Ridley: I have to do better holding on to the ball

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Ridley: I have to do better holding on to the ball

FOXBORO -- This has been Stevan Ridley's year. He's become a bona fide No. 1 back, rushed for over 1000 yards, and somehow even pulled off wearing a onesie in a local car dealership commercial.

But for all his success, his Achilles heel has been his inability to hold onto the football.

It cropped up at the end of last season when he fumbled twice in two games and then didn't play in the AFC Championship game or the Super Bowl. Then it reared its ugly head in a win against the Denver Broncos in Week 5.

It was a topic of conversation yet again after New England's 41-34 loss on Sunday night to the 49ers. Ridley lost a fumble in the third quarter that set up the Niners for an easy score. He also almost lost another on his first carry of the game but was ruled down by contact when the play was reviewed.

Ridley fumbled last week against the Texans as well.

"No one is harder on myself than me," Ridley said. "Nobody is more upset when I fumble than Stevan is. For me, I just have to keep working. There is a lot of football left to be played. You can't look back, and that's something we haven't done all year, wins or losses. We have moved forward. So for me that is just what I have to continue to do. But I have to be better. I have to do better in game situations holding onto the football. We can't have mistakes like that."

Ridley has proven to be an important part of the Patriots offense so when he fumbles, he won't necessarily lose all his snaps as if he were a rookie with no NFL resume.

Still, he needs to be more reliable. As does fellow second-year back Shane Vereen, who fumbled at the end of the first quarter and did not have an offensive touch thereafter.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said the miscues can be traced to what's going on between those players' ears.

"Mental toughness," Brady said. "I think that's what you show. It's not every game is going to be perfect. Not every carry is going to be a 50-yard touchdown. Not every pass is going to be a 50-yard touchdown. It's a matter of understanding what you need to do to help the team win and being selfless and doing your job. We did a better job of that in the second half. We just didn't do a very good job in the first half."

WNBA: Sun blow 21-point lead before beating Liberty, 94-89

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WNBA: Sun blow 21-point lead before beating Liberty, 94-89

NEW YORK - Jasmine Thomas scored 23 points and Connecticut held on for a 94-89 win over the New York Liberty on Friday night after blowing a 21-point lead.

Jonquel Jones added 21 points for the Sun (6-5). Theyh ave won five straight games, including two over New York.

Connecticut was up 70-49 in the third quarter before New York rallied to tie it at 86 with 1:06 left on a layup by Shavonte Zellous. Courtney Williams then hit a jumper to give the Sun the lead and pulled down the rebound on the other end. Jasmine Thomas then hit a 3-pointer from the wing - the team's 12th of the game - with 24 seconds left to seal the victory.

The Sun were hot from the start from behind the arc, hitting five of their first nine 3-pointers and finished the first half with nine 3s to build a 46-32 advantage.

Tina Charles scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half to lead New York (7-5). Zellous added 18.

The Sun had been winning without Morgan Tuck (knee) and Lynetta Kizer (back), who are sidelined with injuries. Coach Curt Miller expects Kizer back sooner than Tuck.

The Liberty have only three home games in the next 45 days spending most of the month of July on the road.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.