Jon Fazio's Sports and Thoughts Blog
Today in Sports

MLB: The Yankees travelled back to the Bronx to take on the Toronto Blue Jays in the first game of a three game series at Yankee Stadium and await home run number 600 from Alex Rodriguez. A.J. Burnett got the start for the Yankees and seemed to be in control at the beginning of the game. During the first four innings, Burnett had only threw 54 pitches and made one mistake by giving up a solo home run to Vernon Wells. But in the fifth inning, things got ugly for Burnett. He gave up seven runs and six extra base hits during the inning that he couldn’t even finish, eventually handing a loss to the Yankees by a final of 8-6 and find themselves in a first place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays while Alex Rodriguez still sits on 599 career home runs after going 0-5 in the game. The Blue Jays tagged Burnett for six hits that included a second-deck two-run home run from Edwin Encarnacion and five doubles which scored five more runs. The seven runs allowed tied the most the Yankees had surrendered in a single inning this season. The Yanks did have some fight in them after that inning, posting four runs to cut the Blue Jay lead to two after Nick Swisher hit a solo shot in the ninth, his second home run of the game. But as A-Rod stepped up to the plate with two outs in the ninth hoping to extend the game and put 600 in the books, he grounded out to shortstop Yunel Escobar to end the game. The Yankees, now tied for first in the AL East, send out Dustin Moseley (1-0, 3.24 ERA) to start against Ricky Romero (8-7, 3.46 ERA) of the Blue Jays. First pitch will be thrown at 7:05 p.m. on YES.

The Mets opened up their three-game series down in Atlanta against the Braves and looked to be a pitcher’s duel on paper as Johan Santana faced Tim Hudson on Monday night. Even though Santana did strike out a season-club-high eleven strikeouts on the night, he gave up four costly runs to lose the game 4-1 and start the short road trip on the wrong foot. The Braves got to Santana early, scoring three runs off him in the first inning to give Hudson enough room to work with throughout the game. Omar Infante started off the inning with a single that led to a Jason Heyward walk. On the next play, Mets second baseman Luis Castillo dropped Chipper Jones’ potential double-play ball on his exchange from glove to hand. Although there’s no telling what might have transpired had Castillo been able to turn a clean double play, the Braves rallied for three runs on Matt Diaz’s RBI double and Rick Ankiel’s two-run single. In four starts since the All-Star Game, Santana has given up 14 hits, 10 runs, four walks and has an ERA of 22.50 in the first inning, and most of that came in the last two starts. As a comparison, in 19 first-half starts he also gave up 10 earned runs and that was still an above-average ERA of 4.74 for him. The lone run from the Mets came from Carlos Beltran, who doubled off Hudson in the fifth inning. The Mets did chase Hudson out after six innings of work, but could not get anything going against the Braves bullpen that included Billy Wagner, former closer of the Mets. The Mets now fall to a season-high seven-and-a-half games behind the Braves in the NL East race with only 56 games left to play. The Mets can’t afford to lose any more games if they still want to contend for the playoffs. They do so by sending out knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey (7-4, 2.32 ERA) out to the mound to start against Braves’ starter Derek Lowe (10-9, 4.58 ERA) on Tuesday night. First pitch is set at 7:10 p.m. on SNY.

Today in Sports

MLB: The Yankees traveled to Cleveland on Monday to take on the Indians in a four-game series at Progressive Field and possibly witness history being made. But that will have to wait another night as Alex Rodriguez failed to reach 600 career home runs as he went 0-4 on Monday. But Curtis Granderson stole the show tonight for the Yanks as he belted a two-run home run to give them a 3-2 victory over the Tribe. The home run, which came in the eighth inning, locked up a win for starter Javier Vazquez as he went on to pitch seven solid innings to earn his ninth win of the season. The win didn’t come easy for the Yankees though, as they had to come-from-behind twice to put them at a Major League best 63-35. Travis Hafner put the Indians on the board in the second inning when he connected on an 0-1 pitch from Vazquez, a solo shot and his ninth of the season. Nick Swisher responded for the Yankees in the fourth inning as he added a solo shot himself to tie the game at that point. Then in the bottom of the sixth, Shin-Soo Choo stroked a two-out double into the right-center field gap, sending Michael Brantley home standing up from first base. But that was all for Vazquez, who improved to 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA over his past nine starts. Jake Westbrook also had a strong outing for the Tribe, pitching eight innings of work and striking out five batters while walking two. But the Yankees bullpen held it together, with Dave Robertson inducing a big double play out of Asdrubal Cabrera in the eighth and Boone Logan coming on to retire Choo, before Mariano Rivera locked down the ninth for his 21st save of the season. CC Sabathia (13-3, 3.18 ERA) will start Tuesday night for the Yankees as he looks to go back to his dominant self after giving up six runs and walking eight in his last two starts. He faces Josh Tomlin, who makes his Major League debut for the Indians after going 8-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 20 appearances for Triple-A Columbus this season. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. on My9.

