Red Sox starters won the World Series — from the bullpen

It was fitting that when Fox’s cameras scanned the Boston bullpen Sunday to see which relievers were warming up for the ninth inning of Game 5, the two men on the mounds were Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale, a pair of starters.

The 2018 baseball season might well go down as the year that relievers became starters and bullpenning took hold, but the 2018 postseason should be remembered as one in which Boston’s starting pitchers played a starring role by coming out of the bullpen. Sale’s Game 5 World Series appearance is certainly not the first time an ace has trudged in from the outfield: Randy Johnson and Madison Bumgarner were, of course, pretty big deals when they closed out 2001 and 2014 in relief. But the systematic approach Boston took to getting its best pitchers into unfamiliar high-leverage roles was a huge part of how that bullpen — considered a weakness heading into the postseason — got through three grueling rounds. Paired with last year’s postseason,cheap official nike nfl jerseys this approach now appears to be the new normal.

Before Sale in the ninth inning of Game 5, it was David Price pitching the ninth in Game 3, and before that it was Eovaldi taking over the eighth inning in Games 1 and 2, and before that it was Rick Porcello in the eighth inning of games in the division series and ALCS. The Dodgers used Clayton Kershaw in relief for Game 7 of the NLCS and Rich Hill for an eighth inning in that series.6

Those six pitchers threw a total of 15⅔ innings of relief. They allowed seven hits and one earned run, that earned run coming at the end of Eovaldi’s six-inning relief stint in Game 3. They struck out 16 and walked three. Their combined win probability added (including Eovaldi’s loss) was about a half a win, roughly what Milwaukee’s ace fireman Josh Hader’s was. They were collectively the elite closer every team wants in October, and they were cooked up entirely out of ingredients lying around the pantry.

Again, these sorts of appearances have happened before, throughout postseason history. But rarely this systematically. In the past, starters pitching in relief were often pitching very late in the postseason — i.e., after they’d made their last scheduled start, or with the ultimatum of a series clincher — or very early in the postseason, before their first turn had come up in the rotation. Boston, by contrast, had at least one starter between starts who was readily available in the bullpen seemingly every day this October. And rarely have so many different starting pitchers been used in this way in a single postseason.nike jerseys nfl cheap

We looked back since 1969 — when division play began — for pitchers who made at least two starts in a postseason (to avoid including pitchers, like Eduardo Rodriguez this year, who were primarily relievers but were pushed into an emergency start) and at least one relief appearance in the same postseason. From 1969 through 2016, there were about two per year on average, with only two postseasons (2003 and 2011) in which there were more than five in a year. But there were seven last year — those seven allowed just 11 hits and five runs in 23⅔ innings, incidentally — and six this year, the most there have ever been in consecutive postseasons.

Oakland gives long-term extensions to Bob Melvin, Billy Beane

The Oakland Athletics believe they have stability in their leadership structure to keep a good thing going and build momentum from their 2018 playoff return.

Manager Bob Melvin has been rewarded for guiding another turnaround, receiving a long-term contract extension. The A’s also reached new deals with executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst.

The extensions for all three were announced Monday by the small-budget franchise. Under Melvin’s guidance, a young, slugging Oakland club went 97-65 and lost the American League wild-card game 7-2 to the New York Yankees.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

“From the moment I got here, it’s been a special place for me for a lot of the reasons I’ve already talked about in the past,” Melvin said. “It just seems like every year it gets more and more comfortable for me being at home, the people that you work for, the continuity in the organization.”5

With MLB home run leader Khris Davis leading the way, the A’s reached the postseason for the first time since 2014 following last-place finishes in the AL West each of the previous three years. They trailed the Mariners by 11 games in the wild-card race on June 15 before a strong second half — not to mention all the comeback wins and walk-offs — pushed them into the playoffs.

