...while the Orioles could win the AL East!

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...while the Orioles could win the AL East!

From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- For the second time in three games, the Baltimore Orioles had an uplifting victory marred by an injury to a key player.J.J. Hardy homered twice, doubled and drove in five runs, and the Orioles defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 9-2 Tuesday night to move into a tie for the AL East lead.But starting pitcher Jason Hammel left in the fourth inning with an injured right knee. The right-hander underwent arthroscopic surgery on that same knee in mid-July and was making his second start since returning from the disabled list.Hammel will be examined Wednesday by the team surgeon. He said the sensation was exactly identical to what he felt in a July 13 game against Detroit, his last start before going on the DL."It's a very sharp pain in the knee in the same spot," Hammel said. "I'm hoping it is just scar tissue. I've been told scar tissue can react like that."On Saturday, Baltimore lost right fielder Nick Markakis with a broken left thumb while defeating the New York Yankees. Both Hammel and Markakis were on the DL earlier this year."We've been down this road many times this year with a lot of different challenges," manager Buck Showalter said. "We've operated a good portion of this season without Ham and without Nicky, so we're kind of experienced at it anyway. It's not the kind of experience you want to have."Hammel had no problem with the knee on Thursday night against the Yankees, and retired 11 of 13 Tampa Bay batters before exiting."Against the Yankees, I felt great," Hammel said. "I felt like I was back on track, and I know I can help this team when I am healthy. So it's very frustrating."Steve Johnson (3-0) got the win with 1 1-3 innings of hitless relief.With Markakis out, Hardy picked up the slack. He went 4 for 5 to help Baltimore pull even atop the division with the Yankees, who lost 4-3 at Boston. The Rays are two games behind the co-leaders.Hardy hit a two-run homer in the third inning, doubled and scored in the fifth, singled in a run in the sixth and added his 21st homer with a runner on in the eighth. It was his ninth career two-homer game, the second this season."I got a couple pitches to hit and didn't miss them," Hardy said.Chris Davis homered and Matt Wieters had three hits and two RBIs for Baltimore.Ryan Roberts and Elliott Johnson hit solo homers for Tampa Bay. It was the first time since Aug. 4 that the Rays lost by more than two runs; eight of their previous 12 defeats were by one run."Anybody can get beat by a lot of runs any night," Roberts said. "It didn't go our way tonight, and that's how it happens sometime in baseball."Roberts left in the sixth inning with a left forearm strain, the result of a tag he made at second base. X-rays were negative, and he held out hope of playing Wednesday in the next game of the three-game series."I'm just glad it isn't broke," Roberts said. "If it's up to me, I'm playing. We're in a tight race and these games mean a lot, so I definitely want to play even if it's going to hurt a little bit."Tampa Bay left-hander Matt Moore (10-10) threw 94 pitches over four innings before being lifted by manager Joe Maddon. Moore allowed two earned runs on four hits and three walks.Burke Badenhop entered with a run of eight straight scoreless appearances and promptly gave up a double to Hardy, a single to Adam Jones and two-run double to Wieters that provided Baltimore with a 5-1 lead.Hardy's sixth-inning RBI single came off Cesar Ramos and Davis hit his 25th homer in the seventh off J.P. Howell.Johnson connected against Darren O'Day leading off the eighth, and Hardy homered off Dane De La Rose in the bottom half.The victory improved Baltimore's record against AL East foes to 33-24 compared to 28-44 last year.Baltimore broke on top with an unearned run in the first inning. Jones walked and scored when Matt Joyce fumbled Wieters' two-out single to right.Hammel retired the first eight batters before Roberts connected in the third. It was his fourth homer with Tampa Bay since in coming over in a trade with Arizona on July 24.In the bottom half, Robert Andino led off with a double and Hardy homered to put the Orioles ahead for good.NOTES:Baltimore leads the season series 7-6 and took the lead in the all-time series, 127-126. ... The Orioles purchased the contracts of OFs Endy Chavez and L.J. Hoes and designated RHP Kevin Gregg and INF Ryan Adams for assignment. ... This was the first of 15 consecutive games against AL East foes for the Rays, who head to Yankee Stadium after this series. ... The Rays will send Alex Cobb to the mound Wednesday night and the Orioles will start rookie Miguel Gonzalez, who's 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA in two starts against Tampa Bay.

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is reportedly “almost certain” to accept the 49ers’ offer to become head coach.

