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One valuable Panda: Sandoval is World Series MVP

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One valuable Panda: Sandoval is World Series MVP

DETROIT (AP) Pablo Sandoval not only has baseball's neatest nickname, Kung Fu Panda has a World Series MVP award to go along with it.

Sandoval took home the trophy following the San Francisco Giants' sweep of Detroit, hitting .500 with three home runs, a double and four RBIs in 16 Series at-bats.

``I was ready for the moment,'' he said after a 4-3 victory in 10 innings Sunday night. ``It's just an incredible moment you're never going to forget.''

This Panda works with maple, not bamboo.

Sandoval got the Giants off to a powerful start by hitting three homers in the opener against the Tigers, becoming the fourth player to accomplish that feat in a World Series game.

He made his big league debut on Aug. 14, 2008, and earned his nickname just a month later. That Sept. 19 at Dodger Stadium, Sandoval scored from second on Bengie Molina's first-inning single off Greg Maddux, leaping sideways to avoid catcher Danny Ardoin's lunging tag on the throw from center fielder Matt Kemp.

Maddux and Dodgers manager Joe Torre argued Sandoval ran out of the baseline. Barry Zito, on the mound for the Giants that night, coined the nickname for Sandoval's oversized personality and roly-poly shape - the animated film ``Kung Fu Panda'' had been released in theaters that June.

``The Panda has special powers,'' Zito said in the middle of champagne spray in the Giants' crowded clubhouse. ``I watched that movie and thought, he's a guy that if you see him, you may not think he's so athletic, and then all of sudden, you're like, wow! This guy is one of the better players in baseball.''

And the jovial Sandoval loved the moniker.

``It's me. The character is me,'' he said. ``Have fun, like a little kid, fight for everything, never lose faith. It's important when you have teammates thinking that way, you are that guy.''

While Sandoval hit .330 in 2009 and finished second to Hanley Ramirez in the NL batting race, the Giants launched ``Operation Panda'' that offseason, telling him to ditch the Big Macs, fries and milkshakes in favor of chicken breast on wheat bread, watermelon slices, bananas and oranges. He started lifting.

Sandoval's weight is listed at 240 on the Giants' website, 235 on the players' site. At one point, he had been up to at least 272.

``I just want to keep that a secret,'' he said three years ago, trying to avoid an exact number.

By the time the 2010 World Series rolled around, when the Giants won their first title in 56 years, Sandoval was benched for four of five games following a slump. His weight had gone up again, and his batting average had gone down to .268. He made 13 errors and grounded into a league-high 26 double plays.

``I know it was a tough time in 2010 when he got relegated to the bench there,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ``He really wanted to, I think, shine on stage. He's a great talent and we got him hot at the right time.''

Sandoval hit .369 this postseason with five doubles, six homers and 13 RBIs. Quite a turnaround from his .176 average with two RBIs two years ago.

He has come a long way since then. He hired a personal chef. He ran up desert hills in Arizona during the offseason, causing him to throw up regularly. Sandoval's average rebounded to .315, and he made his first All-Star team. Then at this summer's showcase in Kansas City, he hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star history, a drive off Justin Verlander in a five-run first inning that helped secure home-field advantage for the NL in the World Series.

After Sandoval went deep three times in the opener, matching the Series record shared by Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols, the Giants sold 760 more of their furry panda hats, including 466 at AT&T Park during Game 2. Venezuela President Hugo Chavez tweeted, ``Pablo going down in history! Long live Venezuela!!''

``I still can't believe that game. It's the game of your dreams,'' Sandoval said. ``You don't want to wake up.''

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AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

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The Caps showed flashes of their mentality with shorthanded win in Colorado

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The Caps showed flashes of their mentality with shorthanded win in Colorado

On November 16, 2017, the Washington Capitals were handed a brutal 6-2 loss in Denver at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche. It was the second blowout loss the team had suffered in as many games and dropped the Caps’ record to 10-9-1. That moment would be the low point of the season.

A year to the day, the Caps returned to Denver. They were given every reason to quit Friday and repeat last year’s disastrous result and yet, the Caps rallied for a 3-2 overtime win to improve their record to 9-7-3.

Coming off a loss Wednesday in Winnipeg, Washington found out earlier on Friday that the team would be without both T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov who had both suffered injuries against the Jets. In net, Braden Holtby was out as well meaning the Caps would have to turn to backup goalie Pheonix Copley for his third start in as many games. Backing him up would be Ilya Samsonov, a highly touted prospect but a player without a single minute of NHL experience.

And, just in case that all did not seem daunting enough, the Caps also spotted the Avalanche a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds into the game.

One year ago, the Caps gave up the first goal of that game just 17 seconds in. When Colorado scored early again, it felt like Friday’s game was going to end up being just like that blowout loss from a year ago.

But it didn’t.

“We were shorthanded, everyone stepped up,” Tom Wilson said. “We talked about guys stepping up before the game and we got it done.”

The Capitals battled back and took control of the game in the first and second periods, tallying two goals to take a 2-1 lead. A late goal by Colorado would tie the game, but Todd Reirden reminded his players of what happened in Montreal – a game in which the Caps gave up three goals in the final four minutes of the game to lose 6-4 – and challenged them not to let that happen again. The team responded.

With all the momentum on the side of the Avalanche, Devante Smith-Pelly drew a holding penalty with less than two minutes remaining and Nicklas Backstrom would score on the resulting power play in overtime.

“When you have a lot of guys hurt, it was nice to see that we really got together, played a good defensive game, everyone was on the same page and blocking shots and doing all the little things right,” Backstrom said.

The game was reminiscent of the Game 6 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last season. With one win separating them from advancing to the conference final, Washington had to somehow find a way to beat their biggest rival in Pittsburgh and they had to do it with no Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky or Tom Wilson. When their backs were against the wall, the Caps responded and managed to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champions 2-1 in overtime.

“It was important for guys to step up in different situations with obviously very key guys out, but we did it in the playoffs,” Smith-Pelly said. “We had key guys out at times. I guess this group is used to guys coming in and out and stepping up.”

The Caps returned most of their Stanley Cup winning roster for the 2018-19 season and fans have been waiting for this year’s team to start playing like last year’s again. A record of 8-7-3 heading into Friday’s game was hardly what people expected from this team early on.

But the win in Colorado was one of the team’s most impressive wins of the season, and perhaps the closest Washington has come since the 7-0 win in the opener to looking like that championship squad. Not because they looked dominant – they didn’t – but because when their backs were against the wall, you saw what this team was really made of mentally. Every time they were challenged in the playoffs – whether it was going down 2-0 to Columbus, playing the unbeatable Penguins, facing elimination against Tampa Bay or facing the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights – the Caps responded.

On Friday, Washington was challenged and again, and the Caps responded.

Last year’s game in Colorado proved to be a turning point. The team was at a cross-roads. They could check out and watch the inevitable coaching and roster shakeup happen, or they could rally to save the season. The Caps made a choice and the rest is history.

Maybe Friday’s game will mean nothing in the greater context of the 82-game season, or maybe this game will again prove to be a turning point. Maybe in the spring we will again circle Nov. 16 and remember it as the game in which the defending champs put the rest of the league on notice that they’re still here, they’re still the champs and they’re not going down without a fight.

“Every time we have injuries, it’s going to happen and it’s going to get other guys to get that opportunity,” Backstrom said. "I thought we played pretty good today, we didn’t give them a whole lot. That was a nice win, we needed that.”

UVA vs. Georgia Tech How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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UVA vs. Georgia Tech How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Virginia Cavaliers football team is coming off a 21-pt victory last week and has won four of their last five games, yet is an underdog on the road against Georgia Tech.

UVA, at 4-2 (7-3 overall), is trying to stay alive in the ACC Coastal, led by the Pitt Panthers entering Saturday's action. Georgia Tech is also coming into the game on a hot streak, having won five of its last six matchups.

The Yellow Jackets are two games behind Pitt in the loss column, sitting at 4-3 in ACC play, and will finish up their regular season next week at 5th-ranked Georgia. UVA will wrap up on the road as well, facing in-state rival Virginia Tech.

Georgia Tech is favored over UVA by 4.5 points. Here's how to watch.

UVA CAVALIERS vs. GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS: HOW TO WATCH

What: University of Virginia Cavaliers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium at Grant Field, located in Atlanta, GA.

When: Saturday, November 17 at 3:30 p.m. EST

TV Channel: The Virginia Cavaliers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)