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Double Win for Wake Forest!
[Posted: Wed. a.m.]
Baseball Quiz: The baseball draft begins June 4. From 2009-2012, four current top players in the big leagues, all of whom should make this year’s All-Star squads, were their respective No. 1 overall selections in the draft. Name them. Answer below.
--The conference finals haven’t exactly been scintillating. But Monday night, LeBron James did it again, 44 points, as he led Cleveland to a 111-102 victory over Boston, in Cleveland, to even the series at 2-2, after it looked like the Celtics were going to roll following the first two games.
But the series now heads back to Boston for Game 5 tonight at TD Center, where Boston is 9-0 this postseason. LeBron and the Cavs will be trying to steal one...keep the game close until the end.
James, by the way, in the Game 4 win recorded his 25th career postseason game with at least 40 points – his sixth this postseason.
--In the Golden State-Houston series, Sunday, the Warriors destroyed the Rockets in Oakland, 126-85, to go up 2-1 in the Western Conference finals. The 41-point margin of victory was the largest in the Warriors’ playoff history, eclipsing a record set 70 years ago when the franchise was located in Philadelphia. Steph Curry had 35 points for Golden State.
So Houston was cooked, finis, done.
But then the Rockets beat the Warriors in Oakland, 95-92, in a bizarre game last night, where the scores for each quarter were 28-19 GS, 34-18 H, 34-17 GS, 25-12 H.
The Rockets recovered from a 12-0 start and a 12-point deficit early in the fourth quarter before their defense – not exactly what Houston is known for – evened the series. The Warriors were just three-of-18 shooting in the final quarter.
James Harden had 30 for the Rockets and Chris Paul, held scoreless in the first quarter, had 16 in the second on his way to 27.
Back to Houston for Game 5, the series surprisingly knotted at 2-2.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
--Tonight is a biggie for sports fans...Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals, Washington at Tampa, thanks to a bruising 3-0 win by the Capitals at home on Monday to stave off elimination. Can Alex Ovechkin come through in the clutch? He’s one win away from that elusive Stanley Cup finals.
Since 2008, no team has played in more Game 7s than the Capitals – and they are 3-7 during the past decade of the Ovechkin era.
--The New York Islanders hired Lou Lamoriello to guide their franchise and his power will be absolute. He comes in with the title ‘president of hockey operations,’ and it is up to him to decide the fate of GM Garth Snow and coach Dough Weight.
This is an awesome move if you’re an Islanders fan. Lamoriello, who had been a senior adviser in Toronto, is old, but it was he who guided the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cup titles.
The Islanders are finally getting a new arena (at Belmont Park...though it will take time) and eventually a rejuvenated identity back on the Island, where they belong. So now Lamoriello has to convince pending free agent John Tavares to stick around.
If you’re a hockey fan, a renewed Islanders-Rangers rivalry is only good for the area, so said the Rangers fans who remembers attending many a game in the 1970s and 80s between these two. [“Pot-vin sucks!”]
--The Yankees have been on quite a roll since their 9-9 start, 22 of 26, 31-13, after Monday.
But in outslugging Texas 10-5 in Arlington, Monday night, the Yankees made history hitting five homers and five doubles; the third consecutive game they hit at least four homers, a first in franchise history*, and their third with at least eight extra-base hits, also a franchise first and done just three previous times in Major League history (by the 1935 Washington Senators, 1999 Cleveland Indians and 2003 Boston Red Sox).
Monday, second baseman Gleyber Torres, 21, became the second youngest Yankee ever behind Mickey Mantle to have a two-homer game, and Torres, who was one of the top three prospects in the game last season, now has six home runs in his first 25 big-league games, along with a .321 batting average. Power wasn’t supposed to be a big feature of his game, at least not this soon.
Meanwhile, the Yankees could use another piece in the starting rotation and with the team being in Texas, there is lots of talk they could go after lefty Cole Hamels, 2-4, 3.48, this season, with a manageable contract. He’d be a good fit.
And whaddya know, Hamels is now 3-4, 3.38, after throwing seven innings of two-run ball in stopping the Yankees, at least temporarily, last night, 6-4, though the Yanks hit three more home runs, including No. 7 by Torres (average up to .330). So expect the drumbeat to pick-up Hamels to grow in New York.
*The overall team record for home runs in a season is still held by the 1997 Mariners with A-Rod, Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner, Paul Sorrento and Edgar Martinez at 264. A-Rod was just 21 that season and hit 23. The Yanks are on pace for about 260 after yesterday. Also, when you look at team stats, you’ll see the Yanks with one more game than their W-L record indicates...that’s because of a suspended game last week that will be played out in June.]
--The Red Sox kept pace with the Yankees, Boston now 33-15, a ½-game ahead of New York, 31-14, after a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay last night, Chris Sale improving to 5-1, 2.17.
--There are so many young talents in the game today (similar to the PGA Tour), and we saw another spectacular example Monday in Washington, as 19-year-old Juan Soto of the Nationals homered in the first at-bat of his first start, a three-run shot that helped propel the Nats to a 10-2 win over the Padres.
This was the first player born in 1998 to appear in a major league game, and he became the first teenager to homer in the majors since Bryce Harper in September 2012.
[Last night, in a 2-1 Nats win over the Padres, Soto was 1-for-1, but with three walks.]
--As one article after another bemoans the fact that this season there are more strikeouts than singles, the Major League batting average is .245, with baseball never finishing below .250 in a season with designated hitters, and just three times in the past 100 years overall (1967, 1968 and 1972). .245 is the lowest since ‘72’s .244.
Arizona, through Monday, is batting .217! Eegads.
--Former Mets pitcher Matt Harvey went six innings on Tuesday, allowing just one run for his first win of the season as the Reds beat the Pirates 7-2.
--The College Baseball regular season has wound down and now it’s conference tournament play this week, then the College World Series.
Baseball America’s Top Ten a/o May 21....
2. Oregon State...time to break out the Beaverwear...
5. North Carolina
7. Texas Tech
10. North Carolina State
13. Florida State
The Belmont Stakes
Justify’s ownership group – WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing – also owns the third-place Kentucky Derby finisher Audible, and Audible is expected at the Belmont, though Elliott Walden, president and chief executive of WinStar, said the group needed more time to think whether they wanted to risk spoiling their own Triple Crown party. It’s a tough decision.
As for Justify, trainer Bob Baffert said the horse came out of the Preakness in good shape, but they’ll be monitoring his workouts the next two weeks.
But assuming Justify is in the Belmont field, that gives Baffert a shot at a record 15th Triple Crown win, Baffert currently tied with Bravazo’s trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas is very pleased with Bravazo’s second-place finish last Saturday.
Baffert failed to pull off Triple Crown sweeps with the Derby and Preakness winners Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002, before he met success with American Pharoah.
--I posted last time prior to the end of the rain-delayed AT&T Byron Nelson Classic in Dallas last Sunday, and for the record, 21-year-old Aaron Wise took the title with a final round 65, 23-under for the week.
Fluke? Hardly. The kid finished tied for second at his last tournament, the Wells Fargo Championship, two shots behind Jason Day. And consider that Jordan Spieth, a member of the new venue for the Byron Nelson, Trinity Forest Golf Club, finished 12 shots behind Wise. It was Wise’s 26th career start on tour. He’s now exempt the next two years, just a huge confidence booster for any player.
--And on the Champions Tour, 54-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez won his first senior major, the Regions Tradition, and his first major overall in his very solid career. Jimenez secured his victory over Steve Stricker (and Gene Sauers and Joe Durant) by three strokes.
After it was over, Jimenez said, “We’re going to have a big party. Instead of (pouring) out the champagne, we’re going to put in the champagne.”
As a piece in Golfweek put it, “The cigar-smoking, aviator shades-wearing, fine wine-drinking Jimenez holds a reputation as golf’s most interesting man thanks to his extracurricular activities and overall carpe diem vibe.”
Jimenez is a 21-time winner on the European Tour and four-time Ryder Cup participant, and now he has five PGA Tour Champions victories.
--Monday, Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho was the medalist in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship in Stillwater, Oklahoma, a dramatic 4-under back-nine to post a two-shot victory.
Kupcho thus became the first Demon Deacon woman to win the NCAA title, joining Curtis Strange (1974), Jay Haas (1975) and Gary Hallberg (1979).
[The women’s team title is yet to be determined.]
*Speaking of Wake Forest, the Demon Deacon men’s tennis team played for its first-ever national title on Tuesday, against Ohio State, and last night, Wake Won!!!
“Capping a season in which the Wake Forest men’s tennis team occupied the No. 1 spot from the get-go, the Demon Deacons defeated No. 3 Ohio State, 4-2, to capture the 2018 NCAA National Champions for the first time in program history, at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.”
It is Wake’s ninth team championship, joining men’s baseball (1955), men’s golf (1974, ’75, ’86), men’s soccer (2007) and women’s field hockey (2002, ’03, ’04).
--Commissioner Roger Goodell called for federal regulations that would govern sports wagering.
In a statement, Goodell asked Congress for “uniform standards for states that choose to legalize sports betting” in order to protect fans from “bad actors.”
So Goodell is saying it shouldn’t be left up to New Jersey legislators – or lawmakers in other states – to protect “the integrity of our sport.”
