Lester does 'terrific' job against Tigers


Lester does 'terrific' job against Tigers

DETROIT -- Just like last year, Jon Lester Thursday was the starting pitcher of an Opening Day loss for the Red Sox.
But the comparisons end there.
A year ago, Lester was tagged for three homers and allowed three homers over 5 13 innings as the Sox lost to Texas, 9-5.
On Thursday, the Sox' loss might have been more frustrating -- coming as it did in the bottom of the ninth after the Red Sox had rallied for two runs in the top of the inning -- but Lester was far better than a year ago.
Matched against last year's A.L. Cy Young and MVP winner, Justin Verlander, Lester had little margin for error. He didn't make many.
Lester pitched seven innings and allowed just one run on six hits.
"Lester was terrific,'' gushed manager Bobby Valentine. "He did just what he needed to do -- go out there and put up innings. He did a great job.''
"I kept the team in the game,'' said Lester. "Even though we lost, it's a great confidence booster to go out and go pitch-for-pitch against a great guy.''
The lefty noted that the outing represented something of a "grind,'' since he didn't have a good feel for his off-speed pitches, especially early in the game.
The Tigers put the leadoff runner on base against Lester four times in the first five innings, but on three of those occasions, Lester got double plays to get out of trouble.
"I was trying to figure out ways to put guys away,'' he said. "Obviously, Verlander's Verlander. He's tough. He didn't give us a lot of opportunities and the opportunities we had, he shut us down. Sometimes, on this side, you have to tip your hat to the other guy and say he did a great job.''
The only run off Lester came with some controversy attached. In the seventh, after two were out, Jhonny Peralta doubled to left.
Lester then got ahead of Alex Avila 1-and-2 and on a 2-and-2 pitch, believed he had struck the Tigers' catcher out. Home-plate umpire Dale Scott ruled otherwise as the count ran full.
Avila then drove Lester's next pitch the other way, just beyond the outstretched glove of left fielder Cody Ross into the corner, scoring Peralta with the first run.
"Hell, I think everything's a strike,'' said Lester with a wry smile of the pitch in question. "Then it was 3-and-2, I was trying to make him put it in play and he put a good swing on it. Sometimes that happens.
"I made one mistake. And against a guy like Verlander, that's what beats you.''

Nash scores a pair of goals in Bruins 2-1 win over Islanders


Nash scores a pair of goals in Bruins 2-1 win over Islanders

BROOKLYN, NY – The Bruins knew they needed to find stellar performances somewhere in order to come out of a must-win game vs. the Islanders with two points, and they got exactly that.

Riley Nash had his best game as a member of the Bruins with a pair of goals scored in a 2-1 win over the Islanders at the Barclays Center that snapped a four game losing streak, and pushed them back into the wild card playoff spot.

It wasn’t a perfect game for the Black and Gold by any means and it was nip-and-tuck all the way, but it was important for the Bruins to show they could pull out those kinds of games late in the season.

Things didn’t look all that great early when John Tavares cut through the Bruins defense in the first period, and whistled a wrist shot from the high slot that went through Adam McQuaid’s legs before beating Anton Khudobin. The Bruins responded, however, on the very next shift with Nash stealing the puck from Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone, and beating Thomas Greiss short side for the important game-tying goal.

It looked like the Bruins had their go-ahead score in the first period on a second-effort power play goal by Frank Vatrano, but that was wiped out by a coach’s challenge that ruled David Backes interfered with Greiss in front of the New York net.

So the Bruins needed to wait until the third period when Boston’s fourth line stepped up and won the massively important game for Boston. Dominic Moore fed Riley Nash hustling into the offensive zone, and he weaved through the Islanders defense before snapping a shot past Greiss for his second goal of the game and his seventh on the season for the Bruins. 

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four


NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier 83-59 on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.

Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.

On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.

Gonzaga found the range from the perimeter after struggling the first three NCAA games, making 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The defense, a soft spot in the past, shut down the underdog and 11th-seeded Musketeers (24-14) to win the West Region.

The Zags will face the winner between South Carolina and Florida in next week's Final Four in Arizona.

J.P Macura led the Musketeers with 18 points.

The Musketeers brought their turn-the-page jar of ashes to the NCAA Tournament, where they burned through a string of upsets to reach their third Elite Eight and first since 2008. They beat Maryland, Florida State and took down No. 2 Arizona in the regional semifinals, setting up a matchup of small Jesuit schools seeking their first Final Four.

The Final Four was the only thing missing on Few's resume, which includes 18 straight NCAA Tournaments, eight trips to the Sweet 16 and a third Elite Eight after surviving West Virginia's constant pressure in the regional semifinals.

The Zags struggled to find an offensive rhythm against the Mountaineers - who doesn't? - but had it flowing against Xavier.

Gonzaga came into the Elite Eight hitting 29 percent of its 3-point shots after making 37 percent during the season. The Zags found the range early against Xavier, hitting 8 of 13 from the arc in the first half, mostly against the Musketeers' zone or on kick-outs from center Przemek Karnowski.

Xavier got off to a good start offensively by working the ball around, but hit a dry spell and made 1 of 5 from 3-point range as Gonzaga stretched to lead to 49-39 by halftime.

Halftime did little to slow the Zags, who pushed the lead to 59-42 on 3-pointers by Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews. Gonzaga kept the machine rolling in the second half, continuing to make shots while its defense prevented the Musketeers from making any kind of run.