Cardinals Carlos Beltran's knee keeps improving


Cardinals Carlos Beltran's knee keeps improving

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran was among only a handful of St. Louis players who stopped by AT&T Park during Saturday's off day of the NL championship series.

He received more treatment on his troublesome knee to get ready for Game 6 against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.

His hard work in the training room is helping his strained left knee. Beltran was in the lineup again and batting third for Sunday night's Game 6.

The 35-year-old Beltran was injured running out a double-play ball in the first inning of Game 3 and missed the rest of that game along with Thursday's Game 4. He underwent acupuncture treatment to increase blood flow to the knee, then returned for Friday's 5-0 loss to San Francisco.

``Well, the progress he made, first of all, was getting on the field,'' manager Mike Matheny said Sunday. ``We were concerned we wouldn't have him, and it took down to right at the last minute before we got him in that last game. But he came out and the first at-bat gets a base hit and then steals a base - pretty indicative of how he's feeling.''

Beltran is batting .382 with three home runs and six RBIs this postseason, his first with St. Louis after spending the second half of 2011 with the Giants before missing the playoffs.

``I salute him and our medical staff for getting really ahead of this and hopefully we'll be able to keep riding this out and it doesn't flare up again,'' Matheny said.

Yet the manager was left to scramble and rewrite his lineup about an hour before first pitch when left fielder Matt Holliday was scratched with tightness in his lower back.


HARD TO WATCH: When Sergio Romo is pitching in the ninth inning of a nail-biting postseason game, Giants general manager Brian Sabean and his staff have had a tough time watching.

The Giants never faced an elimination game on the way to winning an improbable World Series title two years ago. On Sunday, they played their fifth this fall already.

While Sabean has kept his mind busy charting pitcher's velocities or keeping track of the count, he says other members of his front office staff have actually left the room or covered their faces they were so anxious.

``I don't sit in the stands,'' Sabean said. ``The replay helps. We have the delay on.''

Sabean stays in the GM booth because he knows being outside might be too tempting to become emotional - and show it for more than 40,000 fans to see. He said he might just throw a water bottle in frustration without intending to do so.

``I try to distract myself during the game because I can scout the game, I've got my own note taking system,'' Sabean said. ``I'm not comparing this team to the 2010 team. When you get this far, especially where we're at now, the anxiety is just hoping they can pull it out because they're so committed to it and such a good group of people. I really don't know at the end of the day how talented we are but somewhere between the like to win and hate to lose.''

Just how many water bottles has he tossed this October?

``None. I've been very well behaved,'' Sabean said with a smile, acknowledging he has dropped some curse words here and there.


TIGERS WAIT: There's plenty of chatter about whether the Detroit Tigers have too much time off to wait for the World Series. Detroit capped a four-game sweep of the Yankees with an 8-1 win Thursday in the AL championship series.

That left Jim Leyland's club plenty of time to get rested and ready for whoever's next - and Detroit will hit the road first for Wednesday's Game 1 with the National League holding home-field advantage.

``They are going to deal with quite a lay off,'' Giants GM Brian Sabean said.


TONY AND MIKE: San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy is the first one to manage against both Tony La Russa and Mike Matheny in the postseason.

He sure is impressed how Matheny, a former Giants and Cardinals catcher, has handled the daunting task of following La Russa - especially one season after the Cardinals captured a World Series title.

And it's pretty clear to Bochy that Matheny picked up a lot from La Russa. Matheny is the 14th rookie manager in major league history to take his team to the league championship series, and the first in Cardinals franchise history.

``Both have done a great job,'' Bochy said. ``I respect and revered Tony and his career and what he accomplished. And of course the job he did last year, especially handling the bullpen the way he did. And Mike's done a tremendous job with the club. It's not an easy act to follow when you're following a Hall of Famer like Tony and keep things going as they are. So, I think they're similar, really, in the way that they have their guys ready to play and the success that they've had.''


PENCE'S PEP TALKS: First, Hunter Pence fired up his San Francisco teammates in Cincinnati with pregame pep talks. The Giants rallied from a 2-0 deficit to stun the Reds in the division series - the first team to win three straight on the road in a best-of-five series.

Pence got vocal again before a 5-0 Game 5 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Friday night.

