Long wait over for some Astros, Nationals at World Series

HOUSTON (AP) — What a relief for Houston Astros pitcher Joe Smith that manager AJ Hinch was only joking about his team’s makeup for the World Series.
“I would bring (him) in my office and pretend like he’s not going to make the roster, just to get a reaction from him, and he wouldn’t buy it,” Hinch said.
Smith has waited 13 seasons, playing for six big league teams and overcoming a ruptured left Achilles last winter, for the opportunity to pitch this late in October. He was left off the postseason roster three years ago by the Chicago Cubs, the only other team he has been with that made it to the World Series.
“I’m proud for him. I’m anxious to get him in the game. It will probably be one of the first games he’s nervous,” Hinch said. “He’s hardly ever nervous, but I bet he’ll be a tick nervous just because of the stage and the World Series and the excitement of having to endure all that before he gets to throw his first pitch in the World Series.”
The 35-year-old right-hander, whose 782 regular-season appearances are the most for an active pitcher without a World Series game, isn’t the only player for the Astros and Washington Nationals that has waited a long, long time before finally making it this far.
Zack Greinke, Houston’s big trade deadline acquisition this season, is scheduled to start Game 3. That will come after 16 seasons and 447 regular-season starts, the most by an active starter without a World Series game.
Howie Kendrick, the 36-year-old who became MVP of the NL Championship Series, was expected to be Washington’s designated hitter in the opener Tuesday night in Houston. He is finally on a World Series team in his eighth postseason appearance over 14 major league seasons, this being his third team to reach the playoffs.
“This is a dream come true,” said Kendrick, who has 43 postseason games to his credit. “Been in the playoffs many times, and this is truly special.”
Same goes for first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the first guy ever drafted by the Nationals in 2005 and the only player to wear their uniform in each of their 15 seasons.
“This has obviously been an unbelievable ride, and I’m just trying to soak it all in,” the 35-year-old Zimmerman said.
There also is Game 2 starter Stephen Strasburg, the right-hander who was Washington’s first pick in the 2009 draft, and made his big league debut the next season.
Like Smith, Nationals infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera is in his 13th season with his sixth team before getting to the World Series. Cabrera rejoined Washington in early August after being released by Texas.
Four-time All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley signed a two-year deal with Houston last offseason after 10 seasons in Cleveland. He didn’t get to play in the 2016 World Series with the Indians because of a right shoulder injury that limited him to only 11 games that season.
“This is not guaranteed to anybody,” Brantley said Monday. “I didn’t get to play in the last one. … I’m just going to enjoy the experience. I don’t take for granted how hard it is to get here, so I just really want to enjoy the moment and stay in the moment.”
One of the first people Brantley called after signing with Houston was Smith, his teammate twice in Cleveland — from 2009-13 and after a trade to the back to the Indians midway through the 2017 season
“I’m beyond happy for him,” said Brantley, one of the first to find out about Smith’s Achilles injury. “I just told him make sure he works hard to get back because I want to play with you again, and he promised he would. … A big weapon in our bullpen, he’s a great teammate and a great friend for me for a long time.”
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Winston, Howard top AP preseason All-America men’s team

By JOHN MARSHALL AP Basketball Writer
Cassius Winston had a long list of accomplishments at Michigan State. He led the Spartans to Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles and into the Final Four. He was the Big Ten player of the year, an Associated Press All-American, one of the nation’s best players.
No one would have blamed the gritty guard for bolting to the NBA. His place in Michigan State history was already secured.
But Winston wanted more, to add to his legacy in East Lansing, so he opted to return for his senior season.
Winston is the only consensus selection on The Associated Press preseason All-America team announced Tuesday, a day after Michigan State was ranked No. 1 in the AP preseason poll.
He is joined by high-scoring Marquette senior guard Markus Howard, Louisville junior forward Jordan Nwora, Seton Hall senior guard Myles Powell and Memphis freshman James Wiseman on the five-player team.
“He is the straw that stirs the drink and I think deserves all the attention he’s been getting because he is a special player,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of his star player. “But I think he’s handled it pretty well too with a lot of class and has worked hard.”
Winston is rarely the tallest, fastest or most athletic player on the floor. He reportedly can’t even dunk.
But the 6-foot-1 guard is often the best player out there.
Smart and able to see things before they develop, Winston has a feel for the game that allows him to beat players with more size and athleticism.
Winston has steadily progressed during his time in East Lansing, going from a reliable backup as a freshman to one of the nation’s best floor leaders. He averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists as a junior, leading the Spartans to the Final Four for the eighth time under Izzo.
Now Winston is back for more, hoping to take the Spartans even deeper.
“You’ve got little taste of it. That’s never enough,” Winston said. “You want to take it another step further.”
Like Winston, Howard and Powell considered leaving for the NBA after high-scoring junior seasons.
Both opted to stay and are expected to keep putting up big numbers.
The 5-11, 175-pound Howard developed a knack for getting off shots against bigger players. Through an array of step-back 3-pointers and crafty drives to the basket, he finished fifth nationally with 25 points per game in 2018-19 and is the only NCAA player the past 20 years with two career 50-point games.
Howard was a second-team AP All-American last season and led the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Tournament.
Powell was an AP honorable mention All-American last season after averaging 23.1 points, 13th-best nationally, and leading the Pirates to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year. The 6-2 guard was tabbed Big East preseason player of the year after deciding to return to school to become the first in his family to earn a college degree.
“I sit back and say for me to be the first one, no one can take that for me,” he said. “I have five little brothers and sisters who look up to me, and I can set an example for them. For me to be the first to say that in my family is important.”
Nwora joined teammate Steven Enoch in opting to return to Louisville, helping the Cardinals earn a No. 5 preseason ranking.
A 6-8 forward, Nwora raised his scoring average 11.3 points from his freshman season to 17 per game last year while leading Louisville in rebounding with 7.6. He also led the Cardinals with 77 3-pointers and made 37% percent from the arc as a sophomore.
The 7-1 Wiseman was widely regarded as the top prospect of the 2019 recruiting class and gave Penny Hardaway a huge boost in his second season as Memphis’ coach by opting to play for his hometown college. Wiseman has good mobility for his size, can create his own shot and has been projected to be the No. 1 in pick in next year’s NBA draft.
The Associated Press’ 2019-20 preseason All-America men’s basketball team, with school, height, year and votes from a 65-member national media panel (key 2018-19 statistics in parentheses):
Cassius Winston, Michigan State, 6-1, 185, senior, 65 of 65 votes (18.8 ppg, 3 rpg, 5.2 apg, 84.0 ft pct, 1.0 steals)
Markus Howard, Marquette, 5-11, 180, senior, 57 (25.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.9 apg, 40.3 3-pt fg pct, 89.0 ft pct, 3.5 3-pt fg/game, 1.1 steals)
Jordan Nwora, Louisville, 6-7, 225, junior, 47 (17.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.3 apg)
Myles Powell, Seton Hall, 6-2, 195, senior, 47 (23.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.9 apg, 36.0 minutes, 84.0 ft pct, 2.0 steals)
James Wiseman, Memphis, 7-1, 240, freshman, 32 (Memphis East HS: 25.8 ppg, 14.8 rpg, 5.5 blocks, 1.3 steals)
Others receiving votes: Kerry Blackshear Jr., Florida, 23; Cole Anthony, North Carolina, 10; Udoka Azubuike, Kansas, 8; Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati, 8; Tre Jones, Duke, 6; Sam Merrill, Utah State, 5; Devon Dotson, Kansas, 4; Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky, 3; Mamadi Diakite, Virginia, 3; Anthony Edwards, Georgia, 1; Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky, 1; Reggie Perry, Mississippi State, 1; Payton Pritchard, Oregon, 1; Lamar Stevens, Penn State, 1; Isaiah Stewart, Washington, 1; McKinley Wright IV, Colorado, 1.
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NFL cracks down on internal dissent over officiating

By ARNIE STAPLETON AP Pro Football Writer
The NFL threw yellow flags on Rams linebacker Clay Matthews, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and Lions safety Tracy Walker, fining each $12,500 for criticizing officials.
Matthews was disciplined for a tweet he posted after the Lions lost to his former team, the Packers, whom the NFL acknowledged benefited from an erroneous call that helped Green Bay in Week 6.
Walker was punished for comments he made after that same game in which he disputed as “an awful call” a personal foul penalty after diving for the football and making inadvertent helmet-to-helmet contact with Packers receiver Geronimo Allison.
Mayfield was fined for critical comments he made about the officiating after Cleveland’s 32-28 loss to Seattle in Week 6 when he said, “I’ll probably get fined for saying this, but it was pretty bad today.”
Matthews had the harshest comments of the three, tweeting about what he considers the officials’ “inability to make the accurate and correct calls” and how the NFL’s head of officiating, Al Riveron, “continues to blindly side with his refs and the current status quo.”
