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Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Boston Bruins wrote the book on heartbreaking losses

I honestly don't know how many ways I can express the same thought I've had and written down numerous times in the last few years: the Boston Bruins find new and different ways to lose games (and series). It's just what they do. The higher the stakes, the bigger the tragically epic failure.

So while last night's 3-2 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals was heartbreaking, I can't say it was surprising. At all. If anything, you almost have to step back and appreciate the carnage since there's nothing like a Bruins flop (ever since the Red Sox got their shit together in 2004) to get the blood boiling in this day and age.

After giving up the winning goal with 18.5 seconds in Game 1, the B's outdid themselves by blowing a 2-1 lead, hanging on for overtime but then losing in 11 seconds (the second fastest goal in playoff overtime history).

Much like the B's always remind you of their inadequacies, the NHL always seems to rear its ugly, deformed head at the worst times. Canucks forward Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 but the NHL didn't suspend him or even fine him. Would you believe that he was Vancouver's best player last night, scoring two goals and having an assist?

So yeah, seeing that lowlife be the one to get the winning goal, putting Vancouver two wins away from its first Stanley Cup in its forty year history is about as painful an ending as any Hollywood hack could concoct for Game 2.

Handing out the blame pie for the OT goal is hard to do. Andrew Ference (who for some reason was out there to start overtime) started off the terrible play by putting the puck off the boards, right to Vancouver. Tim Thomas (30 saves) was the bigger goat though as the came flying way out of control and not only took himself but Zdeno Chara out of position too as Burrows faked a shot, whipped around the net and stuffed it in. When you blame Thomas though, you also must realize that Boston wouldn't be anywhere near the Stanley Cup finals without him. He's the best goaltender in the world right now but like Bill Belichick or anyone else, just because he's great doesn't make him bulletproof when it comes to criticism.

This was a game that the Bruins had to win. They sleepwalked through the first period with Burrows scoring a weak power-play goal (his eighth goal of the playoffs) from Chris Higgins and Sami Salo at 12:12. The shot appeared to handcuff Thomas as it squirted through his body and over the goal-line.

Boston responded with its best period of the first two games in the second. Its two most invisible forwards stepped up: Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi. Lucic tied it at one with his fourth goal of the playoffs at 9:00 from Johnny Boychuk and David Krejci. It was a simple play as Lucic went to the net (what a concept!) and was able to put in the rebound past Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo (28 saves).

A Mark Recchi power-play goal was one of the most unlikely scenarios (he hadn't scored one since January, really) entering the game but there he was, getting it done at 11:35 (his third of the playoffs). He tipped in a wrist shot by Chara, Patrice Bergeron also assisted. The goal still doesn't justify Claude Julien sticking with him for all this time when he hasn't shown a pulse on the power-play but I digress.

Vancouver predictably came out on fire in the third period since they realized the importance of the game for their side. Thomas held the fort for a while but it was only a matter of time before the Canucks tied it up. Daniel Sedin came out of witness protection to score his ninth of the playoffs at 9:37 after a sweet feed from Burrows. Alex Edler had the second assist.

I was at a bar for the game and I can admit that I had barely settled in for overtime before it was over (I'm sure most people had the same reaction). It was over before it began and the craziest part was that Boston actually won the opening face-off!

Game 3 is tomorrow night at TD Garden and needless to say, it's a must-win for the B's. Lose and they'll be swept, no question. Win and they can make this somewhat interesting. They've proven through the first two games that they can play with Vancouver. The problem is that the Canucks have stepped up when they needed to while the Bruins have choked badly in two huge spots.

It's about time: J.D. Drew hits his first walk-off hit for the Red Sox (in the 14th inning)

It's only fitting that a game that goes 14 innings (the longest Boston Red Sox game of the season), complete with a four-run lead blown in the ninth and having two players ejected, that J.D. Drew delivered the first walk-off hit of his Red Sox career.

Things were going well for Boston (32-26) as they went into the bottom of the ninth up 7-3 yesterday afternoon at Fenway Park on the Oakland A's (27-32).

Then closer Jonathan Papelbon started giving up hits in a non-save situation like he always does and before you knew it, he was tossed along with catcher Jason Varitek for arguing balls and strikes.

Oakland tied it up at 7 in the ninth and both teams scored a run in the 11th before Drew (2 hits, 2 RBIs) drove in Carl Crawford (4 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs) in the 14th for the winning run.

Alfredo Aceves (3-1) was the unsung hero and turned out to be the winner as he went the last four innings for the Red Sox. He allowed one earned run on three hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

It's hard to remember since this game went five hours and 17 minutes but this started out as a tasty pitching matchup between A's stud Trevor Cahill and Red Sox ace Josh Beckett. As usual, that's not how the game unfolded.

Cahill went seven innings but he allowed five earned runs on eight hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.

Beckett went six innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

Things got off to a good start for Boston as Adrian Gonzalez hit a solo homer (his 11th of the season) in the first. Drew added an RBI single, driving in Crawford in the fifth, for a 2-0 lead.

Josh Willingham tied it up in the sixth with a two-run single in the sixth. The Red Sox responded with three runs. Dustin Pedroia had an RBI single, Kevin Youkilis had an RBI double and Crawford had an RBI single in the frame.

Cliff Pennington drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh but Crawford's two-run double in the eighth made it 7-3 good guys.

You knew something was up in the ninth when Pedroia let a routine grounder go through his legs, scoring a run. Pennington had an RBI double and Conor Jackson tied it with an RBI single as Papelbon melted down literally and figuratively (the first ejection of his career).

Ryan Sweeney put Oakland ahead with a sacrifice fly in the 11th but Jacoby Ellsbury (4 hits, 2 steals) tied it with an RBI double which knocked in Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Boston goes for the sweep today but I wouldn't bet on them since John Lackey returns from the DL and his rehab stint in the minors. He faces Oakland lefty Brett Anderson, who is good and typically gives the Red Sox trouble.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Canucks score with 18.5 second left, take Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals 1-0 over the Bruins

I was getting set for overtime in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals last night at the Rogers Centre. I was going to crack another Sam Summer with my buddy, tweet my overtime winners for both teams to ESPN's John Bucigross and pray that the Bruins could find a way to steal it.

Ryan Kesler, Jannik Hansen and Raffi Torres had other plans though as they teamed up for a goal with 18.5 seconds left in regulation en route to a 1-0 Vancouver win over Boston.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (33 saves) deserved better since he played outstanding, particularly in the third period when the B's started to skate in quicksand and the ice tilted towards the Canucks. The winning goal wasn't his fault at all either as it was the result of a misplay by defenseman Johnny Boychuk, a great pass by Kesler to start the play, Hansen's pass to Torres and his professional finish.

Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo is a Gold medal winner as we all know and one of the NHL's best but he's prone to giving up weak goals and juicy rebounds. Not last night. He had 36 saves which is a little misleading since Boston only had a handful of great chances.

Since they're so heavily favored and carry the weight of Canada on their shoulders, a loss in Game 1 for the Canucks would have been huge. The pressure would have mounted and who knows how they would react? Now, I'll say that the Bruins need to win Game 2 or else this series might not go past five games.

Two subplots to come out of Game 1: Alexandre Burrows clearly bit Patrice Bergeron's finger in a scrum after the first period ended. We'll have to see if the NHL comes down hard on him or looks the other way during its showcase series. 2) Dan Hamhuis left in the second period with an injury after flipping Milan Lucic near the boards. He's one of Vancouver's top two defensemen so his loss would be a big one.

The Rogers Arena crowd was pumped during the pregame but the B's (and refs) systematically took them out of it. There were a ton of penalties on both sides but each team went 0 for 6 on their power plays.

The good news is that Boston's penalty kill was awesome but they won't keep that up if they continually put Vancouver's lethal power play (28%) on the ice. Ditto for the Bruins' pathetic power play which has now dipped to 7% in the playoffs. They had a four-minute advantage in the first period that they couldn't cash in on despite nine shots and a 5 on 3 in the second period that didn't give them anything tangible except a partial breakaway by the Canucks.

There's an extra day off before the pivotal Game 2 on Saturday night. I have faith that Thomas will play great again but the real question is if the Bruins can solve Luongo and stay out of the penalty box?

White Sox sweep the Red Sox at Fenway Park

For the life of me I can't figure out why, since they're not particularly good, but you can't dispute the ironclad fact that the Chicago White Sox own Fenway Park right now.

After polishing the Boston Red Sox off yesterday afternoon 7-4 for a three-game series sweep, Chicago (27-31) won its seventh straight at Fenway. They're 13-2 against Boston (30-26) in their last 15 games and 9-1 since the start of last season. What do you want me to do, call the White Sox my daddy? (Pedro Martinez reference).

A 3-0 lead for the home team didn't mean much as Tim Wakefield (6 innings, 4 earned runs, 7 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts) and the Boston bullpen melted down in a rare midweek afternoon game.

Gavin Floyd (6-5) was shaky at first but he settled down and got the win. He went 6.2 innings, allowing four earned runs on nine hits with a walk and a strikeout.

