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A nation of Miami Dolphins fans went to bed Tuesday evening believing their NFL team is pretty much done with the dismantling. And now it will sit on its mountain of accumulated future draft picks and salary cap space through many 2019 losses before beginning a grand rebuild next spring.

And that’s exactly what is going to happen.

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The Dolphins have not only blown up their roster but actually nuked it with the recent blockbuster moves of trading 2018 first-round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick and 2016 first-round draft pick Laremy Tunsil.

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Fitzpatrick remains Dolphins ‘right now’ QB but the
inevitable change to Rosen is coming

And if this is all part of the master plan, fans are going to think, then we can’t wait for the rest of the scheme to unfold.

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Except, well, this was not the plan.

Not really.

When the Dolphins fired Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum and reset the franchise under former and current general manager Chris Grier last December, sources within the team admit there was no plan to jettison Tunsil. Or Fitzpatrick. Or cut Kiko Alonso. Or T.J. McDonald.

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The Dolphins were going to make their longest-tenured player John Denney compete for his job in training camp, but there was no advance stratagem to cut him six days before the season opener.

There was no plan to trade for a starting right tackle the week before the opener. There was no plan to trade for a starting right guard the week before the opener.

And there was certainly no plan to “tank,” according to people within the organization.

In fact, if you ask any member of the Dolphins brain trust about tanking, the push back now — even after trading Tunsil, Fitzpatrick and starting the season in historically overmatched fashion — is unflinching:

“We’re not tanking,” I was told in recent days, repeating a message privately that has been echoed publicly multiple times by coach Brian Flores and Grier.

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So what happened?

How did the Dolphins arrive at this place that resembles a dystopian hellscape where the 2019 season can go to die? How did we get from “we’re not tanking” to what looks curiously like, well, tanking?

Apparently it happened by happenstance.

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“I would say [it was] very unexpected as far as the Laremy and Minkah situations,” Grier said Tuesday. “You can’t prepare for that. I’m not going to sit up here and lie about it.

“But for us the opportunities were kind of unique with a little bit of the historic haul for [Tunsil] and Kenny [Stills], with what we’re getting. So I think for us, [the idea was] to strike on this opportunity — because we know as the team was built right now, it wasn’t going to win a Super Bowl …”

… Or many games for that matter.

The Dolphins are a terrible team without Stills and Tunsil and Alonso and McDonald and Fitzpatrick and the other guys the club was committed to in the past. But they weren’t going to be much better with those guys.

So, it seems, the idea became why not do this now?

And it began when the coaching staff that insists it loved Fitzpatrick and valued him and thought highly of him, privately couldn’t really find a comfort level with the player. That was the case before training camp began. And it manifested throughout August as coaches couldn’t settle on a role for the player.

So they gave him multiple roles.

And Fitzpatrick didn’t like that idea because he wanted to prepare his body and mind for one or two jobs and wanted to go do those exceedingly well. Except the coaches couldn’t agree with him on what those jobs should be.

So there was a significant disagreement between the player and the coaches.

And neither side was willing to yield.

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And neither owner Stephen Ross nor Grier could mediate an understanding.

“Myself, Brian, and Steve — we had multiple conversations with him, saying we wanted him here and viewed him as a core piece and wanted him here,” Grier said. “The kid just felt it was time for him to move, and we told him what the value was.

“We told teams we had multiple offers, and we felt that the Pittsburgh one was the one best for the organization.”

So the plan was never really to jettison Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a first-round pick and an exchange of other picks. That was forced upon the Dolphins by Fitzpatrick.

The plan was never really to jettison Alonso, either, by the way. The team brought him to training camp, and he was a starter on the first day. And then something funny happened on the way to the regular season.

Alonso hated the Miami coaching staff. Coaches wanted Alonso to prepare to play multiple positions including edge rusher. And Alonso disagreed.

And after that disagreement Alonso curiously found himself on second team. And then Alonso curiously got injured and kind of stayed that way for weeks until he got traded.

