation Evan Longoria hit a solo homer in the seventh.

The final straw was when Carl Crawford hit an RBI double off Manny Delcarmen to put the Rays up 3-0 in the eighth. The slumping Sox weren't likely to come back from down 2-0 but 3-0 was more than enough to clinch it.

David Ortiz was out again and Mike Lowell finished up his rehab with Pawtucket. With Sean Casey on the DL, the Sox have run into some injury problems early in the season. There's no need to panic since they'll be fine (shortly) but it is not fun watching your team lose five in a row.

After the off-day today, Toronto comes to Fenway tomorrow for three games.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Atlanta defies the odds and wins a game

As we've seen in the first round of the NBA playoffs, it's hard for the team that's up 2-0 to go up 3-0. Utah, New Orleans, Cleveland and Orlando all lost the third game.

Surprisingly, the Boston Celtics were added to that random list last night as they fell 102-93 to the Atlanta Hawks in game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

There were many signs that last night would not be the C's night. The shot-clock malfunctioned so they turned them both off and used the PA announcer and air horns. Really. Then a random buzzer went off later. These led to lengthy waits as the teams had to sit as the clueless Hawks staff tried to fix things.

Kevin Garnett had 32 points and 10 rebounds and Paul Pierce had 17 points and eight assists but they didn't get enough help from the supporting cast. Ray Allen had 13 points while Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo both scored 10 points. The C's bench had a pathetic 11 points, seven from James Posey.

Josh Smith had a breakout game with 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Joe Johnson also woke up with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Al Horford had a double-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Marvin Williams posted 13 points while Mike Bibby had 12 points and eight assists.

Atlanta led 32-26 after the first quarter but Boston tied it at 56 going into the half. The third quarter is when the Hawks put it away as they outscored Boston by 10 (28-18) and led for the rest of the game.

The Hawks were hot on three-pointers (10-18) and had eight more rebounds (43-35).

While the result was somewhat shocking, it'll probably help the Celtics. Common sense says that they won't lose another game in the series. Maybe they needed a little reality check after winning so easily in the first two games.

Game 4 is tomorrow night back at Phillips Arena.

Buchholz pitches a gem but still loses

Are you ready to live in a world where the Tampa Rays have a better season than the New York Yankees? It probably won't happen this year but I'm just putting it out there. The Yanks are really nothing special this year and Tampa finally seems to be turning the corner and accumulating wins, not just talent.

Tampa beat the Red Sox, 2-1 last night at Tropicana Field. The Rays (13-11) won their fifth in a row while the Red Sox (15-11) lost their fourth in a row.

Clay Buchholz (1-2) was outstanding but manager Terry Francona kept him in one batter too long. David Ortiz sat after bruising his knee on a slide Friday night.

Staked to a slim 1-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth, Dioner Navarro hit a pinch-hit single. Buchholz was over 100 pitches by that point but Francona chose to keep him in (even though Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon were waiting in the bullpen) and the next hitter, Akinori Iwamura crushed a two-run bomb to right. Iwamura is not a power-hitter by any means but Buchholz was tired and should have been yanked.

Buchholz went eight innings giving up just three hits, two runs, two walks and nine strikeouts.

Rays starter Edwin Jackson pitched well, going seven innings, giving up five hits, one run, three walks and four strikeouts.

Reliever Scott Dohmann picked up the win and Troy Percival pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his fifth save.

Jacoby Ellsbury was the only player with multiple hits as he had two hits, including an infield single that drove in the only Sox run.

Boston looks to salvage something from this series as Josh Beckett opposes James Shields this afternoon.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

You Sir (Mike Bibby) are a Joke

After playing terribly in game 1 and watching his team get blown out by the top seed Boston Celtics, Atlanta point guard (and Kermit the Frog voiceover artist) Mike Bibby decided to open his mouth and rip the Celtics fans for being "fair-weather." Sweet move Mike.

The C's don't need anymore motivation and Bibby's verbal assault really isn't a big deal but it will probably be one of the most memorable parts from what should be a tidy four-game sweep. Boston won last night 96-77 to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

I knew the Celts would have little trouble with the Hawks but I thought maybe Atlanta could steal a game. It could still happen but it's looking more and more unlikely, since the Celtics are on a mission and the Hawks are easily one of the worst teams to ever make the playoffs.

KG received his defensive player of the year award before the game (which he shared with his teammates), then he went out and delivered (what a concept Dirk) with 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Ray Allen scored 15 points and Paul Pierce shook off a hard foul by Josh Smith to contribute 14 points.

As for Bibby, he didn't really help his cause by scoring 12 points (on 2 of 7 shooting, with 8 free throws). Rajon Rondo once again owned him, filling the stat sheet with 12 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals.

Another person called out by Bibby-Kendrick Perkins-had eight points and nine rebounds, Sam Cassell had 10 points off the bench and James Posey continued to do his thing with nine points and five rebounds.

Marvin Williams and Josh Smith led Atlanta with 13 points, Acie Law had 12 off the bench and the so far unimpressive Joe Johnson managed 11 points. Al Horford, who was the lone Atlanta brightspot in game 1, was held to nine points and nine rebounds.

The C's were ruthlessly efficient, outscoring the Hawks in every quarter. Boston led 24-20 after one and 52-42 at the half. It was 76-58 after three.

Atlanta shot 38.3% from the field and didn't hit a three-pointer (0 for 5). The only reason they avoided further embarrassment was by hitting 31 of 40 free throws. Boston had more rebounds (45-35), assists (23-10), steals (15-4) and way less turnovers (21-12).

Game 3 is in Atlanta on Saturday night. I'm sure the Hawks faithful will be out in full-force, cheering on their favorite sons. Haha, at least that's what Bibby told me.

The Flu is the Only Thing that Can Stop the Red Sox

After Josh Beckett missed the night before with neck stiffness, Dice-K was scratched from his start last night after coming down with the flu that has also hit Jason Varitek and Manny Delcarmen among others.

This meant Jon Lester had to pitch on three day's rest and well you know the result, the Sox lost 6-4 to the Angels at Fenway.

Lester didn't pitch all that bad under the circumstances, he gave up four runs on nine hits with two walks and one strikeout. Gary Matthews Jr. got a fresh shipment of steroids before the game and promptly homered twice off Lester.

Craig Hansen-called up from Pawtucket earlier in the day-took the loss after going 1.2 innings, giving up one run (a Casey Kotchman home run) on two hits. Hansen showed off his improved slider, striking out three. He hadn't been in Boston since his disastrous 2006 campaign so who knows what to expect from him. He's been quietly solid in Pawtucket but that doesn't mean much.

David Ortiz continued to warm up, hitting a two-run homer off Angels starter Jon Garland. Garland (3-2) went six innings, giving up eight hits, four runs, two walks and one strikeout.

The potent Red Sox (15-8) lineup continued to deliver, notching ten hits but the Angels (13-9) made even more noise with 13 hits. Vlad Guerrero had two hits and two runs while Tori Hunter managed four hits and an RBI. Sean Casey had two hits for the Red Sox including a double while Julio Lugo was 2 for 4 with an RBI.

