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.

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings showed their age Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. They couldn’t buy a basket early. They could do no wrong in the second and third quarters. And when the chips were down, they couldn’t stop a charging Utah Jazz team from pulling away for the 112-82 blowout.

Utah led by as many as 20 in the first quarter and it looked like it was going to be a long night. The Kings shot just 31.6 percent in the game’s first 12 minutes and they allowed the Jazz to knock down 5-of-11 3-pointers early.

“We started off slow and in a hole and tried to come back,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.

The Jazz pushed the lead to 24 in the opening minutes of the second quarter and then Ben McLemore happened. The fourth-year guard went off for 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the second as the Kings cut Utah’s lead to just seven at the intermission.

“It’s nice to see him back in there and getting rhythm and feeling good about himself,” Dave Joerger said of McLemore. “He is able at his size to get off of people that are holding. With his athleticism, he can be an effective cutter and he can be an effective pin down player.”

The 24-year-old wing finished the night with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but he was one of just three Kings players to notch double-figure scoring as the ball movement dried up for long stretches.

Utah made adjustments in the second half to slow McLemore and the Kings did a poor job of responding. They over dribbled the ball, leading to just 14 assists on the night.

The Jazz on the other hand looked like a finely oiled machine. With big man Rudy Gobert anchoring the post, they made cuts at the rim and found open shooters all around the perimeter.  

“They hit shots, a lot of shots, a lot of threes,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “That breaks the game wide open when you’re hitting threes and a lot of stuff is going in.”

Sharpshooter Rodney Hood dropped in 5-of-5 from long range, scoring 18 points in just 24 minutes of play. Gordon Hayward knocked down 3-of-5 from deep for a team-high 20 points. Overall, Utah outscored the Kings 39-6 from 3-point range.

Despite the rough start and the barrage of 3-point makes by the Jazz, Sacramento cut Utah’s lead to just two midway through the third quarter. And then the playoff bound Jazz dropped a 52-24 run on Sacramento to finish the night off.

Joerger allowed his core of young players plenty of time on the floor. Skal Labissiere played a team-high 33 minutes in the loss, coming away with nine points and seven rebounds.  

“I’m definitely learning a lot,” Labissiere said. “It’s the best way to learn to be out there against guys like that. Whenever I’m out there, I’m always learning something. I just try to give my best.”

Rookie Georgios Papagiannis added eight points and three rebounds in 20 minutes and Buddy Hield struggled for one of the few times in a Kings uniform, scoring just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

It’s a process. With the playoff chatter over and done with, the Kings are bound to have a few more night’s like this in the final seven games of the season as they transition to a full youth movement.

 

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

When Kevin Durant returns, which could happen as soon as next week, the Warriors will be an appreciably better team than they were when he left.

Better because in Durant’s absence, veteran wing Andre Iguodala found the best of his game and fully regained his shooting confidence.

Better because David West, who spent the first two quarters of the season acclimating to his new teammates and the third on the injury list, has settled in and turned up his fire and production to a level that pleads for more playing time.

Better because Stephen Curry is dancing and Klay Thompson is cooking and Draymond Green is destroying opposing offenses.

Better because everybody on this team can sense the postseason and is making the mental adjustment, while knowing they’ll get an emotional bounce from Durant’s presence on the floor.

“Obviously, you hate to see KD go down; he’s going to be back soon,” Curry told reporters after a 110-98 win over the Spurs in San Antonio. “But we never really lost confidence in ourselves. There was no panic. We’ve just battled.”

Consider that the Warriors, who own the best record in the NBA, are coming off two nights during which they also proved to be the best team. Going into Houston and San Antonio on successive nights, they extended their seven-game win streak to nine, the longest active streak at a time when all playoff teams wish to peak.

By wiping out a 22-point deficit to a Spurs team that simply doesn’t allow that but did anyway even with Green completely off his offensive game.

And this was done with Durant observing and cheering from the bench in street clothes while also learning more about his teammates and appreciating what they’ve been able to accomplish.

Most notably, as a team, what they’ve done on defense. After recovering from the body blow that was losing Durant, losing five of seven in the process, the Warriors have pulled off a dazzling stretch during which they’ve taken apart all comers.

Prior to holding the Spurs to 41 percent from the field, the Warriors limited the explosive Rockets to 38.8 percent, the Grizzlies to 44.7 (34.8 in the decisive second half), the Kings to 48.2, the Mavericks to 35.9, the Thunder to 42.5, the Bucks to 40.4, the Magic to 37.2 and the 76ers to 43.8.

“We play a finesse style . . . but when we’re at our best, you talk about our defense,” Curry said. “It’s about having each other’s back, trying to do little things, physically, to keep teams out of the paint and off the glass.”

What has happened is most everybody in the playing rotation has grown in the absence of Durant. And while some had to if the Warriors were to withstand his loss, that they managed to do so is significant. The evidence is visible and palpable, never more than late Wednesday night.

“We have what it takes to win all sorts of ways,” Curry said. “Whether you’re down 15 and can’t figure out what’s going on in the first quarter, or you put together a beautiful performance for 48 minutes, it doesn’t matter. Night in and night out, you’ve just got to be ready to play."

At no point this season have the Warriors had reason to feel as good as they do returning home to Oracle Arena, where they will play six of their final seven games. Winning five more games gives them the No. 1 overall seed, regardless of what the Spurs do.

They’re on top of their game and they’re a few games away from adding the man who was their best player through the first 60 games.

By all appearances and insinuations, Durant will be back for the final two or three games of the regular season. That beats any trade-deadline deal eight days a week.