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After Giants win title, Niners getting their shot

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After Giants win title, Niners getting their shot

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) When Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith drove in the Giants' victory parade last fall, players on San Francisco's championship baseball team hoped they might be able to return the favor if the 49ers could win it all a few months later.

Now, the Giants might just get that very chance with the NFC champion Niners headed to New Orleans to face the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

Titletown USA very well could be moving out West - and soon.

``For sure!'' Giants general manager Brian Sabean said Sunday night.

San Francisco is trying to become the first market to win a World Series and Super Bowl in the same season since the Boston Red Sox accomplished it in 2004 and the New England Patriots followed suit in February 2005.

What's more, even the NBA's Golden State Warriors are giving Bay Area fans an awful lot to cheer and hopes of a playoff season.

The 49ers beat Atlanta and made it this far with a second-year quarterback boasting all of nine career starts to his name - 25-year-old Colin Kaepernick. The Giants captured their second championship in three years behind the play of an All-Star catcher who won the NL batting title and MVP after missing most of 2011 with a season-ending left leg and ankle injury - 25-year-old Buster Posey.

The teams have taken a similar path, too.

The Giants rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the NL division series to beat Cincinnati, then from a 3-1 hole in the NL championship series against the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals before manager Bruce Bochy's bunch pulled off an improbable World Series sweep of the well-rested Detroit Tigers.

On Sunday, the 49ers traveled to hostile Atlanta, erased a 17-0 deficit and held the Falcons scoreless over the second half for a 28-24 victory.

``One thing about our team is that all year we continued to find, and even through adversity, we continued to fight,'' linebacker Patrick Willis said.

With second-year coach Harbaugh leading the way, San Francisco is headed back to the Super Bowl for the first time since after the 1994 season, when it won its fifth championship during a remarkable run through the 1980s and 90s.

When the Giants rallied to beat the Reds, they became the first team in major league history to come back from a 2-0 deficit by taking three straight on the road. The 49ers snapped a five-game postseason road losing streak Sunday at Atlanta.

In late September, San Francisco's baseball players autographed a hat for Smith, the quarterback who had been fined $15,000 last season by the NFL for sporting a Giants hat after games - though the fine was later dropped. Bochy wore a 49ers hat in the dugout before a game to show Smith - who later threw out a ceremonial first pitch during the playoffs - that the Giants appreciated him.

``We're having fun with this. It's our way of supporting him for supporting us,'' Bochy said at the time. ``We're all 49er fans here. This is in honor of Alex. I'm glad he didn't have to pay the fine. That's good news.''

Infielder Ryan Theriot also bought 49ers hats for his teammates, while quirky reliever Sergio Romo dressed in full 49ers garb after one of his games. He sported a red Aldon Smith No. 99 jersey, and also attended a 49ers game and met players in the locker room afterward - even seeking a few autographs and getting a hug and handshake from tight end Vernon Davis.

San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt rode with Harbaugh in the Halloween victory parade through the city.

``He might have gotten more claps than I did,'' Belt said, only half-joking.

Harbaugh quickly nixed that notion a couple of days later.

Giants CEO Larry Baer's favorite sign he saw on parade day read: ``San Francisco, Happiest Place on Earth.''

Hard to argue this is the place to be right about now - especially for the avid sports fan.

``San Francisco fans need to sit back and enjoy,'' former Giants first baseman J.T. Snow said Sunday. ``They have no reason to ever complain again! Be happy! San Francisco has two great leaders in Boch and Harbaugh.''

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Metropolitan Division Outlook 2019-20: The New York Rangers

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Metropolitan Division Outlook 2019-20: The New York Rangers

The Capitals enter the 2019-20 season looking for their fifth consecutive Metropolitan Division title.

But this could be the most challenging year yet. The bottom of the division has improved dramatically with offseason moves and the top of the division still has quality teams. It’s hard to figure who will crater and finish last. The winning team might not top 100 points.

For the next two weeks, NBC Sports Washington will take a look at each Metro team and where they stand with training camps opening in less than a month. Today: The New York Rangers.

In February 2018, the Rangers did a very un-Rangers-like thing. The team sent a letter to their fans declaring the plan to rebuild the team. Now just over a year later, it did not take long for New York to make a splash in the offseason again.

The Rangers landed the prize of free agency in Artemi Panarin, added free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba, drafted Kaapo Kakko with the second-overall pick in the draft and traded for prospect defenseman Adam Fox. They also managed to avoid a restricted free agent standoff with Pavel Buchnevich.

