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Louisville extends Strong's contract to 2020

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Louisville extends Strong's contract to 2020

Charlie Strong got a long-term commitment from Louisville on Wednesday that makes him one of the top 10 highest-paid Division I football coaches.

The Cardinals coach and the university agreed on an eight-year contract extension that will pay Strong an annual base salary of $3.7 million, plus performance incentives worth $583,333 if Louisville wins the BCS championship game.

Strong's base salary places him seventh among Division I coaches, just behind Iowa's Kirk Ferentz ($3.8 million). Strong earned $2.305 million in 2012.

Strong wasn't available for comment, but Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said the deal follows his philosophy of long-term stability. In October, the school extended the contract of men's basketball coach Rick Pitino five years through the 2021-22 season.

``I like stability,'' Jurich said, ``I believe in stability and both coaches have shown us everything we could possibly want as great leaders of young men, and as ambassadors for the university and the community. I think they're both great fits.''

Strong's third season with Louisville ended with a 33-23 upset of Florida in the Sugar Bowl three weeks ago, the school's second BCS bowl victory. The Cardinals (11-2) were ranked 13th in the final poll and won a share of the Big East Conference championship for the second straight year.

The deal comes more than a month after the 52-year-old Strong rejected an offer to become Tennessee's coach, saying he was staying because of Louisville's commitment to him and his relationship with players.

The contract extension is loaded with incentives, including a bonus of $308,333 for reaching a postseason bowl; $25,000 for winning the conference championship; up to $50,000 for a top-10 ranking; $100,000 for reaching a BCS bowl and another $100,000 if Louisville qualifies and wins the BCS championship.

Strong will also receive bonuses totaling $2.65 million if he remains Louisville coach from June 30, 2015 through June 30, 2018. The deal includes a buyout starting at $5 million if he breaks it this year.

``It's a very hefty buyout, but we want to make sure this is a long-term contract for both parties,'' Jurich added.

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Orioles clean house, fire 11 members of scouting and front office departments

Orioles clean house, fire 11 members of scouting and front office departments

Baltimore Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is dedicated to altering the direction of the organization and that was reciprocated Friday with the firing of 11 members of the scouting and front office departments.  

"We're in a period of change right now with the industry and we're in a period of change right now with the Orioles," Elias said. "Sometimes to make changes you've got to make changes."

Among those relieved were baseball operations director Tripp Norton, scouts Dean Albany, Jim Howard, John Gillette, Nathan Showalter, and Buck Showalter. 

Elias acknowledged the uphill battle ahead of filling numerous voids but insists it's just a part of the job 

"We're going to be very busy bringing people into this organization," he said. "This is just the organization moving along and adapting to the sport today."

Just one day removed from a judge confirming that the Orioles owe the Nationals nearly $300 million, Elias insisted this move isn't to save money.

"There are changes going on in the scouting business in terms of greater availability of information in general, video and data," Elias said. "There are instances where we will replace people's roles kind of man for man, head for head, spot for spot, but there's other instances where we're reconfiguring the way the scouts go about their business."

The O's will look completely different from this point out and players won't be the only changes.

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Sleep-deprived Nationals win one they probably shouldn’t have in Chicago behind Aníbal Sánchez

Sleep-deprived Nationals win one they probably shouldn’t have in Chicago behind Aníbal Sánchez

The clubhouse wears have never been packed so quickly. Washington was sprinting as a group to get out of Pittsburgh on Thursday night following another three-hour-plus game with a 1:20 p.m. local start looming in Wrigley Field on Friday.

Max Scherzer finished his postgame comments in less than four minutes, then quickly moved to get cleaned up and join the others. Most lockers were vacant by the time media members reached the clubhouse, which wasn’t long after the game ended. 

Despite the scramble for minutes saved, Friday was supposed to be a loss. Las Vegas knew. The players and management knew. It was a bad spot. Night game, onto a plane, then a day game against a team which played at home the previous afternoon, and was 44-19 there -- the second-best home record in the National League. 

And yet, Nationals 9, Cubs 3, and it wasn’t that close.

Some bloops fell, some situations turned out lucky. Though, Aníbal Sánchez dominated. No voodoo or charms were involved.

He went through 8 ⅓ innings before being removed after 112 pitches. He was provided a shot to finish the game -- just 15 National League pitchers have a complete game this season -- but couldn’t. A rare Anthony Rendon throwing error cost him an out, then his opportunity for a solo close to the afternoon in Chicago.

Sánchez threw 31 four-seam fastballs, 31 cutters and 28 “splitters” among his 112 pitches. He worked as a marionettist, pulling strings to change positions and outcomes throughout the day. Matt Grace finished the game. No high-end reliever was used, resetting a bullpen which had to cover five innings in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

The offense beat up Jon Lester. He didn’t make it out of the fifth inning. Everyone in the lineup -- including Sánchez -- picked up a hit. Trea Turner’s single extended his on-base streak to 30 games.

Sánchez’s work piggybacked on what the other starters did against woeful Pittsburgh. Nationals starters have allowed two earned runs in the first five games of this seven-game road trip. The offense has averaged 8.2 runs in that span. It’s hard to fathom they lost once with both sides operating in such fashion.

All of this is just a continuation of a massive turnaround. Washington is 52-26 since its nadir May 24. Only the Dodgers -- who host the Yankees on Friday night -- have a better record in that span, and by just a half-game. They have won 10 of 12 and 13 of 17. Fivethirtyeight.com now gives the Nationals a 90 percent chance to make the postseason (this includes the wild-card game).

Wins like Friday emphatically move that needle. The Cubs are trying to wind their way into the postseason. They were also set up for a clear advantage thanks to the schedule. Instead, Sánchez, throwing as slow as 68 mph and as fast as 91, controlled the day, the offense rolled through the afternoon and everyone was ready for bed after a surprise win.

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