From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Falcons wanted to make a statement.Boy, did they deliver one Sunday to the defending Super Bowl champions.Coming off an ugly loss and criticized for failing to impress even when they won, the Falcons turned in their most well-rounded performance of the season with the playoffs approaching. Matt Ryan threw three touchdowns passes and the defense handed New York its first regular-season shutout since 1996, routing the Giants 34-0."We love the haters, man," said Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, who had the first of two interceptions against Eli Manning. "The haters keep us going. So keep your hate coming. We love it. It makes us play with a chip on our shoulder."It sure showed.Julio Jones caught a couple of scoring throws from Ryan, who broke his own franchise records for completions and passing yards in a season. Matty Ice finished 23 of 28 for 270 yards."I felt like I was seeing the field well," Ryan said.The Falcons (12-2), who have already clinched the NFC South, moved a step closer to home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. One more win would ensure that any postseason contests before the Super Bowl are held at the Georgia Dome.Manning had his lowest-rated game since 2007 for New York (8-6), which dropped into a first-place tie with Washington and Dallas in the NFC East. The Redskins and the Cowboys both won Sunday.The Giants also went 0-for-3 on fourth down and missed a short field goal."Atlanta was very, very good. We were very, very bad," New York coach Tom Coughlin said. "There's no excuse for what happened here."Despite their lofty record, Atlanta has received plenty of criticism for struggling to beat inferior opponents. A 30-20 loss to last-place Carolina the previous week only seemed to reinforce the notion that the Falcons are headed for another short stay in the playoffs. They have yet to win a postseason game since Ryan took over as the quarterback in 2008, going 0-3.But one thing the Falcons never seem to do anymore is lose two straight games. They extended the NFL's longest active streak since consecutive defeats to 49 games, going back to the 2009 season."Our focus was heightened from other weeks," coach Mike Smith said. "We've got a lot of great leaders and mentors in that locker room. They took the message from the meetings and took it out on the field."After thoroughly dominating the Giants, the Falcons have surely sent a resounding message to the rest of the league: beware of this team in the playoffs."Last week everybody was talking smack about us," defensive end John Abraham said. "We just continue what we're doing."For the Giants, it was a miserable performance when they controlled their own destiny, at a time of year when they normally play some of their best football.Manning threw his first pick on the second play of scrimmage, setting up a quick Atlanta touchdown. Coughlin made a curious call late in the first half, passing up another short field goal attempt when his team was almost 2 yards shy of the marker. Samuel batted down a short pass intended for Victor Cruz, sending Atlanta to the locker room with a commanding 17-0 lead and all the momentum."I was thinking we needed to engender a lift for our sideline," Coughlin said. "That did not work out either."Nothing did.The tone was set right away.When Manning attempted to hit Hakeem Nicks on a short pass to the right, Samuel stepped in to make the interception and return it to the Giants 16. From there, Michael Turner ran it four straight times, the last of those a 1-yard plunge that gave Atlanta a 7-0 lead less than 3 minutes into the game.It was all Falcons after Lawrence Tynes missed a chip shot kick from 30 yards, ruining an impressive second possession by the Giants. Atlanta took it 80 yards from there, with Ryan going to Harry Douglas on a 37-yard gain for the biggest play. Then, on third-and-11 from the 12, Ryan went to his favorite target, Tony Gonzalez, in the end zone. The 16-year veteran leaped over safety Will Hill to haul in the high throw -- and hopped up quickly for his customary dunk over the goalposts.Manning finished 13 of 25 for 161 yards, leaving him with a dismal 38.9 rating -- his worst since a Dec. 23, 2007, win at Buffalo."We have two games left and we have to win those two games," Manning said. "What else happens after that, we don't know and can't control."Early in the second half, the Falcons blew it open on Ryan's 40-yard touchdown pass to Jones down the left sideline. Finally, after a drive that used up more than 9 minutes in the fourth quarter, Ryan went to Jones for a 3-yard TD.The Giants turned it over one more time in the closing minutes, finishing off their first shutout in the regular season since a 24-0 defeat at Philadelphia on Dec. 1, 1996. The performance came just a week after they put up 52 points on the New Orleans Saints.There was a moment of silence before the game honoring the Connecticut shooting victims, and New York took the extra step of wearing "SHES" decals on its blue helmets in honor of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Even more touchingly, Cruz dedicated the game to 6-year-old victim Jack Pinto, who was reported to be a big Giants fan."It was very emotional, obviously, during the game," said Cruz, who caught only three passes for 15 yards. "With a family facing that much tragedy, you want to be someone that inspires them, someone that can put a smile on their face at a time where it's tough to do that."NOTES:More recently, the Giants were shut out in the playoffs after the 2005 season, losing at Carolina 23-0. ... Ryan has thrown for 4,202 yards and 27 touchdowns this season. ... There was one bright spot for Manning: He set a franchise record for career completions with 2,585, moving past the mark held by Phil Simms (2,576).
The White Sox conclude their suspended game against the Detroit Tigers, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. The 3-3 game will pick up in the top of the ninth at 1:10 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.
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MILWAUKEE – The White Sox would never trade Chris Sale to the North Side and give the Cubs this year’s potential American League Cy Young Award winner to pair with the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta), the game’s most entertaining manager (Joe Maddon) and one of the most iconic venues in sports (Wrigley Field), making the biggest story in baseball ever bigger.
