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Mitch's Sports Report: Leon, Kimbrel Prevent Rays From Sweeping Red Sox; Yankees Win Ninth Straight

It's sort of curious that many fans of the team with the best record in the majors felt that the Boston Red Sox got a much-needed win at Fenway Park yesterday.

But these days it seems how things feel matter more than what reality proves, and so it was that Red Sox fans were complaining loudly on social media that they could not stomach being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays, never mind that the Rays had won eight in a row, were playing great defense in the series and showed off some pretty good pitching as well.

The Red Sox, despite their 17-2 start to the year, had been on a 2-5 stretch, and were trailing the Rays 3-0 despite another very good pitching line from Rick Porcello, who went at least seven innings for the fourth time this season. The offense was sputtering against Tampa pitching and Red Sox Nation was getting restless. Well, perhaps the comeback that ensued will calm everyone down. The Sox scored three times in the sixth inning, getting a key two-run base hit by J.D. Martinez and then a game-tying sac fly by Jackie Bradley Jr., who has been struggling mightily at the plate.

Another player scuffling even worse than JBJ has been catcher Sandy Leon, even though his defense and game calling has been superb and was again yesterday. So give manager Alex Cora some credit, because when Leon came up in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and the go-ahead run in scoring position in a tie game, just about everyone expected he'd be lifted for a pinch hitter, given that he had just three hits on the season and a .107 average. But Cora stuck with his catcher, and Leon took a swing at the first pitch he saw, sending it just inside the third base line for an RBI hit that put the Red Sox up 4-3.

In the 9th, closer Craig Kimbrel came on for his second consecutive inning, a rarity for him, and for the second straight inning worked out of a situation with runners on second and third by getting inning ending strikeouts.

Kimbrel struck out two Rays in the 9th to end the game, and so the Red Sox broke Tampa's 8-game winning streak and avoided the sweeps. As for the Rays, it's worth checking out two outstanding defensive plays made by second baseman Joey Wendle, who had springs in his feet when he leapt to snow cone a line drive by Andrew Benintendi, and left fielder Devon Span who also made a leap at the Green Monster to rob Rafael Devers of extra bases late in the game. The Rays are not the Yankees but they are a lot better than people give them credit for being, and it's worth recalling that all those wins the Sox had against Tampa in the opening weeks of the season were very close one-run games.

As for the NY Yankees, they are on their longest winning streak since 2012, now winners of nine in a row after nipping the L.A. Angels 2-1 in Anaheim last night. The Yanks got both their runs via a Gary Sanchez homer and veteran CC Sabathia took care of the rest, going seven innings scattering five hits and one run while lowering his ERA to a sparkling 1.71

The NY Mets didn't need great pitching against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park yesterday. All they really needed was former Padre Adrian Gonzalez, who plastered his former team by driving in five runs including a home run and a double in the Mets' 14-2 drubbing of San Diego. Zach Wheeler went five innings, striking out 9 along the way to pick up the win, his second of the year.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are down to the elite eight and that includes the two best teams in the western conference. No disrespect to the Sharks and Knights but the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets are the best of the west and they're locked in a great duel as evidenced by the double overtime thriller that went down in Music City last night, a game won by the Preds when Kevin Fiala put home the golden goal finishing off a two on one break, taking a picture perfect pass from Craig Smith, who saucered the puck over a sprawling defenseman to Fiala's stick. Fiala went forehand, then backhand to get goalie Connor Hellebuyck out of position, lifting the puck into the net for a 5-4 Nashville win that ties the series up at a game apiece.

In the east, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins are also knotted at one game each after the Caps took game two from Pittsburgh 4-1 yesterday. Alex Ovechkin scored for the Caps, who didn't blow a lead in this one as they did in game one. There was controversy, however, when an apparent Pittsburgh goal was denied after video review, the crew unable to determine definitively if Patric Hornqvist had stuffed the puck all the way cross the goal line on a scrum in front of the Capital's net. In addition, the Penguins suffered the loss of defenseman Brian Dumoulin after a hit to the head by Tom Wilson knocked him out of the game. We'll see if Wilson faces any suspension for that hit, but either way it will only ramp up the ill feelings these two teams have for each other as the series moves back to Pittsburgh for game three.

The NBA playoffs are also in full swing, and did anyone really think LeBron James was going to let his Cleveland Cavaliers bow out to the Indiana Pacers in a winner take all game seven? Give the Pacers a lot of credit for pushing this series to its limit and to make game seven a nail-biter that wasn't decided until the Cavs went on a late run to secure a 105-101 victory. King James ended the night with 45 points, but his teammates also bailed him in this one, because James left the game for a while late in the 3rd quarter with leg cramps. He did return, but in his absence the Cavs got big contributions from Tristan Thompson, who made a surprise start at center and finished with a double double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Cavs move on to face the Toronto Raptors.

Out west, the Utah Jazz have a very good defense, but the Houston Rockets have James Harden, who scored 41 points to lead the Rockets to a 110-96 win in game one of that semi-final series.


A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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