MIAMI—After giving up 43 points in a shut-out game this past weekend, local Dolphins fan Derrick Gomez confirmed Wednesday that he was beginning to think that Miami head coach Brian Flores was not the main driving force behind the New England Patriots’ years of success. “It seemed like a big win for us, at first, getting the guy we assumed was responsible for all those titles, but I’m starting to wonder if he’s not the once-in-a-generation coaching genius I thought he was,” said Gomez, who had assumed that hiring Flores would be the start of a 15-year Dolphins dynasty. “You get someone with that pedigree of being a linebackers coach for a championship team and you think you’ve got a sure thing. I was so excited to think it was all happening, that we got the big dog, Brian Flores, but now I don’t know. I’m just starting to question whether he had anything to do with Tom Brady’s on-field dominance at all.” At press time, Gomez had cursed himself for not realizing that the Lions had lucked out by landing the real architect behind New England’s success in Matt Patricia.

Yeah, it happens.

So none of this was planned. It just … happened.

The plan was also never to trade Tunsil. That was forced upon the Dolphins by the Houston Texans.

The Texans had a problem in August and that was they didn’t want Jadeveon Clowney on their team even though they placed the franchise tag on the player. So that team began to shop the pass rusher.

And because the Dolphins lack a good pass rusher and, again, because they don’t consider themselves to be tanking, they were interested in Clowney. He could help them win games in 2019, they figured.

The problem for Miami was it wasn’t going to yield a high pick for Clowney because Miami wants to collect as many picks as possible to ensure a chance to draft a quarterback in 2020.

And let this be known once and for all: The Miami Dolphins will draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 draft.

The Miami Dolphins will draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 draft.

The Miami Dolphins will draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 draft.

I wrote it here. And here. Weeks ago.

And maybe somebody will begin to understand its a virtual certainty if I write it hundreds more times between now and April. It’s written in stone and no amount of good play by Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen this season is going to change that, according to multiple sources.

Anyway, when the Dolphins made it clear they’re not giving up anything resembling a first-rounder for Clowney the issue passed for a little while. But the Texans were shopping Clowney with a purpose.

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And that was to find an blindside protector for quarterback Deshaun Watson. And the Texans set their sights on Tunsil.

And then this happened…

Houston: How about Clowney for Tunsil?

Miami: Nope.

Houston: How about Clowney and a first-round pick for Tunsil?

Miami: Nope.

Houston: How about Clowney, a first-round pick and other draft considerations for Tunsil?

Miami was interested enough to meet with Clowney. But Clowney, who was training in South Florida and loves it here, wasn’t keen on playing for the Dolphins because he understands they’re not a good team. And he wanted to be on a good team.

So the trade died. And the Texans sent Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks.

But the trade that died came back like some regenerated monster because Texans coach Dr. Frankenstein really, really wanted Tunsil. And so the teams engaged some more. And that went something like this, per sources:

Houston: How about a first- and a second-round pick for Tunsil?

Dolphins: Nope.

Houston: How about a first and a second and other considerations for Tunsil and other considerations?

Dolphins: Nope.

Houston: How about two firsts and a second for Tunsil and presumably Stills and other considerations?

Dolphins: How about two firsts, and a second and you send us your starting left tackle, too?

Houston: Yes.

“That was one where we got a phone call and they kept pursuing us,” Grier said. “Multiple, multiple times, we talked and kept telling them ‘no’ and what it would take and they came and offered it.”

When the deal was finally struck, Grier called Tunsil to his office to tell him of the news and bid him farewell. Tunsil was initially not pleased, but the general manager showed Tunsil the bones of the trade and the offensive lineman was impressed.

“Laremy walked in my office and saw it on the board and goes, ‘I would trade me for that,’ Grier said.

Tunsil hugged Grier and got on a private Texans jet with Stills bound for Houston.

“But seriously,” Grier said, “we were not trying to do it.”

And that’s the theme of this dismantling. It has happened. But it wasn’t drawn up this way.

And where it will lead? Anyone who says they know how it will proceed is joking. Because things can happen to alter course.

As they already have.

