Winning weekend for Boston sports fans

Winning weekend for Boston sports fans
June 3, 2013, 12:15 pm
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It was a beautiful weekend here in Boston. And by beautiful, I mean congratulations if your skin is still intact. Because it was hot. Really hot. With humidity that took you back to those blistering summer days in the 90s, when Rich Garces would soak through his entire uniform before recording a single out.
 
Anyway, whether you braved the heat this weekend, or opted for 48 hours of central AC, here’s what happened in the sports world around you.
 
1. On Saturday, the Bruins took the ice without the slightest regard for Pittsburgh’s roster or reputation, and earned a 3-0 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
 
When a relative underdog like the Bruins wins Game 1 of a series, people like to say that that team “stole one.” As if the victory was somehow deceptive or fluky. But that doesn’t fit the Bruins performance on Saturday. If they “stole” Game 1, it wasn’t by way of deception. They didn’t sneak in through an unlocked window in the basement. Instead, they exploded through the front door, tracked mud across the living room, grabbed the Penguins by the throat and screamed: WE WILL BE STEALING THIS GAME. They were the better team on Saturday. In the process, they erased any doubt that this is a winnable series.
 
In a related story, Matt Cooke erased any doubt that he’ll be subject to a “random” airport cavity search once the series moves back to Boston.
 
The B’s were led by David Krejci, who scored twice and leads the entire NHL in playoff points. (He’s looking to become the first Bruin to win the postseason point crown since David Krejci back in 2011.) Tuukka Rask stopped 29 shots on his way to shutting out an offense that hadn’t been shut out in 96 games.
 
Believe it or not, Rask ranks last among the four remaining goalies in playoff goals against and save percentage, but that says more about the other three than it does about him. Bottom Line: Rask is making an enormous statement in these playoffs. We can argue forever over whether he’s playing as well Tim Thomas in 2011, but the fact that the conversation even exists tells you all you need to know.
 
2. The Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees, and now have a two-and-a-half game lead on the Orioles in the AL East. They’re 12 games over .500 (tying a season-best), and have scored the most runs, have the second most road wins and the third biggest run differential (+60) in all of baseball.
 
The loss came on Friday, in a game started by Jon Lester, and that’s both good and bad.
 
First, the bad news: Any game that starts with Lester or Clay Buchholz and doesn’t end with a Boston victory is a missed opportunity. They both need to dominate. And in his last three starts, Lester’s 0-2 with an ERA over 6.00.
 
The good news: If you’d told John Farrell on Friday that he’d lose Lester’s start and still win the weekend, he would’ve kissed you right on the mouth. So passionately, that you’d have held off telling him that the Sox would hand Franklin Morales 11 runs of support in Saturday’s season debut and that on Sunday night (despite a few painful delays), Clay Buchholz would throw 71 pitches, the bullpen would throw zero pitches, and Boston would head home winners of two straight.
 
Three more quick thoughts on the Yankees series: 

  • Last night, Hiroki Kuroda gave up home runs to David Ortiz and Jose Iglesias in the same game. And he did so in consecutive innings.

Here are my “other sports” equivalents to Hiroki’s amazing feat:
 
NBA: Getting dunked on by Kevin Garnett and Celtics trainer Brian Doo on consecutive possessions.
 
NFL: Getting strip sacked on back-to-back drives by Vince Wilfork and Stephen Gostkowski.
 
NHL: Surrendering consecutive goals to Jaromir Jagr and Rene Rancourt.

  • Clay Buchholz is now 8-0 with a major league-leading 1.62 ERA. In the American League, only seven pitchers have thrown more innings, but 88 have given up more than Buchholz’s 14 earned runs. But of all the ridiculous stats surrounding his season, my favorite is that he’s still only give up two home runs. In 77 innings. That’s two fewer than Joel Hanrahan barfed up in seven innings.

But why compare Buchholz to Hanrahan when you can compare him to Buchholz. Last year at this time, 11 starts into his season, Clay had already given up 13 homers.

  • Jacoby Ellsbury missed the entire series as he recovers from a groin injury suffered while stealing five bases against the Phillies last Thursday. Aaaand, what can you say?

First of all, we don’t know the severity of the injury. We don’t (sorry, ladies) know what it currently feels like inside Jacoby Ellsbury’s groin. We don’t know if the trainers pulled him and Farrell to the side and said: “Listen, guys. I think you’ll be making a mistake if you try to rush him back from this.” We don’t know if the ball’s entirely in Ellsbury’s court (or glove?). But that aside, just in theory, you want your best guys out there against the Yankees. You want your best guys to want to be out there. You want Dustin Pedroia playing through a torn ligament in his thumb.
 
So, for Ellsbury to miss the entire series with tightness in his left groin, if nothing else, that’s just a disappointment.
 
At the same time, it’s hard to criticize him for playing it safe. It’s not fair to ask a guy to sacrifice for a team when he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be apart of it. For all he knows, the Sox could trade him to the Astros next month. His successor already has a foot in the door. He’s on the verge of his first and likely last big-time baseball payday.
 
I think we expect a little more from Ellsbury (in terms of selflessness, loyalty) because he’s been here for so long, but all things being equal, it’s not in his best interests to risk an injury.
 
Sports suck like that sometimes.

3. On Saturday in Indianapolis, the Pacers beat the Heat, 91-77, to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Paul George led the way with 28 points. Roy Hibbert was huge (there’s a joke here, but I’d rather avoid the $75,000 fine) with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Mr. George Hill had 16 points and six assists.
 
As for the Heat, LeBron is officially back in Cleveland mode; he’s a one-man show. Although right now he’d probably prefer the likes of Larry Hughes and Antawn Jamison over what Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have to offer.
 
The other two combined for 15 points on 4-19 shooting in Game 1, and have both disappeared in the shadow of Bron’s legend.
 
Who knows with Bosh, but Wade’s struggles appear to be as much mental as they are physical. His body language (from a Miami perspective) is as concerning as his limp. This isn’t the same happy go-lucky Heat team that danced through the regular season. In the words of Bobby Valentine, they’re not the fire-breathing monster that some have made them out to be.
 
In fact, they’re in a little bit of trouble, facing elimination against a bigger, stronger and healthier Pacers team. Miami’s stars are out of sync, their reliable role players (most notably, Shane Battier and Ray Allen) have disappeared. They’re already much closer to going home than we ever imagined.
 
Of course, next thing you know, LeBron will go for 40, the Heat will win by double digits and everyone can laugh at the stupid drama in that last paragraph.
 
But for now, we don’t know. Anything can happen.
 
Game 7 is tonight.
 
And so is Game 2, as the Bruins look to build on Saturday’s momentum and shock the world one more time.
 
As for the Sox, they have their first day off since May 13. Hope they’re taking it easy. And wherever Rich Garces may be, I hope he’s doing the same.