Red Sox lose opener to Tigers, 3-2

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Red Sox lose opener to Tigers, 3-2

DETROIT -- On the first day of the 2012 season, Justin Verlander picked up right where he left off in 2011.
So did the Red Sox.
The Tigers' right-hander -- the 2011 A.L. MVP and Cy Young Award winner -- shut out the Sox on two hits over eight innings and seemed headed for victory when he handed a 2-0 lead to closer Jose Valverde . . . who converted all 49 of his save opportunities last year.
The Red Sox, losers of 20 of their last 27 in the final month of last season, rallied for two runs off Valverde and tied the score. But -- like they did so often last September -- they flubbed away the chance for a stirring victory when the bullpen tag team of Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves gave up the winning run and the Sox dropped their opener, 3-2, Thursday afternoon ay Comerica Park.
Trailing 2-0, Dustin Pedroia led off the ninth with a double to right and moved to third on a single by Adrian Gonzalez. David Ortiz drove him home with a sacrifice fly, making it 2-1.
Valverde seemed poised to close it out when he struck out Kevin Youkilis. But pinch-runner Darnell McDonald stole second and came home on a game-trying triple into the right-field corner by Ryan Sweeney.
Melancon, however, set the stage by allowing one-out singles to Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila. Manager Bobby Valentine called on Aceves, who hit Ramon Santiago to load the bases. And Austin Jackson then shot a hot grounder down the third-base line past Nick Punto for the game-winning hit.
Only once did the Sox manage to get two runners on base in the same inning against Verlander. But he struck out Ortiz with Pedroia on second and Gonzalez on first to end the sixth.
Jon Lester matched Verlander nearly pitch for pitch, but finally blinked in the seventh. With two outs and nobody on, he allowed back-to-back doubles to Peralta and Avila, pushing across the game's first run.
Detroit made it 2-0 in the eighth off Vicente Padilla on a sacrifice fly by Prince Fielder.

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

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Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

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Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance.