Capitals

Tigers have a shot to give owner what he wants

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Tigers have a shot to give owner what he wants

DETROIT (AP) Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is spending a lot of his money to chase a World Series title.

Thanks to Detroit's surge and the Chicago White Sox's slump, the Tigers have a shot to give Ilitch a return on his investment.

``He's been trying to bring a winner here and to know the joy it would bring him to win a championship is another driving force,'' Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a telephone interview Thursday. ``In fact, I can't think of a better one.''

When Victor Martinez had a season-ending knee injury last winter, Ilitch gave Dombrowski the OK to replace him with Prince Fielder even though that meant adding a $214 million contract to the books. That ballooned the team's payroll to $139.6 million to rank fifth among baseball's big spenders.

``He's given us everything it takes to win,'' Dombrowski said.

The AL Central champions won eight of their last 10 games while Chicago collapsed, lifting Detroit to the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1934-35. The Tigers won the division by three games after trailing the White Sox by three games just two weeks ago.

``We're peaking at the right time as a ballclub,'' right-hander Max Scherzer said. ``We've had our ups and downs this year, but we believe in our talent. It's all culminating right now at the right time.

``We believe we're just as good as any team in the American League right now.''

First, Detroit will have to be better than the AL West-champion Oakland Athletics.

The A's are on a roll of their own, rallying from being 13 games back on June 30 and overcoming a five-game deficit over the last nine days of the regular season to top Texas with a sweep.

``It's a great story and I just tip my hat to Bob Melvin and the Oakland A's,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday night after ending the season with a win at Kansas City. ``It's going to be two good teams trying to advance to the big prize.''

The Tigers will host the first of two games Saturday night before the best-of-five series shifts to Oakland.

Detroit might be tough to beat in Game 1 with Triple Crown slugger Miguel Cabrera at the plate and reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander on the mound.

Cabrera hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs, leading the American League in all three statistical categories. He' s the first to achieve the feat since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

``I got a lot of messages from Venezuela, everyone, my friends,'' Cabrera said. ``They're all happy at home.''

Everyone also seems pleased with Cabrera's choices off the field these days.

On his way to spring training in Lakeland, Fla., last year, Cabrera was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving when he refused to cooperate, directed an obscene gesture at police and even dared them to shoot him, according to authorities in St. Lucie County, Fla.

Two years ago, Cabrera got drunk enough between a Friday night game and the morning to have what police said was 0.26 blood-alcohol reading and a bruised and cut left cheek. Authorities said he got in a fight with his wife, who called 911. He was taken to a police station, where Dombrowski picked him up.

As part of Cabrera's program to stay sober and out of trouble, former major leaguer Raul Gonzalez has been at his side all season.

``Miguel has worked hard and with a supporting cast, his maturity level has continued to grow and you have to tip your cap to him,'' Dombrowski said. ``He needs to continue to work on it for the rest of his life.''

Dombrowski also raved about the ``tremendous job'' Leyland did in the dugout this season in the last year of his contract, but wasn't ready to talk about whether he'll be back with the franchise next year.

``We'll discuss that after the season,'' Dombrowski said.

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter:http://twitter.com/larrylage

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AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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2018 NBA Mock Draft: What's changed after the combine

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2018 NBA Mock Draft: What's changed after the combine

Something that used to be a rare occurrence has now happened four years in a row.

The Phoenix Suns had the best odds of winning the NBA lottery, and they did, landing the number one pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. 

Over the last four years, the team with the NBA's worst record has landed that top spot each year. Before this stretch though, dating back to 1985, only four teams that had the worst record still won the lottery.

Nine teams have also jumped at least five spots to get to No. 1 during that period as well.

Now the order is set (until any trades of course) and teams have had a chance to check out many of the top players at the combine.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT 

This draft is loaded with big man prospects too, from DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley, and Mohamed Bamba, along with countless others likely going in the top-14. 

There's also the very intriguing Luka Doncic, who most still believe won't go back to Real Madrid, even with him leaving the door open. 

A few names jumped into the first round since the last mock draft, which is something we always see after the combine. 

As for the Wizards, we know they need an athletic big man, and sitting at pick No. 15, they may just get one, although he brings a lot of mystery. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT