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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Sox are morphing into a very likable team

Remember when the Tampa Bay Rays looked unbeatable in April and May and the Red Sox looked like a third-place team that was going nowhere?

It's funny how much can change in the grind of a MLB season, I'm just glad that I didn't put money on the Rays to win the World Series (in Vegas) since they look like a talented team that's coming apart at the seams for whatever reason.

In the first game of a short two-game set, the Sox (47-31) beat the Rays (44-32) 8-5 last night at Fenway Park behind one of John Lackey's best starts and some pop from David Ortiz (3-run homer) and Bill Hall (2-run homer).

Lackey (9-3) has amassed a nice record but he's mostly been the beneficiary of some fine run support. Last night, he was the innings eating horse he was touted as. He went seven innings, allowing one earned run on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

This one was a laugher (8-1) that got serious as Tampa Bay scored two in the eighth and two in the ninth. This ensured that Daniel Bard (1 out) and Jonathan Papelbon (1 out, 18th save) had to be roused from the bullpen but they threw six and five pitches respectively so they'll be available tonight.

James Shields (6-8) was matching Lackey for the first few innings but he ran into trouble in the fifth when he gave up the three-run bomb to Big Papi.

Jason Varitek added an RBI single in the sixth and Daniel Nava reached on an infield single with a run scoring and Shields' night was over. He lasted five innings, allowing five earned runs on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

Evan Longoria got the Rays on the board in the seventh with an RBI single but Varitek (sacrifice fly) and Hall (two-run homer) increased the Sox lead to 8-1 in the bottom of the seventh.

Willy Aybar hit a two-run homer in the eighth and Ben Zobrist added an RBI single in the ninth. Carl Crawford had four hits in the loss for Tampa Bay.

Adrian Beltre was 4-for-4 with two runs scored in the win.

Dice-K takes on Matt Garza tonight as the Sox tries to sweep the Rays.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Crippled Sox close out 2010 interleague play with 13-5 record

After beating Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum and doing everything but grab a win vs. Ubaldo Jimenez, the 2010 interleague season for the Boston Red Sox was a complete success as they wrapped up their domination over the NL with a 5-1 win over the Giants yesterday afternoon at AT&T Park.

As they usually do in baseball, the expected pitcher's duel between Lincecum and Jon Lester never panned out. We'll have to see if it's because of an injury or maybe just a severe case of the munchies but Lincecum (8-3) was off in his meager three innings of work. He gave up four earned runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

Conversely, Lester (9-3) put up a good case for why he just might be the best starting pitcher in baseball. He threw a complete game, giving up one earned run on five hits with a walk and nine strikeouts.

It's hard to believe how well the Sox are playing given their absurd rash of injuries: on top of Josh Becket and Jacoby Ellsbury missing most of the season, in San Francisco this weekend, Dustin Pedroia broke his foot (Friday), Clay Buchholz pulled his hamstring running the bases (Saturday) and yesterday Victor Martinez broke his thumb.

Pedroia is going to be out for at least a month you'd have to assume. That's a fatal blow for the Sox since he's the heart and soul of the team. Buchholz should be fine and who knows if Martinez will go on the DL or try to play through his injury.

In the top of the first, David Ortiz continued his resurgence with a solo homer (16th) into the water in right, the 53rd splashdown in AT&T Park history.

Aubrey Huff tied it up in the bottom of the first with an RBI groundout but that's all the offensively challenged Giants would get. With their pitching, imagine if they had any type of lineup?

With the bases loaded and one out in the second, Lester gave it a ride (would have been well gone at Fenway) but he had to settle for a long sacrifice fly. Marco Scutaro (2 hits) added an RBI single in the inning.

Bill Hall (2 hits) had an RBI single in the third and finally Adrian Beltre notched a solo homer (his 12th) in the ninth.

The Sox came home last night and gratefully had today off. They have two against the reeling Rays at Fenway and then some more AL East matchups (vs. Toronto and Baltimore) before the All-Star break in two weeks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Laser show bro, relax!

It's official: laser show, relax has jumped the shark since Don Orsillo said it twice last night but who cares?

Dustin Pedroia had a career night, going 5-for-5 with three home runs, five RBIs and four runs. The Sox (44-30) needed all of it as Jonathan Papelbon blew another save for the second night in a row.

Boston held on for a 13-11 win in 10 innings, salvaging a game at Coors Field after losing the first two to the Rockies (38-24).

