In case you were out looking for a shooting star to wish on, but finding only derelict satellites, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
It took two overtimes and 53 saves from Tuukka Rask, but the Boston Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden. Rask was jubilant after the win, saying, "Rask! Rask! Rask!" while pounding his stick on the ground. When asked what had inspired him to produce such a stellar showing, Rask added, "Rask! Rask! Rask!" before again pounding his stick on the ground. When asked whether Boston's poor showing after taking big leads in previous rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs had him at all nervous going into Game 4, Rask slashed the reporter in the knee with his stick, severing the bottom portion of his leg from the rest of his body, before adding, "Rask! Rask! Rask!"
After 13 scoreless innings, the White Sox and Mariners engaged in a seesaw battle at Safeco Field, including a game-tying Kyle Seager grand slam, before Chicago finally put away Seattle, 7-5, in the 16th inning. White Sox pitcher Addison Reed, who pitched three innings in relief, wound up getting the win despite allowing all five Mariners runs. Adjusting for park and opponent, Reed's win is hold on a second, let me just carry the three yes, yes, yes, eureka! It is the proof I've been looking for! Wins are the most useless statistic in sports! I win! Now if anyone has seen where I've put my ironic victory trombone, I have some Sousa marches to play whilst stomping around my living room in my boxer shorts.
In case you were out living your own sports dreams by eating pretzels like Jason Alexander circa '94, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Los Angeles Kings once again showed that Staples Center is a fortress, extending their unbeaten home playoff record with a 3-1 win over the Blackhawks to narrow Chicago's Western Conference finals lead to 2-1. "Man, it's harder to win there than it is at a Staples," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after the game. "I mean, you go in, and the prices are way higher than you'd find online, but it's like, I need index cards today and where the hell else can you get index cards? Then you end up wandering down an aisle and remembering that your wife told you the router was on the fritz, so you go to pick up a new one, but all the models are weird and overpriced. Then you get up to the counter, and boom, Jonathan Quick rejects your credit card. So you go to shoplift some highlighters. Which, and trust me on this one, only makes things worse."
Oklahoma avenged its defeat in last year's Women's College World Series by completing its sweep of the Tennessee Volunteers with a 4-0 series-clinching win. Oklahoma became the first WCWS champion to finish first in the nation in ERA and scoring, putting it in the conversation about the greatest women's college softball teams of all time. Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops differed in his assessment, however, saying, "Last year's model was definitely better; it's always better when you make it to the finals and lose. Builds character. Shows true greatness."
In case you were out protesting your local movie theater for continuing to show After Earth, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Miami Heat played their best game of the Eastern Conference finals when the stakes were the highest, closing out Game 7 with a 99-76 win over the Indiana Pacers behind another exceptional performance from LeBron James and a resurgent Dwyane Wade. "What about me?" said a distant voice from the nether reaches of the Heat locker room after the game. "The Big Three we were to be, and yet there are but two I see." When no one acknowledged the voice squeaking off in the periphery, it grew louder. "Remember me? Ol' Chrissy B? So sad am I to feel and see, that I've been forgot, been left behind, I'm all for naught, you're so unkind." But despite his growing voice, no one noticed the sad, lanky man in the corner in the midst of jubilant celebrations, no one except Shane Battier, who registered a DNP-CD in Game 7, who told Chris Bosh to stop using slant rhyme if he wanted to be noticed.
Brad Marchand had two goals as the Boston Bruins destroyed a lackluster Pittsburgh Penguins team, 6-1, to go up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals. What appeared on paper to be a relatively even series is turning into a massive mismatch with the Bruins outscoring Pittsburgh 9-1 through two games in a display that can only be described as the sort of savage thrashing that an actual bruin would deliver to a flock of actual penguins, with the bruin eating nine penguins before succumbing to the cold, and dying tragically on the glaciers of Antarctica, far from her home, her bear husband, and her cubs.
Coming into this season, Scott Feldman owned a career 4.81 ERA. It wasn't all bad, of course. You could blame some of those runs allowed on the harsh pitching environment at Arlington in which he toiled for eight years. There were flashes of strong results, such as the 2009 season that yielded a 17-8 record and 4.08 ERA — though even then his numbers weren't supported by strong peripherals. For fantasy purposes, Feldman's name wasn't one you had to remember at the draft table, unless you were in a really deep league.
Feldman's first three starts this year did nothing to change anyone's opinion. Lasting just 14 combined innings, he allowed 15 hits and 10 walks, for a 4.50 ERA. Except that ERA was a gift, the result of the stat's silly way of distinguishing "earned" runs from "unearned" ones. Turns out Feldman actually allowed twice as many total runs as he had earned runs — 14 in 14 innings. Throw in the weak contributions of the Cubs' offense and defense and you had a mediocre pitcher playing on a lousy team, someone you wouldn't think would be worth starting against anyone.
That's when the schedule gods smiled upon him. On April 26, Feldman got to face the Marlins, owners of the second-worst offense in the majors. He didn't dominate by any means. But Feldman's line — 6⅔ innings, seven hits, two runs, two walks, two strikeouts — proved enough to earn his first win of the year.
That was just the appetizer. In his next start, Feldman squared off against the Padres. He obliterated them, ceding just two runs on three hits, walking one, and striking out 12, en route to the first complete game of his career.
Zack Greinke's out until June, Carlos Quentin has caused 1,000 "What did they teach you at Stanford??" jokes, and everyone else is trying to sort out what happened. We're half a day past the Petco Punchout, still trying to figure out what the final fallout will be.
If you missed it, Quentin came to the plate leading off the bottom of the sixth inning of last night's Dodgers-Padres game. With the count 3-2, Greinke threw an 89-mph fastball, hitting Quentin in the left arm. To narrate everything that happened next, let's bring in the great Vin Scully:
In case you were busy using an already awesome milk shake as the base for an even thicker and more decadent uber-milk shake, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman shot 6-under to share the opening-round lead at the Masters. Garcia, considered among the best active players to have never won a major, said afterward, "Oh, no, please don't notice I'm leading. I can't choke if I'm not in front. I had no idea my round would be good enough to put me on top. Please, don't even talk to me. Talk to Leishman! Just talk to Leishman! Why won't you just talk to Leishman?!" Garcia then ran into a greenside bunker at the fourth hole, attempting to bury himself in the sand.
The Bulls continued their streak-snapping ways, and Nate Robinson scored 35 points in Chicago's 118-111 win over the New York Knicks at United Center. New York came to Chicago on a 13-game winning streak. Knicks coach Mike Woodson was reflective after the loss, saying, "Oh, we laughed when Erik Spoelstra came in shouting, 'I'm out!' when the Bulls brought down his team's streak earlier this year. And we shrugged off his warning that they'd lay us low, as well. We were sure we'd remain kings of our castle, masters of our domain, lords of our manors. And yet here we are, sweaty, drained, and out of the winning streak contest ourselves."
Last year, Jason Motte was one of the best and most reliable closers in the game, racking up 42 saves, nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 2.75 ERA. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract in January, and was widely expected to have another big year banking saves for a playoff-contending Cardinals team.
We'll let the excellent news and analysis site Rotowire.com take it from here:
MARCH 23: Motte has what the club is describing as a "mild strain" in his right elbow that will keep him off the mound for at least a week as the team explores the severity of the injury and potential treatments, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. General manager John Mozeliak said Motte will "likely" start the season on the disabled list with the flexor strain.
On Wednesday, I covered 15 players with compelling backstories who've been invited to spring training with American League clubs. Per that article: "These are the NRIs, the non-roster invitees promised almost nothing — not a job, not a major league deal, nothing more than a chance to come to camp, overcome often astronomical odds, and somehow make the Opening Day roster."
The Baltimore Orioles were a bad team in 2011. Terrible, really. They won 69 games, finished last in the AL East, and allowed 152 more runs than they scored. If anyone other than Dan Duquette and the players' moms figured the O's could storm back, win 90-odd games, and make a run at the AL East title and maybe even a World Series, those true believers certainly kept their opinions to themselves.
Last year's Baltimore team — along with fellow sub-.500 clubs turned 2012 playoff entrants Washington, Cincinnati, and Oakland — offer hope for those teams already eliminated from postseason contention this year. With that in mind, let's take a look at the 16 teams whose playoffs dreams had been dashed as of Monday (i.e. not these guys), and see if we can find a candidate or two to be next year's Orioles.
Trying to handicap the home stretch of a pennant race is an exercise in futility. Can Nate McLouth and Lew Ford carry the Orioles to postseason glory? Will Ervin Santana and Dan Haren lead a huge Angels comeback after stinking for most of the season? Could the Brewers pull off a miracle? With so many variables to consider for each of these teams, these questions might seem unanswerable.
And, just when you think you've got it all figured out, there's this: Every contender is at risk of getting knocked out by a spoiler. Trying to deduce which lousy teams are most likely to blow up a contender's season is even tougher.
This season, the Roster Doctor has doled out plenty of theoretical advice, on the best types of players to pursue, the best types of trades to make, the broad trends you should exploit to win your league.
That time is over. There's less than a month to go this season. If you're still in the race this year, every little move could make a difference. So let's look at some of the players likely available in your league, flip through schedules, and see which ones make for optimal pickups.