The denouncements came not long after the NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams reminding them that the league prohibits criticism of officiating, including posting “negative or derogatory/demeaning content pertaining to officiating on social media.”
While the league tamped down on its internal decent, NBC analyst Tony Dungy said players and coaches actually share in the blame for the flurry of flags because there’s an insufficient focus on fundamentals as teams instead spotlight X’s and O’s and their schemes.
As a coach, Dungy emphasized eliminating pre-snap penalties and post-whistle fouls, which he called “half the battle. Now we work on the fundamentals and doing things the right way so we can cut down as much as we can the penalties that are called during the action.”
As Dungy recently tweeted, “You don’t see Patriots with huge penalty numbers. Coaching matters.”
Longtime NFL writer Rick Gosselin noted recently that NFL games so far are averaging about 15 penalties for 125 yards a game, up from about a dozen flags for 97 yards a decade ago, and he added, “The more the flags, the worse the game.”
And the louder the criticism.
There’s another dynamic at work with the league’s officiating crews also facing scrutiny from their former colleagues as TV networks hire away the most seasoned officials to serve as rules analysts and help make sense of all the yellow flags flying around.
It’s a double whammy.
Losing the likes of Mike Pereira, Dean Blandino, John Parry, Terry McAulay and Gene Steratore to the broadcast booth had produced a brain drain from the ranks of NFL officials.
“There is no question about that, none whatsoever,” said Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian. “I mean, you’re talking about this year alone, Terry McAulay, John Parry, Gene Steratore, I mean, they’d be in the top five in any given year that they worked. And they’re referees on top of that, so they know all the rules, they know all the interpretations; they understand what goes on at virtually every position. And then Ed Hochuli’s retirement, you lose him and the three others, that’s four of your top five referees by anybody’s standard.”
Their departures also leave a pool of officials lighter on experience to face what amounts to constant performance evaluations from their ex-cohorts as they enforce an ever-changing rule book.
The league’s loss, however, is the game’s gain, suggested Polian.
“I think they’re a great addition to the broadcast and a great reference point for fans, who are no longer captive to people on the internet that masquerade as officiating supervisors,” Polian said. “And I think they’re very objective, but they’re also cognizant of what a tough job it is that the officials have.
“The short answer from my point of view is that we do not have an officiating problem. Do we miss the guys that are not on the field? You bet. Do they do a good job on TV? In my view, they do a tremendous job and they do a great service to officiating by explaining it.”
Polian said he’ll withhold judgment on the league’s emphasis on backside offensive holding this season until there’s a year’s worth of data, but he said there’s really no disputing another common infraction: illegal blocks in the back on kick returns such as the one that negated the Cowboys’ 80-yard punt return for a TD Sunday night .
“That penalty is avoidable, and the official should not be lax and loosen up with it. That’s not the answer,” Polian said. “Players need to play within the rules.”
Dungy agrees.
But he’s already made up his mind about one change he doesn’t like: coaches’ challenges for calls and non-calls on pass interference that were approved for this season after the Saints were victimized by a non-call on a blatant interference in the NFC championship game, helping the Rams advance to the Super Bowl.
“There are going to be things that are missed. That’s part of the game,” Dungy said. “The NFC championship game, there was a missed call — too bad. I feel bad for New Orleans. But it happens. It’s happened every year since football began playing. So, to have this rule now and to say we’re going to suddenly eliminate or help out this one particular call that everybody saw, now we’ve got all the unintended consequences (like wildly inconsistent rulings). I think this whole thing has been a disaster.”
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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Patriots blitz Darnold, Jets 33-0 to remain undefeated

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. AP Pro Football Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Tom Brady set the tone and the New England Patriots’ blitz-happy defense took over from there.
Bill Belichick’s bunch is still undefeated after another absolutely dominant performance.
Brady threw a TD pass to Phillip Dorsett, Sony Michel ran for three scores and New England forced Sam Darnold into five turnovers while cruising to a 33-0 victory over the New York Jets on Monday night.
“We were able to make some plays early in the game,” Belichick said, “and play pretty solid for 60 minutes.”
The Patriots improved to 7-0 for the third time in franchise history, and first since 2015. They also swept the two-game season series against their AFC East rivals for the fourth straight year, outscoring the Jets (1-5) 63-14 in the two meetings this year.
And, the top-ranked Patriots defense was a big reason in this one.
