Weekly Nickel 6-4-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Curtis Granderson (left) and Derek Jeter (right) are two of the main reasons why the New York Yankees are right in the thick of things in the AL East as usual.

By Josh Kramer

Can you say playoffs?  The past month and a half has been defined by playoff action.  Last week though, Grand Slam tennis in Paris was added to the slate.  Not to mention Tiger Woods tied Jack Nicklaus with PGA victory number 73.  I thoroughly enjoyed last week, but this week will be even better as we delve deeper into the playoffs and action at Roland Garros.  Here are the events to keep an eye on.

5.  A 20-minute long red flag at Dover on Sunday.  12 cars were involved in the massive collision that occurred on the exit of Turn 2.  Hopefully next Sunday will be a little less eventful at Pocono Raceway as Jimmie Johnson looks to jump Greg Biffle atop the Sprint Cup Series.

4.  It took 8,020 and games and 134 pitches from Johan Santana.  But the Mets finally have a no-hitter.  Both Roy Oswalt and Dustin Pedroia are making two very different types of comebacks.  And after a stellar career in which he posted a career .309 batting average, Magglio Ordonez is officially hanging up the spikes.  Also what is the deal in the East?  All teams are within striking distance in both the AL and NL East, with no team trailing first place by more than 3.5 games.  The matchup of the week will take place in the Bronx.

Tampa Bay Rays vs New York Yankees:  Every team in the AL East is very much in contention at the moment.  Amazingly, all five teams have a positive run differential.  The AL Central currently only has one team with a positive run differential (Cleveland).  But let’s be entirely honest.  Does anyone truly think the Orioles or Blue Jays will be in contention come October?  The AL East has been a three-team race for years now and will continue to stay that way into the foreseeable future.  The Yankees and Rays happen to be two of those three teams in contention each and every year.

As is typically the case in New York, the Bronx Bombers have been dropping bombs all year long, leading the American League in home runs.  Tampa Bay on the other hand has won in a much different fashion, relying heavily on their very talented pitching staff.  David Price and Jeremy Hellickson have both been stifling the opposition since the beginning of April.  For the Yankees, the Captain (Derek Jeter), who actually just celebrated the ten-year anniversary of becoming the Yankees captain yesterday, has turned into a modern-day version of Ponce de Leon, discovering the baseball fountain of youth.  Also, Curtis Granderson’s insane power has been another key to New York’s success.  The Rays swept the Yankees to open the season back in early April.  New York returned the favor by taking two of three at the beginning of May.  Look for Tampa to turn the tables yet again taking two of three, with Hellickson and Price starting two of the games.

3.  Teams that go up 2 to 0 in NBA playoff series have gone on to win the series 94% of the time.  Only 14 teams in NBA history have ever come back to win a best-of-seven playoff series after falling into a 2-0 hole.  Both Boston and Oklahoma City are trying to defy the odds.  OKC really does have a chance to become team number 15 to accomplish this feat after Serge Ibaka played the game of his life on Saturday night and Kevin Durant put on a Kobe-esque 4th quarter performance.  Despite a huge victory last night, I still feel that Boston is just too old and too tired to do this even against a Bosh-less Heat team.  The NBA Finals are just around the corner.

2.  14 and 2 in the playoffs.  10 and 0 on the road.  Can anyone stop the Los Angeles Kings?  Don’t count on it.  New Jersey is a very solid team led by arguably the greatest goalie of all-time, but Los Angeles is currently playing out of this world hockey.  And sadly for New Jersey, by when the Kings decide to come back to earth, they will already have captured Lord Stanley.

1.  Sunday was almost a very unfriendly day for world number one players.  Azarenka had already went down to 15th seed Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets on Suzanne Lenglen Court.  An opponent who Azarenka had seen great success against in the past winning seven of eight matches.  Novak Djokovic, the current number one in Men’s tennis, was staring at a 2 set to 0 deficit on Philippe Chatrier against Andreas Seppi.  Then the switch went off, and Novak Djokovic powered through for his 25th straight Grand Slam victory as he looks to capture the “Djoker Slam.”  The later rounds are upon us in Paris.  You won’t want to miss what should be an epic conclusion to the year’s second Grand Slam.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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