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A-Rod committed to 'hard road back' after surgery

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A-Rod committed to 'hard road back' after surgery

MIAMI (AP) Alex Rodriguez went to see doctors with hopes of finding something wrong. When they actually located a problem, only then did he start feeling a bit better.

The New York Yankees' third baseman said Saturday that plans set for him to have surgery on his left hip in mid-January, and that he's eager to embrace the challenge of coming back from both the operation and an unbelievably abysmal finish to last season.

It's expected that Rodriguez, who will be making his sixth trip to the disabled list in six seasons, could be sidelined until the All-Star break.

``I'm not concerned,'' Rodriguez said. ``I'm actually, in many ways, relieved that there's something tangible that we can go fix.''

Rodriguez had surgery on his right hip in 2009, missed about the first month of the season and still finished with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs - plus helped the Yankees win the World Series. This surgery is more complex, since it'll repair not only a torn labrum but also a bone impingement and a cyst. The surgery is next month because it was determined he needed some time to strengthen the hip first.

``I am fully committed to a very hard road back,'' Rodriguez said. ``We've done it before in `09 and it was a great result, both on a personal level and on a team level, more importantly. I take it as a great challenge and I'm excited for the challenge.''

Rodriguez is a 14-time All-Star and baseball's priciest player, with his current deal being worth $275 million.

He batted .120 (3 for 25) with no RBIs in last season's playoffs, including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitchers. He was benched and replaced by a pinch hitter in key spotsl, too.

Rodriguez originally thought he was having issues with the right hip again - he wasn't - and it wasn't until November that the issues within the left hip were detected. Now knowing that something was wrong, Rodriguez said a lot of things from last season - particularly how it ended - make more sense.

``It was definitely an unfortunate situation,'' Rodriguez said. ``And if we knew, I think we could have avoided the bloody bath of the last two weeks. Obviously, that wasn't fun. It was quite miserable, to be honest with you.''

Rodriguez finished this past regular season batting .272 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs. He now has 647 career homers, fifth-most in baseball history and 13 shy of the No. 4 player on that list, Willie Mays.

Rodriguez was in Miami, the city he calls home, on Saturday to host a pair of events for children - his basketball tournament which he started a decade ago, and a toy giveaway at a Boys & Girls Club where he was a member until getting drafted by the Seattle Mariners.

He addressed about 150 players at a breakfast honoring the eight basketball teams in the morning, telling them stories about his upbringing and earliest days as a student and athlete that many in the room did not likely know.

``You're probably sitting there saying, `Now, how can you relate with us? You play for the Yankees. You make all this money. You date so-and-so,''' Rodriguez told the basketball players. ``What you guys don't know is we're all alike. I was sitting in that chair just 15, 18 years ago. My mom had two jobs. I didn't know if I would ever have a steak dinner. That didn't exist in my house.''

He also met privately with some of the athletes afterward, advising them about upcoming decisions, such as what to look for in a college. Rodriguez also posed for several photos with the teams and their coaches.

``I can't say enough good things about him,'' said Brother Kevin Handibode, the president of Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, where Rodriguez attended as a freshman. ``I know about all the good work he does, and you don't hear about it. You just don't hear about the good that Alex has done in a very, very quiet way.''

Later, at his afternoon event, Rodriguez donned a Christmas hat and handed out toys for about 30 minutes, everything from basketballs to bicycles to Barbie dolls.

He isn't exactly sure what the next few weeks will entail; there's no firm date for the surgery and the plans for his rehabilitation are still largely being worked out.

``I think I'm definitely going to play,'' Rodriguez said. ``We've been down this road before. We have a good plan. We have a good team in place.''

The Yankees have pursued former Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis in recent days, and Rodriguez gave the longtime New York foe a glowing recommendation when asked about him on Saturday.

``Youk has always been a tough out,'' Rodriguez said. ``He's a tough player, a winning player. Whatever the franchise wants to do, I think that'll be a good move for us.''

Several times on Saturday, he drew the parallel back to 2009, when he started the season rehabbing from hip surgery and the Yankees wound up winning a championship. He can envision a similar script in 2013.

``Don't count us out,'' Rodriguez said. ``We are the New York Yankees.''

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Capitals and Islanders have produced legendary Stanley Cup playoff moments

Capitals and Islanders have produced legendary Stanley Cup playoff moments

The Capitals and Islanders have played seven times in the Stanley Cup playoffs with the eighth on tap starting Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto in the midst of a pandemic.

This isn’t where we thought we’d be early in the 2019-20 NHL season. It still doesn’t seem real with neutral sites and empty buildings. But this matchup is one we thought would happen last spring. One goal was all that stood between a rematch between New York and coach Barry Trotz and the team he led to the Stanley Cup the year before. 

Alas, the Capitals gave up a goal in Game 7 at home to the Carolina Hurricanes and never got the chance. The Islanders were swept right out of the postseason and we were denied a fascinating matchup between Trotz and Todd Reirden, his assistant coach in Washington for four years.

Little did we know we just had to wait a little longer. The Capitals and Islanders have history far beyond just their coaches. Some of the NHL’s most memorable moments took place in the Stanley Cup playoffs between these Metropolitan Division rivals. Here is a look back at some of the best:

April 10, 1983
The Capitals were just happy to be here. Two years after the desperate “Save the Caps” campaign kept hockey in Washington, their first playoff series came against the three-time defending champions. The Islanders kept their crown.

The plucky Caps weren’t quite ready. But they took Game 2 at famed Nassau Coliseum and were tied 1-1 at Capital Centre in Game 4 when New York, led by Mike Bossy, scored three straight times. Washington kept fighting with a Kent Houston goal at 11:34 of the third period to make it 4-3 before the champs put them away with a second Bossy goal with 2:46 to play.  

April 16, 1985
The first true Caps playoff collapse. The two teams met in the second round of the 1984 playoffs after Washington won its first playoff series. And while the Islanders’ dynasty came to an end that year, it wouldn’t be until they were dethroned by Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers.

The old crew still had enough to dispatch the Capitals in five games. But in 1985? No that was different. An aging New York fell behind 2-0 in a best-of-five series with overtime losses at a rocking Capital Centre. This felt different. Washington was the better team during the regular season – third-best in the NHL. 

But a pair of losses at Nassau set the stage for Game 5 at Capital Centre. For the third year in a row, the Capitals fell short. A goal in the first, a goal in the second and New York was up 2-0, the crowd was tight. That’s familiar. It all started back then and took Washington another 33 years to shake the demons. A Bobby Carpenter goal 29 seconds into the third period gave the Capitals life, but veteran goalie Billy Smith stopped 39 of 40 shots. New York only had 22. The first of many shocking playoff collapses. 

RELATED: CAPS VS. ISLANDERS GAME 1 - WHAT TO EXPECT NOW THAT THE GAMES MATTER

April 18, 1987
The Easter Epic. One of the great games in NHL history. The Capitals finally beat the Islanders in the first round in 1986 in a three-game sweep. This time they were up 3-1 in a best-of-seven first-round series and headed home to finish it off. Uh oh. “3-1” and the Caps never have mixed. They have blown that lead five times now. It’s only happened 28 times in league history.

But this was the very first. A game that began on a Saturday evening, ended at 1:56 a.m. on Easter morning. It is now the 11th longest game in league history after Tuesday night's five-overtime fiasco between Tampa Bay and Columbus. They played 68:47 of overtime into Easter morning before Pat LaFontaine’s spinning shot from just inside the blueline beat Washington goalie Bob Mason, who stood in shock in the crease for 10 seconds before dropping exhausted to a knee while the Islanders celebrated. It remains one of the sport's iconic moments. 

April 28, 1993
The Capitals and Islanders needed a break from each other after playing five years in a row in the postseason. Six years later they met again under different circumstances. The 1992 Capitals had blown their second 3-1 series lead to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins. But they returned a solid team that finished second in the Patrick Division, a slight favorite over New York, hoping for another shot at Pittsburgh. 

Instead, an insanely frustrating series followed. The Islanders won Games 2 and 4 in double overtime and Game 3 in regular old overtime. Just like that they were up 3-1. Washington staved off elimination at home in Game 5. But Nassau Coliseum was a House of Horrors. There would be no Game 7. 

Dale Hunter opened the scoring for the Capitals in the first period. But the Islanders were up 3-1 after the second period and the old barn was roaring. Another goal made it 4-1 and with 8:31 to play, Pierre Turgeon put Washington away with a fifth goal. The crowd had been chanting “Nah-Nah-Nah-Nah, Hey-Hey-Hey, Goodbye!” The season had slipped away again. Hunter then lost his mind.

 After a Hunter turnover, Turgeon deked on goal and scored, skating with his arms raised looking up into the crowd. He never saw Hunter following him like a shark for three seconds. He never sensed the check that was about to come well after the goal that buried him into the boards. The Islanders won the series. But Turgeon missed the ensuing series against the Penguins with a separated right shoulder. New York won that anyway before its Cinderella run ended in the Eastern Conference Final against eventual champion Montreal. 

Hunter was hit with a 21-game suspension to start the following year and it’s still considered among the dirtiest hits in NHL history. 

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April 28, 2015

The Islanders and Capitals took another long break from each other but that was mostly because New York stunk. It made the playoffs just six times in the next 20 years and didn’t win a series.

That looked to change in 2015 – Trotz’s first with Washington – when a back-and-forth series with an overtime win for each team went to a Game 7. Given the Alex Ovechkin-led Caps had lost a Game 7 at home in 2008 (Flyers), 2009 (Penguins), 2010 (Canadiens) and 2013 (Rangers), the home crowd was a little tense.

