Monday, May 25, 2009

Gomes, Reds wait out rain, knock off Houston, 8-5

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Game played May 25, 2009

CINCINNATI – Pitching on a rainy, overcast Memorial Day against the Houston Astros, Reds starter Aaron Harang was unspectacular, yielding 10 hits over five innings.

However, Cincinnati’s Jonny Gomes went 3-for-4 with three runs batted in, Harang chipped in two hits of his own while hanging around long enough to record his fifth win and the Reds took the series opener from the Astros 8-5 Monday afternoon.

Trailing 2-0, the Reds sent 10 men to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, benefited from a Miguel Tejada error and scored five times to take the lead for good. With the bases loaded, Gomes singled to center against Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez, scoring Willy Taveras, who led off the inning on Tejada’s error.

Then, with one out, Alex Gonzalez’s fielder’s choice scored Jerry Hairston Jr., who had reached on a bunt single, to tie the score.

Adam Rosales followed with a single, scoring Chris Dickerson, who had walked. Paul Janish singled home Gonzalez, and Harang then brought Rosales in with a single to center.

Houston cut its deficit to two in the third inning. Humberto Quintero’s single scored Lance Berkman, who had led off the inning with a double.

The Reds got that run back shortly before the rain came. With two down in the bottom of the fourth, Gomes singled to left, scoring Hairston, who had singled and moved to third when Quintero threw the ball away trying to pick him off first.

With two down in the top of the fifth, the rain forced a delay that lasted two hours and three minutes. Harang then came back out and, after allowing a single, struck out Quintero to finish the fifth inning and qualify for the victory.

Cincinnati tallied two more runs in the bottom of the fifth. With Alberto Arias on out of the bullpen for the Astros, Hairston’s one-out sacrifice fly scored Rosales, who had singled, and Gomes drew a bases-loaded walk to force home pinch hitter Joey Votto, who had been intentionally walked. The Reds led, 8-3.

Houston scored twice in the sixth against reliever Jared Burton to keep it manageable. Darin Erstad’s pinch-hit groundout scored Kaz Matsui, who had walked, before Miguel Tejada singled to center to score Jeff Keppinger, who had doubled.

The Astros jumped on top in the first inning when Michael Bourn led off with a single and stole second before Berkman homered to right with one out for a quick 2-0 edge.

Hairston, Ramon Hernandez and Rosales each added two hits for Cincinnati.

Harang (5-4) allowed three runs on 10 hits over five innings, striking out four and walking one. Burton lasted an inning and Carlos Fisher worked two scoreless frames before Francisco Cordero came on and pitched a scoreless inning, allowing one hit, for his 12th save.

Keppinger and Hunter Pence each registered three hits for Houston, while Bourn, Berkman and Carlos Lee collected two base knocks apiece.

Rodriguez (5-3) gave up six runs, none earned, over four innings, with 10 hits, two walks and three strikeouts. Jeff Fulchino and Tim Byrdak combined to work the final three innings out of the Astros bullpen, allowing no runs.

NOTES: Houston starting catcher Ivan Rodriguez left in the second inning due to left knee irritation … Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips sat out after sustaining a right-thumb hairline fracture against Cleveland Saturday … The Reds (24-20) remain 2.5 games back of NL Central-leading Milwaukee in third place, while Houston (18-25) is eight games out of first … The middle game of the three-game set is scheduled for Tuesday night. Micah Owings will pitch for Cincinnati, while Roy Oswalt will attempt to end Houston’s five-game losing streak.

BOX SCORE

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hossa, Zetterberg, Red Wings drub Blackhawks, 6-1

2009 NHL PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS GAME 4
Game played May 24, 2009

No Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk or Kris Draper?

No problem for the Detroit Red Wings.

Marian Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg each found the back of the net twice, and the Red Wings are one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals after a dominating 6-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the West finals in Chicago Sunday afternoon.

Detroit scored the game’s first goal shorthanded and never trailed. With 8:41 elapsed in the first period, Hossa came down the left side on a 2-on-1 break and scored his first goal of the series, sending the puck off Chicago backup goaltender Cristobal Huet and in. Valtteri Filppula was credited with an assist on the play.

The Red Wings doubled their lead with 21 seconds left in the first frame. Johan Franzen came down the right wing and shot the puck into the top left corner of the net for his 10th goal of the playoffs.

Detroit’s next goal came when Filppula scored on a give-and-go on a power play just 1:13 into the second period. Hossa and Brian Rafalski received assists on Filppula’s first goal of the postseason.

The Blackhawks then dented the crease to finally show signs of life. Jonathan Toews scored on a power play past sprawling Detroit tender Chris Osgood 3:53 into the period, his seventh goal of the postseason. Cam Barker and Patrick Kane, who had no points in the series coming in, assisted on the play.

However, Detroit wasted no time, scoring 12 seconds later and sending off Huet in the process. Hossa scored his second goal of the game and sixth of the postseason off assists from Filppula and Brett Lebda.

The new netminder for the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford, could not stop the tide, giving up a goal with 7:42 elapsed in the period. Zetterberg scored on a power play, with Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall assisting, for a 5-1 edge.

Zetterberg then set the final deficit with his second tally in the third period. Zetterberg scored another power-play goal off a rebound at 12:47, with Huet back on the ice. Rafalski and Kronwall were credited with helpers on Zetterberg’s ninth goal of the playoffs, setting the count at 6-1.

Osgood stopped 18 of 19 shots for Detroit, while Ty Conklin came on in the third and recorded nine saves.

Huet made 21 saves on 26 shots, and Crawford stopped six of seven shots for the Blackhawks.

Game 5 of the series between the Original Six and Central Division rivals is set for Wednesday night in Detroit, with the defending champion Wings looking to clinch another trip to the finals.

NOTES: Martin Havlat returned for Chicago after sustaining a controversial hit from Kronwall in the first period of Game 3 Friday and leaving the game. Kronwall was subsequently booed every time he touched the puck Sunday … Huet started in place of starter Nikolai Khabibulin, who suffered a lower body injury Friday and did not play Sunday … Draper did not play with a groin injury, Lidstrom missed the game with a lower body injury and Datsyuk missed his second straight game with a sore foot … Filppula has recorded assists in five straight games.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – NBC

Lakers post 103-97 win in Denver, take series lead

2009 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS GAME 2
Game played May 23, 2009

With the Los Angeles Lakers struggling in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals in Denver Saturday night, they went back to the formula they used for a victory in the series opener.

Offensive outburst by Kobe Bryant? Check.

Steal by Trevor Ariza off an in-bounds pass within the last minute? Check.

Just enough defense down the stretch? Check.

The result? Regaining the series lead and home-court advantage, and ending Denver’s 16-game home winning streak.

The Lakers took a 2-1 series lead with a 103-97 win, as Bryant scored 41 points and Ariza reprised his Game 1 heroics with a steal with 36 seconds left and a two-point lead.

L.A. won the game with a 10-2 run within the last 1:08, including five Bryant free throws and a 3-pointer, and Ariza’s two free throws after his defensive play, coming from two points down to win.

Before that late run, Denver, like in Game 1, had led almost all night, putting together an early 11-4 run to take control in the first quarter. Leading 14-13, Carmelo Anthony scored seven points, with a 3, while Nenê added two points and Chris Andersen capped the run with an alley-oop slam off a no-look feed from Kenyon Martin for a 25-17 lead.

The Lakers, however, scored nine of the next 12 points to close the first period with only a two-point deficit. Pau Gasol scored three points and Bryant, Jordan Farmar and Lamar Odom each chipped in a basket to end the first quarter trailing only 28-26.

The first run of the second quarter belonged to Los Angeles. Trailing 34-26, the Lakers went on a 13-5 spurt. Bryant scored six points during the run, while Andrew Bynum chipped in three and Odom and Shannon Brown each contributed two, to tie the game at 39.

Then, in the third period, with the score knotted at 64, the Nuggets outscored the Lakers 15-7 through the end of the quarter to take a seemingly commanding lead going into the final stanza. Chauncey Billups scored seven points, with a 3-pointer, while J.R. Smith hit two treys and Andersen netted a put-back. Smith’s second 3, a buzzer-beater while falling down, gave Denver a 79-71 edge at the end of the third period.

Los Angeles then embarked on a 12-2 run to begin the fourth quarter. Gasol scored four points, with a dunk. Bryant added three, with a free throw after Smith received a technical for taunting after his shot to end the third quarter. Ariza hit a 3, and Odom added a basket to take an 83-81 lead.

The teams went back and forth down the stretch before the Lakers’ final run. Billups posted a four-point play for Denver after hitting a 3 while falling down and being fouled by Bryant, temporarily giving the Nuggets an 89-86 edge.

For the Lakers, Gasol recorded another double-double, with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Ariza contributed 16 points.

Anthony led six Nuggets in double figures with 21 points. Billups scored 18, Andersen added 15, Nenê chipped in 13 and Dahntay Jones and Smith each scored 10.

Game 4 of the series is scheduled for Monday night in Denver.

NOTES: The Nuggets had been 6-0 at home in the playoffs … The Lakers improved to 3-3 on the road this postseason … The game was Denver’s first home conference finals contest in 24 years.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – ESPN on ABC

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Carpenter, Cardinals shut down Cubs, clinch series, 2-1

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Game played May 20, 2009

Chris Carpenter scattered three hits over five scoreless innings in his return from the disabled list as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the rival Cubs 2-1 Wednesday night in St. Louis, taking the first two games of the teams’ three-game set.

The Cardinals have limited Chicago to one run and nine hits in this series.

St. Louis cracked the scoreboard first in the fourth inning against Chicago starter Ryan Dempster. Albert Pujols lined a grounder past Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot and stretched it into a double, then took third on Yadier Molina’s sacrifice bunt. Chris Duncan then singled Pujols home.

The Cardinals manufactured a run to double their lead in the seventh. Duncan led off with a double to left, advanced to third on pinch hitter Brian Barden’s bunt and scored on Khalil Greene’s pinch-hit sac fly.

The Cubs scored their first run of the series against Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin in the ninth, but left the tying run at third. Milton Bradley doubled with one out, and Geovany Soto drew a walk before being lifted for pinch runner Ryan Freel. Pinch hitter Micah Hoffpauir then singled to right, scoring Bradley and sending Freel to third.

However, pinch hitter Reed Johnson then struck out swinging, stranding Freel to end it.

Carpenter (2-0), making his first start since straining his left rib cage muscle at Arizona April 14, struck out four batters and walked two. Kyle McClellan worked two perfect innings in relief, and Jason Motte and Dennys Reyes combined for another frame before Franklin earned his 10th save.

Pujols and Duncan each went 2-for-3 to lead the St. Louis offense.

Dempster (3-3) was the hard-luck loser, working seven innings of six-hit, two-run ball, striking out three and walking two. Carlos Marmol pitched a perfect inning out of the bullpen.

NOTES:
Carpenter is 8-3 all-time against the Cubs … The Cardinals are 50-30 at home against the Cubs since 2000 … St. Louis outfielder Rick Ankiel, initially expected to be activated Wednesday, will remain on the DL until at least Friday. He’s been shelved since colliding with the outfield wall May 4 … The Cardinals (23-17) are second in the NL Central, two games back of Milwaukee. Chicago (21-17) trails the Brewers by three games in third place … Thursday night’s series finale will pit Sean Marshall for the Cubs against Adam Wainwright for St. Louis.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – ESPN

Bryant, Lakers come back to beat Nuggets, 105-103

2009 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS GAME 1
Game played May 19, 2009

The Denver Nuggets appeared to have the rest advantage, having not taken the court since last Monday. But it was the playoff-seasoned Los Angeles Lakers, who just finished off Houston Sunday night, that took control late Tuesday night.

Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 40 points as the Lakers came back from a 13-point first-half deficit and from seven down in the fourth quarter to beat Denver 105-103 in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in Los Angeles.

Trailing 94-89 with about five minutes left, the Lakers took over down the stretch. Trevor Ariza hit a 3-pointer, Bryant made a jumper and Derek Fisher added a 3, with Carmelo Anthony scoring for Denver, to take a 97-96 Laker lead with 2:30 to go.

Chauncey Billups hit a 3 for Denver to retake the lead, but Pau Gasol nailed two free throws with 1:14 left to tie the game at 99.

