Tiger, Mickelson both need this U.S. Open

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Tiger, Mickelson both need this U.S. Open

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- There's a 14-year-old playing in the U.S. Open, as if Phil Mickelson needs a reminder about youth, time and wasted chances. He's had more than his share of the latter in the 21 times he has played this tournament, and all he can hope when he turns 42 on Saturday is that his birthday present is a late tee time among the leaders. It's not that Mickelson hasn't won major championships. He's got three green jackets and his name on the PGA Championship trophy, enough bling to satisfy most golfers in an era dominated by one golfer. He's done having to explain why he was the best player never to win a major, something that to Mickelson seemed harder than talking about how he was going to save the Social Security system. No longer does he have to wonder privately if he was ever going to get his breakthrough win in one of the tournaments that matter most. That unpleasant task now belongs to guys like No. 1-ranked Luke Donald or Lee Westwood, who once held that ranking himself. Both great players, both short of the one win that will stamp them forever as great players. "Maybe I'll never win one. Maybe I will," Westwood said. "I've got no answer to that. Keep working hard and trying to get myself into the position. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't." Winning majors is never easy, if only because there are only four of them a year and they tend to bring out a strong field. Winning the brutal test that is the U.S. Open is even harder. Someone will emerge Sunday with the trophy, though getting there may not be pretty. The Lake course at Olympic Club, with its sloping fairways, slippery greens and thick rough, penalizes every wayward shot, every mistake. Perched on the side of a sand dune, it might be called a thinking man's course, though some of the thoughts won't necessarily be for public consumption. History suggests almost anyone -- save for the qualifiers like teenager Andy Zhang or club pro Dennis Miller -- can win the Open here. Jack Fleck did it in 1955, beating the great Ben Hogan, and Scott Simpson beat Tom Watson to win his only major championship at Olympic in 1987. Whether for career or psychological reasons, though, some need a win this week more than others. Mickelson would be near the top of that list, simply because he's getting to an age where winning such a penal tournament becomes problematic. Unlike the last time the Open was played on the West Coast, Lefty brought his driver along this time, proof that for once he may not be overthinking this one. Not that he would entertain the idea that he's a favorite. He's been down that path too many times, at too many majors where he was supposed to win. He might have won the Masters this year if he hadn't aimed for a bunker instead of the green on the fourth hole of the final round. He could have won a few Opens by now had he not missed some short putts or pulled out his driver at the wrong time, most notably on the 18th hole of his epic collapse in 2006 at Winged Foot. So many near misses, so few Opens left to finally correct them. "I feel like I've developed a good game plan as to how I want to play the golf course," Mickelson said. "I feel that I should be able to play to that game plan and post a number that I feel will be competitive. I don't know if it will win." Perhaps no one needs this Open more than Tiger Woods. He's coming in off a high, winning the Memorial two weeks ago with a chip-in that took its rightful place among his more iconic shots. After a debacle at the Masters, where he screamed at shots, kicked clubs and generally acted like a spoiled brat, he seems to have gotten his game and his act together in time for the official start of the summer major season. He was once thought of as a lock to break the record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, but he's been stuck at 14 since winning the Open four years ago at Torrey Pines in what now seems like a lifetime ago. But he's yet to prove he can win again in the only place it has ever mattered for Woods -- in the majors. "I think even if I do win a major championship, it will still be, You're not to 18 yet' or When will you get to 19?' " Woods said. "It's always something with you guys." As if Woods needed a reminder, Nicklaus was in the media room Wednesday reminiscing about his four Open titles and how he won them. He was introduced as the greatest player of all time and he will always be, until someone wins more of the tournaments that really count than he did. Woods once talked about finishing his career early and moving on, but the harder winning has become for him, the longer his sights are set. "Well, Jack did it at 46, right? So I've got 10 (years)," Woods said. "Watson almost pulled it off at 59. It can be done. We can play for a very long time." With each passing major, though, that time becomes shorter. There have been 15 majors since Woods last won at Torrey Pines, and he's no closer to his career goal of passing Nicklaus than he was the day he beat Rocco Mediate on one leg in a playoff. Unlike Mickelson, Donald and Westwood he's got three Open titles in the record books. That doesn't mean he's not just as desperate to win this one as he was his first.

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Jayson Werth homers, Gio Gonzalez sets tone as Nats sweep Phillies

Jayson Werth homers, Gio Gonzalez sets tone as Nats sweep Phillies

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

How it happened: Few things can cure a pitching staff's woes quite like playing the worst offense in all of baseball. Nats pitchers had taken their lumps in recent weeks, but through three games at the Philadelphia Phillies, order was restored. 

Nats starters dominated in all three outings to help recalibrate their bullpen. And now the Nats are back on track just in time for an off-day before they move on to New York to face the Mets.

On Wednesday night, it was Gio Gonzalez who carved up the Phillies. He went six innings with just one run allowed on two hits and a walk. The lone run he surrendered was a solo homer by Freddy Galvis.

