Reds roll to 10th straight win, beat Rockies 7-2 (Yahoo! Sports)
DENVER (AP) — Mat Latos felt the weight of the Cincinnati Reds’ winning streak when he took the mound. After getting roughed up by the first two batters he faced on Sunday, the big right-hander settled down and kept Cincinnati rolling. Latos pitched eight strong innings, and Drew Stubbs homered to lift Cincinnati over the Colorado Rockies 7-2 and give the Reds their 10th straight win – their longest streak in 14 years. The Reds also won 10 straight in 1998, and now they are two wins away from tying the franchise mark that has been done twice – most recently in 1957. Cincinnati opened a three-game lead over Pittsburgh in NL Central, its biggest edge since mid-June. ”They’re not going to go away, that’s fairly obviously at this point,” outfielder Jay Bruce said of the Pirates. ”We have some series left with them, but anytime you can gain a game it’s great.” Bruce also homered and Stubbs drove in three runs. Ryan Hanigan and Zack Cozart had two hits each for the Reds, who have won 17 of 19. The Reds have swept four of five series since the All-Star break and they are a season-best 21 games above .500 (61-40). They have won nine straight road games, including all six on this just-completed trip. ”I’m always talking a perfect road trip and we finally had one,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. Latos (9-3) didn’t want to be the one to stop the Reds’ momentum, and he rose to the challenge. He allowed four hits and struck out eight. ”A lot of pressure coming into the game knowing we won nine in a row, but I just attacked them,” Latos said. ”Today it was in the back of my mind, but it’s baseball. Just play.” Things didn’t start well. Latos walked Dexter Fowler on five pitches, and Josh Rutledge homered on the first pitch he saw from Latos to give the Rockies a 2-1 lead. ”It was a fastball away. It looked like I beat him but he got it up in the air and into a bad part of the ballpark where it flies out,” Latos said. It was the only bright spot for Colorado, which has lost three straight and nine of 11. ”Josh jumped on that first pitch fastball in the bottom of the first inning after Dexter drew a walk, and then that was it,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. The Reds took a 3-2 lead into the fifth, then broke it open against Jonathan Sanchez (0-2). Cozart led off with a single, and Stubbs hit his 12th home run. One out later, Bruce hit his 20th homer into the second deck in right to make it 6-2 and chase Sanchez. Sanchez, acquired from Kansas City for Jeremy Guthrie on July 20, didn’t fare much better than the pitcher he replaced. In his home debut, Sanchez allowed six runs and eight hits, struck out three and walked two. He has failed to pitch at least five innings in either of his starts for Colorado. ”I got hit a lot,” he said. ”I was throwing strikes and they were swinging the bats.” Miguel Cairo added an RBI single in the eighth off Mike Ekstrom to make it 7-2. Cincinnati took the lead with carbon-copy plays in consecutive innings. In the second, Chris Heisey led off with a triple and scored on Cairo’s sacrifice fly. Cozart followed with a leadoff triple in the third and came home on Stubbs’ sacrifice fly to give the Reds a 3-2 lead. ”The bats have picked up the past couple of days,” Bruce said. ”We’ve been doing what we need to do. Whether it’s the long ball, base hits, sac flies, we’ve been playing really good baseball.” The Reds struck first when Brandon Phillips’ single scored Stubbs from second base in the first. The Rockies answered in the bottom half when Rutledge homered. ”Latos threw the ball great,” Baker said. ”Other than that first-inning, two-run homer he was lights out. We got some timely hits out of guys.” Phillips left the game in the fifth inning with cramping in his left calf but said he should be fine. ”I’m all right. The knot is still there but I’ll be OK,” he said. ”People were saying it was the altitude, the dry heat, I didn’t drink enough water or something. I’m ready to play (Monday). I think I’m going to play.” NOTES: Heisey, who also doubled, has had multiple extra-base hits in four games this season. … The Reds went 5-1 against Colorado this season. … The Reds open a six-game homestand with Mike Leake (4-6) facing San Diego on Monday. … Colorado’s Jeff Francis (3-2) will pitch the first game of a three-game series against St. Louis on Tuesday.
AP sources: Timberwolves making run at Pau Gasol (Yahoo! Sports)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves are pulling out all the stops in an effort to land Pau Gasol. If they have to part with the highest draft choice in franchise history after just one season, the Wolves appear ready to do it. That much became clear leading up to the NBA draft on Thursday, when Minnesota offered Derrick Williams to the Charlotte Bobcats for the No. 2 pick as a vehicle to help them land Gasol from the Los Angeles Lakers, two people with knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press. The deal never came together before the draft began, and the Bobcats stayed at No. 2 and took Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The people requested anonymity because the talks were meant to remain private. The Timberwolves were expected to continue their pursuit of Gasol in hopes of putting him with fellow Spaniard Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love on a revamped roster aimed at getting the team back to the playoffs, and beyond, for the first time since 2004. The Wolves’ interest in Gasol has long been rumored, with the highly skilled big man considered an ideal fit for coach Rick Adelman’s corner offense, and the kind of playoff-tested veteran needed on one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. He is also close friends with Rubio, the Wolves’ superb young point guard who is recovering from a torn ACL and hopes to be ready early next season. Gasol has teamed with Kobe Bryant to win three titles in Los Angeles, but has always seemed to catch the brunt of the criticism when things went wrong. That was the case again this year when he averaged just 12.5 points along with 9.5 rebounds in the playoffs, and the Lakers were abruptly eliminated in the second round by the younger, quicker Oklahoma City Thunder. He often appeared to get lost in the shuffle while Bryant and Andrew Bynum got most of the touches on offense. He was the subject of trade rumors all season, starting before it began when Commissioner David Stern, operating as owner of the New Orleans Hornets, nixed a deal that would have sent Gasol to Houston as part of a package that would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers. ”It has been a crazy year and a lot to deal with. … Unfortunately, we had tough losses and things didn’t really go our way for the most part,” the four-time All-Star said at the end of the season. ”You just have to regroup and digest this loss and this season, and learn from it and move on.” Gasol is due to make more than $38 million over the next two seasons, an enormous sum that the salary cap-strapped Lakers might have difficulty footing under the harsher luxury tax penalties that are scheduled to kick in in 2013. Love’s max contract extension kicks in next season, making him the only Timberwolves player who is expected to be on the roster next season making more than $4.6 million. If the Wolves buy out Martell Webster and decline to tender qualifying offers to Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph, as expected, they should have plenty of cap room for Gasol. But if they want to bring him in to play alongside Love in the frontcourt, it likely will come at a hefty price. Offering Williams, the second overall pick last season who showed promise and inconsistency in his rookie year, means the Wolves would be giving up on him after just one season. And at just 21 years old, Williams has plenty of potential to grow into the star that many projected him to be when he entered the draft after his sophomore season at Arizona. Gasol will turn 32 next week and has played nearly 39,000 minutes in his career, raising the question if he has enough gas left in the tank to help turn the Timberwolves from an up-and-coming team into a legitimate contender. Williams is aware that the Wolves are trying to deal him, but it’s unclear how he will respond if he is still on the team when training camp begins. He averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds and was the only Timberwolves player to play in all 66 games last season. Williams had several big games during an up-and-down year in addition to participating in the slam dunk contest during All-Star weekend. He scored 27 points in 27 minutes in a win over the Clippers in Los Angeles on Feb. 28 and had 27 points and eight boards in a loss at Denver on April 11. But the 66-year-old Adelman has been pushing for the franchise to add more veterans, and he grew impatient at times with Williams last season. Williams did most of his damage while playing power forward, which is the same position played by Love, who blossomed last year into a surprising MVP contender. With Love playing so many minutes at power forward, the Timberwolves were hoping Williams could drop some weight this summer to help him become quick enough to play small forward for the majority of the time. Earlier this week, Kahn said that Williams was already down to 233 pounds, with a personal goal of 225. ”I think the most important fact about Derrick to me is that he turned 21 last month. He’s still very, very young,” Kahn said on Wednesday. ”This is a very important summer for him to demonstrate if he’s serious about his craft, his occupation, that he’s serious about himself. This is the offseason. I challenged him in his exit interview, and I’m eager to see the results of this summer.” But Kahn also declined to list Williams with Rubio and Love as ”untouchable” players when the team considers trades this summer. ”We have two untouchables,” Kahn said. ”That doesn’t mean everyone else will be traded this summer. We just don’t know.” — Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/APkrawczynski .
College football closes in on a playoff _ finally (Yahoo! Sports)
CHICAGO (AP) College football has always relied on polls and bowls to crown a national championship. It is an inexact science that has left many fans frustrated and wondering why they can’t settle it on the field – like every other sport – with a playoff. Finally, the people in charge agree with the people in the stands. A major college football playoff, albeit a small one, is closer than ever to becoming a reality. The BCS commissioners have backed a plan for a four-team playoff with the sites for the national semifinals rotating among the major bowl games and a selection committee picking the participants. The plan will be presented to university presidents next week for approval. Once the presidents sign off – and that seems likely – major college football’s champion will be decided by a playoff for the first time, starting in 2014. The Bowl Championship Series is on its death bed. Even the name is likely to go away. ”We are excited to be on the threshold of creating a new postseason structure for college football that builds on the great popularity of our sport,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday. All 11 commissioners stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind Swarbrick, who read the BCS statement from a podium set up in a hotel conference room. The commissioners have been working on reshaping college football’s postseason since January. The meeting Wednesday was the sixth formal get-together of the year. They met for four hours and emerged with a commitment to stand behind a plan. ”I think we’re very unified,” said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who for years had been a staunch opponent of even the smallest playoff. For decades, major college football didn’t even try to organize a championship game. The top teams played in marquee bowl games and if it happened to work out that No.1 and No. 2 squared off on New Year’s Day, well, all the better. When all the games were done, the voters in the AP poll would crown a champion and so would the coaches who vote in their poll. Sometimes there would be two No. 1s. In the 1990s, the commissioners of the major conferences came up with the idea to create a national title game, matching No. 1 vs. No. 2 every year. Eventually, that spawned the Bowl Championship Series, which was implemented in 1998. Instead of solving the problem of crowning a champion, the BCS only seemed to exasperate fans even more. Too often, using polls and computer ratings to narrow the field to two teams was all but impossible. Like last year, when Alabama lost to LSU in the regular season, but ended up getting a second crack at the Tigers in the BCS title game – despite having the same record as Big 12 champion Oklahoma State. The Crimson Tide validated their appearance by trouncing LSU and winning the BCS title, but many outside of SEC country were left unsatisfied. Under the commissioners’ proposal, Alabama and Oklahoma State likely would have played in one semifinal while LSU played Pac-12 champion Oregon in the other. No doubt many will wonder, ”Why only four?” ”I’m sure it won’t satisfy everyone,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. ”Until you have an eight-team or 16-team seeded playoff, there will be folks out there that aren’t completely satisfied. We get that. But we’re trying to balance other important parties, like the value of the regular season, the bowls, the academic calendar.” The commissioners refrained from providing many specifics of the plan in their announcement. Scott did say the two semifinals would be worked into the existing major bowls and the site of the national championship game will be bid out to any city that wants it, the way the NFL does with the Super Bowl. People with firsthand knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press that the semifinals of the proposed plan would rotate among the major bowls and not be tied to traditional conference relationships. They also said that under the plan a selection committee would choose the schools that play for the national title. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the commissioners did not want to reveal many details before talking to their bosses. ”I am delighted,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, whose push for a four-team playoff in 2008 was shot down. ”I am pleased with the progress we have made. There are some differences, but we will work them out. We’re trying to do what is in the best interest of the game.” It will certainly be in the best financial interest. The BCS television contract with ESPN – along with the Rose Bowl’s separate contract with ABC – pays the participating schools $155 million per year. BCS officials won’t put an exact number on it, but they aren’t shy about saying that a playoff would be worth much more. Probably more than double. How that money will be split up among the conferences is still to be determined, and will likely be a point of contention with high-profile and high revenue generating leagues such as the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference getting more than the likes of the Mountain West and Conference USA. The rebuilt Big East could be looking at being bumped to second-tier status. But before they split up the pot, there were other details that needed to be sorted out. There was some debate about whether to have semifinal sites rotate between the current BCS bowls – the Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta – or link the sites of the games to traditional conference affiliations. By linking sites to leagues Southeastern Conference teams could host games at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and Pac-12 and Big Ten teams could host games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. But the logistical issues that come with not having the sites for the semifinals set in advance were too big a problem. Now it will be possible for Ohio State and Oregon to play a semifinal in Miami, the site of the Orange Bowl. How the teams will be selected also has been hotly debated; the current Bowl Championship Series uses a combination of polls and computer rankings. There are still major details to be worked out, such as who exactly makes up the selection committee, but college football will take a page from college basketball, which uses a committee of athletic directors and commissioners to pick the teams for its championship tournament. The 12-member BCS Presidential Oversight Committee meets Tuesday in Washington. The commissioners and Swarbrick all stressed that ultimately the decision lies with the presidents. And that they will have more than just one model to talk about at their meeting. But unless something unexpected happens in Washington, a playoff will take another step to becoming a reality. —- Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
Wade’s knee may keep him out of London Games (Yahoo! Sports)
MIAMI (AP) Dwyane Wade is unsure if he will be able to compete in the London Olympics. The Miami Heat guard told The Associated Press on Friday that he will soon have his ailing left knee examined, and acknowledges that surgery might be a possibility. Wade played through pain in this year’s playoffs, helping the Heat win the NBA Finals for the second time. Wade appeared in all 23 postseason games for Miami, averaging 22.8 points. Wade says he isn’t sure what the exact problem is with his knee, which was drained during the second round of the playoffs. He says he wants to play in the Olympics again, like he did when the Americans won bronze at Athens in 2004 and the ”Redeem Team” took gold at Beijing in 2008.
Jeter, A-Rod homer off Verlander; Yankees win 5-1 (Yahoo! Sports)
DETROIT (AP) Derek Jeter stepped in and homered on the first pitch of the game, giving the Yankees an early breakthrough against Justin Verlander. Then Phil Hughes took the mound and actually outpitched the Detroit ace. ”Phil deserves all the credit. He was pretty impressive today,” Jeter said. ”He just came after people.” Alex Rodriguez also connected against Verlander, and Hughes pitched a four-hitter to lead New York to a 5-1 victory over the Tigers on Sunday. Hughes threw his first career complete game of nine innings – last Aug. 2 he went all six innings in a rain-shortened win over the White Sox. Hughes (5-5) struck out eight and walked three. He threw a career-high 123 pitches. ”It feels great. The big thing here has been pitch count and not going very deep into games,” Hughes said. ”My fastball was staying more true, had some good life on it. I just felt a lot better overall.” Jeter hit his 27th career leadoff homer, and Rodriguez hit a long solo shot in the third inning. Verlander (5-4) allowed five runs – three earned – and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings. He’s now lost three straight starts for the first time since 2008. Prince Fielder hit his ninth homer of the year for the Tigers. Jeter had two hits, and his homer gave him his 1,799th run, tying him with Ted Williams for 17th on the career list. Verlander was laboring from the start, giving up an opposite-field home run to Jeter and then walking Curtis Granderson on four pitches. After another walk and a passed ball, Mark Teixeira hit a one-out sacrifice fly to make it 2-0. ”Runs are few and far between when you’re facing him, but we scored early there, and I think he struggled with his control a little bit, so he got his pitch count up,” Jeter said. Verlander stopped to talk to plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt after his first inning on the way back to the dugout. He was still frustrated afterward. ”I was uncomfortable right from the start, because the pitches that I practice every day weren’t getting me strikes,” Verlander said. ”To get a strike, I had to come over more of the plate than I normally do, and that’s a big problem against that lineup.” Rodriguez’s ninth homer of the season easily cleared the fence in left-center and went an estimated 447 feet. The ball bounced high off the brick wall where retired numbers are displayed – right between Hank Greenberg’s No. 5 and Charlie Gehringer’s No. 2. It was the third mammoth homer at Comerica Park in less than 24 hours after Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera hit two similar shots to center Saturday night. Fielder made it 3-1 with a 415-foot homer to right in the fourth, but the Yankees weren’t done. Robinson Cano’s two-out triple in the fifth brought Granderson home from second, and Cano also scored on the play when second baseman Danny Worth’s throw to third skipped past for an error. Verlander extended his streak to 54 starts of at least six innings in the regular season, but he hasn’t been at his best lately. In his previous outing at Boston, he allowed five runs and 10 hits in six innings. In an April 27 start at New York, he gave up four earned runs in six innings in a no-decision against the Yankees. Hughes, meanwhile, has allowed at least one homer in all 11 starts this season, but he kept the banged-up Tigers off base for the most part. Detroit put outfielder Andy Dirks on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right Achilles. Catcher Alex Avila has also been out with right hamstring tightness. NOTES: New York finished its road trip 6-3, with two of the losses by one run. … Verlander lost four straight decisions from July 26-Aug. 11, 2008. … A spectator ran on the field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and approached Yankees RF Nick Swisher, then ran around the outfield a bit before being tackled by security personnel. … New York 3B Eric Chavez made a nice sliding catch of a foul ball in the second. … The Yankees and Tigers are both off Monday. New York hosts Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. Andy Pettitte (2-2) starts for the Yankees against James Shields (6-3). Detroit hosts Cleveland on Tuesday night. Drew Smyly (2-1) starts for the Tigers against Ubaldo Jimenez (5-4).