It figures that one of the wackiest games of the season would be started by Dice-K. Matsuzaka only went five innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits with four walks and six strikeouts.

Brad Hawpe (4 RBIs) got things rolling for the Rockies with a two-run single in the first but like most Dice-K starts, he settled down after a shaky first inning.

In fact, Boston jumped ahead with four runs in the fourth. Pedroia had his first laser (solo style), Mike Cameron added a two-run double and Dice-K hit an RBI single off Rockies starter Jason Hammel (4 innings, 4 runs, 7 hits), who had come in on fire.

Adrian Beltre (3 hits, 3 RBIs, 3 runs), who has been unbelievable so far in his Red Sox career, continued the hit parade with a two-run homer in the fifth.

The Rockies started to beatdown the Red Sox bullpen with four runs in the sixth inning leading to a 8-6 advantage.

In the seventh, Beltre cut it to 8-7 with an RBI single and then Jason Varitek put his team ahead with a two-run double.

Pedroia's second bomb (a two-run shot) in the eighth made it 11-8 and it looked like things were wrapping up nicely.

However, Jason Giambi (Wednesday night's hero) came through once again as a pinch hitter, this time in the eighth with an RBI single. That set the stage for Hawpe's two-run single off Papelbon in the ninth.

Pedroia is the hottest hitter in baseball at the moment and he closed out his memorable night with a two-run homer in the 10th off Huston Street.

Papelbon (3-4) was put back out there in the 10th but he got three outs and ended this bonkers game.

The Sox end interleague play this weekend in San Francisco. Tim Wakefield takes the ball tonight against the underrated Jonathan Sanchez.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jimenez has worst start of season but Rockies win on Giambi's walkoff HR

After losing 2-1 to the Rockies in the series opener on Tuesday night (the first meeting since the 2007 World Series), the Sox (43-30) looked poised to pick up a big win last night at Coors Field as they knocked around ace Ubaldo Jimenez for a season-high six earned runs.

A 6-5 lead in the ninth inning wasn't enough as closer Jonathan Papelbon (2-4) gave up a solo home run to tie it then a two-run walkoff homer by Jason Giambi aka the Giambino.

The Rockies (38-33) are a decent team but this was a bitter loss given the lack of his A stuff from Jimenez. He gave up six earned runs on 10 hits in 5.2 innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.

Once again, John Lackey was not good but he hung around. In 6.2 innings, he allowed five earned runs on 10 hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

Colorado led 4-0 after three on Miguel Olivo's two-run homer in the second, Brad Hawpe's groundout in the third and Seth Smith's sacrifice fly.

Rookie sensation Daniel Nava cut that lead in half for the Sox with a two-run double in the fourth.

Jimenez helped his own cause with an RBI single in the fourth (Lackey also had two hits off Jimenez after being 1 for 31 in his career) to make it 5-2.

The Sox went ahead with four runs in the sixth inning on Nava's RBI double, Darnell McDonald's two-run homer and Scutaro's RBI single.

Victor Martinez had three hits in the loss and survived a scary collision at the plate where his arm got bent back at tried to prevent a run.

Dice-K opposes Jason Hammel tonight as Boston looks to avoid the sweep before taking off for San Francisco.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Celts lose Game 7 of NBA Finals, 83-79 to Lakers

If I told you that the Celtics held the Lakers to 32.5% shooting as a team and Kobe Bryant shot 6-of-24 from the floor in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, you would think Banner 18 is being fitted for the rafters as we speak right?

It wasn't a classic game, especially given the outcome, but in the most hotly-contested game of the series, the Lakers found a way to get it done and came away with the franchise's 16th championship.

Off the top of my head, I can't remember being as proud of a team in defeat. Not to get all Little League parent on you but the Celtics completely maxed out for the last two months in the playoffs and they nearly won another title because of it. There's absolutely no shame in the way they lost even though they went back to LA up 3-2.

I'd love to see the Big Four get one more season to try to win a title with a few key free agent pickups but who knows what'll happen next season? Doc Rivers seems to be out the door, Rasheed Wallace will probably retire and Ray Allen is a free agent. Other than that, it should be a pretty quiet off-season.

Kobe was named Finals MVP (for the second time) but offensively he was awful tonight: he had 23 points but more impressively he had 15 rebounds. Therein lies how the Lakers won a game in which their offense was completely locked down. LA owned the glass, to the tune of a a 53-40 overall rebounding edge (23-8 in offensive boards).