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Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

With the current situation going on with Altitude TV (with the Nuggets and Avalanche) and reports that AT&T is looking to sell its regional sports networks, do you believe the Rockies are monitoring it and looking at other potential options for its next TV deal and whether they go into the streaming side? And what other option could they have if AT&T SportsNet and Altitude are not viable TV station options?

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Brandon, those are excellent questions, to which I don’t have a concrete answer for you. Here’s what I do know:

AT&T SportsNet has the Rockies contract through next season (2020).
Bids for the new contract began mid-summer.
There have been national reports that AT&T is open to selling its four regional sports networks, so that could make a huge difference in Rockies television.
I was told that Altitude was interested in bidding for the Rockies, but I have not heard the status of that.
But you’re correct in that the TV landscape is changing rapidly with streaming services and so many ways to watch live sports. Stay tuned.

Please provide any updates you can on Riley Pint and Mike Nikorak.

— Bill Beard, Highlands Ranch

Bill, I wrote about Riley Pint in my last mailbag but I’ll repeat it here.
The right-hander, the fourth overall draft pick in 2016 out of Overland Park High School (Kansas), missed almost all of the 2018 season with forearm stiffness and a strained oblique. He was injured for most of this season, too, and pitched just 17 2/3 innings a Class-A Asheville (mostly out of the bullepen). He’s 6-foot-4 and can throw 100 mph, but his lack of control has become a major issue. Over those 17 2/3 innings, he walked 31 batters and hit six. He’s averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings, but that’s overshadowed by his control issues. Right now he’s a long, long way from his big-league debut.

Nikorak, a hard-throwing right-hander out of Stroudsburg (Pa.) High School, was selected by the Rockies in first round (27th overall) of 2015 draft. He missed all of the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and pitched only a few innings for short-season Boise at the end of 2018.

He began this season pitching for Asheville, but the season was cut short in May due to injury. In 15 appearances (no starts) he posted an 8.03 ERA over 12 1/3 innings with a walk rate of 11.69 per nine innings. Obviously, he’s years away from joining the Rockies.

We hear a lot about the physical toll playing at altitude exerts on Rockies players. Yet I don’t seem to hear or read the same story when it comes to the Broncos, Avalanche or Nuggets. Am I just not paying attention or is the difference the far greater number of games baseball plays compared to the other major sports?

— Dave, Fort Collins

Dave, let me first say that the effect of playing at 5,280 feet are real. Every Rockies player I have talked to about the subject -– from Todd Helton to Jeff Francis to Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon -– has told me that aches, pains and lack of quality sleep are part of playing at altitude. So yes, a 162-game season (81 home games), plus spring training, takes its toll. Second baseman Ryan McMahon, for instance began the season weighing 210 pounds and he’s down to 192.

The Nuggets (82 games) and Avalanche (82 games) play a lot of games, too. And it can certainly be argued that they play a more physically demanding sport. The Broncos, of course, play 16 games.

I imagine athletes from the NBA, NHL and NFL have stories about altitude over a long season, but I think the Rockies get a lot of attention about the subject because altitude affects the outcome of the games so much. Plus, the length of games at Coors Field (sometimes approaching four hours) makes for a lot of time on the players’ feet. It wears on them.

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Why is (general manager) Jeff Bridich not being held accountable by owner Dick Monfort? Between his numerous, poor free agent signings and the overall lack of pitching prospects within the organization, how can he still be worthy of upper-management confidence? I love baseball and am a true Rockies fan, but I simply don’t see winning as a priority within this franchise. The Coors Field “experience” with The Rooftop and McGregor Square all seem to be more important than winning. I simply don’t get it! Can you explain? Thanks.

— Mark, Centennial

Mark, the media rarely gets to talk to Monfort, so it’s difficult for me to judge his feelings about Bridich. I would assume Monfort is unhappy with what’s gone on this season, and also with the idea that the pitching cupboard is pretty bare in the minors right now.

But I do know that Monfort is intensely loyal (maybe to a fault as he admitted to me in the past), and I would imagine that the Rockies’ playoff appearances in 2017-18 has bought Bridich some time. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but I think it’s the truth.

I have no problem with The Rooftop or McGregor Square. I think both help enhance the ballpark and LoDo experience. I think Monfort and his office have done an excellent job in regard to the ballpark experience.

Having said all of that, I understand hardcore Rockies fans’ frustration. The product on the field this season has been poor. Hopefully Bridich will address the media soon and we can ask him questions about what’s going on with the team.

Hey Patrick, you can tell Arenado seems frustrated right now with the state of the team. Also noticed how jacked up he gets playing at Dodgers Stadium and what he considers the best teams. Do you see him opting out of his deal?

If the answer is yes, the Rockies might have to consider trading him in 2021 to get something for him. Does he have a no-trade clause in his contract? Thanks.

— Mick, Byers

Mick, I have heard some fans say that Arenado regrets signing the contract, but I don’t think that’s true. Arenado and his agent had a certain contract number in mind and Rockies came through. And don’t forget that he’ll make $35 million next season.

And yes, Arenado has a full no-trade clause, so he controls his destiny.

Will he opt out after 2021? I honestly don’t know. If the Rockies continue to lose, then I do think he’s gone. But remember, injuries, money, the overall landscape of baseball and a new CBA will all factor into his decision.

Is Arenado frustrated with the Rockies’ record and overall play this season? Absolutely, but he told me recently that he’s come to realize that he can’t lift the team all by himself. I think his bad performance in July was due, in part, because he was stressing over the team’s awful play.

Lately, I think we’ve seen him freed up a bit. He realizes that the best thing he can do is play well and lead by example. Fretting over the direction of the team was not productive for him, so he cut loose some of that baggage.

Why in God’s name would we put Wade Davis to pitch in the ninth inning against the Cardinals on Thursday while we still had a chance to win? Honestly sometimes it looks like we’re throwing the game.

— Carole, Boulder

Carole, you know that manager Bud Black is not trying to throw the game, right? But this is a weird time of year. The Rockies have been out of playoff contention for more than a month now, so there is a lot of experimenting going on. That’s why we’re seeing Jairo Diaz and Carlos Estevez getting some much action at the end of games. The Rockies want to see how they react.

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The same goes for Davis. The Rockies owe him a lot of money ($17 million next year) and they need to know what they have in the right-hander. It’s frustrating, I know, but it’s the reality of September for a losing team.

Patrick, I was looking at some memorabilia I have in my office and got me thinking if you have anything cool, or special that you have on display. Keep up the good work.

— Tom, Highlands Ranch

Tom, thanks for the compliment. I’m sitting in my home office right now and here’s what I see:

My wife, Nancy, put together an amazing, framed display of a story I did on the Rockies’ Rocktober Streak in 2007. It’s got all sorts of World Series memorabilia within the display.
A bunch of bobbleheads, including the new one of German Marquez, which is maybe the best one yet.
A framed photo of Nancy and Tulo posing together during spring training in Tucson back in 2008.
A framed photo of me speaking at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017 when I was president of the BBWAA.
A number of baseballs that I picked up in the press box after I was nearly hit while covering games at Coors Field. I date those and put the name of the player on them. Included is one from Tulo, who nearly hit me with a ball of his bat. After the game, I said, “Tulo, did you see that your foul ball nearly hit me?” He quipped: “Yeah, but I was aiming for (Mark) Kiszla.” True story.
More baseball books than I will ever read.
A binder with most of the baseball cards printed in Todd Helton’s career.

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A framed photo of Helton being colorful during a photo session near the end of his career.
Patrick, I read your columns and articles regularly, because you are fairly direct about management’s and players’ shortcomings and you don’t shy away too much from making criticisms of Bridich. Could you please write a column on how your relations with your sources affect your writing? I think that would interest many of us who follow the Rockies.

As any moviegoer knows, coming attractions can be misleading. The same goes for September baseball for losing teams such as the Rockies.

In their 7-4 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday, Colorado flashed some enticing potential, but ultimately, the same old bugaboo reared its ugly head. Namely, the bullpen’s inability to put a game away. In other words, it was a bad sequel.

