Shanoff's WUC: Ubaldo Mania, Finals, B'hawks

Today's Calls: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Roy Halladay, Lakers vs. Celtics, Kentucky vs. Eric Bledsoe, Phillies vs. Braves, Reds vs. Cardinals, Kendry Morales vs. Stephen Strasburg, Dario Franchitti vs. Chip Ganassi, Duke men's lacrosse vs. Maryland women's lacrosse, USC vs. the NCAA, US Soccer vs. the World and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: How good is Ubaldo Jimenez? ↵

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↵A full two months into the new baseball season, Roy Halladay has been as utterly dominant as we all thought he would be: 7 wins, sub-2.00 ERA (sub-1.00 WHIP), Top 10 in Ks, leads the league in complete games. ↵

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↵Oh, and to punctuate his first two months in the NL, he threw a perfect game this weekend. ↵

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↵And yet -- and yet -- if you handed out a "First Two Months" award for the NL's best pitcher, it would go to Ubaldo, who has gone from intriguing no-name to one-name sensation. ↵

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↵In the same weekend as Halladay's perfection, "Ubaldo Mania" reached its highest point yet: Yesterday, he out-dueled Tim Lincecum -- the previous standard for pitchers in the NL -- with a complete-game shut-out. ↵

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↵That gave him 10 wins in 2 months; that is three more than Roy Halladay, or anyone else in baseball. It raises the tantalizing prospect of 30 wins. (Inflated expectations? Not in a year when we see two perfect games 20 days apart.) ↵

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↵Jimenez entered the game yesterday with a ridiculous 0.88 ERA -- and actually lowered it, to 0.78. He has Ks (same 70 as Doc) but adds control (the No. 1 WHIP in the NL, even lower than Halladay). ↵

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↵And he may not have a perfect game, but he pitched the first no-hitter of the season back in mid-April. ↵

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↵Ubaldo has done something more impressive than become the best pitcher in the NL -- and biggest player story line in baseball through the first two months of the season. ↵

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↵He has taken that status away from Roy Halladay. ↵

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↵More MLB: Is it too early to have compelling division races? Hardly. In head-to-head games, the Cards caught the Reds and the Braves passed the Phillies. The former was expected; the latter is entirely a surprise. The Bobby Cox Farewell Tour kicks into a new gear. ↵

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↵Strasburg Watch: June 8. Mark it down. The first MLB game for Stephen Strasburg and the most-anticipated MLB debut of all time. (BTW: Who needs Roy Oswalt? Not the Nats.) ↵

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↵Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals: For starters, there isn't a more marquee matchup available in the NBA (that includes Kobe vs. LeBron). It is rare for defending champs to have a "redemption" motivation, but the way the C's routed the Lakers for the title two years ago gives that to L.A. It is easy to pick the Lakers in 6 -- like I do -- but dismiss the Celtics at your own peril. There hasn't been a more impressive run to the Finals since the legendary 1995 "Heart of a Champion" Rockets. ↵

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↵Finals X-Factor: Same as in 2008 -- Andrew Bynum. ↵

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↵What next for the NBA losers? In PHX, the question is whether Amare will stay or bolt -- that is a make-or-break proposition for the franchise (although, to be fair, the presumption last offseason was that this team had no chance to get within 2 wins of the NBA Finals). In Orlando, few worries other than they should still be considered the team to beat in the East next year. (Yes, even with Vince Carter.) ↵

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↵The inevitable Kentucky hoops scandal: UK can claim that the NCAA cleared Eric Bledsoe for his academics, but they can ask Memphis how that worked out with Derrick Rose. The irony is that the Wall-Cousins-Bledsoe-Orton-Patterson dream season didn't even include a Final Four to strip away anyway; isn't that an even bigger humiliation than a season of forfeited wins? ↵

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↵Stanley Cup: Blackhawks up 2-0 with the series heading back to Philly. Chicago has won 7 straight playoff games -- and 7 in a row on the road. Philly can't wait to fall behind 3-0 before digging in for a would-be comeback. But I don't think a comeback is coming. Based on the rabid reception this Blackhawks team got in Chicago, the Cup feels like it is theirs. ↵

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↵College LAX: As impressive as Duke breaking the Cuse-Hopkins-UVA-Princeton stranglehold on the men's title with a gripping (if low-scoring) victory over Notre Dame was, the Maryland women were even more impressive, digging out of an early hole to knock off 5-time defending champ Northwestern. What a remarkable weekend in college lacrosse. ↵

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↵NCAA Baseball Tournament: Arizona State gets the top seed. But -- and this is more of an existential question than anything -- when you have an impenetrable double-elimination playoff system, is anyone truly out of it? (I am only kidding: The double-elim system is what makes the baseball tournament unique.) ↵

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↵USC Football Scandal: The investigation results are coming Friday, apparently. I am not holding my breath for anything earth-shattering -- or program-crippling. (If anything, the basketball program will get hit harder, to cover up the wrist-slap for football. Who cares about USC hoops?) ↵

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↵SN's CFB Countdown: No. 95 Buffalo. At least Turner Gill got out before things completely collapsed. (Today: No. 94 Illinois.) ↵

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↵Speaking of CFB countdowns, WUC preseason No. 1 Boise State has kept a pretty busy offseason. Chris Peterson knows this year's team has a chance to be very special -- let's hope that the system ultimately lets them prove it. ↵

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↵World Cup Lead-Up: Dan Levy has it right -- the weekend win over Turkey was more about morale and momentum than about any specific litmus test that would indicate this U.S. team should have aspirations bigger than merely making it out of the group round. (It did solidify that my favorite player on the USMNT is Clint Dempsey, who needs to have a huge tournament in South Africa for the Yanks to make noise.) ↵

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↵Indy 500: You would think Dario Franchitti would be the weekend's biggest winner in racing -- and that doesn't even count the Judd factor. But give it to his team owner Chip Ganassi, who became the first to have drivers win both Indy and Daytona. ↵

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↵Injuries: Can we all agree that Kendry Morales breaking his leg while celebrating a walk-off grand slam at home plate with his teammates is the oddest on-field MLB injury in years? There is no question: It will totally change the way that players jump around to celebrate walk-off wins at home plate. You don't want to pull a Kendry. ↵

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↵(Speaking of walk-off wins, how about a walk-off... balk!) ↵

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↵The Last Word: I don't like to tell people how to think, but I think it's sort of misguided as far as protesting that these guys are in town." -- Joe Torre, on protests at the Dodgers-D'backs game in LA over Arizona's new immigration law. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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