Monday, May 31, 2010

Blackhawks hold off Flyers 2-1, go up 2-0 in Cup finals


One game after the highest-scoring Stanley Cup finals contest in 18 years, the Chicago Blackhawks needed just two goals to move to within two wins of hoisting the Cup.

Chicago’s Marian Hossa and Ben Eager scored 28 seconds apart late in the second period and Antti Niemi stopped 32 shots as the Blackhawks beat Philadelphia 2-1 in Game 2 in Chicago Monday night.

The Blackhawks won their second straight game without any relevant offensive contributions from stars Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews, combining for just five shots.

After a scoreless first period, the Blackhawks struck twice in rapid succession in the second frame for all the offense Niemi needed. Hossa skated to the net from the right side and redirected a rebound past Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton at the 17:09 mark for his third goal of the postseason. Troy Brouwer and Patrick Sharp received assists.

With Philadelphia still regrouping, an unlikely source contributed Chicago’s game-winning goal after a Flyer turnover. Eager sent a wrister from the right offensive circle into the top right corner 28 seconds after Hossa’s goal. Dustin Byfuglien was credited with an assist on Eager’s first goal of the playoffs.

The Flyers cut their deficit in half on a power play early in the third period. Simon Gagne’s slap shot cut through traffic past a screened Niemi and found the net with 5:20 gone in the period. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter assisted on Gagne’s eighth goal of the playoffs.

Philadelphia outshot Chicago 15-4 during the third period, but couldn’t beat Niemi again.

Leighton, back in the Flyers net after surrendering five goals and being pulled during Chicago’s 6-5 win in Game 1, made 24 saves.

The best-of-seven series now shifts to Philadelphia. Game 3 is scheduled for Wednesday.

NOTES: The Blackhawks have won seven straight postseason games, and 10 of their last 11.


Photo above: Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi reaches for the puck during the Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Philadelphia Monday night. (Jerry Lai/US Presswire)

Video credit – NBC

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hot Twins complete sweep of slumping Rangers, 6-3


The division-leading Minnesota Twins are looking much better after completing a three-game sweep of the suddenly cold Texas Rangers.

Jason Kubel knocked in two runs and Denard Span made a diving game-ending catch as Minnesota won its fourth straight game, beating Texas 6-3 in Minneapolis Sunday night.

The Rangers have now lost four straight games and six of seven, on the heels of a five-game winning streak. They fell out of a virtual tie with Oakland for first place in the AL West, dropping a half-game back of the A’s.

After the Twins saw their 3-0 lead dwindle to one run in the top of the third, they went back to work against Rangers reliever Matt Harrison for all the runs they would need. Kubel’s single to right plated Justin Morneau, who hit a leadoff double, and Delmon Young lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Michael Cuddyer, who had walked, for a 5-2 edge.

Minnesota (30-20) never trailed and took its first lead in the first inning against Texas starter Derek Holland. Joe Mauer’s one-out double to the center-field wall scored Orlando Hudson, who had singled to right.

One inning later, Holland surrendered walks to Young and J.J. Hardy before Nick Punto’s single to right-center scored Young. Holland was then taken out of the game for Harrison, and Span singled to center to plate Hardy.

Texas (26-24) struck back in the third. Michael Young led off the frame with a double off Twins starter Scott Baker and Ian Kinsler walked. Vladimir Guerrero then singled up the middle to score Young, and Josh Hamilton’s sac fly sent Kinsler home to bring the Rangers to within a run.

After the two-run Minnesota third, both teams scored once more. Texas’ Elvis Andrus singled home Matt Treanor, who had hit a long double, in the sixth. Kubel’s double in the seventh plated Cuddyer, who drew a free pass.

The Rangers threatened in the ninth, but Twins reliever Jon Rauch pitched himself out of a jam. After allowing an Andrus single and a Michael Young double with one away, Rauch retired Kinsler and Guerrero on flyouts to center to end the game.

