Kansas City Royals

The Full Count: Bring out the brooms

1. Surprising Sweeps: Multiple teams completed unexpected sweeps on Wednesday. The most shocking was the Royals’ sweep over the Angels, who have the most wins in the majors. KC beat them with pitching, allowing just 7 runs the entire series and none yesterday. Jorge De La Rosa, who came into the game with six straight losses, outdeuled the Angels’ Jered Weaver for a 1-0 win. The majors’ second-best team was swept too as the Mariners dominated the Red Sox. Their 2-1, 11-inning win yesterday was capped off by Jose Lopez’s game-winning RBI double. One of Dice-K’s best starts of the year, an eight-inning, three-hit gem, was blown by the bullpen. The Braves busted out of a slump to crush the awful Nationals for three much-needed victories. They annihilated them on Wednesday 13-0, bringing them to a tie with the Phillies in the process.

2. No Support for the Rocket: Roger Clemens isn’t pitching very well, with a 5.32 ERA through four starts. However, the Yankees’ offense isn’t helping him out much. In his last three starts, all losses, Clemens has received three runs of support from the offense. On Wednesday, Clemens allowed 4 runs in 6 innings, but the Yankees were shut out by the Orioles. Erik Bedard was fantastic, with 7 innings, 2 hits, and 8 strikeouts in the win. With another loss, Clemens was denied his 350th win yet again. The Yanks have now dropped four games in a row.

3. Older is Better: A record-tying six 40-year-old pitchers took the mound on Wednesday. Clemens, Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux, Woody Williams, and Jamie Moyer all took the mound. They went a combined 3-1, with Smoltz, Maddux, and Glavine picking up the victories. For Glavine it was his 297th career win. Maddux pitched seven strong innings to gain career win number 340. Most of these pitchers are having excellent seasons, and perhaps there have never been as many excellent 40-year-old pitchers as there are this year. Kenny Rogers was scheduled to start as well, but the Tigers game was rained out.

Player of the Day: Jack Cust: 2-5, HR (13), 5 RBIs as the A’s beat the Indians 13-7.

MLB General

The Full Count: Dice-K Dominates

1. The Dice-K we were waiting for: After all the preseason hype and promising first start, Daisuke Matsuzaka was plagued by a streak of poor outings. But to start off a series between AL heavyweights (Red Sox vs. Tigers), Dice-K gave his best effort yet. He threw his first MLB complete game, gave up just one run, and threw a whopping 124 pitches in the Red Sox’s 7-1 win. The victory gave the Red Sox an 8.5 game division lead, their largest since 1995, and they have the best record in the league at 26-11. This four-game series at Fenway should be one of the more entertaining so far this year. The Tigers will send Justin Verlander to the mound on Tuesday to face AL ERA leader Tim Wakefield.

2. Nearly a no-hitter: The Braves-Nationals game featured a pitching matchup of 18-year vet John Smoltz and first-year starter Jason Bergmann. Surprisingly, it was Bergmann who delivered a gem: 8 innings, 2 hits, and 10 strikeouts. He no-hit the Braves until the 8th inning, when Brian McCann hit a solo homer. Smoltz wasn’t bad either, but the Braves couldn’t muster any offense in a 2-1 loss. The win extends a season-high four-game win streak for the 13-25 Nationals, and Bergmann’s start was the highlight of their season so far. Atlanta’s loss combined with a Mets win puts New York back in first.

3. All About the Pitchers: This season has been dominated by pitching, and yesterday continued that trend. Dice-K and Bergmann were great, as well as Greg Maddux, Dan Haren, Gil Meche, and Tom Gorzelanny. Maddux pitched a complete-game with one run allowed in the Padres’ 7-1 win over Cincinnati. Meche and Haren pitched a combined 15 scoreless innings in the Royals-A’s game, giving both pitchers an ERA under 2.00. The Royals won on a ninth-inning homerun by John Buck. The surprising Gorzelanny improved to 5-2 with a 2.36 ERA after seven shutout innings in a win over the Marlins. In other pitching news, the Angels’ Jered Weaver returned to form with a great start against the Rangers, which lowered his ERA from 4.26 to 3.62.

Player of the Day: JJ Hardy, Brewers: 2-5, HR, 3 RBIs in a 6-8 loss to the Phillies. This is more of a season-achievement award for Hardy, who now leads the National League with 12 homers and 37 RBIs. It is hard to even imagine a more surprising start than that of Hardy, who already has set his career high for homeruns.

MLB General

The Full Count: Need run support? How about 4 HRs in a row?

1. Streak to a Sweep: Daisuke Matsuzaka was pitching for the Red Sox, but he was completely overshadowed by the team’s offense in a 7-6 win over the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball. Boston tied a major league record with four homeruns in a row in the third inning, all off Yankees rookie Chase Wright. Manny Ramirez started the streak with a deep shot over the Green Monster in left-center. Then JD Drew, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek each hit shots of their own, two of which also went over the Green Monster. That got the fans going at Fenway and sent Chase Wright out of the game. Still, the Yankees were leading 5-4 in the 7th inning, until Lowell hit another homer, this one a three-run blast. Dice-K got the win for Boston despite allowing six runs in seven innings. Ironically, he had come into the game as the pitcher with the least run support in the AL. This game marked only the 5th time in major league history that a team hit four homers in a row, and the first time in 43 years for an AL team. The Los Angeles Dodgers did it last September against the Padres, in a streak that also featured JD Drew. Boston swept the Yankees over the weekend, but New York will seek revenge next week at Yankee Stadium.

