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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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Atlanta Falcons starting nickel corner Isaiah Oliver out for season with knee injury

Atlanta Falcons starting nickel corner Isaiah Oliver is done for the season and will need surgery, a source told ESPN, after he was carted off the field with a knee injury Sunday versus the Washington Football Team.

The team placed Oliver on injured reserve Tuesday. Oliver, a second-round pick in 2018 out of Colorado, had become one of Atlanta’s top defensive players after moving from outside corner to the slot full-time this year.

He allowed 53.3% of passes thrown at him to be completed, according to Pro Football Reference, and recorded nine tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and three pass breakups.

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The Falcons coaches had been happy with the way Oliver had been playing, and his versatility, praising him in multiple press briefings over the past month.

Now, the team will likely turn to rookie Avery Williams, who was taken in the fifth round out of Boise State, to replace Oliver in the lineup.

Atlanta also placed punter Cam Nizialek on injured reserve after he suffered a right hamstring injury Sunday. The Falcons promoted punter Dustin Colquitt, a two-time Pro Bowler, from the practice squad along with defensive lineman Mike Pennel to take the places of Nizialek and Oliver on the 53-man roster.

The Falcons also signed kicker Elliott Fry and safety Shawn Williams, who has started 60 matches in the NFL, to the practice squad. The Falcons have options when it comes to filling Oliver’s role. But when someone is coming into his own the way Oliver was, it hurts to see the contingency plan enacted.

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Baltimore Ravens’ J.K. Dobbins having MRI but expectation is RB is out for season

Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins sustained a left knee injury Saturday night, but the expectation is the injury will end his season, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Dobbins was carted off the field after injuring the knee during the opening drive of the Ravens’ 37-3 rout of Washington at FedEx Field. A second-round pick from a year ago, Dobbins was entering his first season as Baltimore’s featured running back.

If Dobbins is out for the season, the Ravens’ top two backs are Gus Edwards and Ty’Son Williams. Edwards is one of the more underrated backups in the league, averaging 5.2 yards per carry over the past three campaigns (third best among running backs).

Williams, who went undrafted out of BYU last year, has impressed the Ravens this summer with his physical running style, rushing for 131 yards on 24 carries this preseason (5.5-yard average).

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The Ravens have confidence in Edwards, who signed a two-year, $10 million extension this offseason and has shown he can be a starting running back when called upon. In 2018, Edwards took over as the Ravens’ No. 1 running back midway through the season and helped lead Baltimore to the playoffs. He averaged 93.4 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns in the final six games that season.

The Ravens have had the NFL’s top-ranked running attack over the past two seasons because of the system that it has installed around quarterback Lamar Jackson, who gained a team-leading 2,211 yards rushing combined in 2019 and 2020. Over that span, three running backs have gained over 800 yards: Edwards, Dobbins and Mark Ingram.

This offseason, the Ravens explored the possibility of adding a veteran running back for depth.

Free agent Todd Gurley II visited the Ravens in June, but he left without a contract. It’s unknown whether Gurley’s knee issues would let him to hold up for a full season.

Dobbins, 22, was primed for a breakout 2021 season. Last year, he averaged 6.0 yards per carry, the second-highest average by a rookie running back over the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Only the New Orleans Saints’ Alvin Kamara (6.1) had a higher average as a rookie.

Dobbins’ injury was the latest setback in a rough summer for Baltimore. Because of injuries, Baltimore’s top three wide receivers have missed a chunk of training camp and its projected starting offensive line didn’t practice together for the first time until last week.

Wide receiver Rashod Bateman, a first-round pick, had groin surgery on Aug. 13 and could miss the beginning of the regular season.

Now, the expectation is Dobbins will miss the 2021 season, which is the outcome many of the Ravens’ players were bracing for Saturday night. “That one hurts, bro, because you know how much work he put in [and] the type of guy he is,”

Ravens wide receiver James Proche said after Saturday’s game. “He loves the game. Anytime the game is taken away from you like that, you really feel for him.”

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Phillies extend winning streak to 4 with 9-5 win over Nats

Rhys Hoskins homered and drove in three runs, Didi Gregorius hit a two-run homer and the Philadelphia Phillies extended their winning streak to four matches with a 9-5 triumph over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.

Philadelphia is 55-53 and two games over .500 for the first time since July 18, when it was 47-45. The Phillies started the day 1½ games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets.

The Phillies erased an early 3-0 deficit and set up a chance for a four-game sweep on Thursday afternoon. Nationals reliever Jefry Rodriguez hit Hoskins with an up-and-in pitch in the top of the seventh. Hoskins motioned to the Phillies’ dugout, then looked at Rodriguez before going to first base.

Gregorius hit a 412-foot home run on the next pitch. Hoskins started yelling at Rodriguez before the ball cleared the fence, prompting Rodriguez to yell back.

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Philadelphia used four doubles to build a four-run fourth inning and take a 4-3 lead. 

Andrew Knapp, Travis Jankowski, Jean Segura, and Hoskins all doubled in the inning. Bryce Harper drove in a run with a single.

Hoskins hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, his 24th of the season.

Luis García and Carter Kieboom hit back-to-back homers against Philadelphia starter Chase Anderson in the second, giving Washington an early three-run lead.

Victor Robles’ first career leadoff homer came on Anderson’s first pitch Wednesday night. The homer was just the second of the season for Robles, a one-time top prospect who struggled in 2020 and is doing so again this season.

The Nationals are using the rest of the season to assess prospects, and also giving the 24-year-old Robles an opportunity to bat leadoff after mostly hitting ninth in his short career.

Anderson pitched three innings, permitted three earned runs on three hits (all homers), walked one, and struck out one.

García also homered in the seventh for his first career multi-homer game.

Matt Moore (1-3) picked up the win in relief. Washington starter Paolo Espino (3-3) allowed six earned in his five innings.

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New York Jets signing RT Morgan Moses to one-year deal

The New York Jets are signing right tackle Morgan Moses to a one-year deal, sources confirmed to ESPN on Friday.

Moses, 30, released by the Washington Football Team on May 20 in a salary-cap move, will compete with incumbent George Fant at right tackle.

Not only do the Jets get a proven starter in Moses, but it increases their depth and flexibility. If Fant loses out to Moses, which is the likely scenario, he can be the backup/swing tackle.

This is another assertive move by general manager Joe Douglas, who made it a priority to rebuild one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Douglas used his 2020 first-round pick on left tackle Mekhi Becton, and he followed up by using a 2021 first-round choice on Alijah Vera-Tucker, who projects as the team’s starting left guard. The Jets liked Vera-Tucker so much that they traded up nine spots to take him.

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The Jets had planned on riding with Fant — $4.45 million of his $8.5 million salary is guaranteed — but they changed course when Moses became available. They hosted him on a free-agent visit.

“Morgan is a fantastic player. He’s played at a very high level,” coach Robert Saleh stated recently. “We’re not going to shy away from adding good football players.”

Tackle depth is important.

Becton, battling plantar fasciitis, missed most of the offseason program. He was hurt in the first practice and remained on the sideline. Saleh downplayed the injury, saying he’s “not worried about his availability” for training camp.

Still, there are concerns about Becton’s weight and durability, as he missed the equivalent of five games last campaign due to various injuries. When healthy, he was dominant at times.

Moses (6-foot-6, 330) is one of the most durable lineman in the league. He has started every game since 2015, all but one at right tackle.

In 2020, he ranked 39th out of 62 qualifying tackles in pass block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Fant was 40th in the rankings. The Washington Football Team cut Moses with two years remaining on his contract.

He was due to make $7.75 million in 2021. Moses, a third-round pick out of Virginia in 2014, has played 104 games, including 97 starts.

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LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

Zach LaVine scored 24 points, Lauri Markkanen added 20 and the Chicago Bulls defeated the short-handed Toronto Raptors 114-102 on Thursday night.

The Bulls pulled within two games of idle Washington with two remaining for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and the final play-in spot.

Chicago led by 24 in the third quarter, with the Raptors holding out their best players, and came away with the victory despite a big effort by Stanley Johnson.

“We don’t control our own desiny, but we live another day, so to speak here,” coach Billy Donovan said. “It’s out of our hands. And I thought it was important that we show up and do our job as best we can.”

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LaVine, coming off a 41-point in Tuesday’s loss to Brooklyn, scored 16 in the second half.

Markkanen made six 3-pointers — one shy of his season high.

Coby White had 17 points and 10 assists. Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and 16 rebounds to help the Bulls win for the fourth time in five matches.

Johnson led Toronto with a career-high 35 points. The sixth-year pro nailed six 3s and grabbed 10 rebounds while playing turnover-free ball.

“You put a lot of work in, you put a lot of effort into something, to get a positive result and affection is always good,” Johnson said.

“As much as you kill yourself when you’re down, you’ve got to give yourself a pat on the butt when you’re up. … To be able to play a decent game, a good game, I’m happy.”

Rookie Jalen Harris scored a personal-best 17. Malachi Flynn added 16 points. But Toronto lost for the eighth time in nine games.

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Schwarber debuts, leads Nats over Cardinals 5-2

Kyle Schwarber doubled home a run in his delayed Nationals debut, Andrew Stevenson had a pinch-hit homer and Washington defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2 Monday night.

Schwarber, Josh Bell and Josh Harrison were in the starting lineup after being sidelined for Washington’s first six matches by a coronavirus outbreak that prompted the postponement of the team’s season-opening series and left the club short-handed.

The Nats ended a five-game skid, while the Cardinals lost their third consecutive. “We talked about it before the game: Fresh start for all of us, our guys are back,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “So let’s forget about the first six games and start today.”

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Stevenson hit his first homer of the season into St. Louis’ bullpen in right field leading off the seventh inning, putting Washington ahead 4-2. The solo shot was just his fourth homer in 221 career at-bats.

Kyle Finnegan (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings, giving up a run on one hit. He struck out two.

Schwarber, acquired in the offseason after the Chicago Cubs declined to offer him a contract, hit a 1-0 pitch from starter John Gant into right-center to drive in Juan Soto, who singled to start the sixth.

“I felt like a lot of guys had great at-bats all night, working deep counts and making that guy grind out there,” Schwarber said. “You know, that’s contagious.”

The Nationals added a run on the next pitch from reliever Giovanny Gallegos when Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly to foul territory in right, driving in Bell.

Gant (0-1) went five innings and gave up three runs. He permitted six hits, struck out four and walked three.

“The challenge tonight was not getting them all out,” Gant said about the sixth inning, when the first three batters reached against him. “They got a couple of knocks and got me out.”

Washington had an opportunity to break the game open when the first four batters reached to start the eighth against reliever Andrew Miller, including Castro singling home Bell. Ryan Helsley struck out Yan Gomes, and pinch-hitter Ryan Zimmerman flied out to center fielder Dylan Carlson, who threw out Schwarber at home to end the inning.

Yadier Molina hit his second homer of the season in the sixth to pull the Cardinals to 3-2.

Matt Carpenter ended an 0-for-12 start to the season with a bunt single in the third and scored on Tommy Edman’s hit, tying the game at 1. Carpenter has struggled at the plate since spring training, with just two hits in 37 at-bats, including 13 strikeouts.

“I was just glad to get one on the board,” Carpenter said. “Sometimes the first one is the hardest. It obviously was for me.”

Victor Robles led off the game with his second triple of the season and scored on Soto’s one-out single to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

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Washington LB Thomas Davis Sr. says he’ll retire after 2020 season

Washington Football Team linebacker Thomas Davis Sr. will retire at the end of this campaign, he said in an Instagram post.

Washington (6-9) can extend Davis’ final season by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles to win the NFC East on Sunday.

Davis, 37, has played 16 years in the NFL — the first 14 with Carolina and then the past two with the Los Angeles Chargers and Washington. Davis has served mostly in a backup role with Washington this season. He has played in seven games and received 132 snaps from scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Washington coach Ron Rivera signed him because of Davis’ leadership and his familiarity with what Rivera wanted from his players.

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Rivera trusted Davis because of how he played for him in Carolina, where he made the Pro Bowl three consecutive seasons, from 2015 to 2017. He was a first team All-Pro performer in 2015, the year Carolina reached the Super Bowl. Davis signed a two-year deal with the Chargers in 2019 but was released last offseason.

Davis also endured three torn ACLs.

As a reminder of how he endured, Davis posted pictures of cleats on Instagram that sum up his career. One cleat has written on it “3 ACL Tears. 3 ACL Recoveries.” It also shows how many Pro Bowls he earned. On the other cleat, it reflects him winning the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Carolina drafted Davis with the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft; he had played linebacker and free safety at Georgia. He was considered a top safety prospect before that draft, but the Panthers moved him to linebacker.

His speed and athleticism helped him have success in the NFL. In 199 games, Davis recorded 1,151 tackles, 29 sacks, 18 forced fumbles and 13 interceptions.

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Washington Wizards teammates laud Russell Westbrook’s ‘great’ overall impact in his debut

Russell Westbrook drove the lane, found Thomas Bryant open for an easy dunk as the Washington Wizards’ big man drew a foul and then immediately ran to Bryant to scream his approval.

In his first match with the Wizards, Westbrook logged only 17 first-half minutes in Washington’s 99-96 triumph over the Detroit Pistons. But his impact was felt with his energy, pace and ability to get the ball moving and draw the defense’s attention.

“You could see in the first half really how many open shots we got,” Wizards forward Davis Bertans said of Westbrook’s impact. “And how many good looks we had and it was all I would say Russ.

