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Three weeks after suffering a lower-body injury, star forward Evgeni Malkin returned to Pittsburgh Penguins practice on Monday wearing a red non-contact jersey, according to multiple reports.
PHILADELPHIA — Trailing by two goals early in the third period, the Philadelphia Flyers didn’t get discouraged. They simply maintained their focus and came through with their biggest late rally in nearly six years

Kevin Hayes scored the go-ahead short-handed goal late in Philadelphia’s five-goal third period, and the Flyers beat the Cheap Columbus Blue Jackets Jerseys
7-4 Saturday night.

“When you have five goals in nine minutes, it’s just an example of sticking to it,” Hayes said. “We’re getting a lot of shots on net each night and that’s been big for us.”

James van Riemsdyk had two goals and an assist, Jake Voracek added a goal and two assists, Shayne Gostisbehere had a goal and an assist, and Michael Raffl and Travis Konecny also scored for Philadelphia. Hayes and Ivan Provorov also each had two assists, and Brian Elliott finished with 22 saves to help the Flyers end a five-game losing streak to their Metropolitan Division rivals.

The five goal outburst was the first time that Philadelphia had that many tallies in the third period since Dec. 19, 2013, when they rallied to beat Columbus 5-4.

“I thought we deserved to win this game,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We were the better team. We had a real strong second period, tied it up, saw them score one (at the end of the second) and one (early in the third) to take the lead. But we said that we were going to find a way to win this game and we did.”

Boone Jenner scored twice, and Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson also had goals for Columbus. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 39 shots.

Anderson’s goal 2:15 into the third period gave the Cheap Columbus Blue Jackets Jerseys
a 4-2 lead.

“It is smoke and mirrors that we are up by two at that time,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “I just don’t think we played well enough. I don’t think we played hard enough. I think we got what we deserved.”

The Flyers then scored five times in an 8:54 stretch in the latter half of the period to get the win.

“After that goal we got to have a push and stay on it,” Jenner said. “I don’t think we did that tonight and they were able to come back.”

Gostisbehere got the rally started with a slap shot with 9:08 remaining, and van Riemsdyk tipped in his second of the night to tie the score with 7:23 to go.

“The biggest thing was how we responded going down two goals in the third,” Gostisbehere said. “Maybe some past games, we would have folded and gave that one away. I think it was a big character win. Got from everyone tonight so it was huge.”

While killing off a tripping penalty on Sean Couturier, Hayes stuck his stick in a Columbus passing lane, picked up the puck at centre ice and then backhanded it past Korpisalo with 5:36 left for his fourth of the season and his third in the last three games.

Raffl had an empty-netter to make it 6-4 with 1:39 remaining, and Konecny capped the scoring with the Flyers’ second power-play goal of the night in the final minute.

NOTES: After the game, the Flyers announced that forward Scott Laughton had suffered a broken finger and would miss at least four weeks of action. . Columbus F Alexandre Texier did not return to the game after suffering a lower body injury in the second period. … Columbus was 0 for 5 on the power play while Philadelphia was 2-for-4. … This was the first of four meetings between the two division rivals this season. Columbus lost for just the sixth time in 25 meetings (23-5-1) with Philadelphia, dating back to December 2013.
Malkin missed 10 games after suffering an injury against the Cheap Columbus Blue Jackets Jerseys
in the Penguins’ second game of the season. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said at the time Malkin would be out “longer term.”

The 33-year-old Malkin has one goal on the season and had 21 goals and 72 points in 68 games for the Penguins last year.

Pittsburgh is 7-5-0 in 12 games so far this season.

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NEW YORK — Umpire Joe West has sued retired player Paul Lo Duca for defamation. The former catcher alleges West gave pitcher Billy Wagner a bigger strike zone in exchange for letting the umpire borrow a vintage car.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, West contended that Lo Duca said during an April 18 podcast on The Action Network that he had been ejected 15 times during his major league career and eight or nine had been by West.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — First baseman Ali Sanchez was standing in the on-deck circle so he had a great vantage point of the two-strike breaking ball to Jacob Heyward. It finished so low that by the time it reached the catcher it nearly bounced in the dirt.

Sanchez — like everybody else who was watching this game on a Tuesday night in the Arizona Fall League — had an immediate mental reaction.

“That’s a ball,” Sanchez said.

Not so fast in the brave new world of “robot” umpires.

Heyward, a San Francisco Giants prospect, was rung up for strike three and then thrown out of the game by human home plate umpire Jose Navas following a brief disagreement with the call.

Heyward’s frustration was understandable considering the location of the pitch. The problem was this: Navas was just the messenger.

The Arizona Fall League is the latest professional baseball league to experiment with a computer that judges balls and strikes. The TrackMan system makes its nearly instantaneous decision and sends a signal to the human home plate umpire, who then makes the call.

After about 25 games of the TrackMan at Salt River Fields, there’s something of a consensus: The system has its quirks and problems — particularly on breaking balls low in the zone like the one that frustrated Heyward — but it also has promise.

“It’s definitely unique, it’s different from everything we’ve learned throughout our baseball careers,” Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Seth Beer said. “It’s just something new. Something that guys are just a little uncomfortable with so far.”

Beer, Sanchez and pitchers Jackson Rees and Tristan Beck all agreed the TrackMan system is excellent on the inside and outside corners but struggles when judging breaking balls low or high in the zone.

“The really loopy breaking balls or the really hard sliders at the bottom of the zone that end up in the dirt, you might end up having trouble with,” Beer said. “But for the most part, I don’t think it’s a terrible thing.”

The Independent Atlantic League became the first professional American baseball league to allow a computer to call balls and strikes during its All-Star Game early in the summer. That league is often filled with players on the fringes of professional baseball who are trying to get noticed by an MLB-affiliated team.

But the AFL is filled with some of baseball’s highest-regarded prospects, including former No. 1 overall picks like Minnesota’s Royce Lewis and Philadelphia’s Mickey Moniak. A who’s who of current MLB stars have played in the league, including Bryce Harper, Christian Yelich, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Giancarlo Stanton and Max Scherzer.

It could be a sign the system is edging closer to the big leagues. Then again, maybe not.

Major League Baseball spokesman Michael Teeven said in a statement that the “experimental program has been a positive learning exercise, which was the objective.” He added that during the off-season, the league’s plan is to discuss results with clubs and continue finding ways to test the system.

The computer umpires have changed the game in some other ways, mostly small ones.

Sanchez — who is also a catcher in the Cheap New York Mets Jerseys
system — has learned to vary his conversations, chatting with the home plate umpire about everything from the weather to family to their upcoming vacations over the winter holidays.

No more negotiating about the strike zone. Nothing can be done.

Beck, who is a top pitching prospect in the Giants’ minor-league system, said he’s grown to appreciate the computer’s impartiality. The zone doesn’t change because of star players. It doesn’t change in big moments.

“It gives me confidence knowing that every single pitch I throw is going to be called exactly what it is,” Beck said. “I throw a close pitch and it’s a ball? No argument. No leaning on the umpire that it should have been a strike. I know for a fact that it’s a ball or a strike.”

There’s also no need for the art of framing pitches. Many in baseball believe a good catcher can steal a few strikes throughout the game by making borderline pitches look like strikes. The computer won’t be fooled.

Then there’s the stats: The AFL’s overall batting average for its six teams has hovered around .240 through 27 games, which is a big drop from .259 a year ago. Games at Salt River — which account for about a third of the total and use the computer strike zone — also have an average that’s around .240, so it’s hard to tell how much it’s affecting the game.

It’s also a fairly small sample size. Still, the strikes in the dirt probably aren’t helping offensive output.

