Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sources: Owners Budge on Cap Demand

Basketball News & NBA Rumors
For the first time in two years of labor talks, NBA owners made a modest push from their rigid stance on implementing a hard salary cap, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The owners proposed at Tuesday’s negotiating session an idea similar to the current system that allows teams to pay a luxury tax for going over the cap. Only, now there would be ultra-punitive measures against higher-spending teams. The current system has teams pay a dollar-for-dollar tax for exceeding the cap.

Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has called the hard cap a “blood issue” for the union, and insisted the players would never agree to it.

The owners’ proposal on Tuesday “would still have the affects of a hard cap,” one source with knowledge of the talks said.

via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports

Do you like Presidents Cup picks of Woods and Haas?

By Reid Cherner, USA TODAY

Fred Couples made it official yesterday by picking Tiger Woods and Bill Haas with his two captain's picks for the Presidents Cup.

PRESIDENTS CUP:  Couples takes two

Greg Norman will captain the International team.

Although Woods has not played since the PGA Championship in August, Couples had said a month ago that Woods would be a choice. Last weekend, Haas won the Tour Championship and the FeEx Cup.

Haas was 12th in the Presidents Cup points standings. The top 10 are automatically on the team.

Not picked for the Nov. 17-20 matches at Royal Melbourne Golf Club: PGA winner Keegan Bradley (20th on points list); 2010 Ryder Cup member Rickie Fowler (15th) and Brandt Snedeker (11th).

The automatic qualifiers: Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, David Toms, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk.

First Pitch: Tied wild-card races raise prospect of one-game playoffs

By Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY
Ready for two playoffs before the playoffs?

That scenario would unfold if the wild-card races remain the way they are for just one more day.T

The St. Louis Cardinals finally caught up to fast-fading Atlanta by overcoming an early 5-0 deficit to crush the Houston Astros 13-6 on Tuesday, after the Philadelphia Phillies had delivered another damaging blow to the Braves by beating them 7-1.

Should the NL wild-card contenders remain tied after today's action, they would face each other in a one-game playoff Thursday in St. Louis at 8:07 p.m. EDT.

The AL wild-card tiebreaker would be played four hours earlier at Tampa Bay, provided the Rays and Boston Red Sox can't settle matters by tonight.

Both clubs won Tuesday, but while the Rays rode Matt Joyce's three-run homer in the seventh to a 5-3 victory over the New York Yankees, the Red Sox had to sweat till the last swing before dispatching the stubborn Baltimore Orioles 8-7.

Fittingly for a Boston club that has gone 7-19 in September, it took closer Jonathan Papelbon 28 pitches and all of his resources to get out of the ninth inning, after allowing one Oriole to score and having the tying run at second base.

"I don't know if you could see out there, but there was a couple of times I had kind of a little grin on my face," Papelbon said afterward. "I enjoy that. That's baseball, man. It doesn't get any better than that. I was having fun. I enjoy that. That's what it's all about."

Manager Terry Francona, who saw his club take an 8-4 lead in the eighth and nearly blow it, had an appreciating for the moment but wouldn't exactly describe the experience as fun.

"I think it's really good for baseball. Not so good for my stomach,'' said Francona, who will have Jon Lester on the mound tonight, opposing Alfredo Simon. "It's exciting. If you don't want to show up tomorrow and play, you've got no pulse. My goodness. I can't remember being that nervous in a long time.''

Boston got a major boost from rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who had two homers and four RBI. The Rays, meantime, were lifted by two highly unlikely developments – a sixth-inning triple play and Joyce's second homer in his last 30 games.

The blast turned a 3-2 Yankees lead into a 5-3 Rays margin that held up.

"It was probably one of the most exciting times you can possibly have on a baseball field -- in our town, two games left in the season, everything riding on the line, you're down a run. You know it was just a big hit," Joyce said.

He homered off former Rays closer Rafael Soriano, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi stuck with his plan to give some work to his top relievers, including David Robertson and Mariano Rivera. Today, however, Girardi intends to rest them for the playoffs, and he has yet to announce a starter. The Rays will go with ace left-hander David Price.

