Ichiro, Mariners win MLB opener in Japan

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Ichiro, Mariners win MLB opener in Japan

From Comcast SportsNet
TOKYO (AP) -- Ichiro Suzuki gave his fans in Japan a performance to cheer about. Suzuki had four hits in his return home, Dustin Ackley homered and singled in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 3-1 Wednesday night in baseball's season opener. "It was very special to open in Japan," said Suzuki, who spent nine seasons in Osaka with the Orix Blue Wave. "I wanted to have fun and give the fans something at this special time and wanted to share a special moment with them." Major League Baseball and the players' association are using the series to assist rebuilding in Japan following last year's earthquake and tsunami. A group of players and coaches traveled to the disaster zone on Tuesday to conduct a baseball clinic. Felix Hernandez combined with two relievers on a six-hitter as MLB opened its season in Tokyo for the fourth time. The continent switch didn't help the A's, who became the first team to lose eight straight openers since Philadelphia from 1985-92, according to STATS LLC. Seattle and Oakland complete their two-game series Thursday. The rest of the big league teams start to get going April 4, when the renamed Miami Marlins open their new ballpark against the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. A capacity crowd of 44,227 at Tokyo Dome was a sea of flashbulbs every time Suzuki came to bat. He got a standing ovation when he took his position in right field in the final inning. Dropped from leadoff to third in the batting order as he started his 12th big league season, Suzuki singled in the first when be beat shortstop Cliff Pennington's throw after his grounder over the mound was deflected by Oakland starter Brandon McCarthy. Suzuki singled on a grounder to shortstop in the fourth, singled to center in the sixth and had an RBI single to center in the 11th. "We're trying to stretch out the lineup and have the guys feed off each other," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "I think Ichiro hitting in the third spot is the right place. We're going to be a very offensive ballclub this year." The 38-year-old Suzuki set a big league record with 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons before falling short last year. "He's a hitting machine," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin, who managed Suzuki with the Mariners in 2003 and 2004. "It doesn't matter where he bats in the lineup. That's what he does -- hit." Ackley homered in the fourth off McCarthy, and Oakland's Kurt Suzuki doubled in a run in the bottom half. The score remained 1-1 until the 11th, when Brendan Ryan doubled against Andrew Carignan (0-1), Chone Figgins sacrificed and Ackley singled to center. "I was able to put a good swing on that one," Ackley said. "Our team is off to a good start, and that's all that matters." Jerry Blevins relieved, Ackley stole second and Ichiro Suzuki singled for a two-run lead. Brandon League closed it out for the save. Tom Wilhelmsen (1-0) got the win with two hitless innings. Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a 36 million, four-year contract with Oakland, was 1 for 3 with a seventh-inning double and two strikeouts in his major league debut. Hernandez, coming off a 14-14 season, allowed five hits in eight innings, struck out six and walked none, throwing 104 pitches. McCarthy gave up one run and six hits in seven innings with three strikeouts and no walks. While Oakland threatened repeatedly, the A's were 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position. "They got bigger hits than we did at the end," Melvin said. "We hit some balls hard, but they just didn't get in." NOTES: It was 3:09 a.m. PDT when the game began. It was not televised live in the U.S. outside the markets of the teams involved, and was shown on a delayed basis by the MLB Network. ... Bartolo Colon starts Thursday the A's, opposed by Jason Vargas. ... The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs opened in Tokyo in 2000, followed by the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay (2004), and Boston and Oakland (2008). Seattle and Oakland had been scheduled to play at the Tokyo Dome in March 2003, but the series was scrapped because of the threat of war in Iraq. ... A pregame video presentation honored victims and survivors of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. The video was narrated by Derek Jeter, Bobby Valentine and Cal Ripken Jr. ... The eight straight losses in openers is an A's record, one shy of the major league mark shared by the New York Giants (1893-1901) and Atlanta (1972-80).

NBA Gameday: For Kings, life without Cousins begins against Nuggets

NBA Gameday: For Kings, life without Cousins begins against Nuggets

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings begin the post All-Star break trailing the Denver Nuggets by just a game and a half for the eight seed in the Western Conference playoff race. But the game almost seems secondary to the drama surrounding the blockbuster trade that sent All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans over the weekend.

With 25 games remaining, Dave Joerger has to figure out a way to balance his rotation, which now includes three new faces in Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway and Tyreke Evans. In addition to Cousins, Matt Barnes and Omri Casspi are also gone as the Kings hit the reboot button on a once promising season. 

Sacramento shopped other veteran players up until the end of Thursday's NBA trade deadline, but they chose to stand pat for the remainder of the season with their current group of 15.

Denver is clinging to a lead in the race for eight, but Sacramento, Portland, New Orleans, Dallas and Minnesota are all within four and a half games. Nikola Jokic has played extremely well in his second NBA season, giving Michael Malone a centerpiece to build around in the Nuggets high-powered offense.

OPENING LINE

Nuggets by 7

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Kings vs. The Unknown -- Cousins manned the post for the last seven years in Sacramento and now he plays for a new team. Coach Dave Joerger has to adapt on the fly if without his leading scorer, rebounder and assist man. Sacramento plays a gritty style and they have won without Cousins in limited opportunities, but this is different. They must reinvent themselves on the fly if they have any hope of finishing the final 25 games strong.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 24-33, third place in Pacific

Nuggets: 25-31, third place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: SG Malachi Richardson (right hamstring partial tear) and G/F Garrett Temple  (left hamstring partial tear) are out.

Nuggets: No injuries to report. All players participated in shootaround.  

SERIES HISTORY

After sweeping the season series 3-0 last year, Sacramento holds a 1-0 advantage over the Nuggets this year. The all-time series between these two teams is close, but the Kings hold an 87-86 lead after winning four straight and they are up on the Nuggets 64-61 lead during the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE

“They have a chip on their shoulder. You make a big trade like that and I’m sure the players in that locker room are going to say, ‘everybody’s writing us off because we don’t have DeMarcus.’ They’re going to come out and try and prove everybody wrong. They beat Boston, a very good team, without DeMarcus, and I’m sure that’s the model they’re going to try to use moving forward.” -Michael Malone

Reports: Thunder acquire Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott from Bulls

Reports: Thunder acquire Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott from Bulls

Just before the deadline, the Bulls and Thunder reportedly agreed to a deal.

Chicago is sending Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick to Oklahoma City for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow.

Gibson, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, is averaging 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

McDermott, the 11th pick in the 2014 draft, is registering 10.2 points per game and shooting just under 38 percent from deep.

The Thunder took Payne 14th overall in 2015 out of Murray State. The 22-year old is averaging 5.3 points and 2.0 assists in just 20 games this year.

The Thunder (32-25) lead Denver by 6.5 games for the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, and are just 1.5 games behind Memphis for the sixth seed.