Friday, May 23, 2008

Red Sox Win Slugfest at Fenway

J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell provided the muscle with a grand slam apiece, as the Red Sox defeated the Royals, 11-8, in front of 37,613 at Fenway Park on Thursday afternoon, sweeping the four-game set.
The win sends the Sox to the West Coast unbeaten on the seven-game homestand, with baseball's best home record at 21-5, and keeps Daisuke Matsuzaka perfect on the season.
"We just want to win," Sox manager Terry Francona said of the 7-0 homestand. "I think we've used just about everybody on our roster, which is always good.
"Everybody feels like they're doing something to help us, and they are. We used every pitcher. I think that's part of the reason why we do win. You show up on a day game after a night game, and we have a bench that guys can play here. Or, we can go in for defense. Or, if somebody's nicked up, another guy can play.
"Yeah, I do think that's part of the reason we have success."
Matsuzaka improved to 8-0 with a 2.40 ERA for the season, despite struggling with his command, an issue that has plagued him intermittently this season. In 5 2/3 innings Thursday, he threw 118 pitches, 67 for strikes. He gave up six hits and six walks, and was charged with two passed balls, to go along with seven strikeouts. Two of the six batters he walked accounted for two of the three runs he allowed.
"He threw 21 first-pitch strikes [to 29 batters] and then there [were] a lot of baserunners," Francona said. "As a staff, I don't think we had a clean inning. We scored some runs and then we put some runners on. We threw some fastballs over the middle of the plate."
Although he gave up just two walks in his previous outing, Saturday against the Brewers, he's had outings of eight (May 5 at Detroit) and six (April 13 against the Yankees) free passes this season.
"If his stuff's good and he's getting some misses, sometimes when you're wild in the strike zone, that can happen," Francona said. "Guys are cheating to get the pitches, and they're off the plate and they swing.
"He's got other pitches, it's not just fastball. He's got the breaking ball and changeup. So, that could explain that. He's pitched himself into some predicaments where he had to make real good pitches. Fortunately, for the most part he did."
"I think there was a tendency to be a little bit explosive, be a little bit too perfect with some pitches," pitching coach John Farrell said of Matsuzaka's performance. "But, when it got to hitters' counts, he didn't give in. He didn't just throw a fastball down the plate that might've cost him an extra base or two. He's OK walking a guy because he thinks he can get the next batter."
Matsuzaka, however, was not happy with his performance Thursday.
"It wasn't very good," he said through his interpreter. "It hasn't been for a while now. There are a lot of reasons. It is not really something I prefer to discuss out in the open, but rather something I need to digest within myself."
While he may not have been at his best, it was good enough to get the 'W."
"He wasn't in command of all his pitches. He ran deep counts and got his pitch count up," said Royals manager Trey Hillman. "But he's still pretty good, even when he's not commanding the zone."
With a day game Thursday after a night game Wednesday, Kevin Cash took over behind the plate, in place of Jason Varitek, who got a day of rest.
Matsuzaka said that the pair briefly went over signals and pitches before the game, but he realized afterwards that maybe they hadn't discussed it enough.
Cash said that while there were no communication problems, the battery had to get in sync a couple of times.
"Just in the fourth or fifth inning, he kind of changed a little bit and started working more changeups," Cash said. "It kind of took me a little bit to get on the same page. That's why I went out there a couple times and talked to him.
"I asked him after the inning, and he just said the lefties that had seen him he wanted to work it in, because the first three innings he hadn't thrown it at all -- so, just to give them a different look, which was very good, real good."
Although the Royals took an early lead, 1-0, in the first inning, it would be their only lead of the series. With two outs in the top of the first, Matsuzaka walked Alex Gordon, who went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Jose Guillen's single to right, giving the Royals the edge.
But the Sox answered back in a loud way in the second. After Manny Ramirez, Lowell and Kevin Youkilis opened the frame with consecutive singles, Drew went the opposite way to deposit a Brian Bannister fastball into the Green Monster seats above left field.
"In that situation [with no outs], you can get away with a lot," said Drew. "I was able to square one up and hit it over the green wall. Best-case scenario, I think."
It was Drew's fourth career grand slam. His last slam for the Sox came Oct. 20, 2007, in the American League Championship Series against the Indians.
The Sox added a run in the third when Lowell, who reached on a ground-rule double down the right-field line, scored on Youkilis' single to center, putting the Sox up, 5-1.
In the fifth inning, the Royals cut the deficit to 5-3 as Matsuzaka walked leadoff batter Gordon, who took second on a wild pitch and scored on Jose Guillen's double to left-center. After Mark Teahen's groundout, Guillen then scored on a sharp liner down the left-field line off the bat of Miguel Olivo, who had matched a career high with five RBIs. Matsuzaka struck out the final two batters of the inning, Ross Gload on a slider and Alberto Callaspo on a changeup.
In the sixth, with Jimmy Gobble pitching for KC, the Sox sent nine batters to the plate, with six scoring. Drew opened the inning with a single, advanced on a Cash single and scored on Julio Lugo's sacrifice fly to right. Jacoby Ellsbury's walk was followed by Dustin Pedroia's double to left, scoring Drew. After David Ortiz popped out, Gobble intentionally walked Manny Ramirez, loading the bases for Lowell, who put Gobble's second pitch into the Monster seats and the Sox up, 11-3.
"I never take it personal," Lowell said of Ramirez's being walked to get to him. "I think what I try to do there is utilize the moment because you don't want your desire to take away from your approach. ... I would say a grand slam is a pretty nice exclamation point."
For Lowell, it was his seventh career slam, and first since May 19, 2007, against the Braves.
The two slams in a game match a Major League record, done 71 times previously going back to 1876, and the 39th time an American League team has accomplished the feat.
The Sox lead all Major League clubs with 10 two-slam games, the last time when Bill Mueller did it from each side of the plate, July 29, 2003, in Texas, which was the first time any Major League player had ever done so.
The last time two different Sox players hit a grand slam in a game was May 2, 1995, when John Valentin and Mo Vaughn cleared the bases at Yankee Stadium. The last time it happened at Fenway, Tony Armas and Bill Buckner teamed up for the feat, on Aug. 7, 1984, in the first game of a doubleheader with the Tigers.
With Craig Hansen in for the Sox in the seventh, the Royals scratched back two more runs, as Guillen led off with a home run to left and Teahen walked and scored on Olivo's double.
But the Royals were not done, scoring three more in the eighth off David Aardsma, as Olivo hit a three-run homer to left, scoring Gordon and Guillen, who had singled, cutting the Sox lead to 11-8.
Jonathan Papelbon entered in the ninth, getting two outs before allowing singles to David DeJesus and Billy Butler to bring Gordon to the plate as the tying run. But a 97-mph fastball got Gordon to loft a fly ball to left, where it settled harmlessly into Ellsbury's glove, securing the win and the perfect homestand.

