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AL's Chris Sale, NL's Max Scherzer to start All-Star Game
 ColtenB
 07.10.17

Swarzak

MIAMI (AP) — Chris Sale will become the first pitcher to make consecutive All-Star starts representing different teams.

The Boston Red Sox ace will start Tuesday night’s game for the American League, and Washington’s Max Scherzer will open for the National League. Both Sale and Scherzer played for the La Crosse Loggers during their collegiate careers.

Scherzer pitched for La Crosse in 2004, going 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched. Sale was a Logger in 2008, going 2-3 in 17 appearances. He struck out 74 batters in 53 innings that summer.

“So that’s pretty interesting too. We’ve had some ties for a while and played against each other for a while, too,” Sale said.

As a member of the Chicago White Sox, Sale pitched the first inning of last year’s game at San Diego and allowed a two-out home run to Kris Bryant. Sale was traded in December for top prospects.

Sale will be the 16th pitcher to make consecutive All-Star starts, the first since Arizona’s Randy Johnson in 2000-01 and the first in the AL since Toronto’s Dave Stieb in 1983-84. Born in Lakeland, which is about 240 miles northwest of Miami, Sale is 11-4 with a 2.75 ERA and a major league-leading 178 strikeouts in 127⅔ innings.

“All my family lives here. Brothers, sisters, in-laws, parents, even my aunts and uncles and cousins,” Sale said. “So to be able to be here not too far from where I live now is nice. I can have my family, extended family come down and experience this with me.

“At the end of the day this is something I’ll never forget,” he said. “This is something I’ll be hopefully sitting in a rocking chair when I’m 80 years old telling my grandkids and great-grandkids and things like that.”

Scherzer also will be making his second All-Star start. Then with Detroit, he pitched a perfect inning at New York’s Citi Field in 2013, when Sale followed with a pair of 1-2-3 innings and got the win. Scherzer will be the fifth pitcher to start All-Star Games for both leagues, following Vida Blue, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay and Johnson. Scherzer is 10-5 with a 2.10 ERA and 173 strikeouts.

Sale and Scherzer took turns complimenting each other at Monday’s announcement of the All-Star lineups.

“I love the way Chris goes out and competes. ... He’ll do anything to win. He makes big-time pitches all the way — even if he takes 120 pitches. By far he’s been one of my favorite players, pitchers to watch. It’s even better to compete against him,” Scherzer said.

Sale echoed that sentiment.

“I could almost say the same thing. I don’t know if I’ve seen a guy compete as hard as he competes day in and day out,” Sale said. “The fire, the intensity, the role model he can be for kids coming up to kind of take the bull by the horns and just compete. It’s fun.”

Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, 14-2 with a 2.18 ERA, is ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game because he started Sunday.

NL manager Joe Maddon’s batting order has Colorado center fielder Charlie Blackmon leading off, followed by Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton as the designated hitter. Washington right fielder Bryce Harper is third, followed by San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy, Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado, Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Miami left fielder Marcell Ozuna and Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart.

Maddon said it was a “pretty easy decision” to slot Stanton as the DH.

“Looking at the breakdown of the team positionally, I thought to draw a DH out of the outfield was smart, or possibly a first baseman, having three outstanding first baseman,” Maddon said. “And furthermore playing here under the circumstances I thought it was the right thing to do.”

AL manager Brad Mills hits Houston second baseman Jose Altuve leadoff, followed by Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez, New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge, Houston’s George Springer in left, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, Toronto first baseman Justin Smoak, Tampa Bay designated hitter Corey Dickerson, Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez and Boston’s Mookie Betts in center.

Judge tops the majors with 30 home runs and is among the leaders in several other hitting categories. Mills said he wanted to see the rookie bat early — and figured a lot of fans did, too.

“Where was I going to hit him in the lineup? It was a situation you wanted him to hit in the first inning because of the story he’s been all year long,” Mills said.

Sale and Scherzer were set to face big hitters in a homer-filled season.

“I give up my fair share of homers. You can check the book. It happens,” Sale said. “If you let that creep in your mind, it’s going to be a long night. I’m going to do the same thing I always have.”

Scherzer is well aware that home runs are up.

“The way I’ve been looking at it, ball is flying for whatever reason. I really don’t care,” he said. “I’ve given up a lot of homers over the past year and a half.

“That’s really been something that’s been a thorn in my side. I’ve had to become a better pitcher, locate better. Because of the home run spike, I’ve dialed it in even more to try to make my location better to try to prevent them. I think I have a hand in it, in not letting them hit as many homers out, and that’s made me a better pitcher,” he said.

Mills, Cleveland’s bench coach, took over as AL manager after Indians manager Terry Francona had a procedure last week to correct an irregular heartbeat.

“Getting this responsibility is very humbling,” Mills said. “I’m thrilled to be here. I definitely would love to have him sitting here in this chair.”


Racing
La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway: Matt Henderson's wild ride ends in drought-ending victory
 
 07.11.17

WEST SALEM — Matt Henderson was battling a number of things while trying to keep his rocket-speed but losing-traction-fast stock car on the track and off the wall.

