All posts by phnseo

Freese, 2011 Series MVP, retires after 11 seasons

David Freese, the 2011 World Series Most Valuable Player with the St. Louis Cardinals, revealed his retirement on Saturday after 11 seasons.

“Padres, Cardinals, Angels, Pirates, and Dodgers. You took a 23-year old kid out of college and pushed him to 36,” wrote Freese in a social media post, thanking all the clubs he was a part of during his career.

“Can’t thank you enough for that. Needed it. Will never stop thinking about the days I got to be around such wonderful people playing this game. As I move forward with the next phase of my life, I am forever grateful to all of you and the game of baseball.”

Freese, 36, spent the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers playing mostly first base, and also spent time with the Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates.

He was a career .277 hitter and even better in the postseason, with a .299 average. Freese made his final entrance Wednesday in a deciding Game 5 of an NL Division Series, striking out as a pinch hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers. They lost 7-3 to the Washington Nationals. Freese had started Game 1 at first base.

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He made his major league debut with St. Louis in 2009 and turn out to be a postseason star two years later.

Freese batted .545 with 12 hits in the NL Championship Series in 2011. He also set an MLB postseason record with 21 RBIs and earned MVP honors in the NLCS and World Series.

Freese was an All-Star in 2012, when he played in a career-high 144 games after injuries had dogged him in previous years. In Game 1 of the NLCS versus San Francisco, he hit a two-run homer off Madison Bumgarner.

In his first 25 postseason games, Freese batted .386 with six homers, 25 RBIs and a .739 slugging percentage in 100 plate appearances. Only Carlos Beltran (.824) and Babe Ruth (.744) had higher slugging percentages in the same number of plate appearances.

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Ravens’ Lamar Jackson 1st QB since Michael Vick to run for 100 yards in the first half

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson takes running the ball to another level when he plays the Cincinnati Bengals.

Jackson turn out to be the first quarterback in 13 years to gain over 100 yards rushing in the first half Sunday, when he produced 111 against the Bengals.

This is the first time that a quarterback accomplished this since Michael Vick had 127 yards rushing in the first half on Nov. 26, 2006. This is the only occasion of a quarterback rushing for 100 yards in the first half of a game since at least 1991, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback since Michael Vick in 2006 to run for 100 yards in the first half of a game.

In his only other meeting against the Bengals, Jackson became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to record at least 100 rushing yards in his first career start.

On Sunday, Jackson darted around the Bengals for 71 yards on Baltimore’s opening drive, capping that first series with a 21-yard touchdown run.

Many of Jackson’s runs came off the run-option and weren’t designed ones Jackson cracked 100 yards on a 29-yard scramble that ended the first half. He averaged 12.3 yards on nine runs.

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The Bengals entered Sunday’s game with the second-worst run defense in the NFL. Cincinnati is allowing 167.6 yards rushing per game.

Last Sunday, Jackson tied the NFL record for the fastest quarterback to get 1,000 yards rushing for a career. He and teammate Robert Griffin III each eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in 21 games.

Through Week 5, Jackson led all quarterbacks in rushing with 308 yards. That’s 100 more than any other quarterback.

This marked Jackson’s third 100-yard rushing game of his career. He gained 120 yards rushing against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2 this season, and he totaled 119 yards rushing last season against the Bengals in his first career start.

Jackson has also shown off his arm this year. On Sunday he also turn out to be the fourth quarterback in last 15 seasons to produce 150 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a half.

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Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine focused on becoming NBA All-Star

Zach LaVine set out his objectives for this upcoming season with the Chicago Bulls, aiming on winning and making the All-Star team. 

With All-Star Weekend set to come back to Chicago for the first time in three decades this February, the two-time slam dunk champion is certainly eyeing this year’s festivities. But not just the ones on Saturday night.

Which is why even after a career-best 2018-19 season with the Chicago Bulls, he knows what needs to be done in order to reach his goal of becoming an NBA All-Star.

LaVine, 24, averaged career highs of 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists with 46.7 percent shooting during his fifth season, but the Bulls were an afterthought with a 22-60 finish.

He appeared in 63 total games while battling an ankle injury and pushing through drama within the organization that resulted in Jim Boylen being promoted to head coach after the firing of Chicago’s previous sideline leader Fred Hoiberg.

Although they didn’t fully see eye to eye in the beginning, Boylen surely has faith in LaVine’s offensive ability, after finishing in the top-20 of NBA scoring, but he is now challenging LaVine to regularly commit to the other end of the court.

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“What I’d like him to be is a two-way player, and I’d also like him to be a guy that shoots eight, nine, 10 free throws a game,” Boylen said.

Bulls forward Thaddeus Young didn’t make the final cut from the Team USA roster this summer to compete in FIBA Basketball World Cup action, but he was able to interact with several of the league’s rising stars such as Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Myles Turner through that experience.

Young sees a common thread between LaVine and that level of talent. Chicago posted the league’s sixth-worst defensive rating last season (112.8), so it’s not only LaVine who is looking to improve defensively but also the team, which gets back to his point of team and individual success being intertwined.

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Anibal Sanches, Miles Mikolas get NLCS Game 1 starts

The Nationals and Cardinals have tabbed starters for Game 1 of the NLCS, set for Friday night in St. Louis.

The visiting Nationals will send veteran Aníbal Sánchez to the hill to oppose Miles Mikolas, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and Anne Rogers, respectively. While the Nationals haven’t set the rest of their rotation yet, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt has set up Adam Wainwright for Game 2, Jack Flaherty for Game 3, and Dakota Hudson for Game 4.

Sánchez, 35, was quite good in his NLDS Game 3 start versus the Dodgers, limiting them to a lone run while scattering four hits and a pair of walks with nine strikeouts over five innings. Sánchez is, in a lot of ways, an afterthought when considering the Nationals’ rotation which boasts Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.

The Cardinals know well enough not to undervalue Sánchez, who posted a 3.85 ERA across 30 regular season starts.

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Mikolas, 31, enjoyed a major league career rebirth last year after spending several years in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants. In 2018, he led the league with 18 wins while posting a 2.83 ERA in 200 2/3 innings.

He ended sixth in NL Cy Young voting. He wasn’t able to follow up with the same level of success this year, finishing the regular season leading the league with 14 losses along with a 4.16 ERA.

Mikolas was good in his NLDS Game 1 start against the Braves, though, allowing a lone run over five innings. He also tossed a perfect inning of relief in Game 4.

The Cardinals will start Adam Wainwright in Game 2 of the NLCS, followed by ace Jack Flaherty in Game 3 and Dakota Hudson in Game 4.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said X-rays presented nothing broken on the hand of catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was hit by a pitch in Washington’s win on Wednesday night. Suzuki was going to go through concussion protocol once the Nationals arrived in St. Louis.

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Osaka wants to represent Japan at Tokyo Games

Two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka says she plans to represent Japan at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, told NHK she has concluded an administrative step to obtain Japanese citizenship ahead of her birthday next week.

Japanese law stipulates that a Japanese with more than one nationality must choose one before turning 22 years old.

“It gives me a special feeling to try to go to the Olympics to represent Japan,” the two-time Grand Slam champion told the broadcaster in an interview in Tokyo.

“I think I will be able to put more of my emotion into it by playing for the pride of the country,” she said, according to the article published in Japanese on the NHK website.

Osaka added she wants to aim for the gold although she is also worried as hopes will be high.

The young tennis sensation is a household name in Japan, where her every move is followed feverishly by local media, particularly when she is in the country of her mother’s birth.

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She is the face of several leading Japanese brands, including the carrier ANA, and she was the main attraction at last month’s Pan Pacific Open in Osaka, which she won.

But she has faced polemics over her dual heritage in a nation that is fairly racially homogeneous, as well as scrutiny for her imperfect Japanese language skills — though others insist they add to her charm.

Multiracial children can often face prejudice in Japan, although attitudes among younger generations are changing.

Osaka became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam last year after beating Serena Williams at the U.S. Open. She turns 22 on Wednesday. Under Japanese law, that’s the age at which she must give up any dual citizenship.

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Atlanta Braves’ Brian McCann to retire after 15-year career

After a decade and a half in the major leagues, Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann is calling it quits.

The former All-Star told reporters after the Braves’ NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals that he is retiring. Thanks to a one-year contract signed last offseason, McCann’s career will end with the same team with which he spent his first nine seasons in MLB.

“This is it for me,” McCann said. “I’m going to go home and be a dad, and play with my kids … It’s time to go. Fifteen years. It’s done.”

In 15 years as a major leaguer, McCann racked up a .262/.337/.452 career line with 1,590 hits and 282 home runs, all while directing pitching game plans behind the plate. McCann was a perennial All-Star during his first tenure with the Braves, delivering one of the most dangerous bats from the catching position in the league and accruing seven All-Star nods.

From 2008 to 2016, McCann posted at least 20 homers in every season

A nine-year streak bested only by Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra at the catching position.

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After hitting free agency following the 2014 season, McCann signed a five-year deal with the New York Yankees, where he saw less accomplishment until he was traded to the Houston Astros. There, he won his first career World Series ring in 2017.

McCann later returned to the Braves for one last ride, the perfect setting for a man who was born in Atlanta, grew up in Georgia and was drafted by the Braves back in 2002.

“I went to high school here. I grew up here. I got to play nine years to start my career here,” McCann said. “I grew up with some of my heroes growing up, and got to come back and play with the new generation. I’d say that’s a success.” Of course, McCann’s legacy is also described by who he was as a teammate, and the reviews there are quite positive.

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Rays chase Verlander early, beat Astros to even ALDS

The Tampa Bay Rays never disbelieved themselves, even with Justin Verlander looking to end their season.

Willy Adames homered and made a extraordinary relay throw from shortstop, and the Rays chased the Houston ace early in beating the Astros 4-1 Tuesday night to even their AL Division Series at two games apiece.

With their second victory in two days over one of baseball’s best pitchers, the Rays believe the rest of the country is finally getting a taste of what they’re capable of achieving.

”Hey, I hate to say it: About time, because we have a really good team over here,” Tommy Pham said.

”To win 96 games in this division (the AL East) with New York and Boston is an impressive feat,” he added. ”All year, we’ve been getting talked down. And now, with the last two games, the way we played, the whole world has seen how good of a team we are and how well-rounded we are.”

The series shifts back to Houston for a decisive Game 5 on Thursday night.

Astros star Gerrit Cole is scheduled to pitch for the heavily favored AL West champs, who led the majors with 107 wins this season and have one more chance to close out the feisty Rays. Tyler Glasnow is expected to start for Tampa Bay.

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The winner plays the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series.

Verlander, starting on short rest after dominating the wild-card Rays in Game 1, looked uncomfortable on the mound at Tropicana Field and was pulled in the fourth after giving up four runs.

Verlander, whose eight career ALDS victories are a major league record, yielded three runs in the first. Adames homered leading off the fourth to make it 4-0, and the eight-time All-Star didn’t make it through the inning.

”A good approach for those guys in the first, and then honestly, I need those infield singles to be caught. When you don’t have it, you need the balls that are put in play to go your way, and they didn’t,” said Verlander, who only started on short rest three other times during his career, including the 2011 ALDS, when he started Games 1 and 3 after Game 1 was suspended in the second inning.

The Rays helped themselves by playing stellar defense, especially with the Astros threatening to cut into their three-run deficit in the fourth.

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49ers FB Kyle Juszczyk out 4-6 weeks with knee injury

San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk experienced a sprained MCL in Monday’s 31-3 win over the Cleveland Browns, the team announced Tuesday.

The Niners expect Juszczyk to be out for four to six weeks.

The three-time Pro Bowler caught two passes for 20 yards against the Browns. He also contributed to Matt Breida’s 83-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. His block on Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon helped open a lane for Breida to reach the second level and speed down the sideline.

San Francisco (4-0) is the only undefeated team in the NFC.

Maintaining that mark will be difficult because injuries are beginning to pile up for the second year in a row.

Juszczyk is an unsung hero for the offense. According to Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle, he was the highest-graded fullback (69.3) on the site in 2018: “No fullback played more than [Juszczyk], as he out-snapped all NFL fullbacks by 264-plus offensive snaps in the regular season. His pass-blocking (73.9) and run-blocking (73.8) grades were both impressive, especially considering his snap volume. To play at the level he played at a dying position in the NFL is quite the feat.”

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Juszczyk is the only natural fullback on the 49ers roster, and the scarcity of available options at the position will make it challenging to replace him.

Rather than use another fullback to occupy Juszczyk’s role, head coach Kyle Shanahan will likely have to play an extra running back or wide receiver to compensate.

How Shanahan chooses to combat this injury will be interesting. One probability is to keep fourth-string running back Jeff Wilson active, letting him serve as a lead blocker. How much he’s done in this kind of role, however, is up in the air.

Additionally, Niners tight end Daniel Helm is an option, as he currently sits on the practice squad and saw some fullback reps during the preseason. Third-string tight end Levine Toilolo could also fill the void.

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Astros turn to Verlander, looking to close out Rays

After getting walloped by the Rays 10-3 Monday in Game 3 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field, Hinch flipped the win switch to on, announcing the Astros will be going with Verlander on short rest Tuesday to try to close out the Rays. The Astros lead the series, 2-1.

Hinch made the right move because he has the best insurance policy right behind Verlander in Gerrit Cole, who has won 17 straight games.

Cy Old will go Tuesday and, if needed, Cy Young will pitch Game 5 in Houston on Thursday. Hinch is betting on Verlander so there will be no need for a Game 5 starter, and Cole would be good to go in Game 1 of the ALCS. That would put Verlander in line to be on regular rest for Game 2.

“He’s one of the best pitchers in the world,’’ Hinch said. “No more complicated than that. He’s ready, and it’s his game.’’

Remember, after Verlander defeated the Rays in Game 1, Kevin Cash said, “We got Verlander-ed.’’ It is simple and it’s also a testimony to how good the Rays are because Hinch is saying, “If you are going to beat us, you are going to have to do it in five games and go through Verlander and Cole.”

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Verlander acknowledged he has not been used in a situation like this in the last few years, saying, “Closest we came was out of the bullpen a couple years ago in Boston. I mean, the thought process is five-game series are pretty crazy and we’ve got to win. Never know what can happen. You can’t put all your eggs in one basket and say, ‘If we lose [Tuesday], we’ve got Justin and Gerrit on Game 5.’ It’s a crazy game.

“The last couple days, I’ve felt pretty good. A.J. and I have been discussing it. He made the call.’’ This series is all about Big Game starters. The Astros got it in their first two starts with Verlander and Cole throwing 14 ²/₃ innings of shutout baseball and the Rays got it Tuesday from Mr. Elimination Game, Charlie Morton, who did his winning thing once again through five innings.

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49ers start season 4-0 for first time in 29 years

Matt Breida ran 83 yards for a touchdown on San Francisco’s first play from scrimmage, Baker Mayfield was pressured into his worst game as a pro, and the 49ers stayed undefeated for their best start in nearly 30 years, beating the Cleveland Browns 31-3 on Monday night.

Tevin Coleman added a 19-yard score as part of a dominant ground game on a day when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 181 yards and kicker Robbie Gould missed a pair of field goal shots and had a third try blocked.

San Francisco (4-0) joined the 5-0 New England Patriots as the only remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. It’s the first time the 49ers have won their first four games since 1990.

The Browns (2-3) are headed the opposite direction after losing two of three, with fresh worries about their young quarterback. Mayfield had a awful game. The No. 1 overall pick last year, Mayfiaeld completed 8 of 22 passes for a career-low 100 yards, had a 13.4 passer rating, threw two interceptions, fumbled twice and was sacked four times before being pulled in the fourth quarter.

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It’s the first time in Mayfield’s 18 career starts that he failed to throw a touchdown pass.

Things were rough all around for Mayfield.

San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa poked fun at the Browns quarterback after forcing Mayfield into a hurried incompletion in the second quarter. Bosa, the second overall draft pick, got up and pretended to wave a flag and plant it in the turf as the crowd roared. It was a clear shot at Mayfield, who planted an Oklahoma flag in the turf after leading the Sooners to win over Bosa and Ohio State in 2017.

The 49ers were coming off a bye and had two weeks to prepare, while the Browns flew cross country. The win allows the 49ers to retain sole possession of first place in the NFC West, ahead of Seattle (4-1) and the reigning NFC champions, the Rams (3-2). It sets up an epic early-season contest against Sean McVay’s team in Los Angeles on Sunday.

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