Redskins

Leyland: Alburquerque's kiss meant no disrespect

201210081643602155473-p2.jpeg

Leyland: Alburquerque's kiss meant no disrespect

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Ideally, Jim Leyland would have everybody hug it out and play ball.

Just as Detroit's Justin Verlander and Coco Crisp of Oakland did on the field for Monday's workout day ahead of their teams' Game 3 in the AL division series Tuesday. The Tigers lead 2-0 and are one win from advancing to a second straight AL championship series.

Leyland insists reliever Al Alburquerque meant no ill will toward the Athletics when he fielded Yoenis Cespedes' ninth-inning comebacker and quickly kissed the ball before throwing to first. Yet the manager disagreed with the display.

``Everybody always says I'm from the old school, so I'd have probably hugged it first,'' Leyland joked. ``I don't think it was the right thing to do. I will sit here today and I will not try to defend it. I will say that I can assure everybody, including the Oakland A's, Al Alburquerque did nothing intentionally to offend the Oakland A's. A lot of emotion is shown in different ways in the game anymore. You see a lot of different variations of personal celebrations as well as team celebrations.

``It wasn't a smart thing to do, but I can honestly tell you that there is no way that Al Alburquerque or any members of the Detroit Tigers would ever do anything intentionally to offend another team. It just would not happen,'' Leyland said.

As upstart Oakland returned home hoping to pull off another improbable sweep like the one against Texas last week to capture the AL West crown, that controversial smooch was still plenty talked about in both clubhouses.

Alburquerque said he did speak to his teammates, and that they knew his gesture was ``within the emotion of the game.''

``I respect Cespedes and I didn't do it out of disrespect,'' the pitcher said. ``I was just excited to get the out.''

Still, that didn't mean the Tigers weren't surprised by it.

``I said, `Did I see what I just saw?''' catcher Gerald Laird said.

Cespedes was eager to get to his baseball work Monday, saying: ``That's his problem. It doesn't bother me. It was his turn to win. Someday it will be my turn.''

Even though everybody realized full well they should be focused on the game itself.

``I know him, so I know he didn't mean much by it,'' injured A's third baseman and former Tiger Brandon Inge said. ``But I'm sure he's going to regret it. Honestly, this is something that's going to be blown out of proportion because it's a unique story and it's something that doesn't happen much. For us, our ultimate retaliation or comeback would be to win three. We're not concerned with the actions of one person. On their side, I'm sure he didn't really want to stir up a hornet's nest over here either.''

Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (4-6), a midseason acquisition from Miami who was steady down the stretch, will try to pitch the Tigers to another postseason sweep of Oakland.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is still looking for his first RBI of the series, but is hitting .375 (3 for 8) with two doubles, no strikeouts and a walk.

Lefty Brett Anderson (4-2) gets the ball in his postseason debut as the A's try to prolong their season for one more day. Anderson, who looked strong in six starts after a 14-month absence recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, is coming back from a right oblique injury he sustained falling awkwardly off the mound in a start at Detroit on Sept. 19. He hopes to work deep without a pitch count, though pitching coach Curt Young said he'd likely be around 80.

``It's going to be fun,'' he said. ``I don't think I'll have to dial it down. ... A postseason game in Oakland, there hasn't been one for a while.''

The Tigers swept Oakland out of its last playoff series - in four games of the 2006 AL championship series. None of the current A's were on the team then, and only two were even in the organization.

The task is daunting: win three straight at home. Yet this A's team has accomplished unheard of feats in a season full of walkoffs and victories celebrated with whipped-cream pies.

And, just last week they took three in a row from the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers to stun Texas for the AL West crown in Game No. 162 last Wednesday.

That late-season surge erased a five-game deficit, and the A's became the first time in major league history to do so over the final 10 games to win a division or pennant. They trailed Texas by 13 games on June 30.

``Nobody knew we were good until the end,'' Oakland's Jonny Gomes said. ``We had Major League Baseball right where we wanted them: We tricked them into playing 162 games.''

Now, Oakland will attempt to become the first playoff team in franchise history to come back from down 2-0. In six of the previous seven series when the A's lost the first two games, the wound up getting swept.

Oakland will try to get its offense going after striking out 23 times in the first two games, including 14 in Saturday's 3-1 loss in Game 1. The A's hit a majors-leading 112 home runs after the All-Star break.

A's manager Bob Melvin isn't worried about the K-fest, and neither are his players. Josh Reddick has six of the strikeouts after hitting a team-best 32 home runs during the regular season.

``If you're going to be aggressive, you're going to swing hard,'' Gomes said. ``If you're going to hit home runs, you're going to swing hard.''

Yet Melvin knows firsthand how good Sanchez can be. The 28-year-old Venezuelan pitched a no-hitter for Florida during his rookie season of 2006 against Melvin's Arizona Diamondbacks. Oakland shortstop Stephen Drew also was on that Arizona team, while Cabrera played for the Marlins.

Leyland has experience with this year's playoff format, featuring the higher seed opening on the road for the first two games.

Facing the favored San Francisco Giants, Florida won the first two games at home, then completed a three-game sweep of the NL division series at Candlestick Park on the way to the title - Leyland's lone championship in 21 years as a manager.

