Sports - 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.
Sports - 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.
Sports - You don’t win the MVP award in the NBA for mediocrity, you win it for having clutch performances in the games the that matter most. Welcome to the world of Kobe Bryant.
Tuesday night Bryant put on another impressive display that helped lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 93-91 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio. The defeat was the Spurs first loss at home during the 08′ postseason and could not have come at a worse time. The defending NBA Champions now find themselves trailing the series 3-1 and heading back into enemy territory, facing a must win situation.
Bryant dropped 28 points and grabbed 10 boards in the game that put the LA only 1 win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004.
“It is a big step for us,” said Bryant. “Tonight we came out and did a much, much better job to win in this building in this particular game. It’s big for us.”
Up two points with 2 seconds left the Lakers were in situation that called for one more stop to secure the victory. Coming out of a time out, the Spurs ran Brent Barry off of a double screen for the game’s final shot. Barry’s 3-point attempt to win the game did not connect, many believed that he was also fouled in the last ditch effort to pick up the victory.
“That’s not going to get called in the Western Conference finals,” Barry said. “Maybe in the regular season. But that call shouldn’t be called in the Western Conference finals.”
Tim Duncan led all scorers with 29 points while hammering down 17 rebounds but it was not enough to overcome the reigning MVP.
“Obviously we’re in a hole and it’s 3-1,” Duncan said. “It’s one loss and an elimination, but we really feel that if we clean a lot of this stuff up we have an opportunity to get right back in this series.”
Tony Parker and Barry both added 23 points a piece for the Spurs but throughout the game it was the Lakers lineup of youngsters that out hustled and out worked the veterans that just last season tasted what it was like to be crowned NBA Champions.
“I told them at the end of the ballgame, their energy was terrific,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Coming out and responding to a loss and getting a lead … and playing with that kind of energy, I think, carried us over and we responded every time that they came in, tied the ballgame.”
One statistic that San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich and the rest of the Spurs lineup can not be happy about is their rebounding effort as a team. They were out rebounded 46-37 on the night which led to 26 second chance points by the Lakers compared to only 4 for the Spurs. That can not happen again in LA if they expect to pull off a victory.
Game 5 will be on Thursday night at 9pm. The Spurs will look to extend the series at least another game so they can play Game 6 in front of their home crowd, while LA is looking to wrap things up in their own backyard.
One thing is certain; Kobe is going to continue to put up MVP numbers because that’s what MVP’s do. It’s now up to the Spurs to shut down the rest of the Lakers club to keep their hopes of repeating as champions alive.
Lakers vs Spurs Tickets available for all remaining games. Tickets also available for potential Lakers vs Celtics or Lakers vs Pistons NBA Finals.
Sports - They call it Friendly Fenway for a reason. The Boston Red Sox haven’t had any problem winning at home this season; their troubles have just been everywhere else. Victories on the road have been hard to come by for this years’ club but they managed to find a way to win last night, beating the Seattle Mariners 5-3 at Safeco Field.
Bartolo Colon pitched 7 strong innings allowing only 1 run on 5 hits while striking out 5 Mariners batters. His fastball topped 97mph on the radar gun and the former Cy Young Award winner looked to be back in old form. Now all the veteran needs to do is lose 30 lbs and it will be the Colon of old.
Manager Terry Francona was impressed by Colon’s second outing since being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to take Clay Buchholtz’s roster spot. Buchholtz continues to nurse a broken fingernail on his pitching hand while rehabbing in the Sox farm system.
“I thought his movement, his life on his fastball was good and he got strong,” Francona said. “He made a lot of good quality pitches with life.”
Colon out pitched Felix Hernandez, who in the past, had owned Red Sox hitters. The 22nd year old one-hit the Sox last season at Fenway and while Sox hitters had not forgotten the stellar performance, they still knew that the young fireballer was beatable.
“We hit the ball really hard early in the game and they made some great plays. When he pitched against us last year, we didn’t hit any balls hard,” Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia said.
David Ortiz got things going for the Sox in the 4th inning by blasting his 12th homerun of the season over the centerfield fence. After Seattle tied the game in the 6th on an RBI groundout by Raul Ibanez that plated Ichiro Suzuki, Colon pitched his way out of the inning to keep the game knotted at 1-1.
