Warriors

Surprising hero propels Yankees in Game 1...

908853.jpg

Surprising hero propels Yankees in Game 1...

From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- For eight innings, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles staged a magnificent duel worthy of two division foes that split 18 games during the regular season and finished two games apart in the standings.Then the Yankees brushed aside the upstart, inexperienced newcomers and crashed a party 15 years in the making.Russell Martin led off the ninth inning with a tiebreaking home run off Jim Johnson, CC Sabathia turned in a sparkling pitching performance and the Yankees pulled away to a 7-2 victory Sunday night in the opener of their AL divisional series.Sabathia allowed two runs and eight hits in 8 2-3 innings to help the Yankees take the edge off the Orioles' first home playoff game since 1997. The husky left-hander went 0-2 in three starts against Baltimore during the regular season, but in this one he returned to form and improved his lifetime record against the Orioles to 17-4."Fastball command was good, worked off that," Sabathia said. "Throwing the ball pretty good getting the corners. Tried to stay out there and make some pitches."Sabathia is 6-1 with the Yankees in the postseason, 4-0 in the division series."I thought he gave us a great performance," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "Didn't give up a lot of hard hit balls tonight, had a really good changeup tonight, and I thought he used it very effectively."With the score 2-all, Martin drove a 2-0 pitch from Johnson into the left-field seats."I definitely wasn't thinking home run," Martin said. "He left a fastball up and I put good wood on it."It was the first of four straight hits off Johnson, who led the majors with 51 saves. Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter followed with singles, Ichiro Suzuki drove in a run with a swinging bunt and one out later, Robinson Cano hit a two-run double.In his seven prior appearances against New York, Johnson allowed one run in seven innings and had three saves. Nick Swisher capped the five-run ninth with a sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter."I made mistakes," Johnson said. "I obviously paid for those, and that was location. It wasn't anything else. Two fastballs that really cost us. Just have to make a better pitch. That's all it comes down to."Game 2 will be played Monday night.The start of the game was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 26 minutes, and that did nothing to lessen the enthusiasm of the 47,841 fans who endured 14 straight losing seasons while waiting for the Orioles to play a postseason game at Camden Yards."We're obviously disappointed we couldn't give them a win, but at least we're playing a five-game series instead of a shootout," Orioles right fielder Chris Davis said.Baltimore left seven on base and went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position."We stayed in as long as we could," Davis said. "We're finding out what playoff baseball is all about. You've got to capitalize on every opportunity that you give yourself and we weren't able to do that."Then again, it's tough to mount a sustained rally against someone as polished and dominant as Sabathia."He just kind of wore us down," Davis said. "You have to tip your hat to him. He held us to two runs and gave them a chance to win in the end."Orioles starter Jason Hammel allowed two runs, four hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings. The right-hander underwent knee surgery in July and returned to pitch two games in September before his right knee began to bother him again. After working his way back into form, Hammel donned a knee brace and gave Baltimore a solid 112-pitch outing in his first start in nearly a month.New York missed an excellent chance to take the lead in the seventh. After Troy Patton walked Martin and Ibanez, Darren O'Day entered and Jeter dropped down a perfect two-strike sacrifice bunt. With the infield drawn in, Suzuki hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Robert Andino, who threw home. Matt Wieters grabbed the ball on the short hop and tagged out Martin. O'Day then struck out Alex Rodriguez.Neither team got a runner in scoring position again until J.J. Hardy started the Baltimore eighth with a double. He did not advance."Being able to get out of that with a tie and give us a chance to get up and score some runs, which we did, was just a big spot," Sabathia said.Immediately after Orioles fans cheered and waved their orange towels following a first-pitch strike by Hammel to open the game, the Yankees went to work. Jeter hit a leadoff single and Suzuki followed with an RBI double into the gap in left-center. But Suzuki was thrown out trying to steal third, and Hammel settled down by striking out Rodriguez and retiring Cano on a broken-bat fly to right.Sabathia retired the first six batters he faced without allowing a ball out of the infield, then ran into trouble in the third inning. Davis led off with a single, Lew Ford singled and both runners moved up on a bunt before Nate McLouth bounced a two-run single into right field for a 2-1 lead.New York promptly tied it in the fourth, but another potential big inning was short-circuited when a runner was thrown out on the basepaths. After Hammel walked two of the first three batters, Mark Teixeira ripped a liner off the right-field scoreboard. The hit brought home a run, but Teixeira -- who only recently returned from a strained left calf -- was thrown out at second by Davis. That left Swisher at third base with two outs, and after an intentional walk to Curtis Granderson, Martin hit a fly to center.Singles by Davis and Andino put runners at the corners with one out in the fifth before McLouth looked at a third strike and Hardy grounded out.NOTES:Andy Pettitte will bring 42 games of playoff experience into Game 2 on Monday night as the starting pitcher for the Yankees. Orioles rookie Wei-Yin Chen will be making his postseason debut. ... Wieters went 0 for 4 against Sabathia and now is 5 for 28 (.179) lifetime against him. ... In 16 career division series openers, Jeter is batting .448 (26 for 58) and reached base in 15 games. ... Suzuki has at least one hit in 10 of his 11 career postseason games and has reached base in all of them. He's also hit in 20 straight games at Camden Yards, a streak that began in 2008.

