Capitals

Tigers, OF Torii Hunter finalize 2-year, $26M deal

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Tigers, OF Torii Hunter finalize 2-year, $26M deal

DETROIT (AP) Torii Hunter has reached the postseason six times in his career, but he's never played in a World Series.

Now he's joining forces with the defending AL champion Detroit Tigers - a team that's come close to winning baseball's ultimate prize each of the last two years.

``To win it all, they're just like me. They don't know what it feels like,'' Hunter said. ``If there's no failure, there's no progress. These guys are hungry for it.''

The Tigers introduced Hunter on Friday after finalizing their $26 million, two-year deal with the free agent outfielder. The 37-year-old hit a career-best .313 last season for the Los Angeles Angels with 16 home runs and 92 RBIs, and when he went on the open market, he began eyeing Detroit right away.

The Tigers have won the AL Central the last two years, but they're still chasing the franchise's first World Series title since 1984. Detroit was one step away last season but lost the Series to San Francisco in a four-game sweep.

Acquiring a corner outfielder was a major offseason priority for Detroit, and Hunter won nine consecutive Gold Gloves from 2001-09 before eventually switching from center field to right. He'll play right field at spacious Comerica Park.

``His defense is outstanding as we know,'' Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. ``It definitely makes us a better defensive club. We haven't always been able to do it, but you want outstanding outfielders out there because there's a lot of ground to cover.''

Smiling throughout an almost giddy news conference, Hunter joked with Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and demurred a bit when asked who should have been the American League MVP in 2012 - former teammate Mike Trout of the Angels, or new teammate and eventual winner Miguel Cabrera of Detroit.

``That's a hot tamale - that question right there,'' Hunter said. ``I would like for both of those guys to win it.''

Adding Hunter is consistent with the way the Tigers have operated over the last couple years. With a core of talent that includes Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder, Detroit feels its window to win a World Series is wide open.

``I can't wait to get to play with Torii,'' said Tigers left-hander Drew Smyly, who is from Hunter's home state of Arkansas. ``Growing up in Arkansas every place I went you heard about the legacy he left. Now to have the chance to play beside him is incredible.''

Hunter is looking forward to teaming up with a new group of stars - and playing for manager Jim Leyland, who wasn't at the news conference Friday.

``He is a funny old man,'' Hunter said. ``We'd talk to each other during batting practice, and he would have me rolling.''

Hunter will wear his usual No. 48 after right-hander Rick Porcello agreed to switch to No. 21. Hunter says he was willing to pay Porcello for the number, but the New Jersey-born pitcher preferred the money go to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Hunter made the playoffs four times with Minnesota and twice with the Angels, but only twice has he even played in the AL championship series. He's played 1,947 games, third most among active players who have never reached the World Series, according to STATS, LLC.

``Everybody knows I want to win. I've been to the playoffs several times and lost,'' Hunter said. ``I really want to win a World Series before I get out of here, and this is my last stand. One more push - and I'm all-in.''

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
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- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.