Boston Bruins

Justin Verlander returns to his All-Star form

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Justin Verlander returns to his All-Star form

From Comcast SportsNet
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Justin Verlander put on a show at the All-Star game, with horrific results. Against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, the reigning Cy Young Award winner staged a pitching clinic that ended quite nicely for the right-hander and the Detroit Tigers. Verlander allowed three hits in eight innings and the Tigers cruised to 4-0 victory, their seventh win in eight games. In his first appearance since yielding five runs in one inning for the AL in an 8-0 loss Tuesday night, Verlander (10-5) struck out eight and walked two. He retired 16 of the last 17 batters he faced before leaving after 117 pitches. "He was just in total command and I knew he would be, particularly after the All-Star game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "The fans wanted to see him throw it 100 (mph) and he threw it a 100. Today he pitched the way he can pitch and has been pitching. ... Today the horse did what the horses do." Verlander allowed only two runners past first base. The only hits against him were a single by Jim Thome in the first inning, a double by Thome in the third and single by Mark Reynolds in the seventh. It was the Anti-All-Star game for Detroit's ace, who couldn't wait to get back on the mound after the debacle in Kansas City. "Yes, but at the same time, I had to tell myself that that's not the kind of pitcher that I am," Verlander said. "Everybody that has watched me or followed the Tigers or myself knows that that's not me. That's not the way I normally pitch so it's easy to turn the page." It was Verlander's 117th win for Detroit, tied with Denny McLain for 13th on the team career list. He improved to 7-0 in 10 lifetime starts against the Orioles, including 5-0 at Camden Yards. "When he had some struggles in the All-Star game I wasn't too excited about it," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "I kind of had an idea he was going to be on top of his game today." Jose Valverde worked the ninth to complete the four-hitter. Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera homered for the Tigers, who took two of three from the Orioles. Making his second start and appearance in the majors, Baltimore's Miguel Gonzalez (1-1) gave up three runs, six hits and five walks over 5 2-3 innings. In his first start, the right-hander allowed just one run in seven innings against the Los Angeles Angels. In this one, the rookie fell behind 1-0 after throwing two pitches. "I kept the team in the game. That's what I'm trying to do," Gonzalez said. "I felt good. Good pitches. They got hit. That's just baseball." Thome had three hits for the Orioles, who have lost 10 of 14. Second baseman Robert Andino left in the sixth inning after hurting his left shoulder diving for a single. X-rays were negative, and he will receive an MRI on Monday. Baltimore was under three runs for the 14th time in 25 games. Wilson Betemit struck out three times and J.J. Hardy failed to hit the ball out of the infield in four at-bats to extend his hitting slump to 4 for 55 (.073). Blame it on Verlander. "After the All-Star game, I thought we were going to have a real good shot of lighting him up, but I think he was just setting us up," left fielder Chris Davis deadpanned. "He's good. He won MVP last year for a reason. I felt like at times that he was just toying with us." Jackson opened the game with a drive into the center-field seats, his third leadoff homer of the season and seventh of his career. He also extended his run-scoring streak to 12 games, most by a Detroit player since Rocky Colavito scored in 12 straight in 1961. The Tigers added a second-inning run when Brennan Boesch doubled and scored on a single by Jhonny Peralta. Detroit made it 3-0 in the sixth. Prince Fielder walked, took second on a single by Boesch and scored on a single by Alex Avila. Orioles right-hander Steve Johnson, the son of former Baltimore pitcher Dave Johnson, made his major league debut in the eighth. He escaped that inning after walking the first two batters, but gave up Cabrera's 20th home run in the ninth. Johnson was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk before the game and optioned back afterward to make room for Chris Tillman, who will start for the Orioles in Minnesota on Monday night. NOTES: Orioles RHP Jason Hammel will undergo surgery on his right knee to remove loose cartilage. He is expected to miss at least a month. He was placed on the 15-day DL. ... Detroit's Jim Leyland managed in his 3,264th game, 15th-most in major league history. ... Baltimore's Mark Reynolds ended a 0-for-17 drought with a seventh-inning single.

Bruins have just as good a chance as the Celtics do this season (which is small)

Bruins have just as good a chance as the Celtics do this season (which is small)

Dan Shaughnessy ran a piece this week calling the Bruins the No. 4 team in town these days. He wasn’t wrong. They are. 

Of course, the claim isn’t really a discussion about the Patriots or Red Sox, as they’ll always be the two most popular teams in town. It’s about the Bruins being behind the Celtics, which again, they are. 

Yet while the general premise of the story was correct, there was an issue to be taken with the piece. Shaughnessy wrote that, “In terms of overall interest and championship hopes, [the Bruins] are a distant fourth.”

That’s where he’s wrong. Nobody would argue against the Celtics garnering more interest (even if the Bruins might have a stronger fanbase), but championship hopes? The teams are deadlocked. 

The Celtics are one of the top teams in a league in which only one team (the Warriors) has a chance. The Bruins are a middle-of-the-pack team in a league in which the literal last team in the playoffs (the No. 16 seed Predators) went to the Stanley Cup Final last season. 
 
This isn’t about which team is better, because that’s not close. The Celtics have three All-Stars in their starting five and the third overall picks from each of the last two drafts. They’ve also got one of the best coaches in the league. 

It’s also not about who will likely go farther. The Celtics will at the very least reach the Eastern Conference finals. The issue is that they’ll then either be eliminated by the Cavaliers or earn the opportunity to perhaps get swept by the Warriors in the Finals. 

