Nationals

Tigers again face long layoff before World Series

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Tigers again face long layoff before World Series

DETROIT (AP) The next few days may feel a bit familiar to Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

The Tigers will have to wait a while before starting the World Series. Detroit won the AL pennant Thursday, wrapping up a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees. Now the Tigers won't play again until next Wednesday, when they open on the road against the winner of the NL championship series between St. Louis and San Francisco.

In 2006, Leyland's Tigers swept Oakland in the ALCS, finishing that series Oct. 14. The World Series didn't start until Oct. 21, and Detroit lost to St. Louis in five games.

``I do think the lull between our playoff and the World Series did work against us in 2006,'' Leyland said recently. ``Now, that's not to take anything away from the St. Louis Cardinals. But all of a sudden, our emotion went from so high to just a blah, looking at each other for six days of staring at each other with really no action. That's hard.''

The Tigers have workouts planned at Comerica Park from Saturday through Monday. The big question now is how the layoff will affect Detroit's sterling starting rotation, which has a 1.02 ERA so far in the postseason.

The Tigers breezed past the Yankees, with the starters allowing only two runs in the series. Justin Verlander made three starts in the playoffs, allowing only two runs - in the first inning of his first start and the ninth inning of his most recent start.

If the trend continues, Detroit should be very tough to beat, especially with an offense that finally broke out for eight runs in Game 4 against the Yankees.

Verlander was a rookie in 2006, and the team didn't make the playoffs again until last year, when the Tigers lost in the ALCS. The ace right-hander can appreciate the journey a bit more now than in '06.

``It's different because that seemed like it was easier. We were ahead all year,'' Verlander said. ``You have more of an appreciation of how hard it is to get here.''

The Tigers needed to overtake the Chicago White Sox late in the season to win the AL Central for a second straight year. Once in the postseason, pitching has carried them - with the exception of a couple meltdowns by closer Jose Valverde.

The jovial Valverde allowed four runs in Game 1 of the ALCS and hasn't pitched since. Phil Coke saved the next two games.

Leyland has remained adamant that Detroit may still need Valverde to come through in a big spot.

``It's not only one guy. ... It takes everybody,'' Valverde said. ``I'll be ready for the World Series.''

Max Scherzer might not mind the layoff either. The right-hander's throwing shoulder acted up toward the end of the regular season, and he started Game 4 of both the division series and LCS, coming out in the sixth inning of both.

``Last year (in the playoffs) I really tried to relax and slow it down because of the situation and that didn't work,'' Scherzer said. ``This year I was able to get pumped up in the right situations.''

The pitching staff has performed so well sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder haven't had to carry too much of the load. Cabrera, the AL Triple Crown winner, homered in the finale against the Yankees, but the Tigers have been able to win in spite of an offense that's spotty at times.

``Fister and Scherzer have been dominating since the All-Star break. Then if you add that with Verlander, you've got three No. 1 starters there and they're pitching like it,'' catcher Gerald Laird said. ``That can be tough on any team, any series.''

The Tigers are now four wins from their first World Series title since 1984 - and their four starters look plenty capable of getting them.

``We're all on top of our games and executing pitches when we need to,'' Scherzer said. ``That's what makes it dangerous.''

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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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