Last year, Melvin received a contract through the 2019 season. Melvin’s new contract is through 2021 with a club option for 2022, Beane said. Forst’s deal goes through 2023.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

“There are some things we don’t have, which are obvious, and there are some things we do have: We have stability and we have loyalty,” Beane said. “It goes back a long way. Listen, we have our challenges, but we all love working here, we love working with each other.”

The surprising A’s caught the country’s attention. They went 63-29 from June 16 through the rest of the season for the fourth-best record in baseball. Yet it was the top mark in the majors during that stretch — ahead of World Series champion Boston’s 60-31. Oakland also went a majors-best 31-14 in one-run games and had 10 walk-off victories.

Klay Thompson on record 14 3s: ‘Just knew I was due for a big night’

Golden State Warriors All-Star swingman Klay Thompson set an NBA record by knocking down 14 3-pointers in Monday night’s 149-124 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Thompson went 14-for-24 from beyond the arc and 18-for-29 from the field, racking up 52 points in 27 minutes while raining down shots from all over the floor. After his struggles to start the season, both Thompson and his teammates were ready for him to break out — and he did so in record-breaking fashion.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Thompson hit shots early and often, and the Warriors repeatedly looked for him throughout the night. In the first half, Thompson’s 10 3-pointers tied Chandler Parsons’ record set in 2014. The Warriors also set an NBA record for team 3-pointers made in a half by knocking down 17 in the first half.6

“It’s the best feeling,” Thompson said of being in the zone. “Something I haven’t felt in the first six, seven games. To snap out of a slump with the record, I couldn’t ask for a better way to do it. And I’m just going to continue this momentum on Wednesday, and it’s one of the best feelings in basketball when you touch the ball and feel like it’s going in every time.”

Thompson received a loud ovation from the United Center crowd after knocking down the record-setting triple, breaking teammate Stephen Curry’s mark of 13 3-pointers in a game. It was a record Thompson and his teammates took great pride in. There was a gleeful joy within the Warriors’ locker room as Thompson left with the game ball and his game jersey in hand.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“I really believe, I don’t know if I would have been able to break the records I have got in my past, just like tonight, without the system I play in or the team I’m with or the guys I play with,” Thompson said. “Because they knew even before I went out for the second half. Steph looked at the box score and said, ‘Go get it.’ And that just shows you the unselfishness that is within him. Same with KD and Draymond and DJ and everyone else that was out there on the floor trying to find me and get me good looks.”

Curry and his teammates knew Thompson was rolling at a historic pace but didn’t want to jinx the performance in the process.

“It was like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter,” Curry said. “Like, you don’t really mention anything to him. It’s kind of just everybody else figuring out ways we’re going to keep feeding him the ball and running our offense to obviously cater to him to knock down shots.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard both out Monday

A star-studded matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Toronto Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard won’t be happening Monday.

The Bucks announced that Antetokounmpo was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol after suffering an injury in Saturday’s victory over the Orlando Magic. He was initially diagnosed as having a head contusion and returned to the game.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

The Bucks said Monday that “team physicians followed league protocols and consulted the league’s neurologist during the evaluation periods” during Saturday’s game and that Antetokounmpo “passed his neurological tests that created significant doubt that it was a concussion.” On Monday, Antetokounmpo reported new symptoms and a lingering headache.

Antetokounmpo, 23, is averaging 25.0 points and 14.2 rebounds per game this season. Ersan Ilyasova will start for Antetokounmpo Monday.5

“He obviously helps us a ton on both ends and does so many different things for us, so I guess it goes without saying we’ll miss him a ton,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “But I think we’re also excited about how we play and everybody being part of — defensively, offensively everything we do — and hopefully we are positioned or prepared to play with who we got.”

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“Obviously he’s our best player — one of the best players in the world — so losing a guy like that is going to hurt us, but we’re prepared for this,” he said. “I worked on rebounding it and taking it coast to coast filling in for him. So it should be a good day.”

The Raptors announced that they will rest Leonard on Monday.

This marks the second time in the last 10 days that Leonard will miss a game for rest. He also rested on Oct. 20 against the Wizards in the second game of a back-to-back for Toronto. Leonard played in only nine games last season for San Antonio with a thigh injury.

The Raptors, who next play Tuesday against the 76ers, also announced that forward OG Anunoby will miss Monday’s contest in Milwaukee for personal reasons.

Patrick Mahomes’ third straight four-TD game fuels Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs have as many touchdown passes, 26, through a half-season as they had through all of 2017.

The most significant change is at quarterback, of course, where Patrick Mahomes has replaced Alex Smith.cheap nike nfl jersey

“We’ve put together an interesting offense over the offseason with the pieces we grabbed,’’ Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. “Pat is 100 percent a part of that. You can’t say he’s not.’’

The Chiefs still have respect for Smith, a popular player in their locker room in his five seasons as their starter. But it’s just as obvious their offensive capabilities with Mahomes at quarterback are far greater.6

That was again on display Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 30-23 to raise their record to 7-1. Mahomes threw four touchdown passes, something that for him is becoming routine. He has five games with at least four touchdown passes, including the last three.

Putting that into perspective from a team standpoint, the Chiefs had 21 such games in their 58 seasons before Mahomes became their starter. From an NFL perspective, just two quarterbacks have thrown more than 26 touchdown passes in the first eight games of a season.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Both players, Tom Brady in 2007 and Peyton Manning in 2013, went on to become the NFL MVP and will be in the Hall of Fame.

“I wouldn’t just say it’s the quarterback,’’ Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That’s not fair to Alex. He did a great job when he was here. But (Mahomes) is a part of it. Patrick has done a nice job. I’m not slighting that at all.’’

Packers squander what could’ve been season-changing win over Rams

Either way, those two sequences could be what prevents the Packers from salvaging their season.

And the shame of it is, they ruined what could have been a season-changing victory.

Maybe the Packers will take their near-takedown of the unbeaten Rams and use it as a galvanizing moment but the way this season has gone, that looks less and less likely with each passing week.

“It better be,” Clay Matthews said. “That’s the best team in the NFL, we hung toe to toe with them and had a chance at the end to win it. We’ve got to take that moving forward. I know we lost, but we’ve got to take that capability moving forward.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Packers, twice in control of the game, let it get away from them not just at the end of the first half but in crunch time, too, in a gutting 29-27 loss.5

The final blow was Ty Montgomery’s fumbled kickoff return that the Rams recovered with 1 minute, 56 seconds to play.

But before that, it was former Packers cornerback Sam Shields’ tip-toeing in front of the goal line to down a punt and pin the Packers. Then, whatever you think of coach Mike McCarthy’s play call — a run with Aaron Jones up the middle — it didn’t work, and the snowball kept rolling downhill. An improbable 10-0 lead over the NFL‘s only unbeaten team was all but lost after Jones got stuffed for a safety with 2:47 left and the Rams scored on their ensuing possession.

Just when it looked like they survived that — and regained the lead thanks to more second-half magic from Aaron Rodgers — a Packers’ defense that played perhaps its best game in years, couldn’t hold it. To be sure, they didn’t get much help at the end from rookie punter JK Scott, whose 25-yard kick gave the Rams a short field for the go-ahead score. And just to make sure the Packers would have no chance at all, Montgomery fumbled it away.cheap nike nfl jersey

To that point, almost everything had come up green and gold.

From a Los Angeles Coliseum that was close to half Packers fans to a dominant start by defensive tackle Kenny Clark (two first-half sacks) to pass breakup after pass breakup from first-round pick Jaire Alexander (an NFL-high five) to Jones’ fast start (eight carries for 44 first-half yards), the Packers looked poised for a hallmark victory. That’s just what they needed to start a bruising stretch that takes the Packers to New England next and then to Seattle and Minnesota after a home game against Dolphins.