Colorado led 4-3 entering the ninth inning, but New York scored four runs on three walks and three hits off relievers Jairo Diaz and Joe Harvey. The key hits were delivered by pinch-hitter J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo and Todd Frazier. Pete Alonso earned an RBI by drawing a bases-loaded walk from Harvey. Diaz was charged with a blown save and a loss.

“(Jairo) just couldn’t seem to get his fastball and slider in good spots in the ninth inning,” Colorado manager Bud Black said.

As for his decision to go with Harvey, Black said: “We tried to bring a guy in who had some power to him and had some velocity against Alonso.”

In the waning days of the season, Black is mixing and matching relievers to see how they respond to late-game situations.

“These are growing pains for some of our younger-service-time players,” he said.

Colorado finished its penultimate homestand with a 6-3 record, though it ended on a sour note. The Rockies are 40-38 at home this season.

Some snippets from Wednesday’s matinee at Coors Field:

— Right-hander Jeff Hoffman, perhaps the biggest enigma in the rotation mix, limited the Mets to two runs on five hits over 5⅓ innings.

— Versatile rookie Garrett Hampson, starting at second base, flashed his speed and stole two bases. He has 11 thefts this season. He hit 1-for-4 on Wednesday and finished the homestand 12-for-27 (.444) with eight runs, one triple and one home run.

— Rookie outfielder Sam Hilliard slugged two solo home runs for his first multi-homer game and now has four blasts in 18 major-league games.

If Hoffman can harness his talent, he could be a huge asset to Colorado’s rotation next season. The right-hander relied heavily on his 92-94 mph fastball, mixing it in with some changeups to keep the Mets off-balance on a day when his curveball was not sharp.

“My curveball was probably the worst it’s been this year, and I couldn’t really find a release point,” Hoffman said.

His ability to make in-game adjustments and rely on his fastball and changeup was a step forward.

“That means that hopefully I’m growing a little bit,” he said. “I don’t know if that would have happened a year ago or maybe even a few months ago. To me, that means that the work we are putting in is in the right place.”

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Hoffman’s two big mistakes ended up in the seats. Jeff McNeil hit a curveball to right field for a solo homer in the first inning. Alonso slugged his 49th homer, a solo blast to left in the sixth, on Hoffman’s hanging curveball.

In his previous start, Hoffman issued a career-high six walks (one intentional). Wednesday, he walked only one, given up a free pass to Todd Frazier in the sixth inning, the final batter he faced.

Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard, pitching for the first time at Coors Field, gave up four runs 10 hits over 5⅔ innings. Hilliard showed some patience vs. Syndergaard.

“It’s coming with repetition and I’m starting to feel more comfortable,” Hilliard said. “I’m trying to be stubborn up there and look for my pitch.”

Tom, “sources” can be tricky, but they are necessary to my reporting. There have been many times through the years that players want to send a message to the front office or the fans, yet they don’t want to be quoted.

Of course it works the other way, too. Jeff Bridich or even media-friendly manager Bud Black won’t speak the whole truth, at least not on the record. As a reporter, I have to ask “background” questions to find out what’s really gone on.

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For example, if a player is on a terrific run statistically but has not really proven himself, I can go to Black and ask him, off the record, to critique that player. On camera and in stories, Black will almost always try to put a positive spin on things — it’s his way of publicly protecting his players -– but I can get a more truthful evaluation behind the scenes. Black is very good about that.

Let me add one more thing. I know fans criticize writers when we don’t “blast” players. Truth is, when you cover a big-league team, you can’t do that. I can be critical and tell the truth and voice my views from time to time, but if I start ripping the players constantly, I soon won’t have anyone to talk to in the clubhouse.

You have to remember that the clubhouse is their sanctuary and teammates treat each other like brothers. If players start believing all I do is write negative stories or if I betray the trust of one player, that news spreads quickly. Pretty soon, I wouldn’t have any sources left. Plus, there are already plenty of players who would prefer that reporters go away entirely. I think that feeling is becoming more and more prevalent.

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The New York Jets signed quarterback David Fales to back up Luke Falk for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, the team announced.

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The Jets (0-2) have been left to scramble at the quarterback position with starter Sam Darnold sidelined with mononucleosis. He missed Monday’s 23-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns and will miss Sunday’s game at New England as well. He said Tuesday during his weekly spot on ESPN New York’s The Michael Kay Show that he is feeling better and his goal is to return for the Jets’ Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Jets have a bye in Week 4.

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The New York Jets signed quarterback David Fales to back up Luke Falk for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, the team announced.

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The Jets (0-2) have been left to scramble at the quarterback position with starter Sam Darnold sidelined with mononucleosis. He missed Monday’s 23-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns and will miss Sunday’s game at New England as well. He said Tuesday during his weekly spot on ESPN New York’s The Michael Kay Show that he is feeling better and his goal is to return for the Jets’ Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Jets have a bye in Week 4.

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Jets’ Darnold feeling better; goal is Week 5 return

Jets’ Siemian lost for season; Darnold ‘better’
Trevor Siemian started Monday night’s game but was lost for the season when he suffered torn ligaments in his left ankle on a late hit by the Browns’ Myles Garrett. Falk, who had been elevated from the practice squad before that game, went 20-for-25 passing for 198 yards in relief and will start against the Patriots.

Siemian was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, which opened the spot on the active roster for Fales.

Fales, as well as Falk, played for Jets coach Adam Gase in Miami and are familiar with his offense. Fales last played in a regular-season game in 2017 with the Dolphins; he is 31-for-48 passing for 287 yards with one touchdown and one interception in three games in his career.

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Jets’ Siemian lost for season; Darnold ‘better’
Trevor Siemian started Monday night’s game but was lost for the season when he suffered torn ligaments in his left ankle on a late hit by the Browns’ Myles Garrett. Falk, who had been elevated from the practice squad before that game, went 20-for-25 passing for 198 yards in relief and will start against the Patriots.

Siemian was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, which opened the spot on the active roster for Fales.

Fales, as well as Falk, played for Jets coach Adam Gase in Miami and are familiar with his offense. Fales last played in a regular-season game in 2017 with the Dolphins; he is 31-for-48 passing for 287 yards with one touchdown and one interception in three games in his career.

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It was a momentous Wednesday night for round numbers at Minute Maid Park.

Three hundred strikeouts for Gerrit Cole, the first Astros pitcher to achieve that feat since Mike Scott in 1986.

Thirty home runs for Yuli Gurriel, the third man to 30 for an Astros team that continues to extend its franchise record for long balls.

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One hundred wins for the Astros, who clinched a playoff berth and reduced their magic number to two to clinch the American League West title in a 3-2 win over the Rangers.

For good measure, the win also gave the Astros a 9-0 record at home against the Rangers, who have been transformed from tormentors to marks in the Astros’ remarkable turnaround from three consecutive 100-loss seasons (2011-13) to three straight 100-win campaigns.
The Astros joined the Yankees (2002-04), Braves (1997-99), Orioles (1969-71), Cardinals (1942-44) and Philadelphia Athletics (1929-31) as the only MLB teams to win 100 games in three consecutive seasons.

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This signature win came in characteristic fashion for the 2019 Astros: overwhelming pitching, courtesy of Cole, who struck out nine in seven innings to run his season total to 302, and relentless power, with home runs from Gurriel and Jose Altuve to account for all three Houston runs.

Cole, who is 14-0 over his past 20 starts and has not lost since May 27, allowed six hits in eight innings and struck out 10 with one walk.

Rangers designated hitter Shin Soo-Choo was Cole’s eighth strikeout victim of the night and his 300th of the year to end the sixth inning. He added two more before giving way to closer Roberto Osuna in the ninth inning.

As the Minute Maid Park crowd rose to its feet to salute Cole as he reached 300, the righthander raised his gloved left hand in salute to each corner of the ballpark and tapped his right hand to his chest as he walked into the dugout.

For the second straight night, a member of one of the best pitching tandems in all baseball history overcame poor run support to get the Astros even closer to a playoff berth.

Tonight Gerrit Cole completed eight innings, allowed just two runs with six hits and a walk, and fanned ten Mall Cops. He surpassed 300 strikeouts, the only pitcher in the majors to break that threshold, and the first Astro since Mike Scott in 1986.

