Surprising hero propels Yankees in Game 1...


Surprising hero propels Yankees in Game 1...

From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- For eight innings, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles staged a magnificent duel worthy of two division foes that split 18 games during the regular season and finished two games apart in the standings.Then the Yankees brushed aside the upstart, inexperienced newcomers and crashed a party 15 years in the making.Russell Martin led off the ninth inning with a tiebreaking home run off Jim Johnson, CC Sabathia turned in a sparkling pitching performance and the Yankees pulled away to a 7-2 victory Sunday night in the opener of their AL divisional series.Sabathia allowed two runs and eight hits in 8 2-3 innings to help the Yankees take the edge off the Orioles' first home playoff game since 1997. The husky left-hander went 0-2 in three starts against Baltimore during the regular season, but in this one he returned to form and improved his lifetime record against the Orioles to 17-4."Fastball command was good, worked off that," Sabathia said. "Throwing the ball pretty good getting the corners. Tried to stay out there and make some pitches."Sabathia is 6-1 with the Yankees in the postseason, 4-0 in the division series."I thought he gave us a great performance," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "Didn't give up a lot of hard hit balls tonight, had a really good changeup tonight, and I thought he used it very effectively."With the score 2-all, Martin drove a 2-0 pitch from Johnson into the left-field seats."I definitely wasn't thinking home run," Martin said. "He left a fastball up and I put good wood on it."It was the first of four straight hits off Johnson, who led the majors with 51 saves. Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter followed with singles, Ichiro Suzuki drove in a run with a swinging bunt and one out later, Robinson Cano hit a two-run double.In his seven prior appearances against New York, Johnson allowed one run in seven innings and had three saves. Nick Swisher capped the five-run ninth with a sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter."I made mistakes," Johnson said. "I obviously paid for those, and that was location. It wasn't anything else. Two fastballs that really cost us. Just have to make a better pitch. That's all it comes down to."Game 2 will be played Monday night.The start of the game was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 26 minutes, and that did nothing to lessen the enthusiasm of the 47,841 fans who endured 14 straight losing seasons while waiting for the Orioles to play a postseason game at Camden Yards."We're obviously disappointed we couldn't give them a win, but at least we're playing a five-game series instead of a shootout," Orioles right fielder Chris Davis said.Baltimore left seven on base and went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position."We stayed in as long as we could," Davis said. "We're finding out what playoff baseball is all about. You've got to capitalize on every opportunity that you give yourself and we weren't able to do that."Then again, it's tough to mount a sustained rally against someone as polished and dominant as Sabathia."He just kind of wore us down," Davis said. "You have to tip your hat to him. He held us to two runs and gave them a chance to win in the end."Orioles starter Jason Hammel allowed two runs, four hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings. The right-hander underwent knee surgery in July and returned to pitch two games in September before his right knee began to bother him again. After working his way back into form, Hammel donned a knee brace and gave Baltimore a solid 112-pitch outing in his first start in nearly a month.New York missed an excellent chance to take the lead in the seventh. After Troy Patton walked Martin and Ibanez, Darren O'Day entered and Jeter dropped down a perfect two-strike sacrifice bunt. With the infield drawn in, Suzuki hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Robert Andino, who threw home. Matt Wieters grabbed the ball on the short hop and tagged out Martin. O'Day then struck out Alex Rodriguez.Neither team got a runner in scoring position again until J.J. Hardy started the Baltimore eighth with a double. He did not advance."Being able to get out of that with a tie and give us a chance to get up and score some runs, which we did, was just a big spot," Sabathia said.Immediately after Orioles fans cheered and waved their orange towels following a first-pitch strike by Hammel to open the game, the Yankees went to work. Jeter hit a leadoff single and Suzuki followed with an RBI double into the gap in left-center. But Suzuki was thrown out trying to steal third, and Hammel settled down by striking out Rodriguez and retiring Cano on a broken-bat fly to right.Sabathia retired the first six batters he faced without allowing a ball out of the infield, then ran into trouble in the third inning. Davis led off with a single, Lew Ford singled and both runners moved up on a bunt before Nate McLouth bounced a two-run single into right field for a 2-1 lead.New York promptly tied it in the fourth, but another potential big inning was short-circuited when a runner was thrown out on the basepaths. After Hammel walked two of the first three batters, Mark Teixeira ripped a liner off the right-field scoreboard. The hit brought home a run, but Teixeira -- who only recently returned from a strained left calf -- was thrown out at second by Davis. That left Swisher at third base with two outs, and after an intentional walk to Curtis Granderson, Martin hit a fly to center.Singles by Davis and Andino put runners at the corners with one out in the fifth before McLouth looked at a third strike and Hardy grounded out.NOTES:Andy Pettitte will bring 42 games of playoff experience into Game 2 on Monday night as the starting pitcher for the Yankees. Orioles rookie Wei-Yin Chen will be making his postseason debut. ... Wieters went 0 for 4 against Sabathia and now is 5 for 28 (.179) lifetime against him. ... In 16 career division series openers, Jeter is batting .448 (26 for 58) and reached base in 15 games. ... Suzuki has at least one hit in 10 of his 11 career postseason games and has reached base in all of them. He's also hit in 20 straight games at Camden Yards, a streak that began in 2008.

