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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NBA Playoffs: Where punching Brad Miller in the face happens

In the all-important Game 5 last night at the Garden, the Celtics survived 106-104 to take a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 tomorrow night in Chicago.

Paul Pierce did what he do (as the rappers say), scoring 26 points and grabbing seven boards. He scored six huge points down the stretch in the fourth, including the tying bucket with 10 seconds left. He also had the clinching shot with three seconds left in overtime. Rajon Rondo continued his MVP play: 28 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Big Baby added 21 points and six boards.

The most unexpected huge contribution was from Kendrick Perkins who almost had a triple-double: 16 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks. As cliche as it sounds, every point mattered since Ray Allen (10 points) fouled out in the fourth quarter and the C's bench continued to be non-existent.

Ben Gordon led the uber-resilient Bulls with 26 points. Kirk Hinrich scored 19 and John Salmons tossed in 17 points. Derrick Rose had 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The pug-ugly Joakim Noah had a double-double: 11 points and 17 rebounds while Tyrus Thomas managed 12 points and eight rebounds.

It looked like Chicago was going to send it to a second overtime when the seas parted on an inbounds play and Brad Miller had a clear path to the basket. Luckily for Boston, Miller is incredibly slow and also Rondo managed to punch the side of his face.

After receiving treatment for a bleeding mouth, a wobbly Miller bricked the first free throw and then intentionally missed the second (although he didn't hit the rim). Game over. A cheap way to win but the Celts will take them any way they come in this intense series.

Boston shot 48.8% to 40.0% for the Bulls. Chicago made 11 more free throws (27-16) and had six more rebounds (50-44). The C's had six more assists (24-18).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Red Sox are playing some decent ball

Busy times in New England. The weather has been amazing lately and there's been plenty of actions in the arenas, fields and war-rooms of our favorite teams.

For the reasons just outlined, it has been overshadowed by the Celtics' mediocrity, the Bruins' dominance and the Patriots' 2009 draft class but last night at Progressive Field (no longer Jacobs Field?), the Sox (13-6) won their 11th game in a row.

Everyone's new favorite player Jason Bay provided all the offense in the 3-1 win as he bashed a three-run bomb off Indians (7-13) closer Kerry Wood in the ninth.

He had three of Boston's eight total hits. David Ortiz added two hits although he's still looking for his first homer of the season.

2008 Cy Young winner Cliff Lee pitched eight shutout innings, allowing just five hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

Tim Wakefield had his third straight outstanding start as he departed after seven scoreless innings. Manny Delcarmen (he of the 0.00 ERA) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win and Jonathan Papelbon was shaky in the ninth but recorded his fifth save of the season.

Mark DeRosa's RBI single in the ninth plate Shin-Soo Choo with the Indians' only run.

Boston looks to make it twelve in a row tonight as Brad Penny opposes Anthony Reyes.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jacoby Ellsbury will steal your heart

What better way to heal the fresh wounds provided by yesterday's Celtics loss than a weekend sweep of the Yankees?

The Red Sox (12-6) won their tenth in a row, 4-1 last night at Fenway and in the process won the third and final game of the three game set vs. New York (9-9).

Friday night featured Jason Bay's two-run tying homer off Mariano Rivera then Kevin Youkilis' walk-off shot in the 11th. Saturday was an 16-11 marathon victory. Last night was pretty dull for the most part except for one play in particular.

Jacoby Ellsbury (2 runs, hit, 2 stolen bases) deftly stole home plate in the fifth inning as Andy Pettitte (2-1) and Jorge Posada didn't notice/took too long to throw home and tag Ellsbury. That gave Boston a 3-1 lead that was given one last boost on the next pitch as J.D. Drew doubled home David Ortiz.

Brett Gardner gave the Yanks a 1-0 lead in the third with a sacrifice fly. Ortiz tied it with a sac. fly of his own in the third before giving Boston the lead with an RBI double in the three-run fifth.

Justin Masterson improved to 2-0 with one earned run in 5.1 innings. He gave up four hits, one walk and struck out four.

