Let’s see how objective I can be with today’s baseball breakdown. This is the tough one for me, as it’s the Boston Red Sox. That’s my team, and naturally, I’m pretty charged up about some of the off-season additions as the Bosox try to rebound from the disastrous 2014 campaign.
I don’t think there’s much question that this has a chance to be a very good offense. Pablo Sandoval can hit anyplace, but Fenway really appears tailor made for Kung Fu Panda. Hanley Ramirez is back with his original organization, and I really like him being moved to the outfield. Ramirez is less likely to get dinged up getting away from his shortstop duties, and the fact he’s muscled up to about 225 this season should be a plus with the inviting Green Monster just a pop fly away.
David Ortiz needs to fight off any age issues, Dustin Pedroia needs to stay healthy as does Mike Napoli, Rusney Castillo needs to live up to his promise, the team needs to find a way to get Mookie Betts on the field, Xander Bogaerts needs to step forward as he slides back to his natural SS position. Then there’s what to do about Shane Victorino. He’s penciled in as the starting RF right now, but my modest proposal would be to see if he can be dealt for an arm.
The pitching is another story entirely. I am not bullish on this staff. Rick Porcello should be solid, but the rest of the rotation is ultra-dicey. Clay Buchholz is always an injury risk. Wade Miley is a good mid-rotation fit as long as he doesn’t get a case of the southpaw blues, which is always in the mix for lefties unfamiliar with the perils of Fenway. I remain convinced that Joe Kelly is better suited to pitch high leverage innings out of the pen, and Justin Masterson is a huge question mark at best.
The bullpen is actually down a notch from last season, as Andrew Miller is gone and he was simply lights out last season. No real concerns with Koji Uehara and the righty setup guys should be okay. But I don’t know if there’s a reliable situational lefty on the staff and that’s a potential hole.
The Red Sox won’t repeat the miserable ’14 campaign. That’s a virtual certainty. If the pitching is respectable they can win the division and get past the 84.5 O/U. But I have too many worries about this staff to take a strong enough stance to actually wager that way. Nevertheless, I’m going glass half full and will call for Boston to get back to serious playoff contention this season and I’ll give them a shaky endorsement to win the AL East.
Another good result on Thursday with four up and two down. I’m still trying to explain to myself why I didn’t pop St. Peter’s against a really bad Fairfield squad, but you know what they say about hindsight. In any event, 4-2 works fine and a very strong current roll continues.
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USC Upstate came within a whisker of blowing a late three point lead when they committed a mind-numbing three shot foul, but a miss on the third free throw by Florida Gulf Coast’s Bernard Thompson preserved the win and prevented a major sweat here. Let’s examine another tournament duel for today’s free play.
(855) TOWSON vs. (856) ELON
Take: (856) ELON +1.5
On paper, there’s not a whole lot to choose between Towson and Elon as those two schools get things rolling in the Colonial Athletic Association tourney. But current form is another story and that’s my focus here.
Elon was laboring badly with a 3-12 league record, and the very youthful Phoenix appeared to be about to wave the white flag on this season. But sometimes all it takes is one short stretch of good basketball to turn things around, and that appears to be what has taken place for Elon.
The Phoenix got out of the gate in terrible fashion in a 2/21 matchup at Delaware. But Elon fought back and managed to then put together five great minutes in OT as they got a desperately needed win over the Blue Hens.
Elon has subsequently gotten hot, and they’re now on a three-game win streak as they take the court today. They got sweet upset against Northeastern and concluded the regular season with a sharp win over a decent UNC-Wilmington entry.
Towson is going the other way right now. The Tigers have dropped four in a row and seven of their last eight. That’s not exactly the ideal form heading into the tournament, although I’m sure they’re approaching this like they’re 0-0.
Two factors worth noting here. Towson cannot shoot a lick but they’re very adept at grabbing offensive boards and getting second chances. Elon has had a big issue keeping the opposition off the glass, and they cannot give up too many extra opportunities if they want to win this game.
The other aspect that might come into play is the site for this game. It’s not a home game for Towson, but it’s definitely what ought to be home/neutral. But there also appears to have been some adjustment made for this in the number, as Towson has been made the small favorite here.
The bottom line is that I have Elon as the slightly better team and they’re in what can only be called much better present form. The Phoenix players seem genuinely confident about their chances in this tournament and I expect a good effort today. Elon as the underdog looks playable to me.