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Saturday, June 28, 2008

A guy that peed on a towel, a guy that got stabbed in his calf and a Turk

It was a busy week so I only realized just now that I hadn't written anything about the NBA Draft on Thursday.

Coming off an NBA title, Boston had the last pick of the first round (#30) and the second round (#60). Fittingly, the C's basically got three guys with ability that could pan out or could do nothing. I guess you have to expect that when you're drafting so low.

With its first pick, Boston selected guard J.R. Giddens from New Mexico. The Mountain West Conference co-player of the year this past season (his senior year), the 6-foot-5, 208 pound Giddens averaged 16.3 points, 8.8 rebounds (which led the league), 3.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks.

Giddens has plenty of talent as his numbers attest. He actually started his college career at Kansas-where he was on the Big 12 All-Freshman team-before transferring to New Mexico. He was booted out of KU after getting into a fight at a club where he was stabbed in his calf (so Paul Pierce and Giddens have at least two things in common).

Obviously, Giddens will have to mature as he tries to make the NBA but with Ray Allen not getting any younger and James Posey possibly leaving in free agency, Giddens could find a role as a scorer off the bench.

The Celts traded cash for the Wizards' 47th pick (Bill Walker). 6-foot-6 and a solid 235 pounds, if healthy Walker could be a steal. He tore his ACL his freshman season at Kansas State and redshirted. This past season, he teamed up with Michael Beasley (you might have heard of him) to create one of the most explosive duos in college hoops. He also memorably pissed on a towel on the bench during a game. Really, just look at the picture below.

Walker averaged 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists. With his size and speed on the open floor, he is a prototypical NBA small forward. Assuming that he continues to avoid the operating table. Walker has been a household name since high school as he played with O.J. Mayo (might have heard of him too) in high school (imagine that).

It was a low-risk move for Boston that could reap big rewards. You gotta believe that Walker will be motivated to show the talent that made him such a hyped recruit.

Finally, with the last pick the Celtics selected Turkish center Semih Erden. He's 7-foot-1 and 240 pounds but I won't pretend that I'd ever heard of him nor seen him play basketball. Who do I look like, Chad Ford? I'll be shocked if the guy 1) comes to the US, 2) survives the summer league and training camp and 3) is on the roster in the next three seasons.

Not One Minute Men

The Boston Red Sox made their first game in Houston's Minute Maid Park a memorable one, taking a 6-1 win over the Astros last night.

Dice-K was back to his early season top-notch self, improving to 9-1 after five scoreless innings. Matsuzaka gave up two hits with three walks and four strikeouts. He was yanked after 87 pitches as Terry Francona didn't want to stretch him out too much in his second start for the Sox after coming back from the DL.

Kevin Youkilis had four hits, the locked in Dustin Pedroia was 3 for 5 with two runs, one walk and an RBI while J.D. Drew (three-run homer) and Mike Lowell (two-run single) had the most important swings of the game.

The Sox (50-32) jumped out to the 3-0 lead in the third with Drew's home run. Pedroia extended the advantage to 4-0 with an RBI single in the seventh which drove in Julio Lugo.

Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen each put up scoreless innings (the sixth and seventh respectively) before the increasingly shaky Hideki Okajima gave up two hits, including a solo home run to Houston's (37-43) Reggie Abercrombie.

Jonathan Papelbon came in to strike out Lance Berkman with a nasty splitter, stranding Miguel Tejada at first.

Lowell's two-run single gave the Sox some more breathing room in the ninth and Papelbon recorded the final three outs for his 24th save of the season.

Jon Lester-who's been in a groove lately-goes for the Red Sox tonight against the Astros' Brandon Backe.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Haren outduels Beckett as D-Backs win 2-1

Since baseball is so slow-paced by nature, it gives old-timers and rock-headed announcers plenty of time to get all whimsical. No sport has as many tired sayings as America's Pastime. One of my favorites is "good pitching always beats good hitting."

For one night at least, that was prophetic as the Arizona Diamondbacks led by Dan Haren outlasted Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox, 2-1 last night at Fenway.

Haren (8-4) was just a little bit better than Beckett and he had luck on his side. Haren went seven innings, giving up just two hits and a walk while striking out five.

Beckett (7-5) lasted eight innings but he gave up two runs on five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.

Playing without Sean Casey (who started serving his three-game suspension), Boston (47-32) was in a pickle when Kevin Youkilis took a ball off his eye in between innings. A throw from Mike Lowell took a bad hop and struck Youk on the eye. He wasn't one of People's 50 most beautiful people to begin with but the shiner really added something to his ugly mug.

Youk had to depart so Brandon Moss came in and wouldn't you know, a big play revolved around his inexperience at first.

In the seventh, Chris Young had doubled in Conor Jackson to give Arizona (40-37) a 1-0 lead before Chris Snyder hit a grounder to first. Moss bobbled it-allowing Mark Reynolds the runner at third to score-before recovering and getting the out at first.

The Red Sox' offense finally awoke in the eighth, forcing D-Backs reliever Tony Pena to throw 26 pitches. J.D. Drew drove in Julio Lugo with a sacrifice fly to cut it to 2-1.

David Aardsma continued his fine recent work as he danced around two walks and a hit to strike out two and record a scoreless ninth.

Former Sox pitcher Brandon Lyon promptly recorded his 16th save of the season on five pitches.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Youk helps salvage one marathon game against the Cardinals

Down 2-0 going into the bottom of the seventh yesterday afternoon, the Red Sox looked like they were about to be swept by a pesky St. Louis Cardinals club at Fenway.

It took a long time to clinch it but after going ahead 3-2 in the ninth and seeing closer Jonathan Papelbon blow the save, the Red Sox (47-31) finally finished off the Cardinals (44-33) in the bottom of the 13th when Kevin Youkilis (3 RBIs, walk) hit a two-run shot over the Monster-his second homer of the day-to give Boston a 5-3 win.

After a 50-minute rain delay, the game ironically enough was a pitcher's duel between Jon Lester (7.1 innings, 9 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts) and former Sox bum Joel Pineiro (7 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, 1 strikeout) before it turned into a battle of middle relievers.

Cards midget Aaron Miles was 5 for 6 (all singles) but didn't score a run. Adam Kennedy pinch hit and eventually finished 3 for 3 with an RBI.

For the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia was 4 for 5 with a run and his eighth steal of the year (which is ridiculous because the guy is painfully slow). Mike Lowell was 3 for 5 with a run and an RBI.

Brian Barton doubled in Brendan Ryan to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead in the sixth. Ryan Ludwick knocked in Barton with a single.

