An historic win for U.S. soccer team

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An historic win for U.S. soccer team

From Comcast SportsNet
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- After 75 years of frustration in Mexico, the U.S. national team finally won a soccer game at its southern neighbor and regional rival. Dominated for most of the night at one of soccer's most intimidating venues, the Americans beat the Mexicans 1-0 in an exhibition Wednesday night behind Michael Orozco Fiscal's goal in the 80th minute and Tim Howard's late sprawling saves. "The goal was for the U.S. fans and the whole U.S. We made history," said Orozco Fiscal, a 26-year-old defender from Orange, Calif., whose parents were born in Mexico. A trio of second-half substitutes created the goal. Brek Shea cut inside Severo Meza on the left flank and crossed to Terrence Boyd at the top of the 6-yard box. With his back to the goal, Boyd took a touch with his left foot and with his right made a quick backheel pass to Orozco Fiscal, who with his left foot poked it from 3 yards past goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and defender Jorge Torres Nilo for his first international goal. Orozco Fiscal, who plays in Mexico for San Luis, was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team but hasn't established himself with the varsity. He entered in the 77th minute for his fifth international appearance and first since October. Shea, back with the team for the first time since February following a season of turmoil in Major League Soccer, came on a minute later. Boyd, a German-American who made his U.S. debut in February, had entered to start the second half. "Just happy we won and made history," Shea said. "It's something we haven't done in a long time. Just to be on the roster is cool." Howard, in a snazzy gray-on-white uniform, twice preserved the lead. He moved to his right on a Javier Hernandez shot in the 85th, then sprawled to his left when it deflected off Maurice Edu. Four minutes later, he extended left to paw away a 4-yard downward header by Chicharito. "I think it's huge. It's huge for I think all American fans, it's huge for the team, and it's historic," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "We were very well aware that we've never won here at the Azteca Stadium. This is an amazing experience for the all the players. We told them before the game: This moment is for you, go and grab it. We are all aware that it was a lot, a lot of work." The U.S. had been 0-23-1 against El Tri in 75 years of games at Mexico, including 0-19-1 in the thin air at altitude in Mexico City -- where they had been outscored 81-14. Azteca, with loud, passionate fans, is a difficult site for road teams. "You can shrivel up or you can accept it," Howard said. "We deserved a little bit of luck, and we got it tonight." Mexico outshot the U.S. 15-6 and had a 10-0 advantage in corner kicks. But the Americans came away with their second big win this year, following February's first-ever victory over Italy, in a friendly at Genoa. "Tim Howard kept us in the game I don't know how many times," said Klinsmann, who has been trying to change the defensive mindset the American had at times under Bob Bradley. "It's a mental aspect of it." With the European clubs seasons getting under way, the U.S. used a half-strength roster and a makeshift central defense. Mexico also was below strength following the Olympics. El Tri dominated possession but failed to connect on several open shots as the Americans paired Edu and Geoff Cameron in the center of their back line in the absence of Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson and Oguchi Onyewu. "For me, it's a game that I grew up watching," Cameron said of the U.S.-Mexico rivalry. "To be a part of a win for the first time speaks for itself." The game marked the start of the Americans' second year under Klinsmann, who replaced Bradley last summer after Mexico overcame a two-goal deficit to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup final 4-2. The U.S. figures to have a lineup closer to full strength for a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica next month, on the road on Sept. 7 and at Columbus, Ohio, four days later. Mexico plays Costa Rica on those same days. "We know we have to improve in many, many elements," Klinsmann said. "We have to keep the ball longer. We have to create more chances. We have to do a lot of work still. But I think this gives us a lot of confidence." While the U.S. eliminated Mexico in the second round of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea, El Tri has improved in recent years, winning the Under-17 World Cup in 2005 and 2011 and adding the title in the Olympics, which is for Under-23 teams plus three overage players. Mexico is up to 18th in the world rankings, while the U.S. is down to 36th. The game came at an awkward time for players, many focused on their clubs' season openers this weekend. "It was very difficult in high altitude, with many of them flying in from Europe two days ago," Klinsmann said. "But we had a plan, and we tried to execute that plan and getting that win here -- I mean it's quite enjoyable." NOTES: The only previous U.S. non-loss against Mexico in Mexico was a 0-0 tie in a 1997 World Cup qualifier. At the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, the U.S. beat New Zealand and Germany in Guadalajara before losing to Mexico 1-0 in overtime at Azteca. ... Landon Donovan, searching for his 50th international goal, left at the start of the second half because of a tight hamstring and was replaced by DaMarcus Beasley, who made his 97th international appearance.

Hunter faces Orioles for first time since July trade

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Hunter faces Orioles for first time since July trade

CLEVELAND—There was a most unusual sight for Orioles fans on Saturday. Tommy Hunter was trotting in to pitch, and he was pitching against the Orioles for the first time since he was traded to the Chicago Cubs last July. 

