Saturday, June 30, 2007

Techni-Cole Difficulties...

Computers... you love them when they work right... you don't love them so much when they don't... One thing I like to do in my spare time is to do stuff such as build Wikipedia pages, work on spreadsheets so I can sharpen those skills, and also of course my new Kate Michael Yahoo group... A while back, I purchased a few domains so that I can build some websites - another of my hobbies... For whatever reason, I've been unable to access these new domains from my computer. I'm not exactly sure why I can't get into them from my PC... I thought it just might be my IP address or something like that, but I tried to access the sites via a dial-up connection from my PC and also to no avail. Hopefully, I'll get it figured out sometime later today...

As for other stuff, there was lots of baseball happening yesterday, and a little golf... I guess the most notable thing that happened yesterday was the 750th home run of Barry Bonds career. The historic homer came off Arizona Diamondbacks starter Livan Hernandez in a 4-3 San Francisco Giants 10 inning loss to the D-Backs. Bonds is now just five homers away from tying Hank Aaron's record of 755. No matter what your opinion is on Bonds and whether you feel he achieved this number legitimately or not, it's still quite an amazing feat... Johan Santana pitched a strong six innings, giving up only one run and five hits, while striking out six and Joe Mauer hit a grand slam off of the Tigers' Justin Verlander as Minnesota cruised to an 11-1 victory over the Tigers. The most dramatic game of the day??? Well, there were two... In Chicago, Aramis Ramirez hit a dramatic two run, two out homer off of Milwaukee closer Francisco Cordero as the Cubs came back from a two run ninth inning deficit to win over the Brewers 6-5. In Houston, things just went from bad to worse for Colorado Rockies closer Brian Fuentes. In his previous three appearances, Fuentes had not only blown saves, but he also was handed with losses... Last night he blew his fourth straight save opportunity and was charged with his fourth loss in his past four appearances... the light hitting Mark Loretta hit a two run, two out homer to give the Astros a 9-8 win. Fuentes becomes the first closer in 29 years to have blown saves and been charged with losses in four consective outings...

In golf, the women continue to battle with the elements at the U.S. Women's open... Three rain delays in the first two days resulted in only 25 of the 156 golfer field managing to finish the second round yesterday. Annika Soranstam was the big story of the day as she shot a 42 on her opening nine holes, putting her in danger of missing the cut. Coverage of the second and third round will continue on NBC today beginning at 3PM PT/12 noon ET. For the full live leaderboard, click here: 2007 U.S Women's Open Leaderboard

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Big Hurt & Biggio Milestones

Benchmarks, milestones, whatever you call them, both Frank Thomas of the Toronto Blue Jays and Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros reached significant ones yesterday.

"Don't Believe The Hype"... that's always been one of Frank Thomas' biggest catch phrases and there's never been anything "hype" about him. Blessed with incredible plate patience and amazing power, the "Big Hurt" has had an amazing career... Injuries have taken away some productive time from him, but nonetheless he was stuck on 499 homers until yesterday. Thomas made sure the crowd in Minnesota's Metrodome wouldn't have to wait long for 500 as he crushed a 1-2 pitch from Carlos Silva into the left field seats for the historic homer. It was a great moment as the respectful Twins crowd gave him a standing ovation... even the scoreboard operator flashed the number "500" on the board...

Craig Biggio had no idea he would reach the historic 3,000 hit milestone yesterday in Houston. Coming into the game, he was three hits short and was only hitting .233 in the month of June prior to it... Biggio's previous high for hits in a game this year was three, so people attending the game knew there was a chance they could be seeing some history... a single in the third and another in the fifth set up the historic moment. In the seventh, Biggio lined a single to right center for hit number 3,000. Biggio would go on to collect two more hits in going 5-for-6 as the Astros would win the game 8-5 in 11 innings. One of the truly great things about the future Hall of Famer is that he's played his entire career with one team... there are very few players in today's age of free agency that can say that.

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Rain wreaked havoc with the U.S Women's Open yesterday... Angela Park shot a three-under-par 68 to take the early first round lead. Most of the players were still left on the course, when play was halted... The shock of the day had to be the play of Karrie Webb as the Hall of Famer shot a 12-over-par 83, the worst round of her career. Coverage continues on ESPN today at 2pm PT/11 am ET.

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Last, and not least, just want to wish luck to my friend Reggie... his sister is competing in the Miss California Pageant this week... if she wins, she gets to compete in the 2008 Miss America Pageant!!! My friend, 2006 Miss DC Kate Michael, gave me some advice to pass onto Reggie's sister when I saw her in DC a couple of months ago... hopefully that advice and some strong performances will make those dreams of my friend's sis come true!!! The competition has gone as follows so far: Tuesday - Interview, Wednesday - Talent, Thursday - Evening Gown... tonight is the Swimsuit competition and then tomorrow the Top 10 Compete for the Miss California crown!!!

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Manny not just being Manny

The Boston Red Sox may be running away with the American League East title with their present 48-29 record and nine game lead over Toronto Blue Jays... however, they are doing it all without one of their main cogs not playing to their capability. There is no doubt that right fielder Manny Ramirez will some day be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown - with 481 home runs, 1558 RBI's, 1297 runs scored and a career .313 batting average he would probably be a "no brainer" first ballot entry. For each of the past nine years, Manny has hit 33 or more homers, driven in 102 or more runs and hit .292 or higher (7 times hitting .300 or better). 2007 has been different though for Manny... a .289 batting average, only 11 homers and 42 RBI's to go with 39 runs scored through yesterday. This paces out to only 23 homers, 88 RBI's and 82 runs scored... all of which would his worst numbers since his 1994 rookie season... At 35 years of age, Manny's not getting any younger and unfortunately, this is not "Manny just being Manny." Perhaps his knees are giving out or there is some sort of other undisclosed injury causing him not to be the same old Manny that we all have been accustomed to seeing all of these years... Red Sox Nation certainly hopes the second half brings back our "normal" version of Manny...

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As for the games... well basically all of my teams lost yesterday - the aforementioned Red Sox, both L.A. teams and the Nats... actually combined they scored all of one run yesterday!!! Yes, ONE!!!

In Seattle, the Mariners got a double by Jose Lopez which scored Ichiro Suzuki as the Mariners beat the Red Sox by a 2-1 score... The Red Sox had lots of opportunities, but left 11 men on base... Similarly, my Dodgers put men on all night against Diamondbacks starter Brandon Webb... they left THIRTEEN runners on base without scoring a run!!! Derek Lowe was the tough luck loser, giving up only a run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings of work in a 2-0 D-Backs win. In Anaheim, the Angels managed ten hits and a walk off of Kansas City Royals starter Jorge De La Rosa in six innings, but were also held scoreless... Jered Weaver pitched a strong seven innings, giving up only a run... that would be all the offense the Royals would need as they held on for a 1-0 win... In Atlanta, the Nats game got REALLY ugly - a 13-0 shellacking at the hands of the Atlanta Braves! 22 hits... yes, 22 hits were allowed by the Nationals pitchers... only one of those hits was by Andruw Jones so he STILL sits below the Mendoza line at .199... Actually (as I've mentioned before), I do like the Braves (and Cubs) thanks to the superstations... still it was just one heck of an UGLY game!!! I did get to see the Cubs win 6-4 earlier in the day thanks to being able to watch WGN...

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Lots of news on the golf front today... Tiger Woods has confirmed he will be playing in his tournament at Congressional Country Club next weekend in Washington, D.C. It became more clear that he would play as his first child was born to he and his wife back on June 18th. The big surprise is that world number two, Phil Mickelson has decided to play, meaning that the top four players in the world (Jim Furyk and Adam Scott) along with Vijay Singh (#6) will be playing... I am hoping to attend the third round of the tournament while I visit D.C. next weekend.

The women are playing their third major of the year this weekend... the U.S. Women's Open takes place at the Southern Pines golf course in Pine Needles, North Carolina... the favorite again would have to be world number one, Lorena Ochoa. Ochoa won again last week, and looks to add another trophy to her ever growing collection... Coverage will be as follows (all times ET):

Thursday, June 28 1st Round ESPN 2:00-6:00 p.m.
Friday, June 29 2nd Round ESPN 2:00-6:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 30 3rd Round NBC 3:00-6:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 1 4th Round NBC 3:00-6:00 p.m.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dodgers Looney for Loney!!!

Tony Abreu certainly picked a fine time to hit his first big league homer. The Los Angeles Dodger rookie hit a 1-1 change up from Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Doug Slaten into the left field seats to give the Dodgers a 6-5 lead in the top of the 10th inning. Jonathan Broxton picked up the win in relief while Takeshi Saito closed things out in the bottom of the 10th for his 21st save. Neither starter was very effective... Both the Dodgers' Chad Billingsley and the Diamondbacks' Edgar Gonzalez gave up five runs in their four innings of work. Rookie James Loney continued to swing a hot bat for the Dodgers, slugging his 3rd homer of the year and going 3-for-5. Loney is now hitting .471 in his 34 at bats since his call up on June 12th. If you're looking for a nice sleeper in your fantasy leagues who could do some damage in the second half, look no further. The Dodgers gave Nomar Garciaparra a start at third base last night and may move him there to make room for Loney and his bat. You may recall a game Loney had in Colorado last year where he hit three homers and drove in ten runs! One more thing... though he only has a little more than 100 plate appearances in his career - yes, it's a small sample - his .654 career slugging percentage ranks second all-time to Babe Ruth's .690. No, I don't think he will be able to keep up this pace, but it shows just how good the kid has been so far.

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Another day, another friend moving on... Actually, this one I had known about for a while, but I had to keep "mum" on it. My friend Linda is leaving my place of employment to go do some missionary work. Linda is a very kind and generous person with a very bubbly spirit... Although she only worked with my employer a little more than a year and a half, she made a lot of friends in her short time there. She will be living in Chile for three months, serving the community and doing the Lord's work. The area she's going to is in the "inner city" and it's quite dangerous. It takes a truly special heart to serve in such a place. I hope and pray that she will be safe in Chile'. She will be missed.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Garnett to the Lakers???

The big news here in the L.A. sports scene today centers around the Lakers possibly acquiring all-star forward Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves... The Lakers would give up Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and a third player. More to come on this soon... and if it does happen to come to pass, well then a certain couple of L.A. Times sportswriters will have of making up to do with the fans of the Lakers and a certain guy who wears the #24 uniform. Why have they tried to run Kobe Bryant out of town and ruin our team? I don't know. FYI, I have written them several times in an effort to see where they're coming from and why they hate Kobe so much, but they never respond. More on this to come...

As for the rest of the sports scene, well it's all about baseball right now... The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks began the first of a pivotal four game series in Phoenix. Coming in, the Dodgers trailed the Diamondbacks by 1 1/2 games and the San Diego Padres by 1/2 game for the National League West divison lead... Brad Penny made sure the Dodgers would begin the series on a good note, pitching a strong eight innings, giving up only a run on four hits... the Dodgers would get all of the offense they would need in the top of the sixth, scoring four runs. The key hit was Russell Martin's two run triple... Martin now has 49 RBI's on the year, the most of any catcher in the senior circuit. The Dodgers would cruise to an 8-1 win as Penny won his league leading 10th game. With the Padres loss to the San Francisco Giants in extra innings, the Dodgers moved into second place, one half game behind the Diamondbacks. Chad Billingsley goes for the Dodgers and Edgar Gonzalez for the D-Backs tonight; the winner stakes claim to first place in the divison.

In Anaheim, the Angels had ace John Lackey going... unfortunately, for Lackey the game hinged on one play... A two out bases loaded single by David DeJesus in the second inning scored Ryan Shealy... Right fielder Vladimir Guerrero made a strong throw on the play, one which should have gotten Jason LaRue out at the plate... LaRue somehow managed to knock the ball out of Angel catcher Mike Napoli's glove allowing both he and Joey Gathright to score. Those two unearned runs would prove costly, as the Angels would never recover, falling to the Royals by a 5-3 score. With the Seattle Mariners win over the Red Sox, the Angels American League Western division lead fell to seven games.

Last night also marked the return of Washington Nationals pitcher Jason Bergmann. Limited to a 75 pitch count, Bergmann picked up right where he left off before his injury at RKF Stadium last night as he pitched against the Atlanta Braves... Bergmann pitched a strong four innings, giving up only a run on four hits, walking one while striking out four. This was an especially encouraging performace, and needless to say, if he's available in your fantasy leagues, NOW is the time to get him!!! Unfortunately, the game kind of got away from the Nats in the 6th inning as reliever Bobby Traber was hit hard for three runs, the key blow coming on catcher Brian McCann's three run homer. It was a big night for McCann as he drove in the Braves other run as well. Tim Hudson finally had a good start for the Braves last night, scattering seven hits and allowing a run while striking out nine in his seven innings of work for his seventh win of the year. Bob Wickman closed out the Braves 4-1 win, picking up his 13th save in the process.

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OK... time for something new here... well, actually it isn't all new, just kind of a rebirth of sorts... and is back by popular demand... Every Tuesday, I plan on listing my top 20 favorite songs of the week. You may recall I did this at the very beginning of this blog, but other things kind of took over precendence. So, without further ado, here are my top 20 songs of the week:

1. Home - Daughtry (2 weeks @ #1)
2. Lost In This Moment - Big & Rich
3. Makes Me Wonder - Maroon 5
4. Johnny Cash - Jason Aldean
5. First Time - Lifehouse
6. I Told You So - Keith Urban
7. How I Feel - Martina McBride
8. Ticks - Brad Paisley (2 weeks @ #1)
9. I'll Stand By You - Carrie Underwood
10. Teardrops On My Guitar - Taylor Swift
11. I Wonder - Kellie Pickler
12. (You Want To) Make A Memory - Bon Jovi
13. Say It Right - Nelly Furtado
14. Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood (14 weeks @ #1)
15. A Woman's Love - Alan Jackson
16. Girlfriend (radio edit) - Avril Lavigne
17. Little Wonders - Rob Thomas
18. Wasted - Carrie Underwood (#12 weeks @ #1)
19. Stand - Rascal Flatts (3 weeks @ #1)
20. Anyway - Martina McBride (2 weeks @ #1)

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Montoya wins Sonoma

Love him, hate him, however you feel about him, there is one thing that has become very clear when it comes to NASCAR rookie Juan Pablo Montoya: the guy can drive a race car! In his first season driving stock cars, Montoya has been criticized by his fellow competitors for his overly aggressive style of racing. The other drivers definitely have a point, as Montoya has taken out many opponents this year with bold moves which have often sent them spinning or crashing into the wall.

Yesterday was a different kind of race for Montoya. Instead of being the aggressive one, the Colombian was told repeatedly to be patient by his crew at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 in Sonoma, California. Over the course of the day, he was only responsible for one accident - spinning Kurt Busch about midway through the race. Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, passed Jamie McMurray for the lead for good on lap 104 of the 110 lap race. He continued to drive cautiously in the closing laps, hoping he would conserve enough fuel to make it to the end. McMurray wouldn't be so lucky, as he ran out of gas on the very last lap in finishing 37th. Montoya took the checkered flag in only his 17th start. He also becomes just the fifth driver to win an Indianapolis 500 and a NASCAR race. Perhaps this win will mark a turning point for Montoya... will he continue to drive more passively? If so, he may just find a new legion of fans. Kevin Harvick finished behind Montoya in 2nd, while Jeff Burton came in third. Points leader Jeff Gordon overcame the penalties levied upon he and teammate Jimmie Johnson to finish 7th. Johnson came in 17th.

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The local baseball teams continue to go in opposite directions. The Dodgers were in Tampa Bay for the rubber game of their three game series against the Devil Rays. Luis Gonzalez quickly staked the blue crew to a 2-0 lead, homering in the top of the first off D-Ray starter Edwin Jackson. The former Dodger farmhand would settle down after that, pitching five scoreless innings. Dodger starter Hong-Chih Kuo pithced pretty well in his 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs and four hits, walking one and striking out eight. Things fell apart for the Dodgers in the bottom of the 7th inning. Reliever Joe Beimal faced five batters and would not record an out! All five of those baserunners wound up scoring as the Rays would forge a 9-2 lead. James Loney (who only a week ago crashed hard into the left field wall at Dodger Stadium) came back and hit a two run homer in the top of the ninth to draw the Dodgers within five, but that was as close as they would get. The loss keeps the Dodgers in third place, a game and a half behind the division leading San Diego Padres.

In the meantime, the Angels are making a mockery of the American League West... Angel starter Bartolo Colon outdueled the Pittsburgh Pirates' Tom Gorzelanny for six innings. The Angels carried a 3-2 lead into the final three frames. Scot Shields closed out the seveneth and eighth innings for the Angels in recording his 19th hold of the year. The ball was then given to closer Franisco Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth, and he was uncharacteristically wild, throwing two wild pitches. Those would prove to be costly as they would put pinch runner Raji Davis into scoring position after Adam LaRoche had been walked. Xavier Nady singled Davis in on a 3-2 pitch to tie the game and send it into extra innings. Chris Bootcheck would silence the Pirates in the 10th... in the bottom of the inning, Howie Kendrick doubled with one out off of Pirates closer Matt Capps. Kendry Morales would be intentionally walked. Gary Matthews had an opportunity to win the game, but he flew out to left... Erick Aybar then took care of business for the Halos, lining a single to right, scoring Kendrick with the winning run. With the win, the Angels continue to maintain an eight game lead over the Seattle Mariners in the American League West.

In Washington, the Nationals Jason Simontacchi hoped to rebound from his disastrous start this past Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers. You may recall Simontacchi was lit up by the Tigers for 10 runs, 10 hits and two walks in his last outing. Yesterday, Simontacchi would have no such problems with the Cleveland Innings. In six innings, he held the Indians to just one run and four hits while walking one and striking out six. Ronnie Belliard led the Nats attack going 3-for-3, while catcher Jesus Flores drove in two of the Nats three runs off Indians starter Jake Westbrook. Chad Cordero pitched the ninth to secure the Nats 3-1 win. For the Nats, it was their first win of a home series in nearly a month and a half - they took three out of four against the Atlanta Braves in mid-May. Some good news and bad news for the Nats... First off, the good news is that Jason Bergmann is coming off the disabled list and will pitch today against those same Atlanta Braves. The bad news is that Shortstop Cristian Guzman found his way onto the 15 day disabled list after sprained his left thumb while tagging out Josh Barfield at second base on a steal attempt in the fifth inning. Guzman was amongst their hottest hitters at .329...

