Valentine defends slow hook with Morales


Valentine defends slow hook with Morales

BOSTON -- In the second series of the year, Bobby Valentine regretted staying with a lefty reliever for a critical at-bat and blamed himself for a Red Sox loss to Toronto.

On Wednesday night, history repeated itself, leading to another Red Sox loss.

This time, however, Valentine wasn't second-guessing himself as much.

In the top of the eighth inning with Texas leading the Red Sox 4-2 and the bases loaded, Valentine elected to stay with left-hander Franklin Morales even though the right-handed Mike Napoli was due at the plate.

The move backfired when Napoli blasted a two-run double to deep center, scoring two runs and blowing the game open in a 6-3 victory for the Rangers.

"Morales is a guy I want to pitch against both sides of the plate,'' said Valentine. "I wanted to keep confidence in him. I wasn't going to pull plug too soon. He's had four good outings for us. I was hoping to salvage that one. It didn't work.''

Valentine had two right-handers -- Vicente Padilla and Matt Albers -- warming in the bullpen at the time, which theoretically would have created a better matchup with Napoli, who has a lifetime OPS of .949 against lefties, compared to .843 against righties.

Additonally, Morales has, predictably, been more successful against lefties over his career, with a career .648 OPS against lefty hitters and a .782 OPS when facing righties.

Padilla sat down at one point, leaving Alberts as Valentine's other option.

"I like Matty,'' said Valentine. "Matt's throwing the ball real well now. It's almost like it's six of one and a half-dozen of the other. That's a good thing. Again, I was keeping Franklin in for Franklin, not because of who was up or who wasn't up in the bullpen.''

It's clear that, with Mark Melancon being an early-season disappointment who was sent to the minors to get straightened out, Valentine regards Morales as perhaps his best eighth-inning set-up option.

When the move didn't work out, Valentine was showered with boos when he finally lifted Morales. But he said he understood the fan reaction.

"Sure,'' he said. "I was booing myself. It didn't work out.''

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

BRIGHTON, Mass – While both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller were missing from Bruins practice on Saturday morning, both injured Bruins defensemen could be rejoining the team soon.

Colin Miller skated on his own prior to Saturday’s team practice at Warrior Ice Arena for the second or third time since suffering a lower body injury in the win over the St. Louis Blues. Claude Julien said his presence on the ice was proof that the puck-moving defenseman is “definitely on the mend”, and could be nearing a return to practice soon with Sunday marking the sixth straight game that he’ll have missed.

Kevan Miller is out with a concussion suffered last weekend in the win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and the B’s current three-game losing streak has coincided with his absence from the lineup.

Julien said Miller has actually been away from the team for the last couple of days while dealing with a virus, and that his recovery from the concussion symptoms was good prior to being knocked down by the illness.

“Kevan was actually feeling really well and then he got hit by a virus that’s kept him in bed for the last two days,” said Julien. “It’s nothing to do with his original injury. There was a possibility he could have been ready very soon, but that’s set him back a bit.”

Both are obviously out for Sunday’s matinee against the Penguins, but a return to practice at some point next week seems like a good bet for both players. Here are the line combos and defense pairings from Saturday’s practice with the Bruins focusing on getting a good result in Pittsburgh with the hockey club on a “mom’s trip” with 22 of the players’ mothers traveling with the team to and from the game:












Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

BOSTON – Conventional NBA wisdom tells you that getting out to score in transition is a good thing, usually serving as easy points scored, which is what every team wants, right?
But bundles of transition points have been nothing but trouble for the Celtics this season.
They are coming off a game against the New York Knicks in which they scored 22 fast-break points, which was their second-best showing this season. But the final score, a 117-106 loss, wasn’t all that unusual from what has happened this season when their transition game has generated a decent amount of scoring.
Boston has a 2-6 record this season when they score 16 or more fast-break points. On the nights when Boston’s fast-break offense generates 10 or fewer points?
They’re 11-5.
While there are several possible reasons why this is, here’s what you have to remember.
The Celtics are a ball-movement, 3-point shooting team.
Often that means they’ll pass up potential shots in transition, to instead work the ball around from one side of the floor to the other, until they get what they deem is the best shot to take (usually it’s a lightly contested to wide open 3-pointer).
The Celtics average 329.6 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.8). Not surprisingly, that has led to them ranking among the league’s leaders in assists (24.9, third in the NBA).
And that has led to Boston being ranked among the top-3 in several other key passing statistics, such as secondary assists (7.1, 2nd in the NBA); potential assists (49.5, 2nd); and assists points created (60.8, 3rd);
Here are a few more stats to crunch on, courtesy of CSN Associate Producer Andy Levine.
PAINT BY NUMBERS: When the Celtics score 40 percent or less of their points in the paint, they are 19-5 this season. When Boston gets 40 percent or more of its points in the paint, they are just 7-11.
BROWN IN THE FOURTH: Jaylen Brown has been among the better rookies this season, especially in the fourth quarter. Among rookies who played in at least 20 games in the fourth quarter, Brown is second in fourth quarter shooting at 54.9 percent. With those same standards, he’s sixth in shooting 3’s in the fourth at 38.5 percent.
CROWDER BOUNCES BACK: The past four games has seemingly brought out the best in Crowder. In that span, he has averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range. Crowder’s 3-point shooting of late has elevated him to seventh in the league while connecting on 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts (minimum 150 attempts).

OUCH! It has not been a smooth start for Evan Turner with his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers. This season, Turner’s plus/minus is -234, which is the fourth-worst plus/minus in the NBA.