Red Sox Spring Training Update (3/12-18): Ciriaco Continues to Shine

The Red Sox are either celebrating Pedro Ciriaco's walk-off extra-innings home run against the Marlins Monday or him retaining his "Spring Training Player of the Week" title. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox)

Non-roster shortstop Pedro Ciriaco gave the Boston Red Sox some pretty good reasons to keep on the squad come opening day. After winning SoB’s inaugural “Spring Training Player of the Week,” Ciriaco followed it up by batting .538 with two doubles and a home run in six games this week. He scored four runs and drove in five.

The Red Sox as a team matched last week’s success, once again going 4-2-1. How’d they get there? Here’s this week’s Red Sox Spring Training Update.

Red Sox 5, Marlins 3 (10)

After Nate Spears bunted his way to first with one down in the bottom of tenth Monday, Ciriaco drilled a 1-0 home run to left, giving the Red Sox their first walk-off win in preseason.

Prior to Ciriaco, the Red Sox had gone up 1-0 in the second on a triple from Mike Aviles (2-3) and an RBI double from Nick Punto. As two likely major leaguers, this sequence is particularly encouraging. The Red Sox added two in the third on an RBI single from Cody Ross and a sacrifice fly from Kelly Shoppach.

Josh Beckett started and went four innings, giving up an earned run on a hit, two walks and three strikeouts. He also hit two batters. Scott Atchison blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth by giving up an RBI sacrifice fly, setting up Ciriaco’s game-ender.

Non-roster pitcher Jesse Carlson gave up a hit and struck out one in a scoreless tenth for the win.

Continue reading Red Sox Spring Training Update (3/12-18): Ciriaco Continues to Shine

Ireland’s Contributions to the World of Sports

Because his gold medal in the hammer throw at the 1928 L.A. Olympics marked the first time Ireland's tricolour flag or national anthem appeared at the medal podium, Pat O'Callaghan tops my list of Irish athletes. (www.tipperarystar.ie)

None can say I don’t get into the spirit of a holiday. Awesome Halloween costumes and Passover seders, eager participation in Christmas tree or Easter egg decorating, throw-downs on New Year’s Eve or BBQs on July 4 – I put the “festive” in “festivities.”

So wanting to do something to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day that doesn’t involve an obscene amount of alcohol entering and/or exiting my body (possibly through the same hole), here’s my list of the ten best athletes to come out of Ireland.

10) John Treacy (6/4/1957, Villierstown, County Waterford): Treacy won the silver medal in the marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles – the only Irishman ever to medal in that event. Other accomplishments include golds in the long race at both the 1978 and 1979 World Cross-Country Championships, a silver in the team long race at the 1979 WCCC, and a win at the 1992 Los Angeles Marathon. He now serves as the chief executive of the Irish Sports Council, showing how much athletics must have meant to his Irish identity.

9) Sonia O’Sullivan (11/28/1969, Cobh, County Cork): O’Sullivan was a dominant long-distance runner from 1991 to 2002, earning 16 medals in major international competitions. She set national records in both the 5000m and 10,000m races at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, winning the silver medal and finishing sixth, respectively. She followed up the Sydney Games with victories both in the Grand Prix 5000m and the Dublin Marathon.

8) John Pius Boland (9/16/1870, Dublin): Boland won two gold medals at the first-ever modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. After easily winning the singles tennis tournament, Boland teamed up with German singles-opponent Friedrich Traun to win a second gold in the doubles tournament. Though Boland technically won gold for the United Kingdom, he was a prominent member of the Irish Nationalist party, and he convinced the flag-raisers at his doubles medal ceremony to raise Ireland’s green harp flag instead of the UK’s Union Flag. He died on St. Patrick’s day in London in 1958.

7) Dan O’Keeffe (6/2/1907, Fermoy, County Cork): Any list of great Irish athletes must include Gaelic football, an uber-popular Irish amateur sport that’s basically a fusion of soccer and handball. O’Keeffe was a goalkeeper for County Kerry from 1931-1948, leading them to 13 Munster titles (think a conference title in the NCAA tournament) and seven All-Ireland championships. Not only the greatest goalkeeper in Gaelic football history, O’Keeffe may have permanently changed the team’s mentality: in the 43 years before O’Keeffe, Kerry had only won nine championships. With and after O’Keeffe, they won 27.

Continue reading Ireland’s Contributions to the World of Sports

DigBoston: UConn NCAA Story Live

Did these UConn Huskies fans go home happy or sad? Find out at DigBoston.com!

I root for two teams in the NCAA Tournament every year: Wisconsin and UConn. And while Harvard’s game will be next Monday’s 52 Games, I thought as a 52 Games Overtime story it’d be fun to check out a non-local school with a big Boston alumni chapter.

I picked UConn, and I definitely made a good decision.

Check it out!

And if you didn’t see my new Wide Month of Sports that got printed this week, here’s a link to the online version.

Garnett Leads Celtics Over Warriors in Defenseless Third Game of Road Trip

Kevin Garnett shoots over David Lee during Wednesday's Celtics-Warriors game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Sometimes in basketball you can win shooting worse than your opponent. You can get beat in the paint, you can turn the ball over too much. You can even do all three and still win.

Because sometimes, all you need is Kevin Garnett.

Garnett scored 24 points on 11-for-15 shooting, including a jumper with the shot-clock expiring and 5.7 seconds left in the game. The Boston Celtics beat the Golden State Warriors, 105-103. The Celtics have now won two in a row on their eight-game road trip.

Garnett’s Jumper Highlights Lights-Out Fourth

Garnett scored 12 of his 24 in the fourth quarter. No Warrior could contain him in the post or on jump-shots: Even when power forward David Lee knocked Garnett to the court early in the fourth, Garnett still sank his shot. The resulting free throw put the Celtics up 89-81 with just over 10 minutes left.

Rookie guard Klay Thompson‘s third three-pointer (part of a career-best 26-point night) helped cut the lead to three, but Garnett then scored the next two Celtics buckets on two passes – one alley-oop – from Rajon Rondo, who finished with a “serviceable” 14 assists.

Still, Warrior reserve Brandon Rush‘s free throw tied the game 95-95 with just over four minutes left. Rondo broke the tie with an offensive rebound and basket, then found Brandon Bass (22 points, nine rebounds) twice for slam dunks (plus two free throws) and a 103-97 lead.

A fired-up Nate Robinson (20 points, 11 assists) helped tie the game 103-103 with 30 seconds left, setting up Garnett’s eventual game-winner. Paul Pierce used up most of the shot-clock, penetrating inside and drawing in several defenders before kicking it out to Garnett.

Garnett had just over a second to beat the buzzed, and he swished his shot from 20 feet away. He didn’t miss a single second-half shot.

The Warriors got off one more shot, but Robinson missed from deep, and Garnett grabbed both it and the game-ending inbound pass.

Continue reading Garnett Leads Celtics Over Warriors in Defenseless Third Game of Road Trip

Boston.com: Danvers-Wareham Boys’ Basketball State Semi-Final Story Live

I have the Danvers-Wareham D-3 state semi-final to thank for sitting me so close to the TD Garden parquet. After the game, I actually stepped on the hallowed floor. Read more (about the game) at Boston.com/yourtown/news/danvers.

Monday night at the TD Garden, I found myself closer to the actual parquet than ever before. Boston.com sent me to cover the Division 3 state semi-final between the Danvers Falcons and Wareham Vikings, and a press table just behind the far sideline put me right up against the action.

Consequently, I think the video I produced may be my best yet, at least in terms of appearance and detail. And because of how post-game interviews were arranged, this story has some quotes from actual players, instead of my usual coaches-only style.

Check it out!

DigBoston: BU Women’s Lacrosse Story Live

These two women’s lacrosse players may look goofy, but on the field they’re all seriousness. Read more at DigBoston.com.

I love writing about sports I’ve never encountered before. The research (i.e. reading the Wikipedia article), the preparation (i.e. watching a YouTube video or two), it all makes me feel like I’m developing further as a sports writer, not just using the same tricks over and over again.

So needing a live story for this week’s 52 Games before heading to bars for the next few weeks for postseason college basketball games, I chose BU’s women’s lacrosse game Saturday against Notre Dame.

Check it out!

Red Sox Spring Training Update (3/5-11): Offense Clicking Early

Daniel Butler hits a three-run home run during the seventh inning of Monday's spring training game against the Minnesota Twins. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

One thing is clear a week into Spring Training: this Red Sox team can hit. In going 4-2-1 this week, the Red Sox averaged over five runs a game. Even with Jose Iglesias missing Sunday’s “B” game with a strained right groin, this crop of hitters look just as formidable as the league-leading 2011 Red Sox did.

Non-roster shortstop Pedro Ciriaco wins this week’s “Spring Training Player of the Week,” going 5-for-8. How did everyone else do? Here’s your weekly Red Sox Spring Training Update!

Red Sox 10, Twins 2

The Red Sox put Monday’s game away with a four-run second, beginning with a double by Darnell McDonald, who later scored on a single by non-roster invitee Josh Kroeger. A wild pitch moved Kroeger to second, Kelly Shoppach singled him to third, then Kroeger scored on RBI groundout. Shoppach scored on another wild pitch from Jason Marquis, and an RBI groundout by Ryan Sweeney chased Marquis and put the Red Sox up 2-0.

David Ortiz (2-3) led off the third with his first home run, and Boston scored five more in the top of the seventh to make it a 10-2 game. An RBI single by Will Middlebrooks (2-3) and an RBI ground-rule double by non-roster player Nate Spears made it 7-2, then Dan Butler‘s homer made it 10-2.

Clay Buchholz started and earned the win, pitching two scoreless innings while giving up just two walks with two strikeouts. Buchholz’s injury last year completely derailed both the pitching rotation and probably the season. A healthy Buchholz makes Boston’s top three starters as good as there is in baseball.

