Justin Verlander strikes out 14 New York Yankees

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Justin Verlander strikes out 14 New York Yankees

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Justin Verlander raised his left arm to acknowledge a roaring, standing ovation. It was his right arm, though, that gave the New York Yankees so much trouble. Verlander matched a career high with 14 strikeouts and got home-run support from Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, leading the Detroit Tigers over New York 7-2 Monday night. "Felt pretty good," Verlander said. He looked good, too. Verlander (12-7) threw 132 pitches, his most in a regular-season game, to lift the Tigers to a fifth straight win. Before this opener of a four-game series, manager Jim Leyland said the Tigers needed a big effort from Verlander. "Hopefully your ace is an ace," Leyland said. Verlander was, putting together one of his best performances of the season. He started strong and didn't let up. The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young award winner struck out former teammate Curtis Granderson -- for the first of three times -- with an 85 mph breaking pitch to lead off the game and struck out the first two Yankees in the second inning. Verlander also fanned Ichiro Suzuki and Mark Teixeira three times each. Verlander gave up two unearned runs after his fielding error extended the fifth inning. Leyland visited Verlander at the mound in the eighth after he gave up a walk to Raul Ibanez, and left him in the game following a brief chat about how he felt following Derek Jeter's comebacker off his left leg the previous inning. Verlander said he told Leyland his left calf was OK. "He said, Then let's get this last batter and we'll see what happens,'" Verlander recalled Leyland saying. With many of the 41,381 fans on their feet, Verlander responded by striking out Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez and Suzuki to tie his strikeout high set last year against Arizona. "In the eighth inning, he still had a 100 mph fastball," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "The rest of his pitches are great, too." Suzuki snapped his 12-game hitting streak with the Yankees. He also struck out for the first time with his new team and finished with three to match a career high. Verlander hit low and outside corners with fastballs and buckled knees with an assortment of breaking pitches that left the Yankees standing and looking or swinging and missing. "Did you see some of those pitches?" Detroit catcher Alex Avila asked. "That last curveball, I don't think anybody could've hit it. I had enough trouble catching it." When New York did make contact for base hits, Verlander was at his best. "He shut us down," Yankees star Derek Jeter said. "A lot of time great pitchers get a little attitude when they have guys on base and they bear down. He did that." After Verlander's night was over -- one pitch shy of the career-high 133 he threw in Game 5 of the AL championship series last year against Texas -- closer Jose Valverde retired the side in order in the ninth. Detroit, which is chasing Chicago in the AL Central, has won 19 of its last 23 home games. The AL East-leading Yankees have lost 11 of 17 overall. Ivan Nova (10-6) was roughed up for seven runs and 11 hits -- matching a career high -- in 5 1-3 innings. Nova is 1-4 over his last eight starts since June 28. "Every pitcher goes through it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You're going to go through struggles. For the most part, the kid has been pretty good for us but right now, he's struggling. He'll find his way out. Verlander, as good as he is, goes through struggles. He's not 20-0 this year." Nova said he still has confidence in his stuff. "I've got to keep my head up and keep working," he said. "It's just location. I left too many pitches over the plate." Cabrera sent a thigh-high pitch over the middle of the plate 454 feet, clearing the second row of shrubs in center field, for his 28th homer in the fourth inning. Fielder cleared the fences for the 19th time with a no-doubt shot to right in the second. The Tigers broke it open with three runs in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth to go ahead 7-2. Verlander allowed the Yankees to score twice in the fifth when Granderson hit a two-out grounder and the pitcher glanced down to step on first base as Fielder made an accurate throw that hit his glove. Jeter and Robinson Cano took advantage with RBI singles that made it 2-all. "I need to be able to make that play," Verlander said. He made up for that miscue -- easily. NOTES: Verlander is the first Tigers pitcher since Jim Bunning (June 10, 1958) to strike out 14 Yankees in a game. ... The Yankees have decided Triple-A LHP Manny Banuelos, out since May with a bruised left elbow, won't pitch again this season. ... Verlander had lost his last two starts, giving up nine runs over 12 innings. ... Nova has given up 11 hits twice this year to Detroit and three times in his career. ... Jeter had two hits, his 43rd multihit game of the year after having more than one hit in 45 last year.

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

The tumult around the Bears quarterback position this offseason – signing Mike Glennon, cutting Jay Cutler, not signing Brian Hoyer, now signing Mark Sanchez – was to be expected. (Well, not all the brouhaha around Sanchez; if there has ever been more hyperventilating around the arriving backup quarterback, it’s escaping my recollections of a quarter-century on the beat.)

All of that, and a lot of the noise around Mike Glennon is really missing a larger point. A couple, really.

GM Ryan Pace established fixing the quarterback situation as a top priority, something it has been just about since Jim McMahon left, with the exception of a few Jay Cutler years. Doing that to any meaningful degree with the castoff options available in free agency or via trades wasn’t ever going to happen. What Pace has done with the quarterback situation, however, is more than a little intriguing.

