Bobby goes with Bard

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Bobby goes with Bard

Tough loss for the Red Sox, and in the aftermath, the biggest issue we'll all be talking about aside from finding a seeing eye dog for umpire Larry Vanover is Bobby Valentine's decision to leave Daniel Bard in the game.

You know the deal by now. It was the top of the seventh inning in a 0-0 contest, and the bases were loaded with Rays. There were two outs. Bard already more than 100 pitches into his day was on the mound. Evan Longoria was at the plate. Matt Albers who's had success against Longoria in the past was ready in the pen.

And at this point, everyone thought Bard was done.

Everyone but Bobby Valentine.

He left Bard in, Bard walked Longoria and the winning run crossed the plate.

Final score: 1-0, Tampa.

Boooooo!

That was the Fenway crowd reacting to Bobby V. after he eventually did remove Bard from the game. And believe me, I felt the same way. I don't think there's anyone who was watching that game who thought it was the right move to let Bard keep going. Afterwards, Valentine himself said it was a bad decision.

He should've taken him out!

We can all agree.

But before we move on, and write off Valentine's decision as the reason the Sox lost the game, it's probably worth bringing up last week.

I'm talking about Daniel Bard's first start. A 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays.

This time, it was the start of the sixth inning, and the Sox trailed 3-1. Bard kicked off the inning with a walk to Edwin Encarnacion. Then, he gave up an infield single to Brett Lawrie. So, it was first and second with no one out. Bard had thrown 96 pitches, and like this afternoon, he looked a little tired. Bobby Valentine came out and gave him the hook.

Bard was upset. Visibly upset.

I can't find the video online, because Bud Selig doesn't understand the Internet, but Bard was miffed enough over Valentine's decision that Orsillo and Remy were forced to comment on it. One of them said something along the lines of: "And Bard does NOT look happy out there! He's going to have to get used to the hook now that he's in the rotation. It's not something he ever experienced out of the bullpen."

So, what happened after Bard's exit last week?

Justin Thomas (nee Thompson) came in and walked Eric Thames, gave up a two-run single to JP Arencibia and then a sac fly to Colby Rasmus. Suddenly, it was 6-1, and five of the runs were Bard's. If he was upset before he left, you can only imagine how he felt after.

Anyway, today, unlike in his first start, Bard got the chance to work out of his own mess. It went just as miserably as it did when Valentine let the bullpen handle it, but in the long run, maybe it was worth Valentine giving Bard that chance.

After all, he's new to the starting game. He still needs to get a hold of that mentality. To understand what it's like when you run out of gas, and why sometimes a manager needs to give you the hook.

Now, maybe next time Valentine does remove Bard, and does so at a time when the hurler wants nothing more than to stay in the game and finish his own mess, he'll remember today, and understands why it's the right move.

Ultimately, how Bard feels about getting the hook shouldn't matter. The manager needs to make the decision that's best for the team. And today, Valentine didn't do that. But in the long run, maybe it's a learning experience for Bard.

One that will help him along the road to converting from reliever to reliable starter.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

CLEVELAND -- Marcus Smart made shots, Jonas Jerebko (10 points) outscored the entire Cleveland second unit by himself, and Kevin Love’s hot hand in the first half cooled off considerably in the second.

It was on so many levels the perfect storm for the Boston Celtics in Game 3 which ended with Avery Bradley getting a friendly bounce or two – OK, it was four bounces to be exact – that would be the difference in Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win, which cut Cleveland’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

But that perfect storm is now a thing of the past, which is why the Celtics are battening down the hatches for Hurricane James – LeBron James – in Game 4.

James scored just 11 points in Game 3 on 4-for-13 shooting.

Certainly, Boston’s defense had a role in James’ struggles.

But after looking to be a facilitator at the start of the game, James never flipped the switch to become a terminator.

So, as his teammates struggled with their shots in the second half, James didn’t ratchet up his aggression level to get buckets and in doing so, was just what the Celtics needed to get a much-needed victory.

Had Boston lost Game 3, this series being over would have been a mere formality with no team in NBA history has ever rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to advance to the next round of play.

But the Celtics are very much alive and well with a chance to even up the series at 2-2 with a victory tonight.

If they are to somehow find a way to beat the Cavs on their home floor a second straight game, it’ll most likely come after fending off a strong surge from James.

This season, James has been an offensive power following games in which he has scored less than 20 points in a game.

In the following game after he scores less than 20 points, James has averaged 27.8 points.

And his record in those games during the regular season was 10-3.

“He’s going to be aggressive,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “LeBron James understands how to play the game and he understands what his team needs from him. He’s most likely going to be a lot more aggressive. It’s our job to make sure we defend him as best we can; take other guys out of the game.”

Like Tristan Thompson who had 18 points but only took four shots (he made 3) to get it, as most of his scoring came from the free throw line after getting fouled.

“He had 12 free throws or something like that? He’s playing well for them,” Bradley said. ‘We have to try and limit him to less rebounds. It’s going to be hard. If we’re able to do that and guard the 3, I like our chances.”

Boston’s Al Horford anticipates seeing not just James but the entire Cavs roster try to be more aggressive at the start.

And that means as good as they did in Game 3, they’ll have to be even better tonight.

“On the defensive end, we feel there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement,” Horford told CSN. “We just have to come out and play.”

In Game 3, Boston fell behind by as many as 21 points but for the most part stayed within arm’s reach of the Cavaliers which was a major improvement over Games 1 and 2 in Boston.

And as the Celtics continued to climb back into Game 3, James’ lack of impact plays remained a mystery.

And while there are some who are quick to put Sunday’s loss on James, not surprisingly his coach sees things differently.

“We're all to blame,” said Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue on Monday. “We lost; it happens. For a guy who played great for five straight months, he's got to have a bad game sooner or later. He's human. He didn't shoot the ball well. It wasn't his ordinary game. But Kevin (Love) and Kyrie (Irving) had it going early and they played well, so it kind of got him out of rhythm a little bit in that first half. That's no excuse. Like I said, they played well, but we've just got to play better, be more physical.”

After reviewing the video from Game 3, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was once again impressed with James for the most part making the right basketball play most of the game.

“When you've got guys that are all on fire the way they are, the right basketball play is to find them,” Stevens said. “He just made it over and over.

Stevens added, “The guy is a tremendous basketball player. He makes the right play over and over, and he thinks the game, he sees the game. He's a really good defender. He can read situations. So, I thought he was pretty darned good. But like I said (following Game 3), I'm not going to be critical of the best player in the world.”

Indeed, Stevens has far more important things to worry about, like bracing his players for the impending storm known to all as LeBron James.