Hanley Ramirez was among a number of Boston Red Sox players who went viral at the beginning of this baseball season, not in an Internet way, but in succumbing to a nasty flu virus that swept through the clubhouse. Ramirez missed all four games in the Detroit series but yesterday was feeling much better at Fenway Park, especially after putting a healthy swing on a ball in the eighth inning that produced a bases-loaded double and tied a game the Sox trailed 3-1 at the time.
That set the stage for Xander Bogaerts, who reached well out of the strike zone for a ball that he nevertheless got his bat on and delivered to right field for a slap base hit, bringing Ramirez home from third with the game winning run in Boston's 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This was the make up game for an earlier rain out and gave the Sox a roundabout three game sweep of the Bucs. Eduardo Rodriguez got the start but did not factor in the decision, giving up a long 2-run homer to Andrew McCutchen in the first inning, and three runs overall in 5 2/3 innings of work. He did strike out eight before leaving and Matt Barnes got the win, pitching a scoreless eighth to set up the comeback in the bottom of the frame. Craig Kimbrel pikced up the save and the Red Sox continue their 7-game homestand tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays with Rick Porcello taking the hill for Boston.
The Rays are happy to get out of the Bronx after getting swept three straight by the NY Yankees. The Yanks got two home runs from Aaron Hicks in a 3-2 win over Tampa yesterday, and Luis Severino pitched possibly his best game as a Yankee, striking out a career high eleven in the win. Severino was a highly touted rookie last season but struggled for most of the year as a starter and was eventually demoted to the minors, but his performance yesterday gives Yankees fans hope that he may still be the wunderkind he was advertised to be when he was first brought up to the Bigs.
The NY Mets have now won five in a row but it took them a long time to get that fifth victory, going 16 innings in South Florida against the Miami Marlins in a 9-8 marathon win last night. Travis D'Arnaud was the hero for New York, blasting the eventual game winning home run in the top of the 16th as he led off the inning, some 5 and a half hours after the game began and ended this morning, past midnight when Hansel Robles pitched a scoreless bottom of the 16th. The announced attendance was around 23,000 when the game started but by the time it ended you could hear individual conversations in the stands, many I'm sure of people on their cell phones explaining to loved ones who didn't attend why they weren't home yet. The Mets bullpen was outstanding in this game, seven relievers combinng to throw ten innings of scoreless ball after starter Robert Gsellman allowed a career-high eight runs in just 4 2/3 innings, but all's well that ends well for the tired but streaking NY Mets.
The Toronto Blue Jays are now off to their worst start in franchise history, 1-8 on the year after falling to the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 last night, but fortunately for the Jays no one in Toronto likely gave a fig, all attention paid instead to their beloved Maple Leafs as they play game one of their Stanley Cup playoff series against the heavily favored top-seeded Capitals in Washington.
So, did the underdog Leafs pull off an upset? Well, almost. Toronto jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Mitch Marner and Jake Gardiner and folks in Washington were getting that "oh no, not again" feeling about their Caps, a team that seemingly always has tremendous success in the regular season followed by crushing disappointment in the playoffs. But Justin Williams scored twice for Washington to tie the game and in sudden death overtime it was, as is often the case in playoffs, a player you don't expect to be the hero emerging as one. Fourth line winger Tom Wilson, not Alex Ovechkin or another star player, potted the game winner in overtime to give the Caps a 3-2 victory. It was Wilson's first career playoff goal and to add insult to injury for Leafs fans, Wilson grew up in Toronto cheering for the Maple Leafs.
Every playoff game last night was decided by just one goal, indicating how tight things are in post-season hockey. The Nashville Predators shocked the Blackhawks in Chicago, winning 1-0 on a goal by Viktor Arvidsson and 29 saves by Pekka Rinne. And in Anaheim a power play goal by Jakob Silfverberg broke a 2-2 tie to give the Ducks a win in game one over the Calgary Flames.
Finally, history has been made with a teenager named Becca Longo signing a letter of intent to play football as a kicker at Adams State College in Colorado, a Division II school. Longo is not the first woman to play college football, but ESPN reports she is the first woman to receive a scholarship to play for an NCAA-affiliated program at Division II or higher.