Friday, May 15, 2009

Free Kicks

Well while Windsor and Falco get ready for their last finals, yours truly has to prepare for work on Monday- which will require me to take a couple weeks off of the blog to get acclimated to the new job. However, I am looking into a possible guest writer once a week, and I am certain that Falco and Windsor can put some things together to cover the rest of the days that I am off. So, for the last time until June, let’s line up for the kick…

The Hill Overlooking Baltimore
The way has been cleared for a rejuvenated and (hopefully) repaired Rich Hill to start tomorrow for the Orioles as they take on Kansas City on the road. Hill, the high risk high reward acquisition from the Cubs (one of several so far in 2009) has had his mechanics completely rebuilt by pitching coach Rick Kranitz and other members of the Orioles coaching staff, some of whom helped him establish himself in the minors- and so far it has paid off. After going on the DL in late March with shoulder problems. Hill has made 3 minor league starts on his way back to the starting rotation. After giving up a run in three innings at Frederick, he has only allowed two earned runs in 13.1 innings at AAA Norfolk, including not allowing a run in his last 2 starts.

More importantly however, is that is walks are way down from last year, when he handed out about a free pass every inning as his pitching motion broke down and injuries took their toll. At Norfolk, he gave up only 9 bases on balls and started to recover some of the command that made him one of the best strikeout pitchers in the majors in 2007 with 14 Ks in Norfolk (including 7 in 6 innings in his last start). Hill knows that his best opportunity to succeed is here in Baltimore where he has a supportive coaching staff, patience from the front office, and a decent offense to work behind. He will be expected to go 6 or 7 innings and give the bullpen some semblence of rest, which should be bolstered by Hendrickson’s move to a long relief role.

Here’s hoping that a Michigan Man can get it done in Baltimore.

Amazing is Happening
The Rockets didn’t dominate the game after the first 10 minutes of the 1st quarter. But they didn’t have to. Houston simply hung with LA and made shots when they had to once the Lakers cut the lead to 2 in the second half. However, as much as I would love to give all the credit to Houston, Kobe’s team simply did not show up last night. There is no way that the Lakers go down 21-3 to start the game if they actually took this one seriously going in. Their dominating victory in Game 5 shows what happens when they play tough to the hole and use their size with Gasol, Odom, and Bynum underneath to match up with Scola, Houston’s lone rebounding threat with Mutumbo and Ming out. The fact that the Rockets were only outrebounded by 6 is incredible given the small lineup that they have to play, and is indicative of a lack of heart by the Lakers. I will be rooting hard for Houston to pull this one out in Game 7, but I don’t expect the Lakers to allow a repeat of last night on their home court.

Orlando should have won this series in 5 games. Now they will have to do it in Boston, where they choked away the opportunity to take a commanding lead in the series. As I said before, Orlando is the better team but Boston will win the series. Whenever you give a talented, veteran squad like the Celtics chances to get back in a series, they will eventually win enough legitimate games to take it away from you. Given the dissention in the lockerroom and inconsistent playing styles that the Magic are coming out with every game, expect Ray Allen to do better than 0-7 from three point range and take the Celts to Cleveland.

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