Capitals

Cabrera home run gives Tigers 2-1 lead over Giants

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Cabrera home run gives Tigers 2-1 lead over Giants

DETROIT (AP) Miguel Cabrera hit a wild-blown, two-run homer off Matt Cain in the third inning, and the Detroit Tigers took their first lead of the World Series when they moved ahead of the San Francisco Giants 2-1 on Sunday in Game 4 as they tried to avoid elimination.

Cabrera's drive, on an 86 mph breaking ball, sailed over right fielder Hunter Pence who thought he would catch it but ran out of room on the cool, blustery night. It drove in Austin Jackson, who had walked with one out, ended Detroit's 20-inning scoreless streak, and set off cheers among fans waving white rally towels.

San Francisco, trying to finish off its second title in three years, had not trailed since losing Game 4 of the NL championship series, when it fell into a 3-1 series deficit against St. Louis. The Giants had gone ahead in the second inning when Brandon Belt hit an RBI triple against Max Scherzer following a double by Pence.

The Giants' Pablo Sandoval was 1 for 2 to leave his Series average at .615 (8 for 13) and also made a nimble play to throw out Quintin Berry on a bunt to third.

Detroit's Prince Fielder was hitless in his first two at-bats, dropping to 1 for 12 in the World Series (.083) and 1 for 24 (.042) against right-handers in the postseason.

After watching Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong each allow one run or none in the first three games, Cain allowed two runs and two hits in the first three innings, walked two and struck out one.

Scherzer, pitching on nine days' rest, gave up one run and four hits, struck out four and walked none.

Of the 23 previous teams to take 3-0 leads, 20 swept the Series and three won in five games.

Detroit has lost six straight postseason games. If the Tigers forced a Game 5, ace Justin Verlander would start Monday night and Zito would take the mound for San Francisco. Zito led the Giants over Verlander 8-3 in the opener.

On a cool 44-degree night, with the wind gusting at up to 25 mph, fans bundled up at Comerica Park and some players wore caps with earflaps during batting practice.

Cabrera, who popped up with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of Game 3, walked with two outs in the first to give the Tigers their first baserunner. Fielder struck out on a high 92 mph pitch.

Just before Cabrera batted, Berry hit a drive down the right-field line that was foul by an inch or so.

Pence hit a ground-rule double that bounced over the left-field fence with one out in the second and Belt hit the next pitch off the wall in the right-field corner for a triple. Gregor Blanco grounded to second with the infield playing in, and Ryan Theriot flied out to right.

Delmon Young singled leading off the bottom half and Detroit tried to hit-and-run, with Andy Dirks flying out. Young was stranded when Jhonny Peralta popped out and Omar Infante grounded into a forceout.

San Francisco had runners at the corners in the third on singles by Brandon Crawford and Sandoval, but Buster Posey flied out.

Detroit scratched catcher Alex Avila, playing with a sore right arm since he was hit by a foul tip in the opener, and replaced him with Gerald Laird. Infante moved up to eighth in the batting order.

San Francisco started Theriot at designated hitter instead of Hector Sanchez.

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Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games by neutral arbitrator

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USA TODAY Sports

Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games by neutral arbitrator

Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension has been reduced to 14 games by a neutral arbitrator meaning he is eligible to return as early as Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the arbitrator’s decision.

Wilson was suspended 20 games for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason. The suspension was announced on Oct. 3 and upheld by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Wilson’s first appeal.

Though the second appeal was technically successful in getting the suspension reduced, the lengthy process ended up costing him an extra two games as the Caps are already 16 games into the season. The good news for him is that he will recoup $378,048.78 of the over $1.2 million he was originally due to forfeit as a result of the suspension.

This marks the second suspension that Shyam Das, the neutral arbitrator, has reduced this season. Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson was suspended 27 games for domestic assault, but had his suspension reduced to 18 games after taking his appeal to the neutral arbitrator.

Tuesday’s ruling may mark the end of Wilson’s suspension and of the appeals process, but it hardly marks the end of the entire saga and controversy surrounding Wilson and his style of play. A 14-game suspension is still significant and should not be seen as vindication that Wilson did nothing wrong in the eyes of the league.

If there is another suspension, it will be longer and neither Wilson nor the Caps can afford for that to happen. Wilson still must change the way he plays or everyone is going to end up going through this entire process again and nobody wants that.

The Caps will have a morning skate at 12:30 p.m. ET which should provide more clarity on whether Todd Reirden intends to play Wilson immediately and where he could slot into the lineup.

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What do the Capitals do with Jakub Vrana?

What do the Capitals do with Jakub Vrana?

You don’t have to watch Jakub Vrana very long to realize just how talented he is. Unfortunately for him, you also don’t have to watch very long to realize how turnover prone he can be as well.

Carelessness with puck management has been one of the glaring issues for the Caps in the early season and Vrana, as he has been for much of his young career, is certainly guilty of that.

Vrana’s combination of talent and penchant for on-ice mistakes presents a problem for head coach Todd Reirden as he has to find the right place plug him into the lineup. That challenge has thus far proven difficult.

Vrana entered the Nov. 3 game against the Dallas Stars on the top line.  After a minus-three game and a turnover in overtime that led to Dallas’ game-winning goal, he found himself on the fourth line the very next game with barely eight minutes of ice time.

“We'll continue to try to remove those glaring turnovers or defense mistakes from his game,” Reirden said recently. “I think it's something that has improved compared to prior years which is why he spent the majority of the time up with those top-six guys, but it's sometimes good for a reset with some of the bottom-six guys and then start slotting him back in.”

At 22-years-old, mistakes on the ice are to be expected. But Vrana may take that to the extreme.

Not only does Vrana commit a lot of careless turnovers, he is also guilty of taking far too many penalties. Vrana ranks third on the team with 14 penalty minutes.

Mistakes by a forward are not nearly as glaring to a coach as those by a defensemen considering the mistakes tend to happen in the offensive zone and are less likely to result in a goal for the other team. When those offensive zone mistakes lead to offensive zone penalties, however, that’s a different story.

But Vrana is simply too skilled to bury in the lineup or take out altogether. With four even-strength goals, Vrana is tied for the third-most on the team behind only T.J. Oshie (7) and Alex Ovechkin (6). Of all the forwards Reirden has cycled into the top line in Tom Wilson’s absence to play with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vrana was the player who seemed to fit the best. He does not provide the same sort of defensive balance to the top line as Wilson does, but no one has been able to step in and adequately fill Wilson’s spot thus far. Vrana added an extra element of speed and offensive skill to an already dangerous line and seemed to show chemistry with Kuznetsov especially.

“There's some really good things that he's showing,” Reirden said. “The speed he plays with, the release of his shot, the chances he's getting, you've got to try to find ways to get him out there more.”

But Wilson will soon return to fill his top line role and Reirden will soon get his full lineup for the first time this season. Yet, almost a quarter into the season Vrana still makes it hard to find the right spot for him.

Putting Vrana on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Oshie – if Reirden reunites Ovechkin and Kuznetsov – seems like the best fit. Backstrom and Oshie can make up for Vrana’s defensive issues and Vrana can provide speed on an otherwise slower line.

But at some point, Vrana has to cut back on the turnovers and the penalties.

“You've got to continue to show him,” Reirden said. “Continue to show him, continue to `remind him, continue to teach and help him grow and get better. That's a young player trying to become a top-six full time.”

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