Tagged in: mvp

George Springer debuts for Toronto Blue Jays, goes 0-for-4 in loss to Washington Nationals

Erick Fedde went six strong innings, Josh Harrison hit a three-run homer and the Washington Nationals defeated Toronto 8-2 in George Springer’s Blue Jays debut Wednesday night.

Fedde (2-2) permitted one run and two hits, including a fifth-inning solo homer by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. The right-hander struck out seven and walked three.

“With cutter, sinker, the combination is really good because he works both sides of the plate,” Washington manager Dave Martinez stated. “Today he threw a lot of curveballs, and it was effective for him as well. When you get can all those pitches in the strike zone as you can see he’s real tough to hit.”

Harrison got his third homer in 16 at-bats against Steven Matz (4-1), a three-run shot in the fourth that made it 6-0. Springer, who signed a team-record $150 million US, six-year deal this off-season, went 0 for 4.

The World Series MVP when Houston won its first title in 2017 missed time in spring training and the start of the season because of a strained oblique and later due to a right quadriceps strain.

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“He ran fine, saw a lot of pitches, which is good,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Trea Turner had four hits and Josh Bell also homered for the Nationals.

Toronto got an eighth-inning solo homer from Bo Bichette.

Matz, obtained from the New York Mets in January after going 0-5 with a 9.68 ERA last season, had won his first four starts for Toronto. He gave up six runs and eight hits over 3 2/3 innings.

The lefty is 1-8 against Washington. Since the start of last season, Matz has permitted 22 earned runs and eight homers over 14 innings in four games versus the Nationals.

“He just wasn’t as sharp today,” Montoyo said. “He still has the stuff but didn’t locate as well.”

Ryan Zimmerman drove in two with a single during a three-run third. Bell hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

Toronto loaded the bases with two outs in the third but failed to score when Turner, at short, fielded Randal Grichuk’s slow grounder barehanded and threw him out at first.

“I remember that ball just trickled by me … you’ve got to be kidding me,” Fedde said. “I think my initial reaction was `Oh no, it’s bare hand.’ Then an unbelievable play.”

Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen went 0 for 3 with a walk. He is hitless in a career-long 34 at-bats.

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John Harbaugh guarantees Baltimore Ravens will pick up Lamar Jackson’s fifth-year option

For those who had any doubts, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh stated Tuesday that the team will pick up quarterback Lamar Jackson’s fifth-year option before Monday’s deadline.

“Guarantee it,” Harbaugh said on “The Rich Eisen Show.”

Jackson will make a guaranteed $23.1 million in 2022, a significant raise from his $1.7 million salary this season. This will be the highest fifth-year option in the league next season, tying Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

By exercising Jackson’s option, the Ravens will squash the speculation that the team will let Jackson to “graduate” after four seasons.

An NFL Network analyst recently suggested the Ravens could trade up to draft a quarterback this week and move on from Jackson before his heightened salary-cap hit limited Baltimore’s spending.

Harbaugh made it clear that won’t be the case. “He’s definitely going to be our quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the plan, absolutely.”

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Jackson, 24, has won more games (30) than any other NFL quarterback since taking over as Baltimore’s starter midway through the 2018 season and became the second unanimous league MVP in 2019.

He’s the first player in NFL history to produce 5,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing in his first three campaigns.

Harbaugh pointed out how the Ravens have scored more points than any other team in Jackson’s two full seasons as a starting quarterback.

“I feel like it all points to one thing and the thing he talks about all the time: He wants to win a Super Bowl,” Harbaugh said.

“I think he’s a very unique guy. He’s a guy that’s different in a lot of ways than any quarterback that’s ever played. Lamar is somebody that just kind of breaks the mold a little bit. He does it in a way that a lot of people didn’t anticipate. They didn’t see this coming. He’s very determined — and we’re very determined — to prove those people wrong.”

In March, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta stated the team is “confident and committed” to getting a long-term deal done with Jackson.

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Star receiver Julian Edelman, 34, retires, ending 12-year career with New England Patriots

Patriots star receiver Julian Edelman, who helped New England win three championships and was the MVP of Super Bowl LIII, declared his retirement in a video posted on social media Monday.

The NFL transaction wire released Monday stated that Edelman had his contract terminated by the Patriots, but the roster move is expected to be a technicality as part of his retirement, a source told ESPN.

“It was a hard decision, but the right decision for me and my family,” Edelman said. “And I’m honored and so proud to be retiring a Patriot. … It’s been the best 12 years of my life.”

Edelman, who turns 35 next month, was limited to six matches last season because of a chronic knee injury. He spent his entire 12-year career with the Patriots and ranks second in NFL history with 118 postseason receptions, behind only Jerry Rice’s 151.

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Edelman caps his career in second place on the all-time Patriots chart for receptions (620), behind only Wes Welker (672).

He is fourth on the team’s career receiving yards list with 6,822 receiving yards, behind only Stanley Morgan (10,352), Rob Gronkowski (7,861) and Welker (7,459).

Edelman was still playing at a high level last campaign, totaling a career-high 179 yards in a Week 2 loss to the Seahawks. But the nagging knee injury ultimately landed him on injured reserve in late October, and while there was hope he might return late in the season, he wasn’t healthy enough to be activated.

Because of his health, the Patriots went into the 2021 offseason unsure of Edelman’s status, which contributed to their agreeing to contracts with receivers Nelson Agholor (two years, $26 million, with $15 million guaranteed) and Kendrick Bourne (three years, $22.5 million, with $5.25 million guaranteed) on the first day of free agency.

Edelman was also entering the final year of his contract.

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QB Cam Newton returning to New England Patriots on 1-year deal

Cam Newton is re-signing with the Patriots on a one-year deal, sources have confirmed to ESPN.

The contract is worth up to $13.6 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. About $6 million of the deal is tied to incentives, a source told ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

Newton posted a video on Instagram later Friday with a caption that read in part, “Run it back!! Chapter 2.”

Newton, who will turn 32 in May, hoped to return to New England after signing a modest one-year deal with the team in 2020. On the “I Am Athlete” podcast in late February, he said he would be open to another one-year deal in New England. “I’m getting tired of changing (teams),” the quarterback stated.

“I am at a point in my career where I know way more than I did last year. Yes, I would go back.”

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In 2020, Newton was 242-of-368 for 2,657 yards passing, with 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But while that production didn’t meet his personal standard — in part because the receivers and tight ends around him weren’t high-caliber options — he was effective as a rusher, with 592 yards on 137 attempts (4.3 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns.

Newton had started hot in 2020 after joining the Patriots in late June, but after testing positive for COVID-19 in early October, he said it was a challenge for him to catch up to the pace of the team’s ever-evolving offense.

His performance dipped notably, and he said it reinforced how important it is to be with a new team in the offseason.

The Patriots went 7-8 with Newton at the helm and concluded 7-9, missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season.

Before joining the Patriots, Newton, the No. 1 pick in 2011, was released by the Carolina Panthers after missing 14 games in 2019 with a Lisfranc injury and the final two matches of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury that also required surgery.

He spent nine seasons with the Panthers and was named the NFL MVP in 2015, when he accounted for 45 total touchdowns in the regular season and led Carolina to Super Bowl 50, where it lost to the Denver Broncos.

Newton, who holds most of Carolina’s career passing records, has thrown for 31,698 yards and 190 touchdowns with 118 interceptions and has rushed for 5,398 yards and 70 touchdowns.

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Bills advance to AFC championship with 17-3 win over Ravens

In what was supposed to be a showdown between Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Taron Johnson literally stole the show.

If not for the wall separating the field from the stands in the back of the east end zone, the Bills cornerback might still be running after returning an interception 101 yards for a touchdown that propelled Buffalo to its first AFC championship game appearance in 27 years.

Johnson’s pick-6 of Jackson’s pass with 41 seconds left in the third quarter helped secure a 17-3 triumph over the Ravens in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night.

“We’re excited. It’s not done yet, we’re not done yet,” Johnson exclaimed. “It’s just a blessing. Our defense stepped up to the challenge.” Johnson’s return matched the longest in NFL history and punctuated a stellar defensive outing in which Buffalo (15-3) limited the NFL’s top running offense to 150 yards on 32 carries.

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Jackson, last season’s NFL MVP, was sacked three times and did not return after sustaining a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored. He finished 14 of 24 for 162 yards passing, while being limited to 42 yards rushing on nine carries.

Allen, an MVP candidate this year, finished 23 of 37 for 206 yards and a touchdown.

In a season in which the Bills relied mostly on their dynamic Allen-led offense to outscore opponents, the third-year quarterback was gratified to see Buffalo’s defense make a difference in a game the pass-happy attack was kept mostly in check.

The Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994 on their way to making — and losing — their four consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week’s victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason match since the same year.

The Bills, have won eight consecutives to match their best streak since 1990 and will play the winner of the AFC’s other divisional playoff between Cleveland and Kansas City on Sunday.

The fifth-seeded Ravens (12-6) had their season come to an end after leading the NFL in yards rushing for a second consecutive year. Baltimore clinched its third playoff berth in three years by winning its final five regular-season games. The winning streak came after a 1-4 skid capped by a 19-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 2 in a game rearranged three times due to COVID-19 issues.

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Howie Kendrick retires after 15 MLB seasons

Howie Kendrick announced his retirement Monday after 15 major league seasons.

