The Triple Crown: Proof That I TOO Can Research Ridiculous Crap

Detroit Tiger Justin Verlander leads the American Leauge in wins (24), strikeouts (244) and ERA (2.29), making him a virtual lock for the AL Cy Young award (I’d be surprised if he wasn’t chosen unanimously). While these numbers make Verlander the front-runner for the AL Triple Crown for pitchers (first since then-Minnesota Twin Johan Santana in 2006), they also put him in front for the MLB triple crown, which Santana was also the last to win.

Verlander’s main competition is Los Angeles Dodger Clayton Kershaw. What’s curious about Kershaw is he is the front-runner (currently 19/236/2.30) to win the NL Triple Crown (first since then-San Diego Padre Jake Peavy in 2007).

If the Tigers' Justin Verlander (left) can stay above the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, it will be the first time a pitcher wins the MLB Triple Crown in the same year a second wins a league Triple Crown since Dazzy Vance (right) topped Walter Johnson in 1924.

Should both Verlander’s and Kershaw’s positions at the top of their leagues hold up, and Verlander remains on top of Kershaw overall, it will be the first time in 87 years that a pitcher has won the MLB triple crown and another has won a league triple crown. Dazzy Vance of the NL’s Brooklyn Robins (a precursor to the Brooklyn and then LA Dodgers) won the 1924 MLB triple crown in the same season that Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators (a precursor to the Twins) won the AL’s triple crown.

The last time an AL pitcher won the MLB triple crown and an NL pitcher won his league triple crown was 1918, when that same Walter Johnson won the MLB triple crown and Hippo Vaughn (seriously) of the NL’s Chicago Cubs won his league triple crown.

Only two other times have two triple crowns been won in the same year. Christy Mathewson of the NL’s New York Giants (now in San Francisco) and Rube Waddell of the AL’s Philadelphia Athletics (later to moved Kansas City before their current home in Oakland) both won their league triple crowns in 1905, but neither won the MLB triple crown.

Charles Radbourn of the NL’s Providence Grays (defunct since 1885) won a league triple crown in 1894 in the same year that Guy Hecker of the Louisville Colonels won in the American Association (which later merged with the NL before folding in 1891).

Continue reading The Triple Crown: Proof That I TOO Can Research Ridiculous Crap

Somerville’s Lorenza Etienne and Nicole Genard Combine for 29 Kills in Comeback Win Over Matignon in Girls’ Volleyball

(written, shot, edited and narrated for Somerville Patch)

Senior outside hitters Lorenza Etienne and Nicole Genard combined for 29 kills, 18 digs and three aces for the Highlanders, who Wednesday afternoon at the Field House overcame losses in two of their first three games to win their match against Matignon High School (Cambridge) in five games.

The formula for the Highlanders was simple: when they put their serves in play and over the net, they won games. When they served out of bounds or into the net (27 times in five games), they lost games.

Down 10-9, the Warriors went on a 7-0 run midway through the first game, seizing the lead and never relinquishing it. The Highlanders almost clawed their way back thanks in no small part to Genard’s spikes and serves, but two late-game serves out of bounds gave the Warriors a 25-21 win.

“Game 1, we missed 10 serves alone,” coach Steven Walker said. “If you ever do that, you’re never going to win.”

Continue reading Somerville’s Lorenza Etienne and Nicole Genard Combine for 29 Kills in Comeback Win Over Matignon in Girls’ Volleyball

Somerville High Fall 2011 Preview: Cross-Country

(written and photographed for Somerville Patch)

With the school year underway, Somerville Patch will be previewing all eight fall sports programs at Somerville High School. Unsure how the Highlanders did in 2010? Want to know who might impact the upcoming season? Just want to know when the first game is? Read on and find out.

Boys’ Cross-Country

Th Highlanders have four strong runners on the boys' team, but who will be that key fifth runner?

2010 Record: 3-1 overall, 3-1 in the Greater Boston League

Although the boys’ cross-country team didn’t exactly have a bad 2010 season, they may have lacked that extra bit of talent necessary to match the girls’ team (see below).

“Your success depends a lot on who’s running in a particular year,” boys and girls cross-country coach Charlie Tesch said at a Sept. 8 practice at Tufts. “Some people are faster than other people.”

Tesch also said fewer runners for Somerville and more competitive boys’ cross-country teams at other GBL schools played into the Highlanders’ second-place finish in the league.

“Malden is our nemesis right now,” Tesch said, adding: ”They’ve been developing a pretty strong program. They have a lot of kids doing it.”

GBL Open exhibition race: Thursday 9/15 at Fresh Pond Reservation, 3:30 p.m.

First 2011 game: Wednesday 9/21 at Cambridge Public, 3:30 p.m.

Home Opener: Wednesday, 9/28 at Boat House/Shore Drive, 3:30 p.m.

Player to watch: Brian Martinez, junior first-year runner

“Because he’s a soccer player, he has an excellent fitness background,” Tesch said. “It looks like he’s going to be one of our best runners.”

Key to the season: Development of a consistent fifth runner

“Five people are the scorers, the top five” Tesch said. “You want to have two more that are strong, because if those two finish ahead of the fifth guy on the other team, that’s more points for them.”

Continue reading Somerville High Fall 2011 Preview: Cross-Country

Longoria, Upton and Kotchman all Homer as Rays Rock Red Sox, Cut Wild Card Lead to 3

Evan Longoria hits a three-run home run during the third inning of Thursday's game at Fenway Park. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

When nothing is going right, nothing is going right. Such was the case Thursday night at Fenway, when a freakish broken-bat grounder led to four runs by the Tampa Bay Rays, who homered three times to beat the Red Sox, 9-2, and cut Boston’s wild card lead to three games.

Broken Bat Ends Up Breaking Weiland

Through two innings, starter Kyle Weiland appeared on his way to at least the first quality start for the Red Sox since Sept. 6, and possibly his first major league win. Weiland retired his first seven batters before giving up a double to catcher John Jaso. Weiland walked Desmond Jennings with two outs, but his inside pitch to B.J. Upton broke Upton’s bat and started rolling towards Marco Scutaro.

The broken bat-head flew in the exact same direction as the grounder, unfortunately, landing in front of Scutaro moments before the ball reached his glove. Scutaro tried to side-step the bat and field the ball, but the two arrived so close that there was nothing Scutaro could do. The ball rolled between his legs, and Jaso scored to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.

Weiland should have been out of the inning, but instead he had to face Evan Longoria. Though Weiland reached two strikes on Longoria, he left a 1-2 pitch over the plate, and Longoria deposited it in the Red Sox bullpen in right-center to make it a 4-0 game.

Continue reading Longoria, Upton and Kotchman all Homer as Rays Rock Red Sox, Cut Wild Card Lead to 3

Patriots Report Card: Week 1

Tom Brady's record-setting 517 passing yards and four touchdown throws highlighted an A-level offensive performance against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Welcome to Goose’s Gabs’ weekly report card for your New England Patriots! Each week I’ll analyze every Patriots position group, identifying particularly noteworthy performances from the previous week’s game.

In their 38-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, the Patriots answered many of the questions fans had about the offense entering Week 1. Between 622 total offensive yards, 38 points, and 27 first downs on 8-for-13 third-down efficiency, few can still worry about this team’s ability to score points. Their ability to prevent points is another question, but for now all is well in New England.

So let’s play teacher and hand out some grades!

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady set both a Patriots and Monday Night Football record with 517 passing yards. Only four other quarterbacks have ever racked up more passing yards in a game, and none since 1996. Coupled with a 66.7 completion percentage and four touchdown passes, it’s impossible to give Brady anything other than a straight A. His third-quarter interception allowed Miami to tie the game, but even that couldn’t keep him from a 121.6 QB rating. Although one game is too early to tell, Brady certainly looks poised for another big year, able to throw the ball short and deep, over the middle and to the sidelines.

Continue reading Patriots Report Card: Week 1

Somerville High Fall 2011 Preview: Golf

Senior co-captain Rob Anderson (left) will try to lead the Somerville High golf team to a record better than their 0-9 2010 season. (Somerville Patch/Matt Temptesta)

(written for Somerville Patch)

With the school year underway, Somerville Patch will be previewing all eight fall sports programs at Somerville High School. Unsure how the Highlanders did in 2010? Want to know who might impact the upcoming season? Just want to know when the first game is? Read on and find out.

