A deal is reached: The real referees are back!

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A deal is reached: The real referees are back!

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL and the referees' union reached a tentative contract agreement at midnight Thursday, ending an impasse that began in June when the league locked out the officials and used replacements instead."Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night" for the Cleveland-Baltimore game, Commissioner Roger Goodell said after a day of marathon negotiations.With Goodell at the table, the sides concluded two days of talks with the announcement of a tentative eight-year deal, which must be ratified by 51 percent of the union's 121 members. They plan to vote Friday."Welcome back REFS," Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller tweeted.The replacements worked the first three weeks of games, triggering a wave of frustration that threatened to disrupt the rest of the season. After a missed call cost the Green Bay Packers a win on a chaotic final play at Seattle on Monday night, the two sides really got serious."We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week's games," referees' union president Scott Green said.The union was seeking improved salaries, retirement benefits and other logistical issues for the part-time officials. The NFL has proposed a pension freeze and a higher 401(k) match, and it wants to hire 21 more officials to improve the quality of officiating. The union has fought that, fearing it could lead to a loss of jobs for some of the current officials, as well as a reduction in overall compensation.The NFL claimed its offers have included annual pay increases that could earn an experienced official more than 200,000 annually by 2018. The NFLRA has disputed the value of the proposal, insisting it means an overall reduction in compensation.Replacement refs aren't new to the NFL. They worked the first week of games in 2001 before a deal was reached. But those officials came from the highest level of college football; the current replacements do not. Their ability to call fast-moving NFL games drew mounting criticism through Week 3, climaxing last weekend, when ESPN analyst Jon Gruden called their work "tragic and comical."Those comments came during "Monday Night Football," with Seattle beating Green Bay 14-12 on a desperation pass into the end zone on the final play. Packers safety M.D. Jennings had both hands on the ball in the end zone, and when he fell to the ground in a scrum, both Jennings and Seahawks receiver Golden Tate had their arms on the ball.The closest official to the play, at the back of the end zone, signaled for the clock to stop, while another official at the sideline ran in and then signaled touchdown.The NFL said in a statement Tuesday that the touchdown pass should not have been overturned -- but acknowledged Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference before the catch. The league also said there was no indisputable evidence to reverse the call made on the field.That drew even louder howls of outrage. Some coaches, including Miami's Joe Philbin and Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, tried to restore some calm by instructing players not to speak publicly on the issue.Fines against two coaches for incidents involving the replacements were handed out Wednesday.New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was docked 50,000 for trying to grab an official's arm Sunday to ask for an explanation of a call after his team lost at Baltimore. And Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was tagged for 25,000 for what the league called "abuse of officials" in the Redskins' loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. Two other coaches, Denver's John Fox and assistant Jack Del Rio, were fined Monday for incidents involving the replacements the previous week."I accept the discipline and I apologize for the incident," Belichick said.Players were in no mood for apologies from anyone."I'll probably get in trouble for this, but you have to have competent people," Carolina receiver Steve Smith said. "And if you're incompetent, get them out of there."Added Rams quarterback Sam Bradford: "I just don't think it's fair to the fans, I don't think it's fair to us as players to go out there and have to deal with that week in and week out. I really hope that they're as close as they say they are."They were. Finally.

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Baker acknowledges Nats need to come through in clutch situations

Baker acknowledges Nats need to come through in clutch situations

Coming through in two-out situations isn’t supposed to be an easy task, but the Nationals are making it look especially difficult of late.

The most recent example of those struggles came in Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Padres, in which the Nats’ lineup couldn’t get the big knock against 23-year-old right hander Luis Perdomo, a rookie starter who came into the game sporting a 7.36 ERA.

“That’s been our nemesis,” manager Dusty Baker said. “People ask me, you know, what do we need? We need some timely, two-out base hits. Not home runs.”

Indeed, when the Nats score big, it’s usually because they powered their way to get there. They entered Friday tied for first in the National League with 132 homers through 96 games. And even against the Padres, two of Washongton's three runs on the night came via solo shots from Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy.

So the issue hasn’t been overall scoring, per se. The issue has been scoring in clutch situations without relying on the long ball. Against the Perdomo and the Padres, the Nats went 1-for-5 with two outs and runners in scoring position, including an 0-for-4 stretch after the first inning. That won’t help their season average in that category (.221), which ranked 21st in the majors prior to the game.

So it’s no mystery to Baker about what has to be fixed.

“At this stage of the game, almost two-thirds of the season gone, we gotta make some changes,” the skipper said of the Nats’ two-out approach. “We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting, and it’s getting frustrating on the guys and frustrating on fans and frustrating to us, too.”

When asked about the Nats' recent offensive woes, Bryce Harper chalked it up to the typical up-and-down nature of the long season. 

"I don't think we need to change much at all,” said Harper, who’s 6-for-20 in those situations on the year. "I think we're a great team. I think we're swinging the bats well.

“Sometimes you line out and get out. Sometimes you hit right into shifts. Sometimes you strikeout, sometimes you walk. It's part of the game.”

Perhaps it is just part of the game. But it is also hard to ignore that the Nats have gone 6-for-41 with runners in scoring position over their last five games, four of them losses. 

But Baker, ever the optimist, believes it won't take long before his team turns it around. 

“I just urge everybody, don’t panic," he said. "Just let us play and we’ll come out of this.”

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Report details pieces Orioles could package together in trade for Upton, Jr.

Report details pieces Orioles could package together in trade for Upton, Jr.

The Baltimore Orioles are reportedly discussing a trade that would send Ubaldo Jimenez to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Melvin Upton, Jr., according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. 

The deal, Rosenthal reports, would likely also have to involve a prospect departing Baltimore for San Diego and is "not yet close" to happening.

Jimenez has struggled for Baltimore this season, going 5-9 with a 7.38 ERA. Upton, Jr. is batting .259 with 16 home runs and 45 RBIs. 

MORE DEADLINE NEWS: DUQUETTE OUTLINES WHAT O'S SEEK IN STARTING PITCHER

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Bundy gets first major league win as a starter, O's beat Indians

Bundy gets first major league win as a starter, O's beat Indians

BALTIMORE—Before Friday night’s game, Buck Showalter was asked if Dylan Bundy could remain in the starting rotation for the rest of the season and not exceed the innings limit the manager has in mind. 

Showalter said that was possible, and after watching Bundy achieve his first major league win as a starter on Friday night, he’s no doubt eager to see more out of Bundy. 

In five innings, Bundy allowed an unearned run on five hits as the Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians 5-1 before 39,358 at Oriole Park. 

The Orioles, who lost four straight before winning on Thursday afternoon in New York, scored their most runs in exactly two weeks, and had their first three-run inning since July 5. 

Bundy (3-2), who started for the first time on Sunday and allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings at Tampa Bay, pitched well against the Indians. 

He gave up five hits in five innings and struck out five. 

“That's a real good offensive team over there, so that makes it even more impressive. He was good. He pitched as much as threw,” Showalter said. “He felt good at the end. Started to give me that ‘I can keep going’ look.

Shortly after Showalter indicated his confidence in Bundy as a starter, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette emphasized that the team needed additional starting pitching. Even though the market was thin, perhaps the thinnest Duquette has seen, the Orioles would continue to look for reinforcements. 

An effective Bundy would be a huge help. He’s fine with being a starter the rest of the season.

“I mean, yeah, it could be, if he said so. You know, that’s not up to me. I’m just going to keep pitching whenever I’m supposed to, and that can all work itself out at the end of the year,” Bundy said. 

Help may be coming in a few days when Darren O’Day, who hasn’t pitched since June 1 due to a strained right hamstring, returns. He allowed a hit and struck out two in his rehab start at Bowie.

If the Orioles decide O’Day doesn’t need a second rehab assignment, he could return on Sunday or Monday, and that would give the bullpen a big boost. 

Bundy had just one perfect inning, the fourth, and didn’t walk a batter. 

There was one difficult inning, the second when Tyler Naquin doubled with one out. Naquin was held at third when Juan Uribe singled, but Bundy retired Abraham Almonte on a foul pop to third and Chris Gimenez on a fly to center. 

In the fifth, with Bundy having thrown 72 pitches through four, Almonte led off with a double and moved to third on a passed ball by Caleb Joseph.

Almonte tried to score on Gimenez’s grounder to short, but headed back towards third when J.J. Hardy threw home. Almonte beat the throw back to third and scored when Carlos Santana hit into a double play. It was the only run for Cleveland (56-39).  

“He was really going to pitch effectively tonight. Pitch is the key word. He knew it was going to be a challenge with Cleveland, like it will be tomorrow and the next night for anybody who faces them. But I think in this case, no. I think he was so locked in to what his job description was tonight. I think the first pitch of the game was a changeup. That kind of set the tone. Caleb obviously did a nice job with him,” Showalter said. 
 
The Orioles (55-40) got Adam Jones back after he was down for a day with back spasms. Before the game, Joey Rickard was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised ligament in his right thumb. 

Mark Trumbo hit a three-run homer in the first, his 29th, which leads the major leagues, off Trevor Bauer (7-4) in the first to take a 3-0 lead. 

Jones’ second-inning sacrifice fly and Manny Machado’s 19th home run in the third, made it 5-0.

“We came up and got a couple runners on base and Trumbo came up and did what he does best. It was good to get that out the way quick in the first inning. We have been struggling with runners in scoring position lately on the road trip so to come out here and do it right away was pretty great,” Machado said. 

Odrisamer Despaigne pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, and came within a pitch of his first major league save, but after he walked Almonte, Zach Britton came in to retire Erik Gonzalez for his 31st save. 

NOTES: Juan Uribe was hit in the head by a pitch from Despaigne in the seventh inning and suffered a bruise. … Josh Tomlin (10-2, 3.34) faces Kevin Gausman (1-7, 4.05) on Saturday.