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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Oh and the Red Sox won in 13 innings, ho-hum

Normally, when the Red Sox win a game in extra innings, it's pretty exciting stuff. That wasn't really the case last night though as the Sox had the impossible task of playing on the night that the Celtics clinched a trip to the NBA Finals. Plus, it's the end of May, there's over 100 games left in the regular season.

Boston (33-24) won at Fenway south-Camden Yards-5-2 in 13 innings. The Sox scored three in the 13th thanks to Mike Lowell's RBI single which drove in Manny Ramirez with the winning run while the Orioles (26-27) committed three errors in the inning.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched a clean bottom of the 13th with two strikeouts for his 15th save of the season.

Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera gave up two runs in the top of the first. David Ortiz (2 hits, run, RBI) drove in Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, run, 3 stolen bases) with a single and Lowell (3 for 5, 2 RBIs, run) plated Ortiz with a sacrifice fly.

Josh Beckett pitched well for the Sox as he went six innings, giving up two runs on four hits with three walks and 10 strikeouts.

Baltimore scored once in the second on Jason Varitek's throwing error then Aubrey Huff tied it in fourth with a solo shot to right.

Six Red Sox relievers combined to go the final seven scoreless innings. Most notable were Hideki Okajima, who went two innings, Craig Hansen who went 1.2 innings and Mike Timlin (3-3), who picked up the win after a scoreless 12th.

Beat LA!

It doesn't matter how long it took to get there (20 games but who's counting), the Boston Celtics are in the 2008 NBA Finals thanks to a 89-81 win at the Palace of Auburn Hills last night in game 6.

After 21 years of mostly futility, the Celtics and Lakers fittingly take center stage, renewing a storied rivalry that had been dormant since the teams last met in the 1987 NBA Finals. It's the 11th time the two teams have met in the Finals, Boston has won eight of them.

So the Celtics couldn't win a road game against the Hawks, nor the Cavs, yet they pulled out two at the Palace against the Pistons? Makes sense, eh not really but who cares. The Celts took care of business and finally gave themselves a breather before they host LA on Thursday. After winning the previous two series in seven games, the C's couldn't afford to roll the dice again and go to seven with a team like the Pistons.

In the third quarter last night, the Pistons took advantage of some shady calls (how rough have the refs been this postseason, league-wide?) before settling into an eight-point advantage (68-60) going into the fourth.

With everything going against them and a game seven looming, the Celts played their best quarter of the playoffs. They outscored the Pistons, 29-13, and played lockdown defense while Detroit bricked one shot after another.

Paul Pierce led Boston with 27 points (12 in the fourth) and eight rebounds, Ray Allen had 17 points (13 in the first half) and six boards while Kevin Garnett posted 16 points (8 in the fourth) and six rebounds. Rajon Rondo had 11 points and Kendrick Perkins scored seven points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots.

For Detroit, Chauncey Billups (game-high 29 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) and Richard Hamilton (21 points) were outstanding but none of their teammates showed up. Tayshaun Prince (3 of 10 shooting) was the only other Piston in double figures with 10 points. Rasheed Wallace was 2 of 12 from the floor, Antonio McDyess had six points and Rodney Stuckey was 1 for 5.

The C's led 24-21 after the first quarter and took a 40-37 lead into the break. Allen was the early spark as he hit three 3-pointers in the half.

The third quarter was a complete disaster as Detroit regained the lead and Boston couldn't catch a break. Pierce hit a 3-pointer and looked like he drew a foul on Hamilton but somehow Pierce was called for the offensive foul. Just brutal.

In the fourth, the Celts used a 19-4 run (when Rondo was put back in for the ineffective Sam Cassell) to take a 79-74 lead. Billups made a three-point play to draw it to 83-79 but James Posey turned in the play of the game by picking Prince's pocket in the backcourt. Pierce made two free throws later on in the possession and Boston held on despite KG missing two free throws and Pierce missed one of two late.

With a combined 35 years of NBA experience between them, Pierce, Allen and Garnett finally get a trip to their first NBA Finals. It's been a bumpy road this postseason after such a smooth regular season but all three of them have stepped up when it counted.

The dream matchup of the Celtics and Lakers will finally happen. They've been the two best teams this season (after the Pau Gasol trade) so it has the potential to be a classic series considering all the talent involved. After the Cavs-Spurs snoozefest last June, the ratings for these Finals should be through the roof.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Punchless in Seattle

When you lose eight of nine on the road including two of three to the worst team in the American League, something is up. Boston slinked out of Seattle (20-34) last night after a 1-0 shutout.

True, the Red Sox (33-24) have run into some great pitching lately (Rich Harden, Justin Duchscherer, Joe Blanton, Felix Hernandez). Last night was no exception as Erik Bedard pitched like he did when he was on the Orioles facing the Sox. Bedard (4-3) threw seven scoreless innings, allowing only two hits while walking three and striking out eight.

On the other side, Boston wasted a great start by Tim Wakefield (who had been shaky at best in his last few starts). Wake went all eight innings, giving up one run on five hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.

The Mariners no. 9 hitter, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (2 hits) provided the only run of the game when he hit a solo homer in the third inning.

Sox hitters had six walks but only two hits. Hard-throwing set-up man Brandon Morrow pitched the eighth and closer J.J. Putz walked two in the ninth to make it interesting but Coco Crisp grounded out (with runners on first and second) to end it and earn his sixth save.

Boston has the day off today (which will hopefully allow Kevin Youkilis to get back in the lineup) and then begin a four-game set at Baltimore tomorrow night. The Red Sox need to salvage something from what has thus far been a disastrous trip.

One Win Away from the NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics are now just one win away from the NBA Finals, thanks to a 106-102 win over the Pistons last night in game 5 at the Garden. Boston now leads the Eastern Conference Finals 3-1.

Two of the three most outstanding players on the Celtics last night were pretty unexpected: Kendrick Perkins and Ray Allen.

Allen had 29 points (9 of 15 from the floor, 5 of 6 on threes, 6-6 from the line) and scored a clutch hoop with a minute left to put Boston back up three after Detroit had cut it to one.

He had a few games which were statistically higher this season but last night was so far, the performance of Kendrick Perkins' NBA life. He posted a double-double in the first half and finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Part of the reason he was able to do so much was that he stayed out of foul trouble, a constant issue with Perk.

Not to be outdone, Kevin Garnett had a game-high 33 points and seven boards. KG made two free throws at the end to give Boston the four-point cushion.

Rajon Rondo put up some crazy numbers, even for him: seven points (3 of 14 from the floor), 13 assists, six rebounds, four steals and a block. Oh and he only had one turnover.

For the Pistons, Chauncey Billups put up a team-high 26 points with six assists and five rebounds. Richard Hamilton posted 25 points, six assists and four rebounds. Rasheed Wallace was on fire from three-point land, making six of eight for 18 points and three blocks while Rodney Stuckey had 13 points off the bench.

The third quarter was the difference as the teams were tied 23-23 after the first quarter and Detroit actually led 52-46 at the half.

Spearheaded by Allen's shooting (really), the Celts stormed back in the third and at one point led by 17 points. The Pistons though are resilient, we're talking like Keith Richards can't die invincible.

Detroit kept making tough shots and plays in the fourth quarter, taking the frame 31-22. Boston held on by the skin of their teeth and they clearly have some work to do when nursing fourth quarter leads.

Both teams scoring over 100 points was a surprising occurrence in what has lived up to the defensive, hard-nosed battle it was expected to be. Boston shot 50.7% from the floor to Detroit's 46.3%. The Pistons stayed in the game by going 11 of 21 on 3-pointers while the Celts made eight of 15. Thanks to Perk's beastly night on the glass, the C's had a 42-25 edge in rebounding, including 11 offensive boards.

Last night was a huge win but it followed the script of the Celtics playoff run thus far: they've never trailed in a series and they've won every game 5. Hopefully they can revise the script and end this series in six (what a concept). After blowing out the Hawks in game 7 and having a career-defining game from Pierce to defeat the Cavs, I don't want to know what it would take to put the Pistons away. Richard Hamilton strained his elbow at the end of game 5 so he'll at least be banged up. The C's have finally notched one road win, why not make it two?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Timlin has gotta go

Listen, I will always hold a special place in my heart for Mike Timlin and all he's meant for the Red Sox from 2003-2007. However, in his 17th season, at age 42 and with an ERA at 6.89 in 18 appearances this season, it's time for Timlin to call it a career. He's looked bad in previous seasons and returned to form but I think it finally might be over for him.

Timlin (2-3) gave up a two-out, walk-off hit to Jose Lopez (2 hits, RBI) in the bottom of the ninth last night as the Mariners won 4-3 at Safeco. The win snapped Seattle's season-high seven-game losing streak.

Of even more concern than Timlin's woes is the health of Dice-K. He left yesterday before the bottom of the fifth with "shoulder fatigue." Yikes, that's not exactly what you want to hear about your pitcher. He had gone four innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on four hits with two strikeouts.