The Sox would do all the damage they would need in the top of the 7th, plating 4 runs on 5 hits all with 2 outs. Pedroia, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell would all connect on RBI hits while Jason Varitek walked with the bases loaded to drive in Boston’s final run on the night.
“With him [Hernandez] you’re just trying to get a pitch out over the plate to hit,” Pedroia said. “You don’t get many so you’ve got to make sure you hit them.”
Hideki Okajima relieved Colon and pitched a scoreless 8th inning, lowering his season ERA to 0.86. Jonathan Papelbon came on in the 9th to close the door and recorded the final 3 outs. He allowed two unearned runs but was able to record 2 strike outs in his inning of work.
Before the win, the Sox had lost their previous 7 road games but look to build off the effort for the rest of the road trip. They are now 11-17 on the road for the year.
Tonight, Dice-K Matsuzaka puts his perfect 8-0 record on the line against Seattle’s Miguel Batista. Batista sports a 3-6 record on the year with a 6.47 ERA while Matsuzaka remains unbeaten with a 2.25 ERA. With tonight’s outing, Matsuzaka will attempt to match Josh Becket’s 9-0 start of the 2007 season.
“I’m very grateful that I’ve been given the chance to get these wins under these circumstances,” Matsuzaka said through a translator.
Against Seattle in 2007, Matsuzaka was 1-1 with a 4.33 ERA. He dominated fellow Japanese star Ichiro Suzuki. The Seattle right fielder was only 1-for-12 with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts versus Matsuzaka.
First pitch of tonight’s game will be at 10:10 EST.
Sports - The numbers don’t lie, the Boston Celtics shooting performance in Monday night’s 94-75 loss to the Detroit Pistons in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals was awful, and that might even be giving them too much credit.
As a team, Boston was a pathetic 21 of 66 from the floor for a .318 shooting percentage on the night. Of those 21 field goals, 11 were either dunks or layups which means that as a team they shot even worse from outside the paint (10-55 for a .182 shooting percentage). Those numbers are reminiscent of a middle school girl’s rec. basketball game, and unfortunately for the C’s that’s exactly how they played.
“We didn’t play well, but we hung in there by getting to the foul line,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Then, we just couldn’t make plays.”
If it weren’t for the charity stripe, this game could have been one of the biggest playoff blow outs in years. The Celtics we fortunate enough to get to the line 39 times during the night and connected on 32 of those attempts. Other then that, there wasn’t much happening for the team that finished the regular season with the NBA best record.
“They bumped us off spots and were more physical and aggressive all night,” Rivers said. “Usually the winner is the team that was more aggressive. They had a no-layup rule and that’s why we made it to the line so much.”
Before the first TV timeout, the Celtics were already trailing by double digits as the Pistons jumped ahead early scoring the games first 10 points in under 3 minutes. After the early run, Boston was forced to claw back but strong offensive nights by Rip Hamilton (20) and Antonio McDyess (21) were too much to overcome down the stretch.
“You only have so many opportunities, and they’re limited, especially for me,” McDyess said. “I’m at the end of my career, and I just feel like leaving everything out on the floor.” His teammates have recognized that he’s playing with the passion and desire to win like never before. McDyess was not part of the Pistons championship team in 2004 and wants so badly to be a contributing member of a team that can win it all.
“Dice has been our best player in the postseason, and we’re all feeding off his energy,” teammate and close friend Chauncey Billups said who scored 10 points on the game. “You see how hard he is working, and you can’t help but play hard.”
On the other end of the court, the Celtics Big Three struggled from the floor all night long. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett combined to go 11 for 38 from the field, the trio’s worst performance together in the playoffs. Pierce and Garnett each scored 16 points and Allen netted 11 but none of them were ever able to get it going and catch fire from the field.
“We pride ourselves on making our teammates better and allowing them to make us better,” Allen said.
Allen had been going through a large shooting slump entering the series but after an impressive Game 2 shooting performance, many believed he’d be able to turn in back on for the remainder of the Conference Finals. He’s averaging just less than 15 points a game for the series but still looks a little gun shy behind the arc.