The right fielder has surprised a few teammates with his vocal nature this October. Pence arrived at the trading deadline from the Philadelphia Phillies.

``We all know what situation we're in,'' said Matt Cain, who would go Game 7. ``So it's not really something that has to be said. But I think it's just something that really gets the guys together and gets them thinking about let's go out there and leave it out there. Whatever happens, happens. It gets everybody on the same mindset. We all understand what situation we face. I think it's great for all the guys to really get on the same page.''

Manager Bruce Bochy offered a few words of his own, but mostly left the stage for Pence.

``I really was trying to tee it up for Hunter and let him go, more than anything,'' Bochy said. ``But we knew what was at stake. ... I just felt like I should say something there before Hunter did because these guys ... I couldn't be prouder of how they're going out there every day and fighting. That's what the game is about.''

While GM Brian Sabean has his thoughts about chemistry, he said there can be a time for such rallies.

``You have to be genuine about it,'' he said. ``Chemistry to me is still the Earl Weaver theory: a three-run homer and a three-hit shutout.''

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Mystics win fourth straight, beat Sky 81-74

USA Today Sports Images

Mystics win fourth straight, beat Sky 81-74

 In their second victory against the Chicago Sky this season, Elena Delle Donne dominated once again.

In 33 minutes of play, the star forward racked up 22 points, seven rebounds and 9 of 15 field goals against her former team. She led the Mystics in points and rebounds. 

Tianna Hawkins brought a spark off the bench, tallying 15 points, four rebounds, six of ten field goals and a +11 differential in just 18 minutes of play. 

The Mystics won all four games on this road trip, tying their season-high win streak from earlier this season. Washington is now 8-3 as they head home to host the Connecticut Sun, who just snapped a seven-game win streak.


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Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

NBC Sports Washington

Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s semifinal matchup:

Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

2018-19 stats

Joonas Donskoi (27 years old): 80 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 13:25 TOI

Playoffs: 12 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 12:26 TOI

Carl Gunnarsson (32 years old): 25 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, 15:15 TOI

Playoffs: 19 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 14:57 TOI, won Stanley Cup

Hockey-Graph contract projections 

Joonas Donskoi: 3 years, $2,847,521 cap hit

Carl Gunnarsson: 1 year, $731,159 cap hit

The case for Joonas Donskoi

Maybe Andre Burakovsky’s qualifying offer of $3.25 million means he’s back with the Capitals for another year. But it doesn’t preclude a trade and in Donskoi you’d have a similar option at a cheaper price, which matters if you only have $9.2 million in cap space left for now.

Donskoi made the offense better in San Jose in whatever role he was asked to play. He can go up and down the lineup and had a consistency to his game that Burakovsky at times lacks. Donskoi’s stats may not always reflect that, but making his teammates around him better is a valuable asset. Either way, depth scoring is important and a priority for the Capitals. 

Donskoi has every bit the Stanley Cup playoff experience as Burakovsky does if that matters to you. Donskoi has nine goals and 12 assists in 50 playoff games and Burakovsky has nine goals and nine assists in 56 playoff games. Not much to chose between the team except Donskoi would be cheaper if Washington decided to trade Burakovsky. 

The case for Carl Gunnarsson

The Caps will need a No. 6/7 defenseman after Brooks Orpik retired on Tuesday. Yes, they gave a qualifying offer to RFA defenseman Christian Djoos and they have Jonas Siegenthaler under contract, too. Both are natural left side defensemen. Going with the kids is an option. But both of them? That becomes problematic when someone gets hurt in your top two pairings and players have to bump up. 

Gunnarsson was the hero of the “Boston Pee Party” when he scored the overtime winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after declaring to head coach Craig Berube at the urinal he just needed one more opportunity. Gunnarsson had just seven points in the regular season so no one should expect a ton of offense, but the point is he delivered when it mattered most.

When he is not playing the overtime hero, he is a third-pairing, stay at home defenseman who can play on the penalty kill which is pretty much exactly what the Caps need in a depth defenseman.

Take a look at Gunnarsson’s contract projection. You can’t beat that price. Sure, those projections came out before he won the Stanley Cup, but even if his price goes up, it will not be significant. You’re tinkering at the margins of the roster here and championship experience matters. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here: