Nationals

Aggies look to get on a roll in SEC play

Aggies look to get on a roll in SEC play

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Texas A&M followed its big win at Kentucky with two straight losses, and the young team is trying to get back on track when it travels to LSU on Wednesday.

The Aggies need to string some wins together in Southeastern Conference play to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

Second-year coach Billy Kennedy says that his goal every season is to make the tournament.

``It's going to be difficult to do,'' he said of reaching the tournament. ``We've got to make up some ground. But my pressure is trying to get these guys to play the best that they could possibly play, and if they do that that's going to give us opportunities.''

Texas A&M is trying to bounce back from a 14-18 record last season that snapped a streak of six straight appearances in the NCAA tournament. The Aggies fell apart in Big 12 play, going 4-14.

They're 12-5 this season and already have two conference wins, beating Arkansas and Kentucky to start their first season in the SEC and extend their winning streak to four games. The Aggies were then blown out by No. 8 Florida and lost by one point to Alabama.

``I think we've gotten better with establishing a style of play and having more definition about how we want to play,'' Kennedy said of his team this year compared to last season. ``We have some moments of great effort and enthusiasm, but we're not where we need to be.''

Kennedy hopes the team, which has only three seniors, including one who is a former walk-on, can become more consistent.

``I preach constantly being consistent, not too high and not too low in how we do things,'' Kennedy said. ``We need to have that attitude.''

The Aggies are led by senior Elston Turner, who is averaging 16.1 points a game. He had a career-high 40 points to power A&M's victory over Kentucky, but was limited to just four points against the Gators. Kennedy said Turner's performance against Kentucky highlighted the need for other players to step up when teams focus on shutting him down.

``He's going to have a lot of weight on his shoulders,'' Kennedy said. ``He does a good job of staying balanced and guards the other team's best offensive player. He does so much for us we just have to get more production from the guys.''

Kennedy is looking for more from fellow senior Ray Turner to help ease some of the pressure on Elston Turner. Ray Turner is second on the team averaging 10.6 points, but has managed just 6.2 a game since conference play began.

``He hasn't played well since league play started,'' Kennedy said. ``We have to figure out a way to get him to play better, because we're limited with what we have. The guys that play significant minutes for us, especially as seniors, have got to be good for us to give us a chance to beat anybody in our league.''

The Aggies have been helped by the immediate contributions of freshman guards J'Mychal Reese and Alex Caruso. Reese has started all but one game for A&M and is averaging 7.6 points a game. Caruso has appeared in each game with five starts and is averaging 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds a game.

The pair have struggled with turnovers though, with Reese leading the team with 39 and Caruso tied for second with 32.

``Teams are going to come after them,'' Kennedy said. ``We knew this was going to happen, and now we've got to weather that storm and prove that we can be consistent in our play. I expect LSU to pressure those guys and especially get after J'Mychal.''

Texas A&M totaled 31 turnovers in its last two losses, after combining for just 20 in its previous two wins. With that in mind, Kennedy's focus this week has been to remind his team to ``value the ball'' and limit turnovers against LSU.

The Tigers are winless in SEC play, but Kennedy has lost both of his meetings with LSU, and the Aggies are 0-7 all-time in Baton Rouge.

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Cubs drop protest, but not stance about Sean Doolittle's delivery

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Cubs drop protest, but not stance about Sean Doolittle's delivery

WASHINGTON -- Sunday afternoon’s discussions still revolved around Saturday night’s close, which Washington manager Davey Martinez referred to as a “fiasco” on Sunday.

Chicago manager Joe Maddon started a chaotic situation when he popped out of the dugout following Sean Doolittle’s first pitch in the ninth inning Saturday. Maddon contended Doolittle’s “toe-tap” was an illegal delivery, akin to when Chicago reliever Carl Edwards Jr. tried to add a pause in spring training, but was told the move was illegal.

The umpires told him, and Doolittle, the delivery was legal. Chicago filed a protest with the league. After consulting with Major League Baseball and MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, Joe Torre, the Cubs dropped their protest Sunday morning.

A point of differentiation is whether the pitcher is taking a second step. Umpires previously determined Edwards was taking a second step. They determined Doolittle was not. This is a judgment call for the umpires and is not reviewable.

Official Baseball Rule 5.07(a) states in part: “The pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is a runner, or runners, on base it is a balk under Rule 6.02(a); if the bases are unoccupied it is an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b).”

The league, according to Maddon, said there is a difference between Edwards placing his full foot on the ground and Doolittle grazing the mound with a cleat when he delivered. Maddon continued to not agree with the interpretation.

“We went through the whole process,” Maddon said. “Our guys in the office spoke to MLB and I talked to Mr. Torre. The whole thing I wanted to really get done was protect Carl. I really didn’t anticipate a whole lot to be done with it. Even though I still don’t agree with the conclusion, because I think it’s exactly what Carl did, only a different version of it. But the point was, I would not be a good parent if I had not spoken up for my guy. And that’s what I was doing last night and, again, it’s just to eliminate any gray area there just for future because it’s going to happen again down the road somewhere and you’re just trying to delineate what is right and what is wrong. In my mind, it wasn’t a judgment call, I thought it was black-and-white. It wasn’t gray.”

Maddon said multiple times that Doolittle tapped with his toe in addition to grazing the mound, both of which, he contended, were not legal or different than Edwards' attempt at deception.

The congenial Doolittle was steamed postgame Saturday and remained irritated Sunday. Saturday, he took multiple shots at Maddon during his postgame commentary. He also taunted the idea when throwing warmup pitches while Maddon argued with umpires by making exaggerated kicks with his leg and multiple stops with his foot. Doolittle switched to a delivery without any stops -- one he often uses -- after the protest as a way to show Maddon he didn’t need the tweak to be successful.

“In that moment, he's not trying to do anything other than rattle me and it was kind of tired,” Doolittle said Saturday. “I don't know. Sometimes he has to remind people how smart he is and how much he pays attention to the game and stuff like that. He put his stamp on it for sure.

"I actually have to thank him. After they came out the second, the [Kyle] Schwarber at-bat, I threw two fastballs and a slider and a fastball to [Kris] Bryant and those were probably the best ones I've thrown in a while. I don't do the tap when there's somebody on base so I can keep my pickoff move available if I need it. I've had a lot of traffic recently, so I've had practice doing it, so it wasn't like a huge adjustment to me. I don't know. In a way, I kind of need to thank him."

Asked Sunday if Doolittle’s comments were relayed to him, Maddon smiled and said yes.

“Listen, I have no issue with that whatsoever,” Maddon said. “We’re all emotional. I’ve said a lot of things I didn’t want to say years ago -- even in this ballpark. I think if he understood the entire context, he might have had a different opinion. Even if he was the manager himself -- if he was me -- or if he was being protected by his manager under similar circumstances, I think his stance may be different.”

No one -- the league, Maddon or Doolittle -- changed their perspective a day later.

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

The St. Louis Blues won a decisive Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks 5-0, pushing the Sharks to the brink of elimination.

The Blues are now one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final since the 1969-70 season, where they lost to the Boston Bruins in a sweep.

St. Louis started the scoring early when Oskar Sundqvist netted his second goal of the series in the first five minutes of the game. 

Jaden Schwartz then tallied his first goal of the game off a juicy rebound in front of Martin Jones to start the scoring in the second period. It was Schwartz's 10th goal of the playoffs, which tied him for third all-time in Blues history for goals in the postseason.

Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Blues lead off a penalty shot. He's the first player in Blues franchise history to score a penalty shot goal in the playoffs.

Schwartz then added two more goals in the third period for a hat-trick. The first came on a 5-on-3 power play advantage off a scramble in front of the net, and the second came from a backdoor one-timer pass from Tarasenko.

Schwartz now has 12 goals these playoffs, and it's his second hat-trick of the playoffs.

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington recorded 21 saves for a shutout, and he's the first rookie goalie to accomplish that feat for the Blues.

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