As the series shifts back to Boston for Game 5, the attention of many will refocus on the Celtics defending their home court as they had done so well for the first 9 games on the playoffs. Detroit handed them their first defeat of the postseason at home in Game 2 last Thursday, but now the Celtics look to rebound for another win in front of the Boston crowds.
Boston has not lost back-to-back home games since mid March when they fell to Utah before going on the Texas road trip where they beat the Spurs, Rockets and Mavericks only to return home and fall to Philadelphia in their first game back.
For the Celtics to win this series they need to not repeat the shooting performance, or lack there of, from last nights game. This team is just full of too many talented players to be shooting anywhere under .400 percent from the floor every game. They need to go back to the tapes from Games 1 and 3 and realize that making the extra pass on the offensive end works. It tires the defense and creates better looks at the hoop for more players.
This Detroit team is very beatable. The Celtics just need to forget about their Game 4 display and get ready to defend their home court advantage once again on Wednesday. With the series knotted at 2-2, it now becomes a best of 3 match up, and if the Celtics can just manage to win at home, they will be heading to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1987.
Celtics vs Pistons Tickets are still available for Game 5!
Sports - The combination of early goals and stellar defense has been the key and just enough for the Detroit Red Wings to capture victories over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Monday night, Chris Osgood made 22 saves for his second shutout in as many games to propel the Red Wings half way home to winning their 11th Stanley Cup. Their last Championship season came in 2002 but they are two wins away from capturing the title again. The shutout was Osgood’s 13th playoff shutout of his career.
“I play the game as it comes,” Osgood said. “I love playing behind these guys. I don’t need 40 shots to play the game or to feel good. I’m confident regardless. I’m not really into stats too much, just into winning.”
Brad Stuart scored the Wings first goal 6:55 into the first period and Thomas Holmstrom netted the games second goal 11:18 into the same frame. This was Holmstrom’s 4th goal of the playoffs and gave his defense a little breathing room, not that they really needed it.
This Penguins offensive unit that scored 247 goals during the regular season has now been held scoreless for 6 consecutive periods. Captain Sidney Crosby hopes that things can change when the series shifts to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4.
“We just have to execute,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “Did they really get that many scoring chances on us? I don’t think they did. They got a few and put them in. We hit a post, and pucks go through us by the net that we don’t put in. That’s the difference.”
The series continues Wednesday night at 8:00 pm in Pittsburgh.
Sports - It had been almost 2 months since the Boston Celtics suffered a loss on their home court. Thursday night, the Detroit Pistons reminded them just what it felt like; by beating the C’s 103-97 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals match up at the TD Banknorth Garden.
The loss snapped a 9-game playoff win streak at home and a 15-game win streak dating back to the regular season. Their last loss at the Garden came at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers on March 24th. Head coach Doc Rivers knows that his team will have to capture at least one victory on the road now to advance to the NBA Finals.
“I fully believe, and I’ve said many times, at some point we’re going to have to win on the road,” Rivers said. “We’ve gotten away with it thus far. That’s been taken away. And if we want what we want, we have to win on the road and that’s just the way it is.”
Boston’s Big Three did all that they could to try and pull off the win but got very little support from the rest of the line-up which ultimately cost them the game. Paul Pierce (26), Kevin Garnett (24) and Ray Allen (25) accounted for 75 of the teams 97 points. The Pistons used a balanced offensive attack with six players scoring in double figures including all of the starting five.
“It is even,” Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace said. “We don’t sit back and say, ‘Oh, look. They are undefeated at home,’ or ‘They didn’t win a game on the road.’ … A lot of the teams they played in the postseason and the regular season were scared of them, as far as KG and Ray and Paul. They are good players, but we have good players, also.”
Unlike Game 1, last night’s tempo was much more upbeat and both teams tried to run the ball and transition for fast break points. The Pistons did this more effectively behind the reigns of veteran PG Chauncey Billups who finished with 19 points and 7 assists. Teammate Richard Hamilton (25 points, 4 assists) wanted to make sure Billups was in the right state of mind for Game 2 after a sub par performance in the series opener.