Tigers Whip Vandy

Junior left-hander Blake Martin limited No. 21 Vanderbilt to one earned run in seven innings Thursday night to lead eighth-ranked LSU to an 8-2 SEC Tournament victory at Regions Park. The Tigers, who extended their winning streak to 18 games, advanced to play at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against either Alabama, Kentucky or Ole Miss. Vanderbilt will face South Carolina at 3 p.m. Friday in an elimination game. The Tigers’ 18-game streak is tied for the second-longest in LSU history. The 1986 LSU squad also won 18 consecutive contests, and the 1997 club posted a school-record 19 straight victories. Fourteen wins in the Tigers’ 18-0 run have come against SEC teams. LSU, which trailed 1-0 through three innings, won for the 26th time this season after facing a deficit. The Tigers also won for the 12th straight time when wearing their gold jerseys. “It was a big win tonight for the Tigers,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “This was a pivotal game for us. It puts us in the final bracket where someone has to beat you twice to keep you out of the championship game. That’s a very comforting thing, because it takes some pressure off of your pitching staff. This team amazes me more every day.” Vanderbilt took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when designated hitter Parker Hanks launched a two-out solo homer off of Martin. However, LSU erupted for four runs against Vanderbilt right-hander Caleb Cotham in the fifth to grab a 4-1 advantage. Rightfielder Derek Helenihi was hit by a pitch to start the rally, and he moved to third base on shortstop DJ LeMahieu’s one-out single to right field. Centerfielder Leon Landry followed with a single to score Helenihi, and LeMahieu scored when Vanderbilt rightfielder Dominic de la Osa’s throw sailed into the stands above third base. Second baseman Ryan Schimpf belted a triple into right field to plate Landry, and Schimpf scored when second baseman Alex Feinberg’s relay throw landed in the LSU dugout. The Tigers extended the lead to 7-1 in the sixth when Helenihi unloaded a three-run blast, his third dinger of the year. The homer scored designated hitter Blake Dean and catcher Micah Gibbs – who led off the frame with consecutive singles -- and signaled Cotham’s exit from the game. Martin (5-3), meanwhile, held the Commodore bats in check, allowing just two runs – one earned -- on four hits with three walks and one strikeout. Vanderbilt pushed across an unearned run in the seventh on Hanks’ sacrifice fly, but LSU added a run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Schimpf. “I just came in and tried to get as deep into the game as I could,” Martin said. “In tournaments, you want to save your pitching as much as possible. I just tried to throw strikes. I thought our defense was amazing. Once we got those seven runs, I still tried to throw strikes and let them put the ball in play.” Cotham (7-5) was charged with the loss as he surrendered seven runs on eight hits in five innings with one walk and five strikeouts.

Guerrero Homer Gives Rebels Win

Michael Guerrero came up big for the Rebels again on Thursday as the junior hit his second home run in as many nights down the left field line, this one a two-run walk-off in the ninth to give Ole Miss (36-22) an 8-7 win over No. 19 Kentucky (42-13) in the second round of the SEC Tournament.After watching Kentucky take a one run lead in the top of the ninth, Logan Power opened the bottom half of the inning with a single before Guerrero came up with the game winning home run two batters later to give the Rebels the win.The two lead changes in the ninth were part of a back and forth battle that saw the game tied or lead change hands nine times in the final six innings of the game. Guerrero and Matt Smith led the Rebels at the plate as the pair was responsible for four of the Rebels 10 hits and six of the Rebels’ eight runs. Guerrero was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI, while Smith was 2-for-4 with a run scored and four RBI.Jake Morgan (3-0) picked up the win as he worked the final 2.1 innings, allowing two runs on one hit with no walks and two strikeouts.Scott Green (6-4) suffered the loss in relief for the Wildcats as he entered the game with one man on in the ninth and recorded one out before giving up the game-winning home run.“It was a game of answers,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco of the back-and-forth contest. “It was disappointing to see us squander the lead and some opportunities, but I am proud of the way we hung in there. The pitchers didn’t hang their heads, they kept competing. The batters kept swinging. It’s nice to win a game like that.”Ole Miss scored first, pushing three runs across in the third inning. Fuller Smith scored from second on a single through the left side from Cody Overbeck. Smith singled to left field before moving to second on a walk of Logan Power. Power and Overbeck moved into scoring position on a deep fly to center field from Michael Guerrero before a single up the middle from Matt Smith pushed the pair of juniors home. Ole Miss led 3-0 heading into the fourth inning.Kentucky struck back in the top of the fourth, scoring tying the game with a two out rally. Chris Wade notched a two-RBI double to score Cowgill and McClendon before Wade was driving in by a single up the middle from Troy Frazier.The Rebels reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fourth on a sac fly to right from Tim Ferguson. Zach Miller drew a lead-off walk to open the inning and moved to third on a throwing error from the Wildcat’s Paxton on a pickoff attempt. He then scored on the Ferguson fly out to give the Rebels the 4-3 lead.The Wildcats answered in the sixth with another two-out rally. Keenan Wiley doubled up the middle to score Frazier from third and tie the game at four. Frazier doubled with two outs before stealing third on a walk of Marcus Nidiffer.With two outs and two on in the fifth, the Rebels turned to the bullpen and brought in Bukvich who got the Rebels out of the inning with a fly out of the first batter faced.Kentucky took the lead in the seventh when Brian Spear hit a single through the left side to score Collin Cowgill from third. Cowgill reached on a throwing error on a grounder to third that entered the camera well allowing Cowgill to take second on a dead ball. He then stole third before scoring on Spear’s single. Following the second out on a fly out by Kentucky’s McClendon, the Rebels turned to the bullpen again for Jake Morgan. Morgan struck out the next batter to end the inning.Ole Miss took the lead back in the bottom half with a two-run home run from Matt Smith that pushed the Rebels on top 6-5.A fielding error at shortstop opened the top of the eighth and allowed Frazier to reach second before a sac bunt from Nidiffer pushed him to third. Kentucky tied the game on the next play as Ole Miss went home on a chopper down the first base line, but Frazier slid under the tag at the plate to even things at six. The Wildcats opened the ninth with a triple from Sawyer Carroll before a sac fly to right field from Cowgill pushed him across the plate to give Kentucky the lead only to see the Rebels snatch the win back in the bottom half of the ninth.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Despite being a veteran and a Cy Young Award winner, Bartolo Colon admitted he was "very nervous" when he made his return to the Major Leagues on Wednesday night.
