Cardinals beat Giants 6-4 in NLCS opener

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Cardinals beat Giants 6-4 in NLCS opener

SAN FRANCISCO - Carlos Beltran hit his 14th career postseason homer and David Freese also went deep as the St. Louis Cardinals took a 6-4 lead over the San Francisco Giants after six innings of the NL championship series opener on Sunday night.

Two nights after rallying from a 6-0 deficit to win the decisive Game 5 of the division series against Washington, the Cardinals found themselves trying to hold onto that same lead.

Freese hit a two-run homer in the second and Beltran followed with one in the fourth as the Cardinals knocked out Madison Bumgarner with six runs in 3 2-3 innings.

But Lance Lynn struggled to hold onto that lead in his first postseason start after 10 career relief appearances. Lynn, an 18-game winner in the regular season, moved into the rotation to take the place of Jaime Garcia, who was taken off division series roster with an injured left shoulder.

After starting the game with three hitless innings, Lynn ran into trouble with two outs and a runner on first in the fourth. Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt followed with singles to drive in San Francisco's first run. They both scored on Gregor Blanco's triple. Brandon Crawford followed with an RBI double to make it 6-4 and Lynn left after walking pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff.

Joe Kelly got out of the jam when second baseman Daniel Descalso made a diving stop of Angel Pagan's grounder up the middle.

This marked the first time since 1958 that the two most recent World Series champions met in the postseason. That year, the New York Yankees avenged a loss in 1957 to beat the Milwaukee Braves for the title. The Cardinals were involved the only other two times that happened, losing to the Yankees in the 1943 and 28 World Series.

Bumgarner breezed through a perfect first inning but ran into trouble in the second when Yadier Molina singled on an 0-2 pitch with one out. Freese then drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

That gave Freese 25 career RBIs in the postseason - tied with Molina for third most ever for the Cardinals. Only Albert Pujols (52) and Jim Edmonds (41) have more.

Bumgarner then couldn't make it out of the fourth. Descalso doubled and scored on Pete Kozma's double. Jon Jay added a two-out RBI single and Beltran ended Bumgarner's night with the homer.

George Kontos got out of the fourth and two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum pitched two hitless innings as he once again excelled in his new role out of the bullpen.

Giants fans didn't know if they would be back at the ballpark this year after watching their team fall behind 2-0 in their first-round series to Cincinnati when Bumgarner lost to the Reds exactly a week ago. But San Francisco made it to the NLCS by becoming the first team ever to win three straight road games after falling behind 2-0 in a best-of-five series.

The Cardinals may have had an even more improbably comeback to get back to the NLCS. St. Louis overcame a 6-0 deficit in Game 5 of the division series to Washington - the largest ever in a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS LLC. The Cardinals trailed 7-5 heading into the ninth inning before scoring four runs to keep their repeat hopes alive.

Both teams kept the same roster they ended with last round. The only change was at first-base coach for the Giants, where assistant batting coach Joe Lefebvre took over after Roberto Kelly was sidelined with a concussion after being hit in the head by a ball in batting practice Saturday.

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Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

From Schefter on Facebook:  

Specific details on Rob Gronkowski's new deal with Patriots, per @RosenhausSports:

1st tier, which gets him to $10.75M either 90 percent play time or 80 catches or 1200 receiving yards or All Pro -- and he's made All Pro four times.

2nd tier to $8.75M: he has to get 80 percent play time or 70 catches or 1000 receiving yards or 12 TDs.

3rd tier takes him to $6.75M is 70 percent playtime, 60 receptions, 800 receiving yards or 10 TDs.

But a big new groundbreaking deal for Gronk.

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10. 

Brandin Cooks ready to bring back arrow celebration after NFL rule change

Brandin Cooks ready to bring back arrow celebration after NFL rule change

Tuesday’s announcement from Roger Goodell that the NFL is “relaxing” its rules on celebrations is good news for at least one Patriot. 

That would be Brandin Cooks, who began celebrating the rule change on Twitter not long after the league made its announcement. 

Cooks, whom the Patriots acquired from the Saints this offseason in a trade that sent first and third-round picks to New Orleans, lost his favorite celebration last season when it was made clear that miming archery was off-limits. Josh Norman was fined $10,000 last season for such a celebration. 

Following Norman’s fine, Cooks lamented the league’s decision to punish what Cooks had previously done in reference to a Bible verse (Psalms 144:6). 

"Send forth lightning and scatter your enemy, and shoot your arrows and rout them," Cooks told the New Orleans Advocate. "I just remember it sticking with me for such a long time, I remember thinking, maybe I can do something with this."

Added Cooks: ”I’ve been doing it for three years now, and there was never a complaint about it. Now, all of a sudden, there is. It just reminds me that, it's almost as if they try to take so much away from us, but for something like this, that means so much to someone that has nothing to do with violence, it's frustrating. I'll definitely continue to speak my opinion about it, and if they have a problem with it, so be it."

When Tuesday’s news emerged, Cooks and former Saints teammate Mark Ingram were quick to react.