Pau Gasol was a strong second banana with 19 points and 18 rebounds while the ultimate wild card, Ron Artest came through in the biggest game of his life with 20 points and five steals.

With Kendrick Perkins out with a knee injury, Sheed started (11 points, 8 rebounds) and all five Celtics starters were in double figures: Paul Pierce had 18 points, 10 rebounds, KG scored 17 points and blocked four shots, Rajon Rondo nearly had another triple-double with 14 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds while Ray Allen added 13 points but struggled all night with his shot going 3-for-14. Ray gets a pass though since he was the one shutting down Kobe.

The C's were up 23-14 after the first quarter and 40-34 at the half. The Lakers tied it up early in the third quarter like you knew they would but the Celts rallied to go back up by nine and as much as 13. Boston led 57-53 going into the fourth but they couldn't hang on.

Only one bench guy from either team really played and subsequently did anything: Big Baby had six points and nine rebounds while Lamar Odom had seven points and seven rebounds.

The Celtics shot 40.8% from the floor but the Lakers took 20 more free throws and made 10 more of them. It's not worth arguing about that though since the rebound numbers tell you all you need to know, the Lakers earned those trips to the line by going hard inside. Boston had seven more assists (18-11) and four more blocks (7-3).

All I can think is that I feel like one of the players, I'm physically and mentally drained and I couldn't be happier to be getting out of dodge this weekend and going to my cousin's wedding in Upstate NY aka the end of the Earth. It will take plenty more time to fully digest this loss.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

McCain is not happy: Diamondbacks lose their 12th straight road game

There is still one more day before people start paying attention to the Red Sox, or maybe a few more weeks if you count the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but they're playing well at the moment.

Boston (39-28) beat Arizona (26-40) 6-2 last night at Fenway, handing the Diamondbacks their franchise record 12th straight loss.

Jon Lester (8-2) won his eight consecutive start. Since losing his first two games of the season, he's 8-0 with a 2.01 ERA. He went seven innings, giving up two earned runs on four hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.

Dustin Pedroia (2 runs, 2 hits, steal) has been heating up and he continued to swing the bat well, notching a two-run homer in the first which scored Marco Scutaro (2 hits).

Justin Upton (2 hits) tied it up with a two-run bomb of his own in the second inning but you knew it wouldn't hold with Rodrigo Lopez (2-6) on the mound for Arizona.

He went seven innings but gave up six earned runs on 10 hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

J.D. Drew had an RBI double in the third (scoring Pedroia) and the next batter, Adrian Beltre (2 hits), drove in David Ortiz with an infield single.

Finally, Kevin Youkilis crushed a two-run homer in the seventh off Lopez which scored Ortiz.

Daniel Bard pitched a scoreless eighth and Ramon Ramirez started the ninth with the 6-2 lead. He got two outs but after throwing only 10 of 19 pitches for strikes, he allowed a hit and walk which made Jonathan Papelbon come in for one out.

Paps got the out and his 15th save.

Boston goes for the sweep with John Lackey taking on ace Dan Haren, an hour earlier (6:10 start to accommodate the NBA Finals). Haren has a 7-4 record and 4.61 ERA so he hasn't been up to his usual level but he can always spin a gem.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lakers stomp Celtics, force Game 7

Conventional wisdom was that the Lakers would win Game 6 back at the Staples Center and make the 2010 NBA Finals go the full seven games like David Stern and his lackeys want.

Still, nobody could have expected the complete no show from the Celtics as they scored the second lowest total in Finals history in a 89-67 loss.

Making matters worse, Boston center Kendrick Perkins left early with what looked like a fairly serious knee injury. He's getting an MRI today but even if he suits up for tomorrow night, he'll be no better than Andrew Bynum (2 points, 4 rebounds in 16 minutes).

Kobe Bryant led the way with 26 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Pau Gasol almost had a triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. Even Ron Artest was hitting 3-pointers (two) on his way to 15 points and six rebounds.

It didn't take long to realize this wasn't the Celtics' night. Between Artest hitting shots for once, Gasol running a fastbreak and finishing it and scrubs like Jordan Farmer, Sasha Vujacic (8 points) and Lamar Odom (8 points, 10 rebounds) making plays, well it wasn't meant to be.

Ray Allen was the only Celtic on offensively, he had 19 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Paul Pierce had 13 points, Kevin Garnett scored 12 and Rajon Rondo had 10.

