Big 3 is Big Success in Chicago

The first game of the 5th week of Big 3 action featured the Power against the Ball Hogs. This game would be neck and neck for one half but all Power in the second. A physical tone was set early and often, as Xavier Silas of the Ball Hogs and Deshawn Stevenson of the Power were chirping at each other for much of the first half. The Power would see themselves hold a 26-20 advantage at the end of the first, and it would only grow from there. Cuttino Mobley and Jerome Williams of the Power would continue to dominate in the second half. Mobley, showing off some excellent footwork in the post, torched the Ball Hogs for 12 second half points. He would finish with 21 points on 10-15 shooting. Williams also made his presence known, hawking down 8 rebounds and converting some easy second chance points. His efforts led to a 30-10 rebounding advantage in the game for the Power. Rasual Butler would carry the Ball Hogs throughout the contest but was not nearly efficient enough in the second half to keep them within striking distance. Butler would find his three-point range, nailing two late game triples. however, it would be a case of “too little, too late”. Deshawn Stevenson would ice the game with a triple from the top of the arc, giving the Power a 51-34 victory. The loss bumps the Ball Hogs to a measly 1-4 while the Power boast an impressive 4-1 records after the win.

The second game featured Trilogy, who came into week 5 as the only remaining unbeaten team in Big 3, and Tri State. Unfortunately for Tri State, the outcome would not change that fact. Rashad McCants and James White would be the high scoring men for Trilogy. McCants got to the cup with ease early in this one, scoring 5 out of his team’s first 7. He would finish with 27 points on 11-17 shooting with 8 rebounds. White was also incredibly efficient from the field, pouring in 16 points on 5-6 shooting. For Tri State, a failure to convert at the rim is what did them in. Mike James did his best to convert from the perimeter, putting in 22 points but on 8-19 shooting. No one else scored more than 6 on his team. The crowd really got into this one when Mike James and James White went chest to chest for a few minutes in the first half. In the end, cooler heads would prevail. Trilogy would put James into a series of pick and rolls, wearing him out and putting him in bad mismatches defensively. The dagger would come from none other than Mr. White, as Kenyon Martin, aka “K-Mart”, threw him a nice baseline alley-oop pass that White flushed home for the win. Trilogy remains unbeaten at 5-0 while Tri State drops to 1-4.

Up next would be 3 Headed Monsters against 3’s Company (these names just get more and more fun, don’t they?). Allen Iverson, coach of 3’s Company, would receive a monstrous ovation from the Big 3 crowd on hand at the UIC Pavilion. For 3 Headed Monsters, their name would fit them perfectly today as they were led by a 3-man effort in Kwame Brown, Rashard Lewis, and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. Brown would deliver a double-double for his team, putting in 11 points and snagging 12 boards. Lewis would also get hot from the field, scoring 16 while also nabbing his fair share of rebounds with 9. The star of the game would be Abdul-Rauf, as the shortest guy on the court would grab 8 rebounds and drop 19 points, including the game winning jumper to secure the win for his team. 3’s Company, who after only trailing by 3 at the half, were totally dominated in the second half as they would suffer a defeat of 51-32. Andre Owens was the high scoring man for 3’s Company as he put in 13 points in the losing effort, as his squad drops to 1-4. 3 Headed Monsters advanced to 4-1 with the win.

The last game of the evening was arguably the most exciting, despite the thinning crowd at this point in the day. This contest featured the Ghost Ballers and Killer 3’s. There was a lot of dribble drive action in this one as both teams were aggressive in their offensive strategies, getting to the line a combined 21 times during the game. Despite the previous 3 games being decided well before the final few possessions, this one went down to the wire. Down by 5 late in the game, Mike Bibby of the Ghost Ballers canned a 4-point shot to cut the deficit to 43-42. Killer 3’s would respond with a 3-point shot, but Ricky Davis of the Ghost Ballers would even things right back up with a monstrous slam and a beautiful up and under move, driving baseline on both occasions. Bibby would sink another free throw (worth 2 points in Big 3 play) to make it 48-46. Davis would once again find the bottom of the net, this time sealing the win on a mid-range jumper from the left wing giving the Ghost Ballers a 50-46 victory. Stephen Jackson played point guard most of the game (due to Chauncey Billups’ injury) and poured in 22 points. Reggie Evans also aided him despite the losing effort, achieving a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards. Ivan Johnson of the Ghost Ballers played the role of stat-sheet-stuffer, scoring 20 points, nabbing 6 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists. Ricky Davis and Mike Bibby scored 15 each. The Ghost Ballers advance to 3-2 on the year with the win while the loss drops Killer 3’s to 1-4. Afterwards, Ghost Ballers coach George Gervin was able to talk to the media a bit. He acknowledged how fun it is being able to coach guys that have been around the game their whole lives. “These guys all know how to play basketball, they already know”, said Gervin. “It’s 3 on 3 so there really are no plays, just 1 on 1 or 2 on 2 attacking situations, which makes it fun”.