Last night served as a reminder why the Red Sox have become baseball's model franchise while the Yankees continue to falter in the new millennium, no matter how much money they spend.

Boston obviously spends a ton of dough too but they've developed a top-notch farm system. Home-grown talent like Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon, Masterson, Jon Lester, et. al have proven to be great Major League players.

New York gets the big names but they fail to produce at the same level that they used to or they disappear in October (see: A-Rod).

Since the bullpen was so taxed from the weekend, rookie Michael Bowden was called up. All he did was pitch a scoreless seventh and eighth after another rookie, Hunter Jones, got the last two outs in the sixth. Takashi Saito got the save since Papelbon had the night off.

The Yankees will get better whenever A-Rod returns but they still have the worst middle relievers in baseball. It's like they don't realize anything from past mistakes.

Boston hits the road for nine games, starting with three in Cleveland beginning tonight.

This is not fun

This is the roller coaster of life in the NBA playoffs without KG and Leon Powe. The Bulls won 121-118 in double overtime yesterday afternoon at the United Center in Game 4, evening the series at two games apiece.

At various points, this was a game Boston should have lost, then won and finally lost again. Ray Allen (28 points) hit another clutchtastic 3-pointer to tie it late in regulation and send the game to overtime. Up three late in the first overtime, Ben Gordon (22 points, 6 rebounds) broke free and tied it with a three of his own. The C's had a chance to win it when Rajon Rondo (25 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) had a jumper but it predictably missed and the Bulls simply made more shots to outlast Boston in the second OT.

Paul Pierce scored a game-high 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds but he had six turnovers. Kendrick Perkins was effective with 15 points and nine boards but he also committed six turnovers and fouled out in overtime, leaving Boston with few big available big men. Big Baby had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds but he shot 4-of-16 from the floor.

This game was about the Bulls' heart and refusal to lose. They're a young team that makes a lot of mistakes but with Gordon and Derrick Rose (23 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 7 turnovers), they almost always have a chance to win.

John Salmons scored 20 points for Chicago, Tyrus Thomas added 14 points and 10 rebounds while Joakim Noah notched 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Most importantly, Kirk Hinrich came off the bench to score 18 points and Brad Miller tossed in 12 points before fouling out. Boston does not have the depth or options that Chicago possesses.

Game 5 is tomorrow night at the Garden and Game 6 is Thursday back in the land of big shoulders. Any doubts this is going seven?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Get that weak shit outta here Chicago

Maybe the Bulls shot their load (too soon) in games 1 and 2? At least that's what Ron Jeremy and the porn-minded NBA fans will be thinking for the next few days after Boston embarrassed Chicago, 107-86 in Game 3 last night at the United Center.

The road win was big for the C's as it nullified their terrible performance in Game 1 and gave them back the homecourt advantage.

Paul Pierce stepped up after two sub-par (for him) performances. The Truth hit his first six shots of the night en-route to a game-high 24 points. Best of all, he only played 28 minutes in the blowout so he'll be fresh for Game 4 on Sunday.

Rajon Rondo continued to be the best player on the court as he submitted 20 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals. Ray Allen added 18 points and Big Baby Glen Davis had a fine all-around game: 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists, six steals and three blocks.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this contest was Stephon Marbury, who had his best game in a Celtics uniform. The head-tatooed one had 13 points, five assists and zero turnovers.

The Bulls looked like the team that went 41-41 in the regular season. Ben Gordon led the way with 15 points but he was nothing like the guy in Game 2. Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons both scored 14 points. After collecting the Rookie of the Year trophy, Derrick Rose was a non-factor for the second straight game. Rose had nine points and seven turnovers as the Celts have started to figure him out while Rondo is running circles around the entire team.

The vaunted Celtics defense (which led the NBA in opponents field goal percentage) held Chicago to 37.5% shooting while they made 48.1%. Boston made 12-of-21 3-pointers and the Bulls missed 10 free throws (17-of-27). Boston had nine more assists (23-14), 11 more steals (16-5) and six more blocks (10-4). In short, they looked like the polished, experienced veteran team while Chicago couldn't get out of its own way.

I would term Sunday a must-win for Chicago. If they go down 3-1 to Boston, it's over. End of story.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thanks for the memories Montreal

It's rare to see a playoff series that's over in two games but that much was clear in the Bruins-Canadiens first round series. Boston was a much better team and they lived up to their talent and smarts as they swept away the Habs with a 4-1 victory last night at the Bell Centre.

Who better to play a starring role in the sweep than former Montreal forward Michael Ryder? He led the Bruins with two goals and an assist last night (four goals and three assists in the series). David Krejci had a goal and assist, Phil Kessel added the other goal and Tim Thomas made 26 saves for his fourth straight playoff win.

This marked Boston's first playoff series win in 10 years, as they erased five straight losses in the first round (including three to Monreal).

It couldn't have been a better start for the Habs in game 4 as Andrei Kostitsyn scored 39 seconds into the game from Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev.

Didn't matter one bit. This isn't the Bruins of recent ilk. They don't get rattled, even in a playoff road game against a team facing elimination.

Ryder tied it up with 2:33 left in the first period as ancient defenseman Roman Hamrlik coughed up the puck right in front of his terrible goalie, Carey Price.

Even better, the B's grabbed a 2-1 lead with 35 seconds left as Ryder and Krejci worked a perfect give-and-go. Ryder stole the puck, drove to the net which drew Price (26 saves) then dished across the crease to Krejci, who had a wide open net.

For all intents and purposes, Kessel ended it as he scored on a breakaway after he came out of the penalty box. Patrice Bergeron hit him with an indirect pass off the side wall and Kessel skated in alone.

Finally, Ryder lit the lamp one last time from Krejci and Dennis Wideman.

This is a perfect scenario for Boston as they get as much time off as possible before their next series. The New York Rangers are actually up 3-1 on the Capitals. If the Rangers can finish off Washington, it would eliminate the biggest obstacle in the Eastern Conference for the Bruins.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

And thus ends one of the best days in recent memory

I'll be honest. After living at home for roughly two and a half years, there's been many times that I've been on the verge of losing my mind. I would like to move out before age 40 but a combination of low-paying jobs and a great situation with my parents makes it hard to leave the nest. Besides their support, one thing more than any other reason has kept me happy and sane for the past few years: the dominance of Boston sports teams.

I know when I'm old, I'll be telling my kids, grandkids and other random people at the bingo hall about this special time. It is ridiculous. And yesterday was a perfect example as the Sox swept the Orioles, the Bruins went up 3-0 on Montreal and the defending champion Celtics won a thrilling 118-115 game to even their series with the Bulls, 1-1.

It was an unbelievable game featuring some ridiculous individual performances: Ben Gordon scored a game-high 42 points for the Bulls. Rajon Rondo rolled his ankle and still had a triple-double: 19 points, 16 assists, 12 rebounds and five steals. Ray Allen came back from the dead (2 points in the first half after 4 points in Game 1) to finish with 30 points, including the two biggest hoops of the game (two 3-pointers; one with 20 seconds left that put Boston up 1 and then the clincher with two seconds left). Finally, Glen Davis looked like Kevin Garnett (haha, for one night) as he hit jumpers from all over the place, en route to a career-high 26 points and nine rebounds.

In such a wide-open, offensive game, Chicago had other notable stat lines. John Salmons added 17 points. Brad Miller had 16 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Joakim Noah notched 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks and Derrick Rose was held to 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Boston featured 18 points and eight boards from the Captain, Paul Pierce. The Bulls blocked a team-record 14 shots but Celts center Kendrick Perkins did a great job using his bulk inside over the slimmer, athletic Bulls. Perk had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Chicago made nine more free throws (26-17) but Boston owned the glass (50-36; including a 21-8 advantage on offensive boards).

These first two games have been classics so who knows what to expect as the series moves to Chicago starting Thursday night.

The Canadiens are a joke, end of story

I hate to generalize but in Canada, is there anything else to do besides hockey and other winter sports? Don't get me wrong, I have a creepy spot in my heart for the adorable Avril Lavigne and Pamela Anderson has a special part in my adolescent memories. Regardless, it's extremely gratifying to see the Boston Bruins embarrass Canada's favorite team.

