Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts - Strasburg, Shields and More

Photo Credit: zimbio.com

With the exception of the Nationals delivering a win, Stephen Strasburg's 2011 debut was everything the Nats organization could have hoped for. Facing a Dodgers lineup featuring James Loney, Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera and Andre Ethier, Strasburg allowed just 2 hits, a leadoff double to Dee Gordon in the first and a two out single to Rivera in the 4th, in an otherwise stellar performance. Featuring a 99 mile an hour fastball, Strasburg fanned 4 and did not walk a batter as he needed just 56 pitches - 40 of which he threw for strikes - to get through his 5 scoreless innings. Strasburg even reached on an error while putting down a sacrifice and scored a run and he actually left the game with a 3-0 lead. Unfortunately the bullpen allowed 7 runs in their 4 innings of work and Washington fell 7-3. Still, even with the loss, this game had to feel like a win for the organization. Their $15M man returned to the mound for them for the first time in over a year and by all accounts it appears to have been a success. Strasburg will make his second start on September 11th against the league's worst team, the Houston Astros, and rookie Henry Sosa (2-3, 4.11).

Photo Credit: zimbio.com
Maybe you don't need a six or seven man bullpen in this day and age. All you need is a staff full of James Shieldses. James Shields fired a complete game 4 hitter against the Rangers yesterday giving him an incredible 11 complete games this season in 29 starts. No pitcher has thrown that many complete games in a season since 1999 when Randy Johnson accomplished the feat for the Arizona Diamondbacks. What's even more remarkable about Shields is that he threw only 5 complete games TOTAL in his 5 previous seasons. The 29 year old Shields will next take the hill on September 11th at home against the Red Sox and is tentatively scheduled to match up against Josh Beckett. Beckett's availability is questionable though due to an ankle injury suffered yesterday against Toronto. Shields already has two complete games against Boston this year.

Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com
The U.S. lost a second 1-0 match in a week's time falling in Belgium today to drop to 0-2-1 under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Touted to be an offensive genius, the U.S. has struggled to score goals under him, tallying just one in his first three matches at the helm. However U.S. fans should remember that scoring goals has been a problem for us for a while now, and while it'd be nice to get results right away, like anything, it's going to be a process that will unfortunately take time. Klinsmann, much to people's dismay, isn't going to be any kind of 'quick fix'. Next up for the Americans is a home tilt against CONCACAF rival Honduras on October 8th in Miami. The U.S. is 11-3-3 all time against the Hondurans, but Honduras won the last matchup in January of 2010 by a score of 3-1.

Photo Credit: womenstennisblog.com

Rain washed out today's full slate at the U.S. Open, but that gives us time to take a look at the upcoming women's quarterfinal matchups.

(1) Caroline Wozniacki - Denmark vs (10) Andrea Petkovic - Germany

Despite being the #1 Women's Player in the world, Wozniacki has never won a major. However the U.S. Open is the closest she's ever come having reached the U.S. Open Finals in 2009. Petkovic meanwhile has reached the quarterfinals in 3 Grand Slams this year now, but has never gone beyond this point. The two have met twice before, both this year, with each player winning one match.

(2) Vera Zvonareva - Russia vs (9) Samantha Stosur - Australia

Zvonareva has the higher ranking, but Stosur has won 7 of the 9 matches between the two women including the last 7 in a row. Zvonareva reached the finals of the 2010 U.S. Open, but is still in search of her first Grand Slam win. Stosur is also in search of her first Grand Slam win and is only playing in the U.S. Open quarters for the second time.

(17) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - Russia vs (28) Serena Williams - USA

The 20 year old Pavlyuchenkova has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam reaching them here for just the second time. Williams, on the other hand, has won the U.S. Open 3 times and won 13 Slams. Williams is the last American standing on the women's side and has won her only previous matchup with the 20 year old Russian.

(26) Flavia Pennetta - Italy vs Angelique Kerber - Germany

Pennetta is in the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the third time, but has never advanced beyond them. Kerber meanwhile, ranked 92nd in the world, had never advanced beyond the 3rd round of a Slam before this year's U.S. Open. The two met earlier this year for the first time with Pennetta winning in straight sets.

Photo Credit: sportsblink.com
Oklahoma is ranked #1 for the second week in a row, narrowly edging out SEC powers LSU and Alabama. Boise State is at #4 following their big win against Georgia while Florida State, Stanford, Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State and Nebraska round out the top ten. Notre Dame, Georgia, Auburn and USC were all dropped from the rankings this week while Baylor (20), South Florida (22), Penn State (23) and Texas (24) are all new to the Top 25.

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