The Red Sox put up three in the second inning as Jed Lowrie drove in David Ortiz with a ground-rule double and Jarrod Saltalamacchia knocked in two with a single.

Brent Lillibridge got an RBI double in the fourth to pull Chicago within 3-1 before the White Sox tied it in the fifth. Alexei Ramirez (3 hits, 3 run) drove in a run with a ground out before Carlos Quentin hit an RBI double. Wakefield could have got out of the inning on a clear out on the basepaths by Juan Pierre but that's not how the goober umpire saw it. Instead, Quentin got the hit and Boston spiraled out of control.

Lillibridge hit a solo homer in the sixth but Ortiz answered with his 13th of the season in the bottom of the frame to tie it at four.

It was the Paul Konerko show from there as he had an RBI double in the seventh which scored Ramirez and then a two-run bomb (scoring Ramirez) in the ninth off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

White Sox closer Sergio Santos got a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout for his ninth save of the season.

Matt Albers (1-3) was charged with the loss after giving up three hits (including Konerko's double). He has come back to Earth after a great start in his Red Sox career.

Some scary stuff too as Rich Hill threw a pitch and then came out with an elbow injury. Dice-K is going to be out for the entire season with Tommy John surgery but nobody cares about that. Hill was a local guy that had found himself this season with Boston. Hope he's OK. Plus, he was the Red Sox' only lefty in the bullpen. Hideki Okajima is in Pawtucket but he has nothing left at this point. Theo Epstein is going to have to get some more reliable bullpen options.

The Red Sox are grateful to have a day off today after going for almost three straight weeks without one (and no, the last three days don't count). The Oakland A's come to town this weekend for a three-game set.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Should I tell the Red Sox that the White Sox are terrible?

The summer weather is finally here but with the Boston Bruins in their first Stanley Cup finals in 21 years, the Boston Red Sox have a few more weeks of anonymity before everybody starts paying more attention to their games.

It's a good thing that nobody cares right now since the Red Sox (30-25) aren't playing very well at the moment. Boston dropped its third straight game overall, 10-7 last night at Fenway Park to the Chicago White Sox (26-31).

As long as Ozzie Guillen has been manager of the White Sox, they've always had lineups that could put up big numbers since they hit bombs. The lack of starting pitching and shaky bullpens has made them an afterthought in the crappy American League Central, making them miss the playoffs the last few seasons.

I don't expect Chicago to do much this season either but they look like they're about to sweep the Red Sox at Fenway which would be pretty embarrassing.

Alfredo Aceves (2-1) for Boston last night and he didn't have it after excelling in his first two spot starts. In five innings, he was knocked around for eight runs (six earned) on eight hits with three walks and a strikeout.

Journeyman Phil Humber (4-3) started for Chicago and he continued his surprisingly good season. He went 7.2 innings, allowing four earned runs on nine hits with a walk and five strikeouts.

For the second straight, the White Sox got out to a quick start and never looked back from there. They put up four runs in the second and one in the third for an early 5-0 lead. Gordon Beckham (3 hits) had an RBI single in the second, Brett Morel followed with a fielder's choice, Alexei Ramirez (4 hits, 3 RBIs) had an RBI single and A.J. Pierzynski added a ground-rule double.

Jason Varitek got the Red Sox on the board with a solo homer in the second, his second of the season.

Ramirez had another RBI single in the fourth before the White Sox put up three in the sixth on an RBI single by Juan Pierre, RBI double by Carlos Quentin and sacrifice fly by Paul Konerko.

The Red Sox added some runs in garbage time to make it close but Chris Sale came on to strike out Adrian Gonzalez on three pitches for his second save of the season.

Drew Sutton had an RBI single in the eighth and David Ortiz hit a three-run homer (his 12th of the season). Josh Reddick added a sacrifice fly in the ninth and Sutton had an RBI double.

Scott Atchison gave up two earned runs on four hits in relief. Bobby Jenks made his first appearance since May 1 and threw a scoreless eighth despite giving up two hits. Dan Wheeler had a scoreless ninth where he worked around a walk and a hit.

Tim Wakefield starts this afternoon against Gavin Floyd in the series finale. The Red Sox need a win before they have tomorrow off. Gotta get back to the roll they were on for most of May now that June is here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Red Sox honor the troops and veterans on Memorial Day by laying down to the White Sox

Boston (30-24) came home last night for the start of a homestand against the Chicago White Sox (25-31) at Fenway Park and they lost again, 7-3.

A two-game losing streak is hardly news in baseball, the streakiest of all sports, but more puzzling was Jon Lester's latest struggles. Lester (7-2) had an seven-game win streak snapped but that was deceiving since he hadn't pitched well in his last few starts but still picked up wins.

Last night, he threw a season-high 127 pitches but only went 5.2 innings, allowing seven earned runs on eight hits with four walks and four strikeouts.

The White Sox were bolstered by Jake Peavy (2-0) who many moons and shoulder surgeries ago used to be one of baseball's best pitchers. The hard drinking, dippin' good old boy went seven innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits with two strikeouts.

Chicago loaded the bases in the first inning and A.J. Pierzynski (2 hits) came through with a two-run single up the middle.

Boston got a run back in the first as Adrian Gonzalez (2 hits) crushed his tenth homer of the season, a solo shot into the Red Sox bullpen.

Providence, RI native Paul Konerko (2 hits) smacked a solo homer over the Monster in the third for a 3-1 White Sox lead.

Dustin Pedroia tied it up in the third with a two-run single of his own.

That's as close as the Red Sox would get through as Alexei Ramirez (2 hits) knocked Lester out of the game with a bloop two-run double in the sixth. The next batter, Carlos Quentin, added a two-run single off Dan Wheeler and that was it.

Alfredo Aceves goes for his third straight solid start tonight as he takes on Phil Humber.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hell yes! WOOOOOOOOOO! Bruins reach their first Stanley Cup finals since 1990

I never played a day of organized hockey in my life so I'm not going to sit here and claim that the Boston Bruins have been my everything since I strapped on a pair of skates.

However, I will say that as I've gotten older and the three other Boston professional sports teams have all won championships in the last decade, the Bruins have become the last place for a real fan existence that you can find in this town. Up until now, the B's haven't been trendy, they always let their fans down and they are one of the most frustrating franchises in sports.

Well no more complaining from me or other true Bruins fans as they won the Eastern Conference finals last night by virtue of a scintillating 1-0 Game 7 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden.

Boston is back in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1990 and they'll get it started on Wednesday in Vancouver against the Canucks.

It's only fitting that their epic series was capped off with one of their greatest wins in franchise history. Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas made 24 saves for his second shutout of the series and Nathan Horton had the game-winner at 12:27 of the third period (his eighth of the playoffs) to send the Garden into delirium.

People hate on soccer when it's 0-0 but it's hard to picture a hockey game being much more exciting even though both teams failed to score a goal for over 52 minutes of regulation. Unlike the NBA where the refs have to be front and center all the time, the NHL refs assigned to the game last night stayed out of the way and didn't call a single penalty (first time that's happened in 20 years)!

When Milan Lucic was stuffed on a breakaway on the first period, it was clear that Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson (37 saves) was sharp and it would probably be a very low scoring game.

Kudos to Tampa Bay for playing their asses off. Star Steven Stamkos took a Johnny Boychuk slap shot right off his nose in the second period and he only missed a few minutes of action. His face was disgusting but I have a new found respect for him since he sucked it up and got right back out there.

Andrew Ference started the goal with a long breakout pass to David Krejci. Dangerous David put a perfect backhand pass right between Roloson, a pair of Tampa Bay defensemen and on Horton's stick. All he had to do was redirect it in.

The Bruins will be heavy underdogs against the Canucks, who rolled through the Western Conference, but they wouldn't want it any other way. It's been clear in the postseason that this is a different Bruins team. They're not the choke artists of the past as they proved again and again (beating Montreal in a Game 7 overtime, sweeping the Flyers, beating Tampa Bay in another Game 7).

I'm not making any predictions but I think it's going to be a really good series. You have to remember that Vancouver has never won a Stanley Cup in their 40 years of existence (a longer drought than the B's by a year) so it's not like Boston's facing Detroit or something. The Bruins have Thomas, Zdeno Chara and a team full of guys that know their roles and don't get rattled.

Hockey in June! Pinch me.

Call me a jerk but I honestly hope Dice-K and Lackey never return

When did the 2011 Boston Red Sox become such a wagon?

Holy shit, they've won 12 out of their last 14 games after a tidy 6-3 win over the Detroit Tigers last night at Comerica Park.

As I said yesterday about Alfredo Aceves, spot starter Tim Wakefield (2-1) is doing an excellent job and at this point, I hope John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka never return. It's much more satisfying to watch two guys with low expectations succeed as opposed to overpaid bums that were never good fits here anyways.

The Red Sox (29-22) are also alone in the American League East after the Yankees lost last night in Seattle. The Tigers (25-25) haven't shown much of a pulse yet against Boston this season, falling to 0-4.

Wakefield went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

Detroit's Rick Porcello (4-3) only lasted three innings as he allowed six earned runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, stolen base) gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the first as he scored on wild pitch by Porcello.