The Braves will also have their ace on the mound in Tim Hudson, but he may need a bit more support than his fellow starters have received in the last two games, when the Phillies held Atlanta hitters to a total of three runs. He'll be opposed by Joe Blanton.

The Braves, who had an 8 ½-game lead for the wild card on Sept. 6, have lost 12 of 17.

"You never expect this to happen to you," said Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones. "It's like living out a bad dream."

The Cardinals must have felt the same way after a three-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers left them at 67-63 on Aug. 24, the wild card but a faint hope with the Braves 10½ games ahead of them.

Now they're on equal footing, except St. Louis is facing the team with the majors' worst record and the Braves play the one with the best.

The Cardinals have won 21 of 29 since the Dodgers sweep.

"It's kind of fed us here the last few days, 120 years of baseball and this is one of those historic runs to tie," said manager Tony La Russa, who will send out ace Chris Carpenter against the Astros' Brett Myers. "But there's a different story between tying and finishing it off. So tomorrow we'll see if we can go take another step."

Braves, Cardinals all even

Associated Press 
Dan Uggla drop-kicked his bat after striking out on three pitches. Chipper Jones slammed his bat into the dirt after popping up. Derek Lowe just trudged off the mound to another round of boos from the home crowd, wondering how it all went wrong.

The Braves are mad and frustrated heading to the 162d game.

Their season is on the brink after a potentially historic collapse.

“It’s like living out a bad dream,’’ Jones said.

Lowe (9-17) had another miserable outing, surrendering five runs in four-plus innings, and the Braves took another step toward giving away a playoff berth that seemed certain just a few weeks ago with an ugly 7-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies last night in Atlanta.

St. Louis pulled even with the Braves, rallying from an early 5-0 deficit to beat the Houston Astros, 13-6.

Chase Utley, Hunter Pence, and Jimmy Rollins homered to back a three-hit outing by Roy Oswalt (9-10), who tuned up for the playoffs with a strong performance in a largely disappointing season.

Talk about disappointing. Look what has happened to the Braves.

They lost their fourth in a row and eighth in 11 games, sending them to the final day of the regular season tied with the Cardinals. Atlanta had an 8 1/2-game lead just three weeks ago.

“We’ve got one game to play in the month of September, then October comes around and it’s a new month,’’ Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “There’s not a person in that locker room who I wouldn’t want to be on my team to play that game.’’

Sixteen-game winner Tim Hudson will try to wrap up the wild card or at least force a one-game playoff against Cardinals, which would be tomorrow night in St. Louis.

“It is what it is,’’ Gonzalez said. “We’ve played 161 games and it comes down to one. We’ve done it to ourselves. No excuses there. We’ve got to go get it tomorrow.’’

Cardinals 13, Astros 6 - Visiting St. Louis got a tiebreaking two-run triple from Ryan Theriot in the seventh inning to beat Houston and pull even with Atlanta in the NL wild-card race. The Cardinals trailed, 5-0, early and appeared to be headed for a second straight loss to the Astros. But St. Louis scored five times in the fourth and erased a 6-5 deficit with a four-run seventh.