LA was up 28-18 after the first quarter and 51-31 at the half, game over.

Game 7 is great for the NBA since this highly watched series will get one more monster rating. I honestly don't know what to expect; it should be close either way, hopefully the C's have one more good game left in them.

Wonder who Big Schill is rooting for?

With the Celtics and Lakers playing Game 7 on Thursday, it's guaranteed that nobody outside of Pink Hats and old people will pay attention to the Red Sox for at least two more days.

Boston (38-28) started off a three-game interleague series last night at Fenway with the Diamondbacks (26-39) and won 6-3 behind Clay Buchholz's (9-4) eight strikeouts.

Buchholz wasn't economical with his pitches, throwing 113 in 5.2 innings but he was mostly effective. He gave up three earned runs on seven hits with a walk.

Former Sox great Adam LaRoche gave Arizona the early 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI single which scored Stephen Drew (J.D.'s brother).

The Red Sox answered with two in the first on David Ortiz's two-run shot to right center. Dustin Pedroia (3 runs, 2 hits) had an RBI double in the third which scored Mike Cameron, Daniel Nava scored on Ian Kennedy's wild pitch and Pedroia came around on Victor Martinez's infield single.

Justin Upton cut it to 5-3 in the fourth with a two-run double but that's as close as the Diamondbacks would get. Kevin Youkilis added an RBI double in the fifth for Boston and some fine bullpen work drew the curtains on the game.

Kennedy (3-4) was knocked around for six earned runs on nine hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out six.

Hideki Okajima (2 outs), Manny Delcarmen (2 outs), Daniel Bard (1 inning) and Jonathan Papelbon (1 inning) only gave up one hit combined, no walks and two strikeouts. Papelbon got a 1-2-3 ninth for his 14th save.

Jon Lester faces former Oriole Rodrigo Lopez tonight.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Celts withstand Kobe's 38 points, one win away from Banner 18

Throughout the 2008 NBA Finals and now the 2010 Finals, everyone has always waited with baited breath saying "well Kobe is going to go off in one of these games."

Last time I checked 38 points is a huge game but still the Celtics were able to pull off their second straight must-win, this time in Game 5 last night at the Garden, 92-86.

Boston takes a 3-2 lead back to the West Coast where they can close out the Lakers either tomorrow night in Game 6 or (fingers crossed) Thursday in Game 7.

It was a classic Kobe game-from one of the years the Lakers didn't win a title. He made ridiculous shots and was 13-of-27 from the floor but he had as many assists (4) as turnovers with five rebounds.

The only other Laker to score in double figures was Pau Gasol (12 points, 12 rebounds) but he's not nearly the threat he was early in the series with Andrew Bynum (6 points, 1 rebound) working on one leg.

After two stinkers in a row, Paul Pierce (the MVP of the 2008 Finals) was on with 27 points. The difference for the C's was it wasn't all about him. Kevin Garnett (18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals) and Rajon Rondo (18 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds) were great. Ray Allen added 12 points.

This series is not over by any means, especially since the Lakers will host the next two games (if necessary) and you know the NBA wants this going seven.

Boston led 22-20 after the first quarter and 45-39 at the half. Even with Kobe dropping 19 in the third quarter, the C's outscored LA 28-26. The Lakers won the fourth 21-19 but it wasn't enough.

It's probably my bias but it seemed like the Celts made all the winning, hustle plays. None better than the inbounds from KG to Pierce who found Rondo for a ridiculous layup.

For the game Boston shot 56.3% to LA's 39.7%. Los Angeles made four 3-pointers and eight more free throws (17-9). Just like in Game 4, the Celtics had way more assists (21-12), 11 more fastbreak points (14-3) and 14 more points in the paint (46-32).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Oh right, our bench is better too

Another thing that the national media completely overlooked or ignored when forecasting the 2010 NBA Finals, was the fact that the Celtics' bench is about 10 times better than the Lakers.

Game 4, the biggest game of Boston's season, was all you needed to see for that to be proven for once and for all.

Glen Davis scored 18 points and Nate Robinson had 12 points off the bench as the energetic duo sparked Boston's bench (36-18) which doubled LA's output. The Celts won 96-89 in a game it had to win at the TD Garden.

Game 5 is Sunday night at the TD Garden, the final one there in the series.

Kobe Bryant had a game-high 33 points and six rebounds (with six 3-pointers) but seven turnovers proved how much he tried to take over single-handedly (sound familiar?) but couldn't do it against Boston's great team defense.

