Orioles bullpen victimized by Raul Ibanez

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Orioles bullpen victimized by Raul Ibanez

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Bullpen perfection disappeared for the Baltimore Orioles when it mattered most.These exciting young Birds had been 76-0 this year when leading after seven innings, their relievers carrying them through the hot days of summer and the crisp nights of early fall. They had won 16 consecutive extra-inning games since losing their first two of the year to the New York Yankees in April, the best streak in the big leagues in more than a half-century.They were two outs from taking control of their AL division series. Jim Johnson had converted a big league high 51 saves.And then, just when you least expected ...Raul Ibanez, pinch hitting for no less than Alex Rodriguez, drove a 94 mph fastball over the right-center field scoreboard with one out in the ninth inning to tie the score 2-all.Three innings later, it was Ibanez again.The 40-year-old sent a 91 mph Brian Matusz pitch into the right field second deck leading off the 12th, giving the Yankees a 3-2 win Wednesday night and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series."Obviously, it hurts," Johnson said, "but you got to get over it quick because we got to come back tomorrow and compete again."The Yankees have a long history of doing this.There was Tino Martinez's tying, two-run homer off Arizona's Byung-Hyun Kim with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2001 World Series. There Scott Brosius' tying, two-run homer off Kim with two outs in the ninth the following night.Rodriguez hit a tying, two-run homer off Minnesota's Joe Nathan in Game 2 of the 2009 AL division series, then hit a tying solo shot of the Los Angeles Angels' Brian Fuentes in the second game of that year's AL championship series.Ibanez, as Orioles' fans might remember, hit a tiebreaking double in the 12th off Pedro Strop that gave New York a 5-4 win at Camden Yards on April 10. The next night, Nick Swisher's two-run homer in the 10th against Kevin Gregg propelled the Yankees to a 6-4 victory.Since then, the Orioles had won 16 in a row in extras, the best in the majors since Cleveland won 17 straight in 1949."Just left the pitch up. Ibanez obviously has been swinging the bat well and I just missed my location, and he made it hurt," Matusz said. "You just keep going. Just clear it out of our minds and move on to tomorrow. We're still in this."All for naught was the great effort of Miguel Gonzalez, a 28-year-old rookie making his postseason debut. He allowed one run and five hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts and a walk, allowing his only run on Derek Jeter's RBI triple just out of reach of bubble-blowing center fielder Adam Jones in the third."I'm not satisfied that I didn't catch the ball," Jones said. "To make an excuse, that's definitely not me. I just plain didn't catch the ball."Baltimore's Nos. 8 and 9 hitters provided early power, with Ryan Flaherty sending a slider from Hiroki Kuroda over the right-field short porch in the third and Manny Machado putting another slider in the Baltimore bullpen leading off the fifth. They became the first pair of rookies to homer in the same postseason game. Just 20, Machado became the second-youngest player with a postseason home run, behind only Atlanta's Andruw Jones who was 19 in 1996.Then it all unraveled in the ninth."It breaks your heart, but we've been doing great," Gonzalez said. "Can't complain. The guys have been battling the whole year and things happen. It's part of baseball. It was a tough game for us tonight, but I know we're going to come out tomorrow and play a better game."Orioles manager Buck Showalter already was looking ahead."Stunned left me a while ago. I got a grip on how hard this is to do. The problem with a lot of coaches and managers, they forget about how hard the game is to play and how tough a night they've had on given times. It's very hard to do what they do," Showalter said. "Jimmy is a big-hearted, talented guy, that -- believe me, we'd be at home watching without people like Jim Johnson. He's a special guy. We're real proud of him, and you'll see him again tomorrow night, I hope."In the playoffs for the first time since 1997, the Orioles must win Thursday night to save their season."You've got to stay positive through this," Matusz said. "We've all worked so hard this year to get to this point. And you can't let one bad pitch or one game ruin it. You've just got to keep positive."

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

ANAHEIM — The A’s collection of individual highlights during their visit to Angel Stadium shouldn’t have equated to a three-game sweep for their opponent.

Jesse Hahn fired eight one-hit innings Tuesday, the same night Josh Phegley delivered a pinch-hit homer in the 10th before the A’s lost in 11 innings. On Thursday, Kendall Graveman turned in perhaps the defensive play of the 2017 season by a pitcher, recording an unassisted double play that was the first by an A’s pitcher in 46 years.

All great moments to relive in the clubhouse afterward, but surely they ring a bit hollow given the final outcomes. The A’s were swept by an Angels team that, like Oakland, has been hit hard by the injury bug. Los Angeles is without key relievers Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Cam Bedrosian and Mike Morin, not to mention starter Garrett Richards among others.

Yet the Angels pitching staff twice held the A’s to one run over the three-game series, including Thursday’s 2-1 defeat, when the A’s mustered just three hits.

“We’re a little streaky right now,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “… Give them credit, they pitched really well, and they really are down a lot of guys in the bullpen. We would expect to do a little more damage.”

They couldn’t Thursday, and that it made it tough to savor Graveman’s incredible play the way they should have.

With runners on the corners and no outs, he fielded Juan Graterol’s comebacker and caught Ben Revere in a rundown between third and home. Graveman ran him down and after applying the tag, hurdled Revere and made the tag on Cliff Pennington, who was trying to advance from first to third in the chaos.

“That’s probably the best play I’ve ever seen a pitcher make, hurdling over an (opponent) to get the second out unassisted,” Melvin said. “I didn’t even know how to put that one down on my card.”

Graveman, one of the A’s better overall athletes, was asked if he’d ever recorded an unassisted double play before.

“Never. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one,” he said. “(Ryan) Madson said he’s never seen one and he’s watched over 2,000 games.”

Incredibly, the last A’s pitcher to pull off an unassisted double play previously was in attendance Thursday night. John “Blue Moon” Odom did it back on July 11, 1971, also against the Angels. Odom attends most of the A’s games in Anaheim, and he’s struck up a friendship with Graveman over the years.

“Every time we come here and even in spring training, I try to catch up with Blue Moon Odom and see how he’s doing,” Graveman said. “He and Wash (former A’s infield coach Ron Washington) are friends so we always cut up about Wash. He’s a great guy. He sits in the front row. He came in and saw me right before stretch and told me ‘I’m gonna be front row watching you.’ That is pretty neat that that happened.”

A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso said he’s never surprised to see Graveman make a great defensive play.

“The guy’s a pitcher, but it feels like he’s a shortstop playing the position.”

Graveman was visited by trainers after the fifth-inning play, but Melvin said it was mainly to give the pitcher a breather and let him get his adrenaline under control. Neither Graveman nor his manager revealed anything specific that bothered Graveman. Seeing him stay in the game and complete six innings of two-run ball had to be encouraging for Melvin.

“The first thing I asked him was ‘What’d you fall on?’” Melvin said. “He said, ‘My butt.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re all right then.’ But you’re not gonna see that play again probably.”

The A’s are giving their manager and fans some accomplishments to marvel over. As they move on to Houston trying to halt a four-game losing streak, they just need to figure things out on the scoreboard.

Raiders' first-round pick Conley opens up on emotions after off-field issues

Raiders' first-round pick Conley opens up on emotions after off-field issues

ALAMEDA – Gareon Conley’s name has been sullied, at least temporarily. He feared it would be long enough to send him free falling down the NFL Draft.

The Ohio State cornerback and top-15 prospect was accused of rape stemming from an April 9 incident in Cleveland, an allegation he called “completely false.”

The Raiders clearly believe him. That’s why they drafted him No. 24 overall on Thursday evening, and expect him to be a long-term solution in their secondary.

Conley wasn’t sure how far he’d fall after being beaten down by one rough week, when the allegation went public. Reggie McKenzie’s first-round selection and subsequent call was more emotional than expected.

“It made it 10 times more special,” Conley said Thursday night in a conference call. “Just having that doubt in my mind, just not knowing (how far I would fall). Just having faith and having doubt, I didn’t know what was going to happen. When it came, it shocked me. It felt unreal, honestly. It still feels unreal.”

Being a top pick was expected after an excellent career at Ohio State. The rape accusation threatened to destroy his draft-day dreams. Conley has not been arrested or charged in relation to the incident, though an investigation is ongoing.

Conley said he volunteered to take a polygraph test that was shared with NFL teams, and reportedly passed the one he took. He said in a statement there are witnesses and video evidence proving he didn’t do anything illegal.

Conley spent the last few days trying to proclaim his innocence. 

He is scheduled to meet with Cleveland police on Monday to discuss the April 9 incident -- he'll also submit a DNA sample, according to ESPN -- where group sex was suggested and a woman claimed she was sexually assaulted.

Conley believes his name will be cleared in time.

“I’m very confident it will be resolved," Conley said. "I took a test today that helps. Then when I made my statement and all the evidence that I have, I feel confident it’ll be resolved.”

Conley admits he shouldn’t have put himself in a compromising position, which occurred at a Cleveland hotel earlier this month.

“I could’ve made way better judgment,” Conley said. “I mean, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I definitely could’ve made a better decision.”

Conley hopes to move beyond it quickly and start focusing on football. He is scheduled to fly west for a press conference on Friday.

Conley is thankful to the Raiders for believing in him despite his recent troubles.

“It’s off the charts, honestly,” Conley said. “Just to know that they have faith in me, not even just as a football player but as a person like that, it speaks highly of them, and I really appreciate it. It’s an honor to be a part of the Raider organization.”