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GameDay Live: Class LL Softball Tournament Quarterfinals, No. 23 West Haven At No. 2 Bristol Central

No. 2 Bristol Central 2, No. 23 West Haven 0
FINAL
                                 123  456   7     R  H  E
West Haven                000  000  0  -  0   7  1
Bristol Central             200  000  x  -   2   6  0

Bristol Central advances to the Class LL state semifinals, where it will play No. 6 Mercy, a 5-4 winner over No. 3 Daniel Hand in 9 innings. That game will be Monday in Stratford. Update: The game has been pushed back to Wednesday.

LAST SCORING PLAY: Bristol Central's Olivia Banulski scores on a delayed dash to the plate after a bunt for a 2-0 Rams lead, bottom of first.

GameDay Live: Class LL Softball Tournament Quarterfinals, No. 8 Glastonbury At No. 1 Southington

No. 1 Southington 10, No. 8 Glastonbury 2
FINAL
                             123  456   7     R  H  E
Glastonbury            000  002  0  -   2  3  4
Southington            241  102  x  -  10  9  1

Southington advances to the Class LL state semifinals where it will play No. 5 Stamford, an 8-3 winner over No. 4 Darien Friday afternoon. That game will be played Monday in Stratford. Update: The game has been pushed back to Wednesday.

LAST SCORING PLAY: Southington's Lauren Zazzaro comes through with a two-run single to put the Blue Knights up 10-2, bottom sixth.

Rangers Fire Coach John Tortorella

The Rangers have fired coach John Tortorella. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Rangers have fired coach John Tortorella after five seasons with the team. The Rangers announced the firing on their Twitter feed. Tortorella led the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Semifinals this season, but lost in five games to the Boston Bruins.

Tortorella was known more for his temper and brash style with the media than any big victories during his five-year tenure with the team. The Rangers never lived up to expectations under his leadership. Now, the Rangers begin the search for a coach who can live up to those high expectations.

While the true reasons for why Tortorella was fired may never be truly known, his team's lack of success on the power play had to play a role. The Rangers were dreadful, both in the regular season and postseason, with a man advantage, going 4-for-44 during the playoffs. The Rangers have had trouble scoring goals and creating any kind of sustained offense with Tortorella in charge.

Ireland Soccer Plays England For First Time In 18 Years Today, After Historic Riots Halted Last Meeting

Ireland and England play this afternoon in soccer for the first time in 18 years, after riots halted a match back in 1995. The game will be played at Wembley Stadium. Here's the back story of the historic matchup.

State Of The Yankees Week 8: CC Sabathia Continues To Struggle, Curtis Granderson Injured Again, But Yankees Still Lead AL East

  By Brad Carroll  
For a team that went 3-3 this past week, winning two extra inning games and taking two of three from the Rays, there is a lot of negativity surrounding the Yankees. First, there was the injuries to Hiroki Kuroda, David Phelps and Curtis Granderson, with the latter slated to miss at least a month. Second, there was the two straight losses to the Orioles, including one that had Kuroda injured on a comebacker, and although he says he shouldn't miss a start, it will be important to see how he bounces back Tuesday against the Mets. Third, and most troubling, is the May swoon by CC Sabathia, who went 0-2 with an ERA closing in on 5.00. Even worse is Sabathia's velocity is down from the mid-90's to barely hitting 90 at all. It sounds as if these are troubling times in the Bronx, but that's not exactly the case.

  Opening Statement  
It's not exactly the case because the Yankees  the team with so many injuries it's hard to keep track of, are percentage-points ahead of the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. The Yankees  30-19 record is second only to the Texas Rangers in the American League. It's also the first time since 2004 the Yankees have reached 30 wins before playing 50 games. So, while many things have gone wrong for the Bombers over the first quarter of the season, nobody can complain about where they are in the standings. Of course, if Kuroda or Phelps are hurt more than they or the team is letting on, especially Kuroda, and Sabathia is becoming just an ordinary pitcher, the Yankees won't last until October. All is not bad on the injury front, however, as the Yankees may finally be getting some positive news. Mark Teixeira is set to return, possibly within the next week, and will bring a much-needed jolt to the lineup. It also means Lyle Overbay, one of the unsung Yankees who has been a tremendous asset this season, will almost assuredly be sent to the bench. Unless, of course, he can get acclimated to the outfield quickly, where he would be a better option at the plate than Ichiro, now that Granderson is back on the disabled list. Overbay is batting just .250, but he has eight home runs and 28 RBI, a pace of 25 home runs and 89 RBI if he continues that pace for the season. And, for the record, don't even think about having Overbay keep the job once Teixeira comes back. Teixeira, despite his postseason failures, is still one of the best players in baseball. These Yankees  no matter who is in the lineup or on the mound, continue to find ways to win. And that equals a fun and exciting team to watch.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down Week 8: David Adams, Vidal Nuno, Travis Hafner Are Up, CC Sabathia, Curtis Granderson, Austin Romine Down

  By Brad Carroll  
We have been calling Hiroki Kuroda the ace of the Yankees staff for a few weeks now, based on his Cy Young-type stretch this season, but no one is foolish enough to believe he's better than CC Sabathia. Kuroda may be pitching like it so far, but Sabathia is still the go-to pitcher on the staff when a big win is needed. But Sabathia hasn't been his usual steady self, and that is troubling for the Yankees  He hasn't won a game in a month and said Sunday after getting beaten badly by the Rays that he's hurting the team. If Sabathia is indeed taking a step backward, it could cost the Yankees a pennant. At least he's aware there is a problem and will attempt to fix it. We'll have more on Sabathia below, but first some good news from a week that saw the Yankees go 3-3.

  3 Up  
David Adams: How can you not love the way the 26-year-old rookie is playing since getting the call-up from the minors a couple weeks ago? He currently has a six-game hit streak, going 8-for-26 (.308) with a double, two home runs and four RBI in that stretch. He's hit safely in nine of the 10 games he's been on the major league roster. Overall, he's batting .300 with two homers and five RBI. With Adams manning third base, there is no reason to rush back Kevin Youkilis or to worry about when Alex Rodriguez might return. While both of those players have a greater pedigree than Adams, he's certainly doing the job so far.

State Of The Red Sox Week 8: With More Than A Quarter Of The Season In Books, Red Sox Are Strong Contenders For AL East Crown

  By Matt Straub  
It’s Memorial Day weekend, which provides us with the chance to remember those who have given their lives to help protect America’s freedom. Less importantly, it’s also the first real benchmark of the baseball season. Yes, there’s still more than 2/3 of the year left to go, but Memorial Day is the first good opportunity to take stock of where you stand. It’s far from late in the season, but as of this weekend it’s no longer early.

  Opening Statement  
With that said, every week that goes by at this point tells us a little more about our favorite baseball teams. After a rough start to the week, the Red Sox picked it up late, taking a couple of important games, including one dramatic one, from their old boss, Terry Francona, on the way to a 4-3 week. Put another winning week in the bank despite losing Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks to the DL and, since it is Memorial Day weekend, officially take notice. The Red Sox are contenders in the AL East as the horses pass the quarter pole. Now we have to wait four more months to see if they circle the track in first place.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down Week 8: Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia Are Up, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Pedro Ciriaco Down

  By Matt Straub  
A week which saw the Red Sox lose both Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks to injury would seem like a bad one, And it started that way, with Boston dropping two in Chicago. But the Red Sox bounced back to finish the week with a big run to get through another seven-day stretch with more wins than losses, which is all that matters. Here’s a look at who helped save the week and who made them have to in the first place. First, however, a tip of the hat to the real heroes, those who have given their lives to keep our country safe. Please keep them in mind during this holiday.

  3 Up  
Jacoby Ellsbury: He might be starting to show a bit of his old self, rocking the first pitch he saw from Joe Smith Sunday in the last of the ninth to finish the rally, win the game, and make sure the Sox didn’t have to put another reliever on the mound.

State Of The Mets Week 8: Another Disastrous Week At Plate Results In Yet Another Long Losing Streak

  By Brad Carroll  

Unlike other sports, baseball teams can ride momentum from one game to the next. Since most games are played on back-to-back days, it's easier to carry hot-hitting from one game to the next, as opposed to football, where a week break has everyone starting over with a new game plan. So, momentum is key in baseball. The New York Mets had momentum at the beginning of this past week, winning a series for the first time in a month and winning four of five overall. But as quickly as that momentum was gained, the Mets threw it right back and ended up with five straight losses heading into Sunday. When you get momentum, you don't want to lose it. But that's been the story of the Mets this season.

  Opening Statement  
Things started off promising for the Mets this week, taking two of three from the Cubs for their first series win in Chicago since 2007. Adding a victory over the Cardinals before that, the Mets had won four of five and were heading home for six straight games. But that's where the good ended. The Mets were swept by the Reds and then lost the first two games against the Braves, including a 6-0 loss Saturday night. That made it five straight losses overall and eight straight defeats at home. Ike Davis continues to struggle, David Wright couldn't do anything at the plate this week, and even Matt Harvey had an uneven performance, allowing four runs on nine hits in taking a no-decision Wednesday. The offense as a whole averaged just a shade under 2.7 runs per game this week, a number fitting for a team on a long losing streak. It all adds up to 17-29 record and fourth place in the NL East. They are 12 games behind the first place Braves and 11.5 out of a wild card spot. Momentum, we hardly knew ye.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down Week 8: Daniel Murphy, Rick Ankiel, Jonathon Niese Are Up, Ike Davis, David Wright, Bobby Parnell On Down List

  By Brad Carroll  

Few things have gone right for the New York Mets this season, and that was especially true this week, as they come into Sunday's series finale against the Braves losers of five straight games. But not all is lost for the Mets  as Daniel Murphy has been a huge positive in his new position at the top of the order, and even Ike Davis actually got a base hit Saturday to break an 0-for-17 slide. Still, when you go 1-5 in a week's span, there's more bad than good.

  3 Up  
Daniel Murphy: Moving Murphy into the leadoff hole was yet another move made by manager Terry Collins in hopes of sparking something in his team. Unlike most of the decisions made so far in this disappointing stretch, this one actually has paid off quickly. Since being moved into the leadoff position last Sunday, Murphy is 8-for-24 (.333) with two doubles, a home run and four RBI. He also scored six times. Murphy is one of the few bright spots this season for the Mets  batting .306 overall with 15 doubles, four homers and 22 RBI.

Eastern Conference Finals Winners & Losers, Game 1: LeBron James, Chris Anderson, Roy Hibbert, Paul George, Frank Vogel, George Hill, Ray Allen

Dwayne Wade and LeBron James celebrate after Game 1. (AP photo)
  By Danny Atkinson  
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals certainly lived up to its billing, going into overtime and ending on a game-winning layup by the best player on Earth. Miami and Indiana are a perfect contrast in styles, and Wednesday’s opener only makes me more confident we’re in for a memorable series where each game will be come down to the wire. There is going to be a fascinating list of winners and losers for this series when all is said and done, and Game One kicked off that list with a bang. 

  Winners  
LeBron James: Who else? LeBron’s game-winning layup was a thing of beauty. He somehow managed to catch the inbound pass behind the three-point line and facing away from the basket, size up Paul George and propel past him toward the hole, glide to the basket, and toss up the layup with his off hand in under two seconds. It was a play that nearly no one else in the NBA could have made. You can talk all you want about George making a defensive mistake by guarding LeBron too closely, or Frank Vogel making a boneheaded move by not keeping Roy Hibbert in to guard the hoop, but the Heat had an immediate advantage from the moment LeBron caught the ball.

Sgt. Slaughter Discusses Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon, His Career Highlights, WrestleMania, And His Heel-Turn As An Iraqi Sympathizer

Sgt. Slaughter with the Cobra Clutch on Matt.
  By Matt Straub  
Every day is a good day in my day job, but there are some days which are especially interesting.

Saturday night, while covering a minor league baseball game in Connecticut for the newspaper Brad and I work for, I got the chance to meet Sgt. Slaughter, who was at the New Britain Rock Cats game as part of the team’s ceremonies for Military Appreciation Night.

We did an interview about his days as a real life marine and his love of the military (as well as his impressive knowledge of the New York Jets, and no, he doesn’t like the Revis trade), but I couldn’t resist slipping in a couple of old-school wrestling questions.

I meant them to be quick questions with one-line answers, but it turns out Slaughter, whose real name is Robert Remus, was way too insightful for that.

State Of The Yankees Week 7: Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees Rolling To AL East Lead, Third-Best Record In Majors

  By Brad Carroll  
If the New York Yankees could pitch Hiroki Kuroda every day, or simply play the Toronto Blue Jays, they may just win 140 games this year. That's how good Kuroda has been, and how dominate the Yankees have been over their AL East rivals this season. Kuroda has allowed eight total runs in his past seven starts, including throwing an eight-inning shutout this week. And, with two more wins this week, the Yankees are now 8-1 against the Jays. Did we say 140 games? Maybe 150 is more like it.