All these moves combined put the Rangers among the most improved teams in the league. It did not take long, but New York was able to shift its team from a group of veterans not good enough to compete for a Stanley Cup to a team full of youth and potential.

The future certainly looks brighter for this team in the future than it previously had, but despite all the improvements there are still plenty of questions about the present roster.

While New York certainly got younger, star goalie Henrik Lundqvist did not.

Lundqvist had an up-and-down season last year. His first half of last season was good enough to get him to the All-Star Game. He struggled in the latter half of the season and finished with a save percentage of only .907 and a GAA of 3.07. He is not a goalie who seems to do well taking a backseat, but Alexander Georgiev played well enough to earn more playing time. All of this makes it difficult to determine just what the split between the two netminders is going to be heading into this season.

In front of the crease, the additions of Trouba and Fox look like they will give the Rangers two new top-four defenseman to plug in. That should certainly help a team that ranked 23rd in the NHL last season in goals against per game with 3.26 and could potentially take some of the pressure off Lundqvist.

Mika Zibanejad returns as the team’s top center after what was easily his best season in the NHL with career highs in goals, assists and points. He was seen as a second-line center going into last season, but certainly took advantage of the larger role offered by New York. The concerns over whether he can handle a top-line role may not be as prevalent as last year, but I still seem him as a poor man's No. 1 center.

The offense is also likely to lose some of its depth before the start of the season due to salary cap constraints.

The Rangers sit with just $1 million remaining in projected cap space and still have RFAs Brendan Lemieux and Anthony Deangelo left to sign. When looking into what the team's options are for freeing up space, you have to wonder if players like Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov -- who are both entering the final year of their contracts -- could both be moved before the summer is over.

Panarin is a great addition and undeniably a superstar, but he cannot carry a team by himself. When he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets and became the offensive focal point of the team, he was only able to lead the Blue Jackets to a single playoff series win in his two seasons there. That was a much deeper team than the Rangers appear to be if they should lose Kreider or Namestnikov.

Money decisions will continue to loom over this team even after a decision is made on those players. The cap situation was dire enough that the Rangers bought out the remaining two years of Kevin Shattenkirk’s contract. While he was underperforming, the combined buyouts of Shattenkirk, Dan Girardi and Ryan Spooner will leave New York with $5,394,444 of dead cap space in 2019-20 and nearly $7.5 million of dead cap space in 2020-21. These are not just bad contracts that can be packaged in a trade and sent away, that is dead cap space that the team is stuck with. That is a massive amount for a team that sure looks like it wants to compete for the playoffs sooner rather than later.

You still have to count the Rangers among the most improved teams this offseason, but the hill they had to climb and still must continue to climb may have been much steeper than many anticipated. There is still a lot of work left to do in Manhattan.

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Orioles Roundup: Orioles allow 13 unanswered runs in loss to Red Sox

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Orioles Roundup: Orioles allow 13 unanswered runs in loss to Red Sox

The O's continue to struggle against their AL East foes, including the Red Sox. The bats stayed hot, but the arms were unable to slow down the Boston lineup in Fenway. Here are the news and notes surrounding the team.

PLAYER UPDATES:

SP Ty Blach allowed five runs on five hits in 5.1 innings, walking three and striking out six. The Orioles' hot start is the only thing that saved him from being saddled with the loss.

OF Trey Mancini continued to torture the Red Sox, knocking in two runs with an early single to extend the Baltimore lead to 5-0. Mancini remains one home run shy of his first 30-homer season.

3B Renato Nunez crushed a three-run bomb in the first inning to start the scoring in Sunday's game, though it wound up his only hit of the afternoon.

C Chance Sisco has his afternoon end early after being hit in the groin by a foul tip. Team doctors are still evaluating the injury, and they hope to have more information by Monday. Manager Brandon Hyde is optimistic Sisco will avoid an Injured List stint.

INJURIES: 

C Chance Sisco: Groin, Day-to-Day

OF Dwight Smith Jr.:  Calf, expected to return in late August 

RP Josh Rogers: Elbow, out indefinitely

SP Alex Cobb: Back, out until 2020

DH Mark Trumbo: Knee, expected to return in September 

COMING UP:

Monday, 8/19: Royals at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Tuesday, 8/20: Royals at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Wednesday, 8/21: Royals at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Source Credit: Rotoworld 

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