Thursday, June 30, 2011

Women's Wimbledon Finals Preview

The 2011 Wimbledon Final is set. 5th seed Maria Sharapova will face off against 8th seed Petra Kvitova. The two have played each other just one before when Sharapova defied Kvitova 6-4, 6-3 in Memphis last year. The 24 year old Sharapova is looking for her first Grand Slam singles title since 2008 when she defeated Ana Ivanovic to win the Australian Open. She has one Wimbledon title in her career back in 2004 when at the age of 17 she defeated top-seeded Serena Williams to win her first Slam title. The 21 year old Kvitova is playing in her first ever Grand Slam final. She reached the Wimbledon semis last year but fell to the eventual champion, Serena Williams in straight sets. The lefty from the Czech Republic has never been ranked higher than she is right now at #8.

Wimbledon Semifinals (Men's)

Down to the Final Four on the men's side with the big story being Roger Federer's inability to close out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after winning the first two sets. It was the first time in something like 179 matches that Federer has failed to close out a match that he led 2 sets to 0. Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic all advanced. Here's a breakdown of the semifinal matchups:

(1) Rafael Nadal (Spain) vs (4) Andy Murray (Great Britain)

This will be the 16th time that Nadal and Murray have met in competition with Nadal winning 11 of the first 15 matchups including the last three. This will also be the third time that Nadal and Murray have met at Wimbledon, as they also met in the 2010 semifinals and the 2008 quarterfinals with Nadal winning both matches in straight sets. While Murray does only have four wins against Nadal, half of those have come at Grand Slams as he defeated him in the 2008 U.S. Open semifinals and the 2010 Australian Open quarterfinals.

(12) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) vs  (2) Novak Djokovic (Serbia)

Tsonga is coming off a huge come-from-behind win over Roger Federer as he rallied after dropping the first two sets. He's likely to cause trouble for Djokovic as well he's beaten the #2 player in the world 5 times in 7 tries. Tsonga knocked Djokovic out of the 2010 Australian Open in the quarterfinals in their last meeting in a match that went the full 5 sets.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Phillies - Redsox, a World Series Preview?

The Philadelphia Phillies became the first team to 50 wins this year as Cliff Lee outdueled Josh Beckett en route to a 5-0 Phillies win tonight. Lee caps what has been just a ridiculous June for him as he fired his 3rd straight complete game shutout, and for the month he has allowed just 1 run in 42 innings of work and won all 5 of his starts. He's seen his ERA drop from 3.94 at the end of May to 2.66. Beckett meanwhile, looked rusty in his first start in nearly two weeks. But this game was more than just a matchup between two aces, this was arguably a preview of the 2011 World Series. After starting the season 2-10, Boston has gone 43-23 and are right in the thick of things in the AL East, just a game and a half behind the Yankees. Adrian Gonzalez has played like an MVP (.357 16 HR 71 RBI), and David Ortiz is in the midst of his best offensive season since the Sox last trip to the World Series back in 2007 (.311 17 HR 48 RBI) as Boston has scored the 2nd most runs in baseball, behind only the Yankees. And that's despite getting virtually nothing from Carl Crawford (.275 on base percentage) and having Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis post their lowest averages since their rookie seasons. Philly meanwhile has been doing it with pitching. They have no starters hitting over .300, only one player (Ryan Howard) with double digit homeruns, and they've scored just 6 more runs than the offensively challenged Houston Astros. But they have 3 9+ game winners in Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, all of whom have ERAs of 2.66 or lower.

Even as both sides struggle with injuries- Boston has Clay Buchholz, Bobby Jenks, Carl Crawford and Jed Lowrie on the DL, while Philly is out Joe Blanton, Jose Contreras, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson- both teams continue to win and will be extremely tough matchups in the postseason. Boston can throw Beckett, Lester and Buchholz at you in a 3 game series with a back end of the bullpen that contains Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Jenks and Daniel Bard. Not to mention a lineup that when healthy has both speed in Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, and power in Ortiz and Gonzalez. Philly meanwhile throws Halladay, Lee and Hamels at you. The three have combined for 40 quality starts in 50 tries and they're a combined 28-12. And their lineup, while it has struggled early this season, still has Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez. If their bullpen can ever get healthy, they're going with their 4th string closer now that Lidge, Madson and Contreras are all out, they'll be really tough to beat. But then again, when Lee and Halladay go 9 every time out, who needs a bullpen anyways?

Now in the grand scheme of thing, this series doesn't mean much of anything. It's June after all, and you can be certain that the rosters of these two teams come October will look a little different than they do right now. But don't be surprised if you see these two battling it out when all is said and done. Thursday's day game is the next big one to watch as lefties Jon Lester and Cole Hamels face off against one another, both in search of their 10th win.

Women's World Cup Update

Another day at the Women's World Cup with both Sweden and the United States winning their opening round games. Here's a quick summary:


Colombia gave Sweden more than they bargained for, but the 5th ranked Swedes were able to escape thanks to a second half goal from Jessica Landström. The 26 year old forward now has 16 goals from Sweden. Only one player on Sweden's World Cup roster, Josefine Öqvist, has more goals than Landström with 17. Colombia is playing in their first World Cup after finishing 2nd in the 2010 South American Women's Championship.


Abby Wambach set up Lauren Cheney in the 54th minute breaking a scoreless tie and Rachel Buehler added her 2nd career international goal as the U.S. started the World Cup out with a 2-0 win against North Korea. The 23 year old Cheney headed home a cross from Wambach for her 15th career goal for the U.S. while Wambach notched her 53rd career assist on the play. Wambach is just 12 goals behind Kristine Lilly for 2nd place all-time in U.S. Women's Soccer history. The U.S. also opened the 2007 World Cup against the North Koreans, but had to come from behind to force a 2-2 draw in that match. This time, Hope Solo would keep the North Koreans off the board making 7 saves as the U.S. took over first place in Group C. The U.S. will next face off against Colombia on July 2nd.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Road to Omaha

Lost in the shuffle of a lot of the other stuff going on in sports right now is the College World Series. SEC teams South Carolina and Florida are battling it out in a best of three series to decide the whole thing. Game 1 was tonight and if you missed it you missed out. Gone are the days where 9 hitters were hitting opposite field homeruns in 16-14 slugfests. This year's tournament has been all about pitching. Tonight was no different as Florida's Hudson Randall and South Carolina's Forrest Koumas were locked in a pitcher's duel. Florida struck first with a sacrifice fly in the third inning and it stayed 1-0 until their were two outs in the 8th when South Carolina second baseman Scott Wingo hit a seeing-eye ground ball just under Randall's glove and through the infield to score the tying run from third. It certainly seemed like Florida's game to win though as they loaded the bases in the 9th with nobody out and Tyler Thompson at the plate. Thompson hit John Taylor's offering to the right of Wingo who made a great diving stop on the short hop and fired home where catcher Robert Beary made a great scoop to get the out at the plate. Taylor then got Daniel Pigott to hit another grounder to Wingo who fired home to Beary starting a 4-2-3 double play to end the inning. The Gators had another golden opportunity to win the game in the 10th as well when with runners on first and second with two out when slumping catcher Mike Zunino singled through the left side, but Jake Williams came up throwing and Beary again came up with a nice play to tag out Cody Dent to send the game into the 11th. That would set the stage for South Carolina first baseman Christian Walker, playing with a broken wrist, to become the hero. Walker led off the 11th with a single and then with Brady Thomas at the plate, took off for second. It looked like it caught Zunino a little off guard as he fired a rushed throw into centerfield sending Walker to third. Bryson Smith fielded the errant throw and fired to third, but his throw shorthopped Dent and bounced into the stands giving South Carolina their first lead of the game. Matt Price would then come in for his 19th save to shut the door on their SEC rivals and moving them one win away from their second straight National Championship. Game 2 is tomorrow night at 8 Eastern.

Women's World Cup Update

Two days into the World Cup and we've seen four matches. Quick recap of what's gone down so far in case you missed anything...

France 1 Nigeria 0

France kicked off the 2011 World Cup with a 1-0 win over Nigeria yesterday behind a goal from 23 year old striker Marie-Laure Delie. Delie already has 12 goals in 2011 for the French National Team including hat tricks against New Zealand and Scotland at the Cyprus Cup and against Belgium in a friendly.

Germany 2 Canada 1

The hosts jumped out to a 2-0 first half lead behind goals from Kerstin Garefrekes and Celia Okoyino da Mbabi, and then held off the Canadians to win their opener at Olympic Stadium by a final score of 2-1. Ranked second in the world behind the United States, Germany has big time aspirations for their team this year. Christine Sinclair scored Canada's lone goal, her 117th career goal in 160 appearances.

Japan 2 New Zealand 1

Japan jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but New Zealand quickly equalized and the two sides spent much of the game deadlocked at 1 before Aya Miyama broke the tie in the 68th minute sending Japan to a 2-1 win. Yuki Nagasato also scored for 4th ranked Japan while New Zealand got their goal from 26 year old striker Amber Hearn.

Mexico 1 England 1

Center Midfielder Fara Williams put England ahead in the 21st minute with her 35th international goal, but the early lead wouldn't hold up as Mexico equalized from long range on a strike from Monica Ocampo. Mexico got just two shots on goal the entire match and were outshot 15-10 in the draw.

Team USA in action tomorrow against the Koreans as the U.S. look to win the tourney for the first time since 1999.

Wimbledon Quarterfinal Matchups

Big day at Wimbledon today as we saw both Williams sisters and women's #1 Caroline Wozniacki all fall. Meanwhile on the men's side, the top four seeds are all still in the mix. Quarterfinals start tomorrow, here's a breakdown of the matchups we'll be looking at.


(1) Rafael Nadal (Spain) vs (10) Mardy Fish (USA)

Wimbledon's defending champion has never lost to the last American standing at Wimbledon in 5 matches. They last met in 2008 at the U.S. Open, but also met at Wimbledon in 2007 where Nadal beat Fish in straight sets. Fish has taken just one set off of Nadal in their encounters thus far. Fish has never made it beyond the Quarterfinals in a Grand Slam event, this being his third try.

(4) Andy Murray (Great Britain) vs Feliciano Lopez (Spain)

Lopez is in the Wimbledon Quarterfinals for the third time, but he'll face a tough opponent in Murray whom he's never beaten in four tries. The two met twice in 2010, but have never met in a Slam and have never played on grass. Murray is trying to become the first Brit to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry back in 1936. He has twice reached the semifinals, in 2009 and 2010.

(12) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) vs (3) Roger Federer (Switzerland)

Tsonga is in the Wimbledon Quarterfinals for the second straight year, but he's taking on Roger Federer who has taken 4 of 5 matches from Tsonga including both of their meetings in 2011. The six-time Wimbledon champion Federer hasn't won a Grand Slam event since last year's Australian Open as he continues his quest for title number 17.

Bernard Tomic (Australia) vs (2) Novak Djokovic (Serbia)

The 18 year old Tomic, ranked 158th in the world is the biggest surprise of the tournament on the men's side. He will now run into his toughest matchup yet though taking on Novak Djokovic who has been absolutely dominant in 2011 winning the Australian Open and losing in the French Open semifinals. Djokovic has dropped one set in his first four matches, but Tomic has also won three of his four matches in straight sets. 


(24) Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia) vs (5) Maria Sharapova (Russia)

Sharapova and Cibulkova have split four meetings over their careers, but Cibulkova has won the last two including their one meeting this year in Madrid. All four matchups were on clay though as this will be the first time they meet on grass. Cibulkova is looking to advance beyond the quarters of a Grand Slam for just the second time in her career while Sharapova seeks her first title since 2008 and first Wimbledon Championship since 2004.

Sabine Lisicki (Germany) vs  (9) Marion Bartoli (France)

Marion Bartoli knocked off the 2-time reigning champion in straight sets today, but things won't get any easier for her as she continues her quest for her first Grand Slam title. Lisicki, though unseeded, has taken 2 of 3 career meetings including their one match this year in straight sets. Bartoli did defeat Lisicki at Wimbledon back in 2008, the only time the two have met on grass. Bartoli reached the Wimbledon finals in 2007.

Tamira Paszek (Austria) vs (4) Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)

20 year old Paszek and 4th seeded Azarenka have met just once before with Azarenka winning in straight sets in Montreal back in 2008. Azarenka is trying to advance to the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the 1st time in 5 trieds having also reached the Wimbledon quarters in 2009, the French Open Quarters in 2009 and 2011 and the Australian Open quarters in 2010. Paszek is playing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinals.

(8) Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) vs (32) Tsvetana Pironkova (Bulgaria)

Kvitova has won both matches between these two, but they haven't met since 2008. Both players reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2010, but both came up short as Kvitova lost to Serena Williams in straight sets and Pironkova lost to Vera Zvonareva. 

Top Tens

Men's Tennis Rankings (no change)

1. Rafael Nadal (Spain) - 12070 points
2. Novak Djokovic (Serbia) - 12005 points
3. Roger Federer (Switzerland) - 9230 points
4. Andy Murray (Great Britain) - 6855 points
5. Robin Soderling (Sweden) - 4595 points
6. David Ferrer (Spain) - 4150 points
7. Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) - 3490 points
8. Gael Monfils (France) - 2780 points
9. Mardy Fish (USA) - 2335 points
10. Andy Roddick (USA) - 2200 points

Women's Tennis Rankings (no change)

1. Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) - 9915 points
2. Kim Clijsters (Belgium) - 8215 points
3. Vera Zvonareva (Russia) - 7935 points
4. Li Na (China) - 6255 points
5. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) - 5725 points
6. Maria Sharapova (Russia) - 5021 points
7. Francesca Schiavone (Italy) - 4705 points
8. Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) - 4337 points
9. Marion Bartoli (France) - 4010 points
10. Samantha Stosur (Australia) - 3405 points

FedEx Cup Points Leaders

1. Luke Donald 1455 (1)
2. Bubba Watson 1448 (2)
3. Mark Wilson 1321 (3)
4. Matt Kuchar 1306 (4)
5. Nick Watney 1298 (6)
6. David Toms 1280 (8)
7. Phil Mickelson 1261 (5)
8. K.J. Choi 1236 (7)
9. Gary Woodland 1215 (9)
10. Brandt Snedecker 1191 (-)

OUT:  Steve Stricker (11)

AL Leading Hitters (through Sunday)

1. Adrian Gonzalez BOS - .361 (114/316)
2. Victor Martinez DET - .333 (77/231)
3. Miguel Cabrera DET - .330 (88/267)
4. Jose Bautista TOR - .325 (81/249)
5. Paul Konerko CHW - .324 (92/284)
6. Michael Young TEX - .323 (100/310)
7. David Ortiz BOS - .311 (84/270)
8. Matt Joyce TB - .310 (71/229)
9. Johnny Peralta DET - .308 (77/250)
10. Alex Avila DET - .303 (64/211)

NL Leading Hitters (through Sunday)

1. Jose Reyes NYM - .341 (113/331)
2. Matt Kemp LAD - .328 (92/281)
3. Starlin Castro CHC - .326 (104/319)
4. Joey Votto CIN - .318 (91/286)
5. Andre Ethier LAD - .317 (90/284)
6. Hunter Pence HOU - .315 (95/302)
7. Seth Smith COL - .314 (70/223)
8. Ryan Braun MIL - .308 (89/289)
9. Prince Fielder MIL - .305 (84/275)
10. Justin Upton ARI - .305 (91/298)

AL ERA Leaders (through Sunday)

1. Josh Beckett BOS - 1.86 (6-2)
2. Jered Weaver LAA - 1.97 (9-4)
3. James Shields TB - 2.29 (8-4)
4. Justin Verlander DET - 2.38 (10-3)
5. Michael Pineda SEA - 2.45 (7-4)
6. Gio Gonzalez OAK - 2.59 (6-5)
7. Ricky Romero TOR - 2.74 (7-7)
8. Alexi Ogando TEX - 2.87 (7-3)
9. Philip Humber CHW - 2.89 (7-4)
10. Erik Bedard SEA - 2.93 (4-5)

NL ERA Leaders (through Sunday)

1. Jair Jurrjens ATL - 2.07 (10-3)
2. Roy Halladay PHI - 2.40 (10-3)
3. Tommy Hanson ATL - 2.48 (8-4)
4. Cole Hamels PHI - 2.49 (9-4)
5. Jeff Karstens PIT - 2.66 (5-4)

6. Jhoulys Chacin COL - 2.71 (8-4)
7. Anibal Sanchez FLA - 2.82 (6-1)
8. Jordan Zimmerman WAS - 2.85 (5-6)
9. Cliff Lee PHI - 2.87 (8-5)
10. Ian Kennedy ARI - 2.90 (8-2)

Photos Courtesy (in order of appearance):

Gold Cup Final Thoughts

So it's taken me a little while to get in the frame of mind to write this recap after the U.S.'s crushing loss on Saturday night. After jumping out to an improbable 2-0 lead just over 20 minutes into the match, the U.S. were slowly picked apart by a much faster, more talented Mexican side eventually losing 4-2 at the Rose Bowl. With the loss comes a missed opportunity to play at the Confederations Cup in Brazil in 2013, but also the harsh realization that any ground the U.S. had made up against their southern rival over the past decade or so has quickly been lost. The biggest things that jumped off the page to me on Saturday night were Mexico's speed and Mexico's depth. Pablo Barrera, Andres Guardado, Giovani Dos Santos and Chicharito all gave the U.S. fits while on the attack. They were composed on the ball, they were always making runs into space, and they just kept creating opportunity after opportunity. The U.S.'s back four, particularly after the loss of veteran Steve Cherundolo was ill-equipped to keep up and eventually the chances started becoming goals. Which leads into my next point. If losing our 32 year old right back was enough to swing this match, then we have a serious problem on the defensive end. Captain Carlos Bocanegra and Clarence Goodson are both great in the air, but don't have great pace. Eric Lichaj was serviceable on the left side, but isn't a natural, and while he presents promise, he certainly isn't as strong on the right as Cherundolo is. Jonathan Bornstein, brought on after Cherundolo's injury, failed to deliver, but in his defense he hasn't been getting playing time for club or country lately, so what'd you expect would happen? In hindsight, sure you could've gone with youngster Tim Ream or West Ham's Jonathan Spector, but who knows if those would've turned out any better. Bottom line, the U.S. has holes at the back that are going to need to be addressed. Keep in mind, Bocanegra and Cherundolo will both be 35/36 come 2014. Anyhow, Mexico meanwhile lost TWO defenders on Saturday night when both Rafa Marquez and Carlos Salcido succumbed to injury in the first half, but their defense actually got better when subs Hector Reynoso and Jorge Torres came on. Mexico has depth right now, the U.S. does not. It's not just in the back either. Look at our forward situation. We came into the tournament with 3 strikers on the roster, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo and Chris Wondolowski. Altidore gets hurt, Wondo was ineffective and Agudelo, though a bundle of energy is still inexperienced. So here we are in the Gold Cup Final and we're starting Clint Dempsey up top. Which isn't bad obviously, Dempsey's terrific, but again, it speaks to our lack of natural forwards. But enough of the negatives, let's see what positives came out of this tournament as a whole. While the Cup ended on a sour note, it bears remembering that the U.S. still won 4 matches, all of them by shutout, so it wasn't all bad. Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Klejstan and Freddy Adu all had breakout performances. Bedoya, who didn't even make the squad initially (he was the injury replacement for Benny Feilhaber) ended up starting by the end of the tournament. Klejstan also worked his way into the starting lineup and showed himself to be effective as an attacking midfielder. Adu was the real story for his strong play against the Panamanians and Mexico. On the verge of being an overhyped bust, Adu made the most of his opportunity and was perhaps the best 1 on 1 player for the U.S. His pass to Donovan set up the loan goal against Panama and he hit the corner kick that Bradley scored against Mexico. His name's been out there for so long that people forget he's just 22 years old and still has a lot of soccer ahead of him. With Donovan and Dempsey getting older, it's going to be crucial to develop additional playmakers and Adu's potential reemergence couldn't have come at a better time. It will be interesting to see what happens with Adu overseas this year- he was loaned to Turkey's 2nd division last season- as hopefully he's able to use this performance as a stepping stone to better things. In addition to the three midfielders, the U.S. was also able to get big minutes for youngsters Agudelo and Lichaj. Even Tim Ream got a fair bit of playing time in the center before the U.S. shifted Bocanegra back to his natural spot. These opportunities in high pressure situations are invaluable to the younger players and none of the three did anything to suggest they won't be given more opportunities moving forward. So what's next for the men's team? They've got a bit of downtime right now as there are no more matches on the schedule for this year. The MLSers will return to their clubs as they get ready for the All-Star Break and then the playoff push, while the European players will finally take a breather. While a 4-4-2 record is disappointing by U.S. standards, there have certainly been reasons to be optimistic for what lies ahead. That being said, this team is by no means a shoe-in for the 2014 World Cup, so they're going to have to continue to work.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wimbledon Sweet 16s

We're down to the final 16 on both the men's and women's sides at Wimbledon. A quick look at the matchups:


(1) Rafael Nadal (Spain) vs (24) Juan Martin Del Potro (Argentina)

Del Potro actually surprisingly has faired fairly well against Nadal in his career going 3-5 against him in 8 matches including a win in straight sets on his way to winning the 2009 U.S. Open. Nadal won their only meeting this year at Indian Wells and also earned a walkover against Del Potro in Madrid. They met just once on grass back in 2007 in London with Nadal winning in straight sets.

(10) Mardy Fish (USA) vs (6) Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic)

The two top tens players have never before met in competition. Fish has never advanced past the 4th Round at Wimbledon before while Berdych made it to the finals of last year's tournament before falling in straight sets to Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

(4) Andy Murray (Great Britain) vs (17) Richard Gasquet (France)

Murray and Gasquet have faced each other 4 times before with each man taking two, but one of Murray's wins was in this round at Wimbledon back in 2008 when the two battled through 5 sets with the Brit coming out on top despite losing the first two sets 5-7, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4. Murray has reached the semifinals at the last two Wimbledons while Gasquet made the semifinals back in 2007.

Lukasz Kubot (Poland) vs Feliciano Lopez (Spain)

The two unseeded 29 year olds have met just once in competition with Lopez winning in straight sets in Madrid last year 6-3, 6-3. Lopez has made it to the Wimbledon quarterfinals twice before, in 2005 and 2008, while Kubot has never gotten through the 4th Round of a Grand Slam event.

(7) David Ferrer (Spain) vs (12) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France)

Ferrer defeated Tsonga in straight sets last year in Rome in their only meeting 6-4, 6-1. This is the third time that Ferrer has reached the 4th Round at Wimbledon, but he's never advanced beyond this point. Tsonga, meanwhile, is looking to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon for the second straight year.

(18) Mikhail Youzhny (Russia) vs (3) Roger Federer (Switzerland)

Federer and Youzhny have faced off against one another ten times in their careers with Federer winning all ten matches, including three on grass. The haven't faced each other since 2007 when they met three times including the 3rd Round of the Australian Open. Youzhny has taken just 2 sets off of Federer out of 24 in their head to head meetings.

Bernard Tomic (Australia) vs Xavier Malisse (Belgium)

Malisse defeated the 18 year old Australian in London last year in 3 sets. Tomic has already knocked off 29th seeded Nikolay Davydenko and 5th seeded Robin Soderling in this tournament, both in straight sets as he looks to build on the deepest Grand Slam run he's ever had. The 30 year old Malisse had has best ever Grand Slam effort at Wimbledon in 2002 when he reached the semifinals.

(19) Michael Llodra (France) vs (2) Novak Djokovic (Serbia)

Djokovic has taken 2 out of 3 from Llodra including a win at Dubai this year, but the two have only played on hard courts before this. The 31 year old Frenchman is looking to get past the 4th Round of a Grand Slam for the first time in 4 tries while Djokovic is looking to continue his strong run in 2011 that already includes an Australian Open title.


(1) Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) vs (24) Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia)

Wozniaki and Cibulkova have played each other 8 times before with Wozniacki winning 6 of those matches including a win in straight sets at this year's Australian Open. This will be the first time the two have ever met on grass as their previous 8 meetings all came on hard courts. Despite her number one ranking, Wozniacki has never won a Grand Slam event and has never made it past the 4th round at Wimbledon.

(20) Shuai Peng (China) vs (5) Maria Sharapova (Russia)

Sharapova has taken 2 of 3 from Peng in their careers winning most recently in 3 sets at Indian Wells earlier this year. This will be the first time the two have ever met on grass. Peng is playing in the 4th round of a Grand Slam for just the 2nd time in her career - the first being this year's Australian Open - while Sharapova won Wimbledon back in 2004.

Sabine Lisicki (Germany) vs Petra Cetkovska (Czech Republic)

Lisicki and Cetkovska will be meeting for the first time as both have put together nice runs to the round of 16. Lisicki, also playing in the doubles tournament with Australian Samantha Stosur, knocked off 3rd seed Li Na in the second round 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 while Cetkovska defeated 13th seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 and 18th seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 7-6.

(9) Marion Bartoli (France) vs (7) Serena Williams (USA)

Serena and Bartoli have met twice before with Williams taking both matches in straight sets. Serena is a 4 time champion at Wimbledon including wins in both 2009 and 2010 and has 13 Grand Slam Titles to her name. Bartoli's best tournament was the 2007 when she lost in the finals to Serena's sister Venus. This will be the first time the two have ever played each other on grass.

Tamira Paszek (Austria) vs Ksenia Pervak (Russia)

The two 20 year olds will meet for the first time in the 4th Round. Pervak is in the 4th round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career and has defeated 22nd seeded Shahar Peer and 11th seeded Andrea Petkovic to get here. Paszek also reached the 4th at Wimbledon back in 2007 and defeated 6th seeded Francesca Schiavone in the 3rd round this year 3-6, 6-4, 11-9.

Nadia Petrova (Russia) vs (4) Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)

Petrova and Azarenka have split four career matches including a pair of showdowns at Wimbledon. In 2008 Petrova defeated Azarenka in straight sets 7-6, 7-6, but Azarenka returned the favor in 2009 winning 7-6, 2-6, 6-3. Neither player has ever won a Grand Slam event with Azarenka coming closest losing 3 times in the Finals (twice at the Australian, once at the French).

(8) Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) vs (19) Yanina Wickmayer (Belarus)

Despite both players being only 21, this will be the 7th time Kvitova and Wickmayer have played, but the first time they'll have faced off on grass. Kvitova has won both matches this year, but both went the full three sets. Kvitova reached the semifinals of Wimbledon last year while the 4th round is the farthest Wickmayer has ever made it.

(23) Venus Williams (USA) vs (32) Tsvetana Pironkova (Bulgaria)

Pironkova has taken 2 of 3 matches from Venus including a straight set win to knock her out of the Wimbledon Quarterfinals last year. Venus has won Wimbledon 5 times previously, most recently in 2008, while Pironkova's run to the semis last year was her best showing in a Grand Slam event.

NBA Draft Recap - First Round Picks 1-15

A Quick Rundown of the 2011 NBA Draft that went down the other night. For the purpose of keeping this simple with regard to the number of trades that went down, I'm only going to list the team the player actually ended up with. So here we go, picks 1-15:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving - PG - 6'4" 191 lbs - 19 year old highly touted point guard out of Duke, Irving spent much of his freshman year injured before coming back for the Blue Devils' NCAA tournament run. Scored a season high 31 points against Michigan State before his injury and finished the year with 28 in their elimination loss to Arizona. For the year he averaged 17.5 points and 4.3 assists while shooting 46.2% from 3-point range.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves - Derrick Williams - PF - 6'9" 248 lbs - 20 year old power forward out of the University of Arizona, Williams had a huge NCAA tournament last year where he averaged over 22 points and 9 rebounds a game. He scored 32 points and added 13 rebounds, both season highs, in the Sweet Sixteen against Duke to lead Arizona to the Elite Eight as a 5 seed. For the year he averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting nearly 60% from the floor, including 56.8% from 3-point range.

3. Utah Jazz - Enes Kanter - C - 6'11" 260 lbs - 18 year old Turkish center who was recruited by Kentucky but declared to be ineligible due to his earnings in Europe. In 2009 Kanter was named the MVP of the FIBA Europe U-18 Championships where he averaged 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds while leading Turkey to a bronze medal finish. In Utah he'll join countryman Mehmet Okur to help bolster the Jazz's frontcourt.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Tristan Thompson - PF - 6'9" 227 lbs - 20 year old power forward from the University of Texas, Thompson was a bit of a surprise pick for the Cavs here. However, listening to Byron Scott on ESPN Radio, he made it sound like this was a guy they were real high on coming into the draft and they're excited they got him. As a freshman at Texas, Thompson averaged 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting nearly 55% from the field. He scored a season high 26 points against Kansas State in late February, but was held to just 3 points and 6 rebounds in their season ending second round loss to Arizona.

5. Toronto Raptors -  Jonas Valaciunas - C - 7'0" 245 lbs - 19 year old 7-footer from Lithuania who will have to wait a year before joining the Raptors due to his current contract with Lietuvos Rytas of the Lithuanian Basketball League. Valaciunas has led Lithuania to FIBA Europe U-16 and U-18 championships winning MVP awards both times. With the U-16s he averaged 14.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks and then at the U-18 level he averaged 19.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

6. Washington Wizards - Jan Vesely - SF - 6'11" 240 lbs - 21 year old swingman who can play either forward position who hails from the Czech Republic. The 2010 FIBA Europe Young Men's Player of the Year has helped lead Partizan Belgrade to 3 straight Serbian Cup Championships, Serbian League Championships and Adriatic League Championships.

7. Charlotte Bobcats - Bismack Biyombo - C - 6'9" 243 lbs - 18 year old Congolese bigman who is a monster on defense, but does not have much of an offensive game drawing numerous comparisons to Ben Wallace. Recorded a triple double at the 2011 Nike Hoops Summit with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks and made his professional debut in the Spanish ACB League with Fuenlabrada in January.

8. Detroit Pistons - Brandon Knight - PG - 6'4" 177 lbs - 19 year old point guard from Kentucky with great size. Left Kentucky after his freshman year where he led the Wildcats in scoring (17.3 ppg) and assists (4.2 apg) en route to the Final Four. Knight made just one basket in Kentucky's tournament opener against Princeton, but it was a game winning layup with 2 seconds remaining. Knight followed that game up with a season high 30 points against West Virginia in the second round.

9. Charlotte Bobcats - Kemba Walker - PG - 6'1" 184 lbs - Walker joins Biyombo as the Hornets, like the Cavs got a pair of Top Ten picks. A 21 year old point guard from Connecticut, Walker saw his scoring average improve from 8.9 points per game as a freshman, to 14.6 points as a sophomore and finally to 23.5 points last year as a junior. He also led the Huskies on a remarkable 11 game run through the Big East and NCAA Tournaments where he averaged 24.6 points per game. Scored 36 points against San Diego State in the Sweet 16, but that was still 6 shy of his season high against Vermont back in November.

10. Sacramento Kings - Jimmer Fredette - PG - 6'3" 196 lbs - 22 year old guard from BYU who was the first player taken in this draft that actually had 4 years of college experience. Fredette led the nation in scoring (28.9 ppg) this year and I actually had the opportunity to see him play in person against Florida at the Sweet 16. Despite an off night (hit just 3 of 15 3's), Fredette still finished with 32 points and was surprisingly adept at getting to the rim against a much bigger, more athletic Florida team. He joins a Kings team with Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins in what could be an explosive offense next season.

11. Golden State Warriors - Klay Thompson - SG - 6'7" 206 lbs - 21 year old shooting guard with good size out of Washington State. Led the Cougars in scoring his junior year with 21.6 points per game while also chipping in 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Hit 8 3-pointers and scored 43 points, a Pac-10 tournament record, in a 2-point loss to rival Washington in March. Helped Washington State to the NIT semifinals, but was held to just 6 points in a 31 point loss to Wichita State.

12. Utah Jazz - Alec Burks - SG - 6'6" 193 lbs - 19 year old guard from Colorado led the Buffaloes in scoring as a sophomore with 20.5 points per game and was their second leading rebounder (6.5 per game). After narrowly missing the NCAA Tournament, helped Colorado to the NIT semifinals where they fell by one point to Alabama. Burks had 20 points in a losing effort. Scored a season high 36 points in a win over Missouri in January.

13. Phoenix Suns - Markieff Morris - PF - 6'9" 241 lbs - 21 year old twin brother of Marcus Morris who spent the past three years with Kansas. Finished second on the team behind his brother in scoring as a junior and led the Jayhawks in rebounding. Averaged 14.3 points and 9.5 rebounds during the Jayhawks NCAA tournament run that ended with a loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the Elite Eight. Morris had 13 points and 12 rebounds, but turned the ball over 8 times in the loss.

14. Houston Rockets - Marcus Morris - PF - 6'9" 230 lbs - 21 year old picked 5 minutes after his brother, Marcus is projected to be more of a small forward than a power forward at the NBA level. Marcus led Kansas in scoring as a junior with 17.2 points per game and was second on the team in rebounding behind his twin brother Markieff. Marcus had 20 points and 16 rebounds in Kansas's loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the Elite Eight.

15. San Antonio Spurs - Kawhi Leonard - SF - 6'7" 228 lbs - 19 year old who was arguably the best player on a San Diego State team that came out of nowhere to go 34-3 last season. Finished his sophomore season as the team's leader in scoring (15.5 ppg) and rebounding (10.6 ppg) and led the Aztecs to the Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship. Scored 12 points and had 9 rebounds in their Sweet 16 loss to eventual NCAA Champion Connecticut.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wimbledon Eliminations Through Two Rounds

A quick recap of which of the top seeds have been knocked out of Wimbledon so far and what they have coming up next:


(13) Viktor Troicki (Serbia) - 2nd Round vs Yen-Hsun Lu (Chinese Taipei) - #57
(14) Stanislas Wawrinka - 2nd Round vs Simone Bolelli (Italy) - #97
(20) Florian Mayer (Germany) - 2nd Round vs Xavier Malisse (Belgium) - #42
(21) Fernando Verdasco (Spain) - 2nd Round vs Robin Haase (Netherlands) - #58
(22) Alexandr Dolgopolov (Ukraine) - 1st Round vs Fernando Gonzalez (Chile) - #97
(23) Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) - 1st Round vs Ivo Karlovic (Croatia) - #73
(25) Juan Ignacio Chela (Argentina) - 2nd Round vs Alex Bogomolov Jr. (USA) - #72
(26) Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (Spain) - 2nd Round vs Karol Beck (Slovakia) - #87
(27) Marin Cilic (Croatia) - 1st Round vs Ivan Ljubicic (Croatia) - #33
(29) Nikolay Davydenko (Russia) - 2nd Round vs Bernard Tomic (Australia) - n/a
(30) Thomaz Bellucci (Brazil) - 1st Round vs Rainer Schuettler (Germany) - #98
(31) Milos Raonic (Canada) - 2nd Round vs Gilles Muller (Luxembourg - #92


(7) David Ferrer (Spain) vs Ryan Harrison (USA) 6-7, 6-1, 4-6, 4-2
(11) Jurgen Melzer (Austria) vs Dmitry Tursunov (Russia) 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 1-1


(1) Rafael Nadal (Spain) vs Gilles Muller (Luxembourg)
(2) Novak Djokovic (Serbia) vs (32) Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus)
(3) Roger Federer (Switzerland) vs (28) David Nalbandian (Argentina)
(4) Andy Murray (Great Britain) vs Ivan Ljubicic (Croatia)
(5) Robin Soderling (Sweden) vs TBD
(6) Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) vs Alex Bogomolov Jr. (USA)
(8) Andy Roddick (USA) vs Feliciano Lopez (Spain)
(9) Gael Monfils (France) vs Lukasz Kubot (Poland)
(10) Mardy Fish (USA) vs Robin Haase (Netherlands)
(12) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) vs Fernando Gonzalez (Chile)
(15) Gilles Simon (France) vs (24) Juan Martin Del Potro (Argentina)
(16) Nicolas Almagro (Spain) vs (18) Mikhail Youzhny (Russia)
(17) Richard Gasquet (France) vs Simone Bolelli (Italy)
(18) Mikhail Youzhny (Russia) vs (16) Nicolas Almagro (Spain)
(19) Michael Llodra (France) vs Yen-Hsun Lu (Chinese Taipei)
(24) Juan Martin Del Potro (Argentina) vs (15) Gilles Simon (France)
(28) David Nalbandian (Argentina) vs (3) Roger Federer (Switzerland)
(32) Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus) vs (2) Novak Djokovic (Serbia)


(3) Li Na (China) - 2nd Round vs Sabine Lisicki (Germany) - #62
(10) Samantha Stosur (Australia) - 1st Round vs Melinda Czink (Hungary) - n/a
(13) Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) - 2nd Round vs Petra Cetkovska (Czech Republic) - #81
(14) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia) - 2nd Round vs Nadia Petrova (Russia) - #37
(15) Jelena Jankovic (Serbia) - 1st Round vs Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (Spain) - n/a
(17) Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) - 1st Round vs Sara Errani (Italy) - #34
(22) Shahar Peer (Israel) - 1st Round vs Ksenia Pervak (Russia) - #89
(28) Ekaterina Makarova (Russia) - 1st Round vs Christina McHale (USA) - #73
(30) Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) - 1st Round vs Misaki Doi (Japan) - n/a
(31) Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic) - 2nd Round vs Klara Zakopalova (Czech Republic) - #35


(1) Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) vs Virginie Razzano (France)
(5) Maria Sharapova (Russia) vs Laura Robson (Great Britain)
(9) Marion Bartoli (France) vs Lourdes Dominguez Lino (Spain)
(20) Shuai Peng (China) vs Elena Baltacha (Great Britain)


(2) Vera Zvonareva (Russia) vs (32) Tsvetana Pironkova (Bulgaria)
(4) Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) vs (25) Daniela Hantuchova (Slovakia)
(6) Francesca Schiavone (Italy) vs Tamira Paszek (Austria)
(7) Serena Williams (USA) vs (26) Maria Kirilenko (Russia)
(8) Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) vs (29) Roberta Vinci (Italy)
(11) Andrea Petkovic (Germany) vs Ksenia Pervak (Russia)
(12) Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia) vs (19) Yanina Wickmayer (Belgium)
(16) Julia Goerges (Germany) vs (24) Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia)
(18) Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) vs Petra Cetkovska (Czech Republic)
(19) Yanina Wickmayer (Belgium) vs (12) Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia)
(21) Flavia Pennetta (Italy) vs TBD
(23) Venus Williams (USA) vs Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (Spain)
(24) Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia) vs (16) Julia Goerges (Germany)
(25) Daniela Hantuchova (Slovakia) vs (4) Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)
(26) Maria Kirilenko (Russia) vs (7) Serena Williams (USA)
(27) Jarmila Gajdosova (Australia) vs TBD
(29) Roberta Vinci (Italy) vs (8) Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
(32) Tsvetana Pironkova (Bulgaria) vs (2) Vera Zvonareva (Russia)

Ron Artest is Crazy

Or should I say the artist formerly known as Artest. Ron Artest has found his way into the names once again a la Ocho Cinco as he is currently petitioning to change his name to Metta World Peace. An August 26th court date has been set to hear his petition. I'm not even sure what to say about that. Ron or.. Metta... has always been a bit off. But sometimes you forget with all of the sideshow antics that he's actually a pretty good basketball player. The 2004 Defensive Player of the Year won a title with the Lakers in 2010. In his 14 year NBA career spent with the Bulls, Pacers, Kings, Rockets and Lakers, Artest has averaged 14.8 points per game. This past season was the first one in his career that he didn't average double figures (8.5 ppg). It remains unclear should the name change go through if the back of his jersey will read 'PEACE' or 'WORLD PEACE'.

Photo Courtesy:

Gold Cup Finals Set - USA vs Mexico

It took 120 minutes, but Mexico prevailed over a tough Honduras squad 2-0 to set up the 3rd straight Gold Cup Final between the United States and Mexico. After two scoreless halves of soccer, Mexico wasted little time in the extra periods getting a pair of goals off corner kicks in the 92nd and 98th minute as they won their 5th straight match in the Gold Cup. Pablo Barrera connected with Aldo de Nigris for a header to break the scoreless tie and then found Chicharito for his tournament-best 7th goal of the tournament as the Mexicans advance to the Championship Match. Mexico has outscored their opponents 18-2 over their first 5 matches with Chicharito and De Nigris combining for 11 scores. Chicharito's 7 goals are the second most in Gold Cup history behind only his fellow countryman Luis Roberto Alves, 'Zaguinho', who scored 11 times during the 1993 Gold Cup, including 7 in ONE GAME against Martinique.

So now Mexico and the United States are set to meet once more. The two nations have won 9 of a possible 10 Gold Cup titles, missing out only in 2000 when Canada won the title after the U.S. lost in penalty kicks to Colombia and Mexico got beaten by Canada on a golden goal in the 92nd minute. Over the years, the two sides have met 5 times with Mexico winning 3 of those matches.

1991 Semis - USA 2 Mexico 0
1993 Finals - Mexico 4 USA 0
1998 Finals - Mexico 1 USA 0
2007 Finals - USA 2 Mexico 1
2009 Finals - Mexico 5 USA 0

All 5 goals that Mexico scored in the 2009 Final came in the 56th minute or later as El Tri showed just how explosive they can be. The win also gave Mexico a leg up over the U.S. in terms of titles with Mexico now having 5 to the U.S.'s 4.

It will be interesting to see what the United States does in the finals with regards to how they line up as they've gone the past two games with Landon Donovan coming off of the bench. While youngsters Sacha Klejstan and Alejandro Bedoya have been great additions to the U.S.A. lineup, it will be difficult to replace the experience that Donovan brings to the table. That being said, the only way these young guys will get experience is by playing in high-steaks games such as this one. You also have to take into account the fact that the United States has turned in its two best games of the tournament with Donovan coming on as a sub, a role he has been able to make huge contributions in setting up goals in both games. So we'll see what Bob Bradley does as they attempt to slow down the juggernaut that is Mexico and bring the title back to the United States. Championship game is set for Saturday night at 9 Eastern.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gold Cup Semifinals - USA vs Panama


Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! Freddy Adu, at one time believed to be the future of American soccer has been largely an afterthought in the National Team picture the last few years. He didn't make the World Cup team last summer, and he'd been playing in Turkey's second division, but when finally given an opportunity in the Gold Cup, he did not squander it. Coming on as a second half substitute for Juan Agudelo, Adu's vision and playmaking ability resulted in a trip to the finals for the United States. It was Adu's beautifully threaded ball that found an open Landon Donovan streaking down the right side who played an equally pinpointed pass through three defenders to Clint Dempsey at the back post who slid it home for the game's only goal in the 77th minute. Donovan came off the bench in this one as well as both of head coach Bob Bradley's moves paid off in sending the U.S. to their third straight shutout win.