Bryant then put L.A. on top for good with two free throws with 30.5 seconds left. After a timeout, Ariza cut in front of Billups and stole Anthony Carter’s ensuing inbounds pass, and Bryant nailed two more from the charity stripe to take a 103-99 advantage with 10 seconds to play.

Billups hit an off-balance 3 in the corner for Denver with 6.1 seconds left to cut the Nugget deficit to one. Bryant hit two more free throws, and with 3.2 seconds left, J.R. Smith made the first of two free throws and missed the second. Bryant came away with the rebound and flung the ball high in the air downcourt as time expired, giving Los Angeles a 105-103 win.

The Nuggets jumped out quickly with a 27-14 run out of the gate. Anthony led the way with 14 early points, including two 3-pointers. Kenyon Martin added six, with a dunk, and Nenê chipped in four, punctuated with another slam. Billups added a basket, and Dahntay Jones hit a free throw.

The Lakers, however, put together a 33-20 run through the end of the first period and into the second. Bryant scored eight points, with a dunk and a four-point swing: when Anthony was whistled for a technical, Bryant hit the free throw, then nailed a 3 on the ensuing possession. Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, Luke Walton and Lamar Odom also hit 3s, and Josh Powell’s two free throws gave Los Angeles its first lead at 50-49, with just over a minute left in the half.

L.A. then scored five of the final seven points of the first half. After Bryant’s jumper, Fisher hit a trey from the corner as time expired. The Lakers led 55-54 at the break.

The third period was mostly neck-and-neck, leaving the door open for Denver to take what seemed to be a relatively safe lead early in the fourth quarter. Leading 84-82, Chris Andersen made a free throw before Anthony hit a short jumper and then dunked for a seven-point lead at 89-82.

However, the Lakers’ playoff experience would prove to trump the rested but young Nuggets, who are making their first conference finals appearance in 24 years and have never reached the NBA finals.

Furthermore, Los Angeles hit 20 of its 24 free throw attempts, while the Nuggets cashed in only 23 of their 35 tries.

Gasol posted a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds, and Fisher also scored 13 points for the Lakers.

Bryant made 12 of 13 free throw attempts, including 9-for-9 during the fourth quarter.

For Denver, Anthony put up a career playoff-high 39 points. Billups added 18, Martin scored 15 and Nenê netted 14.

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Thursday night in L.A.

NOTES: Billups is playing in the conference finals for the seventh straight season, having played in the East finals with Detroit for the past six years … The Lakers won three of the teams’ four regular-season meetings.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – ESPN

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cain, Giants snap losing streak, defeat New York 2-0

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Game played May 17, 2009

San Francisco pitcher Matt Cain worked six innings of three-hit shutout ball and drove in a run at the plate as the Giants avoided a potential four-game sweep and ended a four-game losing skid by defeating the New York Mets 2-0 in San Francisco Sunday night.

The Mets twice loaded the bases with less than two outs but went a combined 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

The Giants offense gave Cain all the offense he would need in its first trip to the plate. With two out, Pablo Sandoval singled through the left side and advanced to second on pitcher Mike Pelfrey’s balk, his first of three in the game. Bengie Molina then singled into the left-field corner, scoring Sandoval for a 1-0 edge.

Cain then helped himself out at the plate as San Francisco doubled its edge in the fifth inning. Aaron Rowand led off with a single to left, moved to second on another Pelfrey balk and advanced to third on Travis Ishikawa’s groundout.

Cain then came up and tried to score Rowand on a squeeze play but fouled the ball off. Undeterred, he then laced a single to left to drive in Rowand for a 2-0 advantage.

The Mets loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning, when Cain walked David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Omir Santos in rapid succession. However, Jeremy Reed then grounded into a double play to first baseman Ishikawa, with Wright being forced out at home, and Pelfrey grounded out to end the threat.

The Giants dodged another bullet in the top of the eighth. New York’s Luis Castillo drew a leadoff walk from reliever Bob Howry. Carlos Beltran doubled to the left-field wall off reliever Jeremy Affeldt, and, one out later, Affeldt intentionally walked Wright. Pinch hitter Angel Pagan, in only his second at-bat of the season, then grounded into an inning-ending double play.

For San Francisco, Sandoval and Molina each went 2-for-4 to lead the offense.

