Believe you me, not having basketball to view anymore and its effects didn't last too long. I quickly realized there was a sport I adored even more that was providing excitement every day and night: Major League Baseball.
What's better than professional athletes who are paid ridiculous amounts of money entertaining me on the hardwood? That's easy: professional athletes who get paid insanely large salaries to entertain me on grass and dirt. What's better than watching the Celtics beat the Lakers? Easy again: the Red Sox moving on to the Bronx to face off with the pinstripes.
The highlight of last week's action was the 1-0 win by the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels. That doesn't sound so exciting, does it?
I'm sorry, forgot to add the part that the Dodgers didn't even have a hit. There we go, that did it.
This week it was surrounded the AL East - and not the series you would've thought. First, it was the Tampa Bay Rays handling their business against the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox by sweeping them in a three-game set at Tropicana Field. Tampa showed its defensive flare and hot bats by cruising through the three-games over the Sox. Even when they were on the verge of losing in the third game when down 4-1 as deep as the 7th inning, they stepped up and crushed Boston. That time, to the tune of a six-run seventh inning. With that they pushed the lead to as much as 3.5 games over the second place Sox, and nine-for the third place New York Yankees.
Thankfully, there were no punches thrown in the series.
Then things moved to the Bronx on Thursday where Jon Lester helped nail down a 7-0 win through a nine-inning effort and leaving Joe Girardi at a loss for words. The series continued on Saturday and featured a pitching duel and more importantly, a defensive extravaganza. It came down to the 9th inning and "The Sandman" himself, Mariano Rivera to take one step closer to evening the series. With a 2-0 lead in the final inning, Rivera allowed the Sox to make it 2-1 and get the bases loaded with no one out. The only problem for Boston was that they had their worst hitters coming to bat at the most inopportune time. That came in the form of Coco Crisp, who did nothing but get out, then Jason Varitek who popped out, and then Julio Lugo who struck out. It was up to Sunday night's game in the Bronx with Tim Wakefield and young, fiery hurler Joba "The Hut" Chamberlain to round off the four-game set. Both pitchers went at least six-innings, providing solid outings for their respective teams, before allowing the bullpens to take over. And in the Red Sox's case, lose them the game letting the series rest at two-two. The series could've been a sweep with what happened on Saturday, and how the bullpen had chances to close things out but ultimately gave way to a Robinson Cano two-run triple, and in the bottom of the 10th Jason Varitek just would not call for a splitter to dispose of Brett Gardner. And now my Sox have to host one of the MLB's hottest teams in the Minnesota Twins starting today - and a total of five-games back of those damned Rays.
While those two teams duked it out, the Toronto Blue Jays were quailing with teams during the week, doing their best to inch up the standings. Roy Halladay did his best to give his team must needed wins, and he did so on two occasions. In the first start, he went nine-innings of shut-out baseball. His last outing on Saturday was seven-innings of two-runs allowed baseball on the mound, ending his week off at 2-0.
Halladay's Stats: 16 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, 2-0
The other big story of the week outside of the AL East triangle containing the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees, is easily the 18-17 "No Pitching Here Spectacular" between the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies that took place in Colorado on the night of July 4th. Fans in Rockies town were treated to a yo-yo like game of one team taking a commanding lead, and seeing the other - theirs - storming back and taking the lead late into the game. The Rockies were at one point down nine-runs before storming back in the 6th to close the gap, setting the stage for a final score that normally would only be seen in extra inning games - or hell, Coors Field. Coming back from 13-4, the Rockies eventually won 18-17 in a game where the two teams combined for 43-hits and 21 of them being for extra bases. The hero of that game probably was Matt Holliday, as he was the one who hit the Grand Slam late in the game to inch his Rockies closer. Holliday also was the hero of the week for the Rockies, finishing the seven-day span with over a .400 average and double digits in the RBI column.
Holliday's Stats: 12/28, 8 R, 10 RBI, 4 BB, 3 HR, .429 BA
Until about 8 or 9 PM ET last night, the biggest news in the Majors was the two things already pointed out by myself. Late during the Sox/Yanks game on ESPN Sunday night, that changed when Peter Gammons reported that the Indians had agreed to trade to the Milwaukee Brewers C.C. Sabathia for three players. That diverted a bit of the attention from the game to now what can be a major contender out of the NL Central. Although both Sabathia and Ben Sheets will be free agents at the conclusion of the 2008 season, the Brewers are looking even more outstanding than they've already been through their first 88-games. At 49-39, the Milwaukee Brewers are tied for second place with the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. After such a hot start to the season, the Cubs have cooled a bit going 4-6 in their last 10-games, allowing the Cardinals and Brewers to inch to within 3.5 games. The Brewers beat the Pirates 11-6 on Sunday and saw the Cards get handled by the Cubs 7-1, allowing for the now dead heat for second place. Milwaukee has gone 6-4 in their last 10-games, and in the last seven games that made up this past week for the Brew Crew J.J. Hardy had most likely the most insanely productive week ever, ever. He is undeniably the biggest and most crucial reason to why the Brewers are so well in the hunt as of late and won five-of-seven this week. The 25-year old short stop absolutely went off, putting the ball in play 60% of the time and raking for a whopping 12-RBI's. And if that doesn't do it, him hitting an eye popping number of six-home runs does.
Just look at those numbers. Now, tell me your eyes have not fallen out of their sockets are now not playing patty cake with the carpet below your computer chair. If they're not, you have no soul.
