Tagged in: series

Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez (sprained left ankle) included on AL Division Series roster

Slugger J.D. Martinez is on the Boston Red Sox roster but didn’t play during a 5-0 loss in Game 1 of the American League Division Series versus the Tampa Bay Rays.

Manager Alex Cora said after Thursday’s loss that there’s “a strong possibility” Martinez will be in the starting lineup for Friday’s Game 2, but he made no guarantees.

Martinez also missed Tuesday night’s victory over the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game because of a sprained left ankle.

Martinez stumbled over second base while heading to the outfield in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Washington.

Because the National League does not use a DH in games played in its stadiums, Martinez was playing right field versus the Nationals. He stepped on the bag and twisted the ankle heading out to play defense in the fifth inning.

It was only the seventh game in 2021 that Martinez started in right field. He was in the starting lineup as a DH for 113 games and as the left fielder for 28.

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Martinez hit .286 with an AL-leading 42 doubles and 28 homers and 99 RBIs during the regular season.

Tampa Bay has 13 pitchers on its roster that does not include speedy outfielder Brett Phillips. Lefty Ryan Yarbrough, who went 9-7 with a 5.11 ERA in 30 games, including 21 starts, was also left off.

Rays manager Kevin Cash stated he planned to be aggressive in using his bullpen during the series. He said right-hander Drew Rasmussen will start Game 3 or 4, with the other contest being a bullpen day.

Boston also added Game 2 starter Chris Sale, left-hander Martin Perez and infielder Danny Santana to the ALDS roster.

Sale made nine starts this year after having Tommy John surgery on March 30, 2020.

“It’s been two years trying to get to this point,” Cora said. “All the hard work, all the tears and sweat throughout the process. So we have to take care of him, but it was his turn and we feel comfortable with him.”

Sale said he would be available to work as a reliever later in the series as well.

“There’s no reason to save an arm to go sit on the couch, you know what I mean?” Sale said. “This is all the baseball we have left, and we’re going to get certain points in these series where tomorrow might not come. So if that’s the case and it’s what’s called upon, you know, it’s my job.”

With Boston having several left-handed starting pitchers on its roster, Tampa Bay added right-handed-hitting outfielder Jordan Luplow. The AL East champion Rays lost the World Series in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020.

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Two-time All-Star Luis Severino returns to New York Yankees, works two innings in 7-1 victory

Luis Severino took the mound in a major-league game for the first time since the 2019 American League Championship Series on Tuesday.

The two-time All-Star, who has battled myriad injuries since re-signing with the Yankees, entered in the unfamiliar role of reliever, working the final two innings of New York’s 7-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.

“Proud moment for him and for his teammates and for all of us who have seen him go through a lot,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone stated. “He’s battled different things, and has worked his tail off to get to this moment.”

He worked a quick eighth, authoring two strikeouts and a groundout to go along with a double. In the ninth, he permitted a single before ending it with a double play and a flyout.

“I was feeling a lot of different emotions. But I’m happy to be back, happy to finally help the team,” Severino told the YES Network. “I knew after the first pitch, that it was going to come back to normal.”

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He concluded with 30 pitches, 19 of which were strikes.

“There’s got to be rust, nerves, all of that, going out there,” Boone said. “And I thought he executed, and hopefully this is a step forward for him to help us here down the stretch.”

Severino was activated before Monday’s 4-3 victory over the Rangers, with Boone clearly saying he wanted to start him out as a reliever. Where he goes from here, an optimistic Boone wouldn’t say.

“I’m not going to cap what that can be. We’ll see,” he said. “That’s a talented person and a great pitcher. I’m not going to limit what he’s capable of.”

Giancarlo Stanton hit his 31st home run in the victory, while Joey Gallo added his 38th and Aaron Judge launched his 36th as New York’s offense woke up. It indeed was a feel-good night in The Bronx, despite the fact that the Yankees did not gain any ground in the American League wild-card race.

“He felt great to be a part of it,” Boone said of Severino. “There was some emotion in his voice, and you can imagine the hard work he’s put in to get to this point. It was a good night for him.”

The 27-year-old right-hander had Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27, 2020. He made four minor league appearances totaling 10⅔ innings for Tampa, Hudson Valley and Somerset, permitting four runs, five hits and one home run with three walks and 15 strikeouts.

His rehabilitation was slowed when he injured his right groin on June 12 in his second minor league appearance for Hudson Valley at Brooklyn.

Severino returned to pitch for Somerset on Aug. 3 and Aug. 8, then was scratched from an Aug. 13 outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because of shoulder tightness.

“The fans always help me, every time I’m out there, and I knew we scored seven runs,” Severino said. “So, I was pretty calm out there.”

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Without Giannis, Bucks beat Hawks 123-112 for 3-2 lead

Brook Lopez scored a playoff career-high 33 points and the Milwaukee Bucks withstood Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absence to defeat the Atlanta Hawks 123-112 on Thursday night for a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Bucks are one victory away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. They won their lone NBA title in 1971.

Four of their starters had at least 22 points: Lopez, Khris Middleton (26), Jrue Holiday (25) and Bobby Portis (22). Middleton also had 13 rebounds and eight assists. Holiday had 13 assists and six rebounds.

Game 6 is Saturday in Atlanta, with the winner of the series facing the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals. Each team was missing its biggest star as Antetokounmpo dealt with a hyperextended left knee and Atlanta’s Trae Young sat out a second consecutive game due to a bone bruise in his right foot.

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Young got hurt when he accidentally stepped on an official’s foot along the sideline in Milwaukee’s 113-102 Game 3 victory. 

Antetokounmpo landed awkwardly after trying to block Clint Capela’s dunk attempt in Atlanta’s 110-88 Game 4 triumph.

Just as the Hawks’ role players stepped up with Young sidelined in Game 4, Antetokounmpo’s teammates came through Thursday to help the Bucks overcome the loss of their two-time MVP.

Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks with 28 points. Atlanta also got 19 points each from John Collins and Danilo Gallinari, and 17 from Lou Williams.

Portis took Antetokounmpo’s spot in the starting lineup and had the Fiserv Forum fans chanting “Bobby! Bobby!” on multiple occasions, continuing something that started during Milwaukee’s Game 2 blowout victory. Portis’ 22 points were a playoff career high.

The Bucks never trailed and led by as many as 20 in the first quarter, making most of their shots and getting second-chance opportunities on their rare misses. The game was nearly eight minutes old by the time Cam Reddish got Atlanta’s first defensive rebound.

Milwaukee led 36-22 after a first quarter in which the Bucks outscored the Hawks 28-8 in the paint. Bogdanovic’s 13 first-half points helped the Hawks close the gap to 65-56 at the break.

The Bucks needed that edge in the paint because they again couldn’t connect from range, continuing a problem that has hounded them the entire postseason. After making their first two 3-point shots, they missed their next 12 attempts from beyond the arc.

Atlanta cut the lead to 65-59 when Bogdanovic hit a 3-pointer to open the third-quarter scoring, but that’s as close as the Hawks would get in the second half. This marked the second consecutive game in this series without any lead changes. The Hawks never trailed in Game 4.

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Phoenix Suns take 3-1 series lead, inspired to get Chris Paul first trip to NBA Finals

Just one victory away from the NBA Finals, Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul said he will not allow himself to consider quite yet what it will be like to compete on basketball’s biggest stage for the first time in his 16-year career.

“Not until the job is done. Not until the job is done,” Paul said after the Suns’ gritty 84-80 win over the LA Clippers on Saturday to go up 3-1 in the Western Conference finals. “We can talk about all that then, but right now, it’s just laser focus.

“Three wins don’t win the series, so right now, we did what we came here to do. We wanted to get one of these, and now we got to stay focused and be ready to go back to our crowd.”

Paul, of course, has been here before. In 2018, his Houston Rockets were up 3-2 in the Western Conference finals versus the Golden State Warriors, before the defending champions stormed back to win the final two games, with Paul hobbled by a hamstring injury.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Paul said, looking back on the disappointment from three years ago. “Don’t dwell on things, you always remember, but I’m here now, excited about this opportunity, and all I can worry about right now is Game 5.”

Paul guided Phoenix to its victory in Game 4, playing all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, when he scored seven of his 18 points and dished out two of his seven assists, despite struggling to shoot the ball.

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Paul was 1-for-7 from the field in the fourth — and just 6-for-22 for the game — though he did go 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the closing period.

“I was mad I missed [midrange shots] that could have put us up by five or seven, but it’s so crazy when I went to the free throw line I thought about my son,” Paul, 36, said of his trip to the stripe with 3.9 seconds remaining, and the Suns up by two, when he split the pair of attempts. “I talk to my son all the time about the importance of shooting free throws.

“I seriously went to the free throw line and I was like, ‘How the hell I’m going to tell him to stay poised if I don’t do it my damn self?'”

It would appear Paul’s son is learning from his dad just fine, judging by how Paul’s younger teammates rave about the example he is setting for them.

Deandre Ayton, who lived up to his “DominAyton” nickname with 19 points, 22 rebounds, four blocks and three assists in Game 4, exuded praise for the man who is 14 years his senior.

“I love CP, man,” said Ayton, 22. “That’s really the only teammate that really pushed me. Like big-bro-type push.

“I think he was the best thing that happened to my career. I can say that every day.”

Ayton said he would like to repay Paul’s investment in him by helping Phoenix to at least one more win this postseason so Paul can finally get a taste of the Finals.

“I’m going to try my best,” Ayton said. “I’m going to try my best. … I know how it is as an older player and being in the league and stuff like that. So, when you have an opportunity like this, you can’t take it for granted. And he let us know. He let us know, and we know the task at hand.”

Devin Booker, who ditched the face mask protecting his broken nose to score a team-high 25 points before fouling out, said that he grew up watching Paul.

“I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, and I’ve learned so much from him this year, and I always talk about off the court how he carries himself, and he’s just a true professional at every level at all times,” Booker, 24, said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a man, not even as a basketball player, just understanding how bad he wants this and how much time he’s put into it … 16 years, that’s a long time.

“We know how bad he wants it. … We definitely have his back.”

Suns coach Monty Williams, who coached Paul in the playoffs when they were both with New Orleans a decade ago, gave him a compliment of the highest order when asked how he feels about Paul controlling the action down the stretch.

“He’s not afraid of those moments,” Williams said. “It’s all about winning for Chris.” One more win. One more win and Paul will experience winning in a way he never has before.

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Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul, aided by improving shoulder, takes over in 4th quarter to close out Game 1 win against Denver Nuggets

There are many things Chris Paul is good at, but one of his most crucial skills is sensing a moment. It’s never about how he starts; it’s how he finishes.

And in Game 1 of the Phoenix Suns’ Western Conference semifinal series versus the visiting Denver Nuggets, Paul started slowly, hitting just two of his eight shots through three quarters. But as the Suns grabbed hold of the contest, so did Paul, going 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter as Phoenix cruised to a 122-105 win.

“It’s in his hands, man,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said. “He’s made us comfortable … just knowing that he’s got it.”

Paul’s command of the match was on full display, with him methodically asserting himself early in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 consecutive points for the Suns as they widened their lead.

He concluded with 21 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds in 36 minutes, and while his grip on the fourth quarter separated Phoenix, the team showcased its impressive balance and depth throughout.

All five starters finished in double figures, scoring at least 14 points.

The Suns are the first team since the 2013 Golden State Warriors (Game 2 in Round 1) with four 20-point scorers on 55% shooting from the floor in a playoff game.

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“That’s what I’ve said all season long: We have a team,” Paul said. “If you try to take one of us out or whatnot, we make the right play. Who you gonna leave open? Mikal [Bridges] is cash. Jae [Crowder] is cash. Cam [Johnson]. I could keep going on and on, and that’s the benefits of having a team.”

For Paul, better health was part of his fourth-quarter output, as he is now two weeks past his initial shoulder injury sustained in Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s something he is still dealing with, but as Paul already gets better the longer the game goes on, his shoulder also does.

“It definitely loosens up,” Paul said. “One thing about it is you don’t get no practice time. The only way you get a chance to see how it is is during the game. It was good. It was fun to get out there and be involved. That last series was, that was tough. I’m glad to be back helping the team.”

Paul scored or assisted on 20 of the Suns’ final 34 points. It’s his ninth career playoff game with 20 points, 10 assists and one or fewer turnovers, passing LeBron James for the most in the league with that line since turnovers were first tracked in 1977-78.

At 36 years old, Paul is the oldest player in NBA history with 20 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds in a playoff game; only four other players — James (six times), Elgin Baylor, John Stockton and Dennis Johnson — have put up that stat line at age 35 or older.

“Man, it’s a different game for him these days from when I was watching him play,” Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon said of Paul.

“He was a lot more explosive back in the day, getting to the cup. He’s always been really smart, and he just keeps getting smarter. He’s a maestro out there orchestrating them. He really has uplifted that whole Phoenix team.

“Just how he talks, how he communicates with them out on the floor; you can tell that he just gives the entire team confidence.”

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Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Paul George power win over Mavericks, seize back control of series

The LA Clippers arrived in Dallas down 0-2 in the series with their future clouded in insecurity, but they left with home-court advantage and momentum thanks to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George playing the relentless style they envisioned when they joined forces.

For the second consecutive game, Leonard and George overwhelmed Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, combining to score 45 points in the first three quarters to help the Clippers even this Western Conference first-round playoff series at 2-2 with a 106-81 rout on Sunday at American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks could not contain Leonard for the third straight match, as the All-Star forward made 11-of-15 shots and tallied 29 points and 10 rebounds. And George scored 13 of 20 points in the second quarter, when the Clippers opened a 48-29 lead with 6:58 left before halftime.

“I think we both have just done a great job of complementing each other,” George said of him and Leonard leading the Clippers back into this series. “[Leonard] has been all-out driving and attacking and putting pressure on their bigs at the rim. Myself, as well. When he needs a break and a breather, now I am in attack mode. I think we are just doing a great job of countering each other.

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“This is ultimately what we wanted to get to — being able to share the court together and doing it on both ends together.”

This was what Leonard, George and the Clippers imagined when the two All-Stars became Clippers during the summer of 2019.

Leonard is playing at the postseason level that made him the NBA Finals MVP for a second time when he led the Toronto Raptors to a championship in 2019. He has been simply too strong and powerful for Dallas to stop, averaging 35.3 points in the past three games.

In leading the Clippers to the past two wins in Dallas, Leonard shot 24-for-32 combined in Games 3 and 4, and he has done the majority of his damage on drives into the paint.

But his message to the Clippers after they lost the first two games of the series at home was to step things up considerably on the defensive end.

Doncic labored through a nerve issue in his neck on Sunday and shot 9-for-24 to finish with 19 points, six assists and six rebounds. But the Clippers were thrilled with their ability to slow down the Mavericks’ other shooters who really shot lights out in Los Angeles.

Tim Hardaway Jr. missed 7 of 8 shots and scored just four points, Dorian Finney-Smith only had eight points and the Mavericks as a group missed 25 of 30 3-point attempts in Game 4.

In the first two games of the series, Dallas took home-court advantage by making 35 of 70 (50%) attempts from behind the arc.

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Arozarena leads Rays in 8-4 victory over Yankees

Randy Arozarena homered for the third consecutive game and Kevin Kiermaier and Michael Perez also went deep for the Tampa Bay Rays, who beat the New York Yankees 8-4 Wednesday night to move within one victory of reaching the AL Championship Series for the first time in 12 years.

New York’s Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer off rookie Shane McClanahan to center field in the eighth inning to become the first player with a home run in each of his team’s first five games of a single postseason. Stanton has six homers in those five games. McClanahan made his major league debut in Game 1 on Monday night.

The Rays took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Division Series. Game 4 is Thursday night at Petco Park, which has yielded 16 home runs in three matches — nine by Tampa Bay.

The Rays are looking to advance out of the ALDS for just the second time. They reached the 2008 World Series before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. Arozarena, a 25-year-old rookie from Havana who’s nicknamed “The Cuban Rocket,” is having a breakout postseason. He homered off Gerrit Cole in the first inning of Game 1, a 9-3 Yankees victory, and off rookie Deivi García in the first inning of Game 2, a 7-5 Rays win.

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He hit a shot deep to left leading off the fifth Wednesday night to chase Masahiro Tanaka and give the Rays a 5-1 lead.

Arozarena went 3 for 4 with a walk.

He leads all players in the postseason with 12 hits in five games. He went hitless in five postseason plate appearances in 2019 for St. Louis, which traded him to Tampa Bay in January.

“He has to be the best baseball player on earth right now,” Rays starter Tyler Glasnow said after Tuesday night’s victory. “What he’s doing is phenomenal.”

Kiermaier hit a three-run shot into the home run deck in right off Tanaka with no outs in the fourth to make it 4-1. Joey Wendle was aboard on a leadoff single and Willy Adames on a walk.

Perez hit a two-run shot to left off Chad Green in the sixth. Kiermaier was aboard on a leadoff double. It was the 11th home run by a No. 9 hitter this postseason, the most all-time.

Charlie Morton got the win after holding the Yankees to two runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. He struck out six and walked two in winning his fifth straight postseason decision.

Tanaka took the loss after permitting five runs and eight hits in four-plus innings. He struck out four and walked one. The Yankees loaded the bases twice in the third inning and got only a sacrifice fly by Aaron Judge. Aaron Hicks hit an RBI double in the fifth.

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