Cain (4-1) walked five runners and struck out two batters. Howry and Affeldt each allowed one hit over one inning, and closer Brian Wilson, who was victimized by the Mets twice earlier this series in late-game tie situations, pitched a one-two-three inning for his ninth save.

Pelfrey (4-1) worked six innings, yielding two runs on six hits, with two walks and two strikeouts. Ken Takahashi and Sean Green each pitched one frame in relief.

NOTES: Sandoval extended his hitting streak to seven games … In 19 tries, the Mets have never swept a four-game series in San Francisco since their inception in 1962 … Reed filled in again at first base for the Mets, since Carlos Delgado has gone on the disabled list with a hip injury … New York’s Alex Cora injured his right thumb sliding into second base on his double to lead off the game and left in the third inning … Jose Reyes again did not play for the Mets with stiffness in his calf … Pelfrey has four balks this season, the most in the majors … The Giants (19-18), second in the NL West at six games behind the L.A. Dodgers, are off Monday before beginning a three-game set in San Diego Tuesday night. Barry Zito will get the start. New York (21-16) leads the East by a half-game over Philadelphia and travels to face the Dodgers for three. Tim Redding is scheduled to make his season debut Monday night; he has been on the DL with a strained right rotator cuff since March 27.

BOX SCORE


Video credit – ESPN

Friday, May 15, 2009

Brooks, Scola, Rockets dominate Lakers, force Game 7

2009 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS GAME 6
Game played May 14, 2009

What better way to recover from a devastating blowout playoff loss than to return the favor in the next game?

Two days after a 40-point loss in Game 5, Houston’s Aaron Brooks scored 26 points and Luis Scola posted a double-double as the Rockets beat the Lakers 95-80 in Game 6 of the West semifinals Thursday night in Houston, evening the series at three games apiece.

Still playing without much size due to Yao Ming’s and Dikembe Mutombo’s season-ending injuries, and without Tracy McGrady, the Rockets’ run out of the gate was led by Scola, who scored the game’s first six points and 12 during the run altogether. Brooks added five points during the spurt, including a 3-pointer, and Ron Artest scored four, with a steal and uncontested layup.

The Lakers did not fold altogether, putting together a 16-6 run following that to close to within eight points early in the second period. Jordan Farmar hit two 3s during the stretch, Kobe Bryant tallied four points and Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown each chipped in two to cut the deficit to 27-19.

Houston did resume control and led 52-36 at halftime, after a Brooks 3 to close the half. However, Los Angeles made a 16-2 run to begin the second half to cut its deficit to two. Bryant scored seven points, with a 3. Trevor Ariza added five, with a trey of his own, and Gasol chipped in a basket. The run cut the Rocket lead to 54-52.

However, the Rockets’ Carl Landry then made a 3-point play, Shane Battier scored and Brooks hit a 3 in the corner, sandwiched around a Bryant basket, to reopen Houston’s lead to eight, and the Lakers never really threatened again.

Houston put it away with a 9-3 spurt late. Brooks hit two jumpers and four free throws, with Landry chipping in a free throw, to make it 93-78.

For the Rockets, Scola scored 24 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Landry added 15 points, and Artest scored 14.

Bryant led all scorers with 32 points. Gasol also had a double-double, with 14 points and 11 boards, and Farmar scored 13. Lamar Odom, who did not start with a bruised lower back, claimed 14 rebounds.

Game 7 is set for Sunday afternoon back in Los Angeles, with the winner moving on to the West finals.

NOTES: Houston is 34-8 at home this season … The Lakers 118-78 win in Game 5 matched the Rockets’ worst playoff loss … Game 7’s winner will take on Denver, who dispatched Dallas in five games, in the conference finals … The team leading after the first quarter has won all 12 of Houston’s playoff games.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – ESPN

Monday, May 11, 2009

Boston finally wins series against Rays, 4-3

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Game played May 10, 2009

Boston’s Jason Bay knocked in David Ortiz for the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, Jonathan Papelbon pitched out of trouble in the ninth and the Red Sox defeated Tampa Bay 4-3 in Boston Sunday night, winning their three-game series.

Boston’s series victory was its first against the Rays in its last seven tries, including last season’s American League Championship Series.

