Raiders

What happened to the Yankees' offense?

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What happened to the Yankees' offense?

From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- Searching for answers, Joe Girardi was stumped."I can't hit," the New York Yankees manager said.And, apparently, neither can some of his high-priced stars.The Yankees avoided a dubious distinction Tuesday night and yet moved within a loss of elimination for the third straight year.Eduardo Nunez's ninth-inning home run prevented New York from getting shut out in consecutive games of one postseason for the first time.Raul Ibanez, though, went on to strike out against former Yankee Phil Coke with two on, sealing a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night and a 3-0 AL championship series deficit.On a night when Alex Rodriguez was benched for the second time in four games, Justin Verlander took a two-hit shutout into the ninth, allowing a pair of Ichiro Suzuki singles.Nunez homered on a Verlander curveball with one out in the ninth, and Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano hit consecutive two-out singles against the lefty Coke-- with Cano ending a postseason-record streak of 29 hitless at-bats."I wasn't thinking of that," Cano insisted. "You just got to get on base for your teammates, especially in a situation like that when you want to keep the inning alive and you've got the hottest hitter coming after you."Ibanez, whose ninth-inning, two-run homer tied the opener, got ahead in the count 3-1 before fouling off a pair of pitches and striking out on a slider in the dirt."He gave me some good pitches to hit, and I fouled them off," he said. "He threw a breaking ball down and I didn't get it done."Ibanez said he and his teammates still have confidence in their ability to come back in the series."Everything can turn around in one swing of the bat, in one inning, things can turn around," he said. "I've seen it happen. We've all seen it happen."Once.Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox -- against the Yankees -- have overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.The Yankees will lean on their ace, CC Sabathia, who was 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in the division series against Baltimore, to at least extend the ALCS with a strong performance Wednesday night in Game 4."We're still in this thing," Gardner said. "If you're down 3-0, you want CC on the mound."Sabathia insisted his team's struggles at the plate don't affect his approach on the mound."I always want to go out and try to shut the other team down," he said.New York is hitting .200 in the playoffs, including .196 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees have a .182 average in the LCS, in danger of becoming a record low for New York in a postseason series -- a.171 mark set against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1963 World Series.Rodriguez, 3 for 23 in the playoffs -- including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitchers, sat on the bench -- even overlooked as a pinch hitter. Nick Swisher, 4 for 26 in the playoffs, joined the 275 million third baseman in taking a seat."We're just trying to find a lineup that works," said Swisher, a free-agent-to-be who could complete his Yankees career Wednesday. "I thought it was a great lineup. I wasn't in it, but you have to back your teammates."Girardi could've chosen to put Rodriguez in the game as a pinch hitter if Ibanez extended the ninth inning, but with catcher Russell Martin limited by a bruised right thumb, he had Swisher on deck."You want to get up in those spots and be the guy in that spot," Swisher said.Eric Chavez replaced Rodriguez at third base and went 0 for 3. Brett Gardner went 0 for 4, essentially taking Swisher's spot, leading off and playing left field, in his first start since April 17. Curtis Granderson had an 0 for 3 night, dropping to 3 for 29 with 15 strikeouts in the playoffs.And, Girardi can't turn to Derek Jeter, whose year ended when he broke his left ankle in the opener.Rodriguez seemed to take his demotion to the dugout in stride by smiling and joking with teammates as he stretched before being forced to sit. He didn't talk to reporters before the game and departed postgame before media was allowed into the clubhouse.Phil Hughes left with a back injury in the fourth inning, two batters after allowing Delmon Young's leadoff home run."It wasn't too bad, I was trying to stay in the game," Hughes said. "They just decided with the circumstances and kind of the way things were going that they'd go to the bullpen."In the fifth, David Phelps gave up an RBI double to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and that proved to be the game-winning hit that put the Yankees on the brink of elimination."Thank goodness it's a seven-game series, and not a five-game series," Gardner said. "We're still alive."

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

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Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both guys were given a day off, one scheduled earlier in the day. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime comes a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.”

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

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USATSI

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio put out a statement Tuesday explaining why he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

He went into greater detail Wednesday afternoon, his first time facing the media since a change was made

Specifics will be discussed further down this story. We don’t, however, want to bury the lede.

Del Rio’s main message wasn’t about Norton. It applied to all in Silver and Black. This season has not met lofty expectations. That is unacceptable.

“I know one thing,” Del Rio said. “Nobody should feel comfortable, because what I’ve been watching is not good enough.”

Del Rio didn’t absolve himself from blame. Norton got fired, but everyone has played a part in this disappointing 4-6 record.

“It’s always shared,” Del Rio said. “A change was made, obviously. We all share in it, all of us, starting with me. It’s coaches and players. It’s a team game, and we’re all in it together. And nobody is coming to help us.”

The Raiders must look inward to start a prolonged winning streak they’ve shown little evidence they can create.

The seat will be warm under players and coaches alike, even if only one change was made. Expect further shakeup on the coaching staff after the season, if vast improvements don’t come down the stretch, possibly with several position coaches being shown the door. More than a few higher profile players could be cut or allowed to leave, especially on defense.

While Del Rio has taken more heat the past month than at any other time in his Raiders tenure, expect him to be around a longer term. He was given a contract extension in February, and has significant capitol built after changing the culture in Oakland and re-teaching this team how to win. One bad year, even if this season continues heading downhill, shouldn’t erase that.

Del Rio was looking to shake things up, and Norton was the obvious move. Experienced play caller John Pagano was on staff – he was Chargers defensive coordinator from 2012-2016 – and firing the popular Pagano’s style could create some new waves and looks that any offensive Norton would make an impact in the locker room and prove this story’s opening quote, that no one should feel comfortable.

Del Rio hopes firing Norton will be a shock to the defense’s system.

“I really felt like I needed to shake things up,” Del Rio said. “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.”