“They’re just playing great football,” Brady said. “They cover the rush. They stop the run. Make critical plays. It’s awesome to watch.”
Darnold was the AFC offensive player of the week after leading New York to a 24-22 win over Dallas last Sunday in his return from missing three games with mononucleosis.
He was miserable against New England, finishing 11 of 32 for 86 yards and a 3.6 quarterback rating. ESPN had Darnold wear a microphone during the game, and he was caught on the sideline saying, “I’m seeing ghosts” at one point.
“It was a rough night out there,” Darnold said. “And obviously, I’ve got to be better and learn from the mistakes, but we will get better.”
Belichick blitzed Darnold often, giving the second-year quarterback little time and forcing him into bad — and often ugly — throws. Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Stephon Gilmore and Terrence Brooks all had interceptions. Darnold also lost a fumble on a sack, and later knocked an errant snap out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
“I don’t know, man,” a smiling McCourty said when asked if there were “ghosts” on the field. “We were just locked in tonight as a defensive unit. When you get a lot of time to prepare for a game, you start going over everything over and over again. I think it showed for us tonight as a defensive unit.”
Brady was 31 of 45 for 249 yards with a TD and an interception before leaving with 2:55 left to chants of “Brady! Brady!” from the Patriots fans who stayed until the end at MetLife Stadium.
They watched New England take total control from the beginning.
Michel’s 3-yard touchdown run capped an efficient drive by Brady to open the game. The Patriots went 16 plays and 78 yards while eating up 8:47, and converted four third downs along the way. The last came on third-and-2 when Brady pitched it to Michel, who easily zipped into the end zone.
“Our guys were ready to go today,” Belichick said. “We got off to a good start. That was a great opening drive. It took up most of the first quarter.”
New England made it 10-0 a few minutes later after McCourty intercepted Darnold’s first pass of the game, coming on the Jets’ second play from scrimmage. New England turned the turnover into a 34-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.
After the Jets went three-and-out, Brady went back to work. On fourth-and-6 from the 35, Belichick opted to leave the offense on the field instead of having Nugent try for a 53-yard field goal.
And, it paid off.
Brady connected with Ben Watson for 7 yards to extend the drive. After a 2-yard run by Michel, Brady threw a perfectly placed ball to Dorsett, who caught the pass over Trumaine Johnson in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown.
“We had good balance,” Brady said.
New England took advantage of another turnover by Darnold on the Jets’ next drive when John Simon popped the ball out of the quarterback’s hand for a strip-sack and Kyle Van Noy recovered. The Patriots linebacker ran 39 yards for what was initially called a touchdown, but officials then ruled he was down.
Four plays later, it appeared James White had a 4-yard touchdown run, but it was wiped out by an illegal block in the back penalty on Julian Edelman. Brady’s pass to Jakobi Meyers fell incomplete on third-and-goal from the 3, but Brian Poole was called for defensive holding. Michel ran it in from the 1 three plays later to make it 24-0 with 9:18 left in the first half.
Darnold’s third turnover came on the Jets’ next possession when his throw to the end zone was intercepted by Harmon. Gilmore picked off Darnold on New York’s opening drive of the second half.
It only went downhill from there on the Jets’ next possession when Ryan Kalil’s snap sailed over Darnold’s head and he knocked it out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Michel added a 1-yard TD run with 12:32 left to cap the scoring.
“Obviously, that was brutal,” Jets coach Adam Gase said. “We couldn’t do anything right. All three phases, we were bad. It was just a bad performance.”
Kalil injured his right elbow late in the second quarter and was replaced by Jonotthan Harrison. Kalil returned to open the second half with a sleeve over his elbow, but again left after his wayward snap.
It was New England’s second shutout this season after winning 43-0 at Miami in Week 2. … The Patriots dominated the opening quarter, outgaining the Jets 141 yards to 14 while holding the ball for 12:34 compared to just 2:26 for New York. … Brady’s 29 regular-season wins vs. the Jets are his second-most against any opponent, with only his 31 against Buffalo more.
Former Jets center Kevin Mawae received his key from the Pro Football Hall of Fame during a halftime ceremony. Mawae, who played for New York from 1998-2005, was inducted in August.
Patriots: host Cleveland next Sunday.
Jets: at Jacksonville next Sunday.
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Clemson player who punched opponent faces no more discipline

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says reserve defensive back Andrew Booth Jr. will face no additional punishment for punching a Louisville player last week.
The freshman punch ed Trenell Troutman during the second half of Clemson’s 45-10 victory. Booth will miss the opening half of the next game, against Boston College on Saturday, in accordance with NCAA rules.
Swinney said Tuesday that Booth has apologized to the team and handled things well since. Swinney adds he has not had problems before with Booth, who has “money in the bank with me.”
Swinney says Booth rode back to campus by bus with managers instead of flying home with his teammates.
Booth is from Dacula, Georgia, and was rated a five-star prospect by several recruiting services.
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Mahomes hurts knee in Chiefs’ win over Denver

By Arnie Stapleton
AP Pro Football Writer

DENVER (AP) — Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes injured his right knee in a pileup near the goal line before his Kansas City teammates rallied around their fallen superstar for a 30-6 thrashing of Denver on Thursday night.
Backup Matt Moore threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs (5-2) had nine sacks, gave up a season-low 71 yards rushing and snapped a two-game skid in beating the Broncos (2-5) for the eighth straight time.
His balky left ankle heavily taped, Mahomes completed 10 of 11 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown before he got hurt on a successful sneak on fourth-and-inches at the Denver 5 early in the second quarter.
One by one, players peeled off the pile but when Mahomes didn’t get up , the stadium grew quiet, Broncos players knelt and some Chiefs stormed away in aguish as their quarterback ripped off his helmet and covered his face.
As players milled about nervously, the Chiefs’ medical personnel appeared to pop Mahomes’ right knee back in place before he was helped from the field and taken into the locker room. The Chiefs announced minutes later that Mahomes had a knee injury and wouldn’t return.
The Broncos had won two straight after a winless September and were hoping to turn the AFC West upside down by handling the Chiefs their third straight loss.
Coming in, the Chiefs were ranked 24th in the league with 11 sacks and they’d allowed an average of 190 yards rushing over their previous four games.
But the Chiefs sacked Joe Flacco a career-high eight times , drew three holding flags on grabby left tackle Garett Bolles, held Denver to 1-of-13 on third downs and benefited from Denver’s poor special teams play and curious calls by coach Vic Fangio that backfired spectacularly.
When Flacco did stay upright to deliver deep passes, they fell incomplete. Rookie tight end Noah Fant dropped three passes that would have totaled more than 100 yards.
At one point, Fox NFL analyst Troy Aikman exclaimed, “This is about as bad an offense as I’ve seen. I’m shocked there’s as many people still here at the game.”
There weren’t for very much longer as the fans streamed to the exits with the never-ending bungled plays by the Broncos, especially the porous O-line that was jeered by frustrated fans.
The Chiefs even sacked punter Colby Wadman, who had nowhere to throw the ball on a failed fake punt that gave Kansas City the ball at the Broncos 38 on the drive that ended with Mahomes’ injury.
After Mahomes got hurt, Moore couldn’t get the Chiefs into the end zone on three plays from the 3, and Harrison Butker’s 20-yard field goal gave KC a 13-6 lead.
Flacco, who was sacked five times and knocked down eight more times in 15 first-half drop-backs, was sack-stripped by linebacker Anthony Hutchins on the next series and linebacker Reggie Ragland scooped up the loose ball at the 5 and rumbled into the end zone for a 20-6 halftime lead.
Brandon McManus missed a 45-yard field goal that sailed well above the top of the right upright.
The Broncos scored first after getting a reprieve on a three-and-out when Frank Clark’s face mask gave Denver a first down and Royce Freeman took it in from a yard out seven plays later. But Fangio decided to take the extra point off the board and go for 2 when Alex Okafor was whistled for encroachment.
Instead of handing the ball off to Freeman again, Fangio had Phillip Lindsay, who’s about 50 pounds lighter, pound the ball up the middle and he was stuffed, leaving the Chiefs celebrating instead and the crowd no longer buzzing.
Their 6-0 lead was short-lived as Mahomes somehow escaped the clutches of Von Miller and fired a pass that safety Will Parks tipped but Mecole Hardman reigned in anyway before avoiding sidestepping safety Kareem Jackson for a 21-yard score .
Hardman added a 37-yard punt return that led to a 33-yard field goal.
Moore finished 10 of 19 for 117 yards.
INJURIES: Parks left the game with a hand injury and didn’t return and Broncos rookie linebacker Justin Hollins left with a knee injury.
Chiefs: Face the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 27.
Broncos: Visit the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 27.

LEADING OFF: Strasburg, Nats lead Cards 2-0, Stanton hurt

By The Associated Press undefined
A look at what’s happening around the majors today:
Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals try to move within a win of the World Series. They lead St. Louis 2-0 in the NL Championship Series after dominant starts by Max Scherzer and Aníbal Sánchez — the Cardinals totaled just four hits in their two losses at Busch Stadium and are batting .070 in the best-of-seven matchup.
Strasburg faces Cardinals star Jack Flaherty as the series shifts to Nationals Park. Strasburg has a 1.32 ERA in six postseason games, five of them starts. He’s 2-0 in the playoffs this fall.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt wouldn’t reveal his lineup a day before Game 3. It’s possible he makes a tweak, but after analytics showed his hitters aren’t chasing the ball out of the strike zone at a higher rate, St. Louis is ready to stay the course without major changes.
Teams that have taken a 2-0 lead on the road in a best-of-seven series have gone on to win 88% of the time in MLB history.
Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton is trying to heal up a strained right quad that kept him out of the starting lineup for Game 2 of the AL Championship Series in Houston. The teams are tied 1-all, and manager Aaron Boone is hopeful Stanton can recover in time to start Game 3 on Tuesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
Stanton was injured running out an infield single in the second inning of Game 1 but remained in the game and homered off Zack Greinke in a 7-0 victory. Cameron Maybin played left field and batted seventh in place of the 2017 NL MVP.
If Stanton misses more time, switch-hitting center fielder Aaron Hicks could also crack the lineup — he got into the game late Sunday night as the Astros won 3-2 in 11 innings. The Yankees have good incentive to be patient with Stanton. If he’s removed from the active roster with an injury, he’d be ineligible should New York make the World Series.
The Nationals remain uncertain about the status of outfielder Victor Robles as he returns from a strained right hamstring. The 22-year-old Robles hasn’t played since injuring himself in Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Dodgers. Manager Dave Martinez said Robles planned to run and get treatment Sunday, then would take batting practice and do more running prior to Game 3 to determine if he could play.
“I’m not going to anticipate anything until he comes in tomorrow, but he’s progressing,” Martinez said. “And hopefully he’ll be ready.”
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Mariota, Winston may have cloudy futures with shaky showings

By SCHUYLER DIXON AP Pro Football Writer
Marcus Mariota might be out as the starting quarterback in Tennessee, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have to decide how many more interceptions they can afford from Jameis Winston.
For the top two picks in the 2015 draft, the future might not be so bright.
Mariota was pulled in the third quarter of a 16-0 loss to Denver with 63 yards passing, a 9.5 rating, two interceptions and three sacks. Winston made it to the finish of Tampa’s 37-26 loss to Carolina in London, but with a career-worst five interceptions — and an oh-by-the-way fumble for a sixth giveaway.
Winston has an NFL-worst 86 giveaways since entering the league and five games with at least four turnovers while no other player has more than two during that span.
“Throw the damn ball away,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He has a habit of trying to be Superman. That’s been a problem in the past. The fumbles haven’t occurred this year until today. But again, trying to make something out of nothing. It’s just a matter of knowing when to quit on a play.”
Mariota has a better record (29-32 compared to 23-37) and a slightly better ratio of touchdowns to interceptions, while both have similarly mediocre passer ratings in the high 80s.
The problem for Mariota is that Titans are near the bottom in points and total yards and have been shut out twice since the start of 2018. Ryan Tannehill, a former starter in Miami, replaced Mariota and was 13 of 16 for 144 yards and one interception. He was sacked four times.
“We’re not pulling our weight as an offense,” Mariota said. “We have to find a way to improve and change that because our defense is playing lights out.”
Titans coach Mike Vrabel didn’t want to discuss who would be the starter going forward.
Between Mariota and Winston, Mariota has the only playoff appearance. He won a wild-card game during the 2017 season. Neither has signed a second contract, which means both are in the fifth and final years of their rookie deals.
So both teams have decisions to make in the offseason, if not sooner.
“Sometimes I do want to do great things,” Winston said. “But you can do great things but protect the team at the same time.”
Dallas and the Los Angeles Rams, divisional-round foes last postseason, have matching 3-0 starts followed by three-game losing streaks.
The Cowboys lost to the previously winless New York Jets 24-22 after trailing 21-3 on the road. That was a week after a 34-24 home loss to Green Bay that included a 31-3 deficit.
The slump is a little more surprising from the Rams considering their 24-8 regular-season record the first two years under coach Sean McVay, capped by a Super Bowl appearance last season.
LA’s 20-7 loss to undefeated NFC West leader San Francisco gave the Rams three straight losses under McVay for the first time, while the Cowboys have lost three straight for the first time since the first half of star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension two years ago.
“Was it a humbling day for us? Absolutely,” McVay said. “But it’s something that we’re going to learn from. We’re not going to let it demoralize us. They did a nice job. We didn’t do enough collectively.”
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was asked about the future of coach Jason Garrett after the stunning loss, brushing it off as something he wasn’t even considering. Despite the slide, the Cowboys are tied with Philadelphia atop the NFC East and hosting the Eagles next Sunday.
“We’re 0-0 right now,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “We have a huge game next week. It’s for first in our division. We have to figure out a way to turn this page and focus on exactly that and how do we become a better offense. Everything, as crazy as it is, is still ahead of us.”
For the third time in four starts filling in for Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater had modest numbers. The New Orleans Saints don’t care. They’re 4-0 without the NFL’s all-time passing leader, and that much closer to getting him back from a torn thumb ligament.
The initial diagnosis was six weeks for Brees, which means the club probably will face a decision after next week’s visit to Chicago. The Saints (5-1) play Arizona at home on Oct. 27 before their open week.
New Orleans handed Dallas its first loss in Week 4 without scoring a touchdown, then didn’t allow Jacksonville a TD in Sunday’s 13-6 victory. The only touchdown was Bridgewater’s tiebreaking TD toss to Jared Cook early in the fourth quarter.
“Each week we just talk about how do we win that game,” Payton said. “Honestly, in a week or two weeks from now, we’re not going to look specifically to how we win certain games.”
Yeah, because Brees will be back somewhere in there.
Minnesota’s 38-20 victory over the Eagles gives the NFC North a chance to be the only division with four winning teams through six weeks, while it ended up leaving the NFC East without a team above .500.
If Detroit beats Green Bay on Monday night, the Vikings (4-2) and Packers (currently 3-2) would be tied for the division lead, followed closely by the Lions (currently 2-1-1) and defending NFC North champion Chicago (3-2).
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Correa HR in 11th as Astros top Yankees 3-2; ALCS tied at 1

HOUSTON (AP) — In a battle of the bullpens, Carlos Correa felt the greatest relief.
Injured down the stretch and slumping this month, Correa hit a leadoff home run in the 11th inning that lifted the Houston Astros over the New York Yankees 3-2 Sunday night, tying the AL Championship Series at one game apiece.
Correa, who earlier lined an RBI double and made a sensational play at shortstop, connected for an opposite-field shot to right off J.A. Happ.
“Not playing a couple of weeks before the playoffs and then not producing for or my team offensively, obviously it’s tough, getting hurt and everything,” the All-Star said. “But it’s all worth it for moments like this, moments like this where you give your team a chance to win every day, it’s worth it, man.”
Hours earlier, Correa was confident this would be the day he turned things around. About time, too, after starting out 3 for 22 in the postseason after returning from back problems.
“I’ve got my swing back,” he said then. “I’m going to hit a homer tonight.”
And with a swing that kept Houston from falling into an 0-2 hole, he did just that.
“Going into that last inning I thought: ‘I got this. I feel like I got this,'” Correa said. “And I had the right approach against him. I’ve been successful against him going the other way. And that’s what I try to do, I saw a good pitch down the middle and I drove the other way.”
Correa watched the ball sail, tossed his bat, put his hand to one ear to soak in the roars of the crowd and then held up one finger as he rounded the bases. As he approached home plate, he tossed his helmet as if shooting a basketball at the crowd of teammates waiting for him.
“As soon as I hit it I knew it was going to go over the fence,” he said. “The adrenaline started pumping like crazy. I don’t even know what I did. I’ve got to go watch the video. But I know I was so hyped.”
Correa’s big night gave him 27 RBIs in the postseason to pass Lance Berkman for the most in franchise history. And it was a familiar scene — in Game 2 of the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees, Correa hit a walk-off double in the ninth.
“You look at his RBI totals in the postseason, you look at his walk-offs, you look at the big moments, he’s a pretty special man,” manager AJ Hinch said.
Game 3 is Tuesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Gerrit Cole, who is 18-0 in his last 24 starts and led the majors in strikeouts, starts for the Astros against Luis Severino.
“The game of baseball, it’s a beautiful game,” Correa said.