The B's went into the Bell Centre last night and withstood everything the desperate Canadiens threw at them. Boston won game 3, 4-2 and look to end this series tomorrow night back at the Bell Centre.

Admittedly, Montreal came out flying in the first period, hitting every Bruin that touched the ice. They even grabbed their first lead of the first three games when Christopher Higgins took a snap shot that B's goalie Tim Thomas (23 saves) would probably like to have back.

Phil Kessel tied it up for the B's with 1:25 left in the first period when he tipped home Dennis Wideman's innocent shot.

Boston tough guy Shawn Thornton put his team up 2-1 after some fine work by his line and assists from Byron Bitz (playing for the suspended Milan Lucic) and Stephane Yelle.

After Glen Metropolit won a face-off, Habs defenseman Yannick Weber whipped another shot past Thomas that he would stop on most nights.

Michael Ryder provided the game-winner late in the second period as he (stop me if you've heard this) banged home a juicy rebound from Montreal goalie Carey Price (26 saves).

Chuck Kobasew clinched it with an empty-netter with 37 seconds left.

Expect more of the same in game 4 as the Canadiens will try anything possible to extend the series. Barring some crazy, the Bruins should wrap this up with a sweep, they're that much better and poised.

Sorry McNulty, the Orioles are still hopeless

The Patriots Day, morning/early afternoon Red Sox game at Fenway is a special tradition. Other than college, weddings and bachelor parties, when else do you have a legitimate excuse to drink in public before noon?

The Baltimore Orioles (6-7) played the role of punching bag to a T as the Birds lost 12-1 yesterday. The Sox (7-6) swept the four-game series and also won their fifth game in a row.

Starting for the injured Dice-K, Justin Masterson continued to prove why he's a much-less crazy but much-more talented Julian Tavarez. Starter, reliever, it doesn't matter. The guy can pitch.

Masterson got his first win of the season after lasting 5.1 innings. He gave up a run on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts. His plus sinker was supplemented with a 96 MPH fastball (that moved all over the plate).

Boston's offense teed off on O's starter Mark Hendrickson (3 runs) and stiff relievers Dennis Sarfate (3 runs) and Radhames Liz (6 runs), who was sent down after that woeful performance.

The Sox pounded out 15 hits and a season-high 12 runs. Dustin Pedroia led the way with four hits, three runs and three RBIs. Jacoby Ellsbury added three hits, three runs, an RBI and a stolen base. David Ortiz (double, triple, 2 RBIs), Mike Lowell (2 hits, 2 RBIs) and Jason Varitek (2 hits including a homer and 2 runs) were the other leaders on Marathon Monday.

The Minnesota Twins come to Fenway for two games beginning tonight, weather permitting.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Bruins laugh at your impotency

In a total reversal of last season's first round of the playoffs, the Boston Bruins are the much more skilled, deep team while the Montreal Canadiens are left scrambling to do anything in their power to disrupt the B's.

In game two last night at the Garden, Boston put forth a nearly flawless game en route to a 5-1 white-washing of the Canadiens.

Boston takes a 2-0 lead to Montreal tomorrow night, a virtual must-win for the Habs.

It is hilarious to watch the not-tough-at-all Canadiens skate around and try to goad the Bruins into pointless fights. The third period might as well have been skipped in game two since Boston led 5-1 after two periods and Montreal yanked its shaky young goalie Carey Price (who looks like Euro trash).

The Bruins scored three power-play goals and used 30 saves from Tim Thomas to easily skate away with the win. Marc Savard led the way with two goals and two assists.

9:59 into the contest, Savard connected on a power-play with help from Steve Montador and Phil Kessel.

Chuck Kobasew made it 2-0 a little over five minutes later with a goal off assists from Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron.

Montreal has one good line (its first one) and they fucked that up in game one by putting goon Georges Laraque on it with Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu. Genius. They're forced to play a Flyers-style, chippy game but you can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit as a wise man once said.

They simply can't match the Bruins depth and variety of scoring threats and Price (21 saves) can't keep them in the game by himself.

