Orioles advance to face the hated Yankees

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Orioles advance to face the hated Yankees

From Comcast SportsNetARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles will get another chance to overtake the New York Yankees.The surprising O's have already beaten some big odds, getting past the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers and their Japanese ace, Yu Darvish, in the win-or-go-home wild-card playoff.Joe Saunders pitched effectively into the sixth inning at a place where he had never won, Adam Jones delivered the tiebreaking sacrifice fly and the Orioles, in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, eliminated the Rangers 5-1 Friday night."With our team it's just a bunch of guys that raised the bar and wouldn't give in and still haven't. Now they get a chance to win to roll the dice, and there's a lot of good card players in there," said Showalter, their manager.The Orioles advanced to play the East champion Yankees, the AL's top seed -- the teams split 18 games this season. The best-of-five division series starts Sunday at Camden Yards.The upstart Orioles spent the whole second half chasing New York, never passing them and falling just short in a neck-and-neck race for the division title.Turns out, the Yankees haven't brushed off these Birds just yet."Real proud of everybody. Tacking on runs were big, knew they were going to run at you," Showalter said. "But just a real proud moment for us.""Our guys approached it and we talked about it being sudden life instead of sudden death, and we played that way. You've got to seize the opportunity. We don't get many," he said.After twice coming with a strike of winning last year's World Series, this season is over that quickly for the Rangers, who were in first place for a majors-high 178 days this season. Texas loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth before David Murphy flied out to end it."We just didn't get it done," manager Ron Washington said.The Rangers lost the AL West crown on the final day of the regular season, after being swept in three games at Oakland for a stretch of nine losses their last 13 games."I'm not stunned, I was right there watching it," Washington said.Their worst slump of the season came at the wrong time for Texas, which a week ago had a four-game division lead with six games to play. Because of that, they couldn't avoid the majors' new winner-take-all postseason openers, and then couldn't get past their Orioles with their top pitcher on the mound."To be honest with you I never thought anything like this would happen," Washington said.Wiped out by San Francisco in the 2010 World Series, the Rangers twice came within a strike of their first World Series championship last October against St. Louis.When the Rangers committed more than 107 million last winter to acquire Darvish, they did so with the anticipation he'd be on the mound for many big games."Me and my teammates and the Rangers' fans, I don't think we all thought that it would end this early," Darvish said through a translator. "I mean, right now, no. I don't even know what I'm supposed to do tomorrow."They never would have expected him being outdueled in a playoff game by Saunders, a late-season addition by the Orioles who had lost all six of his previous starts with a 9.38 ERA at Rangers Ballpark."Our main job tonight was be as calm as we could and not try to do too much," Saunders said. "I think we did that to the best. We just clawed and scratched our way to a couple runs and played great defense."Saunders quickly gave up the Orioles' 1-0 lead in the first, but that was the only run he allowed in 5 2-3 innings. The left-hander struck out four and walked one."I love being the underdog. To knock off the defending two-time champs from the past couple of years is pretty amazing, I think," he said.Even though it was the postseason, the Orioles stuck to the regular Friday night uniforms -- including black tops and caps with script O's instead of the traditional smiling cartoon bird.Four pitches into the game, they led against Darvish, who struck out seven in 6 2-3 innings.Nate McLouth grounded Darvish's first pitch toward first baseman Michael Young. The longest-tenured Rangers player got charged with an error when he tried to backhand the ball, which ricocheted off the heel of his glove and away from him.McLouth stole second base on the third pitch. J.J. Hardy then drove him in by grounding a hard single up the middle -- the Orioles had only one more hit until a sequence in the sixth that needed some interpretation.The O's had consecutive singles to start the sixth before Jones' sacrifice fly made it 2-1.After backing up the plate when Jones hit the ball in the air, Darvish started stretching his shoulder and rolling his neck. Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux went out to the mound to try to figure out what was wrong when their pitcher still looked uncomfortable.Darvish's translator, Joe Furukawa, was also on his way out before initially being waved back by umpires. The six umpires then conferred before allowing the translator to come out while Darvish kept stretching and then threw a couple of pitches. Darvish said he had a cramp in the muscle on the top of his shoulder.Darvish finished the sixth with a strikeout, and started the seventh with another, before Ryan Flaherty's single and a sac bunt by Manny Machado. Derek Holland took over and gave up an RBI single by McLouth for a 3-1 lead.Even though he was a rookie in the majors, the 26-year-old Darvish was 8-2 with a 1.38 ERA and five complete games in 11 postseason starts for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters from 2006-11.McLouth added a sacrifice fly in the ninth, when the Orioles scored twice against Rangers closer Joe Nathan.Jim Johnson, who set an Orioles record with 51 saves, allowed a walk and two hits, including a two-out pinch single by 19-year-old Jurickson Profar, before Murphy's game-ending flyball to left.Saunders, who was with Arizona until the end of August, benefited from three double-play grounders and some bad swings by slugger Josh Hamilton, the former AL MVP and free-agent-to-be who might have played his last home game in a Texas uniform.Hamilton was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, both on three pitches, including with a runner at second base to end the eighth. He swung at the first pitch his other at-bats -- grounding in a double play in the first that did send home Texas' only run, and hit a comebacker to start the sixth.Even if a second wild card hadn't been added this year, the Orioles and Rangers would have been playing a winner-take-all game since both had 93 wins in the regular season.Under the old playoff rules, they would have met in a 163rd regular-season game the next day to determine the only wild card, with the winner hitting the road to open the division series.With the new format, it was a postseason game after an extra day -- when Washington gave his team off after being swept in Oakland and losing the AL West crown on the regular season's final day.The new rules also eliminated the prohibition against teams from the same division meeting in the ALDS, setting up the Orioles and Yankees.For the Rangers, they're headed into their longest offseason in three years.NOTES:Orioles 1B Mark Reynolds got hit on his right hand by a pitch in the second. He then stole second, matching his stolen base total from the regular season before getting stranded there. ... The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by 86-year-old Sister Frances Evans, a longtime Rangers fan who was escorted by Nolan Ryan to a spot a few feet in front of the plate. She wound up and threw to former Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg.

Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

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Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

BOSTON – Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always seen the same by NBA players – not even teammates.

That was certainly the case following Boston’s 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks which ended the Celtics season.

While Boston won more regular season games (48) than they did a year ago and put up a much better fight than last season's four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, having the season end the way it did at home on Thursday clearly left a bitter taste in the mouths of most players.

Whether this was a successful season is open to debate.

But what’s abundantly clear for the Celtics is this team did indeed make progress from where they were a year ago when they were swept out of the playoffs by Cleveland in the first round.

“You go from 40 (wins) – under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eeking  in at the end by winning six straight to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And so yes, there’s progress.”

But as far as this being a successful season, that’s not nearly as cut and dry.

“Of course it’s only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s’ when you hold that trophy up,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “So, until we do that, it’s not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart had a slightly different opinion on the matter.

“I don’t look at it as a failure, for sure,” Smart said. “We did a lot of great things this season. We’re a young team. That’s good for us coming back. We have a lot of work to do obviously, but I don’t look at the season as a failure. So I guess you can say it was a success for us.”

But looking at how this season ended, while disappointing, serves as a reminder as to how Boston remains a team with talent but plenty of room to grow.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right?” Stevens said. “One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in right now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there. And the next one is tough. And that’s been communicated before to me and we’re learning a lot. We learned a lot through this playoff series, but one of the things that I’ve learned is we’ve got to get better. And you know what? That starts with me. I’ve got to get better, and then I think each of our players will look at that accountably as well and we’re all going to be better the next time we take the court.”

And in doing so, look to build off the progress made this season and inch closer towards having a successful season which around here more often than not, means competing for an NBA title.

That’s why for Jared Sullinger, one of the few remaining players from the Big Three era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen when deep postseason runs were an expectation and not a goal, he doesn’t see this season as being a successful one for the Green team.

“If we’re thinking making it to the playoffs is a successful season, then we’re going in the wrong direction,” Sullinger said. “If you look in this locker room, you see everybody’s down. We didn’t want it to end like that; we wanted to make a run. It’s tough losing like that.”

Sullinger added, “last year we were glad to make the playoffs. This year, we wanted to make a run, we wanted to make some noise. Unfortunately, our noise got cut short.”

C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

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C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

BOSTON – There are few guarantees when it comes to the NBA and the Boston Celtics, but one thing’s for certain: change is going to come next season.

This is especially true for the Celtics whose season ended with a 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sending the C’s home for the season with a second straight first round exit.

“That’s just the business of the NBA,” said Isaiah Thomas who had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists which were both game highs on Thursday. “One thing I do know, I ride with these guys until the wheels fall off; I mean this was a special group.”

But whether they stay together remains to be seen.

Among those who could be on the move is Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He will be among the more heavily pursued Celtics this summer, in large part because of his versatility as both a playmaker and scoring guard off the bench.

Several teams will come hard after Turner, among them being the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic who are desperate to add talented, proven veterans to their young rosters.

The second year of Jonas Jerebko’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 3. Considering the way he played in the postseason as well as his steady presence during the regular season, the Celtics are more than likely to keep him around for next season.

Boston has a pair of restricted free agents in Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. It is unclear what the Celtics will do with them because it remains to be seen what type of offers (if any) they receive from another team.

“This season didn’t go exactly how I would have wanted it to,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “But I like it here, I like the coaching staff and the players. So we’ll see what happens this summer. But yeah, I’m definitely open to the idea of coming back next season.”

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding Amir Johnson who could potentially become a free agent this summer if the Celtics decline to pick up the second year on his contract which is worth $12 million.

When I asked Johnson if he felt he had done enough to have to his second year picked up by the Celtics he told CSNNE.com, “I hope so.”

Johnson added, “We never quit even when we were down big at the end of the game. I feel there’s stuff we can clean up and be better, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office. But there’s something about this team, we don’t have no quit in us. I feel like we can definitely go far if we just put the right pieces together.”

And as far as his future in Boston, “I definitely want to here.”

Only time will tell just how many of Boston’s potential free agents will be riding with the Green Team next season, or be swept away and wind up on another roster in what will surely be an offseason of change.