The Red Sox took the lead for good in the bottom of the eighth. Ortiz led off with a double off the left-field wall against Rays reliever Brian Shouse and took third base on a wild pitch from Dan Wheeler. Bay then doubled off the Green Monster, scoring Ortiz for a 4-3 lead.

Then, in the ninth, Papelbon walked the Rays’ Akinori Iwamura, allowed him to reach second on an errant pickoff throw and yielded a single to Jason Bartlett before proceeding to strike out pinch hitter Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford back-to-back-to-back to end the game.

Tampa Bay drew first blood in its first at-bat. Crawford hit a one-out infield single against Boston starter Josh Beckett and scored on Pat Burrell’s single high off the left-field wall.

Boston evened the score in the second inning. Bay led off against Rays starter Matt Garza with a double to center and scored from third on J.D. Drew’s fielder’s choice.

The Red Sox then took their first lead in the fourth. Jeff Bailey doubled to the wall in center with two out and scored on Jason Varitek’s double to left.

Nick Green’s fly then fell between Iwamura and Ben Zobrist in shallow right-center, resulting in an error on Iwamura. Varitek scored on the play for a 3-1 edge.

The Rays tied the game by scoring one run in each of their next two at-bats. In the fifth, Upton hit a two-out double to left, and Crawford blooped a single to right-center, scoring Upton.

Then, in the sixth, Willy Aybar hit a one-out bloop double to shallow left and eventually scored from third on Bartlett’s sac fly to tie the score at three.

For the Red Sox, Green went 2-for-3, while Bay also registered two hits.

Beckett yielded six hits and three runs over six innings, with three walks and five strikeouts. Hideki Okajima worked 1 2-3 perfect frames, Ramon Ramirez (3-0) finished off the eighth and Papelbon earned his eighth save of the season.

Aybar was 2-for-4 for the Rays, and Crawford went 2-for-5.

Garza, who retired the first 18 Boston hitters he faced in the teams’ April 30 meeting, allowed seven hits and three runs in seven innings, with two walks and six punchouts. Shouse (1-1) took the loss for Tampa Bay.

NOTES: In honor of Mother’s Day and baseball’s fight against breast cancer, some players wore pink armbands and used pink bats, while all uniforms featured pink ribbons on the chest … Boston’s Dustin Pedroia left the game after his third-inning groundout with a strained right groin … The Red Sox’ Kevin Youkilis did not play. He has been out since Monday with tightness in his left side … Boston is 13-4 at home … The Rays have still won seven of their last 11 … Boston (20-12) stands one game back of AL East-leading Toronto in second in the division, while the Rays (15-18) are 6.5 games out in fourth … The Red Sox are off Monday and travel to face the L.A. Angels for three games. Justin Masterson will pitch Tuesday night. Tampa Bay is also off Monday before a two-game set in Baltimore, with Andy Sonnanstine working Tuesday night’s series opener.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – ESPN

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lewis, Turkoglu, Magic thrash Celtics, take series lead

2009 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS GAME 3
Game played May 8, 2009

Rashard Lewis scored 28 points and Hedo Turkoglu added 24 as the Orlando Magic defeated the Boston Celtics 117-96 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semis in Orlando, Fla., Friday night, taking a 2-1 series lead.

With Magic star Dwight Howard on the bench due to foul trouble late in the third quarter, Boston put together a 17-4 run. Trailing 74-54, Paul Pierce scored eight points during the spurt, while Eddie House hit two 3-pointers, Rajon Rondo made a steal and dunked in transition to end the third period and Glen Davis hit a free throw to draw within 78-71 early in the fourth quarter.

However, Orlando outscored the Celtics by 12 points in the fourth quarter, spurred by a 23-10 run soon after the Boston spurt. Lewis scored 10 points, with two 3s, and Turkoglu chipped in nine, with one trey, during the run. Courtney Lee, making his first appearance in the series after sustaining a fractured sinus in the first round, hit a 3 and Mickael Pietrus added a free throw after Boston’s Kendrick Perkins committed a flagrant 1 foul elbowing him in the throat. Orlando led 103-83 after the run.

The advantage later swelled to 25, after Pietrus dunked and hit two free throws and Marcin Gortat added another freebie, for a 114-89 edge, before the Celtics scored seven of the final 10 points.

