Will Clippers need help from refs? originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest
Good luck, Denver Nuggets.
You’re playing the Los Angeles Clippers tonight in Game 7 of a series that could land you in the Western Conference finals against the Lakers.
And I doubt the folks in the NBA office want to see you go all the way to the NBA Finals. My guess is that the popular outcome of this game is the Clippers winning, guaranteeing the league having one team in the Finals from Los Angeles.
We’ve seen plenty of allegations that the league’s officials have been instructed to step in when a specific playoff outcome is in doubt. And this season with no fans in the stands and much revenue lost, the NBA needs to maximize television viewers.
TV ratings are important, of course. Very important. Could be that the NBA would want Denver to advance, to give the Lakers and LeBron a better chance of making it to the Finals.
But I doubt it. Two LA teams matched in the conference finals is just too appealing. And, by the way, I’m still not convinced the Nuggets are legit.
My problem with jumping on the Denver bandwagon is that I had a ringside seat for the Nuggets’ collapse last season in a similar playoff situation — only it was in Denver, site of the biggest homecourt advantage in the NBA: That was Game 7 vs. the Trail Blazers in a conference semi-final series.
In the second half of that game, the Nuggets, who had a 17-point first-half lead, went 0-9 from three, shot 33 percent from the field and allowed Portland to shoot 51.1 percent as CJ McCollum and Evan Turner destroyed Denver down the stretch.
The Trail Blazers were terrific and the Nuggets were terrible. Jamal Murray was 2-10 after halftime and Nikola Jokic was 6-16.
Yeah, that was last season, I know. But still… teams don’t often change personalities without a coaching change.
So perhaps the Clippers won’t even need any help from charitable officiating. But it may be there if they need it.
How will Carabao Cup fixture play out tonight?
The tie of the round in the EFL Cup fourth round takes place at Anfield on Monday night, as Liverpool host Arsenal.
These two teams only met on Monday night in the Premier League, with the Reds running out dominant winners on that occasion.
When they met in this competition last season, however, a back-and-forth encounter ended 5-5, with Liverpool triumphing on penalties – but the Gunners won the league game at the end of last season and also won on spot-kicks in the Community Shield.
Both teams are likely to make plenty of changes from the Monday night team sheets.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the game.
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When is it?
The match kicks off at 7:45 pm on 1 October, at Anfield.
How can I watch it?
The game will be shown live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event. Subscribers can also stream the game via the Sky Go app.
If you’re not a Sky customer you can grab a NOWTV Day Pass here to watch without a subscription.
What is the team news?
Liverpool are without the injured Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Thiago Alcantara has been returned a positive coronavirus test and will miss out.
Arsenal have the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Calum Chambers, Pablo Mari and Shkodran Mustafi injured. Sead Kolasinac is unlikely to play as he negotiates a transfer away and Cedric Soares is a doubt.
Liverpool: Adrian; N Williams, Gomez, Van Dijk, Milner; Grujic, Jones, Wijnaldum; Shaqiri, Minamino, Jota.
Arsenal: Runarsson; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Maitland-Niles, Willock, Ceballos, Saka; Pepe, Nketiah, Nelson.
Liverpool – 16/13
Draw – 56/19
Arsenal – 13/5
Somewhat less utter dominance from the home side compared to the league match, and potentially more defensive lapses from both teams. There are usually goals when Reds and Gunners clash and last year in the cup they drew 5-5. Perhaps not quite as dramatic, but still an eventful game which Liverpool just edge. Liverpool 3-2 Arsenal
Liverpool’s performance against Arsenal was far from ‘sloppy’ – unlike the post-match analysis
Wait, is the Yankees bullpen good enough to win a World Series?
The Yankees won their wild card series. They fought back, figured it out, and overcame blunders in a wild 10-9 victory over Cleveland that literally began in September and concluded in October.
For all of this, they deserve to celebrate. But they’re trying to win a World Series, not merely the first round. And to that end, this game introduced a significant question: Is their bullpen strong enough to get them through the month?