The Mets had an off day Monday, and boy do they need it. They’re coming off a 2-9 road trip, which ended Sunday as they were blanked 1-0 by the Dodgers. They were shut out in four of their first eleven games out of the All-Star break and scored two runs or fewer seven times. They’ve gone 16 innings without plating a run. They come home and take on the Cardinals, who come in with a 7-3 record in the last 10 games and giving the Mets a challenge at home. The Mets are seven-and-a-half-games behind the Braves and are now tied for third as the Marlins beat the Giants Monday 4-3, posting a 50-49 record after the win. Jon Niese (6-4, 3.54 ERA) takes the mound for the Mets and faces Adam Wainwright (14-5, 1.94 ERA), who has been dominant for the Cardinals once again this season. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. on SNY and MLB Network (Local markets subject to blackout).

And finally, Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays pitched a no-hitter Monday for the first time in franchise history, beating the Detroit Tigers 5-0. He faced the minimum 27 batters, only allowing a walk in the second inning to Brennan Boesch in his 106th career start. This is now the 5th no-hitter of the season, which is now officialy titled as “The Year of the Pitcher.”

NFL: It seems that the Cincinnati Bengals are in talks with Terrell Owens to sign a contract with the team. Owens, after coming off a quiet 2009 season, mainly due to a less-than-great quarterback, could join league’s bad boy Chad Ochocinco and create chaos on and off the field. The team offered Owens’ agent a contract on Monday and said that it was up to T.O. to decide if he wants to sign or negotiate with another team. Team officials say that he has until Wednesday to make a decision.

Today in Sports

NBA: The Los Angeles Lakers are your 2010 NBA Champions! This is the Lakers 16th championship in their franchise and now only one shy of the most championships in the NBA, that belonging to the Boston Celtics. Kobe Bryant, the series MVP, scored 23 points to win the Finals 83-79. However, he only shot 6-24 from the field Kobe has now won five NBA championships and is now one shy to Michael Jordan. Ron Artest added 20 points for the Lake Show, stepping it up late in the fourth quarter to give them the edge. This was a classic Game 7 in an NBA Final. This had about the same intensity as a college basketball game during March Madness, but there weren’t really any star performers in Game 7. It was a sloppy game on offense on both sides, but the defense stepped up and gave the Lakers the edge to win the championship. The Celtics did put up a fight throughout the game, holding a lead for most of the game. Paul Pierce had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the game and Kevin Garnett added 17 points, but they missed their chance twice after going back to L.A. for Games 6 and 7 to try and clinch the series. This is the third time that the Lakers beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals after meeting twelve times in their finals history together. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson won his eleventh title overall, who is the most winningest playoff coach in NBA history. He may not return to be head coach for the Lakers next season and may consider retirement after this season. But for now, he can celebrate with his team and look at his great accomplishments as a head coach in his career. He can thank his key players for that success.

MLB: The Phillies closed out a rubber-game match between the Yankees Thursday and seem to be taking the right step towards playing like the team that they were last year. Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick out-dueled Andy Pettitte, throwing seven solid innings and giving up one earned run on his way to a win by a final score of 7-1. Shane Victorino homered and the Phillies got the bats going in the ninth by providing Kendrick four runs to give him padding for his bid for a win. Kendrick only gave up four hits, which were all singles, and left with a 3-1 lead. Although there was no official save in the game, the fielders in a sense saved the game for Kendrick with some remarkable catches. In the bottom of the sixth with two outs and runners on the corners, Nick Swisher popped up down the left-field line that looked to be reaching for the seats. But Placido Polanco hustled over from third base, reached over the tarpaulin and made a great backhanded grab while reaching in the seats to prevent Swisher from seeing another pitch and end the inning. Other great defensive plays came from Jason Werth, who ran into the gap to make a diving catch on Robinson Cano’s liner into the gap that ended the fourth, and Jose Contreras, who made a behind-the-back grab on Curtis Granderson’s sharp comebacker in the eighth inning. Carlos Ruiz ended an 0-for-23 slump by doubling twice. He scored in the ninth when, after sacrificing earlier in the same spot, Wilson Valdez fooled the Yankees by swinging away for a single. Soon after Damaso Marte sailed a pitch that broke a sign on the backstop, Polanco and Ryan Howard had sacrifice flies and Raul Ibanez hit an RBI double. The Yankees now prepare for part II of the Subway Series against the Mets Friday as they kick off in the Bronx. Javier Vazquez (6-5, 5.43 ERA) goes out for the Yankees to face Hisanori Takahashi (5-2, 3.48 ERA) of the Mets, who are looking to impress the MLB after sweeping the Orioles and Indians on the road. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. on My9.