Pau Gasol added 21 points but without a healthy Andrew Bynum (2 points in 12 minutes), the Lakers are in Kenny Smith's words "the 2008 Lakers." And we all remember how that one ended.

Four of the five Celtics starters scored in double figures: Paul Pierce finally got untracked with 19 points with six rebounds and five assists, Kevin Garnett had 13 points, Ray Allen scored 12 and Rajon Rondo was held to 10 points.

Lamar Odom, off the bench, was the only other Laker in double figures with 10 points and seven rebounds. I like our chances if he gets even more minutes, him and Ron Artest (9 points, 7 rebounds) are completely useless.

Boston was up 19-16 after the first quarter but Los Angeles recovered to go up 45-42 at the half despite Garnett's buzzer beating jumper.

Again, the C's eeked out the third quarter (18-17) but the fourth, thanks to their bench, was one of the best of the first four games (36-27).

Its hard to quantify hustle sometimes but not in Game 4. LA made four more 3-pointers (7-3) but the Celts had eight more offensive rebounds (16-8) and rebounds (41-34). Boston also had more assists (15-13) and steals (12-6). Finally, they had 13 more fastbreak points (15-2) and twenty more points in the paint (54-34).

The teams know they're going back to the Staples Center for Game 6 but Boston needs to win Game 5 regardless. They can definitely win one more in LA but two more, down 3-2, would be a very tough task.

Sox choke away game in Cleveland

Up 5-0 and with Jon Lester on the mound, the Red Sox were in perfect position to take three out of four in Cleveland.

For some reason, Lester didn't have it (6 innings, 6 earned runs, 9 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts) and the Indians (23-36) won 8-7 on a walk-off two-run single by Russell Branyan.

Boston (35-27) had gone up 7-6 in the top of the ninth when Adrian Beltre (2 hits) crushed a two-run homer off Indians closer Kerry Wood. Yes, he's still alive, barely. J.D. Drew was hit by a pitch and he scored on the bomb to left center, Beltre's eighth homer of the season.

The Sox scored four runs in the first, on a Dustin Pedroia (2 hits) RBI single, Victor Martinez's sacrifice fly and two runs scored on a Andy Marte error. The former Sox prospect had three errors in the inning, tying a MLB record.

Martinez's RBI double in the second, which scored Marco Scutaro (2 hits, 2 runs), made it 5-0 and it looked like it would be a happy late-night flight back home for the Red Sox.

The Indians scored three in the third on Trevor Crowe's RBI double, Shin-Soo Choo's (2 hits) sacrifice fly and Austin Kearns' RBI single.

Cleveland went ahead for the first time with three more runs in the sixth on Marte's RBI single and a two-run single by Lou Marson.

With Jonathan Papelbon unavailable for one more day (on the bereavement list), closer in waiting Daniel Bard proved that he's not quite ready for primetime. He loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth before striking out one and getting a popout before Branyan came through with the bloop single to right just over Pedroia's glove.

Interleague play starts back up this weekend with the Philadelphia Phillies invading Fenway Park for three games. The Sox won two of three at Citizen's Bank Park a few weeks back.

Jamie Moyer, a former Sox pitcher, takes on John Lackey tonight.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Old friend completely shuts down Sox

If the Sox are going to lose, and in such one-sided fashion, it might as well be to a former teammate.

Justin Masterson was the main part of the trade to get Victor Martinez last summer and nobody can second-guess that lopsided deal. Still, Masterson was a likable young guy that was just started to find his way in the major leagues (see: 2007 playoffs).

Going to the wasteland that is the Cleveland Indians, he has not surprisingly fallen by the wayside and seen his career go off the tracks.

For one night, all that was forgotten as he pitched the best game of his career: a two-hit shutout, his first in MLB.

Cleveland (22-36) won 11-0 last night at Progressive Field as Masterson outdueled Clay Buchholz and the Indians tacked on eight runs in the eighth off Boof Bonser and Joe Nelson who would never be confused with Ramiro Mendoz and Mariano Rivera in their prime.

Buchholz (8-4) pitched decently: seven innings, three earned runs, three hits, four walks, one strikeout.

Boston (35-26) didn't have an answer for Masterson (2-5): two walks and six strikeouts.

The Indians got the three off Buchholz with a sacrifice fly by Jhonny Peralta in the first, a run that scored on a double play ball in the third and Peralta scored on a wild pitch in the fourth.

The shit truly hit the fan in the eighth as Bonser (4 earned runs, 2 hits, 2 walks) was miserable in his return to the big leagues. Nelson wasn't any better (1 inning, 4 earned runs, 5 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout) and he gave up a grand slam to Travis Hafner.

Order should be restored to the universe tonight as Jon Lester opposes Mitch Talbot, another talented lefty.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

KG returns from the dead but Derek Fisher says not so fast Big Ticket

It might have been the fact that I was watching it late at night on DVR by myself (since I went to a concert last night) and already knew the final outcome but Game 3 of the 2010 NBA Finals was even stranger than Game 1.

Kevin Garnett played out of his mind with 25 points and six rebounds but it wasn't enough as the Lakers won 91-84 behind Kobe Bryant's 29 points (10-for-29 shooting) and seven rebounds while Derek Fisher was the real closer with 16 points.

Los Angeles took back the homecourt advantage and leads 2-1 with Game 4 tomorrow night at the TD Garden.

Boston came out on fire and led 12-5 as the home crowd was going crazy but it was fool's gold as the Lakers led by 17 in the second quarter and controlled the rest of the game, even though the C's whittled it down to one point or two points numerous times in the fourth quarter.

After setting an NBA Finals record with eight 3-pointers in Game 2, Ray Allen looked completely lost, shooting 0-for-13 overall and finishing with two points on two free throws.

Joining him on the milk carton were Paul Pierce (15 points) and Rajon Rondo (11 points, 8 assists), who had decent numbers but didn't leave their imprint on the game by any means.

Other than KG's resurgence, Glen Davis (12 points) and Kendrick Perkins (11 rebounds) were the only other Celtics that stepped up in the pivotal game.

LA's twin towers of llama Pau Gasol (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Tracy Morgan's half-brother Andrew Bynum (9 points, 10 rebounds) weren't nearly as effective as they had been in their dominant Game 2 performance.

The Lakers were up 26-17 after the first quarter and 52-40 at halftime. Boston recovered with a 21-15 third but thanks to Fisher's clutch plays, including an And-1 where he got hammered by three Celtics, LA won the fourth 24-23.

Los Angeles made five more free throws (21-16) and once again they owned the glass (43-35) but the Celtics had seven more assists (20-13).

Game 4 is a must-win and the most important game of Boston's season. These teams are so even that it seems like it'll go seven games either way but the Celts can't go down 3-1 and hope to win three straight including two at the Staples Center.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Allen and Rondo too much for Lakers

The Boston Celtics got the job done in LA by getting the split, winning Game 2 of the NBA Finals last night 103-94 at the Staples Center.

On the outside, the Celtics were a two-man team: Ray Allen set a Finals record with eight 3-pointers (32 points) and Rajon Rondo added a triple-double 19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists for his fifth career triple-double in the playoffs.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were completely shutdown offensively, shooting a combined 4-for-16 but both made numerous other contributions: screens, defense, passing, free throws.

Kendrick Perkins had 12 points and Boston's bench outscored LA's 24-15. Glen Davis had eight points and seven rebounds, Rasheed Wallace had seven points and seven rebounds while Nate Robinson notched a quick seven points in six minutes.

The Lakers size was out in full force as they set a Finals record with 14 points while Andrew Bynum (21 points, 7 blocks, 6 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (25 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks) were both unstoppable.

Kobe Bryant wasn't his usual clutch self, dropping only 21 points on 8-for-20 shooting.

Despite tons of foul trouble on both sides, this was a scintillating game with great plays and runs. Boston closed with an 11-0 run, fueled by Rondo who seemingly did everything.

The Celts came out strong, winning the first quarter 29-22 and 54-48 at the half. It only took a few minutes into the second half for the Lakers to take the lead back (24-18 third quarter) but Boston closed the fourth (31-22) in style.

With Games 3-5 in Boston, all the C's needed was one game in LA. They seemed to quickly forget their no-show in Game 1 and it doesn't matter now. If they can get two at the TD Garden, chances are great they'll get banner 18.

Thanks to Ray, Boston made six more 3-pointers (11-5) while LA had 11 more free throws (31-20). The Celtics had five more rebounds (44-39) and most importantly 10 more assists (28-18). They also had 10 more points in the paint (36-26).

Boston is deeper, plays better defense and they have more late-game options than the Lakers.