With lofty win total unlikely this year, here's a number the Warriors can chase

durant-kerr-ap.jpg
AP

With lofty win total unlikely this year, here's a number the Warriors can chase

OAKLAND -- Getting to 73 wins is impossible for the Warriors, and the pursuit of it never entered their minds.

Reaching 69 wins, their average in three seasons under coach Steve Kerr, is highly improbable.

Even winning 67 games, the lowest total under Kerr, is extremely unlikely.

There is, however, a number the Warriors are aiming for that also happens to be within their grasp -- but only if they can fight through the regular-season malaise and break an unhealthy tendency.

They can get to 35 victories at Oracle Arena. Currently 16-6 at home, the Warriors would have to go 19-0 to reach 35, and it’s possible insofar as they are less than two years removed from posting an NBA-record 54 consecutive wins at home.

Can a team that once went 14 months without losing at Oracle summon a three-month stretch of perfection at home?

The schedule invites the possibility, but it’s still up to the Warriors and how they cope with tug of three long seasons and that tendency to float a bit in front of their home fans, two factors that have had more effect at home than on the road.

“In general, the appropriate fear we always talk about, it’s there on the road for most games and it’s not there as much at home,” Kerr conceded Monday.

Kevin Durant used different phrasing but echoed the comments of the coach.

“You tend to relax a bit when you’re at home because you’ve got your home crowd,” he acknowledged. “You’re just comfortable in that situation. You can go home and go to sleep in your own bed after the game. So you relax a bit.

“On the road, it just feels like this is the last game of your career. It just feels that way, especially when you’re playing a tough opponent and somewhere with a crowd that’s going to be really, really into it.”

Having gone 39-2, 39-2 and 36-5 over the last three seasons, the Warriors are assured of having their worst home record under Kerr. Still, 35 is not impossible.

The drop is not unanticipated, as Kerr experienced something similar as a member of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, when they won three straight championships as their regular-season wins steadily dropped, from 72 to 69 to 62.

“Where it has truly been the most tangible and palpable is home games against lesser opponents,” Kerr said. “We’ve lost six. Maybe two of those are playoff teams.

“We didn’t lose those games the last the last three years. We dominated the home floor. That’s where it really shows.”

The Warriors have lost at home to the Rockets, Pistons, Kings, Nuggets, Hornets and Clippers. Only Houston is a playoff lock. Detroit, Denver and the Clippers are on the fringe of the postseason race. Charlotte is a longshot, Sacramento a no-shot.

