Fielder's HR gives NL second straight All-Star win

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Fielder's HR gives NL second straight All-Star win

July 12, 2011
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PHOENIX (AP) -- Prince Fielder's three-run homer sailed over the left-field wall at Chase Field, and the conveyor belt from the National League bullpen began.One after another, a hard-throwing pitcher walked to the mound - well, one of them sprinted and slid into the infield feet first - and then shut down the American League's hitters for the second straight year.With pitching, speed and a little bit of power from the Prince, the NL is king of the All-Star game once again, using the same formula that worked during its dominating run in the 1970s and '80s.Roy Halladay combined with nine relievers on a six-hitter in the NL's 5-1 victory Tuesday night, giving the senior circuit its first two-game winning streak since the mid-1990s.Brian Wilson got two outs for manager Bruce Bochy and earned the save, just as he did for the Giants skipper when San Francisco won the championship last November."It felt like a little bit like last year when you come into a pressure situation and you try to do a clutch performance as you can," Wilson said.Heath Bell provided the image of the night an inning earlier, sprinting in from the bullpen and tearing up the turf with a slide just short of the mound."I told some guys I wanted to have fun this All-Star game and needed some ideas, so guys back home kind of said slide on the mound," he revealed. "Bochy said before the game that this really counts, so I thought I was not going to do it, but then we were up by four runs."His NL teammates were impressed."I think he nailed it," Wilson said. "I don't know if I'd make it. I think I'd slip, ankle, flip, next thing you know I can't pitch."The NL claimed home-field advantage in the World Series, its only blemish being Adrian Gonzalez's homer in the fourth off Cliff Lee. Fielder connected in the bottom half of the inning."It's hard to beat great pitching and a three-run homer," Bochy said.With several big names as no-shows, the AL lost more than the game.Boston right-hander Josh Beckett warmed up, then bowed out with a sore knee. Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera left after hurting the oblique muscle in his side while swinging."We are not going to use not having Josh as an excuse," AL manager Ron Washington said. "I think when you look at the ballgame, the bottom line is the National League pitching was outstanding. You know, we ended up giving up one big inning and they didn't give up any."Even before they were hurt, many stars were missing. Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia and other aces who started Sunday were ineligible, Alex Rodriguez was among those on the disabled list and Derek Jeter wanted a break. In all, 16 of 84 All-Stars dropped out.Tyler Clippard got the win despite allowing a single to his only batter, Adrian Beltre. Clayton Kershaw, Jair Jurrjens, Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Joel Hanrahan also relieved and combined to keep the NL ahead.Fielder won the MVP award after becoming the first Brewers player to homer in an All-Star game. The World Series edge could help him later, with Milwaukee and St. Louis tied for the Central lead at the break. A half-hour after the win, the Brewers announced they had traded for former All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez of the New York Mets."That was part of the message, how important it was for us, and how important the game was: Do it again for the National League champion," Bochy said.Fielder, son of former All-Star Cecil Fielder, was booed during the Home Run Derby a day earlier. He was the NL captain for the Derby, and local fans were angry he didn't select Arizona's Justin Upton."I didn't take it personal at all," Fielder said. "I understood it. No hard feelings."Andre Ethier singled in a run off rookie reliever Jordan Walden in the fifth, and slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval had an RBI double off Brandon League in the seventh.The NL dashed around the bases and swiped three bags, all in one inning and two by Starlin Castro. In all, the Nationals have enjoyed their best run since taking three in a row from 1994-96 - they had lost 12 straight games played to a decision before a 3-1 victory at Anaheim last year.Before a crowd of 47,994 that included Muhammad Ali, this was no desert classic - except for fans of pitching, which has become resurgent as the Steroids Era has receded. Scoring in the first half dropped to its lowest level in 19 years and the major league batting average shrunk to its smallest midseason figure since 1985.The All-Star homers were the first since J.D. Drew connected at Yankee Stadium three years ago. The AL finished with six hits for the second straight year and its two-year total of two runs is its lowest since 1995-96."Just a coincidence," Curtis Granderson said.Given the temperature outside, the theme song could have been Buster Poindexter's "Hot Hot Hot." And except for Lee, that's what the NL pitching was.Texas' C.J. Wilson, the fourth AL pitcher, took the loss for the team run by his manager, Washington. Wilson had trouble with the unfamiliar role of late: coming out of the 'pen."It is a complete circus. You don't have a routine at all," he said. "The ball launches here."Outside in the 99-degree heat, two separate groups opposed to Arizona's controversial immigration law protested outside before the game. One quietly passed out white ribbons that symbolized peace and unity and the other loudly chanting in bullhorns and marching in circles with signs that read "Boycott hate" and "Stand with us."However, there was little sign of the ribbons in the stands.While it was hot outside in the Sonoran Desert, it was a comfy 72 thanks to an 8,000-ton cooling system in the ballpark.Halladay and Lee showed the strength that has given Philadelphia the best record in the majors, Halladay retired six straight batters - the first to do that in an All-Star game since Roger Clemens in 2001. Lee got out his first five."I figured a lot of those guys were going to be swinging early," said Halladay, who started for the AL in 2009 and joined Vida Blue, Clemens and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers to open for both leagues.Gonzalez, who switched leagues in the offseason by going from San Diego to Boston, lined an 86 mph cutter just to the right-field side of the swimming pool, where women in bikinis and a man in a Santa Claus outfit were watching.Carlos Beltran singled to shortstop leading off the bottom half and Matt Kemp singled before Fielder gave the NL a 3-1 lead by hitting an 88 mph cutter the opposite way to left-center on a 2-2 count. The drive gave every major league team except the Diamondbacks at least one All-Star home run."They've got great pitching and great hitting," Kevin Youkilis said. "That's what makes these things kind of fun."NOTES: There was a moment of silence before the game for the victims of the Tucson shootings in January, among them Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old daughter of Dodgers scout John Green and granddaughter of former major league manager and GM Dallas Green. Her parents and brother brought the lineup cards to home plate. Families of the victims sat near the third-base dugout. Daniel Hernandez, an intern who helped save the life of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during the shootings, threw out a ceremonial first pitch along with Joe Garagiola. ... Beckett warmed up to start the second but felt soreness in his left knee and didn't pitch. "If it was a regular game, I could have pitched through it," he said. ... RF Jose Bautista made a sliding catch in foul territory in the right-field corner on Brian McCann before hitting the wall feet first. ... The NL has outscored the AL 344-341. ... This was the first time the DH was used for an All-Star game in an NL ballpark. ... Even though the NL won for just the fifth time in 24 years, it holds a 42-38-2 advantage.

Kings teammates on Gay's Achilles injury: 'It kind of hurt my soul'

Kings teammates on Gay's Achilles injury: 'It kind of hurt my soul'

SACRAMENTO -- The news couldn’t be any worse for the Sacramento Kings. A 106-102 loss to the Indiana Pacers sent the Kings to their sixth loss in seven tries on the homestand. But an injury to Rudy Gay had the locker room as quiet as it’s ever been.

“Somber, very somber,” Garrett Temple said of the team’s mood. “We have a team of good character guys. Guys that have the right mindset and it’s tough to see people get hurt, especially a guy like Rudy. I’m going to be praying for him and hopefully he can bounce back stronger than before.”

Gay, 30, went to the floor hard in the late third quarter after trying to make a move on the baseline. He laid on the floor for a few seconds before slapping the ground in disgust. Eventually he had to be carried off the court by Willie Cauley-Stein, Omri Casspi and the team’s medical staff.

The initial report is a torn left Achilles tendon. An MRI is set for Thursday morning, but CSN California has learned the diagnosis is correct. There is no timeline for what comes next for Gay, but surgery is required for the team’s second leading scorer.

“Rudy’s a good guy and for him to go down like that this time of year, in this point of his life is kinda tough,” Lawson said. “I’m probably one of the closest to him on the team. It kind of hurt my soul.”

It was a non-contact injury for Gay and the veteran appeared to know the severity of the injury right away.

“Once I seen him on the ground, I felt sick, I felt like something in me just dropped,” Lawson added.   

Gay made his way into the locker room while media was still present. He wore a dark hoodie and a walking boot and moved with the aid of crutches. He grabbed his belongings and left without speaking to the media.

The veteran forward has had issues with his Achilles in the past and even underwent shock wave treatment over summer on the area to prepare himself for the upcoming season. He missed time over the previous two seasons with Achilles tendonitis.

Gay was set to opt out of the final season of his three-year contract extension signed in November of 2014 and become an unrestricted free agent. If he opts in, he is owed $14.4 million next season by the Kings.

Even before the injury, the Kings had began to sputter. After leading by as many as 22 early in the game, Indiana had cut the lead to ten at the point of the injury and momentum had clearly shifted the Pacers way. Without Gay on the court, All-Star Paul George scored two points to end the third and another 11 in the deciding fourth quarter to finish the night with 24.

DeMarcus Cousins tossed in a 25-point, 12-rebounds, 10-assist triple-double, but he shot 0-for-9 in the second half as the Pacers collapsed on the All-Star center.

After falling to 1-6 on the seven game homestand, Sacramento is scheduled to hit the road for a brutal stretch away from Golden 1 Center beginning Friday in Memphis.

“We’ve got an eight game road trip, we’ve got to come together closer and closer, not drift apart,” Lawson said.   

The Kings will play eight games in 12 night’s including three sets of back-to-backs. Gay is clearly out of action, but the team may be without forward Omri Casspi on the trip as well.

Casspi was injured in practice earlier in the week and underwent an MRI on Monday. Tests revealed a strain to his right plantaris tendon and he is expected to miss 1-2 weeks.

“It’s tough, other players are going to have to step up that weren’t playing,” Lawson said. “Hopefully everybody’s been working hard to be ready for this moment.”

With the loss, Sacramento fell a season-high nine games under .500 at 16-25, but they remain just a game and a half out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff chase.

“Guys are going to have to step up, next man up, next man up,” Temple said.

Durant building 'Thunder Stopper' reputation after 40-point effort

Durant building 'Thunder Stopper' reputation after 40-point effort

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant, Thunder Stopper? With a second consecutive magnificent performance in decisive wins over his former Oklahoma City teammates, Durant may be adding a nickname.

Durant on Wednesday night posted his first 40-point game as a Warrior, carrying them to a 121-100 win over the Thunder at Oracle Arena.

He has scored 79 points in two games against OKC, taking only 40 shots to ring up such an impressive total. He was 13-of-16 Wednesday night and 15-of-24 in scoring 39 points in a 122-96 win on Nov. 3 at Oracle.

Though Durant downplayed his production, his coach and teammates were not surprised he has been so good against the team with which he spent nine seasons.

“It’s still kind of fresh, but we can’t deny the history of him with OKC,” Stephen Curry said.

“Every player in the NBA wants to play well against his old team,” coach Steve Kerr said. “For most guys, you feel that extra juice when you play against a team that you played on.”

Durant not only finished with a season-high point total but also added a team-best 12 rebounds, along with four assists and three blocks. He practically stamped his signature on the game.

“My teammates are doing a good job of freeing me up,” said Durant, who drilled 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. “I put the work in and prepared myself for every game. I just happened to knock them down.”

It’s not just that Durant was facing his former team, though. He was, once again, on opposite sides from longtime teammate and erstwhile friend Russell Westbrook. The two have not had much to say to each other since Durant’s decision last July to leave OKC and sign with the Warriors.

Little changed Wednesday night, though the two had a brief exchange in the second half, as Durant headed to the line to shoot a pair of free throws.

Asked if the two have talked, Westbrook said, “Nah,” despite the brief dialogue.

Durant carefully avoided saying anything remotely inflammatory about Westbrook or any of his former teammates.

“It’s good to see everybody,” he said. “Once the ball is tipped, you’re just playing. You’re just hooping. It’s as simple as that. But it’s definitely good to see everybody.”

Durant’s lone lowlight came when he blew a dunk with 1:45 left in the first half, taking flight about 10 feet from the basket and slamming the ball off the back of the rim and nearly to halfcourt.

“I thought I made it,” Durant said, “and then I heard the crowd.

“I was kind of upset. I tried to dunk it too hard, I think. I might have jumped from a little too far out. As I was close to the rim, I felt myself coming down a little earlier than usual.

“But, yeah, I should have made that one. That would have brought the crowd to its feet. But, hopefully, I’ll get another opportunity.”

The crowd was on its feet plenty, as was the case during Durant’s previous display against OKC. The Thunder won’t be back to Oakland this season.

Durant will have another chance to go after his former team and burnish his credentials as a Thunder Stopper when the teams meet on Feb. 11 in Oklahoma City.