But when his delayed Red Sox debut was over, Colon was clearly elated with the way things went, as he pitched five innings and got the win in Boston's 6-3 victory over Kansas City.
"I was very nervous in the first inning, it felt like my first professional outing," Colon, speaking through an interpreter, said after helping the Red Sox to their sixth straight win on what has thus far been a perfect homestand (which ends on Thursday). "After the first inning, I was able to settle down and really kind of enjoy the moment."
Colon, whose debut was delayed by an oblique injury, allowed two runs on six hits, walking two and striking out four for his first Major League win since June 14, 2007. He gave up runs in the third and fifth innings, both delivered on soft hits, but he pitched out of further trouble in both innings -- and then saw his new teammates score four runs in the bottom of the fifth to make him a winner in a 74-pitch effort.
"The veteran felt like a rookie again," said catcher Jason Varitek, whose solo homer keyed the big fifth inning. "Probably more so because there is previous history of expectation on Bartolo. The young guys don't have as much expectation. When they throw well, they get a big pat on the back. When they don't, well, they're not ready."
Colon, the eighth starting pitcher for Boston this season, showed that he's still ready.
Wrapping up his night, the right-hander saw the Sox take the lead for good and set him up for his 147th big league victory. Almost fittingly, the first of those wins also came at Fenway Park, on June 7, 1997, while he was pitching with Cleveland (where he was a teammate and close with current teammate Manny Ramirez).
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to get out here and contribute," Colon said. "I'm very happy with the way I pitched tonight."
His manager was happy, too.
"I thought he looked fine," said Terry Francona, who cited "a couple of misfires" early before things settled down. "It's a good beginning."
"I thought he threw the ball great," said Varitek. "The big man had a huge smile on his face when we all got in here. I mean, this is pretty big for him to make his way back."
Colon wants to throw more strikes -- he threw 46 on Wednesday -- when he makes his next start, on Monday night in Seattle.
"He's going to work off his location, changing his tilt, mixing in a few changeups," Varitek said. "He threw some good sliders, elevated his ball a few times. [He] did good, did real good.
"Tossing 94 is pretty good. You've got to remember, this is his first outing. He's still building strength. This is a good first step. ... He's going to help us."
Said Royals manager Trey Hillman: "He threw his other pitches, but he located the fastball pretty good for his first start. He pitched to both sides of the plate effectively."
Before the game, Francona said that he was hoping Colon could give the Sox a boost the rest of the way.
"Sometimes you need to catch a break, and maybe this will be our break," he said. "Everybody's looking for something, and pitching's hard to find. This guy seems excited to be here, and you know what? We're kind of excited to have him here."
Colon, signed by the Sox in Spring Training after elbow trouble ended his proud stay with the Angels, topped off at 95 mph, averaging 89-92 mph.
For the first time in the three wins over Kansas City, Boston had to come from behind on Wednesday night.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom of the first with a home run off losing pitcher Brett Tomko (2-5). But the Sox trailed, 2-1, before Varitek (who has five two-hit games in his last six) led off the fifth with his sixth homer of the year and the 154th of his career, tying him with George Scott for 15th place on Boston's all-time list. Julio Lugo and David Ortiz drove in runs, with a single and sacrifice fly, respectively, and the final run of the inning scored on a Ron Mahay wild pitch.
Ellsbury's third hit, his steal of second (No. 19) and Dustin Pedroia's third hit made it 6-2 in the seventh.
Four Sox relievers worked an inning each to nail it down, though Mike Timlin allowed a run in the ninth.
The Sox, who close the homestand on Thursday afternoon before heading west, opened a two-game lead in the American League East on a night they scored six runs even though the 3-6 hitters combined to go 1-for-13, with Ortiz's sac fly, two double plays and five strikeouts.

Rebels upset #1 Georgia

Junior right-hander Lance Lynn had never lost in the Southeastern Conference Tournament and he kept that streak alive on Wednesday as Ole Miss (35-22) defeated sixth-ranked and top-seeded Georgia (35-20-1) in the opening round of the SEC Tournament by a score of 4-1.Lynn (7-3) struck out 12 batters on the night, tying a career-high, as he picked up the win and ran his SEC Tournament record to 3-0 for his career. The junior allowed one run on four hits with four walks and 12 strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work. Scott Bittle picked up his eighth save of the season as he worked the final 2.1 innings, striking out four and walking two while allowing only two hits.Georgia’s Nick Montgomery (2-2) suffered the loss in only his second career start as he worked 4.0 innings and allowed three runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts.“It was a great game tonight and a well played game by both teams,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “Lance Lynn was tremendous tonight and very dominant. We were able to get him a lead and then just let him pitch. He looked like vintage Lance tonight.”“I wasn’t really pitching like it was our season on the line, I just wanted to go out there and do whatever it took to get my team to the next round,” Lynn said.Ole Miss struck first, pushing two runs across in the top of the first as Cody Overbeck delivered a two-RBI single to left field that scored Jordan Henry and Fuller Smith. Back-to-back singles from Henry and Smith opened the game before a sac bunt from Logan Power put the two runners in scoring position for the Overbeck single.
Michael Guerrero pushed the Rebels out to a 3-0 lead as he opened the fourth inning with a solo shot down the left field line.Georgia got on the board in the bottom half of the sixth as Robbie O’Bryan came up with a two-out RBI single through the right side to score Ryan Peisel from second. Peisel singled to open the inning before moving to second on a walk of Gordon Beckham. Ole Miss extended the lead back to three in the top of the ninth as an RBI single up the middle from Henry pushed Ferguson across the plate. Ferguson singled to open the inning before moving to second on a sac bunt from Brett Basham and stealing third.Henry and Smith led the rebels at the plate as both players went 3-for-5 on the night with runs scored. Henry also notched an RBI.The Rebels will now face the winner of the opening day’s final game between Kentucky and Alabama on Thursday. First pitch is set for 8 p.m. at Regions Park.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tigers Rebound in the Ninth and Win in the 10th

HOOVER, Ala. -- Designated hitter Blake Dean launched a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning Wednesday to lift No. 8 LSU to a 5-4 victory over No. 19 South Carolina in the first round of the SEC Tournament at Regions Park.
LSU (40-16-1), which won its 17th-straight game, advanced to play at 5 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s Vanderbilt-Florida game. South Carolina (37-20) will play the loser of the Vanderbilt-Florida game at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The 17-game win streak is the third-longest in LSU history, trailing only a 19-game streak in 1997 and an 18-game streak in 1986.
LSU improved to 5-2-1 this season in extra-inning games with Wednesday’s victory.
Facing a 4-0 deficit, LSU rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the game into extra innings. South Carolina reliever Will Atwood walked Dean and catcher Micah Gibbs before striking out rightfielder Derek Helenihi for the first out of the frame.
However, first baseman Matt Clark then unloaded a three-run blast to close the gap to 4-3.
Atwood was lifted for right-hander Brandon Todd, who walked shortstop DJ LeMahieu and struck out leftfielder Nicholas Pontiff. Second baseman Ryan Schimpf then lifted a two-out bloop double just inside the left-field foul line to score LeMahieu with the tying run.
LSU reliever Jared Bradford blanked the Gamecocks in the top of the 10th, setting the stage for Dean’s heroics. South Carolina left-hander Alex Farotto fanned centerfielder Jared Mitchell to begin the inning, but Dean blasted Farotto’s 2-0 pitch over the right-centerfield wall to give the Tigers the dramatic win.
“It was an amazing comeback,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri.”It was probably one of the best I have witnessed as a coach. This is a self-motivated team. They believe in each other, and they know how to win. This has been exciting, so I hope it keeps going. It’s been fun.”
“We started out sluggish,” Dean said. “It wasn’t like usual, but we believe in each other. We know that if one person doesn’t get it done, then the one coming behind him will. Coach (Mainieri) always tells us to play the full game. So we played all nine innings. We kept battling and battling.”
Bradford (10-4) was credited with the victory after pitching a scoreless 10th inning with one walk.
Farotto (0-1) was charged with the loss after allowing the home run to Dean.
South Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when catcher Phil Disher launched a solo homer, his 17th dinger of the season.
The Gamecocks extended the lead to 3-0 in the sixth when rightfielder Harley Lail blooped a bases-loaded single to plate two runs.
Each team received strong outings from its starting pitcher. LSU left-hander Ryan Verdugo worked six innings, allowing three runs on four hits with five walks and a career-best 10 strikeouts.
South Carolina starter Sam Dyson, making his first appearance against an SEC opponent, fired 6.2 scoreless innings, limiting the Tigers to two hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
LSU 5, South Carolina 4 (May 21, 2008 at Hoover, Ala.)----------------------------------------------------------------------South Carolina...... 000 102 001 0 - 4 6 0 (37-20)LSU...................... 000 000 004 1 - 5 5 0 (40-16-1)----------------------------------------------------------------------Pitchers: South Carolina - Sam Dyson; Will Atwood(7); Brandon Todd(9); Alex Farotto(10). LSU -Ryan Verdugo; Paul Bertuccini(7); Louis Coleman(8); Jared Bradford(10).Win-Jared Bradford(10-4) Loss-Alex Farotto(0-1) T-3:25 HR SC - Phil Disher (17).HR LSU - Blake Dean (14); Matt Clark (20).

