An Angelic Comeback

AP Photo
Gonzalez Finishes Off a Win Sent from Heaven
Oh, what Mike Scioscia must be thinking this morning. The Angels can’t seem to buy a win against the resilient Red Sox, regular season or postseason. The dirt dogs from Boston have ended the Halos’ season three out of the last five years in the Divisional Round, and they may have set the tone for this season’s match-up as well.
Even I, from my seat in Right Field Box 86, was expecting a strike-out motion from the home plate umpire on Nick Green’s game-tying walk in the ninth. It was a Brian Fuentes fastball perfectly spotted on the lower half of the strike zone, but the baseball gods seemed to smile down on the home team, and let this one slide. Scioscia was livid, as was the entire Los Angeles of Anaheim dugout, and for good reason. It should have been a strike-out, and everyone knew it. Terry Francona knew, Green knew, Fuentes knew, and as I found out when I got home early this morning, the ESPN K-Zone knew. But alas, this is Fenway Park in the fall, and magic is in the air.
This was a statement game for the Red Sox. Kevin Youkilis was out for the second straight game with a sore back. Victor Martinez missed his second straight while attending to a personal matter in Cleveland. Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable due to lower back stiffness. Somehow, without their all-star closer and numbers three and four hitters, Boston pulled out the victory. Every position player on the roster, with the exception of Youkilis, Martinez and third catcher George Kottaras (who would have caught the tenth inning) played a role in this win. The three most pivotal at-bats, all in the bottom of the ninth inning, were executed to perfection by Boston’s three shortstops: Jed Lowrie, who had a pinch-hit single, Nick Green, who walked to force in the tying run, and Alex Gonzalez, who blooped the game-winner into shallow left-field.
The Angels had the Red Sox on the ropes. They had powerful southpaw Joe Saunders up against Boston’s weakest starter, Paul Byrd. They had leads on three seperate occasions. They had their closer on the mound with a lead in the ninth. And yet, despite all the advantages on their side, the club from the west coast couldn’t pull out the win against the mighty Red Sox. Mike Scioscia must have had a very sleepless night.

Pats In A Pickle Without Mayo

Patriots Linebacker Diagnosed With MCL Sprain

The New England Patriots are now in a limbo.  Bill Belichick and the Patriots (1-0) find themselves in a pickle without their highly touted linebacker, Jerod Mayo, who may be out of action for the next six t0 eight weeks with a sprained in his right medical collateral ligament. 

After a 25-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night, New England heads to the Meadowlands to face the New York Jets.  Without Mayo in the fold, the Pats will have to rely upon two-year man Gary Guyton, an undrafted free agent, who they pick up in 2008.  After Mayo’s injury in the first half, Belichick’s defense went to a 4-3 scheme for a majority of the game, featuring a four-man line with three linebackers.  

Mike Wright, Ron Brace, Derrick Burgess, Pierre Woods, and Guyton will have to step up without the presence of Mayo in the lineup. Luckily for New England, their quarterback on defense won’t be out for the entire season much like the knee injury that forced Tom Brady to miss all of 2008.   

Feeling Good…

Dice-K Helps Sox Roll to a Six Game Winning Streak
The Sox ended up on top of the Angels, 4-1, last night at Fenway Park. If you missed the game, you may not have known it was a pitcher’s duel for the first six innings. The unlikely hero for the Sox: Dice- K. He pitched six complete innings, allowing three hits, no earned runs, three walks, and five strikeouts. He gave his team a chance to win, and that’s all they could ask for after a lengthy three month stint on the DL.
If Dice-K continues to pitch as well as he did last night, the Sox will have at least four quality starters heading into the post-season.  If playoffs started tomorrow, Beckett, Lester, and Buchholtz would be slated to start the first three games of the division series. The reemergence of Dice-K would give the Sox the flexibility of having an extra starter or arm in the bullpen for the coming October festivities. And of course if Tim Wakefield is healthy enough, the Sox could potentially have five quality pitchers ready to go.
Let’s not forget about the Sox lineup. With absence of their number 3 and 4 hitters, Martinez and Youkilis, the Sox still managed to squeeze out four runs.
…Jacoby went 2-for-4 last night and is batting .342 over the last 10 games. (Not to mention the multiple highlight reels he has made recently with his play in centerfield).
…Big Papi connected for his 24th homerun last night – six homeruns away from a 30 homer season. Who would have thought? The Sox are 21-2 when he hits the long ball.
The Sox have now won six straight. There are 19 games left. Texas has fallen to 5.5 games back, making the magic number 14. And always in the back of our minds, are those hated Yankees atop the East. The Sox have inched within 6.5 games of the Bronx Bombers (5 games in the loss column). Anything Is Possible.
So put on those Support Socks, and rally behind your favorite boys of summer as we head down to the stretch of the 2009 season. Gotta love fall ball.