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Cole has thrown seven games in a row with 10 Ks or more, and a total of 19 for the season. He has now gone 20 games in a row without a loss, winning 14 of those games. During that streak he has had a 1.85 ERA, a WHIP of 0.82, and a phenomenal K% 40.3%. With that overpowering dominance, his BB% is only 5.9%, striking out almost 7 Xs as many batters as he has walked.
Rob Friedman
@PitchingNinja
Gerrit Cole, 99mph Fastball (foul) and 90mph back foot Slider (swinging K), Overlay with Tails.

Unfair.

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Here’s Cole acknowledging the fans after strikeout number 300.
Houston Astros

@astros
Witness history. @GerritCole45 x 300#TakeItBack

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The Astros were outhit by the Rangers 7-6, and left the bases loaded twice, but they got enough big hits to pull it out and hang on.

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Yuli Gurriel hit a two-run homer behind Yordan Alvarez’ single in the fifth to break a scoreless tie. It was his thirtieth home run, joining Alex Bregman and George Springer in the 30 club for the Astros. This is only the second Astros team to have three 30 home run players in a season.
Houston Astros

@astros
Add @el_yuly10 to the 30 HR club! #TakeItBack

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Jose Altuve’s home run in the 7th, a 400 foot+ monster to the opposite field, his 29th, leaves the Astros just one home run short of having a record four 30+ home run hitters.
AT&T SportsNet SW
@ATTSportsNetSW
ASTROS SWEEP THE RANGERS!

I don’t care what the records are.
I don’t care it was a 2 game series.
That is fun to say.
You know what?
I’m gonna say it again.

ASTROS SWEEP THE RANGERS!
ASTROS SWEEP THE RANGERS!
ASTROS SWEEP THE RANGERS!#Astros Post Game is starting right now!

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But more importantly, the Astros won their 100th game tonight, their 3rd season in a row to reach that level. Only five other teams have had that many consecutive 100 game seasons.

Furthermore, the Astros clinched at least a Wild-Card berth, and their magic number to clinch the AL West is only two games. With a Yankees loss tonight, the Astros are now one game ahead of the Yankees for home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. They are also a game and a half in front of the Dodgers.

The Astros are off tomorrow, before taking on the Angels for three games this weekend.

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The Rangers, however, did not go down quietly. Trailing 2-0, Willie Calhoun singled in the seventh, went to third on a base hit by Danny Santana and scored on Astros catcher Martin Maldonado’s throwing error as Santana stole second. Cole, however, retired Nick Solak on a groundout and Roughned Odor on a fly out to end the inning.

Altuve’s seventh-inning home run gave Houston a 3-1 lead, but the Rangers got the run back on Ronald Guzman’s leadoff homer in the top of the eighth.

Cole allowed a one-out single to Jose Trevino and walked Choo but struck out Elvis Andrus and retired Calhoun on a liner to right to quell the threat and wrap up his night.

Osuna allowed a hit and a walk in the ninth but struck out Odor and got Guzman to hit into a double play to end the game.

The Astros had baserunners in each of the first five innings and loaded the bases in the second and third but came up empty each time against lefthander Kolby Allard (4-1), who walked four through five innings with no consequences.

In the second, Gurriel walked with two out and went to third when Rangers third baseman Solak overthrew second attempting to force Gurriel on a grounder by Aledmys Diaz. Maldonado walked to load the bases, but George Springer grounded out to end the inning.

In the third, Michael Brantley, who drew a first-inning walk, was hit by a pitch with one out and moved up a base on an Alex Bregman base hit. Gurriel reached with two out when Solak couldn’t handle his sharply hit grounder to third, but Kyle Tucker flied out to end the inning.

The Astros finally broke through in the fifth with a two-out base hit by Yordan Alvarez and Gurriel’s home run into the Crawford Boxes.

While the Astros struggled at the plate, their defense again came through for Cole in the early innings.

Tucker, who got the start in right field, leaped at the wall to take a home run away from Scott Heineman in the third inning.