The Warriors, in every home loss, have started drowsily or played too carelessly or were self-destructive enough to give back a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.

“This is the first year in my four years where we’ve lost a lot of home games that we shouldn’t,” Kerr said. “That just points to emotional fatigue. Trying to get up for 82 games is a difficult thing, especially in Year 4 of a quest to get back to The Finals.”

Coming off a successful road trip during which they won four of five games, the Warriors this week face the Knicks, Timberwolves and Celtics -- the latter two being playoff locks.

A home sweep is difficult, of course, but hardly inconceivable. And if the Warriors can pull that off, they’d have only four remaining home games against teams fighting for a top-four playoff slot: the Thunder and Spurs twice each.

Oklahoma City appears to be getting their act together. The Spurs, while still formidable, are starting to look like a team in decline.

They’re also the two teams most likely to get the full attention of the Warriors, who began the week by sitting through video of their last three games, during which they committed numerous hideous errors.

The message: Their unforced mistakes are the surest route to defeat.

“There are key points of the year where we have to hit the reset button in terms of our priorities,” Kerr said. “Right now is one of those times. This is an important week for us. We need to take care of the ball. We need to be smart and make good decisions. If we do that, we’re really, really hard to beat.”

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

chucky-ap.jpg
AP

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

Jon Gruden has been interviewed several times since becoming Raiders head coach. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t listened to most of those sessions, and certainly doesn’t seek them out.

One landed in Carr’s inbox recently, and something Gruden said really resonated.

Gruden’s message, paraphrased: If Derek Carr is not successful, then I’ve failed as a coach.

There are two comments in that one. Gruden considers Carr extremely talented, and he’s taking responsibility for unlocking the quarterback's vast potential.

Gruden will be hands on in Carr’s development, with all the coaching intensity and fire and eyebrow raises that have become Gruden’s signature.

“He’s going to demand of me. He’s going to push me,” Carr said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which will drop Tuesday morning (Subcribe right here). “He’s going to make me be the best version of myself.”

Carr had a direct answer to skeptics wondering aloud whether he can thrive under Gruden’s particular coaching style.

“I want him to be tough on me,” Carr said. “For anyone who thinks I want him to be a different way has no clue about me or how I play football or how I prepare to play this game. I don’t need to tell stories about how I prepare or manage myself.

“(Jon) and I are going to get along great. I hope that he demands of me. I hope he’s hard on me. I don’t need to know he loves me. He has already told me that about 20 times. I appreciate that and we’ll be friends forever, but I know he’ll be demanding and tell me what I need to do. Let’s go fix problems that I have and let’s do what I need to do to win championships. Hopefully that will give people some insight and hopefully that’s the story that gets out, because that’s the truth.”

Carr met his new head coach briefly before his introductory press conference, but has known Gruden since filming the Gruden QB Camp segment back in 2014. They got along great then, and in each interaction since.

“We have so much more in common that people realize,” Carr said. “I think it would blow some people’s minds. Him and I are very similar in the way we go about our business and how we carry ourselves. It’s an exciting time.”

Carr’s excited to have some stability in his football life. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will start his fifth NFL season with his fourth head coach, fourth go-round with an offensive coordinator and third offensive scheme. Gruden signed a 10-year contract. OC Greg Olson signed a four-year pact. They’ll be here a while, and Carr’s excited about that.

“It’s going to be really nice,” Carr said. “To know Jon signed on for a 10 years and (Olson) signed on for a long time shows me a couple of things. No. 1: that they believe in me. I don’t think Coach Gruden would’ve quit his day job, which I’m thankful he did. To get (Olson) out of a good spot in L.A (with the Rams), shows that they believe in me and that’s awesome. And, No. 2: I’m going to have two people I can talk to in a different language for years to come. We can grow within the relationship, and hopefully we’ll all ride off together. It’s set up that way right now, and we have a lot of work to do to reach that point.”