The teams wrap up their three-game series this afternoon at Fenway as Joe Saunders faces Portland call-up Justin Masterson (one of the top arms in the Red Sox farm system).

I've always thought the Sox should have more afternoon games, particularly in the summer at Fenway. But I'm sure Boston being as backwards and not forward-thinking as it is, won't let it happen since the crowds would overwhelm the T and Kenmore Square. Or some bullshit like that, the liquor licenses don't allow them to sell beer before 7 p.m. during the week more than five times. Something wacky like that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We Should Have Known Better

Just when people in Boston were talking about NHL hockey again and going to the exciting games, the Boston Bruins laid an egg in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens, losing 5-0 at the Bell Centre last night.

Canadiens pest Mike Komisarek scored 3:31 into the game when his shot was deflected by a Bruins defenseman past goalie Tim Thomas (30 saves).

Boston actually outplayed Montreal for most of the first period but couldn't put away any of their 11 shots. The B's season-long problem of scoring goals appeared one last time, in the most important game of the season no less.

10:45 into the second period, Habs defenseman Mark Streit walked in on Thomas and put a wrist shot between his legs to put Montreal up 2-0.

When Andrei Kostitsyn scored four and a half minutes later (one second after Zdeno Chara stepped out of the box), the season was over for Boston. As gritty and fearless as this team was, there was no chance they'd score four goals in 30 minutes.

Andrei Kostitsyn rubbed it in with a power-play goal late in the third and then his brother Sergei scored with eight seconds left.

After looking like he was turning into a goat (playoff goat, get it?) Carey Price stopped 25 shots to earn the shutout. Truth be told, he didn't have to work much after the first period. Boston managed six shots in the second and eight in the third when the season hung in the balance. Yuck.

So ultimately, the result (a Canadiens series win) was quite predictable but the Bruins earned much respect for coming back from a 3-1 deficit and forcing Game 7.

With all the injuries endured all season and lack of game-changing talent, the Bruins should be commended. Hopefully they pick up a scorer (Marian Hossa?) in the off-season and dump cash cow Glen Murray, who had zero points in seven playoff games.

Still, the bigger question as they head into the off-season is will the fans be there when the '08-'09 season starts in October or were Games 3, 4 and 6 simply last gasps of a team and sport that were on life-support both locally and nationally?

It's Just Too Easy

The Red Sox swept the four-game series with the Texas Rangers yesterday afternoon, winning the early Patriot's Day game 8-3.

When Rangers (7-13) starting pitcher (and former Red Sox player) Kason Gabbard left in the third inning after catching his foot on the mound, you felt like the game was over even though it was 0-0.

Sure enough, Texas reliever Dustin Nippert came in and gave up eight runs on nine hits with four walks and two strikeouts in 2.1 innings.

Boston (14-7) pitcher Clay Buchholz got out of some early trouble and threw six scoreless innings, giving up five hits, two walks and striking out five to even his record at 1-1.

The Red Sox have now won nine out of their last 10 games and their offense thus far has carried them. Yesterday was no different as the patient Sox hitters worked 11 walks and had 12 hits. The lineup featured Kevin Cash, Jed Lowrie and Joe Thurston.

Fan favorite (in his mind) Julio Lugo went 4 for 4 with two runs, a stolen base and an RBI. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, 2 stolen bases, 2 runs, 1 RBI) continued to heat up while Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, 3 RBIs) continues to rake.

David Ortiz had two doubles and three RBIs. One double was a complete gift as Milton Bradley lost the ball in the early afternoon sun by the Green Monster in left field.

The Red Sox put up five runs in the fourth and three in the fifth. Texas had two in the seventh and one in the ninth but it hardly mattered.

Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, David Murphy and Gerald Laird all had two hits in the loss.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim come to Fenway tonight for a three-game set that should be much more competitive than this past weekend against Texas.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Good Night and Good Luck Atlanta

The Boston Celtics made their return to the playoffs after a three-year absence last night and by all accounts, it was a rousing success as the top-seed Celtics dispatched of Atlanta, 104-81 in game 1.

Boston came out firing, the Hawks came back a little bit in the second quarter but the C's put it into full-gear in the second half.

Six Celtics reached double-figures led by Ray Allen (18 points). Kevin Garnett had 16 points, 10 rebounds and four assists while Paul Pierce had 16 points. In his first career playoff game, Rajon Rondo was spectacular with 15 points, nine assists (0 turnovers), six rebounds and two steals. He only played 28 minutes, otherwise he probably would have had a triple-double.

Off the bench Sam Cassell and Leon Powe notched 10 points. Leon had a couple sick dunks (including one where Garnett got right in his face and yelled for a good 20-30 seconds as they went to the bench for a timeout). The savvy Cassell made some hoops while also giving Rondo a breather.

Rookie Al Horford was really the only Hawk that played well, he had 20 points and 10 rebounds, showing off some nice moves around the hoop. Joe Johnson scored 19 (on 7 of 22 shooting) with seven assists and Josh Childress had 10 off the bench. Mike Bibby was terrible, he had five points and one assist in 34 minutes. Rondo dominated him and if that continues, the Hawks have even less of a chance to win.

Boston led 29-21 after one quarter and 49-40 at the half. It was 73-55 after three as the C's put it out of reach and got all the starters out.

With the Pistons choking in game one to the Sixers last night, it was nice to see the Celts take care of business and not give the Hawks any hope. Atlanta has to win Wednesday night in game two or else this one will be over soon. The Celts are much deeper and more experienced than the young Hawks.

Deep in the Heart of Fenway

The Texas Rangers were up 5-0 after six yesterday afternoon at Fenway but wouldn't ya know, their god-awful bullpen couldn't hold the lead as the Red Sox eventually won 6-5.

Boston (13-7) got two in the seventh and four in the eighth before Jonathan Papelbon recorded his seventh save on seven pitches.

Kevin Millwood stifled the Sox for six innings before giving up two in the seventh. He gave up ten hits, two runs (both earned) with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Tim Wakefield (2-0) surprisingly picked up the win after going eight innings, giving up seven hits, five runs (all earned) with five strikeouts. Wakefield gave up a solo shot to Ian Kinsler in the first and then a three-run homer to everybody's favorite head-case Milton Bradley in the sixth.

Kevin Youkilis had three hits (he leads the AL in batting average) while Jacoby Ellsbury (2 stolen bases), Jed Lowrie, David Ortiz and Sean Casey managed two hits apiece.

The biggest plays in the eighth were a pinch-hit RBI double by Dustin Pedroia and then a bases-loaded walk by Casey. Rangers closer C.J. Wilson (who had given up one hit coming in) couldn't record an out, giving up two hits, two runs and three walks.

Boston goes for the sweep today with the early Patriot's Day start time of 11:05 a.m.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Still the Top 3-4 Combination in Baseball

With the Bruins epic game last night and the first night of the NBA playoffs, I didn't catch much of the Red Sox game but I saw the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth which is all that matters.

