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Justin Verlander gives up 2-run HR to first batter in first career relief appearance, still gets W


Desperate to avoid a winner-take-all Game 5 in this American League Division Series, the Houston Astros asked ace Justin Verlander to do something Monday that he hadn’t done as a professional or in college.

It didn’t work out well.

With the Astros leading by one run and trying to close out the Boston Red Sox in the best-of-five series, Verlander warmed up in the bullpen and made the first relief appearance of his career with one out and a runner on first base in the fifth inning. The first batter he faced, Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi, belted a two-run homer to right field to swing the score in Boston’s favor and prompt taunts of “Jus-tin! Jus-tin!” from the crowd at Fenway Park.

The exhibition victory over the Nuggets marked the first time that Hammon coached the regular Spurs team in the preseason. Hammon served the past two seasons as head coach of San Antonio’s summer league team, which in 2015 captured the NBA Las Vegas Summer league title with the six-time WNBA All-Star at the helm.

He just turned 20 years old last month and he has the upside to make a big leap from Year 1 to Year 2. I’m also a big believer in Lakers coach Luke Walton in the way he works with young players like Ingram and uses them in a way where they can excel.

So Roark will get the ball. While Strasburg-Gio Gonzalez would be a stronger pairing than Roark-Strasburg, you were going to have to win the non-Strasburg game anyway, and you can argue matching him up against Kyle Hendricks in a potential Game 5 gives the Nationals a better chance of winning that game than Gonzalez. You just have to get there. For that, Washington has to get the bats going. The Nationals have hit just .121/.200/.231 in the first three games.

Texans forget the past, brace for Chiefs


The Chiefs have been middling defensively, ranking 22nd in yards per play (5.5), so much of the credit for their fast start has rested at the feet of surprising rookie running back Kareem Hunt and veteran quarterback Alex Smith, 33, who is playing the best football of his 12-year career.

In a statement, the NFL said the comments are just plain wrong and disrespectful to the exceptional female reporters and all journalists. They do not reflect the thinking of the league.

The Association for Women in Sports Media said in a statement that it is very discouraged by Cam Newton’s disrespectful remarks and actions directed to a female reporter during today’s Carolina Panthers media conference. As a watchdog group, AWSM demands fair treatment and positive workplace environments for women working in sports media.
falcons_015ball Writers of America also condemned Newton’s comments, saying in a statement that he crossed the line.

Newton made headlines earlier in his career for his interaction with the media after the Panthers’ loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, when he cut short his session with reporters.

Hoyer is completing 58.1 percent of his passes and was 24 of 49 last week in a 18-15 overtime loss to Arizona. He has two touchdown passes and four interceptions.

He needs to play better, Shanahan said when talking about Hoyer’s inefficiencies this season. When you have the time and you’ve got guys open, you need to hit them. I thought he struggled with that at times, which I know he can do better.

Could Howard be a bust at the next level?


At his pro day, Davis had a 38.5” vertical, 10’8 broad jump, and ran a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash at 6’1, 238 pounds. If he had done that at the combine (he couldn’t participate in most drills because of injuries), he would have ranked first in the vertical and broad among all linebackers. He tied T.J. Watt on the broad, and was a full inch better than second-place Tyus Bowser in the vertical.

His SPARQ rating of 133.6 is special and well ahead of Zach Cunningham or Raekwon McMillan. He’s been compared to Bobby Wagner, and though the Seahawks already have Wagner, it would be just as fine to put Davis at strongside (where a lot of people project him anyway) and then let the cards play out as they may. Davis is probably a stronger pass rusher than he is a tackler anyway (he might be a rather poor tackler for a linebacker) and suddenly with him, Wagner, and K.J. Wright, Seattle has potentially the best middle of any defense in the league. Not bad when the front and the secondary isn’t shabby either.

Despite concerns about his lack of production throughout college, Howard found a way to come up big when his team needed him the most. In two national championship games against Clemson, he hauled in nine catches for 314 yards. Three of his seven career touchdown receptions came in those games.

He only dropped three passes his past two seasons, showcasing the kind of hands that make him a low-risk prospect. Howard is also a strong blocker who engages blitzing defenders well and keeps his feet underneath him to fend off power rushes. He’s even better in run support, where he has the leverage to delay linemen and the speed to get to the second level and take linebackers and safeties out of the play.

That combination of athleticism, pass catching, and blocking laid the foundation to be a consistent starting tight end, even if he fails to fulfill his potential.

Bill Belichick playing a word association game is more telling than a normal interview


Bill Belichick has a reputation for not being even a bit revealing. He’s notoriously tight-lipped with the media. But in an interview with CNBC’s Suzy Welch, Belichick opened up thanks to a word association game.

In the in-depth interview, Belichick seemed at ease. He was more than willing to play along when Welch suggested the word association exercise.

Welch’s first word for Belichick was “football.”

“More sport than business, but it’s a business,” was Belichick’s immediate reply. “I respect the game for the game and for the sport.”

The next words Welch wanted Belichick to address were “the media.” Considering that he’s the guy who just kept saying “Seattle” when reporters asked him about his relationship with Donald Trump, his answer was a bit surprising.

“It’s how a team connects to its fans,” Belichick said.

“I think just the experience of doing that type of stuff, you don’t just run stuff and think you’re going to be good at it right away. You’ve got to commit to it and work at it year round, and it’s all the positions. When all your quarterbacks have different ways to be successful, which I’ve been in situations like that and you try to prepare them best, it does take a toll on your offense. What are you trying to get good at? You can’t practice everything. You can’t be great at everything. You’ve kind of got to commit to something and do it over and over and over again and once the type of running game or drop-back game, you’re going to commit to one quarterback is completely different than the other, then that does affect your team.


NFL free agency 2017: Where the top 100 free agents have signed


There’s no shortage of optimism for NFL fans in the spring, and nothing says hope springs eternal like a brand new free agent acquisition. The player your team just signed is totally going to be the difference this year; you just know it!

While there are a few names still on the market, most of the biggest money has already been spent in the weeks since NFL free agency began on March 9.

The highest odds at the No. 1 overall pick are headed to the Brooklyn Nets, who have all but clinched the league’s worst record at 16-58, light years behind the next-worst teams. That pick, though, is headed to Boston, but there are a few competitions that could make for some interesting end-of-the-year tank sessions across the board.

Say hello to Scott Tolzien, the Packers’ latest starting quarterback. He was third-string as of two weeks ago, but injuries to Rodgers and Seneca Wallace have forced the third-year quarterback out of Wisconsin into action. Although the Packers managed just 13 points against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Tolzien played reasonably well, going 24-for-39 for 280 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He will need to be on point to take out the Giants.

The purpose of every NFL regular season is to confound preseason expectations. That said, if we went back in time to the kickoff of Week 1 and gave an avid NFL observer a sneak peek at the Week 11 standings, he probably wouldn’t be too shocked.

As sure as the sun rises in the East, the Pats lead the AFC East.

The Broncos sit atop the AFC West (though the Chiefs’ appearance at 9-1 would likely raise an eyebrow).

Rodgers would have been poised for a huge game if he were healthy


Don’t look now, but the Cardinals are just one game behind the 49ers in the division and have a real shot to go 6-4 after this week. There was talk before the season about the NFC West sending three teams to the playoffs, but most people assumed the Rams would be that third team. Funny how things work out.

The NFC East slapfight never ceases to amuse, but the Eagles have a chance to steal first place with the Cowboys on bye. They’ll probably lose that chance anyway, because this is the NFC East and chaos reigns. Both defenses are a wreck, so there should be plenty of points here.

There is no injury mystery for the Panthers, as only three players are listed on the injury report and all three are ruled out for Sunday. The team announced on Friday that Chase Blackburn, James Dockery and Chris Scott will not play on Sunday.

In addition to losing Rodgers, the Packers will also be without Jermichael Finley for the rest of the season. Evan Western of Acme Packing Company wrote about the move to put the TE on injured reserve:

Foles has started three games this season, playing extremely well twice and horrid once. His performance against Dallas — where he completed 37.9 percent of his passes and averaged 2.8 yards per attempt — may have just been a down week, but it’s still hard to know what to expect. The Eagles are likely to rack up a lot of yards, as they’re fourth in the NFL in yards per game.

Rodgers would have been poised for a huge game if he were healthy, with Philadelphia dead last in pass defense. The Eagles are very much a work in progress on the defensive side of the ball and it shows. No team allows more yards per game than their 419.3. Philadelphia employs some bend-but-don’t-break tactics and is tied for 21st in scoring defense.4

There is another major league team that has a better lineup and defense than the U.S. in the WBC


Authentic Youth Kam Chancellor Jersey The highest odds at the No. 1 overall pick are headed to the Brooklyn Nets, who have all but clinched the league is worst record at 12-54, light years behind the next-worst teams. That pick, though, is headed to Boston, but there are a few competitions that could make for some interesting end-of-the-year tank sessions across the board.

Brady is elaborate suspect board included Lady Gaga, Gollum, and Julian Edelman. It did not, however, appear to include anyone posing as a member of the international media. So maybe this investigation was better left to professionals.

Anyway, so I am here to talk about the Screaming agles and the team they have assembled. Just eyeballing it, more than a few major league teams have a better starting rotation than the United States is using in the World Baseball Classic, and that is even if you give it credit for Chris Archer, who is with the team anymore.
Authentic Youth JJ Redick Jersey
A rotation of Archer/Danny Duffy/Tanner Roark/Drew Smyly/Marcus Stroman is fantastic, do get me wrong. But it is also possible to build a slightly more impressive rotation of American pitchers without leaving the AL East.

There is another major league team that has a better lineup and defense than the U.S. in the WBC, and I am not sure if there ever has been.

Holtmann has a style that works for him and that worked for Butler before his arrival. The Bulldogs move deliberately on offense, consistently sitting near the bottom of Division I in pace. They rarely turn the ball over and they make shots. On defense, they are stingy defending the three-pointer. These were qualities of Stevens鈥?Butler teams, especially the best ones. Holtmann has not rocked the boat.

