Warriors

Tigers sweep the Yankees to win the pennant

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Tigers sweep the Yankees to win the pennant

From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- Prince Fielder waved his arms frantically, gleefully calling off his teammates while the crowd at Comerica Park roared.From the moment the big first baseman signed his massive contract in January, an entire city had been waiting for a chance to celebrate like this. After another dazzling effort by Detroit's starting pitchers and another soaring home run by Miguel Cabrera, Fielder caught the final out to send the Tigers to the World Series -- with a sweep of the New York Yankees, no less."There's still a long way to go but this is an awesome feeling," Fielder said.Max Scherzer capped a stupendous stretch for Detroit's rotation, and the Tigers won their second pennant in seven years by beating the Yankees 8-1 Thursday for a four-game sweep of the AL championship series.Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta hit two-run homers in a four-run fourth inning against CC Sabathia, who was unable to prevent the Yankees from getting swept in a postseason series for the first time in 32 years."Yeah, we did it," Cabrera said. "It's an unbelievable feeling. ... Four more wins, guys. Four more wins."Scherzer took a no-hit bid into the sixth against a starting lineup that was again without Alex Rodriguez, who flied out with two on in the sixth as a pinch hitter.Austin Jackson added a solo shot in the seventh for Detroit, and Peralta hit another homer an inning later.The game ended with Fielder, Detroit's 214 million acquisition, catching Jayson Nix's popup. The Tigers spilled onto the field for a celebration that began near second base and eventually moved closer to the third-base line.General manager Dave Dombrowski hugged Jim Leyland -- who is in the final year of his contract -- while owner Mike Ilitch rubbed the 67-year-old manager's right shoulder."I've got a great bunch. We don't have one hot dog in the bunch," the pizza magnate said. "They're all great guys. ... The Tigers are something special."... The Tigers are something special."Detroit won its 11th American League pennant and first since 2006. The Tigers have five days off before the World Series starts Wednesday at defending champion St. Louis or 2010 winner San Francisco.After scoring in just three of 39 innings during the series, New York headed home to face unpleasant questions about its future following a postseason of awful hitting, benched stars and veterans showing the wear and tear of age. Rodriguez, the 275 million third baseman, was out of the starting lineup for the third time in the playoffs. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera could only watch following season-ending injuries.The Yankees, with a big league-high 222 million payroll, hit .188 in the postseason -- a record low for a team that played at least seven games -- and .157 in the LCS. New York went quietly in the ninth inning, with the Comerica crowd chanting "Sweep!" while the last three batters were retired in order.Detroit outhit New York 16-2 in the finale and 46-22 in the series. The Tigers' starters are 4-1 with a 1.02 ERA in this postseason.Without a World Series title since 1984, Detroit lost to Texas in last year's ALCS, lost slugger Victor Martinez to a season-ending knee injury in January and quickly replaced his offense by signing Fielder. The excitement of that bold acquisition subsided a bit when the Tigers struggled to a 26-32 start in the AL Central, but they overtook the Chicago White Sox in the final 10 days of the regular season and won the division with an 88-74 record, matching the Cardinals for the fewest wins among the 10 playoff teams."I just reminded everybody when we took our punches all year, You know what? Let's just wait till the end, and then if we have underachieved, I will be the first one to admit it,'" Leyland said. "So hopefully we've quieted some doubters now. The guys just stepped it up when we had to. We caught a couple breaks when the White Sox couldn't win a couple of games they needed to win."In the postseason, Detroit's rotation has been impeccable. Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister allowed only two earned runs against the Yankees. New York was shut out once and totaled six runs in the series."Unbelievable. It's why we're here right now because our pitching," Cabrera said. "Wow!"Scherzer allowed a run and two hits in 5 2-3 innings in the finale, struck out 10 and walked two."I really had my changeup and my slider going," he said. "When I can combine that with my fastball, that's what makes me effective."The Yankees, without a World Series title since 2009, lost Jeter to a broken ankle in the opening game, and the slumping Rodriguez was benched for Game 3. He was out of the starting lineup for Game 4 too, but A-Rod did have one last chance to turn his postseason around when Scherzer was lifted for left-hander Drew Smyly with two outs in the sixth and the Tigers up 6-1.As Smyly finished warming up, Rodriguez popped out of the dugout to hit for Raul Ibanez, but with runners at the corners, he hit a routine fly to center field. He grounded out in the ninth, completing a 3 for 25 (.125) playoffs with no RBIs.New York owes the 37-year-old Rodriguez 114 million over the next five years. His contract includes a provision that requires he approves trades, and he wants to stay."I love New York City and I love everything about being a Yankee," he said. "The highs are very high and the lows are extremely low."The Yankees failed to win a game in a postseason series for only the fifth time. They hadn't been swept since a best-of-five ALCS against Kansas City in 1980. The last team to sweep four straight against them had been Cincinnati in the 1976 World Series.Detroit also beat New York in the division series in 2006 and last year. The Tigers became the first team to win three straight postseason series against the Yankees, according to STATS LLC."They threw the ball really well," Rodriguez said. "They outplayed us in every facet of the game and they were the better team."New York never led in this series -- the only other time that's happened to the Yankees was when they were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1963 World Series. The only other team to sweep an LCS without trailing at any point was the 1984 Tigers, who won three straight against Kansas City, STATS said.After a rainout Wednesday, Game 4 started under a sunny sky, and Detroit immediately took the lead on series MVP Delmon Young's RBI single. Young became the first player with four game-winning RBIs in one postseason series, STATS said.Avisail Garcia drove in an unearned run in the third with a single before the Tigers broke it open in the fourth. Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, made it 4-0 with a towering drive to left field. Peralta drove in two more runs with his shot to the same part of the ballpark.After Andy Dirks doubled, Sabathia was pulled. He allowed five earned runs and 11 hits in 3 2-3 innings."It's embarrassing to me," Sabathia said.When the fourth inning finally ended, the crowd at Comerica gave the Tigers a standing ovation, sensing that an even bigger celebration wasn't too far off.Scherzer made sure of that. The right-hander was terrific down the stretch for the Tigers before his throwing shoulder acted up near the end of the regular season. He made it through 5 1-3 innings in the division series against Oakland without allowing an earned run, then kept the Yankees off the scoreboard until Eduardo Nunez tripled in the sixth for New York's first hit and scored on Nick Swisher's double."They're a good team with dominant pitching. Give those guys credit -- they pitched great," Sabathia said. "And we didn't match them. We pitched good, but not great. They pitched great."Swisher, likely playing his last game with the Yankees, was 1 for 35 with runners in scoring position in his postseason career before that hit. He struck out with two on and two outs in the third.About the only thing the Yankees had done well in this postseason was pitch, and Sabathia failed to keep that going. He didn't have much help from his defense. Teixeira, a four-time Gold Glove winner at first base, misplayed two grounders in the third -- one for an infield hit and one for an error.New York's hitting was abysmal throughout the playoffs. Robinson Cano was at .075 (3 for 40) with no home runs, including a 29 at-bat hitless streak. Curtis Granderson was 3 for 30 with 16 strikeouts, Nick Swisher hit .167 (5 for 30) with two RBIs, Russell Martin hit .161 (5 for 31) with one RBI and Eric Chavez finished 0 for 16 with eight strikeouts."It wasn't one guy. It wasn't two guys," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It was a bunch of guys."NOTES:Detroit closer Jose Valverde, who allowed four runs in Game 1, did not pitch again in the series. ... Cabrera has a hit in a record 17 straight LCS games. He's reached base in all 20 of his postseason games with the Tigers, a team record. ... Sabathia was 4-0 in his previous eight postseason starts. ... Thursday was the 35th anniversary of Reggie Jackson's three-homer game for the Yankees in the World Series against the Dodgers. ... New York scored seven runs at Baltimore in the division series opener, then was held to four or fewer in the next eight games. The Yankees' longest previous stretch like that in postseason play came in 2001, when they were held to four or fewer runs in all seven games of the World Series by Arizona.

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

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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.