Archives for posts with tag: Preakness

These are the series this team would have lost last year.  Two thirds of their way through a nine game divisional gauntlet, the 2016 Nationals remain in front of the NL East pack after taking two of three from the Mets and two of three from the Marlins.  The load doesn’t lighten up with three more games against the Mets and four against a St. Louis team still smarting from a sweep earlier this year against the Nats.

Dissecting the Division- the Nats lead the Mets by 1.5 games, the Phillies by 2, and Miami by 4.5 entering this week.  Atlanta decided that a 9-28 start was the perfect time to re-boot, and Fredi Gonzalez says goodbye two and a half years removed from a playoff appearance.  That and a dispersion of talent that would make Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman (before he fell for Julia Roberts) proud.  Since then, the Braves have won 3 of 6.  I’d joking say “Break up the Braves” but they still have the look of a once-good band that only has one remaining original member touring with them.

Division to Watch- just up I-95 the Preakness was run this past weekend at Pimlico.  But there’s another intriguing race involving Baltimore as the Orioles and Boston are tied for first in the AL East.  Fans of a certain age will recognize this Red Sox team…they lead the majors in runs scored but have a pitching staff filled with tires ready to blow at any moment.  We only need Bill Lee to come out of retirement to join the back end of the rotation to make it complete.

Last Week’s Heroes- remember in elementary school when a teacher would move two kids’ desks apart and their work would improve dramatically?  Manager Dusty Baker dropped Anthony Rendon from second to sixth in the order last week… and the third baseman responded by hitting .500 with 7 RBI.  The guy he was following in the order, Ben Revere, came out of his early season slumber by hitting .348 with 4 runs scored.  Hopefully Mr. Baker will keep Anthony and Ben’s desks apart during class but still let them sit together at lunch.

Last Week’s Humbled- Danny Espinosa (.158 with 9 strikeouts) remains a liability in the #8 spot.  With a lineup where the prime offensive positions (first base and left field) aren’t producing (27th and 26th in OPS respectively), you need every little bit from every spot at this time.  The shadow of Trea Turner in AAA Syracuse (.317 with 35 runs scored and 14 stolen bases) looms large.

Game to Watch- Saturday evening Gio Gonzalez pitches against St. Louis.  The lefthander is off to a 3-1 start with a 1.86 ERA…enjoying a career rebirth under new manager Dusty Baker.  The Cardinals counter with Adam Wainwright-who’s off to an atypical start in 2016 (4-3 but with an ERA of 5.92).  Can he shake his early-season struggles?

Game to Miss- Thursday Joe Ross (3-4, 2.70 ERA) pitches against the Cardinals’ Mike Leake (3-3, 4.07).  Unfortunately on a staff where one pitcher (Scherzer) is tying major league records, another is still unbeaten (Strasburg), a third has cool hair to match his hot start (Gio) and a fourth is sneaky good (Tanner Roark), Joe Ross is the Gummo Marx.  Plus, after nine straight games against division foes, it’s okay if you catch up on TURN and The Americans that you’ve DVRd, TiVoed or simply recorded on Betamax.

Soccer’s World Cup takes semi-center stage for the next few weeks...and for some the start can’t come soon enough while for others the end can’t arrive too quickly.  Prepare for three groups of fans to emerge:  the first that can’t stand soccer and complains how the lack of scoring make it such a boring game, a second that can’t believe how one can’t see the pure beauty of a 19th century game that’s brilliance lies in its pure simplicity, and a third that would wish both previous groups would shut up so they can actually follow the games and tournament.  I wish the substitution rules were relaxed (unlimited after goals, between periods and before goal kicks) and time kept on an actual scoreboard (can the game move into the 20th century sometime during the 21st?) but understand that it’s not America’s game to tamper with.  The only substitution rule that would help Team USA is if they were allowed to suit up 12 against Germany and Portugal.  If the US gets to the knockout round, it’ll be a major victory.  Instead, we get to watch the world go crazy as Brazil tries to wash away the stain of losing the 1950 Final on its home soil (trust me, that defeat to Uruguay still stings)…Spain try to become the first European nation to win in the Americas and first repeat champ since Brazil in ’62…nations like Chile and the Netherlands hope that this is finally the year they join the small circle of world champs…and England obsess over what’s wrong with this year’s roster and why they can’t dominate a sport they created.  It’s been 48 years since England stood atop the world…can you imagine Team USA not winning Olympic Gold in mens basketball from now until 2060?  Hopefully Brazil will be ready to host the tournament– word is the conditions will make the Sochi Olympics look like the London Games.

 

Golf’s US Open has two Grand Slams in question:  can Bubba Watson follow his Masters win better than he did in 2012 when he missed the cut?  Outside of his two green jackets, Waffle House’s most famous patron has just two top ten finishes in majors– (2nd at the 2010 PGA Championship and T5 at the 2007 US Open).  He’s already made remarks about the conditions at Pinehurst–and even if they have merit you don’t crush the course.  Come on, Bubba.  The other Grand Slam in question replaces the annual “is the year Phil finally breaks through?” storyline.  Can a player who appeared to be doomed a little over a decade ago (no Major wins until the 2004 Masters) join the ranks of Tiger, Jack, Player, Hogan and Sarazen?  Injuries and inconsistencies have helped keep the reigning British Open Champ out of the top ten this year (with 3 missed cuts and 2 withdrawals)…although the fact he returns to the site of his first of a record six runner-up finishes makes the heart hope he’ll complete the circle.  In Lefty’s near-misses, the first three came at the expense of a multiple-major winner (Payne Stewart, Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen) while the last three came to one-hit wonders (Geoff Ogilvy, Lucas Glover and Justin Rose).  In four of his six second place finishes, Mickelson had the lead after the second or third round (trailing by an average 6.5 shots after those rounds at Bethpage in ’02 and ’09) and shot 70 three times while carding a 71 and a pair of 74’s.  Everybody will be rooting for him though…

 

Rafael Reigns at the French Open– Nobody can contend with the King of Clay:  Nadal wins his 9th championship at Roland Garros and improves to 66-1 lifetime in the tournament.  His Finals victory over Novak Djokovic turns the pendulum back;  after once losing three straight Grand Slam Finals to the Serb Nadal has now bested Djokovic four straight times (3 times at Roland Garros and once at the US Open).  His 14 Grand Slam titles ties him with Pete Sampras (and he’s won each major, something a French-less Sampras was unable to do)…and Roger Federer’s 17 while not a slam-dunk isn’t out of the realm of possibility.  At age 28 one could see Nadal winning perhaps 1 or 2 more French Opens while nabbing one more Australian or US Open.  We often compare grand slam tennis to golf because they’re both individual sports;  but the cliff that elite players fall off of in tennis is far steeper.  But the way Nadal has played over the last year makes one think he has 2-3 left in his pocket.  

 

Horse Racing trots quietly into the night– No Triple Crown winner again, you say?  The streak hits 36?  California Chrome’s co-owner turned what was a good story that just missed perfection somewhat ugly by whining about how Tonalist didn’t deserve to be the Belmont champ because it didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness.  Not cool.  Even after the first outburst he could have regained a little dignity…but now the blue bloods who snubbed the Cinderella Story will tell themselves “go figure”.  Now-Steve Coburn has a point.  The short turnaround between the Derby and the Preakness causes a lot of owners to hold his horse out of the race at Pimlico if they don’t prevail at Churchill Downs.  This often inflates the actual perceived ability of the horse that wins the Derby and Preakness–as often it takes the Black Eyed Susan amidst a diminished field (or at least one that’s not as elite as the one it competed against two weeks ago).  And then to run the longest distance of its career against the best of the rested?  I’ve long wished they move the gaps between the races to 3 or even 4 weeks…but much like unlimited substitution and scoreboard clocks in soccer, it’s not going to happen.  Until next year…