That leaves the Celtics with a certainty of a very good season, but also close to an impossibility of a championship season. 

As for the Bruins, they probably won’t be much better than they were last season, if at all. This season was always the one to watch in the Sweeney era, as it will see the biggest implementation of the young players drafted. There should be at least four Sweeney draft picks on the team this year (Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson), plus youngsters from the Chiarelli era still pushing for jobs. 

The biggest change figures to be on the back end, where the Bruins should have the best top-four they’ve had since Sweeney dealt Dougie Hamilton. A lot of that rides on McAvoy, but there remains hope on the back end in future seasons with Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril trying to eventually break in. 

Will the Bruins rule their division the way the Celtics will? Most likely not. The guess here is that Tampa and Montreal will finish ahead of teams like Boston, Ottawa and Toronto. 

Yet there isn’t a Cleveland or a Golden State waiting to swallow up whoever does emerge throughout the playoffs, and that’s what leaves the Bruins and Celtics with equal chances at a title. The Penguins have won back-to-back titles, but the Bruins have gone 4-1-1 against them in the regular season the last two years. They’re hardly the unstoppable force that exists in Golden State. 

So in terms of buzz, offseason moves and anticipation for a new season? Sure, the Celtics have it all over the B’s. I’m certainly way more excited for basketball season. When it comes to championship hopes, however, the B’s and C’s are no different. 

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rams hold off 49ers for wild 41-39 win

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rams hold off 49ers for wild 41-39 win

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Coach Sean McVay walked into the postgame news conference and immediately asked, "Anyone have a beer?"

He probably wasn't the only person who wanted a drink after watching a surprisingly thrilling Thursday night shootout between his Rams and the San Francisco 49ers that wasn't decided until Los Angeles prevented a potential game-tying 2-point try and then delivered a rare defensive stop after blowing the onside kick in a 41-39 victory.

"We talk about mentally tough, be your best regardless of the circumstance," McVay said. "I thought the players did that. They found a way in spite of some of the ups and the downs to come away with the win."

While the defense came up big late, it was the offense that carried the day for the Rams (2-1), who have gone from the lowest-scoring team in the NFL a year ago to a dynamic one through three games under McVay.

Jared Goff threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns, Todd Gurley ran for 113 yards and scored three TDs and Robert Woods (108) and Sammy Watkins (106) each topped the 100-yard mark receiving in Los Angeles' second 40-point performance of the season. The Rams have 107 points in all so far, the second-most in franchise history after three games to the 119 by "The Greatest Show on Turf" squad in 2000.

"Since I've been here we haven't been able to do that," Gurley said. "Hopefully we can keep putting points together, keep working together and keep learning from this. I think we left a lot more points off the board."

This win didn't come easy as the Rams nearly blew a 15-point lead, giving up two late touchdowns, fumbling a kickoff return and failing to recover an onside kick. But Los Angeles managed to stop a potential game-tying 2-point conversion on a deflection by Troy Hill and then used an offensive pass interference penalty against Trent Taylor and a fourth-down sack by Aaron Donald to stop the Niners after the onside kick.

The 49ers (0-3) scored five touchdowns after failing to get any the first two weeks but still came up short in part because a missed extra point by Robbie Gould forced them to try for 2 on their late touchdown.

"I just rushed it, I missed it, I made a mistake," Gould said. "Obviously, I wish I didn't do that, or we'd probably be playing in overtime right now.""

This time it was a tired defense that hurt San Francisco. After facing 79 plays in a 12-9 loss at Seattle on Sunday, the 49ers appeared to run out of gas on the short week as Goff frequently had wide-open receivers, especially on third down.

The Rams were 8 for 12 on third down, including all three of Goff's touchdown passes.

The Rams needed all that offense on a night where Brian Hoyer threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score.

QUICK START: The Rams took just 12 seconds to get on the board as Nickell Robey-Coleman intercepted Hoyer on the first play from scrimmage and returned it to the 3-yard line. Gurley ran it in on the next play to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.

"I just told him to start over," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Got to go back to work. We didn't change anything, went right on with the script. But it was a tough way to start out."

DROUGHT BUSTER: The 49ers came into the game without a touchdown on the season but broke through in the first quarter with some help from the Rams. After Blake Countess jumped offside on a punt, the Niners took advantage of the second opportunity and drove to score on Hoyer's 9-yard run 126:43 into the season. That was the longest it took a team to score its first TD since 2006 when both Tampa Bay (143:03) and Oakland (127:10) took more time.

FOURTH DOWN CALLS: Both teams drove to the opposing 1 on their opening drives of the second half with help from a Willie Mays-style basket catch by Watkins and a perfect toe drag on the sideline by San Francisco's Pierre Garcon. But the Rams opted to kick a short field goal, while the 49ers went for it and converted on Carlos Hyde's 1-yard run that cut Los Angeles' lead to 27-20. Hyde added a second 1-yard run on fourth down in the fourth quarter.

INJURIES: Rams S Lamarcus Joyner left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury. ... Los Angeles C John Sullivan injured his groin in the second half and Watkins and Tavon Austin left with concussions. ... 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (concussion), FB Kyle Juszczyk (neck), DL Tank Carradine (ankle) and LB Brock Coyle (concussion) all left with injuries in the second half.

UP NEXT: The Rams travel to Dallas on Oct. 1. The 49ers visit Arizona.