Here is a look at this week’s “three stars” – according to X Marks the Sport.
1. Max Scherzer (SP – Washington Nationals)
It seems like every week we are seeing dominant pitching performances. With that said, Max Scherzer probably had the most dominant two-start week we’ve seen in a long time. On Sunday, Scherzer was in the zone. He ran right through the Milwaukee Brewers’ lineup, giving up just one hit (in the 7th inning) while striking out 16 batters (most by a Nationals pitcher since the club moved to Washington, D.C.) en route to a shutout. Scherzer was somehow arguably even better yesterday (Saturday). How dominant was he? He threw a “disappointing” no-hitter. He was one out away from a perfect game before hitting José Tábata with a pitch which Tábata clearly turned and leaned into. For the week, Scherzer’s stat line was ridiculous: 18 innings, 1 hit allowed, 1 walk, 0 runs, and 26 strikeouts. It doesn’t get much better than that.
While on the topic of dominant pitching, an honorable mention goes to White Sox SP Chris Sale, who also recorded 26 strikeouts over two starts during this past week. Basically since Memorial Day, Sale has been striking out batters by the dozen (or more) and kept that trend going in his last two starts.
2. Andre Iguodala (SF – Golden State Warriors)
For the first time in forty years, the Golden State Warriors are the champions of the NBA. Despite not starting the first three games of the series, Andre Iguodala won the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award. The decision wasn’t unanimous, but it was a decision that has the endorsement of this website. In a closeout game on the road, Iguodala came up huge scoring a season-high (regular and postseason) 25 points. In the two games this week (Games 5 and 6), he had 12 assists and no turnovers – taking the pressure off of Stephen Curry to have to create for others by himself. Even more important was the job Iguodala did defensively competing with LeBron James on the defensive end. James shot 40% from the field for the series, but that percentage dropped down to 35% when guarded by Iguodala. When you factor in the defense, the facilitating, the timely shooting (aside from the free throw line – yikes), and the on-court leadership displayed, Andre Iguodala was rightfully named MVP of the series.
3. Duncan Keith (D – Chicago Blackhawks)
The Chicago Blackhawks have a modern day dynasty going, capturing their third Stanley Cup championship in the last six years. We have already touched on the value of leadership in this week’s Three Stars, and Duncan Keith was the epitome of that for the Blackhawks on their path to victory. In Game 6 on Monday, Keith was the only player (excluding goaltenders) to record 30 minutes of Time On Ice (TOI) for either team. This was a surprise to no one, as the workhorse became just the fourth player in history to log over 700 minutes of ice time in a single NHL postseason (according to sportsnet.ca). Keith scored one goal in the Stanley Cup Final, and it seems only fitting that goal would prove to be the game-winner in the closeout game. The tangibles were there all postseason for Keith, but the intangibles (non-stop max effort, poise, leadership, etc.) were key in Keith becoming the obvious choice to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the NHL postseason.