Nationals

A's rally past Tigers 4-3 to force Game 5

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A's rally past Tigers 4-3 to force Game 5

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Dog-pile celebrations and whipped cream pies became a regular occurrence this season for the Oakland Athletics.

Perhaps none was as improbable or memorable as this last one, which made sure a season filled with dramatic endings wouldn't end just yet.

Seth Smith hit a game-tying, two-run double off closer Jose Valverde in the ninth inning, Coco Crisp capped Oakland's rally with a two-out RBI single, and the A's staved off elimination for a second straight night with a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 Wednesday night.

``This club, we've been battling the whole year, giving 100 percent, and these walkoffs have been our MO this year,'' Crisp said.

The A's rode a major league-leading 14 walkoff wins in the regular season to an improbable AL West title. Those paled in comparison to No. 15, which set up a win-or-go-home Game 5 against Justin Verlander and the Tigers.

Josh Reddick led off the ninth with a single just under the glove of diving second baseman Omar Infante. Josh Donaldson followed with a double off the wall in left-center and both runners scored on Smith's double. Two outs later, Crisp lined a single and Smith scored easily when right fielder Avisail Garcia couldn't handle the ball.

That set off a raucous celebration near first base as the A's poured out of the dugout to mob Crisp, who was the recipient of a whipped cream pie that became a custom in this remarkable season in Oakland. This marked the second time the A's erased a two-run deficit in the ninth inning to win a postseason game, the other coming in Game 5 of the 1929 World Series.

Crisp ended three games with RBIs this season, tied for most in the majors. And like the others, this one ended with Reddick nailing him with a whipped cream pie during a postgame television interview.

``He's been our walkoff leader all year,'' Reddick said. ``Once we got into that situation, I think everybody in the dugout knew he was going to come through for us. Once we get one or two runners on with that situation we have a really good feeling that we're going to win the ballgame. He's been clutch for us in the ninth inning.''

Ryan Cook retired four batters for the win.

The A's, who have the lowest payroll in baseball, need just one more surprising result to win their second postseason series since 1990. Rookie Jarrod Parker will take the mound in Game 5 on Thursday night against Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young winner and MVP.

``That's why this is the greatest game of all,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ``It looked like we were going to get it. We didn't do it. We didn't quite get the 27 outs, that's part of the game. You get tested all the time in this game. And this is a good test.''

The Tigers looked to be in prime position to advance to their second straight ALCS and have a rested Verlander for Game 1 when they took a 3-1 lead into the ninth behind a strong start from Max Scherzer and a homer from Prince Fielder.

Now the A's are one win away from repeating last week's three-game sweep of Texas that gave them the AL West title on the final day of the regular season. After losing the first two games in Detroit, the A's won 2-0 in Game 3 and are looking to become the eighth team to rally from two games down to win a best-of-five series.

``There's no ending yet,'' Oakland closer Grant Balfour said. ``I'm hoping that the ending comes at the end of October. I hope there's a period at the end of the story. It's an unbelievable story. It just keeps going. And we're going to take it out there tomorrow and give it everything, just like we have the last two games. If we can do that then I like our chances.''

The San Francisco Giants will have a shot to do it as well earlier Thursday when they face Cincinnati in Game 5 of their NL division series.

Scherzer, who was dealing with shoulder, deltoid and ankle injuries late in the season, looked in top form against the A's. He allowed just one baserunner in the first four innings and struck out seven of the first 15 batters he faced.

The A's finally got to Scherzer for an unearned run in the sixth. Crisp reached when Fielder misplayed a hard grounder to first base into a two-base error. Crisp advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Stephen Drew's double to right-center. But the A's ran themselves out of a potential big inning when Drew was easily thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.

Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke both retired a batter to get out of the sixth and Al Alburquerque pitched a perfect seventh in his first appearance since his memorable kiss of the baseball on a comebacker by Yoenis Cespedes in Game 2. Joaquin Benoit escaped a first-and-second jam in the eighth by striking out Brandon Moss, but Valverde couldn't close it.

``This is the toughest moment in my whole career,'' Valverde said. ``I had everything. These guys hit it. There's nothing I can do.''

NOTES: This is the seventh postseason walkoff win for the A's in franchise history and first since Ramon Hernandez won it with a squeeze bunt in the 2003 division series against Boston. ... A.J. Griffin allowed two runs in 5-plus innings. He was the third Oakland rookie pitcher to start a game this series, the most ever by a team in a single postseason. The A's used just two rookie starting pitchers in 147 postseason games before this year: Joe Bush in the 1913 World Series and Barry Zito in the 2000 division series. ... Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has reached base in all 15 postseason games with the Tigers but has no RBIs this series.

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Nationals the latest team to extend protective netting in stadium

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Nationals the latest team to extend protective netting in stadium

The Nationals return to the nation’s capital Monday night for their first homestand of the season’s second half. When they do, players and fans may notice a slight change at Nationals Park: extended netting.

The issue of extending protective netting down the lines of baseball stadiums has grown more and more prominent in recent years, especially with the rash of avoidable injuries fans are incurring on foul balls.

As hitters have grown stronger and exit velocities have skyrocketed, it’s become harder for fans in certain sections to protect themselves or their children from these dangerous shots into the crowd.

More and more teams have announced plans to extend the netting at their stadiums all the way down the lines, though it’s come with a little (misguided) controversy.

Monday night marks the debut of the Nationals’ extended netting.

“Throughout Major League Baseball there have been some tragic incidents this year,” Nationals VP of Public Safety and Security Scott Fear explained in a statement priovided by the team. “So we at the Washington Nationals decided to extend the netting to make sure our fans are safe.”

“And that’s what this is all about,” Fear continued. “We want to protect our fans, the children, the adults, everyone that comes to the game, to make sure they have a great time without worrying about being hurt.”

Perhaps in anticipation of some pushback from fans concerned about a diminished view, the Nats were quick to describe the new netting as being nearly see-through.

Plus, with the changes, the Nationals installed retractable netting, allowing it to come down prior to gametime. This will afford fans even more opportunities to interact with players and ask for pregame autographs and pictures.

“This is something we feel is going to be very positive, and our fans will feel safe being here watching the game,” Fear concluded.

Ultimately, safety should be the number one priority of any major franchise, the Nationals included. They are one of the first teams to embrace this change in the name of safety, and they certainly won’t be the last.

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Trent Williams will not report to Richmond to open training camp, per report

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USA Today Sports

Trent Williams will not report to Richmond to open training camp, per report

Trent Williams will not report to training camp this week when the Redskins head to Richmond to officially begin their 2019 season, according to NFL Network.

The news comes as no surprise, as Williams missed all of the Redskins voluntary offseason workouts and skipped the team's mandatory minicamp in June. Reports streamed out that Williams was upset about his contract and looking for a new deal -- not to mention reports that he was angry with the team's medical staff after a missed diagnosis with a growth on his scalp. 

Williams has made no official statements, and the Redskins organization offered very little in terms of a timeline for his return. Washington team president Bruce Allen said he knows "the truth" about Williams' situation, and head coach Jay Gruden said he hoped things would be resolved before Week 1 in Philadelphia. 

A seven-time Pro Bowler, Williams is arguably the best left tackle in the NFL. He's an immensely talented offensive lineman with two years remaining on his deal. Beyond the medical situation, Williams could be upset that in 2020, the final year of his deal, there is hardly any guaranteed cash. The team could release Williams with less than $2 million in salary cap penalty and save nearly $13 million against the cap. 

Without Williams, the Redskins could be in real trouble. Second-year pro Geron Christian did not seem capable of playing at a starting tackle level last fall, and that was before a knee injury landed him on IR. Morgan Moses should be locked in as the right tackle, but opposite him in Williams' spot will be dicey. 

Multiple sources with the Redskins and around the NFL suggested more cash could change Williams' mind before Week 1, and for now, it looks like the 31-year-old will be waiting for that increased payday. If Williams missed actual games, he would begin to lose money from this year's $14 million salary.

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