“It’s happened to everyone at some point this fall,” Beer said.

Heyward’s ejection led to at least one change. Fans were so irritated with the umpires after the strike call that the AFL wrote up a statement that’s read before each game, explaining that the human umpires aren’t actually calling the ball and strikes.

That’s Mr. TrackMan’s job.

Before a game, the announcement was read to the 500 or so fans in attendance. At least a few weren’t pleased.

“Get rid of it,” one yelled. “Let the umps do their jobs!”

Other fans applauded in agreement. The four umps gathered around the plate didn’t say anything, but at least one broke out into a little bit of a grin.

According to West, Lo Duca said during the podcast that when the player was catching Wagner during a Cheap New York Mets Jerseys
game against Philadelphia in 2006 or 2007, West called three straight batters out on strikes. The umpire adds that Lo Duca claimed Wagner told him the reason he got the calls was the pitcher had allowed West to drive his 1957 Chevy.

West said in the suit that Lo Duca was ejected eight times in his career and only once by West. The umpire denied any favouritism and said Wagner did not pitch in the only Mets-Phillies game that West worked behind the plate during 2006 and 2007.

A four-time All-Star, Lo Duca played in the major leagues from 1998-2008. Andrew Mongelluzzi, his last listed agent, did not return a call seeking comment.

West’s suit also named The Action Network as a defendant. The Action Network did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The 66-year-old West is the major leagues’ senior umpire. He debuted in 1976, became a full-time staff member two years later and has worked 5,312 regular-season games, second to Bill Klem’s 5,370.

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DETROIT — The Cheap Buffalo Sabres Jerseys
bounced back in the best way Friday night.

Linus Ullmark made 41 saves, Sam Reinhart had a goal and an assist and the Sabres beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 on Friday night. Buffalo fell 6-2 to the New York Rangers a night earlier.

“I really liked the way we were able to regroup after last night,” said Reinhart, who got his fifth goal. “We talked in the room about what we did wrong, and then we were able to refresh our minds and come out and play like this.”

Buffalo (9-2-1) also got a goal from defenceman Jake McCabe and two assists from Jack Eichel.

“We have so much confidence in this room right now that there’s no panic when we lose a game,” McCabe said. “Obviously everyone was a little off last night, but we were able to refocus on tonight’s game and do a lot of good things.”

Jimmy Howard stopped 23 shots for Detroit, which lost its seventh straight.
NEW YORK — The Rangers were especially eager to earn a home victory against the high-flying Buffalo Sabres to stem a series of subpar results. Three first-period goals and a thorough effort sparked the home team and a solid win ensued.

Ryan Strome scored his first two goals this season and Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves as New York snapped a five-game losing streak with a 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.

“That was obviously a good game,” said Strome, who had 18 goals for the Rangers last season after joining them in a trade from Edmonton. “Regardless of who produced, we needed that one as a team. It feels good right now. We worked hard for that one.”

The Rangers have been struggling since opening the season with two wins, followed by five defeats — the most recent in overtime to the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. Against the resurgent Sabres, who had eight wins in their first 10 games, the Rangers came out with pace and received goals from Artemi Panarin, Brett Howden and Strome in the opening period.

Panarin, who signed a seven-year $81.5 million free agent contract last July, started the scoring with an unassisted goal at 11:41. Panarin corralled a loose puck along the right boards before swooping in and beating Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton for his fifth goal of the season. Panarin has points in last three games and five of the team’s eight contests this season.

Howden made it 2-0 when he tapped the puck past Hutton at 14:32 for his second goal this season. Assists went to Brady Skjei and Jesper Fast.

Strome added to the lead with a tip-in at 19:22 with assists to Skjei and Tony DeAngelo. Strome’s goal represented the 200th point of his NHL career.

“There was a lot of communication out there,” Howden said. “We were really helping each other.”

The Rangers held a 10-7 shots advantage after the first period but the Sabres had the better of play in the second, outshooting the home team 15-4.

Defenceman Marco Scandella put Buffalo on the board with an unassisted goal at 4:17 of the second before DeAngelo restored the three-goal lead with his third goal in two games at 13:20. Skjei and Pavel Buchnevich assisted on DeAngelo’s fourth goal of the season.

Buffalo’s Vladimir Sobotka narrowed the deficit to 4-2 when he scored at 19:11 of the second, beating Lundqvist for his first goal this season. Kyle Okposo and Marcus Johansson registered assists.

The teams traded chances in the third until Strome extended the lead to 5-2 with this second goal of the night, completing a two-on-one with Howden at 7:57 as the teams skated four-on-four.

“Most important is that guys know their identity and it worked out tonight,” added the 26-year-old Strome, who has points in five of the last six games. “It was a good statement game that we had it in us to beat a team that’s 8-1-1.”

Chris Kreider completed the scoring with his first of the season at 18:44 of the third. Rookie defenceman Adam Fox had an assist – his first NHL point – and Fast added his second assist of the contest.

“We didn’t show the Rangers enough respect and they punished us for it,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. “There were so many moments where we felt like we were getting back into it. We just couldn’t recover from the hole we dug ourselves into.”

Rangers coach David Quinn continued reshuffling lines in search of new combinations as the season evolves. Against the Sabres, Quinn had Panarin alongside Strome and Buchnevich while heralded rookie right wing Kaapo Kakko was on a line with centre Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.

“It was a good step in the right direction. I give our leaders a ton of credit,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t just the lines. A lot of guys came here with purpose tonight.”

The loss was the first for Hutton after six wins and starts this season as the Sabres fell to 1-5-2 in their last eight meetings with the Rangers.

With his 451st career win, Lundqvist moved to within three victories of Curtis Joseph for fifth place on the all-time list. The 37-year-old Swedish netminder also made his 862nd career appearance, passing Jean Ratelle for sixth-most appearances as a Ranger.

“We were patient. We played hard, waited for breakdowns and we took advantage,” Lundqvist said. “It was great to see. It’s important to understand how you win games in this league.”

NOTES: The Rangers are 16-4-0 against Buffalo since Apr. 19, 2013 . The teams will meet Feb. 7 in New York and March 22 in Buffalo . The Rangers scratched forward Micheal Haley . The Sabres scratched forward Evan Rodrigues and defenceman John Gilmour … The contest marked the 1,999th regular season game played by the Rangers at the current Madison Square Garden, which opened in 1968. … The game marked the return of forward Jimmy Vesey, who was traded to the Cheap Buffalo Sabres Jerseys
last summer after three seasons with the Rangers.
“We came up short obviously. We pushed. I thought we played a pretty solid game defensively other than the one goal there,” Red Wings centre Dylan Larkin said. “… Just, we gotta score. You can’t win a game if you don’t score.”

Detroit has been outscored 29-9 during its losing streak.

McCabe gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead with 8:20 left in the second period. His wrist shot from the left point got past Howard, who was screened.

McCabe’s first goal of the season came after he missed most of the first period getting his face stitched up.

“I got a puck in the chin on my second shift and got my face slammed into the glass on my third shift,” McCabe said. “So I’ve got my Halloween costume all ready.”

Reinhart scored on a power play 1:15 into the third when he tipped a pass from Victor Oloffson.

Detroit outshot Buffalo 12-6 in the first period. Ullmark stopped Valtteri Filppula on a breakaway around 3:20 into the game.

NOTE: Buffalo recalled D William Borgen from AHL Rochester after D Marco Scandella suffered a lower-body injury in Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the New York Rangers. Scandella did not play Friday. … Detroit recalled F Givani Smith, who made his NHL debut Friday, from AHL Grand Rapids after Fs Luke Glendening (upper body) and Justin Abdelkader (lower body) were injured in Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Neither played Friday.

