Nationals

Tigers rout Yankees 8-1 for 4-game ALCS sweep

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Tigers rout Yankees 8-1 for 4-game ALCS sweep

DETROIT (AP) Phil Coke stormed into Jim Leyland's office and sprayed the veteran manager with some of Detroit's celebratory bubbly.

When Leyland tried to take cover in a bathroom, Coke chased him - a fitting scene involving an unsung reliever whose role changed with little warning and a skipper who never stopped believing in his team.

``I just reminded everybody when we took our punches all year, `You know what? Let's just wait till the end, and then if we have underachieved, I will be the first one to admit it,''' Leyland said. ``So hopefully we've quieted some doubters now. The guys just stepped it up when we had to.''

Leyland and the Tigers are heading to the World Series now. Max Scherzer capped a stupendous stretch for Detroit's rotation, and the Tigers won their second pennant in seven years by beating the New York Yankees 8-1 Thursday for a four-game sweep of the AL championship series.

Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta hit two-run homers in a four-run fourth inning against CC Sabathia, who was unable to prevent the Yankees from getting swept in a postseason series for the first time in 32 years.

Without a World Series title since 1984, Detroit lost to Texas in last year's ALCS, lost slugger Victor Martinez to a season-ending knee injury in January and quickly replaced his offense by signing Prince Fielder. The excitement of that bold acquisition subsided a bit when the Tigers struggled to a 26-32 start in the AL Central, but they overtook the Chicago White Sox in the final 10 days of the regular season and won the division with an 88-74 record, matching the Cardinals for the fewest wins among the 10 playoff teams.

Through it all, Leyland kept an even keel. There was urgency in the Detroit clubhouse, but never panic. The closest the manager came to a major change of course was when closer Jose Valverde gave up four runs in the ninth inning of Game 1 against the Yankees.

Detroit won that game anyway, and Coke got the save in Games 2 and 3 in Valverde's place. Coke also was on the mound at the end of the finale.

``It's been really fun,'' Coke said. ``It's been a blast. I couldn't ask for a better opportunity than have us going to the World Series, have a chance to participate and do the best job I can for the team.''

Contrast that to the Yankees, who changed lineups drastically throughout the playoffs in a futile attempt to jump-start an anemic offense.

After scoring in just three of 39 innings during the series, New York headed home to face unpleasant questions about its future following a postseason of awful hitting, benched stars and veterans showing the wear and tear of age. Alex Rodriguez, the $275 million third baseman, was out of the starting lineup Thursday for the third time in the playoffs. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera could only watch following season-ending injuries.

Rodriguez at least played Thursday, flying out with two on in the sixth as a pinch hitter and grounding out in the ninth.

``Baseball's not an easy game,'' Rodriguez said. ``You wish you could go out and, again, hit .400 and hit the ball all over the park and hit home runs but the one thing that I'm proud of is just kept coming out, working hard, battling, never gave up. And we win as a team, we lose as a team.''

The game ended with Fielder, Detroit's $214 million acquisition, catching Jayson Nix's popup. The Tigers spilled onto the field for a celebration that began near second base and eventually moved closer to the third-base line.

General manager Dave Dombrowski hugged Leyland - who is in the final year of his contract - while owner Mike Ilitch rubbed the 67-year-old manager's right shoulder.

``I've got a great bunch. We don't have one hot dog in the bunch,'' Ilitch said. ``They're all great guys. ... The Tigers are something special.''

Detroit won its 11th American League pennant and first since 2006. The Tigers have five days off before the World Series starts Wednesday at defending champion St. Louis or 2010 winner San Francisco.

The Yankees, with a big league-high $222 million payroll, hit .188 in the postseason - a record low for a team that played at least seven games - and .157 in the LCS. New York went quietly in the ninth inning, with the Comerica Park crowd chanting ``Sweep!'' while the last three batters were retired in order.

In the postseason, Detroit's rotation has been impeccable. Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister allowed only two earned runs against the Yankees. New York was shut out once and totaled six runs in the series.

``We all know what's at stake, we all know every single game's different, we need to go out there and pitch our best,'' Scherzer said. ``When we do that, that's when we give the team a chance to win.''

Scherzer allowed a run and two hits in 5 2-3 innings, struck out 10 and walked two.

The Yankees, without a World Series title since 2009, lost Jeter to a broken ankle in the opening game, and the slumping Rodriguez was benched for Game 3. He was out of the starting lineup for Game 4 too, but A-Rod did have one last chance to turn his postseason around when Scherzer was lifted for left-hander Drew Smyly with two outs in the sixth and the Tigers up 6-1.

As Smyly finished warming up, Rodriguez popped out of the dugout to hit for Raul Ibanez, but with runners at the corners, he hit a routine fly to center field. His groundout in the ninth capped a 3-for-25 (.125) playoffs with no RBIs.

New York owes the 37-year-old Rodriguez $114 million over the next five years. His contract includes a provision that requires he approve trades, and he wants to stay.

``I love New York City and I love everything about being a Yankee,'' he said. ``The highs are very high and the lows are extremely low.''

The Yankees failed to win a game in a postseason series for only the fifth time. They hadn't been swept since a best-of-five ALCS against Kansas City in 1980. The last team to sweep four straight against them had been Cincinnati in the 1976 World Series.

After a rainout Wednesday, Game 4 started under a sunny sky, and Detroit immediately took the lead on series MVP Delmon Young's RBI single in the first. Young became the first player with four game-winning RBIs in one postseason series, according to STATS, LLC.

About the only thing the Yankees had done well in this postseason was pitch, and Sabathia failed to keep that going. He didn't have much help from his defense. Mark Teixeira, a four-time Gold Glove winner at first base, misplayed two grounders in the third - one for an infield hit and one for an error.

New York's hitting was abysmal throughout the playoffs. Robinson Cano was at .075 (3 for 40) with no home runs, including a 29 at-bat hitless streak. Curtis Granderson was 3 for 30 with 16 strikeouts, Nick Swisher hit .167 (5 for 30) with two RBIs, Russell Martin hit .161 (5 for 31) with one RBI and Eric Chavez finished 0 for 16 with eight strikeouts.

``It wasn't one guy. It wasn't two guys,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. ``It was a bunch of guys.''

NOTES: Cabrera has a hit in a record 17 straight LCS games. He's reached base in all 20 of his postseason games with the Tigers, a team record. ... Sabathia was 4-0 in his previous eight postseason starts. ... Thursday was the 35th anniversary of Reggie Jackson's three-homer game for the Yankees in the World Series against the Dodgers. ... New York scored seven runs at Baltimore in the division series opener, then was held to four or fewer in the next eight games. The Yankees' longest previous stretch like that in postseason play came in 2001, when they were held to four or fewer runs in all seven games of the World Series by Arizona.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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