Nationals

Badgers, No. 14 Huskers know all about close games

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Badgers, No. 14 Huskers know all about close games

MADISON, Wis. (AP) The courses for the Big Ten championship game opponents were set when they met in late September.

Nebraska came back from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit to beat Wisconsin 30-27 in the conference opener.

The 14th-ranked Cornhuskers continued to win close games. The Badgers kept losing them.

Another tight game is expected when Nebraska (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) and Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4) get together again Saturday night in Indianapolis. The winner goes to the Rose Bowl to play Stanford or UCLA.

Wisconsin, trying for a third straight trip to Pasadena, is coming off overtime losses in three of its past four games. The Badgers finished third in the Leaders Division but go to the championship game because of NCAA sanctions against Ohio State and Penn State.

Four of the Badgers' losses this season have been by three points and the other by seven.

``You hate to go down that way, but you like to see the fight that we've had,'' linebacker Chris Borland said Monday. ``I think as far as the reason for the close losses - I think we've done things well, and maybe haven't executed in the clutch like we could. All the things you need to win are there. It's just a matter of sealing the deal, which I think we've gotten better at despite it not showing in the games.''

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Wisconsin has proved to be dangerous and could easily have a better record.

``I don't put any stock into anything that's happened up to this point,'' Pelini said. ``It's going to be 60 minutes of football, and the team that earns it on Saturday is going to come away with the win. It's going to be a tough game, no question.''

Wisconsin led or was tied going into the fourth quarter in three of its losses. Since the 2010 Rose Bowl, Wisconsin has lost nine games by a touchdown or less.

Badgers coach Bret Bielema said his team has struggled late in games because several key players have been missing or limited. He said Monday his team needed to capitalize on opportunities.

A little luck might have helped, too.

``I do think there's a certain amount of, does the ball bounce the right way?'' Bielema said. ``Do you get a call? Do you not get a call? I got done with the Ohio State game and was very, very upset with the way things unfolded in overtime. You need a break here or there. I do think good things happen to good people - not that people that we've been playing aren't good people. I want to make sure our guys understand that perseverance will prevail.''

Running back Montee Ball said he could have done more to help. Ball fumbled late in the fourth quarter against Ohio State when he attempted to jump over a pile to extend the ball on the goal line on a fourth-and-1 play when the Badgers trailed 14-7.

``A couple times we had penalties where we started behind the chains and that really hurt us,'' Ball said. ``A couple plays that, myself, I could have done better on, probably could have done better on. And the same for every other player.

``I guess what the team will learn for next year and from (the Penn State loss) and our bowl game is that every play matters. You never know if the first play is going to decide the game or the last play. You've got to approach every play like it's the deciding factor of the game.''

Nebraska came from behind in the second half to post five of its seven Big Ten wins. The Huskers made up double-digit deficits in four of those games on their way to the Legends Division title.

While the Badgers struggled to finish, the Huskers closed strong. In the seven Big Ten wins, the Huskers outgained their opponent 112-47 in the fourth quarter. The Huskers outgained Wisconsin 113-33 the final 15 minutes of their Sept. 29 meeting.

``It was definitely a good start for the comebacks we had down the road this year,'' Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead said. ``It helped us out in some tight games with Northwestern, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa.''

Pelini struggled to explain why Nebraska has come out on the right side of the close games this year. He said team chemistry and experience help, and so does having a third-year starting quarterback in Taylor Martinez.

Pelini said another ingredient - the one Bielema wishes his team had more of - played a role, too.

``Let's face it,'' Pelini said, ``there is some luck involved.''

---

AP Sports Writer Eric Olson in Lincoln, Neb., contributed to this report.

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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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