Kovalev scored his second of the series to open the second period. That was as close as the Canadiens would get as the Bruins put home three goals in less than 15 minutes.

Shane Hnidy, in the lineup after Matt Hunwick had his spleen removed, scored a rare goal from P.J. Axelsson and Savard. On a power-play, Savard fired home a nice wrister from in close on Price. Michael Ryder and Dennis Wideman assisted. Finally, Ryder put the icing on cake as he scored another power-play strike, with two seconds left in the second period. Savard and Thomas, who started the play with a long outlet pass, were credited with the assists.

The third period was all about fights. The biggest surprise of the night was when Patrice Bergeron threw down with Josh Gorges of the Canadiens. Bergeron had never received a fighting major in the NHL and his greenness showed as he puched Gorges in the throat. Still, you had to love the fire from the normally mild-mannered center.

Milan Lucic had also had enough of Montreal's bullshit as he cross-checked Maxim Lapierre in the face, a penalty which earned him a game-misconduct.

Hopefully a good amount of Bruins fans show up in Montreal tomorrow night as Boston tries to put away this woefully overmatched team.

Derrick Rose's pube moustache will kill us all

When the news came out on Thursday that Kevin Garnett would most likely be out for the playoffs, Celtics fans were understandably bummed. Boston delivered a title last season so we can't feel shortchanged but going into the postseason at less than full strength (in this case, much less) isn't any fun.

Still, who could have imagined the Chicago Bulls would come into the Garden yesterday for game one and beat the C's, 105-103 in overtime?

I think most assumed the Celts would get by the Bulls and possibly the Magic before ultimately falling to the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals, a noble feat. This was only one game but yikes. We could bow out in one round as the baby Bulls bear a striking resemblance to the Atlanta Hawks of last spring's playoffs (the one that pushed the Celtics to seven games).

Rookie point guard Derrick Rose was the story of the game as the 20-year old dropped a career-high 36 points, 11 assists and four rebounds before fouling out late in OT. Take nothing away from the kid (who has serious game) but as my friend said last night, it was a layup line for him virtually all day.

Garnett's defensive presence and energy were sorely missed as Boston struggled to find itself. Rajon Rondo (29 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) did everything he could and Paul Pierce added 23 points and seven rebounds. Scoring wasn't the problem for most of the C's as Glen Davis tossed in 18 points and Kendrick Perkins notched 14 points and eight rebounds. The most troubling thing for Boston besides the lack of D was the disappearance of the artist formerly known as Ray Allen.

After being non-existent in the first two rounds last spring, Allen found his stroke vs. the Pistons and Lakers, en route to the title. He had a better regular season this year so his struggles last year seemed to be a distant memory. Not yesterday. Allen was 1-of-12 from the floor and he finished with four points.

Even though they were outplayed most of the game, Boston had a chance to win at the end of regulation; Pierce tied it with a free throw but missed the second that would have put them up by one. Later, Allen got the last shot in OT that would have tied it. A good look no doubt, but did anyone in the building (other than Doc and maybe Ray) think Allen's jumper was going in? Didn't think so.

Ben Gordon looked like a younger, more potent Ray Allen as he hit some big shots, on his way to 20 points. Tyrus Thomas, who suddenly has a decent jumper, added 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks while clown-prince Joakim Noah had a double-double (11 points, 17 rebounds) and three blocks. Finally, John Salmons scored 12 points.

Both teams scored 28 points in the first quarter and Chicago outscored Boston 25-16 in the second quarter. A good sign for Boston is that they erased the deficit almost immediately in the third (28-18). The Bulls had a slight advantage in the fourth (26-25) and OT (8-6).

Did I mention Chicago earned this W? Look at the numbers: Chicago shot 42.7% to Boston's 39.4%. The Bulls grabbed eight more boards (53-45) and handed out four more assists (20-16).

Tomorrow night is basically a must-win for the C's. Chicago has already taken away the home-court advantage so needless to say, they can't go to the Chi down 0-2.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Nobody likes you Montreal, move along

It's the longest running playoff rivalry in sports: Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins. For that and many other reasons (namely the fact that they've knocked us out in the first round three out of the last four times we've made the playoffs), this is the perfect way to start what should be a long playoff run for the B's.