2. Bonds is Back: Barry Bonds may be 42 years old and well past his prime, but he can still mash. The slugger hit solo homeruns on Saturday and Sunday, providing the majority of the Giants’ 3 runs in those games. The team still won both games due to back-to-back complete games by Barry Zito and Matt Cain. The Bonds homers gave him 6 on the year and 740 for his career, 15 short of Hank Aaron’s record. He is tied for the NL leads in homers, and ranks first in on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS. At this rate, we might see baseball’s most prestigious record fall before the All Star break.

3. Back on top: For those who thought the Braves’ early season success is a fluke, it’s time to reconsider. The team has played the Mets twice and won 4 out of those 6 games. On Sunday, a Glavine vs. Smoltz pitching matchup turned out to be a game filled with offense. Atlanta’s Kelly Johnson hit two homers, including a shot to leadoff the game and a three-run blast that won the game for the Braves. Smoltz and Glavine allowed a combined 9 runs as the Braves came out on top 9-6. For the Mets, Jose Reyes continues to be the National League’s best player. He is hitting .370 with league-leading totals in runs and steals. The Braves now lead the division by a half-game.

Player of the Day: Scott Rolen, Cardinals: 5-6, HR (2), 3 runs, 3 RBIs in a 12-9 win over the Cubs.

Stat of the Day: Albert Pujols has 5 homers and 12 RBIs this year. Oddly, 4 of his homers and 10 of his RBIs have come on Sunday. He is hitting .438 on Sunday, as compared to .166 on all other days.


Odds and Ends: The funniest sportscenter spoof ever

We were all set to lead off Odds and Ends with a story about Joe Thomas skipping the NFL Draft to go fishing with his dad but then a reader sent us this video of an ESPN Sportscenter spoof that has us peeing our pants. It is almost perfect. You have to watch it twice to read the ticker at the bottom but it’s totally worth it.

(Hat Tip: The Big Lead)

In other news…

[WBRS Sports]: Hockey + Cheerleaders + Sex + Lawsuit + Threeway + “more fuckable” – Pics = 9.0

[Detroit Free Press]: Look out Flip Murray, they shootin!

[Encarta]: Bill Nye the Science Guy’s fascinating explanation of the Gyroball

[Battle of the Surfaces]: Exactly what nobody was dying to see

[Star-Telegram]: Moose Johnston’s wife is tough as nails

[Big Show Baseball]: A-Rod is off to such a good start that Yankees fans are even including him in their best of all time lists

And finally, our quote of the day comes from Phoenix Coyotes CEO Jeff Shumway:

Players will say they want to be in Phoenix… That means the weather is good, the golf is good … What they mean is they want to retire in Phoenix. What we need are guys who want to play hockey in Phoenix.

MLB General

The Full Count: Dice-K can’t catch a break

1. Bad Roll of the Dice: Daisuke Matsuzaka is perhaps the unluckiest pitcher in baseball this season. He has lost two starts in a row despite pitching a quality start in both games. Dice-K was simply outpitched by Felix Hernandez a week ago and Gustavo Chacin on Tuesday. Chacin improved to 2-0 for the Blue Jays after allowing one run into the seventh inning. Matsuzaka, meanwhile, allowed three runs and struck out 10 but didn’t get any support from the offense. With the win the Blue Jays passed the Sox for first place in the AL East, and there are still two games left in this series.

2. Powerhouses: Everyone knows Alex Rodriguez is great. He is having an April like Albert Pujols did last year, as he leads the majors in homers (8) and RBIs (21). Last night A-Rod was part of a Yankees offensive rampage that led to eight runs in the firs two innings and a 10-3 rout of the Indians. While it shouldn’t surprise too many people that Rodriguez is having this type of season, what is surprising is the second-most-powerful player in baseball–Ian Kinsler of the Rangers. Kinsler, a fantasy breakout pick by many this year, has provided a monstrous 7 homers and 13 RBIs, including 1 and 3 in the Rangers’ 8-1 romp over the White Sox. Also in that game, Sammy Sosa hit his third homer of the year, a three-run blast that gave him 10 RBIs. While nobody should expect Sammy to hit above .250, he could have a 30-homer season if healthy.

3. Beasts of the East: The Braves and Mets have been exchanging wins recently as they crush their divisional competition. The Braves beat the Nationals on Tuesday, led by Chipper Jones’ 4th homerun and four hits by leadoff man Kelly Johnson. The Mets, meanwhile, manhandled the Phillies 8-1. Moises Alou of all people had 2 homers and 3 RBIs for New York. The Braves and Mets are a half-game separated in the divisional race, with their next series against each other this weekend.

