Triple play helps Dodgers edge Padres

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Triple play helps Dodgers edge Padres

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Matt Kemp called it "very weird." Chase Headley described it as a "crazy occurrence." Nearly everyone was shaking their heads after the Los Angeles Dodgers turned a bizarre triple play in the top of the ninth inning before Dee Gordon singled home the winning run in the bottom half of a 5-4 win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday. It was 4-all when the Dodgers turned their first triple play since June 13, 1998, against Colorado. Chris Denorfia led off with a single against Javy Guerra (1-0) and Headley walked. Jesus Guzman squared to bunt, but the pitch came high and tight and hit his bat as he backed away. The ball landed in front of the plate and catcher A.J. Ellis alertly picked it up and threw to third. "I was very confident I heard it hit the bat. I didn't hear anything from the umpire behind me," he said. Guzman, startled by what happened, didn't run to first base, which made it easy for third baseman Juan Uribe to relay to shortstop Gordon at second base. In turn, he threw to James Loney to complete the triple play. "As soon as I got the ball to Juan and nobody was running I said, This is going to be a triple play,'" Ellis said. "They were sure it was a foul ball and we were sure it was a bunted ball." Padres manager Bud Black came out to argue with plate umpire and crew chief Dale Scott, who ejected him. "It happened so fast," said Black, who thought he heard two sounds when the ball hit the bat. "It sounded funny." He came into the clubhouse and watched a replay. "There's not many times where a ball headed for the face turns into a triple play," Black said. "I looked at the take, and it was a fair ball." Headley saw Scott's hands go up and believed the umpire was signaling that the ball hit the bat, then hit him in the batter's box, making it a foul ball. "When he throws his hands up like that, it's supposed to be a foul ball. I told him that five times. He said that he was just trying to get out of the way," Headley said. "He wasn't just sticking his hands up. He waved them, and to me, that means foul ball, regardless of whether it hit him or didn't hit him. That's irrelevant." Scott told a pool reporter that the umpiring crew didn't see the ball hit the batter. "It was off the bat and then straight down," he said. "We saw several angles, including the replay here and we also called in and asked for the replay from New York and looked at that. The ball went straight down and I thought it hit the bat. I heard bat. "I moved out of the way of the catcher, and now all of sudden, I have two bodies in front of me. I didn't see where the ball was. I saw it trickle in front of the plate. Without having seen it hit, I have to assume that's a fair ball." First base umpire Bill Miller confirmed that the ball was momentarily foul before it rolled fair again. Scott said as long as the ball isn't touched it's fair. "There was nothing verbal (from the umpire), so I just picked it up and started throwing," Ellis said. "You keep playing and don't assume anything." The Dodgers improved to 9-1, the best mark in the major leagues and equaling their best start since opening the 1981 season with the same record. Kemp hit his fourth homer in three games as the Dodgers sent San Diego to its fourth loss in a row. The Dodgers won the series opener Friday night when the winning run was forced in on a bases-loaded walk. "I'm proud of my guys," he said. "We're finding ways to win. Whatever it is, we're getting it done." The Dodgers had the same situation in the bottom of the ninth with runners on first and second and nobody out, with Juan Uribe in a sacrifice situation against Brad Brach (0-1). Uribe successfully got the bunt down and Ellis was intentionally walked to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston Jr. fouled out before Gordon slapped an 0-2 pitch to left field, setting off a wild celebration between first and second base. Gordon had struck out with the bases loaded to end the seventh and earlier committed an error. "I shouldn't have put (Clayton) Kershaw in the spot. That's on me," Gordon said. "I was glad I could come through for him." A joyous Kemp tackled Gordon, leading to a dog pile of players. "I had to get my licks in," Kemp said. The Dodgers gave Kershaw to a 4-1 lead. But Josh Lindblom gave up a tying two-run single to pinch-hitter Jeremy Hermida in the sixth, leaving last year's NL Cy Young winner with his third no-decision in as many starts. The Dodgers improved to 6-0 at home with their ninth straight win against San Diego at Dodger Stadium. San Diego tied it at 4 with three runs in the sixth. Orlando Hudson had a bases-loaded RBI single through the hole past Gordon to finish Kershaw, and Hermida hit a bases-loaded single. Kershaw allowed four runs -- three earned -- and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings, struck out three and walked three. The left-hander's three earned runs were the most he's allowed since last Aug. 7, a span of 11 starts. "We were just a little bit off the rhythm and timing," Ellis said. "He'll bounce back and be ready to go." Padres starter Edinson Volquez gave up four runs and six hits in five innings. He struck out two and walked five. NOTES: The Dodgers swept a six-game homestand for the first time since the opening homestand of the 2009 season, when they swept the Giants and Rockies in six games. ... Volquez hasn't reached the sixth inning in either of his two starts against the Dodgers this season. .. Padres C Nick Hundley snapped an 0-for-21 skid with a single in the third. His drought was the longest to start a season by a Padres non-pitcher since Ozzie Smith's club record 0-for-32 stretch in 1979. ... Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully returned to the booth after missing five days with a bad cold. "I'm just going to give thanks that I'm here," the 84-year-old said. ... Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul took his 2-year-old son to the youngster's first major league game.

