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  • Prince Fielder is one of many early drafted hitters off to slow starts (USAT)

    As someone who recommended taking starting pitching early this year, Clayton Kershaw getting hurt and Stephen Strasburg currently sporting a 5.33 ERA sure hasn’t helped my case. But after those two, most have been as advertised (give or take). I’m in no way claiming victory with this strategy (and admittedly, I was high on Danny Salazar, Homer Bailey and Zack Wheeler. Chris Sale and Alex Cobb are also currently on the DL), but the biggest disappointments so far have been hitters for the most part. Before I go any further, I want to be clear I expect almost all of these hitters will be fine moving forward. We are still dealing with small samples. But there are some serious star hitters off to pretty horrendous starts.

    Read More »from Mostly MLB Notes: Talking slumping sluggers and a look around the league
  • (YAHOO)
    It’s still a little too early to panic in Seattle, but another Mariners loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday may have pushed fans to the brink. Seattle dropped each of the first two games in the series and came in losers of eight straight overall.

    The outlook didn‘t look good here either with Houston holding a three run in the seventh inning, but one player and two swings turned that all around.. Third baseman Kyle Seager, who hadn’t homered in a game since Sept. 3, 2013, got Seattle on the board with a two-run homer in the seventh and then lifted them to a 5-3 victory with a three-run walk-off homer in the ninth.

    It was obviously a much needed win for Seattle, who on the verge of back-to-back sweeps against Miami and Houston. Just the same, it was a much needed confidence boost for Seager. A .260 hitter over the first three years of his career, Seager came in hitting only .156 with two RBI on the season. Despite his struggles, manager Lloyd McClendon was determined to let Seager

    Read More »from The Grand Slam: Mariners snap eight-game losing skid on Kyle Seager’s walk-off homer
  • No. 1 Star: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

    Kane was his usual dynamic self in Game 4 versus the St. Louis Blues, scoring twice, including the overtime winner in a 4-3 victory, and adding an assist. His game-winner was a remarkable bit of poise, as he backed off the defense before beating Ryan Miller high. 

    No. 2 Star: Alex Goligoski, Dallas Stars

    Skating a game-high 32:48 in the Stars' 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks that evened the series at two, Goligoski led the Stars with two points, a goal and an assist. Cody Eakin got the game-winner, but Goligoski's goal was the one that put the Ducks away. Check out the assist from Vernon Fiddler:

    No. 3 Star: Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

    Dubinsky scored a huge goal in the Blue Jackets' 4-3 comeback win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, tying the game with just 24 seconds to go. He also picked up an assist on Ryan Johansen's powerplay goal that cut the Penguins' lead in half:

    Honorable mention: Marc-Andre Fleury made 42 saves in the

    Read More »from Stanley Cup Playoffs Three Stars: Stars, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets all win to even series at two
  • Last summer, Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge was the subject of trade rumors that would have moved him from the only NBA team he's ever known. Nearly a year later, he's clearly been the best player of the first few days of the 2014 postseason.

    For the second consecutive game, Aldridge terrorized the Houston Rockets' defense. Coming three days after his 46-point, 18-rebound performance in Portland's Game 1 win, Aldridge scored 43 points on 18-of-28 shooting to lead his team to a 112-105 win and a 2-0 series lead, giving Portland a huge advantage as the series heads to their home court for Games 3 and 4.

    Aldridge's performance places him in impressive historic company. He is the first player in Blazers history to score 40 or more points in two playoff games over his entire tenure with the team, the first player to score 40 points in consecutive playoff games since LeBron James in 2009, and the third player in NBA history to score 40-plus points in both Games 1 and

    Read More »from Blazers top Rockets with historic LaMarcus Aldridge performance, grab 2-0 lead
  • There's an old saying when it comes to the playoffs: a series hasn't even begun until a team wins one on the road. 

    Supposing that's true, through four games, the first-round series between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues has yet to even begin. After going down 2-0 in St. Louis, the Blackhawks did what they had to, winning both of their home game.

    The Game 4 victory came thanks to Patrick Kane, who gave them a 4-3 overtime win with this beautiful overtime winner:

    You could see this one coming, and not just because we know Kane has a playoff gear because he has a playoff haircut, or because he was in that gear all night, with 2 goals and an assist. 

    He was dancing all overtime. You had to worry about what would happen if he got a little time and space, and what do you know, this is what happened.

    There are few players in the NHL more terrifying on an odd-man rush, because Kane can just about do it all. We've seen him make incredible passes, and we've seen him deke his way

    Read More »from Patrick Kane scores in OT as Blackhawks win Game 4 to even series (Video)
  • Drouin has scored or set up 8 of Halifax's last 10 goals (CP)

    No. 1 star: Jonathan Drouin, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

    Any night where a player ties Mario Lemieux for career playoff points is usually a good night. Drouin now has 98 points in 47 games over the past three post-seasons after putting up five on Wednesday, matching what Super Mario put up for the old Laval Voisins from 1982 through '84 in a much higher-scoring era.

    Drouin (2G-3A, +1, with seven dangerous shots) carried Halifax to a 5-4 series-tying win at Val-d'Or in the QMJHL's road-warrior semifinal. The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect's massive night started innocuously enough with a mere two power-play assists during the opening stanza to pull the Mooseheads, who have Kevin Darveau in goal instead of national team 'tender Zach Fucale, even after 20 minutes.

    Halifax has had a knack for big second periods in these playoffs. Drouin scored through an Andrew Ryan screen 2:57 into the frame. Just more than two minutes later, after rookie Andrew Shewfelt drew a penalty, Drouin set up Nikolaj Ehlers for the 4-2 goal.

    The Foreurs dominated the final period, but a Drouin breakaway goal gave Halifax just enough cushion.

    Read More »from Jonathan Drouin earns 5 points in Mooseheads’ series-tying road win: Wednesday’s 3 Stars
  • Hot to trot (USAT)

    The easy part of the Charlie Blackmon game came in early April. The harder part comes now.

    We first started discussing Blackmon about three weeks ago, after his 6-for-6 explosion in the Coors Field opener. It wasn't a difficult call – we saw plausible upside, we outlined it, we talked about it.

    If you wanted Blackmon back then, all you probably had to do is find one disposable player on your roster and you were in business. Simple trade-off. Maybe you were discarding someone in the minors, or moving a disabled player. Perhaps you were giving up on a March lottery ticket that didn't pay off. It probably was a painless, all-upside move. (Mind you, some reckless gamblers paid $14 for Blackmon in industry mixed leagues – okay, that was me. But in public leagues, a resource-drop probably wasn't required.)

    Things are trickier now, 23 games into the season. Blackmon is off to a ridiculous .410/.453/.692 start, with five homers and six steals. He's scored 19 runs, driven in 16, reached the seats four times in his last three starts. Wednesday's delicious line: 5-4-2-3, homer, steal. Blackmon's the No. 1 or No. 2 hitter in fantasy to this point, depending on how your valuation calculator feels about Giancarlo Stanton.

    Obviously Blackmon isn't this good – no one's this good. But just how good is he? Where should we rank him going forward? How much would you need before you'd move Blackmon in a trade?

    Read More »from Mission Impossible: Ranking Charlie Blackmon
  • Jamie Lewis' first goal of the playoffs gave the Battalion the lead for good (OHL Images)

    Their season that began with players tiptoeing around construction work during training camp, coach Stan Butler working out of his car and three weeks on the road before the home opener. Hopefully that does a little justice to how everything fell into place for the North Bay Battalion, whose first season in their new home will carry into May with a berth in the Ontario Hockey League final.

    Over the past four weeks, the Battalion has gone from having its back to the wall in the first round vs. the Niagara IceDogs to sweeping an Oshawa Generals outfit with more star power but less depth in the Eastern Conference final. Fittingly, one of the lunch-bucket brigade, trusted penalty killer Jamie Lewis, scored the series winner with 5:33 left to help North Bay shade Oshawa 3-2 to complete the four-game sweep in front of a raucous crowd of 4,235.

    "I just think it's great for the city of North Bay, it's great for our organization," Battalion coach Stan Butler said in a post-game media conference televised by TV Cogeco Ontario. "To come to a new city in the first year, to have the people fall in love with the team the way they have, to have the players do their share the way they have and to win the Eastern Conference in our first year back... I hope we haven't spoiled them too much.

    "It's just the commitment of the group," added Butler, whose team trailed for a grand total of six minutes 22 seconds in the series. "Everyone says we trap. We don't trap. We track the puck hard from behind. We overplay in our own end. We play a pro-style game. It's the commitment of the guys. We play a hard game. We're not stretching passes and things like that. As I told these guys, this group will be defined by how they do in the playoffs. We talked in the first round, when some people thought we were not going to make it past that round [after going down 3-1 to the IceDogs], that you need some adversity. It was hard out there. They're a really good team. I never thought — I thought we could win — but I never thought we could win the way it happened."

    Read More »from North Bay Battalion win OHL Eastern Conference title in first year in new home: ‘I hope we haven’t spoiled them too much’
  • In Game 1 of the first-round series between the Dallas Mavericks and heavily favored San Antonio Spurs, the No. 8-seed Mavs held a surprising 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for them, that advantage didn't last — the Spurs held them to one field goal in the final seven minutes of regulation to grab a 90-85 win and 1-0 series advantage. Given the circumstances, the Mavericks could be forgiven for thinking they had squandered their best chance at stealing a road victory.

    They would not let go of the same opportunity in Wednesday night's Game 2. On the strength of their typical offensive prowess and impressive defensive thievery, the Mavericks cruised to a 113-92 win to break a 10-game losing streak against San Antonio, even the series at 1-1, and gain homecourt advantage as the series heads to Dallas for Games 3 and 4.

    The Mavericks' strong play started early, in large part due to some unfamiliar carelessness from the Spurs. While the Spurs managed to shoot 57.6

    Read More »from Mavericks force 22 Spurs turnovers to even series, win for first time in 10 matchups
  • Oof. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/MCT via Getty Images)

    Charlotte Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts only received a common personal foul for this collision with LeBron James late in the fourth quarter of Game 2 against the Miami Heat, which is weird, because the whole "forearm to the throat" thing doesn't seem super common:

    With the Heat holding a 97-94 lead over the feisty Bobcats, James isolated up top against the defense of sophomore Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. James went left around a Chris Bosh screen, beat the step-slow trap by a hobbled Al Jefferson (who started despite straining the plantar fascia in his left foot in Sunday's Game 1 loss and stayed in Game 2 despite feeling it rip a little more in the early going) and headed toward the basket. As he arrived and elevated with Kidd-Gilchrist on his right hip, McRoberts slid over from the left corner, where he had been guarding Mario Chalmers, and leapt to meet LeBron in the air. In the process, he thwacked James in the throat with his right forearm, sending the reigning MVP to the deck

    Read More »from Josh McRoberts floors LeBron James with forearm to throat late in Heat's Game 2 win over Bobcats (Video)

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