Orioles

Fever-Sun Preview

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Fever-Sun Preview

The Connecticut Sun made quick work of their first-round opponent. The Indiana Fever are hoping the Sun's lengthy layoff heading into this best-of-three Eastern Conference finals series will play to their advantage as they were just pushed to the limit.

Meeting in the postseason for the first time in five years, Connecticut and Indiana will play Game 1 on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena as both teams continue their bid for a first WNBA title.

Making their second consecutive playoff appearance, the top-seeded Sun swept New York in the semifinals for their first postseason series win since defeating Washington in the opening round of 2006.

Tina Charles, the league MVP and top rebounder with 10.5 per game, averaged 21.0 points and 8.5 boards against the Liberty, while Asjha Jones totaled 30 points and 17 boards and Kara Lawson added 23 and 15, respectively, while making six 3-pointers in 14 attempts.

"Our three All-Star players stepped up," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said after Saturday's 75-62 Game 2 victory. "It was terrific, but we had great performances from a lot of people."

The Fever, the No. 2 seed, are well aware of the Sun's talent after losing three of four meetings in the regular season, including both in Uncasville, but they're hoping Connecticut won't be able to carry over the momentum.

"They're a fine team," Indiana coach Lin Dunn told the team's official website. "They're going to start at home. They're going to be rested. Let's just hope that they are over-rested.

"I think, at the end of the day, if we can defend at a high level, continue to do what we've done on the boards and be balanced in our scoring, then we have a chance to steal this series."

The Fever make their second consecutive conference finals appearance - and fifth in eight years - after knocking off Atlanta, the two-time defending East champs. The only home team to lose its playoff opener, Indiana ended the Dream's five-game home winning streak in Game 2 on Sunday before advancing with Tuesday's 75-64 victory.

Seven-time All-Star forward Tamika Catchings, the defensive player of the year, will likely be a key to this series, as will former Sun Katie Douglas, but the Fever will need contributions from others if they're going to reach their second WNBA finals and first since 2009.

Dunn said Briann January is playing as well as she's ever seen after the fourth-year guard averaged 16.7 points and 5.0 assists in the opening round. Fever forward Erlana Larkins, who hadn't started until two games left in the regular season, also picked a good time to step up her game, totaling 43 points and 32 rebounds against Atlanta.

"In the years past, it's always been Tamika having to spearhead that blue-collar mentality," Douglas said after Larkins totaled 16 points and 20 boards in Game 3. "And I think it takes a little pressure off of Tamika. (Larkins) can go down there and bang. It really loosens things up for us."

Having former Sun guard Erin Phillips in the starting five could do the same thing. A 43.8 percent 3-point shooter in the regular season, Phillips was added to the starting lineup after Game 1 - as was Larkins - and hit 3 of 5 from long range in the series while scoring 20 points.

Lawson averaged 18.3 points and hit 10 of 27 from beyond in the arc against Indiana in the regular season, while Charles scored 12.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in those contests.

Jones scored 30 in the first three games against Indiana in 2012 before chipping in with four off the bench in a 73-67 home win Sept. 19 - her first game after missing 14 with a strained Achilles' tendon.

This is the third postseason series between these clubs, and first since Indiana won the 2007 conference semifinals.

The Sun swept the Fever to reach the WNBA finals in 2005 to make their most recent finals appearance.

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We can’t stop staring at these Bowie Baysox commemorative moon landing jerseys

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Twitter/@BowieBaysox

We can’t stop staring at these Bowie Baysox commemorative moon landing jerseys

One of the coolest things about Minor League Baseball is the creativity that comes with it.

The stadiums. The ice cream deals. The interesting mascots. And most importantly, the uniforms.

The Bowie Baysox, the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, released special uniforms they will be wearing on Saturday for the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing.

And, oh wow, are they something. Take a look.

On the front of the uniform, you can see the image of where lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag on the lunar surface of the moon. On the back, a satellite view of the moon is pictured, with the player's number on top of it. Both the number and the cursive "Baysox" on the front are filled in with the American flag.

If you're looking for some to do on Saturday, go support the Baysox and their Moon Landing uniforms. If only there was a jersey giveaway.

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Bullpen struggles plague Nationals in loss to Orioles

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Bullpen struggles plague Nationals in loss to Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Juan Soto sat on the ground against the left-field wall, his head in his hands in the bottom of the eighth. Washington's outfielder had just reached for a long shot from Baltimore's Trey Mancini, but the ball was just out of Soto's reach and Mancini notched his 19th homer of the year, a two-run knock that gave the Orioles a 6-2 lead. 

Soto's body language symbolized more than just his frustration from the one play. By the end of the game -- the start of which was delayed 92 minutes after an onslaught of rain made Camden Yards look like a blizzard had blown into town -- the Orioles outscored the Nationals 9-2, almost the opposite of Washington's 8-1 win Tuesday.

Both teams were sluggish out of the box; a one-run ball game until the seventh, when Baltimore tore the game wide open. Washington put across its two sole runs in the third and fifth, both RBIs from Adam Eaton (he knocked in Soto on a sacrifice fly on the third, and Trea Turner on a double in the fifth). 

The Orioles briefly tied the game in the fourth, but it wasn't until the seventh when Baltimore broke down Washington's bullpen and put up two consecutive multi-run innings. 

Though Washington starter Erick Fedde, who was recalled from Double-A Harrisburg earlier Wednesday, put in six solid innings on the mound and only allowed on run on five hits in his 66 pitches, the Nationals' bullpen struggled to thwart the Orioles' comeback seventh and eighth innings.   

Since the outing was Fedde's first since he was recalled, Washington manager Davey Martinez didn't want to stretch him since he'd had two weeks off. 

"He got us through the sixth inning," Martinez said. "We had [Wander Suero] ready to go, but [Fedde] did well."

Suero, Tony Sipp and Javy Guerra combined for the seventh inning, contributing an out apiece. Suero got off to a rough start, however, and the first two batters he faced reached base. In his outing he gave up three earned runs on three hits and one walk.

After the game Suero explained that he received some bad personal news prior to the game, so he wasn't necessarily in the right mindset.

Sipp faced only two batters before he was done on the mound (he walked one and gave up a sacrifice fly to Rio Ruiz). So, when Guerra entered with two outs and two runners on, the Nationals were in desperate need of that elusive third out. 

Guerra induced a groundout to end the seventh, but couldn't carry that momentum into the eighth. To start the penultimate inning, Guerra gave up that two-run shot to left field that left Soto with his head hanging between his knees. 

Washington stuck with Guerra after those two runs crossed the plate, but as the right-hander struggled to record even one out, Martinez made the call and brought in Matt Grace to complete the inning. Three more runs crossed in the half, putting Baltimore ahead 9-2.

Now, the Nationals head to Atlanta to face the NL East-leading Braves for a four-game set. Washington is 6 1/2 games back of Atlanta, though the Nationals are the top wild-card standings in the National League.

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