 A 1-1 game for most of the third period became unbearable. It took a young Russian with a flair for the dramatic to make the difference. No, not Ovechkin. Evgeny Kuznetsov had his back to the play near the right circle against the boards, baited Frans Nielson to skate up behind him and then turned on a dime and blew toward the center of the ice. 

No one stopped him. Kuznetsov took the puck across the middle and almost down to the opposite goaline, waiting for Jaroslav Halak to sprawl to the ice – the man who stunned Washington in goal for Montreal in that crushing 2010 series. The lead held for the final 7:18 and for once a Game 7 didn’t end in tears for Capitals fans. That would happen in the second round when the Rangers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit and won Game 7 in overtime. You can’t win them all. 

Kuznetsov insisted to NBC Sports Washington's Rob Carlin this past spring that it is that Game 7 goal against New York that remains his favorite and not the Game 6 OT winner against Pittsburgh during the Stanley Cup run in 2018. Whether that's just kuzy being Kuzy, who knows? They're both epic and wonderful moments in franchise history. 

Playoff series No. 8 between the Capitals and Islanders has enough storylines to fit in a Stanley Cup Final. Let's see if they can add another memorable chapter to 37 years of history starting Wednesday afternoon. 

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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Orioles win wild extra inning game 10-9 in Philadelphia

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Orioles win wild extra inning game 10-9 in Philadelphia

The Orioles’ season has been a rollercoaster of emotions on the field, from the Opening Day blowout loss against the Red Sox, to the series sweep over the Nationals held up by a malfunctioning tarp.

Tuesday in Philadelphia, the Orioles played their craziest game of the season. At least, as it related to in-game activities. 

The Orioles trailed early, rallied to tie it and later took the lead, blew the lead, took the lead again, let the Phillies tie it, then won the game off an inside-the-park home run from Austin Hays in the top of the 10th inning.

Somehow, the Orioles earned a 10-9 win over the Phillies in extra innings in a game that put the Orioles over .500 on the season.

“It felt like a boxing match, honestly, from the eighth inning on,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Felt like we gave a blow, took a blow, who could get that last out? That was the feeling. Travis Lakins came in and got the last out. This has been a very unusual year, it’s been an unusual season so far — we’ve seen some things we haven’t seen in a while. Probably won’t be the last time.”

Hyde was right when he said things happened that they, frankly, wouldn’t see for a long time again.

Hays’ inside-the-park home run gave the Orioles a 10-8 lead in the top of the 10th inning, the first team inside-the-park home run since Sept. 2011, when Robert Andino accomplished the feat.

With a runner on second base to start extra innings as part of the league’s new extra innings rule, Hays hit a sharp line drive to centerfield. There, Phillies centerfielder Roman Quinn made an aggressive play on the ball and tried to make a diving catch to prevent Andrew Velazquez, on second base, from scoring. 

Quinn’s diving attempt missed, as the ball went all the way to the wall.

“I actually didn’t think that he had any chance at all to catch it when I first hit it,” Hays said. “I thought it was going to be just a one-hop line drive to him. And I saw him start to lay out and I thought he was going to catch it. It was actually really close...I saw the ball go by him and it was off to the races after that. I was just sniffing an inside-the-parker the whole way.”

Inside the clubhouse, Orioles starting pitcher Alex Cobb reacted just as a fan would.

“When that pop-up dropped, I was banging on lockers,” Cobb said. “We were all screaming. We had a good group of guys in there, players that had been out of the game, and we turned into fanboys. It was awesome. Rooting hard for your guys. It’s a lot of fun to be able to watch Lakins finish it off and go high-five everybody afterward.”

Cobb threw well in 5 ⅓ innings with just three hits and two earned runs allowed, but left the game in-line for the loss after 71 pitches. The Orioles offense bailed him out in the sixth inning with three runs to tie the game. From there, it looked like the Orioles had things in order as a Hanser Alberto double and Anthony Santander single gave the Orioles a 5-3 lead entering the bottom of the eighth inning. 

But home runs by Bryce Harper and Jean Segura gave the Phillies a 6-5 lead in the ninth.

The Orioles tied the game on a single from Renato Nunez, and the inning appeared to be over when Pedro Severino hit an infield pop up into the dark Philadelphia night. 

The Phillies infield, however, botched it, as a hit ball with an expected batting average of .000 according to statcast, dropped to give the Orioles a 8-6 lead.

“Probably the most up and down game I’ve been a part of in a long time,” Cobb said.

The Phillies tied the game in the ninth inning, which only seemed fair, as Hays’ inside-the-park home run an inning later lifted the Orioles to a one-run win in what was, admittedly, a game not likely to be replicated for a long time. 

But if there were a year for even crazier things to happen, it’s 2020.

“I think that game had a little bit of everything,” Hyde said. “I just told Cobb that was a great job. It feels like it was five hours ago when he pitched. I just felt like it was a gutsy performance by our club. I thought it was just a grind out mentality. I thought we had great at-bats...Just a great team win. Just a persevering, gutsy, grind out team win.”