Braves end the Yanks' winning streak at 10

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Braves end the Yanks' winning streak at 10

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves eventually caught the ball, and the New York Yankees. Jones atoned for a costly error by cutting down the potential tying run at the plate and the Braves held on to end the Yankees' 10-game winning streak with a 4-3 victory Tuesday night. "Sometimes you're going to whiff on some balls," the All-Star third baseman said. "But you've got to have a hockey goalie mentality down there. You've got to flush it or you're going to get the next one down your throat." The Yankees were trying to match their longest winning string in nearly a half-century. Instead, the Braves threw out two runners at home and won for only the second time in nine games -- their skid included four losses to the Yankees. "They pitched really well and had some really good defense. That's kind of what we've been doing," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. Jason Heyward singled home the go-ahead run in the sixth inning off Hiroki Kuroda (6-7). Heyward also tripled and scored, and nailed Mark Teixeira at home with a strong throw from right field. "We wouldn't have gotten there if it wasn't for Jason Heyward," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. Rookie Andrelton Simmons drove in two runs and Jones delivered an RBI double for the slumping Braves. Down by a run, the Yankees threatened in the seventh. Curtis Granderson opened with a single off Jonny Venters, Alex Rodriguez walked and the runners moved up on a groundout. Teixeira followed with a sharp grounder and Granderson broke home, but Jones made a strong throw and catcher Brian McCann applied the tag. Raul Ibanez then struck out. "You play third base, you know you're going to have the lowest-fielding percentage in the infield," Jones said. "You get some rockets, some balls with topspin. The big thing on that play was the pick. Once I picked it, I could make the throw and Mac set a nice target." The Yankees' recent run was built entirely against NL teams. Only once since 1965 had the Yankees won 11 in a row, and that was in 1985. The team's record winning streak was 19 in 1947. "None of the breaks kind of went our way tonight," Teixeira said. Tim Hudson (5-3) labored through five innings and four relievers preserved the lead. Craig Kimbrel closed for his NL-leading 20th save. The Braves were hurt by missing mitts more than missing bats in the early innings. In the second, center fielder Michael Bourn got twisted around trying to track down Nick Swisher's deep drive. Bourn tapped his glove, then saw the ball glance off the tip as he ran into the padded wall on a two-run double. Swisher was sidelined the past two games with a bruised left quadriceps. In the fourth, Ibanez hit a grounder that first baseman Freddie Freeman misplayed for an error. With two outs and two on, Jones let Russell Martin's low liner skip off his glove for an error that scored a run and made it 3-all. As the crowd cheered, the 40-year-old Jones looked down at the ground, took off his mitt and scuffed the dirt. "I could've made that play," he said. Jones grounded an RBI double in the top of the fourth, a day after the scuffling star said he needed to do more at the plate. Later in the inning, Simmons hit a bases-loaded single that scored a run, but Heyward was nailed at third base for the third out an instant before Jones slid home. Heyward threw out Teixeira in the fifth. In the sixth, Heyward victimized Teixeira again, hitting a hard grounder that nailed the first baseman in the left foot for an RBI single with two outs that put Atlanta ahead 4-3. NOTES: Freeman (injured finger) was back after missing five starts. ... Ibanez doubled to end an 0-for-15 slide. ... Yankees starters have pitched at least six innings in 19 straight games. ... Yankees RHP Michael Pineda, out for the season with a tear in his shoulder, has been with the team for a few days. He hopes to resume throwing in September and aiming to ready for spring training next year. ... Yankees RHP David Aardsma struck out two and walked one in one inning of a Gulf Coast League game. It was the reliever's first outing since elbow-ligament replacement surgery last July. ... The Braves and the Nationals will make up their June 1 rainout as part of a day-night doubleheader on July 21 in Washington. ... Rene Meulensteen, first team coach of soccer power Manchester United, watched the Yankees take batting practice. He recently gave a clinic in Kalamazoo, Mich., where Derek Jeter grew up. "Tall, runs well, good with the eyes. Might've been a good player in our sport," he said.

Dusty Baker on Harvey ducking Mets media: 'New York will eat you up'

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Dusty Baker on Harvey ducking Mets media: 'New York will eat you up'

Mets pitcher Matt Harvey made headlines on Tuesday night as much for avoiding the media after the game as he did for yet another awful outing on the mound. He left the stadium before reporters entered the clubhouse and let his teammates answer all the questions for him.

As expected, Harvey has been villified by New York media members. New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro, for one, went after Harvey in a piece entitled 'Silent Matt Harvey confirms he's the phony Mets have enabled.' It's brutal and Harvey shouldn't be surprised.

That's New York and, some would argue, it comes with the territory. Nationals manager Dusty Baker knows how rough New York can be and on Wednesday he talked about the dysfunction that is plaguing the rival Mets at the moment.

"I'm not going to try to straighten their clubhouse out. It's his prerogative to do what he wants to do. If he doesn't want to talk, then he doesn't have to talk. It will just make it harder on himself. New York will eat you up," Baker said. 

"They know their sports heroes in that town better than anybody... these people in New York, they know. They know sports. They know it big-time. I tell my guys. I'm not going to tell you what to do, but you're going to have to own up to it and live with whatever you do. Try not to put pressure on your teammates to answer your questions."

Whether a player talks after a tough loss always brings a mixed reaction. The media tends to harp on it, while some fans do not care. Some do, of course. But many don't.

Ultimately fans care about the performance on the field and right now Harvey isn't holding up that end of the bargain.

Harper out of lineup as Nats aim for series win over Mets

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Harper out of lineup as Nats aim for series win over Mets

Nats (28-18) vs. Mets (26-19) at Nationals Park

The Nationals continue their series against the Mets on Wednesday with a quick turnaround from Tuesday night's win. It's a 1:05 p.m. first pitch with Tanner Roark (3-3, 2.89) set to square off against lefty Steven Matz (6-1, 2.81).

