With 6:49 remaining on the game clock in the 3rd quarter Thursday night, the TD Banknorth Garden grew very quiet. It was an awkward silence that sent chills down the spines of onlookers all around the city. Paul Pierce, the Celtics fearless leader, was down for the count with what appeared to be a serious knee injury and it didn’t look like he’d be getting up anytime soon. Boston fans feared the worst and knew that without ‘The Truth’ the 11th finals match up between Boston and Los Angeles was all but over.
As if scripted out of a Rocky movie, not only did Pierce get up when everyone knew he was in serious anguish, he delivered the knockout like blow by nailing back to back 3-point field goals in a 22-second span late in the 3rd quarter that gave the Boston Celtics the lead for good en route to their 98-88 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
The storied match up between the two most successful franchises in NBA history lived up to everything you thought it would in a game that featured 12 ties and 21 lead changes. With future hall-of-famers up and down both line ups, the excitement of fans was reminiscent to only that of Game 1 of the 2004 MLB World Series.
“I think this is a great thing not just for the NBA, but just for sports in general,” Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. “I think it’s a great thing when the best gets a chance to compete against the best, and whoever comes out on top, they earned it. I think both teams should be proud to be here.”
Fisher led the Lakers to a 51-46 first half lead scoring 13 points by the break but would only finish the 15 points on the night. His stat line was very similar to that of Rajon Rondo of the Celtics. Both PG’s finished with 15 points, while Rondo notched 7 assists compared to Fisher’s 6. Rondo would also one-upped Fisher in the rebound category grabbing 5, one more then Fisher’s 4 boards.
Kobe Bryant, the NBA’s reigning MVP, was held to 24 points on a 9-26 shooting performance. The majority of his shots were good looks that just weren’t going down. Ray Allen and Pierce both did an excellent job of trying to always have one hand in his face, limiting the wide open looks that the superstar knocks down with ease.
Besides Pierce’s heroic performance of 22 points (19 in the 2nd half), Kevin Garnett contributed to the win in a big way. KG recorded his 12th double-double of the ’08 playoffs scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He slammed home the victory with an emphatic dunk off of a James Posey miss that brought the Garden crowd to their feet with 1:32 to play in the game and gave the Celtics their largest lead at the time putting them ahead 94-86.
Rounding out the ‘Big Three’, Allen also hit some clutch shots and finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds, but the big story on the night was still how Pierce managed to single handedly rejuvenate his team and home town crowd, making them all believers that Boston can win this series.
As Pierce jogged onto the court from the locker room with a black elastic wrap on his injured knee, Garnett clinched a fist and screamed, “Yes!”
“He was walking, he was up on his own strength and he rejuvenated us,” said Garnett, “He gave everybody life.”
Bottom line, Pierce’s performance was gutsy and will go down as just another magical moment to add to the countless number of highlights that already exist in the Celtics vs. Lakers finals rivalry. Shots of him being carried off the floor by teammates, to then only minutes later walk right past coach Doc Rivers to check himself back into the game will air next to those of Magic Johnson’s baby hook shot or Kevin McHale’s clothesline of Kurt Rambis in a montage that will remind generation after generation just how exciting this rivalry really is.
“I think God sent an angel down and said, ‘Hey you’re going to be all right. You need to get back out there’,” Pierce said.
There’s a very good chance that angel may have very well been smoking a cigar and the Celtics biggest fan.
Thanks Red, hope you’re enjoying the best seats in the house.
The Boston Red Sox rattled off their 12th straight win at Fenway Park Wednesday night, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 in front of a sold out crowd of 37,474 fans. Josh Beckett led the way hurling 6 strong innings in which he allowed only 1 run on 7 hits while striking out 5 Rays to earn his 6th victory on the season.
The win helped move the Red Sox back into first place in the AL East by half a game over the Rays who had been in the top spot for almost two weeks.
There was plenty of excitement during the action and tempers flared on both sides of the field in this one. Dustin Pedroia grew very angry over a foul ball call that appeared to be a home run. B.J. Upton was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, and words were exchanged between Coco Crisp and Rays manager Joe Maddon after a hard slide into second on a steal attempt.
That’s what happens when you put the two best teams in MLB on the field together, no matter how early or late in the season, something is always at stake.
