At the break, Yankees have MLB's best record

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At the break, Yankees have MLB's best record

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Barely a month ago, the New York Yankees were just six games over .500. Now they head into the All-Star break with the best record in baseball and the biggest lead in any division. To manager Joe Girardi, that's quite an accomplishment. "I'm proud of these guys because not only have we had injuries, we've had situations where things haven't gone our way," he said after New York's 7-3 win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night. "We struggled with some pitching early on and we struggled with runners in scoring position but the one thing that this group has found a way to do is to win games," he said. The Yankees have done that in five of their last six games and are 21-8 since going 31-25 through June 7. They've succeeded despite injuries to pitchers CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera and outfielder Brett Gardner. "In the beginning of the season we struggled," said Andruw Jones, who hit his fourth homer in three games, a two-run shot in the seventh inning. "Everybody (was) kind of saying we're old, we're not getting the job done. ... We kept battling and kept playing till we got in a groove." Ivan Nova (10-3) is back in his groove after striking out 10 in six innings while allowing two runs and six hits. He won for the first time in four starts after winning his previous five outings. The Yankees took three of four at Fenway Park and boosted their record to 52-33 and their AL East lead to seven games over Baltimore. The Red Sox (43-43) also have been beset by injuries with Carl Crawford sidelined all season so far, Jacoby Ellsbury missing most of the season and Dustin Pedroia and pitchers Clay Buchholz and Andrew Bailey on the disabled list. They dropped their sixth game in the last seven and fell into a last-place tie in the division with the Toronto Blue Jays, 9 1-2 games off the pace. Only three AL teams -- Minnesota, Kansas City and Seattle -- are below .500 at the break. Jon Lester (5-6), who won at least 15 games in each of the last four seasons, left with one out in the fifth after giving up five runs and nine hits. Until Sunday, the lefty had rebounded from early-season troubles and posted a 3.86 ERA in 13 starts. "I just have to go and relax and not think about my first half," Lester said. The Yankees scored in the first inning in all four games in the series, taking a 2-0 lead in the finale. "It's tough to be behind, that's for sure," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. The first three batters all hit safely on Sunday -- singles by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson and an RBI double by Mark Teixeira. Granderson scored when Nick Swisher grounded into a forceout. The Red Sox got an unearned run in the bottom of the inning when Jeter dropped a routine popup by Cody Ross with two outs. The shortstop's misplay scored Pedro Ciriaco, who had singled and stolen second. New York made it 3-1 in the second on a double by Jayson Nix, a passed ball by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a sacrifice fly by Chris Stewart. Boston came back again with a run in the third on Ciriaco's single and David Ortiz's double. The Yankees drove Lester from the game in the fifth, scoring twice for a 5-2 lead. Teixeira started the rally with a single and scored on a triple by Alex Rodriguez. Jones then singled in Rodriguez. Nova would have gotten out of a first-inning jam had Jeter held on to the soft popup near second base. The righty even pumped his fist and started walking off the mound but stopped as the ball bounced out of Jeter's glove. Then Nova struck out the side in the second before escaping trouble in the third when the Red Sox scored a run and loaded the bases with one out. But Saltalamacchia struck out for the fifth time in seven at-bats and Ryan Sweeney grounded out. Nova fanned three of his last four batters and at least one in each of his six innings. "I'm getting aggressive, trying to get ahead on the count early and then trying to put them away," he said. Jones' homer was his 11th of the season and the Yankees' 134th, most in the majors. They're on a pace for a club-record 255. The 1997 Seattle Mariners hold the major league record with 264. NOTES: Girardi said Jeter had a problem with his shoulder but won't need tests and plans to go to the All-Star game. .. Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a double in the ninth, tying Jeter for the longest on the Yankees this year. ... Ortiz's double was his 373rd with the Red Sox, tying Jim Rice for sixth in club history. ... Nova had lost his last road start, ending a streak of 16 starts without a loss away from home. ... Jeter scored his 1,816th run in the first, tying Boston's Carl Yastrzemski for 16th on the all-time list. ... Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez left the game in the third because of illness. He struck out in his only at-bat, ending his career-best hitting streak at 18 games. ... The Red Sox will honor Jason Varitek before their night game July 21 against the Toronto Blue Jays. The catcher retired in February after 15 seasons with the team. ... Ceremonial first pitches were thrown by Ted Williams' daughter Claudia (to Rice) and Babe Ruth's granddaughter Linda Ruth Tosetti (to Ortiz).

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Jay Beagle capitalizes on rare overtime opportunity

Jay Beagle capitalizes on rare overtime opportunity

Jay Beagle wears a lot of hats for the Capitals, such as No. 1 penalty killing forward and face-off specialist.

On Saturday night, he added ‘overtime hero’ to his list of roles.

Beagle scored the game-winner 19 seconds into extra session to lift the Capitals to a 4-3 victory in Dallas—their first win over the Stars since 2008.    

As big as the goal was for the Caps, it was just as significant for Beagle.

His 10th goal of the season, it matched the career-high he established in 2014-15. The fourth line center now has 36 games left to set a new personal best. (He’s already equaled his career high for assists with 10).

RELATED: Caps snap Dallas curse with overtime thriller

“Obviously, it’s something I’ve been trying to do,” Beagle told reporters when asked about the improvements he’s made to his game each year. “But I’m playing with great players. Something like [the winner] where [Evgeny Kuznetsov] gives me a pass like that. And [Daniel] Winnik and [Tom] Wilson; I’ve been with them almost all year. We have great chemistry and the line’s rolling. It’s unreal playing with them. I can just jump on board.”

Beagle's goal at American Airlines Center was arguably his biggest of the year as it helped the Caps complete their comeback from a 3-1 deficit against a team they rarely beat.

It was also interesting that he even got the chance to score it.

Beagle helped the Caps beat Toronto in overtime earlier this month by winning the all-important opening faceoff and then heading to the bench to change for Alex Ovechkin. This time, however, Coach Barry Trotz instructed Beagle to stay on the ice.

“He kept us in the game early” with his penalty killing, Trotz explained. “He won a lot of big draws. I felt like he deserved that opportunity.”

The result was a dramatic game winner.

“I haven’t played much 3 on 3, but Coach told me go out there and stay out there,” Beagle said. “Kuzy called it right off the hop—he said we’re scoring. He made an unbelievable play, put it right on my tape in front. With his speed you just have to go to the dirty area and he’ll get you the puck.”

Indeed, Beagle made a bee line for the net, where he stopped and snapped Kuznetsov's slick pass from behind the net past Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen.

Of Beagle’s 10 goals this season, seven have come against Central Division opponents (four vs. the Blackhawks and one apiece vs. Jets, Blues and Stars).

“I can’t, no,” Beagle cracked, asked if he could explain why he’s so successful against the Central. “I didn’t know that stat.”

Beagle, however, didn’t have any trouble explaining the Caps’ comeback in Big D.

“Our power play got some chances and got two big goals,” he said, referring to Washington’s second and third tallies, both scored on the man advantage early in the third period. “It was never in doubt. We’re playing good right now. We’re playing confident. We came in here in the second intermission and said, ‘We’re taking this game over and we’re going to win.’”

The Caps are now 11-0-2 in their last 13 games and 31-1-5 all-time when Beagle scores a goal.

MORE CAPITALS: Bloody Brett Ritchie leaves ice after fight with Tom Wilson

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Capitals snap curse of the Dallas Stars with overtime thriller

Capitals snap curse of the Dallas Stars with overtime thriller

It took a two-goal comeback and overtime, but the Caps walk away the 4-3 winners over the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

How it happened: Andre Burakovsky and Adam Cracknell traded goals in the first period, but things seemed to get away from the Caps in the second. Patrik Nemeth backhanded an innocent looking shot on net, but Phillip Grubauer fumbled it leaving a juicy rebound at the top of the crease which Patrick Eaves roofed. Jamie Benn then put the Stars up by two with a controversial goal that was reviewed for goalie interference. Washington responded in the third period, however, as both Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie struck on the power play to force overtime. Jay Beagle finished the game off just 19 seconds into overtime with his 10th goal of the season.

What it means: The win was Washington’s first over Dallas since 2008, snapping a nine-game losing streak to Dallas. The Caps have now won 11 in their past 12 games. Washington also maitained their two-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets after Columbus' win over Carolina earlier Saturday.

Starting strong: It should come as no surprise that Burakovsky got the scoring started on Saturday since he’s made a habit of that lately. Since getting scratched three games for his lack of production, Burakovsky has scored seven goals. Five of those were the first goal of the game. Burakovsky now has scored the first goal in four straight games and the Caps have scored first in 10 straight.

First period fisticuffs: Things got chippy in the first period as Tom Wilson dropped the gloves with Brett Ritchie and just three seconds later, Daniel Winnik was locked in a fight with Dallas agitator Antoine Roussell.

Goal or no goal?: Dallas' third goal came in controversial fashion. As Grubauer shifted to his right, his left skate was clipped by the skate of Benn that appeared to briefly knock Grubauer off balance. Grubauer recovered to make a save on an Eaves deflection, but the puck bounced to Benn for the easy tap in. The goal was waved off immediately, but after a review, the goal was awarded to Dallas. The issue is whether Grubauer had enough time to reset after the initial contact from Benn. At least, that's what we thought the issue was. The NHL's explanation of the review stated, "After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed no goaltender interference infractions occurred before the puck crossed the goal line."

Clutch save: Locked in a tie game in the third period, Tyler Seguin had what looked like an easy goal, but Grubauer got over just in time for the incredible blocker save. Watch it here.

The curse continues: Despite the win, Washington still has not won in regulation in Dallas since Oct. 17, 1995. They will have to wait until next season to get another shot.

Look ahead: Washington returns home for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday before heading out on another road trip starting Tuesday. On that trip, the Caps will visit the Ottawa Senators and  New Jersey Devils before breaking for the All-Star break.