“He set the tone for driving and kicking … I am pretty sure it is going to get better from here.” After being held out of the Wizards’ first two preseason games, Westbrook played in the team’s final tuneup before the regular-season opener at Philadelphia on Dec. 23. Westbrook ended with 8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and shot 4-for-10, including 0-for-3 from behind the arc.

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“It was good,” Westbrook said of his first game as a Wizard. “We won, the most important part … I like where we were tonight.

“My job is to try to set the tone. Have them be ready to play.”

The Wizards saw Westbrook’s encouragement on offense in the ability Bradley Beal had to work one-on-one against defenders and how much the Wizards tried to push the pace. Washington led by as much as 16 and had 10 fast-break points in the first half when Westbrook played.

“It just felt great,” Beal said of playing with Westbrook. “It was great energy … I don’t think it will be tough as people are trying to make it out to be. We both do a really good job off of feeding off of each other, just adjusting to how each other plays.

“The most important thing is his pace and energy he brings to the table … it just works out well. We just continue to play off each other, feed off each other and push each other.”

While Beal missed all seven of his 3-point attempts, he scored 15 points and hit seven field goals.

Beal averaged 30.5 points last campaign but drew the majority of the opposing defense’s attention as the Wizards’ lone star.

“Our job is to make the game easier for him,” Westbrook said. “Find a way to constantly feed him the ball so he can score at a high rate. He has shown he is able to do that. He is going to be great. I am not worried about Brad one bit.”

Bryant benefited from the attention Westbrook drew, scoring 22 points and making 7 of 12 shots. And Wizards coach Scott Brooks loved seeing an animated Westbrook celebrating Bryant’s dunk with the foul and encouraging the big man in the first quarter.

“Really good,” Brooks said when asked about Westbrook’s first preseason action. “He’s been looking like that all training camp. His spirit is about winning, not about stats. He plays the right way and teaches our young fellas the right things. He’s great. “He’s nothing short of spectacular, what he tells the guys, how he coaches his teammates and they listen. What he’s done, how he prepares and how he trains and how he looks at the game is priceless.”

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New York Giants WR Golden Tate suffers knee injury in practice

Golden Tate was planned to address the media for the first time since being benched for last week’s game versus Washington. Instead, the wide receiver was a late scratch after the New York Giants said he suffered a knee injury late in Thursday’s practice.

The original belief is that the injury is not anything potentially season-ending, a source told ESPN. Tate was officially listed as a limited participant in practice.

It has been an eventful campaign for Tate. He missed the season opener with a hamstring injury, fought Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey at midfield in Week 4 and expressed his displeasure with his shrinking role late in a Monday night loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then was suspended for his actions.

Just when he was supposed to return to face one of his former teams, the Philadelphia Eagles, he hurt his knee. The veteran receiver was set to resume his previous role, according to wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. Tate was playing just over 50% of the offensive snaps before being benched.

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He seemed to be participating fully during the portion of Thursday’s practice that was open to the media.

“We’re kind of past that issue now,” coach Joe Judge stated before practice. “We’re getting ready to play Philly right now. Golden’s getting ready to play Philly as well right now.

“I love the way he came to practice [Wednesday]. I love the way he’s preparing so far today. We’re going to be on the field today. We’ll be over in the stadium. It’ll be a good chance for the entire team to work on the turf for a day today and get moving forward with it. But look, we’re totally past the whole situation last week. It is what it is. I look forward to getting Golden on the field with us. We’ll roll him in fast.”

Undrafted rookie Austin Mack took Tate’s snaps in Sunday’s victory over Washington and led the Giants with 72 yards on four receptions.

Tate is a former Pro Bowl receiver with 682 receptions for 8,116 yards and 46 touchdowns in 112 career starts. But last week he was told to stay home Wednesday while the Giants practiced and spent most of the rest of the week working with the scout team.

In Week 8, Tate was caught on camera yelling “Throw me the ball” after a spectacular leaping touchdown grab late in the fourth quarter put the Giants in position to tie the score. His wife, Elise, ranted that night on Instagram about his lack of opportunities, and Tate later liked a tweet that suggested he should be cut and given an opportunity to sign elsewhere.

Sources stated the Giants were open to moving Tate before the trade deadline. But his salary (almost $4.5 million this season), age (32) and deteriorating production (22 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns in seven games) made it unlikely.

The rare times Tate has been called on in recent weeks, he has produced. He had touchdown grabs of 19 and 39 yards despite just five targets combined versus the Buccaneers and Eagles in his past two games.

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