“We’re neck and neck and they have a good ballclub,” Crisp said. “So when you’re playing a team like that, you have to be at your best.”
Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis and Crisp all ended the night with 2 hits a piece. Drew hitting in the 3rd spot in the lineup for injured DH David Ortiz continued to pick up the sluggers slack by scoring 2 runs and also adding an RBI plus a walk to his line.
The bullpen continued to pitch well in relief. Manny Delcarmen struck out the side in the 7th, Hideki Okajima hurled a scoreless 8th and Craig Hanson shut the door in the 9th to preserve the win for Beckett and the Sox.
If the Sox can continue to rattle off wins without stars like Ortiz in the everyday lineup and pitchers Dice-K Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholtz in the five man rotation, just think about the possibilities when they are all healthy and return.
Tampa Bay had won 8 of their previous 10 games before heading into Fenway. On the season, the Sox are now 23-5 in Boston for the best home record in MLB. Tonight, they will go for their 4th consecutive series sweep at home by sending Jon Lester to the hill.
Lester’s last start at Fenway Park resulted in a no-hit effort against the Kansas City Royals on May 19th. He is 3-3 on the year with a 3.67 ERA.
The Rays will counter with Jamie Shields who is 4-3 on the year with a 3.24 ERA. He beat the Sox back on April 27th in Tampa when he tossed a complete game 2 hit shut out in the Rays 3-0 win at Tropicana Field. Six days later he couldn’t make it out of the 4th inning against the Sox who blasted him for 7 runs on 10 hits in Boston’s 12-4 win on May 3rd.
Tonight’s first pitch has been moved up to 6:05pm EST due to the start of Game 1 of the NBA Finals featuring the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.
Justin Masterson pitched six solid innings and picked up his 2nd victory on the season as the Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 7-4 in a match up featuring the top two teams in the American League. The win was Boston’s 11th consecutive victory at Fenway Park, an impressive streak that started on May 2nd. During the run fans have witnessed seven different pitchers earn victories, 15 home town homers, 82 runs scored compared to only 42 allowed and of course a no hitter by Jon Lester on May 19th.
The win did not come easy for the Sox but an all around team effort proved to be enough to surge ahead of the Rays who came into the game atop the AL East. Coco Crisp knocked in the go-ahead run on an RBI double in a 4 run 6th inning and the Sox never looked back. With the double, Crisp snapped a 1-25 skid at the plate in a game where he was originally not even scheduled to start.
“Crisp is the guy that’s been struggling, but he looked good tonight,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s a good homecourt advantage and then you combine that with the quality of hitters, you’ve got to pitch well and we didn’t.”
In picking up the win, Masterson allowed 4 runs on 6 hits while striking out 5 Rays along the way. After allowing a leadoff homerun to Akinori Iwamura, he settled down retiring 10 of the next 11 batters he faced. Manny Delcarmen entered the game in relief and pitched a scoreless 7th. Craig Hanson hurled a scoreless 8th and Jonathan Papelbon came on to record his 17th save of the season, pitching a perfect 9th recording 2 strike outs in the outing.
The team effort was very promising after the club placed DH David Ortiz on the 15-day DL with a partial tear in his sheath around the tendon in his left wrist.
“Even in the very beginning parts of the season, it wasn’t just Manny (Ramirez) and David,” said Papelbon. “Now that David’s out, it’s even more noticeable that we do have a team where everybody contributes.”
Every member of the Sox lineup reached base in the win. Hitters 3 through 7 in the batting order produced 7 hits, 6 RBI’s and all 7 runs on the night.
“They’ve definitely got a great lineup,” said Rays starter Matt Garza (4-2). “They’ve got a lot of pop in there and some guys that can sneak stuff through. That middle of the lineup still has a lot of pop even without Ortiz.”
Carlos Pena, a former member of the Red Sox organization and Northeastern University baseball team, played well for the Rays in his return to Boston. Pena went 2-3 on the night belting his 11th homerun of the season while knocking in 2 RBI’s.
The Sox will send Josh Beckett to the hill tonight attempting to win their 12th consecutive win at home. If successful that would be the longest home winning streak of the season in all of MLB. Their 11-game win streak is currently tied with Tampa Bay who won 11 straight at Tropicana Field during the month of May.
Beckett is currently 5-4 on the season with a 4.30 ERA. After finishing 2nd in the 2007 Cy-Young balloting, he’s been very inconsistent to start the 2008 campaign. After missing his first few starts with lower back issues, he has yet to regain his dominant stuff from last season. In his most recent outing, he pitched well allowing only 2 runs over 6 innings in Baltimore for his first no-decision on the year.
The Rays will send Edwin Jackson to the hill to face the Sox for the third time this season. Jackson had ace like stuff in his first performance against Boston back on April 26th when he went 7 innings and allowed only 1 earned run on 5 hits. His very next start out on May 2nd, the Sox saw a completely different pitcher when Jackson allowed 6 earned runs on 9 hits over 4 innings of work.
If the Sox can capture tonight’s match up they will regain the lead in the AL East by ½ a game for the first time since May 25th. Tonight’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 EST.
It had been the New York Yankees plan all along to ease Joba Chamberlin into their starting rotation, with high hopes that he would eventually become the future ace of a overpaid, aging staff. His youth, flair and blazing fastball would carry a team from the cellar of the AL East back into the promise land. He’d save Hank Steinbrenner from humiliation and lead the Bronx Bombers, one start at a time, back into playoff contention.
After New York’s 9-3 loss Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays, it looks like Joba never got that memo.
On a very strict pitch count, Chamberlain lasted only 2 1/3 innings throwing 62 pitches, only 32 of them for strikes. He allowed 2 runs, on 1 hit but surrendered 4 walks in the outing. His 38 pitches in the 1st inning were the most he’s ever thrown in one frame, 14 more then his previous 1 inning high.
“I wanted to get my team a lot deeper into the game and it wasn’t very good,” Chamberlain said. “That’s what it comes down to. I’ve got to be better, that’s for sure.”
After Joba escaped the 1st inning only allowing 1 run, his teammates picked him up and immediately put 2 runs up on the board in the bottom half of the inning. Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi knocked in RBI singles to put the Yanks ahead 2-1.
Joba then worked a perfect 2nd inning retiring the Blue Jays in order but was yanked by manager Joe Girardi after a four pitch walk to Alex Rios with 1 out in the 3rd inning.
“It’s his first start,” Girardi said. “He wasn’t quite as sharp as he probably wanted to be but in saying that, he kept us in the game.”
With that said, yes, he may have kept the Yankees in the game for the first 7 outs but in hindsight was starting Joba a good idea? The Yankees bullpen allowed 6 runs in the 7th inning, a frame that Chamberlain would often work out of the pen.
By patching up the rotation with Chamberlain, the Yankees now find themselves with a new hole between their starting pitchers exit and Marino Rivera’s entrance to games in the closer spot. The likes of Dan Giese, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, LaTroy Hawkins and Chris Britton doesn’t exactly leave anyone in Yankee Stadium feeling comfortable during the late middle innings of any game, no matter what the score is.
Ever since the Yankees called Chamberlin up to the big leagues late last season, the organization has been adamant that the plan was and always has been to turn him into a starting pitcher. His success as a set up man was supposed to be just a tease as to what he would be able to do for 7+ innings every start.
For the time being, forget about 7 innings. Yesterday, Chamberlin had trouble getting 7 outs.
“It was the first step, that’s all,” said team co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, who watched the game in his office at the Yankees’ facility in Tampa, Fla. “Again, he’s 22. This was the first step. We’re looking at a 10 year or more career. Tonight was a creation of the media. If this had been a first start for any other pitcher on any other team, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal.”
Sorry to tell ya, Hank, but the media didn’t create this but you did. Remember last year when you came out with the ‘Joba Rules’ and limited your prodigy to so many innings of work. Remember when you insisted during the 2008 preseason that your young star was still on track to be in the starting rotation for opening day but didn’t want to rush his progress. Or do you remember when your team was in last place in the division and in a struggling attempt to create any type of positive hype about your franchise you prematurely decided it was time to throw your franchises untouchable prospect into the rotation in a last ditch effort to turn things around.
Oh, wait. That was last night.
For the Yankees to turn this season around its going to take more then one young arm. They need veterans like Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina to start to pitching deeper into games, which could be asking a lot considers Pettitte is going on 36 years old and has logged over 2,600 career innings. At 39 years old, Mussina is even more seasoned and has hurled over 3,420 innings. The two are averaging 5 2/3 innings per start, leaving the bullpen responsible for roughly 10 outs a game.
Joba had been reliable for 3 – 6 of those outs but will no longer be available out of the pen. Asking Rivera to record more then a 3 out saves is asking a lot, maybe too much from the 38 year old.
The hardest thing for Hank and the rest of the Yankees organization to admit is that they are currently transitioning from one era to the next. Some even call this transition a rebuilding year but no, no, no not Hank Steinbrenner. How that happens to a team that has the leagues highest payroll, 2007 AL MVP and countless former All-Stars is almost unfathomable.
It’s gut check time in New York; Hank and the rest of his front office staff better be careful with their decisions regarding the franchises future because if they’re not, players will begin to jump off the already sinking ship, demanding trades left and right. A-Rod already bought some floaties.
About one year ago this time, things weren’t looking so hot for the Boston Celtics organization. Boston was coming off a 24-58 season that included a streak of 18 consecutive losses, the death of franchise legend Red Auerbach and the 2nd worst record in the NBA that only resulted in the 5th overall lottery selection.
The Los Angeles Lakers franchise was also in the midst of much turmoil just having been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the 2nd straight season, with superstar guard Kobe Bryant demanding a trade publicly from the front office executives immediately.
How quickly things can change.
The two historic organizations find themselves in the 2008 NBA Finals, facing each other in the championship for the 11th time. The Celtics hold the 8-2 edge in head to head series play but the Lakers have captured the last two match ups in 1985 and 1987.
This rivalry has made the NBA what it is today. The Bird vs. Magic era brought excitement to the league like there had never been before and now both teams are loaded with future hall of famers and leaders like Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.
Last summer, the two NBA All-Stars were playing pickup ball together at UCLA’s gym. Both were frustrated with the outcome of their seasons and knew that trade talks would be likely for both of them.
“I remember being in the gym with Kobe, and me and him were arguing over who was going to get traded first,” Pierce said Monday after the Celtics held their first practice in preparation for the NBA finals.
“He went public about getting traded, … and I was like, ‘Shoot, I’m going to getting traded before you,’ and betting that it would happen. That’s what so crazy, now we’re both here sitting in the finals, where a year ago we were both in the gym.”
Big reasons why both players find themselves 4 wins away from a championship are the acquisitions that were made to get their teams to where they are today. For the Celtics, the important moves were made before the season while the Lakers pulled some strings right at the trade deadline.
Boston acquired SG Ray Allen on draft day via trade and then shortly after made a 7 for 1 player swap to package former league MVP Kevin Garnett into beantown as the newest member to the Celtics organization. And as they say, the rest is history. Combined with the force of Pierce, the three have reenergized basketball fans in Boston for the first time since the mid 80′s. As for the Lakers, they were able to trade for All-Star PF Pau Gasol right before the trade deadline for almost nothing. His acquisition has sparked a 2nd half turnaround that put LA atop the Western Conference.
After the Celtics downed the Detroit Pistons in six games and the Lakers took care of the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in five, the stage is set for what many are calling the best Finals match up in over 25 years.
Lets take a look at the probable match ups between teams and which club has the advantage at each position.
At points guard the Celtics will go with Rajon Rondo and he will be matched up against veteran Derek Fisher. Fisher certainly wins some points for experience but Rondo has been more of a contributing factor offensively dishing out assists and scoring big buckets when needed. The best part about this match up is that if Rondo needs a quick blow, veteran back up Sam Cassell will step right in and provide the veteran experience that Rondo lacks to equal that of Fishers.
ADVANTAGE – BOS
The most important match up of the series will be at the shooting guard position featuring two of the NBA’s premiere perimeter players in Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant. Both can flat out shoot the ball and anything within a few steps over the half court line is in their range. Allen’s defense can be suspect at times due to ankle problems, while Kobe has been on the NBA’s Defensive 1st team multiple times. Allen will not be the only one covering the reigning MVP, look for some help from fellow wingman Paul Pierce but their job will be simple, hold Kobe to his averages and let the other Lakers beat you.
ADVANTAGE – L.A.
While Paul Pierce is not helping out with Bryant he’ll have his hands full guarding Lamar Odom. This match up will create problems for both sides because at 6’10″ tall, Odom has a 4 inch height advantage and will try to post up his smaller defender when the opportunity presents itself. However, Pierce has the speed advantage and will create for himself opportunities to take the ball to the hole off the dribble which could put LA’s big men in foul trouble.
ADVANTAGE – EVEN
When it comes to Kevin Garnett, it really does not matter who’s covering him because he’s going to have the advantage regardless. The Lakers will send Vladimir Radmanovic for some KG duty but as we saw in both the Cleveland and Detroit series, it doesn’t matter who’s covering the big man because he can beat you in the paint or from the outside with his 18+ foot jumpers all night long.
ADVANTAGE – BOS
The match up at the center position between Kendrick Perkins and Pau Gasol could be a big factor one of the series. Perkins showed Boston fans that he’s capable of being a beast on the boards against Detroit when he hauled down 16 rebounds and dropped 18 points in their Game 5 win. Gasol lifted LA with a similar effort in their Game 5 win grabbing 19 boards and scoring 12 points. Gasol does have a little better offensive touch then Perkins which makes him more a threat in the paint.
ADANTAGE – LA
The series gets underway on Thursday night in Boston at 9:00pm EST. The home court advantage that the Celtics earned during the regular season may be a huge factor with possible Games 6 & 7 to be played at the TD Banknorth Garden in front of the hometown crowd. LA, who has yet to lose a playoff game at home, will try to steal one of the road before returning home for Games 3, 4 and if needed 5.
As the Lakers go for their 15th banner and the Celtics quest for Green 17 continues one thing that is certain, this match up has the potential to be one of the greatest of all time and all we can do now is enjoy every minute of it.
Celtics vs Lakers NBA Finals tickets now available.
Ever since Boston College joined the ACC, the Eagles football program has continued to make strides in the right direction. Last year they were victorious in the Champs Sports Bowl 24-21 over Michigan St., they finished the season rated in the Top 10 of the AP poll and then had two of their players (Matt Ryan and DeJuan Tribble) drafted 3rd and 17th in the NFL Lottery. The future continues to look very bright for the Eagles and expectations are high for the 2008 campaign.
BC returns the core of their upperclassman defensive unit which last season held opponents to an average of 16.9 points a game in their 11 wins. On the offensive side of things, Chris Crane will replace Ryan as the starting QB in the fall. Crane who stands at 6’5″ tall and has a solid 220 lb frame dominated the spring ball workouts and left no one guessing as to who would win the starting job.
Crane is also very excited about the potential starting running back in Josh Haden. This kid’s got tons of speed and lots of potential to be the next superstar back in the conference.
“He’s here, and he’s working real hard,” said Crane of Haden. “During practice we’ve done some live snaps and he’s broken off a couple around the edge and ran up the sideline. He only needs a little crease and he’s strong enough upper body and lower body wise to break through that hole and break arm tackles.”
The Eagles will continue to work hard over the summer to put themselves in great game shape come the fall season. Barring any injuries they will most likely be the pre-season favorites to win the ACC.
Aug. 30 – @ Kent State
Sept. 6 – Georgia Tech
Sept. 20 – Central Florida
Sept. 27 – Rhode Island
Oct. 4 – @ N.C. State
Oct. 18 – Virginia Tech
Oct. 25 – @ North Carolina
Nov. 1 – Clemson
Nov. 8 – Notre Dame
Nov. 15 – @ Florida State
Nov. 22 – @ Wake Forest
Nov. 29 – Maryland
Tickets are now available for all 2008 BC Eagles Football games!
Midway through the 2008 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers sat right in the middle of the pack of all the Western Conference powerhouses. The Rockets were in the midst of reeling off a 20+ game winning streak, the Suns had acquired Shaquille O’Neal and the defending champs in the Spurs were simply on fire. That’s right about when some guy named Kobe decided that it was time to start playing some ball, and he and the Lakers haven’t stopped since.
The reigning MVP dropped 39 points en route to Los Angeles’s 100-92 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night, securing a spot in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004.
“I think it is a tremendous accomplishment,” Bryant said. “I think the West is extremely tough. We’re all extremely excited and proud about it. Now, it’s time to go on and see if we can’t finish it off.”
The Lakers trailed by 13 points after one quarter and gradually chipped away from the deficit with the help of Bryant’s firepower. At the end of three quarters of play, the Lakers had gained a 1 point advantage on a 3-point field goal by Vladimir Radmanovic (8 pts) that came with :28 seconds left on the game clock. The teams would trade buckets for the first two minutes of play in the 4th quarter before Luke Walton (5 pts) nailed his only 3-pointer of the game giving L.A. the 70-68 edge, a lead they would not lose the rest of the game.
Midseason acquisition Pau Gasol might be the most excited member of this Lakers line-up to be heading to the finals. Halfway through his season he was stuck on an awful Memphis Grizzlies team that was already making golf reservations for their summer plans. A trade right before the deadline moved Gasol into Lakerland and both parties couldn’t be happier with what they got. In yesterday’s win, Gasol netted 12 points and grabbed a playoff career-high 19 rebounds.
The only other Laker in double-figures was veteran forward Lamar Odom. Odom finished with 13 points on a 5 for 10 shooting performance and grabbed 8 rebounds in 34 minutes of action.
“My heart’s still pumping, that adrenaline is still running from the game,” said Odom. “Maybe when I sit down and have something to eat, I’ll realize what just happened. We came out here, played our game, and won. It’s satisfying, but one more step.”
That next step will be against either the Boston Celtics or Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals, which begin on June 5th. The Celtics currently hold a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 taking place tonight in Detroit. The Lakers will certainly be watching intently but coach Phil Jackson knows that no matter who the opponent, it will be a challenging series.
“We look at both those opponents (Boston and Detroit) with a great deal of respect and know that we have a great, great hill to climb to be able to finish in the finals and win,” said Jackson who will be going for his 10th NBA championship ring. Currently, he is tied with former Celtics coach and legend Red Auerbach with 9 titles as head coach.
While Jackson credits the Western Conference title win as a team effort, Spurs head coach Greg Popovich points out that his team’s offensive struggles combined with L.A.’s defensive intensity were the keys to them winning the series.
“I thought we did a fine job,” he said. “We just didn’t muster the offense, for a variety of reasons. The fact that we didn’t come through offensively is a disappointment, but part of that is a credit to the Lakers. We just played a team that was better. That’s why the Lakers won. The better team won. You get a seven-game series, you win four games, you’re the best team.”
Tim Duncan’s effort in the loss was outstanding. The former MVP scored 19 points, hauled down 15 boards and dished out 10 assists for a triple-double. It just wasn’t enough to lift the Spurs past Kobe and the rest of the Lakers lineup.
“Just got to gear it up again to go to next year,” Duncan said. “Love what we had this year. We just weren’t good enough through stretches.”
Now all the Lakers can do is sit and wait because their next stop is the 2008 NBA Finals.
For the Boston Red Sox, the 2008 campaign thus far has been a tale of two cities. At 21-5, the BoSox own the best home record in MLB but after last nights 1-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners, Boston’s road record drops to 11-19 which is 2nd worst in the American League.
Eric Bedard pitched 7 shutout innings allowing only 2 hits while striking out 8 Sox to earn his fourth win of the season. His stuff was downright filthy and had Boston hitters guessing all night. During the off season, Seattle traded away 5 prospects to acquire the staff ace and last night everyone got to see the pitcher the Mariners had hoped to be getting all year long.
Bedard was relieved by Brandon Morrow in the 8th and after recording all three outs for his 3rd hold of the year, closer J.J. Putz entered the game for the 9th and notched his 6th save on the season.
For Boston, Tim Wakefield pitched an almost equally as impressive game going the distance in hurling 8 innings of 5 hit ball, walking none while recording 8 strike outs as well. The one pitch he wishes he could have back was a hanging knuckleball to Yuniesky Betancourt that he drove over the left field wall into the Sox bullpen in the 3rd inning for his 3rd homerun of the season.
“Unfortunately Bedard pitched great,” Wakefield said. “And once they got to the bullpen—Morrow and Putz—it’s pretty tough.”