In an Instagram post, Kendrick thanked each of the teams he played for in the majors, concluding with the Washington Nationals, the team he won a World Series title with in 2019.

“To the fans, without your support and love for the game, our stage and lights would not shine as brightly as they do. Know you will be missed as well. I will always love the game of baseball and will constantly reflect on the lifelong memories made. For now, it’s time to drop the mic and enter a new stage of my life,” he wrote.

In 2019, Kendrick was the MVP of the National League Championship Series and hit the go-ahead homer in Game 7 of the World Series to help the Nationals victory the franchise’s first title.

Kendrick, 37, hit .275 with two home runs and 14 RBIs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for the Nationals. The team declined his $6.5 million mutual option for 2021 after the season, and he received a $2.25 million buyout from Washington.

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The veteran infielder went on the injured list with a left hamstring injury on Sept. 9 and was shut down for the season.

In four seasons with the Nats, Kendrick hit .316 with 30 home runs and 113 RBIs.

Overall, Kendrick was a career .294 hitter with 127 home runs and 724 RBIs. In addition to the Nationals, Kendrick played two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, nine seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and 39 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2017 season.

Kendrick, a Florida native, was initially drafted by the Angels with a 10th round pick in 2002. His steady production as the Angels’ regular second baseman for several seasons established him as a solidly underrated player. Kendrick’s later career saw him become a multi-position specialist and veteran bat for multiple teams.

Last season, Kendrick’s production slipped across the abbreviated 2020 season, but suffice it to say he’s securely a Nationals franchise legend for that home run above.

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Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh won’t say if Lamar Jackson will play vs. Dallas Cowboys

Starting quarterback and reigning NFL regular-season Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson was one of a handful of Baltimore Ravens players who tested positive for COVID-19 amid the club’s worrisome coronavirus outbreak that caused its showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers to be postponed on three occasions.

Baltimore was without Jackson during Wednesday’s 19-14 defeat at Heinz Field, and head coach John Harbaugh refused to say if the signal-caller will be available for the upcoming contest versus the Dallas Cowboys that was rearranged to Tuesday night.

“I think I already answered that,” Harbaugh replied when asked about Jackson’s status during Thursday’s media availability, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. “When the doctors clear them for practice, that’s when we’ll have them,” he added about the 17 Baltimore players now on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

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2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III filled in for Jackson versus Pittsburgh but suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter that knocked him out of the game. Griffin rushed for a team-high 68 yards but completed just seven of 12 passes for 33 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

Trace McSorley substituted Griffin and completed two of his six attempts, one of which was a 70-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marquise Brown.

Harbaugh did say that punter Sam Koch won’t be needed as an emergency QB, which suggests two of the three players at the position will be ready to go by Tuesday evening.

The Ravens players had a day off and will return Friday for their first full practice since Nov. 20, a span of two weeks. The outbreak in Baltimore limited the team to a couple of walk-throughs. The Ravens had no positive tests Wednesday, which ended a stretch of 10 consecutive days with at least one player testing positive.

“We need to have some good practices and get our football sea legs under us so we can go out there and perform the way we want to,” Harbaugh said. The Ravens have lost three consecutive games to fall to 6-5.

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Tampa Bay Rays take game 2 to even the series one game apiece

Through all the struggles, all the moments when it looked like he should be dropped down in the lineup or out of it altogether, Brandon Lowe believed.

He had built himself into one of the American League’s best hitters, and no slump, not even one during the playoffs, could derail that. The Tampa Bay Rays kept believing in Lowe, too. And in Game 2 of the World Series, both were rewarded handsomely for their faith.

Lowe became the first player ever to hit two opposite-field home runs in one World Series match, and the Rays’ bullpen bent but didn’t break as they held on for a 6-4 triumph Wednesday night to even the series at one game apiece.

The 26-year-old Lowe, an All-Star two years ago as a rookie and a down-ballot MVP candidate this year, had endured a brutal postseason: 6-for-56 with 19 strikeouts and not one multi-hit game among the 15 the Rays had played. And yet Tampa Bay never wavered — he sat only one game and pinch hit in it — confident that Lowe would find his swing.

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Lowe, hitting in the No. 2 hole, punished a 95 mph fastball from rookie starter Tony Gonsolin out to left field, giving the Rays an early advantage. He piled on with a two-run shot off rookie Dustin May in the fifth inning, pushing the Rays’ advantage to 5-0.

In the meantime, Rays starter Blake Snell hadn’t permitted a hit, striking out two Dodgers in each of the first four innings.