Is Bouye worth the $67.5 million he’ll be making over the next five years?


Four years and $53 million seems expensive based on Okung’s performance in Denver last year, but if the Chargers can keep him on the field, he can be an effective blocker again.

We don’t usually include players re-signing with their team on this list, but Williams is a useful exception. It looked like he would for sure get away, but the Ravens kept the centerpiece of their defensive line in-house with a five-year$54 million deal with $27.5 million guaranteed. Dontari Poe can expect a similar deal.

It wasn’t cheap, but boy oh boy does the Jacksonville secondary look fun with Bouye paired with Jalen Ramsey. Bouye turns 26 in August and Ramsey turns 23 in October, so the Jaguars don’t look like they’ll be worried about the cornerback position for a long time.

Is Bouye worth the $67.5 million he’ll be making over the next five years? He looked like it in 2016, but that was his only year as a starter.

One man outside of the arena told a local outlet his feelings about waving the flag. It had nothing to do with racial anxiety, he said. It was about cultural and racial identity.

“People tend to mistake this for a race thing. It’s not about race. It’s about history and it being erased. And it is being erased,” a white man said, while wearing sunglasses and a Civil War era infantryman’s cap with a Confederate pin in it.

“You have to go and do your own research on it. Once you start to find out and start to see really why we do this, okay? We’re people, too. We have the right to be the people that we are. We’re not out here causing problems. We’ve never caused a problem in how many years? Three? Trucks running in convoy, hundreds and hundreds of people. We’re people, too.”

UCLA, not Arizona, is generating all of the Pac-12 buzz


Or, to be more specific, this version of UCLA — the 2016-17, Lonzo-Ball-and-TJ-Leaf-led, sprint-the-ball-up-the-floor-and-do-something-like-this (!) UCLA — is irresistible.

The four letters on the jersey connote storied and glorious history, sure, but it has been a long time since a team that wore them had this much fun doing so. Steve Alford has put a very good offense on the Pauley Pavilion floor before (in his first season, in 2013-14). Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook proved a fairly effective pairing (believe it or not) at the height of former coach Ben Howland’s success.

Saturday — when No. 3 UCLA hosts No. 14 Arizona — will bring this dynamic into even starker relief, for two reasons.

The top of the Dodgers’ system rivals anyone’s. They have four top prospects whom you could legitimately give a 20 percent chance to become stars in the big leagues, although two are pitchers, one of whom has already blown out his elbow once and the other of whom struggled to throw strikes when he first signed.

They’ve put money into the international market, aiming for ceiling, and have been more conservative in the draft, looking for lower-floor guys early and taking fliers after the second or third round. The system has also gotten deeper in some ways but lost two elite guys to promotion last year — one of those won Rookie of the Year, you may have heard of him — and depth in the midyear trade that brought in Rich Hill and Josh Reddick.

There are systems that run deeper in likely regulars, because those teams have been able to focus just on building without having to balance that and contention, but for a team this good to have this kind of star potential in full-season ball is remarkable.

6 things to know about Jarryd Hayne’s journey from rugby league MVP to NFL rookie


For months now, we’ve been hearing whispers about Jarryd Hayne, the 49ers’ newest recruit. Only it hasn’t been about his supreme athletic form or his speed. Hayne, if you haven’t heard, isn’t from around these parts. Rather, the 6-foot-2 running back hails from Australia, and forged a successful career playing rugby league. Then, he decided to make a leap across continents and sports.

NFL fans can now finally get a glimpse into what Australia, England and New Zealand have known all along: Hayne is a hardworking, passionate athlete who deserves your full attention.

A near-death experience turned his life around.

Hayne wasn’t always Australia’s golden boy. In 2008 he lived a (self-described) “rockstar” lifestyle in Sydney. That party lifestyle almost resulted in him being shot in a nightclub.

Marshall’s support comes one day after Jets head coach Todd Bowles admonished Smith for playing catch too soon after the surgery.

“He shouldn’t be doing it right now,” Bowles said. “He just had surgery. You don’t want it getting infected.”

Smith is expected to be out 6-10 weeks, and the certain members of the Jets don’t seem all that upset about it. Star cornerback Darrelle Revis said last week he holds both Enemkpali and Smith responsible for the fight, and left guard Willie Colon said it was a “smooth groove” when Ryan Fitzpatrick was under center in New York’s 23-3 loss to the Lions Thursday.

With the exception of Marshall, Smith seems to be facing indifference inside his own locker room, and criticism outside of it. ESPN analyst Cris Carter was quick to blame Smith for the fight last week, and NFL Network commentator Willie McGinest said he would have given Enemkpali, who’s now with the Bills, a contract extension.

Meanwhile, in Jets Land, Bowles made his team run gassers over the weekend following two skirmishes in practice.

In Smith’s absence, it appears as if the J-E-T-S haven’t skipped a beat.