The Mariners (19-34) jumped ahead with two in the bottom of the first. Jose Vidro had an RBI on a fielder's choice and Raul Ibanez drove in Vidro with an RBI double.

Seattle scored once in the third after Ichiro (2 runs, 2 hits, walk, SB) got a hit, stole second and scored on Sean Casey's (3 hits) error.

Terry Francona and Julio Lugo were both ejected in the fifth for arguing balls and strikes.

The Sox (32-23) tied it in the sixth with one swing of the bat as Manny Ramirez hit a three-run jack, the 499th of his career. He also had an outfield assist at third base, with help from Mike Lowell who blocked the bag from Adrian Beltre.

An unlikely trio of David Aardsma, Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima combined to pitch four scoreless innings before Timlin's predictable finish.

Timlin walked Ichiro intentionally and gave up two hits while recording two outs.

Mariners closer J.J. Putz (2-2) had a scoreless ninth to earn the win.

Boston looks to take the series tonight as Tim Wakefield opposes Eric Bedard, who so far been a disappointment in Seattle.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Fine Time to Visit the Worst Team in Baseball

After being swept by Oakland over the weekend and losing seven in a row overall on the road, the Boston Red Sox met a welcome sight last night: the Seattle Mariners. Currently the worst team in baseball, the Mariners (18-34) cannot hit.

Bartolo Colon pitched a gem as the Red Sox (32-22) held on for a 5-3 win. Following his steller debut, Colon (2-0) was once again on the money. He went seven innings, giving up one run on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Most impressively, he outdueled Felix Hernandez (2-5).

Hernandez matched Colon for a while before he unraveled by giving up four runs in the eighth. King Felix went 7.2 innings, he was touched up for five runs on seven hits with five walks and five strikeouts.

David Ortiz made it 1-0 Red Sox in the fourth when he hit a solo homer.

In the fifth, Ichiro made an unbelievable jumping/basket catch to rob Jason Varitek of extra bases. He finished the catch by catapaulting himself against wall, feet-first.

The Mariners tied it up in the sixth on Raul Ibanez's RBI groundout.

With two outs, Dustin Pedroia started the eighth run rally by hitting a ground-rule double that scored Julio Lugo. Manny knocked in Pedroia with an RBI single. Then Mike Lowell hit an RBI single that third baseman Adrien Beltre stopped but couldn't do anything with. Finally, Varitek walked with the bases full.

Up 5-1 in the ninth, Jonathan Papelbon was inserted to get some work in but he almost blew it. It all started when he overthrew first baseman Sean Casey on a groundball. Later, Ichiro hit an RBI single and Kenji Johjima scored on a wild pitch. With Ichiro on third, Papelbon ended it on his 25th pitch as he got Jose Lopez to ground to second.


If nothing else this playoff season, we've learned that the NBA is currently largely based on trends and home-court. It seems rarely do unexpected results happen.

Specifically, while the Celtics were able to finally pull out a road win on Saturday, things went back to normal in game 4 last night at the Palace as Detroit took a 94-75 win to even the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece.

The Pistons are now 5-0 this playoff season in games following losses. Game 4 was a strange one, nothing more telling of that fact than Antonio McDyess having a 1998 style game of 21 points and 16 rebounds.

All of the Big Three played badly, some worse than others. Kevin Garnett had a quiet 16 points and 10 rebounds, Paul Pierce had 16 points (on 3 of 14 shooting, he made 10 of 11 from the line) and eight rebounds while Ray Allen further proved that game 2 was a fluke, scoring 11 points on 2 of 8 shooting. James Posey had 11 points off the bench and Kendrick Perkins had 10 before fouling out.

Rajon Rondo continued his trick or treat play, managing only four points and four assists in 30 minutes. Sam Cassell bested that with a goose egg in 17 minutes.

As is usually the case when Detroit plays well, a variety of guys contributed to the win. Richard Hamilton had 20 points and seven assists, Rasheed Wallace had 14 points, five rebounds and five blocks, Jason Maxiell had 14 points off the bench and Chauncey Billups put up 10 points and dished out seven assists.

After starting off slowly in game 3-a key to the loss-the Pistons hit Boston with a 10-0 run at the start of the first quarter. The C's recovered to make it a five-point deficit (22-17) at the end of one but Detroit seemed to have control throughout the game.

Detroit was only up 43-39 at the half and the C's cut it to two points twice in the third quarter but the Pistons were not going to lose again on their home floor. They outscored Boston 22-19 in the third and blew the game open late with a 29-17 fourth.

Maxiell had the play of the game when he blocked Garnett from behind on a dunk/layup. It was the type of energy play that the Pistons thrive on and the Celts have lacked away from home.

After shooting 51.4% to Boston's 31.8%, it's easy to see that the only reason the Celtics had a chance was that they got to the line. Boston made a playoff-high 32 out of 39 while Detroit was 20 of 26. Despite their success on driving, the C's did not pass well at all, they only had 12 assists while the Pistons notched 27. Detroit also had 10 blocks and seven turnovers.

Game 5 is back at the Garden tomorrow and clearly it is supremely important. Boston has to hold serve at home or else they will probably go down in flames. Either way, this is going seven games which we knew the second this matchup was finalized.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Long Overdue

Sound the doomsday alarm, ring the church bell, call a friend, the Boston Celtics (the best road team in the regular season) finally won a game on the road in the playoffs. The C's are now 9-1 at home and 1-6 on the road.

The Celts took game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Palace, 94-80. It couldn't have come at a more opportune time as the Pistons had stolen the C's home-court advantage by winning game 2 at the Garden.

All five starters and six Celtics overall scored in double figures. It took a collective team effort to finally get that gorilla off their back.

Kevin Garnett was the best player on the court with 22 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals. Ray Allen had 14 points, six rebounds and six assists while Kendrick Perkins totalled 12 points and 10 boards. Rajon Rondo scored 12, Paul Pierce had 11 and James Posey added 12 points off the bench.

The Pistons were led by Richard Hamilton's 26 points. The other Detroit player who stood out was Rodney Stuckey, who scored 17 points with four assists and four steals off the bench. Rasheed Wallace was the other notable Piston as he had 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

Big runs were the staple of the first quarter as Boston opened the game on an 11-0 clip. Detroit answered with a 14-0 run but the C's closed the first frame with a 10-0 run, giving them a 25-17 lead.

The lead increased in the second quarter, so much so that Boston took a surprising 50-32 advantage into halftime.

The Celts came out slow in the second half but eventually worked the lead up to 24 points. Detroit made a frantic comeback (helped immensely by the refs that let Detroit beat up Boston with no whistles) but would only get as close as nine points.

Chauncey Billups continued his strange series with six points, four assists and three rebounds in 27 minutes. Stuckey actually played 28 minutes and was on the floor for much of the second half when Detroit tried to cut the Boston lead.

Boston shot 46.4% from the floor to Detroit's 38.4%. The C's had five three-pointers while the Pistons only managed one. The C's owned the glass (44-28), which was a pretty impressive margin on the road.

Game 4 is tomorrow night back at the Palace and if the C's can get another road win, this series is as good as over. Don't count the Pistons out however. This team has been in countless big games in the last six seasons so they'll no doubt play much better than their stinker last night.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Well There Goes That Plan

It was inevitable. The Boston Celtics finally lost a home game in the playoffs. Detroit won game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 103-97. This means that the C's will have to win a game on the road if they want to advance to the NBA Finals.

The Pistons played a great game from start to finish, making tough baskets and all the little plays that add up to a win in the playoffs.

Six Detroit players scored in double figures: Richard Hamilton (25 points), Chauncey Billups (19 points, 7 assists), Antonio McDyess (15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals), Tayshaun Prince (14 points, 8 assists) and Rodney Stuckey (13 points).

Boston had won 15 games in a row at the Garden, March 24 vs. the Sixers was the last loss by the Green and White on the parquet.

Surprisingly, for the first time in the playoffs, the Big Three all played well. Paul Pierce (26 points, 5 assists), Ray Allen (25 points) and Kevin Garnett (24 points, 13 rebounds) were all outstanding. Rajon Rondo (10 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals) had his moments but the difference between the teams was Stuckey. The Boston bench combined for only eight points.

The C's led 20-18 after the first quarter but Detroit held a 50-43 halftime lead.

Boston came out on fire to start the second half and would you believe that Ray Allen was the catylyst? Allen made a couple hoops and a steal to push the Celts ahead 55-54.

It was tight the rest of the way but the Pistons made just a few more shots down the stretch.

For the game, the Pistons were 28 of 32 (Boston was 22 of 25) from the line and only had nine turnovers to the Celtics' 12. Everything else was pretty much even.

Game 3 is tomorrow night in the Palace at Auburn Hills. I know I'm looking forward to hearing that idiot yell Detroit basketball every three minutes. He must have some kinda life. Chauncey BaBaBaBa BILLUPS!

Red Sox pull off something even more rare than a no-hitter

It's hard to believe that the Kansas City Royals (21-26) came into town playing good baseball since the Red Sox embarassed them in a four-game sweep.

