Crawford gives Red Sox walk-off win over Tigers, 4-3

191542.jpg

Crawford gives Red Sox walk-off win over Tigers, 4-3

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

After blowing a two-run lead in the eighth inning, the Red Sox roared back with a walkoff victory in the bottom of the ninth when Carl Crawford singled over the head of center fielder Austin Jackson, scoring pinch-runner Darnell McDonald for a 4-3 win.

It was Crawford's third walkoff hit this month.

The win was Boston's sixth in a row overall and third straight to come in their final at-bat. The Sox had a walkoff win in the bottom of the ninth Monday, went ahead for good in the bottom of the eighth Wednesday and added another last at-bat game-winner Thursday night.

Also for the second game in a row, Jonathan Papelbon had to bail himself out of a ninth-inning jam. Thursday, he struck out Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded.

Josh Beckett, who entered the game with the lowest ERA of any American League starter, limited the Tigers to a single run but left after six innings and 83 pitches with what the team announced was a stiff neck.

Daniel Bard came on in the eighth, and in the span of five pitches, coughed up the two-run lead intrusted to him.

First, Brennan Boesch pulled one past the right field foul pole to bring the Tigers to within a run, then Miguel Cabrera drilled a pitch into the Monster Seats to knot the score at 3-3.

The Sox had used solo homers from J.D. Drew (in the fourth) and David Ortiz (leading off the seventh) off Verlander to take a 3-1 lead.

The teams traded runs in the second, with Andy Dirks singling home Cabrera for the Tigers and the Red Sox countering with a sacrifice fly from Drew.

STAR OF THE GAME: Carl Crawford
Crawford may not have many hits this season, but he's making them count -- especially in May.

Crawford's line single over the head of center fielder Austin Jackson scored pinch-runner Danrell McDonald from third base with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.

That marked the third game-winning walkoff hit for Crawford this month.

HONORABLE MENTION: Josh Beckett
Beckett has become the tough-luck pitcher in the Red Sox rotation. He limited the Tigers to a single run over six innings before leaving with a stiff neck.

Beckett was in line for the win until the Sox bullpen blew a two-run lead with six outs to go. That marked the fourth time this year that Beckett has allowed two runs or fewer and gotten a no-decision.

GOAT OF THE GAME: Daniel Bard
Yes, the Sox rebounded to win, but Bard made the task tougher.

In the span of five pitches, Bard gave up two solo homers to the first two hitters he faced in the eighth, blowing a 3-1 lead.

TURNING POINT
After loading the bases with one out, Jonathan Papelbon struck out Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera to preserve the 3-3 and set the stage for bottom-of-the-ninth heroics.

BY THE NUMBERS
Justin Verlander has turned in a quality start in all 10 of his outings this season, but the Tigers are just 4-6 in those 10 games.

QUOTE OF NOTE
"I think we're glad we're playing at home. You know how we feel in games like this on the road -- you make a mistake, you go home (a loser).'' -- Terry Francona on the team's third straight last at-bat win on this homestand.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

celtics-al-horford.jpg

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

celtics-isaiah-thomas.jpg

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.