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The unlucky legacy of the 2018 Houston Astros

Specifically, it will remember the fly ball Jose Altuve hit over the wall in Game 4 of the ALCS, the extraordinary leap Boston’s Mookie Betts made for it, and the way that after the ball had landed, uncaught, it was declared an out. It will remember the debate that ensued over what constitutes interference, from Joe West’s confident ruling on an essentially unknowable call to the flukily blocked camera that might have otherwise saved Altuve’s home run and the Astros’ season. The future will have no trouble remembering that all as, from Houston’s perspective, bad luck.

In baseball, the point is to win the World Series and the tactic involved — the skill involved — is “avoiding outs” and “getting outs.” But we don’t declare the World Series winner based on who avoided the most outs (i.e., who got the most hits). That would be one kind of sport — golf is that kind of sport, and the discus throw, and the 1,500 freestyle, where every stroke, inch or second counts equally toward the final outcome. But baseball is the kind that has added layers upon layers of suspense and variety: Outs avoided make rallies; rallies make runs; runs make wins; wins make standings; standings make postseason series; and postseason series make the World Series winner.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

And, indeed, outs themselves are made up of layers and sequences — strikes and balls, batted balls chased and caught and thrown and tagged. You might even say the point is to win the World Series but the tactics are “throw good strikes” and “hit the ball hard.” The layers in between give it all texture.6

That’s why it’s fun. And the result is that, along the way from “control the count” to “win the World Series,” only some hits count. A hit that doesn’t produce a rally is ultimately no better than an out, a rally that doesn’t produce a run is ultimately no better than an out, and a run that doesn’t win a game is ultimately no better than an out. We measure skill based on those hits, rallies and runs, but we measure success based only on the higher outcomes.

This is true at virtually every level of play, and it’s almost always what we’re actually talking about when we talk about luck. A team that vastly underperforms its run differential? It scored more runs than its opponent in the aggregate, but there is no partial credit for a close loss. A pitcher who has allowed an unsustainably low BABIP? He gives up lots of hard contact, but there is no partial credit on a diving catch.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

On Thursday, in the third inning, the game scoreless, the series still very much undecided, Justin Verlander got two strikes on J.D. Martinez. He threw a perfect 1-2 slider, right on the outside black, just above the knees. It was a pitch that umpires across baseball call a strike 84 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It was a pitch that, had it been slightly worse — i.e., slightly more hittable — Martinez probably would have swung at, probably would have whiffed at or hit meekly to the shortstop, or maybe hit for a single. But Martinez took it, umpire Chris Guccione called it a ball, and on the next pitch Verlander threw a hanging curveball — this one, ironically, probably not in the strike zone — and Martinez crushed it for what ultimately would be the game-winning, series-winning home run.

LeBron James debuts for Lakers, ‘looking forward’ to challenge

With a mahogany teakwood-scented candle from White Barn burning in the empty locker stall next to him, LeBron James set the mood for his debut with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before the Lakers embarked on what could be a roller-coaster season, James was a picture of tranquility. With the likes of NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Nike co-founder Phil Knight on hand to watch, James played in his first regular-season game with his new team Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

It felt like a major event, bigger than your typical season opener, with all the hype that has followed James joining the Lakers. Before the Lakers madness started, James listened to his pregame music while wearing a Nike T-shirt with an ad of himself wearing a Lakers jersey.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

He seemed oblivious to the row of cameras and reporters capturing his every move in a cramped visitors locker room at the Moda Center. As he put on his warm-up gear, an “NBA 2K” video game commercial with James in it played on a television near his locker.

Up until Thursday, no one could really know what the Lakers would look like in a real game outside of simulating it on a video game. Still, James liked what he saw in the preseason.10

“I love what we have done so far, I love our potential, but only time will tell,” James said at the Lakers’ morning shootaround. “And this is the first step of a long journey for us.”

The attention and hype surrounding the Lakers and James since the star decided to move to Los Angeles in free agency has been intense.

Before the team left for Portland, head coach Luke Walton stopped by the office of Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss at the team’s training facility. The two talked about how long it has seemed since James joined the team in early July to the season opener.

“It feels like it’s been about a week. It does,” Walton said of the time flying. “It’s funny, from my seat, being a coach, I said it feels like a week ago that all this happened. She was like, ‘I feel like it was five months ago.’ It’s been awhile for her; for me, it’s been short. I think that’s me just being a coach and knowing how much more I’d like to get in. It’s gone quickly.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Lakers certainly hope it won’t take long for their young core of prospects, including Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, to adjust to playing alongside James. In the two other times James debuted with a new team, it took awhile for him and his new teammates to adapt to one another.

Kylian Mbappe driven by Didier Deschamps and desire to get better

Comparisons are probably made too frequently in football. They are easy, after all: The Mohamed Salah of last season and the one of this season is one example; the win rates of Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson at Manchester United is another.

Stats are measured against other stats, records against records, regardless of context, situation, time and era. Comparing one thing or person against another thing or person appears to be the go-to way of defining greatness or otherwise.

As such, when Kylian Mbappe scored four goals in 13 minutes on Sunday for Paris Saint-Germain against Lyon at the Parc des Princes, not only was it one of the greatest individual performances in any league over recent years, but it also led to an avalanche of comparisons.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

You would have learned that the 19-year-old is way ahead, in terms of goals, than Lionel Messi at the same age. “Kyky,” as his France teammate Paul Pogba calls Mbappe, has scored 67 times in all competitions for club and country since making his debut for Monaco when he was 16. Messi, by contrast, had 20 at the same age. Messi had one hat trick, whereas Mbappe has two coups du chapeau and a four-goal game.7

No other player has been so great so young in terms of pure statistics (without taking into consideration other factors such as the level of the league in which he plays and PSG’s dominance), but we should stop comparing him to Messi, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldo Nazario, Pele or anyone else. Instead, we should simply enjoy the development of an incredible talent because the most important thing is to let Mbappe continue his incredible progress and see how far he can go.nike nfl cheap jerseys

On Monday, when he joined the rest of the France squad at their Clairefontaine training camp, Mbappe was congratulated by Didier Deschamps for his quadruple. The French head coach watched the PSG-Lyon game on TV with his staff and could hardly believe what he was seeing. Despite following “KMB” since he was 15 at Monaco, Deschamps was nonetheless amazed by what he saw.

“He is doing things that are out of the ordinary,” Deschamps said later on Monday. “What he is capable of doing despite being so young… He is out of this world. It’s Kylian. It’s prodigious what he does and what he is capable of doing. I am privileged that he is French.”

Alex Cora pushed all the right buttons in getting Red Sox to ALCS

John Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, stood inside the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium late Tuesday night, answering questions from a group of reporters as the victory celebration blared in the background.

A year ago, Henry and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made the decision to fire a successful manager, John Farrell, who still had a year remaining on his contract. Farrell had won a World Series in 2013 and back-to-back division titles in 2016 and 2017, but after consecutive defeats in the division series, Henry and Dombrowski looked outside the organization for a new manager.nike jerseys nfl cheap

They settled on Alex Cora, a former ESPN analyst who had spent 2017 as A.J. Hinch’s bench coach for the World Series champion Houston Astros. He would be good with the media, would more easily identify with Boston’s young players as he had played in the majors as recently as 2011 and would bring some of the Astros’ analytic bent to the Red Sox’s game preparation.

After the Red Sox eliminated the New York Yankees in four games, the soft-spoken Henry assessed Cora’s performance thusly: “He was a magician.”7

“We’re very fortunate to have in A.C. [someone] who is not very far removed from playing the game, which definitely helps,” he said. “It seemed like every button he’s pushing is the right one. I think he’s got a great feel for the game. He understands the game. He does a great job of managing and communicating with everybody on what’s going on, and I think it showed in this series.”

Sale even told the story that when he walked into the clubhouse before Game 4, he told Cora he wanted the ball at some point in the game.

“I told him and walked away and he started laughing, so I didn’t know if that was a good or a bad thing, but it worked out,” Sale said.

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Cora also influenced the team’s off-field groundwork in three significant ways. He brought the advanced scouting department completely in-house, relying on video scouts and analysts. He shifted responsibility for defensive alignments from the coaching staff to the analytics department. He emphasized keeping players fresh — not just down the stretch after the Red Sox had built a big lead in the AL East, but even going back to the first road trip of the season.