Following the fourth, Snell bounded off the mound, shouting into the expanse of Globe Life Field, to no one and everyone among the crowd of 11,472. He looked like his Cy Young-winning self, his fastball, curve ball and slider confounding a group of Dodgers hitters who in Game 1 piled up eight runs through power, patience and proficiency wielding the bat.

Lowe’s multi-homer game was the 55th in World Series history, the seventh by a second baseman and the first by a Rays player. And it continued Tampa Bay’s trend of needing home runs to score. They set a record with 28 home runs this postseason, and entering the World Series, nearly 72% of their runs had come via the longball.

The return of the Lowe who helped lead the Rays to the AL East title was a welcome sign for a Tampa Bay team whose offensive struggles were of paramount concern — particularly with the prospect of falling down 0-2 to the Dodgers. Lowe had hit .269/.362/.554 with 14 home runs in 56 games during the regular season and ranked just behind Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. in wins above replacement.

Now, after a Thursday off-day, the teams return for Game 3 with the best pitching matchup of the series: Dodgers ace Walker Buehler versus Rays stalwart Charlie Morton.

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Los Angeles Lakers claims first NBA title in a decade

The Los Angeles Lakers have claimed their first NBA championship in a decade, defeating the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of the finals.

The title comes in the same year the team lost its icon, Kobe Bryant, who led the franchise to its last five championships.

For the first time since Bryant’s fifth and final title a decade ago, the Lakers are NBA champions. James had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 on Sunday night to gain the NBA Finals in six games.

Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who dealt with the enormous anguish that followed the death of the iconic Bryant in January and all the challenges that came with leaving home for three months to play at Walt Disney World in a bubble designed to keep inhabitants safe from the coronavirus.

It would be, James predicted, the toughest title to ever collect. They made the clincher look easy. James acquired his fourth title, doing it with a third different franchise — and versus the Heat franchise that showed him to to become a champion.

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Bam Adebayo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which got 12 points from Jimmy Butler — the player who, in his first Heat season, got the team back to title contention. Rajon Rondo scored 19 points for the Lakers.

With that, the league’s bubble chapter, put together after a 4 1/2-month suspension of play that started March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic, is over.

So, too, is a season that saw the league and China get into political sparring, the death on Jan. 1 of commissioner emeritus David Stern — the man who did so much to make the league what it is — and then the shock on Jan. 26 that came with the news that Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other died in a helicopter crash.

The Lakers stated they were playing the rest of the season in his memory.

They delivered what Bryant did five times for L.A. — a ring, and the clincher was emphatic.

Game 6 was over by halftime, the Lakers taking a 64-36 lead into the break. The Heat never led and couldn’t shoot from anywhere: 35% from 2-point range in the half, 33% from 3-point range and even an uncharacteristic 42% from the line, not like any of it really mattered.

The Lakers were getting everything they wanted and then some, outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter and doing all that with James making just one shot in the period.

Rajon Rondo, now a two-time champion and the first to win rings as a player in both Boston and Los Angeles — the franchises now tied with 17 titles apiece — was 6 for 6 in the half, the first time he’d done that since November 2007.

The Lakers’ lead was 46-32 with 5:00 left in the half, and they outscored Miami 18-4 from there until intermission.

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Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson misses practice because of knee injury

The Baltimore Ravens were missing their best player when they took to the practice field on Wednesday, but it apparently won’t be an issue for when the team kicks off versus the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday. 

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury that is not considered severe. He was held out of practice for “precautionary reasons” while Robert Griffin III took snaps as the No. 1 quarterback. 

Jackson was pulled early from the Ravens’ Week 4 31-17 victory over the Washington Football Team, but that’s likely because it was not a close game.

The reigning NFL MVP seemed to be fine, as he completed 14 of 21 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and also rushed seven times for 53 yards. In the second quarter, he even reeled off a career-long 50-yard touchdown, which extended the lead to double digits. 

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Jackson and the Ravens appeared to have bounced back from the 34-20 loss they suffered to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.

During that matchup, Jackson managed just 97 passing yards and one passing touchdown, as the Chiefs’ defense controlled the tempo of the game. 

According to Schefter, Jackson should be fine for the Ravens’ Week 5 divisional matchup with the Bengals, but it is interesting that he was not even a limited participant on Wednesday.

Jackson has missed just one game in his career, a Week 17 contest at the end of 2019 in which he did not play in order to rest and avoid potential injury ahead of Baltimore’s postseason. If Jackson were unavailable for the Ravens’ Week 5 game versus Cincinnati due to the knee issue, it would be his first game missed because of injury in his career.

Jackson won the 2019 MVP as part of the league’s best rushing offense in which he set the single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,206 yards and seven scores on the ground.

He’s completed 68.4% of his passes for 769 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, and rushed 39 times for 235 yards and one score while leading the Ravens to a 3-1 start in 2020.

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