A Sunday sports trifecta

As John can attest, I’ve been supporting mostly bad sports teams for more than half a century. Thus, it’s a rare occasion when three of my teams win important victories on the same day. But that’s what happened yesterday.

Until yesterday, Everton had not won both of its matches against Manchester United since the 1969-70 season and had not finished ahead of the Red Devils since 1990. Those streaks ended with Everton’s 2-0 victory at Goodison Park.

United dominated possession, but rarely threatened to score. Relying on the pace and thrust of the Premier League’s best fullback pairing — Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines — and winger Kevin Mirallas, Everton was lethal on the counterattack.

By the end of the match, the Everton were singing “Sacked in the Morning” to their former manager David Moyes (who, in fairness, assembled most of the team that defeated his Man U side, including Baines, Coleman, and Mirallas). Some morning soon, Moyes might, indeed, be sacked.

With the win, Everton moves within one point of Arsenal for the final Champions League spot. Unfortunately, the schedule for the remaining three matches strongly favors Arsenal. But the Toffees are assured of a return to European football, having clinched (at worst) a spot the Europa League.

Making the NBA playoffs isn’t hard these days if you play in the weak Eastern Conference. Yet, until yesterday, the Washington Wizards hadn’t appeared in the NBA playoffs since the 2007-08 season and hadn’t won an opening game in the playoffs since 1986 (on a Dudley Bradley miracle shot). Those streaks ended with a 102-93 come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Not having seen the Bulls play much this year, I wondered how a team with such an unimposing line-up (Derek Rose, their best player missed almost the entire season due to injury) could have won 48 regular season games. Now I know. They did it with a clawing, clutching, grabbing defense.

That style might be expected to give fits to a team with scant playoff experience. And the Wizards young background was, in fact, stymied yesterday. But Washington is loaded with veteran front court players, and they made the difference.

Nene scored 24 points on 11-17 shooting and Marcin Gortat scored 15 (on 6-10) to go with 13 rebounds. Veteran guard Andre Miller, added to the team with the playoffs very much in mind, came off the bench to score 10 points on 5-7 shooting. This helped offset the combined 7-25 shooting of John Wall and Bradley Beal, the young starting guards.

We are probably in for a long, hard-fought series. But for now, at least, the Wiz have the upper hand.

There are no truly big baseball games in April. But yesterday, the Washington Nationals won what felt like a big game.

The Nationals, terrible during most of their nine plus years in D.C., had what seemed like a breakout year in 2012. But they were derailed that year in the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals, who came from six runs down to defeat the Nats in the deciding contest.

Since then, the Nats, while fattening up on weak teams, have been unable to hold their own against the Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves, their main division rival. Last year, the Cardinals won all six meetings and Atlanta won 13 of 19.

The trend seemed to be continuing this year. Atlanta has already won 5 of 6 from the Nats. And until yesterday, the Cards had taken 2 of 3.

On Sunday, St. Louis held a 2-0 lead going into the seventh inning. But the Nats rallied to win 3-2, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Denard Span.

It’s too early in the season to draw conclusions about the Nats. But fans should be encouraged by the bounce back performances of Danny Espinosa and Drew Storen. Both were key performers on the 2012 season. Both had 2013 seasons so nightmarish that they found themselves in the Minor Leagues.

Both have been excellent so far this year. Storen’s clutch relief pitching enabled the Nats to beat the Cards on Friday night and Espinosa’ heroics at the plate keyed yesterday’s win.

So I thank Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman, Marcin Gortat, Nene, Danny Espinosa, Denard Span, and all the others who helped deliver a brilliant Sunday sports trifecta.

Responses