Nationals

Golf Capsules

Golf Capsules

JOHOR, Malaysia (AP) Sergio Garcia won the rain-shortened Johor Open on Sunday, closing with an 11-under 61 for a three-stroke victory in the Asian Tour's season-ending event.

The 32-year-old Spanish star finished at 18-under 198 at Horizon Hills for his second victory of the year and 24th international title. He also won the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship in August.

Garcia had the lowest final round by a winner in Asian Tour history. He birdied seven of the first nine holes to make the turn in 7-under 29, added birdies on 13 and 14 before a long rain delay, then returned to make it four in a row with birdies on 15 and 16.

American Jonathan Moore also shot a 61 to finish second.

Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant won the Asian Tour money title. He shot a 65 to tie for fifth at 11 under.

John Daly finished with a 65 to tie for 15th at 8 under. South Africa's Ernie Els closed with a 72 to tie for 48th at 3 under.

ALFRED DUNHILL CHAMPIONSHIP

MALELANE, South Africa (AP) - Charl Schwartzel was a runaway winner for the second straight week, coasting to a 12-shot victory at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the European Tour.

The 2011 Masters champion finished with a total score of 24-under 264 at Leopard Creek Country Club. He won by 11 strokes in Thailand last weekend.

Schwartzel won for the eighth time on the European Tour. The South African also captured this tournament in 2004, his first title on the tour.

He entered the final round with a 10-shot lead and closed with a 69. The runner-up was Sweden's Kristoffer Broberg, who finished at 12 under. First-round leader Gregory Bourdy shared third with Scott Jamieson, Garth Mulroy and Andy Sullivan - 13 shots behind Schwartzel.

FATHER-SON CHALLENGE

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Davis Love III had a nice pitch shot on No. 18 and son Dru finished off the birdie to capture the Father-Son Challenge title.

With Larry and Josh Nelson already in at 22 under for the two-day scramble format, both Loves misfired in trying to reach the green in two at the par-5 finishing hole. Dru, an Alabama freshman who won five Georgia state titles in high school, went long and right near the grandstand at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes. Davis watched his ball roll onto the bank of a greenside pond.

But the elder Love found the right touch on his pitch from Dru's position and his son made the winning putt.

The Loves teamed for an 11-under 61 in the final round. Davis collects the entire $200,000 first prize, since Dru plays for the Crimson Tide's No.1-ranked golf team.

ROYAL TROPHY

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) - South Korea's K.T. Kim made an 8-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a playoff to lift Asia past Europe in the Royal Trophy.

After the teams finished singles play tied at 8, Kim and countryman Y.E. Yang edged Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts and Italy's Francesco Molinari in the fourball playoff at The Empire Hotel and Country Club.

Colsaerts had a chance to match Kim's birdie, but missed a 5-footer.

Yang forced the playoff, beating Molinari 2 and 1 in the final singles match.

After falling behind 3 1/2-1/2 on Friday in the opening foursomes, Asia cut it to 4 1/2-3 1/2 in fourball play Saturday, and tied it with 4 1/2 points in the closing singles. Europe leads the series 4-2.

AUSTRALIAN PGA

COOLUM, Australia (AP) - Australasian Tour rookie Daniel Popovic completed an improbable wire-to-wire victory in the Australian PGA, shooting a 3-under 69 for a four-stroke victory.

The Australian finished at 16-under 272 at Palmer Coolum resort.

Rod Pampling birdied the first six holes to take the lead after nine holes, but dropped four strokes on the final three holes - making bogeys on 16 and 17 and a double bogey on 18 - to fall into a tie for second with fellow Australian Anthony Brown. Pampling had a 69, and Brown shot 71.

Australia's Geoff Ogilvy failed to finish in the top three to ensure a top-50 finish in the year-end world ranking and a spot in the Masters. He shot a 69 to tie for fourth.

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Will Juan Soto follow the same path as Mookie Betts?

Will Juan Soto follow the same path as Mookie Betts?

The gasps came again in New York on Wednesday, this time when Juan Soto ripped his hands in and then through a slider which meandered up and inside. The resulting fly ball went 466 feet to right field, confusing camera operators and announcers alike. Nationals play-by-play man Bob Carpenter, calling road games from Nationals Park, wasn’t quite sure where the ball went or landed because it left camera view. The Mets’ broadcasting crew had a better view in Citi Field. Ron Darling uttered a precise summary while the ball traveled: “Whoa.”

Soto hit a 463-foot home run two days earlier which drew similar awe. Darling said then he had never seen a ball hit to that part of Citi Field -- dead center beyond the iconic rising apple. And, what Soto is doing overall is rarely seen. He’s hit two of the five longest home runs in Citi Field since 2015 (Nos. 3 and 5, respectively) in three days. He tied Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Robinson with 60 home runs before turning 22 years old thanks to the two he hit Wednesday night. Only four players -- Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Eddie Matthews and Ronald Acuña Jr. -- have more before that age. Soto turns 22 on Oct. 25. He is being shorted 109 games this season because of the abbreviated schedule and his late start in it. Yet, he’s still chasing down history.

The short season makes comparison points for his future fluid. However, he is running steady with the early days of one player in particular: Mookie Betts. The far-away question for the Nationals is whether their paths when no longer under team control will go the same.

First, to now. Soto’s first home run Wednesday prompted a response from the official NASA Twitter account when it was asked to locate the launch to right field (“We'll look for it when we get back to the Moon in 2024. Cool?”). But, there was a detail attached to his second home run which may be more telling of his actual ability.

