Nadal beats Ramos-Vinolas to win 10th Monte Carlo Masters

Apr 23, 2017 8

Rafael Nadal easily beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-3 in an all-Spanish final on Sunday to win the Monte Carlo Masters for the 10th time and clinch the 70th title of his career.

It was Nadal’s first title of the season, having lost his previous three finals — two of those to Roger Federer.

Nadal faced little opposition on his way to becoming the first player to win 10 tournaments at the same venue in the Open era, and the first to reach 50 on clay. He was previously level on clay titles with Argentine Guillermo Vilas.

The only final Nadal has lost at Monte Carlo was to Novak Djokovic in 2013.

Ramos-Vinolas never looked like posing a threat.

Appearing in his first Masters final, the 15th-seeded Ramos-Vinolas saved three break points in his first service game and was 0-40 down in his next. Nadal served out the set in 30 minutes with an ace.

Nadal’s 29th Masters title moves him one behind Djokovic’s record. He will also have his sights set on a 10th title in Barcelona next week — Nadal’s previous career title, almost one year ago.

Since then, Federer has beaten him in finals at the Australian Open and the Miami Masters, either side of a win for big-serving American Sam Querrey at Acapulco, Mexico. Federer also beat Nadal in the fourth round at Indian Wells, but the 18-time Grand Slam champion skipped Monte Carlo this year.

Ramos-Vinolas had lost his two previous matches to Nadal in straight sets — both in Barcelona. He competed better in the third set, holding to love in the seventh game to provoke sympathetic applause from the crowd, but a second career title never looked realistic.

Ramos-Vinolas saved two match points after matching Nadal’s aggression, but a poor unforced error gave Nadal a third match point and Ramos-Vinolas double-faulted to lose in 1 hour, 16 minutes of a one-sided contest.

Nadal’s celebrations were somewhat muted, and he gave Ramos-Vinolas a sympathetic pat on the back at the net. Nadal tilted his head back and put both hands on his head as his achievement began to sink in, while his opponent buried his head into a towel.

Ramos-Vinolas had never played in a Masters final before. He never really stood a chance against the player widely considered the greatest ever on clay.

Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays game preview (4/23/17)

Apr 23, 2017 7

TV: FOX Sports Sun

Time: Pregame coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.


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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays have something of a patchwork lineup with 10 players on the disabled list, but even shorthanded, they have found ways to come out of the gates with a 9-3 record at home.

“We’re scrambling on the bench tonight, thinking about the game at hand and also playing the what-if for (Sunday’s) game and the game to follow,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

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The Rays, who host the Houston Astros in the final game of the series on Sunday, have no left-handers in their bullpen and may have lost another reliever as Tommy Hunter left Saturday’s game with a calf injury. Kevin Kiermaier left his second straight game with illness, trying to push through but striking out three times on nine pitches.

There are signs of progress, however. Rookie reliever Austin Pruitt won for the second time in four days with an extended scoreless outing, and newcomer Shane Peterson, who looked out of place in left field two days earlier, made two spectacular catches as part of a much improved defensive effort.

Houston, on the other hand, hopes to get out with a series win on Sunday after letting a sixth-inning lead slip away Saturday and making it easier for the Rays.

“Defensively, we didn’t play great,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “It wasn’t our best night. You’re going to have games like this sometimes … We didn’t really piece together at-bat after at-bat when we did get baserunners.”

For Sunday’s finale, Rays starter Matt Andriese (1-0, 3.38 ERA) is coming off his first win of the season on Tuesday, going six innings and holding Detroit to one run on four hits.

Against an Astros lineup that has 22 home runs this season, Andriese must be careful about the home-run ball. Since the All-Star break last season, he has allowed 18 in 78 2/3 innings, and his home run rate of 2.06 per nine innings in that span is the third-highest in the American League.

Andriese has a 1-1 record and 5.13 ERA in his career against the Astros, taking the loss on a 13th-inning walk-off single in 2015 and winning last season despite allowing 12 baserunners, including four walks.

Houston starter Joe Musgrove (1-1, 5.87 ERA) lost Tuesday to the Angels, giving up five runs on eight hits in five innings, with much of the damage coming on a three-run Albert Pujols home run. This will be Musgrove’s first appearance against the Rays.

Both sides could be playing without key personnel. Kiermaier is still battling illness, and Astros outfielder George Springer is unlikely to play after leaving Saturday’s game with discomfort in his hamstring.

The Rays go on the road for eight games in nine days after Sunday’s finale and have been a much different team on the road — 1-6 away vs. 9-3 at home. The Astros stay on the road with three more at Cleveland before returning home for their next seven games against Oakland and Texas.

“Really impressed with the way the guys stayed at it and did a tremendous job,” Cash said of another comeback home victory Saturday, which clinched a second straight winning homestand.

Miami Marlins at San Diego Padres game preview (4/23/17)

Apr 23, 2017 8

TV: FOX Sports Florida

TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 4 p.m.


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SAN DIEGO — Tom Koehler absorbed his rocky outing, just like every other Miami Marlins starter.

“It seems like all our guys have had one game that hasn’t gone well,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.

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Koehler starts against the San Diego Padres in Sunday’s series finale. The Padres counter with right-hander Luis Perdomo (0-0, 8.44) after losing Saturday’s game to Miami 6-3 in 11 innings.

The Marlins hope Koehler (0-1, 5.40) finds his command again. The right-hander didn’t exactly flood the zone with strikes in his previous outing as he walked five and allowed five runs and seven hits in Monday’s loss to the Seattle Mariners.

“This last time out he just didn’t have his breaking ball at all,” Mattingly said. “That was a group where we wanted him to use his breaking ball, his offspeed, and he just couldn’t seem to get ahead in the count.

“And when he was throwing his breaking ball, it was staying up a lot. It was just one of those games.”

Mattingly expects Koehler, who beat the Padres last year in his only outing against them, to bounce back Sunday.

“Other than that (last start) he’s been pretty good,” Mattingly said. “But he’s a guy that is always working so he is not going to be down over one start. He will be ready to go.”

If the Padres don’t go outside the zone, they could be in a good position. If Koehler doesn’t go outside his comfort zone, Mattingly warns of trouble.

“Just like anyone else, you want him to be able to pitch ahead and use his breaking stuff,” Mattingly said. “But he can’t be afraid to use his fastball sometimes. Teams look at stuff, too, and you just can’t be too reliant, too predictable.”

What’s a mystery is conjuring what the Padres will get from Perdomo. He was out for two weeks with a sore shoulder, but the Padres don’t seem concerned.

“It was nothing more than he felt a little pinching in the back of his shoulder and he had never felt anything before,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “It scared him and slowed him down.

“When we put him on the DL, with shoulders sometimes — like last year with Tyson (Ross) — sometimes you just don’t know.

“This was more of a case, in my mind of a young kid, who had never felt anything in his life. He felt something very minor and paid attention to it and now he is going to be ready to pitch again. He is ready to go. He doesn’t fell anything at all.”

Perdomo showed off his heavy sinker in defeating the Marlins twice last year in his only two appearances against them.

“He pitched well,” Green said. “He’s just got to attack guys.”

Sunday marks Perdomo’s second start of the season. In the Padres’ home opener on April 7, he was knocked around for five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Giants.

Royals seek to avoid four-game sweep at Texas

Apr 23, 2017 6

The Texas Rangers will find out Sunday if right-hander Yu Darvish has been able to put his odd last start behind him.

Darvish (1-2, 3.28 ERA) and the Rangers believe that’s the case. Darvish starts opposite Kansas City’s Jason Hammel (0-1, 4.60) as the teams wrap up a four-game series at Globe Life Park.

The Rangers come into the game riding a season-high three-game winning streak while the Royals are looking to snap a nine-game losing streak against the Rangers and avoid a four-game sweep.

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Darvish had a dominant five innings in his last outing at Oakland but was pulled in the sixth after losing command as he allowed four runs in the frame before manager Jeff Banister took him out despite throwing only 82 pitches.

Darvish, who is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three career starts against Kansas City, has moved on.

“I think it could happen to any other pitchers, any good ones,” Darvish said. “Sometimes like it’s just one inning you have bad innings. What I can do is listen to my body and what I’m doing different during that game and make adjustments at that time and keep working on that.”

One thing Darvish and the Rangers have quelled is any talk of an issue between Darvish and pitching coach Doug Brocail. Brocail said after the last start that Darvish went away from the game plan during the outing.

Texas manager Jeff Banister said Saturday that there are no problems between Darvish and Brocail and that it was Banister’s decision to pull him.

Darvish said he knows there wouldn’t have been an issue if he struggled early and then came back strong or he didn’t allow a two-run homer to Oakland’s Adam Rosales. He threw only 53 pitches in the first five innings and 29 to record one out in the sixth.

“Until the sixth inning I was pitching great, the plan was working,” Darvish said. “It’s just that some of the right-handed hitters, especially (Adam) Rosales, that maybe I should have pitched more in. Other than that I think I felt good and the plan was working.”

