Memorial Day is certainly a day to remember its purpose: Honoring those who sacrificed their lives to defend our country and for that, we say Thank You to all those who have served or are serving.
Memorial Day 2016 was also a memorable one in the world of sports as several teams played and won amazing and critical games as MLB, NBA and NHL took center stage.
In the MLB, the Pittsburgh Pirates arrived at South Beach after losing 2 out of 3 to the Texas Rangers and took their frustrations out on the Miami Marlins in a 10-0 beat down. And the winning pitcher was. Jeff Locke?
It was Locke, but he didn’t just win…he dominated. The Pirates left hander had a feeling early in the game he had a chance to do something special. tossed a three-hitter and struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was the first complete game by a Pirate since Vance Worley on July 28, 2014. He’s improved to 4-3 on the season. It was also his first complete game in 101 career starts. Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.
Gregory Polanco’s grand slam, Sean Rodriguez’s two-run homer, and David Freese’s four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.
The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000. Marlins starter Justin Nicolino (2-3) allowed three runs and six hits in five innings.
Nicolino left in the sixth after giving up a leadoff single to Andrew McCutchen with the Marlins trailing 2-0. Jose Urena relieved Nicolino and eventually loaded the bases for Polanco, who deposited a 2-1 change-up into the seats in right-center field for a 7-0 lead.
It was Polanco’s first career grand slam and his eighth home run of the season. He has hit in eight straight games with three home runs and 12 RBIs during the stretch. Jung Ho Kang and Freese had RBI singles to start the scoring for the Pirates.
Two of the Marlins’ three hits were erased by double plays.
In other MLB Scores: Washington beat Philadelphia 4-3, the Chicago Cubs beat the LA Dodgers 2-0, Cincinnati beat Colorado 11-8, and St. Louis beat Milwaukee 6-0. In the American League, Toronto beat the NY Yankees 4-2, KC beat Tampa Bay 6-2 and the LA Angels beat Detroit 5-1.
In the NHL: Nick Bonino’s main job for the Pittsburgh Penguins is to get to the front of the net and create chaos. The well-bearded forward executed perfectly in his debut in the Stanley Cup Final.
Bonino took a pretty feed from the corner by Kris Letang and beat Martin Jones from in close with 2:33 remaining to lift the Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 on Monday night.
Rookies Bryan Rust and Connor Sheary staked Pittsburgh to an early two-goal lead before the Sharks tied it in the second period on goals by Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau. The Penguins responded by upping the pressure in the final period and it paid off with Bonino’s fourth goal of the playoffs after he darted to the San Jose net in time to knuckle Letang’s pass by Jones for the winner. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.
Matt Murray finished with 24 saves for Pittsburgh, which began its bid for the fourth title in franchise history by peppering Jones constantly in the first and final periods. Jones made 38 stops but couldn’t get his blocker on Bonino’s wrist shot. The Penguins threw 41 shots at Jones, well over the 28 he faced on average during San Jose’s playoff run.
The Sharks made it to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history by rebuilding themselves on the fly. Two years removed from a brutal collapse from a 3-0 series lead in the first round against Los Angeles, San Jose ended a 9,005 day wait to play in the NHL’s championship round by relying on a tough, aggressive style that squeezes opponents with a relentless fore check while limiting chances in front of Jones.
In the NBA: The Golden State Warriors advanced to their second straight NBA Finals Monday night with a 96-88 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 7. The Thunder led the entire first half and dominated in most areas of the game, but in the end, all that really mattered was Stephen Curry. Curry was back to his usual phenomenal self, hitting ridiculous contested 3-pointers. He kept hitting, and eventually the Thunder’s composure broke under the strain. Curry finished with 36 points on 7 of 12 shooting from the 3-point arc, matching the Thunder’s total perimeter output.
The Warriors outscored the Thunder 29-12 in the third quarter and the party was on. Russell Westbrook picked a terrible time (19 points on just 7-of-21 shooting) to have his Magic 8 ball come up with “bad game,” and Kevin Durant tried ably to get teammates involved after shooting too often in Game 6, and instead came up passive.
The Warriors host the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
Oklahoma City’s run through the playoffs was impressive, taking out the 67-win Spurs and pushing the Warriors to the brink of elimination. They pushed the Warriors in the fourth quarter, closing to within five points, but the Warriors just kept hammering them from the 3-point line. Golden State outscored the Thunder by 30 points from the 3-point line. In the end, that math problem was the difference.
The Warriors close out their Western Conference finals run by capping a comeback from down 3-1 and finish with a comeback victory at home in Game 7. That’s why they’re the champions.
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