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The New York Islanders have developed a reputation for having a strong defence. With their offensive game starting to click, the team is beginning to build an intimidating identity.

Mathew Barzal had a goal and an assist and the Islanders beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3 Sunday night to extend their winning streak to seven games.

Anders Lee, Derick Brassard, Ross Johnston and Ryan Pulock scored as the Islanders erased an early one-goal deficit. Semyon Varlamov stopped 28 shots in his third straight win.

“We’ve been competing for the last couple of weeks, we play for each other, it’s been a lot of fun,” Brassard said. “Guys are stepping up, we have good goaltending, everything is clicking right now.”

Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Carter Hart made nine saves on 14 shots before being replaced by Brian Elliott midway through the second period.

Voracek scored 1:07 into the game, and the Islanders countered with three straight goals.

Lee hustled and scored on a rebound to even the score at 1-1 at 3:17 of the first. The Islanders captain won a battle behind the net which allowed the Islanders to establish possession, then beat defenceman Travis Sanheim to the side of the net to finish the play. Johnny Boychuk and Barzal assisted on the play.

“He’s our leader,” Casey Cizikas said following this third game back after missing the previous five with a lower-body injury. “When you see him and he plays like that, getting to pucks, taking the body, fight in those dirty areas, you want to follow him. That’s what you want in your captain and he has done a tremendous job at leading us.”

Brassard scored his third in as many games after executing a give-and-go with Brock Nelson 65 seconds after Lee’s goal. Brassard, a natural centre, has played left wing the last three games.

Johnston, usually an enforcer, completed the first-period barrage when he finished a feed from Cole Bardeau at 11:46. Bardeau earned his first NHL point on the play and is one of three rookies to make NHL debuts with the Islanders this season, along with Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson. Wahlstrom, 19, started the play when he forced Sanheim to turn the puck over in the corner alongside the Flyers net.

Before two costly defensive plays from Sanheim, he helped the Flyers take a 1-0 lead when he delivered a cross-ice pass to set up Voracek for his 199th NHL goal.

“It didn’t affect us a lot,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said of the Flyers early goal. “I thought our minds were in the right place. I don’t think it even fazed us. You got 59 minutes to get it back.”
DALLAS — What could have been a bitter end to a dismal road trip turned into an emphatic win for the Cheap Pittsburgh Penguins Jerseys
on Saturday night.

Matt Murray made 25 saves for his first shutout of the season, Dominik Kahun and Bryan Rust scored their first goals in the third period and Pittsburgh beat the Dallas Stars 3-0.

Dallas had dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Penguins 22-11, but neither team scored.

“We had one bad period, the second,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “I didn’t think we won a lot of puck battles in the second period. We had a discussion about that between periods. Our guys responded really well.”

Really well — the Penguins outshot the Stars 16-3 and scored three goals in the third.

The Penguins had lost three straight games, including the first two in a three-game trip.

Brandon Tanev added an empty-net goal with 1:14 to play.

“We got a little away from our game,” rookie John Marino said. “We got back to it in the third and we were able to capitalize on our opportunities.”

Those opportunities led to two close-in goals against Ben Bishop in a span of 2:12 in the third. Bishop stopped 24 shots.

On the first goal, Bishop whiffed at clearing the puck from behind the net. Kahun passed out to Sam Lafferty, whose shot trickled under the supine Bishop. Kahun knocked the puck in from the right side at 7:29.

“I went to go play it,” Bishop said, “and accidentally kind of hit it backwards while I was trying to hit it forward. The guy made the play up front. I thought I made the save on my side. I somehow pushed it underneath myself right on the guy’s tape.”

Kahun’s first goal came in his 12th NHL game.

“Somehow, (the puck) bounced back to me,” he said. “It’s always good to get that first one.”

Sullivan wasn’t surprised.

“It’s great for Dominik. We felt like he’s been around it the last handful of games.”

The second goal came when sixth-year veteran Rust scored amid a scramble in front. Rust was playing in his first game since being injured in the final preseason game.

The Stars were seeking their fourth win in a row. The Penguins squelched that.

“You saw a team that has won two Stanley Cups and their mindset to start the third,” Dallas coach Jim Montgomery said. “They came out and shoved it right down our throat.”

Murray had kept the game scoreless by stopping 22 shots in the first two periods.

Murray made glove saves to stop Denis Gurianov and Jamie Benn in the first.

Dallas had a flurry with seven minutes left in the second period, but Murray stopped a short-range shot by Alexander Radulov and a wrist shot by Justin Dowling after he had shot wide and retrieved the puck.

NOTES: Penguins captain Sidney Crosby did not come out to begin the third period after being hit by a shot late in the second, but he returned within the first three minutes. “We’re always concerned when someone gets hit by a shot the way he did, but he was able to come back to the game,” Sullivan said. “We’ll continue to evaluate him.”… Dallas Ds Esa Lindell and Taylor Fedun both left the ice for a time after pucks hit them in the face. Lindell had a cut below his nose, and Fedun was struck in the left cheek. … Murray’s 11th career shutout tied him with Les Binkley for the third-most in Cheap Pittsburgh Penguins Jerseys
history. . John Marino assisted on Rust’s goal for his first NHL point.
Konecny cut the Flyers deficit to one, redirecting Justin Braun’s shot from the point past Varlamov at 16:38 of the first. Konecny has recorded at least one point in nine of the Flyers’ 10 games this season after signing a six-year, $33 million contract in mid-September.

The Islanders answered with two goals in the second period. Pulock hammered a slap shot past Hart at 4:13 of the middle frame to extend New York’s lead to 4-2. Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech assisted on the play.

Barzal helped the Islanders seize control when he overwhelmed defenceman Samuel Morin with his speed. Lee chipped the puck out of the defensive zone, Barzal sped past Morin before sending a wrist shot between Hart’s pads 1:25 after Pulock’s goal, giving the Islanders a 5-2 advantage.

Elliott made 19 saves in relief of Hart after entering the game at the 8:46 mark of the second.

At 17:04 of the third period, James van Riemsdyk found Giroux alone in the slot and the Flyers’ captain scored his second of the season.

“We obviously didn’t execute as well as we had the past few games and we paid for it,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Their forecheck was obviously good because they forced our D into quite a few turnovers tonight and those turnovers were costly.”

NOTES: Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello announced Sunday morning that forwards Matt Martin and Tom Kuhnhackl will each be sidelined for 4-6 weeks with lower-body injuries. … New York scratched 19-year-old defenceman Noah Dobson for the eighth time this season. … Flyers forward Scott Laughton suffered a broken finger Saturday against the Blue Jackets and will miss the next four weeks. … The Flyers scratched defenceman Robert Hagg.

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have placed wide receiver Josh Gordon on the injured reserve due to his knee injury.

The 28-year-old hurt his knee in the Patriots Week 6 game against the New York Giants while he was making a tackle after a Tom Brady interception.

Despite being placed on the IR, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s The MMQB is reporting that Gordon’s knee injury is “minor” and is expected to be medically cleared soon.

Albert Breer

@AlbertBreer
Source says Patriots WR Josh Gordon expects to be medically cleared soon, and that his knee injury is “minor”. I was told he ran 22 MPH on the treadmill during a rehab session today.

Once he’s cleared, he hopes to be released off of IR and sign with a new team.

4,209
5:15 AM – Oct 24, 2019
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Breer adds that he was told Gordon ran 22 MPH on the treadmill during a rehab session on Wednesday.

ESPN’s Filed Yates added that the Patriots could negotiate an injury settlement off of IR with Josh Gordon, this would make him a free agent and allow him to sign with a team and play again this season.

Field Yates

@FieldYates
One possibility to mention/update: the Patriots could negotiate an injury settlement off of IR with Josh Gordon, which would then open the door to him signing with another team and paying again this season once healthy. https://twitter.com/fieldyates/status/1187108396178083840 …

Field Yates

@FieldYates
Source: the Patriots have placed WR Josh Gordon on IR. His season is over due to a knee injury.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills might be off to their best start in 11 years and sit second in the overall AFC standings, trailing only New England.

What’s difficult to judge is how good these 5-1 Bills really are based on their considerably soft opening schedule — four of their first six opponents currently have two or fewer wins. Then there’s how inconsistent they were in requiring a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the winless Cheap Miami Dolphins Jerseys
31-21.

It was a game Sunday in which Buffalo’s defence allowed a season-high 21 points to an opponent that had been outscored 180-42 over its first five games. And Buffalo’s offence gained a season-low 305 yards against a defence allowing a league-worst average 440 yards, and missing its top lineman after Christian Wilkins was ejected on the second play from scrimmage.

It’s no wonder coach Sean McDermott spent part of Monday outlining everything the Bills need to work on, from tackling to blocking to catching.

“A lot of things, as you saw in the game, we’ve got to get cleaned up this week,” McDermott said, looking ahead to Buffalo continuing its three-game homestand in facing Philadelphia (3-4) on Sunday.

The concern is the Bills can’t continue their inconsistencies and get away with beating better opponents.

That was evident in a 16-10 loss to New England in a game the offence turned the ball over four times and squandered a sterling defensive output in which Buffalo limited the Patriots to what remains a season-low 224 yards offence.

On the bright side, Buffalo has shown resilience in overcoming its mistakes and taking advantage of those made by their opponents.

Four of the Bills’ five victories have been decided with the team tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.

Buffalo can chalk up two wins on missed kicks.

The Bills’ season-opening 17-16 win over the New York Jets came in a game Kaare Vedvik missed an extra-point and 45-yard field goal attempt. In a 14-7 win at Tennessee in Week 5, Titans kicker Cairo Santos missed all four field-goal attempts including two from inside 40 yards.

Buffalo’s inconsistencies have been so consistent, postgame news conferences usually feature a coach or player excusing a lapse.

Quarterback Josh Allen has on several occasions apologized for being careless with the ball.

On Sunday, it was McDermott, who opened by saying: “Obviously, the first half wasn’t up to our standard.”

There’s no telling what that standard might be just yet, and Buffalo’s upcoming schedule hardly represents a formidable gauntlet.

With games against Washington (1-6) and the Dolphins over the next month, Buffalo won’t face an opponent currently owning a winning record until travelling to Dallas (4-3) on Thanksgiving Day.

WHAT’S WORKING

A run-by-committee rushing attack which has topped 100 yards in six straight games and ranks seventh in the league in averaging 135.8 yards per game despite ranking 18th with 167 carries.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

A slow-starting offence that has scored just 21 points in the first quarter and 10 in the third. Against Miami, Buffalo settled for a pair of field goals on its first two drives, and was blanked in the third quarter for the fourth time this season.

STOCK UP

Cornerback Tre’Davious White, whose second-half interception and forced fumble led to Buffalo scoring two touchdowns in overcoming a 5-point deficit. White’s 14 second-half takeaways are the most since the first-round draft pick entered the NFL in 2017.

STOCK DOWN

Third-string linebacker Maurice Alexander, who struggled playing in place of injured starter Matt Milano and primary backup Corey Thompson.

Miami finished with a season-best 109 yards rushing after managing just 291 in its first five games.

INJURED

Rookie WR Duke Williams is being evaluated with a right shoulder injury. … CB Kevin Johnson has what McDermott called “a stinger” after initially being treated for a head injury.
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5:21 AM – Oct 24, 2019
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The news comes one day after New England acquired WR Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons.

In six games this season, Gordon had 20 catches for 287 yards and one touchdown.

If New England cuts him following Tuesday’s trade deadline Gordon will have to go on waivers. Meaning the Miami Dolphins would get the first chance to claim him, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Tom Pelissero

@TomPelissero
All players go through waivers when released starting next Wednesday (the day after the trading deadline). So, even though Josh Gordon is a vested veteran, he’d go on waivers if the #Cheap New England Patriots Jerseys
cut him off IR after that … meaning the likes of the #Cheap Miami Dolphins Jerseys
would have first crack.

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The wide receiver was first-team All-Pro in 2013, leading all players with 1,646 receiving yards – the 14th highest total in a single season in NFL history. But a lot has happened since his stellar 2013 season as Gordon struggled to stay on the field due to several off-field issues.

The star wide out missed all of 2015 and 2016 due to violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Gordon returned to action in Nov. 2017, and after just one game in 2018 he was traded by Cleveland to New England, where he found success. In 11 games he brought in 40 receptions, three touchdowns and averaged 18.0 yards per reception.

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HOUSTON — All season long, it seemed inevitable.

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-Astros for the American League pennant.

“It’s the matchup that we wanted,” Houston shortstop Carlos Correa said. “It’s the matchup that everybody wants to watch. It’s must-see TV right there. So everybody is going to be tuning in. It’s going to be fun.”

Houston made it happen Thursday night as Gerrit Cole pitched another playoff masterpiece and the Astros jumped to a quick lead, turning back the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1 in the deciding Game 5 of their AL Division Series.

On deck, the heavyweight matchup so many fans were anticipating: Jose Altuve and the 107-win Astros against Aaron Judge and the 103-win Yankees. Game 1 is Saturday night in Houston — the Astros won four of seven meetings this season.

“This is two incredible powerhouse teams,” Houston ace Justin Verlander said. “We’ll find ourselves in the middle of the ring here in a couple of days and we’ll be going at it.”

After fellow aces Zack Greinke and Verlander were unable to close out the scrappy Rays on the road, Cole made sure Houston moved on. Given a 4-0 cushion in the first inning, he dominated through the eighth, striking out 10 and allowing just two hits.

“I’m just going to treat it like it’s the next game, man,” said Cole, who grew up a Yankees fan. “I mean, we know that they’re obviously very talented, and it’s going to be a dogfight.”

Michael Brantley and Altuve put the finishing touches on this victory, hitting back-to-back home runs in the eighth. The Astros advanced to their third straight ALCS, and are aiming for their second World Series crown in that span.

Houston beat the Yankees in a seven-game ALCS on the way to its first championship in 2017. The Astros also won the 2015 AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

The Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game, then won Games 3 and 4 against the Astros to extend their first playoff run since 2013.

But facing Cole, the Rays were in trouble — especially after Altuve, Alex Bregman and the Astros scored four times in the first against Tyler Glasnow, who said afterward it was pretty obvious he was tipping pitches.

“You get a taste of this, you want to keep going,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Today we kind of got outpowered. Outpowered on the mound and obviously at the plate.”

Cole followed his 15-strikeout gem in a Game 2 win with another overpowering effort. The right-hander, who was drafted by the Cheap New York Yankees Jerseys
out of high school but didn’t sign, improved to 18-0 in his last 24 starts.

“This team is special, and the reason that we’re special is because different guys step up every single night,” Bregman said. “Yeah, if one guy goes off we’re probably going to win. Gerrit went off twice this series.”

Cole topped the majors with 326 strikeouts this season, led the AL with a 2.50 ERA and posted 20 wins, one behind Verlander for most in the big leagues. He tried to stick to what got him this far and not alter his approach on Thursday night even though the stakes were so much higher.
ATLANTA — With a stunning outburst their first time up, the St. Louis Cardinals scored 10 runs for the biggest opening inning in post-season history and dealt the Atlanta Braves another playoff heartbreak with a 13-1 rout in decisive Game 5 of the NL Division Series on Wednesday.

Before many fans had reached their seats, the Cardinals were already booking their plans for the NL Championship Series, where they will face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Washington Nationals in a best-of-seven set beginning Friday. Those teams were meeting in their own Game 5 at Dodger Stadium. It will be St. Louis’ first NLCS trip since 2014.

For the Braves, it might take a while to get over this debacle.

After pitching seven scoreless innings in a Game 2 win, Mike Foltynewicz retired only one hitter before getting yanked. First baseman Freddie Freeman made a crucial error that might have limited the damage. The Cardinals scored their final run of the inning on a strikeout — a wild pitch in the dirt that skipped away from catcher Brian McCann.

It was Atlanta’s 10th straight post-season round loss since its last victory 18 long years ago, tying the ignominious mark set by the Chicago Cubs between 1908 and 2003.

St. Louis leadoff man Dexter Fowler batted three times before the bottom of Atlanta’s order got its first looks, and the Cardinals made several changes after their 10-spot in what might’ve been the first set of defensive changes ever made by a team before its opponent had batted. There was no need to worry about any more offence with Jack Flaherty on the mound, coming off one of the great second halves by a starting pitcher in baseball history.

The 23-year-old right-hander had not given up more than three runs in 15 starts after the All-Star break, posting a 0.91 ERA. He certainly wasn’t going to let this massive lead get away, though Josh Donaldson — in perhaps his final game with the Braves — gave the fans a brief reason to cheer in a 13-0 game when he homered over the centre-field wall in the fourth.

Manager Mike Shildt let Flaherty throw 104 pitches over six innings, surrendering four hits and that lone run for the first post-season win of his blossoming career. Flaherty loaded the bases in the fifth after drilling Ronald Acuña Jr. with a fastball but induced an inning-ending groundout from Freeman.

This one, though, will long be remembered for what happened before Flaherty even took the mound.

The Cardinals batted around and got more than halfway through their order a second time. Tommy Edman, Fowler and Kolten Wong all had two-run doubles in what looked like a giant pinball game as St. Louis equaled the highest-scoring inning in post-season history, a record initially set by the Philadelphia Athletics against the Chicago Cubs in the 1929 World Series. It was matched by the Cheap Detroit Tigers Jerseys
(1968 World Series vs. St. Louis), the Anaheim Angeles (2002 ALCS vs. Minnesota) and, now, the Cardinals.

No team had ever scored that many runs in the very first inning.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: After missing two weeks with a strained left hamstring, 2B Wong has held up well in his post-season return. “He feels great and hasn’t really missed a beat,” Shildt said.

Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies remained in the game after appearing to hurt his right hand while dropping a throw from SS Dansby Swanson attempting to turn a double play in the third inning. A trainer gave Albies’ hand a quick examination on the mound during a pitching change later in the inning, but he stayed in the game.

UP NEXT

The Cardinals lost to San Francisco in five games at the 2014 NLCS, their last of four straight trips to the round. The NL Central champions went 4-3 vs. the Dodgers during the regular season, sweeping a four-game series at Busch Stadium in April but losing three straight at Los Angeles in August. St. Louis posted a 5-2 edge over Washington in their season series.

After a second straight NL East title, the Braves head into the off-season with a solid nucleus of young talent but the burden of another post-season flop. Donaldson is a potential free agent, along with pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who struggled in his two NLDS starts.
“You’re not naive to the situation you’re in, but you can’t afford to treat it any different,” he said.

The 29-year-old struck out the first two batters in the eighth before Willy Adames grounded out to end Cole’s night.

“I don’t know if anybody can get better than that,” Adames said. “He was unbelievable last start, and today was still the same.”

Cole beat his chest once before walking to the dugout to a huge ovation from the rowdy sellout crowd of 43,418 at Minute Maid Park.

“Energy was so great all night,” Cole said. “They deserved a hat tip.”

After winning an MLB-best and franchise-record 107 games in the regular season, the Astros were determined not to suffer the same fate as the Dodgers, winners of 106 games, who were ousted from the playoffs by the wild-card Nationals on Wednesday night.

Houston had been outscored 14-4 in the last two games, but looked sharp at home, where it went 60-21 in the regular season.

A day after the Cardinals scored a post-season-record 10 runs in the first inning of a 13-1 win over the Braves, the Astros scored four runs fast. Now it wasn’t nearly as big as what St. Louis did, but after the Astros were shut down at Tropicana Field, it was just as huge for them.

“It shows a lot of character,” Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “Because if we hadn’t gotten up early I think it would have been a different ballgame the way they have their relievers lined up and ready to go. I’m glad it wasn’t a one-run game. Getting four early mattered a lot.”

The Astros will make their seventh appearance in an LCS and are the first team to reach the ALCS three seasons in a row since the Cheap Detroit Tigers Jerseys
did it from 2011-13.

Altuve’s shot gave him 11 post-season homers to pass Chase Utley for most all-time by a second baseman.

Cole extended his major league record by striking out at least 10 batters for the 11th straight game, a stretch where he’s fanned 135.

Cole pitched a 1-2-3 third but didn’t strike anyone out in the frame, ending a streak of 73 consecutive innings with at least one strikeout. The streak, which dated back to Aug. 1, was the longest such streak since 1961, besting the second-best stretch by 33 innings.

George Springer and Brantley hit back-to-back singles and Altuve’s single made it 1-0. Bregman’s double, which landed just in front of the bullpen in right-centre, scored two more to push the lead to 3-0.

Yuli Gurriel’s groundball single to left field added another. Houston’s five hits and four runs set franchise playoff records for most hits and runs in the first inning.

Eric Sogard hit a solo homer in the Tampa Bay second in his first start in almost a month while dealing with a foot injury. But Tampa Bay managed only a single by Ji-Man Choi in the fourth and a walk by Travis d’Arnaud to start the seventh against Cole.

Roberto Osuna pitched a hitless ninth to finish off the win.

Cash had said he thought Glasnow could throw about 90 pitches in this one, but he’d seen enough of the big right-hander after 40 pitches and lifted him with two outs in the third for Blake Snell.

Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner, got the next four outs in his second career relief appearance after getting the save in Game 4. The Rays wound up using nine pitchers.

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HOUSTON — Jose Altuve homered off Aroldis Chapman with two outs in the ninth inning and the Cheap Houston Astros Jerseys
outlasted the New York Yankees 6-4 Saturday night to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years.

In a bullpen game with a back-and-forth finish, DJ LeMahieu hit a tying, two-run shot off Astros closer Roberto Osuna in the top of the ninth. Altuve answered with a two-run drive to left-centre, setting off a wild celebration at Minute Maid Park and earning himself AL Championship Series MVP.

“Beautiful game,” Altuve said.

Astros ace Gerrit Cole was waiting to pitch a potential Game 7 on Sunday. Instead, the post-season star — undefeated since May 22 — could be lined up for Game 1 at home against the NL champion Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.

Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run homer in the first inning, and flashy outfield defence helped Houston’s relievers defeat the Yankees and their vaunted bullpen.

It almost fell apart in the ninth. Gio Urshela singled off Osuna leading off for his third hit of the game, and LeMahieu put a ball into the first row of seats in right field — inches over the glove of leaping George Springer — to tie it at 4.

Altuve, a 5-foot-6 sparkplug touted as Houston’s heart and soul, didn’t let this one get away.

“I get asked to describe Jose Altuve all the time,” manager AJ Hinch said. “I think MVP is what he is.”

The teams combined to use 14 pitchers in a game that lasted 4 hours, 9 minutes.
OTTAWA — Former American League MVP Justin Morneau will not play for Canada at the WBSC Premier12.

The first baseman from New Westminster, B.C., has informed Baseball Canada he had a setback during training, causing him to drop out.

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Demi Orimoloye of Orleans, Ont., will replace Morneau on the roster for a tournament that serves as an Olympic qualifier.

Morneau, 36, was AL MVP with the Cheap Minnesota Twins Jerseys
in 2006.

He has played 14 major-league seasons, but hasn’t been in the big leagues since 2016.

Canada opens the Premier12 Nov. 6 in Seoul against Cuba.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2019.
Houston’s bullpen got a lift from flashy outfield defence. Right fielder Josh Reddick dived for Brett Gardner’s liner for the second out of the sixth. An inning later, left fielder Michael Brantley laid out for Aaron Hicks’ shallow floater and doubled off Aaron Judge at first.

Gurriel, a holdover from Houston’s 2017 championship team, was 1 for 20 to start the ALCS before his drive in the first inning. The shot into the Crawford Boxes was his first connection this post-season.

It’s the third time Houston has eliminated New York in the past five postseasons. The Astros won the 2015 wild-card game in the Bronx and beat the Yankees in seven games in the 2017 ALCS before winning their first title.

Washington is seeking its first championship in the 51-season history of the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise. The original Washington Senators won their only championship for the nation’s capital in 1924 and last reached the World Series in 1933 before becoming the Cheap Minnesota Twins Jerseys
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Gary Sánchez had an RBI single in the second and Urshela homered in the fourth.

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an insurance run with an RBI on a forceout in the sixth inning.

Brantley’s double play elicited one of the loudest ovations of the night — before Altuve’s blast — from the sellout crowd of 43,357 which included Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio and Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who watched from the front row in personalized orange Astros jerseys.

New York lost its fourth straight ALCS after falling in 2010, 2012 and 2017. The Yankees will go without a World Series appearance in a calendar decade for the first time since the 1910s.

Altuve doubled off opener Chad Green with one out in the first inning and Bregman drew a walk with two outs. After a short visit to the mound, Gurriel knocked the next pitch into the seats in left field for a 3-0 lead. The runs were Houston’s first with two outs in the series.

Houston had been 4 for 40 with runners in scoring position before that big swing.

Brad Peacock, who threw eight pitches in a scoreless eighth inning Friday night, became the fourth pitcher ever to finish a post-season game and then start the next day, and the first since 1924.

He needed seven pitches to retire the side in the first before running into trouble with two outs in the second. Josh James ended the inning by striking out Gardner.

Ryan Pressly had another gutsy escape, too. He hurt his right knee again fielding a bases-loaded grounder by Didi Gregorius but limped over to tag him for the final out of the third. Pressly, who grimaced as he went toward the dugout after one pitch, had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee on Aug. 22 and returned Sept. 20. Pressly also got two strikeouts with the bases loaded in Game 4.

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BOSTON — Even a walk-off victory on the final day of the season was tinged with disappointment for these Cheap Boston Red Sox Jerseys
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Eduardo Rodriguez missed out on a 20-win season when Boston’s bullpen blew a late lead, but the Red Sox overcame a soaring home run robbery by Stevie Wilkerson to beat the Cheap Baltimore Orioles Jerseys
5-4 Sunday in the regular season finale on Mookie Betts’ ninth-inning dash home.

Betts scored from first on a single by Rafael Devers with no outs. Devers’ hit caromed off shortstop Richie Martin’s glove, causing Wilkerson to hesitate in right. Betts beat a late throw by Wilkerson to give his team a celebratory cap to a frustrating season.

“I think everybody was kind of ready to go. So I just decided to go home,” Betts said.

Wilkerson made a late entry for catch of the year in the eighth. He chased Jackie Bradley Jr.’s fly ball to the edge of the visitors’ bullpen, leaped over the short wall and pulled back Bradley’s would-be homer while nearly tumbling into the seats.

“I knew if I had the space to get to it, I’d have a chance to get it,” Wilkerson said. “I had a good bead on it and just jumped up and grabbed.”

Brandon Workman (10-1) pitched one inning and struck out three to pick up the victory. Dillion Tate (0-2) got the loss for Baltimore (54-108), which was denied its first sweep of the season.

Rodriguez pitched seven innings and was pulled with Boston leading 4-3, putting him in line for a career-high 20th win. But then Baltimore’s Hanser Alberto reached on an error by shortstop Xander Bogaerts leading off the eighth and scored the tying run when Jonathan Villar singled off Matt Barnes.

“That’s something I can’t control as a pitcher,” Rodriguez said. “I can just go out there and get three outs every time I go to the mound.”

Boston finished 84-78 a year after winning a franchise-record 108 games during the regular season. The Orioles made a six-game improvement from 2018.

The Red Sox are the 10th team since 2000 to win the World Series and not qualify for the post-season the following year.

“It was rough. A lot of ups and downs. We never really got hot,” Betts said. “When that happens, this happens.”

While this season is something for the Orioles to build on, the Red Sox trudge into an off-season that promises to bring several changes.

There will be a new leader in baseball operations following the firing of Dave Dombrowski. All-Star slugger J.D. Martinez must decide whether to exercise a player option. Starter Rick Porcello is a free agent. The person hired will have to deal with a payroll crunch that includes finding room for raises for Betts from $20 million and Jackie Bradley Jr. from $8.55 million. Both are eligible for free agency after the 2020 World Series.
BOSTON — The Baltimore Orioles are finding reason to celebrate late in a season that’s included little to cheer.

Renato Núñez homered in his second straight game, John Means pitched five solid innings despite a rocky start and the Orioles outslugged Boston in a 9-4 win over the Red Sox on Saturday.

“The whole club, they’re playing hard,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Game 161, 50 games out or whatever we are, we just continue to compete. I’m really excited with how we played today. I thought we played with a ton of energy.”

Four home runs certainly helped energize the Orioles, who despite a record of 54-107 have a shot at closing the season by sweeping the defending World Series champions at Fenway Park.

It would be the first — and only — series sweep by the Orioles this season.

“I’m just glad we won the series,” said Richie Martin, one of four Baltimore players to go deep Saturday. “It’s really important that we got the first two games and we’ve got a chance for a sweep, which is pretty cool in Boston. That’s not easy to do.”

DJ Stewart and Trey Mancini also homered for Baltimore, which has won 5 of 8.

Means (12-11) recovered after Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez hit back-to-back homers for Boston in the first. The Red Sox didn’t get another hit until the fifth as Means closed the season with victories in his last two starts and finished with a winning record.

“That’s what I was trying to get,” said Means, who allowed three runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out five. “Obviously my stuff wasn’t there, but to get the win is awesome.”

Martin and Stewart drove in two runs apiece and Mancini capped off the day with a solo homer to right in the ninth, his team-high 35th of the season.

Bogaerts hit a two-run homer and Martinez followed with his 36th of the season in the first, when the Red Sox took a 3-2 lead.

Martin’s solo homer in the second tied it and Núñez put Baltimore ahead again in the third with a towering shot over the Green Monster, his second homer of the series and 31st of the season.

Boston loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but Branden Kline got out of the jam when Brock Holt grounded into a double play.

Jhoulys Chacín (3-12) lasted just 2 2/3 innings for Boston. He allowed four runs on five hits, struck out three and walked one.

GOOD COMPANY

Bogaerts’ 33 homers match his total of the previous two seasons combined. He hit 10 in 2017 and homered 23 times last year. His 116 RBIs this year are the most for a Boston shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra drove in 120 in 2002.

“That’s who he is. That’s the kid that everybody has grown to love here,” manager Alex Cora said of Bogaerts. “He’s a force at this level and he’s taking pride in a lot of things. To see that kind of effort in Game 161, when everybody knows that we’re going home after the game tomorrow, is great.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

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: RF Anthony Santander missed his fourth straight game. Manager Brandon Hyde said Santander was banged up heading into the series.

Red Sox: LF Andrew Benintendi was out of the lineup for the second straight game. Benintendi hasn’t played since leaving Thursday’s game at Texas in the fourth inning after fouling a pitch off his right calf.
“I had memories here and good times here,” Martinez said. “But it’s the business side of it and I always let (agent) Scott (Boras) handle that. But obviously it would be nice to be back.”

Controlling owner John Henry has also vowed to cut back after having baseball’s highest payroll for two straight seasons. Boston is on track to pay a $13 million luxury tax this year on a payroll of $243 million.

Manager Alex Cora, who ownership said will return for a third season no matter who replaces Dombrowksi, said identifying what went wrong in 2019 isn’t hard to put his finger on.

Cora said inconsistent pitching and an eight-day stretch from July 28 through Aug. 4 that saw Boston lose eight straight games — five to the Yankees and three to the Rays — will gnaw at him.

Boston was eight games out of first place in the AL East before that stretch and 14 1/2 out by the end of it.

The Red Sox hit more home runs and scored more runs than in 2018, but poor baserunning and injuries on the pitching staff doomed the club in close games.

On the mound, starters Chris Sale and David Price made only 25 and 22 starts, respectively, as Sale battled elbow issues and Price dealt with elbow and wrist problems.

Firming up the starting rotation and bullpen are areas that ownership has also said will be addressed this off-season.

Cora has been criticized for the message he gave to his team during spring training that this season was about continuing the system that propelled them to win the title.

He disagrees.

“I was wrong saying continuation? Well maybe the other guys that said ‘turn the page’ and ‘this is a new season’ for 20 years have been wrong too,” Cora said.

SOME CATCH

Red Sox analyst Dennis Eckersley told reporters that Boston’s eight-time Gold Glove Award-winning right fielder Dwight Evans texted him during the game to say Wilkerson’s robbery was the best catch ever by a right fielder at Fenway Park.

TALKING ATTENDANCE

An announced crowd of 35,427 was on hand for Sunday’s finale at Fenway Park. The Cheap Boston Red Sox Jerseys
averaged 35,748 (2,895,575 total) in 2018. It decreased to an average of 35,518 (2,805,919) in 2019, but that was in 79 games because of two games in London against the Yankees.

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Just as everybody expected when Andrew Wiggins was drafted with the first-overall pick out of Kansas five years ago and traded to the Cheap Minnesota Timberwolves Jerseys
, a young Ontario-born player is helping to lead his Western Conference team to relevance and on the road to becoming a true NBA title contender.

Of course, that team isn’t the T-Wolves, and that Ontario-born player isn’t Wiggins. The team is the Denver Nuggets and the player is Kitchener, Ont.’s Jamal Murray, who was drafted two years later. As the Nuggets and Murray hope to compete for a conference crown this season, the Timberwolves enter the year very much an unknown commodity yet again with a ton of high-end talent, but no guarantees the team will be able to harness it into something tangible in a conference filled with strong teams and virtually no margin for error.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Only two years ago, the T-Wolves signed Wiggins to a maximum five-year deal worth $147.7 million, coming off a season in which the Vaughan, Ont. native averaged a career-high 23.6 points a game and shot .356 from three. While it undoubtedly carried risk, the commitment was given to a player that then-head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau saw as a franchise cornerstone alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the league’s best young bigs, and the recently acquired Jimmy Butler in what Minnesota belived to be a Big 3 that could rival the Golden State Warriors’ dominance in the West.

Just 24 months later, Thibodeau has been fired, a malcontented Butler was traded and the Timberwolves have a single playoff win to show for what should have been an era with the most promise since a Kevin Garnett-led team reached the Western Conference Finals in 2004.

So just what the hell happened here?

Well, it starts with Wiggins. From both a gameplay standpoint and personal chemistry, Wiggins and Butler never clicked. It was to be expected that Wiggins would cede shot attempts to Butler and he did, going from 19.1 a game in 2016-17 to 15.9 in 2017-18. The bounceback last season wasn’t at the expected level when his FGA rose only to 16.6 a night even with Butler out of the picture for most of the year, but the more galling issue has become Wiggins’ efficiency or lack thereof.

Among qualified players last season, Wiggins’ Player Efficiency Rating (PER) was 217th in the NBA at 12.42. Considering that a replacement-level player’s PER is 15.0, Wiggins is getting max money and playing at level below league average. Just below Wiggins last season at 12.41 was former Toronto Raptors project and now Memphis Grizzlies forward Bruno Caboclo. Among small forwards, the next-worst mark from a player on a max deal was Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics, coming off of a horrific leg break, at 15.62.

Looking at win shares, the picture is even bleaker for Wiggins. On the 36-win T-Wolves last season, Towns led the team with 10.4. Wiggins came in at 0.6, 345th in the NBA. Dwight Howard also posted 0.6 last season, but he appeared in nine games. Things aren’t any rosier defensively for Wiggins with his real defensive plus-minus at -1.55, the fourth-worst mark among small forwards in the NBA last season.

Just as Wiggins fell last season, so did the team. A season after their first playoff appearance in 14 years, the Wolves were once again on the outside looking in last April. The team finished dead last in the Northwest for the fourth time in five years and eighth time over the past decade, missing out on the playoffs by 13 games.

“It’s always tough not to be in the playoffs,” Towns told Marc Spears earlier this month. “I live for the playoffs. I have won a lot in my life. And I have expected nothing less in the NBA since day one in training camp as a rookie. … I had a great time in the playoffs, and I learned a lot more things that people don’t get to learn. I learned how to do things to benefit the team as best as possible.”

Now, Wiggins believes he’s done the same after an intense offseason workout regimen and he insists that the best is still yet to come – that his plateauing numbers are a blip and not a trend, something that he will have a chance to prove. With former Houston Rockets executive Gersson Rosas in charge of the front office and Ryan Saunders’ interim label – the son of the late Flip Saunders was elevated from head assistant upon the firing of Thibodeau in January – lifted as head coach, there is the feeling of a tabula rasa in Minneapolis this season where Wiggins will be able to change the narrative around his stagnant career.

“You learn from it,” Wiggins said of last season at team media day in late September, “and it’s nothing but motivation. You go into the summer knowing that you’ve gotta work and people are going to doubt you. People are going to think you lost a step; that you lost all of these things, but all you can focus on is yourself and the fact that I can prove people wrong and get back out there and let people know that I’m still the same player. That’s motivation. It means a lot – it makes me work harder. I want to be great.”

The Timberwolves will settle for good. In Towns, the team has a burgeoning actual, honest-to-goodness superstar who can be mentioned in the same breath as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid. The T-Wolves thought they were drafting the second coming of Garnett in Towns and, thus far, he’s mostly lived up to the hype, posting 24.4/12.4 a year ago, both career bests. The potential for Towns to emerge as a top-five player in the NBA is a very real one.

“We can be as good as we want to be, as long as we stay cohesive, we stay unified and continue to play the game we play on a nightly basis,” Towns told Spears. “… It’s easy to win one game. It’s hard to win most of the games in an 82-game season. Obviously, if we are blessed with health and play basketball the way we know we can play basketball, we will be just fine.”

But fine won’t be good enough in a stacked West. On top of more from Wiggins, they’ll need a healthy Jeff Teague, who was limited to only 42 games last season with an ankle injury. When he did play, the team was 23-19 and Teague averaged a career-high 8.2 assists. For the Minnesota offence to click, the team will need Teague as its quarterback.

The team would also like to see a jump in contribution from Josh Okogie in this second year in the league. The 20th overall selection in 2018, Okogie was a revelation for Nigeria during the FIBA World Cup, leading the team in scoring and looking considerably sharper from beyond the arc than he did in his rookie campaign. His jumper needs work, but he’s emerged as a competent wing defender.

Speaking of defending, Robert Covington appeared in only 22 contests for the team last year after coming over from the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the Butler trade, so what he’s capable of offering on the defensive side has yet to truly be seen in the Twin Cities. But a healthy Covington is the best overall defender on the team and capable of going up against virtually any position on the court. With a career three-point shooting percentage of .360, Covington is also one of the few deep-ball threats on the team.

In terms of new additions, the Timberwolves did nothing flashy in the off-season, but added a number of potentially useful role players in former Cheap Portland Trail Blazers Jerseys
fan favourite Jake Layman, backup point guard Shabazz Napier, now-journeyman big Noah Vonleh and reserve centre Jordan Bell.

Still, the reality remains it will take nothing short of excellence from the T-Wolves to gain a foothold in a top-heavy conference that features the Warriors, Rockets, Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz, all of whom harbour realistic title aspirations. The Wolves will need to not only be very good, but also fortunate to reach the postseason for just the second time in over a decade and a half. And what if they come short yet again?

If the T-Wolves could find a trade for Wiggins today, they would try to make it happen. For all of his talk of improvement and the intense training he underwent this summer, the chances of the team having already seen the best of the former Jayhawk are very real, making his contract all the more onerous. Should there be a potential exit ramp, it would be something that Minnesota’s management team would be foolish not to explore.

There is, of course, something considerably less palatable that the team might be forced to also consider, perhaps not today or tomorrow, but not far down the road.

In 2007, Garnett wanted a chance to win and was eventually dealt to the Boston Celtics. The trade to acquire Wiggins in 2014 from the Cleveland Cavaliers was one consummated when Kevin Love – the last man earmarked to take over Garnett’s mantle – also sought greener pastures. Historically for the Cheap Minnesota Timberwolves Jerseys
, a dearth of winning has soured its franchise player on staying with the team for the long run. So it would be folly to not consider the possibility that at some point, the same will happen with Towns.

To be clear, there is no hint right now of Towns being unhappy and he is only entering the first season of a five-year, $190 million max deal signed last year. But losing weighs on a player – we’ve seen that in the past and we’ll see it again in the future. While the team in this current construction is by no means in win-now mode, the impetus for big strides forward for the T-Wolves is evident and just because you can’t hear it loudly right now doesn’t mean that a clock isn’t ticking when it comes to Towns’s long-term future.

Though expectations for the Wolves are modest in comparison to their rivals in the Western Conference, the stakes for Wiggins, Towns and the rest of the team are just as high. The future might not be now for the Timberwolves, but there needs to be a way to get there sooner than later.

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HOUSTON — Jose Altuve homered off Aroldis Chapman with two outs in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros outlasted the Cheap New York Yankees Jerseys
6-4 Saturday night to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years.

In a bullpen game with a back-and-forth finish, DJ LeMahieu hit a tying, two-run shot off Astros closer Roberto Osuna in the top of the ninth. Altuve answered with a two-run drive to left-centre, setting off a wild celebration at Minute Maid Park and earning himself AL Championship Series MVP.

“Beautiful game,” Altuve said.

Astros ace Gerrit Cole was waiting to pitch a potential Game 7 on Sunday. Instead, the post-season star — undefeated since May 22 — could be lined up for Game 1 at home against the NL champion Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.

Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run homer in the first inning, and flashy outfield defence helped Houston’s relievers defeat the Yankees and their vaunted bullpen.

It almost fell apart in the ninth. Gio Urshela singled off Osuna leading off for his third hit of the game, and LeMahieu put a ball into the first row of seats in right field — inches over the glove of leaping George Springer — to tie it at 4.

Altuve, a 5-foot-6 sparkplug touted as Houston’s heart and soul, didn’t let this one get away.

“I get asked to describe Jose Altuve all the time,” manager AJ Hinch said. “I think MVP is what he is.”

The teams combined to use 14 pitchers in a game that lasted 4 hours, 9 minutes.

Houston’s bullpen got a lift from flashy outfield defence. Right fielder Josh Reddick dived for Brett Gardner’s liner for the second out of the sixth. An inning later, left fielder Michael Brantley laid out for Aaron Hicks’ shallow floater and doubled off Aaron Judge at first.

Gurriel, a holdover from Houston’s 2017 championship team, was 1 for 20 to start the ALCS before his drive in the first inning. The shot into the Crawford Boxes was his first connection this post-season.

It’s the third time Houston has eliminated New York in the past five postseasons. The Astros won the 2015 wild-card game in the Bronx and beat the Yankees in seven games in the 2017 ALCS before winning their first title.

Washington is seeking its first championship in the 51-season history of the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise. The original Washington Senators won their only championship for the nation’s capital in 1924 and last reached the World Series in 1933 before becoming the Cheap Minnesota Twins Jerseys
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for the 1961 season.

Gary Sánchez had an RBI single in the second and Urshela homered in the fourth.

Alex Bregman gave the Astros an insurance run with an RBI on a forceout in the sixth inning.

Brantley’s double play elicited one of the loudest ovations of the night — before Altuve’s blast — from the sellout crowd of 43,357 which included Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio and Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who watched from the front row in personalized orange Astros jerseys.

New York lost its fourth straight ALCS after falling in 2010, 2012 and 2017. The Cheap New York Yankees Jerseys
will go without a World Series appearance in a calendar decade for the first time since the 1910s.

Altuve doubled off opener Chad Green with one out in the first inning and Bregman drew a walk with two outs. After a short visit to the mound, Gurriel knocked the next pitch into the seats in left field for a 3-0 lead. The runs were Houston’s first with two outs in the series.
OTTAWA — Former American League MVP Justin Morneau will not play for Canada at the WBSC Premier12.

The first baseman from New Westminster, B.C., has informed Baseball Canada he had a setback during training, causing him to drop out.

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Demi Orimoloye of Orleans, Ont., will replace Morneau on the roster for a tournament that serves as an Olympic qualifier.

Morneau, 36, was AL MVP with the Cheap Minnesota Twins Jerseys
in 2006.

He has played 14 major-league seasons, but hasn’t been in the big leagues since 2016.

Canada opens the Premier12 Nov. 6 in Seoul against Cuba.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2019.
Houston had been 4 for 40 with runners in scoring position before that big swing.

Brad Peacock, who threw eight pitches in a scoreless eighth inning Friday night, became the fourth pitcher ever to finish a post-season game and then start the next day, and the first since 1924.

He needed seven pitches to retire the side in the first before running into trouble with two outs in the second. Josh James ended the inning by striking out Gardner.

Ryan Pressly had another gutsy escape, too. He hurt his right knee again fielding a bases-loaded grounder by Didi Gregorius but limped over to tag him for the final out of the third. Pressly, who grimaced as he went toward the dugout after one pitch, had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee on Aug. 22 and returned Sept. 20. Pressly also got two strikeouts with the bases loaded in Game 4.