Henderson

As the laps ticked off during the Late Model feature race Saturday night at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway, the likeable and popular driver from La Crosse was in the lead.

Barely, however, as there was a sleek black car driven by Brad Powell so close to his rear bumper he didn’t even create a shadow.

Powell could sense that Henderson’s car was losing grip, sliding up the track. With four laps, then three in the 25-lap feature race, Henderson’s car broke loose, then snapped sideways coming out of Turn 4.

Henderson, who had not won a feature race since 2009, was in for another heartbreak, right?

Not this time.

Henderson somehow white-knuckled his car enough to hold off Powell — who broke into a wry smile in a postrace interview when asked if he thought about a bump-and-run tactic — to snap an eight-year victory drought.

Finally, Lady Luck was a passenger in Henderson’s sweet-looking No. 33 race car.

“I kept on looking at the (leader)board to see what the top five was and kind of see where everyone was running. I saw the 23 car (Powell) up to third, and once I seen him behind me, I thought for sure he was going to get me,” said Henderson, who tried, but couldn’t hold back his excitement.

“Our car was not good through the center of the corner, so I had a lot of wheeling it just to keep my momentum rolling and then I would snap loose off the corner. All I could do was hold on and do my best. I drove my guts out.”

No one would have blamed Henderson if some self-doubt would have crept into his thought process, as he had been within a few feet of grabbing a checkered flag a dozen times over the past eight years. It just always seemed someone was a tad faster, a tad better in the corners.

This time, it appeared it was Powell.

“He was sideways. The top side got really slippery, otherwise I would have gone to the top side, but all the bite was on the bottom (of the track),” Powell said.

“After the caution, my car got really free and I couldn’t get on it the same I could (before the caution), so I had to tippy-toe it off. Otherwise I would have.

“Did I make it exciting for you?”

Powell made it exciting for a Fairgrounds Speedway crowd estimated at 3,000, as did Jerimy Wagner. Wagner, another driver who has been knocking on victory’s door but yet to get an answer, led the first 13 laps before the race’s lone caution came out.

When a caution comes out, drivers must choose a top or bottom lane as they come back around the front stretch. An orange cone is set up at the finish line, and as the drivers rumble around the track under caution, they must choose top or bottom.

Surprisingly, Henderson — who was running second to Wagner at the time — popped to the top lane.

“I didn’t really think I had anything for him (Wagner) unless he made a mistake. I could ride around following him, right on his bumper, and I was just waiting for him,” Henderson said of Wagner.

“He was loose, so I was just hoping, waiting to see if would break loose and I would get a run or something, but then the caution came out. I had debated, ‘Do I go inside cause I don’t know if I can make it on the outside?’”

The outside groove of the track didn’t seem to have the traction, or “bite” as drivers call it, for anyone on Saturday night. Still, Henderson took a chance. A chance that ultimately won him the race.

On the restart, he raced Wagner side-by-side down the frontstetch, then through turns 1 and 2. Then he made a risky, but calculated decision.

“I blew it into (turns) three and four probably harder than I ever have. I have been watching Steve Carlson do that for years,” Henderson said. “So I thought, ‘Well, what the hell, let’s give it a shot.’ So I just blew it in, it stuck, and here we are.”

Henderson knows if his car didn’t stick, instead of shaking hands with fans and getting congratulatory pats on the back after the race, he could have been chatting with the guys on the safety crew as they peeled his car off the wall.

“I didn’t really have much confidence (the car would stick on the outside), to be honest,” Henderson said. “I thought, ‘Well, I don’t get this opportunity every day, so what do I got to lose, ya know? This is it, so I jumped out there.’ I got nothing to lose. That is what I did.”

So thanks to a mid-race caution, a gutsy move on the restart and a patient second-place runner in Powell, Henderson’s drought is over.

“I’d be lying if I said the last number of years have been just a blast because it is a lot of work, time away from the family,” Henderson said.

“And when you don’t get results, it is really hard. Then you start questioning, ‘Is it me? Is it the car? What are we doing wrong?’ It is the same crew we have had since the beginning and I am the same guy, obviously.

“We are just doing our best and hopefully we will be back up here (Victory Lane).”

It was indeed a special night for Henderson, in part because he was able to share it with his dad, John, who has been instrumental in his career, and because his most of his family was there to share the moment with him.

“It was pretty special, as I asked Colton, my son, ‘Did you cheer for me?’ He said, ‘No,’” Henderson said, laughing with his 4-year-old son. “Oh, OK, that is good to know. Our other son is at home with the babysitter. I am glad they (his wife, Brittany, and Colton) made it tonight. They put up with a lot, too. It is a struggle, to be honest, tonight, it makes it all worth it.”

“All I could do was hold on and do my best. I drove my guts out.” Matt Henderson,
on his dought-ending victory

2-time champ Nadal loses 15-13 in 5th set at Wimbledon
 ColtenB
 07.10.17

Nadal

LONDON (AP) — First, Rafael Nadal erased a two-set deficit. Then, he erased four match points. Nadal could not, however, erase the fifth.

After digging himself out of difficult situations over and over during the course of a riveting encounter that lasted more than 4½ hours, Nadal suddenly faltered, getting broken in the last game and losing to 16th-seeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 in the fourth round of Wimbledon on Monday.

“It’s tough to say what, exactly, made the difference at the end,” Muller said. “To be honest, I haven’t really realized what just happened.”

The surprising defeat extended Nadal’s drought without a quarterfinal berth at the All England Club to six years.

He has won two of his 15 Grand Slam championships at Wimbledon, and played in the final three other times, most recently in 2011. But since then, Nadal’s exits at the All England Club have come in the first round (2013), second round (2012, 2015) and fourth round (2014, 2017).

All of those losses, except Monday’s, came against men ranked 100th or worse. The 34-year-old Muller is not exactly a giant-killer: He had lost 22 consecutive matches against foes ranked in the top five. And he’d only reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal once before, at the 2008 U.S. Open.

“If I had lost that match,” Muller said, “it would have been tough to digest.”

But Muller’s powerful serve and crisp volleys make him what Nadal called “uncomfortable” to play. And Muller — who already owned one victory over Nadal at Wimbledon, back in the second round in 2005 — managed to pull this one out, unfazed despite allowing opportunities to pass him by.

Nadal served from behind throughout the final set and was twice a point from losing in its 10th game. He again was twice a point from losing in the 20th. Only when Muller got yet another chance to end it did he, when Nadal got broken by pushing a forehand long.

“When you are in the fifth, against a player like him, (the outcome) just depends on a few balls,” Nadal said, shaking his head. “Actually, he was a little better than me on a few balls.”

One key: Nadal converted only 2 of 16 break points. That included going 0-for-5 in the fifth set, four in one game, and was a big reason that the No. 4-seeded Spaniard lost despite remarkable totals of 77 winners and 17 unforced errors.

Nadal entered the match having won 28 consecutive completed sets in Grand Slam play, equaling his personal best and a total exceeded only twice in the Open era. He arrived at the All England Club coming off his record 10th French Open championship, and 15th major trophy overall, and seemed primed to be a factor again at the grass-court tournament.

From 2006-11, Nadal reached the final in five consecutive appearances at Wimbledon (he missed it in 2009 because of bad knees), winning titles in 2008 and 2010. But now he heads home, while Muller’s next opponent will be 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic.

Other men’s quarterfinals matchups: defending champion Andy Murray against Sam Querrey of the U.S., Roger Federer against Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych against Novak Djokovic or Adrian Mannarino. The Djokovic-Mannarino fourth-rounder was postponed until Tuesday; it had been scheduled to be played on No. 1 Court after Nadal-Muller concluded.

But that duo played on and on, past 8 p.m. local time, when the descending sun’s reflection off a piece of the arena bothered Nadal so much that he held up action and chair umpire Ali Nili asked spectators to stand in the way and block the rays. A few games later, Nili told fans to stop doing the wave, suggesting they wait for the next changeover to resume.

After losing two sets in the opening 75 minutes, Nadal adjusted. He stepped a little farther behind the baseline to give himself more time to react. He also fared better on his own serve, finishing with 23 aces, an unusually high total for Nadal and only seven fewer than Muller.

Still, things were not looking good when Nadal served while down 5-4 in the fifth set. He double-faulted to trail 15-40, offering Muller his two initial match points, before erasing those with an ace and a service winner. Muller’s next two match points came at 10-9. Nadal deleted the first with a volley winner, and the second disappeared when Muller shanked a return.

“It was not easy,” Muller said, “to keep believing.”

The fifth set alone lasted 2 hours, 15 minutes, and Nadal could not manage to complete what would have been his fourth career comeback from two sets down — and first in a decade.

Instead, it was Muller who was able to enjoy a win that seemed to be slipping away.


Aaron Judge smashes hit way to Home Run Derby title
 ColtenB
 07.10.17

MIAMI (AP) — Aaron Judge dominated the All-Star Home Run Derby in the same manner he has smashed his way through his rookie season.

The larger-than-life New York Yankees slugger beat Minnesota’s Miguel Sano 11-10 with two minutes to spare in the final Monday night, reaching 513 feet and displaying remarkable power to all fields.

Judge, 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds, sprayed balls off the glass behind left field that supports the Marlins Park retractable roof, hit one over the Red Grooms home run sculpture in left-center, over the batter’s eye in straightaway center and, unusually for a derby, to the opposite field, too. He also hit the roof near a light bank in left, 160 feet above the field. That drive didn’t count.

Hitting second each time, Judge knocked out Miami’s Justin Bour 23-22 in the first round and beat Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger 13-12 in the second. Then, with lightning visible behind the huge glass door, he hit a 458-foot drive to center for the title.

Judge leads the major league with 30 home runs and some Yankees fans showed up to support him in their full dress — flowing black robes and white powdered wigs. Booed initially by the crowd of 37,027, Judge earned their cheers once defending champion Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins was eliminated in the first round.


ColtenB / Associated Press  

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge competes in the MLB Home Run Derby, topping Minnesota’s Miguel Sano in the final round.