Love a legitimate MVP candidate

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Love a legitimate MVP candidate

MINNEAPOLIS Every year, there are clear-cut favorites for the NBA's MVP race.

This year, you have the likes of defending league MVP Derrick Rose of Chicago, Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City, Miami's LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, in the mix.

But as the season progresses, there's usually one player who comes out of nowhere and enters the MVP conversation.

Minnesota's Kevin Love is that player.

The numbers he's putting up this year - 26.3 points and 13.9 rebounds per game - aren't just good.

They are the kind of numbers we haven't seen in decades.

The last player to finish a season with that many points and that many rebounds per game was Moses Malone in 1982, which just so happened to be one of the years in which Malone was named league MVP.

But there's one difference between what Malone did and what Love is doing now.

That team Malone played for, went to the postseason.

The Timberwolves (25-27) are currently 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"The window's closing," said Love, referring to the Timberwolves' postseason hopes. "So we definitely have to try and win a large majority of these games."

As much as Love would love the focus for Friday's game to be on the Timberwolves and their chances at making the playoffs, it was another Kevin - Garnett, the former Minnesota star - whose return had the place buzzing.

With Love's play catapulting him to young superstar status, the comparisons abound between him and Garnett, the last young superstar in the Twin Cities.

You can count Love among those who grew up a fan of Kevin Garnett when he played in Minnesota.

"I was a jersey owner of Garnett back in the day," Love admitted. "Him and Tim Duncan those type of guys; those are guys I looked up to when I was very young; guys still in this league I'm fortunate enough to play against. It's a dream come true for me, but at the end of the day I know I have to come out and help my team win a basketball game by any means."

Aside from having the same first name, Love doesn't believe there's a lot in common with his game and Garnett's style of play.

"It's really an unfair comparison," Love said. "He's a once-in-a-lifetime type player. If I can do some of the things he did for this franchise, it would be nice. But more than anything, I want to win. And he brought a lot of winning years to this franchise. More than anything, hopefully I can emulate that."

Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz in 'attack mode'

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Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz in 'attack mode'

CHICAGO -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the White Sox:

 

QUOTES

"I think the most encouraging thing was after a couple of hard-hit balls early on, he was still in attack mode.'' - John Farrell on Clay Buchholz.

"The biggest thing centers around his fastball. First inning, he might have been up a little bit. But after that, he was down in the zone and the curveball was a good compliment to that.'' - Farrell.

"Man, I tell you what -- he does it in such big moments.'' - Farrell on David Ortiz.

"If you could paint a picture, I think tonight would be just about what everybody would want to do.'' - Buchholz on his outing.

"I think everybody would be lying if they said they didn't see your numbers; you see them every day. (Being) 0-3 with a six-something (ERA) is obviously not where you want to be.'' - Buchholz.

"Hopefully, this is the start of something good coming out of him.'' - Ortiz on Buchholz.

"You feel like the luckiest man on planet earth - finally hitting the ball where no one's at!'' - Ortiz on beating the shift with a single through the shortstop hole in the seventh

 

NOTES

* When the Red Sox homer, they're 11-6.

* Clay Buchholz's win was his first since last July 10.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

* Mookie Betts has scored at least one run in 10 of his last 14 games.

* David Ortiz is now one homer from tying Carl Yastrzemski for second-most homers in franchise history at 452.

* Ortiz tied Gary Sheffield for 25th place all-time in homers with 509.

 

STARS

1) Clay Buchholz

After five straight poor outings, Buchholz turned in a gem, giving up two runs in the first, then nothing else for the next six innings.

2) David Ortiz

As he so often does, Ortiz delivered when the Red Sox needed him most, clocking a two-run homer in the fifth to turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead.

3) Jose Abreu

The White Sox slugger belted a two-run homer in the first to give him five RBI in the two games in this series.

 

First impressions: Buchholz finishes strong vs. White Sox

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First impressions: Buchholz finishes strong vs. White Sox

CHICAGO - First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the White Sox.

 

If this was some sort of must-win proposition for Clay Buchholz, he passed his test.

Buchholz found himself behind 2-0 just three batters in when he allowed a two-run homer to Jose Abreu, but he righted himself nicely after that.

Buchholz pitched seven innings and didn't allow another run. In fact, Buchholz only yielded two more hits after the first - both singles.

John Farrell said he wanted to see Buchholz attack the strike zone with his fastball, pitch with a quicker tempo and not rely so much on his secondary stuff. To varying degrees, Buchholz accomplished all three and finished strong - retiring the last 10 hitters in a row and 16 of the last 17.

 

Josh Rutledge had a nice night off the bench.

Rutledge was a last-minute addition to the lineup when Hanley Ramirez was scratched with the flu and Travis Shaw was shifted from third base to first base.

Rutledge reached base three times with two singles and a walk. One of the singles drove in the fourth run, scoring Chris Young with an important insurance run.

 

David Ortiz broke out of his U.S. Cellular slump in a big way.

Coming into the game, Ortiz was hitless here in his last 19 at-bats and when he hit into a double play in the first and flied to center in the third, that stretched to 0-for-21. Since the start of 2014, those first two at-bats made Ortiz 1-for-26.

But in the fifth, Ortiz hammered a pitch from Carlos Rodon into the seats in right for a two-run homer, giving the Red Sox their first lead of the series.

For all the talk about Ortiz's difficulty hitting lefties, he's now third among lefty batters in homers off lefthanded pitchers since last July 2.

 

The home run power continues to be in short supply beyond Ortiz.

Last season, the Red Sox didn't have anyone hit 20 homers other than the (then) 39-year-old Ortiz.

Might the same thing happen again this year?

Ortiz hit his sixth homer last night, again leading the club. Mookie Betts is the only other hitter on the Sox with more than three homers -- and he hasn't hit one in his last 58 at-bats, dating back a week and a half.