Braden, Buerhle bring perfection to A's-Sox opener

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Braden, Buerhle bring perfection to A's-Sox opener

April 11, 2011

A's (4-5) vs.
CHICAGO (6-3)

Coverage begins at 4:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

CHICAGO (APCSN) -- The A's have been slumping on offense, but emerged with a decent hitting performance in their last game.

Seeing Mark Buehrle on the mound for the Chicago White Sox may help them sustain that momentum.

Buehrle hopes to end his struggles against Oakland as the teams begin a three-game set Monday in Chicago.

REWIND: Braden throws perfect game, A's top Rays 4-0

He'll face Dallas Braden, his partner in perfect game lore. The matchup will mark the first time the pitchers have faced each other since Bradens perfect game and only the 21st time in major league history that two pitchers with perfect games on their ledger will oppose each other.

Buehrle defeated the Tampa Bay Rays on July 23, 2009, becoming the 18th pitcher in history to throw a perfect game. Braden matched him, against the Rays as well, on May 9, 2010.

The Athletics (4-5) have won three of four overall thanks largely to strong pitching, but they had totaled four runs in their three games prior to Sunday's series finale at Minnesota. The bats then awakened in a 5-3 victory. Hideki Matsui hit his first homer in the fourth inning, and Josh Willingham added a solo shot in Oakland's four-run sixth.

"It was good that the offense came together," said Matsui, who entered Sunday batting .160 with three RBIs. "The starting pitching has been pitching well, but they weren't quite getting the offensive support."

The A's have long done just enough to win against Buehrle (1-0, 7.36 ERA). The left-hander has a respectable 3.90 lifetime ERA versus Oakland, but only a 4-13 record to show for it due to a run support average of less than three.

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Buehrle's support has run the gamut from extraordinary to non-existent in his two starts this season. After getting credit for a 15-10 victory at Cleveland on opening day, he received no support at all while in the game at Kansas City on Wednesday. Buehrle allowed five runs in five innings, but didn't get a decision as the White Sox (6-3) rallied to win 10-7 in 12 innings.

If Paul Konerko and the top of the White Sox's order continue hitting the way they did Sunday, Buehrle stands a good chance of overcoming the Athletics.

Konerko hit two solo home runs in Chicago's 6-1 victory against Tampa Bay. Leadoff man Juan Pierre drove in a run and No. 2 hitter Gordon Beckham added his second homer of the season in the first inning. Beckham didn't hit his second home run of 2010 until June 25.

"They've been getting on base, having quality at-bats and they've been tough on the other team," Konerko said of Pierre and Beckham. "That makes it easier for the guys in the middle."

Konerko is enjoying a sizzling start to 2011. He's batting .400 with at least one hit in each game, and has three homers and 11 RBIs. However, he is 0 for 13 with four strikeouts in his last four games against the A's.

Braden (0-1, 6.43) had an underwhelming season debut Wednesday at Toronto, allowing five runs and 10 hits through seven innings of Oakland's 5-3 loss.

Braden is 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA in three career starts against the White Sox, with both victories coming within six days of each other last season. He beat them 6-4 on July 25, then pitched a complete game and gave up two runs in a 6-2 win July 31.

Konerko is 2 for 8 off Braden, though both hits were doubles.

McCoy, Bills run game to 'throw the gauntlet' at Raiders defensive front

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McCoy, Bills run game to 'throw the gauntlet' at Raiders defensive front

ALAMEDA – Rex Ryan coined the phrase “ground and pound” when he was head coach of the New York Jets, reflected his desire to run often and run vertically with power. He’s with a different team, but the term travelled with him.

Ryan like to control on the ground. 

 

It’s no surprise Ryan’s Buffalo Bills are the NFL’s best rushing attack. They average 157.4 yards per game on the ground, a massive total led by lead back LeSean McCoy and speedy quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The Bills average 5.3 yards per carry and run a ton, nearly 30 times per game. That’s second only to Dallas. And, to top it all off, they’ve only fumbled twice running the football.

The numbers are awesome, but the ground and pound may not fit. The Buffalo Bills do it all running the football, meaning the Raiders defense must be ready for anything during Sunday’s game at Oakland Coliseum.

“They really do everything that I can think of that I’ve ever seen in the run game, they have it one form or fashion,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “They basically throw the gauntlet at you. They’ve got a formation thing and they see how you want to play it. Then they’ve got a series of plays they get to and they’re very good at it. No. 1 in the league, and that’s saying something.”

They have a feature back in McCoy, who revived his career in Buffalo. He has 819 yards and nine touchdowns through 11 games, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He has exceeded 100 yards seven times over two seasons in Buffalo. In those games, the Bills are 7-0.

That might spell trouble for the Raiders. They rank 26th with 116.9 rushing yards allowed per game, and have given up a triple digit total in five of the last six games. While those totals aren’t great, the Raiders have won five straight.

That’s all that matters, though the Bills rushing ways might impact the final result. The Raiders have fallen victim to misdirection and schematic quirks, especially off the edge. They’ve been better in those areas lately, though chunk plays are still a problem. They’ve given up seven plays of 20-plus yards and three of 40 or more.

Stopping the run will be harder without Stacy McGee and Darius Latham in the interior rotation. That puts an onus on Dan Williams, Denico Autry and Justin Ellis to take more snaps and plug gaps in the middle. Stopping the run always involves discipline and sure tackling.

Doing that will be important, considering the Bills rank dead last in passing offense. That makes slowing the run imperative.

Taylor is the team’s second-leading rusher, with 639 yards on 6.3 yards per carry. That led Khalil Mack to say they have “two rushers in the backfield.”

Even so, it all starts with stopping Shady.

“McCoy is a type of runner, he can start to the right and he could end up on the left,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “It kind of reminds you of the old days, Barry Sanders. He could be anywhere. It’s important each player who’s involved in the defense and in charge of the gap, you have to be solid, you have to sound and you have to be disciplined and understand that we’re all connected. Everybody plays together. Not one guy tackles him. The whole unit is responsible for the running game.”

Frustrated LeBron scolds Cavs after third straight loss

Frustrated LeBron scolds Cavs after third straight loss

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- LeBron James wasn't holding back.

Cleveland's superstar had plenty to say after the Cavaliers gave up 78 points in the paint on the way to another loss. The condensed version was this: It's time to start playing like a championship team again.

Jimmy Butler scored 26 points, Dwyane Wade had 24 and the Chicago Bulls beat James and the slumping Cavaliers 111-105 on Friday night.

Taj Gibson added a season-high 23 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago. Rajon Rondo had 15 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds as the balanced Bulls handed the Cavaliers their third straight loss.

"We got to get out of the honeymoon stage," James said. "You got to play the game, the right way. We've got to battle every night like we ain't won nothing. Last year is last year. After ring night is over with, now it's a new season and everybody is gunning for us every night and we have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over. It's time to play some real ball and be physical, especially in the trenches. Giving up 78 points (in the paint) is ridiculous. We've got to man up. Everybody."

James manned up to the tune of 27 points and 13 assists, a championship-level performance on a night when he showed up dressed as a World Series champion: He arrived at the arena in a Cubs uniform to honor a World Series bet with buddy Wade.

Kyrie Irving added 20 points and eight assists, but the Cavaliers matched their longest losing streak in a year.

Chicago dominated Cleveland 78-60 in the paint, outrebounded the Cavaliers 49-33 and came out on top despite shooting 3 of 18 on 3-pointers. It was a big turnaround for the Bulls coming off a loss to the Lakers.

"I think we know what we're capable of if we play basketball the right way and do what we're supposed to do," Butler said.

DOWN THE STRETCH

The Bulls used a strong third quarter to turn a one-point halftime deficit into an 88-80 lead. And they withstood several pushes in the fourth to knock off the defending NBA champions.

Kevin Love nailed a 3 to cut the lead to 103-99 with about 4 minutes left, but the Bulls hung on.

Wade drove for a layup to make it 107-101 with 2:39 remaining. Nikola Mirotic then stole the ball from James, leading to a putback basket for Wade.

Mirotic came up with another big play when he blocked a 3 by Irving with 1:11 left to cause a shot-clock violation.

KING CUB

James clearly wasn't thrilled about having to wear a Chicago Cubs uniform after he rooted hard for his hometown Cleveland Indians in the World Series. But he was a man of his word, honoring the wager he made with Wade, his good friend and former Miami Heat teammate.

James wore a No. 23 Cubs jersey with his last name stitched across the back, a Cubs hat partially covered by a Cubbie-blue hoodie, pinstripe pants and long baseball socks. James' uniform even had the 2016 World Series champions shoulder patch.

"I actually thought he looked good," said Wade, who was waiting for James when he arrived at the arena and took a picture of his ex-teammate. "He actually did look like a baseball player."

The two hugged before tipoff and had some playful moments during the game.

James patted Wade on the backside as they ran down the court together after he hit a tough fadeaway jumper over his pal in the third quarter. Wade returned the favor after burying a 3 in James' face moments later.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: G/F Mike Dunleavy Jr. missed his second consecutive game because of a concussion.

Bulls: Rondo's triple-double was his first with the Bulls and the 29th of his career. ... Butler has 12 straight games with 20 or more points. ... With the Bulls playing four times in five days, coach Fred Hoiberg said Wade won't travel to Dallas for Saturday's game. ... Hoiberg said F Doug McDermott (concussion) could be cleared for contact shortly and might practice with the D-League's Windy City Bulls.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: Visit Atlantic Division leader Toronto on Monday.

Bulls: Visit Dallas on Saturday.