Leading only 22-18 after the first quarter, Orlando took its first double-digit lead midway through the second period. Already up 36-31, J.J. Redick hit a 3, Lewis knocked down two free throws and Howard dunked in transition for a 43-31 edge. The Magic lead at halftime was 53-41.

Orlando’s lead grew to 20 with an early-third-quarter 17-7 run. Leading 55-45, Turkoglu scored seven points with a 3-pointer and Howard scored seven, with a dunk, with Lewis adding a 3 for a 72-52 lead.

Howard posted a double-double for Orlando, with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Anthony Johnson scored 13 points, and Lee added 11.

Pierce led Boston with 27 points. Rondo and House each netted 15 and Perkins contributed 10.

NOTES: Orlando’s Rafer Alston did not play, serving a one-game NBA suspension for slapping House in the back of the head during Game 2 … Game 4 is set for Sunday night in Orlando.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – ESPN

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Barcelona score in 93rd minute to advance to UCL final

2008-09 UEFA SPECIAL COVERAGE – CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMIFINALS
Game played May 6, 2009

FC Barcelona’s Andrés Iniesta scored his club’s first goal after over 180 minutes of semifinals play three minutes into stoppage time, drawing Chelsea FC 1-1 in the UEFA Champions League semifinals’ second leg in London Wednesday night.

Combined with the clubs’ 0-0 draw in Barcelona last week, Barca and the Blues tied 1-1 on aggregate, and Barcelona will advance on away goals to the final in Rome May 27.

Trailing 1-0 in stoppage play, Iniesta scored the equalizer by going into the top corner off Lionel Messi’s ball.

Chelsea’s last best chance came two minutes later, when Michael Ballack’s shot hit Barca’s Samuel Eto’o in the armpit. After referee Tom Henning Ovrebo did not call a handball penalty, Ballack ran alongside him back up field, screaming and gesticulating wildly, but to no avail and leading to a yellow card.

Chelsea’s lone goal came in the ninth minute, when Michael Essien hit a strike in the air off a defender’s deflection to the top left corner.

Barcelona were playing a man down after a controversial red-card decision in the 66th minute. Eric Abidal was sent off after Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka tripped on a breakaway, though contact between the two was minimal.

Barcelona will seek their third Champions League title against defending winner Manchester United in the final, whom they faced in the semifinals last season. The Red Devils advanced after defeating Arsenal 4-1 on aggregate.

NOTES: Barcelona were playing without Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez, who both are recovering from knee injuries, and Carles Puyol, suspended due to yellow cards … Didier Drogba limped off the pitch in the 72nd minute, and later confronted the referee after the match … Barcelona, atop the La Liga table with 85 points and leading second-place Real Madrid by seven points, return to action Sunday evening against Villarreal. Chelsea, in third in the Premiership, are six points back of Manchester United and face Arsenal Sunday evening.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – ESPN2

Monday, May 4, 2009

Rangers defeat White Sox 5-1, take series

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Game played May 3, 2009

Ian Kinsler started the bottom of the first inning with his second leadoff homer in three games and posted two runs batted in as the Texas Rangers beat Chicago 5-1 in Arlington, Texas Sunday night to win their three-game series.

Kinsler began the Rangers first with a shot to left-center off White Sox starter John Danks for a 1-0 lead.

Texas doubled its lead in the third. Elvis Andrus doubled to left with one out, stole third base and scored on Andruw Jones’ single to left.

The Rangers tacked on another run in both the fourth and fifth innings. Marlon Byrd led off the fourth with a double to left and scored on Chris Davis’ double-play ball for a 3-0 edge.

Then, in the fifth, Kinsler led off with an infield single, moved to second on Andrus’ sacrifice bunt and scored on Michael Young’s single to left.

Texas scored its final run in the sixth. Nelson Cruz led off with a single to right, stole second and came home on Kinsler’s sac fly for a 5-0 advantage.

The White Sox finally dented the scoreboard in the top of the seventh against reliever Jason Jennings. Alexei Ramirez doubled to left with one out and scored on Jayson Nix’s sac fly to close the scorebook at 5-1.

For Texas, Cruz went 3-for-4 at the plate. Kinsler, Andrus, Young and Byrd each recorded two base hits.

