Thursday, April 07, 2011


The Sox finally got a Quality Start. Jon Lester was superb, throwing 7 shutout innings, working his way out of what little trouble he found himself in. He just didn't get any support. And now the Red Sox are off to their worst start since 1945. And I'm starting to worry.

The bullpen once again failed the Sox. Give Cleveland credit for manufacturing a run, but Bard's inability to throw strikes helped Manny Acta do things like call for a squeeze play.

The only hitter in the lineup doing their job is Adrian Gonzalez. The Sox are getting baserunners here and there, but can't get hits to knock them in. They're now 7/44 (.159) with runners in scoring position this season. They're only hitting .181 as a team, so it's not like they're only struggling in clutch situations. They're struggling to hit in every situation.

Youkilis is pressing too hard. Maybe the thumb is still bothering him, but I think a combination of rust and pent up frustration is why he's swinging so freely, and why he's dropping balls in the field. Remember, he hadn't played a competitive game since August 2nd. He's not exactly mild mannered, either. I think he's trying too hard to force the hits.

The Sox are failing at even the little things. Darnell McDonald's moronically wide turn of 2nd base that ended this game is an excellent example. And Varitek can give all the excuses he wants, but he made a huge mistake last night in not tagging Buck.

The Red Sox need to turn things around at Fenway. It's Opening Day tomorrow, and time to start the season over again. Unfortunately, John Lackey is pitching. He faces Phil Hughes, who struggled in his first start.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


For the first time since 2005, not a single New England team made the Frozen Four. While that reduces my interest, at least the final will probably be more entertaining than the basketball final. I wouldn't be shocked if teams shot for higher percentages than Butler did.

Before reading further, bear in mind that I was wrong on all four of my Frozen Four picks.

The semifinals will be broadcast on ESPN2 this evening starting at 5, with the Championship game on ESPN Saturday night.

Playing in St. Paul gives UMD the home ice edge. The Bulldogs also have a pretty good defense and penalty kill. Notre Dame only has a few big scoring threats, and the Bulldogs should be able to shut those down. I also like UMD goalie Kenny Reiter, who acquitted himself well against Union and Yale. I'm picking the Bulldogs to win 3-2.

The Sioux are certainly the most talented team left. St. Paul is home away from home for North Dakota, as they won the WCHA tournament there a few weeks back. They haven't lost since January, and they have arguably the best player in college hockey: Matt Frattin (36 goals, 24 assists in 43 games). Michigan will struggle to keep up with the scoring, and their goaltending isn't a big strength. North Dakota triumphs 5-2.

North Dakota is also my pick to win it all.


The Bruins are only 2 points out of 2nd in the Eastern Conference after beating the Islanders 3-2 last night. It was a game without stakes, without consequences, and wasn't very interesting. But it was a win.

What drew my attention most was the Bruins' special teams units. They continue to struggle. The PK unit allowed a goal. The Power Play unit failed to move and failed to score, even with a 2 minute 5-on-3. They even allowed a shorthanded goal. But give Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey credit for that one. The Bruins may have won 3-2, but they lost the special teams battle 2-0.

Special teams are so vital in postseason play because most playoff games are played against the boards, within tight coverage, and very little open ice play. When power plays come along, they're a rare opportunity to play with space and time. If the Bruins can't get their PP unit to score, they need to at least tighten up their PK.

I was puzzled to see Seguin, Kampfer, and Hnidy all scratched. This seems like a great chance to give minutes to all three. Perhaps over the weekend.

Daniel Paille has played himself onto the playoff roster. He's been doing all the little things and some big things the past few weeks. He had another excellent game last night.

And how cool is it to see Shawn Thornton score his 10th goal? He, along with Gregory Campbell, are among 6 NHL players to score 10+ times and fight 10+ times this season.

The Bruins play back to back games this weekend, hosting Ottawa Saturday afternoon, and travelling to Jersey on Sunday. Look for guys like Thomas, Chara, Lucic, Recchi, and Bergeron to get at least one game off. Look for Paille, Campbell, Ryder, Thornton, Kelly, and Seguin to get a chance to earn a spot in the starting lineup with some additional ice time.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


I really thought Daisuke was going to turn the Sox' fortunes around last night. He's always done well against Cleveland. And they tend to be free swingers. I was wrong.

He wasn't awful. But in typical Daisuke fashion, even when he does well, he fails to do well for long enough. And while it was the bullpen that ultimately lost this game, Daisuke gave the bullpen a chance to lose it, by only going 5 innings.

And during those 5 innings, he nibbled. And he nibbled. He threw a joke of a 90 MPH fastball right down the middle to Choo, and it was crushed. He nibbled some more. He walked batters. He hit a batter. He allowed 10 baserunners in 5 innings.

But he didn't lose this game by himself. Not by a longshot. Ellsbury struck out 3 times and went 0 for 5. We're still waiting for him to hit. Youkilis went 0 for 4, continuing his struggles. And Varitek messed up a defensive play, turning what should have been an out into a Cleveland run. His mistake of not tagging Buck at the plate was inexcusable for a veteran and a "Captain."

Then the bullpen. That's worrying me more than anything else right now. The starting pitching is what it is. The offense will inevitably improve. Guys like Ellsbury and Youkilis are not sub-.200 hitters. They'll come around. The bullpen, however, has been nothing but a disaster so far. Dan Wheeler was supposed to be the 2nd set-up man alongside Bard. He's allowed 2 homeruns already. And Reyes was supposed to add depth. He's only added mass, and a heavy ERA.

A few bright notes from last night: Gonzalez hit his first homerun with the team. And Crawford got on base, then ran, stealing his first 2 bases of the season.

The rotoation starts all over again, and maybe that's what this club needs. Lester faces Fausto Carmona, who allowed 10 runs in 3 innings against Chicago. First pitch at 12:05 this afternoon.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo