Jon Fazio's Sports and Thoughts Blog
Today in Sports

Rumors: I figured I’d make this special section just for today to keep you updated on a couple rumors that are being reported on ESPN and local sports outlets. One rumor is that Shaq is most likely going to sign with the Boston Celtics next season to join the big 3. The sources say that it will be announced late Tuesday night or Wednesday if he decides to play for the Celtics. The Atlanta Hawks were originally rumored to be in talks with Shaq as far as a month ago to have him play there, but as of right now the Celtics seem to be in serious discussion with him to try and land him a contract.

Another big rumor being reported is that former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre is planning to retire from football and move on with his life (sound familiar?). Head coach Brad Childress has yet to hear from Favre about retiring from football. However, multiple players on the Vikings claimed that he sent out text messages and told them that, “This is it.” Neither Favre nor the Vikings claim that these messages were sent out at this time. Both of these rumors should clear up within the next 24 hours, but who knows.

MLB: The Yankees are now looking at something they haven’t seen since June 12… a different division leader. The Tampa Bay Rays have claimed sole possession of first place in the AL East after they defeated the Minnesota Twins 6-4 and got help from the Toronto Blue Jays as they went on to beat the Yanks 8-2 Tuesday night, who now fall a game behind the Rays. It’s been twelve games now since Alex Rodriguez hit his 599th career home run after going 0-3 in the game. It is safe to say lately the pressure has gotten to A-Rod after everyone in the stadium is snapping pictures after every pitch during his at-bats hoping to capture his 600th dinger. Here’s another number for you: The Yanks have lost three straight, which matches the longest losing streak of the season for the team. The Yankees got off to a promising start as Mark Teixeira connected for a two-run home run in the first inning to give the Yanks a 2-0 lead. But after that, Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero settled down and shut down the Yanks. Romero threw a complete game, giving up two runs on only two hits and one walk in his bid for the win. Yankees starter Dustin Moseley couldn’t keep up with Romero, giving up five runs in seven and a third innings in his first losing effort this season. Wednesday’s series finale will be a very interesting day for A-Rod, for it will be three years exactly that he hit his 500th home run at the old Yankee Stadium against the Kansas City Royals. Phil Hughes (12-4, 4.07 ERA) gets the start for the Yankees as he takes on Blue Jays’ starter Shawn Marcum (10-4, 3.24 ERA) in a game where the Yanks look to bounce back and reclaim the AL East. First pitch is at 1:05 p.m. and can be seen on YES.

The Mets looked to finally take advantage of gaining ground in the NL East as they took on the division-leading Atlanta Braves Tuesday night. Although it looked like the Mets were heading for defeat once again, Jeff Francoeur changed the script and added his own drama by launching a solo home run in the ninth inning to propel the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Braves. R.A. Dickey kept the Braves in check on a rainy evening, a knuckleballer’s nightmare, pitching six innings and giving up two runs on five hits while walking four. Braves’ starter Derek Lowe also pitched well, throwing six innings and giving up one run on six hits while striking out three. That run came off of Jose Reyes, who doubled in the third inning to score Luis Castillo from second. Then in the seventh inning after Francoeur drew a walk, Chris Carter came off the bench to pinch-hit for Dickey and hit an RBI single to tie the game at 2. All that to set up late-inning heroics from Francoeur to put the Mets at six and-a-half games behind the Braves. This is exactly what this team needed if they want to make a run for the playoffs this season. Time will tell if this is the spark they needed for them to win often, or just be a footnote in another disappointing season for the Mets. Mike Pelfrey (10-5, 4.10 ERA) takes the hill for the Mets in Wednesday’s series finale and takes on Kris Medlen (6-2, 3.66 ERA) of the Braves. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. and can be seen on SNY.

Today in Sports

It was a very calm day in the world of sports. The Fifa World Cup was the only thing that was somewhat of an interest in the Tri-State area, and that was early in the day. The Yankees and Mets had off today while the Celtics and Lakers fly back to L.A. to prepare for Game 6 at the Staples Center. So this will probably be one of the shortest posts I’ve ever done.

Soccer: The Netherlands, with a little bit of help from their opponent, won their opening round game against Denmark in Group E by a final of 2-0. The Dutch collected an own goal in the 46th minute from Denmark and scored a goal in the 85th minute to collect their win.

