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Once Again, It’s Time to Dissect Tom Brady’s Headwear May 20, 2008

Filed under: Sports Nuts — gervmaine @ 8:52 am
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Handsome Tom was courtside at the Celtics Game Seven triumph over the Cleveland LeBrons, and on his head rested a San Francisco Giants hat. It’s not nearly as scandalous as the time he donned a Yankees cap, but this time of year, there’s no bit of news too small to examine.

Possible explanations:

• The Giants, of course, were the long-time employers of Barry Bonds, who was just hit with 15 charges of perjury. And with Spygate dominating the sports headlines recently, Tom wanted to show solidarity among dirty, dirty cheaters in sports.

• Tom is enthralled at the height of basketball players, and roots especially for the really tall ones. Go giants.

• Tom will do anything to get young white children to gaze at him in amazement, and if that means a gaudy bracelet and the hat of a terrible west coast baseball team while attending an east coast basketball game, then so be it.

• Tom is from the Bay Area in California, has probably been a lifelong Giants fan, and being Tom Brady, can wear whatever he damn well pleases. It’s still less embarrassing than the people who wear Red Sox jerseys to the most important game the Celtics have played in five years.

I like that last option the best.

 

Jon Lester Throws First No-Hitter of the Season

Filed under: Sports Nuts,Unbelievable — gervmaine @ 8:50 am
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The conga line to congratulate Jon Lester on his no-hitter had formed, and one of his Boston Red Sox teammates, caught up in the moment and oblivious to the long-range microphone on the TV broadcast, said what everyone else was thinking.

“Un-(bleeping)-believable,” the teammate said. “Unbelievable.”

As much as that summed up the night on which Lester turned the Kansas City Royals’ bats to swizzle sticks in a 7-0 victory, it applies more appropriately to the past year of his life, where the no-hitter stands out as merely his third-greatest accomplishment.

Which is rather remarkable, because the 24-year-old Lester was great Monday night, his final pitch dashing across the plate at 96 mph, the hardest he threw all evening, Alberto Callaspo nothing more than the patsy to swing and miss. It set off a celebration reminiscent of last October, when the left-handed Lester started Game 4 of the World Series and locked down the Colorado Rockies for five shutout innings, earning the championship-clinching win in his first postseason start.

And still, not even that registers as Lester’s coup de grace. He beat cancer last year. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, diagnosed in late 2006 because of a sore back that he thought stemmed from a car crash. Lester fought it into remission and worked himself back into baseball shape. On this day last year, he pitched at Triple-A Pawtucket and threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings. In July, he returned to Boston. By the end of October, he was getting fitted for a World Series ring.

His story is one of perseverance and triumph and everything else that deserves a sappy soundtrack. Most of all, it’s of strength, of Lester building up enough stamina to throw 130 pitches, as many as any starter has thrown since the 2006 season, and saving his best for last.

There were some dandy ones in between, his fastball zipping and his breaking ball dipping. Lester mixed in a few cut fastballs that bore in on right-handed hitters and slithered away from lefties, and the Royals, the American League’s most flaccid lineup, struck out nine times and mustered barely a hard-hit ball.

Oh, Jose Guillen, the AL’s reigning player of the week, looped a line drive into center field that Jacoby Ellsbury dove to snag. And there was a semi-hard-hit ball to first baseman Kevin Youkilis. Otherwise, the Royals’ biggest threat came from two walks, and with how Lester threw, those runners weren’t going anywhere.

“To watch him do that beyond tonight was beyond words,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

Enough that Lester couldn’t quite put into perspective the breadth of his evening. He said the boilerplate no-hitter response: that he didn’t think about it until this ninth, and that it was one of the best moments of his life, and that he had never heard Fenway Park so loud when he was pitching.

“I threw a couple in high school,” Lester said following the game at a news conference, “but (this) is a little different.”

Just a little, yeah. After Lester got lost in hugs from each his teammates, catcher Jason Varitek handed him the ball from the final out, which is like being knighted, with Varitek having caught four no-no’s. And then came Francona, who held his face like he was the proudest dad in the world. And finally Fenway, in its elderly glory, saw its denizens stand and serenade their hero for the night.