Youk picked up his first homer in the seventh off Pineiro and the Sox tied it in the eighth when Coco Crisp (who had tripled when Rick Ankiel fell down in center field) scored on Julio Lugo's sacrifice fly. After Pedroia singled and stole second, J.D. Drew, Manny Ramirez and finally Mike Lowell each worked walks to score Pedroia.

Papelbon struck out Ankiel and Yadier Molina to start the ninth but walked Chris Duncan. Kennedy pinch hit at that point and delivered with an RBI double over Coco's head in center.

In extra innings, the teams traded perfect scoring opportunities with neither cashing in until the 13th. Boston put the lead-off man on base in each inning but couldn't push them across. St. Louis had Duncan thrown out at home by Drew in the top of the 13th with one out.

After Dice-K's disastrous start on Saturday (when he lasted 1 inning), Boston somehow got another great performance from numerous relievers yesterday. Manny Delcarmen struck out both men he faced. Hideki Okajima recorded five outs despite allowing four hits and a walk. Craig Hansen also got five outs but didn't allow a hit or walk and struck out three. Finally, Javier Lopez survived two hits to earn the win (2-0).

It was a memorable win after such a forgettable previous two games. The Sox' final interleague foe to come to Fenway this season will be the Arizona Diamondbacks. After such a hot start, the Diamondbacks have come back to earth (since they can't hit) but they still have one of the top rotations in the game. Evidence of that: Josh Beckett takes on Dan Haren tonight. Boston desperately needs Beckett to last deep into the game.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lugo and Okajima temporarily ruin Celtics' buzz at Fenway

Other than the rain delay, everything was setting up perfectly for a nice, drunken Friday night at Fenway. The Celtics were in the building, riding around on Duck Boats and Paul Pierce comically threw out the first pitch to Jason Varitek. The Sox even honored the C's further by wearing their green jerseys.

As he has been for most of his Red Sox career, Julio Lugo was once again a buzzkill. He was joined on the goat list last night by Hideki Okajima, who is struggling big time.

The St. Louis Cardinals (minus Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and almost any player you've ever heard of) came in and took game one, 5-4.

Tim Wakefield pitched good enough to win: four runs (three earned) on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Wakefield (4-5) departed after seven innings and turned it over to Okajima, who gave up one run on three hits in an inning of work. Yadier Molina had the big hit off Okajima-a solo home run-that made the score 5-3 and turned out to be (as they usually are) a key run.

Did you know that journeyman Kyle Lohse is having a great year? Yeah me neither. Lohse (9-2) went six innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

Cardinals (43-32) manager Tony LaRussa-who might or might not have been drunk-took a page out of the Joe Torre book of overworking relievers as he had closer Ryan Franklin pitch the final two innings.

Franklin used to be a starter but still he was forced to labor through 44 pitches but he did pick up his 10th save. He'll undoubtedly be unavailable today.

Lugo had a nice night at the plate-for him-but it still couldn't washout the bitter taste of his two errors in the sixth that helped St. Louis score a run.

Lugo drove in Manny Ramirez with a sacrifice fly in the second to put Boston up 1-0.

Cards catcher Jason LaRue tied it with a solo homer in the fifth. After his two errors, Lugo did hit his first home run of the season in the bottom of the sixth to tie it.

Skip Schumaker hit a two-run blast to right off Wakefield in the seventh putting the Cardinals up 4-2.

Boston (46-32) had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the seventh as Manny came up with the bases-loaded and no outs. He grounded into a double play (the second time in the game he failed to deliver with the sacks full) which scored a run.

The Sox made it interesting in the ninth as Dustin Pedroia (two hits) doubled, Manny walked and Lowell knocked in Pedroia with a single. With runners on first and third and two outs, Kevin Youkilis flew out to right.

Dice-K makes his return from the DL and rehab starts this afternoon.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Red Sox just keep truckin' on

Despite numerous injuries, the Boston Red Sox just keep winning ballgames. Boston ended its first National League road trip this season with a 7-4 win in the City of Brotherly Love yesterday afternoon.

As has been the case all June-particularly since David Ortiz went down with the wrist injury-J.D. Drew stepped up and carried the team offensively. Playing against the team that he refused to sign with after being drafted (the first time), Drew was 4 for 5 with four RBIs and two runs. He was a triple short of a cycle as he had a double, two singles and a three-run bomb.

Red Sox (46-29) rookie Justin Masterson (4-1) didn't have his best stuff by any means but he gave his team five decent innings which was good enough for the win. He's also ensured of another start before being sent down since Bartolo Colon landed on the DL with a back injury.

The Phillies (42-32) were never really in it as starter Kyle Kendrick (6-3) gave up four runs in the top of the first and Philly trailed 7-1 after four.

Oh sure, Philadelphia made it interesting with a run in the fifth and two in the seventh but Manny Delcarmen was outstanding with two scoreless innings (and two strikeouts).

Phillies star second baseman Chase Utley was 0 for 13 in the series while counterpart Dustin Pedroia seems to have found his stroke again, going 3 for 5 with two runs in the finale.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 21st save.

The city of Boston gets to celebrate the Celtics' championship today while the Sox get a welcome day off. Boston takes on the St. Louis Cardinals tomorrow at Fenway in the start of a three-game series.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Anything Is Possible!"

For all intents and purposes, my life as a Boston sports fan will never get better than this.

The Red Sox (twice), Patriots (three times) and now Celtics have all won titles in the last six years, coincidentally the perfect time for me as I've appreciated each title more as I get older and realize this time is fleeting, no matter how sweet.

Moving back home from college and being single with a job at night has allowed me to soak this up probably more than I will ever in the future when hopefully marriage, kids and a more time-consuming job take over my life.

In its 26th postseason game of the year (an NBA record), the Celtics completely embarrassed the Lakers, 131-92, in game 6 of the NBA Finals at the TD Banknorth Garden.

The Celts won their first championship since the glory days of 1986. It's the franchise's 17th title.

The Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen fittingly played their best game of the season while their teammates weren't too shabby either, putting up a season-high for points.

After such a disappointing game 5 performance, KG had a legendary showing that should silence his critics forever. He scored 26 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out four assists and had three steals. He came out on fire with 17 in the first half as Boston left little doubt that the soft Lakers would not win one (let alone two in a row) back in Boston.

Despite playing on little rest (since he'd spent time with his son in an LA hospital), Ray Allen scored 26 points with four rebounds and three steals. Ray was 7 of 9 on 3-pointers (tying a Finals record), a great ending for a guy that really found himself at the end of the Detroit series and in the Finals.