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will go with four receivers against the Steelers as Michael Floyd has been listed as a healthy scratch for the AFC title game. 

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

The Patriots had all five of their wideouts -- Floyd, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola -- available to them for Sunday's matchup, but they're opted to use the four who are most experienced in the team's offense. 

Hogan (thigh), Mitchell (knee) and Amendola (ankle) were all listed as questionable going into the weekend, but all have been deemed physically ready to play as their team vies for a Super Bowl berth. 

Floyd had his worst game as a member of the Patriots last week in the Divisional Round against the Texans. On two routes, both slants, Floyd ran the pattern in such a way that there appeared to be some miscommunication between him and quarterback Tom Brady. One was picked off and the other was almost picked. 

Floyd admitted as much last week, saying that there are still intricacies to the Patriots offense that he needs to pick up -- including exactly how Brady wants certain routes run.

Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans last week but felt optimistic soon thereafter that he'd be good to go for the conference championship. Mitchell hasn't played since suffering a knee injury against the Jets in Week 16. 

Other Patriots inactives for Sunday include quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running back DJ Foster, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, safety Jordan Richards and corners Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones.

Haggerty: For better or worse, Bruins need to make a call on Julien

Haggerty: For better or worse, Bruins need to make a call on Julien

The Bruins coach and leaders in their dressing room spoke out this weekend, and their words all basically spread the same supportive message.

Claude Julien and his longtime players aren’t ready for a change at the head coaching position for the Black and Gold and they hope the longtime bench boss is in Boston for as long as possible after 10 mostly successful years on the job.

Still, it may not go down that way this season with real pressure on B’s management, coaches and the players to end a two-year playoff drought. Things are currently going pretty badly with the Bruins in the middle of a three-game losing streak before facing the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon.

The heat has been dialed up as high as it’s ever been on Julien in his 10 years of employment with Boston and everybody seems to know it.

“Right now we’re all confident in Claude, and we all want to be here and play for him. If [saving Julien’s job] is the extra motivation you need for the games then so be it,” said Patrice Bergeron. “But we’re all professionals and we’re here to win hockey games. I’ve said this before that I’ve been with Claude for 10 years, and he’s the guy that I believe in and that I want to play for.”

Similarly, the Bruins captain has been with Julien for the long haul in Boston and has worked closely with the coach keeping lines of communication open in good, Cup-winning times and bad, non-playoff times. Chara bestowed Julien with every bit the endorsement that Bergeron did, and it’s clear much of the core group wants to keep the longtime coach in place.

“We don’t pay attention [to the chatter]. Claude is our coach and Claude will be our coach. We have confidence in him,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “He’s proven to be a coach that does a lot of good things for this organization. We just have to come up with some wins, battle it and we’re all in this together.”