As mentioned before, the Mets took on the Indians and continued to impress as they swept them by a final score of 6-4. R.A. Dickey had the knuckleball dancing all over the plate Thursday as he went on to win his fifth straight start for the Mets, who have now won seven in a row. Dickey went six innings, allowing three runs — two earned — on seven hits and striking out seven. Jose Reyes scored twice on three hits playing with a gash on his right hand throughout the game. It clearly didn’t seem to bother him and the rest of the team, who are now 8-1 during interleague play this year. Rookie Ike Davis also drove in two runs for the Mets and Francisco Rodriguez struck out the side in the ninth to pick up his 15th save in 18 tries. Now the Mets are rolling, heading into the Bronx with only one noticeable flaw… They have yet to prove that they can consistently win against the best teams in baseball. But they will be given the chance Friday when they face Javier Vazquez of the Yankees, who dropped two-out-of-three against the Phillies in their last series. Mets fans can get their dose of play-by-play on SNY (which is probably better than My9 [it’s actually true, shhh] at 7:05 p.m.).

Fifa World Cup: Real quickly, Mexico topped France 2-0 in Group A on Thursday. Mexico’s substitutes Javier Hernandez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco each scored in the match. They now need at least a tie to advance in the next round of the World Cup.

Argentina put up four goals against South Korea as they went on to win 4-1 in Group B. With Gonzalo Higuain scoring a hat trick and Lionel Messi in the thick of the action, Argentina is on the brink of advancing in the World Cup. Argentina is alone in first place, three points ahead of both South Korea and Greece with a game left in group play.

Also in Group B, Greece defeated Nigeria by a final of 2-1. Greece claimed their first World Cup victory after Vasilis Torosidis scored on a loose ball in the 71st minute after a mistake from Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama to make history for Greece, which had lost all four previous World Cup matches, including three in 1994. In order for the Greeks to advance, they must at least draw to the Argentines, who have been dominant thus far in the World Cup.

The World Cup continues Friday as the U.S. takes on Slovenia at 10 a.m. in Group C after reluctantly tying England last Saturday 1-1. Catch that game on ESPN. Germany faces Serbia in Group D at 7:30 a.m. on ESPN as well while in Group C, England plays Algeria at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

Today in Sports

I was contemplating not writing tonight because I’m waking up early tomorrow, but I realized that a month ago today I started this blog. When I saw today’s date before, I thought to myself, “It’s been a month already?” When I started, I just had the intentions of doing a quick summary of the regional sports and playoff games happening across the States. But after the first day or two, I decided to go the extra mile and write as if these posts were going to be in a morning paper. And I knew if I had done that, my writing skills could be a lot stronger. And so far, I believe it has (right?). I also noticed some other people that created blogs after I started up on here, and that’s great (don’t be afraid to admit you started one because of this blog either). I think everyone should create a blog and write about what interests you (if you have the time and like to write that is…). Time is flying by for me and it scares me that I’ve been out of school for a month. It feels like I left yesterday (anyone who was with me the last night at Montclair knows what’s up). So I decided to stay up and cover sports for today for that reason. On another note, I also have to get in touch with some of my college friends this week (if any of you guys are reading this, whaddup!) and see how they’re doing.

