Check out the controversy in the Tigers-A's series

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Check out the controversy in the Tigers-A's series

From Comcast SportsNetOAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Ideally, Jim Leyland would have everybody hug it out and play ball.Just as Detroit's Justin Verlander and Coco Crisp of Oakland did on the field for Monday's workout day ahead of their teams' Game 3 in the AL division series Tuesday. The Tigers lead 2-0 and are one win from advancing to a second straight AL championship series.Leyland insists reliever Al Alburquerque meant no ill will toward the Athletics when he fielded Yoenis Cespedes' ninth-inning comebacker and quickly kissed the ball before throwing to first. Yet the manager disagreed with the display."Everybody always says I'm from the old school, so I'd have probably hugged it first," Leyland joked. "I don't think it was the right thing to do. I will sit here today and I will not try to defend it. I will say that I can assure everybody, including the Oakland A's, Al Alburquerque did nothing intentionally to offend the Oakland A's. A lot of emotion is shown in different ways in the game anymore. You see a lot of different variations of personal celebrations as well as team celebrations."It wasn't a smart thing to do, but I can honestly tell you that there is no way that Al Alburquerque or any members of the Detroit Tigers would ever do anything intentionally to offend another team. It just would not happen," Leyland said.As upstart Oakland returned home hoping to pull off another improbable sweep like the one against Texas last week to capture the AL West crown, that controversial smooch was still plenty talked about in both clubhouses.Alburquerque said he did speak to his teammates, and that they knew his gesture was "within the emotion of the game.""I respect Cespedes and I didn't do it out of disrespect," the pitcher said. "I was just excited to get the out."Still, that didn't mean the Tigers weren't surprised by it."I said, Did I see what I just saw?'" catcher Gerald Laird said.Cespedes was eager to get to his baseball work Monday, saying: "That's his problem. It doesn't bother me. It was his turn to win. Someday it will be my turn."Even though everybody realized full well they should be focused on the game itself."I know him, so I know he didn't mean much by it," injured A's third baseman and former Tiger Brandon Inge said. "But I'm sure he's going to regret it. Honestly, this is something that's going to be blown out of proportion because it's a unique story and it's something that doesn't happen much. For us, our ultimate retaliation or comeback would be to win three. We're not concerned with the actions of one person. On their side, I'm sure he didn't really want to stir up a hornet's nest over here either."Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (4-6), a midseason acquisition from Miami who was steady down the stretch, will try to pitch the Tigers to another postseason sweep of Oakland.Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is still looking for his first RBI of the series, but is hitting .375 (3 for 8) with two doubles, no strikeouts and a walk.Lefty Brett Anderson (4-2) gets the ball in his postseason debut as the A's try to prolong their season for one more day. Anderson, who looked strong in six starts after a 14-month absence recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, is coming back from a right oblique injury he sustained falling awkwardly off the mound in a start at Detroit on Sept. 19. He hopes to work deep without a pitch count, though pitching coach Curt Young said he'd likely be around 80."It's going to be fun," he said. "I don't think I'll have to dial it down. ... A postseason game in Oakland, there hasn't been one for a while."The Tigers swept Oakland out of its last playoff series -- in four games of the 2006 AL championship series. None of the current A's were on the team then, and only two were even in the organization.The task is daunting: win three straight at home. Yet this A's team has accomplished unheard of feats in a season full of walkoffs and victories celebrated with whipped-cream pies.And, just last week they took three in a row from the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers to stun Texas for the AL West crown in Game No. 162 last Wednesday.That late-season surge erased a five-game deficit, and the A's became the first time in major league history to do so over the final 10 games to win a division or pennant. They trailed Texas by 13 games on June 30."Nobody knew we were good until the end," Oakland's Jonny Gomes said. "We had Major League Baseball right where we wanted them: We tricked them into playing 162 games."Now, Oakland will attempt to become the first playoff team in franchise history to come back from down 2-0. In six of the previous seven series when the A's lost the first two games, the wound up getting swept.Oakland will try to get its offense going after striking out 23 times in the first two games, including 14 in Saturday's 3-1 loss in Game 1. The A's hit a majors-leading 112 home runs after the All-Star break.A's manager Bob Melvin isn't worried about the K-fest, and neither are his players. Josh Reddick has six of the strikeouts after hitting a team-best 32 home runs during the regular season."If you're going to be aggressive, you're going to swing hard," Gomes said. "If you're going to hit home runs, you're going to swing hard."Yet Melvin knows firsthand how good Sanchez can be. The 28-year-old Venezuelan pitched a no-hitter for Florida during his rookie season of 2006 against Melvin's Arizona Diamondbacks. Oakland shortstop Stephen Drew also was on that Arizona team, while Cabrera played for the Marlins.Leyland has experience with this year's playoff format, featuring the higher seed opening on the road for the first two games.Facing the favored San Francisco Giants, Florida won the first two games at home, then completed a three-game sweep of the NL division series at Candlestick Park on the way to the title -- Leyland's lone championship in 21 years as a manager.These Tigers sure seem primed for another special October run.First, they'll have to deal with a loud Coliseum crowd that has come alive over the past month as the A's emerged as a surprise contender, then clinched the club's first playoff berth in six years.For Melvin, whatever happened Sunday is now in the past. He has bigger concerns at the moment."I respect Jim Leyland about as much as I respect anyone," Melvin said. "I think there are varying degrees of all that stuff, showmanship. ... I don't think there's one right or wrong way. Emotionally after a game when something like that happens you're always going to hear something from somebody. But you move on. It's not a big deal for me."

Highlights: Sebastian Salazar recaps Week 7 in NWSL

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Highlights: Sebastian Salazar recaps Week 7 in NWSL

Week 7 of the National Women's Soccer League season is in the books - and what a week it was.

We saw the Houston Dash vs. Washington Spirit match postponed due to weather, and got a glimpse at how NWSL squads will deal with their U.S. Women's National Team absences later this summer. 

CSN's Sebastian Salazar takes you around the NWSL for highlights from all four league matches this weekend as well as last week's international friendly between Seattle Reign FC and Arsenal Ladies.

WATCH ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS OF WEEK 7 IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE

Stats you need to know in advance of Nationals' road trip

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Stats you need to know in advance of Nationals' road trip

BY RICH GOLDBERG (@GoldyStats)

After dismantling the Cardinals 10-2 in the series finale on Sunday, the Nationals hit the road for a nine-game road trip that will see them take on their N.L. East rival Philadelphia Phillies, the N.L. Central cellar-dwelling Cincinnati Reds and the suddenly ice-cold Chicago White Sox.

CSN researcher Rich Goldberg details the five stats you need to know before the Nats start June off on the road.

RELATED: CONSISTENCY KEY TO STRASBURG'S HISTORIC START

1. Bryce Harper has a 6-game home run streak at Philadelphia.

The only other visiting player to do that in Philadelphia? Hall of Famer Ernie Banks back in 1955.

 

2. Wilson Ramos is hitting .336 and leads all MLB catchers.

The previous 5 seasons, Ramos batted .270, .246, .250, .265 and .252 through the end of May.

 

3. Daniel Murphy has a career .406 batting average (26 for 64) at Great American Ballpark.

That is Murphy’s highest BA at any ballpark with a minimum of 4 games played.

 

4. Tanner Roark is 1-4 with a 8.27 career ERA in 5 road games (4 starts) at Philadelphia.

Roark has the fifth worst ERA by a visiting player at Citizens Bank Park, with a minimum of 4 starts. Roark pitches Monday against the Phillies.

 

5. Stephen Strasburg is the first pitcher in Nationals/Expos history to begin a season 9-0 and he’s 9 strikeouts away from his 1000th career K.

Strasburg is scheduled to start Saturday against the Reds.

Nats' Strasburg's consistency continues with franchise-best 9-0 start

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Nats' Strasburg's consistency continues with franchise-best 9-0 start

Exactly when Stephen Strasburg reached a turning point over the last nine or so months depends on whom you ask and where you look. 

Based solely on the numbers, Strasburg has been a different pitcher ever since he returned from the disabled list last August. In his 21 outings since Aug. 8, 2015, Strasburg is 15-2 with a 2.31 ERA, 182 strikeouts and 28 walks in 140 innings pitched.

For Jayson Werth, there was a noticeable change in Strasburg this spring training.

"He came in and he just had a good feel to him. He looked a little bigger, like he was in real good shape. He was talking a lot, which is always a good sign from him. He doesn’t always say too much," Werth said. 

"It just kind of felt like he was going to have a big year. So far, so good. He’s looked great. Obviously, I think the contract has helped… free agency can mess with some guys’ heads sometimes. He’s not going to have to deal with that."

For batterymate Wilson Ramos, the change in Strasburg is in the details. It's in his health and the way he works around trouble during his starts.

"He’s got a different mindset," Ramos said through an interpreter. "I know in the past his injuries have affected his performance out there. He’s always been a great starter for us. But before this year, it seemed like when he gets behind a run or two his morale would drop. This year, he stays optimistic out there and keeps attacking hitters no matter if he gives up a run or two. He’s very aggressive and it’s shown. He’s doing a great job for us out there."

Whatever the reason or the timing, Strasburg has found a new level of consistency this year, as the Nationals have won all 11 of his starts and at a perfect 9-0, he has the best record to begin a season in franchise history. That bests the 8-0 start for Pedro Martinez back in 1997 when he was with the Expos.

All of Strasburg's last 15 outings have resulted in a Nationals victory. This season he's gone at least six innings in all of his starts and only three times has he allowed more than two runs.

In Sunday's series finale against the Cardinals, Strasburg did what he's become increasingly prone to do. He allowed just one run across six innings and scattered six hits and two walks. The lone run came on a Brandon Moss homer in the fourth inning and that was the only extra-base hit he allowed on the day.

Almost every time the Cardinals threatened, he quickly stopped the bleeding and got the Nationals' defense off the field. 

"He's certainly earning his money," manager Dusty Baker said. "This is big for him, for him and us. He's been trying to figure out probably for a couple years why he's not a big winner because he has the stuff to be a big winner."

Becoming a 'big winner' requires some help, of course, and Strasburg is getting plenty of it. In his 11 starts this season the Nationals are averaging seven runs per game. 

That will take the pressure off.

"The guys swung the bats good today. I was just happy to give them a chance," Strasburg said.