Starter Matt Harrison (2-2) got the win for the Rangers, yielding six hits over five scoreless innings, with three strikeouts and no walks. Jennings allowed one run over two innings, while Darren O’Day and C.J. Wilson each worked a scoreless inning.

Nix, Wilson Betemit, Ramirez and Brent Lillibridge all registered two hits for Chicago.

Danks (2-2) was the pitcher of record for the White Sox, allowing five runs on 10 hits over 5 1-3 innings, with three punchouts and a walk. Octavio Dotel and D.J. Carrasco also pitched in relief.

NOTES: The Rangers (12-12), 2.5 games behind the division-leading Mariners in second place in the AL West, travel to Seattle for a two-game set, with Kevin Millwood slated to work Monday night’s series opener. Chicago (12-12) trails Central-leading Kansas City by 1.5 games in third and will face the Royals for two games, with Bartolo Colon kicking the road series off Monday night.

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Video credit – ESPN

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cardinals score five in ninth, beat Nationals, 9-4

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Game played April 30, 2009

WASHINGTON – The St. Louis Cardinals broke a 4-4 tie with five runs in the ninth inning to take the opener of a four-game series with the Nationals 9-4 Thursday night and win their eighth game in their last 10 tries.

Rick Ankiel doubled home the winning run for the Cardinals with one out in the ninth off Washington reliever Julian Tavarez, hitting the ball into the left-field corner, where Nationals left fielder Adam Dunn struggled to control the ball. Chris Duncan, who had walked, scored on the play.

The wheels then fell off for Washington. Tavarez loaded the bases by walking Joe Thurston and hitting Jason LaRue with a pitch. Tyler Greene then hit a ground ball down the third-base line, which Ryan Zimmerman could not handle. Greene’s first career major-league hit scored Ankiel, and Thurston scored when Washington catcher Jesus Flores dropped Cristian Guzman’s throw home.

Joel Hanrahan came on for Washington out of bullpen and promptly added fuel to the fire, balking home LaRue. Greene then stole third and scored on pinch-hitter Brian Barden’s sacrifice fly. When the dust settled, the Cardinals led, 9-4.

St. Louis took its first lead in its first at-bat. Colby Rasmus reached on a one-out walk from Washington starter Daniel Cabrera and took second and third on two Cabrera wild pitches before Albert Pujols homered to left-center for a 2-0 edge.

However, the Nationals evened the score in the bottom half of the frame. Nick Johnson singled to left with one out off Mitchell Boggs, and Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 19 games, the longest in Nationals history, with a homer to right-center.

The Cardinals regained the lead in the fifth, when Skip Schumaker hit a leadoff double to right, took third on another Cabrera wild pitch and scored on Rasmus’ sac fly to center.

Washington took its only lead one inning later. Boggs hit Austin Kearns with two out, and Flores tripled to center to score Kearns. Anderson Hernandez followed with a double to right, chasing home Flores for a 4-3 Nationals lead.

St. Louis knotted the count in the next half-inning. Pinch-hitter Ryan Ludwick drew a one-out walk from reliever Mike Hinckley and scored on Ankiel’s sac fly to right off reliever Logan Kensing.

Ankiel went 2-for-3 to lead St. Louis, while Schumaker and Pujols each also had two hits.

Boggs went six innings, allowing four runs on six hits, with two walks and nine strikeouts. Blaine Boyer, and Trever Miller worked in relief before Chris Perez (1-1) came on and earned the win, working two-thirds of an inning. P.J. Walters pitched the ninth.

Johnson and Flores each garnered two hits for Washington.

Cabrera pitched six frames, allowing three runs on four hits with five walks and two strikeouts. Hinckley, Kensing and Kip Wells pitched in relief before Tavarez (0-2) was charged with five runs on two hits, working just one-third of an inning.

NOTES:
Greene was making his major-league debut, coming up from Triple-A Memphis after Brendan Ryan went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring … Schumaker extended his hitting streak to 11 games … The NL Central-leading Cardinals (16-7) lead second-place Milwaukee by 3.5 games, while Washington (5-16), already fifth and last in the NL East, fell 8.5 games back of division-leading Florida … The series continues Friday night, when Todd Wellemeyer is slated to work for St. Louis and Jordan Zimmermann will pitch for Washington.

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