Roll The Dice

Daisuke Matsuzaka Back On The Hill Tonight For Boston

The Boston Red Sox welcome Daisuke Matsuzaka back to the mound on Tuesday when the Sox open a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels, Boston’s likely opponent in the playoffs, at Fenway Park.

More than an $100 million investment, Matsuzaka had attractive numbers last year with an 18-3 record and 2.90 ERA.  But don’t let the numbers fool you, Dice-K has been slightly above average since his arrival to the Major Leagues in 2+ seasons with the Red Sox.  The Japanese hero has hit rock-bottom in 2009 with an 1-5 record and 8.23 ERA and cannot be consider anything more than below average, thus forcing the Sox to shut down the right-hander with “shoulder fatigue” in June after Matsuzaka dominated in the World Baseball Classic.

So here we stand, on September 15, 4.5 games up on the Texas Rangers in the wildcard and Dice-K is on the mound against the Angels.

What a journey it has been.

Going from a squad that had a plethora of starting pitching to a team grasping for anyone with little league baseball experience, the Sox have come full circle with Matsuzaka and their starting pitching.  The Brad Penny and John Smoltz experiment didn’t work out.  Junichi Tazawa dazzled early on before tailing off as of late, and Paul Byrd should probably go back to pitching batting practice for his sons little league team.  That being said, the success of the 2009 Boston Red Sox may hinge on the effectiveness of the 29-year-old Matsuzaka. 

Sure, the Sox have one of the best 1-2 punches in all of baseball with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, and the emergence of Clay Buchholz gives Boston a dynamic top three guys.  But what a weapon it would be if Dice-K become a force in September and October.

Wizard of the gyroball?  Or pinball wizard?

Sox fans are hoping the former of those two options comes to fruition as a healthy and effective Matsuzaka, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at opposing hitters, could make the Sox a legitimate threat to win their third World Series in six years.   Four is always better than three, and with an experienced big-game pitcher like Dice-K, four quality starters is better than three, and in the playoffs, four equals the recipe for success.  

So Tuesday night is the first chance for fans and management to critique the often criticized Dice-K.  But what the heck, it’s just another roll of the dice.

(Available at Chowdaheadz.com)

Amsey 5 – Arogance Abound

For those of you new to the Amsey 5- I give you the 5 points of the previous game that you’re not going to find in the mainstream media outlets. 
1) The personal foul penalty on Vince Wilfork for his form tackle and on Adaleius Thomas for sacking Trent Edwards were absolutely atrocious.  The ability to play defense in this league gets harder by the week. The defensive backs can’t breathe on anyone without getting a pass interference or illegal hands call.  The lineman aren’t allowed to tackle the quarterback too hard. What are we playing, two hand touch?  I am formally submitting my rule change idea to the NFL this week.  You think I am kidding but how far are we away from FLAGS on quarterbacks.  A sack constitutes getting to the quarterback and pulling his flag.  No reason to have a grey area. The quartebacks can be in their bubbles and the defensive players can gingerly reach for the flags.  No one would get hit. No one would get hurt. After the game they’ll be punch and pie for everyone as they sing ‘Kumbaya’.  This league is heading down a very slippery slope.  Excessive commercials, unwatchable rules and call reversals, and the whipped cream on top- Labor dispute could be leading to a disaster. The NFL is on top of the world like the NBA was during the Bird/Magic to Jordan transgression.  Just like baseball was in the late 90’s with the steroid era in full swing. The NFL is there now, but as the great Jerry Glanville stated when head coach of the Houston Oilers, the way this shtick is heading, it may stand for Not For Long.
2)  Who didn’t love the Patriots jerseys? Hell, who didn’t love the Raider or Charger jerseys? Can we just go back in time with the uniforms.  Pat the patriot is the most iconic figure New England Sports have ever seen. Besides maybe Lucky the Leprechaun.  Let’s retire the Flying Elvis and bring back Pat!
3)  Was it just me, or did the Patriots only bring a blitz when the Bills had a screen play called?  The only pressure on Edwards all game was in the final desperation series when all receivers were going long down field into multiple defenders. Most of the game there was no pressure at all. (And when they did get pressure they forgot to pull the flag and got nailed with personal foul penalties.)  Our first team defensive backs now don the silver and green in Philadelphia.  Trent Edwards may not know how to attack down field with a lot of time in the pocket but Chad Pennington and Peyton Manning do.  There needs to be some semblance of a rush
4) I am optimistic that the exact same report from the Patriots locker room -“knee injury- questionable return” for Jerrod Mayo is a better forecast then  given last year for Tom Brady against the Chiefs.  The Pats cannot afford to lose a linebacker, especially the reigning defensive rookie of the year.  Now, I’ll digress from the injury to the topic that I just cannot get off of.  Why in the world did the Pats draft Patrick Chung. Undrafted  2005 free agent Brandon McGowan was the 3rd safety last night. Chung was a chump in the preseason and the number 34 overall pick of the draft is invisible.  Meanwhile in linebacker land, James Laurinitis is starting in St. Louis and Ray Malaluga was blowing people up all over the field in Cincinnati.  The arrogant brain trust decided that even though they had 2 solid starting safeties in Merriweather and Sanders, that they would use their top pick (traded down 13 times) on a backup irrelevant safety. I hope Chung makes me eat my words but right now I’d be doing backflips with Malaluga at outside linebacker right now.
5) There is no doubt that Leodis McKelvin’s fumble was the key to the victory last evening but he compounded his idiocracy with his quote after the game.  ” If I had 100 more times to run it out, I’d do it every time because that’s who I am.”  What are you  Dan Akroyd in Tommy Boy as Mr. Zalinski?  What a moron.  Leodis;  You are up 5.  about 2 minutes left. You have the HANDS  team in to recover an onside kick. You have no blocking. You are BACKPEDALING. There are 10 Patriots flying at you with, again, no blockers. And your arrogance, cockiness, and inability to make a pretty easy call lost your team the game. Never mind that you were fighting for an extra yard instead of just going to the ground when you reached traffic.  You may have racked up the most yards in the league last year on kick returns but you are solely responsible for your team losing last night.
Bonus- For any of you knuckleheads like me that stayed up to watch the Raiders Chargers last night, is there a worse, overpaid quarterback in this league then Russell? He airmails every pass over heads, dances in the pocket nervously, and the zinger- throws like Vince Young.  No wonder he held out almost a month a few seasons ago to get as much money as possible because he damn well knew that this would be his only big contract he’d ever get. That guy sucks.  He better prey that Al Davis forgets to take his senility pills and gives him an extension or he’ll be the next Rohan Davey in 2 years. (Without the rings.)

Patriots Rally To Tame Bills

Brady & Watson Lead Improbable Comeback

He’s back.

Tom Brady made his way back to the playing field on Monday and made Patriots fans remember what it’s like to cheer for a team with No. 12 at the helm.  It took a few quarters for Brady to get comfortable, but it was vintage Tom Terrific in the fourth quarter as the New England icon led the Pats to two touchdowns with under six minutes remaining to beat the Buffalo Bills 25-24.  

Brady went 12-for-14 for 112 yards and two scores in his final two drives, connecting both times with Ben Watson.  New England, or for the sake of Monday night, Boston Patriots, trailed 24-13 with more than half of the fourth quarter over.  But that’s the time when the Patriots, and Brady shine, and that’s exactly what they did on Monday Night Football.  New England’s special team also stepped up in the final minutes to force a fumble from Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin as place-kicker Stephen Gostkowski scooped up the ball to give Brady and New England an opportunity to take the lead.  And that’s exactly what they did.

Bill Belichick’s defense held up well to the Bills no-huddle offense and stayed strong even without the presence of Jerod Mayo, who went down with a knee injury, for a majority of the game.  Randy Moss led all receivers with 141 receiving yards, certainly happy having No. 12 throwing him spirals again in 2009.

The Patriots have now won 12 straight over conference-rival Buffalo as the Bills have lost their last three MNF games.  New England (1-0) heads to New York (1-0) to face Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez, and the rest of a dynamic Jets squad next Sunday.

(AP Photo) (AP Photo)

Patriots Preview

Inside Look To New England’s Matchup With The Buffalo Bills

A new year. A new story. A new Tom Brady?  The New England Patriots kickoff their 2009 season with the Buffalo Bills in Foxoborough on Monday night as the Patriots look to shut down the new-look Bills who have some new-faces, most notably Terrell Owens.  The Patriots will honor the 50th anniversary of the National Football League by wearing their Boston Patriots, red-uniforms.  
Tom Brady suits up for the Patriots on Monday night for the first time since treaing his ACL on opening day of last year, forcing him to miss the entire 2008 campaign due to injury.  Brady looks to lead an explosive offense that strikes similar comparisons to their 2007 version.  New England will carry five running backs on its active roster and welcomes Joey Galloway to a revamped receiving core led by Randy Moss and Wes Welker.   
Five veterans are now missing from the New England defense, Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Larry Izzo, Mike Vrabel, and Rodney Harrison, are all either retired or donning new jerseys, so Bill Belichick and company will rely upon Defensive Rookie of the Year, Jerod Mayo, to step up and take charge for this defensive unit.  The additions of Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs should help solidify the defensive backfield and shut-down receivers like T.O. in 2009 with Derrick Burgess coming off the edge and pressuring Trent Edwards.  
So the questions that remain are whether or not the defense can hold up to a Bills no huddle offense with no clear-cut leaders.  Also, the main quibble on the mind of all Patriot fans is the health of Tom Brady’s surgically repaired knee.  If Brady can prove that he can maneuver around the pocket and evade oncoming pass-rushers, the Patriots offense should be rolling on all levels.
Keep an eye on the chess match between Dick Jauron and Belichick.  The two head coaches have great respect for each other and the special teams and field-positioning battles should be interesting to watch.  
Final Prediction: Patriots 31-20

TC’s Take

A Look At Five Things That Caught My Eye From A Week Of Sports

1) Mark Sanchez’s First Start- The New York Jets may have hit the mark with the selection of Mark Sanchez at the No. 5 spot in the 2009 NFL draft.  Sanchez sparkled in his NFL debut, throwing for 272 yards and a touchdown, leading the J-E-T-S to a 24-7 win on Sunday over the Houston Texans.  The rookie had poise in the pocket and under pressure, especially at a hostile Reliant Stadium against a rising-squad in Houston.  What was so impressive about the former USC quarterbacks debut was his effectiveness and success-rate on third downs.  Sanchez was 12-15 for 191 yards on third downs, connecting with Chansi Stuckey for his lone TD of the day.  Sure, the rookie will go through his ups and downs as a Jet but in the long-run the New England Patriots and NFL will have to keep an eye on the California boy.

2) Tiger Woods being Tiger Woods-  Tiger Woods notched his 71st career PGA Tour win with a 19-under performance at the BMW Championship this weekend, marking his 6th victory of the 2009 season.  In the final Fed-Ex playoff event before the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, Tiger Woods regained his form and spot atop the leader-board in the BMW Championship, planting himself as the worlds number one player.  Was there any doubt folks?  The guy may be approaching his forties faster than we can say, hot jumbalaya, but Tiger Woods is still THE best golfer on the face of the Earth.  He didn’t win any Majors this year but if you give me one guy to put my money on week in and week out, I’ll take my chances with el tigre.

3) Serena Williams US Open Tirade-  Serena Williams’ outburst during the semifinals of the U.S. Open, after being called for a foot-fault at the end of the second-set, was an unfortunate event.  However, lets not blow this out of proportion. Serena verbally attacked the line-judge and made some threats to the person who took the match into her own hands, or eyes.  I know that Serena needs to apologize for her inappropriate actions but I can understand where she is coming from. Sports, on a national level, are highly adorned and heavily scrutinized so when a figure like Serena Williams has a breakdown, the brute force of the higher law in sports has to punish Williams, right?  Wrong, she was in the heat of a battle, a fierce battle at the U.S. Open, and all fans can understand that she had a right to upset over the, dare I say, ballsy, call the line judge made.  Lets not make this into a spectacle.  Fine Serena Williams and let her move on.  

4) Victor Martinez-   What a great mid-season acquisition.  Traded for Justin Masterson and some spare parts, Victor Martinez has made a name for himself in Boston.  His versatitly to play first base and catcher allows Terry Francona to mix and match his lineups each and every day, allowing him the benefit of resting Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, and Kevin Youkilis when he sees best fit.  Oh, and Martinez isn’t too shabby with the lumber either.  This was one of Theo’s finer moves and Martinez could be one of the main reasons the Sox find themselves battling in October.

5) Ending Of Denver/Cincinnati Game-   Although I was disappointed in Josh McDaniels coaching debut with the Denver Broncos, I cannot say that I was shocked.  He traded away Jay Cutler, muddied his relationship with Brandon Marshall, and neglected the need to revamp the mediocre defense.  That being said, you have to marvel at the irony of the ending of the Denver, Cincinnati game on Sunday.  Kyle Orton had an average game and with the Broncos trailing 7-6 with under 30 seconds remaining, Orton heaved a ball into triple coverage but after Bengals cornerback Leon Hall tipped the ball into the air, Brandon Stokley stood with arms wide open and ran to the promise-land.  Stokley’s 87-yard touchdown reception with just 11 seconds remaining gave McDaniels his first win as Denver’s head coach and gave the Broncos an unbelievable end to an otherwise boring game.    It just shows that when things are going wrong, there going wrong and although both teams have had struggles the past few seasons, it seems like it’s going much worse for the Cincinnati Bengals.  In the end, it was a great play to end the game.  

Double-Dip Doubleheader

Sox Take Both Games Of Day-Night Doubleheader






(AP Photo) (AP Photo)

 
Who says there are no re-do’s in baseball?  Jon Lester had a chance to start over on Sunday evening after struggling in the first inning of a rain-out on Friday night, as the young lefty allowed three hits to the only four Tampa Bay batters he faced.  

Lester (13-7) held Tampa at bay, pitching eight innings of two-hit ball while striking out seven Rays.  Billy Wagner came in for a scoreless ninth to seal the 4-0 victory for Boston in front of a capacity crowd at Fenway Park.  Lester’s outstanding outing hands Tampa Bay their 11th straight loss and delivers the Sox with a three-game sweep of the reeling Rays.  

After Dustin Pedroia provided just enough offensive fireworks in the day game, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, and Jason Bay delivered all the offense Boston would need in route to their 5th consecutive victory.  Lowell grounded out to third in the second inning, plating home J.D. Drew for Boston’s first run.  In the sixth, Jason Varitek delivered a two-out, two-run RBI single.  Jason Bay blasted a solo-shot in the eighth, for his 32nd home run of the year.

Boston has now won eight straight at Fenway Park and 11 of their last 15 games.  It was Daisuke Matsuzaka’s 29th birthday on Sunday as the Japanese right-hander is set to take the mound for the first time for Boston since June against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday. The Red Sox have Monday off.

Pedroia Will Destroy Ya

Pedroia’s 2-Run Blast Propels Sox Over Rays

When the Sox were down in St. Petersburg earlier this month, it was do or die time for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Well, the Sox ended the Rays slim playoff hopes by taking two-out-of-three games at Tropicana Field and ever since then, the Rays have been in a free-falling skid.

With Dustin Pedroia’s tie-breaking two-run home run in the opener of a day-night doubleheader, the Sox handed the Rays their 10th consecutive loss.  Clay Buchholz made his case, once again, for the No. 3 spot in the Sox rotation with another strong outing, going seven strong, allowing one run while striking out five hitters.  Victor Martinez started the scoring with an RBI single in sixth and very well may have saved the game with a block of the plate in the seventh inning to end the Rays rally.  

Hideki Okajima pitched a scoreless eighth to register his sixth victory of the season as Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 36th save with a scoreless ninth.  Jon Lester takes the ball in the night game of the doubleheader as he squares off against James Shields of the Rays.

(AP Photo) (AP Photo)

Eagles Flying High Over Kent State

Boston College Takes Care Of Business



(AP Photo) (AP Photo)

 
Going into the 2009 college football season, many Boston College fans were unsure of what to expect from their Eagles squad.  Their was a turnover at head coach, quarterback, and the defensive line. But many were happy that the Jeff Jagodzinski saga ended (he was recently canned from his position with Tampa Bay, just so you know) and the Frank Spaziani era, as head coach, started.

With Spaziani entering his first campaign as head man at BC, many uncertainties still remained even with the consistency of Spaziani, who has been with the Eagles staff for 12 years.  However, after a 54-0 spanking of Northeastern and a 34-7 victory over Kent State on Saturday, Eagles fans can rest assure they are in good hands with Coach Spaziani.

Boston College, without a clear-cut option at quarterback, has chosen to go with a two-man scheme and it has worked well so far with Justin Tuggle and Dave Shinskie.  Tuggle threw for two scores on Saturday, completing 6 of his 12 passes for 150 yards.  Skinskie went 9-for-16 for 73 yards and one touchdown.  Rich Gunnell led the receiving core with 114 yards and two TD’s.

Rain Rain Go Away

Sox Forced To Postpone Game Due To Inclement Weather

The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays will be forced to play a doubleheader Sunday at noon due to a heavy dose of Mother Nature on Friday night.  Jon Lester will start the second game of the doubleheaer on Sunday after pitching to four Tampa Bay hitters tonight.

Clay Buchholz will take the mound in the first game of the doubleheader for Boston.

(AP Photo) (AP Photo)