Phillies starter Adam Morgan was also very good. He went 6 2/3 innings and allowed just two runs on three hits. He gave up a solo homer to Jayson Werth and an RBI single to Wilson Ramos before he was pulled.

Werth also had a single for his 26th multi-hit game of the season. Anthony Rendon had two hits including a double, while Michael Taylor, Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper went a combined 0-for-12. This was the first time that Harper hasn't reached base since he returned from his neck injury on Aug. 14.

After Gonzalez left the game, Blake Treinen took over to pitch 1 1/3 perfect innings. Mark Rzepczynski also tossed 1 1/3 and allowed a hit. Shawn Kelley then took over to get the final out of the ballgame.

The Nationals swept the Phillies for the third straight time. It was the Nationals' 9th sweep of the 2016 season. 

The Nats finished the month of August with a 17-11 record, the most wins in a single month for them so far this year. They won 16 games in April, May and June.

What it means: Washington has won 20 of their last 23 against NL East opponents and they don't play another team outside of their division until Sept. 23. With Wednesday's win, the Nats moved to 78-55 on the year. That's a 95-win pace.

Gio keeps rolling: Like Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark in the previous two nights before him, Gonzalez took advantage of a weak Phillies lineup to put in one of his best starts in a while. That was a welcomed change after Gonzalez had to go up against teams like the Rockies, Orioles, Indians, Giants and Dodgers for eight consecutive starts. Despite the tough competition of late, Gonzalez has been on quite the tear for weeks now. Over his last 11 starts he's got a strong 3.16 ERA across 62 2/3 innings. Gonzalez still has some work to do to drop his 4.14 season ERA, but 11 starts is not a small sample size. Gonzalez has been solid for two months now.

Werth hits No. 20: Another night, another homer for Werth, who now has four in his last six games. He had eight in August alone, which ties a career-high for homers in a month for him. This one was a 453-foot bomb to straightaway center field off Morgan, one that nearly took out a TV camera.

It was Werth's 20th homer of the season, the first time he's reached 20 since 2013 when he finished 13th in NL MVP voting. And by getting to 20, the Nats have five players with 20 homers or more. The others are Harper, Murphy, Ramos and Danny Espinosa. Only one other MLB team - the Orioles - also has five players with 20 or more bombs this season.

Ramos is heating up: Ramos spoke on Sunday about how having two days of rest prescribed by Dusty Baker had helped rejuvenate his swing and so far the results are backing up that premise. His RBI single on Wednesday gave him hits in all five games since he returned from his two-game layoff. He also has RBI in four of those five outings. The Buffalo saw his season average dip from .338 on Aug. 7 all the way to .312 on Aug. 27 in a span of just 15 games. But if he keeps swinging it like he has in recent days, that number will start to go back up.

Up next: The Nats finally have an off-day after playing 20 games in 20 days, a stretch that took a serious toll on their pitching staff in particular. On Friday night they get back to work in New York to start a three-game series at the Mets. First pitch in the opener is 7:10 p.m. with A.J. Cole (0-1, 4.97) set to go up against Cy Young candidate Noah Syndergaard (12-7, 2.55).

[RELATED: Turner on playing like a little kid, rest helped Ramos]

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Umpire leaves Orioles game after getting hit in face with fastball

Umpire leaves Orioles game after getting hit in face with fastball

Sure, home plate umpires have the best view of the game, but sometimes it comes with a cost. 

Just ask Jerry Layne, who was struck in the face by an Aaron Sanchez fastball in the third inning. 

Orioles trainer Richie Bancells ran out to evaluate Layne, and Layne eventually left the game with Alan Porter replacing him. 

The umpire was obviously wearing his face mask, but clearly the effects were still pretty painful. 

You can watch the incident here. 

GIF via Deadspin.com

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Orioles make Michael Bourne trade official

Orioles make Michael Bourne trade official

BALTIMORE—Two hours before the deadline for adding players from outside the organization who can be eligible for postseason rosters, the Orioles completed their third acquisition of the day by picking up outfielder Michael Bourn from the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league outfielder Jason Heinrich.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Orioles outfielder Drew Stubbs on release waivers from Texas, and designated for assignment pitcher Kyle Lobstein, who the Orioles had traded for less than three hours before. 

Bourn, who is 33, was released twice in 2016, by Atlanta and Toronto. In 89 games, Bourn is batting .261 with three home runs and 30 RBIs. He twice led the National League in stolen bases, and this year has stolen 13 bases. 

The addition of Bourn and Stubbs improves their overall team speed and also serves as insurance in case Adam Jones, who was out of the starting lineup for the fifth straight game with a strained left hamstring, misses additional time. 

To make room for Bourn on the 40-man roster, outfielder Joey Rickard was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. 

Heinrich, a fifth-round draft pick of the Orioles in 2015, batted .231 with three home runs and 13 RBIs for Aberdeen this season.