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Rookies, good friends come full circle by making Wizards roster

Rookies, good friends come full circle by making Wizards roster

One day after learning they both made the Wizards’ roster, undrafted rookies Danuel House and Sheldon McClellan walked through the halls of the Verizon Center to meet with reporters waiting to discuss the news. As they turned a corner, they played rock-paper-scissors to determine who would go first. House won, giving him the opportunity to not only get his part out of the way, but also to have some fun with the other during his media scrum.

House jumped and waved his arms. He made goofy faces, he stared intently. All of it was to mess with a guy he's been friends with for years.

They are new teammates in the NBA, but House and McClellan needed no introduction when they arrived at Wizards training camp. The two have been close since middle school when they were both kids growing up in Houston, Texas. 

McClellan, a 6-foot-6 guard, left Bellaire High School in 2011 first for the University of Texas before later transferring to Miami. House, a 6-foot-7 forward, starred at Hightower High School, began at the University of Houston in 2012 and later joined Texas A&M. 

They each took different paths, but here they are, both members of the Washington Wizards.

"It’s exciting. We’re like brothers," House, who averaged 15.6 points for the Aggies last season, said. 

"Just to see each other succeed, there’s no greater feeling in the world.  To see two people from Houston, Texas go undrafted and then make the roster, that’s big for our hometown and especially for our community. If you keep pushing and fighting, you never know what’s going to happen."

McClellan said learning he made the Wizards was the best moment of his life. His name was not called on draft night, but he defied the odds to not only make a roster, but join a team with playoff aspirations.

McClellan scored 16.3 points per game and shot 56.8 percent from the field for the Hurricanes as a senior during the 2015-16 season. He's ready to now take the next step in the NBA, and do it alongside House.

"It’s a special moment, as far as both of us being from Houston and both growing up playing against each other," McClellan said. "Now we have a chance to grow in this organization together. It’s just been a bonding thing from when we were little to now."

McClellan smiled as he spoke, but didn't break his focus when House did his comedy routine behind the cameras.

"I’m not even paying attention to him," McClellan said. "I knew he was going to stand there. I’m just not paying attention. That’s what he does."

McClellan also passed on an opportunity to fire back at House, who got a jab in during his own session with the media.

"We played against each other in high school. I won. That’s my man, but I won," House said.

They have been friendly foes often over the years. Now, they are teammates.

[RELATED: Wizards roster skews younger, more athletic under Brooks]

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Morning tip: Andrew Nicholson blossoms into 'spread' option at center for Wizards

Morning tip: Andrew Nicholson blossoms into 'spread' option at center for Wizards

At $26 million, a relatively small number based on the free-agent market this summer, Andrew Nicholson could turn out to be a top five bargain for the Wizards.

The 6-9 forward was a first-round draft pick of the Orlando Magic in 2012. He came to Washington after averaging 6.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in four years but his role under coach Scott Brooks is broadening.

With Ian Mahinmi out because of left knee surgery, Nicholson is logging time as a backup center to Marcin Gortat, too, and his improving three-point stroke is giving the Wizards a legitimate spread five option.

“He can score down low at the block. He’s done a pretty good job of picking up how to guard the perimeter players that can shoot 3s,” Brooks said. “He’s played multiple positions at those two big spots. You need versatility. He’s picked things up pretty good.”


Aside from a variety of low-post moves and not shying away from physical play with his 250-pound frame, Nicholson made 47% of his three-point shots. He shot a career-high 36% from deep in Orlando last season.

He uses his lower body well to get into defenders and establish position under the basket. He can finish via jump hook with either hand. When Markieff Morris leaves, Nicholson will be the next man up. He has been effective in spot minutes as the center. They may have stumbled upon a wrinkle that otherwise might not have been so obvious with Mahinmi, who was sitting out practices at training camp with other ailments.

“He definitely has an old-man game. I think we’d be the 1 and 2 pick in the YMCA pickup game," Brooks said. "He knows how to play the game. There’s definitely a spot for guys like Drew He knows how to play the game. He understands his role. He’s not going to wow you with athleticism but he’s going to be a consistent performer every night.”

That quality alone will make Nicholson an upgrade.