Shanahan is the lone remaining candidate among the six individuals who interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe. The 49ers plan for a second interview with Shanahan and a job offer, a source told CSNBayArea.com. Shanahan is expected to accept the 49ers’ offer, reports Michael Silver of the NFL Network, citing sources familiar with both parties.

The 49ers continued to work Tuesday evening on the process of narrowing down the general manager choices, a source said. Shanahan is expected to play a role in the select the team’s next GM, sources said.

On Tuesday, Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner removed their names from consideration for the vacant coach and general manager positions. The 49ers fired Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke after the 49ers' 2-14 season.

One source said Cable and Kirchner believed the 49ers were using them as leverage to hire Shanahan. Cable interviewed with 49ers co-chair Denise DeBartolo York over the phone on Tuesday, NFL Network reported.

The 49ers are allowed to interview Shanahan for a second time after the Falcons’ NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The 49ers are prohibited from hiring or making a formal contract offer to Shanahan until the Falcons' season has concluded.

The top remaining candidates for the general manager job are believed to be Green Bay executives Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf, Arizona's Terry McDonough and Minnesota's George Paton.

Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field

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AP

Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field

BERKELEY — With more than a half-century without a Rose Bowl berth, tougher academic standards than most Pac-12 schools and lackluster fan support in a pro-sports focused market, there are plenty of hurdles for a football coach at California.

Coach Justin Wilcox took the job for the Golden Bears because he embraces those obstacles and he wants players who feel the same way as he seeks to rebuild a program that has one winning record in the past five years and no conference championships since 1958.

"When you come here, there are challenges," Wilcox said at his introductory news conference Tuesday. "You don't come here and go through school and just go through the motions. You'll be challenged in the classroom, challenged on the football field and learn to interact in a dynamic society. I believe in that and that helps guys grow."

Wilcox faces many hurdles in his new job replacing the recently fired Sonny Dykes less than three weeks before national signing day. He has to put together a coaching staff, evaluate the players already on campus and try to keep together, and even add to, a recruiting class that committed to a different staff.

Athletic director Mike Williams fired Dykes after four seasons on Jan. 8 because he wanted a coach committed to Cal instead of flirting with other jobs and needed someone who could excite a fan base that often stayed away from Memorial Stadium in recent years as the Bears teamed porous defenses with sometimes exciting offenses while posting a 19-30 record.

Williams had five finalists for the job but chose a former Cal assistant with a defensive background and familiarity with the Pac-12 as an assistant for seven years at three schools in the conference.

"He truly gets this place, he truly gets coaching in the West," Williams said. "He came in and was very organized and thoughtful. He knew what he wanted to do and who he wanted to hire. ... It's a special place and I think he'll treat it as a special place."

While Dykes flirted with job openings at Houston and Baylor this past offseason in part because of his concern about increased academic standards for recruits, the Bears hope Wilcox is someone who wants to stick around after more than a decade of being on a self-described "windy" path as a top defensive coach.

The former Oregon defensive back began his coaching career in 2001 as a graduate assistant at Boise State. He spent three years as linebackers coach under Jeff Tedford at Cal from 2003-05 when the Bears nearly ended their Rose Bowl drought during a 10-win season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback in 2004.

Wilcox has spent the past 11 years as a defensive coordinator with stops at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, Southern California and finally Wisconsin, where he helped the Badgers field a top 10 defense and win the Cotton Bowl.

Wilcox has worked and played for many successful coaches, including Tedford, Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkins, Mike Bellotti, and Paul Chryst.

"I've been extremely fortunate to work for and with people I learned so much from," he said. "Each step along the way, I've seen it done a lot of different ways. I'm not trying to be any of those people. I always try to take pieces and make it my own."

Wilcox has begun putting together his staff, having hired former Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator and longtime Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood to fill that role on the Bears.

The Bears will look very different under Wilcox than Dykes. Wilcox said he will recruit tight ends as Cal moves from the spread "Bear Raid" offense that relied on four receivers almost exclusively to a more balanced offense with tight ends and more power concepts.

While he will delegate most of the offensive responsibilities to Baldwin, Wilcox said he will be more involved on defense where he wants to find players who can fit into his base 3-4 system.

Cal ranked 125th in total defense, 127th in scoring defense and 122nd in yards per play out of 128 FBS teams last season on the way to a 5-7 record.

"Every second is critical right now," Wilcox said. "I will not sacrifice the long-term good of the program for what everyone wants which is certainty. Things will happen quickly. I understand the recruits have some anxiety about the situation and there's emotions involved. That's totally understandable. I'd feel the same way."