Miguel Cabrera tied it up in the first with an RBI single which scored Austin Jackson. The Tigers took their only lead of the game in the second when Jhonny Peralta hit a bomb (solo) off Wakefield.

Any thoughts of a win for the miserable people in Detroit was quickly extinguished as the Red Sox hung five runs on Porcello in the third. Ellsbury hit a solo homer (his sixth), Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run double and Carl Crawford hit a two-run homer (his fourth of the season).

Daniel Bard threw a scoreless 1-2-3 eighth on six pitches but Peralta hit an RBI double off Jonathan Papelbon (non-save situation) in the ninth but who cares?

Clay Buchholz takes the mound tonight for Boston against Detroit rookie lefthander Andy Oliver (who was called up when Phil Coke rolled his ankle the other night). Good luck to you guy, Red Sox are mashing right now.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Alfredo Aceves is better than John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, true story my friends

Baseball is a funny game. When you're a big market team like the Boston Red Sox you can afford terrible hiccups in free agency like John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka and then you luck out with a scrap heap pickup like Alfredo Aceves.

I'm not exactly sure about his medical history, I assume the New York Yankees let him go because he had an arm issue or something but whatever the reason, I'm psyched that he's crossed over to their bitter rivals.

Yesterday afternoon, he submitted his second good start in a row after being added to the rotation (for the injured Lackey and Dice-K). The Red Sox (28-22) won their 11th game out of their last 13 and it was another laugher, 14-1 in the series opener at Detroit's (25-24) Comerica Park.

Aceves (2-0) went six innings, allowing five hits, one earned run with two walks and six strikeouts in a game that was called off after 7.5 innings because of rain.

Max Scherzer (6-2) entered as one of the AL's top pitchers so far this season but he left with a bruised ego as the Red Sox put up 14+ runs in the second straight game for the first time since 1998. Scherzer lasted only two innings, allowing seven hits, seven earned runs with two walks and a strikeout.

Jacoby Ellsbury (2 runs, 2 walks) had the most memorable hit, a three-run homer (his fifth bomb of the season). Moved up to the No. 6 spot, Carl Crawford continued to erase his terrible start. He went 4 for 5 with two triples, three RBIs and two runs.

Recent callups Josh Reddick (3 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs) and Drew Sutton (2 hits, 2 RBIs, 2 runs) also had big days that no doubt they'll be telling their grandkids or bums at the homeless shelter about in a few years.

Tim Wakefield (Boston's other substitute in the rotation) starts tonight against Tigers youngster Rick Porcello.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Can I please trademark "It's never easy with the Boston Bruins"?

Before the Eastern Conference finals started between the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning a few weeks back, I felt that either way the series was going the distance (seven games).

Still I take no joy in knowing that I was right since the B's should have ended this series already. Tampa Bay won 5-4 at the St. Pete Times Forum last night to tie it up at 3 and send the teams back to the TD Garden tomorrow night for Game 7 and a shot in the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks (starting next Wednesday).

Last night's outcome couldn't be more simply defined: Tampa Bay's power play was 3 of 4 while Boston was 1 of 5. The gamesmanship from Lightning head coach Guy Boucher before Game 6 is irrelevant since the B's had more opportunities and also earned the first three power plays of the game so end of discussion.

I would love to dump on the Bruins for losing since it might make me feel temporarily better but they don't deserve it. They actually showed a ton of heart (rare for them) as they battled back from a 5-3 deficit in the third period and essentially ran out of time as Tampa Bay switched roles with Boston and hung on for dear life.

The loss wasted a hat trick by David Krejci along with a big boy game by his linemates Milan Lucic (1 goal, 1 assist) and Nathan Horton (2 assists). Unfortunately, the Lightning received similar primetime performances from Martin St. Louis (2 goals, 1 assist), Steven Stamkos (1 goal, 2 assists) and Vincent Lecavalier (2 assists).

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (21 saves) continued his trick or treat series with another rough outing. Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson (16 saves) didn't do much and looked extremely shaky as well but hey, he came out on top.

Besides the power play struggles for Boston, which everyone in New England could point out (including my dog and cat at this point), the much more unreported nightmare has been the Bruins' propensity to give up both early and late goals in periods. Two times last night, Tampa Bay scored with 36 seconds or less into a frame. That's simply unacceptable at any time, especially now with so much at stake.

Teddy Purcell made it 1-0 Tampa Bay 36 seconds into Game 6, scoring his fifth of the playoffs assisted by Lecavalier. Before Bruins fans could freak out too much, Lucic had scored his third of the playoffs (at 7:09 from Horton and Johnny Boychuk) and Krejci potted his eighth of the playoffs (at 16:30 off a nice feed from Daniel Paille of all people).

All the effort and hard work in the first was quickly wiped out in the second as the Lightning got a pair of power play goals. St. Louis tied it up at 7:55 (from Lecavalier and Stamkos) and Purcell scored his second at 13:35 (from Steve Downie and Brett Clark).

Boston always seems to play better from behind so a one-goal deficit wasn't the end of the world, particularly since they were on the road (where they're more mentally tough for some unknown reason).

Stamkos scored (his sixth of the postseason, from Eric Brewer and St. Louis) another power play goal, 34 seconds into the third and that seemed like game over.

Krejci wouldn't let the B's go down so quietly as he cut it to 4-3 at 9:46 on the power play (!). Horton and Tomas Kaberle had the assists.

Before you could even get too excited though, Boston made sure to punch you in the gut one more time as St. Louis scored the game-winner 29 seconds later. Downie and Stamkos assisted on a play that was a complete fail by so many Bruins. Boychuk pinched in offensive zone and got caught up ice, Thomas over committed and came out too far and Ference didn't cut off the cross ice feed. Yuck.

Boucher was still in a gift giving mood and he let Krejci get his hat trick (Boston's first in the playoffs since Cam Neely in 1991) at 13:28 from Lucic and Kaberle. However, the Bruins couldn't find the tying goal and are forced to play one more deciding game.

I don't care if you have tickets to Game 7, no sane Bruins fan (an oxymoron) wanted it to happen. Boston survived Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round but in the last three seasons they've departed the playoffs with brutal Game 7 losses. The last two were particularly unforgivable since they were on home ice.

Tomorrow night will answer many questions regarding head coach Claude Julien's legacy along with the leaders of the team: Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron to name a few. If the Bruins lose, it's time to shake things up since this group will have maxed out and they won't go any further with a coach as stubborn and simple-minded as Julien.

Red Sox take a dump on the Cleveland Indians, leave town with a series win

I was all set to watch the series finale yesterday afternoon between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. However, when I flipped the game on the radio (while I was on the computer), I listened in amazement as they hung seven on Indians (30-16) starter Mitch Talbot in the first inning, en route to a 14-2 ass kicking.

Thanks to the blowout, I felt comfortable going to the gym and catching bits and pieces of the game when I could. The Red Sox (27-22) won the series and their 10th game out of their last 12 thanks to a season-high 20 hit attack including four homers and six doubles.

Jon Lester (7-1) was the lucky recipient of the ridiculous output from his offense. Lester threw six scoreless innings, allowing three hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. After a couple subpar outings in a row, it was nice to see him be lights out once again.

Talbot (1-1) deserves some sympathy since he was making his first start off the DL, against a red-hot team, but thems the breaks sometimes. In three innings, he allowed 12 hits, eight earned runs with two walks and a strikeout.

Carl Crawford led the Red Sox, going 4 for 4 in his best game so far in an underwhelming season in Boston. He had a homer, two doubles, three runs and two RBIs. Jacoby Ellsbury (2 walks) and Drew Sutton (2 runs) had three hits while Dustin Pedroia (3 RBIs), Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (3 RBIs) and Mike Cameron all had two hits.

Pedroia, Ortiz and Saltalamacchia had the other homers in this joke of a game.

Boston travels to Detroit for a four-game series beginning with an afternoon game today. Alfredo Aceves takes on Max Scherzer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Red Sox finally top the world beating Indians

After four tries in 2011, the Boston Red Sox (26-22) finally beat the Cleveland Indians (30-16) 4-2 last night at Progressive Field.

Josh Beckett (4-1) picked up his first regular season win in Cleveland (who could ever forget his legendary start there in the 2007 playoffs?) after 6.2 innings. He allowed five hits, one earned run with three walks and six strikeouts.

Fausto Carmona (3-5) went eight innings for the Indians but he allowed five hits, four earned runs with one walk and seven strikeouts.

The unlikeliest of heroes stepped up at the plate for Boston as Jason Varitek hit a two-run homer, his first in almost a year (May 30, 2010).

Jonathan Papelbon gave up a solo homer to Travis Buck in the ninth but recovered to get his ninth save of the season.

Some Amish guy named Ezequiel Carrera gave Cleveland a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the second which scored Buck.

Jed Lowrie tied it up in the third with a sacrifice fly which drove in Carl Crawford. The Red Sox went ahead for good later in the frame on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI double (scoring Jacoby Ellsbury).

Varitek's two-run bomb in the seventh plated David Ortiz.

Jon Lester takes on Mitch Talbot this afternoon in the series finale.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Black and Gold are getting it done

At times in the last few years as I got into the team more and more, I honestly never thought the Boston Bruins would reach this point in my entire life.

They are on the cusp of the Stanley Cup finals (for the first time in 21 years) after last night's 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

As everyone knows, closing out a team is the toughest part (especially for this franchise) but don't you have the feeling that this year is different?

The B's are up 3-2 in the series thanks to another outstanding performance from goaltender Tim Thomas (33 saves). He made the save of the season (which really shouldn't surprise you if you've watched him for years) on Lightning scumbag Steve Downie which left Downie pouting alone on the bench after the game had long ended. Strange cat.

Tampa Bay gave Mike Smith (17 saves) his first career playoff start and he wasn't good or bad. The two goals that he gave up were impossible to stop by anyone while Boston added an empty-netter to close it out.

The crazy part about the win was that the Lightning came out flying in the first period while the Bruins seemed to be stuck in the locker room, on the tarmac at Logan Airport or at some other undisclosed location.

Simon Gagne gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead 1:09 into regulation after a 2-on-1 break from Steven Stamkos. Andrew Ference got caught up ice and Gagne was able to pot his fifth of the playoffs. If I had been in Boston at the time, I might have jumped off the Tobin Bridge but thankfully the Bruins always always play better from behind as everybody knows at this point.

Thomas held the fort for the rest of the period and his teammates finally woke up from their zombie-like slumber near the end of the frame as they got engaged physically and put four (4!) shots on Smith.

Nathan Horton was one of the only Bruins that was emotionally into it from the start (and that caused two stupid penalties on him) but he tied it up at 4:24 of the second period on a sublime one-timer. Horton's seventh of the playoffs (called by Ryan before the game started) featured a great backhand assist from Milan Lucic and Krejci had the second helper.

Brad Marchand (or as my girlfriend mistakenly called him-The Marshmallow Man) scored the game-winner at 15:56 after an even sweeter feed from Patrice Bergeron. Stationed along the boards, Bergeron whipped a forehand pass to Marchand, who skated past Martin St. Louis and tipped it past Smith (for his sixth of the playoffs). Zdeno Chara had the second assist as he started the play by holding the puck in Tampa Bay's zone.

Thomas made a huge save (helped out by the post) on Adam Hall early in the third period and then came the bananas stop on Downie which barely left the roof on the Garden.

Rich Peverley (second of the playoffs) put it away with an empty-netter at 19:47 of the third period, assisted by Chris Kelly.

So here we are. One more win and the Bruins will get to a place that nobody and I mean nobody predicted they would find themselves this postseason or maybe ever again. Game 6 is tomorrow night in Tampa Bay and Lightning part-time serial killer and head coach Guy Boucher has already announced that Dwayne Roloson is the starter again in between the pipes. It could be some gamesmanship from the Butcher, we shall see. If it's true, advantage Bruins.

Nothing is ever easy for this team or this franchise but for God's sakes, get it over tomorrow night. I don't want to see them in another Game 7 with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals on the line.

Cleveland rocks (or so I've been told)

Sooner or later in 2011, the Cleveland Indians will come back to Earth. Right? Maybe not for MLB's surprise top team.

For the fourth time this season in four games at Cleveland's Progressive Field, the Indians (30-15) beat the Red Sox (25-22). Last night, the Tribe rallied for a 3-2 win as Daniel Bard (1-4) once again failed to get the job done.

Bard deserves blame since he you know, threw the pitches. However, Red Sox manager Terry Francona should get some heat too since he had Bard face Asdrubal Cabrera (who was 5 for 5 on Sunday and had hit a solo homer earlier last night) with first base open and a struggling Shin-Soo Choo up next.

Cabrera hit an RBI double off Bard which scored Michael Brantley (who had tied it with an RBI single) with the winning run in the eighth.

Indians closer Chris Perez worked around two hits in the ninth to get his 13th save of the season. Carl Crawford ended the game by grounding into a double play.

Clay Buchholz started for Boston and yet again, he shut down the opposition enough to earn a win. He went 7.1 innings, allowing four hits, two earned runs and two walks with four strikeouts. He was pulled after 94 pitches since he threw an obscene 127 in his last start.

Former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masteron (who went to Cleveland in the Victor Martinez trade on July 31, 2009) continued to baffle his old team. He also got a no decision but he pitched well. He went 7.2 innings, allowing four hits, two earned runs with two walks and three strikeouts.

Dustin Pedroia gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the third with an RBI single that scored Crawford.

Cabrera tied it up with his 10th homer of the season in the fourth inning.

Crawford answered with just his second homer of the season-solo of course-in the fifth.

Tonight figures to be another pitcher's duel as Josh Beckett opposes Fausto Carmona.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tim Wakefield: your grandparents' favorite Red Sox player

I'd say the weekend series against the Chicago Cubs was a success for the Boston Red Sox.

Sure, a nightmare of an eighth inning on Saturday night prevented them from getting the sweep but Friday's blowout win (15-5) and last night's tidy 5-1 win at Fenway Park proved that the Red Sox (25-21) are built to win any type of game. On the other side, the Cubs (20-25) are not very good at all as this weekend proved and it's going to be another long season, not that they're drunken fans will really notice.

Tim Wakefield (1-1) helped Boston win its eighth game in its last nine tries, his first victory of 2011. The oldest player in MLB went 6.2 innings, allowing four hits and one earned run with three strikeouts.

With Matt Garza scratched from the start with elbow trouble, the Cubs had to rely on a shaky bullpen, led by some bum named James Russell (1-5). He went four innings, allowing seven hits, three earned runs, one walk with two strikeouts before turning it over to three other scrubs and Kerry Wood.

Adrian Gonzalez continued to be the best hitter in baseball not named Jose Bautista as he went 4 for 4 with a double and two runs scored. Dustin Pedroia added two hits and a run, David Ortiz had two hits and Kevin Youkilis added a two-run triple.

The Red Sox scored twice in the fourth on RBI sacrifice flies by Jed Lowrie and Mike Cameron (who shouldn't have a job in baseball anymore) which scored Gonzalez and Youkilis respectively.

Saltalamacchia crushed his third homer in four games (yes even he has started to hit, a sure sign of the Apocalypse) in the fifth, his third of the season for a 3-0 Boston lead.

Jeff Baker's RBI double in the seventh spoiled Wakefield's unlikely shutout bid, scoring Starlin Castro.

Youkilis hit his two-run triple off Wood in the seventh to the triangle in center. Pedroia and Gonzalez scored on the play.

After getting two games off, Daniel Bard looked refreshed and worked out of the seventh and got a clean eighth, finishing with two strikeouts.

Jonathan Papelbon allowed a hit but struck out two in the ninth during the non-save situation.

What better place for the Red Sox to go than Cleveland? The Indians are the best team in baseball right now and they swept Boston in the first week of April. This three-game set could serve to show how far the Red Sox have come from that disastrous start and April in general. Clay Buchholz opposes former Red Sox Justin Masterson tonight. I'd be shocked if Cleveland sweeps Boston again.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Claude Julien's Boston Bruins: Blowing 3-0 leads for life

I can't explain why but no lead ever seems safe when you're a Boston Bruins fan. A three-goal lead in hockey should be analogous to a three-touchdown lead in football or 20-point lead in basketball.

Still, the B's have found themselves on top 3-0 last postseason in Game 7 in the Flyers (how'd that one end?) and this afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals and in both cases, they have lost. I can never recall a team in any sport that was so good playing from behind and yet so consistently terrible playing with a lead. It's insane.

What is it about three-goal leads with the Bruins? That doesn't even count the Game 2 win against Tampa Bay where Boston went up 6-3 but barely survived for a 6-5 win.

Today's 5-3 win by the Lightning, notice they scored five unanswered goals, was a considerable nut shot to the Stanley Cup hopes of the Bruins and their long suffering fans.

Perhaps we should have known the sky would soon fall (it was Judgement Day after all) as Boston quieted the St. Pete Times Forum crowd with a trio of goals in the first period. There wasn't a strong one in the bunch as Patrice Bergeron scored an unassisted goal at 11:47 after a terrible Tomas Kaberle style giveaway behind Tampa Bay's goal.

The B's went up 2-0 on an even stranger goal as Michael Ryder skated in on a 2-on-1, waited too long to pass it but was beyond lucky to have the puck deflect off a Lightning defenseman and behind goaltender Dwayne Roloson (6 saves). Chris Kelly and Kaberle assisted on Ryder's fifth of the playoffs.

The dream first period was closed out with an unassisted shorthanded goal by Bergeron at 17:58. His long shot went right through Roloson's five hole (he would be pulled after the first period).

We all should have known that there was way too much time left for the Lightning and their potent offense. They're not the Bruins, they wouldn't go out that quietly. As Boston retreated back into their defensive shell (thanks Claude), Teddy Purcell scored a quick pair of goals (at 6:55 and 7:58) to pull Tampa Bay within 3-2.