Player of the Day: Carlos Lee, Astros: 3-4, HR (5), 4 RBIs (16), and 2 runs in a 6-1 win over Florida. If there had been a Full Count on Saturday, Lee would have won this as well with a 3-homer, 6-RBI performance.

Walk Off: The Detroit Tigers are showing this year that their 2006 run was no fluke. They are 9-5 and are standing out in the crowded AL Central race. While their strength of schedule hasn’t been too impressive–they’ve played the Blue Jays twice, Orioles, and Royals twice–they are beating the teams they should beat while going 3-3 against the potent Blue Jays. The Tigers have crushed Kansas City a combined 19-11 the past two nights, showing that they have more ways to win than a pitchers duel. And the top half of their rotation–Verlander, Robertson, and Bonderman–have been fantastic. Detroit was my preseason pick to win the division, and they haven’t showed anything that would make me change my mind.

NHL General

Odds and Ends: The NHL gets its very own Heidi game

If you’re a struggling network who is probably the NHL’s sole hope of getting popular again, you can’t afford to screw up the way Versus did. The finish of the instant classic 4 OT game between the Canucks and the Stars wasn’t seen in some markets because some affiliates inexplicably switched to an infomercial.

Versus has received reports that last night’s Dallas/Vancouver game was switched to an infomercial in the fourth overtime,” the network said in a statement. “We are obviously very disappointed to hear that some fans in a few select markets have reported that they did not see the end of this great game.

The game did run in its entirety on the Versus network feed, but based on the information we have received we are currently working with our affiliates in the affected markets to find out what caused the problem.

Sadly, we don’t even get Versus so we couldn’t even see the infomercial.

In other news…

[Mainichi Daily News]: Japanese fans tune in for Matsuzaka-Suzuki showdown

[Scatter O’ Light]: Reebok might want to fire some copyeditors

[Our Book of Scrap]: Has Major League Baseball Watered Down Jackie’s Honor?


[Sports Review Magazine]: Larry David, New York Jets Consigliere?

[Steroid Nation]: The most famous player in NFL Europe

MLB General

The Full Count: Not so fast on the Cy Young Award

1. Can’t beat the King: Dice-K Matsuzaka got all the attention in his Fenway debut start against the Mariners, particularly for the matchup with Ichiro. However, he got overshadowed by the other starting pitcher, ace Felix Hernandez. Through 7 innings, Matsuzaka had allowed 8 hits and 3 runs, while King Felix had a no-hitter going. While the no-no bid was broken up by JD Drew in the eighth, Hernandez still finished with a complete-game shutout and allowed just one hit. Hernandez’s first two starts have been as good as humanly possible: he’s 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA, .47 WHIP, and .075 opponent’s average. As for Dice-K, at least he won the matchup with Ichiro (0-3).

2. Back down to earth: The Mets’ makeshift starting pitching had been quite effective this season. Until last night, that is. Oliver Perez, who had a great first start of the season, couldn’t make it out of the third inning against the Phillies. He allowed 3 runs and issued 7 walks. He threw more balls than strikes, and issued the majority of 11 walks by the Mets’ pitching. The Phillies scored three runs off bases-loaded walks and got some good pitching from Adam Eaton in a 5-2 win. The victory was just the second of the season for the Phillies, while the Mets lost another game to the division-leading Braves.

3. State of the Central: Before the season, it seemed as though the AL Central would be the MLB’s toughest division, with four playoff-caliber teams. Right now none of those teams have separated themselves, but they’ve all looked pretty good. The Tigers are 5-3 and are once again relying on their pitching. Justin Verlander and Nate Robertson have combined allowed only 3 runs this season in four starts. They are tied with the division lead with the Twins, who swept the Orioles to open the season but have gone 2-3 since then. The White Sox, a team likely to confound all year, sit at 4-4 after a series win over the A’s. The 3-2 Indians are also in the mix, but they’ve been snowed out so much that it’s hard to tell what they have.

Player of the Day: Felix Hernandez, Mariners: 9 IP, 0 runs, 1 hit, 6 K’s in a 3-0 win

Walk Off: Toronto leads the AL East right now by a game, and they’re actually a pretty solid team. However, their last two series have been against Tampa Bay and Kansas City, the two worst teams in the AL. Now they begin a stretch against Detroit and Boston, which should tell us more about this team. MY prediction right now for the AL East is the Red Sox will win it, the Yanks in second, and the Jays back to third.

Boston Red Sox

Matsuzaka marketing mania starts today with new Nike commercial

It’s Dice-K day in Boston as everyone is gearing up to watch Matsuzaka’s first start. Part of us wants to see him do well, but part of us always wants to witness the meltdown on Boston sports radio if he throws a clunker. Pressure? Just a little. And that’s the theme of this Nike commercial that’s only being aired in Japan.

It’s pure genius by the way. Nike and MLB are creating a huge legion of fans in Japan who will love the Sox and, almost as importantly, hate the Yankees. The ad takes a bit of artistic license. The opponent today won’t be the Yankees, but the lowly Royals. You see MLB working?