We all know how well the Minnesota Twins' Johan Santana can pitch, but it also appears that baseball's best pitcher can also hit! Santana pitched his usual six brilliant innings against the Florida Marlins yesterday, allowing only a solo home run to Dan Uggla (his 15th) and five hits, walking one and striking out eight in picking up his eighth win of the year. The big story was Santana's hitting though. In the top of the second, Johan squared as if to bunt, and then swung away, driving a ball deep to the warning track in right center field off of Marlin starter Byung Hyun Kim. Johan ended up with a triple! Kim would wind up taking the loss as he struggled in his six innings, giving up six earned runs, seven hits and five walks to go along with six strikeouts. Twins catcher Joe Mauer carried the heavy lumber for the Twins, homering twice off of Kim.

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Also, my condolences go out to the major league baseball community with the passing of Rod Beck. Beck died on Saturday of unknown causes. He was only 38 years old and leaves a wife and two kids. For many years, Beck pitched for the Dodgers rival, the San Francisco Giants and was a very imposing presence on the mound with his mustache... A fun-loving guy, he was one of the games great personalities. In 1999 he saved a career best 51 games for the Chicago Cubs, leading them into the playoffs. Beck's career ended in 2004 as he dealt with some personal issues. He will be sorely missed by anyone that considers themself a fan of the game.

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In closing, I just would like to give my best wishes to my friends Jay and Kara... I found out just yesterday that they are going to be moving to Texas at the end of the week. A few things about both of them - they are two very special people... Blessed with very good looks, they are also both just as nice on the inside as on the outside. Jay has played the guitar on stage in helping lead worship at my church, Cornerstone Community in Simi Valley, for quite some time. Although I don't know him all that well, those that do know him well have told me nothing but good things about him. It's also been very comforting seeing Jay and his red guitar on stage these past couple of years... Kara has been a selfless giver of her time to various causes, serving on mission trips to Romania and many other places. Her smile, kindness, zest for life and her willingness to serve ANYWHERE have been so inspiring to me in the five years that I've known her... I really can't think of two people who are better examples of integrity and "living life the right way" than these two. I'll miss them both a lot, but I know that Texas is going to be getting two AMAZING people!!!

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

THE POLICE @ Dodger Stadium

Last night marked my third trip to the friendly confines of Dodger Stadium over the past twelve days. Dodger games vs. the Mets (June 12) and the Angels (June 17) were the first two events. Last night though, there would be no baseball played there. Instead, a capacity crowd was there to see the legendary band The Police in concert...

Prior to heading out to the game, my friends and I had an informal send-off for our friend, Dave Dixon who is headed off to his new life in Thailand next weekend. We decided to meet at one of our favorite local hangouts - B.J.'s Restaurant and Brewhouse in Thousand Oaks. Dave could not make the trip to the concert with the rest of us due to his upcoming trip overseas, but he did make time out of his busy schedule to stop by. Appropriately, Murray Head's hit "One Night In Bangkok" was the song playing when we happened to enter BJ's.











Dave, John Ruppert and myself are pictured at the left, while two more Daves - Gomberg and Sweet (both are meteorologists, by the way) are on the right with my longtime friend Nicole. After enjoying some great Chicago Style Pizza and some drinks, we said our good byes to Dave and then the five of us headed off to Dodger Stadium. The drive... well, it was SLOW!!! It took us nearly two hours to get there. Just in case you forgot why I don't drive down to L.A. too much... We arrived nearly a full hour late for the show, but since the promoters probably already knew that the crowd would be late arriving, they didn't let the opening act (the Foo Fighters) begin playing until 7:30 PM - an hour after the 6:30 PM time printed on the tickets... The "Fighters" put on a good show, though I have to admit, I didn't know many of their songs. The highlights for me were probably their hits "Learn To Fly" and "Best Of Me."


During the intermission, we took some pics, and did a little window shopping for Police merchandise... Actually, the "other" John did buy a concert T. Oh, and in that picture above, we turned into a palindrome of sorts... The two Johns are the bookends, the two Daves on the inside and Nicole is in the middle... no, we didn't plan it that way.



The Police then took the stage at 9:15 and opened with their classic, "Message In A Bottle." Their first set of fourteen songs included songs from their classic albums of the late 70's and early 80's and included such hits as "Wrapped Around Your Finger," "Don't Stand So Close To Me," and "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." The set concluded with their hit "Roxanne." Two encores followed, the highlight being their huge hit "Every Breath You Take." Overall, they sounded GREAT in concert. The acoustics at Dodger Stadium aren't the best for a concert, but they managed to make it sound amazing even being at this disadvantage. For those of us that remember the 80's, this was an experience that was priceless!

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sunshine & Summertime

Well, I just had a feeling yesterday was going to be a really good day and guess what??? It was!!! Unfortunately, I can't share a whole lot about the day yet, but rest assured some very good things happened. One of (if not the) hardest things about blogging that I've learned over the three months now that I've been doing this is where to draw the line between what I want to say and what I can say... Also, how personal should I be??? Some days, I really feel like sharing a lot, others not so much... One thing I do know is that certain things like politics and religion are "no brainer" off-limits topics for the most part for me... though I will touch upon them every once in a while when necessary... So far, so good though. The feedback I've received from friends, family and even complete strangers has been OVERWHELMINGLY positive, and I look forward to continuing this thing as long as I can... With that, I just want to give a big THANK YOU to everyone who has encouraged me during this time. You guys are the best!!!

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Summertime, sunshine and baseball go hand in hand... so with that, let's talk about it!!! It was a good night for my favorite teams and players... and even my first place CBS Sportsline team, the California Waves had a good night, ending it with 78 points and a season high eight point lead over the second place team!!! Here's a look at the standings:

Rk Team                   BA    HR RBI   R  SB   K   ERA   WHIP  W  S Total
1 California Waves .2767 147 540 509 67 549 3.558 1.196 30 64 78.0
2 078 BEEF             .2802 116 479 519 92 604 3.954 1.335 44 31 70.0
3 Bottom Feeders   .2864 121 524 509 35 549 4.002 1.275 44 48 69.5

The Bottom Feeders have been in first or second the entire season, but their pitchers had been overachieving A LOT the first couple of months. Tim Hudson is pitching like the mediocre pitcher he has become again, and with that, the "Feeders" have taken a mighty fall...

As for the real-life games, I'll start with the locals... The Dodgers got yet another quality start from their ace, Derek Lowe against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field. The Dodgers staked "D-Lowe" to a 4-0 lead in the top of the fifth. The D-Rays did manage to get to him for single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh... In 6 2/3 innings, Lowe gave up five hits while walking one and striking out five more batters to give him 77 of them on the season. It certainly seemed strange to see Lowe listed amongst the NL's top 10 in strikeouts in last Sunday's papers... he's on pace for 170 strikeouts, which would be 24 more than his previous career best. Needless to say, if you drafted him in your leagues, these strikeouts have been an unexpected bonus. Eight wins, a 3.14 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and a .227 batting average against have made him amongst the best first half draft day bargains so far. Back to the game... the Dodgers added two more runs in the top of the eighth and Takeshi Saito closed things out for his 20th save of the year in the 6-3 Dodger win.

The Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels are starting to act like a broken record... fall behind early, mount comeback in the final three innings, give the crowd some thrills and a W. In four straight games, the Angels have faced three run or larger deficits... and going into the bottom of the 7th inning of each of those games, they faced a two run or larger deficit... They won two of their three games against the Houston Astros, only failing to come back Wednesday night in a game they actually led by three runs at one point. Last night they fell behind 4-0 to the Pittsburgh Pirates as starting pitcher Joe Saunders struggled early... Jason Bay led the Pittsburgh attack with a two run homer (his 12th) in the third inning to double what was a 2-0 lead. Saunders settled down after that though, shutting down the Pirates in the next three frames... Orlando Cabrera and Reggie Willits would be sure that the crowd would go home happy... "O-Cab" would start the Angels rally with his fourth homer of the year in the bottom of the 6th inning to pull them to within three runs. Willits then doubled in catcher Mike Napoli in the 7th to make it 4-two... O-Cab struck again, plating Willits on a single to center to draw the Angels to within one run. It was Willits' turn again in the bottom of the 8th - another double plated Nathan Hayes to knot the game at four. Meanwhile, the Angels bullpen was once again magnificent... Chris Bootcheck shut down the Pirates for two innings after Saunders departed. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth... the Angels wouldn't score in the bottom of the frame and the game went into extra innings. Scot Shields would hold the Pirates in check in the 10th and 11th innings... In the bottom of the 11th, it was O-Cab time again... A single to left with one out off Jason Bayliss plated Chone Figgins for the game winning run. With the win, the Halos now have a seven game lead over the Oakland A's in the American League West.

Meanwhile, on the other coast, the Washington Nationals looked to put an end to their home losing streak as they faced the Cleveland Indians. Though they've been great on the road lately, the Nats had lost four straight and seven out of eight in the friendly confines of RFK Stadium. Their poor play at home coincides with my recent trip to Washington, D.C. and going to the final two games of their series against the San Diego Padres. Did I put a jinx on them? I sure hope not!!! Well, last night made me feel a little better as the Nats got an "effectively wild" 4 1/3 inning outing from starter Micah Bowie and 4 2/3 innings of shutout ball from the bullpen. Bowie struck out an impressive seven batters, but also gave up five hits and walked four batters... How he only gave up one run with all of those baserunners is a mystery to me. Los Angeles native, Brandon Wilson drove in his first two runs of the year with his first two hits since being called up from the minors, and Christian Guzman homered in a 4-1 Nats win. Chad Cordero came in to pick up his 12th save of the year. The game also featured a VERY comical moment... something which I've only seen happen once or twice ever before... In the second inning, the Indians' Frankin Gutierrez hit what appeared to be a routine grounder to the Nats third-baseman Ryan Zimmerman. The ball took a bad hop though, and ended up right in Zimmerman's shirt!!! Bowie would go on to say afterwards "that's going to be a blooper highlight. I've never seen that before." FYI, Sportscenter has been playing this clip over and over... I think it just may end up on YouTube if it hasn't already! With that, perhaps my hex on the Nats is gone? I certainly hope so!

Speaking of hexes, what in the world has happened to Atlanta Braves slugger Andrew Jones??? Two years ago, Jones hit 51 homers and drove in 128 runs, and last year he tallied 41 HR's and 129 RBI's, while posting .263 and .262 batting averages those respective seasons. Last night Andrew's batting average slipped below the dreaded "Mendoza Line!" FYI, the term "Mendoza Line" is a misnomer... People say you're below the "Mendoza Line" when your batting average falls below .200. In fact, the man whom it is named after, Mario Mandoza, actually had a career .215 batting average! An 0 for 3 performance last night against the Detroit Tigers put Jones at a .199 batting average on the season. His power numbers are way down as well - he's only got 11 homers and 42 RBI's to this point. His strikeouts are also way up... he's on pace for a career high 160 of them. Is he injured??? Is he pressing??? Is it a combination of both??? Who knows!!! All that I do know is that he probably has been the league's most biggest disappointment so far. The fact that I have him on so many of my fantasy teams is also a little disheartening. For now, I have him benched in all of my leagues - yes, it's a hard pill to swallow... but I want to win!!! Your third round draft pick is supposed to be a cornerstone to your offense. One can only hope that he gets himself straightened out soon and returns to the consistent Andruw Jones we have become accustomed to seeing these past nine seasons...

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Finally, on a personal note I just want to take a moment to rememeber my late father... Today would have been his 73rd birthday. On September 30, 1999 he was taken from us by cancer. Rest In Peace, Dad. We will never forget you.

*edit* I didn't even think about this when choosing my blog title for today, but I took it from a Faith Hill song... My Dad's favorite artist was Faith!!!... he actually knew her when she first was starting out in the music business and gave her LOTS of encouragement... she's come a long way from those humble beginnings!

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Prayin' For Daylight...

Do you ever have one of those mornings where you just can't wait for the sun to come up for the start of a new day? Being the eternal optimist, I look forward to the sun rising practically every day, but I particularly looked forward to it today. I just know today is going to be an amazing day and it really hasn't even started yet...

So what am I all excited about? Could be the fact that my fantasy baseball teams are doing so well... all three of my CBS Sportsline teams are in contention near the midway point of the season and one of them is in first place! Nothing would feel better than to win some of these money leagues I'm in... winning money for doing something I love to do? Imagine that!!! Is there such an occupation as "professional fantasy baseball player?" I wonder.

I also have some more concerts coming up... the Police tomorrow night, Brad Paisley the following Saturday... I'll be seeing a lot of friends at both events so you know what that means... :) It's always a lot more fun when I can illustrate my posts with pics!

*edit* By the way, I just found out that my seat for the Paisley show is going to be in the first SIX rows!!!


Also, more trips are coming up for me... actually since I've used up all but 1/2 a day of vacation time from work, they're going to have to be weekenders. Yes, the red-eye is my friend! Should I give any hints yet??? I hear there might be a "Tiger sighting" in a couple of weeks... yes, THAT Tiger! I don't think that 16x20 picture I have of him with Jack Nicklaus (which I won in the silent auction at the EBC Golf Tournament last month) will travel too well in a plane... My friends tell me he loves to autograph this kind of stuff. I guess I'll just have to wait until he comes to the nearby Sherwood Country Club for his annual event there in a few months...

And yes, there are more baseball games in my future... not this month though... Four MLB games in span of 16 days in two cities involving five different teams... I will be at Dodger Stadium tomorrow night, but that's for the aforementioned Police concert...

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Speaking of baseball, lets cover a few things here before the weekend... The Dodgers trailed the Toronto Blue Jays for most of the day yesterday, falling behind 2-0. Chad Billingsley, limited to a seventy pitch count, threw precisely that many pitches before being pulled with two outs in the fourth inning... Billingsley pitched fairly well while in there, giving up only two hits while striking out two... Three walks and a two run homer to Aaron Hill in the second inning did slightly blemish the performance. Shaun Marcum pitched a very effective six innings for the Jays, giving up two runs on only three hits, while walking three... Jeff Kent hit a 2-run homer in the top of the 6th inning to tie the game at 2. Just a note on this game, it seems the home plate umpire had a slighty tight strike zone - 10 walks were issued between the two teams for the game... The Jays took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 6th as Gregg Zahn's sacrifice fly scored Matt Stairs... The Jays brought in Casey Janssen in the top of the 8th inning... those of us who have seen Janssen pitch the past couple of years know that the 0.95 ERA he possessed coming into the game was not reflective of the kind of pitcher he is... Simply put, he's just a VERY average pitcher... the law of averages was overdue to catch up to him, and yesterday just that happened! The Dodgers parlayed a walk and five hits into a six run inning as Janssen saw his ERA rise to 2.37... The Dodgers then breezed to an 8-4 victory... The win puts the Dodgers only 1/2 game behind the NL Western Division co-leading San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks.

In Colorado, the Rockies slayed the mighty New York Yankees again to complete a three game sweep!!! After winning 14 of 17 games to pull within eight games of the Boston Red Sox a few days ago, the Yanks now find themselves 10 1/2 games back. A good thing for those of us that are Red Sox fans! :) Roger Clemens was hit hard and often by the Rockies, giving up four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings while walking one and striking out six. Rodrigo Lopez bobbed and weaved through 5 2/3 innings for the Rockies to pick up his fourth win, giving up only two runs despite giving up seven hits and a walk. Brian Fuentes closed things out in the 9th for his 20th save of the year as the Rockies held on for a 4-3 win...

In Texas, the Rangers and Cubs finished off what can only be termed "the big disappointment series." Both teams were expected to be contenders this year, instead both teams find themselves mired well below .500. One of the lone bright spots for the Rangers this year has been their big free agent acquisition, pitcher Eric Gagne. "Gags" has been nothing short of brilliant this year for the Rangers, and after seeing him go through everything he has the past couple of years first hand following the Dodgers, this is REALLY nice to see! In 19 innings this year, he has only given up one run for a microscopic 0.47 ERA. He also has 19 strikeouts and seven saves to go along with two wins - he picked up that second win yesterday as the Rangers scored a run in the bottom of the ninth on a Frank Catalanotto single for a 6-5 win... Life is all about perseverance and Gags is certainly a great example of that!

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

LIFEHOUSE @ Best Buy!



It isn't very often that a big music act makes a free in-store appearance in my hometown of Thousand Oaks. We call it "T.O." for short by the way... our city had the moniker long before controversial NFL star Terrell Owens did. It was only by a matter of good luck/fate that I even knew that the band Lifehouse was going to be performing at the T.O. Best Buy yesterday - long story short is what happened is that I had gone to the Wal-Mart in Oxnard after work on Tuesday to pick up the new Brad Paisley, Bon Jovi and Lifehouse CD's... I usually go to one of my local Wal-Mart stores because they have the lowest prices (usually $9.72 during the first week of release). I purchased several copies of the Paisley and Bon Jovi CD's, however the Lifehouse CD wasn't on sale - it was $12.99. So, I decided to head to my local Best Buy in T.O. (where it was only $9.99) and I purchased five copies... In the process I got four wristbands which would guarantee spots in line for those that wanted to get autographs from the band after the live acoustic set they were performing. I contacted a lot of my close friends to advise them of the show, but given it was such short notice, most could not make it. My longtime friend and also neighbor of almost five years, Bryan Boggs (pictured with me) was able to make it for the performance though.


Lifehouse took the stage a little after 6:45 and opened the acoustic set with their top five hit from their last album "You And Me." They then performed the first single off of their new Who We Are release "First Time." The crowd of was REALLY into it and then everyone went wild when they started performing their number one hit, "Hanging By A Moment." The crowd gave a big ovation and then the band went off the stage... the people continued to cheer and screamed for an encore! The crowd got their wish as the band came back out for one more song... A very nice performance of their song "Broken" (which is also on their new CD) closed the performing part of the evening...