Neither was Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas' (32 saves) fault as they came directly from snipe city. Purcell undressed Adam McQuaid on the first one with a toe drag then scored on a low backhander that Thomas couldn't reach. Simon Gagne assisted on that one.

Mattias Ohlund and Vincent Lecavalier assisted on Purcell's fourth of the playoffs which was a high shot over Thomas's blocker side.

Most coaches would probably call a timeout at that point since the team was in full meltdown mode but not Julien. Nope, best to play it out at that point and see what you're rattled team can do.

To nobody's surprise, Bergenheim tied it up at 10:53 (his 10th of the playoffs) off a rebound from Domenic Moore. Safe to say the Lightning didn't look back from there. A timeout there would have made sense too but no dice. Clearly, Claude doesn't need timeouts. I mean, who could argue with his results?

At this point, if I was a smarter man I would have gone outside and enjoyed the beautiful day (the first in weeks) but no I'm a dumb ass Bruins fan. I knew that they weren't coming out of this one with a win but I sat there like a goon and watch them piss down their leg as always.

The best I can say is that at least they didn't prolong the agony and send it to overtime. Simon Gagne had the game-winner as he scored his fourth of the playoffs at 6:54 from Ryan Malone. Still plenty of time left in the frame but who thought the B's had a prayer at that point? They continued to skate their lane while the conveyor belt of four lines rolled out and not really do much of anything (which could be said of the final two periods) and Martin St. Louis closed it out with an empty net goal at 19:23 (his eighth of the playoffs) from Gagne and Victor Hedman.

Mike Smith (21 saves) played the final two periods and didn't allow a goal but I honestly can't think of one above average save that he had to make. Boston didn't test him at all (and why would you with a goaltender that just got thrown in there?) but regardless, he should get the start in Game 5.

We have Sunday to cry about this latest choke job but then it's back to business on Monday as the teams return to Boston for Game 5 at TD Garden. Who knows what to expect from the Bruins? They could have a short memory and play well or they could have an emotional hangover (helped by their rightly paranoid crowd) and they'll lose again, which will probably signal their demise. So yeah Game 5 is important but good luck guessing what is going to happen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tim Thomas restores some order in the Eastern Conference finals

After scoring five goals in both Game 1 and Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning's potent offense was due for a letdown. Likewise, the defensively strong Boston Bruins couldn't possibly play any worse in their own end.

Some order was restored to the hockey universe last night in Game 3 at the St. Pete Times Forum as Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (31 saves) shut out the Lightning 2-0, helping Boston grab the all-important 2-1 lead (and wrestle back the home-ice advantage they lost in Game 1).

If you watched the B's all season, the team that skated last night was a much closer resemblance than the frauds that showed up in Game 1 and 2. Yes they won Game 2, but they're not going to win many games playing run and gun hockey with a team as talented offensively as the Lightning.

David Krejci popped a goal 1:09 into regulation and from there, Boston improved to 7-0 in the playoffs when they score first. Milan Lucic and Johnny Boychuk had the assists on Krejci's team-high seventh of the postseason. A defensive breakdown by Tampa Bay allowed Krejci to camp in front of goaltender Dwayne Roloson (23 saves) and wait him out (he took a Thomas-esque dive) before shoveling a backhander in.

After a scoreless and truthfully dull second period (which plays exactly into Claude Julien and the Bruins' paws), Andrew Ference scored his second of the playoffs at 8:12 of the third period. Michael Ryder and Chris Kelly had the assists to a goal which was originally given to Tyler Seguin (who didn't come even close to tipping it). There was tons of traffic in front of Roloson and he stopped it but the puck had just enough steam on it to trickle over the goal line in slow motion.

Thomas had to make a couple great saves but other than that, Tampa Bay was pretty quiet even when they were down two goals.

Game 4 is tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and I don't have to be a genius like Lightning head coach Guy Boucher to tell you that it's the biggest game of the series. If the B's win, they'll be one game away from the Stanley Cup finals (!). If they lose, Tampa Bay is right back into it and they will have forgotten their struggles in Game 2 and 3.

Sorry Justin Verlander, even you cannot stop the Boston Red Sox right now

Another game, another win for the Boston Red Sox. Carl Crawford continues to toil at the bottom of the lineup but he still delivered his third walkoff hit in May as Boston beat Detroit 4-3 last night at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox (23-20) have won a season-high six in a row thanks to contributions from everybody: great starting pitching, timely hitting, excellent relief and plain old luck.

The Tigers (22-21) came into Boston hot but left after a two-game sweep with interleague play starting for everybody this weekend.

A pitcher's duel between Detroit ace Justin Verlander and Red Sox stud Josh Beckett was overshadowed by Crawford's heroics. With the bases loaded and one out in the ninth, Crawford (2 hits) crushed a single over the head of Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson which plated pinch runner Darnell McDonald. Detroit porn star and reliever Al Alburquerque (0-1) was charged with the loss.

Neither starter got a decision as Verlander went eight innings, allowing six hits, three earned runs with nine strikeouts. Beckett departed after six innings (with a stiff neck, man baseball players are warriors), five hits, one earned run, two walks and three strikeouts.

Andy Dirks (what is with these names?) gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the second.

J.D. Drew tied it up in the bottom of the second with a sacrifice fly which scored Kevin Youkilis.

Things looked to be turning in Boston's favor as Drew hit a solo homer in the fourth and David Ortiz (3 hits, quietly having a very solid season) followed with a solo shot of his own in the seventh.

Matt Albers got a scoreless seventh (1 hit, 2 strikeouts) but Detroit hit a pair of solo homers off Daniel Bard in the eighth. Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera did the honors.

No worries though, the Red Sox are finding every possible way to win right now and this time, it didn't even take extra innings. Just another ho hum walkoff.

The Chicago Cubs come to Fenway for a three-game series which kicks off tonight. It's the first time since the 1918 World Series (remember that classic?) that the Cubbies have been to Boston. I can feel the collective boners from all the baseball nerds across the world. It promises to be a memorable weekend in Boston.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Red Sox are finally getting used to this winning thing

Rain, mist or fog can't stop the Boston Red Sox right now as they won their fifth straight game last night, 1-0 against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park.

Clay Buchholz got a no-decision but he had his fourth straight superb start for Boston (22-20). He went seven scoreless innings with a season-high 127 pitches. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out seven.

Phil Coke was the unlikely Detroit (22-20) pitcher that matched Buchholz pitch for pitch. He also went seven scoreless innings, gave up three hits, one walk and struck out four.

It was a weird night with terrible weather, including a 26-minute rain dealy in the eighth inning, so it makes perfect sense that Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia came up with the biggest hit of the game.

After Carl Crawford walked in the eighth, Saltalamacchia delivered with an RBI double which plated the winning run.

Daniel Bard (1-3) picked up his first win of 2011 with a 1-2-3 eighth, including a strikeout.

Jonathan Papelbon gave up a leadoff double to former Red Sox Victor Martinez to start the ninth but settled down to get the last three outs (including two strikeouts) for his eighth save of the season.

Justin Verlander and Josh Beckett is the exquisite pitching matchup tonight in the series finale. It's too bad Bruins-Lightning Game 3 is tonight as well (starting at 8 p.m.) since this could be one of the best games of the year.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tyler Seguin will give you pants tents for days

With last night's roller coaster 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins tied the Eastern Conference finals 1-1 with the series shifting to Florida tomorrow night for Game 3.

If his career pans out, the foremost memory from the win will be rookie Tyler Seguin's absurd four-point night. After sitting out the first two playoff series', he had a goal and assist in Game 1 on Saturday. He doubled that output and better yet, did it all in one period (the second, tying a team record) as Boston turned a 2-1 deficit into a 6-3 lead and then held on for dear life.

It's hard to believe that Boston goaltender Tim Thomas (36 saves) had a good game when he gave up five goals, including a couple soft ones but trust me when I tell you that he made a couple unbelievable stops in the third to secure this vital win.

Lightning goaltender and Stephen King doppleganger Dwayne Roloson (21 saves) came back to Earth like you knew a 41-year-old journeyman eventually would. Like Thomas, he actually made a bunch of solid stops (in the first period) but was done in by a leaky defense in front of him and pulled after the second period.

In a crazy contest, it's only fitting that Boston's beyond dead power play arose from the dead, scored two goals and created numerous other chances. Yeah, it was that kind of night.

Once again, Tampa Bay took an early lead, this time 13 seconds into regulation as Adam Hall (first of the playoffs) took advantage of a shot off the back boards that bounced right to him as he used his backhanded to put in a tough angle shot. Vincent Lecavalier and former Bruin Nate Thompson assisted on that gift.

Nathan Horton (sixth of the playoffs) got the Bruins on the board with their first power-play strike, at 13:58. He tipped in Dennis Seidenberg's shot from the point with Tomas Kaberle picking up the second assist.

The B's absolutely dominated play in the first period (18-11 shot advantage) yet it was a bitter feeling as the Lightning scored another fluky goal with seven seconds left in the frame. Steven Stamkos threw the puck at the net and Martin St. Louis was in front to bat it in past Thomas for his seventh of the playoffs. Lecavalier also assisted on that one.