Coming off four straight exhibition losses in the buildup to the tournament, the Japanese earned their first World Cup victory on foreign soil Monday when Keisuke Honda scored in the first half for a 1-0 victory over Cameroon in Group E. Japan is tied with the Netherlands atop the group.

The defending World Cup champion Italy team fell behind Paraguay in the first half and lost their star goalkeeper in the second half. But Daniele De Rossi tied the game for Italy in the 63rd minute after a miscue by goalkeeper Justo Villar notching the contest at 1. The score would remain 1-1 after regulation ended in Group F.

New Zealand and Slovakia face off in Group F on Wednesday beginning at 7:30 a.m. Then Ivory Coast takes on Portugal in Group G at 10 a.m. and finally powerhouse Brazil will play against North Korea also in Group G at 2:30 p.m. All games can be seen on ESPN.

Today in Sports

NHL: After a spell of 49 years without a championship, the Chicago Blackhawks have won the 2010 Stanley Cup by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime. It ends the longest active championship drought in the NHL. The final goal was scored by Patrick Kane, who snuck a shot past Michael Leighton 4:10 into overtime, shocking the hockey world as they awaited to see in the replay if the puck crossed the line since the red light didn’t flash after he shot the puck in the net. Once the official word was given, the Chicago Blackhawks started to celebrate on ice and to claim their prize. Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player. Blackhawks goalie Antii Niemi saved 21 shots in Game 6, but perhaps none bigger than the two saves in overtime to avoid a Game 7 matchup back at the United Center in Chicago. His record through this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs was an impressive 16-6. For the Flyers, they will be remembered as the team that always fought back. They beat the odds to even be in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals and showed that they can be contenders against the best teams in the NHL. But in the end, they came up short of a Stanley Cup and go home with a bitter taste in their mouth following this game. The Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup Final since 1975.

MLB: The Yankees continued their series against the Orioles in rainy conditions as CC Sabathia looked to once again take advantage of the O’s. Each of Sabathia’s four most recent wins this year have come against Baltimore as the Yankees went on to win their tenth straight win against the Orioles by a final score of 4-2. The win didn’t come easily for the Yankees. They made some nice defensive plays to keep the birds from scoring more than two runs in the game. A nice defensive play by second baseman Robinson Cano kept a Nick Markakis hit on the infield and saved a run in the seventh inning, setting up Sabathia for his key moment of the game by striking out Luke Scott swinging to leave the bases loaded. Sabathia’s final line: seven innings pitched giving up two earned runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out eight in his bout for a win. Another game-saving play from the Yankees came in the bottom of the eighth inning when left fielder Kevin Russo, replacing Brett Gardner who was suffering from an injury, made a diving catch on an Adam Jones line drive, which may have been a big play because Joba Chamberlain allowed a double to the next hitter, Matt Wieters. The Yankees got to Orioles starter Chris Tillman for three runs in six innings, one of which was unearned. Curtis Granderson brought in a run with a fourth-inning sacrifice fly, and Cano touched Tillman in the sixth for a RBI single that tied the game at 2, part of Cano’s third consecutive three-hit game. New York took the lead one batter later when Jorge Posada hit a ground ball that went for a fielder’s choice, as the Orioles recorded a force out but Cesar Izturis threw the double-play relay past first base, allowing Alex Rodriguez to score the Yankees’ third run. Francisco Cervelli added a two-out RBI single in the eighth to give the Yanks an insurance run and a cushion for Mariano Rivera to record his 14th save of the season. The Yankees close out their series at Camden Yards in their next game as A.J. Burnett (6-3, 3.72 ERA) takes the mound to face Jake Arrieta of the Orioles, who is making his major league debut against the Yanks. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. on YES.

The matchup between the San Diego Padres and the New York Mets was postponed due to rain. The teams will make up for it in a day-night doubleheader this afternoon and evening. Latos and Santana are still going to face each other in the day game, which starts at 1:10 p.m. Jon Garland (6-3, 2.68 ERA) will take the mound for the Padres to face Mets’ pitcher Jon Niese (2-2, 4.28 ERA) for the second game of the double-header starting at 7:10 p.m. Both games can be seen on SNY.