Roark has yet to face the Mets this season, while Matz has never pitched against the Nats. Matz has gone at least six innings in six straight starts with just six earned runs allowed during that span.

Bryce Harper and Ben Revere are getting the day off for Washington. Harper is getting a day to clear his head, while Revere is resting in the middle of 16 straight games as the Nats keep his oblique in mind following his disabled list stint.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 183
Starting pitchers: Nats - Tanner Roark vs. Mets - Steven Matz

NATS

CF Michael Taylor
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
1B Ryan Zimmerman
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
RF Chris Heisey
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Tanner Roark

METS

RF Curtis Granderson
3B David Wright
LF Michael Conforto
CF Yoenis Cespedes
2B Neil Walker
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
1B Eric Campbell
C T.J. Rivera
LHP Steven Matz

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Rest of NBA should forget about pitching to Kevin Durant

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Rest of NBA should forget about pitching to Kevin Durant

It's probably time for everyone -- not just the Wizards -- to move on to Plan B for this summer. More than 20 teams will have salary cap room and Kevin Durant's name has come up as a target for the N.Y. Knicks, L.A. Lakers, Houston Rockets and Miami Heat.

His Oklahoma City Thunder, who upset the second-best team in the NBA in the previous round by wiping the floor with the 67-win San Antonio Spurs, are about to eliminate the 73-win Golden State Warriors to get back to the Finals.

With Durant becoming a free agent this summer, exactly what motivation would he have for leaving now other than a distaste for living in Oklahoma City? Besides, if he signs a shorter deal (two years with an opt out for 2017), he can make more money because the salary cap rises from $92 million next season to about $108 million for 2017-18. And with 10 years vested by then, he gets a higher percentage of the cap of 35% rather than 30%.

And then he can make his final decision concurrent with his star teammates, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka who become free agents in 2017, too.

RELATED: PROS AND CONS OF WIZARDS TARGETING FREE AGENT NICOLAS BATUM

The Thunder, a team known for lacking poise down the stretch even under first-year coach Billy Donovan, have the NBA stunned. They've flipped the script on a team that was being compared favorably to the 72-win Chicago Bulls under Michael Jordan.

Now the Thunder might warrant such comparisons with how they're dominating the NBA playoffs. It's not clear why it took so long for them to figure it out but they have -- finally. My observations:

  • Switching. It isn't a sign of weakness. Doing it successfully in today's game is a sign of strength and a team with athleticism, length and good defensive instincts can neutralize small ball lineups. Durant, noted as just a scorer and a great one at that, is showing multiple efforts, finally putting his 7-5 wingspan to use. Donovan has his team switching everything to cover the shooters for Golden State, taking away three-point looks and layups at the rim. In one fascinating sequence in Game 4, Durant defended Steph Curry up high and tipped a pass to the wing. Curry moved off the ball and ran him through a screen, so Durant switched onto Shaun Livingston. Westbrook was undersized on the low block defending Draymond Green, so Durant peeled off Livingston to provide helpside at the rim and forced Green to pass to the opposite block to Livingston for a point-blank look at the rim. But Durant was a step ahead of that play, darting across the lane and blocking his shot to get the loose ball that initated a transition play for Oklahoma City. 
  • The key to winning a championship isn't small ball. It's being able to play small when necessary and big. The Thunder have a unique advantage over everyone in that they can do both simultaneously. Ibaka is 6-10, can jump out of the building and has three-point range. He's too quick for Andrew Bogut and too superior athletically for Green. Durant is 6-10 with a ridiculous wingspan. Steven Adams, who was interviewed by the Wizards during 2013 predraft camp in Chicago, is a 7-foot defensive gem who cleans up everyone's mess in the paint. 
  • It's not clear whether Donovan is a genius or if he just stumbled onto this idea in the postseason, similar to the questions raised about then-Wizards coach Randy Wittman when he finally opted to go with Paul Pierce as the "stretch" four in the 2015 playoffs after rarely deploying it during the regular season. Moving Ibaka to center and Durant at the four spot seems like a no-brainer. It has caught the Warriors off-guard, just the way Wittman's move confused the Toronto Raptors en route to a sweep. 
  • Back in 2012, when the Thunder lost in their only NBA Finals appearance to the Miami Heat in five games, then-coach Scott Brooks (now Wizards coach) stubbornly refused to pull Kendrick Perkins off the floor. For the record, I picked the Thunder to win that series in six games because of the Ibaka factor. As he'd showed in dominanting Pau Gasol when they beat the L.A. Lakers, Ibaka is a versatile big who can play multiple positions and was a better matchup vs. the Heat's Chris Bosh played in the middle. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went with Bosh as his starting center after a Game 1 loss. Brooks stuck with Perkins, an immobile, traditional big who was very good at setting screens but that was about it. The Heat won the next four games.
  • Curry is the two-time MVP, but Westbrook is the better overall player. No, this isn't a flop. Westbrook has long been underappreciated and overly criticized for being himself -- a big, physical, super-athletic point guard who had to learn the position coming out of college. It took a while. While he's not the three-point shooter that Curry is, Westbrook's hustle and defensive abilities are what separate him from other top players at his position. Sure, he'll take some ill-advised shots and have some turnovers that'll be head-scratching. That's OK. Now the Thunder have five players on the court at all times that play with his motor in bigger bodies. Golden State and the Spurs have broken opponents down with their pressure offense, repeated ball movment and actions that wear down the defense. The Thunder are using pressure offense and defense to demoralize opponents. There's no team left in the playoffs -- not even the Cleveland Cavaliers -- that has an answer for this.

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