Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday' Starting Five

1. Chauncey Billups. I've been known to stop strangers on the street just to regale them with tales of the largess of Chris Paul. I've occasionally torn petals from flowers while enumerating the ways in which he is a superior basketball player. And, Chauncey Billups and the Denver Nuggets absolutely rocked CP3 and the Hornets last night. Billups had a +39 point differential during his 30 minutes on the floor for his hometown Nuggets as they rolled up a 121-63 win over the Hornets in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series. The 58-point margin of victory was the largest in the history of the NBA playoffs. That landmark result coupled with Billups three-point barrage in Game 1 makes him storyline 1A thus far in the postseason, just behind Bulls/Celtics donnybrook going on in the East.

2. Tim Wakefield. This guy is the Jason Voorhees of Major League hurlers. Just when you think he can't possibly harm anyone any longer, just when you think that there isn't really anything frightening about him, just when you think that it's about time he hung up his cleats/cleaver, he comes back with a vengeance. The 42-year-old knuckleballer twirled seven innings of one-hit ball against the Cleveland Indians on Monday night, striking out five. 63 of the 112 pitches that Wakefield threw were strikes and none of them was on a line. The ball fluttered and knees buckled. The Red Sox would win the game (again) on a late Jason Bay home run (again), but Wake was the star. He's gone 6, 9, 7 and 7 innings in his four starts so far this year and is 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA.

3. The Los Angeles Lakers. Sometimes it looks like Kobe Bryant is almost insulted when an opposing player tries to actually make skin-to-skin contact while his team has the ball. During those moments it looks like Bryant cannot believe the audacity of those who would even imply through their actions that his game is not entirely within his control. And, I guess, with Kobe, it really is all about control. He threw an elbow (followed by unnecessary glares) in the direction of Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko during the first half of the Lakers series-clinching Game 5 win when the lanky Russian attempted to front him the post during the first half. Surprisingly, Kobe was actually called for a foul.

4. The Mighty Ducks. Along came a duck to put the accomplishment of the Lakers in perspective. The eighth-seeded Ducks of Anaheim knocked off the top-ranked San Jose Sharks in the West bracket of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Sharks had the best record (by having one less loss than Boston) in the NHL this season. And they're out. They're as relevant as the Knicks after the Ducks sent them packing in six games. Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller made 36 saves in the series-clinching win.

5. Omir Santos. Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico (known, seriously, as "Pork Rind Town"), Santos was selected in the 21st round of the 2001 Amateur Player Draft by the New York Yankees. He would not step on a Big League field (at least, not during a game) until 2008 when he was wearing a Baltimore Orioles uniform. He was cut by the Orioles before the start of the 2009 season and picked up by the New York Metropolitans. Thrust into the starting lineup by an injury to first-string catcher Brian Schneider and the malaise of large-headed back-up backstop Ramon Castro, Santos has gotten the attention of fans and teammates alike. He cracked the first home run of his career last night against the Florida Marlins. And it was a grand slam. Welcome to the Big Leagues. As soon as the SNY cameras stop tracking the flight of the ball they immediately cut to Ramon Castro in the dugout. He was clapping. Not smiling, but clapping.