  Opening Statement  
Of course, while the Yankees may not be as good against the rest of the league as they have been against Toronto, it's still pretty darn impressive what they've done as a whole this season. The Yankees are 27-16 overall and in first place in the AL East. That record is also good enough for third best in the entire major leagues, trailing just the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals. And that's after a sub-par week in which the Yankees went just 4-3, including losing two of three to the Seattle Mariners. There's a lot of positives surrounding the team, including the Cy Young-type season Kuroda is having, but the biggest may be the return of Curtis Granderson from injury. Why? Because it means the rest of the Yankees' wounded stars are getting closer and closer to returning as well, including Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. If the Yankees can put together the third best record in the majors without those players, just imagine what they can do with those big bats added to the lineup. Granderson's return also means Ichiro Suzuki can become a bat off the bench, as he's been struggling mightily this season, and shouldn't be playing every day. There shouldn't be a worry about ruining team chemistry either, as the star-studded returns should be gradual enough to work everyone into the lineup slowly and without disturbing the team's winning ways.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down Week 7: Hiroki Kuroda, David Phelps, David Adams Up, Ichiro Suzuki, Phil Hughes, Jayson Nix Are Down

  By Brad Carroll  
If there's been a more impressive pitcher in the major leagues this season than Hiroki Kuroda, I wouldn't believe it. Sure, there's the group of young phenoms, led by Matt Harvey and Matt Moore, and the consistent greatness of guys like Clayton Kershaw, but nobody has impressed like the Yankees pitcher. He may not lead the league in wins and he may not have the lowest ERA, but Kuroda has been simply fantastic for the first-place New York Yankees. Not surprisingly, he had yet another great start this week and he leads off our latest 3 Up and 3 Down column.

  3 Up  
Hiroki Kuroda: The new Yankees ace has now put together seven straight quality starts, the latest coming Friday during a 5-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Kuroda allowed just two hits and no runs over eight innings of work, winning for the sixth time this season. He's now 6-2 on the season with a 1.99 ERA. In those last seven starts, Kuroda has allowed a total of eight runs. He's fourth in the AL in wins, third in ERA and fourth in WHIP. More importantly, he's the best pitcher on one of baseball's best teams this season.

State Of The Red Sox Week 7: After Strong Week, It's Official, The Red Sox Are One Of Baseball's Best Teams

  By Matt Straub  
A week ago we talked about the importance of ending losing streaks during the course of a long baseball season. Every team is going to have a bad week on occasion, so you have to avoid getting worked up over them. The good teams are able to keep their focus and get back on track relatively quickly. Based on that logic and the team’s overall record, I think it’s now officially safe to include the Boston Red Sox among the list of baseball’s good teams.

  Opening Statement  
After a disastrous week put the Red Sox on their heels, Boston bounced back with two huge wins over the Tampa Bay Rays and a workmanlike sweep of the Minnesota Twins in a 5-1 week which stopped the bleeding and turned the ship back in the right direction. Things went so well, even John Lackey flirted with perfection. Let’s look back at a week that restored the Nation’s faith in its team.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down Week 7: Will Middlebrooks, John Lackey, Jacoby Ellsbury Up, Clayton Mortensen, Ryan Dempster, Ryan Lavarnway Down

  By Matt Straub  
For the Boston Red Sox, this 5-1 run through the week might have been the most satisfying and important yet. Not only did it end the skid which had seen the Sox lose 9 of 11, but it gave the Red Sox a bit of their swagger back. Good teams that think they’re good are dangerous, and teams which get contributions from so many players are tough to beat.

  3 Up  
Will Middlebrooks: I’ve talked before about how important winning the rubber game of a 3-game set can be. And if you can win a series in dramatic fashion, the momentum swing can be huge. That’s why what Middlebrooks did Thursday was so big. With the Sox down 3-1 with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth in Tampa, he was down to his (and the team’s) last strike. One three-run double against Fernando Rodney later and the Red Sox were rolling again. It could end up one of the biggest hits of the season as much for the way it lifted the team’s spirit, much like Wednesday’s win, as much as for the math. 

State Of The Mets Week 7: Other Than David Wright, Daniel Murphy And Matt Harvey, Not A Lot Going Right With Mets This Season

  By Brad Carroll  

The bright side this week saw the New York Mets winning two straight games, with Matt Harvey and Jonathon Niese on the mound, to head into the weekend with some positive vibes. The dark side, which has been more the norm this season, had the Mets losing six straight before that mini win streak and then again Saturday. The season has gotten so bad so quickly, the talk around the team has been more of who is going to be sent to the minors rather than anything good on the field. It all equals a 16-24 record and fourth place standing in the NL East.

