Golden again, US wins 1st Olympic title since '96

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Golden again, US wins 1st Olympic title since '96

By NANCY ARMOUR LONDON (AP) -- The Americans grabbed hands and backed up, eager to get a better view of the scoreboard. There really was no need. That Olympic gold medal was in the bag the minute they took the floor. The Americans lived up to their considerable hype and then some Tuesday night, routing silver medalist Russia and everybody else on their way to their first Olympic title in women's gymnastics since 1996. Their score of 183.596 was a whopping five points ahead of Russia and made their final event, floor exercise, more like a coronation. Romania won the bronze. With the Russians on the sidelines crying, the Americans stood at the center of the floor, clapping, cheering and basking in a winner's glow. When the score for captain Aly Raisman flashed, the Americans screamed and a chant of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" rang out around the arena. The women held up their index fingers for the cameras -- just in case anyone had a doubt. The Americans had come into the last two Olympics as world champions, only to leave without a gold. But this team is the strongest, top to bottom, the USA has ever had, and the rest of the world never stood a chance. After the U.S. opened with a barrage of booming vaults, everyone else was playing for silver. Now all they have to do is find themselves a catchy nickname, like "The Magnificent Seven" from 1996. Some have suggested "The Fab Five," but that belongs to Michigan basketball's Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Co. Others have tossed out "The Fierce Five." How about "Best Gymnastics Team in the World. By A Lot." Some teenagers might find that pressure tough to bear, but the Americans reveled in it. When they saw the Russians and Romanians peeking in the doorway during training sessions, they would add some extra oomph to their routines, the better to intimidate the competition. And when the gold was on the line, the Americans were simply spectacular. They essentially won the gold medal with their first event, vault, putting on a fireworks show right in front of the Russians. All of the Americans do Amanars, one of the toughest vaults in the world -- a roundoff onto the takeoff board, back handspring onto the table and 2.5 twisting somersaults before landing. It's got a start value -- the measure of difficulty -- of 6.5, a whopping 0.7 above the vault most other gymnasts do, and they ripped off one massive one after another. World champion Jordyn Wieber went first and did perhaps the best one she's ever done, getting great height in the air with her legs locked together. When her feet slammed into the mat on landing, she threw up her arms and smiled broadly. Anyone who wondered how she would recover from the shock of failing to qualify for the all-around competition got their answer. Gabby Douglas went next and her vault was even better. And then came McKayla Maroney, who let everyone know why she's a heavy favorite to add the Olympic gold to her world title in vault. She got so much height on her Amanar it's a wonder she didn't bump her head on the overhead camera. She hit the mat with tremendous force yet didn't so much as wiggle, triumphantly thrusting her arms in the air as she saluted the judges. The Americans strutted out of the event with a 1.7-point lead, and never looked back. Russia erased all but four-tenths of the deficit on uneven bars, where Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina defy the laws of gravity, but the team began falling apart on balance beam. Mustafina swayed and wobbled so badly on the landing of a leap it's a wonder she didn't fall off; Komova almost stepped on the judges on her dismount. The Americans, meanwhile, made the 4-inch slab that stands 4 feet in the air look like child's play. Kyla Ross, the only American who wasn't on that world team last year (she was too young), looks like a ballerina with her long legs and gorgeous lines. She landed one somersault with her left foot curled over the edge of the beam, yet never flinched. Douglas has struggled on balance beam all summer, with a fall the second day of the U.S. championships costing her the title. But she has been clutch in London, delivering the highest score in qualifying and again Tuesday night. She whipped off a series of backflips as if she was still on the ground, a look of intense concentration on her face. She had a small balance check on a leap, swaying slightly and waving her arms to steady herself, but it was a minor error. Her score of 15.233 would all but seal the gold for the Americans, and they strutted over to floor exercise eager to close out the night with a big show. While the Russians struggled -- Anastasia Grishina stumbled forward on one pass and botched another when she all but came to a dead stop in the middle of the floor, and world champion Ksenia Afanaseva landed her dismount on her knees -- the Americans kicked off their victory party. Wieber's bright smile grew as she danced and tumbled, the crowd clapping in time to her techno pop music. Fans the world over are going to have the "Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo" from the start of Douglas' music in their heads, and little girls are sure to be bouncing in their backyards trying to get as high as she does on her leaps. Raisman closed it out with a rollicking routine to "Hava Nagila." While her teammates cheered, Raisman soared high on her tumbling passes yet she landed so securely she may as well have been stepping into a bucket of cement. Coach Mihai Brestyan was jumping up and down as Raisman finished, the tears already starting to fall. But as she fell into her teammates arms, the tears turned to shrieks of joy.

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Report: Nats talking to Pirates about All-Star closer Melancon

Report: Nats talking to Pirates about All-Star closer Melancon

With Aroldis Chapman now in Chicago, the Nationals have moved on to other options in their search for bullpen help.

They have been linked to Andrew Miller of the Yankees and Wade Davis of the Royals.

On Friday, another veteran name emerged on the rumor mill. That would be All-Star closer Mark Melancon of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

RELATED: NATS' TOP TRADE DEADLINE TARGETS

See this tweet from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal:

Melancon, like Chapman, would be a rental, as his contract expires after this season. He is a three-time All-Star who finished eighth in NL Cy Young voting in 2015.

Melancon has been brilliant for Pittsburgh this year with a 1.51 ERA and 30 saves in 33 chances. He led the majors last season with 51 saves in 53 tries.

What stands out about this rumor, though, is that the Pirates would even be willing to part with Melancon. They are currently just two games out of an NL wild card spot. Teams in their position do not usually become sellers.

Because of that, one would have to imagine the price would be high for Melancon, as Pittsburgh has no urgency to move him. One could argue they have no reason to in the first place.

Regardless, it's good news for the Nats if the Pirates will listen to offers. Melancon would be a rare commodity on the trade market as a closer with experience and a long track record of proven results.

[RELATED: Papelbon's job as Nats closer now a real question]

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Tale of two TE's: Crockett Gillmore injures hamstring, Dennis Pitta has another solid day

Tale of two TE's: Crockett Gillmore injures hamstring, Dennis Pitta has another solid day

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens tight end Crockett Gillmore left practice early Friday with a hamstring injury and was scheduled to have an MRI.

However, it was another strong day for tight end Dennis Pitta, who continued to make strides toward a successful comeback after missing all of the 2015 season with his second major hip injury.

Gillmore led the Ravens’ tight ends last season with 33 catches, 412 yards, and four touchdowns.

He is locked in a battle for playing time with a deep tight end group that also features Dennis Pitta, Ben Watson, and Maxx Williams. If Gillmore misses significant time in camp, there will be more practice reps for others in the tight end group.

The Ravens will practice in pads for the first time on Saturday, which means more contact for Pitta. However, Pitta wasn’t worried about his hip following Friday’s practice.

“My hip feels good, two days in, not worried about it at all,” Pitta said following Friday’s practice. Moving like I want to. Just continue to stay the course. Everything’s on track so far.

“I don’t anticipate tomorrow (Saturday) being a big hurdle for me to clear. It’s just another practice for me. Last year when I was trying to come off PUP, it still didn’t quite feel right…I’m at this point, and feel good, and don’t have any lingering issues or thoughts about it.”

RELATED: OBSERVATIONS FROM DAY 1 OF RAVENS' TRAINING CAMP

  

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NL East: Marlins trade for two starters, load up for pennant race

NL East: Marlins trade for two starters, load up for pennant race

No one in the NL East has been as aggressive at this year's trade deadline than the Miami Marlins.

Five games back from the Nats in second place, the Marlins already acquired closer Fernando Rodney from the Padres late last month. Now they have pulled off an even bigger deal with San Diego to bring in starters Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea.

The Marlins also received reliever Tayron Guerrero in what amounts to a seven-player deal. Off to the Padres are starter Jarred Cosart, first baseman prospect Josh Naylor, minor league pitcher Luis Castillo, as well as injured reliever Carter Capps, who is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.

In landing Cashner and Rea, the Marlins get two right-handers who could ultimately upgrade their rotation, but both have been ineffective so far this season. Cashner, 29, is 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA and a 2.23 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the worst of his career. Rea, 26, is 5-5 with a 4.98 ERA and a 1.73 SO/BB rate.

Cashner presents the biggest upside as a guy who just two years ago held a 2.55 ERA across 19 starts. The year before that, in 2013, he posted a 3.09 ERA in 31 outings across 175 innings pitched.

Both pitchers will have to be better than they have been to make this trade a win for the Marlins, but they now have some much-needed depth behind Jose Fernandez in their rotation. They addressed their biggest need in hopes of separating themselves from the Mets and catching up to the Nationals.

ESPN first reported the trade on Friday morning.

[RELATED: Papelbon's job as Nats closer now a real question]

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