No surprise with the win that Pierce was named Finals MVP. The 10-year veteran with the C's scored 17 points and dished out 10 assists. He outplayed Kobe Bryant (22 points on 7 of 22 shooting with 1 assist and 4 turnovers)-who many think is the best player in the world-by so much in this series, it's almost surreal.

With the series over, it's clear that the three biggest things that seperate the Celtics from the Lakers (and which countless experts failed to see before the series) was 1) defense, 2) teamwork and 3) toughness.

The C's set another Finals record with 18 steals for the game while also outrebounding LA, 48-29.

Rajon Rondo picked a fine time to have one last amazing performance as he had 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals. Kendrick Perkins only had two points and four rebounds in 13 minutes but the grit he showed by playing through pain was inspirational to his teammates and the appreciative home crowd.

James Posey had another sick game with 11 points, three rebounds and three steals. Eddie House had nine points and five assists. P.J. Brown posted six points, three boards and two assists while Leon Powe notched eight points and four rebounds. All 11 Celtics that played scored, Big Baby saw his first action of the series and gave the C's three points and four rebounds. Even Tony Allen got a highlight as he threw down a ridiculous reverse alley-oop in the fourth quarter.

In the first quarter, it seemed like the refs (a source of constant chatter during the playoffs) were doing their best to get the Lakers to a game 7. Boston couldn't hit a shot in the first quarter but their hustle for loose balls and knack for making the extra pass paid off as the Celts led 24-20 after one.

The Lakers began to pack for their flight home in the second quarter as Boston blitzed them with a 34-15 frame.

Another difference between the teams is that the Celts could make big comebacks in LA, the same wasn't true for the Lakers last night (and yes I remember they almost came back in game 2).

LA and Phil Jackson were exposed for the frauds that they were. And the highly-touted Western Conference was a deeper league this season but can we agree that Boston and Detroit were the best teams? Is there any doubt the Pistons would have similarly disposed of the Lakers in six or seven games?

The third and fourth quarters were something for the soon-to-be-released Celtics championship DVD's. They couldn't miss. Boston took the third 31-25 and put up a ridiculous 42-32 final quarter of the season.

Boston made 49.4% from the floor and 13 of 26 on 3-pointers. They made 32 of 27 free throws and handed out 33 assists. They had just seven turnovers in as flawless a performance as you could ever dream about on such a big stage.

The Lakers shot 42.2% from the field and 10 of 27 on threes. They had a pathetic two offensive rebounds (Boston notched 14) and 16 assists. Los Angeles turned it over 19 times.

I feel immensely lucky to have seen such a great team all season long. Three All-Stars put their egos aside and reached their ultimate goal (in the first year) that they'd all missed by themselves. Doc Rivers showed that he's a good NBA coach. P.J. Brown came back late in the season and won his first ring in 15 NBA seasons. Eddie House and James Posey brought energy and hustle night in and night out while Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins showed how much game they have. Leon Powe, Big Baby and Tony Allen each had their moments too. You can't say Sam Cassell really did much positive after coming to Boston but it's nice to see a guy who'll probably retire get another ring.

With Andrew Bynum healthy next season, the Lakers could very well find themselves back in the Finals. I really believe that the C's have a window of two or three more seasons where they'll be in the mix as well. They have to re-sign Posey and Powe but I wouldn't count out Pierce, Garnett and Allen in the next few seasons. What better way to cement their legacies in the game than with another championship or two?

The Celtics' parade will be tomorrow in Boston, complete with Duck Boats and a ceremony at Copley Plaza. Winning championships will never get old; these are the golden days of Boston sports that we'll talk about for the rest of our lives. The Bruins might as well move since they're never going to join the fun (without dumping Uncle Scrooge, I mean owner Jeremy Jacobs).

Lester and Coco lead Red Sox to win in Philly

Remember when Jon Lester was a guy with a ton of potential but no consistency? Somewhere this season (probably after the no-hitter), the young lefty has gained confidence and started throwing more strikes on the mound. The results that have followed have been outstanding.

Working in a reputed hitter's park, Lester threw seven shutout innings last night as Boston defeated Philadelphia, 3-0.

Lester (6-3) gave up six hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

The unlikely offensive star for the Sox (45-29) was Coco Crisp (2 hits, 2 steals), who had a two-run homer in the second off Phillies (42-31) starter Jamie Moyer (7-4) and scored on Julio Lugo's (2 walks, steal) double in the sixth.

Boston tied a club record with six stolen bases. Sean Casey, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury notched the other steals (while Ellsbury was also caught once).

Moyer lasted only five innings as the Sox worked five walks off him. A night after looking like the MVP he was two seasons ago, Ryan Howard looked more like how he's been this season: he struck out all four times he came up.

For one game at least, the Sox' 8th-9th inning combination of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon looked like they took a time machine back to last season when they were both unhittable. Okajima pitched a scoreless eighth and Papelbon picked up his 20th save of the season after a clean ninth.

In a matinee this afternoon, Justin Masterson opposes Kyle Kendrick as each team tries to take the series.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Bartolo Colon Experiment's Dark Side

For a guy that cost virtually no money and that we had very low expectations for, Bartolo Colon has already been a huge success. Still, last night at Citizens Bank Park in Philly was a painful reminder of how quickly it can change for a major league pitcher.

Colon (4-2) had nothing and as a result, the Phillies (42-30) blew out the Sox (44-29), 8-2, in the first game of a three-game set.

In four innings of work, Bartolo gave up four runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The three home runs he allowed were killer as were the Babe Ruth-like swings (and six misses) in his two plate appearances (both times, he ironically came up with two runners on and two outs).

As a result, Colon came out early with back pain aggravated from his comical swings. After one mighty cut, his batting helmet fell off. Really. No need to worry though as the early exit allowed him to get a jump on his postgame wheelbarrow full of cheesesteaks from Pat's.

On the other side, Phillies ace Cole Hamels (7-4) pitched seven effective innings, showing that he's the best lefty in baseball not named Johan Santana.

"Hollywood Hamels"-as my buddy from Philly dubbed him, scattered two runs on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts. He also allowed two homers but that's pretty much par for the course in the Little League field known as the Bank.

Watching the game, I was reminded that when everyone is healthy, Boston and Philly probably field the top 1-5 hitters in their respective leagues.

Reigning MVP Jimmy Rollins led off the bottom of the first with a homer, on his way to a three hit, three RBI, two run night. Shane Victorino had two hits, a walk and a run. Chase Utley was 0 for 5 but nobody will remember that as slugger Ryan Howard was 3 for 4 with two homers and a triple (yes a triple). The former MVP drove in four and both of his bombs went to left. Even Pat Burrell reached base all four times he came up (two walks and two hits).

Down 3-0 right out of the gates (after the first) and 4-0 going into the fifth, the Red Sox scored both of their runs in the inning, fittingly on long balls.

Dustin Pedroia (3 hits) and the still on fire J.D. Drew did the honors with consecutive solo shots that made it 4-2 Phillies.

Any thoughts of a Sox win were extinguished when Mike Timlin gave up four runs in the sixth. Rollins had a two-run single and Howard tripled in Utley who reached on an RBI fielder's choice.

It'll be old school vs. new school tonight when Jon Lester takes on 46-year-old Jamie Moyer, who has been great this season. A quality start from Lester would be a big help since Boston had to use four relievers last night.

Monday, June 16, 2008

a championship will be that much sweeter at home

Did you think Kendrick Perkins was the difference between the Celtics winning and losing a championship? I would have laughed at that crazy question a few days ago but not after watching the Lakers beat the Celtics, 103-98, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Boston leads the series 3-2 and now comes home for two (if necessary) chances to pick up their first title since 1987 and 17th overall.

This one had the distinct feel of Game 4 as the Lakers got out to a huge first quarter lead (39-22 at the end of one) and as high as 19 before the Celtics cut it to three at the half (55-52).

The Celts grabbed the lead in the second half but quickly lost it as LA built it back to 14 before Boston came back one last time. It was not meant to be though as the Lakers continually got to the basket (since Perk was out with an injured shoulder) and either scored or drew a foul.

Five Lakers found double figures, led by Kobe Bryant (25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 assists). The inside combo of Lamar Odom (20 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) and Pau Gasol (19 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks) were the difference as Boston couldn't stop them as they rotated an overmatched group (P.J. Brown and Leon Powe) while Kevin Garnett (13 points, 14 rebounds) was never much of a factor since he had five fouls.

Derek Fisher added 15 points and Jordan Farmer (owner of the biggest ears this side of Mitch Albom) notched 11.

Still, the game was there for the taking as the Lakers continually bumbled and couldn't put Boston away. The biggest plays were a Kobe strip of Pierce and dunk while KG missed three of four free throws in crunch time.

Paul Pierce (again) was the best player on the court by far. The Truth imitated Ray Allen from the last game by playing all 48 minutes. Pierce had 38 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Ray Allen had 16 points while Sam Cassell had nine points off the bench.

Other than Perk, the C's other big worry is Rajon Rondo. Is he hurt? Is he simply playing bad? The second-year point guard was 1 of 7 from the floor, finishing with three points and three assists in 15 minutes.

History is completely on Boston's side as no team has come back to win a championship after being down 3-1, the C's have also never lost in the Finals when they're up 3-2.

However, with the health of Perk and Rondo in mind, the C's would be best served to end this on Tuesday. You don't want to let a team hang around that has Kobe Bryant-who's only had one real superstar game so far. I don't have to be bias (even though I am) to say that the Celtics are the better team, I really don't see them losing twice in a row at the Garden. Stranger things have happened though, meaning that Game 6 is supremely vital.

Even without Manny & Ortiz, Red Sox crush the Reds

The Red Sox' tour of NL little league parks ended on a high note at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

Boston (44-28) shutout the Reds (33-38), 9-0, to take two out of the three games in the series after dropping the first game.

Josh Beckett (7-4) went seven scoreless innings to earn the win. Beckett gave up six hits, two walks and struck out six.

David Ortiz is still out with the wrist injury while Manny Ramirez had the day off to nurse his sore hamstring. Didn't matter as the Sox still belted four home runs.

Coco Crisp (2 hits, 4 RBIs), Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 steals), J.D. Drew (2 runs, 2 walks) and Dustin Pedroia (2 RBIs) did the honors with the first three guys teeing off on Reds rookie Homer Bailey (0-3), who gave up five earned runs in 2.1 innings.

Boston moves on to Philadelphia for three games at Citizens Bank Park, another launching pad.

Good luck to Bartolo Colon, who not only has to face the Phillies' formidable lineup tonight, but also opposes ace Cole Hamels.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Where were you when the Lakers submitted one of the great choke jobs in sports history?

Down 24 points on the road in the first quarter and 18 at the half, the Boston Celtics looked dead in the water in Game 4 of the NBA Finals at the Staples Center last night.

The horrific start by the Green only sweetened the win as the Celtics outscored the Lakers, 57-33 in the second half to take the game, 97-91.

Boston now leads the series 3-1 with Game 5 on Father's Day (Sunday) back at the Staples Center.

It was a hallmark win that will be talked about forever (assuming Boston can win one of the next three games).

Both teams had five players score in double figures but the Celtics were the ones stepping up in the third and fourth quarter. Front-running LA resembled the team that dominated the Western Conference playoffs in the first half as their passing was crisp and everyone was hitting their shots. But when things started to fall apart in the second half, not even Kobe Bryant (17 points on 6 of 19 shooting, 10 assists and 4 steals) could save them.

Paul Pierce shook off another slow start to finish with a game-high 20 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Ray Allen (who has been Boston's most consistent player through the first four games) had 19 points, nine rebounds and three steals. James Posey had 18 points and Kevin Garnett totalled 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Lamar Odom came out on fire (making his first five shots) and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Pau Gasol had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Derek Fisher had 13 points and Vladimir Radmanovic added 10 points.

Everything went the Lakers' way in the first half, including a traveling, buzzer-beating 3-pointer by guard Jordan Farmar to end the second quarter.
Boston couldn't possibly play worse as they were down 35-14 after one (the NBA record for biggest deficit in a Finals game after one quarter) and 58-40 at the break.

The story of the game so paralleled the setting, it was uncanny. The flashy Lakers came out and played their best basketball of the series for two quarters. Their botox-injected, clueless millionaire fans cheered (most likely cause the scoreboard told them to) and all was right in Tinseltown. However, like a bad movie (which Hollywood has been known to turn out from time to time), Los Angeles completely unraveled in the second half.

Phil Jackson-the slobbered over coach-was outclassed by Doc Rivers (HA!). Rivers chose to space the floor with a small, shooting lineup and LA never really adjusted. Eddie House (11 points, 4 rebounds in 25 minutes) played most of the second half as Rajon Rondo (5 points, 2 assists in 17 minutes) was clearly not himself with his ankle injury. Kendrick Perkins popped his shoulder out of its socket in the third quarter and didn't return.

A 21-3 Celtics run cut it to 73-71 going into the fourth. By then, Los Angeles had fell apart as all their finesse, offensive-minded clowns shied away from the moment. Sure Kobe had no hesitation to take the tough shot but on this night, it wasn't falling for the Black Mamba.

House's jumper gave Boston its first lead of the night with four minutes left and the Celtics never looked back. Pierce made key free throws, Posey hit a 3-pointer, Ray collected an offensive rebound (along with two clutch hoops) and Garnett had a great assist to House.

The Celtics are a better TEAM, one who thrives on the defensive end and that's why they find themselves one win away from a championship.

There are two days off between games as Game 5 won't happen until Sunday night but you can't underestimate the psychological damage of the loss on LA. They are a team that had seemingly come into its own during the second half of the year and one that wasn't tested much throughout the playoffs. The Celtics stumbled big time coming out of the gates in the playoffs but seemed to have found their rhythm in the Detroit series and carried it over to the Finals.

The close-out game is always the toughest but I like the Celtics' chances of winning one more game out of a possible three (with two if necessary at home).

a tidy win by the Red Sox that nobody will ever remember

Following up Wednesday night's 6-3 win over the Orioles (32-33), the Red Sox took the series with a 9-2 win at Fenway last night.

Jon Lester (5-3) was great. He went seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts.

Boston (42-27) improved to 18-3 in its last 21 games at home thanks to Lester's fine work and three long balls.

Mike Lowell had a grand slam off Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie (3-7) in the fifth while Kevin Youkilis added a two-run shot in the seventh and J.D. Drew notched a solo home run in the eighth.

Believe it or not, Drew is the hottest hitter in baseball in June. He also had a double, two runs, two RBIs and a walk while his batting average rose to .324

Manny Delcarmen pitched a scoreless eighth (with two strikeouts) and Mike Timlin had a clean ninth to ensure that Red Sox fans attending the game or watching at home would be able to catch the Celtics game, no problem.

The Sox hit the road as interleague play gets into full swing the next two weeks. Boston travels to Cincinnati this weekend for three games, followed by three in the city of brotherly love-Philly. Nothing like watching pitchers hit and 25 double switches, isn't National League baseball grand?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Utterly predictable with a few slight tweaks

If you were a slightly knowledgeable and objective fan of the Celtics, you had to know in your heart of hearts last night that the Celtics' chances of winning rested somewhere between slim and none.

Give the Celts credit as they somehow hung around and almost stole it (even though they played pretty bad) before falling, 87-81, to the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center in game 3 of the NBA Finals.

Boston leads the series 2-1 with the next two games remaining at the Staples Center.

The C's cut the Lakers' lead to two points late in the fourth quarter but Eddie House missed an open jumper that would have tied it. From there, Kobe Bryant (36 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist) did his thing by making two clutch hoops. The Lakers wouldn't have pulled it out though if Sasha Vujacic hadn't produced the game of his life with 20 points. He hit a 3-pointer late in the fourth that was the shot of the game since it followed House's miss.

Paul Pierce had one of the worst games of his NBA career, six points on 2 of 14 shooting with six boards and three assists. To compound that he had five fouls and thus had to miss significant minutes in the second half. Kevin Garnett struggled to get 13 points (6 of 21 shooting) with 12 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. The only reason the C's had any hope of winning was Ray Allen, who scored a team-high 25 points and grabbed five rebounds.

Rajon Rondo (8 points, 4 assists in 22 minutes) sprained his ankle at the start of the second half and missed almost the whole final two quarters. Kendrick Perkins had eight points, six boards and three steals. James Posey was great off the bench with nine points and seven steals.

It was a forgone conclusion-right or not-that since the series shifted back to LA and the Lakers didn't get to the line at all in game 2, they would be there all night in game 3. This was true at the start as they had as many attempts (10) in the first quarter as they did in all of game 2.

Boston hung around and eventually it was tied 20-20 at the end of one. The Lakers picked it up in the second quarter and took a 43-37 lead into the extended break.

As has been the case in the previous two games, Boston owned the third quarter (25-17) to take a slim 62-60 lead into the fourth. The Lakers closed the fourth with a 27-19 advantage that felt closer than that.

Lamar Odom (4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 turnovers) played about as bad as he could ever play and Pau Gasol (9 points, 12 rebounds) wasn't much better. If you were a betting man (or woman), you'd have to guess that collectively Pierce and KG would respond better than Odom and Gasol in game 4.

The Lakers did get to the line a ton (21-34) but didn't really take advantage. The Celtics were 15 of 22 from the line.

Game 4 will be a turning point in the series. Either LA ties it up (which means it's going seven in all likelihood) or Boston wins, meaning it could end at any time. Thoughts of a Celtics sweep were flat-out stupid. The Lakers have looked more vulnerable than you could have expected but they still haven't lost at home (9-0) in the playoffs.

What's eating Josh Beckett?

Last season, particularly in the playoffs, Josh Beckett showed that he was the best pitcher in the American League. Sure he didn't win the Cy Young award but did that really matter as the Red Sox won the World Series and C.C. Sabathia (the Cy Young winner) was terrible throughout the playoffs?

I guess I assumed Beckett would pick up where he left off this season and continue to dominate. Not so much. His strikeout totals have been high but he's been plagued by one or two bad innings in almost all of his starts.

The Orioles beat the Red Sox, 10-6, yesterday at Fenway as Beckett once again couldn't be the stopper he's supposed to be.

He didn't get a decision but Beckett went six innings, giving up four runs on eight hits with a walk and three strikeouts. His ERA is a pedestrian 4.22.

Beckett allowed all four runs in the second. Freddie Bynum and Brian Roberts hit two-run doubles in the inning for the Orioles (32-31).

Boston (40-27) had led 1-0 in the first but it should have been more as they had the bases loaded with no outs. Manny Ramirez grounded into a double play but a run scored.

The Red Sox fought back in the third with two runs but once again they should have gotten more out of a bases loaded, no out situation. Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis each had fielder's choices.

Things were looking up in the fifth when Boston got back-to-back homers off of Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera. J.D. Drew (two runs, two walks) hit a two-run homer and then Manny cranked a solo shot to put the Sox up 6-4.

The seventh inning was what killed Boston as Baltimore scored three times off of Hideki Okajima (1-2) to take a 7-6 lead.

Baltimore added three runs in the ninth off Craig Hansen as Jay Payton had an infield single for an RBI and Ramon Hernandez hit a two-run single.