Hunter, who signed with Cleveland in February, allowed two runs in the seventh inning against his old team. 

“It’s terrible. You want to strike everybody out…I talked to a couple of them after the game. It was like, man just take three groundballs and let me be on my way, so and then hanging a pitch to [Adam Jones], I just started laughing, not really laughing. I was really…upset,” Hunter said. 

“I was like, ‘Man, I should just put this ball on the grass, and he’s going to go swing at it.’ But, of course, Jonesy takes care of hanging breaking balls. It was kind of hard, you just don’t look up, just try and keep your head down and go. It was some pretty good friends, but you never want to give up two runs.”

Hunter is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 10 games with Cleveland. 

After the Orioles traded him to the Cubs, he got to reunite with Jake Arrieta, and seeing a different pitcher than he had before was exciting. 

“Man, watching Jake throw was pretty incredible. One of the best pitching experiences I’ve ever seen. Maybe some other people will argue it was the best in the history of the game. Being able to witness that, and somebody that went through as many hardships and struggles as he did, come out on top and be the guy he is today, what kids are looking up to, it was fun to watch and be there in person and see him blossom like the young little tulip he is,” Hunter said. 

Manager Buck Showalter didn’t have a chance to connect with Hunter this weekend, but he is very fond of him.

“Tommy is easy to like. He plays hard. He pitches hard and he’s a great teammate,” Showalter said. 

“Tommy, you pull for him. It’s easy to pull for him. I wasn’t pulling for him last night, but Chris [Davis] and him are real close, but Chris is trying to get a hit and he trying to get Chris out. You pull for him, but not against you. Tommy is easy to pull for. His teammates pull for him. He’s not just some funny guy.”
 

Orioles scratch McFarland from Norfolk start

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Orioles scratch McFarland from Norfolk start

CLEVELAND—T.J. McFarland was scheduled to start for Norfolk on Sunday against Scranton. However, he was scratched from the start in case he’s needed by the Orioles. 

McFarland injured his left knee last weekend and has been on the minor league disabled list.

Manager Buck Showalter said that McFarland’s knee was fine. Andy Oliver was named to replace McFarland, but the game was postponed. The Orioles did contemplate adding McFarland for Sunday’s game because they had no fresh long reliever since Vance Worley pitched 4 ½ innings on Saturday. 

“Just to be on the safe side. He still could pitch an inning there if he had to. Just want to make sure we’re covered. There was some thought about today, but it didn’t happen,” Showalter said. 
 

Cardinals manager Matheny on pitching to Bryce Harper

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Cardinals manager Matheny on pitching to Bryce Harper

Atop the majors with a 23.4 walk percentage, Bryce Harper is being pitched around more often than anyone this season. Both that approach from opposing teams and his struggles with not getting pitches to hit have been well-documented.

The St. Louis Cardinals, however, have been an outlier this season when it comes to how they've handled Harper. He's only walked twice in 25 plate appearances against them. That's an eight percent walk rate, about a third of his season average. He's struck out in 32 percent of his PAs against the Cardinals (8 SO in 25 PA) - much higher than his 18 percent season average - and is batting just .130 through six games vs. the Cards. Only the Mets have held him to a lower OPS than the .591 mark he has against St. Louis.

The Cardinals have been pitching to Harper and it hasn't hurt them all that much. He has three hits in six games and two are homers, but both were solo shots.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny spoke about the team's approach to Harper this weekend.

"Typically, a solo home run shouldn't beat you," Matheny said. "We do pitch him carefully. We have in the past and we'll continue to. A lot of it has to do with how he's swinging at the time and what the matchups look like and who's hitting around him. All that goes into the decision."

"We've had a little success against him, not that that's always going to continue because he's a good hitter, but when we had him at home we were pitching him tough and we were able to get outs. When you're able to do that, you try to stick with the approach that's working."

A 13-year MLB veteran before he went into coaching, Matheny was a catcher during the days of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and then when Barry Bonds was setting records with the San Francisco Giants.

Matheny knows there comes a time when hitters can get so hot there is just no point in pitching to them.

"Who's a guy we want to stay away from, is there somebody in the lineup you don't want to beat you and is there enough depth to where you can't do that?… Bonds had good players around him, but when he was hot there were just times where he just wasn't going to [allowed to] beat you. I could see Harper being viewed the same way," Matheny said.

"There were times in Barry Bonds' career was the best player on the planet and you couldn't get him out… There were times when Sammy was the hottest hitter in baseball and you just weren't going to let him beat you. I don't care who was hitting behind him. This kid, obviously he can be included in those kinds of conversations."

Ben Standig contributed to this report