All photo credits go to WZIP’s own Isaiah Houde.

 

Salazar Tosses Gem, Lindor Walks it Off in Cleveland

If you are a big fan of offensive baseball with teams trading home run for home run all game long, this Saturday night in Cleveland was not the night for you. Unless of course your next favorite thing is free baseball. In which case, you would have loved this one.

Danny Salazar, a crucial piece of the Indians rotation in 2016 (minus the postseason) had been sidelined for the past month and a half dealing with a shoulder injury. His last start was on May 27th and his last MLB appearance was June 3rd. He would go toe to toe with Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman who entered the contest with an impressive record of 9-5 and a 3.10 ERA.

Salazar set the tone early (and I mean EARLY) by striking out the side to start the game, doing it all on 12 pitches. Out of those 12 pitches, 11 were fastballs, and absolute heaters at that. Salazar would continue to torch batters all game long, moving his fastball around the zone with ease and topping out at 98 MPH. Not too shabby for someone who hadn’t pitched in a major league game in over 30 days. When Danny did decide to feather in some off-speed stuff, it was nasty. Blue Jay hitters were chasing changeups and sliders out of the zone consistently en route to a 8 strikeout performance for the Dominican right hander.

“It was very impressive”, said Tribe manager Terry Francona. “He came out throwing strikes, he had velocity, he attacked. That was really impressive”.

The Tribe offense would strike first in the bottom half of the 4th, as with runners on the corners and only one away, Edwin Encarnacion hit a screamer towards Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson who did not field it cleanly, allowing Michael Brantley to reach second base and Francisco Lindor to score. Donaldson did not receive an error on the play, rather, it was ruled a fielder’s choice as Encarnacion was thrown out at first.

Toronto would not answer until the 8th frame. With Salazar cruising but still only on his first start back from injury, Terry Francona decided to pull Danny (who was only at 85 pitches and seemed to have complete control of his fastball still) in favor of reliever Andrew Miller. Toronto first baseman Justin Smoak would clobber the first pitch thrown by Miller, depositing the ball into the right field seats to level things at 1.

The Tribe would put runners in scoring position in both the 8th and 9th, but were unable to convert. Toronto also had their chances at the dish but could not score anyone, sending the game to extras.

In the end, it would be none other than Francisco Lindor who played hero for the home faithful. Frankie found a pitch to his liking, literally just as the rain had started up again downtown, and sent an absolute rocket to right that was a no doubter the second he made contact. Lindor would trot around the bags with that enormous smile and receive a friendly assault from his teammates at home, giving the Indians a 2-1 win to even the weekend series up. The homerun was good for Lindor’s first walk-off long ball in his career, and fans certainly don’t expect it to be his last.

“I wasn’t trying to win the game, I was just trying to get on base!” said Lindor in his post-homerun interview, acknowledging Brantley and Ramirez, due up after him, both as top 3 hitters in the league. “I finally got the barrel to the ball”.

The biggest gripe fans had was the decision to pull Salazar (evident by the number of angry phone calls you could hear on the radio on the way home from the game), however, when you pull a guy who hasn’t started in 30+ days for arguably the most reliable bullpen setup guy in the game, it’s hard to fault that. One would much rather have Danny Salazar come playoff time than lose him over a late game injury in mid-July because he got pushed too hard.

The final line for Marcus Stroman would be 1 earned run on 5 hits with 7 strikeouts and 5 walks through 7 and 2/3 innings. For Salazar, it was 0 earned runs on 1 hit with 8 strikeouts through 7 innings. Bryan Shaw would receive the win despite a cascade of boos from the fans when he entered the game (I guess we all hate the guy with a 1.20 ERA???) and Toronto reliever Danny Barnes would be hit with the loss. Shaw is now 3-4 on the year while the loss dropped Barnes to 2-3.

The unsung heroic play of the game (excluding the walk-off here) came from Michael Brantley in the 9th. Jose Bautista would send a towering fly ball to the track and left, giving Darwin Barney (the runner on first) the idea that he could tag up and move to second to get in scoring position. Brantley fired a laser from the track right into the glove of Jose Ramirez who would lay down the tag on Barney, a crucial double play that really got the momentum back in Cleveland’s favor after it had been deflated by Justin Smoak.

The Tribe will look to win the series tomorrow as Corey Kluber will square off against J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays at 1:10. Check out the link below to re-watch Frankie’s walk-off blast! (Courtesy of MLB.com)

http://m.mlb.com/cle/video/topic/6479266/v1637980483