Left-handed Mets reliever Chasen Shreve was able to get Soto to rollover a fastball away for a double play in the third inning. Left-handed pitchers typically try for this precise outcome from Soto by pitching him outside. He often foils it by not taking the bait and instead taking a walk or pushing the ball the other way. Against Shreve, Soto left his principles: he swung at a pitch outside of the strike zone and did so with more of a hook swing than one designed to drive the ball somewhere between left-center field and right-center field. Stay through the middle and good things will happen. It’s a mantra for him. He vacated the idea, then pulled his helmet off at first base and bounced it off the ground following the double play.

He faced another left-handed pitcher in his next at-bat. Justin Wilson tried the same approach as Shreve. He was throwing away, but not far enough. A fastball caught the outside portion of the plate. Soto had cleared his head, drove through the pitch, and hit an opposite-field home run. That, more than distance, shows mental genius at 21 years old.

“He makes in-game adjustments better than any young hitter I’ve ever seen,” Davey Martinez said.

RELATED: SOTO BLASTS LONGEST HOME RUN OF HIS CAREER AGAIN

Now, to the future, via the past. Betts came up as a 21-year-old in Boston. Soto is 21. Betts played half a season at that age, moved to 19th in American League MVP voting the following year, then put his name among the elite his third season when he finished second in MVP voting. He also won a Gold Glove and went to the All-Star Game. Betts pulled together a 9.5 bWAR season in 2016 as a 23-year-old outfielder.

Soto finished second to Acuña Jr. in National League Rookie of the Year voting in his first season. He ascended to ninth in NL MVP voting as a 20-year-old via a 4.6 bWAR season. His current OPS is 1.444. It won’t last. And, this is not a full season to chase Betts’ MVP-runner-up numbers. It does indicate further ascension.

It is also another year of Soto’s service-time clock. The Nationals hold team control of Soto until 2025. Next year he will again make a pittance relative to his peers, when he receives a slight raise from the $629,400 he is making this year. The following year, 2022, he can start to cash in  via arbitration. His salary will progressively climb year after year from there -- with several chances to set a record for arbitration pay should his play be maintained.

The rub arrives in 2025. Soto can become a free agent that year. So can Victor Robles. And, Soto is represented by Scott Boras, who is loathe to do anything other than enter free agency with his clients.

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So, the Nationals will eventually be faced with a similar decision the Boston Red Sox needed to make with Betts: can they afford their star? If not, should he be traded?

Boston was in a bind. It dumped current cash (David Price) and future cash (Betts) in exchange for three prospects. In essence, it was an organizational reboot.

The Nationals don’t tend to operate that way. They have not been forced to rebuild since the initial buildup from franchise newbie to contender was completed. They also do not want to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax whenever possible, pick singular spots for big contracts and are yet to approach Soto about an extension. Needing to choose between him and Robles complicates the process further.

So, for now, maybe it’s best to watch the mammoth homers, listen to out-of-town announcers react with shock, then giggle at tweets from NASA. Four more years of Soto in Washington are guaranteed. Nothing beyond that is.

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Three home runs, Rio Ruiz flip, power Orioles to series victory and sweep opportunity vs. Phillies

Three home runs, Rio Ruiz flip, power Orioles to series victory and sweep opportunity vs. Phillies

With two outs in the eight inning and the Phillies threatening to tie the score, Andrew McCutchen hit a sharp ground ball to the left side of the infield. 

Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz dove to his left, corralled the ball, and as he was falling, flipped a backhand shovel that rolled to second base just in time for the final out of the inning. It was one of the Orioles' best plays, on offense or defense, all season long. 

The standout defensive play kept the Orioles ahead 5-4, a score they’d win by, in their second straight win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. It was the team's second-straight series win.

“That was a huge play,” Chance Sisco said. “It was crazy. Just going into the hole, obviously, is a tough play. And then I don’t know what happened, he stumbled a little bit and fell to the ground. I don’t know what it takes just to get that ball out of his glove. Just a great play.”

Ruiz’s defensive play assuredly prevented a run, and with a bullpen that had to work big innings, that play’s significance cannot be overstated.

“He’s just reading the ball really well, his feet are great, he’s just playing outstanding defense at third base,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That play that he made in the hole, that was game-saving and really won us the game.”

Ruiz had a good night at the plate as well, as he hit a solo home run — as did Anthony Santander and Sisco, to lead the way offensively for the red-hot Orioles.

RELATED: HOW SOON IS TOO SOON FOR THE O'S TO START THINKING ABOUT THE DEADLINE?

After falling down 3-1, they rallied to tie the game in the fourth inning then took the lead in the fifth. An insurance run, by way of Sisco’s home run, gave the Orioles a two-run lead entering the eighth inning. 

Then, they held on — aided by Ruiz’s absurd defensive play — to push their record to 9-7 with a chance for a sweep over the Phillies on Thursday.

Through 16 games of the 2020 season, the Orioles have already surpassed some people’s expectations of what figured to be a year without any notable or exciting games. 

Now, they’re just riding the wave.

“It seems like good teams have different guys on different nights,” Hyde said. “And right now, that’s what we have. We had some big hits tonight. Chance Sisco, Smitty. Middle relief is what won us the game, to me. We pitched well and we got enough runs to hold on.”

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