In its seventh consecutive win, Boston (31-19) closed it out yesterday afternoon by hitting two grand slams-by J.D. Drew (2 for 4, 2 runs) and Mike Lowell (3 for 4, 3 runs). Something Red Sox teammates hadn't done at home since 1984. Bill Mueller (from both sides of the plate) actually hit two grand slams in a game at the Rangers in 2003.

Dice-K (8-0) was pretty terrible yet nobody can lose with that kind of run support. He went 5.2 innings, allowing three runs on six hits with six walks and seven strikeouts. He threw a whopping 118 pitches. It also marked the third time already this season that Dice-K has walked six or more batters.

Jose Guillen (4 for 5, 3 runs, 3 RBIs) had an RBI single which scored Alex Gordon in the first but Drew hit his grand slam over the Monster in the bottom of the second off Royals starter Brian Bannister (4-6).

Kevin Youkilis (2 hits) added an RBI single in the third before Guillen and Miguel Olivo (3 for 5, 3 runs, 5 RBIs) both had RBI doubles in the fifth.

Facing Manny Ramirez with men on first and second, Royals manager Trey Hillamen elected to have Jimmy Gobble walk Ramirez. Lowell made them pay by crushing the grand slam over the Monster to give the Red Sox an 11-3 lead.

Sox relievers Craig Hansen (1 inning, 2 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks) and David Aardsma (1 inning, 3 hits, 3 runs) did their best to make it interesting. Guillen had a solo home run off Hansen and Olivo had an RBI double. Finally, Olivio notched a three-run bomb off Aardsma.

Jonathan Papelbon was forced to come in the ninth and despite giving up two hits, he recorded his 14th save of the season.

Boston left after the game for another 10-game road trip. They go from Oakland to Seattle and then another series in Baltimore.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Colon finds time between his eight meals a day to get a win

Anyday now, Bartolo Colon could be pushing three bills but if he pitches consistently like last night, who cares? Get the guy a chalupa, would you?

Making his first start with the Red Sox (30-19), Colon was all you could ask from a fifth starter: he kept them in the game. Boston won 6-3 over the Royals (21-25), its sixth straight win on the currently unbeaten home stand.

Many moons have passed since Colon (with the Indians) and Pedro Martinez were dueling annually. Pedro is a shell of his former self with the Mets and might even walk away from baseball after this season. Who knows though, Pedro was always melodramatic. The great ones usually are.

Colon has won a Cy Young award and has been a 20-game winner twice but his career looked done the last few years after he battled various elbow and shoulder problems. It's no certainty that he'll win more than one or two more games this season but it's impressive that he's comeback this far.

American League rookie of the year front-runner Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, 3 runs, RBI, walk, steal) led off the bottom of the first with a home run.

The Royals tied it up in the third when good guy Jose Guillen knocked in Joey Gathright (3 runs, 2 hits, 2 walks, stolen base) with an RBI single.

Kansas City took a brief 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth when Alex Gordon knocked in Gordon with an RBI single but Boston put up four in the bottom of the inning.

Jason Varitek (2 hits) had a solo homer, Julio Lugo (2 hits) knocked in Coco Crisp with a single, David Ortiz had a sac fly (scoring Lugo) and Ellsbury scored on a wild pitch.

After the long inning, the Sox decided to call it a night for Colon (1-0). He went five innings, giving up two runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He threw 74 pitches and consistently reached the mid-90's with his fastball (although NESN's radar gun is probably juiced).

Craig Hansen, Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen combined for three clean innings, they collectively struck out three and didn't allow a hit.

Dustin Pedroia (3 hits) plated Ellsbury with the final Red Sox run in the eighth.

David DeJesus (3 hits) knocked in Gathright with an RBI single in the ninth off Mike Timlin (who should be the last guy out of the Boston bullpen) but that's as close as the Royals would get.

Boston goes for the four-game sweep this afternoon as Dice-K tries to stay unbeaten.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Celts best game since game 7 vs. Atlanta

Maybe all the talk of the rested, veteran Pistons having no problems with the exhausted Celtics was a little premature. Boston won 88-79 last night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the TD Banknorth Garden.

It was the Celtics most complete performance since game 7 against the Hawks in the first round. The C's jumped out to a 8-0 lead as Detroit looked tired and old, something you would have expected from a Celtics team that was playing its 11th game in 22 days.

The two best players on the floor last night were Kevin Garnett (game-high 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks) and Paul Pierce (22 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists). You could make a case too for Rajon Rondo (11 points, 7 assists, 5 steals) being the third best player.

Ray Allen tried to get untracked as he took the first shot of the game and not surprisingly missed. Allen finished with nine points and four assists on 3 of 10 shooting. His three baskets came on a layup, a dunk and a goaltending call. It was so bad that he airballed an in rhythm three-pointer.

Tayshaun Prince led the Pistons with 16 points, Richard Hamilton had 15 points and six rebounds, Antonio McDyess posted a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Rasheed Wallace notched 11 points on 3 of 12 shooting.

The biggest storyline for the Pistons is the health of point guard Chauncey Billups. Despite his claims that he was feeling great, Billups looked a step slow, on his way to nine points in 31 minutes. Most tellingly, he sat down the stretch as rookie Rodney Stuckey (9 points) took over ballhandling duties.

After the hot start, Boston cooled off and went 1 for their next 9 from the floor. Still, the Celts had a 22-17 lead after the first quarter. Detroit came back in the second quarter (mostly because they were getting to the line way more) and the C's held a 41-40 halftime lead.

The third quarter was where Boston really went to work as they outscored Detroit by 11 (28-17). Once again, PJ Brown (4 points) and Eddie House (5 points) provided the energy off the bench. Kendrick Perkins totalled five points and 10 rebounds while House drained a three-pointer right before the third quarter ended.

The Pistons hung around in the fourth quarter but ultimately couldn't get enough stops nor points on offense. Rondo hit two big baskets (a long jumper and a three) while Pierce hit a patented mid-range jumper from the elbow.

How much does this win mean? Probably not that much. We already knew the Celts (9-0) were nearly impossible to beat at home. The question is who (if anyone) will pick up the first road win in the series. More than anything, if Billups can't step his game up, the Pistons will have a hard time defeating the Celts. In a battle of two great defensive teams, the play of the point guard is of premium importance.

Boston shot 52.2% to Detroit's 42.4%. Neither team really shined at the line (Pistons were 19 of 27 while the Celtics were 14 of 21). Thanks to Rondo's speed and the unselfish play of everyone else, the C's owned the assists (27-15).

Game 2 is tomorrow night back at the Garden.

This is getting silly (in a good way of course)

Another night, another outstanding performance from another young Red Sox starting pitcher.

Justin Masterson was called up from Portland for his second start of the season and once again he delivered the goods last night in a 2-1 Sox win over the Royals at Fenway Park.

Boston (29-19) has now won five straight on the homestand. Masterson (1-0) went 6.1 innings, giving up three hits (all to Alex Gordon), one run with three walks and five strikeouts. His sinker was on as he only threw 91 pitches before he was pulled.

The Red Sox got both runs in the second on a Julio Lugo sacrifice fly and a Coco Crisp RBI double which scored J.D. Drew.

Kansas City (21-24) got a good start from Gil Meche (3-5) as he went seven innings, giving up five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.

The lone Royals run was on a John Buck's RBI single in the seventh.

Hideki Okajima got into trouble in the eighth when he walked two batters to give the Royals the bases loaded with two outs. Jonathan Papelbon quelled the rally though as he struck out Billy Butler to end the eighth.

Papelbon got a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 13th save of the season.

Bartolo Colon makes his Red Sox regular season debut tonight against the Royals.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jon Lester throws first no-hitter by Red Sox lefty in 52 years

I can already hear all the hack writers turning out the Jon Lester biographies as we speak. The 24-year old lefty keeps adding better chapters as he threw a no-hitter last night at Fenway, defeating the Royals 7-0.

It was the first no-hitter by a Sox (28-19) left-handed pitcher since Mel Parnell back on July 14, 1956. It's been a whirlwind couple years for Lester, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma two years ago yet came back last season to pitch the clinching game of the World Series for Boston.

The front office of Boston also deserves plenty of props as Clay Buchholz (Sept. 1, 2007 vs. the Orioles) and now Lester-two of their prized young starters-have thrown no-hitters eight months apart. Johan Santana would certainly look great in a Red Sox uniform but the Red Sox never went through with a deal to acquire the Venezuelan ace, banking on their young players (including Jacoby Ellsbury) becoming solid contributors for years to come.

That's one of the biggest differences between the Sox and struggling Yankees at the moment. The Yanks also refused to give up Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy for Santana but those two guys have been terrible so far this season while most of the Yankee veterans are underachieving or simply proceeding on the down slope of their respective careers.

Enough about that, it was Lester's (3-2) night last night. The Red Sox scored five in the third to put it away in a game where Lester was untouchable.

Manny Ramirez had a bases loaded walk in the inning, Mike Lowell had a pop-up dropped by Royals (21-23) second baseman Mark Grudzielanek which scored two and Kevin Youkilis had a ground-rule double that scored Manny.

