John K Kim- Chicago Tribune
MLB- After stumbling out of the gate early by being swept by the Brewers and dropping 3 out of four to the Yankees in the Bronx, the defending World Series Champion Red Sox were hoping to get back into the things by stringing together a few road wins against the White Sox. The opening game of the series didn't go their way when Chicago got a walkoff win in the bottom of the 9th thanks to a costly Xander Bogaerts throwing error, but on Wednesday night the Red Sox persevered in 14 innings [but only after Chicago sent an infielder onto the pitcher's mound, as some critics rightfully point out- NANESB!].
The win set up a Thursday evening rubber game, and with both teams having burned through their respective bullpens earlier that morning, they each needed quality outings from their starter to take them deep into the game. The two starters- Lester and Sale- had each taken shutouts into the top of the 6th inning, the only difference was that Lester was throwing a perfect game while Sale has allowed a few base hits and his pitch count was much higher. However, in the top of the 6th, Lester was finally able to get some run support thanks to a solo homer by Xander Boagerts to deep left. However, in the bottom of the 6th, Lester's bid for a perfect game fell by the wayside when he gave up a 1-out single to Tyler Flowers. Fresh off his pitching debut, White Sox 2B Leury Garcia then hit a ground-rule double to right field to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with only one out. Adam Eaton tied the game and got Chicago on the board with an infield hit to make it 1-1. However, Lester struck out Semien and got Viciedo to fly out to end the White Sox threat.
In the bottom of the 7th, Adam Dunn led off with a single and after Lester retired Paul Konerko and Alexi Ramirez, Alejandro de Aza hit a double to shallow right that Nava had a hard time corralling. Dunn decided to keep running to home plate, but he was gunned down by Pedroia's relay throw for the 3rd out of the inning.
In the 8th, Ronald Belasario came out of the White Sox bullpen to relieve Sale and led off by walking Jackie Bradley Jr. However, Belasario would then get Dustin Pedroia to hit into a double play ball and get Xander Bogaerts to strike out. Lester, still on the mound in the bottom of the 8th, led off the inning by giving up a single to Tyler Flowers, who then advanced to second on a Garcia sac-bunt. After striking out Eaton, Semien got on board with a swinging bunt and Flowers advanced to third, representing the go-ahead run for Chicago. But Lester got Dylan Viciedo to strike out and end the White Sox threat.
Big Papi led off the top of the 9th and grounded out, but Napoli hit a 1-out single to get on base. This was followed by a pinch-hit single from Mike Carp to give Boston 2 runners on base. David Ross would then take an 0-2 offering and belt a double into right field, driving Napoli home for the tie-breaking run and putting Carp on 3rd. After intentionally walking Nava, the White Sox pulled Belasario and had Scott Downs come out of the pen while Farrell had Grady Sizemore pinch-run for Carp. Jonathan Herrera then pinch-hit for Ryan Roberts and laid down a bunt that he beat out to first, allowing Sizemore to score and give Boston a little bit of insurance heading into the 9th. Jackie Bradley Jr ended the inning by hitting into an unusual double play where he lined out to short and Ross was caught off the bag at 3rd.
Still, the Red Sox re-took the lead heading into the bottom of the 9th and brought Junichi Tazawa out of the pen to close things out. Tazawa got Dunn and Konerko out but allowed a single to Alexei Ramierz [making it 16 games in a row he's hit in, breaking a club record set by Frank Thomas- NANESB]. However, Tazawa got pinch hitter Jose Abreu to ground out, ending the ballgame and giving the Red Sox a 3-1 win and taking two out of three from the Southsiders.
On Friday, the Red Sox will return home to Fenway to face off against Baltimore. John Lackey [2-1; 3.86 ERA] gets the start against Chris Tillman [1-1; 0.84 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 ET and the game will be televised on NESN and the MLB Network.
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS- The 2013-14 Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway (although the Bruins aren't in action until Friday night) and already we've got a series out in the Midwest that's raising some eyebrows.
In a wild first period that saw a total of five goals, the Blackhawks jumped out to a 3-2 lead over St Louis and after a scoreless 2nd period, Jaden Schwartz managed to tie the contest back up for St Louis and force OT with a goal with just 1:45 remaining in regulation.
Excpet not only did Schwartz force OT, there were two scoreless overtimes before things were resolved in triple overtime when Alexander Steen beat Cory Crawford to end the game and win Game 1 of the series for St Louis by a 4-3 final. Crawford faced 52 shots on goal for the Blackhawks while Miller faced 42 for St Louis [a busy night in regulation for Tukka Rask, some might say- NANESB!].
Meanwhile, Game 1 of the Bruins series against Detroit is set to start on Friday night. This is Detroit's 23rd consecutive year of playing in the NHL postseason. Puck will drop at 7:00 ET and the game will be televised on NBC Sports, NESN and TSN.