The U.S. employed the same 4-5-1 lineup they used against Jamaica on Sunday with Juan Agudelo starting in place of the injured Jozy Altidore up front, with Sacha Klejstan, Michael Bradley, Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya making up the starting midfield. Unlike their earlier run-in with Panama, the U.S. was able to control the pace of the game a lot more, and while they didn't create a lot of good chances, they effectively neutralized the Panamanian attack. Agudelo had the best chance of the first half when his diving header off a low driven cross from Steve Cherundolo hit the post, but otherwise they didn't have any truly dangerous chances. Donovan came on at the break for Klejstan and in a surprise move Adu was the next guy called upon. With Adu in the midfield, Dempsey was able to move to the top of the 4-5-1 and the end result was that all 3 moves Bradley made led directly to a goal. Dempsey has now scored 3 goals in the Gold Cup and 22 for the United States, trailing only Landon Donovan among active players, and moving him ahead of Bruce Murray and into 5th place all-time behind Eric Wynalda (34), Brian McBride (30) and Joe-Max Moore (24).

The United States has now knocked Panama out of the last four Gold Cups going back to 2005 when they defeated them in a shootout to win the tournament. In both 2007 and 2009, the U.S. defeated Panama by scores of 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

The United States now awaits the results of tonight's other semifinal match between Honduras and Mexico to see who they will play for the 2011 Gold Cup title. As of this moment, the two teams are scoreless in the 80th minute. Mexico is the only team left in the tournament that has won every match they've been in.

Isner - Mahut - Round 2

In another case of the sequel not being as good as the original, American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut were not able to duplicate their epic Wimbeldon showdown from a year ago. Last year, in the longest match in tennis history, both in terms of time and number of games, Isner defeated Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. That's not a typo. The last set went 138 games. The match spanned 3 days and covered 11 hours and 5 minutes of play. It was an unbelievable display of effort on the part of both men, and you really hated to see either one lose at that point. Equally unbelievable was the fact that the two men were randomly drawn against one another in the first round of the tournament AGAIN this year. Isner once again was victorious, but this time around he pulled it off in straight sets, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6, in just 2 hours and 3 minutes.

Photo Courtesy:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jack McKeon is So Old...

How old is he?

I heard this on ESPN Radio this morning when I was driving to work. Jack McKeon, now 80 years old, was named the Marlins manager this week making him the second oldest manager EVER behind only the great Connie Mack. But that's not even the craziest part of the story. McKeon got his first big league managing gig with the Kansas City Royals back in 1973. At the point in time, there was not a single member of the Marlins current 40 man roster who'd even been born yet! The oldest player Florida has, relief pitcher Randy Choate was born in the fall of 1975.

Photo Courtesy:

McKeon led the Marlins to their second World Series title in 2003 becoming the oldest manager to ever win a World Series. They upset the heavily favored Yankees in 6 games with a roster that included a 23 year old Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, rookies Miguel Cabrera, Juan Pierre and Dontrelle Willis, Derrek Lee, Mike Lowell, Brad Penny, "Mr. Marlin" Jeff Conine and Ivan Rodriguez.

The 2011 Marlins are 32-41 and have lost 11 straight and 19 of their last 20 games after starting the season 31-22.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Who Will Be the First to Ten Wins?

Who's going to be the first pitcher to win 10 games this season? There are currently 9 9-game winners in the major leagues, but this is the longest it's taken a pitcher to win 10 games since back in 2004 when Roger Clemens accomplished the feat on June 24th. So who are the candidates and who do they face next?

1. Roy Halladay - Philadelphia - 9-3, 2.56 ERA.

Halladay and the Phillies will take on Kyle McClellan (6-3 3.96) and the Cardinals tomorrow as he tries to get win number ten for the second time after taking a no decision against the Marlins on Wednesday. He catches a bit of break though as Albert Pujols will not be in the lineup after fracturing his arm on Sunday. Still, a lineup with Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday still isn't a walk in the park. Halladay did win his only start against the Cardinals last season allowing 1 earned run in 7 innings of work.

2. C.C. Sabathia - New York Yankees - 9-4, 3.39.

Sabathia beat the Cubs yesterday to win his second straight start so he'll have to wait until Saturday when the Yankees host Aaron Cook (0-2 4.67) and the Colorado Rockies. Sabathia has allowed 14 runs in his last 3 starts, but got 22 runs of offensive support over the last two.

3. Cole Hamels - Philadelphia - 9-3, 2.51.

Hamels missed an opportunity to get win number ten last night against the Mariners as he got no run support and fell 2-0. Hamels has gone 5 starts in a row allowing 2 runs or fewer, but the Phillies have only won 3 of those games. Hamels isn't in action until Saturday, so he might not even by the first pitcher on his team to get to ten wins with Halladay throwing tomorrow. Hamels will face Trevor Cahill (7-5 3.24) and the Oakland Athletics his next time out.

4. Justin Verlander - Detroit - 9-3, 2.54.

The ace of my fantasy team has won 5 straight starts and is coming off back to back complete games against Cleveland and at Colorado. Verlander will also not be in action until Saturday when he takes on rookie righthander Josh Collmenter (4-3 2.09) of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

5. Jered Weaver - Los Angeles Angels - 9-4, 2.01.

Another one of my fantasy aces (yet somehow we're in third place- i attribute this to poor managing), Weaver picked up win number nine tonight against the Marlins with 7 strong innings of one-run ball. After winning his first 6 starts, Weaver went on to lose his next 4, but has recovered nicely going unbeaten over his last 6. Next up is a Sunday rivalry game against Clayton Kershaw (7-3 3.01) and the Dodgers on Sunday.

6. Jon Lester - Boston - 9-3, 3.70.

Lester was outdueled by Randy Wolf his last time out in a bid to win game number ten on Saturday night. Just 2-2 over his past 4 starts, he does have a distinct advantage in that he's got the league's most potent offensive attack supporting him. He'll face off against a fellow lefty in Paul Maholm (3-8 3.29) on Friday night.

7. Jair Jurrjens - Atlanta - 9-3, 2.11.

The National League's ERA leader has seen his ERA rise from 1.51 to 2.11 over his last four starts, but he still managed to beat the Rangers and their high-powered attack his last time out. It gets a little easier for him on paper his next time out as they'll travel to pitcher friendly Petco Park to take on Dustin Moseley (2-6 3.02) and the San Diego Padres on Saturday.

8. Max Scherzer - Arizona - 9-2 4.32

Another beneficiary of a high powered offense, Scherzer was just 21-26 in his career coming into this season. He's won his last 3 starts, but he's been tagged for 5 or more runs 5 times this season. Like Halladay, Scherzer will go for win number ten tomorrow when he takes on Chad Billingsley (5-6 4.65) and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

9. Jake Arrieta - Baltimore - 9-4 4.50

Arrieta beat Charlie Morton and the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight to get his 9th win. As a rookie last season he won just 6 times in 18 starts, but he's been racking up the W's in 2011. While his ERA is the highest of all the 9 game winners, it would be better if not for a 3 1/3 inning disaster against the Rangers on April 9th during which he allowed 8 runs in a 13-1 loss. He had another rough one against the Nationals last month when he gave up 6 runs in 3 2/3 innings in a 17-5 loss. Still, he finds himself 9-4 and will go for double digits against Johnny Cueto (4-2 1.68) and the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.


I'm going with Doc Halladay. I have a tough time seeing St. Louis beat him without Pujols in the lineup. We'll find out tomorrow!

Gold Cup Quarterfinals - Day 2


The United States finally showed up at the Gold Cup on Sunday getting a well deserved 2-0 victory over the previously unbeaten Jamaicans as they advance to the semifinals. Despite not having Landon Donovan in the starting lineup and losing Jozy Altidore to a hamstring injury 10 minutes into the match, the U.S. played easily their best match of the tournament. Sacha Klejstan and Alejandro Bedoya both made their first starts of the Gold Cup as the U.S. deployed a 4-5-1 formation instead of their more traditional 4-4-2. Clogging the midfield neutralized Jamaica's speed-game as the Reggae Boyz generated very little on offense after missing a golden opportunity in the opening minutes of the game. Dane Richards (New York Red Bulls) made a run down the right sideline before slotting a ball for Rodolph Austin. Austin's shot was mishit, but the ball ended up on the foot of San Jose's Ryan Johnson, but Tim Howard denied him from point blank range and Luton Shelton missed a wide open rebound over the bar from just beyond the top of the 6 yard box. The U.S. would settle in though, and despite Altidore's injury they slowly began to take control of the match dominating the possession game and creating a number of good opportunities. However, Donovan Ricketts (L.A. Galaxy) and the Jamaican defense, who hadn't been scored on the entire tournament continued to come up big denying good opportunities from substitute Juan Agudelo, Clint Dempsey, Klejstan and Eric Lichaj as the two teams went into the break tied at 0. It didn't take long for the U.S to finally break through in the second half though. Jermaine Jones ripped a one timer from just beyond the top of the penalty area that deflected off of defender Jermaine Taylor and past Ricketts for his first national team goal and a 1-0 lead in the 49th minute. A little while later in the 67th minute, Jones was taken down by Taylor and sent off forcing Jamaica to play the last 20+ minutes a man down. The U.S. would put the game out of reach a little over ten minutes later when Landon Donovan, on as a substitute for Bedoya, fed Juan Agudelo who shot a cross into the middle for a wide open Dempsey who coolly sidestepped Ricketts to scored his 21st career goal for the United States, and second of the tournament. The U.S., now with momentum back on their side, heads to the semifinals where they have a rematch with the Panamanian side that upset them last week.

PANAMA 1 EL SALVADOR 1 - Panama wins 5-3 on penalty kicks

For the second day in a row, a missed penalty kick in regulation cost a team a bid to the Gold Cup semifinals. Saturday it was Costa Rica, Sunday it was El Salvador. Rodolfo Zelaya saw his first-half penalty kick saved by Panama goalie Jaime Penedo. Zelaya would get a chance for redemption though when El Salvador was awarded a second penalty when he was tripped up in the box by Roman Torres. The 22 year old Alianza striker would not miss this time scoring his 4th goal of the tournament and the 11th of his international career to put El Salvador up 1-0 in the 78th minute. The lead would last into the 89th minute but Luis Tejada, who has scored in all 4 games in the tournament beat Miguel Montes to tie the game up on a controversial goal-line call. The aftermath so Panama's Blas Perez and El Salvador's Luis Anaya both sent off leaving the two teams with ten men apiece for the final 30 minutes. After a scoreless overtime, Panama dominated the shootout converting on all 5 of their attempts with goals from Nelson Barahona, Amilcar Henriquez, Anibal Godoy, Luis Renteria, and of course Tejada. William Romero, Andres Alexander Flores and Zelaya all scored in a losing effort for El Salvador. Panama, still unbeaten in the tournament at 3-0-1 will now prepare for their rematch against the United States.


The United States and Panama will face off for the 4th time in the last 3 Gold Cups and the 2nd time this year in the Semifinals. The U.S. eliminated Panama in the quarterfinals in both 2007 and 2009 by identical 2-1 scores. In 2007, the U.S. got goals from Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra as they made an early 2-0 lead stand up. Then in 2009 they erased a 1-0 lead when Kyle Beckerman equalized and then Kenny Cooper converted a penalty in the 105th minute to win it. Finally, just last week Panama dealt the U.S. their first ever loss in Gold Cup group play winning 2-1 on the strength of goals from Luis Tejada and Gabriel Gomez.

Women's World Cup First Round Schedule

Here's the schedule for the First Round of the Women's World Cup that kicks off on Sunday. All times are Central.
Group A
MatchDate - Time Venue                  
106/26 11:00Berlin GermanyGermany-CanadaCanada
206/26 08:00Sinsheim NigeriaNigeria-FranceFrance
906/30 13:45Frankfurt/Main GermanyGermany-NigeriaNigeria
1006/30 11:00Bochum CanadaCanada-FranceFrance
1707/05 13:45Moenchengladbach FranceFrance-GermanyGermany
1807/05 13:45Dresden CanadaCanada-NigeriaNigeria
Group B
MatchDate - Time Venue                  
306/27 08:00Bochum JapanJapan-New ZealandNew Zealand
406/27 11:00Wolfsburg MexicoMexico-EnglandEngland
1107/01 08:00Leverkusen JapanJapan-MexicoMexico
1207/01 11:15Dresden New ZealandNew Zealand-EnglandEngland
1907/05 11:15Augsburg EnglandEngland-JapanJapan
2007/05 11:15Sinsheim New ZealandNew Zealand-MexicoMexico
Group C
MatchDate - Time Venue                  
506/28 11:15Dresden USAUSA-Korea DPRKorea DPR
606/28 08:00Leverkusen ColombiaColombia-SwedenSweden
1307/02 11:00Sinsheim USAUSA-ColombiaColombia
1407/02 07:00Augsburg Korea DPRKorea DPR-SwedenSweden
2107/06 13:45Wolfsburg SwedenSweden-USAUSA
2207/06 13:45Bochum Korea DPRKorea DPR-ColombiaColombia
Group D
MatchDate - TimeVenue               
706/29 11:15Moenchengladbach BrazilBrazil-AustraliaAustralia
806/29 08:00Augsburg NorwayNorway-Equatorial GuineaEquatorial Guinea
1507/03 11:15Wolfsburg BrazilBrazil-NorwayNorway
1607/03 07:00Bochum AustraliaAustralia-Equatorial GuineaEquatorial Guinea
2307/06 11:00Frankfurt/Main Equatorial GuineaEquatorial Guinea-BrazilBrazil
2407/06 11:00Leverkusen AustraliaAustralia-NorwayNorway