“One thing I told Chaunce, you ain’t got to be overaggressive out there,” Hamilton said. “You can take your time and be the captain of our ship, and we’ll try to do a good job of helping you out.”
As the series now shifts to Detroit, the big question that everyone’s asking is can the Celtics win on the road? During the regular season they had no trouble away from Boston and actually had the NBA’s best road record. Since then it’s been a different story. The C’s are 0-6 away from home during the 2008 playoffs, and now will be forced to take at least one game on the road from the Pistons to win the series.
The first thing that needs to occur for them to be successful away from Boston is they need more production and better minutes from their bench. Guys like James Posey, Eddie House and Leon Powe need to step it up. All three of those guys are very capable of dropping 8-12 points a game. Last night the three combined for only 3 points on a Posey 3-point FG.
A great sign for the Celtics was seeing Allen find his shooting touch again after a prolonged slump that last over 3 weeks. He needs to continue to feel it from behind the arc so that the Pistons are forced to pull defenders from the middle to cover him on the perimeter, which will then open up the paint for guys like KG and Kendrick Perkins.
Another key to winning on the road for the Celtics will be to maintain their composure. Calls aren’t going to be going their way, the crowd will be loud and it can get intimidating but it’s very important for them to stay focused. The Pistons are going to be fired up and the Celtics will need to match that intensity.
“The atmosphere’s going to be crazy,” Hamilton said. “We’re geeked about getting back to our home court. The fans are excited, and now it’s our job to take care of home court.”
It is now the Celtics turn to play the role of the spoiler as they hope to take one if not both of the games in Detroit over the holiday weekend. The Big Three needs to continue to dominate and can only hope that the rest of their teammates pick up the slack a bit from their output in Game 2.
“We have no choice now but to get it done on the road,” Pierce said.
They did it all during the regular season and the time has come where they will now have to find a way to do it again. Their quest for Green 17 continues, next stop Detroit City.
Sports - Last night Bartolo Colon felt like a rookie all over again in front of the crowds at Fenway Park. Having to follow up two pitching gems by youngsters is never an easy feat, especially by a veteran who’s making his first start in the big leagues of the year, on a new ball club, in front of a sold out house, for a first place team. Luckily, Colon pushed all of those obstacles aside and hurled 5 strong innings in picking up the win for the Boston Red Sox who downed the Kansas City Royals for the 3rd straight night by a score of 6-3. The Sox have now won 6 games in a row and 9 at Fenway Park.
The former Cy-Young award winner acknowledged that he was very nervous before the game began, a reminiscent feeling of when he made his major league debut for the Cleveland Indians in June of 1997. That start just happened to come at Fenway Park against the Red Sox, and Colon just happened to pick up the win.
“I thought about that tonight after the game and reminisced about that great moment and kind of compared this to that moment… I was very nervous in the first inning,” Colon said after showing that his elbow problems from last year were gone. “I felt like my first professional outing, actually. But after the first inning I was able to settle down and really enjoy the moment.”
Over the 5 innings, Colon scattered 6 hits, walked 2 and struck out 4 in a very promising outing for his future with the Red Sox. He threw 74 pitches, 46 for strikes in his first start in the bigs since Sept. 22nd 2007.
Jacoby Ellsbury jumpstarted the Sox offense with a leadoff homerun to right in first inning. The blast was his 4th on the season and he would finish the night with 3 hits. Jason Varitek would also add a solo homerun in the 5th inning which at the time knotted the game at 2-2.
After V-Tek’s shot to right, the Sox bats came to life and they would go on to score 4 times in total in the inning making the score 5-2. David Ortiz crushed a ball to center with the bases load, but the fly ball was hit to the deepest part of the outfield and was only good enough for a sacrifice fly driving in Julio Lugo. The RBI was Ortiz’s 38th on the year.
The bullpen combination of Craig Hansen, Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen pitched a scoreless 6th, 7th and 8th inning in relief of Colon. Mike Timlin pitched the 9th recording the final three outs, allowing a meaningless run on 1 hit and 1 walk to preserve Colon’s victory. His battery mate couldn’t have been happier for the 34-year old.
“The big man had a huge smile on his face when we all got in” the clubhouse, catcher Varitek said. “I mean, this is pretty big for him to be able to make his way back.”
Joey Gathwright plated all 3 runs for the Royals and managed to reach base all four of his plate appearances with 2 hits and 2 walks. The game was his first back after missing 3 contests due to a sore left shoulder. He also swiped a base during his outing.
When asked about Colon’s performance on the night Gathwright said, “He’s Colon. He’s always been good. He spots his ball, and his ball moves. He threw harder back (in 2005), but he still has good stuff.”
The question now for the Red Sox is how good is his stuff, and is it good enough to earn the burly fireballer another start before Clay Buchholtz returns from the DL.
This will be something manager Terry Francona will have all week to think about but it’s also an answer that Red Sox Nation will be very interested in finding out as well. Buchholtz may be the future of the organization but there’s nothing like having a proven veteran and former Cy Young award winner at the backstop of your rotation.
Today the Sox look to sweep the Royals and their 7-game homestand by sending Dice-K Matsuzaka to the hill. Matsuzaka is a perfect 7-0 on the season and the Sox have not lost a game in one of his starts this year.
Following this series the Sox will ship out for another 10-game road trip featuring stops in Oakland, Seattle and Baltimore. Their 20-5 home record is the best in baseball while their 10-14 road record is the worst in the AL East. The Sox will look to improve on that by first visiting the Oakland Athletics for a 3-game weekend series beginning tomorrow evening at 10:07 EST.
Sports - It’s never easy to follow up a no-hit performance but rookie pitcher Justin Masterson did just about all he could do in last nights 2-1 Boston win over the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. Masterson was masterful throwing 6 1/3 innings of 3 hit ball, allowing only 1 run while striking out 5 hitters in his 2nd major league start.
Masterson was called up to start the game because fellow rookie Clay Buchholtz was placed on the 15-day DL with an injury to a fingernail on his pitching hand. He arrived to Boston just in time to catch the last few innings of Jon Lester’s no-hitter on Monday night.
“I was excited. Of course, then the (television) announcer said, ‘have fun following this one, Justin,’ Masterson said with a big smile. “Rolling through my mind was I wanted to throw a perfect game or maybe back-to-back no-hitters, but that was taken away in the first inning.”
He allowed a double to David DeJesus with two outs in the 1st but settled into a nice groove only allowing one other running to get into scoring position while in the game.
Sox manager Terry Francona has now seen two youngsters throw back-to-back gems and knows that the future is very bright for his already talented club, but understands that it may be a little while before the Fenway Faithful see Masterson on the hill again.
“You can make some mistakes by rushing guys to the majors,” Francona said. “He needs to go pitch and enjoy his development and enjoy getting better because he’s going to help us.”
The Sox bats were held at bay most of the night by Royals starter Gil Meche who was the tough luck loser and now boasts a record of 3-6 on the year. Meche allowed 2 runs on only 5 hits over 7 innings. The runs both came in the 2nd inning, after which he retired 10 batters in a row and 16 of the final 18 he faced. David Ortiz was the only Red Sox batter to record more then one hit on the night going 2-4 at the plate with 2 singles.
The Royals were threatening in the 8th inning and with the score at 2-1 Boston they had worked the bases loaded with two outs before Jonathan Papelbon was called upon for a four-out save. He was able to come in and strike out Billy Butler to get out of the jam and went on to work a perfect 9th inning, recording two more strike outs along the way for his 13th save on the year.
“We ended up with the bases loaded and they bring in the big boy,” Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said. “Billy was right on the fastballs, but he threw a nasty slider. That’s tough duty.”
Tonight the Sox will switch gears and send a veteran pitcher to the hill in Bartolo Colon. The former Cy Young winner has been called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to make a spot start so that the rotation stays on their regular rest due to this past weekend’s double header. Colon is in his 12th major league season and hopes to make an impression on Francona for a possible mid-season call up if anything were to happen to another starter in the rotation. Although with Masterson’s performance last night, he may have to get in line.