Yes, the B's almost committed a nightmare of a collapse in the third period as they seemingly couldn't gain control of the puck or do simple things like score into an empty net but hey, they won. With Patrice Bergeron likely to make his return in Game 3, there's much to be excited about.

Given the stakes and setting, I honestly can't think of a better period than the one submitted in the second by Boston (5-1 in a must-win game in the Eastern Conference finals). Therefore, I stand by my delirious Tweet from last night that said "best Bruins period of my life." For 20 minutes, Claude Julien's boring defensive system was thrown into the trash as Seguin and the Bruins' other most talented forwards flew around the rink.

Seguin tied it up 48 seconds into the second after Michael Ryder sprung him for a breakaway. The 19-year-old knows what do in that position and he beat Roloson with a sweet backhander.

At 2:24 Seidenberg found David Krejci with a nice cross-ice feed and Krejci one-timed it for his sixth goal of the playoffs. Horton also assisted on his linemate's tally.

At 6:30 Seguin roofed a forehand shot over Roloson, assisted by Horton and Adam McQuaid. It's not understatement to say the TD Garden went bananas at that point, breaking out the Tyler.....Seguin chant.

Lecavalier (sixth of the playoffs) struck on a Tampa Bay power play to pull the Lightning within 4-3 at 7:48. St. Louis and Stamkos had the assists.

The ghost of Michael Ryder stopped by for a visit late in the second period and it was a pleasant stay as he potted two goals of his own (his third and fourth of the playoffs). He scored on the power play at 16:16 from Seguin (of course) and Kaberle. With 19 seconds left in the second, Ryder jumped on a rebound and scored after Roloson had stopped shots from Chris Kelly and Seguin.

I don't know how to explain it but Boston is just the worst hockey team ever playing with a lead, especially when it's more than one goal. Furthering my point, they were completely lifeless in the third period as Stamkos sniped one over Thomas' shoulder at 3:47 (his fifth of the playoffs) from Victor Hedman and Hall.

The clock seemed to be stuck in slow motion or maybe it was just the Bruins who seemed to be killing an invisible penalty all period. When former Harvard star Dominic Moore put in a rebound (on a play that should have been whistled dead since Thomas' mask came off) at 13:15, it looked like Tampa Bay was going to win this game.

Thankfully for hearts across New England, that didn't happen as the B's managed to hang on despite things like Milan Lucic shooting over an empty net (something you don't see every day).

Last night only proved that this series is probably going to the distance (seven games) either way. Tampa Bay has too much firepower to go down quietly but Boston has better goaltending (usually) and defense (sometimes) with more overall depth. Seguin really is the X factor; if he can continue to produce and Bergeron returns, I like the B's chances to get to their first Stanley Cup final since 1990.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adrian Gonzalez's first walk-off hit as a member of the Boston Red Sox

If the Boston Red Sox go anywhere this season, I can guarantee that highlights of last night's improbable victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park will be featured prominently.

Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run double off the Monster in the bottom of the ninth off Orioles closer Kevin Gregg giving Boston (21-20) its fourth straight win, 8-7 over Baltimore (19-21).

The Daisuke Matsuzaka experience was in full effect during a miserable, rainy night. He went 4.1 innings, allowing five hits, five earned runs, seven walks and two strikeouts. I don't know who they could put in his rotation spot but hopefully the Red Sox brass can come up with another fake injury and they can give him a seat next to John Lackey on the disabled list.

The Orioles built up a 6-0 lead with two runs in the first, one in the third, two in the fifth and one in the sixth.

Derrek Lee had an RBI double in the first and Vlad Guerrero (3 hits, 2 runs) drove in a run with a ground out. Matt Wieters had an RBI single in the third, Mark Reynolds had an RBI single in the fifth and J.J. Hardy drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Finally, Adam Jones had an RBI single in the sixth.

After Orioles starter Chris Tillman pitched five scoreless innings, Jed Lowrie (2 hits, 2 runs) got the comeback underway with an RBI double in the sixth. Jason Varitek and Gonzalez added RBI singles in the frame and Kevin Youkilis roped an two-run RBI double to pull the Red Sox within a run at 6-5.

Reynolds hit a solo homer to center off Boston reliever Alfredo Aceves (1-0) in the seventh to give the Orioles a 7-5 lead. It turned out to be the only mistake for Aceves as he went three innings for the win. He allowed two hits and struck out one for his first win with the Red Sox.

Varitek cut it to 7-6 in the seventh with another RBI single.

Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits) walked and stole second with one out in the ninth against Gregg. Pedroia worked a nine-pitch walk, setting the table for Gonzalez's sweet stroke off the Wall.

Tim Wakefield gets the ball tonight in place of Lackey. The O's counter with young lefty Zach Britton (5-2). Boston looks to sweep the two-game set and continue this stretch of good baseball.

Drew Bledsoe holds the ball for too long, gets sacked and enters the Patriots Hall of Fame

It's hard to think of a professional athlete in New England that has seen their legacy get tarnished more in the last decade than former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

It's ironic because from all accounts, the former No. 1 overall pick is a great guy and he left Foxborough on good terms. What hurt him so much rather than off the field drama was the fact that one of the alltime great quarterbacks in NFL history (Tom Brady) directly followed him and led the Patriots to three Super Bowl wins in four years and four Super Bowls overall (so far).

Still, Bledsoe deserves his share of credit from turning that hopeless franchise from a joke when he joined them in 1993 to a legitimate playoff team year after year when he left (after 2001). It was nice to see the fans respond as they voted Bledsoe into the Patriots Hall of Fame.

The announcement was made yesterday as Bledsoe was the 17th player and 18th member of the team to make the Hall of Fame. Since the new voting process was instituted in 2007, Bledsoe earned the highest percentage of votes (beating former head coach Bill Parcells and defensive lineman Houston Antwine) from fans and also became the first player to get voted in during his first year of eligibility.

Bledsoe will join Jon Morris, who was selected to the hall of fame by the senior selection committee, as the 2011 honorees. Bledsoe and Morris will be inducted in a public ceremony outside The Hall at Patriot Place on Saturday, Sept. 17.

During his nine-year Patriots career, he broke the Patriots' career passing records for attempts (4,518), completions (2,544) and yards (29,657). Bledsoe still holds the Patriots' single-season passing records for attempts (691) and completions (400) and is the only player in franchise history to pass for over 400 yards multiple times (4). He still holds the NFL record for attempts in a season (691 in 1994) and both attempts (70) and completions (45) in a game against Minnesota in 1994 that sparked a seven-game win streak, propelling the Patriots to their first playoff berth in eight years. Bledsoe led the Patriots to the playoffs four times in his first six seasons, helping the team earn back-to-back division titles and three consecutive playoff berths for the first time in franchise history. In 1996, he guided the Patriots to their second AFC Championship in franchise history and a trip to Super Bowl XXXI. Bledsoe is the only quarterback in NFL history with four seasons of at least 600 pass attempts, including three straight from 1994-96 with the Patriots.

Monday, May 16, 2011

They did it! Red Sox reach .500 mark!

After 40 games in the 2011 season, the Boston Red Sox finally reached the .500 mark with a 7-5 win last night at Yankee Stadium.

It couldn't have come in much better fashion as it enabled the Red Sox (20-20) to not only sweep the three-game series against the Yankees (20-18) but send New York into a tailspin as they've lost their last five games in a row and nine of their last 12.

Jon Lester (5-1) battled through a subpar outing and still managed to give Boston some innings. Are you paying attention John Lackey? Lester went six innings, allowing five hits, four earned runs, four walks with seven strikeouts.

Freddy Garcia (2-3) couldn't match Lester even on a very off-night for one of MLB's best. In 5.1 innings, he allowed six hits, five runs (four earned), two walks and four strikeouts.

The Yankees got out to a 4-1 lead but it wasn't enough to stem the tide of a lost weekend in the Bronx for the Bombers.

Mark Teixeira (2 hits) had an RBI single in the first which drove in Derek Jeter for a 1-0 Yankees lead.

Jed Lowrie tied it in the second with a sacrifice fly which scored Kevin Youkilis.

Andruw Jones hit a solo homer in the second and Curtis Granderson blasted a three-run bomb off Lester in the same frame.

Yankee Stadium continued to be a glorified Little League park (and to think people make fun of Fenway) as Youk tied it in the third with a three-run bomb of his own.

David Ortiz (3 hits) put Boston ahead with a solo shot in the fifth.

Alex Rodriguez made a fielding error on about the easiest play imaginable in the seventh, allowing Youk to score and put the Red Sox up 6-4.

A-Rod atoned for his mistake with an RBI double in the seventh off former Yanks reliever Alfredo Aceves but Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2 hits) gave Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon some breathing room with a solo homer in the eighth off the ghost of Joba Chamberlain.

Bard survived two walks to get four outs in the seventh and eighth while Papelbon recorded a 1-2-3 ninth (with a strikeout) for his seventh save of the season.