MLB: The final game of the series between the Astros and Yankees proved to be yet another dominant performance from the Yankees. Jorge Posada hit another grand slam and Robinson Cano added a solo home run as the Yankees went on to win 9-5 and sweep the Astros in the Bronx. Posada is the first player to hit grand slams in back-to-back days since Carlos Beltran did it in July 2006 for the Mets. Posada’s slam provided enough support for Phil Hughes to pick up his ninth win of the season, but not by much. Hughes gave up four runs with two outs in the top of the sixth on a two-run single by Tommy Manzella and a two-run homer by Kevin Cash to cut the lead to 7-5. Before that sixth inning, Hughes had allowed only a Carlos Lee sacrifice fly, and he hadn’t given up a hit with a runner on base. But in the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees added two insurance runs from Mark Teixera and Nick Swisher, hitting RBI singles to go up and keep the score at 9-5. Hughes went on to pitch five and two-thirds, giving up four earned runs on seven hits issuing two walks and striking out four batters. Shortly after their victory, the Yankees tied Tampa Bay for first place in the AL East when the Rays lost to Florida 6-1. The Rays had sole possession of first for 51 days. Both teams stand at 40-23 on the season. The Yankees have an off day Monday to prepare for their three-game series against the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies for the first time since the New York Yankees won their 27th World Series Championship last November. And boy do we have a pitching matchup on Tuesday. CC Sabathia (6-3, 4.01 ERA) gets the nod to pitch for the Yankees to face Phillies’ ace Roy Halladay (8-4, 1.96 ERA) in a true pitcher’s duel. First pitch starts at 7:05 p.m. on My9, don’t miss it.

Jason Bay rediscovered his lost swing, David Wright flashed his old power stroke in dominating fashion and the New York Mets recorded their first road sweep of the year. An 11-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday gave the Mets eight wins in nine games, put them seven games over .500 and provided a sense of relief that a team that once seemed incapable of winning on the road had turned a critical corner. TMS has not been reported from the team since last week. Wright hit his first of two, two-run homers and Chris Carter added a three-run blast in the first inning off Orioles right-hander Kevin Millwood, who lasted five and one-third innings and gave up eight runs on eleven hits. Bay also homered as New York improved to 5-1 in Interleague Play this year. The Mets hadn’t swept a three-game road series since beating the Milwaukee Brewers from Sept. 1-3, 2008. Mike Pelfrey went six innings and gave up three earned runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out one, enough to earn his ninth win of the season. The Mets have an off day on Monday as they travel to Cleveland to face the Indians in a three-game set at Progressive Field. Johan Santana (4-3. 2.96 ERA) takes the mound for the Mets to face off against Justin Masterson (2-5, 4.74 ERA) of the Tribe. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. on SNY.

NBA: I had made an error in my last post. I had said that Game 5 would go back to L.A., but the NBA Finals format was 2-3-2, three being in Boston, so Game 5 on Sunday was played in Boston at TD Garden. This was a classic game between classic rivals. The Lakers had Kobe Bryant on his A-game tonight, scoring 38 points for the team, but the Celtics outplayed the Lake Show on both sides of the court as they went on to beat L.A. 92-86. Defense certainly wasn’t a priority for the Lakers, who allowed 46 points in the paint in an 87 possession game. The Lakers still had their opportunities, in part because of the extra chances afforded to them by 16 offensive rebounds and Boston managed just 19 points in the final quarter. But Kobe was carrying the team, and the team simply just didn’t show up offensively and defensively to put in the extra effort to win. Paul Pierce scored 27 points for the Celtics, his best performance of this year’s finals. Kevin Garnett added 18 points with 10 rebounds and Rajon Rondo had 18 points, eight assists and five rebounds to help Boston become the first team in the series to win two games in a row. Game 6 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles, and a victory then or in Game 7 in L.A. on Thursday would give the Celtics a record 18th NBA title. Oh, and for the stat freaks, the Celtics have never blown a 3-2 lead in the NBA finals. Game 6 begins at 9 p.m. on ABC.

Soccer: The World Cup continued Sunday as Slovenia took a 2-point lead in Group C as they went on to beat Algeria 1-0. The U.S. and England have one point each in Group C and trail Slovenia by two points. Meanwhile in Group D, Ghana went on to defeat Serbia 1-0 and the Germans put on a clinic against the Australians as they went on to score four goals and beat the Aussies 4-0. The World Cup continues Monday as Denmark faces the Netherlands, Japan takes on Cameroon and Italy, the 2006 World Cup champions, defends their title against Paraguay. Coverage of the games starts at 7:30 a.m. and can be seen on ESPN throughout the day.

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.