Red Sox 5, Orioles 4

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia showed exactly whey they should be the Red Sox’s first two hitters Tuesday, with Ellsbury doubling to start the bottom of the first and reaching third on a single by Pedroia. Ellsbury then scored on a sacrifice fly from Ryan Lavarnway. Lavarnway added an RBI single immediately following Adrian Gonzalez‘s RBI double in the third.

Daniel Bard started, and Alfredo Aceves relived him in the third. Two players expected to play big roles on the Red Sox this season, Tuesday they combined for four no-hit innings, striking out four and giving up just one walk.

Red Sox non-roster pitcher Alex Wilson gave away the lead with four runs allowed over 1+ innings, getting lifted with none out and a man on second in the sixth. Clayton Mortensen came on, stranded the runner and threw 2 1/3 innings in which he gave up just one hit and struck out four.

With two out and Spears on second in the seventh, Ciriaco doubled to put the Red Sox up 5-4. Michael Bowden set the last five Orioles down in order for the save and a win for Mortensen.

Continue reading Red Sox Spring Training Update (3/5-11): Offense Clicking Early

Ooh Baby, I Like it Raw

My older posts may have flaws, but at least none of them will ever wind up as THIS.

Every so often I like to look back on some of my original posts to Goose’s Gabs. I do this to see how my writing has changed, how much BU (and its associated student-loan debt) benefited me.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve dramatically reduced my reliance on passive voice. I’ve cut my sentences and paragraphs in half. I edit better and produce, tighter, cleaner copy. I’ve developed a distinctive voice without sacrificing observation, and I cover a much broader scope of topics than I used to.

So should I then do something with my older posts?

Not many know this, but I see Goose’s Gabs primarily as an advertising tool. I want this blog to show off my writing skills to prospective employers. When they read it, they should say, “Wow, this Matt kid can really write! Let’s give him a job! And a company car!”

By leaving my older columns (basically pre-September 2010) intact, I run the risk that an editor reading them may see me as more amateurish a writer than I currently am. Perhaps dumping them entirely – only leaving the gems, as it were – would be advisable.

I could also try rewriting them or, to save time, rewriting at least a few. It might be interesting to try preserving the nuggets of quality while cleaning up the bulk of the muddy, too-long texts. Make it seem as if I rocked from Day 1.

Or I could just leave them as is.

When I was a kid, my friends and I spent a couple of months playing Sim City 2000. For a few days, all we did was try to fix mistakes we had made earlier, such as getting running water to all the houses.

When we finished the city and looked back over the charts, we saw the equivalent of a seven-year period in which the city made no money, barely grew in population and showed a high level of dissatisfaction from the citizens. During our highest periods of growth our early mistakes still showed, but overall the city looked the most robust. Moving forward, it seems, is usually the answer.

Continue reading Ooh Baby, I Like it Raw

Two-Goal Third Gives Bruins First Winning Streak Since January

Johnny Boychuk takes a shot in the third period of Thursday's game against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The Bruins won, 3-1. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins have rarely played “complete” hockey over the last two months, alternating losses with frustrating, indecisive victories. And on those few occasions when they submitted a complete game, they never followed it with a second.

No more.

The Bruins capitalized on two goals in the final period Thursday night at TD Garden, beating the Buffalo Sabres, 3-1. The Bruins have now won two in a row for the first time since Jan. 10 and 12.

Boychuk, Bruins Finish Game in Style

The Bruins came out of the second intermission playing confident, aggressive hockey. They dominated the opening two minutes of the third, firing five times at Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth and forcing him to make two saves. Enroth survived the early scare, but his team could do little to give him any breathing room, with the Bruins defense’s back-pressure limiting the speedy Sabres’ scoring opportunities and man-advantages.

The Bruins played an incredibly physical game, out-hitting the Sabres 30-23, including 12-7 in the third. The biggest hit came from Johnny Boychuk, who midway through the period leveled left winger Thomas Vanek with a completely clean, open-ice check just inside the Sabres’ zone.

As a reward for his Garden-energizing hit, Boychuk scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with just over seven minutes left in the game. Jordan Caron began the sequence with a takeaway in the Sabres’ zone, forcing defenseman Jordan Leopold to dive to block Caron’s shot.

Leopold blocked the puck with his stick, but the puck slid to an awaiting Boychuk in the right circle. Boychuk ripped a slapshot just under the crossbar for the 2-1 lead. Caron got the assist on Boychuck’s first goal since early December.

Continue reading Two-Goal Third Gives Bruins First Winning Streak Since January

Boston.com: Arlington Catholic-Woburn Girls’ Hockey Story Live

Since Somerville is out of the playoffs entirely, my editor at Boston.com asked if I wanted to cover some other schools for different YourTown sites. I of course said “yes, absolutely.” My first, on Tuesday’s MIAA quarter finals between the Arlington Catholic Cougars and Woburn Tanners girls’ hockey teams, is now online.

Check it out!