Warriors

Outman looks to lead A's out of the abyss vs. O's

485396.jpg

Outman looks to lead A's out of the abyss vs. O's

June 8, 2011

A's (27-35) vs.
BALTIMORE (28-31)

Coverage begins at 4 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

BALTIMORE (AP) -- When the Oakland Athletics swept the Baltimore Orioles in late May, their four-game winning streak pulled them back to the .500 mark and seemed to instill confidence.

Eight straight defeats later, the A's are hoping to avoid a third consecutive three-game sweep and first in Baltimore in nearly 13 years.

Josh Outman takes the mound against Baltimore again Wednesday night when the teams complete a three-game set at Camden Yards.

The A's (27-35) capped their season-high winning streak with a three-game sweep of the Orioles from May 27-29 - the beginning of 12 straight games against AL East opponents. Oakland hasn't won since, suffering three-game sweeps at the hands of the New York Yankees then Boston.

After Tuesday's 4-0 loss to Baltimore, Oakland is on the verge of its first nine-game losing streak since losing 10 straight from July 28-Aug. 7, 2008, and has lost 15 of 20 overall.

REWIND: A's freefall continues with loss in Baltimore

The Orioles' last three-game sweep of the A's in Baltimore came July 21-23, 1998.

"It seems like it's been happening like that all year - especially the last couple of weeks," center fielder Ryan Sweeney said. "We're having good at-bats but can't put anything together and hit it right at somebody."

Outman (1-0, 4.02 ERA) is scheduled to make his fourth start this season and second against Baltimore, which he beat 4-2 on May 28. The left-hander allowed two runs through six innings for his lone victory.

To duplicate the feat, Outman likely must improve from his most recent start Friday, when gave up five runs through only 2 2-3 innings in an 8-6 loss to Boston.

Oakland's offense - a concern all season - became weaker with the loss of Mark Ellis to a hamstring injury which landed him on the 15-day disabled list. Jemile Weeks, brother of Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks, made his major league debut in Ellis' place Tuesday and went 0 for 4.

Josh Willingham had a stellar series against Baltimore in May, going 5 for 11 with two home runs and seven RBIs. However, he's 1 for 8 with four strikeouts in this series.

Willingham hit a three-run homer May 29 off Zach Britton (5-4, 3.33 ERA), who will oppose Outman.

The Orioles (28-31) lost that contest 6-4, with Britton surrendering all six runs through 5 2-3 innings. The rookie hasn't won since beating the Chicago White Sox on May 1, going 0-3 with a 4.03 ERA in six starts since.

Britton allowed seven runs through five innings in a loss to Toronto on Friday in his most recent start.

Baltimore's eight runs in the first two games of the series equal its three-game total in its last set against Oakland. J.J. Hardy, Luke Scott and Adam Jones each homered Tuesday to help the Orioles win for the fourth time in six games.

Jones has hit safely in six of his last seven games, going 12 for 28 (.429) with two home runs. The center fielder went 1 for 10 in the previous series against the A's.

The Orioles have won three of four meetings in Baltimore.

Golden State, do we have a problem? Another loss to Rockets awakens Warriors

Golden State, do we have a problem? Another loss to Rockets awakens Warriors

In saying goodbye to their impressive road win streak and a chance to make franchise history, the Warriors also experienced an awakening that should linger somewhere in their minds for months to come.

The new and improved Houston Rockets are a serious threat to the defending champs having a parade in downtown Oakland for the second consecutive June.

That threat likely can’t be realized, however, unless the Warriors put the worst of themselves on full display, as they did Saturday night at Toyota Center in a 116-108 loss to the Rockets.

“In the first quarter, every time we made our push, we gave up easy baskets,” Draymond Green told reporters in Houston. “In the second quarter, we put them on the line the entire quarter, which slowed down our pace and let them control the tempo of the game. In the third quarter, we fought back to kind of get there but not get over the hump. And then we finally did, but we just didn’t have the right amount of focus it takes to win a game like that.”