These Tigers sure seem primed for another special October run.

First, they'll have to deal with a loud Coliseum crowd that has come alive over the past month as the A's emerged as a surprise contender, then clinched the club's first playoff berth in six years.

For Melvin, whatever happened Sunday is now in the past. He has bigger concerns at the moment.

``I respect Jim Leyland about as much as I respect anyone,'' Melvin said. ``I think there are varying degrees of all that stuff, showmanship. ... I don't think there's one right or wrong way. Emotionally after a game when something like that happens you're always going to hear something from somebody. But you move on. It's not a big deal for me.''

Quick Links

At long last, finally some good news for Alex Smith and Redskins, per report

alexsmithweb.jpg
USA Today Sports

At long last, finally some good news for Alex Smith and Redskins, per report

Since breaking the tibia and fibula in his right leg in mid-November, Alex Smith endured an intense recovery that included surgeries to fix the spiral fractures in his bones as well as multiple procedures to fight off infection in the leg. 

The good news, finally, is that Smith is now out of the hospital and his prognosis has improved to the point that he might be able to return to the football field in 2019, ESPN reported.

Without Smith, the Redskins have been in a tailspin.

The team has lost four straight, including an embarrassing home loss to the New York Giants where Washington trailed 40-0 in the second half. 

After losing Smith, backup quarterback Colt McCoy broke his leg two weeks later in Philadelphia. Without a third QB anywhere on the roster, McCoy's injury forced the Redskins to turn to QB Mark Sanchez, who played terrible in his only start against New York. In the second half of that game, 'Skins coach Jay Gruden turned to Josh Johnson, another journeyman who has played on 12 teams in his career. On Sunday, Johnson will make his first start since the 2011 season when the Redskins face the Jaguars. 

On a personal level, Redskins fans should be happy that finally good news is emerging for Smith.

On a football level, Redskins fans should be equally happy that Smith might be able to return to the field next year. He will count for more than $20 million against the salary cap next season, healthy or not, and then $21 million in 2020.

Washington would be wise to add another QB in the 2019 NFL Draft, but with the type of money committed to Smith for the next few seasons, the team would face significant financial hurdles if he's not on the field. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

Quick Links

Even with everything going right for the Capitals, the penalty kill continues to struggle

Even with everything going right for the Capitals, the penalty kill continues to struggle

It’s hard to punch holes in a team that has won five straight and 12 of its last 14, but if there is one cause for concern in recent days for the Capitals it is the penalty kill.

Washington gave up three power play goals to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday and another two to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. In fact, Buffalo’s power play actually scored three times, but the first penalty to Michal Kempny on Saturday expired just as the goal was scored, literally exactly two minutes after the penalty was called. Officially, it was not considered a power play goal, but with the door just opening for Kempny to return, the Caps were still obviously shorthanded when the goal was scored.

Washington struggled on the penalty kill at the start of the season, but things improved dramatically when Tom Wilson returned from suspension. From Nov. 13 – when Wilson made his season debut – to Dec. 14, the penalty kill managed to kill off 85.-4 percent of the power plays it faced. The last two nights, however, the PK managed only 44.4-percent and that’s not counting the Sabres’ third goal that came as the penalty expired.

“We’ve got to continue to get better there,” Reirden said. “We had a stretch where we were doing a better job and then now it's finding its way, multiple ways, different ways into our net. That's not a winning recipe for success.”

So concerned about the penalty kill was Reirden after Friday’s game that he broke up the team’s red-hot fourth line in an attempt to add in another penalty killer. Reirden said before the game that the team’s metrics indicate Chandler Stephenson – who was a healthy scratch on Friday – is one of their better penalty killers. In order to get him back into the lineup, Reirden scratched Dmitrij Jaskin despite the incredible stretch he, Nic Dowd and Travis Boyd have enjoyed in recent days.

Washington may have gotten the win on Saturday, but in terms of improving the penalty kill, the move did not work.

The numbers from Saturday may be bad, but if you are looking for a silver lining, it is the fact that none of Buffalo’s three goals seem to have come as a result of a defensive breakdown. Jack Eichel netted the kinda-sorta power play goal when goalie Pheonix Copley gave up a rebound right to him on the far-side. Eichel then made a great individual effort to score the second goal, victimizing Dmitry Orlov with some fancy stick work and tucking the puck into the net just over the shoulder of Copley. Rasmus Dahlin scored the third goal when a Jeff Skinner shot from the slot was blocked and came straight to the rookie defenseman.

“They weren't exactly tic-tac-toes,” Devante Smith-Pelly said. “It happens. We’ve just got to stay the course and continue to get better.”

Of those three goals, the only one that looked like a bad play was the third as two Caps collapsed on Skinner leaving Dahlin open, but the point remains that the penalty kill did not appear to be egregiously bad.

Regardless of whether the goals are the result of breakdowns or bad luck, however, the fact is that the penalty kill is charged with keeping the puck out of the net it is has not been able to do so of late.

The Caps are off on Sunday, but will have two days of practice before Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, plenty of time to shore things up on a suddenly leaky PK.

Said Reirden, “It's an area that we've got to work on here while we've got some practice time this week before we play Pittsburgh.”

MORE CAPS NEWS: