There's nothing like the sound of "play ball", and some of us like those words even better when they're said at Fenway Park, where the Boston Red Sox won their opening day game 5-3 over the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday in the first day of the team's rest of their lives without Big Papi David Ortiz lurking in the line-up.
Reigning American League Cy Young winner Rick Porcello got the win, going six and a third while yielding six hits and three runs and striking out five. Rookie Andrew Benintendi crushed a three-run homer clearing the low fence in right field to cap off a five-run Red Sox fifth. Jackie Bradley Junior had a fantastic game, making a running catch in the fourth, holding onto the ball while bumping up against the bullpen fence, reminding everyone why he may be the best center fielder in the game today. He also tripled to start the five-run rally in the fifth.
The NY Mets cruised to a 6-0 win in their opener over the Atlanta Braves, with Noah Syndergaard striking out seven before leaving with a blister on his finger in the seventh. But far from screaming like Ringo at the end of Helter Skelter, the guy they call Thor for his trademark long blonde locks called it just a little blister and no big deal, but Mets fans will no doubt be more concerned to see that it doesn't affect his next start.
The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles didn't lack for drama in game one of the season. The Orioles beat the Jays 3-2 with an 11th inning, two-out walk off home run by Mark Trumbo at Camden Yards.
As we've heard, North Carolina is once again champions of the NCAA, a sixth national title for the Tar Heels after their 71-65 win over Gonzaga last night, but the win was not without controversy, and that's too bad, because the missed call late in the game really did give NC a critical possession that should have gone the other way.
With 49 seconds left in the game and the Tar Heels up by one point, North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks and Gonzaga's Silas Melson scrambled after a loose ball, with both players ultimately claiming a share of the rock. So a jump ball was called and North Carolina regained possession on the jump, going on to score a basket to put them up by three. But replays clearly showed that when Meeks caught up to the ball grabbing it with his left hand, his right hand was out of bounds at the point of contact. The possession should have gone to the Bulldogs, who would have had a chance to tie or go ahead, and instead saw the Tar Heels score the final five points of the game for the win.
What's frustrating about that is not that the refs missed the call. That's part of the game, and referees are human, after all. But with all the stoppages for time outs and video review of whether a foot was beyond the three point line or not in college basketball, it's amazing that per NCAA rules, that particular play is not reviewable. With under a minute to go. In a one point game. For the national championship.
Look, it doesn't diminish North Carolina's win. They took advantage of the missed call and did what they had to do on offense, and Gonzaga failed to make the stops they needed. But a simple video review of that play would have instantly allowed the refs to get it right, Gonzaga would have had the ball trailing by just one, and we'll never know how the game could have gone had the right call been made. Bulldogs fans will no doubt be grumbling about the refs interfering with their shot at the school's first-ever national title, and unless you're a North Carolina partisan, you can perhaps see that they have a point.
To the NHL and despite the fact that the Boston Bruins have won five games in a row down the stretch, they are still fighting for their playoff lives, with a critical contest on their home ice tonight. That's because all the teams jockeying for one to two playoff entries keep winning as well, and that was the case last night with the Toronto Maple Leafs beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 to jump over both Boston and Ottawa for sole possession of second place in the Atlantic.
Third place belongs to Ottawa, even though they lost to Detroit 5-4 in overtime. The one point they gained for the regulation tie has them knotted with Boston at 92 points apiece, but ahead of the Bruins due to head to head records this season. So the Bruins are once again back in the last wild card playoff slot, but just four points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and that's the team coming to Boston tonight for a showdown, about a week after the Lightning tagged a 6-3 loss on the Bruins. The Bruins have three games left in the regular season. Tampa has four. So a win by the Lightning tonight puts them just a game behind Boston with an extra one to play. The Bruins need to get at least one point out of tonight's contest, and two would obviously be ideal, but even with the recent five game winning streak, the Bruins have little room for error. They face Ottawa after Tampa and then finish against the regular season against the high flying Washington Capitals, so my apologies for returning to the department of redundancy department, but these last few games are essentially playoff games to make the playoffs.