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Matheny grateful Giants treated concussion trouble

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Matheny grateful Giants treated concussion trouble

It has been years now since Mike Matheny experienced the foggy, frightening concussion symptoms that caused him to miss his exit, forget things, lose focus - and, ultimately, forced the four-time Gold Glove catcher to retire from the game he had played since childhood.

Oddly enough, with the rookie manager's St. Louis Cardinals facing his former San Francisco franchise in the NL championship series, Matheny credits the Giants for protecting him back then.

``I didn't plan on being one of the poster boys for that,'' Matheny said before Game 2 on Monday night. ``That wasn't part of my exit strategy from the game. But it did happen. And I've been able to spend some time talking with some people and some doctors, people that are making a difference with this now.''

``And hopefully some parents and some people that are organizing, especially sports on the youth level, are paying closer attention and being smart with these kids,'' he said.

Concussions are much more closely monitored in most spots these days, though Matheny always felt the Giants did everything to find the most current experts and studies.

The 42-year-old Matheny played his last full season in 2005, his first year with San Francisco. He had a .239 career batting average with 67 home runs and 443 RBIs in 1,305 games for Milwaukee (1994-98), Toronto (1999), St. Louis (2000-04) and the Giants (2005-06).

He began the 2006 with the Giants, but didn't play again after May 31 following a series of foul tips he took in the mask. Doctors warned him that he was more susceptible to even further damage if he received another blow.

Matheny said it took 18 months for him to get back to normal. He also wasn't allowed to get his heart rate above 120, which is a relatively low level when it comes to the exertion levels for an athlete. Most pregnant women, for instance, are encouraged not to exceed 140.

On Monday, Matheny worked out so hard he got his heart rate to 160. He thanked Giants general manager Brian Sabean and former athletic trainer Stan Conte - now with the Dodgers - for stepping in when they did at a time when concussions were not always on the forefront.

He might not be managing now otherwise.

``They were very proactive in trying to find somebody that could look into this a little deeper,'' Matheny said. ``Very grateful for that. But it is a heightened awareness, I believe not just in our sport but all across the board. And I think people are starting to get to the point to realize this is a brain injury. And the word concussion, (the) term concussion, I think, almost lightens what's really going on there. Not necessarily a severe brain injury, but can lead to it if not looked at seriously.''

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HE'LL MANAGE: New York Yankees bench coach Tony Pena was in Boston on Monday, interviewing for the Red Sox managing job that opened when Bobby Valentine was recently fired.

The 55-year-old Pena was the 2003 AL Manager of the Year with Kansas City. He was honored after leading the Royals to a winning season, their only one since 1994.

A five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove catcher, Pena has ties to the Red Sox. He played for Boston from 1990-93 and his son, Tony Jr., spent the last two years pitching in Triple-A for the Red Sox.

Pena has been the Yankees' bench coach for four years, following three seasons as their first base coach.

``Tony is a good baseball guy, one of the guys that played in the game for almost 20 years,'' Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said Monday. ``As soon as he got out of the game as a player, he went into it as a coach. He knows baseball from both sides, being a catcher, he is the ultimate field general.''

``He has a lot of energy. He has thrown so much batting practice here, I think his arm has slowed down a little bit,'' he said. ``I don't know how much BP he will be throwing if he is the manager. But other than that, you couldn't ask for a better baseball man.''

The Red Sox recently interviewed Dodgers coach Tim Wallach and plan to talk to former big league catcher Brad Ausmus.

``I haven't spent any time in Boston on the home side, so I am not sure what personality they are looking for. But I know we love Tony here,'' Teixeira said.

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SOCCER DAYS: At age 5, San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford was playing youth soccer with Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso in the Bay Area.

Crawford only knows that they teammates on the Peninsula south of San Francisco because his dad told so. His father reminded him of that back when the two were teenagers and Babe Ruth opponents on the baseball field.

Descalso believes Crawford on all of it.

``I'm not sure, I can't verify that,'' Descalso said with a smile on the field for pregame work before Game 2 of the NL championship series against Crawford's Giants. ``If he says it, I'll take his word on it.''

Both young infielders stopped playing soccer by age 11 or 12 to focus on other sports. Crawford, who had moved across San Francisco Bay to suburban Pleasanton, began playing football.

While Descalso said he split his soccer time as a goalie and forward, Crawford figures at that age it was a free-for-all as far as specific positions.

``I think everybody plays everything, kind of like T-ball in baseball,'' he said.

The two still have some mutual friends, and Crawford said he spoke to Descalso while on the basepaths during Game 1 on Sunday night at AT&T Park.

``He's a great player. He's scrappy,'' Crawford said. ``He's kind of the definition of the Cardinals and how they play, just grinds out hits, has power, plays good defense. Made a great play last night to kind of stop our rally there.''

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DISPLEASED DONALD: First, it was the home fans booing while the Yankees dropped the first two games of the ALCS to Detroit. Now, Donald Trump is chiming in.

Trump called on star Alex Rodriguez to donate his contract to charity.

``He doesn't make the (at)yankees any money and he doesn't perform,'' Trump tweeted. ``He is a $30M/yr rip off.''

Rodriguez is 3 for 23 this year in the playoffs, but he wasn't the only Yankees player that Trump gave a hard time. Derek Jeter is out for the season after breaking his ankle in Game 1 of this series, and Trump needled him a bit for his real estate decisions.

``Derek Jeter had a great career until 3 days ago when he sold his apartment at Trump World Tower,'' Trump tweeted. ``I told him not to sell- karma?''

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.