Silly season is already in full swing with reports that the White Sox sent Sale home from U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday…because their all-world pitcher cut up throwback jerseys he didn’t want the team to wear during his scheduled start against the Detroit Tigers.
You can’t make this stuff up. But it’s yet another reminder of what Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer predicted leading up to the Aug. 1 trade deadline: “Expect the unexpected.”
By late Saturday night, Twitter buzzed about a Fox Sports report that the New York Yankees are telling teams that they will hold onto All-Star reliever Andrew Miller and are moving closer toward dealing 100-mph closer Aroldis Chapman.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein never likes to rule anything out, running a front office that keeps all options open. So expect to hear more rumors about the Cubs trying to engineer a deal for a controllable starting pitcher, canvassing the bullpen market and scouting rentals like Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick.
“All I know is that Theo and Jed really have all kinds of different lines in the water,” manager Joe Maddon said before a 6-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “Like any of the GMs at this time of the year, they’re always going to look to make us better. So if something makes sense to these boys, I’m sure we’re considering it.”
It’s difficult to see Reddick or the offense being a priority or a focal point when the Cubs are so loaded with position players and have plenty of short- and long-term pitching issues. But the Epstein regime has already poured so much capital into their lineup, rebuilding the franchise around hitters. Why stop now?
Epstein has also hinted the Cubs could pivot in a bad market for starting pitching or if the prices for relievers become prohibitive.
“Sometimes, if the marketplace makes it hard to improve a weakness,” Epstein said, “you can compensate for that by making an area of strength even stronger. That’s not necessarily the direction we’re going to go, but it could be.”
Reddick has Boston Red Sox roots, hits left-handed and will become a free agent after this season. The Cubs just welcomed back their leadoff guy (Dexter Fowler) and have a Gold Glove right fielder with a $184 million contract (Jason Heyward) and multiple options in left field (Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Willson Contreras) plus Chris Coghlan (strained ribcage) and Jorge Soler (strained hamstring) rehabbing at Double-A Tennessee.
“‘CC’ last year was really big for us and we’re still waiting on George,” Maddon said. “I wouldn’t create conjecture for or against. I mean, it’s possible, it absolutely is. They are really hunkered down trying to figure out what’s best for us right now.
“They’re probably looking at us as two different teams versus righties and versus lefties and what we need in those particular moments. And: How far is George actually? I don’t think George is that far off, and I don’t think ‘CC’ is either. But regarding my conversations with (Theo and Jed), they are looking at a lot of different options.”
The White Sox and Detroit Tigers will resume play of their suspended game — which is tied 3-3 to begin the top of the ninth — on Sunday after a third rain delay finally washed things out Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
But literal storms paled in comparison to the figurative one that erupted from the White Sox clubhouse involving ace left-hander Chris Sale. The American League's All-Star Game starter was scratched from his start about 30 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, with a vague statement from general manager Rick Hahn mentioning a “non-physical” incident in the clubhouse that was under investigation by the team.
Just as the game's second rain delay hit, though, a report surfaced — which was later confirmed by CSNChicago.com’s Dan Hayes — that Sale, who started for the American League All-Stars last week in San Diego, was so furious over having to wear the team’s 1976 throwback uniforms that he cut them up so they couldn’t be worn. Sale was sent home by the White Sox after the incident.
The White Sox will still start All-Star left-hander Jose Quintana for Sunday’s series finale — which will begin 30 minutes after the final out of the suspended game, which will resume play at 1:10 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet — and manager Robin Ventura said he doesn’t have any plans for when Sale will make his next start.
“I’ll talk about the game, but any of that stuff, we’ll wait on that,” Ventura said when asked about the Sale incident. “I know the team put out a release on that and we’re just going to stick with that. I’m not going to discuss what went on in there. But unfortunate he didn’t start tonight and proud of the guys that came in and filled in.”
Third baseman Todd Frazier declined comment — “I can’t really talk anything about that,” he said — as did right-hander Matt Albers, who started and threw two innings as the first cog in a seven-pitcher “Johnny Wholestaff” game.
"I think we're going to keep that in-house,” Albers said. “For me, obviously you guys probably know what happened, but for me as a player, and in our clubhouse, we're going to keep in in-house. So, you're going to have to ask somebody else about that."
Without anything close to ample time to shuttle a starting pitcher up from the minor leagues to replace Sale, the White Sox went with Albers despite the 33-year-old throwing an inning both Thursday and Friday against the Tigers. Albers said he was told he would start the game around 4:30 p.m.
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The White Sox needed seven relievers to get through the evening, with Albers, Dan Jennings and Tommy Kahnle all soaking up two innings and Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson combining for the final two frames before more heavy storms slammed the South Side.
“(Sale’s) one of the best, absolutely,” Albers said. “But we're here for teammates. We're here to pick each other up in good times and bad, so we're just here to pick whoever up whenever."
On Thursday, general manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox are open to all options at the trade deadline outside of adding a short-term rental, meaning that a complete teardown and rebuild of the roster is on the table, even if it’s ultimately an unlikely scenario. But Frazier said the swirling rumors about plenty of players in the clubhouse aren’t fraying — or causing bizarre, national storylines — a White Sox team that only has one win since the All-Star break.
“That’s happened to me the last two years,” Frazier said. “You just gotta be professional and play baseball. That’s it. Control what you can control, that’s playing the game.”