In Triple-A, Colon has had moments of brilliance, looking like the pitcher who only three years ago captured the Cy Young award for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In three minor league starts he is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA. Some fellow veteran teammates are excited for him to make his first start as a member of the Red Sox.
“We knew he was going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Red Sox infielder Alex Cora told his team’s official Web site. “It was just a matter of time getting him healthy.”
In his return, Colon will face Royals pitcher Brett Tomko who is 2-4 on the season with a 5.32 ERA. Terry Francona expects that Colon’s pitch count for the game will be limited to between 85-90 pitches. He will be going for his first MLB win since June 14th 2007 and also try to extend the Sox winning streak to 6 and home winning streak at Fenway to 9.
Tonight’s first pitch is at 7:05pm EST.
Sports - The Eastern Conference Finals are underway and after another big performance by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics captured a Game 1 win by the score of 88-79 to take a 1-0 series lead over the Detroit Pistons. The victory improves the C’s playoff home record to a perfect 9-0 and they continue to excel defensively holding opponents to a 79.2 points per game average at the TD Banknorth Garden.
“The defensive pressure was fantastic,” gushed Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “Offensively, we made the extra pass. The ball kept moving, finding the open guy, and that’s how we have to play.”
The Celtics team that showed up to play last night reminded everyone watching of the ball club that won 66 games during the regular season, breezed to the best record in the NBA and was a supposed lock to represent the East in the NBA Finals. It’s been three weeks since anyone had seen any sign of that team, but they definitely came out to play in the yesterdays dominating victory.
After a 41 point performance in Sunday’s Game 7 against Cleveland, Pierce picked up where he left off pouring in 22 points on 9-18 shooting, grabbing 6 boards and dishing out 6 assists for an impressive all around effort. No one on the Pistons lineup matches up well against him and ‘the truth’ was able to pick apart each defender by varying his shot selection with baseline fade away jumpers, free throw extended set shots and open looks on the wing. When defenders started to cheat closer trying to get the extra step, he’d slash to the basket which would result in either a bucket, a foul or defensive help opening up a shot for a teammate.
“You got Detroit coming in, well-rested,” Pierce said. “This was the perfect game for them to come in and try to steal one, and we were aware of that. They probably figured we were tired while they’ve been practicing. And we just came out with extra focus and extra energy at the start of the game.”
Speaking of extra energy, Garnett came out of the gates looking like he had been hooked up all day to a Red Bull I.V. drip. The defensive player of the year hit his first three shots from the floor, pounded his chest after every basket and screaming to the Boston fans fueling their energy for the rest of the game. KG finished the game with 26 points and 9 rebounds in 38 minutes of action.
“We just didn’t seem to be in a good flow, it might have had something to do with (the layoff). We were just a step slow,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “We didn’t get into the flow.”
Veteran guard Ray Allen has gotten used to the routine of playing every other day and thinks that it is working towards the Celtics advantage. “You have to figure, doing this every other day, you just get used to the same routine of coming out, being out this late, playing basketball,” Allen said. “I think when you get that break in between, you have to build yourself back up into it.”
Unlike some games in the first two playoffs series, the Celtics really had control of this one all throughout. They jumped out to an early 8-0 lead and then played the type of basketball that everyone expected to see in the playoffs, a team oriented style of play. Players were making the extra pass to find an open teammate and not forcing shots. The end result, 27 assists and a .522 shooting percentage from the floor.
If the Celtics can put up those types of numbers every game, next week the Pistons will be golfing while the C’s will be the team getting the week long layoff before the NBA finals begin on June 5th.
There’s only one thing that needs to take place for that to happen that has yet to… Boston needs to win on the road. They currently hold a 0-6 mark when playing away from the Garden but hope to turn it around this weekend when they head to Detroit for games 3 and 4 of the series.
Before they ship out of Boston, there is still work to be done in Game 2. The Celtics look to stay perfect at home while the Pistons will do everything in their power to stop the home win streak right where it is.
The players will be fired up, the Garden will be fired up and you should be fired up as the Celtics continue their quest for Green 17.
Celtics Tickets are still available for Game 2!