The Yankees tied a League Championship Series record by using nine pitchers. The eight relievers had permitted only one run and two hits with 11 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings before Correa homered, ending a game that took 4 hours, 49 minutes and finished just before midnight.
Houston’s five relievers combined for 4 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout ball after taking over for Justin Verlander. Going into this best-of-seven series, the Yankees were considered the better team in the bullpen — the Astros amply held their own in this one.
“Our bullpen was nasty, gave us a chance to win the game,” Correa said.
Gary Sánchez struck out looking to end the Yankees 11th with runners on first and second. The pitch appeared outside — it came right after he swung and missed with two strikes, but was ruled a foul ball.
New York lost for the first time this postseason after four wins.
“It was a struggle tonight,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “They’re tough to score runs off, especially on a night when Verlander is out there.”
Aaron Judge put the Yankees on top 2-1 with a two-run shot off Verlander in the fourth. It was his first homer this postseason and the eighth in his playoff career.
George Springer tied it in the fifth with his franchise-record 12th career postseason home run. The 2017 World Series MVP homered on the first pitch after reliever Adam Ottavino entered.
“Just back and forth — the two best ballclubs in the game,” Judge said. “I wish we could have come away with two here, but now time to regroup and get ready for Tuesday.”
Along with his bat, Correa made the key play in the field to keep it tied at 2 in the sixth. With runners at first and second, and on the move on a full-count pitch with two outs, Brett Gardner hit a hard grounder that bounced off second baseman José Altuve for a single.
The ball bounded away and Correa quickly retrieved it and threw a strike to catcher Robinson Chirinos, who tagged out the sliding DJ LeMahieu.
Verlander pumped his fist and screamed “let’s go!” as he came off the field and Correa shook his finger with a look that said: “not on my watch.”
Cameras then panned to Verlander’s supermodel wife, Kate Upton, who jumped and cheered from a luxury suite.
“I just tried creeping over and as soon as the ball hit him, I scooped it and he sent him, so I had to gun him down,” Correa said.
Correa ended an 0-for-14 slump with an RBI double in the second off James Paxton, who lasted just 2 1/3 innings.
Hours later, Correa ended it with his drive off Happ. Correa is 6 for 12 with two homers against the lefty.
“It’s been a tough road this year but I’m finally here and I was able to contribute tonight,” he said.
Yankees: Slugger Giancarlo Stanton missed the game with a strained right quad. He homered in the opener. “So hoping that it’s something that with today and the off day, that he would be back in play for Game 3,” Boone said.
Cole was 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA and 25 strikeouts across 15 2/3 innings against the Rays in the ALDS. The 29-year-old led the AL with a career-best 2.50 ERA and was first in the majors with 326 strikeouts in the regular season.
This will be the eighth postseason start for Severino, who did not factor in the decision in New York’s Game 3 win over Minnesota. Severino, who made just three regular-season starts because of a late injury, allowed four hits in four innings against the Twins.
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Jarry makes 27 saves, Penguins rout Jets 7-2

By The Associated Press undefined
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Zach Aston-Reese, Sam Lafferty and Jake Guentzel each had two goals to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night.
Dominik Simon also scored and Aston-Reese also had an assist for the Penguins. Tristan Jarry stopped 27 shots.
Mathieu Perreault and Mark Scheifele had goals for the Jets, and Laurent Brossoit finished with 21 saves.
Both teams were playing back-to-back games and lacked zip.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul Stastny scored twice on the power play, Max Pacioretty added a power-play goal and Vegas beat Los Angeles.
Reilly Smith and Mark Stone also scored, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 36 saves as the Golden Knights swept their first set of back-to-back games.
Vegas was 3 for 3 on the power play after starting the season 3 for 17 with the man-advantage.
Jonathan Quick allowed five goals on 36 shots for the Kings.
Dustin Brown and Austin Wagner scored for Los Angeles.
SAN JOSE,Calif. (AP) — Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist to help San Jose beat Calgary.
Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc also scored as San Jose won their second straight after an 0-4-0 start. Logan Couture had two assists and Patrick Marleau had one in his first home game since rejoining the Sharks. Martin Jones stopped 32 shots after posting a 4.55 goals-against average while losing his first three starts.
Elias Lindholm scored for Calgary, which has lost two straight and three of its last four.
The Flames were playing their third road game in four days and second in as many days.
Cam Talbot had 17 saves in his Calgary debut. The 31-year-old, signed a one-year free agent contract with the Flames in the offseason after splitting time last season between Edmonton and Philadelphia.
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