Triple Crown won't be easy for I'll Have Another

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Triple Crown won't be easy for I'll Have Another

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- I'll Have Another will face several familiar foes in his attempt to win the Belmont Stakes and become the first Triple Crown champion in 34 years. Among the 3-year-olds trying to play spoiler in the June 9 Belmont are Dullahan and Union Rags, the third- and seventh-place finishers in the Derby who both skipped the Preakness. I'll Have Another's trainer Doug O'Neill mentioned Union Rags and Dullahan as tough rivals, saying "they have fresh legs and are ready to go." So is his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, who arrived at Belmont Park on Sunday after a five-plus hour ride in a horse van from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. "We're ready to go, too," he said outside his barn at Pimlico before leaving for California. "Our horse came out of this race in great shape and as long as he stays injury free we've got a big, big chance." Others Belmont probables are Rousing Sermon, eighth in the Derby; Optimizer, 11th in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness; Peter Pan winner Mark Valeski; and Paynter, trained by Bob Baffert. Among others set for their first Triple Crown race are Antigun, Five Sixteen, Guyana Star Dweej, Street Life and Unstoppable U. Bodemeister, who finished second in the Derby and Preakness, isn't running in the Belmont. O'Neill is not sad. "Anytime you can dodge an amazing horse like that, it's a good thing," O'Neill said. Union Rags won the Champagne at Belmont as a 2-year-old, and was the 5-1 second favorite in the Derby. Blue Grass Stakes winner Dullahan closed with a rush and finished less than two lengths behind I'll Have Another at Churchill Downs. Trainer Dale Romans elected to pass on the Preakness and train his colt for the 1-mile Belmont. If Optimizer runs, it will be trainer D. Wayne Lukas' 22nd Belmont horse. The Hall of Fame trainer has won the race four times, most recently with Commendable in 2000. Mark Valeski finished second in the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby, but skipped the Derby and Preakness. He came back and won the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 12. Paynter finished fourth behind I'll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby, and won an allowance race on the Preakness undercard. Alpha, the Withers winner who finished 12th in the Derby, is a possible. He worked four furlongs in 49.17 seconds Saturday at Belmont, and assistant trainer Art Magnuson said "We're not deciding anything yet, we're just going to watch things and let the horse tell us."

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When it comes to Madden corners, there's Josh Norman, then everyone else

When it comes to Madden corners, there's Josh Norman, then everyone else

What do Chris Harris Jr., Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis have in common? They're all excellent NFL corners — and they all rank behind Josh Norman when it comes to ratings in Madden 17.

The Bronco (93 overall), the Seahawk (92), the Cardinal (91) and the Jet (91) should be proud of the grades handed to them for the next edition of the legendary video game. It's Norman, however, who's at the top of these top-notch defenders, checking in with a skillset that's good enough for a 94 in the eyes of EA Sports.

"Norman is expected to be a lock down corner for the Redskins this season," reads the description underneath Norman's name in a post ranking the elite cornerbacks that was published Thursday. "He is best in zone with his 97 zone coverage rating, but has the ability to match up in man to man situations with 90 speed and 92 man coverage."

These numbers are subject to change during the course of the season, so if No. 24 has a rough outing or two, he could tumble down a few points and give up the crown to someone else. As it stands now, however, Madden thinks he's the preeminent man at his position. 

And that's something Odell Beckham Jr. can't say.

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Turner and Zimmerman sit as Scherzer, Nats play at Giants

Turner and Zimmerman sit as Scherzer, Nats play at Giants

Nationals (60-42) vs. Giants (59-43) at AT&T Park

The Nationals hung on two beat the Giants in the opener on Thursday night despite a finish that was anything but smooth. On Friday, they will look to win their third straight game overall with Max Scherzer (10-6, 2.92) on the mound.

Scherzer has been brilliant as of late with just four earned runs allowed across his last five starts (34.1 IP). He struck out 10 in seven innings against the Padres his last time out.

Behind Scherzer will be a new-look lineup with Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa all getting the day off. Ben Revere is in center, Clint Robinson is at first base and Wilmer Difo is in at shortstop.

They will face Jeff Samardzija (9-6, 4.22), who has allowed at least four earned runs in five of his last six starts and in seven of his last 10.

First pitch: 10:15 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats -Max Scherzer vs. Giants - Jeff Samardzija

NATS

CF Ben Revere
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
C Wilson Ramos
LF Jayson Werth
1B Clint Robinson
3B Anthony Rendon
SS Wilmer Difo
RHP Max Scherzer

GIANTS

CF Denard Span
LF Angel Pagan
2B Joe Panik
SS Brandon Crawford
1B Brandon Belt
3B Connor Gillaspie
RF Gregor Blanco
C Trevor Brown
RHP Jeff Samardzija

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Like the July weather, J.J. Hardy's hitting has been very hot this month

Like the July weather, J.J. Hardy's hitting has been very hot this month

While other Orioles have had disappointing Julys, J.J. Hardy’s has been one to remember. 

Entering Friday’s game in Toronto, Hardy has an excellent .355 average that’s raised his 2016 average from .240 to .284. 

It’s his best month since June 2011 when he was new to the Orioles. He batted .362 with nine home runs and 18 RBIs. 

He’s had 11 two-hit games, and while he’s only hit two home runs this month, Hardy isn’t relying on power as he has in prior years. 

The Orioles are quite satisfied with the offense he brings the team as well as his steady defense. 

Hardy missed seven weeks with a fracture in his left foot, and so far has played only 55 of the Orioles’ 101 games. 

Last year, he suffered from several injuries that substantially cut into his playing time, and his average fell to .219. 

After a healthy offseason, Hardy said he felt terrific in spring training, and after he fouled a ball off his foot on May 1, he’s recovered nicely. 

NOTE: Aberdeen pitching coach Justin Lord has been named as one of the pitching coaches for the Arizona Fall League’s Mesa Solar Sox. The Orioles and four other teams contribute players and coaches to the Solar Sox. 

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