Red Sox-Orioles: The wildest game of the season?

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Red Sox-Orioles: The wildest game of the season?

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Chris Davis had a much better day as a designated pitcher than as a designated hitter. In the first major league game since 1925 in which both teams put a position player on the mound, Davis overcame an awful day at the plate by pitching two scoreless innings and getting the win as the Baltimore Orioles outlasted Boston 9-6 Sunday in 17 innings. Davis went 0 for 8 as the DH, striking out five times and grounding into a double play. Yet in a season full of surprises for the Orioles, the first baseman by trade delivered the biggest one yet in his pro pitching debut. "I was like Sweet! I get to try something different today -- because hitting ain't working," Davis said. "Basically, that was my first thought." Adam Jones hit a three-run homer in the top of the 17th off Darnell McDonald, an outfielder the Red Sox turned to once their bullpen was empty. Boston then got two runners on to start the 17th against Davis (1-0). With a fastball in the mid-80s mph, he struck out All-Star slugger Adrian Gonzalez and got McDonald to ground into a double play to end a game that took 6 hours, 7 minutes. The last time two teams brought in position players to pitch in the same game was Oct. 4, 1925, when Hall of Famers Ty Cobb of Detroit and George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns closed out the second game of a doubleheader on the last day of the season, STATS LLC said. The last time any position player wound up as the winning pitcher was May 25, 2011, when Philadelphia infielder Wilson Valdez threw one scoreless inning in a 19-inning victory over Cincinnati. "I was just out there trying to throw strikes and not blow the game," Davis said. "In a game like that when everybody's battling, trying to get a win, both teams are throwing everything they got at each other. You don't want to blow it." Baltimore and Boston each used eight pitchers before going to Davis and McDonald. "Just when you think you've seen it all, some days you come out here and just assume the position. That was fun," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "It was a long day, but you like to get something good out of it." J.J. Hardy had a career-high five hits, including two homers, as Baltimore completed its first sweep at Fenway Park since 1994 and won its fifth in a row. The shortstop also made a relay to the plate that cut down the potential winning run to end the 16th. Robert Andino hit a three-run shot for the Orioles, who improved to a major league-best 19-9. Boston has lost five straight. McDonald had scored the tying run as a pinch runner in the eighth, and took the final swing against Davis. "He had pretty good stuff. He had a lot of life on his balls -- more than I expected," McDonald said. "I don't know what was worse -- giving up the three-run home run or grounding into a double play to end the game." Said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine: "He tried to throw it over and got hit out of the park." "I wish there was another option," he said. Boston rookie Will Middlebrooks hit his first major league homer, a grand slam that tied it at 5 in the fifth inning. Gonzalez finished 0 for 8. Davis was having a tough day when Showalter told him to go to the bullpen and begin warming up. "I waited as long as I could to even break it to Chris," he said. "You don't put somebody in that position. It's like asking somebody if they want to walk somebody or not. It's not their decision, it's yours." The first batter Davis faced was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who struck out. After Middlebrooks flied out, Marlon Byrd reached on an error by third baseman Wilson Betemit. Mike Aviles followed with a double, but Byrd was thrown out at the plate. Jones ran down the ball in left-center field and threw a strike to Hardy, and his relay was in time as Byrd barreled into catcher Matt Wieters. McDonald, who pitched one inning last year in his pro mound debut and gave up two runs, took over in the 17th and walked Betemit, who was thrown out trying to steal. Hardy doubled, Nick Markakis walked and Jones hit a drive over the left-field wall. Boston made it 6-all in the eighth when McDonald, pinch running for David Ortiz, scored on a sacrifice fly by Saltalamacchia. NOTES: The game was Boston's longest at home since an 18-inning win over the Tigers on June 5, 2001. ... The Red Sox placed RHP Aaron Cook on the 15-day disabled list with a left knee laceration and activated LHP Andrew Miller from the DL. ... Middlebrooks is the first Red Sox player whose first major league homer was a grand slam since Daniel Nava against Philadelphia on June 12, 2010. ... The Red Sox are last in the AL East, with the New York Yankees in fourth. This is the first time since the current division format began in 1994 that the Red Sox and Yankees were in the bottom two spots past May 1, STATS LLC said.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.