Span and Hudson collided in shallow center field on the final play of the game and then each stayed on the turf – Span for a few moments and Hudson for minutes. Both walked off under their own power to an ovation from the partisan crowd, with Hudson appearing to grimace in pain.

Punto went 2-for-3 for the Twins. Span and Kubel were each 2-for-4.

Baker (5-4) worked six innings to get the win, allowing three runs on eight hits, with three walks and four strikeouts. Rauch earned his 12th save.

Texas’ Young was 2-for-4, and Andrus went 2-for-5.

Holland (2-1), who allowed three runs on three hits, left after facing three batters in the second inning due to what was called left shoulder soreness. He was reportedly having difficulty feeling the ball in his hand.

Both managers used five pitchers.

NOTES: Minnesota is 18-9 at home, while the Rangers have lost nine of their last 10 road contests. … Minnesota last swept Texas Sept. 17-19, 2007, in the Metrodome. … This was the first Sunday night regular-season game at Target Field, in its inaugural season as the home of the Twins. … The Twins became the fourth team in the American League to reach 30 wins this season. They join Tampa Bay, New York and Toronto. The Yankees and Blue Jays both also accomplished the feat Sunday. … Kinsler went 1-for-4 Sunday and is 2-for-16 during the Rangers’ losing streak. … The Twins lead the Central by 3.5 games over second-place Detroit. … Minnesota will next embark upon a seven-game West Coast swing, starting with a four-game series in Seattle. Francisco Liriano is scheduled to pitch Monday night. The Rangers are off Monday and return to action in Chicago against the White Sox, with Rich Harden set to work the opener of the three-game set Tuesday night.


Photo above: Minnesota's Jason Kubel watches an RBI single during the Twins' 6-3 win over Texas Sunday night. (Andy King/AP)

Video credit – ESPN

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Auburn fells South Carolina in extras, 3-1


Before this week, the SEC West champion No. 16 Auburn Tigers hadn’t been to the conference tournament since 2003.

Thanks to an extra-inning win over No. 10 South Carolina, they won’t have to go home just yet.

Junior outfielder Trent Mummey’s 12th-inning two-run single provided the margin of victory for the Tigers as they defeated South Carolina 3-1 in an elimination game in Hoover, Ala., Thursday afternoon.

Auburn closer Austin Hubbard got the win, holding the Gamecocks scoreless over 4 2-3 innings. He came on in relief of starter Grant Dayton, who yielded only five hits – two of which were bunt singles – and a run, working into the eighth inning.

With the score tied at 1 in the 11th inning, the Tigers (40-18) finally broke through for the winning runs against South Carolina closer Matt Price. Casey McElroy failed to advance a runner on a bunt but reached first for a fielder’s choice. Gamecocks second baseman Scott Wingo misplayed Justin Hargett’s grounder, and Justin Fradejas drew a free pass to load the bases for Mummey.

The all-SEC first-team performer responded with a single up the middle on a full-count pitch to score McElroy and Hargett and put Auburn up 3-1.

Hubbard then pitched around a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning, striking out South Carolina’s Jackie Bradley Jr. and inducing flyouts from Christian Walker and Jeffery Jones to end it.

Auburn drew first blood in the top of the fourth, when defensive replacement Creede Simpson led off with a homer to left.

The Gamecocks (43-15), who were shut out for the first time in 154 games Wednesday in a 3-0 tournament-opening loss to Ole Miss, finally dented the scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh, when Brady Thomas went yard to right for the equalizer.

For the Tigers, Hunter Morris and Ryan Jenkins each went 2-for-5, while Mummey was 2-for-6. Hubbard (5-2) picked up the win.

Bradley went 3-for-6, extending his hitting streak to 11 games, and Whit Merrifield was 2-for-4 with two bunt singles. Price (3-1) took his first loss of the season.

The Tigers will face the loser of Friday’s Alabama-Ole Miss matchup on Saturday afternoon. Auburn fell to its in-state rival Crimson Tide 7-1 in its opener Wednesday.

NOTES: Auburn’s Brian Fletcher left the game after being hit on the hand with a Blake Cooper pitch in the first inning, sustaining what was reportedly just a bruise. … Auburn has won 14 of its last 18 games. … South Carolina has dropped four of five after winning six straight. … The teams have split the season series 2-2.


Photo above: Auburn's Trent Mummey (7) receives congratulations from Justin Fradejas, right, after his game-winning single to beat South Carolina. (Mark Almond/The Birmingham News)

Video credit –

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Magic fight back, 113-92, to force Game 6 with C’s


The Boston Celtics, who two nights ago were one game from sweeping the Orlando Magic, had all kinds of trouble keeping their big men on the floor in Game 5 Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Jameer Nelson, Dwight Howard and Orlando were pretty much having their way offensively en route to their second win of the Eastern Conference finals.

Facing elimination for the second straight game, the Magic beat down the Celtics 113-92 to cut their series deficit to 3-2 in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday.

Nelson led all scorers with 24 points and Howard chipped in 21 to send the series back to Boston for Game 6 Friday night.

No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven NBA playoff series, but the Magic now need just two wins to accomplish that feat. And they have all the momentum on their side.

Boston hasn’t been nearly as fortunate – suffering from, at best, controversial officiating and physical Magic play in Game 5. Kendrick Perkins drew two quick technicals and was ejected in the second quarter, putting coach Doc Rivers in a tight spot early.

Then, in the second half, the Celtics’ Glen Davis sustained a concussion after his head was on the receiving end of an inadvertent Dwight Howard elbow, and Marquis Daniels left after appearing to hit his head on Marcin Gortat’s chest early in the fourth period, resulting in another concussion. Rasheed Wallace suffered back spasms and later fouled out with just under 5 minutes left.

Already up 37-33 early in the second quarter, Orlando took control for good with a 14-4 run. J.J. Redick hit a 3-pointer, Howard sank a hook, Jason Williams scored, Redick made another trey and Brandon Bass scored in the lane before throwing up an alley-oop to Howard, whose thunderous slam put the Magic up 51-37.

The Celtics made a little noise with a 9-3 run. Paul Pierce drained six straight free throws and Ray Allen canned another after an Orlando technical foul, and Kevin Garnett hit a fadeaway baseline jumper to cut the Boston deficit to 54-46.

But then Perkins drew his second technical, and Boston was never the same after that. Perkins, who had earlier been part of a double-technical with Orlando’s Gortat, was whistled for a personal foul, then, obviously displeased, turned around and walked the other direction, screaming. This was enough to draw another technical from Ed Rush and end Perkins’ night.

Orlando’s lead fluctuated between six and 11 points during the third quarter, which saw Boston’s second casualty – Davis, who took an elbow from Howard on the way down from a shot, fell down and then couldn’t keep his balance. Davis left with a concussion, with his team trailing 84-75 at the end of the third frame.

The fourth quarter was never a contest. Leading 96-86, Orlando put together a 13-4 spurt to blow Boston out of the water late. Nelson sank a trey, Markus Pietrus dunked in transition, Nelson hit another 3, Howard and Nelson combined for three free throws and Rashard Lewis hit a jumper with 2:35 left to go up 109-90.

Redick and Lewis, who has been quiet this series and is reportedly suffering a viral infection, each scored 14 points for Orlando. Howard snagged 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Wallace led the Celtics with 21 points off the bench. Rajon Rondo scored 19 points, Pierce netted 18 and Garnett scored 10.

NOTES: Perkins’ technicals were his sixth and seventh of the playoffs, meaning that unless the league rescinds one or both of them, he will face an automatic one-game suspension. … This game snapped Boston’s string of four straight road playoff wins. … Lewis took intravenous fluids before the game. … This is the first time the Celtics will have to play a Game 6 after leading a best-of-seven series 3-0. … Orlando’s Matt Barnes and Rondo each also were teed up.


Photo above: Orlando's J.J. Redick pumps his fist after sinking a 3-pointer during the Magic's 113-92 win over Boston Wednesday. (John Raoux/AP)

Video credit – ESPN

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Byfuglien strikes again late, Hawks finish off San Jose


Dustin Byfuglien was responsible for the game-winning overtime goal that put the second-seeded Chicago Blackhawks up 3-0 on San Jose.

He struck again with six minutes left in Game 4 Sunday afternoon to put the Hawks into the Stanley Cup finals.

Byfuglien scored his second game-winner in three days as the Blackhawks scored four straight goals to defeat top-seeded San Jose 4-2 and complete a sweep of the Western Conference finals in Chicago.

It was Byfuglien’s fifth straight game with a goal and captain Jonathan Toews recorded a point for the 13th straight playoff game, extending his franchise record.

With the score tied at 2, Chicago connected on a power play for the series-winning goal. Byfuglien beat Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov between his legs for his eighth goal of the playoffs. Toews and Patrick Kane assisted on the goal with just seven seconds left on the power play at the 14:05 mark of the third period.

San Jose didn’t muster much of an offensive threat after that. Chicago goalie Antti Niemi caught Douglas Murray’s slap shot with 3:15 remaining.

Then, with 42 seconds left, Chicago’s Kris Versteeg hit an empty-netter from mid-ice to seal the Blackhawks’ first trip to the finals since 1992.

Facing elimination, San Jose came out and scored the first two goals, quieting the United Center crowd in the process. With 11:08 gone in the first period, Joe Thornton won a faceoff in the offensive zone and Murray’s initial slap shot was blocked by the Hawks’ Duncan Keith. But Logan Couture went high with the rebound for his fourth goal of the postseason, with assists credited to Devin Setoguchi and Murray.

Then, with 7:35 elapsed in the second frame, Patrick Marleau, who has been responsible for most of the Sharks’ offense this series, hit a one-timer from the right offensive circle. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski received assists on the shorthanded goal that put San Jose up 2-0.

However, the Sharks did not score again, and the Blackhawks reawakened the Madhouse on Madison with a pair of second-period goals to tie the game. Brent Seabrook broke the ice for Chicago at 13:18 with a 4-on-4 goal between Nabokov’s legs, which was initially waved off by referee Tim Peel. But after conferring with the war room in Toronto, the goal was counted and Niklas Hjalmarsson and Versteeg got assists.

Five minutes and 20 seconds later, Chicago’s Dave Bolland took the puck, skated around behind the net and fired off Sharks defenseman Kent Huskins’ upper body and inside the near post from the left side, evening the score. Ben Eager and Keith were credited with helpers.

Niemi stopped 16 shots in the Blackhawks’ net, while Nabokov finished with 23 saves.

Chicago will advance to take on the winner of the Eastern Conference finals. Philadelphia currently leads Montreal in that improbable series 3-1.

Keith lost seven teeth after Marleau, trying to clear the puck in the second period, hit Keith in the mouth with the biscuit. Keith left but returned and got an assist later. … Toews has a league-high 26 points in these playoffs. … Marleau finished with five of the Sharks’ seven goals in the series and put up a point in his eighth straight game. … The Blackhawks enter the finals having won eight of their last nine matches.


Photo above: Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over San Jose May 23. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Video credit – NBC

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Milito hits twice, Inter finish off treble, 2-0 over Bayern


If this was in fact Jose Mourinho’s final match as manager of Inter Milan, his club, led by Alberto Diego Milito, sent him off in historic fashion.

Milito found the back of the net twice as Inter completed the first-ever Italian treble by stymieing German champions Bayern Munich 2-0 in the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid Saturday night.

Inter, which already won the Serie A and Coppa Italia titles, is hoisting the European Cup for the first time since 1965.

Mourinho became just the third manager to win the European Cup with two different clubs, having led FC Porto of his home nation to the title in 2004. And Samuel Eto’o, who assisted on Milito’s second goal in the 70th minute, is the third player to win back-to-back Champions League titles with different teams; he led Barcelona to the title last season.

Milito put Inter up for good with a strike in the 34th minute, his fifth goal in 11 matches. He headed Nerazzurri keeper Julio Cesar’s long punt to Wesley Sneijder, took off and took a return pass before a strong finish past Bayern keeper Jorg Butt for the game-winner.

He then doubled Inter’s lead in the 70th minute, this time from the left side. Milito took Eto’o’s pass and hammered a right-footed shot to the far side of the net to set the final margin at 2-0.

Bayern, meanwhile, only got a couple of legitimate cracks at the net, both with a one-goal deficit in the early moments of the second half, and could not finish. Thomas Muller’s shot 25 seconds into the half was brilliantly stopped by Cesar, who was on the ground but stuck his feet into the path of Muller’s shot.

Then, in the 63rd minute, Bayern’s Arjen Robben hit a ball from just inside the box from the right, but Cesar slapped it away to preserve his clean sheet.

NOTES: Bayern was also seeking a treble after taking the Bundesliga and German Cup. … Inter Milan was playing in its first European final since 1972. Bayern was in its first final since winning in 2001. … Mourinho, who is rumored to be considering a move to Real Madrid, joined Ottmar Hitzfeld and Ernst Happel as the only managers to lead two different sides to European Cups. … Eto’o joins Marcel Desailly and Paulo Sousa as the only players to ever win the Champions League in two straight years with different clubs. This was Eto’o’s third European Cup; his Barcelona side also won in 2006, defeating Arsenal. … Bayern’s Franck Ribery and Inter’s Thiago Motta did not play, serving suspensions for being sent off in their clubs’ matches against Lyon and Barcelona, respectively.


Photo above: Inter Milan's Diego Milito celebrates after scoring during his club's 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final May 22. (Victor R. Caivano/AP)

Video credit – FOX

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Garnett, Rondo, Celtics end James’, Cavs’ season, 94-85


LeBron James’ performance in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals – 27 points in a triple-double – was far better than his Game 5 effort, a 32-point loss against Boston.

Unfortunately for the Cleveland Cavaliers, that didn’t translate to a win in their most crucial game of the season.

Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo each posted double-doubles as the Celtics took down the Cavaliers 94-85 in Boston Thursday night to advance to the East finals.

The Celtics are headed for their second conference finals appearance in three seasons. The last time they made it so far, they took out Detroit on their way to a 2008 Finals victory over the Lakers. Now, they’ll face Orlando, which is 8-0 this postseason, sweeping Charlotte and Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Cleveland, which posted a league-best 61-21 regular-season record, is left to wonder whether or not its big star, James, will depart in free agency.

Boston held just a two-point lead at halftime, 51-49, and Cleveland tied the game at 57 when James saved the ball in-bounds to Shaquille O’Neal, who slammed it home. But similar to Game 5, the Celtics again dominated the rest of the third period on their way to victory. Boston put together a 10-1 run, including two Garnett jumpers and a Paul Pierce 3, on its way to a 67-58 lead and a 76-67 edge at the end of the quarter.

The Cavaliers had one final run left. After Rondo’s layup to begin the fourth quarter extended the Boston lead to double digits, Cleveland’s Anthony Parker made a free throw and James sank back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the Cavs; deficit to 78-74 with 9:30 left.

But the Celtics scored the next 10 points to win going away. Rondo made a layup in transition, Pierce and Rasheed Wallace drained 3s and Garnett dunked on the break.

From there, the Cavaliers never got closer than seven. And the disturbing aspect of the final minutes for Cleveland fans must be an apparent lack of effort down the stretch by the Cavaliers – with about 1:15 to go on the Celtics’ last full possession and down just nine, Cleveland chose not to foul and lackadaisically allowed Garnett to snag an offensive rebound and help the Celtics further run down the clock.

Garnett led Boston offensively, with 22 points. Rondo netted 21, Pierce and Wallace scored 13 and Tony Allen provided a spark off the bench with 10. Garnett pulled down 12 boards, and Rondo handed out 12 assists.

James finished with 19 rebounds and 10 assists, but also committed nine turnovers. Mo Williams scored 22 points, mostly in the first half, and O’Neal chipped in 11.

