Mitch's Sports: Red Sox Power Surge Continues; Knights Defy Odds To Make Cup Final In Inaugural Year

May 21, 2018

If there were any doubts as to whether the Boston Red Sox have solved their power woes from 2017, when they were last in home runs in the American League, consider this: Through the first 47 games of the season, the 2018 Boston Red Sox have hit more home runs than any Red Sox team in then history of the franchise.

One of the players making that stat a reality is J.D. Martinez, the slugger signed as a free agent in the off season who's launching baseballs into the stands in all directions. He had two dingers yesterday in Boston's 5-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles, his first home run a Pesky Pole special, a floater that twisted just inside the right field foul pole named after former Red Sox short stop Johnny Pesky. That's a routine pop fly in nearly any other ballpark but with the pole jutting out just about 308 feet from home plate a ball can get out if it's angled just right and Martinez got some ribbing from his teammates for getting a four-bagger of the variety more associated with singles hitters, but the same players who were kidding him about that homer were left with their jaws agape later in the game when Martinez hit his second home run of the game, a mammoth blast to the very deepest part of Fenway, over the 408 foot triangle area and into the bleachers, a tremendous home run and J.D.'s 15th of the year, which has him tied for the major league lead with his teammate Mookie Betts.

Andrew Benintendi also went yard with a two run blast and Eduardo Rodriguez got the win, a curious one given that the Orioles had 13 hits on the afternoon and yet didn't score a run. E-Rod gave up nine of those hits, but he scattered them. A single here, a single there, seven strike-outs over five and two thirds innings, and before you know it, E-Rod had his fourth win of the year.

The Red Sox are now headed on the road for a series against the suddenly hot Tampa Bay Rays, who had won six in a row before losing to the Angels yesterday.

The NY Yankees are on cruise control as well, keeping pace with the Red Sox for first place in the A.L. east after a 10-1 romp over the Royals in Kansas City yesterday. Despite the power surge, the biggest positive for the Yankees was the best pitching performance of the year for Sonny Gray, who went eight innings to get the win. Gray had been scuffling as the one weak link in the Yankees pitching chain this season, but he dominated the Royals yesterday, striking out five and walking just one in his eight frames. Tyler Austin hit a pair of two-run homers to lead the relentless Yankee offense, who take their modern day murderer's row line-up to Texas to face the Rangers tonight.

The NY Mets like what they see from promising rookie Amed Rosario, including the two home runs he hit yesterday in a 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Rosario is just 22 years old and becomes the youngest Met to hit multiple homers in the same game since Lastings Milledge did it in 2007. Noah Syndergaard got the win, his fourth of the year, striking out seven.

To the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, and what's happening in Vegas is most definitely not staying there. The Las Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team, newly minted in the NHL, in their very first season of existence are going to the Stanley Cup finals after beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 yesterday to take the western conference finals in five games. Ryan Eaves, a player who was taken in the supplemental draft and acquired in a trade, tipped home the game winner.

Now, first, a little perspective. Yes, this is an expansion team, and yes, what they are doing is amazing and worthy if praise. But this is also an NHL team stocked with veteran players from virtually every team in the league, including goalie Marc Andre-Fleury, who has three Stanley Cup rings already from his years backstopping the Pittsburgh Penguins. He just happens to be playing as well or better now than he did with Pittsburgh, and made 31 saves to get the series clinching win yesterday. James Neal is on the team, a power forward and prolific goal scorer many teams would love to have. The Knights were allowed to pluck two players that had to be left unprotected from each team so they could stock their roster, and what's happened is that those players deemed expendable by their old teams are having career seasons and playing with a chip, perhaps a poker chip given the team's locale, on their collective shoulders. But these expansion Knights are nowhere near as hapless as say, the California Golden Seals, who entered the league in the first great expansion in 1967 and were doormats for the rest of the league.

This appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals form an expansion team is also not unprecedented. The St. Louis Blues made the finals in their first year of existence, but to be fair to Vegas, that was in a year when eight of 12 teams made the playoffs and all the expansion teams were in the same conference with each other, so a path to the playoffs and finals was much easier. When the Blues did reach the finals, they were swept easily by the Montreal Canadiens.

That's not going to happen with this Vegas team. I'd prefer that they paid their dues a bit, but even though we don't know yet if they're going to play Washington or Tampa Bay, it doesn't matter. No way do these Knights get this far without winning it all. They're a team of destiny, defying all the odds that the makers set for them in their home city when the season began.

NBA western conference finals, the Golden State Warriors regrouped after a game 2 loss to Houston, and pasted the Rockets 126-85 to take a two games to one lead behind 35 points from Steph Curry.

 Rafael Nadal won  the Italian Open tennis tournament and will enter the French Open as the #1 men's player in the world.

After nearly a decade behind the bench as the head coach for the girl's high school basketball team at Rice Memorial high school, Tim Rice is stepping down from the post.

The Burlington Free Press reports Rice is citing health concerns as his reason for retiring. Rice needed medical attention after collapsing during a game against CVU in February and in 2015 survived a similar incident at UVM. Under Rice's tenure the Green Knights captured back-to-back girl's Division I titles in 2011 and 2012.

 

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