Royals starter Luke Hochevar (3-3) gave up seven runs (four earned) on five hits with six walks. Grudzielanek's error was a killer but Hochevar also couldn't find the plate at key times.

A no-hitter always has a defining moment defensively (think Pedroia's ridiculous stop and throw in Buchholz's no-no) and Jacoby Ellsbury (triple, run, 2 steals) provided it for Lester in center field. Ellsbury made a diving catch of a Jose Guillen sinking liner in the fourth.

Jason Varitek added a two-run homer in the sixth for good measure. The Captain also tied a MLB record by catching his fourth no-hitter (Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Buchholz and Lester).

Lester seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He is usually his own worst enemy by walking too many batters and getting into jams. He walked only two last night and struck out nine. It was the first complete game of his career.

After walking Esteban German to lead off the ninth, Lester got Tony Pena Jr. and David Dejesus to ground out before striking out Alberto Callaspo with the final pitch of the game.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Paul Pierce and LeBron James in a Duel for the Ages

Paul Pierce picked a good time to have the best game in his NBA career yesterday. Without every one of his points, the Celtics would have been done for the season while the Cavs moved on to face the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celts beat the Cavaliers, 97-92, in game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the TD Banknorth Garden. Boston led from start to finish but it never really felt like the Cavs were dead since LeBron James had a sublime performance.

Pierce had 41 points, five assists and four rebounds while James had a game-high 45 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Playing without its best 3-point shooter (Daniel Gibson), King James finally went off in a big way but he simply didn't get enough help from the guys around him. It's no coincidence that James had his highest point total in a game that his team lost. Cleveland is at its best when the role players are hitting their shots and making plays. Nobody for the Cavs besides James and Delonte West (15 points) bothered showing up.

Outside of Pierce, Kevin Garnett (13 points, 13 rebounds) and P.J. Brown (10 points, 6 rebounds) were the other Celtics in double figures. Rajon Rondo had eight points, eight rebounds and eight assists while Kendrick Perkins added eight points.

The Celtics also wouldn't have prevailed without the unexpected contributions from Brown and Eddie House (4 points, steal, assist, block in 15 minutes).

Brown hit the game's biggest shot, putting the Celts up 91-88 with 1:21 left in the fourth after an 18-foot jumper. He also had a putback off a Rondo airball and he forced James into a desperation shot (airball) that the Celts corralled.

House had the hustle play of the game in the first half when he outran Wally Szczerbiak to a loose ball in the Cleveland backcourt, dove and tipped it to James Posey (5 points, 6 rebounds), who was fouled. Eddie was all kinds of fired up after sitting so much in the playoffs. He fought with West for another loose ball and fed Brown for the clinching shot.

On the other end of the spectrum is Ray Allen, who is currently decaying before our very eyes. In 30 minutes, Ray had four points (1 of 6 shooting). It got so bad that stubborn Doc Rivers was forced to sit him in the fourth and give minutes to the much more effective House and Brown.

Fittingly, Pierce put the game out of reach when he made both free-throws (11 of 12) to give Boston the final margin. A great free-throw shooter percentage-wise but not someone that could be labeled clutch at the line, Pierce saw the first shot bounce high off the back rim before falling through.

James and Pierce came out shooting in the first quarter and neither ever slowed down. The C's led 18-13 after the first quarter and 50-40 at the half.

Cleveland came out with much more energy than Boston to start the second half and cut the lead to five (73-68) going into the fourth. James' steal of Pierce and fast-break dunk cut the Celts lead to one (89-88) late in the fourth but the C's settled down and made the key plays when they had to.

Most of the team statistics were in the same range but Boston (39-29) had the rebounding edge with seven more assists (20-13).

The Pistons await the Celtics and they haven't played a game since closing out Orlando last Tuesday. Detroit comes to Boston tomorrow night for game 1. The experience edge obviously goes to the Pistons, who have been to six straight Eastern Conference Finals. The Celts will need to win a road game since the Pistons are such a good road team and it's likely that they'll take one at the Garden (most likely tomorrow).

It's certainly not the path the Celtics would have chosen (14 games in the first two rounds) but they've made the Eastern Conference Finals. Chauncey Billups missed the last two games of the Magic series with a strained hamstring so we'll have to see how healthy he is. If he's not 100%, the Celts should be favored. Otherwise, it's going six or seven and you'd have to pick the rested, veteran Pistons.

Bernie Brewer will be pitching anyday now

The Milwaukee Brewers had a nice season last year until things fell apart in September. This year, they've come out of the gates pretty slow. Their pitching (not a strong suit to begin with) is a complete mess right now. Starter Charlie Villanueva could only give them four innings while allowing six runs yesterday.

The Brewers (20-24) can score with the best of them but there will probably be a lot of games like yesterday at Fenway for the next few weeks. The Red Sox (27-19) won 11-7 in a slugfest. Both team had four homers.

David Ortiz (3 hits, 4 RBIs) homered twice while Dustin Pedroia (3 hits, 3 runs, 2 RBIs) hit a solo shot and Kevin Youkilis (3 hits, 2 RBIs, 2 runs) cranked a two-run bomb.

Josh Beckett had a vintage '06 start as he gave up four homers yet still won. Beckett (5-3) went seven innings, giving up six runs (all earned) on six hits with one walk and nine strikeouts.

Ryan Braun continued to impress as he had two homers and four RBIs off Beckett. JJ Hardy had a two-run homer and Prince Fielder hit a solo shot.

Milwaukee was up 2-1 after one but Boston came back to make it 3-2 in the third. The Brewers climbed back to make it 4-3 in the fourth before the Sox took a 6-3 lead which they never gave up. Boston later had leads of 8-4 and 11-6.

Say goodbye to the National League. The Red Sox go back to playing American League foes for the next three weeks. The Kansas City Royals come to town tonight for a four-game set. Justin Masterson is starting tomorrow and Bartolo Colon is making his Red Sox debut on Wednesday.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Who drinks Miller Lite anyway?

After a rain-out on Friday night, the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers played a day/night doubleheader yesterday at Fenway.

The Red Sox (26-19) snapped their four-game losing streak in style by taking game 1, 5-3 and game 2, 7-6.

Dice-K (7-0) became the second pitcher in the AL (Joe Saunders was the first) to reach seven wins and he's the first to do it while unbeaten.

He went 6.2 innings, giving up two runs (0 earned) on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts. With two outs in the seventh, Kevin Youkilis (playing third) made an error on Ricky Weeks' hot-shot. Mike Cameron followed that with a two-run bomb.

The other run by the Brewers (20-23) came in the ninth when stud Ryan Braun (3 for 5) hit a rocket over the Monster off Jonathan Papelbon.

Three defensive changes paid huge dividends for the Sox in the ninth as Youk (over at first), Mike Lowell and Alex Cora all many solid plays to end it and give Pap his 12th save of the season.

J.D. Drew had a bases loaded walk in the first to put Boston up 1-0 before David Ortiz (2 hits, 2 runs) hit an opposite-field, three run homer off Jeff Suppan (2-3) in the second to give the Sox a 4-0 lead.

Jason Varitek and Sean Casey each had two hits in the win while Jacoby Ellsbury knocked in Varitek with a RBI double in the eighth.

In the nightcap, the Red Sox once again jumped on the Brewcrew early. Boston led 4-0 after three and 5-0 after five innings.

Mike Lowell accounted for the first four RBIs. He had a two-run double in the first and a two-run homer in the third.

No word if the teams were doing shots or chugging beers in the clubhouse between games as the Brewers committed four errors and the Red Sox had three in the second contest.

Corey Hart (2 hits, stolen base) hit a solo homer off Tim Wakefield in the sixth which started a Milwaukee rally. Ricky Weeks (2 hits) added a two-run single later in the inning to cut it to 5-3.

Mike Rivera's fielder's choice and Craig Counsell's two-run double gave the Brewers a 6-5 lead in the seventh.

David Ortiz had an RBI groundout in the home half of the seventh and Youk (2 hits, run, RBI) finished the scoring with an RBI single that plated Dustin Pedroia (2 runs, hit, stolen base).

Craig Hansen (1-0) was credited with the win despite giving up three runs (all unearned) on two hits.

With Pap unavailable and Okajima nursing a sore wrist, Javier Lopez (eighth) and Mike Timlin (ninth) teamed up to pitch two scoreless innings. It was Timlin's first save of the season.

Boston and Milwaukee wrap up their first interleague series this afternoon.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Another game 7, what do you know?

The Boston Celtics continued to live out the movie "Groundhog's Day," with another nightmarish loss on the road. No matter what they try to change, the outcome of their road games in the playoffs is always the same (0-6).

Cleveland won game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last night at Quicken Loans Arena, 74-69, to force game 7 tomorrow afternoon back at the Garden.

A stat showed up after last night's loss that no team had ever won the NBA championship after losing its first six road game of the playoffs. No surprise there.

LeBron James scored a game-high 32 points (9 of 23 from the floor, 13 of 15 from the line), grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out six assists.

Kevin Garnett had 25 points and eight rebounds while Paul Pierce managed 16 points and five boards.

I wish I could explain how Rajon Rondo was the same person that dominated game 5. Last night he had two points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals in 31 minutes. Sam Cassell got a well-deserved DNP and in the biggest surprise of all: Eddie House scored eight points off the bench and played well in his 18 minutes.

This was the ugliest game of the series, which is say something after the vomit-inducing stylings of games 1 and two.

Boston was held under 20 points in each quarter: 18, 15, 17, 19. It was a strange one as the teams were both stuck in the mud before Cleveland closed out the first half on a run, giving them a 42-33 lead.

Fittingly, Delonte West (10 points) stole the ball and drained a buzzer-beating three right before the half. Only this Celtics team, on the road, could call a timeout to diagram a last shot, then have something like that happen.

The Cavs came out to start the second half on fire, the lead was pushed to 16 points before the Celts finally responded. Boston cut it to three points but eventually Cleveland counter punched and ended the third still up nine.

Another fourth quarter on the road that the Celts choked away. You'd have to say that's the team's style now, it's no coincidence. They could never get it lower than three points. Down five with less than a minute left, Pierce was called for charging on a clearly moving James. It was a brutal call that only slightly overshadowed a non-call on a Joe Smith travel a few plays later.

There's no point in bitching about the referees decisions or the Cavs free-throw advantage (21-25 vs. 11-13). Like it or not, it's common knowledge that home teams get a majority of the calls in the playoffs. It's just the way it is. The C's didn't deserve this game. Not after allowing Wally Szczerbiak to drill a wide-open three to give Cleveland a nine-point lead late in the fourth.

The Cavs shot 32.9% to the Celtics 39.7%. Cleveland had eight more rebounds (45-37) but the C's had nine more assists (19-10).

So here we are. Another game 7 at the Garden. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Cavs don't lay down like the Hawks did. Other than that, I'm done making predictions.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Changing of the Big Three

Well LeBron James finally woke up from his scoring slumber (with pals Jay-Z and Beyonce in the front row) of the past four games last night at the Garden. He had a game-high 35 points and five assists (23 in the first half) but it wasn't enough as the Celtics came through in a must-win, 96-89, in game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Boston now leads 3-2 as the series shifts back to Cleveland tomorrow night for game 6.

Things didn't look good in the first half as LeBron came out on fire and the Cavs built a 14-point lead. The C's answered with a 14-3 run before the end of the half to make it 46-43 Cavs going into the break.

The momentum carried over to the second half as Boston pushed the lead up to 11 before holding on for the rest of the game.

Paul Pierce got to the line (11 of 13) and scored a team-high 29 points with seven boards. Kevin Garnett stepped up in the second half, making seven shots in a row at one point, on his way to a 26 point, 16 rebound, four assist, three block, two steal performance.

The most pleasant surprise for Boston was Rajon Rondo, who had by far his best game of this round. He had 20 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He relegated Sam Cassell to five minutes which is how it should be. Too often in the series, Rondo has struggled and/or Doc has thrown Cassell out there for way too long.

Ray Allen (11 points on 4 of 11 shooting) can no longer be included in the Big Three category. Charles Barkley suggested after the Lakers win last night that LA has the Big Three (Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol). That's hard to argue but I think if you substitute Rondo for Allen, the C's still have a formidable trio as well.

Big Baby gave the Celts some good minutes off the bench, including six important points in the second half.

After going off both times at home, LeBron's supporting cast was held in check for the most part last night. Delonte West managed 21 points, four assists and four steals but Wally Szczerbiak was the only other Cleveland player in double figures with 10 points. Boston showed that LeBron can't beat them single-handily.

Cleveland was terrible from the free throw line (28-41) while Boston controlled the glass (38-30) and dished out way more assists (25-11).

A win in game 6 would go a long way for Boston's confidence. The Pistons are currently waiting at home and the C's have to show that they can win a game on the road. If they make it to the next round, odds are they won't be able to keep winning every game at home and losing every game on the road.

The AL East, not the joke it once was

It's a little over a quarter of a way through the 2008 season but I think it's fair to say that the American League East is much improved over the last few seasons.

The Tampa Bay Rays are in first place. The Orioles are over .500 and the Blue Jays have arguably the best rotation in baseball (definitely the AL) but no hitters. The Red Sox seem built for the long haul despite their recent struggles and the Yankees are nothing special.

Baltimore beat Boston, 6-3, yesterday at Camden Yards. The Sox (24-19) lost its fourth in a row and fifth out of six games. The road trip wrapped up with a disappointing 4-6 mark.

For the third consecutive game, Boston blew a three-run lead. The Sox were up 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth but the Orioles got two in the sixth and then Jay Payton hit a grand slam off Hideki Okajima in the seventh to give the Orioles (21-19) the winning margin.

The terrible work by the bullpen wasted a nice outing by Jon Lester. The lefty went six innings, giving up two runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Javy Lopez was charged with a run, Craig Hanson (0-2) was charged with two and Okajima was responsible for one.

Even though his ERA (.93) is still under one, Okajima has been much less reliable so far this season versus last year. He's allowing most of his inherited runners to score, never a good thing.

Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits, one run and a stolen base. Kevin Youkilis notched two doubles while Mike Lowell (two hits) and Jason Varitek (two hits) each added solo home runs.

We witnessed a Manny moment as Ramirez made a fine catch of a rope by Kevin Millar. After securing the running catch, Manny propelled himself off the outfield wall, high-fived a Boston fan then relayed it to Dustin Pedroia, who doubled off the runner at first.

Daniel Cabrera (4-1) who is usually terrible against Boston picked up the win after going seven innings. He gave up three runs with three strikeouts. The AL leader in walks allowed last season, he didn't allow one yesterday. George Sherill scattered two hits in the ninth but was able to pick up his 15th save.

The Red Sox get a day off today and then host the Milwaukee Brewers tomorrow in the first appetizer of interleague play.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Limping home to Boston

After starting out this 10-game road trip on a high note by taking three of four in Motown, the Red Sox have lost four of its last five in Minnesota and Baltimore.

In the first game in Baltimore last night, the Orioles (20-19) won 5-4 as Boston (24-18) once again jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first but couldn't hold it.

Ace Josh Beckett (4-3) took the loss as he gave up 11 hits and five runs in 5.2 innings of work. Beckett walked two and struck out five.

Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (who always seems to pitch well against the Sox) earned the win (2-3) after going six innings, giving up three runs (two earned) with one walk and seven strikeouts.

Manager Terry Francona missed last night and he'll miss today's game after his mother-in-law passed away. Bench coach Brad Mills took over managerial duties.

J.D. Drew hurt his wrist trying to make a diving catch in the third and left the game while Coco Crisp later left in the sixth with an upset stomach.

Manny Ramirez (2 hits) had an RBI single in the first then Boston scored twice on Baltimore errors.

Jay Payton had an RBI single in the second then Baltimore put up four as Kevin Millar had an RBI single and Luke Scott (3 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs) hit a three-run homer.

In the seventh, the Red Sox blew a golden opportunity as Manny came up with the bases loaded against Jim Johnson and nobody out. After a 10-pitch at-bat, Manny grounded to Johnson, who started the 1-2-3 double play. Mike Lowell flew out in the next at-bat.

Alex Cora cut the Orioles lead to one in the eighth with an RBI single but it wasn't to be for Boston.

Baltimore closer George Sherrill recorded five outs (including two strikeouts) for his 14th save. He got a gift in the ninth when Ortiz was called out on a questionable swing (it looked like he held up). Big Papi was kicked out as he tossed his bat in frustration.

Overshadowed in the loss, relievers Manny Delcarmen (1.1 innings) and David Aardsma (2 strikeouts in 1 inning) didn't allow a run.

The teams wrap up this bizarre two-game series with an afternoon game today. The Red Sox will try to break even (5-5) on this trip. After that Boston comes home to Fenway and begins interleague play against the Brewers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Livan Hernandez Everybody, Give It Up

On a day that the Red Sox finally designated horror film icon Freddie Kruger (Julian Tavarez) for assignment, it's fitting that the ghost of Tavarez haunted the Sox in a 7-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

Sox starter Clay Buchholz morphed into Tavarez and was terrible: 4.1 innings, eight hits, seven runs (all earned), five walks and four strikeouts. He fell to 2-3 and his ERA increased to 5.53.

With King Kupa (Bartolo Colon) eating his way across the state of Rhode Island with the PawSox, Buchholz's days might be numbered.

I misspoke yesterday when I said the Sox were going for the series win. Rather, with the win, the Twins took three of four from Boston.

Last night, Boston was up 3-0 in the first but surrendered seven straight runs. David Ortiz's RBI single knocked in Coco Crisp then Manny Ramirez hit a two-run bomb (no. 498).