Tigers Open SEC Tournament Today

Eighth-ranked LSU (39-16-1, 18-11-1 SEC) begins postseason play at 10 a.m. CT Wednesday when the Tigers meet No. 19 South Carolina in the opening round of the SEC Tournament at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.
The game will be carried by the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network. The Baton Rouge affiliate is WDGL 98.1 FM. Live audio of the game may be accessed in the Geaux Zone at
LSU’s SEC Tournament games on Wednesday and Thursday will be televised by Cox Sports Television (Cable Ch. 37 in Baton Rouge). CST will also carry the “if necessary” game on Saturday.
FSN Southwest (Cable Ch. 38 in Baton Rouge) will televise Friday’s games, Saturday’s semifinals and the championship game on Sunday.
LSU, the SEC Western Division champion, is the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament, and South Carolina is the No. 7 seed. The winner of Wednesday’s game will face the winner of the Florida-Vanderbilt contest at 5 p.m. Thursday.
The LSU-South Carolina loser will take on the Florida-Vanderbilt loser at 10 a.m. Thursday in an elimination game.
The Tigers, riding a 16-game win streak, moved up to No. 8 in this week’s Collegiate Baseball poll LSU’s appearance in the Top 10 is the club’s first since March 13, 2006. LSU recorded a three-game SEC sweep of Auburn last weekend, extending its win streak to 16 games overall and 12 games in conference play.
The Tigers’ 16-game streak is the longest by an LSU squad since the 1997 club won its first 19 games. The 12-game SEC win streak is LSU’s longest in one season -- the Tigers won 15 straight league games in 1990-91 (four straight at the end of the ’90 season, 11 in a row to start the ’91 season).
The sweep over Auburn clinched the SEC Western Division title for LSU, the 14th division crown in school history and the Tigers’ first since 2005. LSU has claimed five Western Division championships this decade – 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2008.
The Tigers are hitting .335 (207-for-618) as a team during their 16-game win streak with 46 doubles, five triples and 26 home runs, and LSU has outscored its opponents, 150-76, in the past 16 contest.
The Tigers’ pitching staff has been superb during the streak as well, recording a 3.65 ERA in 153 innings of work with 46 walks and 146 strikeouts.
“In my 26 years of coaching at the college level, our players define the word ‘team’ as well as any group I’ve ever worked with,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “They’re a great group of kids who care about the right things, and each player has embraced his role on the team. We don’t have any superstars, but we do have a dedicated group of players who have worked very hard and represented LSU well. We’re looking forward to going to Hoover to continue to play well and hopefully have some fun.”
Mainieri said junior left-hander Ryan Verdugo (8-2, 3.54 ERA) will start Wednesday’s game on the mound for LSU. Verdugo defeated Auburn in his last outing on Thursday, limiting the Plainsmen to three runs on six hits in 5.2 innings with two walks and six strikeouts.
South Carolina coach Ray Tanner will counter with freshman right-hander Sam Dyson (7-0, 3.86 ERA).
LSU leads the overall series with South Carolina, 25-20-1, including a three-game sweep in Baton Rouge earlier this season (April 25-27). South Carolina, though, has won eight of the last 12 meetings between the clubs.
LSU has a 50-34 all-time record in the SEC Tournament as the Tigers have made 27 appearances in the postseason event. LSU did not qualify for the SEC Tournament last season after making 22 straight appearances from 1985-2006. The Tigers have captured SEC Tournament titles in 1986, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 2000.

Masterson Masterful in Second ML Start

In only his second major league start, Justin Masterson threw a 3 hitter against the Kansas City Royals to notch his first win. Brought up for a spot start due to injuries in the starting rotation, Masterson limited Alex Gordon to 2 doubles and a single. No one else hit safely until Masterson was relieved with one out in the 7th.

The Sox only provided only 2 runs of support but the bullpen was equal to the task, allowing only 1 ru,n given up by Manny Delcarmen. Hidecki Okajima loaded the bases in the eighth before Jonathan Papelbon came on to strike out Billy Butler to end the inning. Papelbon then struck out 2 more in a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Masterson had previously had a 2 hit outing against the California Angels but the bullpen could not hold the lead. This time the lead stuck.

Masterson will now be sent down to Pawtucket to make room on the roster for veteran Bartolo Colon who was acquired by the Sox in the off season from California. Colon was 6-8 for the Angels last year with a 6.82 ERA but it is hoped that a healthy Colon can return to mid career form. We shall see tonight.

The Sox are now in first place, a game ahead of Tampa Bay and 7 1/2 games up on the hapless Yankees who gave up 7 runs in the first inning to the resurgent Baltimore Orioles.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hornets Laid to Rest

It's time to lay to rest this wonderful season that the New Orleans Hornet's had. They tantilized this city as no one has since the Saints of 2006. In fact it was the same scenario, the team returning from Oklahoma City to restablish their home here thanks to the loyalty of George Shinn. This loyalty was rewarded by a fan base that sold out much of the second half of the season and all of the playoff games. For the first time the Hornets went this deep in the playoffs and although they lost last night to the Reigning Champion San Antonio Spurs, we all agree it was a hell of a ride. I'm glad I hitched on the bus for part of it.
But the ride is over, and the question is, will the Hornets continue to improve and become one of the marquee franchises in the NBA, or be just a speed bump on the history of the league, much like the 2006 Saints?
The answer to that question is what they do in the off season to keep the team current. Bonsi Wells is like ly gone and maybe also Pargo who will be an unrestricted free agent. Will the Hornets retain him or do they want to? In any event, they will need another swing man. They draft 27th and so it is unlikely they will get much help there. So will they bite the bullet and enter the free agent market? Right now, I don't even know who is available. But I'm sure that there is a lot of pro talent out there. This is a touchy process because in optaining players, the Bees must avoid those that would alter the team chemistry, a chemistry that carried this squad further than their individual talent would have predicted.
This will likely be my last mention of the Hornets until preseason, but if there is a spoiler in the draft or a free agent acquisition you'll hear from me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jon Lester throws Majors First No Hitter of the Season