Hammel is still looking for his first win of the season for the Royals, but unlike Darvish there were no questions about his performance in his last start. He didn’t figure in the decision in a 2-1 loss to San Francisco, allowing one run in six innings. He also retired 15 of the first 16 hitters he faced.

The Royals would take their chances against Texas with a repeat performance Sunday from a pitcher the club didn’t sign until February. He’s fit in well with a club that has the best rotation ERA in the major leagues.

“We added a good pitcher,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “He’s a veteran arm, and he’s done a good job for us so far.”

Hammel has also fared well against the Rangers recently. In his last two starts versus Texas, Hammel allowed one run in six innings in each turn. He beat Texas last year when he was with the Chicago Cubs and is 1-2 in six appearances (four starts) against the Rangers with a 4.18 ERA.

Kyle Busch, JGR eye turnaround from early season woes at Bristol

Apr 23, 2017 5

Things can turn around pretty quickly in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and thats exactly what Joe Gibbs Racing is hoping for, a turnaround.

Its no secret that as a team, JGR has been behind in the first seven races of the season, but a visit to Bristol Motor Speedway could see the four-car Toyota team get its mojo back.

Weather permitting and frankly, it doesnt look good the 0.533-mile, high-banked Bristol track will host the Food City 500 today (1:30 p.m. ET, FOX). And if the race gets rained out, the teams will go tomorrow afternoon instead, when the forecast is far more promising.

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Regardless of weather, though, the JGR Toyotas have been fast all weekend. Five-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch was fastest in both of Saturdays practices, with teammates Denny Hamlin third in the morning session and Daniel Suarez second in the final Happy Hour round.

And unlike the ultra-fast 1.5-mile tracks where aerodynamics are so critical, the driver plays a more important role at the short tracks, which should play into Buschs favor.

Still, the 2015 NASCAR champion knows it will be a wide-open race.

Theres five guys, maybe even seven guys that can walk in here this weekend thinking this is our weekend to get a win, said Busch. We have to fight those guys in order to go out there and get the win for ourselves.

And Busch said hes up to the challenge.

Bristol, this is one of my best wheelhouses and I really enjoy coming here, its a lot of fun, he said.

As far as JGR getting off to a slow start, its worth considering that seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson had the worst six-race start of his entire career and then won two weeks ago at Texas.

And when Johnson won, the narrative suddenly changed from, Whats wrong with the No. 48 team? to Is Johnson going to win his eighth championship this year?

A victory at Bristol could have a similar impact for Busch.

In any event, hes not sweating JGRs season so far.

I dont think theres any reason for cause for concern yet, Busch said. But ask me that question again in about 10 weeks.


Cards can capture second straight series with win over Brewers

Apr 23, 2017 10

It’s fair to say the St. Louis Cardinals’ offense is still a work in progress, but it’s been good enough this weekend to put them in a position to win their second consecutive series when they take on the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday afternoon at Miller Park.

Saturday night, the Cardinals collected 12 hits but stranded 11 and went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position yet somehow, still found a way to pull out a victory.

“That just can’t keep happening,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s putting a lot more pressure on our pitching. The first three innings, we had leadoff doubles, get him over, do a nice job two to three times and we don’t get the job done. That’s something we’ve just got to get better at.”

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The struggling offense hasn’t been too much of a problem for right-hander Mike Leake, the Cardinals’ scheduled starter Sunday.

Through his first three outings this season, Leake leads the NL with an 0.84 ERA and is third with an 0.84 WHIP. He’s allowed only two runs and a walk this season and didn’t walk a batter last time out, when he allowed a run over 6 1/3 innings on Tuesday against Pittsburgh.

“Pretty in sync,” Leake said after that outing. “The stuff moving down and away was a bit tricky, but other than that, I felt pretty good.”

Leake posted a career-worst 4.69 ERA last season but found success against Milwaukee, going 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA with 20 strikeouts and two walks in three starts.

Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson looks for his first victory against the Cardinals. He’s 0-7 with a 7.34 ERA in nine career games (eight starts), including an 0-2 mark and 4.50 ERA in three starts last season.

He should benefit from a Brewers offense that is improving by the day. Milwaukee didn’t hit a home run Saturday night but entered Saturday leading the majors with 22 homers, 73 extra-base hits, 289 total bases and a .475 slugging percentage.

Now they are starting to get production from all through their order, too.

Keon Broxton recorded a hit for a second straight game after snapping an 0-for-18 funk while Jonathan Villar has hits in four straight games. He leads Milwaukee with 33 strikeouts this season but didn’t strike out Saturday against the Cardinals.