Aubrey Huff finished with four hits and two RBIs for Baltimore while Nick Markakis notched three hits and scored twice in the win.

The rubber match of the three game set is tonight as Bartolo Colon opposes Garrett Olson.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Celtics take 2-0 lead to the land of frauds

The Celtics played one decent quarter, two exceptional quarters and one awful quarter but it all added up to a tighter-than-it-should-be 108-102 win over the Lakers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Boston takes a 2-0 lead to Los Angeles, Games 3 and 4 are at the Staples Center as well as Game 5 if necessary.

Paul Pierce was the best player on the floor with an efficient 28 points, eight assists and four rebounds. The surprise star of the game was Leon Powe, who scored 21 points in 15 minutes. Kevin Garnett struggled with his shot but still posted 17 points and 14 rebounds while Ray Allen scored 17 points. Rajon Rondo had four points, six rebounds, 16 assists, two steals and only two turnovers.

Kendrick Perkins had seven points and three rebounds in 14 minutes and P.J. Brown contributed six points and three rebounds.

Up by 24 in the fourth quarter the Celts put it on cruise control and the Lakers almost came all the way back. LA cut it to two with under a minute left but Pierce clinched it with two clutch free throws and a block of Vladimir Radmanovic's 3-pointer. James Posey (8 points, 3 rebounds) corralled the rebound, was fouled and iced it with two more free throws.

The great defense and ball movement (31 assists on 36 buckets) disappeared for Boston as LA made 7 of 10 threes in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Celts 41-25.

Kobe Bryant scored 30 points (13 in the fourth) with eight assists, four rebounds and three steals. The Mamba was noticably frustrated with teammates and the officials for most of the game. He even drew a technical foul for arguing. Pau Gasol had 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists but the Lakers stopped going to him in the second half which was a mistake since he was great in the first half.

Radmanovic had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Lamar Odom scored 10 points with eight boards while Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmer each had nine points. Sasha Vujacic added eight points.

LA led 22-20 but Boston stormed back with a 34-20 second quarter sparked by Powe's inspirational play.

The Lakers by nature are a finesse team and while they have size, they don't want to battle under the boards like a Cleveland or Detroit. LA is still a great team but when Boston decides to work it down low, they dominate. Powe was relentless on the boards, he made 9 of 13 free throws.

LA only took 10 free throws (and made all of them) while Boston was 27 of 38. It wasn't a factor since they held on but if the Celts had lost this one, missed free throws would have been one of the main culprits.

The Celts came out flying in the third quarter (including two thunderous slams from Powe), outscoring LA 29-19 as it looked like they had wrapped the game up. The 24-point lead was with seven minutes left in the game so that shows you how fast the Lakers can make up ground.

Other than free throws, assists were the difference for Boston. Behind Rondo's career-high tying game, the C's had 31 dimes to LA's 20.

Switching the format to 2-3-2 only for the Finals is pretty dumb but what can you do? The Celts only have to get one win in LA to give themselves two chances to finish the Lakers off in Boston. LA is unbeaten at the Staples Center (8-0) in the playoffs and we've still seen only glimpses of the great Lakers team that ran through the Western Conference playoffs. Game 3 is a must-win for LA (everyone's pick to win the Finals), if they lose that there will be no miracles even in Hollywood.

The Red Sox and their embarassment of riches

You can have Ian Kennedy (who can't get anyone out), you can wait for Phil Hughes to get healthy and enjoy 4.2 innings of work from Joba every fifth day, I'll take the Red Sox' young arms any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Rookie Justin Masterson moved to 3-0 yesterday in his fourth major league start as the Sox edged the Mariners, 2-1, at Fenway.

It's not as if everything has gone off without a hitch for Boston's (40-26) young pitchers. Clay Buchholz (currently rehabbing) and Jon Lester (he of the no-hitter) have dealt with control issues while Craig Hansen was almost ruined as the Sox called him up way too soon to the majors (in 2006, his first professional season). The unstoppable force has been Jonathan Papelbon and Masterson is quickly making a name for himself as well. Overall, everything seems to be coming together for this talented group of players that Boston has drafted and developed in their farm system, what a concept.

J.D. Drew continued to be the man of the hour as he knocked in both runs yesterday. He was hit by Erik Bedard's pitch with the bases loaded in the third, which tied the game at one. Then he cranked a solo homer off Seattle reliever Sean Green in the sixth. Drew also starred in the field as he saved at least one run, possibly two with a running, leaping catch of Richie Sexson's line drive in the second with two men on base.

Seattle (22-41) took a 1-0 lead in the second on a ground out but Masterson escaped further trouble, thanks to Drew. The big right-hander went six innings, giving up three hits, three walks and four strikeouts. He kept his pitch count down, he left having thrown only 88 pitches. Being born in Jamaica probably helped him too as the game-time temperature was a scalding 98 degrees. No word on whether his old Little League coach Ziggy Marley was in attendance.

Craig Hansen-who's firmly entrenching himself in the seventh inning role-pitched a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts. Hideki Okajima struck out one in a scoreless eighth and Jonathan Papelbon retired the side in the ninth on five pitches for his 18th save of the season.

The Red Sox get a welcome day off after taking the series with the Mariners and playing in some extreme heat the last two days. Baltimore comes to Fenway tomorrow for three games.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

J.D. Drew for MVP

It must be the alternate Red jerseys. Or maybe it's the hot weather. Whatever the reason, the Red Sox quickly erased the bad taste of Friday night's god-awful performance-an 8-0 loss-to spank the Mariners, 11-3, yesterday afternoon at Fenway.

Boston (39-26) got a quality start from Tim Wakefield (4-4) as he went seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

The weak lineup on Friday was nowhere to be found yesterday as the Sox pounded out 13 hits and drew seven walks. It was a vintage performance from a team that didn't even feature Dustin Pedroia (day off), David Ortiz (wrist) or Jacoby Ellsbury (although he did pinch run).

So where did all this offense come from? J.D. Drew, who is currently channeling someone much better than himself (Ted Williams, Wade Boggs, Yaz???), was 3 for 5 (triple, home run, single) with three runs and two RBIs.

Manny Ramirez hit another moon-shot, onto the parking lot roof on Landsdowne Street. Manny scored two runs, drove in two and walked three times. Coco Crisp had a rare start as the leadoff hitter and he delivered with two hits, an RBI and two steals. Kevin Youkilis was 2 for 5 with two RBIs and Alex Cora was 2 for 4 with two runs and an RBI.

Ichiro had three hits, a run and a steal for the Mariners (22-40) but it wasn't nearly enough. Starter Miguel Batista (3-7) didn't have much as he gave up five runs on six hits in 4.1 innings. He walked six and struck out one.

Boston goes for the series win this afternoon as rookie Justin Masterson opposes Erik Bedard on another 90+ degree plus day.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Paul Pierce, new star of the 2010 Wheelchair Olympics

Paul Pierce shook off what looked like a terrible knee injury to lead the Celtics to a 98-88 game 1 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

The Truth went down in the third quarter after teammate Kendrick Perkins stepped on his foot going for a rebound. Pierce crumpled to the floor, clutching his right knee. It looked like the game and the series were over but magically he recovered (and only missed a few minutes of the game) and finished with 22 points.

Boston went on a run as soon as he came back, in fact Pierce hit back-to-back clutch 3-pointers in that spurt. This from a guy who had been carried off the floor (by Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine, who didn't have anything better to do) then pushed in a wheelchair to the locker room. Arthur Blank-the Falcons owner-was in town and he did the honors of pushing after his experience pushing Mike Vick in a wheelchair.

In the constant loop of ESPN drivel and over-reporting, sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya was stationed outside the Celts' locker room where she said Pierce stood on his own two feet. Honestly, you expected her to say that Pierce was dead. It was comically overdramatic in the moment, even more so when you watched Pierce come back and play well.

Kevin Garnett had a team-high 24 points and 13 rebounds, Ray Allen scored 19 points with eight rebounds and five assists while Rajon Rondo posted 15 points, seven assists and five boards.

One of the keys to the game was the play of Boston's bench. James Posey (3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals), P.J. Brown (2 points, 6 rebounds), Leon Powe (4 points, 4 rebounds) and even Sam Cassell (8 points) gave the Celtics valuable minutes.

Perkins also got hurt a few minutes after Pierce. Perk twisted his ankle and missed the rest of the game, finishing with one point, four rebounds and four fouls.

The best player on the planet-Kobe Bryant-had an off-night. He had 24 points (on 9 of 26 shooting) with six assists and four turnovers. Bryant had plenty of decent looks (or at least shots he usually makes) that rimmed out or just didn't fall.

None of the other Lakers stepped up enough. Pau Gasol had 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists while Lamar Odom put up 14 points and six rebounds. Derek Fisher was great in the first half with 13 points but he only had two in the second half. Sasha Vujacic had eight points off the bench but he was two of seven from the floor.

All in all it was an entertaining start to what should be a great series. Boston led 23-21 after the first quarter but LA took a 51-46 halftime advantage.

The third quarter (with all the dramatics) was the key as Boston outscored the Lakers but nine (31-22) and then the fourth quarter was tight defensively with the Celtics scoring 21 and holding the Lakers to 15 points.

Neither team was great on 3-pointers (Boston hit 6, LA had 3) but the Celts made seven more free throws. The biggest stat was rebounds: Boston owned the glass, 46-33.

A victory in game one was important but all the Lakers have to do is win one game on the road in the first two to make it interesting. Having three straight games at the Staples Center is a big advantage for LA (8-0 in the playoffs there) so if the Celtics can win game 2, all they have to do is win one out of three then they'd have two chances to close it out at home.

There's plenty of time to go over all the scenarios as game 2 doesn't tip off until Sunday night.

What else can happen in one game at Fenway?

Let's be honest, baseball for the most part is a pretty boring sport. Sure there are thrilling moments (usually found in the playoffs) but 162 regular season games are filled with dull inning after dull inning. I love baseball but when you watch it after seeing football or basketball, it pales in comparison for excitement per minute.

Once in a while however, the stars align in a normal regular season game and a bunch of wacky things happen all at once. Last night's 7-1 Red Sox win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway was one of those occasions. There was a brawl between the two teams, fighting between teammates in a dugout, a guy had five RBIs and another player got hurt making a diving catch.

You wish that some of last night could be bottled up and spread over the next few months as there will be countless snoozefests in the dog days of summer but I digress.

Boston (38-25) quickly led 3-0 in the bottom of the first after Manny Ramirez crushed a three-run bomb over everything in left.

Jonny Gomes' RBI single in the second made it 3-1 Red Sox before things got heated.

It all started in the bottom of the second when Rays (35-25) starter James Shields (4-4) hit Coco Crisp on the leg. It was retaliation from Crisp taking out Akinuri Iwamura with a dirty slide the night before. Coco took exception and ran at Shields. Coco ducked a Shields haymaker and only partially landed a shot of his own before getting tackled by Dioner Navarro. Gomes and Carl Crawford proceeded to take cheap shots at Crisp while he was pinned on the ground.

Seeing some emotion out of Crisp was a good thing. Besides highlight reel catches, the guy has been a real disappointment in Boston. Maybe, this will get him going this year. As far as baseball fights go, this was a solid one. Lots of people involved and some punches thrown, not the usual stand around and look tough showdowns.

Coco, Shields and Gomes were all ejected from the game. Dustin Pedroia made it 4-1 Boston later in the inning with a sacrifice fly that scored rookie Chris Carter.

Manny put it away with a two-run single in the fourth, following a J.D. Drew bases-loaded walk.

A strange scene in the bottom of the fourth when Manny and Kevin Youkilis started pushing each other in the dugout. Apparently, Youk took exception to Manny not getting out there faster during the fight. The team tried to play it down after the game but only time will tell if it's an issue moving forward.

As much coverage as the fighting received the bigger news for the Sox is the health of Jacoby Ellsbury. He made a great diving catch but twisted his wrist awkwardly. X-Rays were negative but Boston will be extremely cautious with its new golden boy.

Lester (4-3) picked up the win, his first at Fenway since the no-hitter. He went 6.1 innings, giving up one run on eight hits with five strikeouts.

The hyped matchup of Tampa Bay and Boston failed to live up the hype as the Sox once again swept the Rays at Fenway. The Red Sox have now won 13 in a row at home and they have the pathetic Seattle Mariners stumbling into town tonight.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Enigma that is J.D. Drew

Every once in a while, J.D. Drew does something that makes you go, "wow, this guy is really talented." That moment of greatness is usually shortly followed by an injury or missing a game due to vertigo (no lie, it happened last Friday). Drew is grossly overpaid and has never lived up to high expectations his whole career but last night he was the best player on the field.

Finally home again at Fenway, the Red Sox (36-25) defeated the Tampa Bay Rays (35-23), 7-4, to cut the Rays' first-place lead to half a game.

