One of the NHL's all-time greats skates away

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One of the NHL's all-time greats skates away

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Swedish defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retired after 20 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, ending one of the best careers in NHL history on Thursday. The four-time Stanley Cup champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner as the league's best defenseman fought back tears as he made the announcement. "My drive and motivation are not where they need to be to play at this level," Lidstrom said. The 42-year-old set an NHL record by playing 1,564 games with a single team. He had put retirement on hold in each of the previous two years by signing one-year contracts. "I've been dreading this day since I became manager in 1997," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. Lidstrom had 264 career goals with 1,142 points. After being incredibly durable for 19 seasons, he missed a career-high 11 games with a bruised right ankle and was out for another game with the flu. "That didn't sway me one way or another," Lidstrom said. "A couple of weeks after the season is over, you start working out. Once I started doing that I didn't have the push I need and I can't cheat myself." He plans to move his family to Sweden and hopes to have an off-ice role with the Red Wings. "Retiring today allows me to walk away with pride, rather than have the game walk away from me," said Lidstrom, whose oldest of four sons went to Sweden two years ago to attend school and play ice hockey. Lidstrom was named the NHL's best defenseman last year for a seventh time, matching Doug Harvey's total and trailing Bobby Orr's record by one. When Lidstrom won his final Norris Trophy last summer, he was a finalist for the 11th time in 13 seasons. Defenseman Brad Stuart, who was his teammate for the past four-plus seasons, said he was amazed at Lidstrom's ability to make the right play on almost every shift game after game. "I've played with great players who made mistakes, but I can't think of one game when I thought, Nick just didn't have it tonight,'" Stuart said during this year's one-series postseason. "He's that same, steady, amazing defenseman every night. I think I've seen him out of breath maybe three or four times in a few years because he's so smart, he gets himself in the right position to make a play." The four-time Olympian also scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden over Finland in 2006. He became the first European-born captain to win a Stanley Cup in 2008, six years after being the first from Europe to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP. He has a chiseled body thanks to a year-round workout that includes exercise before practice and after games along with a sensible diet that includes only occasional slices of pizza and fast food. Lidstrom's teammates call him "The Perfect Human," in part because he's as humble as he is successful on the ice. "It's one of the most emotional days in Red Wings history with Nick retiring and all you people showing your respect for such a high-quality individual," Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said at a packed news conference that included a slew of team employees wearing Lidstrom's No. 5 red jersey with a winged wheel.

Wizards extend scouting focus to West coast

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Wizards extend scouting focus to West coast

Three of the players interviewed by the Wizards at the NBA Draft Combine withdrew their names from consideration to return to college while the team continues to scout prospects and re-organizes within.

Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson), Josh Hart (Villanova) and Caleb Swanigan (Purdue) were among the 57 early-entry candidates to retain their college eligibility by withdrawing their names before the deadline Wednesday.

The Wizards’ scouting staff is currently out West where sports agencies such as CAA Sports, Landmark, Octagon and Wasserman Media Group are holding workouts for their rookies hoping to get drafted June 23 or find a home afterwards.

Maryland’s Robert Carter, who is projected to be a late first-round or early second-round pick, is training on the campus of UCLA, a representative for Life Sports Management told CSN. He was interviewed at the combine by the Wizards.

The league held a predraft combine in Chicago two weeks ago attended by 65 players. Blossomgame, Hart and Swanigan were among the 19 they interviewed.

The Wizards don’t have any picks, opting to trade what became their No. 13 spot for Markieff Morris. Their second-round pick was shipped in a deal last year that allowed them to acquire Kelly Oubre. But they still need to comb for prospects for Las Vegas summer league and training camp. 

They’ll begin predraft workouts at Verizon Center starting June 1.

Frank Ross is likely to be promoted internally to replace the post left by Marc Eversley who left for the Philadelphia 76ers, persons with knowledge of the situation told CSN. He'd be responsible for arranging the workouts among other duties. 

Ross has been director of player personnel and would be elevated to vice president of scouting.

 

Scherzer struggles to find consistency after loss to Cardinals

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Scherzer struggles to find consistency after loss to Cardinals

Consistency is much of what separates those who are good from those who are great and Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer is no stranger to the concept.

In each of the past three seasons he's pitched over 210 innings with ERAs at 3.15 or lower. He was an All-Star in each of those years and finished no worse than fifth in Cy Young voting.

With Scherzer, you usually know what you're going to get. High strikeouts, low walks and every once in a while an outing for the history books.

Yet through 11 starts in 2016, steadiness from start to start has eluded him. There's been something off, something missing that has left him with an uncharacteristically high 4.05 ERA and an MLB-high 15 homers allowed. 

Take his walks, for instance. Over his last six outings, Scherzer has alternated between walking zero batters and walking three or more. In Friday night's loss to the Cardinals, Scherzer walked four including one with the bases loaded to score a run. In his previous start he walked nobody in eight frames at the Mets.

One day he'll have it and then the next he just won't. 

"Of course I'm upset about the walks," Scherzer said after the Nats' 6-2 loss on Friday. "It seems like I keep walking the left-handed hitters. That's the bigger thing that will frustrate me more than the walks themselves."

The two most costly walks Scherzer issued on Friday came in the third inning, the frame he allowed five runs. Both of those walks - one to Greg Garcia and one to Matt Holliday - came in counts that began with two strikes. Holliday's was with the bases loaded and scored a run. It was the first time Scherzer walked in a run since April of 2013 and just the fourth time he's ever made that mistake.

"I'm not going to beat myself up over those because I was in 0-2 counts and I ended up walking them. It's more indicative that I just didn't have put-away pitches at that point," Scherzer said.

The walks that bothered Scherzer more did not lead to runs. Those were leadoff walks to begin the first and second innings.

"I'm actually more frustrated with the first two walks more than anything, because those can lead to dangerous innings where you have the leadoff walk," Scherzer said.

Friday night was the second time this season that Scherzer has allowed four walks. In 2015, he never walked four in a game. Through 11 starts Scherzer is already at 22 walks on the season after only giving up 34 total in 33 starts last season.

The walks are one thing for Scherzer. Homers are another. And it was again the longball that did Scherzer in on Friday, this time a grand slam by Stephen Piscotty in the third inning. It was just the second grand slam Scherzer has ever given up and his first since 2010.

Piscotty got a hanging slider and walloped it over the left field fence for his first career slam. 

"It was a dumb pitch," Scherzer admitted. "I hadn't shown my fastball yet and I threw another slider and I hung it. He put a good swing on it, ended in a blast."

It was part of a sequence of sliders Scherzer threw to Piscotty and he was waiting for it.

"Including the last at-bat he threw me four straight sliders. Luckily, I got that one," Piscotty said.

Scherzer has now allowed 42 homers over the last two seasons in 44 starts, more than any other pitcher. Since July 7 of 2015, Scherzer has given up 35 homers in 28 games. 

"I know I've been giving up a ton of home runs," Scherzer said. "But that one, that's just an execution thing. That's just me not throwing the right pitch at the right time with poor execution. So that's one where you don't beat yourself up over."

It has been a confusing season for Scherzer, but luckily for the Nats it hasn't hurt them much at all. They are tied for first place with the New York Mets and still boast one of baseball's best rotations with their other four holding ERAs at 2.87 or lower. 

Scherzer is their ace, but currently qualifies as their weakest link. While he searches for consistency from start to start, his teammates remain patient and point to his body of work as a whole.

"I'll take him out there any day," shortstop Danny Espinosa said. "He goes out and competes and tonight, just didn't have everything that he wanted."

"It's not how you start, it's how you finish," center fielder Ben Revere said. "With him, he's a pitcher who could finish strong. He'll definitely be big support for us coming down the stretch because he's one of our go-to guys. He's definitely our main guy. It's just one of those games that a couple pitches got away from him. Eventually it's going to come together and he'll be the Max Scherzer that we all know."

Jones leads off, Orioles break four-game losing streak

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Jones leads off, Orioles break four-game losing streak

CLEVELAND—Do the Orioles have a new leadoff hitter? For at least a few days, it’s Adam Jones. 

After four straight losses, and a boatload of strikeouts, manager Buck Showalter decided to bat Jones in the leadoff spot. 

Jones, who had been in a 3-for-39 slump, had three hits in five at-bats as the Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians 6-4 before 21,054 at Progressive Field on Friday night. 

Showalter says that it’s more than likely he’ll bat Jones in the leadoff spot again Saturday. For his first time there since May 10, 2010, Jones did well. 

“The problem when you do something like that, as a manager, what are you going to do tomorrow if he’s 0-for-5 with five punchouts? Where are you going? You always try to leave yourself a little bit of wiggle room,” Showalter said. 

When he was asked if he had made a decision on Saturday, Showalter deflected the question. 

“I hadn’t gotten that far. It’s been a while. Can I just kind of suck this one in a little. No, more than likely. I gave him four options today. Of course, I had already made out the lineup. We both picked the right one,” he said. 

In the previous three games, the Orioles struck out 52 times, and it was a relief to see only six K’s on the team’s scorecard. 

The Orioles’ first four-game losing streak of the season is over. 

“Well, the thing we’ve been focusing on the last four games is Ws and Ls,” Showalter said. “Everything else is, we’re trying to get to an end game of winning a game with the Orioles having more runs than they’ve got after nine innings.”

The Orioles (27-19) scored three runs in the first when Jones led off with a single up the middle. Hyun Soo Kim was hit by a Trevor Bauer pitch. Manny Machado’s single to center scored Jones. Chris Davis walked to load the bases. 

After Mark Trumbo and Nolan Reimold struck out, Jonathan Schoop’s single scored Kim and Machado to give Mike Wright a 3-0 cushion before he faced a batter. 

Wright gave up a run in the second on back-to-back doubles by Jose Ramirez and Juan Uribe. Mike Napoli hit a long home run, his ninth, in the fourth. 

Machado led off the fifth with a double to center, but he unwisely tried to make it a triple when the ball escaped Rajai Davis. Davis’ throw nabbed Machado, and Reimold’s single was wasted. 

Wright didn’t make it out of the fifth. Chris Gimenez began the inning with a walk, Davis singled, and Carlos Santana walked to load the bases with none out. After Jason Kipnis struck out, Francisco Lindor’s fly to right scored Gimenez to tie the game at 3, and Dylan Bundy replaced Wright. 

“It was terrible. When you score three in the first, you should shut out, shut out, shut out, every inning after that. I should never walk anybody. I should continue to be aggressive,” Wright said. 

Bundy (1-1) got four outs for his first major league win, nearly three years after his June 2013 Tommy John surgery. 

“It’s taken four years I guess to get to that point, but it’s still exciting. I actually didn’t know I got the win until some of the teammates told me in the clubhouse, so it was fun,” Bundy said. 

In the seventh, Machado doubled and scored when Davis doubled. Trumbo hit an opposite field home run to right off Zach McAllister (2-2), and the Orioles had a 6-3 lead. 

Brad Brach pitched a scoreless seventh, but Lindor led off the eighth with his fourth home run off Darren O’Day to cut the lead to 6-4. 

After the home run, Napoli walked, Ramirez doubled, and Uribe struck out. Lonnie Chisenhall was walked intentionally to load the bases, and Gimenez hit a ball that looked as if it was going to right field, but Schoop snared it, and threw to Machado to begin the artful double play that ended the eighth for Cleveland (25-21).

Zach Britton earned his 13th save with a scoreless ninth. 

The losing streak is over, and mass strikeouts were averted. 

“We’re not afraid to strike out. They’re going to come. More than that, it was some of the pitches we took and gave ourselves another chance to get a better pitch to hit, and I think when we did get something to work with, we put it in play and found some holes, too,” Trumbo said. 

NOTES: Machado has 19 doubles. … O’Day has allowed four home runs so far this season, one below his total for the entire 2016 season. … Ubaldo Jimenez (2-5, 6.04) faces Danny Salazar (4-3, 2.32) on Saturday afternoon at 4:10 p.m. 

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