Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton needs one last power surge to reach 61

Sep 19, 2017 5

MIAMI (AP) — Giancarlo Stanton asked to sit out a game — not so much because he was tired of playing, but because he was tired of making outs.

Swinging a weary bat and stalled for a week at 54 homers, Stanton requested a day off Sunday and was held out of the Miami Marlins’ starting lineup.

“I don’t like doing that, but also you’ve got to be smart,” he said. “It’s just that time of the year.”

The pause in his pursuit of 61 homers, or even more, seemed to help. On Monday, the Marlins slugger hit a three-run homer, an RBI single and a 118-mph lineout against the New York Mets.

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With 55 homers, he needs six in the final 12 games to match Roger Maris’ hallowed 1961 total of 61, meaning he needs one more power surge.

What is Stanton thinking about those numbers?

“Don’t play like I have been,” he said. “We’ll worry about it when we’re done. I haven’t had the greatest at-bats lately, so just have better at-bats and good things will happen.”

The most prodigious, prolific home run hitter in the major leagues might also be the streakiest. His latest homer snapped a 9-for-62 slump (.145). Before that, he hit 18 homers in a 25-game span with a batting average of .387 and an OPS of 1.489.

Some consider Stanton the front-runner in the National League race for most valuable player. But Marlins manager Don Mattingly doesn’t even consider him the team MVP, giving the edge to All-Star left fielder Marcell Ozuna because he has been more consistent.

Ozuna has hit at least .295 with at least 18 RBIs in every full month this season.

Stanton’s monthly average has ranged from .242 in June to .349 in August. He entered Tuesday’s game against the Mets hitting .190 in September.

He is chasing bad pitches and missing a lot, which is what happens when Stanton slumps.

“I haven’t felt too well,” he said. “But I’ve had more comfortable at-bats the past couple of days. I’ve just got to turn it around.”

There’s time. He homered in six consecutive games in August. But in a sport with no clock, he’s racing one.

Stanton acknowledged last month that 61 homers is a goal because Maris’ record stood for 37 years before Mark McGwire broke it during the era tainted by steroids.

Others agree 61 looms large.

“I’m interested to see if he’s able to tie or break that record,” Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price said. “It’s significant for people that held that number holy, sacred, which might be my generation and those before me. I think it’s a huge deal.”

That sentiment is shared even in the American League, where the breakout season by New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge has become overshadowed by Stanton’s pursuit of another Yankee — Maris.

“What he’s doing is pretty remarkable, to be able to even talk about getting there,” Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. “It’s going to be fun to watch down the stretch.”

Mets manager Terry Collins grew up a Yankees fan and remembers Maris’ 1961 season.

“It was pretty cool to think someone could hit more than 60 home runs in a season,” Collins said. “And Stanton is doing it when times are different. Pitchers are different, parks are different. It’s truly a tremendous feat what he’s doing.”

Stanton’s homer total is the highest since Ryan Howard hit 58 in 2006. He has a chance to become the first player to reach 60 since steroids-fueled 2001, when Barry Bonds hit 73 and Sammy Sosa hit 64.

The Marlins’ remaining schedule includes three dates at hitter-friendly Colorado, where Stanton has 10 homers in 20 career games. Along with the Mets, he’ll also face Arizona and Atlanta.

Monday’s homer off Matt Harvey gave Stanton hope, as did that 118-mph lineout to left field.

“Those are good outs,” Stanton said. “I haven’t had even too many good outs lately. Even if it doesn’t look as pretty, it’s how you feel. Hopefully I get some games like this, and it leads to something better.”

One last surge might be enough for 61.

Dolphins suspended Lawrence Timmons indefinitely after LB unexpectedly left team

Sep 19, 2017 6

MIAMI (AP) — Linebacker Lawrence Timmons was suspended indefinitely by the Miami Dolphins after he went AWOL on the eve of the team’s season opener.

The Dolphins announced the move in a one-sentence news release Tuesday, a day off for the team.

We have suspended linebacker Lawrence Timmons indefinitely.

— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) September 19, 2017

Timmons’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had no immediate comment on the decision. Timmons wanted to rejoin the team this week, but coach Adam Gase was angered by the disappearance of the 11th-year veteran, which came Saturday in Los Angeles the day before Miami’s game at the Chargers.

The Dolphins filed a missing person report before making contact with Timmons, who apparently was dealing with a personal matter. He wasn’t with the Dolphins at the game and didn’t fly back to South Florida on the team plane after Miami’s 19-17 win.

Undrafted rookie free agent Chase Allen started in Timmons’ place Sunday and made three tackles. Middle linebacker Mike Hull, making his second career start, played every snap and led Miami with 10 tackles.

Timmons signed a $12 million, two-year deal with Miami in March after 10 seasons with Pittsburgh, where he won a Super Bowl ring in 2009 and made the Pro Bowl in 2014.


A lot needs to change for Bengals to salvage season

Sep 19, 2017 5

CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton thought there might be some changes after two horrid games on offense.

He was surprised that they started at the top.

A few hours after its 13-9 loss to Houston on Thursday night, Cincinnati fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and promoted receivers coach Bill Lazor. Players were off over the weekend, so their first chance to work out with the rearranged coaching staff was Monday afternoon.

Dalton said there were some subtle changes. Any notable changes in the game plan won’t be known for a few more days.

“When somebody new is in, they have their own twist on things, a different spin on things,” Dalton said. “So there were some things that were exactly the same as we’d done and some things that were a little different.”

A lot needs to change for Cincinnati to salvage its season.

The Bengals are the first team since the 1939 Eagles to open with a pair of home games and fail to get a touchdown. A loss Sunday at Green Bay (1-1) would leave them 0-3 for the first time since 2008 , when they went 4-11-1.

The Bengals have opened a season with three straight losses 13 times in their history, including twice under coach Marvin Lewis. They’ve never finished with a winning record after an 0-3 start. A loss in Green Bay would leave them with long odds in Lewis’ final season on his contract.

“No magic, no special things here,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve got to start clicking.”

After failing to get a touchdown in 25 possessions to open the season, Dalton figured there might be some changes. He didn’t expect a change in coordinators, however.

“At that point, we weren’t thinking anything was going to happen,” he said.

Dalton has struggled behind a porous offensive line. He threw four interceptions and lost a fumble during a 20-0 loss to the Ravens, finishing with a passer rating of 28.4 — his second-lowest. Dalton was under steady pressure again Thursday night.

Lewis has been one of Dalton’s most outspoken defenders, giving no indication he has even considered using backup AJ McCarron in either of the games. McCarron took over when Dalton broke the thumb on his passing hand in 2015 and led them the rest of the way into the playoffs. He had them in position to win a first-round game against Pittsburgh before Vontaze Burfict’s hit on Antonio Brown helped the Steelers pull it out in the closing seconds.

McCarron has heard fans calling for a change.

“Listen, I think I’m a great quarterback and I think he’s an unbelievable quarterback,” McCarron said Monday. “I love him to death. But he’s our quarterback. Stop making it into something else. It’s not into something else. Ride with him. Trust the team. Trust the process. And trust what we are trying to do.”

Dalton hasn’t paid attention to suggestions to the calls for a different quarterback.

“People can come up with a headline all they want, but all that matters is what’s being said in this organization, on this team, and what happens in this locker room,” Dalton said.

Although Lazor hasn’t said how the offense might change, he’s likely to put more emphasis on getting the ball to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. The two were limited in the first two games, and Green complained about it after the loss on Thursday night.

Also, Zampese used running backs Giovani Bernard, rookie Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill interchangeably without success. Lazor has never done a three-back rotation.

Most players had never experienced an in-season coaching change comparable to this one.

“Anytime you’ve been building a relationship as an offense doing it one way and it changes, it’s always going to be a little tough,” McCarron said. “It’s part of the business we are in. We all have to adapt to sudden changes.”

Wainwright heads to bullpen after being activated from DL

Sep 19, 2017 5

Adam Wainwright is ready for action, albeit from the bullpen.

The St. Louis Cardinals activated the veteran right-hander from the 10-day disabled list Tuesday. He had been working his way back from a right elbow impingement since going on the DL on Aug. 18.

Wainwright, who has started every game in which he has appeared since pitching in relief at the end of the 2015 season, will work out of the bullpen the rest of the season. His rotation spot belongs to rookie right-hander Jack Flaherty, who is starting Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. He should get two more starts before the regular season ends.

Wainwright is 12-5 with a 5.12 ERA in 23 starts in 2017.

StaTuesday: Matthews closing in on Packers' sack record

Sep 19, 2017 5

When Ted Thompson traded back into the first round of the 2009 NFL draft to select Clay Matthews, he of course expected the Green Bay Packers were getting a solid, long-term player.