In a game that only took 2 hours and 11 minutes, the Sox never really got things going offensively against the M’s pitching staff. They were only able to get two runners past first base against Bedard and their only real scoring threat in the 4th inning was killed by an inning ending double-play ball hit by Mike Lowell.
“It keeps me in rhythm. Without that defense tonight, I probably wouldn’t have made it out of the fifth inning,” Bedard said.
This outing follows up Bedard’s worst performance of the year when he allowed 9 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the New York Yankees last Friday in the Bronx. When asked about what adjustments he made from then to yesterday he was very frank with his response.
“Location,” was all he could muster up to interested reporters.
But he certainly had a point. He painted the outside corners of the plate with his pitches, creating problems for Red Sox hitters all night. By establishing the outside of the plate he was then able to set up his inside fastball, which jammed Sox batters and took away a lot of their powerful cuts.
“This was the game plan we talked about in spring training,” Mariners manager John McLaren said.
The Sox continue their 10 game road trip with a four game series in Baltimore. They have now lost 10 of their last 12 games away from Fenway Park and have already dropped two games to the Orioles at Camden Yards less then 2 weeks ago. The team has today off to travel and will resume play tomorrow at 7:05 EST.
Josh Beckett will take the hill against the O’s Daniel Cabrera and try to stop the hurt as much as he can. Beckett is 5-4 on the season and coming off a solid effort that resulted in a loss. He hurled 7 innings and allowed 2 runs against Oakland earlier in the road trip. Cabrera boasts a 5-1 mark and has won his last three decisions.
- The Red Sox are going to send RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka back to Boston for an MRI on his right shoulder, which the team said is “fatigued”.
- Manny Ramirez is one homerun shy of reaching the career milestone of 500. He will be the 24th player in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
- Kevin Youkilis is expected to start on Friday after sitting out the three game series in Seattle nursing a sore right hand.
It’s always nice to have the luxury of three all-stars in your starting line up but its even nicer when those all-stars combine to score 78 points in the biggest game of the year to date. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have individually had their struggles in the 2008 playoffs but Wednesday night they put the past behind them. The ‘Big Three’ put forth one of their most impressive outings as a trio during the Boston Celtics 106-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics now hold a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 6 on the horizon in Detroit on Friday night.
“We knew the significance of this game,” said Garnett, who dropped 33 in the win, the most he’s scored in the playoffs this year. “You don’t win this game, you put basically yourself in a corner. … They’re experienced, and they’ve been in a lot of pressure situations. Now it’s up to us to go up there and try to get one.”
Ahead by as many as 17 points in the 2nd half, the Celtics looked like they would coast to victory but the stingy Pistons defense began to slowly whittle away the lead, capitalizing on turnovers and missed free throws. Leading the charge was veteran point guard Chauncey Billups who scored 26 points in the game on a 7 for 17 shooting performance in the loss.
“The good thing about it is we’re going home,” said Billups, who took the ball to the basket twice in the final 10 seconds trying to draw a foul that was never called. “We’ve been here before, and we don’t like being in this position, but we’ve fought hard.”
The shot of the night came from Allen who nailed a bucket from the deep corner of the floor right in front of the Pistons bench with less then 2 seconds remaining on the shot clock and only 1:02 left on the game clock. The basket pulled the Celtics ahead 102-99 and sent the TD Banknorth Garden crowd to their feet in jubilation. On the night Allen scored 29 points and was 5-6 from 3-point land.
“My feeling right now is no different than if I scored 10 points and we won the game. It’s a great feeling,” Allen said. “Just winning gives me the greatest joy, regardless of what I’ve done.”
Rounding out the ‘Big Three’, Pierce chipped in scoring 16 points but contributed in a big way by playing great defense on Tayshaun Prince, holding the wingman to only 8 points on the night.
Aside for the trio of all-stars, the rest of Boston’s starting 5 also played outstanding basketball. Starting PG Rajon Rondo dished out 13 assists while scoring 7 points in the win. Kendrick Perkins notched a double-double in the first half alone, actually out rebounding the entire Pistons team at the break 13 to 11. He finished the game with 18 points and 16 boards and understands the importance of winning right now.
