Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday's Starting Five

1. San Francisco Giants. Last week it was all Rockies all the time in this space. But now the hand is on the other shoe as the Giants swept the Rockies in a return series in the Bay Area. This time Tim Lincecum topped Ubaldo Jiminez and this time the Giants got the game-winning home run. After a three-game sweep over the weekend, the Giants have pulled even with the Rockies in the chase for the NL Wild Card. Worth noting, is that given-up-for-dead Barry Zito had a stellar outing on Saturday, snapping off A's-era curve balls while pitching into the ninth (he even got a curtain call from the crowd). If he can give this team reliable No. 3 down the stretch he's a potential difference maker. These two clubs play one more three-game set (in San Fran) down the stretch. I'm looking forward to it.

2. Zack Greinke. Some would say the Zack Attack just locked up the 2009 AL Cy Young Award. Those people are probably wrong because the honor will likely be bestowed on either CC Sabathia or Justin Verlander who will finish with more regular season wins and will have pitched their team to playoff berths. What Greinke's complete-game, one-hit shutout over the Mariners on Sunday earned him was recognition as the nastiest pitcher of the year. Maybe not the most consistent but the filthiest. If there was an award for that it would be shined daily with Rollie Fingers' mustache wax and it would be presented to the Royals' ace post haste. This gem follows on the heels of his franchise-record 15-K masterpiece earlier in the week.

3. Chula Vista Little League. I thought it was over. I mean, Chinese Taipei (and that's Taiwan for those of you not concerned about messing up the cross-straight relations in the Far East) was nearly unbeatable when reaching the championship game of the Little League World Series. They were 17-2 (I think) heading into Sunday's winner-take-all matinee against the boys from Chula Vista, California and they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third inning thanks to back-to-back home runs. At the time, the US club was hitless. It didn't look good. To the point, where I almost turned off the game to focus on the work that I had been putting off all morning. Almost. But the Cali kids pushed one run across in the bottom of the third and then broke out for three more in the fourth. One of the kids for Chula Vista tossed three scoreless innings of relief to put the title on ice.

4. Heath Slocum Tigers Woods has locked down golf tournaments with incredibly difficult shots all around the world. He's fended of johnny-come-latelies in multiple locales and he's overtaken pretenders to the crown and had his passport stamped on the trip. He's done it in Majors and in middling events sponsored by American auto makers. But he hasn't done it in Jersey City. There (or, rather, here) he just flat missed a 7-foot put on 18 that would have forced a playoff and presumably given him a better-than-even chance to win the Barclays. The 124th-ranked player in the world, though, sunk a 20-foot shot at the same hole to ice his one-stroke victory. All weekend this tournament was in the back of mind. It was taking place a few miles away and I kept thinking I would pop over at some point. But I didn't. Had I known that Tiger would lose in dramatic fashion would I have been more likely to go? I'm not sure. But I do remember Michael Jordan missing a breakaway dunk (it clanged off the back iron and went almost all the way back to half court) against the Knicks more than I remember any single shot that he made on the handful of occasions I got to see him play against the Knicks at the Garden.
"Usually, he makes it," Slocum said. "Ho-hum for him. I guess you can't make 'em all."

5. US Open. My favorite part of the annual tennis tournament in Flushing, other than that is ours, is that it goes so late. It just feels right and like New York. At some point in the next month, I'll be up bleary-eyed and drinking Yellow Tail Merlot, because the meager beer supply in my fridge has long since run out, until 2 a.m. watching tennis. And I can't wait.

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