Yu Darvish is proving to be the real deal

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Yu Darvish is proving to be the real deal

From Comcast SportsNet
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Expectations for Yu Darvish were every bit as big as the contract he signed to move from his native Japan. He continues to meet and perhaps even exceed them. Darvish pitched 7 2-3 strong innings and Adrian Beltre had a two-run homer to help the Texas Rangers beat the Oakland Athletics 4-1 on Wednesday night. "He was very efficient and made them swing the bat," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "Broke his cutter out tonight and moved his fastball around the zone." Darvish (6-1) gave up one run and four hits while striking out seven to win his sixth game in seven decisions and give a weary Rangers bullpen a rest. After giving up a run in the first, Darvish settled down and retired 11 of the last 15 batters he faced. He lowered his ERA to 2.60. The Rangers committed more than 107 million to acquire Darvish. Mike Adams struck out Johnny Gomes, who represented the tying run, for the final out in the eighth. Joe Nathan struck out the side in the ninth his eighth save. "No matter what the situation, I try to throw as many inning as I can and go as long as possible," Darvish said through an interpreter when asked if he was aware the bullpen needed some downtime after long man Scott Feldman's spot start Monday, middle man Robbie Ross and a Alexi Ogando's tireless work over the last week. "I was able to throw with less effort," Darvish said. "Getting taken out in the middle of the eighth is something that I'm not completely satisfied with." Craig Gentry and Elvis Andrus each had two hits, including run-scoring singles in a decisive fourth inning. Gentry beat out an infield single to third to score Nelson Cruz. Oakland rookie pitcher Tommy Milone (5-3) gave up four runs in seven innings, holding the Rangers' offense down until the fourth. "I thought he threw the ball extremely well," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "And really, if we get the ball over to first base on the Gentry ground ball, it's a 2-1 game. "I thought, considering it's his first time pitching here to that lineup, I don't know how he could have done much better." The Rangers sent nine players to the plate in a four-run fourth inning that was started by Josh Hamilton's infield single and Beltre's home run. Gentry and Andrus added run-scoring hits. Hamilton, who extended his hitting streak to an AL season-best 16 games, had two hits and a run scored. Beltre has tormented Oakland pitching. His homer was his ninth against the A's in the last two seasons. Josh Reddick gave Oakland a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. He struck out in his next three at-bats. "He has been as advertized," Washington said. "He's a strikeout pitcher, and he's been that." Notes: Michael Young was out of the Rangers lineup, the third consecutive day manager Ron Washington gave at least one of the regulars a break. "One more guy, then I've done everyone." That would be slugger Josh Hamilton. Washington said before the game he wasn't sure when Hamilton would get a break, and was waiting to see what happened in the game. ... Milone entered the game allowing a .175 average to batters leading off an inning, fifth lowest in the AL. ... Ogando has not allowed a run in 15 1-3 consecutive innings. He did not pitch Wedneday.

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Wizards clinch playoff spot for third time in four years

Wizards clinch playoff spot for third time in four years

Months after overcoming a dreadful 2-8 start and weeks after a trade deadline makeover for their bench, the Washington Wizards (44-28) have officially clinched a spot in the NBA Playoffs for the third time in four years and in the first year of head coach Scott Brooks' tenure. They punched their ticket on Friday night with a win over the Nets and losses for both the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls.

This is the 28th time in franchise history that the Wizards will head to the postseason and this is nothing new for the current group centered around star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. But the expectations for this team may be higher now than they have been in decades. For the first time in a long time, the Wizards feel they can do some real damage and possibly reach the Eastern Conference Finals or beyond.

What a difference a year makes for a team that just 11 months ago fired Randy Wittman following a 41-41 campaign that did not feature a playoff berth.

"It's great. The way we finished last year wasn't good for us," Wall said. "We wanted to go to the playoffs. We fell magnificently short of that. Then to come back, the way we started the season wasn't the way we wanted. We never threw anybody under the bus. We always stayed together as a team. I think that's the most important thing as a group, that we all figured it out. We all figured it out. We have a great run going. We just want to finish the season strong going into the playoffs."

"It's a journey. It's amazing to see the work that you put in," Beal said. "Last year was a disappointment for us. We wanted to be in the playoffs. This year we had no choice, we want to get in and this year we have more goals. We want to get [the] second [seed] now. Now we want to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. We want to try our best to get there."

As Beal alluded to, the Wizards still have short-term goals for the final 10 games of this season. They are 2 1/2 games behind the Celtics at third in the standings and would still like to pass them. But either way, the Wizards should enter the playoffs with an opportunity to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1978-79, a span of 38 seasons. No D.C. major sports team (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB) has reached the semfinals of their league since the Capitals in 1998.

More on this story as it develops...

[RELATED: Markieff Morris on his slump, looking ahead to first playoffs]

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Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Brooklyn Nets

Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Brooklyn Nets

Entering the game, John Wall’s availability had been in doubt because of a migraine headache. Friday, he gave the Brooklyn Nets one as the Wizards swept the season series to move a step closer to officially clinching their third playoff berth in four seasons.

Wall (22 points, nine assists, four rebounds) exited with exactly two minutes left in the third quarter with them up 89-73 and didn’t return in a 129-108 victory. 

Bradley Beal (19 points),  Ian Mahinmi (16 points, seven rebounds), Brandon Jennings (18 points, nine assists) and Bojan Bogdanovic (17 points) also reached double figures in a game in which coach Scott Brooks was able to cut the minutes of all of his starters.

Jeremy Lin (14 points) got Brooklyn out to a fast start for a 13-4 lead after a jumper from Brook Lopez (six points) but that advantage was eroded quickly. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (19 points) led them in scoring.

The Wizards (44-28) last trailed 21-20 in the first quarter and then went on a 30-8 run as Brooklyn (15-57) shot just 16 of 42, or 38.1%, in the first half.

The Wizards led by as many as 28 points in the first half and emptied their bench by the start of the fourth quarter.

--Mahinmi’s defense vs. Lopez, who can spread the floor to the three-point arc, took the pressure off Marcin Gortat (eight points, nine rebounds). He’s more comfortable defending away from the rim and was able to force Lopez into turnovers by timing his sweepthrough move with the ball and not foul. Mahinmi had four steals through three quarters. He had a career-high seven recently vs. the Phoenix Suns.

--The defensive slippage showed itself again in the third for Washington. The Nets shot 16 of 22 from the field, or 72.7%, and scored 39 points led by Hollis-Jefferson’s 13 points. He made 6 of 7 shots and Isaiah Whitehead (10 points) was 3-for-3.  Fortunately for the Wizards, they scored 34 to reduce the impact and made 14 of 25 shots, or 56%.

--Wall and Beal each played just 24 minutes, the most of any starter. Otto Porter (five points) logged 21 minutes followed by Markieff Morris (five points) with 20 and Gortat’s 18 minutes. With a game Saturday at the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were in a tough battle with the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.

--This was Bogdanovic’s first game against his old team after he was sent to Washington at the trade deadline. But the Wizards also saw Andrew Nicholson (six points) for the first time. He was included in the deal and wasn’t in the rotation anymore and only played during garbage time for Brooklyn. He made his first two shots.

--Kelly Oubre (nine points) continued his rise and appears to be out of his late-season slump. He harassed Lin early and helped set a better defensive tone. He also had a highlight-reel dunk off a feed from Jennings late in the fourth to punctuate it. He’ll likely see some time on Kyrie Irving on Saturday.

--The Wizards have 29 home wins which is the most in the East. Their next five games, however, are on the road. 

[RELATED: Markieff Morris on his slump, looking ahead to first playoffs]