Oh, puh-leeze. What a [jerk]. Of course Goodell and the other leagues now just want federal legislation to ensure they get their cut.
Goodell said federal laws should include, at a minimum, four core principles: substantial consumer protections; allowing sports leagues to protect their content; access for fans to reliable data; and monitoring powers for law enforcement “to protect our fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad.”
Well the NFL (and other leagues) never asked for an integrity fee from the casinos in Nevada (where sports gambling has long been legal), and the league already has systems in place to monitor bad behavior and irregular activity.
Plus the casinos in Vegas, and presumably sports books across the country that will now spring up, have every reason to protect the product.
--My Jets traded Christian Hackenberg, their 2016 second-round pick, one that I panned royally at the time because this was a guy who regressed throughout his Penn State career, to the Raiders for a conditional seventh-round pick on Tuesday. Hackenberg never played a down in a regular-season game for the Jets. What a freakin’ bust.
--NFL owners ratified changes to the kickoff in a last-ditch effort to save the play before possibly eliminating it from the sport altogether. The new rules prohibit would-be tacklers from getting a running start before the ball is kicked. They require eight of the 11 players on the receiving team to line up within 15 yards of the restraining line – 10 yards from where the ball is kicked – between the teams and they create an initial no-hitting zone between the teams. All forms of “wedge” blocking by two or more players standing side by side were also eliminated.
In March, owners ratified a rule to make it a penalty for a player to lower his head and use his helmet to initiate contact with an opponent.
But back to the kickoff, doesn’t it seem like there could be more big returns...like a lot more?
--We note the passing of football legend Billy Cannon, the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner from LSU, the school’s only Heisman winner, which is kind of shocking.
Cannon led the Tigers to a national championship in 1958 and won the Heisman the following year, highlighted by his tackle-breaking 89-yard punt return that beat Ole Miss 7-3.
Cannon went on to a successful NFL career as both a running back and tight end with Houston, Oakland and Kansas City. In 1966 as a tight end with the Raiders, he had just 14 receptions, but for 436 yards! 31.1 avg.! Good lord!
Billy Cannon’s legend was tarnished some in the 1980s when he served 2 ½ years in federal prison for counterfeiting after a series of bad investments left him broke.
But forever he is an LSU legend, through and through. RIP.
--From the Associated Press: “A government wildlife worker who recently landed her dream job researching grizzly bears in a Montana mountain range is recovering from a bear attack that left her with a fractured skull and other serious injuries.
“US Fish and Wildlife Service seasonal field assistant Amber Kornak was attacked on May 17 while working alone near a stream in the Cabinet Mountains, agency spokeswoman, Jennifer Strickland said.
“While being mauled, the 28-year-old Kornak managed to reach a canister of Mace-like bear spray and ended the attack, inadvertently spraying herself in the process.
“She then walked to her work vehicle and drove to find help.”
Aside from a fractured skull, Kornak is suffering “from severe cuts to her head, neck and back, said Jenna Hemer, a friend.”
--Speaking of the West, we note the passing of actor Clint Walker, a former merchant seaman and real-life deputy sheriff who roamed the region as a towering, solitary figure on “Cheyenne,” the first hour-long western on television. He was 90.
Walker also appeared in the “The Dirty Dozen,” an entertaining war flick, and other movies, but was best known for “Cheyenne,” which appeared on ABC from 1955 to 1963.
-- Don’t forget the Champions League final, Liverpool v. Real Madrid, Saturday at 2:45 eastern time on Fox.
[Arsenal named a new manager, Unai Emery, formerly head man at Paris St.-Germain and Sevilla.]
Top 3 songs for the week 5/22/76: #1 “Silly Love Songs” (Wings...sucks...) #2 “Love Hangover” (Diana Ross) #3 “Fooled Around And Fell In Love” (Elvin Bishop...in my top three all time)...and...#4 “Boogie Fever” (Sylvers...godawful...) #5 “Get Up And Boogie (That’s Right)” (Silver Convention...ditto...) #6 “Welcome Back” (John Sebastian...great tune...great show....) #7 “Happy Days” (Pratt & McClain...never got into this series...) #8 “Misty Blue” (Dorothy Moore) #9 “Shannon” (Henry Gross...song about former Cardinals outfielder / third baseman Mike Shannon...or maybe not....) #10 “Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again” (Barry Manilow...one of his better ones...)
Baseball Quiz Answer: No. 1 overall selections in the 2009-2012 amateur draft.
2009 – Stephen Strasburg (Nationals)
2010 – Bryce Harper (Nationals)
2011 – Gerrit Cole (Pirates)
2012 – Carlos Correa (Astros)
Next Bar Chat, Monday.
Go Danica Patrick at Indy!