Were we so busy talking about other Yankee problems this year — the injuries! The inconsistent offense! Gerrit Cole’s hardly existent mini-slump, even! — that we failed to notice all the holes in the ‘pen.
On Wednesday, this was suddenly impossible to ignore. Needing 15 outs from his relievers after a short start from Masahiro Tanaka, there was nothing Aaron Boone could do to paper over or manage around several painful truths: Tommy Kahnle is badly missed. Adam Ottavino is currently unreliable. Chad Green is not quite what he was a year ago.
Put that all together, and you have Jonathan Loaisiga facing Francisco Lindor in the eighth inning of a tie game in the playoffs. To use a term favored by the analytically-savvy Yankees, this is not the ideal lane for him.
Perhaps over the past few years we’ve come to take a dominant bullpen for granted. Last October, the team hardly needed length from its starters because the pen was so loaded. Green dominated in late innings or as an opener, Kahnle stabilized after a bumpy 2018, and Ottavino’s frisbee slider helped him to cruise through the regular season before running into postseason struggles.
On Wednesday night, Tanaka’s exit after four innings forced a gut check from Boone. It turned out he could only trust Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman.
Green allowed an RBI double to Jose Ramirez on a curveball, a curious pitch selection. Britton got a big double play but issued two walks in the seventh.
Knowing he needed to replace Britton, Boone went to Loaisiga over Ottavino. We could understand his reluctance. Ottavino struggled in the playoffs last year, and allowed hard contact during this regular season at a rate worse than 98 percent of pitchers in the league.
But as one savvy baseball person texted after Loaisiga entered Wednesday’s game, “Why is Ottavino on the roster if you’re not going to use him there?”
Pressed afterward about his level of trust in Ottavino, Boone did what he always does and defended the player. He also noted that because Cleveland has so many switch hitters and lefties, it was hard to find a lane in this series for the right-handed Ottavino.
“Otto is still going to be in big spots,” Boone said. “Especially when there are difficult, challenging, right-handed lanes. This team is kind of unique with all the switch hitters and some of the lefties they have sprinkled in. Otto is going to find himself in a big spot, in a big game probably more than once.
“There are going to be obvious non-pinch hitting situations and obvious lanes, and there are going to have to be situations where he’s in where he probably is going to have to be facing a lefty, too. He’s capable.”
Because he was reluctant to call for Ottavino Wednesday, it occurred to us to ask Boone if he might address his bullpen issues by using Deivi Garcia in late-inning, high-leverage spots this month. Boone said that he would not, because he planned to use Garcia as a starter.
He’ll need the rookie to succeed in that role, and pitch relatively deep into games. Cole, Tanaka, J.A. Happ and perhaps Jordan Montgomery will have to do the same. It’s clear that every time a starter leaves early, Boone will have to walk a tightrope to the seventh inning, when he can begin to think about using Britton and Chapman.
It’s also clear, even in the afterglow of a hard-fought win, that the task ahead will not be easy.
Seager homers, Dodgers beat Brewers 4-2 in playoff opener
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers’ powerful lineup went mostly quiet against the Milwaukee Brewers. Still, baseball’s best team in the regular season generated just enough offense and got plenty of help from the opposing pitcher.
Mookie Betts had two hits and an RBI and Corey Seager homered in the Dodgers’ 4-2 victory in the opener of their NL playoff Wednesday night.
The eight-time NL West champion Dodgers capitalized early in a bullpen game for the Brewers and can wrap up the best-of-three series Thursday. Milwaukee – a playoff entrant despite a losing record – limped into the postseason as the No. 8 seed without its best starter and reliever, who are hurt.
”A walk is just as good as a hit sometimes, which we showed in the first inning,” Seager said. ”You don’t always have to have the big hit to score runs.”
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead on a leadoff double by Betts and four walks by left-hander Brent Suter in the first, tying for the most walks by a pitcher in a single inning in postseason history. Betts scored when Will Smith drew a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded. Seager walked and scored on AJ Pollock’s bases-loaded walk.