Getting Broxton going, though, will be important for the Brewers moving forward. He’s expected to see a majority of the action in center now that Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been designated for assignment.

“It’s really not about the hits,” he said. “It’s just finding a comfort zone in the box and being able to recognize pitches and lay off pitches I’ve been swinging at, and squaring up balls. That’s what happened tonight — I was able to lay off a lot of pitches that I was usually swinging at, I saw the ball a lot better and I was able to put good wood on the ball.

“That’s the main goal in the box — it’s not really about getting hits. It’s about having good at-bats and squaring the ball up. I’m glad I was able to get back to that tonight and I’ll try to continue it tomorrow.”

Brutal forecast puts Food City 500 at Bristol in jeopardy

Apr 23, 2017 11

Its race day at Bristol Motor Speedway, but Mother Nature is not cooperating.

As of 7:15 a.m., rain was falling at the Tennessee short track, which is scheduled to host the Food City 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race today (1:30 p.m. ET, FOX).

Unfortunately, the forecast is in a word, brutal.

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According to, the chance of rain at Bristol is 95 percent to 100 percent from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m., when it drops down to 90 percent.

Last years Food City 500 took about 3 hours and 16 minutes to run, and given the forecast, its hard to picture a window large enough to get the race in today.

Then again, the forecast was almost as bad yesterday, but NASCAR was able to run both the XFINITY Series race and the K&N Pro Series, East race, so never say never.

If the race is rained out today, it will be run on Monday afternoon.

Check back with throughout the day for updates on the situation from Bristol.


Wiesberger win playoff to capture Shenzhen International

Apr 23, 2017 14

Austrian Bernd Wiesberger beat England’s Tommy Fleetwood in a playoff on Sunday to win the Shenzhen International.

Wiesberger went into the final round with a three-shot lead and eight shots ahead of Fleetwood but the Englishman fired a 63 to finish tied at 16 under.

Wiesberger’s 71 featured par saves on the 12th and 17th and nearly hit the pin with his approach to the last hole but was forced to settle for a par and a trip back up the 18th.

Wiesberger hit his drive in the playoff over the water off the tee and ended up in the bank while Fleetwood played safely onto the fairway and found the heart of the green with his second shot.

The pressure was on Wiesberger and he delivered, placing his approach to five feet and making the putt for a birdie.

Barcelona leaves Neymar out of 'clasico' against Madrid

Apr 23, 2017 18

Barcelona has decided to leave Neymar out of the decisive “clasico” against Real Madrid because of the legal uncertainty over an appeal to overturn his suspension.

The club had taken all legal measures to try to clear the player for Sunday’s match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, but ended up not including him in the squad because there had been no ruling on its latest appeal by Sunday morning.

Barcelona’s first appeal was rejected by the Spanish football federation last week, but the club was also trying to reverse the suspension through a local sports tribunal.

The club released a statement on Sunday criticizing the tribunal for not making a decision on the case in time for the match.

The tribunal said Saturday that while it had not yet had the opportunity to consider the appeal, that did not mean the striker was cleared to play.

Neymar was handed a two-game suspension for sarcastically applauding an assistant referee after being sent off in a 2-0 loss at Malaga on April 8.

The two-match ban was in addition to the one-game suspension he was automatically required to serve for the red card. The Brazilian had already sat out one match.

Two-time champion Barcelona also won’t have the injured Rafinha and Aleix Vidal, who have long-term injuries.

Madrid, seeking its first title since 2012, is expected to welcome the return of Gareth Bale, who had been sidelined because of a muscle injury.

Madrid enters Sunday’s game with a three-point lead over Barcelona. Madrid also has a game in hand.

Kuboya wins in playoff to capture Panasonic Open

Apr 23, 2017 13

Kenichi Kuboya of Japan beat compatriot Katsumasa Miyamoto in the first playoff hole on Sunday to win the Panasonic Open.

Kuboya fired a 7-under-par 64 in the final round to finish tied with Miyamoto (68) at 11 under 273.

Kuboya started the final round six strokes off the lead but made up ground on Sunday with seven birdies in a bogey-free round at the Chiba Country Club.

South Korean Kim Seung-hyuk shot a 69 and tied for third place at 10 under 274 with overnight leader Hwang Jung-gon and Japan’s Mikumu Horikawa.

Jason Knutzon of the United States, who led the first two rounds, had an even-par 71 in the final round to finish tied for 15th place at 5 under 279.

Defending champion Yuta Ikeda struggled with the windy conditions for a 73 and tied for 36th place.