Jon Fazio's Sports and Thoughts Blog
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: Interleague play continued across the Major League’s Friday as the Houston Astros visited the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the first game of a three-game series in the Bronx. Andy Pettitte took the mound for the Yankees and accomplished only two other Yankees’ have done: win over 200 games as a pitcher. Pettitte hurled 7 1/3 innings, giving up two earned runs on four hits while striking out four en-route to his 200th win as a Yankee by a final score of 4-3. Pettitte joins a very excusive club, joining Whitey Ford and Red Ruffing as the only other starters on the Yankees who have won more than 200 games. They both have won 231 games each for the pinstripes during their pitching careers. Pettitte didn’t need much offensive support in his outing, but in the first inning Francisco Cervelli hit a two-out, two-run single in the Yankees’ three-run inning to give Pettitte enough padding for him to work. Mark Teixera added an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth to ultimately give them the edge to win. Houston cracked into Pettitte in the second inning, as Tommy Manzella connected for a two-run double down the left-field line, but Pettitte settled in and wasn’t touched again until the eighth, when Derek Jeter bobbled a double-play ball and helped set up Jeff Keppinger’s sacrifice fly. Chamberlain struck out Lance Berkman swinging in an even more key at-bat to end the threat, helping preserve the lead for Pettitte. Then in the ninth, “Enter Sandman” to pitch a 1-2-3 inning to collect his 15th save and preserve Pettitte’s 200th win for the Yankees. Interleague play continues Saturday as the series continues between the Astros and the Yankees. Wandy Rodriguez (3-8, 4.95 ERA) takes the hill for the Astros as he faces Yankees’ starter Javier Vazquez (5-5, 5.63 ERA) at 1:05 p.m. on YES.

The Mets traveled to Baltimore to take on the Orioles for a three-game series at Camden Yards. R.A. Dickey baffled the O’s with his knuckleball for seven innings, giving up one run and seven hits to earn his fourth straight win by a final score of 5-1. The right-hander had a career-high eight strikeouts which included Corey Patterson three times and Adam Jones twice. Chris Carter hit his first career home run in the fourth inning, a three-run shot to give the Mets a 4-0 lead at the time. David Wright added three hits and two RBIs for the Mets, who won for the sixth time in seven games and improved their road record to 9-18. New York has not yet captured a road series and hasn’t recorded consecutive wins on the road since July 25-26 in Houston. Baltimore went 3 for 17 with runners in scoring position and struck out a season-high 12 times. The Orioles’ lone run came when Patterson scored on a wild pitch by Dickey in the seventh. Orioles’ starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed four runs and seven hits in seven innings in his loss. The Mets send out Hisanori Takahashi (4-2, 3.80 ERA) to face Orioles’ starter Brian Matusz (2-6, 5.10 ERA) beginning at 7:05 p.m. on SNY.

Soccer: The Fifa World Cup has officially kicked in as Mexico faced South Africa and Uruguay took on France. I was looking forward to watching these games, and when I did, I didn’t seem to have as much interest as I thought I would have. Mexico and South Africa tied at one and Uruguay and France squared at zero after the first day of the World Cup, and I think that is why I didn’t have much interest. Now, I know soccer has a rich tradition around the world, probably more-so than baseball in America. However, I still think that soccer needs to adopt a shootout in all games so a team can be declared a winner. Two reasons:

1. It is so much more exciting. When a team ties, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You feel indifferent about the situation. If you enforce the shootout rule, it is so much more compelling to watch to see who actually wins the game.

2. It makes the advancement of teams into further rounds easier. Pretty simple concept, more wins and less losses=advancing to the next round. More losses and less wins=you’re out of the tournament.

I know this may seem crazy to soccer fans, but my only and effective defense is this: hockey does it, so why doesn’t soccer?

The U.S. faces off against England at 2:30 p.m. on ABC along with the Korea Republic versus Greece at 7:30 a.m. and Argentina taking on Nigeria at 10 a.m. with those two games on ESPN.

NHL: The Chicago Blackhawks returned home after their Stanley Cup win to a crowd of over two million people cheering on their home team as they celebrated their trophy win in a parade the city held for them. Before the rally, the Blackhawks rode through the streets of Chicago in double-decker buses as fans roared and confetti spilled from the rooftops. It’s been 49 years since the Blackhawks won a Stanley Cup Final so the fans were more than deserving to finally have a parade to celebrate the team’s accomplishments this season. Hats off to the Blackhawks for a wonderful season.

College Football: Nebraska has reported that they are moving out of the Big 12 and entering the Big Ten Conference. Nebraska is the Big Ten’s first addition since 1990, when Penn State joined, and it comes just six months after the league announced that it was looking at expansion. Nebraska’s departure is a potentially crippling blow to the Big 12 and the biggest move yet in an offseason overhaul that will leave college sports looking much different by this time next year.