Nationals

Don't throw records out in Iron Bowl mismatches

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Don't throw records out in Iron Bowl mismatches

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) The Alabama-Auburn rivalry has a storied history, Hatfield-vs.-McCoy level hatred and games and performances that inhabit the state's psyche for decades.

What the Iron Bowl hasn't been filled with is really big upsets.

The Tigers visit Bryant-Denny Stadium and the second-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday as 31.5-point underdogs hoping to change that tradition.

``I would say if Auburn was able to win it, it would be the most surprising win Auburn's had'' in the Iron Bowl, said David Housel, a former Auburn athletic director and author of several books on Tigers football.

He has to go all the way back to 1949 to find a possible exception. That's when the Tigers pulled out a 14-13 win a year after getting pasted 55-0 when the two in-state powers renewed the rivalry following a 41-year break over a disagreement involving an extra 50 cents in per diem money and the selection of officials.

The divide between the two programs nowadays makes those differences look downright silly, if they didn't already. Alabama fan Harvey Updyke is accused of burning Auburn's iconic oak trees at Toomer's Corner after the 2010 Tigers victory. Plus the stakes have been monumental lately.

The winner three years running has won the national title and Alabama (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) hopes to make it four.

Nick Saban's Crimson Tide has steadily maintained its position as one of college football's powers. The Tigers (3-8, 0-7) have fallen far and fast since Cam Newton and the national title-winning team of two years ago engineered a 24-point comeback that was the largest in Iron Bowl history.

Now, Auburn is gunning for a huge upset that would make this season not quite so bad, after all.

Not all Tigers fans are giving up on the game, but they're hardly confident either. David Wilbanks has been to every Iron Bowl since 1971, but that streak comes to an end Saturday.

He gave his tickets to his son and nephew, both Auburn students, partly because Auburn is having ``probably the worst season that I can remember since the late 70s.''

``I probably would have gone to the game just to keep my streak alive had my son not needed tickets,'' said Wilbanks, an Auburn graduate who lives in Sylacauga.

``Our family, we are orange and blue and it runs real deep with us. You just don't give up on that game, but things don't look too good and he needed a ticket and what's Dad to do? I figure it's time to pass the torch.''

If oddsmakers and perception prove accurate, there might be no better time.

Wilbanks' streak began the year before the ``Punt Bama Punt'' game in 1972. Alabama, a 16-point favorite, lost a 13-point lead in the final 5:30 when Bill Newton blocked two punts and David Langer ran both in for touchdowns.

``I was on the fourth row in Section 47 and every score on both sides, Auburn and Alabama, took place right in front of us,'' he said. ``We were about on the 10-yard line on that end of the field. That was probably the greatest sporting event of my lifetime.''

For Auburn fans, this could join that as one of the most memorable Iron Bowls if the team can pull off a much bigger upset. The Tide might be OK so long as punter Cody Mandell gets decent blocking.

Saban used the ``throw the records out'' cliche minutes after last weekend's win over Western Carolina, the first of many such claims. It can be thrown out in this rivalry.

The ranked team has won the last six meetings when the opponent was unranked, dating back to Auburn's 17-7 upset of No. 9 Alabama in 2002.

The Tide was a three-touchdown favorite going into last season's meeting and won 42-14.

``I noticed Gov. (Robert) Bentley said the other day you can always throw out the record book and a lot of people say you can throw out the record book when Alabama and Auburn play,'' Housel said. ``That's not true. There have been some upsets, but not many upsets. The best team going into this game wins it far more often than not, so you can't throw out the record book.''

Regardless of what's happened before, the winner gets serious bragging rights at church, school or the office.

``You don't have any pro sports in this state, so this is pro football, baseball, basketball all tied into one,'' Tigers coach Gene Chizik said. ``This is what this state is all about, and when you're born in this state you're usually born one or the other, and if you're not, you've got to make a decision real early on which one you are and then you can't flip. That's just the way it is.''

Tide linebacker Nico Johnson is an Alabama native. He had to lose as a sophomore to really get it, though.

``If you don't beat them, those 365 days are going to be bad for you,'' Johnson said.

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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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