Here is a look at this week’s “three stars” – a new tradition for X Marks the Sport.
1. Corey Kluber (SP – Cleveland Indians)
If a guy is going to have one of the greatest individual performances of all-time, that’s a sure way to make the cut for “Three Stars”. On May 13th, Kluber threw eight shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up just one mere single. He didn’t walk anyone while accumulating 18 strikeouts, the most in a MLB game in over a decade. He could have had a shot at the all-time single game strikeout record (20 Ks) but was pulled after the 8th inning due to pitch count (bad move for the fans, but a prudent managerial decision). Two things made this masterful performance even more impressive. One was that Kluber was facing a great lineup. The Cardinals are 3rd in the National League in team batting average (as of 5/17/15) with four players in the lineup batting over .300. This wasn’t a lineup full of pushovers Kluber mowed down. Secondly, Kluber was struggling mightily going into this game. In his previous four starts, he had been 0-4 with a 7.43 ERA and a 1.96 WHIP – atrocious numbers for any pitcher let alone the reigning American League Cy Young award winner. To bounce back from such a terrible stretch a responded with the performance of a lifetime shows Kluber’s mental fortitude and earns him the top spot in this week’s “Three Stars”.
2. Henrik Lundqvist (G – New York Rangers)
Predictably, “King Henrik” was at his best when his team needed him the most. Down 3-1 in the conference semifinals to the Washington Capitals, Lundqvist was brilliant and did just enough to outperform and outlast another very good goaltender in the Capitals’ Braden Holtby. Lundqvist was great in the Rangers’ Game 7 win over Washington, remaining undefeated in overtime this postseason (4-0) in the process. He carried that momentum right into the conference finals, stopping 23 of 24 shots to help the Rangers take a 1-0 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the week, Lundqvist was 3-0 ( including two wins in elimination games) with a 1.57 GAA and 0.952 save percentage. Just another week at the office for him.
3. Gennady Golovkin and Román González (boxing)
Many casual spectators wanted to prematurely declare boxing dead a couple of weeks ago because they didn’t understand and/or appreciate Floyd Mayweather’s brilliant performance over Manny Pacquiao. Those people would have a different mindset had they watched the performances put on last night by these two. Golovkin dealt with more resistance than analysts expected in his match against Willie Monroe Jr., but ultimately Triple G’s constantly stalking approach and precision power punching proved to be too much for another opponent and Monroe was finished off in the 6th round. The knockout was the 30th of Golovkin’s career (in just 33 career bouts) and his 20th consecutive stoppage. The relatively unknown boxer from Nicaragua, Román González was equally as impressive in his match last night. Edgar Sosa is a well-respected veteran in the sport and former world champion in his own right, but “Chocolatito” González just flat out steamrolled him, needing only two rounds to dispose of the tough Mexican Sosa. Both Triple G and Chocolatito had the full support and unanimous approval of the lively southern California crowd. In their careers, Gennady Golovkin has knocked out 91% of his opponents while the rising star Román González has a 86% knockout rate. If you only like to watch boxing when it’s an “action” fight, watch these two the next time their on television before jumping to any misguided conclusions about the sport’s demise.