Monday, June 9, 2008

Donaghy Lives

Here's a couple game recaps for you to enjoy. Later on I'll be complaining about how is just another way for Selig to extract money from your pockets without putting a better product on the field.

Angels 3, Athletics 7 (12 innings)

An interesting pitcher's duel between Santana and Harden, with both starters racking up 9 strikeouts. Harden would start the game with a 9 pitch, 3 strikeout performance in the first, a surprisingly rare occurrence, less surprising when you look at the Angels lineup as of late. Santana had a slight edge, giving up 2 ER in 6.1 innings, with Harden allowing 3 ER in 6 for a quality start. Two of those runs came on a surprising two run shot from Vlad, although he proceeded to finish 1-5 on the day. I refuse to believe this season-long slump is merely aging...his LD% shows that his BABIP is a little unlucky/low, and I remain convinced he's hiding an injury.

Darren Oliver proceeded to give up the tying run while retiring only one batter in the seventh before giving way to Shields, who pitched 1.1 scoreless innings. Surprisingly, Justin Speier pitched three scoreless innings and may be looking to reclaim his late inning relief role. If Jose Arredondo weren't pitching so well, I'd expect to see Speier more often, but bullpen logjams are always a good thing.

Then, of course, came the 12th, after seemingly endless missed opportunities for the Halos on the offensive end. Chris Bootcheck, whose Baseball Reference page I sponsor, rewarded my $20 investment with an inning in which he allowed three hits and a walk, with the last of those hits being a walk off grand slam to Mark Ellis, yet another player on the A's who I barely consider to be major league caliber. Whatever. A 5-1 road trip and the best record in the AL are nothing to complain about, even if you won't see any coverage on ESPN.

Lakers 102, Celtics 108

Earlier this season, Northeastern played Maryland in College Park, losing 74-72 in overtime after Baptiste Bataille accidentally made a free throw he was trying to miss. The game came on the heels of a close loss at Illinois and just before the first win of the season against Boston University.

The most notable thing about the NU/MD game was the free throw disparity. The Terps took 46 free throw attempts, including 20 in the first half, while the Huskies took just 13 attempts total, 2 in the first half. There is no way that a properly officiated game has a free throw disparity that large, and while NU coach Coen is too much of a class act to admit it, the Huskies played well enough to win that game with mediocre, even bad, officiating. But the refs were bad enough to steal the game.

Fast forward to last night. 38-10. 38 free throws for the Celtics, 10 for the Lakers. It's hard to overcome that kind of "quality" refereeing, but the Lakers refused to quit, cutting 22 points of a 24 point lead in the last eight minutes before finally succumbing to youth when Sasha managed to miss a wide open Kobe as the last couple seconds drained away. Tim Donaghy was not, in fact, calling this game, but he might've been. Phil Jackson, always good for a hilarious post-game, had this much to say:

"I've never seen a game like that in all these years I've coached the Finals. Unbelievable."

With that said, a 2-0 series hole is a pain in the ass to climb out of. While only a couple teams have swept the 3 game set in the current 2-3-2 Finals format, few teams are as good as the Lakers, who emerged from a brutal Western Conference while the Celtics were struggling with the Atlanta Hawks. The Lakers are a team built to win for the next five years, and any success they're having now is basically a bonus. But Boston has had more than its fair share of championships in the last ten years, and it's time for it to end.

Game Preview: Tampa Bay @ Los Angeles, 10:05 EST

The Rays have quickly become everyone's favorite AL East team, with the Red Sox/Yankees "rivalry" basically expired. It doesn't hurt that they have Northeastern alum Carlos Pena playing first, although he's been out for some time with a broken finger, so he'll miss this series with the Halos.

The Rays managed to sweep the Angels earlier this season, and in fact are the only team that has a winning record vs. LA of A. Tonight's starters are Hokie Joe Saunders, the current AL wins leader, and Edwin Jackson, a former Dodger farmhand who was sent away to be useful with another franchise. That seems to be a hallmark of the Dodger organization.

Expect, as usual, a solid start from Saunders, although he's clearly overachieving right now, I don't foresee a serious decline until after the all-star break. The Angels haven't seen Jackson this year, missing him in the first series at Tampa Bay, but he's got something like a 6.00 ERA against the Halos, so I feel pretty confident about this game.

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