Mitch's Sports: Yankees Overtake Red Sox For First As Kimbrel Crumbles; Celtics Dispatch Sixers
Well, it's official. The NY Yankees are now the best team in baseball.
One night after tying the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the majors, the Yankees passed their rivals, taking sole possession of first place in the A.L. east with a come from behind 9-6 win in the Bronx, rallying against Boston closer Craig Kimbrel.
The Red Sox led 6-5 heading into the bottom of the eighth when the Yankees put two on with one out, and that prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to bring in Kimbrel to try and get a five-out save, a plan that backfired almost immediately when the first batter Kimbrel faced tripled to drive in two runs and give the Yankees the lead.
That batter was lead-off man Brett Gardner, who'd been struggling at the plate, entering the game with a sub .200 batting average, but Yankee manager Aaron Boone showed faith in Gardner, and that faith was rewarded with the triple to right center. And the Yankees weren't done, because Aaron Judge came up next and took Kimbrel deep for a two-run homer that accounted for the 9-6 final, as Yankee Stadium broke into delirium at having beaten the Red Sox for a second straight game, and making then winners of 17 out of their last 18 games.
Neither starter in this one was particularly effective. Rick Porcello and Masahiro Tanaka each went 5 and a third, giving up five and four runs respectively, but it was the Boston bullpen that faltered, particularly Matt Barnes in the eighth followed by Kimbrel, who clearly is not comfortable unless he's pitching the ninth in a save situation. Porcello was starting in place of David Price, who was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome after feeling some tingling in his pitching hand.
The Red Sox will try and salvage the final game of the three game series with the Yanks tonight with lefties Eduardo Rodriguez and CC Sabathia squaring off for Boston and New York respectively.
The NY Mets achieved an embarrassing feat in their 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Cincinnati Reds last night, pulling off the baseball equivalent of hockey's too many men on the ice penalty. Actually, it's much worse than that. Too many men on the ice infractions aren't all that rare in hockey, but you almost never see a baseball team penalized for batting out of order. But that's just what happened to the Mets, who sent Wilmer Flores up to the plate in the middle of what looked like a promising first inning rally, and when he got to the dish, the Reds let the umpires know: "Um, it's not his turn." The line-ups are delivered to the umps before the game so it's not like they won't notice if you switch things around. So it's almost certain that first year Mets manager Mickey Callaway will never forget that rule again after watching his team's rally come to a screeching halt with that automatic out for batting out of turn.
Adam Duvall added insult to embarrassment when he ended the game for the Reds much later leading off the bottom of the tenth with a solo, walk-off home run.
The Toronto Blue Jays couldn't muster a hit against Canadian native James Paxton on Tuesday night, but they made up for it with a four-run eighth inning last night against the Seattle Mariners for a 5-2 win at the Rogers Centre. Justin Smoak had the game winning double for the Jays.
To the NBA playoffs where the Boston Celtics youth movement and total team effort is paying dividends almost no one expected when superstars Gordon Hayward and then Kyrie Irving were unable to play due to injury. Now the next man up Celtics are heading back to the eastern conference finals for the second straight year, following their 114-112 win over the Philadelphia 76ers last night, completing a five game dispatch of the Sixers, who were favored to win the series.
But the Celtics got huge contributions once again from youngsters Jayson Tatum, who scored 25 points, Jaylen Brown, who poured in 24, and Terry Rozier who added 17 in a game that saw numerous lead changes and wasn't decided until defensive specialist Marcus Smart intercepted a desperation pass with 2 seconds left to preserve the two point Celtics lead and the series victory.
Joel Embiid had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers, but will have to wait at least another year before trusting that "the process", as they call it in Philly, can get his team to the next level.
Meanwhile, the expectation-defying Celtics will now face the world's best player once again, LeBron James, and the team he keeps saving from themselves, the Cleveland Cavaliers for the right to go to the NBA Finals. The Celtics have home court advantage because they finished the regular season ahead of Cleveland, thanks to having Kyrie Irving leading the charge before he got hurt just before the playoffs. Game one is Sunday in Boston, and as amazing as these young, undermanned Celtics have been, I can't see them getting by LeBron, who finds another gear any time his team shows signs of slowing, and I see the Cavs taking the series in six. But then again, I had Philly beating Boston in five, so take my predictions with less than even a grain of salt.