BUSY TIME of the year.
The Bruins are six wins from winning the Stanley Cup and yet another Boston duck boat parade. The Celtics are done and looking toward the future. The Patriots seem to be signing or acquiring anyone with two hands to catch Tom Brady passes.
Oh, and the Red Sox are all fixed.
As the Sox get set to open a two-game series with the Rockies (and we do love that Red Sox-Rockies rivalry, don’t we?) we shall first deal with the turnaround fashioned by the defending champs.
In short, everything that went wrong through the hard-to-believe 2-8 start that grew to 9-15 has started to go right. The lineup is again feared. The starting pitching, despite losing Nate Eovaldi and David Price to injury, is just fine (thank you, Chris Sale). The bullpen is confusing and I still think there’s help coming from outside at some point. It has survived despite no apparent plan on who does what and when.
The Red Sox have won 11 of their last 13. They have outscored their opposition 102-37 over that span. They just pounded the Mariners by a combined 34-8 over the weekend and have won five straight and eight of the last nine.
Their run differential, once at a minus-41, now stands at a plus-27 and, through Sunday, they had scored more runs than all but two other teams (they have 220, the Dodgers were are at 227 and the Astros 221 through Sunday).
Oh, and in 28 games starting April 12, the starters have a 3.18 ERA (54 ER/152 2/3 IP).
And the pitching staff has a 2.74 ERA (47 ER/154 1/3 IP) in the club’s last 17 games, during which the club is 13-4.
“We knew we could get to this point,” manager Alex Cora said after Sunday’s 11-2 victory. “It was just a bad stretch.”
Now, hate to throw cold water on this, but you really have to look at the teams the Sox, who finished the weekend just three games behind the Rays (and 2½ behind the Yankees) have been beating during this stretch. After losing two straight to the Rays at Fenway, they swept three from currently floundering Oakland in Boston, then went on the road to win five of seven at Chicago (where they actually blew a game) and Baltimore. Seattle, the hottest team in baseball to start the season, was a mess coming in and left in even worse shape than before.
This weekend, the Astros come to town for a fun weekend series. They are on fire and had opened a 6½-game lead over the rest of the West, thanks to a five-game winning streak.
The Rockies, the losers in the 2007 World Series, come in 19-21 but have gone 6-4 in their last 10 games.
From the Sox’ post-game notes Sunday:
“Is 1 of 3 Red Sox with at least 19 RBIs in their first 20 MLB games since RBI became an official stat in 1920 (Ted Williams-20 in 1939, George Scott-20 in 1966).”
“Over his last 25 games, is batting .391/.457/.544 with 19 RBIs (36-for-92, 17 R, 9 2B, 2 HR, HBP, 11 BB).” He is 12-for-22 during a five-game hitting streak. And he’s also stuck on those nine errors.
The sweep of the Mariners followed the controversial (and potentially fracturing?) visit to the White House, leading to the President tweeting:
“Has anyone noticed that all the Boston @RedSox have done is WIN since coming to the White House! Others also have done very well. The White House visit is becoming the opposite of being on the cover of Sports Illustrated! By the way, the Boston players were GREAT guys!”
You can stop chuckling now.
Storming the ’Canes
Sunday at TD Garden, the Bruins made Carolina look very much like the team that was under .500 in January.
Is the series over? Sure looks like it. But as was pointed out later Sunday, the Hurricanes lost a game 6-0 to Washington in the first round, then came back and won it in seven. They also lost the first two games of that series on enemy ice.
Brad Marchand’s WWE stuff aside (this time it worked), and a couple of late and meaningless goals, Sunday was just about perfect for the B’s.
“We elevated our game from Game 1,” said Boston coach Bruce Cassidy.
They sure did.
And Charlie McAvoy was back.
“I think tonight was a really good game for us,” he said after the game. “I think we played our game, we played to our culture and obviously we were able to break through and score some goals there and that’s good for everyone’s confidence.
“But it’s over now and we’re headed down there. We have a lot of respect for this team and we know that they’ll play a lot better next game.”
The Hurricanes, the team formerly known as the Hartford Whalers, haven’t lost three in a row since December. Before that, losing was a thing they did — a lot. They were 15-17-5 through Dec. 29.
Are they beaten down at this point? Tired after going seven with the Caps and then slamming the Islanders in four straight? They gave up more goals Sunday than they did in four games against the Islanders.
The Hurricanes have proven all year that they don’t fold. Let’s see what happens Tuesday and Thursday in what should be a loud building — as the fans Don Cherry likes to call bandwagon jumpers make all kids of noise trying to keep the team alive.
Remember, too, folks, the potential finals matchup could be with the Sharks — and a reunion of one-time Bruins captain Joe Thornton.
With the Celtics getting dumped in loud and rather embarrassing fashion, the NBA continues on toward a champion. Celtics fans can revel in the Lakers front office mess that finally spun to Frank Vogel as the new coach and Jason Kidd as the assistant (and Kyrie Irving to play with LeBron James) — and outstanding college coach John Beilein leaving Michigan to coach the Cavs. But Sunday, we were treated to a couple of Game 7’s that will long live as classics.
The NBA day ended with Kawhi Leonard hitting the first Game 7 buzzer beater in the history of the Association. Hours after Portland survived in Game 7 at Denver, the Raptors and Sixers waged war — and Philly went home with anyone who knows a thing about the game wondering why Joel Embiid was never closer than 20 feet from the basket with the game on the line.
Sixer coach Brett Brown looked toward the future after what he thought was a learning experience for his young team.
Question is: Will Brown remain on the job for Philly, likely to lose Jimmy Butler, as the Sixers try to take the next step in an increasingly difficult Eastern Conference.