How Genoa’s Krzysztof Piatek, ‘the new Lewandowski,’ went from unknown to star of Serie A

It’s late May 2018, and Genoa president Enrico Preziosi is sat at a table in an Ibiza restaurant with an agent who is showing him clip after clip of a Polish striker he thinks would do well in Serie A.

Goals had been hard to come by for the Grifone over the last nine months, Gianluca Lapadula took 30 games to score four, and were it not for the team’s defence they would have probably been relegated. Only Verona and Sassuolo scored fewer … So the agent has Preziosi’s attention.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

The guy in the video, Krzysztof Piatek, found the net 21 times last season for KS Cracovia. He’s being hailed as the “new Robert Lewandowski” — words which must have prompted Preziosi to have a flashback or two.8

While Blackburn fans blame the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruptions for grounding Lewandowski and stopping him from talking to Sam Allardyce about a move to Ewood Park in 2010, Preziosi only has himself to blame for not buying the striker when he had the chance that same year. The toy-maker came so close to having Lewandowski’s signature that La Repubblica and Sky Italia declared it a done deal.

Genoa’s manager at the time, Gian Piero Gasperini, had watched Lewandowski play for Lech Poznan against Udinese and liked what he saw. The Poland international passed a medical and was the guest of the club at the Derby della Lanterna against Sampdoria. “I shook his hand in the hotel,” Gasperini revealed to Sky Italia in 2016.

But just as everything seemed ready for completion, a now infamous statement appeared on Genoa’s website denying an agreement had been reached. The whole thing collapsed, and the stories as to why continue to conflict.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Preziosi would later bring up an eye-watering commission demanded by the intermediary brokering the transfer. However, Genoa’s sporting director at the time, Stefano Capozucca had a slightly different version of events. “When the President saw him in the stands [at the derby], he was unimpressed by his physical structure,” he said. “He was a lot less imposing a figure than he is now and didn’t look like a classic centre-forward.”

Raiders CB Gareon Conley may lose spot in starting lineup

And while Conley has been relatively healthy — he came back earlier than expected from a strained hip suffered in the first practice of training camp — and has been a mainstay on defense this season, his snap total dropped off dramatically last weekend. And with Daryl Worley returning from an NFL-mandated four-game suspension last week, Conley is in jeopardy of losing his starting gig at right cornerback.nike replica nfl jerseys

Besides, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Tuesday that Conley is “basically a rookie player” and a “work in progress” for a defense still trying to find its identity heading into this weekend’s game in London against the Seattle Seahawks.

“He is learning a lot of things,” Guenther said of Conley. “Unfortunately, he gives up the one play off the goal line and we are in a pretty good call to stop it.”1

Late in the third quarter of Sunday’s 26-10 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers, one snap after Derek Carr’s end zone interception, the Raiders had the hosts on their own 4-yard line. But Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams blew by Conley down the left sideline and Philip Rivers hit him in stride for a 48-yard gain.

“I don’t want to give (Conley) too much right now,” Guenther added. “If we can give him little by little by little, just like a normal rookie player, that’s how I’m viewing Gareon. He really only played one-and-a-half games last year and he sat out pretty much through the offseason. It’s no different than a young player. He’s a work in progress.“replica nike nfl jerseys

After playing 57 defensive snaps (90 percent) in the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams and then tying for the defensive lead with 64 snaps (97 percent) in Denver in Week 2, Conley played 31 snaps (70 percent) at Miami and 55 (68 percent) against the Browns.

But against the Chargers, Conley had just 12 snaps (19 percent), behind fellow corners Worley (49 snaps), Rashaan Melvin (40 snaps), Leon Hall (39 snaps) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (19 snaps).

“Worley played good,” Gruden said Monday, when asked if Conley’s lack of playing time was related more to his struggles or to Worley playing well.

“Worley is a good player. Gareon had a couple of struggles … (and we’re) trying to find a right mix, trying to find a right mix at a lot of positions. Daryl Worley is a good player. I think he was second on our team in tackles. He earned a right to be out there.”

Rockies confident Coors Field will be an NLDS equalizer

The Colorado Rockies might be the one team down 2-0 in a best-of-five series that still can feel confident about forcing a Game 5 simply because their next two games against the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Division Series are at Coors Field.

The Rockies return to Denver for Game 3 on Sunday after a weeklong road odyssey in which they scored a total of six runs in four games — all must-win-type affairs. They won one of them, putting themselves in a hole.

“They’ve got a good pitching staff, but it is a little surprising that we haven’t generated more offense,” Rockies manager Bud Black said after the 4-0 loss in Game 2 on Friday.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Rockies had the highest OPS in the majors at home — even higher than those high-scoring American League teams that employ a designated hitter — but ranked 27th in the majors and 14th in the National League on the road. What’s not surprising is they’re licking their chops for Game 3 and potentially Game 4 at Coors.6

“We have a lot of confidence moving forward, especially at home where we’re all very comfortable hitting and pitching,” second baseman DJ LeMahieu said.

Therein lies the irony of the Rockies under Black, known as a pitching guru. For years, the focus always has been about figuring out how to pitch at Coors Field. The Rockies did that in 2018, at least to a certain extent. They had their lowest team ERA at home since 2013. Several young starters, especially scheduled Game 4 starter Kyle Freeland, were excellent at Coors Field. And, of course, so were their hitters. But not on the road, where not one Rockies slugger produced an OPS over .800. Five reached that figure at home.

“We’re probably putting a little pressure on ourselves, but I know we’re excited to get home and play Sunday,” LeMahieu said.

In a telling time frame, before scoring just six runs in their past four games on the road, the Rockies put up 36 runs in their previous four home wins.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“The story of the series so far is how we’ve pitched,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.

Of course, credit goes to Milwaukee’s pitchers, but Colorado has made it easy on them at the plate. It doesn’t help that the Rockies admittedly look like they’re pressing.

Red Sox have power arms in bullpen, but need to find right mix

It’s a best-of-three American League Division Series now for the Boston Red Sox, and they’re going to have steal a game in enemy territory or see their 108-win season end with a first-round exit and hear 50,000 Yankees fans singing “New York, New York” to Aaron Judge’s boombox.

To avoid that heartache, the much-maligned Boston bullpen will have to deliver some big outs, for as much as manager Alex Cora would like to ride his starting rotation, this is postseason baseball 2018 and that means plenty of relievers pitching plenty of key innings.

Cora already has turned to his bullpen for some heavy workloads in the first two games. Chris Sale went 5⅓ innings in the first game, and Cora used five relievers to get the final 11 outs, including a two-out appearance from starter Rick Porcello. After David Price sucked the life out of Fenway Park in Game 2, the bullpen had to throw 7⅓ innings. Overall, the pen threw 89 pitches in Game 1 and 123 pitches in Game 2.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

That certainly wasn’t the preferred plan heading into the series.5

“We work differently than other teams,” Cora had said prior to the first game. “We relied on our starters throughout the season. They carry us. We felt that on a nightly basis they were going to give us a chance to win — either five innings, six innings, whatever. They were very consistent about it.”

The bullpen finished ninth in the majors with a 3.72 ERA but struggled the final two months, as its ERA rose to 4.34 ERA, 20th in the majors. Matt Barnes, who had emerged as the team’s top setup reliever, pitched sparingly over the final month with inflammation in his hip, although he is back now. The depth was affected, however, when Steven Wright reinjured his knee prior to Game 1 and was later removed from the roster, replaced by Heath Hembree. Wright had pitched his way into a key role with a strong September, when he allowed two runs in 13⅔ innings.

One thing Cora isn’t concerned about — at least not yet — is a fatigue factor for his relievers.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“We’ve been taking care of them for the last month. That was the luxury of having a big lead in the division. So their workload the last month has been very, very low,” he said prior to Game 2. “You have studies and you talk to people and all this cool stuff that they do upstairs. And we feel that right now they are ready to go. If they have to pitch like Brandon Morrow last year in the World Series [when Morrow pitched in all seven games], they’re all-in, they’ll pitch five games.”

Ryan Brasier and Brandon Workman appeared in both of the first two games. After wobbling with his command in a 15-pitch outing in Game 1, Brasier was sharper in Game 2, striking out the side in his one inning. That included a pumped-up whiff of Gary Sanchez, as Brasier had motioned to Sanchez to get back in the batter’s box after the Yankees catcher had stepped out before three straight pitches.

How the ESPN Fantasy Soccer tier system works

Each week, you’ll select a Tier 1 and Tier 2 forward; a Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 midfielder; and a Tier 1 and Tier 2 defender, in addition to your goalkeeper. The best players available obviously will be in Tier 1. Tiers 2 and 3 will feature less heralded players, mostly from teams that are not championship contenders, testing your knowledge of the entire league.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Makes sense, right? But remember, you’ll want to pick a new team of players every week — taking advantage of lopsided-looking matchups, for instance. When Manchester City plays Huddersfield Town, for example, you’ll probably want to stock up on City players.

But it’ll also be important to take a close look at the tiers each week, because there will be changes. Players could move up or down a tier, depending on their current form. Fulham midfielder Jean Michael Seri might have been a Tier 3 midfielder at the start of the season, since he plays for a newly promoted side. But Seri already has a goal and an assist, and is sixth in the league in passes completed, so he’s a Tier 2 midfielder this week.5

Players could change positions, too. West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic had generally played as a midfielder prior to last season, but he then was shifted to center forward over the course of the campaign. He’s playing at center forward again this season, so he’s a Tier 2 forward this week, rather than being listed among the midfielders.

As you’ll see, the tiers aren’t exhaustive — there are nine Tier 1 forwards available for selection in the Premier League this week, for instance. There will be more players available in the lower tiers, but not that many more. We want to give you plenty of options, but not overwhelm you.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

And some players will be added or dropped from the game altogether due to injury, form, etc. Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne is expected to be out for at least a couple more months, but once he’s back, you can bet he’ll be a Tier 1 midfielder every week for the rest of the season, as long as he’s healthy.

So, don’t forget to check your team, and the list of players in each tier, before every round of games begins. Because the tiers can be adjusted any given week, and that could really impact your results. Your team from the previous week will roll over automatically, but if one of your players changes tiers or drops out of the game altogether, you’ll be left with a blank spot and earn no points at that position.

Trevor Story returns to Colorado Rockies’ lineup

Trevor Story is going over the top to get back on the field, altering his throwing motion to take some of the stress off his sore right elbow.

The Colorado Rockies All-Star shortstop returned to the lineup Monday night after missing a week with the ailment. Story was set to bat fifth as the playoff-chasing Rockies open a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“It’s tough just sitting and watching,” Story said. “It’s not ideal. The timing of it was pretty brutal. Just really tried to keep my focus on the treatment and getting better.”

Story tweaked his elbow on a throw in the first inning Sept. 17 in Los Angeles and aggravated it on a swing in the fourth.

“It’s gotten better every single day, and I’m ready to play,” Story said.

Story has been practicing throwing from a more straightaway angle, which cuts down on elbow stress. He also worked on spin moves Sunday in Arizona and said “it felt good.”

“There are little things I can do to take pressure off,” he said.10

At the plate, the elbow doesn’t really bother him.

“But you can’t say so until the game,” he quickly added.

Story, 25, is in the midst of a breakout season, hitting .288 with 33 homers and 102 RBIs. He recently became the first shortstop in major league history with at least 40 doubles, 30 home runs and 25 steals in a season.

His return couldn’t come at a more opportune time. The Rockies started Monday trailing the NL West-leading Dodgers by 1½ games. It’s a name that manager Bud Black was all too happy to pencil back into the heart of the order behind Nolan Arenado, who has 34 homers and 103 RBIs this season.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“He’s one of our best players. He plays a premium position and hits in the middle of the order. So it’s quite a presence we didn’t have for a week of games,” Black said. “He’s one of our core players and one of best in the National League.”

In other Rockies health news, left-hander Tyler Anderson was scratched from his start after he experienced shoulder soreness and replaced by right-hander Jon Gray. Starter-turned-reliever Chad Bettis is slated to pitch Tuesday.

“We decided to do what’s best for the team,” said Anderson, 6-9 with a 4.76 ERA this season. “It’s frustrating. I want to take the ball every fifth day. I can’t think about that now, I just have to think about getting back as quick as I can.”