BOSTON (May 19) - Jon Lester can now add pitching a no-hitter to his already amazing list of accomplishments. The 24-year-old lefty, who survived cancer to pitch the clincher of Boston's 2007 World Series victory, shut down Kansas City 7-0 Monday night for the first no-hitter in the majors this season."Really, words can't describe it right now," Lester said.Lester (3-2) allowed just two baserunners, walking Billy Butler in the second inning and Esteban German to open the ninth. He struck out nine, including Alberto Callaspo to end the game.Lester and manager Terry Francona met for a long, hard embrace when it was over."He just said he was proud of me," Lester said. "I've been through a lot the last couple of years. He's been like a second dad to me. It was just a special moment right there."Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury made a diving catch of Jose Guillen's line drive to end the fourth - the best defensive play of the game. Lester also got help from first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who made a nice scoop on shortstop Julio Lugo's throw after David DeJesus hit a grounder in the third.The fans really got into it for the final out of the seventh, rising to their feet when Lester fanned Guillen on a 93 mph fastball. They remained standing for the entire ninth inning, flashes popping, screaming at full throat when defensive replacement Callaspo fell behind 0-2.Lester pumped both fists in the air after Callaspo reached for a high and outside 1-2 fastball.Lester jumped into catcher Jason Varitek's arms before they were both mobbed by teammates running out of the dugout. After Lester hugged Francona, the pitcher tipped his hat to the Fenway Park fans for one more big cheer.Boston's last no-hitter was pitched by Clay Buchholz, who shut down the Baltimore Orioles in just his second major league start last Sept. 1.Mel Parnell was the last Red Sox lefty to throw a no-hitter, beating the Chicago White Sox on July 14, 1956.Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan is the only other person in history to no-hit the Royals.Luke Hochevar (3-3) allowed seven runs on five hits and six walks in six innings.
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The Blog Lives

I would like to apologize to all of my faithful readers for having negected the blog since February, but the overwelming nature of my day job were more than I could handle and so now that the days are longer and my enthusiasm restores, I plan to try to approach this on a regular basis. So many stories have been untold. Such as the hiring of LSU’s new head basketball coach, Trent Johnson. Ole Miss mens basketball team’s march through the NIT all the way to New York before losing to the ultimate champion Ohio State. I’ve missed the entire spring training, unforgivable, and the first seven weeks of major league baseball season which saw the Red Sox battle their way to first place in the east despite injuries to Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkalis, JD Drew, a flu bug which wiped out half of the pitching staff and captain Jason Veritek and Jonathan Papelbon’s two consecutive blown saves, unheard of.
Well, hopefully I’m back to give my readers fresh view of all that’s happening with my favorite teams.
In addition I have a new favorite team, the New Orleans Hornets, our local entry in the NBA. After surviving 2 years in Oklahoma City, they have returned to New Orleans in a big way. The game tonight against the defending NBA champion may be the dénouement of an wonderful season, but we might win. I suspect we will. If so I’ll pick them up as well. If not, well, then wait ‘til next year.
The big news this week is the SEC baseball tournament. I’ve enclosed a copy of the schedule below and if I can get a signal in Gulf Shores this weekend I’ll keep y’all posted as the outcomes. 2008 Tournament Bracket
Time (CT)
Matchup [TV] (XM Radio)Stats
Wednesday, May 21
Game 1
10:00 a.m.
#7 South Carolina vs. #2 LSU [CSS HD] (XM 199)
Game 2
1:00 p.m.
#6 Vanderbilt vs. #3 Florida [CSS HD] (XM 199)
Game 3
5:00 p.m.
#8 Ole Miss vs. #1 Georgia [CSS HD]
Game 4
8:00 p.m.
#5 Alabama vs. #4 Kentucky [CSS HD]
Thursday, May 22
Game 5
10:00 a.m.
Loser G1 vs. Loser G2 [CSS HD] (XM 199)
Game 6
1:00 p.m.
Loser G3 vs. Loser G4 [CSS HD] (XM 199)
Game 7
5:00 p.m.
Winner G1 vs. Winner G2 [CSS HD] (XM 199)
Game 8
8:00 p.m.
Winner G3 vs. Winner G4 [CSS HD] (XM 199)
Friday, May 23
Game 9
3:00 p.m.
Winner G5 vs. Loser G7 [FSN HD] (XM 199)
Game 10
6:30 p.m.
Winner G6 vs. Loser G8 [FSN]
Saturday, May 24
Game 11
10:00 a.m.
Winner G8 vs. Winner G9 [FSN HD] (XM 199)
Game 12
1:30 p.m.
Winner G7 vs. Winner G10 [FSN HD] (XM 199)
Game 13*
5:00 p.m.
Winner G11 vs. Loser G11 [CSS HD] (XM 199)
Game 14*
8:00 p.m.
Winner G12 vs. Loser G12 [CSS HD] (XM 199)
Sunday, May 25
Game 15*
3:00 p.m.
Winner G13 vs. Winner G14 [FSN HD] (XM 199)