Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller: Two friends, dealing with winning, losing

BALTIMORE — Boston Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly and Atlanta Braves pitcher Shelby Miller are the closest of friends and have been since they became roommates in the lower minors with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kelly was a groomsman in Miller’s wedding. A week later, Miller stood up for Kelly at his wedding.

“He’s like a little brother to me,” Kelly said, “but we never really fought like brothers, like wrestling, punching each other, throwing rocks at each other. Nothing like that.

“He’s younger than me. I’m 26. He’s about to turn 25. He was someone I’d keep an eye on. He didn’t know what being an adult was at an early age. Neither did I, but I went to college, so I had that experience to get that out of my life.”

To this day, they keep in regular touch.

“We text each other back and forth,” Kelly said. “We don’t go two weeks without saying hello and seeing how things are. I talked to him last week.”

The friendship endures, even as their fortunes this season have hurtled in opposite directions.

Kelly took the mound Tuesday night in Baltimore in search of his ninth consecutive victory, which would have put him in the company of Pedro Martinez, the most recent Sox pitcher to win nine starts in a row. Kelly was tied with Jake Arrieta of the Cubs for most consecutive starts with a win this season.

The streak ended, though, as he was pulled in the third inning with fatigue and tightness in his right shoulder, trailing 3-1.
Shelby Miller was named an all-star based on his first-half performance, but he’s been the victim of bad luck and run support in his last 21 starts. Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday in Atlanta, meanwhile, Miller will take the mound against Blue Jays ace David Price, but in his case history is an unwelcome intruder. Miller has gone 21 consecutive starts without a victory, a span in which he is 0-13 with eight no-decisions.

“That’s a tough run, man,” Kelly said. “He’s throwing the ball well, too. It’s not like he’s on a tear and not pitching well. He’s pitching well. It’s probably more mentally tough, grinding on him, than most people think.”

Miller pitched well enough at the start of the season to be named a National League All-Star. Now, despite a perfectly acceptable 3.51 ERA over his past 21 starts, he has summoned the name of Jack Nabors from the dustbin of history.

Nabors has made the most consecutive starts in a season, 27, without a win. In 1979, Oakland’s Matt Keough came close, going 23 starts before winning his first game of the season.

On April 22, 1916, Nabors, who was in his first full season with the Philadelphia Athletics, beat the Red Sox 6-2, striking out Babe Ruth in Ruth’s only at-bat that day.

He didn’t win another game the rest of the season. The Athletics went 36-117 that season, their .235 winning percentage still the worst in modern baseball history.

Nabors probably had no business being in the big leagues but the Athletics had sold off most of their stars and owner/manager Connie Mack promoted him to the majors directly from Class D, the lowest rung of the minor leagues.

“I have never in my life seen a ballplayer as green as he was when he joined us,” Mack said, according to his biographer Steven V. Rice (SABR History Project). “I have had plenty of green ones, but he was the limit. I took a liking to the youngster because he realized that he knew absolutely nothing about the game. All he could do was throw the ball. He did not even know how to wind up, much less have a delivery.”

Nabors’ roommate, Charlie Grimm, said the young Alabaman was not undone by his incredible run of misfortune.

“You think that turned him to brooding, made him sour or a bad companion? Not at all,” Grimm said. “Nabors was the cheeriest individual you could ever find. He was happy because he was in the major leagues and going around the circuit in princely style. After losing game after game, many of which were lost by evil support, he never complained, but just took it as a matter of course.”

Kelly said Miller’s winless drought has to be kept in perspective, too.

“He’s pitched better than I have this whole year,” Kelly said. “He’s pitched well. I’ve just happened to be lucky the last eight.

“I pitched bad for 92 innings. That’s probably more mentally tough than not winning. If I was pitching well and hadn’t won a game, I’d be fine with that.

“At the end of the day he’s going to feel good about his year. If he shut it down right now, he had a great year. He’s an All-Star.”

Nabors, by the way, never won another game in the big leagues. He was released the next season, enlisted in the Army in 1918, became a victim of the flu epidemic that swept the country that year, and died of tuberculosis in 1923. He was 35.

A rugby league fan hilariously live-blogs Jarryd Hayne’s NFL debut

When you’re an NFL hopeful who authors viral plays like Jarryd Hayne did this preseason, people take notice.

But when you make the roster and your NFL debut just months removed from Australian rugby stardom — folks around the world take notice.

Hayne, a former national team member and rugby league player of the year now serving as the San Francisco 49ers’ punt returner, has introduced the NFL game to a new audience back home in Australia. While his outing Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings lacked the sizzle of his preseason highlight reel, he still made waves in Sydney, where one writer decided to live-blog Hayne’s debut.