”We took our walks and scratched out some runs,” said Seager, who hit just behind Betts.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, ”You’d be hard-pressed to find a better 1-2 in baseball.”
Suter needed 32 pitches to get out of the inning. He gave up three runs and three hits in 1 2/3 innings. He doubled his season total of five walks, and he didn’t record a strikeout.
”Nerves going on, excited to be out there, then Mookie gets that leadoff double. I missed some corners, then all of a sudden snowball effect,” Suter said. ”I felt like I let the team down big-time.”
Chris Taylor doubled leading off the second and scored on Betts’ double, making it 3-0. Max Muncy walked with two outs and Ryan Braun caught Smith’s drive to right at the wall to end the inning, potentially saving three runs.
Braun winced as he hit the wall with his right shoulder. He left in the fifth with mid-back discomfort.
”He hurt himself Sunday in St. Louis and we tried to give it a shot today and at some point it was a no-go,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. ”You could call it day-to-day.”
The Dodgers could have inflicted more damage but were just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position in the first two innings.
Milwaukee pitchers retired 10 straight Dodgers during one stretch.
With the Dodgers clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh, Seager went deep to straightaway center off Freddy Peralta, who gave up just two homers during the shortened 60-game season. The Dodgers led the majors with 118 homers.
Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen walked pinch-hitter Jace Peterson with two outs in the ninth. Christian Yelich came to the plate as the potential tying run, but he struck out swinging to end the game. Jansen earned the save.
”Despite pitching about as bad as I’ve ever pitched, we still had a chance to win,” Suter said.
The Brewers closed to 3-2 on Orlando Arcia’s two-strike, two-run homer with two outs in the fourth. Betts made an over-the-shoulder catch to deny Avisail Garcia with a runner on for the second out of the inning.
Milwaukee had the potential tying run on in the seventh with Yelich’s two-out double. Tyrone Taylor popped up to end the inning.
The Brewers also threatened in the sixth. Garcia singled and was safe at second on Muncy’s fielding error at first base. Muncy turned and scrambled into short right, trying to pick up the ball with a swooping motion, but it went off his glove and rolled away.
Julio Urias retired the next two batters to end the inning.
”We gave ourselves a shot,” Counsell said. ”We just didn’t come through.”
Urias got the victory, allowing three hits in three innings and striking out five. He had a runner on base in each of his innings, but didn’t allow a run.
Garcia had three hits and Yelich two to lead the Brewers.
Pitching with a blister on his right index finger, Walker Buehler allowed two runs and three hits in four innings for Los Angeles. He struck out eight and walked two.
Roberts pulled Buehler once he got over 20 pitches in the fourth.
”At that point in time is when the blister starts to show itself a little bit,” Roberts said. ”We just didn’t know what we were going to get from Walker.”
Milwaukee right-hander Corbin Burnes and reliever Devin Williams are missing this series with injuries that occurred in the last week of the season. Burnes has a strained left oblique and Williams has a sore right shoulder. Starting pitcher Brett Anderson also was left off the roster because of a blister issue.
Losing Williams is a big blow after he emerged as one of baseball’s top relievers this season and is a top contender for NL Rookie of the Year. He went 4-1 with a 0.33 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 27 innings.
”It’s really crushing, honestly,” said Williams, who felt tightness after last weekend’s outing. ”If we make it to the next round, I should be back. With the progress we’ve made in just a few days, it’s been encouraging.”
The Dodgers give the ball to left-hander Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.16 ERA) for Game 2 on Thursday. He’s 9-11 with a 4.43 ERA in the postseason and lost his lone start in last year’s NLDS. The Brewers start right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who was 3-5 with a 3.05 ERA during the shortened season. He came up big last weekend with 10 strikeouts over eight shutout innings in a must-win game that helped Milwaukee eke out the No. 8 playoff seed.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
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