Hardy's Stats: 18/30, 8 R, 12 RBI, 2 BB, 6 HR, .600 BA
MLB Player of the Week: J.J. Hardy
Anthony Kim came into the Final round at AT&T National three-strokes behind. He finished the day with a five-under 65 to take the victory and increase his spot in the standings to 6th for the Ryder Cup.
Kim's win on Sunday in Bethesda, Maryland was his second of this season. The 23-year old Kim became the second player under the age of 25 to win twice in one PGA Tour season since Tiger Woods, who is as we should all know out of competition for the remainder of this season.
Kim's 12-under 268 for the entire tournament earned him $1.08 million on top of a higher spot in the Ryder Cup standings and more respect from the veterans that stretch across the landscape of PGA players.
U.S. Olympics Trials
Can someone please tell me if Michael Phelps is even human? The force in the swimming ranks named Michael Phelps secured his eighth race for the Beijing set Summer Olympics on Saturday by taking first-place in the 100m Butterfly.
What he had done during the week was simply remarkable. Phelps broke two World Records in the U.S. Trials before it even really mattered that much. That's all the more reason to just call the races he's participating in come Summer time right now. The man isn't gonna be stopped. Mark Spitz's record here he comes.
And let's not forget Dara Torres. The FORTY-ONE YEAR-OLD made her fifth Olympic Games spot on Friday night by winning 50m Freestyle - and breaking a U.S. record twice, the second time being her own. And then on Sunday she broke yet another U.S. record. She's looking good heading into Beijing.
This year's Wimbledon Women's Singles Final was a great one. Saturday was dedicated to viewing the Williams sisters do battle once again in a Wimbledon final, with Venus vowing for number five and sister Serena her third. Venus took down Serena in straight sets 7-5, 6-4 with great poise - something Serena lacked - and a menacing serve; she topped out over 130 MPH (not actual figure; couldn't remember exact number) breaking her own Wimbledon record of 129 MPH.
Coolest part of the events in the Women's Final: The Williams sisters also had made the Doubles final. Talk about going from fighting each other to having to play as a cohesive unit.
But it was the Men's Singles Final that did it for me, as I didn't even view the Ladies' Singles Final due to working. In the men's side, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer met once again in the final round of Wimbledon.
Last year, Roger Federer captured his fifth Wimbledon crown in a row over Rafael Nadal. That match went to five sets and was a classic. That match foreshadowed this year's battle.
Nadal took the first two sets, after which he was trailing in the second 4-2 before rallying to break Federer twice to take a 2-0 lead in the match. Then, like last year, Federer didn't allow Nadal to win that coveted third set that would end the day at Rolland Garros early. Instead, Federer won 7-6 and again by the same score in the 4th set - which is where I picked things up after getting home from errands. And what a 4th set it was. The two matched each other in every way imaginable. Shot for shot, winner for winner, error for error and ace for ace. It never ended, until it finally did after a tiebreaker that resulted in a 2-2 score pressing on towards a fifth set. Nadal had the match won on a few occasions during the tiebreaker, most notably when he had a 5-2 lead and was serving - he failed on his next two serves and then crumbled for Roger's gain.
The fifth set came, and so did the rain. After it was 2-2, the rain came causing the second delay of the match and prolonging what was already an extremely long match. It continued minutes later and so did the even-play. When Federer would go up one, Nadal would even things up. As the match continued and eventually broke the all-time record for longest Wimbledon Final, it was becoming apparent that it was going to come down to who broke who first due to the fact that there would be no tiebreaker in the fifth and final set.
Finally, after three sets in a row where Nadal blew chances to break Federer - and actually getting it to 40-15 before failing - Nadal broke through to take the lead 8-7. And that was all she wrote. Nadal took his serving chance and nailed it down after a grueling, four-hour and 48-minute match that rivaled the likes of McEnroe/Borg and anything between Sampras/Agassi.
In all honesty that I can muster, it was bar-none the most exciting Tennis match I've ever witnessed - and right up there with any of the best sporting events as well; right up there with the Sox game after game miracle fest in 2004 and the dynamite Super Bowl between the Patriots and Panthers. It was that exhilarating.
The win for Nadal helped him become the first Spaniard to win at Rolland Garros, and also be the first since 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back in one-year, which was done by the great Bjorn Borg.
SIFS Player of the Week: Rafael Nadal
Yes, indeed I do feel horrible about this. J.J. Hardy had a week for the ages, but so did Rafael Nadal and he capped it off by combining with Roger Federer to create possibly the greatest Wimbledon Final ever; a marathon of a match that would make Lance Armstrong proud. Four-hours and 48-minutes of non-stop action that held onto one's attention second by second, and provided remarkable shots every other fore and backhand.
Nadal started his week against Andy Murray on Wednesday by taking him in straight sets: 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. And then again on Friday, Nadal vanquished another opponent, that time being Rainer Schuettler in straight sets yet again: 6-1, 7-6, 6-4. The second set being one that he won 7-3 in a tiebreak. It was up to what he would do on Sunday at Center Courte to see how he'd finish off his run. At stake was a 42nd victory in a row at Wimbledon and a sixth-straight Wimbledon Championship for Roger Federer, the world's undeniable number-one. For Nadal, it was to represent his country for the first time as a Champion at Wimbledon, and to do what Bjorn Borg had done nearly 30-years before against John McEnroe - win the French and Wimbledon titles one after the other.
Nadal tried everything in the book much like Roger - as was something Roger expressed in the post-match interview - and came out on top in one of the best Singles matches ever done.
All I can say is, any other week and it's J.J. Hardy. Any other week that he wants to hit .600 and crank six-home runs he can get the simple nod of S.I.F.S. Player of the Week. Any other time that Rafael Nadal isn't competing, he's got it.