“I know our Big Three veteran guys. I know this opportunity doesn’t come much,” Perkins said. “I knew if I was up in age, up in my 30s, and a young fellow was there I’d want him to go all-out for me, too.”
The only Celtics points not scored by a starter came from James Posey’s 3-point field goal with 9:54 left in the 4th quarter making the score at the time 89-78.
The Celtics find themselves now only one win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since the 1987 season. Rondo and reserve Glen Davis were 1 year old when that last happened.
One thing is certain, if the ‘Big Three’ continue to play the way they did in Game 5, the Celtics quest for Green 17 could very well become a reality, but first they have to find a way to win one more time against Detroit before sending the team back to the NBA Finals for the first time since the original Big Three were in town.
With the Lakers up 3-1 over the Spurs, the possibility of a Celtics vs Lakers Finals is growing more likely.
Through Dice-K Matsuzaka’s first 10 starts of the 2008 season, the Boston Red Sox were a perfect 10-0 and the Japanese ace boasted an 8-0 record to lead all pitchers in the majors. Tuesday night not only did Matsuzaka not pick up the victory but the Sox fell for the first time in one of his starts, losing to the Seattle Mariners 4-3 at Safeco Field.
After pitching 4 innings and allowing 3 runs, only 2 earned, Matsuzaka came out to warm up for the 5th inning but after two warm up pitches appeared to wince and grab an area in his lower back.
“Even before I went on the mound, I felt things were a little bit off in the bullpen,” Matsuzaka said. “I wasn’t at my best. After pitching the fourth inning, I definitely felt there was something wrong, and I had a conversation with the coaching staff.”
Manager Terry Francona immediately popped out of the dugout and joined his star pitcher on the mound. After a short conversation through a translator, Francona had heard enough and called for David Aardsma from the bullpen to replace the injured starter. Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch next on Sunday in Baltimore but is unsure if he will be able to make the start.
“We’ll certainly keep an eye on him,” Francona said. “They are going to ice it, let it cool down. … You just always have to err on the side of caution.”
The team has already been without former staff ace Curt Schilling who has been sidelined on the DL with shoulder problems all season. Recently they also lost Clay Buchholtz to the DL with a broken fingernail on his pitching hand, so losing Matsuzaka would be a huge loss at this point in the season.
When Matsuzaka left the game the Sox were trailing 3-0 and his perfect record looked to be in jeopardy.
Manny Ramirez picked up his teammate and belted a 3-run homer in the 6th inning to even the score at 3-3. The blast was Ramirez’s 499th career homerun, putting him just one shy of the 500 milestone. With his next round-tripper, he will become only the 24th player in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
The Sox bullpen held the Mariners scoreless through the 8th inning allowing only 2 hits over the 4 innings of work after Matsuzaka departed. The combination of Aardsma, Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima were very effective in keeping the game tied.
Boston was able to put runners on base in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings but couldn’t advance them past first. They would strand 6 runners on base over the game and besides Ramirez’s homerun couldn’t seem to muster a clutch hit against Seattle’s pitching.
Mike Timlin came on to pitch the 9th for the Red Sox and his season struggles continued. After allowing a leadoff single to Wladimir Balentien, the M’s played some small ball having Miguel Cairo sacrifice Balentien to second base with a sac bunt. Jeremy Reed then took the ball the other way on a ground out to Dustin Pedroia at 2nd base, advancing the runner to third. Timlin intentionally walked Ichiro Suzuki to face Jose Lopez with two outs, and on a 1-2 pitch Lopez lined a single over the glove of Mike Lowell at 3rd, driving in the game winning run for a Mariners 4-3 victory. Timlin is now 2-3 on the season with a 6.89 ERA.
While the Sox continue to struggle on the road, the victory breaks a 7-game losing streak for Seattle. Boston is now 11-18 away from Fenway Park for the season.
In tonight’s rubber game of the series, Tim Wakefield will hurl against Eric Bedard at 10:10 EST. Wakefield is coming off of a rough outing allowing 8 earned runs over only 5 innings of work against Oakland on the first game of the road trip. Bedard is also coming off of his worst outing of the season where he allowed 9 earned runs over 4 1/3 innings or work against the Yankees last Friday.
Following the game the Sox will ship out to Baltimore for a four game series while the Mariners will welcome Detroit into town for a three game set.