NBA: Avery Johnson and the New Jersey Nets have reached an agreement to make Johnson the new head coach for the worst team in the NBA. The Nets have not yet released the official news yet, but Johnson has confirmed that it is going to happen some time very soon. The current ESPN analyst coached Dallas for three-plus seasons, going 194-70 in the regular season and 23-24 in the playoffs. He guided the Mavs to the NBA finals in 2006, but was fired after a first-round playoff series loss to New Orleans in 2008. Johnson is what the Nets were looking for, a proven winner with experience to make a team contenders in the league. I think this was a good move and a step forward for the Nets organization. Now who will they take for their third pick of the NBA Draft…?

The Lakers will take on the Celtics at 9 p.m. in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at the TD Garden on ABC as the Celtics look to tie the series at 2 a-piece before heading back to L.A. The Lakers will look to use their offensive attack of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher to propel them to a commanding 3-1 lead in the series and head back to their home turf for Game 6.

Today in Sports

MLB: “Oh Curtis! You’re something sort of grandous!… The Grandyman can! The Grandyman can!…” If anybody has any idea what I’m talking about, you might want to ignore this link. If not, check out one of the worst calls in baseball history, courtesy of John Sterling of the Yankees Radio Network. This atrocity was made on April 7, 2010 against the Boston Red Sox. Why am I referencing this now? Curtis Granderson hit a grand slam against the Baltimore Orioles in their first game of a three-game series at Camden Yards, and God only knows what Sterling called during that home run last night (If anybody knows it or has the link, send it to me). Granderson’s home run was one of three from the Yankees tonight as they went on to trounce the Orioles 12-7. Nick Swisher hit a two-run home run in the first inning to start the Yankees offense and Mark Teixera hit a grand slam in the seventh inning to give the Yankees double-digit runs in the game. Teixeira, who came in batting .211, went 3 for 4 with two walks. Swisher entered in a 1-for-14 skid and ended up with three hits, as well as Robinson Cano. Phil Hughes pitched well, giving up three runs and nine hits in six innings to earn his second victory over the Orioles in a week. His eight wins is tied for the AL lead and matches his career high. After being held to seven runs in dropping two of three to Toronto, the Yankees got 15 hits and improved to 9-1 against Baltimore this season. Baltimore is 1-3 under interim manager Juan Samuel and has been outscored 31-9 in the three defeats. CC Sabathia (5-3, 4.14 ERA) gets the nod to start for the Yankees against Orioles’ right-hander Chris Tillman (0-1, 7.71 ERA). First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. on YES.

The Mets took on the Padres at Citi Field to start their three-game stint and Mets fans are getting used to the phrase, “I like Ike!” And for good reason: not only does Ike Davis flash the leather at first base with his crazy catches by the dugout, he hit the game-winning home run for the team last night as the Mets went on to win 2-1 in 11 innings. The Mets picked up the win behind Mike Pelfrey’s great pitching performance, allowing one run on five hits while becoming the first Mets pitcher to last nine innings this season while picking up the no-decision. A key moment in the game came in the seventh inning when Jose Reyes came up to bat with two outs. He took a 1-0 curveball and launched the ball to left field that was originally ruled as a ground-rule double. But the umpires went in the clubhouse to review the call and overturned it, awarding Reyes a solo home run to tie the game at 1. The Padres put a runner on second with one out in the eighth and ninth and failed to score each time. David Eckstein struck out and Headley flied out to end the eighth. Nick Hundley struck out and Will Venable grounded out to end the threat in the ninth. The Mets have now won four in a row and nine consecutive games at Citi Field, improving to 23-9 overall at home. However, they still have their woes when they are away, posting a 8-18 record on the road. But for now, they continue their series at home against the Padres as they send out their ace Johan Santana (4-2, 2.76 ERA) to face Mat Latos (5-4, 3.26 ERA). That game starts at 7:10 p.m and can be seen on SNY.

And in Washington D.C., all eyes were on the Washington Nationals’ rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg as he made his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nationals right-hander pitched seven innings and gave up only two runs on four hits and struck out 14 batters, which set a Nationals single-season record surpassing John Patterson’s 13 strikeouts, to get his first win by a final score of 5-2. Strasburg, who did the job without looking at scouting reports, threw 94 pitches, 65 for strikes, and didn’t walk a batter. The righty retired his final 10 batters, striking out his last seven. This kid is going to be something, barring any injuries, for years to come. And tonight is just the start of his young career. There will be plenty more pitching performances like this from this kid, just you watch!

NBA: The Lakers took on the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden last night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. And with a little help from the bench from Derek Fisher, the Lakers went on to beat the Celtics by a final of 91-84. Fisher collected 16 points tonight for the Lake Show, but the crucial 11 points in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in this game. Sure, there was Kobe Bryant, who led the team with 29 points. There was Lamar Odom, who broke out in this game with 12 points and playing tough defense that seemed to be lacking in this series against Boston. And there was Pau Gasol, who stood up against Glen “Big Baby” Davis and posted up against him all night and swung the momentum of the game to the Lakers. But it was Fisher’s efforts off-the-bench that gave the Lakers a 2-1 series lead in the Finals. After breaking a final’s record for hitting 8 three-pointers in one game, Ray Allen was ice cold, shooting 0-13 and missing eight shots behind the arc. Allen tries to look for his shot against the Lakers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday at 8:30 p.m as the Celtics look to tie the series and head back to L.A. The Lakers will look to go up 3-1 and try to close it out on their home turf.

NHL: Very quickly, Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals takes place tonight as the Flyers try to stay alive at home as they take on the Blawkhawks who are looking to close out the series and hoist the trophy on enemy lines. The Flyers are taking their chances with Michael Leighton behind the net in this game, who has been the Flyers’ savior in the playoffs this year. The puck drops at 8 p.m. on NBC.

NFL: All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis returned to practice with the Jets on Tuesday, despite not having a new contract in place. Revis was back for the voluntary organized team activity in a good-faith gesture after sitting out last Thursday. That is the only practice Revis missed this offseason, and he wasn’t fined because it was voluntary. Mark Sanchez fully participated in this practice also, which was his first time this offseason due to his left knee surgery in February. The team confirmed Tuesday night that the second-year pro fully participated in 11-on-11 drills after being limited to individual and passing drills since workouts began several weeks ago. Team doctors have told Sanchez he’s coming along faster than most who have had the same procedure.

Soccer: The World Cup kicks off this Friday at 10 a.m. as South Africa takes on Mexico to start the 2010 festivities. I don’t follow soccer all that much, but I will try to cover this event as much as possible. I’ll probably just list the countries final scores and go in-depth a little more with the U.S. and the final game of the Cup, maybe Italy as well if I’m feeling generous. This is a big event, so i figure this is appropriate to cover.  

Today in Sports

MLB: The Yankees finished off their three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium today as CC Sabathia took the mound and did something he hasn’t done in his last six starts: win a game. Sabathia pitched seven strong innings, allowing three runs on three hits and striking out seven as he lead the Yankees to a 6-3 victory and a sweep of the O’s. Alex Rodriguez hit his 591st career home run, a two-run shot in the bottom of the third inning to provide some of the Yankee offense in the game. The Yankees now improve to a season-high 14 games over .500. New York knocked around Baltimore starter Kevin Millwood for six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. It didn’t help out the Orioles’ head coach Dave Trembley as reports circulated that this may be the final game for him as head coach. No official move has been made yet. The Yankees now travel over the border to Toronto as they face the Blue Jays while the O’s look for a win in Boston as they begin a three-game set against the Red Sox. Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett (6-3, 3.28 ERA) starts tomorrow night and faces Brett Cecil (5-2, 3.81 ERA) of the Blue Jays. First pitch is at 7:07 p.m. on YES.

NBA: Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Finals kicked off tonight as the Boston Celtics faced the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. These two teams define rivalry in the NBA, and the Lakers struck first tonight as they went on to beat Boston 102-89. Kobe Bryant led the assault for the Lakers as he went on to score 30 points. Pau Gasol added 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers who showed poise tonight to look for back-to-back championships. Ron Artest also came up big for the Lake Show, scoring 15 points against the Celtics. Los Angeles outrebounded the Celtics 42-31 and put up a strong shooting percentage until a fourth-quarter slump, again excelling at the their two biggest areas of strength in this postseason. For the Celtics, Paul Pierce scored 24 points and Kevin Garnett added 15 points after a slow start. And if anyone is keeping track, Lakers coach Phil Jackson’s teams in Los Angeles and Chicago have won 47 straight playoff series after winning Game 1. Game 2 is on Sunday at 9 p.m. on ABC live from the Staples Center.