Sweeney busy in Red Sox debut


Sweeney busy in Red Sox debut

DETROIT -- It seemed no matter what he did, Ryan Sweeney was in the middle of most of the action Thursday as he made his regular season debut in a Red Sox uniform.

In his second at-bat in the fifth inning, Sweeney singled to left off Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander.

As it turned out, that would be the last hit the Red Sox mustered off last year's Cy Young Award-winner and American League MVP.

"He's a tough pitcher," said Sweeney of Verlander. "He nibbles and he gets good pitches and he gets you to chase stuff and he's a tough pitcher to face."

In the top of the eighth, with Tigers clinging to a 1-0 lead, Austin Jackson drove a ball to deep right and Sweeney, who has a reputation as a plus defender, seemed to turn the wrong way as he went back on the ball.

"It was a hard-hit ball," said Sweeney, "and I took a drop step back. It kind of tailed on me, so I had to turn back around. It was out of my reach and I just couldn't get it."

At the time, right field was bathed in some shadows, but Sweeney said the contrast of light and shadows wasn't an issue.

"It's hard to explain, but some of the balls were doing weird stuff out there today," said Sweeney. "I don't know if it was because of the wind or what."

Jackson later came around to score a run for Detroit, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead heading into the ninth.

The Tigers then turned to closer Jose Valverde, who was a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities last season.

But the Sox chipped away against Valverde, getting an opposite-field leadoff double, a single from Adrian Gonzalez which sent Pedroia to third and a sacrifice fly from David Ortiz, which netted the Sox a run.

A stolen base by pinch-runner Darnell McDonald gave the Sox a baserunner in scoring position and Sweeney delivered him when he laced a triple into the right field corner.

"He fell behind 2-and-0 and then he threw me an elevated fastball and missed that," said Sweeney of Valverde. "Then he threw me a split-finger down-and-in and I put a good swing on it.

"I thought I got (enough of it to hit it out) at first when I hit it, but it hit off the wall and got away from (defensive replacement Don Kelly)."

That tied the game and handed Valverde his first blown save since September 2, 2010.

"That was huge and it just goes to show that we're not going to give up," said Sweeney. "To (come back) against Valverde, that's a huge accomplishment right there. But we just didn't score enough runs today."

Curran: Patriots are likely to finish unbeaten this season

Curran: Patriots are likely to finish unbeaten this season

FOXBORO -- Resistance is futile. 

You see this team out there scampering around from drill to drill on a cloudy, late-July day, not a lollygagger to be seen, everything moving with military precision, and you know what it looks like? 

It looks like 80-something players and a coaching staff starting NFL training camp. 

What is it really? It's the first day of work for the NFL's greatest dynasty as it embarks on what will likely be a historic campaign. 

Never mind "may." Never mind "has a chance." It is LIKELY the Patriots will be the first team to ever win 19 games in a single NFL season. 

They don't want to hear that and are already dousing the thought of perfection by labeling it stupid, ridiculous, or disrespectful.

Between now and the start of the season, a parade of indignant former players, coaches and executives will snort and chortle at how absurd the conversation is. 

Frankly, they don't know what the hell they're talking about. 

That won't stop all of them from scoffing at the prospect of 19-0 the same way Curtis Strange scoffed at Tiger Woods back in 1996 when Woods said coming in "second sucks and third is worse." You'll learn, Strange said. 

Strange learned. Everybody learned. Maybe the experts should have seen it coming with Tiger. Maybe not. 

But with the 2017 Patriots, a failing to see what's likely to happen means willfully ignoring facts to do it. The Patriots went 17-2 last year. They lost to Buffalo because their third-string quarterback's thumb was dangling. They lost to Seattle on a night they handed the ball to the Seahawks repeatedly and still were at the Seattle 1-yard line with 30 seconds left with a chance to send the game to overtime but came away with nothing. 
They played poorly in the AFC Divisional Playoff against Houston and won by 18. They played "meh" against the Steelers in the AFC Championship and led 33-9 after three quarters. (Don't "But Le'Veon Bell" me. Would Le'Veon Bell have been covering Chris Hogan? No? Okay. Pay attention). 

In the Super Bowl, they spotted Atlanta -- a team being favorably compared to the Greatest Show on Turf Rams -- 25 points, and they wiped out that 25-point deficit in 23 minutes of play. 

Since they walked off the field in Houston, they added a Pro Bowl corner named Stephon Gilmore to play opposite their other Pro Bowl corner, Malcolm Butler. They added a wide receiver named Brandin Cooks, who caught 162 passes the past two seasons for 2,311 yards and 17 touchdowns. And they will also unveil once again the best tight end of his generation, Rob Gronkowski. 

They have a head coach who is definitely the best of the free agency era, probably the best of the Super Bowl era and arguably the best of all time. Their quarterback has even fewer qualifiers around his greatness and legacy. 

The crème de la crème of the rest of the league is sludge. Smug Aaron Rodgers is tethered to the moon-faced buffoon in Green Bay, Mike McCarthy, a head coach who could overcomplicate ordering coffee. In Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger is fat and fresh off an offseason spent contemplating retirement and Ring Dings. The Cowboys' maturity issues start with their 70-something owner and cascade right down to their enabled superstars Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant. Denver? Trevor Simien. Atlanta? Their motto this year is "Embrace the Suck." What does that even mean? That they enjoyed the Red Wedding that was the second half of the Super Bowl so much, they just want to roll around in humiliation for another year? Dear God. 

My point with all that is that there is no Peyton Manning out there to be the Frazier to Brady's Ali. And while there may be a coach out there with gray matter who could battle Belichick, that coach hasn't spent 18 seasons collecting assistants and coordinators and creating a program where they can tell a player to shit in the corner and the player asks, "What color?"

Don't fight it. Don't scoff at it. Don't be like those people who, in 2001 and 2002 were still saying Tom Brady was a product of the system and that the Patriots would rue the day they traded Drew Bledsoe within the division. Open your eyes. Think critically. What do you see.