In other games - Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz hit consecutive homers in the fifth inning, and the surging Rangers stayed on track for homefield advantage in the AL division series with a 10-3 victory over the host Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers (95-66) have won five straight and nine of 10 while holding off Detroit (94-67) for the AL’s second-best record. If Texas wins today’s season finale or if the Tigers lose to the Indians, the Rangers will host the AL’s wild-card winner Friday . . . Prince Fielder homered three times in a game for the first time in his career, including a two-run shot in the seventh inning that lifted host Milwaukee to a 6-4 victory over Pittsburgh . . . Wilson Betemit hit a 423-foot home run in his first game back from left knee soreness, and host Detroit beat Cleveland, 9-6 . . . Bryan Petersen homered with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and Javier Vazquez (13-11) pitched a five-hitter as the host Marlins beat the Nationals, 3-2 . . . Rene Tosoni hit a grand slam, the first by a Twins player at Target Field in the two-year history of the park, to lift host Minnesota to a 7-4 victory over Kansas City . . . Mark Buehrle (13-9) pitched seven shutout innings to lead the host White Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays . . . Jose Reyes hit two solo home runs, putting pop into his bid for the NL batting title, but visiting Cincinnati the Mets, 5-4, on Drew Stubbs’s squeeze bunt in the 13th inning. Reyes went 3 for 6 and raised his average to .336, finishing the evening one point ahead of Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, who went 1 for 2 against Pittsburgh . . . Trevor Cahill and two relievers held Seattle to just four hits to lift visiting Oakland to a 7-0 win over the Mariners.

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Surging Rays Top Yankees, Remain Tied With Red Sox for AL Wild Card

Associated Press
The Tampa Bay Rays are loose and raring to go, ready to work overtime -- if necessary -- to win the AL wild card.
"Whatever it takes," designated hitter Johnny Damon said. "It's been a fun ride and hopefully it continues."
The Rays' improbable bid for a third playoff berth in four years comes down to the final day of the regular season after Tuesday night's 5-3 victory over the New York Yankees left them tied for the wild card with Boston. The reeling Red Sox held off the Baltimore Orioles 8-7.

If the teams remain tied after Wednesday night's season finales, they will meet in a one-game playoff at Tropicana Field on Thursday afternoon.
"We have to focus on ourselves ... play our game and not worry about the other side of it," manager Joe Maddon said. "That will eventually take care of itself."
Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist homered, the bullpen shut down the Yankees after starter Jeremy Hellickson pitched six strong innings, and the Rays kept the score close by turning the third triple play in franchise history.
Throw in Joyce, whose three-run homer wiped out a 3-2 deficit in the seventh -- playing on an injured foot -- and that the Rays were without Casey Kotchman after the first baseman experienced tightness in his chest and was taken to a hospital for tests, and no wonder Tampa Bay feels it has no limits.
"All the indicators are there, let's just keep pushing," Maddon said. "When those things kind of show up, it really promotes even more fight, I think. There's more of a believability about the moment."
Joyce's homer off former teammate Rafael Soriano (2-3) was the All-Star's first in more than three weeks. Zobrist hit a two-run drive off Bartolo Colon in the second, and the Rays kept the Yankees from busting the game opened with the triple play that bailed Hellickson out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.
"Everybody's thirsty for offense, and we'd like to score more," Maddon said. "But we're built around pitching and defense."
Jake McGee (4-2) pitched one scoreless inning to get the win. With a crowd of 22,820 standing and cheering, Kyle Farnsworth got the final three outs for his 25th save in 31 chances. The victory was the fourth straight for Tampa Bay, which trailed the Red Sox by nine games before battling back into the wild-card race.
Russell Martin hit a solo homer for the Yankees in the third, but also grounded into the triple play that prevented them from building on the 3-2 lead Nick Swisher gave them with a RBI double.
The Yankees, who clinched the division title and homefield advantage throughout the AL playoffs last week, rested Derek Jeter and plan to play most -- if not all -- of their regular lineup again on Wednesday. Manager Joe Girardi remained undecided on a starting pitcher for the finale, but it figures to be a reliever.
Tampa Bay will go with All-Star lefty David Price, who's 12-13 after finishing second in balloting for the AL Cy Young Award a year ago.
The Rays said he's up to the task.
"I always have the utmost confidence when David pitches. I really do," Maddon said. "Every time he pitches we feel like we're going to win that night. I know some things have not necessarily gone his way this year, but in a very tight moment, you always feel very comfortable about how David will pitch."
Despite squandering their big lead with a miserable September, the Red Sox are excited about still having a chance to make the postseason on the final day.
"I think it's really good for baseball (but) not so good for my stomach," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "It's exciting. If you don't want to show up (Wednesday) and play, you've got no pulse."