DENVER (AP) — Tennessee Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans was ejected Monday night after throwing a punch at Denver Broncos tight end Jake Butt late in the first quarter.
Butt and Evans were tied up on a run by Phillip Lindsay. After the play was over, Evans swung at Butt with his right hand and hit him in the helmet.
The loss of Evans was a big blow to the Titans’ defense. Evans led the team with 139 tackles last season. He also had 11 tackles for loss.
Tennessee was already thin at linebacker with Vic Beasley Jr. and Derick Roberson both out with knee injuries.
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NL playoff race wide open, AL nearly locked in
A look at what’s happening around the majors Friday:
Eight teams in the National League are vying for four available postseason spots heading into the regular season’s final weekend, and Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty can get St. Louis a crucial win in the opener of a doubleheader against Milwaukee. The clubs opened a five-game series Thursday that could have huge implications on the race, as none of the six other contenders are facing each other.
The Marlins, Phillies, Cardinals, Reds, Brewers and Giants are the top teams still in contention — and they’re packed tightly with slots available for one team from the NL East, another from the NL Central and then two wild cards. The Mets (26-31) and Rockies (25-31) are mathematically eligible but need to win out just to have a shot.
Only one playoff spot remains open in the AL, and Michael Brantley and the Astros are on the verge of clinching it. Houston is visiting the Rangers this weekend.
The Twins are trying to seal the AL Central. They hold a one-game lead over the White Sox and are at Target Field to finish up with Cincinnati.
Minnesota slugger Nelson Cruz has missed four straight games with soreness in his right knee. Manager Rocco Baldelli says Cruz wouldn’t be back in the lineup until he’s 100 percent.
SECOND CITY SKIDS
The White Sox and Cubs both hope to reverse recent slides when they meet this weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field before opening the playoffs.
The Chisox have lost five in a row, dropping them out of the AL Central lead and one game behind Minnesota. Rookie outfielder Luis Robert, stuck in an 0-for-28 slump, wasn’t in the lineup Thursday at Cleveland. The 23-year-old Cuban leads all rookies with 30 RBIs and is tied for first with 11 homers.
”The reality is you have a young man coming into the big leagues, and no matter how talented you are, you hit a wall,” manager Rick Renteria said. ”Nobody wants to see the wall be hit, but you hit a wall.”
The NL Central-leading Cubs have a magic number of two for clinching the division. They’ve lost five of six, scoring two or fewer runs in each of those losses.
Cubs ace Yu Darvish (7-3, 2.22 ERA) starts against Dylan Cease (5-3, 3.52).
Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer makes his final start of the season, taking on the Mets at Nationals Park. A win would let Scherzer (4-4, 3.67) finish with a winning record for the 11th straight season, tying Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw for the longest active such streak.
Washington was eliminated from postseason contention this week, a year after the winning the championship. Manager Dave Martinez intends to point out to his players what they’ve accomplished in the recent past.
”I’ll remind them that other than not making the playoffs this year, we did win the World Series in 2019,” Martinez said. ”That means a lot. That doesn’t go away. Let’s come back in 2021 and do it again.”
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Kings ‘pretty confident’ in who they’ll take No. 2 in the NHL draft
Quinton Byfield and Tim Stuetzle said what you’d expect with the NHL draft less than two weeks away.
During a virtual media session with other top prospects Thursday, the two players most widely-projected to be the Kings’ second overall pick sounded similar notes, declaring they both want to break into the NHL as soon as next season and will feel fortunate regardless of which team they end up with.
The pair’s most important conversations of the pre-draft process, after all, took place long before this. For teams at the top of next month’s draft board, there’s little left to learn about the highly regarded prospects expected to be, in some order, the Nos. 2 and 3 picks after Alexis Lafreniere.
Come Oct. 6, the overwhelming likelihood is that one of the two will be slipping on a black Kings uniform.
And according to director of amateur scouting Mark Yannetti, the club is already “pretty confident” in who they’re going to pick.
For the Kings to change to course now, “something drastic would have to happen,” Yannetti said by phone this week. “It took a long time to separate who we had at two and who we had at three.”
“This,” he added, “was the hardest decision I’ve had in L.A. probably.”
That’s no small claim. In his 13 years running the Kings’ amateur scouting department, Yannetti’s had a hand in almost 100 total selections, 11 first-round picks, and four in the top-five overall. In 2008, the last time the Kings picked second in the draft, they chose Drew Doughty from a similarly small group of top-end contenders. Last year, they felt they got a steal by getting Alex Turcotte at No. 5.
But this draft is different, both because of the specific players populating the top of their board and the extra time with which they’ve had to evaluate them.
While the COVID-19 pandemic denied the team a typical in-person interview process and reduced their opportunities to watch the prospects with their own eyes, the draft’s postponement from June to October gave the Kings an unusually long period to finalize their assessments.
Yannetti said the team “drew the process out intentionally,” cross-referencing their in-person scouting reports with an unprecedented amount of video analysis and analytical data.
In Stuetzle, they saw a player who excelled in Germany’s top professional league, validating his top-line status with 34 points and a plus-four rating in 41 games.
With Byfield, they took note of his response to an underwhelming performance in the World Junior Championships, as he registered 25 points in his final 15 Ontario Hockey League games.
The Kings considered other prospects too, organizing an impressive draft class into several tiers.
“We had two guys almost coin-flip close,” Yannetti said, “and then we had three guys really banging on the door but not quite at that level.”
Yannetti didn’t specify which two players the Kings’ decision came down to, or who holds the edge with the pre-draft just about complete.
But it seems unlikely that, after consensus No. 1 pick Lafreniere, the Kings were more focused on anyone but Stuetzle and Byfield. And when asked to compare the two specifically, Yannetti drew very few distinctions.
“I think the development curve is a lot more similar with those guys than people might have said,” he explained, pushing back somewhat against the common perception that Stuetzle is clearly the more “NHL ready” of the two.
“I think they’re both probably, in a physical sense, in a similar area as to readiness to play.”
In his view, neither player appears quite yet prepared for an immediate jump to the NHL. And even if one of them was closer to their full physical maturation, Yannetti insisted “it would have almost no bearing on our decision. It would be infinitesimal. There’s so many other rating points and evaluation points I would use, that one wouldn’t come into play.”
Instead, the Kings are looking at the long-term benefits of each player, weighing the big-picture progress of their rebuild over all else.
“Making the right pick here could speed along the process by two years, or it could add two or three years on the back end of how long you’re a contender,” Yannetti said. “The pressure isn’t any different, but the importance certainly is.”
Jaguars’ Cam Robinson tossed on stunningly weak ejection
Jacksonville Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson was ejected for making contact with an official in the third quarter of Thursday’s game with the Miami Dolphins.
Talk about a weak call.
Robinson is on the bottom of a pile after a strip-sack and fumble recovery by Kyle Van Noy of Miami. Check it out.
The NFL has dramatically pulled back on flags this season but … is still ejecting players for doing what Cam Robinson did (or didn’t) do there.
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) September 25, 2020
Here is the play that led to the action that caused the ejection.
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