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Leyland: Alburquerque's kiss meant no disrespect

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Leyland: Alburquerque's kiss meant no disrespect

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Ideally, Jim Leyland would have everybody hug it out and play ball.

Just as Detroit's Justin Verlander and Coco Crisp of Oakland did on the field for Monday's workout day ahead of their teams' Game 3 in the AL division series Tuesday. The Tigers lead 2-0 and are one win from advancing to a second straight AL championship series.

Leyland insists reliever Al Alburquerque meant no ill will toward the Athletics when he fielded Yoenis Cespedes' ninth-inning comebacker and quickly kissed the ball before throwing to first. Yet the manager disagreed with the display.

``Everybody always says I'm from the old school, so I'd have probably hugged it first,'' Leyland joked. ``I don't think it was the right thing to do. I will sit here today and I will not try to defend it. I will say that I can assure everybody, including the Oakland A's, Al Alburquerque did nothing intentionally to offend the Oakland A's. A lot of emotion is shown in different ways in the game anymore. You see a lot of different variations of personal celebrations as well as team celebrations.

``It wasn't a smart thing to do, but I can honestly tell you that there is no way that Al Alburquerque or any members of the Detroit Tigers would ever do anything intentionally to offend another team. It just would not happen,'' Leyland said.

As upstart Oakland returned home hoping to pull off another improbable sweep like the one against Texas last week to capture the AL West crown, that controversial smooch was still plenty talked about in both clubhouses.

Alburquerque said he did speak to his teammates, and that they knew his gesture was ``within the emotion of the game.''

``I respect Cespedes and I didn't do it out of disrespect,'' the pitcher said. ``I was just excited to get the out.''

Still, that didn't mean the Tigers weren't surprised by it.

``I said, `Did I see what I just saw?''' catcher Gerald Laird said.

Cespedes was eager to get to his baseball work Monday, saying: ``That's his problem. It doesn't bother me. It was his turn to win. Someday it will be my turn.''

Even though everybody realized full well they should be focused on the game itself.

``I know him, so I know he didn't mean much by it,'' injured A's third baseman and former Tiger Brandon Inge said. ``But I'm sure he's going to regret it. Honestly, this is something that's going to be blown out of proportion because it's a unique story and it's something that doesn't happen much. For us, our ultimate retaliation or comeback would be to win three. We're not concerned with the actions of one person. On their side, I'm sure he didn't really want to stir up a hornet's nest over here either.''

Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (4-6), a midseason acquisition from Miami who was steady down the stretch, will try to pitch the Tigers to another postseason sweep of Oakland.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is still looking for his first RBI of the series, but is hitting .375 (3 for 8) with two doubles, no strikeouts and a walk.

Lefty Brett Anderson (4-2) gets the ball in his postseason debut as the A's try to prolong their season for one more day. Anderson, who looked strong in six starts after a 14-month absence recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, is coming back from a right oblique injury he sustained falling awkwardly off the mound in a start at Detroit on Sept. 19. He hopes to work deep without a pitch count, though pitching coach Curt Young said he'd likely be around 80.

``It's going to be fun,'' he said. ``I don't think I'll have to dial it down. ... A postseason game in Oakland, there hasn't been one for a while.''

The Tigers swept Oakland out of its last playoff series - in four games of the 2006 AL championship series. None of the current A's were on the team then, and only two were even in the organization.

The task is daunting: win three straight at home. Yet this A's team has accomplished unheard of feats in a season full of walkoffs and victories celebrated with whipped-cream pies.

And, just last week they took three in a row from the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers to stun Texas for the AL West crown in Game No. 162 last Wednesday.

That late-season surge erased a five-game deficit, and the A's became the first time in major league history to do so over the final 10 games to win a division or pennant. They trailed Texas by 13 games on June 30.

``Nobody knew we were good until the end,'' Oakland's Jonny Gomes said. ``We had Major League Baseball right where we wanted them: We tricked them into playing 162 games.''

Now, Oakland will attempt to become the first playoff team in franchise history to come back from down 2-0. In six of the previous seven series when the A's lost the first two games, the wound up getting swept.

Oakland will try to get its offense going after striking out 23 times in the first two games, including 14 in Saturday's 3-1 loss in Game 1. The A's hit a majors-leading 112 home runs after the All-Star break.

A's manager Bob Melvin isn't worried about the K-fest, and neither are his players. Josh Reddick has six of the strikeouts after hitting a team-best 32 home runs during the regular season.

``If you're going to be aggressive, you're going to swing hard,'' Gomes said. ``If you're going to hit home runs, you're going to swing hard.''

Yet Melvin knows firsthand how good Sanchez can be. The 28-year-old Venezuelan pitched a no-hitter for Florida during his rookie season of 2006 against Melvin's Arizona Diamondbacks. Oakland shortstop Stephen Drew also was on that Arizona team, while Cabrera played for the Marlins.

Leyland has experience with this year's playoff format, featuring the higher seed opening on the road for the first two games.

Facing the favored San Francisco Giants, Florida won the first two games at home, then completed a three-game sweep of the NL division series at Candlestick Park on the way to the title - Leyland's lone championship in 21 years as a manager.

These Tigers sure seem primed for another special October run.

First, they'll have to deal with a loud Coliseum crowd that has come alive over the past month as the A's emerged as a surprise contender, then clinched the club's first playoff berth in six years.

For Melvin, whatever happened Sunday is now in the past. He has bigger concerns at the moment.

``I respect Jim Leyland about as much as I respect anyone,'' Melvin said. ``I think there are varying degrees of all that stuff, showmanship. ... I don't think there's one right or wrong way. Emotionally after a game when something like that happens you're always going to hear something from somebody. But you move on. It's not a big deal for me.''

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5 things to know about new Wizards player Ramon Sessions

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Associated Press

5 things to know about new Wizards player Ramon Sessions

The Washington Wizards signed point guard Ramon Sessions to a 10-day free agent contract on Thursday. Here are five things to know about the newest Wizards player...

**Sessions has played for Washington before. He was acquired by the Wizards at the trade deadline in 2015 and played out the 2014-15 season, appearing in 28 regular season games and 10 more in the playoffs. Sessions then spent the whole 2015-16 season with the team before leaving the following summer to sign a free agent deal with the Charlotte Hornets. In 1 1/2 seasons with the Wizards, Sessions averaged 9.2 points, 3.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds. He shot 46 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from three.

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**Sessions played one season for the Hornets and spent part of this year with the New York Knicks. The Knicks waived Sessions on Jan. 13. Over the past two seasons in Charlotte and New York, Sessions has averaged 5.7 points, 2.5 assists and 1.4 rebounds while shooting 37 percent.

**This is Sessions' 11th NBA season. In addition to the Wizards, Hornets and Knicks, he has spent time with the Bucks, Cavs, Lakers and Kings. He began his career in Milwaukee after getting selected in the second round of the 2007 draft.

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**Sessions went to the University of Nevada from 2004 through 2007 and left an impressive legacy as one of the best players in the program's history. The school's practice facility is, in fact, named after Sessions. It is called the 'Ramon Sessions Basketball Performance Center' and Sessions donated $1 million towards construction costs.

**Sessions overlapped with former Wizards player JaVale McGee at Nevada. Sessions was in his final season as a junior when McGee was a freshman. The Wolfpack were quite good that year. They peaked at No. 10 in the nation, the highest ranking in school history, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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2018 Bubble Watch: Teams are lining up on the edge of the bubble

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USA Today Sports Images

2018 Bubble Watch: Teams are lining up on the edge of the bubble

The 2018 bubble watch has been relatively subdued with the plethora of upsets throughout the latter half of the college basketball season. At the same time, teams that are providing these upsets have slowly worked themselves from being a question mark at the bubble to now solidly in the tournament (ie. Virginia Tech).

Of the major conferences, the Big Ten is up in the air on how the end of February/ beginning of March will play out. Remember, to host their tournament in Madison Square Garden, the conference elected to move it a week earlier than the rest of the power leagues. Will it affect how many teams they have in the big dance? Right now they have four teams in but two more are hovering at the bubble.

READ MORE: BRACKETOLOGY ROUND-UP, RIGHT NOW SYRACUSE IS IN

Aside from the Big Ten, several other teams are striding the line. Many of which have done so all season long. 

Of the teams listed, they are battling for roughly 10 spots in the field of 68.

All rankings and records are as of Thursday, Feb. 22 at 12:00 pm

Oklahoma (16-11, 6-9 Big 12)
RPI: 32     BPI: 43      KenPom: 43    SOS: 12
Could Trae Young’s Oklahoma actually miss the NCAA Tournament? Yes. The Sooners have dropped six straight games and nine of their last 11. Yes, they have racked up the most high-quality wins in the country, but they are in a tailspin. They have beaten Kansas, TCU twice, Texas Tech, and Wichita State, but some of their losses are bad and they are piling up. Of their final three regular season games, two are against bubble teams that are desperate for a respectable win. If they lose out and then don’t make it past the first round of the Big 12 tournament, they are 16-15 (6-12).

St. Mary’s (CA) (25-4, 14-2 WCC)
RPI: 29     BPI: 20      KenPom: 22     SOS: 137
Early season losses to Georgia and Washington State are not as okay as they appeared back in non-conference play. Added to it was their surprising loss to San Francisco has now put the Gaels falling down the slide. Its hard to imagine though a 25-4 team not making the tournament.

Kansas State (20-8, 9-6 Big 12)
RPI: 55      BPI: 47     KenPom: 46     SOS: 73
The Kansas State Wildcats are your typical bubble team. They have beaten everyone in the Big 12 aside from the ranked teams.  They have some good wins but lack a high quality or ‘Quadrant 1’ victory. Their win over Texas on Feb. 21 give them a head-to-head over another team attempting to steal a bubble spot.

Providence (17-11, 8-7 Big East)
RPI: 37     BPI: 72      KenPom: 69     SOS: 20
Being in the Big East will always give a team a strong SOS, but the Providence Friars have lost to teams they should not have. While they have impressive wins over Xavier and Villanova at home, they have a DePaul loss at home that counters one of those wins. Their looming contest against Xavier has now developed into a must-win on Feb. 28.

NC State (19-9, 9-6 ACC)
RPI: 57     BPI: 51      KenPom: 50     SOS: 61
A team that has benefited from a strong conference has been the Wolfpack from NC State. Out of the ACC, NC State had a horrid schedule and even dropped games against Northern Iowa and UNC Greensboro.  However, they have made up for that with some of the most impressive wins in the ACC. They beat Duke, Clemson, and North Carolina on the road to climb back to the bubble watch.

Baylor (17-11, 7-8 Big 12)
RPI: 59     BPI: 37      KenPom: 36     SOS: 23
Beating Kansas and Texas Tech at home are really the only reasons the Baylor Bears are in consideration at the bubble. But, they are in the deepest conference in college basketball this season, which gives them a ton of decent wins that they can add to their resume. The Bears realistically have to win out to get into the dance.

St. Bonaventure (21-6, 11-4 A10)
RPI: 25     BPI:  58     KenPom: 68     SOS: 91
As a borderline bubble team, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies have followed that with a nine-game winning streak and a crucial victory over Rhode Island. As long as the Bonnies take care of their own business and make no worse than the semis in the A10 Tournament, they should be good. Guards Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley are overdue for a tournament berth.

READ ALSO: AP POLL SHAKES UP THE TOP 10

Syracuse (18-10, 7-8 ACC)
RPI: 46     BPI: 52      KenPom: 51     SOS: 22
A month and a half ago, the Syracuse Orange had no business being in the bubble conversation. Still, their four best wins are over Miami, Virginia Tech, Louisville, and then Buffalo. They have some work to do in their final three weeks.

Louisville (18-10, 8-7 ACC)
RPI: 52     BPI: 35      KenPom: 37     SOS: 29
The Louisville Cardinals are in a worse spot than Syracuse, they only have one would be ‘Quadrant 1’ win at Florida State from nearly two months ago. With all the drama surrounding this program through the entire 2017-18 season, you have to give it to David Padgett for keeping them in the race.

USC (20-9, 11-5 Pac-12)
RPI: 36     BPI: 50      KenPom: 52     SOS: 49
The Pac-12 could be in extreme trouble. If USC does not make the push into the NCAA Tournament, there will only be two teams from that conference dancing. With an interesting resume, there is not much that jumps off the Trojans record. Then again, there isn’t much that takes away from it either.

UCLA (19-8, 10-5 Pac-12)
RPI: 47     BPI: 60      KenPom: 54     SOS: 66
Their win over Arizona solidified their claim to the bubble. Win-out situation upcoming for the Bruins who have been hurt by a weak Pac-12.

Texas (16-12, 6-9 Big 12)
RPI: 54     BPI:  39     KenPom: 41     SOS: 16
The Longhorns have such a good schedule. They’ve played all of their games close, but few close games against high-quality teams have translated to wins.

Marquette (16-11, 7-8 Big East)
RPI: 58     BPI: 45      KenPom: 48     SOS: 18
The Golden Eagles were sitting pretty until a four-game losing streak and a loss to St. John’s took them out of the conference race. Not much room for error with Marquette as they move closer to Selection Sunday.

Nebraska (21-9, 12-5 Big Ten)
RPI: 60     BPI: 61      KenPom: 57     SOS: 101
A win against Michigan and a six-game winning streak in the Big Ten has the Cornhuskers alive despite a sub-.500 SOS. They still need a Big Ten tournament upset to get in.

Washington  (18-9, 8-6 Pac-12)
RPI: 48     BPI: 109   KenPom: 95     SOS: 37
The only reason the Washington Huskies are in this conversation is because they beat Arizona and Arizona State back-to-back.

Utah (17-9. 9-6 Pac-12)
RPI: 49     BPI: 70      KenPom: 60     SOS: 65
Another bubble team that hasn’t done much. They’ve won the games they should have and only have snagged an upset on Arizona State.

Other teams:

Florida (17-11, 8-7 SEC)
RPI: 64     BPI: 34      KenPom: 29     SOS: 39

Georgia (15-12, 6-9 SEC)
RPI: 70     BPI: 84      KenPom: 71     SOS: 48

LSU (16-11, 7-8 SEC)
RPI: 74     BPI: 64      KenPom: 63     SOS: 47

Temple (15-12, 7-8 AAC)
RPI: 44     BPI: 83      KenPom: 85     SOS: 9

 

Games to Watch This Week:

UCLA at Utah 2/22 – 9:00 pm (ESPN)

Baylor at TCU 2/24 – 12:00 pm (ESPN2)

LSU at Georgia 2/24 – 2:00 pm (ESPNU)

Louisville at Virginia Tech 2/24 pm – 1:00 pm (CBS)

Syracuse at Duke 2/24 – 6:00 pm (ESPN)

Kansas State at Oklahoma 2/24 – 6:00 pm (ESPN2)

No. 12 Auburn vs. Florida 2/24 – 8:30 pm (SECN)

Penn State at Nebraska 2/25 – 5:15 pm (BTN)

NC State at Florida State 2/25 – 6:00 pm (ESPNU)

Oklahoma at Baylor 2/27 – 9:00 pm (ESPN2)

Davidson at St. Bonaventure 2/27 – 9:00 pm (CBSSN)

Providence at No. 4 Xavier 2/28 – 6:30 pm (FS1)