Game 3 is tomorrow night.

Sox take pity on Orioles, lay down in extra innings

For the second series in a row, the Red Sox (33-25) had the chance to sweep but they couldn't do it.

Yesterday afternoon at Camden Yards, they lost 4-3 to the Orioles (16-41) in 11 innings. The win broke a 10-game losing streak for Baltimore and also gave new manager Juan Samuel his first MLB win.

Nick Markakis' bloop single in the 11th off Hideki Okajima (2-2) scored Cesar Izturis with the winning run.

Boston also fell to 1-7 in extra innings this season.

For the third time in a row in Baltimore, the Sox got a nice start from its starting pitcher. John Lackey had one of his best starts in a Red Sox uniform: seven innings, two earned runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts. He threw a Justin Verlander-esque 124 pitches so he deserved a better fate.

Orioles youngster Brian Matusz acquitted himself well, going 5.2 innings and giving up two earned runs on four hits with four walks and seven strikeouts.

Boston went ahead 2-0 in the second on Victor Martinez's two-run blast. Baltimore tied it up with two in the bottom of the inning on Izturis' RBI single and Julio Lugo's ground out.

Scott Moore put the O's up 3-2 in the eighth with an RBI double but the Orioles bullpen did what it does in the ninth, blowing its MLB-leading 11th save of the season.

Dustin Pedroia tied it up with a sacrifice fly which scored Mike Cameron.

Boston plays its next four games in Cleveland against the lowly Indians, probably baseball's worst team. Dice-K gets the start against Fausto Carmona.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lakers push around Celtics in bizarro Game 1 of 2010 NBA Finals

Seeing the Lakers win Game 1 of the NBA Finals was predictable since NBA rules dictate the home team always has to win at least one game in a playoff series.

Much more surprising was the fact that LA pushed Boston around and was the aggressor in a 102-89 romp.

With two days off before Game 2 Sunday night, the reactionary media (cough ESPN) will say how this is a new Lakers team that's tougher while the Celtics are old and weak. Some of that may be true but I reserve judgment for another few games. As long as the Celts win Game 2, they'll have gotten the necessary road win before they go home for three straight.

Kobe Bryant led LA with a game-high 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists but the story of the game was that big llama Pau Gasol who had 23 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Kevin Garnett had 16 points but Gasol and his teammates completely owned Boston on the glass (42-31 rebounds) and inside (16-0 second chance points; 48-30 points in the paint).

For whatever reason, it never felt like the Celtics were ever really in this one. Los Angeles led 26-21 after the first quarter and 50-41 at the half despite a long two-pointer at the buzzer by Rajon Rondo.

LA started the second half on fire and opened it up to as much as a twenty point lead. Boston couldn't seem to cut it to a closer deficit than nine points.

Paul Pierce (24 points, 9 rebounds) was the only Celtic to bring anything close to a B- game or above. Rondo had 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Ray Allen was saddled with five fouls and that made his 12 points nearly invisible. Kendrick Perkins had eight points and Rasheed Wallace had nine points off the bench.

Ron Artest scored 15 for the Lakers, Andrew Bynum had 10 and Derek Fisher notched nine points.

LA shot 48.7% and Boston shot 43.3%. The Lakers only made four 3-pointers but the C's had just one. The only real positive number for Boston was on the free throw line (30 for 36) vs. LA's (24 for 31), an indication of how ugly this game was with countless players in foul trouble.

With the dumb format of Games 3-5 in Boston, I wouldn't term Sunday night a must-win but being down 2-0 and giving the Lakers more confidence is a much different scenario than being tied 1-1 heading back to the TD Garden.

Old Yeller starring Tim Wakefield

Earlier this season, I praised Red Sox greybeard Tim Wakefield so I can't go back now and bash the guy, that would be too easy.

I will say however, that when Wakefield's knuckleball isn't working, look out. You're in for an ugly game.

Such was the case yesterday afternoon as the A's (29-26) salvaged a 9-8 win at Fenway, avoiding sweep at the hands of Boston (31-24).

Wakefield (1-4) didn't have it as six earned runs on eight hits in six innings with four strikeouts will attest to. More than anything though, this was a game the Sox shouldn't have lost since they slugged 18 hits.

Third base coach Tim Bogar was enemy number one since he had two runners thrown out at home and both times they were the first out of the inning. To make it even worse, it was Victor Martinez (who has a toe injury) and Darnell McDonald (who had twisted his ankle at first base in the same inning).

Oakland starter Brett Anderson left after two innings with a sore elbow and the four relievers that followed him all gave up runs but they did enough. Closer Andrew Bailey even pitched two innings for his 12th save of the season.

Bill Hall went 4-for-5 with four runs, two RBIs and a solo homer off Bailey in the ninth. Jeremy Hermida was 3-for-5 with a two-run homer in the sixth. Kevin Youkilis had three hits, Dustin Pedroia and Martinez added two hits and Marco Scutaro had a solo homer in the eighth and three RBIs.

The A's were led by Kurt Suzuki who had two homers and three RBIs off Wakefield. Jack Cust was 3-for-5 with three runs and solo homer off Manny Delcarmen in the eighth. Mark Ellis, Gabe Gross and Eric Patterson each had two hits for Oakland which checked in with 14 hits.

Boston embarked on a seven-game road trip with three in Baltimore and four in Cleveland, the two worst teams in the American League.

Clay Buchholz takes the hill tonight against Orioles rookie Chris Tillman, who's making his second major league start. Baltimore is a mess as usual with reports that they're about to fire manager Dave Tremblay.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Don't think, just throw Dice-K

Can we all agree that Daisuke Matsuzaka is the most unpredictable player in baseball, this side of Milton Bradley (who is a lunatic)?

After nearly no-hitting the Phillies two weeks ago, he walked eight against the Royals in his next start.

Last night began with another roller coaster first inning for Matsuzaka as he gave up three runs to the A's. However, he settled down enough to lead the Red Sox to a 6-4 win over Oakland at Fenway.

Ryan Sweeney had an RBI double and Kurt Suzuki blasted a two-run homer into the Monster seats before Dice-K decided to start pitching. From there, he went almost seven innings (6.2), giving up just those three earned runs on ten hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He improved to 4.2 with an ERA of 5.49.

For the second straight night, Boston (31-23) rallied against Oakland (28-26). It also marked their fourth win in a row.

Kevin Youkilis drew the Sox closer with a two-run single in the bottom of the first off A's starter Ben Sheets (2-4).

David Ortiz continued to tear it up, cranking a two-run shot down the right field line and around Pesky's Pole to put Boston up 4-3 in the fifth.

Sheets was out after six innings, giving up four earned runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout.

Dustin Pedroia added an insurance run in the seventh with an RBI double which scored Marco Scutaro (3 hits, 2 runs, RBI).

Scutaro did his part with an RBI single in the eighth which scored Bill Hall.

After four outs (14 of 16 pitches for strikes) by Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon gave up a solo homer to Kevin Kouzmanoff in the ninth but he recovered get his 13th save of the season.

The Sox look for the sweep this afternoon as Tim Wakefield takes the mound against young lefty Brett Anderson, who is sneaky good.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

V-Mart goes 5-for-5 in Sox win

For most of the season, Victor Martinez has been a forgotten man. His bat hasn't really shown up and his defense is still somewhere slightly above Little Leaguer.

That all hopefully changed for the better last night as he went 5-for-5 with a MLB tying record four doubles, two runs and two RBIs and Boston (30-23) rallied to beat the Oakland A's (28-25) 9-4 at Fenway Park.

The opener of a three-game series was a strange one as it was delayed 20 minutes by rain and then John Lackey struggled out of the gate, leading to a 4-0 Oakland lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.

Daric Barton hit a two-run homer in the third while Jack Cust (RBI single) and Mark Ellis (RBI double) gave the A's the 4-0 advantage in the fifth.

Adrian Beltre (3 hits) started the comeback with a three-run bomb off Gio Gonzalez in the bottom of the fifth. It was a tie game as a run scored on Dustin Pedroia's double play ball in the sixth then Martinez put the Sox ahead for good with a ground rule double later in the inning.

Bill Hall had an RBI triple in the seventh then Boston tacked on three more in the eighth with Martinez smacking another ground rule RBI double, an RBI single by Kevin Youkilis and an RBI single by J.D. Drew.

Lackey improved to 6-3 but in his six innings, he gave up four earned runs on twelve hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The bullpen work of Manny Delcarmen (7th), Daniel Bard (8th) and Joe Nelson (8th) was stellar as they combined for three scoreless innings, only one walk and three strikeouts.

Things figure to slow to a crawl tonight as the oft-injured Ben Sheets takes on Dice-K.