It was the 18th no-hitter in Red Sox history, and while that sounds like a lot, remember: Curt Schilling has thrown more than 3,000 innings without a no-hitter, and Josh Beckett has won a World Series MVP and not thrown a no-hitter, and Daisuke Matsuzaka was the most dominant pitcher Japan has seen in generations and never threw a no-hitter.

The last person to do so was Lester’s teammate, Clay Buchholz, who spun one in his second major league start last September. As special as that was, and as good a harbinger for the Red Sox, Lester’s might mean more not because of the accomplishment itself but the road traveled to achieve it.

There were signs. On April 29, Lester threw eight one-hit innings against Toronto, Lyle Overbay’s single the lone blemish. And yet the difference between one hit and no hits is a greater divide than it seems. Just ask any pitcher who walks to the mound and knows a bloop, a broken bat, a high chopper – anything – stands between immortality and just another good outing.

Lester earned all of his outs, the toughest ones especially, and it was almost as though he knew when he would throw his last pitch. Lester licked his lips, took a deep breath, reared back and slung the ball, Goliath, on this night, getting one up on David.

Unbelievable?

Yep. And that made it all the better.

 

Red Sox Pitcher Buchholz Goes on DL with Broken Nail May 14, 2008

Filed under: Sports Nuts,Unbelievable — gervmaine @ 2:48 pm
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BALTIMORE (AP) — Clay Buchholz was put on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday by the Boston Red Sox because of a broken nail on his right middle finger.

The Red Sox filled his roster spot by recalling outfielder Jonathan Van Every from Triple-A Pawtucket. Van Every made his major league debut Wednesday as Boston’s starting center fielder against the Baltimore Orioles.

Buchholz, who had been scheduled to start Sunday against Milwaukee, was put on the DL retroactive to Tuesday, the day after he yielded seven runs in 4 1-3 innings at Minnesota.

“I’ve had a fingernail bend, but never one that just came off. It went all the way off and I just had to end up tearing it off,” he said. “It was really tender toward the end of the outing. Yesterday and today, it feels fine. I feel like I could throw.”

But the Red Sox decided to be careful with the 22-year-old, who last year pitched a no-hitter against Baltimore.

“The thing that we were concerned about there is that it was going to alter how he threw,” said Brad Mills, Boston’s acting manager during the absence of Terry Francona. “He’s going to need some time anyway to have that fingernail heal.”

Buchholz is 2-3 with a 5.53 ERA. He yielded 12 runs and 18 hits over 8 1-3 innings in his last two starts.

“I could only feel it when I threw fastballs, so that’s why we strayed away from throwing fastballs and went to a lot of changeups and curveballs,” he said. “Whenever they did call a fastball, I tried to throw it as hard as I could because regardless of how much pressure I put on it, I could feel the pain. I just tried to let it go and most of the time, the pitch wasn’t where I intended to throw it.”

Buchholz understood the reason he was placed on the disabled list, but wasn’t happy about the pending inactivity.

“They don’t want me to be compensating for anything else and end up hurting something. Shoulder, elbow, whatever. I’ve got to do what they tell me to do,” he said. “I don’t like not being able to pitch for a couple of weeks but it is what it is. We’ve got a couple of people who have done down with injuries, so I’ve got to bide time.”

The 27-year-old Van Every was batting .287 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 40 games with the Paw Sox. He was signed as a free agent in December after spending seven seasons in the Cleveland Indians‘ organization.

“This is my eighth season. There have been may trials and tribulations,” Van Every said. “You work hard and hope.”

But if he had to do it over, he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I’m with the reigning world champions,” Van Every said. “I think I made a good decision.”

He was stunned to learn he was in the starting lineup as a replacement for Coco Crisp, who left Tuesday’s game with an upset stomach.

“I found out five minutes ago,” Van Every said two hours before game time. “It was kind of a shock. I wasn’t expecting to play.”

Mills put the rookie in center because Jacoby Ellsbury can play right field for injured J.D. Drew (wrist).

“(Van Every) played every game in center field at Pawtucket, and we didn’t want him to make his major league debut out of position,” Mills said.