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What Thompson didn’t know at the time was he had just selected someone who would turn out to be the Packers’ all-time leader in sacks.

Matthews, now in his ninth season in Green Bay, is on the precipice of being crowned with that achievement. After recording 1.5 sacks this past Sunday night against Atlanta, Matthews just one-half sack away from tying for the lead and one momentous quarterback takedown from being No. 1.

Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who played for the Packers from 2000-08, is Green Bay’s current sack master, with 74.5. Among the top-10 sack artists in Packers history, Matthews is third in sacks per game behind just Tim Harris and Reggie White (Harris actually is .002 ahead of White) and just ahead of Tony Bennett (by .001).

Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila 124 74.5 .60
Clay Matthews 115 74 .64
Reggie White 95 68.5 .72
Tim Harris 76 55 .72
Aaron Kampman 112 54 .48
Ezra Johnson 148 50 .34
Tony Bennett 56 36 .64
Bryce Paup 64 32.5 .51
Vonnie Holliday 66 32 .48
Cullen Jenkins 93 29 .31

It of course should be noted that the sack didn’t become an official statistic until 1982. However, there wasn’t as much player movement either due to the lack of free agency, but on the other hand teams didn’t pass nearly as much pre-1982, and thus there were fewer opportunities for a sack.

The lack of opportunity is not the case nowadays.

While he is poised to be Green Bay’s all-time sack leader, Matthews ranks 10th among active players, although his .64 sacks per game is fifth among those 10. (Note: All figures through Week 2; Tamba Hali is currently on Kansas City’s PUP list.)

Julius Peppers 236 146 .62
Terrell Suggs 199 117.5 .59
Elvis Dumervil 148 99 .67
Tamba Hali 172 89.5 .52
James Harrison 188 81.5 .43
Cameron Wake 117 81.5 .70
J.J. Watt 85 76 .89
Von Miller 90 75.5 .84
Cliff Avril 138 74 .54
Clay Matthews 115 74 .64

Perhaps Matthews is returning to his heyday, when he had double-digit sacks in four of his first six seasons. Playing more at inside linebacker the past two years didn’t help his cause, as he posted some of his worst sack-per-game totals of his career.

2009 16 10 .63
2010 15 13.5 .90
2011 15 6 .40
2012 12 13 1.1
2013 11 7.5 .69
2014 16 11 .69
2015 16 6.5 .41
2016 12 5 .42
2017 2 1.5 .75

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow, Facing Ted Williams — Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns

Blues and FSMW announce 2017-18 TV schedule

Sep 19, 2017 4

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues and FOX Sports Midwest announced the clubs 2017-18 television schedule Tuesday. All 82 regular-season Blues games will be televised, with 72 games on FOX Sports Midwest and 10 on national TV. All FOX Sports Midwest Blues telecasts will also be streamed locally on FOX Sports GO.

In addition, for the first time, two Blues preseason games will be streamed on FOX Sports GO Wednesday, Sept. 20 vs. Columbus and Saturday, Sept. 23 vs. Dallas. Blues games streamed on FOX Sports GO are available on the FOX Sports GO app and at to customers of pay-TV providers who receive FOX Sports Midwest as part of their video subscription.

FOX Sports Midwest, in its 21st season as the Blues’ flagship television partner, will televise 72 regular-season games, starting with the home opener vs. Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 7. Blues games on FOX Sports Midwest are preceded and followed by Blues Live, the networks in-depth pregame and postgame show. John Kelly (play-by-play) and Darren Pang (analyst) call the action, with Bernie Federko as pregame, postgame and intermission analyst. Scott Warmann and Jim Hayes handle hosting duties, with reporting from Andy Strickland.

As previously announced, NBC Sports Network will televise 10 regular-season Blues games to a national audience, including the season opener at defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh on Oct. 4. NBC Sports Network will also televise the Blues-Penguins preseason contest Sept. 24.

Click HERE to view the complete 2017-18 Blues TV schedule.

Preview: D-backs at Padres, 6:30 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona

Sep 19, 2017 4

Streaming live on FOX Sports GO

SAN DIEGO — The first names and initials are the same and so, too, are their performances of late.

Arizona’s Zack Godley is making a name for himself on a staff that includes Zack Greinke. Godley (8-7, 3.00 ERA) gets the start on Tuesday against the San Diego Padres, looking to extend a solid run of pitching.

In Godley’s past four outings, he has pitched like Greinke, going 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA. In his most recent start, Godley fired a season-high eight scoreless innings and allowed only five hits in a Thursday victory over the Colorado Rockies.

“He can’t get much better than what we saw,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told “He was pitch-efficient. He was outstanding.”

That kind of praise is usually directed toward the “other” Zack. Greinke is in the conversation for the National League Cy Young Award as he continues to shine.

There is plenty of luster attached to Godley, too. As the Diamondbacks close in on a National League wild-card berth, Godley has been a big reason for their recent success.

His latest win over was clutch, against a Colorado team chasing Arizona for the top National League wild card, with the only disappointment being Godley wasn’t sent out in the ninth to try for his first career shutout.

Godley tried to sway Lovullo as he started preparing to hit second in the top of the ninth inning.

“I was trying to grab my helmet and my stuff and get to the on-deck circle before he could see me, and he’d be just like: ‘All right, he’s going to go,'” Godley said. “He caught me before I could even get to the steps.”

Godley is 1-2 with a 4.94 ERA in eight career games, including five starts, against the Padres, and he is 0-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts against them this season.

Travis Wood (3-6, 6.80 ERA overall) will oppose Godley as the Padres go for their second win of the three-game series. San Diego took the series opener 4-2 on Monday behind homers from Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges.

Wood, who came over to the Padres in a trade-deadline deal with the Kansas City Royals, has seen all his wins come at Petco Park.

Wood’s last outing wasn’t in the Padres’ downtown digs, and the results were somewhat predictable. He was knocked around at Minnesota on Sept. 12 as the Twins ambushed him for three home runs in what became a 16-0 loss.

It was a nightmare turn for Wood, who surrendered a career-high nine runs on nine hits in 2 1/3 innings.

In his past two appearances, Wood has given up 16 runs (15 earned) over 4 1/3 innings.

“If I make a mistake, they capitalize on it,” he said after the game on Sept. 12. “Even when I executed pitches, they had a great game plan and found the holes. They were able to put a lot on me and get me out of there real quick.”

Padres manager Andy Green said, “There was just a ton of mistakes in the zone. We’ll sit down and assess where we go from here, but obviously if he wants to stay in the rotation for the foreseeable future, he’s got to pitch better than that.”

Wood is 2-5 with a 5.11 ERA in 13 career appearances (seven starts) against Arizona. He has not faced the Diamondbacks this year.

Arizona’s lead in the race for the first NL wild card is 4 1/2 games after the Monday defeat at Petco Park.

Buccaneers defense starting to make a name for itself

Sep 19, 2017 4

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Mention the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the first thing likely to come to mind is Jameis Winston and an emerging offense.

Maybe it’s time an improved defense that keyed the team’s season-opening rout of the Chicago Bears gets a little love, too.

“Defense wins championships,” Winston said, reflecting on a 29-7 victory in which the Bears turned the ball over four times in the first half and were held to 20 yards rushing.

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“When you’ve got a dominant defense,” the young quarterback added, “it opens up every single thing.”

Robert McClain returned an interception for a touchdown. Noah Spence had Tampa Bay’s only sack, forcing a fumble that led to another TD.

Specials teams also did its part to help Winston build a 26-0 halftime lead, recovering a fumble on a punt return at Chicago’s 13-yard line.

“It was crazy during the second quarter,” tight end Cameron Brate said. “We got a takeaway, we scored the first play and then the defense got a pick-six.

“So, we had run one play in the second quarter and we were already up 23-0,” Brate said. “It was a little weird because we really didn’t have to do too much to build that lead.”

Coach Dirk Koetter said the defense essentially took up where it left off last season, when Tampa Bay rebounded from a 3-5 start to finish 9-7.

The team’s first winning record in six years didn’t produce a playoff berth, but it heightened expectations for this season.

“If you look at that second half of last year, they were a dominant defense. In my opinion, they just picked up where they left off,” Koetter said. “It wasn’t really that surprising to me because we see them every day in practice.”

Winston agreed.

“If you look at last year, our defense, towards the end of the year they were lights out,” the third-year pro said. “That’s why our offense had success.”

As well as the defense played against the Bears, Koetter cautioned that there’s plenty of room for improvement.

The Bucs haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, and the coach said it’s important to not lose perspective.

“When you play the perfect game, you can stop worrying about what you have to work on. But I haven’t seen it yet,” Koetter said.

