Nationals

No. 11 South Carolina dominates with defense

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No. 11 South Carolina dominates with defense

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) South Carolina's stout defense keeps beating up Clemson's high-powered offense, and it has tipped the scales of the bitter rivalry in favor of the No. 11 Gamecocks.

The No. 15 Tigers ran 23 fewer plays, gained 207 fewer yards and scored 28 fewer points than they averaged all year in Saturday's 27-17 loss to South Carolina.

The Gamecocks have done similar things to the Tigers to earn only their second four-game winning streak of the 116-year-old rivalry. Clemson has scored 17 points or less just 11 times in the past four seasons, and four of those have been against the Gamecocks. The Tigers have averaged 414 yards a game since 2009, but gained an average of 248 yards against their in-state rivals.

The reason has been simple, said South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. The Gamecocks play a more physical style in the tougher Southeastern Conference, and Clemson comes in unprepared after facing eight Atlantic Coast Conference defenses, said Ward, who has coached at least a part of the defense for the four-year winning streak.

Just look at sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney pushed hard to get the local high school star to play for the Tigers, but he came to South Carolina instead. After his 4 1/2-sack performance Saturday, he has 5 1/2 sacks in two games and promised Gamecocks fans they would never lose to their rivals again as long as he is on the field.

At just about the same time, Swinney was upstairs apologizing to fans and his seniors.

``It's the ACC versus the SEC. Everybody knows where the most physical ball comes out of - the SEC. We came out trying to be really physical, push them around and show them who was tougher,'' Clowney said.

Clowney's sacks made him the leader in the nation with 21 1/2 tackles for loss this season. He's also the leader of a defense that ranks 13th in the country and simply shut down the nation's eighth-ranked offense.

Clemson's offensive line didn't allow a sack in two previous games against Maryland and North Carolina State, who each came in as the ACC leader in sacks. The Gamecocks got to Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd six times Saturday.

``We got down and they just pinned their ears back and rushed the quarterback, so it was tough. Our offense is built a lot on being able to get into a rhythm and we were not able to do that,'' said Clemson center Dalton Freeman, who will leave school without ever beating the Gamecocks.

Boyd has taken the brunt of the defensive pressure. Since replacing Kyle Parker in the third quarter of Clemson's 29-7 loss in 2010, he has completed 32 of 71 passes for 339 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He has been sacked 14 times and has rushed 36 times for a total of minus-15 yards.

It was a regression for Boyd, who set school records this season with 34 touchdown passes and a total of 43 TDs running and passing.

``We were in a situation where we didn't have much time and tried to force things. We pressed too much,'' Boyd said.

With his starting quarterback and running back out injured, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was glad to turn to his defense, as he has often during his eight years with the Gamecocks.

``I'm really, really proud of our defense,'' Spurrier said. ``That's one of the best offenses in the country, and we held them down fairly well to 17 points.''

Perhaps the best way to put the shift in the rivalry into perspective is to talk to DeVonte Holloman. The South Carolina senior has picked off passes against Clemson in 2009, 2010 and 2012 and is part of the first senior class to leave the Gamecocks without losing to the Tigers.

``History doesn't really have anything to do with anybody that's here now,'' Holloman said. ``We're trying to start our own history, so whatever happened before we got here, we threw that out the window.''

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Cubs drop protest, but not stance about Sean Doolittle's delivery

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Cubs drop protest, but not stance about Sean Doolittle's delivery

WASHINGTON -- Sunday afternoon’s discussions still revolved around Saturday night’s close, which Washington manager Davey Martinez referred to as a “fiasco” on Sunday.

Chicago manager Joe Maddon started a chaotic situation when he popped out of the dugout following Sean Doolittle’s first pitch in the ninth inning Saturday. Maddon contended Doolittle’s “toe-tap” was an illegal delivery, akin to when Chicago reliever Carl Edwards Jr. tried to add a pause in spring training, but was told the move was illegal.

The umpires told him, and Doolittle, the delivery was legal. Chicago filed a protest with the league. After consulting with Major League Baseball and MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, Joe Torre, the Cubs dropped their protest Sunday morning.

A point of differentiation is whether the pitcher is taking a second step. Umpires previously determined Edwards was taking a second step. They determined Doolittle was not. This is a judgment call for the umpires and is not reviewable.

Official Baseball Rule 5.07(a) states in part: “The pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is a runner, or runners, on base it is a balk under Rule 6.02(a); if the bases are unoccupied it is an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b).”

The league, according to Maddon, said there is a difference between Edwards placing his full foot on the ground and Doolittle grazing the mound with a cleat when he delivered. Maddon continued to not agree with the interpretation.

“We went through the whole process,” Maddon said. “Our guys in the office spoke to MLB and I talked to Mr. Torre. The whole thing I wanted to really get done was protect Carl. I really didn’t anticipate a whole lot to be done with it. Even though I still don’t agree with the conclusion, because I think it’s exactly what Carl did, only a different version of it. But the point was, I would not be a good parent if I had not spoken up for my guy. And that’s what I was doing last night and, again, it’s just to eliminate any gray area there just for future because it’s going to happen again down the road somewhere and you’re just trying to delineate what is right and what is wrong. In my mind, it wasn’t a judgment call, I thought it was black-and-white. It wasn’t gray.”

Maddon said multiple times that Doolittle tapped with his toe in addition to grazing the mound, both of which, he contended, were not legal or different than Edwards' attempt at deception.

The congenial Doolittle was steamed postgame Saturday and remained irritated Sunday. Saturday, he took multiple shots at Maddon during his postgame commentary. He also taunted the idea when throwing warmup pitches while Maddon argued with umpires by making exaggerated kicks with his leg and multiple stops with his foot. Doolittle switched to a delivery without any stops -- one he often uses -- after the protest as a way to show Maddon he didn’t need the tweak to be successful.

“In that moment, he's not trying to do anything other than rattle me and it was kind of tired,” Doolittle said Saturday. “I don't know. Sometimes he has to remind people how smart he is and how much he pays attention to the game and stuff like that. He put his stamp on it for sure.

"I actually have to thank him. After they came out the second, the [Kyle] Schwarber at-bat, I threw two fastballs and a slider and a fastball to [Kris] Bryant and those were probably the best ones I've thrown in a while. I don't do the tap when there's somebody on base so I can keep my pickoff move available if I need it. I've had a lot of traffic recently, so I've had practice doing it, so it wasn't like a huge adjustment to me. I don't know. In a way, I kind of need to thank him."

Asked Sunday if Doolittle’s comments were relayed to him, Maddon smiled and said yes.

“Listen, I have no issue with that whatsoever,” Maddon said. “We’re all emotional. I’ve said a lot of things I didn’t want to say years ago -- even in this ballpark. I think if he understood the entire context, he might have had a different opinion. Even if he was the manager himself -- if he was me -- or if he was being protected by his manager under similar circumstances, I think his stance may be different.”

No one -- the league, Maddon or Doolittle -- changed their perspective a day later.

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

The St. Louis Blues won a decisive Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks 5-0, pushing the Sharks to the brink of elimination.

The Blues are now one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final since the 1969-70 season, where they lost to the Boston Bruins in a sweep.

St. Louis started the scoring early when Oskar Sundqvist netted his second goal of the series in the first five minutes of the game. 

Jaden Schwartz then tallied his first goal of the game off a juicy rebound in front of Martin Jones to start the scoring in the second period. It was Schwartz's 10th goal of the playoffs, which tied him for third all-time in Blues history for goals in the postseason.

Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Blues lead off a penalty shot. He's the first player in Blues franchise history to score a penalty shot goal in the playoffs.

Schwartz then added two more goals in the third period for a hat-trick. The first came on a 5-on-3 power play advantage off a scramble in front of the net, and the second came from a backdoor one-timer pass from Tarasenko.

Schwartz now has 12 goals these playoffs, and it's his second hat-trick of the playoffs.

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington recorded 21 saves for a shutout, and he's the first rookie goalie to accomplish that feat for the Blues.

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