It’s now been three weeks since Mike Napoli agreed to a three-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox and no official announcement has been made, leading to lots of speculation about what might be causing the holdup. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that Napoli “has a problem with one of his hips” which also…
Postgame analysis of the Nats' 6-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium:
How it happened: Apparently all the Nationals and Max Scherzer needed to break out of their early season slump was to play on the road against a team that won 100 games the year before.
Just like the Nationals' bats did in the two days prior, Scherzer found his groove in St. Louis on Sunday with seven shutout innings and zero walks in his best start of the season. The Nats' lineup got to Cardinals phenom Carlos Martinez late in his outing and Clint Robinson, Danny Espinosa and Chris Heisey homered as the Nats beat St. Louis 6-1 to secure their first sweep of the Cardinals since 2007 and their first ever sweep at Busch Stadium.
What it means: The Nats have considerable momentum with a three-game winning streak and a club record 17-7 start as they head to Kansas City to face the Royals. Playing the defending champs looked much more daunting before this weekend than it does now, as the Nats head to K.C. once again looking like one of the best teams in baseball.
Scherzer bounces back: Seeing Scherzer turn things around is a very positive sign for the Nationals who were waiting for their ace to fall in line with the rest of their rotation. Scherzer finally overcame his first inning woes to set the tone for a strong start overall. He escaped the first inning without allowing a run for just the second time in six starts this season. He ended up going seven shutout frames with nine strikeouts, zero walks and four hits allowed on 105 pitches. The right-hander dropped his season ERA all the way down to 3.55 as he now turns his attention to the Cubs whom he'll face in his next start at Wrigley Field.
Martinez cracks late: Martinez was locked in from the very first pitch and didn't allow a hit until Scherzer singled (one of his two hits on Sunday) with two outs in the third. Martinez was firing 98 mile per hour heat with a dazzling curveball to complement. The right-hander finally gave up a run in the sixth on a Matt den Dekker single and then served up back-to-back bombs to Robinson and Espinosa in the seventh. It took three times through their order, but the Nats figured out Martinez on this particular day. Espinosa, by the way, has two homers in his last three games.
Harper gets a Golden Sombrero: Mired in his first real slump of the season, Bryce Harper had major trouble against Martinez and the Cardinals. The Nats' slugger went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts on Sunday and is now hitless in his last 14 at-bats. Harper has just one hit in his last five games (17 ABs) and is now hitting .272 on the season.
Robinson's homer much-needed: Robinson earned a bench spot out of spring training after a breakout campaign in 2015, but the first baseman has been slow to heat up this season so far. He was just 1-for-21 on the year before his seventh inning homer. The homer, though, could be just what Robinson needs to get going. It was a two-run shot and it came off one of the NL's hottest pitchers.
Up next: The Nationals move on to Kansas City to take on the defending World Series champions in three games at Kauffman Stadium. Monday night is an 8:15 p.m. first pitch with Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 1.42) and Edinson Volquez (3-1, 3.34) set to start.
BALTIMORE— On yet another chilly day, Ubaldo Jimenez was annoyed the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox accepted the free bases Jimenez handed them and beat the Orioles 7-1 before 28,803 on Sunday.
Jimenez was gone with two outs in the fifth when Chicago scored five runs. He allowed seven hits, walked four and hit two batters and also threw a wild pitch.
In the fourth, The White Sox (18-8) took a 1-0 lead on Brett Lawrie’s fourth home run, three of them hit in the past three games.
Jimenez (1-3) pitched out of trouble in the second inning when he loaded the bases on a single and two walks with none out. He struck out Dioner Navarro and got Austin Jackson to hit into a double play.
In the fifth, Chicago took a 6-0 lead on five hits, a walk and two hit batsmen. Jerry Sands’ two-run single was the biggest hit and Jimenez’s final batter.
The six runs were the most charged to Jimenez in five starts, and for the first time, he didn’t complete at least five.
Chris Sale (6-0) continued his dominance, but for the first time he didn’t make it through seven innings. He didn’t even get through six.
Sale allowed five hits and walked four in 5 1/3, but only one runner scored.
Chris Davis singled to lead off the sixth, and after Pedro Alvarez bounced out, Jake Petricka gave up a single to Nolan Reimold to score Davis.
Alvarez came into the game to play third base when J.J. Hardy left after five innings when he fouled a ball off his left foot. Manny Machado moved to shortstop.
Machado reached base three times on two singles and a walk, but the Orioles had no extra-base hits. They struck out 11 times and left 12 runners on base.
NOTE: After Monday’s off day, the Orioles play three games with the New York Yankees. Chris Tillman (2-1, 3.24) pitches against Luis Severino (0-3, 6.86).
MORE ORIOLES: BRACH SEEMS ALWAYS TO BE IN RIGHT PLACE FOR THE WIN
Out of Sacramento, Ailene Voisin reported for The Bee earlier this week that Kings GM Vlade Divac finally is open to trading DeMarcus Cousins who is under contract at $16.4 million per through 2018, this summer. It might drive a some to give them a call, but most NBA-connected personnel already know what they'd be dealing with. Fired coach George Karl had a candid chat with Voisin to erase all doubt of what went wrong as he failed to get a team to a winning record for the first time in his career.
Karl was doomed by the organization’s chronic dysfunction from the start. Karl was a popular hire among Kings fans when he replaced Tyrone Corbin, who was treated like a doormat by Cousins after Michael Malone’s brutally ill-conceived firing. But Karl stepped into a situation that doubled as a septic tank long before his plane touched down.
There were enough different agendas at Sleep Train to jam the fax machine. Cousins’ agents, Dan Fegan and Jarinn Tasi Akana – the latter a member of the Denver staff who was let go when Karl was hired by the Nuggets in 2004 – lobbied hard against Karl and poisoned the coach-player relationship before the introduction. Former general manager Pete D’Alessandro signed off on Karl’s hiring only to openly engage fans in an outrageous divide-and-conquer debate: Are you with Karl or Cousins?
Karl admitted to Voisin that he was wrong for saying no player was untradeable, permanently mudding a murky situation with Cousins. By no means was Karl flawless. As a GM, Divac isn't exactly the most qualified person for that job, either, execpt that he had played for the Kings.
Cousins, however, still hasn’t shown a shred of maturity after six years as a pro. There’s a reason as the best player on the Kings he has never led them to the playoffs (or more than 33 wins) despite playing for multiple coaches (Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Mike Malone, Ty Corbin and Karl). Supposedly, if he’d gotten a coach with a track record for winning and accomplishment in Karl, an NBA Coach of the Year winner, he’d behave. That didn’t happen. Instead of going into the 2015-16 season on a good note, he childishly chose to keep the tensions high:
Divac walked into the crowded gym during the Las Vegas Summer League, accompanied by Cousins, other players and assistant general manager Mike Bratz, while Karl sat at the other side of the facility. When Karl approached, Cousins only reluctantly shook his hand and then turned away, embarrassing his coach in front of dozens of his NBA colleagues and thousands of viewers following the drama on NBATV. “Vlade thought he was helping me,” said Karl, “but that looked really bad.”
A blowup happened Nov. 8 when Cousins cussed out Karl after a game. The coach wanted a two-game suspension while Divac opted to fine him in a more diplomatic decision. Said Karl:
That night the bomb went off. Vlade was right there. When they supported Cousins instead of me, I felt, ‘OK, I’m in the compromise position. Cuz has the power. They sent that message many times, too many times sent it to the players. And the players wanted someone to stand up to Cuz, and they wanted it to be their coach. But at that point, I realized that you either you compromise or you blow it up, and my job was to make us a better basketball team and get to the end of the year.
There's a reason why successful franchises such as the San Antonio Spurs and now Golden State Warriors are where they are. They don't consider free agents or trades with Cousins' coach-killing reputation and attitude. When the draft comes around, certain players who are more talented than others won't even make their way on their draft boards. They're not even up for discussion. And if that Trojan horse sneaks into the locker room, he's quickly shipped out for little or nothing in return. It's addition by subtraction.
That sort of perspective takes discipline from the top down. Teams that lack it tend to be in the lottery each year. For the Wizards, who fired coach Randy Wittman and brought in Scott Brooks for a fresh start after missing the playoffs, Cousins isn't an option nor should he be. Brooks' presence as a players' coach is to change the tone of a locker room that developed friction with the previous coach. Adding a volatile personality such as Cousins won't help that. It'll make it worse. And Markieff Morris, who the Wizards acquired in a trade with the Suns in February after having a blowup with his coaches, is nothing like Cousins personality-wise and has had a clean record before that (and those coaches vouched for his character to the Wizards, something Karl or previous coaches won't do for Cousins).
As Karl said, Cousins wasn't liked by a lot of players in his own locker room. Earlier this season, when the Kings were at Verizon Center, Cousins led a spirited pregame debate on whether or not Tupac Shakur was alive. Contrast this to four years ago, when I was in the Kings' locker room in Minnesota, and Cousins led a similar goofy discussion 90 minutes before tipoff while then-rookie Jimmer Fredette rolled his eyes in disbelief that he was part of such an incredibly unprofessional atmosphere. This was a group in which when Smart was coach, players would look at their phones and text during film study (yes, Cousins was one of them).
Go in most locker rooms before tip off, players are reading scouting reports, looking at scouting video on the big screen, quietly focusing in with their music, stretching in the trainer's room or studying their concepts for that particular game. In Sacramento, it always has been a comedy show much like the product put on the floor.
The best player on a team, especially one with All-Star caliber talent, should at least be able to lead his team to a winning record once in six years. His stats should translate to something beyond fantasy league basketball wins. That hasn't happened with Cousins and in those six years there has been one constant in Sacramento.