Indeed, the Warriors were guilty of questionable shot selection at various points. They were largely allergic to rebounding, taking a 46-33 drubbing in that category. And far too often they were impatient and therefore utterly careless with their passing, resulting in 19 turnovers that led directly to 23 Houston points.

“It seemed like we kept making one silly play after another,” coach Steve Kerr said.

Sounds familiar, eh? The Warriors know their greatest weaknesses and hear about them ad nauseam from the coaching staff, yet still struggle to consistently address them.

Stephen Curry, who committed a team-worst six turnovers, lamented two possessions in particular. On one, he missed Kevin Durant “butt-naked at the top of the key,” and on another he had Durant open for a dunk but flipped it to Klay Thompson for a 3-pointer that missed.

“I made two of the worst plays of the season on those two possessions,” Curry conceded. “It’s kind of one of those nights when I personally didn’t have the right vision on the floor I’ve got to take responsibility for that.”

This is why the Warriors deserved to lose this game, which gave the Rockets a 2-1 victory in the season series and the homecourt tiebreaker should the two teams finish with identical records.

The Warriors took a 122-121 loss to Houston at Oracle Arena on opening night, then went to Houston on Jan. 4 and claimed a 124-114 victory.

This is enough to prove the Rockets are capable of beating the Warriors. We also note that in the other loss, Warriors’ turnovers gifted 21 points to Houston.

“We know the recipe against this team,” Curry said. “They’re going to shoot a lot of 3s. They’re going to make some tough shots. But if you turn the ball over and if you foul, which we did both in the first half, then that plays right into their hands. It’s just a lack of focus on the game plan.”

That lack of focus is something that has nagged the Warriors numerous times over the course of the season.

Here’s Houston’s problem: The postseason Warriors tend to be a bit sharper than the regular season Warriors.

And the Rockets, well, remain a postseason mystery. Chris Paul, who was so magnificent Saturday night, has an inglorious postseason history, complete with multiple collapses. MVP candidate James Harden also has dubious postseason resume, with epic pratfalls against the Warriors and the Spurs.

So the events of Saturday night, and the three games in the regular season, serve as reminders that if the Warriors play smart and tough and are fully engaged, they’re still the better team. Despite the chance to set a franchise record with a 15th consecutive road victory, the Warriors were less than fully engaged.

There’s a better than even chance of them being fully engaged in the postseason, should these teams meet again.

“We always talk about hitting singles,” Kerr said. “Well, we were trying to hit home runs all night, and you can’t do that against these guys.

“On the bright side, we know we can play a lot better. And we will.”

Daniel Cormier can finally feel like a champion again

cormier-us.jpg
USATSI

Daniel Cormier can finally feel like a champion again

Daniel Cormier was awarded the UFC light heavyweight championship Saturday night at UFC 220 after his loss to Jon Jones was overturned when Jones failed a prefight drug test. Cormier said leading up to the fight that he didn’t feel like a champion. He probably feels like one now.

The San Jose-based 205-pounder defeated No. 2-ranked Volkan Oezdemir by secon-round TKO to retain the title.

“I felt as if I was fighting for a vacant title because (Jones) beat me last time,” Cormier (20-1) said in a postfight interview referring to his loss last July.

“I fought for a vacant title and I got the job done so I’m the UFC champion again.”

Cormier, who turns 40 in March, nearly won the fight a round earlier. In the final minute of the first frame, Cormier landed a right hand flush on the challenger’s face. After securing a takedown and taking Oezdemir’s back, Cormier locked in a rear naked choke but was forced to relinquish the hold when the bell rang.

Oezdemir, 28, was given a second chance, but he couldn’t capitalize. Cormier dominated the second round from the beginning. The AKA-product once again took down Oezdemir, transitioned to a crucifix, and landed a barrage of shots until the referee called the fight at the 2:00 mark.

“He was so game. I knew he was a dangerous guy. He hit hard,” Cormier said of Oezdemir (15-2). “But once I was able to get him to the ground, I knew it was my world.”

And for now, the rest of the light heavyweight division is just living in it.