Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sports Chowdah Update- Quick Work For LA As They Win Stanley Cup; Cain And Able; Marlins Flounder After Late Sox Rally; Thunder Interrupts Heat Wave

Alan Diaz- AP Photo

RED SOX- After being swept by the white-hot Washington Nationals at home over the weekend, the Red Sox hit the road for Miami where their woes looked like they weren't going away anytime soon after Beckett was touched up for 4 runs against his former team in the Marlins 4-1 win on Monday.

The loss was followed up on Tuesday night by a strong outing by Clay Buchholz where he gave up one run and struck out nine in seven innings of work, outduelling Mark Buehrle in a 2-1 Boston win.

Wednesday night's game was the rubber match of the series, with Felix Doubront getting the start against Miami's Ricky Nolasco. The Red Sox got on the board when Mike Aviles grounded out with Scott Podsednik coming home from third in the top of the 3rd inning before Big Papi added to the lead with a 1-out solo homer in the top of the 4th to make it 2-0 Boston. This was followed up by an Adrian Gonzalez RBI single and aBig Papi sac-fly in the top of the 6th to make it 4-0.

Doubront was doing well on the mound for Boston, hurling 5 and ⅔ innings of no-hit baseball before giving up a solo home run to SS Jose Reyes in the bottom of the 6th to give the Marlins their first run of the game.

Miami would then cut the Red Sox lead in half with an RBI groundout from Justin Ruggiano in the bottom of the seventh to make it 4-2. However, that's as close as the Marlins would get. In the top of the 8th, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Saltalamacchia and Punto would each get RBIs- with all but Salty's coming on singles [Salty had a sac-fly while Punto managed to drive in two runs w/his single- NANESB!] to make it a 10-2 ballgame, which would be the final from Miami.

Doubront had his best outing of the season, going 7 innings while allowing two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out 9. Vincente Padilla, Andrew Miller and Matt Albers came on to close things out for Boston once the game was blown wide open in the top of the 8th.

Thursday is a travel day for the Red Sox as they return to the Windy City, this time taking the El all the way up to the Addison stop on the North side where former Red Sox GM and the Chicago Cubs will play host to them at Wrigley Field- the second oldest ballpark in use in the majors. The last time the Red Sox played a regular season game in Wrigley was not that long ago- 2005. Prior to that, the last time the Red Sox played in Wrigley was the 1918 World Series- their only title for 86 years.

While the Red Sox have struggled mightily just to remain right around 500 this season, the Cubs have the worst record in the majors right now at 21-41, more than a dozen games out of first place in the NL Central.

Jeff Samardzija [5-4; 3.96 ERA] is scheduled to get the start for the Cubbies while the Red Sox starter hasn't been announced as of Wednesday night. The game is scheduled to get underway at 2:20 PM ET (1:20 Central) from Wrigley and the game will be televised on NESN and the MLB Network.

OTHER MLB NEWS- Matt Cain pitched the first-ever perfect game in the 122-year history of the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night. This would be the 22nd perfect game in the history of the big leagues, but already the second of the 2012 season [The ChiSox's Phillip Humber retired all 27 Mariners batters he faced in a road game at SafeCo field in late April- NANESB!].

Cain threw a grand total of 125 pitches on Wednesday night against the visiting Houston Astros- 86 of them for strikes- while San Francisco's batters chased Astros starter J.A. Happ from the mound after he allowed eight runs in three and ⅓ innings. Cain's bid for perfection was preserved thanks in large part to a diving catch by outfielder Gregor Blanco in the top of the 7th, robbing Jordan Schafer of a base hit. The 10-0 win over the Astros was almost an afterthought as Giants 3B Brandon Crawford fielded pinch-hitter Jasn Castro's ground ball and threw to first for the final out.

The last time there was two perfect games in the same season was in 2010 when Oakland's Dallas Braden threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Mother's Day and Philly's Roy Halliday retired 27 straight Marlins less than 3 weeks later. A few days after Halliday's perfect game, Detroit's Armando Galaraga was denied perfection against the Cleveland Indians with two away in the bottom of the 9th by a blown call by first base umpire Jim Joyce, who later admitted to blowing the call and apologizing to Galaraga.

This is the first no-hitter for the Giants since July 2009 when Jonathan Sanchez no-hit the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park. Interestingly, this is not the firt time the Astros have been no-hit by the Giants; Juan Marichal no-hit the Astros on June 15, 1963.

Cain's perfect game came after Seattle Mariners starter Kevin Millwood and five relievers combined for a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers at SafeCo during the series opener. This is the 5th no-hitter of the 2012 season, the first time since 1917 that there have been five or more no-hitters before mid-June.

STANLEY CUP FINALs- After the 8-seeded Los Angeles Kings lost back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils, the seed of doubt had been planted as to whether or not they could close the deal in the Stanley Cup finals.

It seemed understandable- prior to the two losses, the Kings had amassed an impressive 9-game road winning streak in the Stanley Cup playoffs, quickly dispatching the Vancouver Canucks and St Louis Blues- the top two teams in the Western Conference. Although they jumped out to a quick 3-0 series lead over the Devils, New Jersey managed to avoid the sweep. The longer the Devils lingered, the more questions there were about LA's ability to close them out and speculation over the series coming down to a 7th game.

But to get to game 7, the Devils would have to win game 6. Los Angeles decided to banish any talk of the series heading to a game 7 in the first when they got out to a 3-0 lead thanks to power play goals from Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis.

Carter would make it a 4-0 game with an even stregth tally that got past Brodeur early in the second while New Jersey's Adam Henrique got the Devils on the board with a tally late in the period. However, by that point, the Kings already smelled the blood in the water, and just in case the 4-1 lead wasn't enough, teh Kings tallied two empty-net goals in the 3rd from Trevor Lewis and Matt Greene to win by a final of 6-1 and bring the Stanley Cup to Los Angeles.

Although they made an appearence in the 1992-93 Stanley Cup Finals, the Kings would lose to the Montreal Canadiens that year. This is the first Stanley Cup for the LA Kings francise, which joined the NHL the same year as the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St Louis Blues and Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars).

The presentation of Lord Stanley's Cup capped off an impressive 16-4 postseason run for the Kings who had to duke it out with the San Jose Sharks on the final day of the regular season to determine the playoff seeding between the two. The Kings lost in a shootout and fell all the way down to the 8th and final playoff spot in April, earning a first round matchup with the Presidents Cup winning Vancouver Canucks. Far from being a hapless and outclassed #8 seed, the Kings proved to be a buzzsaw that cut through the Western Conference teams facing them, including a clean sweep of the St Louis Blues.

For the second straight season, the goaltender from the winning team was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy. Jonathan Quick seemed like a no-brainer for the NHL's equivalent of the MVP award, garner a .946 save percentage and 1.41 goals against average on top of three shutouts in the playoffs. Quick faced all of 18 shots in Game 6, turning aside 17. Last season, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas won the Conn Smythe and Vezina trophies as well as the Stanley Cup. This season, Quick is already a finalist in the voting for the Vezina winner and few would be surprised if he landed the hardware with the phenomenal postseason he's had.

A parade and rally sponsored by owner Phil Anschultz's AEG in the Kings honor is scheduled to take place in Downtown LA on Thursday.

NBA- Here's something I never thought I'd be saying back in 2008: "Go Oklahoma City!".

I seemed to have underestimated the disdain in which the Miami Heat is viewed by hoops fans from pretty much everywhere outside of South Beach- although my view of them has admittedly been slanted by having the Celtics lose to them in an arduous 7-game Eastern Conference final.

Perhaps the most surreal thing about this season's NBA finals matchup is that I actually find myself in the same boat as LA Lakers fans. Apparently a number of them are rooting for the Thunder based on a lingering fondness for Derek Fisher while I'm not the least bit interested in seeing Miami win another NBA title.

As far as that goes, things got off swimmingly in Game 1 from Oklahoma City Tuesday night when the Thunder overcame an early defecit to win by a 105-94 final. Kevin Durant led the scoring for Oklahoma City with 36 points to go with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. The Thunder's Russel Westbrook was no slouch, coming up with 27 points and 11 assists and 8 rebounds while LeBron James led in scoring for the Heat with a 30 point night.

Oklahoma City is off to a 1-0 series lead in the NBA finals. Game 2 is set to take place from OKC's Chesapeake Energy Arena at 9:00 ET and will be televised on ABC.

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