The band went backstage for a bit after that, and they organized us into line... we waited for what seemed like forever for them to come back out - it really was only about fifteen minutes... By 7:30, I was at the front of the line and talking to the band and getting their autographs. I then hung out for an hour or so with other fans after the show for a good hour and spent a lot of time talking to a guy named Nick - a longtime friend of founding bandmember and lead singer, Jason Wade (above left).

Just before I left, I ran into a couple of their younger fans - a couple of girls in their late teens... The two sisters were sad because they weren't allowed to keep their wristbands as souvenirs of the event... As they didn't have copies of the CD with them, they only had their autographs from the band on plain pieces of paper. The pink wristbands actually had the band name "Lifehouse" on them and would definitely make nice momentos... Well, since I had two unused wristbands just sitting in my wallet, there was only one thing left to do: give them to the girls!!!... You should have seen the smiles on their faces!!! Actually, you can see their smiles as they're in the final picture of my set below! It certainly gave me GREAT joy to do something so simple, yet so meaningful to these two!!!


A fun time was had by all... I can't say I've ever spent two hours at one time at my local Best Buy before - I was amongst the last to leave, by the way... Yes, I had myself a good time! I certainly wish that more big music acts would do that kind of thing here in T.O... Finally, kudos to the GREAT staff at the T.O. Best Buy for doing such a nice job in organizing things there!!!

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After that fun event, I came home to watch a little baseball. Much to my surprise, the Angels and Ervin Santana were losing 4-2 to the Houston Astros in the top of the 7th inning. Santana always pitches well at home, so it shocked me to see he had given up so many runs... Not to fear though, the Angels would come back to score six runs in the bottom of the frame, highlighted by a mammoth 3-run homer by Vladimir Guerrero. For "Vlad" it was his 13th dinger of the year. Scot Shields and closer Francisco Rodriguez would close things out in the 8-4 Angels win.

The Dodgers on the other hand didn't have a comeback in them... Hong-Chih Kuo didn't homer, toss his bat, or pitch very well on this night... Actually, he was downright awful in giving up eight earned runs in only 1 2/3 innings last night against the Toronto Blue Jays. The rout was on, and Roy "Doc" Halladay breezed through eight innings to pick up his eighth win of the season, only allowing a run on six hits, while walking one and striking out four in a 12-1 Blue Jays win.

In another game of note, the Chicago Cubs took on the Texas Rangers and longtime Cub, Sammy Sosa. In his first appearance against his former team, Sosa made some history, bashing his 600th career home run in the bottom of the fifth inning off of Cubs starter Jason Marquis. Sosa becomes only the fifth player to reach that historic barrier, joining Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. For someone that didn't play at all last year, this was certainly a nice, though unexpected, accomplishment. Most people thought the 38-year-old Sosa wouldn't do much this year... but so far he's proved the naysayers wrong, hitting 12 homers and driving in 53 while hitting .242.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hanging By A Moment...

All I really need to do is put on that pink bunny suit... Yes, I am the Energizer Bunny... I keep going and going! All kidding aside, I know there is no way I would ever be able to keep up with my furry friend... I can hang with him pretty good though! If you read my Tuesday's Night special blog last night, you know that I'll be heading to my local Best Buy tonight for an acoustic concert and CD signing by the band Lifehouse... Not more than an hour after I posted that, I get word from one of my close friends that she has an extra ticket to the Brad Paisley show on Saturday, June 30th... Of course I couldn't turn down the ticket... so now I've officially switched from "baseball mode" to "concert mode"... Four baseball games the first half or so of the month, and now it will end up being four concerts for me the second half - Keith Urban (6/16), Lifehouse (tonight), the Police (this Saturday), and now Brad... July is starting to fill up too... all I'll say is that I'm going to be visiting my new favorite vacation destination at least once!

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OK, baseball is the topic today... and something very unusual happened to Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana last night as he faced the New York Mets in Shea Stadium. Yes, he had his first career double in the game, but that's not what made it unusual... the man who has led the American League in strikeouts the past three years had none the first eight innings. Not to worry, the Twins had built a 9-0 lead by that time and Johan would end up striking out one batter in the ninth. Masterful as usual, Johan only gave up four hits and no walks to the struggling Mets in picking up his 7th win of the season. While on the topic of the Mets, some good news to report on their ace, Pedro Martinez. In his 5th bullpen session this month, Pedro threw 55 pitches at the team's complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Although there is not a set date for his return, it may be sooner than the original August forecast. It wouldn't be a bad idea for you to stash him away on your fantasy team if you have an empty bench or DL slot.

The news is not so good for the Dodgers' Jason Schmidt. As I noted last week, his velocity was way off in his second start since his latest return from the disabled list. He didn't pitch any better or regain any velocity in his Saturday start against the Angels... Now word comes that Schmidt will undergo shoulder surgery today and be lost for an undetermined amount of time. Chad Billingsley will apparently take his spot in the rotation. If you've seen Chad pitch, you know what kind of stuff he possesses. The Dodgers' top prospect might be finally getting his chance. Grab him now if he's available in your fantasy leagues... Speaking of the Dodgers, they routed the Toronto Blue Jays by a 10-1 score. Brad Penny pitched a masterful seven innings, giving up one run, six hits and one walk while striking out six in picking up his 9th win of the year. His ERA now stands at a stellar 2.12. Juan Pierre led the Dodgers attack with three stolen bases and three runs scored, while Luis Gonzalez contributed four RBI's.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, they could not pick up any ground on the NL West division leading San Diego Padres. Then again, with their ace Jake Peavy going last night, the Padres were probably hoping they could increase their 1 1/2 game lead over the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Peavy was a little off last night, but still pitched a strong six innings, allowing three runs, six hits and two walks while striking out seven in a 12-6 Padre rout of the Baltimore Orioles. Peavy is now 9-1 and has an ERA of 1.98... currently he would be the leading candidate to start the All Star Game for the National League. Khalil Greene went 4-for-5 with two runs and three RBI's to pace the Padre attack.

In Anaheim, the Angels took on the Houston Astros. Both starting pitchers struggled a lot and quite honestly were probably left in too long by their respective managers. The Angels quickly got off to a 3-0 lead off Astros starter Jason Jennings after two innings. Angels starter Bartolo Colon promptly gave the lead away in the top of the third, allowing a 3-run homer to Carlos Lee. The Angels picked up two more runs in the bottom of the frame, but Colon would give it right back again in the top of the fourth. The game was tied at five after five innings... Colon then allowed two more runs in the top of the six before finally being removed. The Astros would score twice in the seventh and would end up winning 9-5. Jason Jennings picked up his first win of the season for the Astros despite his very rocky outing, allowing four earned runs and 11 hits in his 5 2/3 innings of work.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

2'sday Nite Special Edition!

I have to confess that I just ran out of time this morning... I had about 25 things I wanted to get done and only managed to take care of about 15 of them. Ah the joys of mandatory overtime at work.

Anyways, something really cool happened in the Angels/Houston Astros baseball game last night. Not only did the Angels come back from a 9-4 deficit agains the Astros, but outfielder Chone Figgins went 6 for 6!!! It's very rare for a player to get five hits in a game, let alone 6... Appropriately, Figgins had the game winning hit - a triple which scored Reggie Willits - in the bottom of the 9th inning (about 2 minutes after I fell asleep) in a 10-9 Angels triumph.

In the "almost comeback" department, the Washington Nationals were down last night by a 9-1 margin to the Detroit Tigers at RFK Stadium... Four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning made the game a respectable 9-5 score. The Nats plated three more runs in the bottom of the ninth before an out was recorded... The red-hot Dmitri Young, along with Austin Kearns and Ronnie Belliard all had chances to tie or possibly win the game for the Nats, but they all made outs and the comeback came up a buck short...

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This is one of the biggest new music release days in recent memory... a little something for everyone as multi-platinum artists Brad Paisley, Bon Jovi, Lifehouse and Mandy Moore all dropped new albums today... Who is going to sell the most? If I were a betting person, I'd probably go with Paisley...

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Now, from the BREAKING NEWS department - OK, more like the BREAKING local news department... the aforementioned Lifehouse just released their new "Who We Are" CD earlier today... You probably know of them best for their huge #1 pop hit from 2001, "Hanging By A Moment" and their #4 hit from 2005, "You And Me." Their new CD features their brand new hit called "First Time." So what's the BIG news??? Well, these guys are going to be playing a LIVE acoustic set at the Best Buy in my hometown of Thousand Oaks tomorrow night!!! Since Lifehouse has been one of my favorite bands since their debut, I will just have to make an appearance... Needless to say, my after work gym date tomorrow night will have to get a rain check. Here are the details on the event:

What: LIFEHOUSE in-store acoustic performance & CD signing
Where: Best Buy, 390 N. Moorpark Rd. Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
When: Wednesday, June 20, 2007 @ 6:30 PM
Info: 805.494.8370

Hope to see you there... have camera, will travel!

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My Civic Duty...

Believe it or not, it had been over fifteen years since I last had been summoned for Jury Duty. I'm not exactly sure how or why that happened... I decided to keep a diary of the happenings over the course of my day of service:

7:20 am - leave home for the Ventura County Courthouse.

7:55 am - arrive at the courthouse.

8:03 am - enter the waiting room...

8:45 am - begin having a conversation with a 50-ish woman named Sarah... we first talk about how a self-employed person was unable to get himself excused from the panel the last time she performed her civic service... after that, the conversation with Sarah was thoroughly enjoyable... we first talked about travel and our respective airport experiences - she spent over six hours in an airport in Brussels, Belgium... I kind of just smiled and then told her about my 12 1/2 hour odyssey on April 26th at Reagan airport in DC... And of course, I just had to whip out my wallet after that to show her my pic with Miss DC, Kate Michael that I had taken the day before... as bad as the airport experience was, the rest of my trip to DC much more than made up for it! Sarah and her husband literally have travelled all over the world and that very much fascinated me. She spoke very fondly of her times in Africa, France, Italy, Australia and many other places... Just as I was about to share my Nashville trip and second trip to DC experiences with Sarah, the first panel of jurors was pulled about 9:45am - my friend had been picked! I hoped I would go with her so we could finish our conversation, but that didn't happen, so I was left to try to make new friends and/or read...

10:20 am - second panel called... I missed the cut again... a 20 minute recess then followed during which I called my Mom and sis...

10:40 am - I quickly go through the Sports section of Sunday's L.A. Times, paying particular attention to T.J. Simers' column and wondering just what someone like him is doing writing for one of the nation's largest newspapers... He never adds anything of value and you never learn anything you didn't already know from his columns. Off the record, I'll say that the Times Sports section probably has the least professional group of writers I've ever seen in a newspaper...so what was Simers' main topic of conversation? Same one as it's seeminlgly always been: Kobe Bryant and new ways to pick on him. Sad and pathetic... I almost feel sorry for Simers and his good buddy Bill Plaschke.

11:00 am
- After tiring of the repeats, I decide to pick up my latest book purchase, the Reagan Diaries. Reagan was arguably the greatest President of the 20th century. As I would soon find, his daily account of events while he served in the White House makes for very interesting reading... The first entry that REALLY struck me was the one for March 30, 1981 - the day that he was shot by John Hinckley... Amazingly, he began journalizing again within two weeks of the assassination attempt...

11:35 am
- A third list of names is called and once again, mine is not amongst them. They send us all to lunch recess for an hour and twenty mintues... we're to return at 1pm... I go to McDonald's to grab a quick bite and actually ran into my old friend Crystal from work - she left my employer a few years ago to become a full-time Mom... Crystal winked and wished me luck and as she left... those of you that know me well probably know just why she did that... I then caught up on reading my emails from my cellphone and relaxed to some music while in my car with roof open and windows down.

1:00 pm - back to the waiting room... after the time in the sun, I'm suddenly getting a little sleepy... I vegetitate for the next half hour or so.

1:35 pm - I feel recharged enough to break back open my book... I spend the next 90 minutes doing nothing but reading. I find it very interesting, especially when Reagan talks about places he visits... he spent a lot of time in California and also of course in many different places in the District... Since I've been to our capital twice now, I find the latter partcularly fascinating... I end up at page 80...

3:05 pm - call over the loudspeaker... everyone to the courtroom...

3:10 pm - Class dismissed!!! Lovin' this part of it as it's a full three hours earlier than I would have left from work... and believe me, I need ALL OF the free time I can get my hands on at the moment! Yesterday was such a breeze, it almost makes me wish I could do it all over again... Eight hours of pay for only about six hours of my time with none of the normal stresses of work... oh well...

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Dodgers/Angels Game


While doing my best to stay tuned to the U.S. Open, I was in attendance at the final game of the Freeway Series between the two teams of Los Angeles: The Dodgers and Angels. My family and I arrived to Chavez Ravine a full hour and half before gametime - a VERY good thing as we avoided all of the traffic. For me, it ended a run of four major league baseball games I had attended in a 16 day stretch of days in June. You may recall I caught two games between the Nationals and San Diego Padres while in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, and just last week I was at the Dodgers win over the New York Mets. People are still talking about Hong-Chih Kuo and that home run and subsequent bat toss on Tuesday night.

In the game on Sunday, Randy Wolf took the mound for the Dodgers while Kelvim Escobar was pitching for the Angels. The Dodgers quickly staked Wolf to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning as Rafael Furcal homered to deep right center. Wolf had control problems at the beginning, walking two and giving up a hit in his first two innings. In the top of the third, it all came apart for Wolf and the Dodgers... An infield single by Chone Figgins was followed by solid singles by Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero and Rob Quinlan, the latter two plating runs. Howie Kendrick followed with a double to plate Guerrero and Mike Napoli's sacrifice fly knocked in Shay Hillenbrand who had reached on a fielder's choice. Suddenly, the Angels had a 4-1 lead. Nomar Garciaparra singled in pinch hitter Andre Ethier in the bottom of the fifth to narrow the gap to 4-2... Wolf was done for the day, and it would only get worse for the Blue Crew from there... the Halos would put up a run in the sixth, three more in the seventh and another in the eighth to seal the victory for Escobar - the final run coming on an inside-the-par home run by Gary Matthews on a play where James Loney crashed hard into the right field wall. Loney was down for a few minutes until he was carted off the field. It was quite a scary moment, but it appears Loney will be OK... The Dodgers did manage to add single runs in the 7th and 9th to make the final score 10-4. Three consecutive sell-out crowds of 56,000 were in attendance producing an all-time record attendance for a three game series at Dodger Stadium of 168,000.

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Cabrera Grinds Way To Open Win

After midway leader Angel Cabrera of Argentina shot a six-over-par 76 in round three to fall back into the pack, most people probably thought that he was not going to be amongst those in contention on Sunday and that he would end up being best known as the guy who knocked the world's #2 player, Phil Mickelson out of the tournament with his birdie on his 18th hole on Friday. Little did we know that Cabrera would not only shoot one of the day's two rounds under par, but that he would in the process hold off the world's #1 (Tiger Woods) and #3 (Jim Furyk) players in the process in winning the 2007 U.S Open at Oakmont. Yes, David would end up slaying all three Goliaths this weekend!...
Before I go further, I have to admit it was pretty difficult for me to see the tournament as I was attending the Dodgers/Angels freeway series finale with my family - more on that game and experience later. A few years ago, my sister gave me a portable TV and it came in very handy. Though it was hard to see the picture on the three inch monitor, I could certainly hear the NBC commentators loud and clear and that was more than good enough.

On the very first hole, third round leader Aaron Baddeley would post a triple bogey seven putting Woods the lead at four-over-par (+4). Woods would have trouble of his own on the third hole, posting a double bogey and falling back of Baddeley by one. Woods recovered with a birdie on the very next hole fo get to +5. By this time though, both Woods and Baddeley suddenly were looking up as Cabrera had posted consecutive birdies on the 4th and 5th holes to get to +4. The wheels then came off for Baddeley. A double bogey six on the seventh hole followed by bogeys on three of the following four holes put him at +8, effectively ending his chances. Furyk played a steady front nine with a birdie and a bogey to go along with seven pars to remain at +6. Cabrera then went through a four hole stretch where you weren't sure whether he was going to seize control of the tournament or wilt under the pressure. A bogey on the sixth hole, a par on 7, a birdie on 8, and then another bogey on the ninth put Cabrera right back where he started at +5 and tied with Woods for the lead. Cabrera then seized the lead on the 11th hole with a birdie. Another birdie followed on the 15th, after Woods had bogeyed that same 11th hole which Cabrera birdied only minutes earlier. The lead was now three strokes as Cabrera took his +3 score to the closing three holes. Furyk managed to make a run of his own, garnering birdies on the 12th through 14th after bogeying the 10th and 11th. At +5, he was temporarily alone in second. A VERY costly bogey on 17 put him back into a tie with Woods at +6... Cabrera would stumble coming in, bogeying the 16th and 17th and giving the two Americans hope. A par at 18 gave Cabrera the number to shoot for: +5. Either Furyk or Woods would need to birdie one of their final holes to match Cabrera and force a Monday playoff. When Woods' birdie effort on 18 slid by, the title was Cabrera's - his first ever win in the U.S. and what a win it is! Congratulations to Angel on winning this prestigious event!

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

KEITH URBAN concert!





I still remember the time very well about two and a half years ago when I first heard Keith Urban's "You'll Think Of Me" on a local Hot AC station... It reminded me a lot of a mellow version of one of Matchbox 20's hits and quite frankly, I liked the sound a lot. I grew up a huge fan of Pop Music, while my parents tried and tried to no avail to convert me to Country for a very long time... "No" was always my answer to them, although I have to admit that I really did like most of the Country "crossover" hits a lot. My sister made the conversion many years ago, but I held steadfast in my dedication to the Pop format...

In the late 90's and early 2000's a lot of Country acts crossed over to the Pop charts - Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Lonestar, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Lee Ann Womack and LeAnn Rimes all had sizable hits there. Martina McBride also had huge hits at adult contemporary radio during that time. And yes, I enjoyed them all! In 2002, the Dixie Chicks came along with their version of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." It seemed certain that the song was going to be a HUGE hit as it quickly ascended to the top 15 at both Pop and Hot AC... the Chicks then made their infamous comments about President Bush and the song broke records for largest drops in plays at THREE different formats the following week!!! The doors that had been opened at Pop radio for Country music suddenly were shut. It wasn't until the week of August 26, 2005 that another Country act would hit the Pop charts... that would be Mr. Urban with the aforementioned "You'll Think Of Me." Although the song only peaked at #32 on the Pop chart, it became a HUGE top 5 hit at Hot AC and also AC... The doors to Pop radio had suddenly been reopened to Country music... and in case you haven't noticed, both Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood have had MASSIVE hits over the past year at multiple formats, including Pop... For those of you that don't know, Carrie was the one who probably finally did what my parents and sister could not - convert me... Yes, I'm a HUGE Country fan now, though I do still listen to some pop music.

As for the concert... Only one word can describe it: AMAZING!!! I've seen a lot of concerts over the years, and I'm going to have to say this may have been the best performance I've ever been to... I was fortunate enough to see the band Boston during their Third Stage tour back in the late 80's... I think that's the only other time I've ever left a concert with jaw dropped and in absolute awe! Keith began his over two hour set just after 9:00 pm with the first single off his Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing CD, "Once In A Lifetime." There were so many highlights that I could literally write a book on the show... some of the best ones for me were the acoustic performances of "Stupid Boy, "Raining On Sunday," and "Tonight I Wanna Cry." Keith was amazing on his upbeat songs too... "Days Go By," "Somebody Like You", his current single "I Told You So," and "Better Life" - the second song in his encore - were also particularly outstanding... Keith had a HUGE jumbotron screen behind the stage and he used it to full effect with lots of videos, visual effects and shots of the audience during the show... There was also a walkway to a stage right smack dab in the middle of Staples Center where even the people in the nosebleed seats had an amazing view... Keith even grabbed a banner from one of the audience members which read "you can kiss my wife if I can kiss yours"... so Keith went into the audience and kissed the man's wife! Keith's wife, Nicole Kidman couldn't be there for the show though she probably wasn't out of his thoughts much at all - he dedicated a song to her and also said that he "wouldn't be here without her." It was quite a touching moment. Keith interacted with the audience throughout the show, even at one point having everyone get their cell phones out and doing the wave twice around the building! Also, in case you don't know, Keith plays probably the meanest guitar in music today... My sister, Mom and I were just shaking our heads in amazement after the show at how well he plays that guitar!

Keith's opening act was the Wreckers... quite honestly, they really never did connect with the audience much. Perhaps part of that was due to the fact that the people in charge of the music before and between sets at Staples Center didn't play ANY Country music, instead playing pop and rock songs from the 80's and 90's! What was up with that??? Michelle Branch, the lead singer of the Wreckers, managed to be her own worst enemy a couple of times during their seven song set, stating before her song "Cigarettes," that "I wrote this one after I got tired of putting up with a boyfriend's *bleep*." Not exactly typical of the type of stuff you expect to hear at a Country music concert... Later on, she tried to get the crowd to sing the chorus to their #1 hit "Leave The Pieces" and she made a smart remark about the L.A. crowd after they didn't sing the chorus loud enough for her. Though Michelle and her bandmate Jessica Harp may be very talented, they have A LOT of growing up to do if they're going to be fully accepted into the mainstream Country community.

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In the U.S. Open golf championship, we have a Tiger sighting... Tiger Woods posted a one-under-par 69 to pull to +4 and within two strokes of Aaron Baddeley (+2) for the lead. Paul Casey followed up his amazing 66 with a two-over-par 72 to finish in a four way tie at +5 along with Justin Rose, Stephen Ames and Bubba Watson. Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and midway leader Angel Cabrera sit at +6. Vijah Singh sits within striking distance at +8 after posting an even par 70. Live coverage of the final round begins on your local NBC station at 1 pm ET/10 am PT.

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Lastly, if you are still blessed enough to have a Dad, please make sure to wish them a Happy Father's Day... this time of year is always a little hard for me as I lost my father to cancer back in 1999...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Freeway Series: Part Deux

The Dodgers and Angels are playing their second "Freeway Series" of the year at Dodger Stadium. Game one was last night, and it was surprisingly quite the pitcher's duel between the Dodgers' Derek Lowe and the Angels' Ervin Santana. D-Lowe continued his great run which began with May's first start, allowing only one run, hour hits and one walk in seven innings. What made the night special for Lowe though were the strikeouts - a career best 11 of them! This helps me out too as Lowe is a staple of many of my fantasy teams... In his past nine outings, Lowe has a 2.22 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP, 52 strikeouts to go along with five wins. Santana matched Lowe almost pitch for pitch in his seven innings, giving up a road season low two runs five hits and two walks while striking out four. Santana's been horrible on the road his entire career (outside of Oakland and New York), but the past two starts he's been pretty good, allowing only a total of five earned runs... perhaps he's finally figuring out how to be mentally focused outside of Anaheim...

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Angel Cabrera broke 19 hearts on his final hole at the U.S. Open yesterday. Cabrera sat at one over par along with Bubba Watson as he took the 17th tee yesterday. The cut line for the tournament included anyone within ten shots of the lead... Cabrera did the unthinkable and birdied his eighteenth hole of the day, the 9th to shoot a one over par 71, and get his score back to even par for the tournament, lowering the cut line to ten-over-par (+10). The conditions are downright difficult at the tournament... though somehow Paul Casey managed to shoot a four- under-par 66 after his opening 77... Amongst those unlucky 19 players affected by Cabrera sadly was personal fav Phil Mickelson who struggled to a 77 to finish at +11. Fighting an injured wrist, I knew that just making the cut would probably be a good accomplishment for Phil. There will be no redemption for Colin Montgomerie either - a second round 82 ballooned the other 2006 "almost champ" to a two round total of eighteen-over-par. As for the other contenders, Tiger Woods shot a very respectable four-over-par 74 and is only five back at +5... Jim Furyk and defending champ Geoff Oglivy sit at +6, Vijay Singh is at +8 and Ernie Els is at +9... Six hours of live coverage of the tournament is on NBC beginning at 1pm ET/10am PT today and again tomorrow.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Road Warriors

Just when you thought I might be catching my breath, I come upon one of my busier weekends of the year... Yes, I'm hitting the road A LOT again! Tomorrow morning, I'll be helping my good friend Chris out with a garage sale in nearby Newbury Park. I'll be selling some stuff too, by the way. It will probably be a bittersweet day as it will more than likely be the last time I see my friend Dave Dixon before he heads off to live in Thailand. Tomorrow night, I'll be heading to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for a Keith Urban concert! This will be my first even Keith Urban show, and from all accounts he puts on quite the show. I'll be taking my Mom and sister - the tickets to the show were actually a birthday present for them (they both have April birthdays). Opening for Keith are the Wreckers, who have had a VERY successful debut album in Stand Still, Look Pretty. On Sunday I'll be taking my Mom, sister and brother in law to Dodger Stadium to see the Dodgers take on the Angels in my first ever "freeway series" game. Who do I root for??? I always encounter this problem when these two teams play each other... I guess I'll just take the easy way out and just root for my fantasy players in the games and let the chips fall where they may!

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Yes, the topic today is "road warriors," and the Washington Nationals have suddenly become very representative of that term! Jason Simontacchi bobbed and weaved through seven innings, giving up nine hits and four walks, but amazingly only one run as the Nats finished off a three game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 in Baltimore. Chad Cordero picked up his 10th save of the year for the Nats who have now won eight of their past 10 games away from RFK.

Vladimir Guerrero drove in three more runs and Casey Kotchman added three hits as the Angels took game three of their series against the Reds in Cincinnati, 9-7. Francisco Rodriguez struggled a little, giving up a run, but nonetheless picked up his 21st save of the year.

In Minnesota, it was another tough luck outing for Twins' ace Johan Santana. Johan was brilliant as usual, giving up only two runs in seven innings while allowing five hits and three walks to go along with nine strikeouts. Unfortunately, the Twins could not hit the Atlanta Braves' Tim Hudson as he shut them out for 7 1/3 innings, giving up only two hits and a walk. Rafael Soriano protected the lead for the Braves, retiring both batters he faced in the eighth... Hudson seemed all but certain of picking up the win, but the Twins rallied in the ninth. Luis Castillo led off against Braves closer Bob Wickman with a single to left. Joe Mauer then grounded out... little did they know at the time this would be the last out recorded in the game... Michael Cuddyer tripled in Castillo. Justin Morneau then tapped an infield single - Cuddyer had to hold on the play. Torii Hunter then reached on an error by third baseman Yunel Escobar, allowing Cuddyer to score and tie the game. Mike Redmond then singled to left, scoring Morneau and finishing off the Twins dramatic 3-2 victory. For Wickman, it was his third blown save of the year in only 14 oppoturtunities... One has to wonder just how long he will remain in the closer role there. It's pretty obvious that the aforementioned Soriano has better stuff than Wickman... if past history is any indicator, don't be surprised if Braves manager Bobby Cox inserts Soriano into the role at some point...

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From the "ho-hum" road warrior department... The San Antonio Spurs finished off a four game sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers with an 83-82 victory in Cleveland... For the Spurs, it's their fourth NBA Championship in the past nine seasons... Spurs forward Robert Horry now has an amazing seven Championship rings!

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You know I couldn't go without posting about the U.S. Open golf tournament... The scores were expectedly very high. Only two players - Nick Dougherty (-2) and Angel Cabrera (-1) managed to break par... Bubba Watson and Jose Maria Olazabal both managed to match par... Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Vijah Singh and defending champ Geoff Oglivy posted one-over-par 71's to lurk just three back. Phil Mickelson battled a streaky driver to post a respectable four-over-par 74. Masters champion Zach Johnson struggled to a six-over-par 76 as did Colin Montgomery, while Sergio Garcia posted a nine-over-par 79 and will need a nice round to be playing into the weekend... live coverage continues on the Golf Channel at 10am ET/7am PT. NBC takes over coverage for two hours beginning at 3pm ET/12 pm PT, while the Golf Channel resumes coverage beginning at 5pm ET/2pm PT. For the live real-time leaderboard, click on this link: 2007 U.S. Open Leaderboard

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Montgomerie Looks for Redemption...

Golf's second major, the U.S. Open, is under way at the Oakmont Golf Course in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. Australia's Geoff Oglivy tries to defend his championship, while Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomery seek some redemption from last year. You may recall that Mickelson, also known as "Lefty," hit an errant tee shot on 18 last year and ended up with a double bogey to finish one behind Oglivy... what many people seem to forget though is that the U.K.'s Colin Montgomerie managed to double bogey that same 18th hole from the fairway! For whatever reason, the press harped on Mickelson's "meltdown" when in reality it was just one bad tee shot which led to his demise... On the other hand, Montgomerie did something truly forgettable - a double bogey on the 18th hole from a perfect lie in the middle of the fairway!!! It was looking like Montgomerie might finally get that "major monkey" off his back with a good approach and a par or birdie. Instead, "Monty" chunked his approach to the green into the right rough and hacked his way to a 6... Heck, a hacker like myself could probably make a bogey from that position a good 75% of the time at the very least... you would expect much better from a pro. Montgomerie has been one of the world's greatest players for the past two decades, but he's missing the one thing from his resume' that most relish: A major. I'm obviously in the minority here, but to me, the big "choke" last year wasn't from Mickelson, but Montgomerie! Mickelson has won three majors in his career already... obviously last year's "meltdown" hasn't affected his game too much as Lefty has won two times this year already including the prestigious Players Championship. Mickelson is fighting a wrist injury this week, so it's unclear if he will be able to play like his normal self. Expect Tiger Woods and Masters champion Zach Johnson to be in the mix for the championship. Live coverage of the tournament will be on ESPN today and tomorrow from 10am ET/7am PT until 3pm ET/12pm PT. NBC has live coverage from 5pm ET/2pm PT until 7pm ET/4pm PT . For a look at the live leaderboard, you can click on this link: U.S. Open Leaderboard

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In NASCAR, the big news is that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finally decided to end his free agency and join a team... and what a team it is!!! Earnhardt became a member of the prestigious Hendrick Motorsports team yesterday, joining the likes of the great Jeff Gordon and defending series champion, Jimmie Johnson. Team Hendrick was already widely regarded as the most powerful in NASCAR prior to Earnhardt's arrival, so it will now only be even stronger and more dominant. It will be interesting to see how the NASCAR fans react to this, as it's well known that the old school fans are more in the Dale, Jr. camp while a lot of the newer fans are into Gordon and Johnson - if you attend races, you'll hear a lot of booing when the Hendrick members names are called. Perhaps now, that will change now that Junior is one of them. One can only hope!

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OK, baseball is on the plate... I finally had a chance to watch some games last night. I caught parts of the Cubs/Mariners, Yankees/Diamondbacks, Angels/Reds and all of the Dodgers/Mets game. In Chicago, the Cubs got another strong outing from Sean Marshall as the Cubs beat the Seattle Mariners 3-2. Marshall now has a 2.12 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in five starts this year... a word of warning for you fantasy-leaguers - Marshall got off to a very similarly fast start last year before fading fast... he may be good for another few starts, but don't look for him to continue this dominance... In New York, the Yankees won their eighth straight game as Mike Mussina pitched a strong seven innings in a 7-2 defeat of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Alex Rodriguez powered his major league leading 25th homer for the Yanks. In Cincinnati, John Lackey became the first 10 game winner in the majors as he limited the Reds to one run over six innings. Scot Shields picked up his 16th hold of the season, pitching two scoreless innings while K-Rod garnered his 20th save for the Halos. Vladimir Guerrero led the Angels attack with three hits and four runs batted in. In Los Angeles, the Dodgers continued to make life miserable for the suddenly reeling New York Mets. Brad Penny limited the Mets to one run over seven innings, while Wilson Betemit homered for the second straight game and Matt Kemp was 3-for-4 with three runs scored for the Blue Crew. In Baltimore, the Washington Nationals and Orioles played the second game of their series and for the second straight day, the Nats came out on top. The Nats took a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the 9th, but closer Chad Cordero could not hold it as Jay Payton singled in a run to tie the game with two outs for the Orioles. Each team was held scoreless in the 10th inning... Christian Guzman added a bases loaded triple for the Nats in the top of the 11th off of Orioles closer Chris Ray for the final runs of the game. The Nats have suddenly become road warriors, winning nine of their past 12 games away from RFK Stadium.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Verlander Throws No-No!

Prior to last night, the Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander had already done a lot to live up to his #2 overall draft status just three years ago. In his 2006 rookie campaign, he won 17 games with a 3.63 ERA. Blessed with a 102 MPH fastball and a wealth of talent, one figured it was only a matter of time before he did something truly special. Last night indeed was the first of what probably will be many special nights for Justin Verlander. In throwing 112 pitches, Verlander walked four while striking out a career high 12 in tossing a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. Third-baseman Brandon Inge would provide all of the offense the Tigers would need, hitting his 11th homer deep to left in the third inning while singling in Craig Monroe run in the seventh. J.J. Hardy hit a fly ball to right which Magglio Ordonez gloved to complete the 4-0 Tigers win. Verlander's no-hitter was the first in Detroit since Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan did it for the Angels at Tiger Stadium in 1973.

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Well, I attended my third major league game of the month last night at Dodger Stadium and happened to see something pretty special myself. Hong-Chih Kuo was going for the Dodgers, while John Maine was tossing for the New York Mets. The Mets quickly jumped out to a 1-0 lead as Carlos Delgado singled in David Wright in the second inning. In the bottom of the frame, things got really interesting. After retiring catcher Russell Martin, Maine surrended an opposite field homer to Dodger thirdbaseman Wilson Betemit to tie things at 1. On the very next pitch, Matt Kemp hit a home run VERY deep to left field - into the LOGE section 447 feet away to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Unbelievably, Kuo (the pitcher) hit the very next pitch deep to right-center field for his first career homer. Back-to-back-to-back homers... how rare is that to see in person??? It brought back memories of last year when the Dodgers hit four consective homers in the bottom of the ninth of a game against the Padres in erasing a 9-5 deficit. Kuo's reaction upon hitting the homer was priceless - he flipped his bat perhaps ten feet almost as soon as he hit the ball! I couldn't ever remember seeing a pitcher toss a bat like that before, so we all got a good chuckle out of it every time they would replay the homer on the jumbotron. Of note also is that the homer by Kuo was the first ever for a Taiwanese born player. Kuo pitched a very strong seven innings, giving up five hits while walking one and striking out four. Jonathan Broxton pitched the eighth and Takeshi Saito closed things out in the ninth for his 18th save as the Dodgers won 4-1. A BIG Thanks to my friend Dave Gomberg (above right with me) for purchasing the tickets and for transport... Our party ended up being a total of fourteen people - most of whom work with Dave at the Weather service in Oxnard, CA.

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The Angels played in Cincinnati yesterday, and their starter Kelvim Escobar had GREAT stuff... he struck out eight Reds batters in the first three innings!!! He struggled in the fourth inning, giving up three runs, but he continued to strike out guys, ending the frame with 10 K's. Escobar would strike out four more batters in the next two innings to finish the game with a career high 14 strikeouts! Unfortunately, that all went for naught as he left with the game tied at 3. The Reds scored runs in the bottom of the 7th and 8th innings to give them a 5-3 win over the Halos.

In another interleague game of note, the Washington Nationals took on the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards. The Nats roughed up their crosstown rivals and pitcher Daniel Cabrera for seven runs in four and two-thirds innings. Ryan Church, Ryan Zimmerman and Brian Schneider led the Nats attack, all homering off the Orioles starter. Micah Bowie overcame giving up a three run homer to Melvin Mora in the second inning to pitch six strong innings in picking up his third win of the year. Chad Cordero got two outs to record his eighth save of the year and the 100th of his career. At 25 years old, Cordero his the second youngest in Major league history to reach that milestone - only the great K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez) of the Angels reached it faster. Congratulations to Chad on his accomplishment!

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