Like last week, we have lots to talk about, so let's get on with it...
- It had to end sometime, but the Seattle Mariners put an end to the Boston Red Sox' home-field advantage on Friday night. The Sox' defense sure helped by committing three errors in an 8-0 shutout at Fenway Park.
- Before the Sox took the field that night, Major League Baseball came down on the Sox and members of the Tampa Bay Rays for the previous evening's reenactment of the Battle of Guadalcanal – minus the gunboats. For the Olde Towne Team, Coco Crisp got the brunt of the punishment with a seven-game suspension, along with six games for pitcher Jon Lester and three for first baseman Sean Casey. Rays hurler James Shields, the instigator, got a six-game sitdown, while both Edwin Jackson and Jonny Gomes will sit out five games each. A four-game ban awaits outfielder Carl Crawford, who got some shots in on Crisp during the fracas, while Akinori Iwamura, the impetus of the brawl, will sit out three games.
- The last time New York Yankees fans saw Joba Chamberlain on the bump earlier than he was usually seen, he lasted just over two innings on a pitch count somewhere around 50. On Sunday, the former set-up pitcher lasted longer and fared better, walking only one batter, scattering five hits, striking out as many batters, and giving up two earned runs in over four innings of work in the Yanks' 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.
- For the record: the day before Joba's successful outing, Johnny Damon was the toast of the Bronx as he went 6-6, the last hit being a walk-off RBI base hit to cap a wild Saturday matinee at The Stadium, 12-11, wherein the Bombers had to come back from four-run deficits ... twice.
The Thrill of Victory
- Maybe they should send Brandon Webb his second consecutive Cy Young Award five months ahead of time this year; the head of the Arizona Diamondbacks staff gave up the Pittsburgh Pirates' only run on Friday night in a 3-1 win over the Buccos in the 'Burgh. For his efforts, Webb got his eleventh win of the year, best among all hurlers in the bigs this season.
- Later on, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie pitcher Hiroki Kuroda recorded his first MLB shutout, proving his dominance with 11 strikeouts in a 3-0 blanking of the Chicago Cubs.
The Agony of Defeat
- Justin Verlander's 2008 campaign has all but assured that there will be a new Cy winner in the American League when this season's over; further edification came despite a seven-inning performance wherein he gave up three of the Cleveland Indians' four runs and struck out twice as many hitters as he walked in a 4-2 loss in Motown. Verlander's ninth loss of the year tied him with Barry Zito for most losses among big league pitchers.
- Speaking of whom, the San Francisco Giants' 126 million-dollar man gave up only three earned runs on seven hits in a 9-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Sunday, only his second win of the year.
Celtics on a roll
- It seemed as though the Boston Celtics would win Game 2 of the NBA Finals going away to Southern California. But, in the fourth quarter, the C's got "cute", as head coach Doc Rivers put it, and it almost turned ugly as the Los Angeles Lakers crawled back into contention behind Kobe Bryant's 30 points and eight boards. However, Paul Pierce scored 28 and was El Perfecto from beyond the arc, and Leon Powe got 21 off the bench in a 108-102 win and a two-zip series lead.
Big Brown goes down
It had been thirty years since Affirmed won the Belmont Stakes, and thus the Triple Crown of American horse racing. With main rival Casino Drive an early-day scratch from the 140th Belmont with a bruised hoof, Big Brown had a fighter's chance to clinch the Crown. However, Big Brown just couldn't take the excitement, as well as the 95-degree heat (35 Celsius), as he finished dead last in the nine-horse field. The winner and spoiler was the Nick Zito-trained Da' Tara, who left the gate at astounding odds of 36-1.
Even without England and their supporters, the 2008 UEFA European Championships got underway this past weekend in Austria and Switzerland. Here are some highlights from the first two days of competition:
- The Swiss opened up the tourney by getting shut-out in front of their home fans at Basel's St. Jakob Park, 1-0, against the Czech Republic. Striker Václav Svěrkoš, who subbed in for Jan Koller got the honor of scoring the lone goal of the match, while Chelsea F.C. goalkeep Petr Cech stopped six shots. The next day, the Austrians recorded a goose egg against Croatia, wherein Luka Modrić made history by scoring the fastest penalty in EURO history, doing so in the fourth minute.
- While Cristiano Ronaldo has yet to hear from Real Madrid, he himself was not heard from in Portugal's 2-0 win over Turkey. Pepe started the barrage in the 61st minute, while Raul Meireles put the nail in the coffin during injury time.
- Considering he was born on the other side of the Oder River, it's sort of ironic that Lukas Podolski scored both goals in Germany's 2-0 win over Poland on Sunday. The heavily-favored Germans hope that this will augur well in their quest for the EURO 2008 championship.
UFC 85 from the Armchair
- With no championship matches on the card, the main event for the UFC's first visit to London's O2 Arena pitted American Matt Hughes and Brazilian Thiago Alves. The latter prevailed with a knee to Hughes just over a minute into the second round.
- On the undercard, Alves' fellow countryman Fabricio Werdum scored a TKO in a shortened one-round match against Brandon Vera, while Michael Bisping did his fellow Englishmen proud with a TKO over Canadian Jason Day.
- Kyle Busch was a very busy man over the weekend, racing in all three of NASCAR's main series. On Friday, after qualifying for the Sprint Cup race in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Busch helicoptered to Texas Motor Speedway, where he finished behind Ron Hornaday in the Craftsman Truck Series race. The next day, it was off to Nashville Superspeedway and the Nationwide Series race there, finishing in the middle of the pack while Brad Keselowski got a sweet first addition to his trophy case with a guitar trophy. Finally, it was back to Coal Country, where Busch got snake-bitten when he crashed into the wall in the early going and met the same fate as Big Brown at the Belmont: a last-place finish. The trouble started, for the record, when Busch crashed his primary car during Happy Hour on Saturday and had to start at the rear of the field in a backup car.
- Scott Dixon reinforced his points lead in the IRL with a win at Texas Motor Speedway, the New Zealander's second win of the season.
- Talk about home-field advantage! Dani Pedrosa got his second win of the year, all of which coming in front of his fellow Spaniards, at the MotoGP Catalonian Grand Prix in Barcelona, Spain. Interesting stat: Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo have as many wins combined as Italian Valentino Rossi, who finished second in Catalonia.
- Last year in Montreal, Robert Kubica was recovering from a horrific wreck while Lewis Hamilton basked in his first career Formula One series win. This time around, Hamilton got involved in a pit road incident with Kimi Raikkonen that took both drivers out of contention and cleared the path for the Pole's first-ever checquered flag at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Odds and Sods
- Not much to write home about from the French Open finals; on the women's side, Serbian Ana Ivanovic ousted Russian Dinara Safina in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3. The following day, Rafael Nadal made it a threepeat against Roger Federer, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.
- Boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr. ended his boxing career (or, if Sugar Ray Leonard is any indication, temporarily) at age 31 on Friday. Mayweather decided to go out on top with a record of 39 wins and no losses, 25 of which came by way of knockout.
- Proof of the old adage, "Dead men tell no tales": David Jacobs, alleged to have given steroids to NFL players, whose names he was to have divulged in the near future, took his own life on Friday. Police in the Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas discovered Jacobs' body at his home there.
- Dwight White was the first of the weekend's two obituaries; one of the members of the Pittsburgh Steelers' famed "Steel Curtain" defense that was the bulwark of the team's 1970s Super Bowl dynasty, passed on Friday at age 58 due to complications from back surgery. White was the second member of that group to die this year – Ernie Holmes lost his life in an automobile accident in January – and the third member of the Stillers family to pass away in 2008, with the passing of legendary commentator Myron Cope at the end of the following month.
Famed ABC sportscaster Jim McKay: In the first (and probably last) posthumous Dude of the Weekend, McKay is honored here for his hosting the seminal sports anthology series Wide World of Sports, as well as his coverage of the Triple Crown, and twelve Olympic Games, notably the 1972 edition which saw the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village, bringing the news of their murder with three simple words: "They're all gone." McKay himself departed from this life on Saturday at age 86 due to natural causes. Condolences to his family (including Sean MacManus, president of CBS Sports and CBS News), colleagues, and others associated with him.
Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Oddell Thurman, who will sit out his third consecutive season for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. Considering his previous offenses, we paraphrase Charles Barkley in saying, "He a knucklehead!"
The end, finally!
Until next week, as always, let's all be good sports...