  Opening Statement  
Ike Davis was 1-for-28 this week. Ruben Tejada was 1-for-23. Jordany Valdespin was 1-for-10, Mike Baxter was 2-for-17 and Lucas Duda was 4-for-24. All of those players had a lower batting average this week than pitcher Matt Harvey. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson says Davis is safe for now. Tejada is apparently safe, as is the rest of the roster. The question, obviously, should be why. As in why do the Mets continue to put forth a lineup that can't do anything at the plate? The answer might not be so easy. Sure, the Mets can send all the struggling players down to Triple-A they want, but the influx of players isn't going to be any better over the long haul. Still, it's almost impossible to watch Davis, Tejada and the rest of the team, minus David Wright and Daniel Murphy, fail time and time again. There is still over four months to go this season, however, and playing in the worst division in the National League means a chance remains to make a run toward a postseason berth. Playing as they have been won't get it done, but there's no reason to write the season off just yet. After all, Wright and Murphy are hitting well, Harvey hasn't stopped his Cy Young-type start to the season, and the team is just seven games back in the NL East and 7.5 out of a wild card spot. The Mets just need to turn six-game losing streaks into six-game win streaks going forward. And it wouldn't hurt if Davis or Tejada could get a hit every now and again.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down Week 7: Daniel Murphy, Rick Ankiel, Jonathon Niese Are Up, Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, Jeremy Hefner On Down List


  By Brad Carroll  

There's a lot of things that have gone wrong with the New York Mets this season, but the low point may just be the team's performance from the leadoff spot. From that spot in the order, the Mets are batting a combined .185, the lowest average in the majors. The total on base percentage is just .255, the second worst in baseball, with only the Minnesota Twins being worse. So, it's no surprise manager Terry Collins has decided to address the problem, even if it may be a little late since the season is already seven weeks old. Sunday, the Mets moved Daniel Murphy to the leadoff spot against the Chicago Cubs. Murphy's recent success at the plate makes it a no-brainer, and he leads off our 3 Up & 3 Down list for the week.

  3 Up  
Daniel Murphy: The Mets second baseman is the seventh player to be used in the leadoff spot this season, and while his recent prowess at the plate makes him a candidate to be put at the top of the order, it's not a spot he's accustomed to. He's only batted first four times, and that was in 2009. Still, if he continue to hit, the move could pay off for the offensively-challenged Mets  Over his last seven games, Murphy is 14-for-28 (.500) with five doubles, a home run and four RBI. He carried a seven-game hit streak into Sunday's game. He's batting .301 with three home runs and 18 RBI on the season.

David Garrard To Leave Jets Due To Injury, Leaving Mark Sanchez Vs Geno Smith in Jets QB Competition

David Garrard is leaving the Jets due to injury. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
Before the New York Jets went ahead and drafted West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith in the second round of the NFL Draft last month, David Garrard, the former Jaguars passer, was the one who was given the best chance to unseat incumbent Mark Sanchez as the team's starter next season.

Even with Smith now on the roster, Garrard was still expected to be in a three-way competition for the starting job. But the soon-to-be much-hyped quarterback competition in New York will be down to just two after a shocking development even by Jets' standards.

State Of The Mets Week 6: How Bad Is The Mets Outfield? Bad Enough To Sign Astros Castoff Rick Ankiel; Plus Not Sticking Up For A Teammate

  By Matt Straub  
It wasn’t a good week for the Mets. The offense has been so lost the Mets signed Rick Ankiel, recently released by the Houston Astros, not to a minor league deal, but for the big league team. He was in the lineup Monday night. If there was any question left as to how bad the Mets outfield was, let my repeat: Rick Ankiel, who hit .194 for a team with a 10-28 record which let him go, is your starting center field Monday.

  Opening Statement  
The pitching got clubbed for 18 runs in two games by the Pirates, then saw the bullpen give up another game to Pittsburgh, which is much better than it used to be, but still isn’t any kind of world beater. Perhaps worse, however, was that the Mets found themselves in a situation where they were accused of not protecting a teammate. Jordany Valdespin, who hit a home run Friday while the Mets were losing big, got drilled on Saturday. Not only did the Mets not show any sign of wanting to fight, David Wright actually openly criticized Valdespin. He was correct, the guy is too much of a hot dog, particularly for someone who probably won’t be a star, but you don’t do that in public. Wright saying he “had his back” rung hollow, as did most things the Mets did this week.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down Week 6: Justin Turner, Matt Harvey, David Wright Up, John Niese, Jordany Valdespin, Terry Collins Are Down

  By Matt Straub  
The New York Mets are struggling, there’s no question about that. But as they look to find a way to save their season, there are some players doing well that they can look upon for inspiration. There are also several players slumping as badly as the team who are some of the main causes of the Mets  issues. On the bright side, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said Monday, “I’m not sure things can devolve any further.” So there’s that.