Down 3-2 in the eighth, David Ortiz beat the shift and got an RBI single. Manny Ramirez followed with a two-run homer over the Monster and onto the parking garage across the street. Jonathan Papelbon got his sixth save as the Red Sox won 5-3 at Fenway.

Texas (7-11) went up 1-0 in the first as Josh Hamilton hit a solo home run. Boston (12-7) doubled in the home half of the inning that as a run scored even though Ortiz hit into a double play and Kevin Youkilis scored Manny with an RBI double.

The Rangers got another run in the second and third off Jon Lester. The lefty hung in there though, going 6.1 innings and giving up the three runs on ten hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

Manny Delcarmen, Mike Timlin and Javier Lopez (who got the win), teamed up for five outs out of the bullpen. Joaquin Benoit was saddled with the loss after giving up the three runs in the eighth.

Tim Wakefield and Kevin Milwood take the hill this afternoon at Fenway.

The Best Hockey Game I've Ever Seen

Are you kidding me? Other than the Patriots loss in the Super Bowl a few months back (which we'll never talk about again), could the sports gods be smiling on Boston anymore these days?

The Boston Bruins beat the Montreal Canadiens, 5-4 last night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the Garden.

After being down 3-1 in the series, the Bruins can pull off the upset of the top-seeded Canadiens, Monday night at the Bell Centre.

The third period of this game featured six goals, including four by the home team. Boston could not play with anymore heart as they were down three different times in this game and still staved off elimination once again.

Phil Kessel was the star of this game, scoring two goals. Marco Sturm had an assist and the game-winning goal in the third on an outstanding individual effort.

Montreal goalie Carey Price could not be playing worse, having given up 10 goals in the last two games, eight in the last two third periods.

Chris Higgins (first of the series) put the Habs up 1-0 9:44 into the first with a great move around Tim Thomas. Kessel tied it up 1:54 into the second as he gathered the puck at center ice, completely undressed a Montreal defenseman then whipped a shot past Price.

Tomas Plekanec sprang out of the penalty box after a penalty and walked in a breakaway, putting the puck away on a back-hander. The action was back and forth as Montreal hit the crossbar later in the period and the Bruins hit two posts.

3:13 into the third, Vladimir Sobotka (second of the series) scored off a nifty assist from Peter Schaefer. A little over seven minutes later, Montreal defenseman Francis Bouillon (playing in his first game of the series) put the Habs up 3-2. That started a flurry of five goals in seven minutes and nineteen seconds.

Milan Lucic (second of the series) tipped home a Aaron Ward shot from the point off a B's face-off win. Kessel put the Bruins up 4-3 with a one-timer from Sturm. 11 seconds later, Chris Higgins banged home a Saku Koivu pass right on the crease. The game looked destined for overtime but Sturm had other ideas. He checked Roman Hamrlik twice on the same shift, took a shot that was stopped by Price, gathered his rebound, then waited for Price to lay out before flipping a forehand over him.

Montreal pressured the B's for the last two minutes but couldn't equalize. Tim Thomas made a few huge saves to seal the win. The vocal Garden crowd erupted when the final horn sounded.

You couldn't have scripted a better win for the Bruins; the quality of the goals and overcoming multiple Montreal leads in an elimination game made for some high drama.

The only thing that could top last night would be if the Bruins can go up to Montreal tomorrow night and knock off the reeling Canadiens.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ortiz Breaks Slump with Grand Slam

For one night anyway, the David Ortiz of the last five seasons was back.

Big Papi blasted a grand slam over the monster (his second homer of the year) in the third and added an RBI single in the eighth. He hit the ball hard in his three outs too, it was a great sign in a 11-3 Sox win over the Texas Rangers at Fenway last night.

Dice-K (4-0) had his second so-so performance in a row but the Sox (11-7) bailed him out with the abundance of offense. Dice-K went 5.1 innings, giving up three runs (all earned) on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He left after giving up a two-run bomb to Hank Blalock.

Poor Texas (7-10), they still don't have any pitching. Maybe they never will. Starter Luis Mendoza was roughed up for seven runs (all earned) on five hits in three innings.

It was never much of a game after the fourth as Boston grabbed a 9-1 lead.

Jacoby Ellsbury (3 runs, 3 walks, RBI triple) had a productive night out of the lead-off spot. Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run homer into the monster, his first of the year. Sean Casey and Jed Lowrie (playing shortstop since Julio Lugo had the night off) each had two hits.

The teams meet tonight as Jon Lester opposes Jason Jennings in a game that screams 10-8.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Who's Better than Manny, Man?

After getting embarrassed the night before, two of the Red Sox brightest stars led the team to a 7-5 win in the Bronx over the Yankees last night.

Ace Josh Beckett (2-1) went eight innings, giving up six hits, three runs, one walk and five strikeouts. Yankees starter Mike Mussina didn't fare quite as well. He lasted three innings and was charged with five runs on seven hits.

Manny Ramirez (3 for 5, 3 runs, 3 RBIs) continued to tear the cover off the ball as he hit two home runs off Mussina. A shot to center that just eluded Melky Cabrera and a bomb to left.

The Sox (10-7) cruised to a 7-0 advantage before giving up three in the fifth and Papelbon gave up two in the ninth.

Boston had 13 hits, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek all had two. Jacoby Ellsbury stole two more bases, making him a perfect 14 for 14 in the majors.

A 3-1 road trip against the Indians and Yankees is a nice mark. Boston comes home to Fenway tonight as they face the Texas Rangers then the Angels.

They're Not Dead Yet

In the first four games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Boston Bruins scored five goals.

Last night at the Bell Centre, the B's used four in the third to defeat the Canadiens, 5-1, and force a Game 6. And did I mention that all five Bruins goal-scorers recorded their first tallies of the series?

Things didn't look good when Alexei Kovalev scored his second goal of the series to help Montreal grab a 1-0 lead in the first period.

The second period was the start of some bananas happenings (in the Bruins favor). 20-year-old Phil Kessel, who was a healthy scratch the first four games, tied it up with a power-play goal 7:45 into the second period.

3:30 into the third, Canadiens goalie Carey Price gave up a softie. He made a stop then blindly dropped a puck right on Glen Metropolit's stick. Metropolit shoveled it home to give Boston a 2-1 lead.

Just over two minutes later Zdeno Chara scored off a blast from the point on a power-play. Marco Sturm officially put it out of reach when he scored short-handed with four minutes and change left. He skated in 1-on-1 with a Habs defenseman and ripped a shot top shelf.

The last goal by Vladimir Sobotka (a weak low shot) was a case of Price not really paying attention. Maybe he was thinking about hitting up the Peel's Pub after the game or one of Montreal's fine strip clubs to drown his sorrow in Molson Ice and fake boobs.

Tim Thomas finished with 31 saves and made all the big stops when the Bruins were behind 1-0 and tied 1-1. He is as close to a sure-bet as you'll find currently on the Bruins roster.

So the series is coming back to Boston after all, not many expected that after the B's lost Game 4 1-0. It's hard to see the Habs losing two more but if the B's somehow win tomorrow night at the Garden, who knows?

When the camera panned around the Montreal bench in the waning moments, there were some worried faces. Perhaps, they feel a choke job coming right around the corner.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Opposite of a Pitcher's Duel

After staging a pitcher's duel just five days earlier, Clay Buchholz and Chien-Ming Wang served up nothing but batting practice last night at Yankee Stadium as the Yankees hammered the Red Sox, 15-9.

Buchholz went 3.2 innings, giving up eight hits, seven runs (all earned), one walk and two strikeouts.

Wang went four innings, giving up nine hits, eight runs (all earned), three walks and two strikeouts. Yankees middle reliever LaTroy Hawkins earned the win as he threw two scoreless innings which on this night was analogous to a classy girl in the porn industry. Brian Bruney added the save.

Boston (9-7) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first after Manny Ramirez hit a laser RBI double. New York (9-7) answered in the bottom of the inning when Bobby Abreu (two-run) and A-Rod hit back-to-back homers.

Down 7-3 after four, the Red Sox jumped ahead with six in the fifth to go up 9-7. You wouldn't expect Julian Tavarez to hold a precarious lead like that in the Bronx and true to form, Freddie Kruger (1.1 innings, 3 hits, 4 runs-3 earned, 2 walks, 1 strikeout) was a nightmare as he took the loss.

The Yankees stepped on the Red Sox' throat with four in the eighth. Mike Timlin gave up four runs on three hits in the ugly frame.

For the game, Boston pounded out 14 hits which was slightly trumped by New York's 16. Manny and J.D. Drew had three hits while Dustin Pedroia and Sean Casey had two apiece.

Yankees backup backup catcher Chad Moeller led the way with three hits. Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, A-Rod, Hideki Matsui and Posada each had two hits. Jacoby Ellsbury was the only starter on either team to not record a hit.

Josh Beckett opposes Mike Mussina tonight in the finale of this two-game set. Relievers for both teams must be praying for deep outings.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare a Goal?

The Montreal Canadiens shut out the Boston Bruins, 1-0 at the TD Banknorth Garden last night, taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The lone goal was put home by Montreal defenseman Patrice Brisebois (on a power-play) with 42 seconds left in the second period.

The Bruins had some chances to score: two golden short-handed bids in the first period and some late shots (Glen Murray was stoned point-blank in the third) but ultimately the lack of a scoring punch has bitten Boston when it matters most.

There's only so much dumping and chasing, hitting and cycling you can do against a quality team. The Bruins are over their heads and while they can't be faulted for their effort, their lack of offensive talent is pitiful.

Tim "the Tank" Thomas was his typical solid self with 27 saves which was matched by Canadiens goalie Carey Price.

The series goes to Montreal Thursday night and frankly, who expects it to come back to Boston (let alone go to a Game 7)? Nobody.

Jason and Jed Get it Done for BoSox

The ninth inning was once again the Red Sox' best friend last night in Cleveland, as they broke a tie game (3-3) with two runs in the ninth.

Hideki Okajima got a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth for the save as the Red Sox (9-6) beat the Indians (5-9), 5-3.

Jed Lowrie made his major league debut, he played third base and collected his first career hit (a two-run single). He also had another RBI on a ground out.

Tim Wakefield started and had a good outing: six innings, seven hits, two runs (both earned), four walks and four strikeouts.

Cleveland starter Paul Byrd shut down the Sox, allowing just one run on six hits in six innings. He struck out six with no walks. He only threw 78 pitches so it was surprising that Eric Wedge yanked him so early when he was clearly effective.

David Aardsma (1-1) picked up his first win in a Red Sox uniform and it only took two pitches in the eighth.

Jason Varitek pinch hit and hit a solo home run in the ninth off Jensen Lewis before Kevin Youkilis (two hits) singled home Coco with the insurance run.

Boston goes to New York tonight for another of these dinky two-game series. Sox-Yankees in April, does it get any better?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Joe Borowski, Still Dealin'

On a freezing cold night in Cleveland, the Sox rallied in the ninth and beat the Indians, 6-4.

Julio Lugo (haha, I know!) started the ninth by doubling off Cleveland's joke closer-Joe Borowski. Coco sacrificed him over and then Dustin Pedroia hit a sac. fly to deep left to easily score Lugo to tie it at four.

David Ortiz recorded his second hit of the game, a bloop to left to keep the inning alive. From there, Manny Ramirez unloaded on a Borowski meatball that was right down the pipe.

Jonathan Papelbon struck out two in the bottom of the ninth for his fifth save of the season.

The Sox (8-6) didn't wait long to get things started as Kevin Youkilis (3 hits, 2 RBIs) doubled home Pedroia in the first.

Cleveland (5-8) got two in the fourth and two in the fifth to knock Jon Lester out of the game. Like Dice-K the night before, Lester's bad habits from last season crept up in an early season start. He could only go 4.1 innings, giving up five hits, four runs (all earned), five walks and three strikeouts. In all he threw 97 pitches which won't cut it in that short an outing.

The unsung hero of the game for the Sox was Freddie Kruger, I mean Julian Tavarez, who went 2.2 innings, giving up no runs, two hits and striking out four. Tavarez inherited the bases loaded in the fifth from Lester and amazingly, struck out two Indians to end the inning.

Mike Timlin was credited with the win after he put up a scoreless frame as well. I guess I was a little too early in writing Timlin's obituary.

Boston chipped away with one in the seventh and one in the eighth. Pedroia's infield single scored Lugo and then Youkilis hit his first home run of the season.

This mini-series concludes tonight as Tim Wakefield and Paul Byrd are scheduled to appear.

The Indians announced today that Borowski is on the DL so they'll have to move the bullpen guys around. Shouldn't be a problem though since Borowski is probably the worst closer in baseball. How the guy had 45 saves last year will go down as one of life's great mysteries.

Dead Man Walking

With KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce watching the game from the bench, it was only fitting that the Celtics (65-16) still beat the Knicks (23-58), 99-93 last night at MSG.

The heart-breaking subplot was that Knicks coach Isiah Thomas might have coached his last game for the Knicks last night.

Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. For the second game in a row, Sam Cassell played out of his alien skull: Scoring 22 points and taking over in the fourth quarter.

James Posey scored 15, Big Baby notched 13 points and nine boards while Leon Powe had 10 points.

Nate Robinson posted a game-high 26 points. Zack Randolph scored 15, David Lee had a double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds while Fred Jones notched 11.

With the Pacers loss last night, Atlanta clinched a playoff spot and will meet Boston in the first round.

The regular season wraps up tomorrow night for the C's as the Nets come to the Garden.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bruins get a French Monkey off their Back

After losing 13 games in a row to the Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Bruins finally came through last night (and saved their season for at least two more nights) by winning 2-1 in overtime at the Garden.

Marc Savard fittingly scored the winner, his first playoff goal in only his third career game. How someone as gifted as Savard never made the playoffs before is baffling. He must have been on some terrible teams.

The overtime goal was a beauty. The Bruins had just received a delayed penalty call on the Habs so Peter Schaefer held the puck in the offensive zone before dropping it to Dennis Wideman. Savard was the extra skater when Tim Thomas (28 saves) got to the bench. He went to the other side of the net and Widemen hit him with a tape to tape pass. Savard loaded and fired quickly, beating Montreal goalie Carey Price (31 saves), who slid over a second too late.

It was a night of firsts as Boston also scored the first goal of the game (something it hadn't done in 11 games this season against the Canadiens) when Milan Lucic (assists to Savard and Marc Stuart) ripped a wrist shot top shelf, six and a half minutes in.

Tom Kostopoulos scored for Montreal in the second and then the team's traded chances but couldn't score in the third, sending it to overtime for the second straight night.

All jokes aside, the playoff atmosphere at the Garden was actually top-notch. It helped that there were plenty of Canadiens fans in jerseys there too but the hometown crowd was into the game all night. Who knows if the Bruins will win another game but for one night at least hockey was alive and well in the Hub.

The pivotal game 4 is tomorrow night at the Garden.

Another Marathon at Fenway against the Bombers

The Red Sox and Yankees staged another ridiculously long game at Fenway last night, Boston coming away with a 8-5 win.

The game took three hours and fifty five minutes. Phil Hughes (0-2)-the youngest player in MLB-was completely ineffective in his first start against the Sox. He only lasted two innings, giving up six hits, seven runs (6 earned), three walks with three strikeouts.

After two great outings in a row, Dice-K was back to his old self (namely from last year). He had little control and as a result, walked six guys in five innings and threw 116 pitches. He gave up five hits, four runs (all earned) and struck out two.

Boston (7-6) got a 3-0 lead in the first after Manny (2 hits, 2 runs, RBI) had an RBI single, Youk had a sac fly and Manny scored on a passed ball.

Bobby Abreu had an RBI double in the third but then Boston chased Hughes with four in the third. Youk, Sean Casey (2 hits) and Jacoby Ellsbury (2 RBIs) all had RBI singles while Youk scored on a wild pitch.

The Yankees (6-7) scored three in the fourth then Jason Giambi hit another home run off Mike Timlin in the eighth. Giambi had done the same thing on Friday.

You hate to say it but Timlin might be all done. The guy has defied the odds the last few years but he can't seem to get anybody out anymore. He gave up three hits last night and didn't record an out.

The Red Sox used their speed (you read that correctly) to add another run in the eighth.

Coco Crisp (2 hits, 2 SB's) hit eighth, Julio Lugo hit ninth and Jacoby Ellsbury led off so the Sox smartly had the organization's three fastest guys in a row.

Crisp bunted to get on against Kyle Farnsworth then stole second when Jorge Posada comically couldn't throw. Crisp tagged up and made third on a fly ball to right by Lugo then scored on a sac fly by Ellsbury. You might not see a National League play like that again this year by the Red Sox.

Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen pitched two scoreless innings to close it out since Okajima and Papelbon weren't available.

Boston travels to Cleveland today for a two-game series with the Indians, a rematch of last fall's ALCS.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nothing's going right for the Black & Gold

The Boston Bruins played so much better in game 2 than game 1 against the Montreal Canadiens and yet the result was the same, a loss at the Bell Center. Montreal won 3-2 in overtime when Alexi Kovalev scored 2:30 minutes into OT on a power-play.

Roman Hamrlik scored with 1:30 left in the first period to put Montreal up 1-0. Sergei Kostitsyn scored 1:50 into the second period and it looked all but over.

Give the B's credit. They didn't roll over like most would expect. They continued to battle and finally broke through in the third with a pair of goals in the first 10 minutes to tie it at two. Peter Schaefer's backhander got by Montreal goalie Carey Price (37 saves) then David Krejci scored a beautiful power-play goal off crisp passing from Marc Savard and Marco Sturm.

Montreal got a four-minute power-play near the end of the third after Shawn Thornton was called for high-sticking (and drawing blood). Boston was 12 seconds away from killing that power play in overtime when Jeremy Reich was called for tripping. Kovalev's slap shot predictably ended it.

The Bell Center crowd is beyond annoying. They go bananas every time a Canadiens player is touched. As for the team itself, they dive more than most Spanish soccer players. It's dispicable.

Game 3 is back at the TD Banknorth Garden tonight. We shall see if the home crowd helps the Bruins pick up any wins in this series.

For Boston

Boston College men's hockey finally got over the hump and won the national championship, beating Notre Dame 4-1 in Denver last night.

The Eagles (24-11-8) had lost in the last two finals. It's their first title since 2001 and third in program history.

Junior forward Nathan Gerbe made up for losing the Hobey Baker (what a joke) by scoring two goals and dishing out two assists. He had five goals and three assists in the two Frozen Four games.

Freshman goalie John Muse made 20 of 21 saves for the win.

After a scoreless first period, Boston College jumped on Notre Dame (27-16-4) in the second with three straight goals. Gerbe scored off a one-timer then three minutes later he scored a ridiculous diving goal after the puck ricocheted off the back boards. Joe Whitney made it 3-0 after his shot deflected off an Irish defender's skate.

Notre Dame's Kevin Deeth caught the Eagles on a line change and broke the shutout. In the third, a controversial call turned out to be the play of the game. Notre Dame scored when the puck went off Kyle Lawson's skate, right outside the crease. After a lengthy review, the goal was overturned as they ruled that Lawson had kicked it.

It was a bum call and it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if it was 3-2. Notre Dame later rang a shot off the crossbar. With that said, BC was the better team all night.

Even worse for the Irish, BC scored 35 seconds later as Gerbe hit Ben Smith with a no-look pass from behind the net and Smith 's shot took a crazy bounce off a defender and past the ND goalie.

Boston College had too much speed and Gerbe was clearly the best player on the ice and in the tournament. He was electric every time the puck was on his stick. It didn't help that Notre Dame was 0 for 8 on the power play with just five shots.

It was BC head coach Jerry York's second title at the Heights.

See You Next Week Suckas

It isn't official yet but you can be sure the Boston Celtics will play the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. With the regular season almost over, those two teams squared off in Atlanta last night with the Celtics coming away with a 99-89 win.

The Celtics (64-16) swept the season series, 3-0, and didn't give the Hawks (37-43) any confidence going into their matchup next weekend.

Kevin Garnett led the C's with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists. The other star was Sam Cassell, who had 20 points and five assists off the bench. I lost track of how many times he did the big ball dance, needless to say it was beautiful. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce both scored 14 points. Big Baby had eight points and 10 boards.

Joe Johnson had 21 points and eight assists for the Hawks. Al Horford posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Smith scored 17, pulled down six rebounds and blocked four shots. Mike Bibby notched 16 points, eight assists, seven boards and three steals. Finally, Marvin Williams scored 11.

The Celts made their free throws (26-29) while the Hawks (15-24) did not.

Boston was up 55-44 at the half before Atlanta tied it at 74 going into the fourth.

The C's go to the Knicks tomorrow night in what Webster's Dictionary defines as "pointless game."

The Longest Baseball Game of Life

Whenever you think out loud or in your head, "wow, this baseball game is going by quickly," you have just jinxed it. Such was the case yesterday as the Red Sox (6-6) beat the Yankees (6-6), 4-3 after a 2 hour and 11 minute rain delay.

The game was played in decent weather for the first seven innings or so and then it started to rain. In the bottom of the eighth, with two runners on and A-Rod coming to the plate, it started to pour. So Jonathan Papeblon-who had just come out of the bullpen-had to warm up multiple times on this day.

Ortiz was 0 for 4 once again, struck out once and grounded into a double play. He's struck out and grounded into a double play the last four games.

When Pap finally got in, he struck out A-Rod then struck out two of three batters in the ninth (on a whopping 26 pitches) to record the save, his fourth of the season.

The early storyline was Josh Beckett returning to his dominant form in his second start, Manny continuing to be the hitting machine he is and David Ortiz struggling to put the ball in play.

Beckett (1-1) gave up one hit through five and started to tire in the sixth. Overall, he went 6.2 innings, giving up five hits, three runs (all earned), one walk and five strikeouts.

Manny broke Mike Mussina's shutout in the fourth when he blasted a solo home run off the Volvo sign above the Green Monster. Manny added a two-run double in the sixth to put the Sox up 3-2 and then Youkilis knocked him in with a single.

Robinson Cano hit an RBI double in the seventh to chase Beckett.

Jacoby Ellsubry, Dustin Pedroia and Youk all had two hits. Cano was the only Yankee with multiple hits. Besides the great pitching, the Sox defense was outstanding. Manny, Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, Lugo and Sean Casey all made nice defensive plays.

The series concludes tonight on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball as Dice-K opposes Phil Hughes.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Quit Playing with your Wang, It'll Make you go Blind

Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang (3-0) pitched a gem last night at Fenway as the Yankees defeated the Red Sox, 4-1 in the teams first meeting of the season. Wang pitched a complete game, two-hitter, giving up an earned run with no walks and three strikeouts. He only needed 93 pitches to dispatch of Boston.

Red Sox (5-6) starter Clay Buchholz matched Wang for a while, going six innings and giving up four hits, one run (earned), three walks and three strikeouts.

The Yankees (6-5) opened the scoring in the fifth when Jose Molina doubled in Hideki Matsui. The Sox answered in the bottom of the inning when J.D. Drew hit a solo home run into the bullpen in right. It looked like Bobby Abreu was going to catch it but it ticked off his glove and into the bullpen to tie it up.

Mike Timlin (fresh from Pawtucket) made his season debut and it wasn't a good one. He gave up a solo shot to Jason Giambi in the seventh and Melky Cabrera added a sac fly. Timlin took the loss.

The Boston bats could never get anything going. They weren't able to get walks off Wang and they hit a bunch of fly ball outs (10). The only other hit was a bunt single (obviously) by Coco Crisp in the ninth. David Ortiz is officially in the worst slump of his career: he's 3 for 39 this season. Yikes.

The rivals get back at it this afternoon as Sox ace Josh Beckett takes the hill against Mike Mussina.

Friday, April 11, 2008

They Aren't Frauds in Hockey

Say what you will about Boston College athletics but their men's hockey program is a beast.

For the third straight year, the Eagles will play in the national championship game, thanks to a 6-1 whitewash of North Dakota last night in Denver.

Boston College scored four goals in the first period and held a 6-0 lead before the Fighting Sioux (28-11-4) scored a garbage-time goal with a minute and change left in the game.

Eagles junior forward and Hobey Baker finalist Nathan Gerbe had a monster game with three goals and an assist. His goals were short-handed, power play and even-strength. He follows in the recent trend of pint-sized BC forwards. Gerbe can skate with the best of them though, he blew by the bigger and slower Sioux defenseman constantly.

Boston College freshman goalie Johnny Muse made 28 saves, badly outplaying North Dakota senior (and Hobey Baker finalist) Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, who had 19 saves.

North Dakota has now lost to BC three years in a row in the Frozen Four. It's going to be a long off-season in Grand Forks.

Believe it or not, BC will face Notre Dame in the final tomorrow night. The first No. 4 seed to make the Frozen Four, the Irish advanced to the championship by defeating top-seed Michigan, 5-4 in overtime.

So wake up Grandpa and the boys down on State Street, Boston College is playing in a championship game. Hopefully, it ends up better than the last two (where they lost to Wisconsin and Michigan State respectively). Drinks on me if at Rogies if the Eagles do it.

That Tigers Bullpen is Something Alright

The Detroit Tigers aren't going anywhere this season unless they significantly improve their god-awful bullpen.

That group's impudence was on full-display last night as Detroit lost 12-6 to Boston in a game that was close until the eighth inning.

The Red Sox (5-5) had 13 hits, including three from J.D. Drew and two from Coco Crisp, Dustin Pedroia and Sean Casey (Youk moved to 3rd as the Sox put Lowell on the DL for his thumb injury).

Tim Wakefield (1-0) picked up the win with a very Wakefield line: five innings, three hits, two runs (1 earned), five walks and five strikeouts.

Backup catcher Kevin Cash handled the knuckleball for the most part, he had only one passed ball. This prompted Doug Mirabelli to cry himself to sleep, wherever he is.

Wakefield and Tigers starter Nate Robertson dueled for the first three innings then remembered who they were in the fourth. Detroit scored twice, on a Brandon Inge sacrifice fly and a Placido Polanco RBI single.

The Sox countered with four in the bottom of the inning. Drew (2 runs, 2 RBIs, 1 walk) had an RBI single, Coco (1 runs, 2 RBIs, 2 walks) had a ground-rule double which scored Youk, Casey (3 RBIs) had a RBI ground out and Cash added an RBI single.

Magglio Ordonez had a solo shot in the seventh off Manny Delcarmen.

Once again, Boston topped that as Manny had a two-run double to center and Casey had a two-run single.

Up 8-3, Sox manager Terry Francona figured, hey why not make this interesting? So he put Julian Taverez in. After letting the first six batters he faced to reach base while the Tigers scored three runs, Tito had seen enough.

With the tying run at the plate (Ordonez), Jonathan Papelbon got him to fly out, ending the inning.

Youk hit a two-run double in the eighth, Drew had a sac-fly and Coco knocked in Youk with a single.

For some unknown reason, Papelbon stayed in there with a six-run lead (hey, he got the save). He had a clean ninth but overall threw 22 pitches so who knows if he'll be available tonight.

And in case you're living in a cave (Bin Laden), the New York Yankees come to town tonight. The forecast calls for rain all weekend which is fantastic.

Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang takes the mound, opposed by Clay Buchholz. It's the first of six series against the Bronx Bombers this season. Even in April, neither team is at full-strength as Lowell is out and Derek Jeter is expected to miss the weekend. Jorge Pasada is also banged up with a "dead arm." Apparently he pitches now too.

It'll All Be Over Soon

Brothers Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn scored a goal apiece just 2:02 into the first game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins last night at the Bell Centre.

That two-goal money shot served the home team well as they basically knocked the Bruins out, Mike Tyson on Peter McNeally style. Montreal went on to cruise, 4-1, to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Sure Shane Hnidy cut it to 2-1 six and a half minutes later but the outcome of this one was never really in doubt. Montreal is from another class than the Bruins. They skate well, hit and have a good defense and goalie. Conversely, Boston has to work extremely hard for everything they get.

Montreal even had mummies coming back to help them. Former Bruin Bryan Smolinski came out of his sarcophagus and scored in the second period, putting the Canadiens up 3-1.

Defenseman Tom Kostopoulos scored the last goal in the third period.

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas made 28 saves in the loss while Canadiens goalie Carey Price was only forced to make 17 stops.

Game 2 is set for tomorrow night in Montreal and it's safe to say that if Montreal wins that game, it's lights out for the Bruins.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Wizards (for some reason) Own the Celtics

The Washington Wizards beat the Boston Celtics last night at the Verizon Center, 109-95.

With that, the Wizards won the season series, 3-1. Washington (41-37) is trying to get the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference (and home-court) but wherever they end up, they would most likely meet the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs. In other words, don't worry about it for now.

Paul Pierce led the Celtics (62-16) with a game-high 28 points, seven assists and six turnovers in 37 minutes. KG had 22 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes and Ray Allen was the only other Celtic in double figures with 13 points in 37 minutes.

Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 27 points and 11 rebounds. DeShawn Stevenson added 14 points while Caron Butler (11 assists) and Gilbert Arenas (4 steals) both scored 13. Brendan Haywood had 12 points and even Darius Songaila posted 10.

The Celts return to the Garden tomorrow night and face the Bucks once again. Should be a hell of a game.

It Was Bound to Happen Sooner or Later

Sorry folks, as funny as it would have been to go 0-162, the Detroit Tigers were going to win a game at some point. Unfortunately, that happened to be last night against the Red Sox, 7-2 at Fenway.

Jon Lester (1-2) took the loss but he didn't even pitch that badly: 5.1 innings, five hits, four runs (all earned) and four walks.

Jeremy Bonderman (1-1) earned the win for the Tigers. He went five innings, gave up five hits, two runs (one earned), four walks and struck out two. He wasn't great but he gave his team a decent start which is just what they needed.

The Sox (4-5) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second when Jacoby Ellsbury walked with the bases loaded then Julio Lugo hit an RBI single.

From there, the Tigers (1-7) scored seven unanswered runs against Lester and a quartet of terrible relievers: David Aardsma, Javier Lopez, Bryan Corey and Julian Tavarez.

That bum Edgar Renteria (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBI's) started it off in the fourth with a two-run double then Marcus Thames blasted a two-run homer.

Brandon Inge added a two-run single in the eighth and Carlos Guillen hit a solo home run in the ninth.

Mike Lowell hurt his thumb in the top of the first making a nice diving play so he left the game. David Ortiz still can't buy a hit.

After the euphoria of opening day, the Red Sox came back down to earth last night. They'll look to take the series tonight as Tim Wakefield opposes Nate Robertson.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hey Look Guys, the Bruins are in the Playoffs

I know you must be tired of all the non-stop coverage of the NHL playoffs (set to begin tonight) but I thought I'd throw my two cents into the mix.

Your Boston Bruins defied the odds and earned the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Their reward (if you are the sarcastic type) is facing the top-seed Montreal Canadiens, who most believe are going to curb stomp the B's.

It's been four seasons (where has the time gone?) since Boston was in the playoffs and ironically enough Montreal was the last team they faced in the postseason. The tables were turned back in the glorious '03-'04 season. Boston was the top seed but they choked big time and lost in the first round to Le Canadiens.

Patrice Bergeron-the Bruins most talented offensive player-who missed most of the season is supposed to come back for game 2. Marc Savard missed the last few weeks but he's expected back as well. What does it all mean? Probably nothing.

Most likely, Boston will go out in four or five games, never to be heard from again. Ok, that's a little bit harsh. Until October.

The bigger question: what do the Bruins have to do to gain some attention in this town? Short of having their ice girls be naked, all the time, I don't know. They'd have to beat Montreal and get to at least the Eastern Conference finals. Maybe even the Stanley Cup finals. Easy enough right?

The sad reality is that the Bruins and the NHL are fading away into the abyss of the sports landscape. Youth hockey, high school hockey and college hockey are still very popular winter sports in the Northeast. The NHL product is just so dull, on tv or in person. I will say that the Stanley Cup playoffs are usually somewhat interesting since the games are so intense, but if I haven't watched all season, how am I going to get into it now?

Uh, go Bruins!

The Eastern Conference: Where Not Every Game Counts

Everything is locked up for the Celtics playoff-wise so Doc Rivers has started resting the starters and giving the bench guys plenty of minutes.

The Celtics (62-15) defeated Milwaukee (26-51), 107-104 in overtime last night in Wisconsin.

I watched about two minutes of the game (it was that exciting) so I don't really know why I'm bothering to write about it. Anyhow, KG led the C's with 21 points in 20 minutes. Tony Allen (17 points), James Posey (16 points, 9 rebounds) and Leon Powe (14 points) were the stars off the bench.

Paul Pierce had 14 points, Ray Allen had 11 points and Kendrick Perkins had 10 rebounds. No starter played more than Ray Allen's 22 minutes.

Michael Redd led the Bucks with a game-high 25 points. Andrew Bogut had the rare triple-double, 15 points, 15 rebounds and 10 turnovers. Desmond Mason scored 14, Ramon Sessions and Bobby Simmons both had 13 while Royal Ivey notched 12.

Both team had 23 turnovers so it truly sounds like it was one of the classic games of the '07-'08 season.

Only five more games of this garbage. The regular season ends next Wednesday and then the real games begin a week from Saturday. The Celts get right back at it tonight in our nation's capital against the Wizards, who have also clinched a playoff spot.

The Big Top Makes a Stop at Fenway

Geez, the Boston Red Sox broke out all the stops for opening day at Fenway, huh? The team received their 2007 World Series rings while the Boston Pops played and championship members of the other three Boston teams joined the team on the field. Bill Buckner threw out the first pitch then returned to his cave. The scene was even more ridiculous than it sounds but when you win the World Series, you can do what you want.

As for the game, the Red Sox (4-4) defeated the lifeless Detroit Tigers (0-7), 5-0. Dice-K got the win, going 6.2 innings, giving up four hits, four walks and seven strikeouts. It was the second straight outstanding start by Dice-K, who appears to have found himself stateside.

Kevin Youkilis led the offense with three hits, two RBI's, a run and a walk. Jason Varitek, Dustin Pedroia and Julio Lugo all added two hits apiece.

The Sox had two run-scoring sacrifice flys and a bases-loaded walk account for three runs. Plus, an RBI double by Youk and Manny came around to score after a triple into the triangle and a throwing error by Placido Polanco.

Many experts picked the Tigers to make the playoffs, some (Sports Illustrated)going as far as to pick them to win the World Series and so far Detroit hasn't been able to get out of the gate. You know they'll turn it around eventually but the numbers aren't on their side as no team has started 0-7 and made the playoffs.

Detroit's lineup is stacked yet they've struggled to score runs without Curtis Granderson. They have good starting pitchers but they haven't showed up yet and their bullpen (their biggest question mark) is a mess.

