The Right Place At The Right Time

The Right Place At The Right Time

For the better part of eight innings yesterday I sat in section 504, high above the grass at Citi Field. Shortly after Matt Stairs scored in the top of the eighth, however, I thought it'd be a good idea to walk around the ball park, check out different sight lines, and maybe grab a burger from Shake Shack.

As much as I dislike the Mets, I don't really have anything overtly negative to say about their park. There's plenty of space to move around the building, concessions never seem too far away, the beer man (and more specifically the lemonade man) was fun, friendly, and entertaining in his work; there were places to stand behind most sections, and there were Phillies fans everywhere. I kind of liked it. But it wasn't perfect. The view outside the park was not of a beautiful bay as in San Francisco, or an amazing bridge as in Pittsburgh, or even a wonderfully ugly sign as in Philadelphia, but rather a dump of sorts for automobile parts. I also felt like the upper level, section 504 specifically, felt really high above the playing field making it hard to gauge the trajectory and power differences between a legit home run and a routine long fly out. Whether it is in fact higher than other parks, I have no idea. It just seemed that way to me.

Anyway, back to the black-and-white milkshake part. After stopping at different spots around the park and watching the bottom of the eighth and parts of the top of the ninth, we stumbled upon a Shake Shack in the lower center field area with almost no line. A burger and shake seemed in order.

We got our single shack with a shake and perched up at one of the tables in the concourse with no view of the field but there is a very nice screen, surrounded in advertising for people to keep abreast of the action while they wait in lines and/or take a break from their seats to chow down. There was also a similar screen on the upper level behind home plate. It's a nice touch.

So I was enjoying a burger and watching the bottom of the ninth on this big screen, praying that Brad Lidge wouldn't give me worse heart burn than my meal.

So Pagan gets on while we're still in line, then Castillo got on, scoring Pagan while we stood at the tables. At that point, it seemed as if Lidge had allowed things to get serious enough to warrant my total attention. I literally told my special lady friend that "I have to go watch this for real" and walked the 20 feet over to stand behind the center field bleachers. Not two minutes later, with Murphy getting on, did Jeff Francoeur line one directly up the middle and Eric Bruntlett found himself in the exact right place at the exact right time. The rest is history.

Don't fool yourselves. Eric Bruntlett is still Eric Bruntlett. But now he'll be remembered for that amazingly quirky play he made that happens once a century or so -- a game ending unassisted triple play.

And boy, I would have felt like a total punk of a fan if I had missed that one. Ended up at the perfect vantage point in center to watch it happen. Nice little Sunday.

The trip was capped off with the guilty pleasure of tuning in to WFAN on the drive back down the Jersey Turnpike listening to what sounded like Omar Minaya's eulogy. One grieving fan, after noting the hardship upon hardship that his Mets have gone through this season, said that Bruntlett's triple play was the icing on the cake.

The Shake Shack milkshake was pretty sweet too.

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver. 

Instant Replay: No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State got bullied a bit Saturday, but never gave up its lunch money. 

It spent the second half taking control of the schoolyard.

After getting pushed around for much of Saturday night’s first half, the Nittany Lions were anything but punchy after the break. Penn State (No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings) got its high-powered offense into gear in the second and roared back for the school’s first victory in the Big Ten Championship game, 38-31, over No. 6 Wisconsin.

The Nittany Lions (11-2) are bound for the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2009 season and are outright conference champions for the first time in 22 years.  

Penn State trailed by three touchdowns midway through the second quarter but allowed just three points the rest of the night. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 384 yards and a title-game record four touchdowns to spark a comeback that saw the Nittany Lions outscore the Badgers 24-3 in the second half. McSorley was named Big Ten Championship game MVP.

Wisconsin missed a 48-yard field goal early in the second half and Penn State needed just 11 seconds to take advantage. McSorley (22 for 31) hit Saeed Blacknall with a 70-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to a touchdown. Saquon Barkley tied it at 28 later in the third with a 1-yard scoring run.

Blacknall ended the night with six catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns while DaeSean Hamilton had eight grabs for 118. 

Wisconsin retook the lead with a short field goal in the final seconds of the third quarter but Penn State went ahead for good on the ensuing drive, which ended with McSorley’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Barkley.

Tyler Davis added a 24-yard field goal later in the fourth and the Penn State defense sealed the victory when Grant Haley stuffed Wisconsin’s Corey Clement on fourth-and-1 with 1:01 to play.

The Nittany Lions fumbled the ball away twice in the opening half — one was returned for a short Badgers touchdown — but only trailed 28-14 at intermission after McSorley hit Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown with under a minute to play in the half. 

Mike Gesicki caught McSorley’s first scoring pass, a 33-yarder, late in the first quarter.

Clement finished with 164 yards and a touchdown on the ground for the Badgers (10-3), who also got scoring runs from Bradrick Shaw and Dare Ogunbowale. Bart Houston was 16 for 21 for 174 yards. 

Smelling the roses?
Penn State is likely off to Pasadena for the fourth time in school history and is seeking to reach .500 in college football’s longest running postseason game. The Nittany Lions defeated Oregon 38-20 in the 1995 game but fell to Southern California in their other two trips, in 2009 and 1923.

It appears the Trojans might be their opponents once more; No. 4 Washington won the Pac-12 championship Friday night but appears headed for the playoff. The Rose Bowl gets its choice of Pac-12 runner-up Colorado (10-3) or 9-3 USC.

There is a chance Penn State could be selected to the College Football Playoff, but No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Washington all won this weekend, while No. 2 Ohio State was idle. The playoff will be announced at noon on Sunday.

He’s fine
Sophomore running back running back Saquon Barkley showed no ill effects of a right foot injury suffered during a Nov. 26 win over Michigan State. He added the go-ahead touchdown — and another mention in Penn State’s record book — for good measure.

Barkley, who left in the third quarter of Nittany Lions’ penultimate victory, hauled in a touchdown pass from McSorley in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to give Penn State the lead for good. He had a short scoring run earlier in the period.

Barkley broke Evan Royster’s sophomore rushing record with a 19-carry, 83-yard night to push his season total to 1,302 yards. He set the mark for Penn State freshman (1,076) last fall.

Nice run
Wisconsin’s Andrew Endicott’s 23-yard field goal late in the third quarter snapped a shutout streak that had seen Penn State outscore its opponents 82-0 in the second halves of games. The last scoring play before Endicott’s boot came in the second half of a 45-31 win over Indiana on Nov. 12.