Twins (20-17) starter Livan Hernandez (6-1) settled down from there, going six innings, giving up 10 hits, three runs, one walk and one strikeout. He's exactly the type of pitcher the Sox could use these days. He doesn't have great stuff but he eats innings. Jon Lester and Buchholz have so much talent and Tim Wakefield can be unhittable at times but all three are often ineffective, forcing the bullpen to enter way too early.

Delmon Young (2 RBIs), Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau each had two hits while Craig Monroe added a two-run single for the Twins.

The last stop on Boston's road-trip begins tonight in Baltimore. Josh Beckett takes the mound for Boston, he'll face Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie.

Why Even Bother Showing Up?

Last night's 88-77 win by the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Boston Celtics was the type of depressing outcome that tears a fan up.

The Eastern Conference semifinal series is now tied at two and bigger picture, which will happen first: a Celtics win on the road (0-5) or loss at home (6-0)? The writing on the wall is loud and clear, they're not going anywhere playing like this. You can only take so many seven-game sets before eventually losing. The Pistons are up 3-1 on the Magic and look poised to get to the Eastern Conference finals once again. The Celtics, not so much.

Another aspect that made this loss so frustrating was that unlike Saturday, it was right there for the C's in the fourth quarter but they predictably disappeared (with a playoff-low 12 point frame).

LeBron James still hasn't had a big game yet his team has won two out of four. King James had a game-high 21 points, 13 assists, six boards, three steals and two blocks. And he did a nice job of calming his mom Gloria down (she must not have gotten what she wanted for Mother's Day) after she got in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett's face after they fouled her son hard. Really.

Once again, the Cavs got plenty of scoring from a bunch of average players: 14 from Wally Szczerbiak, 14 (6 boards, 4 assists) from Daniel Gibson and 12 (6 boards) from bozo/flop artist/Sideshow Bob wannabe Anderson Varejao.

Kevin Garnett had 15 points, 10 boards and four assists but was held to two points and two rebounds in the second half. How is that possible? Ray Allen (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (15 points, 4 assists) put up decent numbers but it didn't matter since no one could put the ball in the ocean in the fourth. Paul Pierce managed 13 points and P.J. Brown had eight points, six rebounds and two blocks off the bench.

It was tight until the very end. The Cavs were up two (23-21) after one and at the half (45-43). Cleveland had one more in the third (23-22) and then were able to hit a few more shots than Boston in the fourth (20-12). That was the ironic part; Boston played fine defense since Cleveland bricked plenty of shots. The difference was when the Cavs needed a hoop, LeBron (huge 3 and a sick dunk over KG) and Gibson (3-pointer) provided it down the stretch.

Cleveland shot 45.5% from the floor to Boston's 38.6%. The C's were a woeful 3 of 14 from three-point land. Boston got to the line more (20-26) to Cleveland's 12-18 which was a good sign but the Cavs (cough LeBron) had eight more assists (24-18).

Game 5 is tomorrow night back at the Garden and suffice it to say, it's a must-win. The C's can't go back to Cleveland down 3-2.

Many are bashing Doc Rivers for his questionable rotations and the minutes he gives players but right now I place this debacle on the players. They are a better team than Cleveland and it's about time they started playing like it before it's too late.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Red Sox comeback falls short as they lose to the Twins

There was no reason the Red Sox should have had a chance last night, after going behind 5-0 and 7-1 but they almost pulled off an improbable win before losing 9-8 to the Twins at the Metrodome on Mother's Day.

Boston pounded out 15 hits, led by Alex Cora (3), Kevin Cash (2), David Ortiz (2), Kevin Youkilis (2), J.D. Drew (2) and Coco Crisp (2).

Twins starter Nick Blackburn (3-2) seemed to be on the ropes for most of his six innings: he allowed four runs on nine hits but struck out five to get the win.

Craig Monroe was the catalyst for the Twins, hitting two homers and driving in four RBIs. Justin Morneau added three hits and two runs.

Tim Wakefield (3-2) gave up seven runs (six earned) on seven hits, with two walks and two strikeouts in 2.2 innings. The knuckleball was completely unpredictable last night for Wake and that wasn't a good thing. Kevin Cash had two passed balls and when Cash wasn't chasing it, the outfielders were watching it leave the yard.

Monroe hit a three-run homer in the second and later in the inning, light-hitting Adam Everett cranked a two-run bomb.

Boston (24-16) got one back but Mike Lamb added two more with a two-run single.

After Wakefield was pulled for Julian Tavarez, the Sox scored three runs in the fourth.

Minnesota (19-17) scored once in the fourth before Crisp (2 runs, 3 RBI, stolen base) hit a two-run homer off reliever Matt Guerrier, cutting it to 8-6.

Monroe added a solo shot in the seventh off Mike Timlin that proved to be a huge run. Timlin's ERA is now a cool 10.00.

Without a doubt, the Sox biggest weakness so far is it's middle relief. Luckily, those are the easiest pieces to add during the season. Timlin, Tavarez, Delcarmen and Co. simply aren't getting it done. Okajima and Papelbon are about as good a set-up man and closer as you'll find but they can't do anything if there's nobody to pitch the seventh.

Joe Nathan came on in the ninth with the three-run lead and almost blew it after not appearing for a week. Drew hit an RBI double that Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez mistimed. Crisp hit a fielder's choice to score a run but Drew got tagged out on a close play at third.

Manny Ramirez, representing the winning run, pinch hit for Cash but grounded out to end it and give Nathan his 12th save.

Boston looks to take the series with the fourth and final game tonight as Clay Buchholz faces Livan Hernandez, who's off to a 5-1 start.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Will the Celtics ever win on the road?

I cannot explain it. How can a team be this good at home in the playoffs (6-0) yet this bad on the road (0-4)?

The Celtics magical mystery tour of the 2008 playoffs continued tonight with another steaming dinosaur shit on the road. Cleveland led from start to finish and picked up an easy 108-84 win, cutting the series to 2-1.

It was never much of a game as the Cavs jumped out to a 26-point lead (really) in the first half. This was the same Cleveland team that struggled to get over 70 points in Boston.

LeBron James still didn't have a great game (21 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks), the issue for Boston was all his sidekicks went off.

Delonte West (21 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds) and Joe Smith (17 points, 6 rebounds) tied career-highs for scoring. Oh and Wally Szczerbiak had 16 points while Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Kevin Garnett had 17 points and nine rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 14 and had five assists while Kendrick Perkins had 12 points and seven boards. Ray Allen reprised his role as Mr. Freeze with 10 points (4 of 12 shooting) while James Posey had 11 off the bench.

Rajon Rondo and Sam Cassell combined to go 3 of 16 for eight points and two assists.

My suggestion to Doc (and I'm sure he's reading this blog) is to sit Ray Allen and start Posey. It's not because of scoring; Posey is your best defender so why not play him more? The guy seems to always do something positive, maybe that's glorified since he doesn't get starter minutes, who knows? Bottom line is they have to change something up because they are awful on the road.

Cleveland led 32-13 after the first quarter and 52-35 at the half. The C's could only cut it to 12 points, never single-digits to make it interesting.

The Cavs shot 53.6% from the floor to Boston's 40.5%. Cleveland made twice as many three-pointers (10-5) and registered 11 more assists (29-18).

Do the Celts have Brian Scalabrine send hookers to the Hawks and now Cavaliers rooms when they're in Boston? How can the defense be so outstanding at home then disappear on the road? It's getting to the point where it's in the Celtics' minds. It's like A-Rod in the playoffs, they can't perform in the clutch.

Game 4 is Monday night and if the C's win, the series will be over in five, if not then get ready for seven games.

Resilient Red Sox Bounce Back after another Tough Loss

Just like last week against the Tigers, the Red Sox bounced back after a crushing defeat to win the next night in Minnesota.

Mike Lamb of all people had a two-run walk-off single against Jonathan Papelbon as the Twins won 7-5 on Friday night. Julio Lugo wasn't to blame on this one as Pap had two outs but walked Carlos Gomez with two outs then gave up the Lamb hit.

From the fifth inning on, the Sox led 6-5. Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis all had two hits in the loss.

Boof Bonser was touched up for six runs in four innings but four Twins relievers not named Joe Nathan teamed up for five scoreless frames.

Jon Lester had a pretty typical start for him: 5.1 innings, eight hits, five runs (3 earned), one walk, two strikeouts.

Saturday night was all about Dice-K (6-0) and home runs. Boston (24-15) slugged four solo shots en route to a 5-2 win.

Most surprisingly, neither David Ortiz nor Manny Ramirez had any of the homers. They were provided by Youk, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie (in probably his last game before he gets sent down to make room for Alex Cora) and Lowell.

The Dice man went seven innings, giving up six hits, two runs, three walks and seven strikeouts. His ERA is 2.45 and he only threw 96 pitches. Granted, he was a little overhyped coming to the Red Sox but I'll admit, the guy can pitch. A future rotation with him, Beckett, Buchholz, Lester, Masterson, etc. is rather attractive.

Hideki Okajima pitched a scoreless eighth (after two scoreless innings on Friday) and Papelbon got two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth to earn his 11th save.

