Neighbors Fish, Haas ready for Citi Open clash

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Neighbors Fish, Haas ready for Citi Open clash

Increasingly on the mens professional tennis tour, age is truly just a number. Mardy Fish and Tommy Haas are winning proof. The 30-somethings rolled up convincing quarterfinal victories, setting up a head-to-head semifinal meeting between friends and hitting partners back in Southern California. Fellow graybeard James Blakes hopes of another inspired run in Washington, dashed by a dashing shot maker while the makings of an All-American womens vanished in the night.The top-seeded Fish stayed afloat with an efficient 6-3, 6-4 win over Xavier Malisse while No. 4 Haas continued his run of straight set wins in DC, downing fellow German Tobias Kamke 6-1, 6-2.The other semifinal pits a pair of whippersnappers including power-serving American Sam Querrey. The No. 8 seed continued his recent torrid play with a straight-sets win. Second-seeded Alexander Dolgopolov ended Blakes run, 7-6 (3), 6-4.On the womens side, No. 3 seed and rising star Sloane Stephens suffered through a losing battle with her composure - and upset-minded Magdalena Rybarikova, who will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Saturdays final. The top seeded Russian overcame the afternoon heat and a one-set deficit against No. 4 Vania King.Serving served as the centerpiece of Fishs triumph, as the 30-year smacked 10 aces while fending off any change of momentum with timely winners. After breaking Malisse once in each set, Fishs attention quickly turned toward facing one of his practice partners. Certainly not the next tour stop to the North. There is somewhere else he would rather be.Were good friends. We actually live really close to each in Los Angeles and hang out a lot there, practice together a lot there, said Fish, who has lost three of four career matches to Haas with the last meeting coming in 2007. Itll be fun. Itll be one of those matches that is the reason why were out here. Winner goes to the final and the loser goes to Toronto.Haas, the last player to make Roger Federer a loser this year, never faced a break point on his serve against Kamke. Fish, rounding back into game shape after an extended absence for health matters, knows his increasingly confident pal is playing well. Seeing as this particular chum once stood No. 2 in the world and possesses a wicked backhand, dont expect any kid glove treatment when Fish sees Haas lined up across the net.Sometimes its hard to play close friends, said Fish who enters his first career Washington semifinal and is now two wins from his first tour title this year. You know, you root for them to win, but you have to put it into perspective, and say that this is the guy that is trying to take my lunch away tomorrow, and Im going to try and beat him any way I can. The 34-year-old Haas run to the semifinals followed a finals appearance in his previous tournament before Washington and a title win in Halle against Federer, the most prominent tour member of the three-decades old club that also includes Malisse, Anderson and Blake.I think it speaks to the physicality of the game nowadays, said Fish when asked of the ongoing trend of players not simply sticking around longer compared to historical norms, but also turning in winning results. It takes guys longer to develop. Its a much more physical, much more mental. And there are a lot of 30 and older guys that are playing well.This week there are also two younger guys playing well, including the 24-year-old Querrey. Coming off a championship last week in Los Angeles, Querrey has won 44 of 48 first serve points over his last two matches.Then there is the laid-back, ponytail wearing and drop shot making Dolgopolov, who beat Querrey in their only previous meeting. He also erased an early 3-0 deficit against Blake with an array of crafty winners. I knew if I concentrated and just work it, it will get better, the Ukrainian said about falling quickly behind. My game is pretty risky, so you can miss a lot of shots, but you can also make some shots, just a lot of winners. I was just trying to get myself into rhythm.Rybarikova, ranked 102 and the only unseeded player in the semifinals, dictated play against Stephens, the second seed she defeated this week. Already a two-time winner on tour, the Slovak goes for the upset hat trick against Pavlyuchenkova, who received medical attention throughout her match against King yet still powered her way into the finals for the first time this year.NotesThe mens semifinals between Fish-Haas starts no earlier than 3:00 p.m. followed by Querrey-Dolgopolov and the womens championship.