Kenny Rogers (4.2 innings, 8 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts) wasn't hit particularly hard but Boston waited him out and ran his pitch count up to 107 before he departed.

Manny Delcarmen (1.1 innings, 1 hit, 2 strikeouts) and Hideki Okajima (1 inning, 2 strikeouts) combined to get the last seven outs without giving up a run.

Boston finally gets back to some sense of normalcy tonight (no more Opening Day hoopla) as Jon Lester faces Jeremy Bonderman.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Celtics reach 60 wins for first time in 22 years

The Boston Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers, 92-77 last night at the TD Banknorth Garden.

With the win, Boston (60-15) reached the 60-win plateau for the first time since the halcyon '85-'86 season (when they won their last championship). The C's also tied the '97-'98 Spurs (the year they drafted Tim Duncan) for biggest turnaround in a single-season. So far, the Celts have won 36 more games then last year.

Those feats were far more compelling than the actual game, another laugher against a team that will not make the playoffs. Kevin Garnett had 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Ray Allen scored 15 points, Paul Pierce notched 13 points, five rebounds and five assists while Leon Powe posted 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench.

The Pacers (31-44) never put up much of a fight as they trailed 29-17 after the first quarter and 49-30 at the half. They were down by double digits the rest of the way.

Danny Granger led Indiana with 14 points and seven boards. Mike Dunleavy (8 turnovers) and Jermaine O'Neal each had 12 points and Troy Murphy had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The C's shot 44.3% from the floor and held the Pacers to 35.6%. Boston had 10 more rebounds (51-41) and 14 more assists (27-13) in another ho-hum win.

Boston travels to Charlotte on Saturday to take on the Bobcats, another team with little to play for but pride.

Another Day, Another Gem from an Unlikely Source

The Oakland Athletics possess what has to be one of the worst lineups in baseball. It's going to be a struggle for them to score runs and win games all year. Still, you can't help but be encouraged if you're a Red Sox fan by the events of yesterday's game.

The Red Sox (3-1) beat the A's, 5-0, behind 6.2 scoreless innings by Jon Lester (3 hits, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts).

For the second day in a row, Boston got a great outing from someone not named Josh Beckett. Just like Dice-K, Lester has struggled early in his MLB career with high pitch counts and bad innings. Yet it only took him 94 pitches to get 20 outs yesterday.

Rich Harden (5 innings, 4 hits, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts) pitched well for the A's (1-3) but Boston got to Oakland's less than impressive bullpen for all five runs.
David Ortiz got his first two hits of the season, including a two-run homer to right off former Sox reliever Alan Embree.

After not delivering early in the game with the bases loaded, Boston cashed in during a two-run eighth. Dustin Pedroia (2 hits) had an RBI single followed by Kevin Youkilis's (2 hits) RBI single, both off another former Sox scrub, Lenny DiNardo.

Jason Varitek (2 hits) added a solo home run off Huston Street in the ninth, payback for his double that should have been a homer the night before. In all, the Red Sox pounded out 13 hits including two from Alex Cora and Coco Crisp.

Relievers Bryan Corey (1.1 innings, 2 strikeouts) and Manny Delcarmen combined to pitch a scoreless eighth and ninth.

Boston flew to Toronto last night and will play a three-game set with the Blue Jays starting tomorrow night.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Now that's more like it Dice-K

As a sports fan, it's easy to write players and teams off. If you watch the games all the time, you get a feel for who has it and who doesn't. With that said, last night's 2-1 Red Sox win over the Oakland A's was very promising as Dice-K pitched a gem.

It was a far cry from his start last week in Japan-when he was understandably nervous and therefore pitched badly-as Dice-K went 6.2 innings, giving up two hits, one run and striking out nine. In probably the best sign of all, he didn't issue any walks and his pitch count was a tidy 96 pitches when he left. It was one of his best performances in his short career with the Red Sox.

With Beckett out until the weekend while Lester and Buchholz are in the rotation, the Red Sox (2-1) need Dice-K to pitch like the guy they paid all the money for last year. He's showed flashes of brilliance but all too often last year, his pitch count would go up way too early or he would have one disastrous inning.

The A's (1-2) got on the board first in the second when Jack Cust hit a solo home run.

Boston scored in the fifth when leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury singled to right, scoring Kevin Youkilis who somehow avoided catcher Mac Suzuki's tag at home.

The Sox looked poised for a big inning in the sixth when Youkilis tripled (3 hits, 2 runs) then scored on Jason Varitek's (2 hits) RBI double that should have been a home run. It hit above the yellow line on a platform in right then bounced back onto the field. The umpires talked about it but ruled incorrectly. It was a tough call but definitely showed that baseball could use replays at certain times, although that would slow down the game even more.

Hideki Okajima pitched a scoreless inning then Jonathan Papelbon got four outs for his second save. Papelbon didn't allow a hit and struck out three.

A's starter Joe Blanton pitched well for the most part, going six innings, allowing seven hits, two runs (both earned) with one walk and three strikeouts.

Good signs for the Sox included Ellsbury delivering with a runner in scoring position, Youkilis looked locked in and Varitek actually had a couple good at bats. David Ortiz doesn't have a hit yet but that won't last much longer.

The short two-game series wraps up this afternoon with a rematch of Lester vs. Rich Harden.

Forget the Pistons

Boston went to Chicago last night and came home with a 106-92 win over the Bulls. The Celtics (59-15) reduced their magic number to three (I was a little ahead of myself the other day) while the Pistons sat Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace last night vs. the Timberwolves, virtually waving the white flag that they've given up hope on getting the top seed in the East.

Boston on the other hand seems happy to keep playing everybody, although once they lock up the top spot, they'll no doubt be sitting KG, Ray Allen, Pierce, Rondo and Perkins more than usual.

A very dissapointing season is almost over for Chicago (29-45) who came into the season expecting to make some noise in the Eastern Conference. They fired head coach Scott Skiles on Christmas no less but nothing has really changed. This group has no chemistry and it should probably be blown up since it doesn't look like they'll go anywhere with the same cast next year.

The C's swept the season series from the Bulls, 4-0. Ray Allen led Boston with 22 points and six assists. Kevin Garnett posted 20 points, seven rebounds and four blocks while Paul Pierce scored 17. Rajon Rondo had nine points, 10 assists, five rebounds but an unsightly seven turnovers. Kendrick Perkins had nine rebounds and James Posey had 11 points and seven boards.

Tyrus Thomas led the Bulls with a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds while Andres Nocioni had 19 points and Luol Deng added 10.

Boston led 22-17 and 50-43 at the half. Chicago barely took the third quarter, 30-29 but the Celtics put it away with a 27-19 fourth.

For the game, Boston shot 49.3% to Chicago's 41.7%. The Celts made six more threes (14-8) and had 12 more rebounds (45-33).

It's a quick turnaround as they flew home last night and meet the Pacers tonight at the Garden. Indiana is still mathematically alive for the No. 8 spot but more than likely, the Hawks will face the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.