Ravens

Leyland: Valverde will be ready for World Series

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Leyland: Valverde will be ready for World Series

DETROIT (AP) Jose Valverde threw a few pitches during Detroit's workout, then returned to the dugout as upbeat as usual.

Valverde's role for the World Series still isn't clear, but the right-hander doesn't seem to mind.

``I don't care. All I want is to be a champion,'' he said. ``If I had to start, I'd do it.''

Valverde has been Detroit's closer for three years and didn't blow a save through all of 2011, but this postseason has been ugly. He lost Game 4 of the division series against Oakland and gave up four runs in the AL championship series opener against the New York Yankees. The Tigers went on to win that game and sweep the series, but Valverde hasn't been used since.

The World Series begins Wednesday at either St. Louis or San Francisco. Valverde sounds confident he's made the necessary mechanical adjustments, and so does manager Jim Leyland.

``I think everybody's making too big of a deal of the Valverde situation. Valverde's going to be ready. There's nothing wrong with Valverde. He's going to be fine,'' Leyland said. ``I got a kick out of it. Nobody wanted me to pitch him, but everybody asks me every day if he's going to be the closer. I don't know what they expect, but I'm going to just see what happens.''

Leyland went with other options after Valverde's meltdown against the Yankees. Left-hander Phil Coke got the save in Games 2 and 3.

The more flexible approach to the late innings allowed Leyland to use Coke in crucial spots against a New York lineup that has plenty of left-handed power. Against the Cardinals or Giants, Valverde might be back in his old role. Aside from Coke, Detroit's top relief options include right-handers Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel and Al Alburquerque. Benoit has had difficulty keeping the ball in the park this season.

``Sometimes the biggest out is in the seventh inning or eighth inning, not always in the ninth inning,'' Leyland said during the series against New York. ``That's why when you start going by committee, that's what `committee' means. You say, `This is the most important out I have to get. I will use my bullet now and take my chances later.'''

Still, Leyland sounds ready for Valverde to contribute again.

``To me, you've got to pinch hit in the National League cities, you're going to have to use your pitchers, so if you get behind, that's just the way it is,'' Leyland said. ``I think he'll be a big part of this World Series.''

Coke, meanwhile, has been in the spotlight more than usual, and he's certainly enjoying the ride.

``I don't have any idea what's going on. I just know I'm having a good time,'' Coke said recently. ``And we have a common goal that we're trying to achieve, and the last thing I want to be known for is the one that didn't do his job.''

Coke's performance probably earned him a bit more leeway with Leyland. The manager didn't seem to mind the fact that Coke accidently nicked him on the head with a bottle during the postgame celebration after the finale against the Yankees.

``That was just Phil Coke pouring champagne. I got real cold. I usually don't go out in those celebrations. But they got me, and I was freezing, so I jumped up and he was - as Phil Coke will do - he kept dousing the thing,'' Leyland said. ``Well, as he poured the bottle down, I jumped up. Well, he hit my bald spot in the back, split my head open, but fortunately it was just a big scab. It didn't slice it open. I didn't need stitches or anything. After a couple more vodkas and cranberries, I didn't feel anything.''

It's been a trying year at times for Leyland, who admitted his team underachieved for much of the season. But now Detroit is ready for a chance to shine on the game's biggest stage.

``I can't tell you how many free meals I've had in the past 24 hours. I'm almost embarrassed, but every time I go to pay a check they said somebody picked it up,'' Leyland said. ``They've been great, really neat, in the grocery store and stuff everybody's pumped up obviously.''

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Justin Tucker missed a game-tying PAT, but the Ravens aren't fazed at all

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Justin Tucker missed a game-tying PAT, but the Ravens aren't fazed at all

Justin Tucker making an extra point for the Baltimore Ravens is a sure thing.

As sure as the sun will rise each morning, Tucker's dependability and success have been a constant for the team. But on an afternoon where winds of around 17 mph were a factor though 60 minutes, Tucker's success came to a shocking halt. 

After Joe Flacco and the offense made their way downfield, Flacco found wide receiver John Brown in the end zone to make the score 24-23 with 24 seconds left in regulation.

In walked the most accurate kicker in NFL history to do what he's done so many times before; keep the Ravens in the game. As the ball sailed off Tucker's foot, it took a right and became the first point-after-touchdown the kicker has ever missed.

"I felt like when the ball came off my foot, that I hit it just how I wanted to," Tucker said at the podium following the Ravens' Week 6 loss to the Saints. "Don't get me wrong, today was a challenging day to kick the ball in our stadium, to the right of our bench."

Two hundred and twenty two-straight PATs. You read that right. 222 consecutive makes, including 112 consecutive since PATs were moved back to the 15-yard line in 2015. Tucker was even named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September, marking the fifth time he's been awarded the honor.

From the field to the press box and all the way to the nosebleeds, M&T Bank Stadium was in shock. 

"A lot of things go through your mind, but I've been there plenty of time," Flacco said. "If you play football long enough, you're going to be there at some point. We're a very tight team here, and the first thing you think about is your brother and him dealing with it. Justin's the best in the world at what he does, and he's the most confident person that I know. It's not going to be an issue." 

"We're a tight group – we are light years better than we've been in the past," safety Eric Weddle said in the locker room after the loss. "Shoot, 'Tuck' is going to win us some games. We're not worried about that missed kick. Shoot, I think it's the first extra point ever that he's missed. Let's not get on him too hard. He's going to be hard on himself. That wasn't the only reason we lost." 

The support for Tucker, in what was a one-off for their teammate, was apparent throughout the entire locker room. When Tucker took to the podium to address the media, long snapper Morgan Cox and punter Sam Koch stood in the interview room while their kicker tried to explain what went wrong in a show of support.

"This one just happened to get away from me," Tucker added. "I'll have to look at it. I can't tell you exactly what happened, but at the end of the day, I feel like I cost us the game. Every single one of my teammates thus far has told me the opposite, and no one plays wins or loses a game, but that's a tough thing to grapple with when you're the guy in the situation at the end of the game."

Even members of the Saints were in disbelief. Almost everyone was mentally preparing for overtime as Tucker's accuracy is known around the league.

"When [Tucker] missed it, I thought, 'Let's get up and get out of here,'" running back Mark Ingram said. "I mean, that guy is good, so I was shocked."

"I automatically was thinking about overtime and what we were going to do," quarterback Drew Brees added. "I was very, very surprised when he missed it."

What the Ravens and fans alike can take solace in is that Tucker's stats speak for themselves showing more positive plays than negative. While it was probably the most heartbreaking loss they've had since Week 17 of the 2017 season, Tucker's point of emphasis when speaking with the media postgame was about more than a missed extra point.

"But, more than anything, I just wanted to be here [at the podium]. If I was going to ever teach my son or any young person about accountability, I felt like it was really important that I stand up here and answer whatever questions you guys may have."

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By the numbers: Bradley Beal on pace to become one of NBA history's best three-point shooters

By the numbers: Bradley Beal on pace to become one of NBA history's best three-point shooters

Bradley Beal topped Gilbert Arenas for first place in career three-pointers in Wizards/Bullets franchise history on Saturday night in the Wizards' loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Beal, only 25, has put himself in some good company over the years with his outside shooting. Here are some numbers to put it all in perspective.

By The Numbers: Bradley Beal's historic shooting numbers

2,208: Beal made his record-breaking, 869th three on his 2,208th attempt. It took Arenas 2,430 attempts to get there in a Wizards uniform. Arenas, however, reached the mark in 357 games compared to Beal's 408. Beal, now at 2,209, is second on the franchise list for career three-pointers attempted. Based on his career attempts averages, he should get there this season.

100: Beal has made at least 100 three-pointers in five straight seasons entering 2018-19. That is a franchise record. The longest such active streak is held by Jamal Crawford at 14. The longest streak in NBA history is held by Ray Allen at 17.

39.4: Beal's career three-point percentage. He is one of only five players ever to shoot at least 39 percent from beyond the arc while making two or more threes per game in their careers. The others are Kyle Korver, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Buddy Hield, who has only played in 164 games compared to Beal's 408.

223: Beal set the franchise record for three-pointers made in a single season back in 2016-17. He passed Arenas, who twice got to 205, in 2004-05 and 2006-07.

41: Beal also passed Arenas for the most games in franchise history with five or more three-pointers made. Arenas is in second with 40, while Trevor Ariza is in a distant third with 15. Otto Porter Jr., for comparison, has done it nine times. Beal's 41 games with five threes or more rank 18th among active players. Curry is way ahead of everyone else with 183.

37: Beal is one of just eight players ever to begin his career with six straight seasons of 37 percent or better from three. The other seven is mostly a who's who of three-point specialists like Curry, Thompson, Korver and J.J. Redick.

20: Shooting 37 percent or better from three while also scoring 20 points or more is rarer than you may think. Beal has done it twice in his career, same as LeBron James, Damian Lillard and Kawhi Leonard. Only 11 players have accomplished the feat more often. Dirk Nowitzki has done that in nine seasons, most all-time, while Kevin Durant is second with eight.

872: Speaking of Durant, this isn't a historic number, it's just an interesting coincidence. Since Beal entered the league before the 2012-13 season, he and Durant have been nearly identical as three-point shooters. Beal has made 870 threes, while Durant has knocked down 872. Beal has shot 39.4 percent, while Durant has hit 39.6 of them. Another guy who has been extremely similar to Beal is Danny Green, who now plays for the Raptors. He has hit 858 threes during that span at a 39.2 percent rate.

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