Papelbon's blown save snaps Nats' win streak against Royals

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Papelbon's blown save snaps Nats' win streak against Royals

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 7-6 walkoff loss to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium: 

How it happened: The Nationals were on the brink of their fifth straight win when Jonathan Papelbon took the mound Tuesday night, but waiting for him was the middle of the Royals' order in a lineup that can grind out at-bats and make their own luck as well as any team in baseball. They got to Papelbon and they did it their way: a soft infield single to beat a shift, a stolen base by a pinch-runner and two RBI singles to finish the job. The Royals didn't need a single extrabase hit to erase a two-run deficit and steal a win from the Nationals.

Mike Moustakas tied the game with his RBI single in the bottom of the ninth and Lorenzo Cain ended it on a walkoff line drive to center field, as the Nationals fell to 18-8 on the season. Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Chris Heisey homered, Wilson Ramos returned with three hits and Tanner Roark made it 7 1/3 innings. But it wasn't enough with Papelbon's second blown save of the season.

What it means: The Nationals have to still feel great about their road trip so far despite Tuesday's loss, but the Papelbon failure in the ninth has to be concerning. It was his second blown save this season in 11 attempts. That puts him on a troubling pace.

Papelbon's drop-off: Speaking of Papelbon. He now sports a 4.50 ERA on the season after allowing three runs on five hits on Tuesday. It was a tough night for the Nats' closer, who has blown four saves now in 35 outings since getting traded to Washington last July.

Ramos picks up where he left off: Ramos hadn't played since April 24 due to the death of his grandfather, but he had quite the return on Tuesday night. Ramos had three hits including two doubles, the first to score a run in the sixth inning. It was Ramos' sixth multi-hit game this season and his first since April 15. The Buffalo is now batting .344 through 16 games.

Rendon finally gets a homer: One of the biggest surprises this season so far for the Nationals has been the lack of power numbers for Rendon, who two years ago was one of the best players in the NL. He entered Tuesday night slugging just .290 and had yet to hit a home run in in 100 at-bats. Well, that homer finally came in the first inning off Chris Young, a solo blast to left field. It was Rendon's first home run in 191 at-bats dating back to Sept. 14 of last season. Rendon hit 21 homers in 2014 and has the potential for even more. Perhaps that swing can get him going.

Murphy goes yard: Murphy hit his third homer of the season on Tuesday, a solo shot to right field off Young to make it a 3-2 game. Murphy now has three homers in 26 games with the Nats, which puts him on a 19-homer pace over a full 162 game season. That's a notch or two ahead of the 14 homers he hit in 130 regular season games in 2015, which was a 17-homer pace over 162 games.

Harper keeps scuffling: With all the talk this week about who should star in Space Jam 2, Harper has looked in recent days like he's auditioning for a role. Maybe somewhere in the galaxy right now a Nerdluck is blasting homer after homer into the oblivion. Okay, maybe not. But the real life Harper had another rough night Tuesday with zero hits in five at-bats and three strikeouts. Harper has multiple Ks in three straight games and is now batting .256 on the year. 

Up next: The Nats and Royals close out their series in Kansas City with a 2:15 p.m. start. Stephen Strasburg (4-0, 2.25) will look to continue his excellent run to begin the season. Right-hander Kris Medlen (1-2, 4.87) will take the mound for the Royals. After Wednesday, the Nats move on to Chicago for a four-game series at Wrigley against the Cubs.

Trumbo's two home runs give Orioles the win over the Yankees

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Trumbo's two home runs give Orioles the win over the Yankees

BALTIMORE –- Mark Trumbo had a terrific first month with the Orioles. His second month began spectacularly, too. 

In April, Trumbo’s heroics were overshadowed by Manny Machado’s all around stellar play. While Trumbo was certainly in consideration for American League Player of the Month, Machado was the proper choice. 

When oddsmaker Bovada released its latest projections on AL MVP early Tuesday afternoon, Machado was the 15:4 favorite, but Trumbo was in the conversation as well with 10:1 odds. 

Trumbo’s two home runs on Tuesday night helped power the Orioles to a 4-1 win over the New York Yankees before 16,083 at Oriole Park. 

His first home run, which was his seventh this season was a long shot estimated at 414 feet, to deep left field. 

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the fifth off Luis Severino. That gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead, and it was Trumbo’s eighth, and his second two homer game. The first came on Apr. 15 at Texas when he became the first Oriole to hit two in an inning. 

“I think it’s been a lot of fun. At-bats wise, I think I’ve done kind of what I was hoping to do. There’s still a number of things I’d like to accomplish as we go and shore up a few mechanical things, but as far as the numbers themselves go, I think it’s about all I could ask for,” Trumbo said. 

Trumbo doesn’t have to be the man in the Orioles lineup. There’s Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado. 

“I think it is a big help. I think getting a chance to see a few similar hitters in front of me and how they are attacking those guys can be a huge advantage if I’m hitting fifth, they have to go thru Manny and Jonesey. It really is a situation where you can totally be yourself, have your at-bats, try and contribute the way you do, and you don't have to do a single ounce extra because everyone is going to do their part,” Trumbo said. 

Manager Buck Showalter has tried to convince his hitters to “pass the baton,” not to feel an extra responsibility. 

“I think all [hitters] are sometimes where they don’t feel like they’ve got the weight of the world on their shoulders. But this is not like his first time in the big leagues. He’s got a pretty good track record of what he’s doing now in April and now May,” Showalter said.

“I think he’s a guy, regardless, I could tell about halfway through the spring it was going to be a pretty good fit in a lot of areas other than what he would bring statistically. He seems to really fit in quickly and I felt that way whether he was hitting like he is or not. He’s been a real good fit for how we have to do it.”

The Orioles (15-10) scored their second run in the fourth when Jonathan Schoop doubled with two outs and scored when Severino (0-4) dropped Mark Teixeira’s relay on Ryan Flaherty’s grounder to first. 

Machado started at shortstop in place of J.J. Hardy and for the third time this season, made an ill-advised dash for third. Machado doubled to start the fifth, and ran for third when Adam Jones grounded to shortstop Didi Gregorius. Machado was easily thrown out. 

Chris Tillman didn’t have a clean inning until his last one, but allowed just one run in seven innings. 

Tillman (3-1) gave up five hits, walked four and struck out nine including his last three in the seventh. It was the second straight start in which Tillman equaled his career high in strikeouts. 

“I think it’s being able to throw my offspeed for strikes. It’s been something that I worked on a lot last year and it never really came along for me in spring training. I kind of had a good feel for it and was able to carry it over. In bullpens, I worked hard on that. It's something that [Matt Wieters] has to consistently remind me of throughout the game. In certain counts, he's calling a breaking ball where I normally wouldn't do it. He's keeping me on my toes, that’s for sure,” Tillman said. 

New York (8-16), loser of six straight, scored in the second off Tillman on a run-scoring single by Gregorius. 

Tillman is the second Orioles pitcher to work seven innings this season. Ubaldo Jimenez on Apr. 7 was the first. 

Brad Brach, who often works the seventh, pitched a scoreless eighth in Zach Britton’s temporary absence. 

Darren O’Day recorded his second save with a scoreless ninth. 

NOTES: Alex Rodriguez suffered a strained left hamstring. … CC Sabathia (1-2, 5.06) faces Tyler Wilson (1-0, 3.06) on Wednesday night.

MORE ORIOLES: WILL MACHADO MOVE TO SHORTSTOP WHILE HARDY IS OUT?

Stray cats and elephant poop: The strange stories of the NHL playoffs

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USA TODAY Sports

Stray cats and elephant poop: The strange stories of the NHL playoffs

Every year, the Stanley Cup Playoffs bring out some compelling storylines...and a few weird ones. Just like the story of the stray cat in San Jose.

Prior to Friday's game between the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators, a stray black cat jumped out onto the ice.

The cat of course became an instant celebrity, especially after San Jose won the game 5-2 and was dubbed "Joe PAW-velski" after team captain Joe Pavelski.

After receiving interest from several fans wishing to adopt the cat, the Sharks released a statement saying it would be brought to an animal shelter to ensure it did not have a microchip and was a stray and then it would be made available for adoption.

The Sharks won both of their first games at home and now the series heads to Nashville. Hoping for some luck of their own, the Predators tried to recreate the moment.

In other animal related news, the series between the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues has sparked an interesting wager between two zoos.

According to Yahoo Sports' Puck Daddy blog, the losing zoo's vice president will have to travel to the winner’s zoo, wear a jersey and hat of the winning team and shovel 250 pounds of elephant poop.

I guess it's true what they say about vice presidents, they always have to shovel someone else's poop.

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