NOTES: James totaled 15 points in Game 5, shooting 3-for-14 from the field. … Boston is 5-1 at home in the playoffs. … The Celtics missed their first eight 3-pointers and finished 5-for-17, the same as Cleveland. … The Cavaliers have lost all five best-of-seven series where they have gone down three games to two. … The Celtics’ Game 1 with the Magic is Sunday afternoon in Orlando.


Photo above: Boston's Kevin Garnett, right, faces Cleveland's Shaquille O'Neal, left, during the Celtics' 94-85 win over the Cavaliers in Game 6 of their playoff series May 13. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Video credit – ESPN

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hughes, Yankees knock off Tigers 8-0 to end skid


Stuck in a season-long three-game losing streak, the Yankees turned to their most dependable starter this season and finally found some offense along the way.

Phil Hughes pitched seven scoreless, five-hit innings and New York scored more runs than it had totaled during the entire losing skid, besting the Tigers 8-0 in Detroit Wednesday night.

It was the second half of a day-night doubleheader. The Tigers took the afternoon tilt 2-0.

New York (22-11) took the lead for good in the top of the first inning against Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman. Alex Rodriguez’s two-out bloop single behind first base scored Brett Gardner, who had singled and stolen second base, for a 1-0 edge.

Two innings later, the Yankees pushed across another run. Mark Teixeira’s seeing-eye single under the glove of diving Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera sent Derek Jeter, who walked and stole second, home.

That was more than enough for Hughes (5-0), who struck out eight Tigers. He has retired 39 batters via the punchout during as many innings this season.

Hughes faced only one serious jam. Detroit (19-15) loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning on a Johnny Damon walk and singles by Magglio Ordonez and Brennan Boesch singles, but Hughes struck out Alex Avila swinging and retired Don Kelly on a popout to second to end the threat.

The Yankees then broke open a pitchers’ duel and tacked on a little insurance to the tune of a six-run ninth inning against the Detroit bullpen. Francisco Cervelli’s one-out cue-shot single to center off reliever Phil Coke scored Randy Winn, who reached on a fielder’s choice. Gardner’s infield single against recently called-up reliever Alfredo Figaro then plated Cervelli.

Teixeira singled to center to score Ramiro Pena, who walked, and Jeter, who reached on a fielder’s choice, before Rodriguez’s double to left scored Gardner. Figaro’s high wild pitch then let Teixeira trot across the plate for an 8-0 advantage.

New York closer Mariano Rivera, making his first appearance since an April 30 save after reported stiffness in his left side, then retired the Tigers 1-2-3 in the ninth to end the game.

Gardner went 3-for-5 to lead New York at the plate. Teixeira and Rodriguez each were 2-for-5, and Cervelli went 2-for-4. Teixeira knocked in three runs, and Rodriguez plated two.

Boesch was the only Tiger with a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4.

Bonderman (1-2) was the hard-luck loser, allowing two runs on five hits over seven innings. He struck out seven batters, a season high, and walked one.

NOTES: New York has won eight of its last 11 games against the Tigers. … Jeter played the nightcap as the designated hitter and went 0-for-4. He is 0-for-13 in the series and 2-for-25 on the Yankees’ road trip, which began in Boston. … Cabrera extended his personal hitting streak to 11 games. … This was Bonderman’s first decision in his last four starts. He is 3-8 all-time against New York. … Avila is 0-for-16 this season with runners in scoring position. He was 0-for-2 in Wednesday night’s game. … Detroit lost for just the fourth time in 15 home games. … The Yankees sit in second place in the AL East, 1.5 games back of Tampa Bay, the best team in the majors. Detroit trails Central-leading Minnesota by three games. … C.C. Sabathia will work the series finale for New York Thursday afternoon. He’ll oppose Detroit starter Justin Verlander.


Photo above: New York pitcher Phil Hughes delivers during the Yankees' 8-0 win over Detroit May 12. (Robin Buckson/The Detroit News)

Video credit – ESPN