Surprising hero propels Yankees in Game 1...

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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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John Wall on Wizards' search for a backup point guard, whether he will recruit free agents

John Wall on Wizards' search for a backup point guard, whether he will recruit free agents

Each time John Wall and the Wizards have made the playoffs, they have advanced past the first round and fallen in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Each time they were competitive enough in those second round series - against the Pacers, Hawks and Celtics - to have many thinking bigger, about a chance to meet LeBron James in the conference finals. Yet each time they were ultimately defeated over the course of a long and hard-fought series.

Wall believes he knows why they fell short each time. He thinks there is a common theme to all of those series that the Wizards must address this offseason.

"We need to help our bench," Wall told CSN's Chris Miller. "Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played."

For anyone who has watched the Wall-led Wizards over the years, it's not hard to decipher exactly what he was talking about. For years the Wizards have searched for a competent backup to Wall at the guard position and the same could be said about the roster behind his backcourt teammate Bradley Beal this past season. As a result, Wall was asked to play 44 minutes in Game 7 and Beal played 46, respectively.

Even with their season on the line, that is not preferred. Celtics guard Marcus Smart even said publicly that he thought it led to a dropoff in Wall's game.

[RELATED: Wizards hope to sign Wall to contract extension]

The Wizards' quest for help behind Wall took several different turns over the last calendar year. They tried to address the position by bringing Tomas Satoransky over from Europe and trading for Trey Burke last summer. Both were inconsistent through the first half of the season, so they signed Brandon Jennings as a free agent once he was waived by the Knicks. Jennings showed flashes and did some things right, like continue to push the pace when Wall was off the floor. But even Jennings admits he didn't play well against Boston.

Back in the 2013-14 season, the first time Wall made the playoffs, the original plan for his backup was Eric Maynor. That didn't work out, so they traded for veteran Andre Miller in February. The following season, with Miller not working out, they shipped him out for Ramon Sessions, also at the trade deadline.

Now, here the Wizards are, once again trying to find a solution at backup point guard. Wall continues to remain patient, knowing it's not as easy as it looks.

"Every point guard that we have, you can't expect them to go out there and do what I do. Every guy that has backed me up has done a great job, in my opinion. It might not help us as much as everybody thinks, but that's up to the front office to make the adjustment there," he said.

The Wizards have several options to pursue Wall's backup. They could promote from within and expand Satoransky's role. They can use their lone draft pick, a second round selection at 52nd overall. They could try to orchestrate another trade. Or, they could go the free agent route, though depending on what happens to restricted free agents like Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic, their money could be limited.

[RELATED: Top free agent point guards who could help Wizards, Wall]

If it is free agency, don't expect Wall to play an active role in the recruitment pitch.

"I don't think I have to do that. They understand and see what we do as a team over here: how we play together, how we move the ball. I think guys will just come if they want to come," Wall said.

Wall knows the Wizards need help, but believes they are very close to where they want to go.

"We have our main core guys. I think adding a couple little pieces here and there will help us get over the hump," he said. "Even with all that, we still feel like we had a chance by getting to a Game 7. We had a 50-50 chance of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. We were one game away. We couldn't ask for more."

For more on the Wizards' offseason, listen to the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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20 offseason Caps questions: What direction should the Caps take this summer?

20 offseason Caps questions: What direction should the Caps take this summer?

Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason. Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.     

Today’s question: Another year, another early playoff exit. The Capitals earned the Presidents’ Trophy this season despite playing in the toughest division in the NHL, but once again they could not get past the second round. In the Alex Ovechkin era, the Caps have won three Presidents’ Trophies and reached the postseason nine times and yet, they have never made it to the conference final. Now with Alex Ovechkin set to turn 32 before the start of next season, an aging core with no playoff success to speak of and several expiring contracts, the team looks like it may have reached a crossroads.

After another postseason flameout, what direction should the Caps take?

Sorenson: In one word: Build.  For me, I have to look at the organization which the Capitals have been trying to best for quite some time now, the Pittsburgh Penguins.  I think the biggest difference on the ice between the two teams recently has been depth.  Last offseason, the Caps added to the depth of their bottom six, but that wasn’t enough this postseason.  That’s because the Penguins were able to draw on forwards from Wilkes-Barre throughout the season and playoffs to push them over the edge.  It was constantly next man up, and their supposedly unknown forwards and defensemen constantly stepped up, both in the regular season and especially in the playoffs.  I think the Capitals need to keep their core, and build around players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jay Beagle, Lars Eller, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, and Brooks Orpik.  Keep the supporting players around them (Nate Schmidt, Andre Burakovsky, etc.) but they have to find a way to build up their foundation in Hershey as well.  They need to find a way to package some players and prospects to get equal players and upgrade their prospects.  As Kuznetsov so aptly put it on breakdown day, “You can’t build big building without underneath, right?”

RELATED: What's next for the Caps? No one seems to agree

Regan: It’s tempting right now to say they should tear it all down and start over, but let’s not let emotions take over. The Caps are not the Vancouver Canucks who are terrible and yet refuse to trade the Sedin twins and start over because of a misguided sense of loyalty. They are not the Detroit Red Wings who held onto a rapidly declining core in the hopes of maintaining their postseason streak as long as possible. The Caps have won the Presidents’ Trophy for two straight seasons. A complete rebuild at this point would be premature. Will their roster be as good as in 2016-17? Probably not, but that does not mean they have no chance of winning the Cup. Having said that, however, they cannot afford to simply bring back the same team and try again. Part of the problem in Washington is clearly mental and if you return much the same roster, the players will have no confidence that things will be any different. Shake things up with a major trade. Trade away a part of the core, a big name player to jolt the team. Even if it is just a one for one trade, look at what trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban has done for Nashville. If the core is rotten, shake it up.

El-Bashir: Let’s begin with the notion that blowing up a roster that’s earned more points than anyone else the past two seasons is a good idea. It’s not. But let me also be clear about this: the time for nibbling around the edges has passed. The Caps need more youth, more speed and, perhaps, a little more pushback, too. As the roster stands now, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen are all under contract or under team control. If GM Brian MacLellan can shoehorn T.J. Oshie back in the fold, that’s a solid start. Add to that foundation a couple of impactful players—a top-six forward and a top-four defender—and the Caps will have made some substantive changes without resorting to a full teardown. It’ll be a challenge, no doubt. After Mac re-signs his restricted free agents (and possibly Oshie) there won’t be much cap space with which to work. Also, he’s got no draft picks until the fourth round and the free agent market doesn’t look all that appealing. So how can he do it? By taking a page out of David Poile’s playbook and swinging a big trade (or perhaps two). Poile retooled the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators on the fly with a couple of bold deals, acquiring Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones and P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. The trade route is a risky one and, of course, it costs a good player to get a good player so a fan favorite and/or up-and-comer would be headed the other way. But it’s the only way I can see the Caps propping the window back open for another run with the current core. I also see it as the Caps' best option.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps release key offseason dates