Ironically, Lowrie led the way with three hits and two runs while Pedroia, Lowell and Youk each had two hits again. Jason Varitek also notched two hits.

The Twins (18-17) were held to seven hits, three by Lamb and two from Justin Morneau (former MVP, what a joke).

Glen Perkins (0-1) was called up and didn't make a bad start: three runs in six innings but got the loss. Pat Neshek is out for the season so the Twins are missing a good reliever and luckily for the Sox, they have yet to see Nathan-one of the top closers in the game.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Holding Serve at the Garden

Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy that the Celtics defeated the Cavs, 89-73, last night in game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, to take a 2-0 series lead.

Still, it really doesn't mean much. The home teams are now 10-0 in the semifinals. A wise man (maybe Hubie Brown?) once said that a NBA playoff series doesn't start until the home team loses.

In game 2, the storylines continued from game 1: Ray Allen couldn't get a point (scoreless in the first half) and LeBron James was ice cold. The Cavs jumped out to a 24-17 first quarter lead thanks to Zydrunas Ilgauskas' (19 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) 10 points in the frame.

Boston's trademark defense showed up especially in the second (12 Cavs points) and third (15 Cavs points).

It doesn't take a genius like Stephen A. Smith to surmise that if LeBron is off, the chances of Cleveland winning are slimmer than Nicole Richie.

If you think about it, no one on the Cavs-other than James or Ilgauskas-can be labeled an above-average NBA player. Wally is just a shooter, I love Delonte but he's a hustle guy and Varejo is an energy guy. The corpse of Ben Wallace that still plays is awful and he left yesterday in the first quarter after getting dizzy. He claimed it was allergies (inside?) but we all know he took too many gravity bong hits before the opening tip.

Nobody exploded offensively for Boston but that's a good thing. Pierce had 19 points and six rebounds, KG had 13 points and 12 boards while Allen woke up in the second half to finish with 16 points.

The real heroes though were the Boston subs: 11 points and seven rebounds from Leon Powe, nine points from Sam Cassell and seven points, six boards by James Posey. Even P.J. Brown had four points. The bench was productive at just the right time as the starers came out slow.

LeBron had 21 points, six assists and five rebounds (seven turnovers) but he shot 6 of 24, bringing his two-game total to 8 of 42. Wally notched 13 points but who cares?

Boston is now 6-0 at home in the playoffs. Things will start to get interesting in game 3 and 4 as they go to Cleveland. The C's had a 2-0 lead on Atlanta on the first round but that disappeared as fast as it takes one of the ATL's fine strippers to give you a lap dance.

If the Celts can win game 3, smell ya later Cleveland but if the Cavs can take game 3, it's a whole new ballgame.

Red Sox escape Detroit with lives and series win

After suffering its most devastating loss of the early season (10-9 on Wednesday), the Red Sox exhibited the sign of a solid team as they bounced back with a 5-1 win last night in Detroit.

The win allowed them to take three out of four from the rudderless Tigers, the first stop on a three city trip for Boston (23-14).

What made Wednesday so disappointing was the fact that the Red Sox twice battled back from four-run deficits, only to have bums like Julian Tavarez and Julio Lugo hand it over to Detroit (15-21).

Wednesday's starter Clay Buchholz was hit hard, to the tune of ten hits in four innings. He allowed five runs (all earned), one walk and six strikeouts.

After cutting a 4-0 Tigers lead to 5-4, Tavarez gave up three runs in one inning of work. From there, Boston answered with five runs to take a 9-8 lead into the ninth.

Mike Lowell (3 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs) and Kevin Youkilis (2 runs, 2 hits, 3 RBIs) provided the heavy lumber as Youk homered twice (Comerica Park is the only place he's done that, now twice) and Lowell had a three-run shot. David Ortiz continued to swing the bat well as he collected two hits.

Placido Polanco was an on-base machine on Wednesday as he had five hits, three RBIs and two runs. Fittingly, after a Lugo error allowed a runner to reach in the ninth, Polanco had a broken-bat bloop that dropped right behind Lugo. It was that type of night for nobody's favorite shortstop.

Jonathan Papelbon (2-1) gave up two hits and two runs (neither earned) to pick up his first blown save and loss of the year.

In the dugout afterwards, Paps took out his anger on an unfortunate Gatorade cooler but most fans probably wish he just beat the hell out of Lugo. Did I mention Julio is useless?

On a brighter note, Josh Beckett (4-2) looked good last night. He went seven innings, allowing six hits, one run with eight strikeouts.

Boston got to supposed Tigers ace Justin Verlander early, scoring three in the third and two in the fifth.

Verlander fell to 1-6 on the year with a disgusting 6.43 ERA, making me glad I didn't have him on any of my fantasy teams. He's lost velocity from his dominant rookie season two years ago and like all Tigers pitchers right now, he's searching for answers.

Youk had a two-run shot off of Verlander while Coco Crisp (3 hits), Jacboy Ellsbury (2 hits), Lowell (2 hits) and Ortiz (2 hits) each had multiple hits.

Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen both pitched scoreless innings which is not something you see everyday.

The Sox travel to Minnesota for a four-game set in the beautiful Metrodome.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

You're not going anywhere with no pitching

The Detroit Tigers (14-20) had a nightmarish, 0-7 start to the season. They recovered somewhat but now they've lost five in a row.

The Red Sox (22-13) conversely have won five in a row thanks to outstanding starting pitching.

Boston won 6-3 on Monday despite Dice-K's (5-0) eight walks while Tim Wakefield spun a gem last night as the Sox won 5-0. Dice-K couldn't find the plate and threw 108 pitches in five innings yet still picked up the win.

Craig Hanson (who was recalled Monday) gave up two runs and two walks in 1.2 innings.

On Monday, Mike Lowell had a big game (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) including a two-run homer off Jeremy Bonderman (2-3). Kevin Youkilis also added a two-run homer while David Ortiz (who is suddenly swinging a hot bat) hit a solo shot off Todd Jones in the ninth.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched a clean ninth for his 10th save of the season.

Wakefield (3-1) threw eight scoreless innngs of two-hit ball with six strikeouts. Mike Timlin pitched a scoreless ninth.

Manny (3 hits) and Ortiz hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning. Kevin Youkilis had two doubles and Kevin Cash had three hits.

Fugly but still a win

If game 1 was any indication, this Eastern Conference semifinal between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers is going to be low-scoring and ugly.

The C's have to be happy with the result though as they won 76-72 at the Garden.

I don't know which was more surprising: Paul Pierce (2 for 14) and Ray Allen (0 for 4) combining for four points or LeBron James shooting 2 of 18 from the floor?

The King still almost had a triple-double (12 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists) but his 10 turnovers were killer in such a tight affair.

Kevin Garnett (28 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals), Rajon Rondo (15 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) and Sam Cassell (13 points) were the offense for the Celts. Kendrick Perkins had seven points and 12 rebounds while James Posey (who I called the Troy Brown of the Celtics today) had eight points off the bench.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas (22 points, 12 boards) and Wally Szczerbiak (13 points) were the only other Cavs in double figures.

Boston led 25-15 after the first quarter but the lead shrunk to four (41-37) at the half.

The C's were up one (53-52) going into the fourth. It was great to see KG take over down the stretch and hit a couple key hoops. Uncharacteristically, LeBron missed some great looks as multiple layups rimmed out. Cassell pulled down a key rebound and was fouled by big Z.

Between game 1 or 2, Cleveland seemed most likely to steal game 1 since the Celts had just wrapped up the series with the Hawks. It's hard to predict what will happen in game 2 after such a bizarre game 1 but two things are certain: LeBron won't play that badly again and the same can be said for Allen and Pierce on the same night.

The difference between Boston and any other team left in the playoffs is their commitment and execution on defense. They're now 5-0 at home, it's going to be hard for anybody to knock them off when they play that type of D.

Cleveland shot 30.7% while Boston shot 42.6. Game 2 is tomorrow night back at the Garden.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A week can make a big difference in baseball

Last weekend the Sox were swept in Tampa Bay (16-15) so this past weekend they returned the favor by taking all three games at Fenway.

Yesterday, two young left-handers (Scott Kazmir and Jon Lester) started and Lester came out on top as Boston won 7-3.

Despite reaching 58 pitches in the second inning, Lester (2-2) gave Boston six innings of four hit, one run baseball. He gave up three walks and struck out five.

Kazmir (0-1) was making his first start of the season and he was limited to 90 pitches. He's usually a Red Sox killer but he gave up four runs on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

Kevin Youkilis did everything for the Sox (20-13) bats. He had three hits (including two doubles and a home run), four RBIs and scored twice.

Reliever Manny Delcarmen continued to struggle as he gave up two runs while only recording an out.

Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon (9th save) each got four outs without allowing a run to sew it up for Boston.

Boston now departs on a grueling 10-game road trip, covering Detroit, Minnesota and Baltimore.

Don't try to explain it, just be happy they're moving on

In what will go down as one of the most lopsided game seven's of all-time, the Boston Celtics took out three losses worth of frustration on the Atlanta Hawks yesterday at the Garden, winning 99-65 to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Cavs.