October hero Steve Pearce completed AL East cycle with his beloved Sox

Steve was the eldest and most fanatical of the three Pearce boys, but Chad and Kyle weren’t far behind. Whenever they’d play Wiffle ball, they were always the Sox. Even though Steve was a right-handed shortstop obsessed with Nomar Garciaparra, he always hit lefty in those games, using the ultra-light plastic bat to practice his swing from the opposite side. He was always Mo Vaughn.

Years passed, and Steve Pearce got really good at swinging the bat, be it plastic, aluminum or wood. He got so good at swinging it that, in 2005, the Pittsburgh Pirates saw fit to draft him in the eighth round. He made his big league debut in 2007 and spent the next five seasons playing for the Bucs.nfl cheap jerseys nike That is, when he wasn’t hurt.

Every time Pearce felt like his career was gaining some momentum, an injury would crop up. At the end of the 2011 season, the Pirates decided they’d had enough of Pearce’s on-again, off-again relationship with the disabled list and cut ties. It was the beginning of his on-again, off-again relationship with, well, a lot of teams.8

On June 28 of this year, when Pearce was traded from the Blue Jays to the Red Sox, he became the sixth man in major league history to play for every team in the same division. He also became the second person to play for every club in the American League East. More importantly, as far as the Pearce brothers were concerned, he became the first member of the family to play for the home team.

“The best part was telling my brothers,” says Pearce of breaking the Boston news. He speaks with a slight Southern twang, the kind that might come in handy if a ballplayer were to ever find himself in an AL East clubhouse (or four) where concealing his New England roots could theoretically make his life just a little bit easier. “They always pulled for whatever team I was playing for, but deep down they were always Red Sox fans. To be able to tell them the news that I got traded to the Red Sox, that was a great feeling for me. They were pumped. nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap They were like, ‘Holy cow, you’re playing for the Red Sox!'”

To be sure, Pearce isn’t the first big leaguer to play for the team he grew up worshipping. Minnesota native Joe Mauer has spent the entirety of his 15-year career with the Twins. Maryland’s own Cal Ripken Jr. was a lifelong Oriole. Tony Gwynn (Padres) and Brandon Crawford (Giants) come to mind as well. But unlike each of those hometown heroes, Pearce’s path to Boston — the sports-crazed city that’s in his de facto DNA — was infinitely indirect and dappled with deprivation.

What it means for the Dodgers to get all the way back to the World Series

The Dodgers begin a star-laden, highly anticipated World Series showdown against the juggernaut Boston Red Sox on Tuesday. It is yet another opportunity to claim the championship trophy that has eluded this franchise for 30 years. But nothing the Dodgers do the rest of this month can erase what took place 355 days ago, when the Houston Astros defeated them in Game 7.

“We can win two or three World Series in the future,” Turner said, “and I’ll probably remember losing the Game 7 more than winning the championships.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

The culprit was actually Game 5. The Dodgers jumped to a 3-0 lead with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, a premium opportunity to capture a pivotal swing game in the 2017 World Series. But they blew three leads and lost in 10 innings. They came back to win Game 6 but couldn’t recover from Yu Darvish’s five-run meltdown in Game 7.5

“We had plenty of chances,” Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal said. “The whole series came down to a few pitches.”

“It stung, man,” starter-turned-reliever Alex Wood said. “It stung for a long time.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Dodgers players did their best to distance themselves from the memory in the offseason, but they couldn’t keep from bumping into each other. Joc Pederson, Ross Stripling, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Austin Barnes, Turner and Wood all got married over the winter, constantly bringing everybody together again.

The World Series loss was a frequent topic of conversation early, but it quickly dissolved, replaced by the typical camaraderie of a team that grew so close throughout the journey.

Dennis Smith and Luka Doncic show Dallas a sign of the future

“Welcome to the Future,” read the slogan on the blue T-shirts waiting for fans at the American Airlines Center on Saturday night.

