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

What’s this? A blog post? From me? Indeed it is, I am back to write again! It feels like it’s been a month since I have written about sports (maybe it has?) on here. There should have been a couple of nights in-between where I should have written for the day, but decided to sleep earlier and get a good night’s rest. I have been busy with work lately and I’m trying to organize my resume for next year at school, but I should have at least made a better attempt to blog. I had also been hired at MSG Varsity in Hoboken to be an intern for the fall semester at school, which I am really excited to start once August rolls around. It will be my first internship as a Broadcasting major, so it should be a new experience for me to look forward to. But it is no excuse for me not to blog. I know that if I continue to write often I will be that much better at something I may want to do in the future as a Broadcasting major. So let’s get to it!

Oh, I almost forgot. Happy Independence Day!

MLB: After coming fresh off the DL, Marcus Thames pinched-hit a game winner in the bottom of the eleventh to give the Yankees a 7-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the second walk-off win for the Yanks, and each time Thames got the whipped cream pie-in-the-face. The last time was against the Red Sox when he hit a game-winning home run off closer Jonathan Papelbon back in May. Thames’ full-count, broken-bat single scored Robinson Cano from second and culminated a back-and-forth affair in the third extra-inning game in six meetings this year between New York and Toronto. Brett Gardner added an inside-the-park home run in the sixth to help the Yankees’ offense going. One day after erupting for 11 runs in one inning, New York’s offense posed a more consistent threat on Sunday. The Yanks scored in five different innings and could have had a much bigger day on the scoreboard if Blue Jays’ backstop Jose Molina weren’t so adept at blocking home plate. The Yankees needed the offensive support for Phil Hughes. On the day he learned he would be an American League All-Star, Hughes struggled to keep the powerful Blue Jays in the park. Lyle Overbay and Adam Lind hit a pair of long solo home runs, and Wise clanged a three-run jack off the right-field foul pole in the fifth. Hughes had given up only four home runs in his first 11 starts and has now served up seven in his last four outings. Jorge Posada was also taken out in the top of the seventh after spraining his left ring finger on a foul tip. Manager Joe Girardi said he would not catch at Oakland on Monday against the A’s. Javier Vazquez (6-7, 5.11 ERA) pitches for the Yankees and takes on Ben Sheets (3-7, 4.98 ERA) of the A’s. First pitch is at 10:05 p.m. on YES.

The Mets wrapped up their series against the Washington Nationals on this Fourth of July and seemed to have never wanted an inning to end. The Mets scored six runs when the Nationals were on the verge of escaping an inning, and New York held on after jumping to an eight-run lead in a 9-5 victory. Jason Bay drove in four runs, Angel Pagan drove in two more and Ike Davis added a two-run homer for New York, which came into the game batting .213 with two outs, the lowest mark in the majors. All-Star third baseman David Wright contributed two hits and scored two runs. Hisanori Takahashi breezed through five innings, allowing two hits and tying a career high with seven strikeouts—including five consecutive in the third and fourth innings. Francisco Rodriguez, who lost Saturday’s game when he gave up three ninth-inning runs, had another shot. He came in with two runners on and none out in the ninth and retired all three batters he faced to record his 20th save. He was the fifth Mets reliever. The Mets travel back home to take on the Reds at Citi Field. Mike Pelfrey (10-2, 2.93 ERA) takes the mound for the Mets to face Aaron Harang (6-7, 5.02 ERA) of the Reds. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. on SNY.

MLE: The 95th annual Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest took place on Sunday without a familiar face to compete against three-time champion Joey Chestnut. But, Kobayashi was in attendance to watch Chestnut gobble down 54 hot dogs to give him the mustard belt and a fourth straight win in the contest. Kobayashi did not enter the contest this year because he did not want to sign a contract with Major League Eating (MLE). After the contest, Kobayashi rushed the stage and had to be retained from police. He was arrested for resisting arrest and was taken into police custody. I would love to enter this contest and just eat two hot dogs, just so I could have a meal and be known for eating just two hot dogs. A man can dream…

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.