Drew was 2 for 3 with a walk, double, home run, two runs scored and two outstanding catches in right field. It was a welcome contribution as Boston played its third straight game without David Ortiz. Apparently, Ortiz could miss anywhere from a few weeks to the rest of the season, depending on how his wrist heals.

Rookie Justin Masterson improved to 2-0 despite having his worst start of his major league career (3 games). Masterson went six innings, giving up four runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

He gave up two home runs (a lead off homer to Akinori Iwamura and a two-run bomb by Carlos Pena) but he seems to be more efficient than Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz. He only threw 91 pitches.

Mike Lowell and Coco Crisp had the biggest hits for Boston. Lowell had a two-run homer in the second off Matt Garza (4-2) which put the Sox up 2-1 while Coco delivered a two-run double in the sixth which gave Boston a 6-4 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Manny Delcarmen pitched a scoreless seventh and Craig Hansen added a clean eighth before Jonathan Papelbon struck out two in the ninth for his 17th save.

Weather permitting, Edwin Jackson will face Josh Beckett tonight.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Now We See What the Red Sox are Made of

The Boston Red Sox (35-25) dropped its series finale to the Baltimore Orioles, 6-3, last night at Camden Yards and the news off the field for Boston was even worse.
Slugger David Ortiz hurt his wrist on Saturday night taking a swing and he'll be forced to go on the DL. Reports say he could miss up to a month.

Few teams have as much depth in their lineup as the Red Sox but that will be tested without Papi in there for the near future. So much of what makes Manny and Ortiz great (and the rest of the hitters) and that there's protection.

Last night Manny batted third and Kevin Youkilis was fourth with Mike Lowell following him. It's not an ideal situation but the Sox can make it work if other guys continue to swing the bat and the pitching improves.

Tim Wakefield pitched well enough to win but the bats couldn't provide enough runs for him. Wakefield went seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts. He got a no-decision.

Reliever Hideki Okajima (1-1) was the goat last night as he gave up a career-high four hits and four runs in 2/3 of an inning. The big blow was a two-out, three-run double by Adam Jones which gave the Orioles (27-29) the 6-3 lead.

Manny (2 hits) had another home run (his third straight game with a homer) and he actually had a chance to tie it in the ninth but he flew out to right with two men on against Orioles closer George Sherrill. Sherrill walked two in the ninth but recovered to save his 18th game of the season.

Jeremy Guthrie also gave the Orioles a nice start. He went 6.1 innings, giving up two runs on eight hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

Baltimore took a 2-0 lead in the fourth as Aubrey Huff (2 hits, 2 runs) had an RBI double and Kevin Millar knocked in a run with a single.

The Red Sox answered with single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth before Okajima's implosion. Manny homered in the sixth, Kevin Cash had an RBI double in the seventh and Mike Lowell knocked in Youk with an RBI single in the eighth.

Millar tied it in the eighth with a sacrifice fly before Jones delivered.

Boston comes home for a huge three-game series with the Rays. You read that correctly. Tampa Bay is still in first place in the AL East (1.5 games up on Boston) and comes to Fenway for the teams' third series of the year. They've each swept three-game sets at home.

Justin Masterson makes his third start for the Red Sox tonight against Matt Garza.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Restoring some order in the AL East

After another disastrous start to a road trip (1-5 through the first six games in Oakland and Seattle), the Red Sox have a chance to break even at .500 tonight as they wrap up their four-game series in Baltimore.

Boston won 9-4 yesterday behind Bartolo Colon (3-0) and four home runs.

The big righty had another decent start as Boston staked him to a 7-1 lead in the fourth inning. Colon ended up going six innings, giving up four runs on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts. He left a couple meatballs over the heart of the plate but for the most part, he was hitting the mid-90's and painting the corners.

J.D. Drew (run, 2 hits, 3 RBIs) drove in Mike Lowell (2 runs, 2 hits, 2 RBIs) with a sacrifice fly to put Boston up 1-0 in the second.

Baltimore (26-29) got the run back in the bottom of the inning as Luke Scott was singled home by Adam Jones.

The Red Sox scored three in the third. Manny Ramirez (3 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs) knocked in Dustin Pedroia with an RBI double. Kevin Youkilis scored on Lowell's sac fly and Drew's RBI single plated Manny.

Boston opened it up in the fourth with three more runs. Manny hit a two-run shot (No. 501) and Lowell followed him (Ortiz was sitting with a wrist injury) with a solo homer.

Orioles starter Brian Burres (4-5) was charged with seven runs on twelve hits in four innings.

Luke Scott hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth for the Orioles.

Drew added his solo homer in the seventh and then Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, stolen base, RBI) knocked in Coco Crisp with a single.

Kevin Millar closed the scoring with an RBI single in the seventh off Javier Lopez.

Tim Wakefield and the underrated Jeremy Guthrie take the hill in the series finale tonight.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

It's Manny's World, We're All Just Living in it

Love him or hate him (and by now I think it's almost universal that all Red Sox fans love him), Manny Ramirez will go down as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

Manny became the 24th player in MLB history to reach the 500 home run plateau last night as he connected on the first pitch off Orioles reliever Chad Bradford (a member of the 2004 Sox) for a 5-3 Boston lead.

The background story was that the Sox went on to win, 6-3. Last night was all about Manny though, who reached such a great accomplishment without the help of performance enhancers. The guy tirelessly works at his craft but is there any doubt that he was born to hit? He said after the game that he'd like to reach 600 and if Ken Griffey can (almost) do it with his crippled body, what's going to stop Manny?

Baltimore (26-28) jumped on top 2-0 in the second as Kevin Millar scored on Jay Payton's infield single and Adam Jones knocked in Ramon Hernandez with an RBI single.

The Red Sox (34-24) tied it in the third when Dustin Pedroia (2 hits) and David Ortiz (2 RBIs) connected on back-to-back shots off Orioles starter Greg Olson.

Brian Roberts put the Orioles ahead again with a solo shot in the fifth off Jon Lester before Jason Varitek (3 hits) tied it by plating Mike Lowell with an RBI single.

Ortiz put the Sox ahead for good with a sacrifice fly that scored Jacoby Ellsbury (3 stolen bases, hit, run, 2 walks) in the seventh. Ellsbury has 26 steals on the season and six in his last two games. You can start engraving his name on the AL rookie of the year trophy.

Kevin Youkilis scored on Coco Crisp's double play in the eighth.

David Aardsma (2-1) picked up the win after two scoreless innings, with two strikeouts. Hideki Okajima (who's been in a groove lately) pitched a scoreless eighth before handing it over to Jonathan Papelbon, who recorded his 16th save thanks to a clean ninth.