“Everything about (Sunday) was really good. Exciting way to start the season. Unique way to start the season based on the set of circumstances,” the coach added. “But at the same time, that was just one game. We all have a tendency to be way over the top for the good or the bad, and reality is somewhere in the middle.”

Three-time Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward joined the Bucs this month after being released by Denver following the final preseason.

Ward was part of an elite defense that helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl two years ago. He’s impressed with his new teammates, and thinks the Bucs have the capability of becoming a dominant unit, too.

“We definitely can be number one,” Ward said. “The talent we have in this room, they work hard and it is everything you need to be a championship defense.”


Orioles minor leaguer is third baseball player killed in Dominican Republic this year

Sep 19, 2017 2

A 21-year-old minor league pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles organization became the third baseball player to die this year in a car wreck in the Dominican Republic.

Miguel Gonzalez, who is not related to the former Orioles pitcher with the same name, succumbed Monday to injuries sustained Saturday night as he was returning home from visiting his girlfriend.

“Our organization is deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Miguel Gonzalez,” Executive Vice President Dan Duquette said in a statement. “Miguel was beloved by his teammates and coaches in the Dominican Republic. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this very difficult time.”

Felipe Alou Jr., director of the Orioles’ academy, told ESPN the wreck occurred when Gonzalez’s car struck a truck that was out of control.

“The impact of the crash was on the driver side,” he said. “Miguel received serious injuries, including one in the head.”

Three people who were also in the car were uninjured.

On Monday, the Orioles held a moment of silence before a 10-8 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Gonzalez’s death makes him the third player killed in a car crash this year on the Caribbean island.

In January, Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and Cleveland Indians infielder Andy Martin were killed on the same day in unrelated crashes. In 2016, at least three other minor leaguers were killed in the Dominican Republic.

Oscar Tavares, a rising St. Louis Cardinals star, was killed in a car crash in 2014.

The World Health Organization ranked the Dominican Republic as the deadliest country in which to drive in the Western Hemisphere in 2015.

“The laws here are a lot more lax, in terms of speeding and drinking and driving,” Johnny DiPuglia, the Washington Nationals’ vice president of international players, told the Washington Post last year. “The culture down here is more accepting of that lifestyle. If you get a DUI in the states, it can ruin your life…. But [in the Dominican Republic], you don’t see that. DUI checkpoints — you don’t see that.”

Gonzalez, an undrafted free agent, spent the last three seasons in the Dominican Summer League, appearing in 38 games (13 starts) and posting a 7.65 ERA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for

Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Packers Snap Counts: Top pick King makes big jump in Week 2

Sep 19, 2017 3

Read any recaps of the Green Bay Packers 34-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and youll see the same themes throughout: injuries here, slow start there, penalties everywhere.

But amidst the negativity and concern, a bright spot emerged: Green Bays most recent top pick, Kevin King.

King was immediately thrown into the deep end of the NFLs talent pool, tested against the leagues most talented receiver Julio Jones. And the No. 33 overall pick in Aprils draft responded by doing more swimming than sinking.

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King played in 46 snaps with the Packers defense in Week 2, good for 79 percent of the action and a big boost from the six plays he was involved in the previous week. He recorded three tackles — including an impressive open-field stop of Falcons running back Tevin Coleman — and tallied his first career NFL pass break up.

On second-and-9 in the second quarter, Jones ran down the middle of the field with King trailing. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan saw the opening and threw the ball to Jones, but King timed his dive perfectly and swatted it away.

It was a brilliant play, and one that summed up Kings first game as a significant member of the Packers defense.

With injuries to Davon House and Kentrell Brice lingering in the defensive backs room, it will be interesting to see Kings role in the Packers as they prepare for their Week 3 battle against an 0-2 Cincinnati team.

Other notes from Sunday’s snap counts:

— Jordy Nelson was in the game for seven plays before leaving the game in the first quarter due to a hamstring injury. He played 93 percent of the snaps in Week 1.

— Despite the injuries to Green Bays receivers, Jeff Janis played just one snap. Geronimo Allison, playing in his first game of the season, had 61 snaps and Trevor Davis, who had six snaps in Week 1, compiled 17.

— Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett were the only two Packers defenders to play every snap.

— Fifth-year defensive lineman Quinton Dial filled in for an injured Mike Daniels and saw 57 percent of the action after not seeing the field in Week 1. He finished the day with three total tackles.