Tom Szczerbowski- Getty ImagesRED SOX- Well, this weekend's series against Kansas City sure sucked. I should probably write a thank-you note to all the teams in the NL West for their part in keeping Boston in 1st place in the AL East despite the Red Sox spending much of the weekend spinning their wheels against a game Royals club at Kauffman Stadium- Tampa Bay was swept by the surging Dodgers while the Diamondbacks have taken two of their first three games against the Orioles.
After Monday's travel day, the Red Sox returned to the AL East with the first of a three game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Ontario's Rogers Centre. The last time Boston faced the Jays, they had won 17 of their last 22 games and were within striking distance of the AL East lead [although still dead last at the time- NANESB!].
Tuesday night's pitching matchup pitted Ryan Dempster against Todd Redmond and both starters took shutouts fairly deep into the game, with Toronto finally getting on the board thanks to a 2-out J.P. Arencibia RBI single in the bottom of the 5th to make it 1-0 Toronto. The Jays tried adding to that lead with Reyes on base and two out in the bottom of the 6th, but Victorino gunned down the Jays shortstop with a throw from right field after Edwin Encarnacion singled.
Redmond would last 5⅓ shutout innings, but the Red Sox would touch up the Jays bullpen for two runs- RBI singles from Ellsbury and Pedroia in the top of the 7th- before Arencibia would again knot up the score; this time with a solo homer off of Junichi Tazawa to lead off the bottom of the 8th to make it 2-2.
The game would go into extras and Loup would come out of the bullpen for Toronto in the 11th and get Stephen Drew to fly out to left field. Saltalamacchia would then draw a walk and Middlebrooks would hit a single. More importantly, when Ellsbury hit into what looked like a surefire inning-ending double play at short, Middlebrooks broke it up cleanly on a slide into second to keep the inning alive- Ellsbury would reach on what was scored a fielder's choice while Saltalamacchia went to 3rd. Ellsbury also immediately stole 2nd as Victorino was in the batter's box.
With two runners now in scoring position, Victorino hit a 1-2 pitch right up the middle to give Boston a 4-2 lead and after getting the final out in the bottom of the 10th, Koji Uehara would come back on to close out the game with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 11th. Uehara would get all four batters he faced out as well as the W.
Wednesday's game will feature Jon Lester [10-7; 4.37 ERA] going up against Esmil Rogers [3-7; 5.12 ERA], although Lester's record against Toronto this season is a somewhat more impressive 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA. The game will get started a 7:07 and be televised on both NESN and Rogers Sports Net.
TEXAS RANGERS- I had to double check and make sure somebody wasn't recycling headlines from April, but on Monday night, Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish took a no-hitter against the Houston Astros into the 8th inning. Just like in April, Darvish was denied the no-no, but he struck out a career high 15 batters in the Rangers' 2-1 win over Houston.
The Rangers currently have a 1 game lead over Oakland in the AL West.
OTHER RANGERS NEWS- In a deal that the Rangers front office was no doubt hoping they could've completed before the July 31st trade deadline, the Rangers acquired outfielder Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox for a player to be named later. Rios is hitting .279 with 12 homers and 57 RBI this season.
The Rangers were hoping to acquire Rios earlier after learning that outfielder Nelson Cruz would be suspended by MLB for the remainder of the season in the wake of the BioGenesis scandal. By way of comparison, Cruz was batting .269 with 27 homers and 76 RBIs before his suspension.
The acquisition of Rios from the White Sox has also meant that the Rangers organization has released former Red Sox and Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez from AAA Round Rock. Manny was signed as a low-to-no-risk gambit by the Rangers organization and was batting .259 with 3 homers and 13 RBI in his 30 game stint with the Round Rock Express.
NHL- The new owners of the Phoenix Coyotes were introduced at a press conference in Glendale, AZ on Monday. Alberta businessman George Gosbee and Ice Edge Holdings CEO Anthony LeBlanc were named as the new owners. After bankruptcy and being managed by the NHL since their 2009 bankruptcy, the new ownership announced that the team was 'here to stay' and that they'd pursue a bid to host the All Star game after the organization missed out in 2006 due to the lockout.
It was also announced that the team would be renamed the Arizona Coyotes starting with the 2014 season.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- All three Patriots QBs got to see playing time in last week's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles while RB LeGarrette Blount led the Pats in scoring in Friday's 31-22 win.
Brady went 7-8 with 65 yards and 1 TD while Ryan Mallet went 9-18 with 97 yards on the night. Tim Tebow was sacked three times, but had 31 rushing yards in the preseason effort. Meanwhile, Blount raised some eyebrows with his performance, getting 101 yards and 2 TDs on 11 rushes/
The next Patriots preseason game is set to take place at Foxborough when the Patriots will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.
NCAA FOOTBALL- New questions about Texas A&M's Heisman-winning QB Johnny Manziel's eligibility are being raised after a number of media reports claimed that he had been paid to sign autographs for sports memorabilia dealers in violations of NCAA rules.
Interestingly, Texas A&M has decided to retain the services of Birmingham, AL law firm Lightfoot Franklin & White as legal counsel- the same firm that Auburn university had retained when QB Cam Newton's father reportedly sought large sums of money in exchange for his son playing for a major NCAA program. In November 2010, Newton was declared ineligible by Auburn after Mississippi State boosters revealed that Newton's father told them it would take 'more than a scholarship' to get him to persuade his son to play for the Bulldogs and kicking around an $80,000 pricetag.
Last month, video of Manziel getting kicked out of a frathouse at the rival University of Texas went viral. The Texas and Texas A&M football programs had a rivalry dating back to 1894 until the end of the 2011 regular season before A&M moved over to the SEC conference.