Golf

2010 Record: 0-9, 0-8 in the Greater Boston League

The Somerville High golf team simply isn’t on a level playing field with the rest of the GBL.

“Our practice facility really is only a driving range, as opposed to all the other schools we play,” coach Jay Hart said over the phone on Sept. 8. “They practice on an actual golf course.”

Additionally, the 2011 team will be composed mostly of younger players, many of who Hart said “have never played on a golf course.”

Although Somerville has several nearby golf courses, Hart said high membership fees and revenue-generating adult leagues prevent the Highlanders from ever getting sufficient practice time on them.

“It’s all about money,” Hart said. “If they can have four or five nights of leagues like Fresh Pond does, like Pine Meadows does, that’s what they’re going to do, because it’s the almighty dollar. That’s what they have to look after.”

Still, Hart said, the Highlander golfers always maintain a good attitude, even in the face of adversity.

“They’re always enthusiastic,” Hart said. “They love playing golf. They love competing.”

Hart said this attitude might be a better byproduct of the season than any wins-loss record could be.

“Sometimes winning is secondary. I’d like them to enjoy it, maybe play golf for a lifetime.”

First 2011 game: Monday 9/12 at Cambridge Public, 3:30 p.m.

Home Opener: Thursday 9/15 vs. Everett at Indian Ridge Golf Club (Andover), 3:30 p.m.

Players to watch: Co-captains Kyle Higgins, junior, and Rob Anderson, senior

“They’ve really improved over the last year or two,” Hart said, adding: “They play a lot. If they have the opportunity to play with their friends, they’ll go out and play during the week or during June or July or August.”

Key to the season: Staying competitive early in matches against beatable teams like Malden (6-2 in 2010) and Medford (4-5 in 2010).

WEEI: Interview with Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher Junichi Tazawa

With Junichi Tazawa recalled to the Red Sox Tuesday, WEEI published my interview with him from Futures at Fenway. Fair warning: Red Sox reporter Alex Speier definitely added to this article, so if the writing doesn’t seem like mine that’s why. Still, interviewing through an interpreter was a valuable experience.

Check it out!

Previewing the 2011 Bruins Goaltenders

As last season’s playoffs proved, a hockey team’s success hinges on the quality of its goalie. A good goalie can bail out a poor defense, kill penalties single-handedly and frustrate even the fastest, craftiest shooters. A bad goalie, on the other hand, can take out a team so early in the game that his teammates won’t know what hit them (see 2011 Stanley Cup, Game 6).

Since the position is so crucial, and with the Bruins’ training camp just underway, let’s look at the Bruins’ goaltenders for the upcoming season:

Tim Thomas

Bruins fans could not ask for a better starting goaltender this season than Tim Thomas, who in 2010-11 won the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award, the Vezina Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tim Thomas had the kind of 2010-11 season that goaltenders dream about. He set an NHL single-season record with a .938 save percentage (for which he won the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award) that, combined with a 35-11-9 record and 2.00 GAA, won him his second Vezina Trophy (best goaltender in the league). In the playoffs, he performed even better, posting a .940 save percentage and a 1.98 GAA en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoffs MVP) and the Stanley Cup. No goalie had ever before won those four trophies in the same season.

Thomas’ greatest strength is his self-awareness. There are may different ways to play the position, and Thomas has figured out his own strengths and weaknesses enough that he can maximize his effectiveness in goal. His reaction time isn’t quite as fast as younger goalies’ (he’s 37), so instead he comes out of the crease a bit earlier and uses his bulk (he weighs 201 pounds) to cut off shooting angles. When a player gets too close, Thomas comes out and attacks the shooter, not the puck. The Canucks’ Henrik Sedin got a taste of that strategy in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup.

Thomas’s working-class roots and everyman demeanor make him the kind of Boston athlete fans identify with and love. He has unshakable confidence in his abilities to guard the net, and when he has to, he has proven he can carry the Bruins to victory.

It’s unlikely Thomas will repeat the accomplishments of last season, considering how many factors are beyond his control. More shots on goal will likely lower his save percentage, while better offensive play in the playoffs might cost him the Conn Smythe. Nonetheless, Bruins fans can’t ask for anyone better to start in goal next season. There is no one better than Thomas.

Tuukka Rask

Tuukka Rask had an excellent rookie year in 2009, winning 22 of the 45 games he played (39 starts) while posting a 1.97 GAA. In the playoffs, however, Rask was noticeably less effective. His GAA jumped to 2.67 and his save percentage dropped nearly 20 points. In the four consecutive losses of the Bruins’ historic 2009 collapse against the Flyers, Rask allowed a combined 15 goals.

Rask has yet to fully recover from that collapse, and he went 11-14-2, posted a .918 save percentage and again allowed 2.67 goals per game last season. His 2010-11 season was poor enough that there was never a debate over who the Bruins should start in goal.

The Bruins don’t need much out of Rask, but Thomas won’t start all 82 games: In his last four seasons, he’s never started more than 55 (about two-thirds of a season). After starting all 25 of the Bruins’ playoff games, Thomas will be that much more in need of rest during the regular season. Rask has to step up this year, or the Bruins may turn to…

Anton Khubodin

The Bruins traded for Anton Khubodin from the Minnesota Wild back in February, then assigned him to the Providence Bruins. In 16 games with Providence last season, Khubodin went 9-4-1 with a .913 save percentage and a 2.40 GAA.

It’s unlikely Khubodin will make the NHL squad out of the gate this season, instead returning to Providence and the AHL, the league Khubodin has played in for most of his U.S. career. Khubodin has only played in six NHL games ever, going 4-1 in four starts with a 1.39 GAA and a .955 save percentage in limited action (just 134 shots against).

Khubodin gives the Bruins another option at backup, but little else. He doesn’t have the experience to be the primary goalie for an NHL team. If Rask can’t regain his 2009 form, however, the Bruins may give Khubodin a spot-start here and there. Doing so will slowly give Khubodin more experience, let him learn watching one of the best goalies in the league, and possibly raise his trade value.

If Thomas gets hurt, Rask will be the replacement. But if Rask can’t get the job done, Khubodin might get a shot.

Lester Gives up Three in First, Rays Complete Sweep

B.J. Upton celebrates with teammates after hitting a grand slam during the fifth inning of Sunday's baseball game in St. Petersburg. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

The Red Sox are in absolute free fall, and by the time they hit the ground, they might be looking up at the Tampa Bay Rays in the playoff race.

Rays starter James Shields allowed just one earned run in 8.1 innings Sunday afternoon in St. Petersburg, and the Rays battered Jon Lester and the bullpen in a 9-1 Rays victory, completing the sweep and pulling Tampa Bay to just three losses behind Boston in the wild card race. The Red Sox have now lost five straight, and 10 of their last 13.

Lester Continues to Struggle Early

Lester entered Sunday’s game having allowed 13 first-inning earned runs, the most of any inning. His struggles continued Sunday, with the Rays sending eight to the plate against him in the first..

The Rays began the game with back-to-back singles, then Evan Longoria walked on four pitches to load the bases with no outs. Second baseman Ben Zobrist saw three pitches, then singled to left to drive in two. After a fielder’s choice moved Longoria to third, shortstop Sean Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive him in and make it 3-0 Rays.

None of Lester’s pitches worked Sunday. His fastball did not overpower, resulting in 29 foul balls to just 11 swinging strikes, and his cutter lacked the sharp movement necessary to fool hitters, leading to three walks and numerous long at-bats in which Rays hitters just waited Lester out.

Lester threw 43 pitches in the first, 26 in the second, 16 in the third, 26 in the fourth … and that was it. Lester couldn’t even make it to the fifth, suffering his seventh loss of the season. He threw 68 of his 111 total pitches for strikes, giving up four earned runs (the Rays added another on a Johnny Damon triple and a Rodriguez double in the third) on eight hits, three walks and two strikeouts.

Continue reading Lester Gives up Three in First, Rays Complete Sweep