Nationals

Fever stun Lynx in Game 1, 76-70

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Fever stun Lynx in Game 1, 76-70

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Lynx entered the WNBA Finals with a banner already hanging in Target Center and a loaded roster that had visions of becoming the league's next dynasty.

The Indiana Fever haven't backed down from a fight all postseason, and it's clear they don't plan to start now.

Erlana Larkins had 16 points and 15 rebounds and the Fever stunned defending champion Minnesota with a 76-70 victory over the Lynx in Game 1 on Sunday night.

``We've made it to this point, what's there to fear?'' Larkins said. ``We know they're the defending champions and they're going to bring their `A' game. ... So what, they're the defending champs? We're here to take one.''

That's exactly what the Fever did - they took it.

Tamika Catchings scored 20 points for the Fever, who played without leading scorer Katie Douglas because of a sprained left ankle. They scored 15 points off of 17 Minnesota turnovers and outscored the Lynx 38-24 in the paint to become just the second visiting team this season to win at Target Center.

``We came in here without any fear,'' coach Lin Dunn said.

Briann January added 11 points and six assists and Erin Phillips scored 13 for Indiana.

Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Wednesday night in Minneapolis.

Seimone Augustus scored 23 points and Rebekkah Brunson added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Lynx, who are looking to become the WNBA's first repeat champion in 10 years.

Maya Moore had 14 points and 10 boards but made just 4 of 14 shots and Lindsay Whalen managed 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Now they've lost homecourt and trail in a series for the first time since their title run started last year.

``For some reason we didn't come out ready to play and they were,'' Augustus said.

Indiana led by 10 in the second quarter and withstood a furious opening to the second half by the Lynx. Minnesota looked to be taking control with an 8-0 run midway through the third that gave them a 54-50 lead and put the Fever on their heels.

But it takes more than a few jumpers in a row to shake this resilient Fever.

Indiana pulled it off without Douglas, who severely sprained her left ankle early in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals in Connecticut and didn't make the trip. There is some question whether Douglas will be available at all in this series.

Losing a leading scorer normally would mean curtains for a title run, but the Fever have already shown they can overcome problems like this. They trailed each of the first two series 1-0 before rallying to win the last two games as they chase after their first title. The Fever even played their best game of the postseason after Douglas went down with the ankle injury five minutes into the game against the Sun, burying Connecticut with a barrage of 3-pointers to cruise to a 16-point victory.

They were just as strong in the finals opener early, using superior ball movement to find wide open shots on the perimeter and cutters to the basket for easy layups. Indiana opened up a 10-point lead in the second quarter and some hard-nosed play had the Lynx flustered.

Catchings leveled guard Monica Wright with a screen and Augustus picked up a technical foul after Wright was called for a foul on the play.

``We are not here to just be in the finals,'' Catchings said. ``We are here for a great opportunity, and both teams, we both want it bad. So every game is going to be just like this game. It's going to be tough, it's going to be hard-nosed.''

Just the way Larkins likes it.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound center bullied her way around the paint all night, out-muscling the Lynx frontcourt for position and keeping possessions alive grit and hustle. Her putback with 3:20 to play gave the Fever a 72-62 lead, and now the Fever have the view from the driver's seat for the first time this postseason as they go for their first title.

``She is exactly the type of player we've been looking for, what I call a warrior,'' Dunn said. ``She does all the dirty work.''

Attendance figures have been down league-wide this season, a troubling sign for a league that has been fighting to gain traction in the United States almost since its inception. The lower bowl was jammed at Target Center for Game 1, with a spirited crowd announced at 14,322 waving white pom poms.

They didn't have much to cheer about in the fourth quarter, when the top offensive team in the league missed 12 straight shots at one point to squander any chance at a comeback.

``They only played seven players. They came off a three-game series,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. ``They have been traveling. You know, they are exactly what we thought they would be, and probably then some.''

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APkrawczynski

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

After a week that gave several teams the opportunity to prove themselves in the National League East, the only team that did so was the Miami Marlins.

They aren’t as bad as we thought they were.

As for everyone else, each fan base should be disappointed.

The Atlanta Braves missed a golden opportunity to pull away from both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, they actually lost ground to BOTH teams that were playing each other.

Philadelphia did leapfrog the Nationals in the standings, but they continue to leave wins on the table due to their bullpen. This is all while Washington went 4-4 on an eight-game homstand.

And if you’re the Mets, I need to say no more in regards to disappointment. Look out because the Marlins are now on your tail.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 44-32
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: vs. Cincinnati (3), @ St. Louis (3)

It is hard to take a team seriously when they lose two out of three to the Baltimore Orioles in their home park.

Both were in demoralizing ways. First, Sean Newcomb went seven innings allowing only a single run, then two relievers gave up a combined six runs in the ninth. Despite a comeback in the ninth, they wouldn’t eventually fall in the 15th (!) inning.

And yes… we can attest, this sucks…

Second was Julio Teheran allowing four to score before Atlanta even got an at-bat. There was a wistful rally for the rest of the game, but ultimately they came up two runs short.

Missing on a golden opportunity to emerge as the frontrunner in the NL East, the Braves dropped the ball. Once excited for a finalized rotation to be back together, there are still some gaps to fill. The team averaged 6.8 runs this week and managed only two wins.

And still no Robert Acuna Jr.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 41-34
Last 10: 7-3
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Yankees (3), vs. Washington Nationals (4)

Winning series will get you in the postseason. Taking two-out-of-three over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Nationals gives them four straight series wins.

None of those series victories were bigger than taking two at Nats Park.

In those six games Odùbel Herrera had 12 hits, four home runs, nine RBIs for a .444 average. He is leading the charge for a team that scored 39 runs in only six games.

Their starters are giving them quality outings as well. With each starting pitcher this week having a 1.40 WHIP or lower, there has been no downtick from them. However, all of their losses are attributed to their bullpen, including three blown saves.

On June 18, they optioned their closer Héctor Neris to Triple A after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. While he did have a 6.00 ERA, and a 9.45 ERA in June, he did get the job done in the final innings of games. On 13 save opportunities this year, he got 10 saves.

They hope Seranthony Domínguez (four saves) can turn around the bullpen as they make a push to the All-Star Game.

Washington Nationals

Record: 41-35
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Tampa Bay Rays (2), @ Philadelphia Phillies (4)

All things considered it wasn’t the worst week for the Nationals. Despite losing a series to Philadelphia and dropping a Gio Gonzalez start to Baltimore, Washington gained a half game on the Braves.

But, you have to demand better on an eight-game homestand. These games may be the ones that could haunt the Nats come late-August and September.

Yet there are a lot of highlights this week.

-Juan Soto retroactively hit a HR on his first-ever MLB at-bat
-The Nats pick up reliever Kelvin Herrera in a career-year
-Despite trailing by four, and a rain delay, the Nats came back

Most importantly though Bryce Harper is out of his funk.

…and the fire is back, which may be the most important headline this week.

New York Mets

Record: 31-44
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Pirates (3), @ Marlins (3)

Finishing up a 10 game road trip with a 3-7 record, all the Mets needed was a return home.

Wrong, New York followed that up by getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field.

And one of those losses, just one, featured seven Dodger home runs.

Also another of the few productive players for the Mets could be heading to the DL. Centerfielder Brandon Nimmo (.283, 12 HR) took a pitch off of his hand this past weekend.

Miami Marlins

Record: 31-47
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. Diamondbacks (4), vs. Mets (3)

A 3-3 West Coast road trip is not too shabby for the Marlins who are playing .500 ball in the month of June (11-10).

It gave the opportunity for Kyle Barraclough to pick up two more saves, bringing his total up to seven this season. His stellar relief performances will likely garner him the honor as the Marlins’ lone representative in the All-Star Game next month.

He’s pitched 11.2 straight innings of hitless baseball. Barraclough has also not allowed a run since May 8 (19 appearances).

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

The countdown to the MLB All-Star game in Washington ticks on, but the stars of its host city struggled this week in the voting.

Last week, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Matt Adams dropped one position from the first week's ballot. This week, the downward trend continues, perhaps a sign of the ambivalence among Nationals fans following a mixed record since week two's update.

The Nats won three of their seven games last week with a blowout 2-12 loss to the Phillies on Friday. Maybe they're feeling bogged down by the incessant rain delays in the DC-Maryland area

Regardless, Bryce Harper dropped another spot on the fan voting ballot this week to settle in the No. 3 spot among outfielders with 1,403,335 votes. Leading him are No. 1 Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis with 1,829,276 votes and No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Matt Kemp with 1,498,827 votes. It's worth noting that Harper trails Kemp by less than 100,000 votes, a very reasonable gap to recover from, and leads No. 4 Colorado Rockies centerfielder Matt Blackmon by over 400,000 votes, a somewhat safe separation. 

Matt Adams, however, was not so lucky. After dropping from No. 14 to No. 15 last week, he fell out of the top 15 in this week's voting. In this week's results, only 8,000 votes separate Nos. 14 and 15, so it's okay to be hopeful that your vote will make a difference. 

Trea Turner is still holding onto the No. 5 spot in the shortstop category, with an over 100,000 vote increase from last week's voting update pushing him up to 380,331 votes. The shortstops' rankings haven't changed since last week, so the San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford, Braves' Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell and Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story remain in the top four spots.

Nats fans, now's the time to keep casting those votes to keep your favorites on this year's National League roster. You can keep voting until July 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET, up to five times every 24 hours. Read more about how to vote for your favorite players in the MLB All-Star Game HERE

The 2018 National League - American League matchup is in Washington, D.C. on July 17.

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