  3 Up  
Justin Turner: He’s made the most of his recent run of games, getting four hits in four days. He’s hitting .340 for the year and starting to see time at first base. It might be a sign of things to come.

State Of The Yankees Week 6: Another Strong Week Has Yankees In First Place In AL East, Among MLB's Best

  By Brad Carroll  
When the Yankees go 5-1 in a week, like they did against Colorado and Oakland, there shouldn't be much to complain about. And there isn't. Sure, the offense hasn't been hitting light's out, but it hasn't had to, with a pitching staff, from the starters to the bullpen, that has been as good as any group in baseball this season. The best part, is the two have complimented each other. In one victory, where Phil Hughes allowed six runs in 5.2 innings, the offense scored 11. Hughes even got the victory. It's been that type of run for the Yankees  who are 23-13, tied for second best in the majors.

  Opening Statement  
The Yankees offense didn't do much this week, save for scoring 11 runs in a victory Friday against Kansas City, but with the way the pitching staff has handled opponents, it doesn't matter. The Yankees totaled 24 runs in six games, which when you factor in 11 coming in one game, the week was truly all about pitching. The pitching staff allowed a total of 15 runs, which included six in one game, an 11-6 victory over the Royals. Hiroki Kuroda, despite going 1-1 this week, continues to pitch at Cy Young-level. CC Sabathia was sharp in his rain-shortened outing. Andy Pettitte is back to being Andy Pettitte, beating the Royals 3-2 Saturday. David Phelps pitched well enough to win, but took a no-decision in an eventual Yankees victory. David Robertson has regained the arsenal that made him an All-Star, going five straight appearances without allowing a run. And then there is the great Mariano Rivera, who saved all four of his chances this week and is a perfect 15-for-15 on the season. On offense, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay, two castoffs from other clubs, were the hot bats for the week, combining for four home runs and 12 RBI. It all adds up to the Yankees holding a 23-13 record, which is good enough for a one-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles and two games over the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East heading into Monday's action.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down Week 6: Mariano Rivera, Hiroki Kuroda, Vernon Wells Are Up, Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner, Travis Hafner Down

  By Brad Carroll  
A big part of the New York Yankees' success in the early going this season is due to the team's veteran players. Three of them continue to put up big numbers, especially this week, and will be represented on our Up list below. Thanks to those players, and a host of others, the Yankees are 10 games over .500 and have won five straight heading into Monday afternoon's doubleheader against the Indians.

  3 Up  
Mariano Rivera: While closer after closer in the major leagues has disappeared as quickly as they emerged as a likely successor, it's the original that is still by far the best. Mariano Rivera is having perhaps the best season of his career. It just so happens it's the last season of his career as well. If there was ever any doubt as to who the best closer of all time is, there should be no doubt now. Rivera is a perfect 15-for-15 in save chances this season. He saved four games this week alone. He's allowed one earned run in his past 10 appearances and just three on the entire season. He has a 1.65 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP on the season. His fast start sets up what could be the perfect individual sendoff for the greatest of all time -- to leave with the single-season career saves record. Francisco Rodriguez, another much-hyped but ultimate failure as a closer, holds the record with 62 saves in one season. Rivera with 63 this season? Now that would be perfect.

State Of The Red Sox Week 6: Red Sox Had A Terrible Week, But There's No Reason For Panic Just Yet

  By Matt Straub  
Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. That's the key mantra this week for the Red Sox. Boston went 2-5 the past seven games, but there's no reason to get depressed if you're a Sox fan.

  Opening Statement  
It’s easier to get worked up over streaks in baseball than in any other sport because they happen more easily than in other sports. Playing every game makes it easier to lose three in a row than a sport where you play a game or two a week. More games mean more chances to get hot or cold, and more opportunities for either kind of run to affect a team’s record. In no sport, however, is it more important to avoid getting too caught up in the day-to-day results of a team than baseball. The season is just too long to let a bad week get a team down. Think too much about last week and this week becomes a problem. Two bad weeks, and you’re starting to have a slump worth talking about. That’s why this week’s theme for the State of the  Red Sox blog is about a bump in the road and not about the downfall of the team’s pitching or the occasional stagnant offense. The injuries we’re going to discuss are a concern, but a 2-5 week isn’t that upsetting. If next week is bad as well, I won’t be as kind. But for now let’s look at the bad week in Boston while treating it as just that, a bad week.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down Week 6: Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jon Lester Up, David Ortiz, Pedro Ciriaco, Felix Doubront Are Down

  By Matt Straub  

When the Red Sox were rolling, it was easy to pick guys for the first part of this. Now, it’s partly who does well, but just as much who’s healthy and who didn’t do anything to cost them a game this week. As for the down, well, let’s just say there were some candidates.

  3 Up  
Shane Victorino: It has been great seeing him back near the top of the order, and he had eight hits over the last five games of the week. He also crashed into the wall Sunday, and if he misses more time, it will start to be a problem. He has been much better than I thought he’d be, but he has to stay on the field. Hopefully he and the Sox offense are OK.

State Of The Yankees Week 5: Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes And A Patchwork Offense Have Yankees As One Of The AL's Best Teams

  By Brad Carroll  
Despite a laundry list of injuries this season, the Yankees are right where they have been for the past two decades, in the conversation as one of baseball's best teams. The Yankees are 18-12 on the season, 1.5 games in back of the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East. They're also 1.5 games behind for the American League's best record. With that standing, Yankees fans have to be feeling real good, especially knowing the cavalcade of stars could be returning for the season's second half.

  Opening Statement  
The common belief coming into this season was the onus was on Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte to keep the team afloat over the first half of the season before all the big guns returned to the lineup from injury. While Cano has been playing at MVP level and Sabathia and Pettitte have been solid for the most part, it's truly been the patchwork cast of characters put together on offense and the pitching of Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda that has the Yankees just 1.5 games off the best record in the American League as we've reached the season's second month. Players like Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells have done more than their share in holding down the fort, with those three combining for 17 home runs and 46 RBI so far. But it may be Hughes and Kuroda who have had the biggest impact. Hughes finally was rewarded with a victory after three straight no-decisions in which he deserved to win. He pitched eight shutout innings, on four hits, in beating the Athletics Saturday. Over his last four starts, Hughes has allowed just six runs. Kuroda has been just as good, throwing seven shutout innings, on four hits, in beating the Astros this week. He's allowed just four runs over his last four starts. Despite losing two of three to Oakland this weekend, the Yankees are trending upward this season, thanks to a solid cast put together this season by general manager Brian Cashman.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down Week 5: Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Lyle Overbay Are Up, Jayson Nix, Boone Logan, Andy Pettitte On Down List

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees finished off their homestand this week by going 3-3 against the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics, not exactly what the team had hoped for after starting with a four-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays. On the positive side, there was the continued great pitching of Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda, who are quickly becoming the team's most dependable starters. On the negative, there was the loss Sunday, where Jayson Nix and Boone Logan couldn't come through in key spots. Not surprisingly, those four, and two others, make up this week's 3 Up and 3 Down.

  3 Up  
Phil Hughes: Finally, after three solid starts in a row that resulted in no-decisions each time, Hughes was rewarded with his first victory of the year after yet another fantastic outing. Hughes allowed just four hits and no runs over eight innings in beating the Athletics Saturday. He struck out nine in improving to 1-2 on the season. Hughes has now allowed just six runs in his last four starts, averaging seven innings per. He's averaging over seven strikeouts per game as well during that span. Hughes also hasn't allowed a home run, which has always been his downfall, in his last three starts.

State Of The Red Sox Week 5: A Possible Cheating Scandal Involving Clay Buchholz And A 2-4 Road Trip

  By Matt Straub  
There’s a tried and true strategy to end up with a good record in baseball. If you beat up on the bad teams and hold your own against the good ones, going .500 or so, you’ll end up with a strong winning percentage and a good chance at the postseason. The plan doesn’t leave much margin for error, however, as you have to achieve both goals to reach your goal, as the Boston Red Sox learned this week.

  Opening Statement  
This week, the Boston Red Sox took two of three from the wildly disappointing Blue Jays, which was important since they lost their wiggle room by doing anything but staying even with the Texas Rangers. The weekend sweep was disappointing, but because Boston took care of business early in the week, the road trip ended at 2-4 and could have been much worse. The Sox also endured their first controversy of the year, when two Toronto broadcasters, one of whom, Jack Morris, should be in the Hall of Fame, accused Clay Buchholz of using a foreign substance to make his pitches move more severely. They couldn’t come up with more evidence than a dirty spot on his arm, but the debate cast a cloud over an amazing start by the Boston righty.

Red Sox 3 Up & Down Week 5:
David Ortiz, Mike Carp, David Ross On Up List, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Andrew Bailey Are Down

  By Matt Straub  
For the first time this season, it wasn’t that hard to find some people to pick on as the Red Sox missed a chance to salvage a .500 trip. But all was not lost, as a couple of players continued to shine, giving Boston plenty to remain happy about going forward. With a homestand against some also-rans coming, it will be interesting to see if these players will help the Sox get things going again at home and if the people on the down list are able to use some home cooking to bounce back.

  3 Up  
David Ortiz: I know he’s been here before, and usually I try and make sure to mix up who goes on these lists, if for no other reason than to give you a complete picture of the team. But Ortiz raised his hitting streak to 25 games Sunday and is still hitting .440. While the top of the order is a bit in flux thanks to Shane Victorino’s absence, Ortiz has been a mainstay in the middle and given stability along with power and average. He’s been everything you want from a star so far.

State Of The Mets Week 5: Mets Hope April Losses Turn Into May Victories This Season, So Far So Good

  By Brad Carroll  
Maybe the turn of the calendar is exactly what the Mets needed to put their horrific six-game losing streak behind them. After ending the month of April with a 3-11 record, the Mets have opened the new month with two straight victories, both of which had their special moments. The Mets and their fans are certainly hoping that's the case, as another stretch of bad baseball will likely end the season before the weather heats up this summer.

  Opening Statement  
The New York Mets finally got some much-needed momentum in a season that has gone from promising to the brink of disaster in quick fashion. Just about three weeks ago, they were 7-4 and had fans believing the postseason was becoming more and more of a reality with each win. It didn't hurt that Matt Harvey was developing into not only the team's ace, but one of the best pitchers in baseball in the early going. Then the wheels came off for the Mets  going 3-11 and watching all that early momentum vanish as quickly as it was gained. Sure, Harvey is still on top of his game and is one reason for optimism, but he can't do it all. And the Mets are finding that out pretty quickly. But maybe the calendar switch is exactly what the team needed. After losing six straight games to finish off April with a 10-15 record, the Mets won both of their games to open May, each in dramatic fashion. The Mets beat the Marlins Wednesday, powered by a pinch-hit, three-run home run by Jordany Valdespin, and then defeated the Braves 7-5 in 10 innings Friday. The Mets were postponed Saturday, but things appear to have taken a step forward after a horrendous run. Of course, there is plenty of baseball left to be played, but maybe the Valdespin homer will be looked back on as a turning point this season. Only time will tell.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down Week 5:
Jordany Valdespin, Ruben Tejada, Jeremy Hefner Up, Brandon Lyon, Ike Davis, Collin Cowgill Down

  By Brad Carroll  
On the good side, the New York Mets are currently undefeated in the month of May. On the bad side, the 2-0 mark in the new month was preceded by a six-game losing streak that had the team reeling. A Jordany Valdespin pinch hit home run Wednesday may be the start of a momentum shift for the Mets this season. At least that's what fans are hoping for. We start with Valdespin in our latest 3 Up & 3 Down column.

  3 Up  
Jordany Valdespin: The Mets needs a victory in the worst way Wednesday against the Miami Marlins. Having lost six straight games and trailing again, 4-2 in the sixth inning, manager Terry Collins called on Valdespin to pinch hit with two men on and two outs. He delivered with a three-run home run that put the Mets up 5-4 and set the table for an eventual 7-6 victory. He went 3-for-11 this week with a double, the home run and four RBI. Valdespin's spot on this list, however, is all about the momentum changing homer against Miami.

Shinedown Delivers Great Rock Show Experience They Promised At Mohegan Sun Arena, Bush Does Too

 
  By Brad Carroll  
There was a time soon after Shinedown took the stage at Mohegan Sun Arena Friday night where lead singer Brent Smith told the packed house they were about to experience what a true rock show should be. The statement could have gone just two ways -- either the band would live up to those elevated expectations or they would fall flat on their self-made promise.

After roughly 90 minutes, the answer became clear. Shinedown knows exactly how to put on a show, leaving fans with an experience they won't soon forget. It was fitting the entire band wore shirt and tie on stage, because they were all business in delivering a great rock show.