Here is a sampling of the literary greatness that was The Guardian’s account of Hayne’s performance “as seen through the eyes of an uninitiated Australian rugby league fan”:

I don’t admit to knowing a motherlode about American football but I do know there’s a third-string punt returner and/or running back playing called Jarryd “Hayne Plane and/or Train” Hayne, wearer of the most famous No38 in Australian sports history. So yes, there’s been some hype.

After Hayne’s first return:

Here’s the Hayne Plane! His first touch in the NFL. And… he drops it? Oh my goodness me, he drops it! His first touch is a fumble! He’s grassed it. Oh my

After a Hayne 7-yard reception (we think):

He is given the ball and he …. oh yes, he makes some yards. And he’s getting a little love. And wow, he’s on the telly, doing his thing for the Eels. Ha. Oh, rugby league. He’s got the ball from a pass – he beats one! He beats … no, that’s all. Just one. Good little run though. He made seven yards.

On teammate Carlos Hyde’s 360 and score:

Hyde spun and ran and confused everyone and we have a touchdown!

From Bridgewater to Namath to … Don Trump?!

Teddy Bridgewater has been solid without being the reincarnation of … oh here we go, who? … I’m going with Joe Namath. … Interception! Sorry Teddy, commentator’s curse. … Here’s Carlos again … He’s owning this puppy. Owning it like Don Trump owns stuff made of gold.

We’ll just leave these right here:

Bridgewater starting to throw the hamburger, now.

Darryl Patterson takes a catch and is jumped upon by a huge man.

There will be no illegal substituting in this referee’s National Football League, no sirree Bob Hoskins.

Sacked. Couldn’t tell you why it’s called that. But sacked he was, Teddy, sacked like a poor employee.

We want Hayne, we want Hayne!

And surely now it’s time to release the man, the enigma, the rugby playing kangaroo man, Jarryd “Hayne Plane and/or Train” Hayne. What’s the worst can happen?

As the clock ticks down:

Carlos Hyde again, a human battering ram. … He’s being bashed up like a packet of crackers. … The crowd are making some noise, no-one knows why, not even the crowd, it’s just like a mass noise made by everyone at once, for no reason, just sporadically. … No air raid siren from 1944 London? … And there’s the siren for full-time and it’s, ha, like a fog horn from the Titanic, which is how the Vikings have fared this evening. … I’m Matt Cleary. Goodnight, good afternoon and good on ya.

Pau Gasol scores 27 points as Spain advances to EuroBasket semis

LILLE, France — Tony Parker scored 18 points to pace defending champion France to an 84-70 victory over Latvia and set up a showdown with Spain in the semifinals of the European basketball championship.

Pau Gasol scored 27 points and Nikola Mirotic added 18 to book Spain’s place in the semifinals with a 73-71 victory over Greece.

France took the title away from Spain two years ago in Slovenia when it beat the Spaniards in the semis before defeating Lithuania in the final.

Parker scored nine points in a row at the end of the second quarter and inspired France in the third as it pulled away. A steal by Parker, then an alley-oop pass for Rudy Gobert’s dunk gave France a 10-point lead and Parker then made four straight free throws to put France up by 13, its biggest lead until then.

Parker finished with six assists and France cruised in the fourth after building up its lead to 17.

Boris Diaw added 14 points for France and Gobert had 13 points and six rebounds. Kristaps Janicenoks led Latvia with 16 points.

Spain guard Sergio Rodriguez contributed three points from free throws down the stretch as the two teams stayed close together throughout the match.

Previously undefeated in six games, Greece had 12 points and 17 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who also had a pair of late turnovers.

“The most important thing was our defense,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been playing great offense the entire tournament but we knew everybody had to step it up on defense.”

Spain has never finished lower than fourth in the past eight Eurobasket tournaments and won the title in 2009 and 2011, before finishing third in 2013.

“We managed the tempo for most of the game,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said. “I am very pleased with how we came back …”

Neither team led by more than nine points, and Spain trailed by two at the end of the third quarter.

Mirotic made two free throws to give Spain a six-point lead as Greece center Yanis Bourousis fouled out with 3:30 remaining.

Rodriguez made one of two free throws to make it a six-point game again with 1:05 left.

Greece star guard Vassilis Spanoulis, who went 4-for-14 from the field and finished with 10 points and five assists, missed a jumper but Nick Calathes stole the ball and made a layup. Gasol made one free throw on the next possession, Calathes hit a 3 but then fouled out and Rodriguez made two free throws to make it 72-68 with 13 seconds left. Calethes finished with 14 points.

Spanoulis threw an air ball on a 3-point attempt, Antetokounmpo grabbed the rebound and fed Kostas Sloukas, who made a 3.

But Gasol got fouled and made one of two free throws with two seconds left for the final score, and had only two points in the final quarter. Gasol, the tournament’s leading scorer, also had nine rebounds.