The Red Sox return home for a seven-game homestand (Orioles, Tigers and Cubs!) in rainy Boston. With only 3.5 games seperating first-place Tampa Bay and last-place Baltimore, it's time to forget about Boston's terrible start. It's a thing of the past and they still have 122 (haha) regular season games left.

They begin with two against Baltimore starting tonight with Daisuke Matsuzaka taking on Chris Tillman. With rain forecasted and the usual Dice-K roller coaster, I would say give your tickets away if you have them and drink heavily or use drugs if you plan on watching this one on TV.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bruins take the time machine back to Games 1-2 vs. Montreal

After not having a game for eight days, we were all dying for a taste of the Boston Bruins in the playoffs, especially since the Celtics are now done and the B's had advanced farther than they had in the past 18 years.

In true Bruins form, they completely let everybody down by getting smoked 5-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals last night at TD Garden.

After sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers and winning four of its last five against the Montreal Canadiens earlier in the playoffs, the B's took a trip back to the nightmarish Games 1-2 against the Habs. In those games, Boston routinely gave goals to Montreal with awful turnovers and bad rebounds from Tim Thomas.

Tampa Bay put Game 1 away with a flurry of three goals in a span of 1:25 of the first period. At 11:15, Sean Bergenheim (8th of the playoffs) made it 1-0 as Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg kicked it right to him in front of the net. Totally not Thomas' fault. Dominic Moore and Victor Hedman assisted on that one.

19 seconds later, Brett Clark went from one end of the rink to the other and threw a weak sauce backhander on Thomas (29 saves). It trickled through Thomas for Clark's first goal of the postseason. Completely unforgivable.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien should have called a timeout right then but he waited and things somehow got even worse as Tomas Kaberle coughed up the puck right behind the net and Teddy Purcell stuffed it by Thomas for his second of the playoffs and a shocking 3-0 Lightning lead just 12:40 into the first period.

At 15:59 of the first period, Tyler Seguin cut it to 3-1 with a moment of brilliance, his first career playoff goal in his first playoff game. He was assisted by Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley but Seguin did all the hard work as he dangled past a Tampa Bay defenseman.

Boston put some shots on Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson (31 saves) but they didn't get enough traffic in front or simply shot wide of the net. Plus, Tampa Bay blocked roughly 50 shots.

Marc-Andre Bergeron clinched it for the Lightning with a power-play goal at 13:37 of the third period. His second of the playoffs, it was assisted by Brett Clark and Martin St. Louis.

Simon Gagne added an empty-netter (his third of the season, from Purcell) before Johnny Boychuk (third of the playoffs) got a garbage time goal for the Bruins, from Seguin.

Game 2 is Tuesday night back at TD Garden. I don't think the Bruins could play much worse. Tampa Bay's top offensive players (Steven Stamkos, St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier) were quiet in Game 1 so that'll soon change. Thomas will be better and Boston cannot possibly give Tampa Bay easier goals. It is a must-win since Tampa Bay is better than Montreal and Philadelphia and the B's don't want to be down 2-0 against such a good team with the series headed to their home rink.

Josh Beckett owns the Yankees (at least so far this season)

It's funny how in a couple days, the New York Yankees have become a complete mess with a legendary player (Jorge Posada) removing himself from the lineup while the Boston Red Sox look like a team that has underachieved so far this season but is built for big things in 2011.

The Red Sox (19-20) shut out the Yankees (20-17) 5-0 last night at Yankee Stadium with Josh Beckett (3-1) outdueling CC Sabathia (3-3) for the second time in a month.

It was the second straight win for Boston in the Bronx and they'll go for the sweep tonight on Sunday Night baseball.

Beckett went six scoreless innings, allowing four hits, two walks with nine strikeouts.

Sabathia matched Beckett for the first four innings before giving up two runs in the fifth and four in the seventh. The big lefty went 6.2 innings, allowing seven hits, six earned runs, three walks with six strikeouts.

Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, 2 RBIs) got the Red Sox on the board with a two-run double in the fifth.

Boston benefited from a missed strike call on Jason Varitek in the seventh. On the next pitch, he laced an RBI single which scored Mike Cameron. Later in the frame, Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run homer (his ninth of the season and fourth in his last four games).

Dustin Pedroia added three hits, a run and a stolen base in the win.

Curtis Granderson was the only Yankee with multiple hits. He had two hits and a stolen base.

The two most pleasant surprises in the Boston bullpen continued to get it done. Matt Albers pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth with two strikeouts while Rich Hill threw a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts of his own.

Tonight is the fifth time that the Red Sox have a chance to get to the .500 mark. Jon Lester will take on Freddy Garcia as Boston goes for the three-game sweep.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beating the Yankees cures all

After a slow start to his 2011 season, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz has settled in during May. He's 3-0 so far this month and shows signs that last season wasn't a fluke and likewise he won't be suffering much of a sophomore slump.

Boston (18-20) won 5-4 last night at Yankee Stadium behind another strong outing from Buchholz (4-3), a nice start to an important series against the Yankees.

He went seven innings, allowing five hits, two earned runs, one walk and seven strikeouts.

After his shady stem cell surgery, Yankees (20-16) pitcher Bartolo Colon (2-2) is pitching like it's 2005. He went six innings, allowing five hits, three runs (two earned), three walks and four strikeouts.

I for one am not surprised at all that he's throwing in the upper 90s again. Makes total sense really, haha!

The Red Sox got out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a solo homer by Adrian Gonzalez (eighth of the season) and a ground out by Carl Crawford, which scored Kevin Youkilis.

Russell Martin, that noted Boston killer, tied it with a two-run bomb in the fifth (his seventh of the season). Once again, I'll note that we could have had him for peanuts this season.

Gonzalez put the Red Sox back ahead with a sacrifice fly in the seventh and Youkilis followed with a two-run blast (his sixth of the season) off his nemesis Joba Chamberlain.

Daniel Bard came in for the eighth and he was erratic. Curtis Granderson scored on his wild pitch but he survived by only giving up the one run.

Jonathan Papelbon entered in the ninth and also gave up a run, on an RBI single by Granderson (which scored Jeter) but he did enough for his sixth save of the season.

Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits, a run and stolen base in the win.

Josh Beckett and the Red Sox will try to build some momentum as he takes on CC Sabathia tonight in the Bronx. Beautiful scheduling there by MLB, three straight night games. Don't ask me why today isn't an afternoon game, especially with the Bruins-Lightning series starting tonight at 8 p.m. Just Bud being Bud.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

You knew this day was coming

After the Boston Celtics lost the first two games of the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals to the Miami Heat, you could sense that the championship window was rapidly closing.

The Celts were not going to comeback far enough in the series and barring big changes (namely an infusion of young talent), this team is destined to become the San Antonio Spurs of this season (a formerly great team that craps its pants in the first round of the playoffs).

Boston actually led 87-81 last night in Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena but from there, LeBron James and the Heat closed the game and the series on a 16-0 run. The Heat won 97-87 for a 4-1 series win and a berth in the Eastern Conference finals against either the Chicago Bulls or the Atlanta Hawks (Bulls up 3-2 with a chance to close out the Hawks tonight).

Losing the series had nothing to do with the shady NBA referees or the Kendrick Perkins trade. Yes, the Heat got to the line at will but that was because they drove rather than settle for jumpers like the Celtics. And yes, Perk would have made the Celts tougher and better defensively but Miami still would have won in six or seven games.

Dwyane Wade had a game-high 34 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals while LeBron put up 33 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Proverbial third wheel Chris Bosh had 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Ray Allen led the C's with 18 points, Kevin Garnett had 15 points and 11 rebounds while Paul Pierce had 12 points. Rajon Rondo was limited to six points and three assists. He rightfully sat at the end of the game since between injury and inability to pose a threat offensively, the Heat didn't even have to cover him.

Delonte West had 10 points off the bench while Jeff Green (9 points), Nenad Krstic (8 points) and Glen Davis (6 points) all had their best games of the series but it didn't matter.

Boston came out strong with a 24-16 lead after the first quarter. They led by 10 points but it was fools gold since that happened for much of the series and the latter part of the season. The Celts didn't have the firepower to step up at the end of games while the Heat got it done when it really mattered most.

The Celts led 49-47 at halftime and 73-71 after three quarters. True to form, Miami owned the fourth quarter (26-14) and sent the Celtics home.

Head coach Doc Rivers said after the game that he's a Celtic and he's leaning toward returning next season. Davis is a free agent and Allen said he'll pick up his option and return. That's all fine and dandy but everyone will be a year older while Derrick Rose and the Bulls improve and the Heat continue to mesh more too.

For the game, Boston shot 49.3% to 46.4% last night. The Heat made 12 more free throws (26-14) and grabbed eight more rebounds (38-30). The C's had two more assists (15-13) and two more blocks (5-3) but the Heat had two more steals (7-5). Eight more turnovers (17-9) absolutely killed Boston along with 10 more fast break points (12-2), 10 more points off turnovers (22-12) and six more points in the paint (36-30) for the Heat.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2011 Boston Red Sox cannot seem to get to the .500 mark to save their lives

It's going to happen eventually, I hope, but for the time being the Boston Red Sox simply cannot get to the .500 mark let alone jump over it.

For the third time in the 2011 season, they had a chance to get to .500 last night but once again, they fell short in a 7-6 loss in 11 innings at the Rogers Centre.

Jon Lester wasn't right from the start, giving up three runs in the first inning but the Red Sox (17-19) battled back to tie it multiple times, including a ninth-inning run off Blue Jays (16-20) closer Frank Francisco.

Lester struggled through 5.1 innings, allowing seven hits, five earned runs with five walks and five strikeouts. He was done after 114 pitches.

The poor pitching by Boston ruined a great night by its bipolar offense. The Red Sox put up a season-high 16 hits led by Adrian Gonzalez (3 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs), David Ortiz (3 hits, 2 runs, RBI), Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits extending his hit streak to 19 games, stolen base), Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, 2 walks, run, stolen base) and J.D. Drew (2 hits).

Rookie Kyle Drabek (5 innings, 8 hits, 4 earned runs, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts) didn't give the Blue Jays much but his bullpen was just a hair better than Boston's.

Carl Crawford (10 game hit streak) cut it to 3-1 in the second with an RBI single. A solo homer by Ortiz (fifth of the season) in the fourth and Gonzalez's two-run blast in the fifth gave the Red Sox a 4-3 advantage.

Jose Bautista and J.P. Arencibia had solo homers in the fifth and sixth respectively to put Toronto back ahead 5-4.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia tied it in the eighth with an RBI single.

Rookie David Cooper hit a solo homer in the eighth off Daniel Bard but Gonzalez came through with the clutch homer in the ninth off Francisco to tie it.

With Matt Albers (0-1) on the mound, Rajai Davis singled in the tenth then stole sceond and third base on him and Jason Varitek. Cooper drove Davis home with a deep sacrifice fly to center.

This mini-series ends tonight with John Lackey opposing Jesse Litsch. You know what that means: I won't be watching much since A) Lackey will be shelled as per usual and the Celtics are facing the Heat while Miami has the chance to close out Boston.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It was fun while it lasted

It doesn't get much more painful than last night's 98-90 overtime loss for the Celtics to the Heat. Miami takes a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals and has a chance to close out the Big 3 tomorrow night in South Beach.

With its home crowd at TD Garden going nuts, Boston had a chance to win it at the end of regulation but a screwed up play led to Paul Pierce's (27 points, 8 rebounds) hopeless fadeaway jumper that rimmed out.

That was the Celtics' season right there and on a bigger scale, it means that a crazy offseason (with tons of roster turnover) is now days away.

Miami dominated in overtime (12-4) as the Celts were out of gas and realized that they were done this season and perhaps for a long time moving forward.

The Heat's Big 3 of LeBron James (game-high 35 points, 14 rebounds), Dwyane Wade (28 points, 9 rebounds) and Chris Bosh (20 points, 12 rebounds) owned the game and they've owned the series as a whole.

Ray Allen had a quiet 17 points while Kevin Garnett was held to seven points (1 for 10 shooting) and 10 rebounds. It was hard to believe that KG was the same guy that had 28 points and 18 rebounds in Boston's Game 3 win. With that guy, the C's had hope. If he plays like he did last night, it's over in Game 5.

Rajon Rondo played and showed more heart but he was undoubtedly affected by his left elbow (which was dislocated then popped back into place on Saturday night). He had 10 points and five assists.

Delonte West has been Boston's only bench player that has stepped up in the pressure cooker that is known as the NBA playoffs. West had 10 points and three steals while Jeff Green (7 points) and Glen Davis (4 points) continued to be enigmas. Green has already established himself as completely unpredictable but what has happened to Big Baby in the playoffs? He was great for most of the regular season but now he's a puddle that can't seem to do anything right.

Nobody else on the Heat put up more than four points but who cares? It's the NBA and this team is showing that three stars and a bunch of bums can get it done (so far).

This was truly a game that the Celtics let slip away as they led 31-28 after the first quarter and as much as 11 in the second quarter before settling into a 53-50 halftime advantage. Boston won the third quarter (20-19) barely but Miami tied it up in the fourth (17-13) when it turned into a tractor pull of a defensive struggle.

For the game, the Heat shot 44.3% to 42.9% for the Celtics. Boston hit two more 3-pointers (5-3) but Miami snatched an unforgivable 17 more rebounds (45-28). The Celts had five more assists (15-10) and six more fast break points (15-9) but the younger, hungrier Heat pounded it inside to the tune of 48-32.

I have tomorrow night off from work so I'm ready to devote my full attention to the Celtics' last gasp effort to try and extend this series. In my heart of hearts, I think if Boston can win Game 5, they can definitely win Game 6 at TD Garden but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Game 5 is all that matters and the Celtics have to prove they can win in Miami before the Heat can start sweating.

Carl Crawford, for the win!

I think it's time for Carl Crawford to move up in the Red Sox' lineup. He is finally ready to get out of the eighth spot hitter's purgatory. Haha although don't ask me where to put him, maybe fifth?

For the second time on the homestand, he had a walk-off hit to help Boston win. Last night it was an RBI double in the 11th that took care of the Minnesota Twins (12-21) at Fenway Park.

It let the Red Sox (17-18) end the season-high 11 game stay at home 6-5 with their third straight win over the Twins while inching them one game away from .500. Baby steps right?

Josh Beckett was outstanding, throwing seven scoreless innings but he wound up with the no-decision after Jonathan Papelbon blew the save opportunity in the eighth (his first of the season). Beckett allowed six hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

Hideki Okajima (1-0) was the unsung hero as he threw a career-high 42 pitches and managed to submit a scoreless 10th and 11th despite allowing two hits and walking two. He also struck out three.

Nick Blackburn was similarly good for Minnesota but he departed with a no-decision as well. He went 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits, one earned run with three walks and five strikeouts.

Adrian Gonzalez (2 hits) continued his excellent play with an RBI single in the fifth that scored Jason Varitek (2 hits) and gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.

Jason Kubel broke his bat but was able to get an RBI single off Papelbon in the eighth which plated Denard Span.

Crawford's RBI double in the 11th was off the Monster and rookie Jose Iglesias (pinch running for Jed Lowrie who walked) raced around and just beat the relay for the exciting win.

Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hit streak to 18 games with a single.

Boston hits the road for two in Toronto then their first visit to Yankee Stadium this season takes place this weekend.

Jon Lester goes up against on Kyle Drabek tonight at the Rogers Centre.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jacoby Ellsbury & Adrian Gonzalez are on fire

Despite what the Bill James' and stat geeks of the world will tell you (through 1000 page books and boring websites), baseball is and will always remain a simple game.

To that point, when you have a leadoff hitter that is consistently getting on base and a middle of the lineup bat that is driving guys in, you are going to have a potent offense.

Such is the case right now with the Boston Red Sox, leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez (their No. 3 hitter).

Ellsbury had three hits, a run and a stolen base yesterday afternoon and Gonzalez had a grand 29th birthday with three hits (including a solo homer), two runs and two RBIs as the Red Sox (16-18) beat the Minnesota Twins (12-20) 9-5 at Fenway Park.

After losing the series opener on Friday night (its third loss in a row), Boston has bounced back with back-to-back wins against Minnesota, who is a complete mess at the moment. Much of the Red Sox' spotty success lately has been due to Ellsbury and Gonzalez who are both currently on fire.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-3) was at his frustrating best yesterday as he gave up three runs in the top of the first but settled down to go six innings, allowing only one more run. He gave up five hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

Connecticut native Carl Pavano (2-4) has had a terrible start to the 2011 season-trust me, I had him on two fantasy teams-and that continued yesterday. In five innings, he allowed ten hits and seven earned runs with a walk. With that, I dumped him from both teams (and yes, I know you care).

The Red Sox banged out a season-high 14 hits with Kevin Youkilis (4 runs, 2 hits) and David Ortiz (2 hits) also recording multiple hits.

Jason Kubel (3 hits, 2 RBIs) had an RBI single to start Minnesota's big first inning. Danny Valenica (3 RBIs, 2 hits) topped that with a two-run single of his own.

J.D. Drew began the Red Sox comeback with an RBI ground out in the second. In the third, Jason Varitek cut it to 3-2 with another RBI ground and Gonzalez delivered an RBI single in the third to tie it at three. Youk's fielder's choice put Boston up 4-3 in the third before Drew came through with an RBI single to cap off the five-run third for Boston.

Valencia's solo homer in the fourth made it 5-4 Red Sox but Gonzalez answered with a solo shot (his fourth of the season) in the fifth over the Monster. A fielder's choice by Drew increased the lead to 7-4 in the same frame.

Jed Lowrie put this one in the win column with a two-run single in the seventh.

The Twins got one more run on Kubel's RBI single in the eighth.

Matt Albers went two innings (giving up three hits and one earned run but striking out three) and Daniel Bard pitched a scoreless ninth.

Josh Beckett faces Nick Blackburn tonight in the series finale. A win here by the Red Sox would cap off a nice 3-1 series. Beckett last started during the rain delayed game against the Angels last Wednesday, so he should be raring to go since he only went 4.1 innings then.