One thing that’s a legitimate question: Is the devotion of players like Chara and Bergeron toward Julien a defining reason to keep the longtime coach?

There isn’t a sense the Bruins have tuned out their coach, as can happen in dysfunctional NHL situations, but there is a feeling that longtime B’s players with status are pretty comfortable with iron-clad no-movement clauses in their contracts and a relationship with the coach where there’s a level they may not be getting pushed toward very often.

Comfort isn’t always a good thing in an NHL dressing room and it’s felt altogether too comfortable at times in some of those no-show performances from the Black and Gold over the past couple of failed seasons. 

For his part, Julien doesn't think that was the case and intends on continuing to work his way through the struggles with a mix of youth and veteran players who clearly have enough to be a playoff team.

“If we’re going with what we said we were going with and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it,” said Julien. “I think we put ourselves in a position earlier in the year where we could all of a sudden believe that we’re a playoff team...absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team. Whether we can do it or not we’ll find out at the end of the year, but my job is to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m going to do.

“As far as the [firing] rumors are concerned, they’re out there and I know that. But I don’t worry about it because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. And my time is spent trying to fix things here.”

It would be ridiculous and pointless to compare this season’s Bruins roster to the groups that won Cups, made it to the Finals twice and even won a President’s Trophy in 2013-14. Clearly, this particular roster isn’t as deep, or as difficult to play against, as those talent-stuffed hockey clubs, but this team also has enough high-end talent that they should edge teams like Toronto, Ottawa and Philadelphia out of a playoff spot.

This is where the theoretical move to fire Julien comes into play.

The Bruins are at a critical stage of their season where things are slipping away from them and the team is showing some of the maddening characteristics of the past two seasons.

They are unprepared to play on too many nights. They take opponents lightly on too many nights particularly in the past couple of months. A tiring Tuukka Rask isn’t able to bail the team out as much as he was in the first couple of months. Because the Bruins are being strangled by a roster of immovable players with no-trade clauses and can’t even entertain trading their blue-chip prospects Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, the trade options just aren’t there for Don Sweeney and Cam Neely right now.

It would take a brilliant, creative GM to swing a hockey deal that could pump life back into the reeling Bruins. The B’s front office hasn’t shown those qualities in the past few years running the team. Instead, they have GMs from other teams lining up and making one-sided offers to the desperate Bruins in hopes that Sweeney/Neely will buckle under the pressure to push into the playoffs this spring.

So, the only impactful card the Bruins can play is firing a coach in Julien who probably isn’t the coach of the future when the next generation of B’s prospects is ready to go. The hope is that move can light a fire under their meandering hockey club if it doesn't start reeling off some wins in a row. An argument can be made that a coach such as current assistant Bruce Cassidy could get more out of some of Boston’s younger players they’re relying heavily on this season. The former Providence Bruins coach might fit a little better into the overall philosophy that management is looking to instill.

It might just be that making a coaching change is the best midseason card that Bruins management has to play given all of the circumstances.

Still, the one thing that B’s management can’t do is keep Julien twisting in the wind and answering all the questions about his future with no clear vote of confidence from his bosses. Julien is the winningest coach in Bruins history and led them to their glorious Stanley Cup run in 2011. He’s earned a wealth of respect around the league for the professional, classy way he’s always conducted himself on and off the ice and he won’t be out of work long if/when he is relieved of his duties on Causeway Street.

So, if the Bruins intend to make the move with their coach then they need to do it sooner rather than later.

People around the NHL are watching the Bruins intently to see how they handle this situation with a world-class coach in Julien, and Neely and Sweeney continue to be radio/TV silent, despite the Bruins media requesting to speak with them on Friday morning in the throes of their losing streak.

It’s high time for Bruins management to step up and make a decision on Julien for better or for worse, and treat him the way they’d undoubtedly like to be treated if it were them suddenly in the danger zone should they miss the playoffs again this spring.