The Dallas Mavericks certainly envision their home opener as a sign of things to come for a franchise that is preparing for the post-Dirk era.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr., the Mavs’ prized recent lottery picks, recovered from a rough start to star in a 140-136 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in front of a rowdy sellout crowd. They did so playing a fast-paced, 3-point-firing style that is sweeping through the NBA — and suits the Mavs’ young core.

“It was only one game, but that was fun,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “We wanted Dennis and Luka to take steps forward. Dennis has gotten better. Luka is still finding his way, but what a way to find your way. It was impressive.”

It was ugly early for Doncic, the No. 3 overall pick making his NBA home debut. He went scoreless in the first quarter, hoisting an air ball among his three missed shots and committing a couple of turnovers. He didn’t exactly make up for it on the defensive end, either, as Minnesota (minus resting, disgruntled star Jimmy Butler) put up 46 points, matching the most the Mavs have ever allowed in a first quarter.6

But Doncic, the 19-year-old former Euroleague MVP the Mavs are hoping can take the torch from injured 21-year vet Dirk Nowitzki as the face of the franchise, got rolling midway through the second quarter. He finally got on the board with an and-1 floater with 6:41 remaining in the half. He followed that up with 3s on back-to-back possessions, and suddenly he had a scoring binge of 15 points in just over five minutes.nfl cheap jerseys nike

Doncic finished with 26 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. The list of teens to put up that kind of line, per Basketball-Reference.com data: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Lamar Odom, Clifford Robinson and now Doncic, who fully expects to experience that kind of success during his rookie season.

“I’ve played this basketball for a long time,” said Doncic, who made his pro debut for Real Madrid at age 15. “I’ve been professional. I had to grow up there, so I was ready for the game here. I mean, the game for sure is more physical. You have a lot more physical guys that can guard you, but at the end of the day, it’s just basketball.”

Russell Westbrook sharp in season debut, but Thunder lose to Kings

Returning from mid-September knee surgery with no obvious signs of rust, Russell Westbrook’s season debut couldn’t have gone much better. Except for the losing part, which was striking not only in which team it happened against but also in how it happened.

Westbrook finished with 32 points on 13-of-23 shooting, plus 12 rebounds and eight assists, but the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Sacramento Kings 131-120 Sunday, dropping to 0-3.

“It was OK. Wasn’t my best night,” Westbrook said of how he felt. “But I’ve got I don’t know how many games left to play. Not worried. It was my first time. I just hate losing, honestly. I don’t really care to talk about how I played.”nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Westbrook came out of the gates looking very much like himself, ripping down a defensive rebound in the first few seconds and setting up Paul George for an open 3 shortly after. Westbrook dove on the floor — and into the seats — for loose balls and played with his trademark energy and intensity.5

“Almost notched a triple-double. I’d say that’s pretty Russ to me,” said George, who finished with 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting. “He looked comfortable, he looked midseason form, and he just looked good energy-wise. He was able to play both ends, run the floor and manipulate the game.”

Westbrook underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Sept. 12. In the past week, he ramped up the intensity of his workouts and started contact practice and drills. He went through a workout Sunday before the game and, in tandem with the medical staff, made the decision to play.

“I never take this game for granted, always blessed and very thankful to the man above for allowing me to go out and play,” Westbrook said. “That’s my main thing — always going out and giving everything I have.”cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

This is the first time the Thunder have started 0-3 in the Oklahoma City era. Two of the games were without Westbrook, but with him back Sunday — against the Kings — there was an expectation that the Thunder would get back on track. But with some glaring defensive breakdowns, woeful shooting from deep (9-of-39 from 3) and hot shooting by the Kings, the Thunder find themselves in an awkward place one week into the season.

“If we could snap our fingers and change it right away, it’ll happen,” George said of the Thunder’s early struggles. “It just comes down to us grinding and scratching and taking these losses and trying to get better. Take [these] practice days and try to get better. That’s it.”