Bryce Harper, 19, gets first career walk-off hit

785074.jpg

Bryce Harper, 19, gets first career walk-off hit

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- You might think 19-year-old Bryce Harper would savor the moment after his first game-winning hit with two outs to give his team an extra-inning win. Instead, after lifting the Washington Nationals to a 7-6 win against the New York Mets in 12 innings Tuesday night, Harper was upset with his line in the box score. "I'm happy to get the W, of course. I'm happy to get that walk-off hit, but I don't like going 2 for 7," Harper said. "I don't like striking out twice in one game, either." He then said the game-winner would mitigate his disappointment. "To get that moment at the end, that wipes everything away," Harper said. Harper's single ended a back-and-forth game that saw the Mets rally from a 3-0 early deficit to take leads in the top of the eighth, 10th and 12th innings -- only to have the Nationals tie the game in the bottom of the frame each time. Scott Hairston hit a solo homer in the top of the 12th to give New York a 6-5 lead, but the Nationals rallied when Michael Morse led off with his second double of the game. Ian Desmond followed with another double for his third RBI. Reliever Elvin Ramirez (0-1) walked two batters to load the bases, and a fielder's choice by Xavier Nady left the bases loaded with two outs for Harper, who lined an 0-2 pitch to left field. The ball fell just in front of a diving Vinny Rottino. "He's a man-child," Morse said of Harper. "This guy's unbelievable. He's really learning this game. Every day, I think he's taking something in. ... When he plays like he plays, it's fun to watch and it's good to have him on our side." The Nationals are alone atop the National League East, a game ahead of Miami -- which lost to Atlanta -- and 1 games ahead of the Mets. Both managers emptied their bullpens as the game wore on. Ramirez, the Mets' sixth pitcher, was making his second major league appearance. Ross Detwiler (4-3) pitched the final two innings as the Nationals' eighth. "It would have been very easy for this team, for the hitters, to just say, OK, we'll just go get them tomorrow,'" Detwiler said. "But we weathered the storm, we came back out there and fought." Hairston also gave the Mets the lead in the 10th when he led off with a single and later scored on a wild pitch by Henry Rodriguez -- Rodriguez's ninth in 21 innings this season. The Nationals tied it in the bottom of the inning, thanks to two errors by shortstop Jordany Valdespin -- including a grounder by Desmond that bounced off his glove, allowing Ryan Zimmerman to score -- and a wild pitch by Bobby Parnell. The Mets fell behind 3-0 after five innings and started their comeback with solo home runs by David Wright and Valdespin in the sixth. Andres Torres hit a two-run double in the eighth to give New York a 4-3 lead. Desmond tied the game at 4 with a run-scoring single in the eighth to set up extra innings. Valdespin led off the sixth with a pinch-hit home run into the Nationals' bullpen in right field. It was the rookie's second pinch-hit homer this season. Wright added another solo homer with two outs, barely clearing the wall in left-center field. It was Wright's 736th career run scored, setting a Mets franchise record. "The toughest part is the way we fought back," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You're down three. We fight back. We get the lead. We lose the lead, get the lead, lose the lead, we get the lead and then we lose the game. That's very tough. The guys played very well." According to the Nationals, Harper is the first teenager to have a game-ending hit since Gary Sheffield did it for the Brewers on Sept. 9, 1988. "I don't think of him as a 19-year-old kid, but that's exactly what he is," Detwiler said. "He's going to be around for a long time, so it's awesome to see him learn and really grow as a player right now. You know he's going to be in the same position he's in now in 10, 15 years. It's pretty cool to see the beginning of it." NOTES: New York RHP Jon Rauch has "debris" in his right elbow, according to manager Terry Collins. He'll miss the three games in Washington, but will be available for Friday's game against the Yankees, Collins said. ... The Mets activated RHP Miguel Batista (lower back strain) from the 15-day DL and placed RHP Ramon Ramirez (strained right hamstring) on the 15-day DL. Ramirez injured the hamstring running in from the bullpen to join in the celebration of Johan Santana's no-hitter on Friday, Collins said. The Mets also designated right-handed pitcher Jack Egbert for assignment. ... Washington RHP Brad Lidge (sports hernia) made his first rehab appearance for Class A Potomac Monday and expects to have two more on Wednesday and Friday.

Morning Update: Bulls fall to Blazers; Could Chris Sale be on the move?

chris_sale_d-wade.jpg
USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bulls fall to Blazers; Could Chris Sale be on the move?

Five Things to Watch: Bulls in Detroit for fourth game in five nights on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Coyotes tonight on CSN+

Despite Chris Sale rumors, White Sox say they have contingencies in place for a rebuild

Kenley Jansen? Wade Davis? Cubs keeping an open mind for the ninth inning

Slow start to fourth dooms Bulls in loss to Blazers

Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved

Scott Darling takes the reins for Blackhawks in Corey Crawford’s absence

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf knows 'it will be very hard to trade' Chris Sale

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

Rajon Rondo used foul language with Bulls assistant coaches following loss to Mavs

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

[MORE BEARS: Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved]

Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”