Doc Rivers (who had never made it out of the first round as a coach), Paul Pierce (who had another meltdown in game 6) and KG (who has only made it out of the first round once) were all spared what would have been a brutal off-season of questions if a 66-win team choked in the first round to a bad team.

The game was never really in doubt as Boston led 44-26 at halftime and by as much as 38 points in the third quarter. Atlanta never showed up (yesterday or in any of the games in Boston). And that ends one of the strangest playoff series' you'll ever see. No road wins for either team and the C's dominated every home game, winning by 19+ each time.

Five Celts scored in double figures, led by Paul Pierce (22 points). Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 11 boards. Kendrick Perkins was a force defensively with 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Rajon Rondo had 10 points and six assists while Leon Powe had 12 points off the bench.

Ray Allen struggled all game, shooting 3 of 12 for seven points but nobody noticed.

Joe Johnson was the only Hawk over ten points with 16. Salim Stoudamire had 10 in extended garbage time and Al Horford ended his fine rookie season with eight points and ten rebounds. Mike Bibby (who couldn't play worse in Boston if he tried) had two points, four rebounds and two assists.

Marvin Williams almost killed Rondo with a hard foul in the third quarter. Rondo went in for a layup and Williams grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed. The two are supposedly friends and luckily Rondo was fine but it could have been a disaster. Williams got a Type-2 flagrant foul and with that, his first playoff season was over.

KG also exacted some revenge on Hawks goofy big man Zaza Pachulia. Garnett absolutely laid him out (on a clean screen) in the back court. Rivers pulled KG and the rest of the starters by the beginning of the fourth since the game was long decided and Boston will play again on Tuesday.

For now, I'm not going to look back on this series with the Hawks much. It exposed plenty of problems with Boston but the most important thing is that they got by. They are still the top seed and I feel like they should get by Cleveland as well. There's no other team that depends so heavily on one player like LeBron and the Cavs. If the Celts can slow him down for four games and make the assorted spare parts beat them, they'll be fine. It's a favorable matchup for Boston but Cleveland has been resting since Friday night so they could steal either game 1 or 2.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Some late-night action at Fenway

After a two and a half hour rain delay, the Red Sox defeated the Rays, 7-3, somewhat salvaging the night after the Celts' pathetic loss.

Dustin Pedroia found his stroke, with three hits, three RBIs and a run. Brandon Moss played right field for J.D. Drew (sand in his vagina) and had two hits and two runs, including a solo homer. Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo also contributed two hits as the Sox (18-13) bats finally woke up after five quiet games. Jacoby Ellsbury also got on base three times, with a hit, RBI, run, stolen base and two walks.

Clay Buchhholz even his record at 2-2 after going 5.1 innings, giving up five hits, one run, four walks and six strikeouts.

Tampa Bay (16-13) starter Edwin Jackson (2-3) was knocked around for six runs on nine hits in four innings.

Boston led 1-0 after three and broke it open with five in the fourth inning.

It was a nice win for the Sox after getting swept in Tampa Bay last weekend. James Shields and Josh Beckett face each other again, six days after staging a great pitcher's duel.

One loss away from the biggest upset in NBA playoff history

If someone had told you two weeks ago that the Atlanta Hawks would push the Boston Celtics to the limit, forcing seven games, you would have laughed at that ridiculous notion. Yet here we are.

The Hawks once again won at Philips Arena last night, 103-100, to force game 7 on Sunday in Boston.

This one had the look and feel of games 3 and 4, where the Celtics held double-digit leads at some point but consistently shit the bed down the stretch when it mattered. All thoughts of taking it to the hoop or getting the ball down low to KG went out to the window as everyone wanted to be the hero.

Six Hawks scored double digits, led by Marvin Williams (!) who had 18 points. Mike Bibby had 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Joe Johnson and Josh Childress each scored 15 and Josh Smith notched 11.

Kevin Garnett had a game-high 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals but those numbers seem hollow since KG disappeared in the fourth quarter. I love the guy but he has to get more selfish in crunch time, when his team is falling apart. And for God's sake, you're 7 feet tall: take it to the hoop, don't settle for long contested jumpers.

Ray Allen had 20 points and six rebounds but he was 1 for 8 on three-pointers. For some odd reason, down two points with 10 seconds left, the C's drew up a play for Allen to take a tough three instead of going inside. It missed and with that the Celts chances went out the window. Sure, they had one final look to tie it up but Rajon Rondo air-balled a three when nobody else could get open. Yikes.

Paul Pierce had 17 points and six assists but he was probably the main goat. He fouled out in the fourth on a bad call but he got a T for throwing his headband. As a veteran, he can't make stupid mistakes like that. Kendrick Perkins had 14 points, Leon Powe had nine off the bench and James Posey added six points and seven rebounds.

Boston jumped out early, leading 32-20 after the first quarter. It shrunk to a one-point lead at the half, as Boston was up 50-49. The C's outscored Atlanta, 32-30 in the third but the Hawks took the fourth, 24-18.

A day later, I still can't believe there's a game seven. This is a joke. Every other series is over, with some new ones starting today while the Celtics still haven't gotten rid of the Hawks.

Doc Rivers and KG have been criticized plenty for not getting out of the first round, save for the one time KG went to the Western Conference Finals with Minnesota. It's hard to imagine the fall-out if they choke this one away. I don't even want to think about it.

Boston was a bricktastic 4 of 19 on threes while Atlanta was 1 for 7. The C's fell in love with the three and it cost them. They just refuse to drive to the basket in Atlanta, pretty strange.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Is home-court really this valuable?

No need to panic after all, the Boston Celtics stopped the two-game skid and once again blew out the Hawks at the Garden.

Last night, the Celtics beat the Hawks, 110-85 in game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to take a 3-2 series lead.

How can you explain the bizarro Celtics? They look unbeatable at home then lose two straight in Atlanta.

Paul Pierce took time away from his busy schedule of throwing various gang signs to score a game-high 22 points, grab seven rebounds and dishing out six assists. Kevin Garnett filled out the stat sheet with 20 points, seven assists, five boards and three steals. Ray Allen scored 19 points.

The biggest difference (besides the defense) for Boston from games 3 and 4 was the bench contributions. Sam Cassell scored 13 points and crowd favorite Leon Powe had 10 points and seven rebounds. James Posey had six points (2 timely threes) and five rebounds. In all, the Boston subs had 35 points.

Atlanta was back to their two-pronged attack. Joe Johnson had 21 points, Josh Smith had 18 and Al Horford had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Marvin Williams added 12 points.

Oh and whither Mike Bibby you ask? He continued his fine road-work with six points and one assist on 2 of 8 shooting.

Boston led 27-19 after the first and 58-43 at the half. The Hawks cut it to six in the third quarter but the C's stepped on the gas and put Atlanta away.

For the game, Boston shot 53.6% from the floor to Atlanta's 40.6%. The C's had nine 3-pointers and are shooting a blistering 46% in the playoffs. The Hawks had a distinct advantage at the free throw line (25-11 made) but the C's owned the glass (39-28) and looked for the extra pass (28-16).

Game 6 is tomorrow night at Philips Arena. You can be sure Lil' Jon and the East Side Boyz, Bad News Kennelz (well those that aren't locked down anyway), the Ying Yang Twins and countless other wannabes will be out in full force. It's time for the Celts to say goodbye to the Hawks.

Uh Yes Please, Two Walk-Off Wins

After coming home saddled with a five-game losing streak, the Boston Red Sox (17-12) quickly made fans forget about that as they've won their last two games over the Toronto Blue Jays (11-17) in style: walk-off, ninth inning wins after pitcher's duels.

Tuesday night, Jon Lester and Roy Halladay were locked in a tight battle until Kevin Youkilis knocked in David Ortiz with the game-winning RBI single as the Red Sox won 1-0. Not lifting Ortiz for a pinch runner seemed questionable (even with only two guys on the bench) but Vernon Wells' bobble in center gave Papi just enough time to score.

Lester went eight innings, giving up only one hit, four walks and striking out six. Halladay (2-4) pitched his fourth straight complete game (and third straight loss), giving up five hits, one walk with six strikeouts.

Given that he only threw 97 pitches and who he was going up against, I'd say it was the best MLB start of Lester's short career.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts to earn the win.

Last night Dice-K and Dustin McGowan thrilled Fenway with another low-scoring NL style game. Dice-K went seven innings, giving up two hits, two walks and four strikeouts. McGowan went 7.1 innings, giving up one run on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

Once again, Papelbon pitched a clean ninth thus earning the win.

David Ortiz broke the shutout with a solo home run in the seventh. Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios hit a sac. fly in the eighth to tie it up.

Jason Varitek was the hero this time as his RBI single knocked in Manny Ramirez, who promptly spiked his helmet after he got the safe call. Ironically, Brandon Moss had hit a single in the previous at-bat but pinch runner Jed Lowrie was tagged out in a close play at the plate.

The three-game series closes tonight as Tim Wakefield goes vs. A.J. Burnett.