The Caps lost game 1 to the Rangers on Wednesday and San Jose was shutout by the Ducks last night so anything can happen in the second season.

Last night at the Boston Garden, the Bruins took game 1, 4-2. Phil Kessel led the way with two goals and assist while Zdeno Chara provided the game-winner in the third period with one of his patented blasts from the point.

The Canadiens simply own Boston in the playoffs, with a 24-8 series record. Boston hasn't gotten out of the first round since 1999 and it is 37 years and counting since the Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup. All of these facts and tidbits give writers plenty of material but none of it has any bearing on this year and this series.

For once, Boston has all the pieces: a great goaltending, four solid lines of scoring, probably the best defenseman in the league and a coach that is also at the top of his game.

Kessel and David Krejci gave the B's a quick 2-0 lead in the first period which sent an electric crowd into a frenzy. Kessel poked home a rebound (from Krejci and Chuck Kobasew) past Habs goalie Carey Price (38 saves). A minute and a half later, after some superb forechecking by Milan Lucic, Krejci scored after passes from Lucic and Michael Ryder.

Montreal hung around though as Chris Higgins scored from ex-Bruin Glen Metropolit and Alex Tanguay. It was 2-1 Boston after one period.

Alex Kovalev tied it late in the second period with a ridiculous one-timer that snuck into the top right corner, past B's goalie Tim Thomas (28 saves). Saku Koivu and Josh Gorges assisted.

Chara's power-play goal at 11:15 in the third came with assists to Kessel and Marc Savard. After not creating many decent scoring opportunities in the second and third, Boston finally cashed in a good chance.

Kessel iced it with an empty-netter with 14 seconds left, with Lucic providing the dish.

There was a scrum after that last goal and numerous other scraps during the game. Montreal clearly realized that the only chance they had to win was to goad the Bruins into dumb penalties and get them out of their style. The Canadiens put on a brave face afterwards and said they saw promise but if they lose tomorrow night in game 2, good night.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hey A's: "How do my knuckleballs taste?"

There is no point getting all worked up about a bad start in baseball because the season is so damn long. Still, the Red Sox's 2-6 start (topped off by Tuesday night's pathetic 12 inning loss to the A's) was troublesome (pours out 40 for 2PAC).

Boston needed a kick in the pants and it got it, for at least one day, as 97-year old Tim Wakefield flirted with a no-hitter yesterday afternoon in the series finale at McAfee Coliseum which the Sox (3-6) won 8-2.

Your favorite Hawaiian catcher Kurt Suzuki broke up the bid with one out in the eighth but the bottom line was that Wake went the distance on a day that the bullpen needed it most.

He gave up two earned runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. His record evened out at 1-1.

Mike Lowell gave Boston a 2-0 lead with a two-run homer in the second off Oakland (4-5) starter Brett Anderson (0-2).

The Sox really broke it open with six runs in the eighth inning. J.D. Drew had the biggest hit, a three-run bomb while Nick Green (two-run) and Jacoby Ellsbury added RBI singles.

The Sox get today off and come home to face the surprising Baltimore Orioles (6-3) this weekend in a four-game set at Fenway. Dice-K went on the DL with arm fatigue (yikes) and Jed Lowrie is also on the DL (wrist).

Friday, April 10, 2009

If you think the Rays were a fluke, you're an idiot (that probably calls WEEI every day)

Well what do you know, the Tampa Bay Rays took two of three in the season opening series at Fenway.

Yesterday afternoon, the Rays (2-1) won 4-3 behind three home runs and the strong pitching of Matt Garza (1-0).

The bat-shit crazy but extremely talented righty baffled the Sox (1-2) for seven innings: one run on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

On the other side, the mystery, wrapped inside an enigma, wrapped inside a Fenway Frank that is Daisuke Matsuzaka got his 2009 campaign off to a mediocre start.

Like most Americans, I could care less that the Dice man was the World Baseball Classic MVP for the second time in a row, just a few weeks ago. As much as ESPN will try to convince me otherwise, that competition means nothing. This is Matsuzaka's third season in MLB and I feel like I already know what to expect from him: a high-wire act that's usually successful but ultimately underwhelming long-term.

Dice-K (0-1) lasted 5.1 innings, giving up four runs on nine hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

Matt Joyce hit a solo homer in the second for Tampa Bay. Evan Longoria (3 hits)-who is easily one of the top young players in baseball-blasted a two-run bomb in the third and finally, backup catcher Shawn Riggens hit a solo shot in the fourth.

Once Matsuzaka exited, the Sox bullpen actually did a nice job keeping their team in the game while the bats slightly woke up.

Jason Bay's RBI triple knocked in Kevin Youkilis (3 hits, 2 runs) to make it 4-1 in the sixth.

Mike Lowell doubled home Youk in the eighth to cut the lead to two (4-2).

Without question, the Rays' biggest weakness is at closer where fossilized relic Troy Percival still gets the call (for the next few weeks at least before he breaks a hip or throws out his back). Jason Varitek took him deep in the ninth and David Ortiz walked but Youk flew out to deep center to end it.

The Sox travel to Anaheim to face the Angels in a three game set. No clue what to expect from a team that was just struck by tragedy. Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver on Wednesday night after starting for the team. Their game yesterday against the A's was cancelled.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Season's over: Sox lose a game

As quickly as the bandwagon fans and brain-dead media get hyped after a relatively easy opening day win, it takes roughly the same amount of time to get down as the Red Sox came back to earth last night with a 7-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway.

In a duel of great lefties, Tampa's Scott Kazmir (1-0) came out on top of Boston's Jon Lester (0-1). Kazmir went six innings, allowing one run on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Lester was gone after five innings of work. He gave up five runs on eight hits, with two walks and five strikeouts.

Lester is thought to be a top contender for the AL Cy Young this season so seeing him start out really well (all five strikeouts in the first two innings) then completely unravel was surprising to say the least.

The Rays pushed across their first run in the third on a throwing error by Kevin Youkilis.

He atoned for that mistake with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning which scored Dustin Pedroia. Youk finished with three hits, the only bright spot in a Sox lineup that struck out eight times and left nine on base.

Tampa Bay (1-1) showed it can play any style of baseball in the fifth inning. First, Jason Bartlett (three hits) executed a perfect safety squeeze, which scored former Sox player/minor league manager/bodybuilder Gabe Kapler. Lester got Evan Longoria to ground into a double play but a run still scored.

The most damaging play of the game was later in the fifth when Carlos Pena hit a two-run bomb to center, giving Tampa a commanding 5-1 lead.

Longoria hit a solo shot in the eighth off Takashi Saito (making his Red Sox debut) and Boston responded with one in their half of the inning when Jason Bay doubled home David Ortiz.

Carl Crawford's infield single in the ninth accounted for the last run of the game.

The series wraps up this afternoon with a day game pitting Matt Garza against Dice-K.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

All is right in the world on Opening Day

The economy is a nightmare and the weather around here is typical New England early spring misery but all that can be overlooked for a few hours when the Boston Red Sox are playing games that matter.

A day later than expected, due to a rainout, the Sox (1-0) opened up the 2009 season with a textbook 5-3 win over the defending AL Champions, your Tampa Bay Rays (0-1).

Josh Beckett (1-0) was the biggest star yesterday as he looked like the lights out Beckett of 2007. He went seven innings, allowing just one run on two hits with three walks and 10 strikeouts.

James Shields (0-1) was not nearly as stellar for the Rays. He lasted only five innings, giving up five runs on nine hits with three walks and two strikeouts.

The hype going into this season is that the Red Sox have one of if not the top pitching staff in baseball. A top three of Beckett, Jon Lester and Dice-K is pretty hard to argue with.

Conversely, the Sox lineup is much more of a question mark as players like Jacoby Ellsbury have to take the next step in their progression while automatic outs like Jed Lowrie and Jason Varitek have to improve, however slightly.

2008 American League MVP Dustin Pedroia is a sure thing and he exemplified that by hitting a homer over the Monster in his first at bat of the season.

Carl Crawford's sacrifice fly in the third tied it but Boston scored three in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good.

J.D. Drew grounded out for an RBI, Jason Bay had an RBI single and Mike Lowell (back from hip surgery) capped it off with an RBI double.

The most surprising part of the came occurred in the sixth when Varitek wrapped a home run around Pesky's Pole in right. For one day, the Captain didn't look like a zombie at the plate.

Evan Longoria hit a two-run single in the eighth off Justin Masterson (allowing Hideki Okajima's two runners he left on) to score but Jonathan Papelbon came on for a 1-2-3 save in the ninth.

Scott Kazmir takes on Lester tonight.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Somewhere the Dropkick Murphys are writing a terrible song that will make millions

For the first time in 16 seasons, your Boston Bruins hit the 50-win plateau last night at the Garden with a 2-1 triumph over the playing-for-pride Ottawa Senators.

It's the eighth time in franchise history that they've reached that mark and the 110 points represent the team's highest total since the '82-'83 season.

Not bad for a team that was treading water for a few months. They're currently 7-1-1 in their last nine games, winners of five straight. With one more win (or two more points), the B's will clinch the Eastern Conference's top-seed and all the home ice glory that entails. There's an outside chance that they could also still have the best record in the league.

Do you think anyone in the world (not currently employed by the Bruins, including bat-shit crazy NESN announcer Jack Edwards) would have picked this team to have such an amazing season this year? No and that's what makes this so sweet. Obviously, if they choke and lose in the first round of the playoffs, people (myself included) will be lining up to jump off the Tobin Bridge. But for now, NHL hockey is important once again in the Hub.

Daniel Alfredsson (from Jason Spezza, Chris Campoli) gave Ottawa (33-34-10) the 1-0 lead in the first period.

The Bruins (50-17-10) led by the red-hot Milan Lucic bounced back in the second when Looch (17th) scored off assists from Michael Ryder and David Krejci.

In the third period, Marc Savard (24th) notched the game-winner after a steal and dish by P.J. Axelsson.

Boston goaltender Tim Thomas made 31 saves and his impressive record climbed to 33-11-7.

The Rangers come to the Garden tomorrow afternoon in what could be a first round preview. New York is sliding and they currently sit in the eighth spot, just ahead of Florida and behind Montreal.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tommy Points all around: Celts pull out gutty double OT win vs. Charlotte

With the bad news the other day that Kevin Garnett will be out at least until April 12 against the Cavaliers (and most likely until the playoffs), the Boston Celtics circled the wagons and put in some serious work last night, beating the Bobcats 111-109 in double overtime at the Garden.

It was a game the C's (57-19) had to have as they try to get the No. 2 spot in the East while on the other side, it was a crushing loss for the Bobcats (34-41) as they try to slide into the eighth seed and the franchise's first playoff spot.

It was a game that Charlotte choked away as they led by as much as 12 points in the fourth quarter before Boston staged a nice comeback.

Rajon Rondo (21 points, 9 assists, 4 steals, 4 rebounds) even had a chance to win it as Celtics coach Doc Rivers drew up a nice inbounds play at the end of the game: Paul Pierce (32 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) passed to Rondo, Rondo gave it back to Pierce and then he handed it off to Rondo who had an open lane to the hoop. His runner was too strong and rimmed out.

Ray Allen (22 points) was the hero of the overtimes as he hit a tying 3-pointer in the second overtime and the game-winner with 2.1 seconds left (putting the Celts up by two points). On the latter shot, Pierce drove and drew multiple defenders before kicking to Ray in the corner.

Eddie House (18 points) also had a great game off the bench in the win.

Charlotte saw seven players score in double figures, led by the always underrated Gerald Wallace (20 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals). Boris Diaw (17 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds), Raymond Felton (14 points, 12 assists) and Emeka Okafor (12 points, 10 rebounds) were all good. Raja Bell added 12 points while D.J. Augustin (14 points) and Vladimir Radmonovic (10 points) were solid off the bench.

The Celts host Atlanta tomorrow night.