The quarterback additions and subtractions, coupled with also suggest a draft plan far from locked in on a quarterback. The signings of Glennon and Sanchez don’t mean the Bears have solved their quarterback position, but it does mean the Bears have positioned themselves with the distinct option of NOT taking a quarterback – this year.

But here’s the bigger point.

Even with the optimum quarterback solution unavailable – Pace arguably did go best-available in his and the coaches’ minds with Glennon and Sanchez, all derision aside – Pace’s goal needs to be building a team that can reach a high playoff level regardless of quarterback.

Meaning: defense. And while the 2017 free agent and draft classes did not offer must-have quarterbacks in most evaluations, there are those elite-level defensive talents, and every indication is that the Bears will look there, in the draft, and should be. It had that feeling when the Bears, with ample, money to spend, backed away from day one free-agency runs at a couple of pricey defensive backs. The Bears simply think they can do better for less in the draft.

A perspective: With a defense at its levels during the Brian Urlacher era, the Bears could reach the NFC championship game with what they have at quarterback now. They did, twice, with Rex Grossman and with Cutler. Sanchez got to AFC championship games in each of his first two seasons. The Bears reached a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as their quarterback. They went 13-3 in 2001 with a solid-but-unspectacular Jim Miller as their quarterback. They reached the 2005 playoffs with Kyle Orton as their starter most of that year, and should have been in the 2008 playoffs with him as well. The Bears reached the NFC championship game in 2010 with Cutler.

There is a common denominator in all of these situations, and it is within Pace’s grasp, and that was an elite defense. Rex Ryan had one with the Jets and Sanchez, Grossman and Orton and Cutler had theirs with Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman, etc.

Forget the quarterback situation for now. Nothing anyone, including Pace, can really do anything about it (other than land possibly Deshaun Watson, based on their turnout at his Pro Day).

But if Pace and his personnel staff do this right, they can lay in the foundation for something elite on defense that will transcend the quarterback, or at least allow the Bears to play more than 16 games in a season even if they do not have a great quarterback. With the Urlacher core defense, the Bears went to postseasons with four different quarterbacks.

The prime directive now for Ryan Pace is to create precisely that model again.

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Perhaps the best thing about the Johnny Oduya trade back to the Blackhawks, for both parties involved, was that Oduya wasn't needed immediately.

It's not that the Blackhawks didn't want the veteran defenseman, who helped them win Cups in 2013 and 2015, back in the lineup as soon as possible. Oduya was coming off an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated and missed about a month when he was with the Dallas Stars. He needed time to fully heal and with the Blackhawks in good shape in the standings and with solid depth at defense, he could.

Now with the playoffs right around the corner, Oduya is feeling more like himself.

Outside of missing two games that were the second halves of back-to-backs, Oduya has been playing steadily since March 9. Oduya's minutes have ranged from around 16 to 21 in games. He said he's now 100 percent healthy from his injury and he's feeling the difference on the ice.

"It makes a big difference," Oduya said on Thursday, prior to facing the Stars for the first time since his trade back to Chicago. "I mean, obviously sometimes you get more or less lucky, depending on what you get and the style of play and what you do or not. Skating is a part of my game I try to use as much as possible to get in good position and try to take away time from the opposition as much as possible.

"Even with battling and things like that, of course it's nice to feel more confident," Oduya added. "In any situation, you're in you want to feel confident on the ice."

The Blackhawks have seen that confidence in previous postseason runs and are looking to see it again in Oduya. Coach Joel Quenneville considers Oduya, "Mr. Reliability."

"You look back at what he delivered for us, not just the regular season, but he's been solid and reliable in the playoffs. He's assumed some important matchups and important minutes," Quenneville said. "Last year, we didn't have him on the back end and watching him this year, it was the perfect fit him coming back."

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The Blackhawks' defensive group hasn't changed much since Oduya's first stint here. The system probably hasn't been altered much, either. Still, Oduya's not taking anything for granted and is trying to get back on the same page quickly.

"Same as the last time I came into a great hockey team and I really just want to get up to speed and up to date as quickly as possible," Oduya said. "Little things that may have changed. I want to fit in as well as I can. That's the idea anyone has coming in late in the year. The guys here make it pretty easy; the coaching staff is familiar with the way I play and helps speed up things a little more."

The Blackhawks are trying to be their best heading into the postseason. So is Oduya. He needed a little extra time to get back to health and he may still need a little time to get back to speed, but he's just about there. 

"I feel pretty good. Of course it's a lot easier when you have guys around you you've seen before, a coaching staff," Oduya said. "It's a work in progress, anyway. I want to be better, I want to evolve with the team and want us to be better, too. It's a work in progress."