In the fourth, Tucker tracked down Calhoun’s base hit down the first base line as it bounced off the right field wall, uncorking a high throw that shortstop Bregman dragged down in time to tag out Calhoun.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are not likely going to win a ton of games in the 2019-20 season with their primary focus on player development. Here’s how they’ll stack up against their division this year.
In a stark contrast to the narrative surrounding the team initially going into the 2018-19 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ primary focus in 2019-20 is going to be player development.

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After starting horribly and with a ton of reported injuries to players such as Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, though, and many more that followed, Cleveland did seem to shift toward initiating a full-rebuild early on in 2018-19, and unlike going into last season when the team wanting to compete for the postseason, 2019-20 will be predicated on getting a bunch of young players big minutes.

The Cavs have a new head coach in John Beilein with a good track record of turning programs around, such as in his last gig at Michigan, but Beilein as KJG contributors have referenced often, does not have any coaching experience at the NBA level, and not even in an assistant role (though he’s never actually been an assistant coach, anyhow, and has been a winner at all other levels).

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After how they performed last season, it appears that Collin Sexton (second on Cleveland in scoring among qualified players with 16.7 points per game, per NBA.com) and Cedi Osman (a steady 13.0 points and 4.7 assists per game) project as key young pieces in the coming years for the Cavaliers.

Larry Nance Jr. also cemented himself as one of the team’s best contributors, too, as he had career-bests in points (9.4), rebounds (8.2), assists (3.2) and steals (1.5) in his largest workload of his tenure in the NBA to that point with 26.8 minutes per game (per Basketball Reference).

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At this point, he projects as a likely starter now in the 2019-20 season, too, according to Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor, and with Nance’s playmaking ability (he led qualified players on Cleveland last year in assists per game, per NBA.com), and improved three-point shooting (33.7% from deep), his production I’d think could go up again.

Cleveland’s three 2019 NBA Draft selections in Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr. should have plenty of minutes-share in their rookie seasons, too, and I’d think they should all make their presence felt as factors in the Central Division as next year progresses.

Cleveland’s division has some very tough matchups for the young Cavs in the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, and a team that could be on the rise if they can put it together in the Chicago Bulls.

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We’ll start with how the Cavaliers stack up against Chicago in 2019-20 first.

Best Case
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): So let’s say Dellavedova’s shot looks better this year as his form indicates from over the summer. This makes him a little bit better as an off-ball shooter and allows him to function well around Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, as he can play without the ball and also defend. He also can be a key locker room presence — as he was last year — for a very young team that needs some veteran voices around. He, along with Tristan Thompson, feels like the guy best suited for a leadership role on a bad team.

Justin Rowan (@cavsanada): Delly’s improved release helps him regain his effectiveness as an NBA player. The catapult appears to be a thing of the past, meaning he could again have some value as a shooter. He’s a third string point guard and a good locker room presence. He could POSSIBLY fetch something as an expiring contract. But with so many other expiring deals on the Cavs that provide some value on court, he’s probably the last to be moved.

David Zavac (@DavidZavac): On a team like this, if Delly’s your fourth guard I think you could do a lot worse. Having him around in practice to challenge Garland and Sexton feels valuable on some level, and they’ll never have to deal with the ridiculous talk Kyrie did that Delly is somehow a better player/fit for the Cavs. He may not have the championship cache that Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson do, but he was there all the same. The best case scenario is that he stays healthy, and stays on the Cavs, regardless of how he plays. If he makes some threes in the meantime, great.

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Worst Case
CM: Delly’s altered shot doesn’t result in anything meaningful, and it means he’s not really helping with off-ball shooting as much as ideal. At the same time, injuries mount up as they have the last few years and it limits how much he’s actually pushing the young guys in practice and how often he’s actually around the team day-to-day helping out and mentoring the young guys. His health, more than being traded or just not getting minutes, feels like the biggest barrier to him being helpful during the 2019-20 season.

JR: Low ceiling comes with a low floor. The worst case scenario is that Delly can’t stay healthy and therefore is unable to at least help push guys in practice. After a season of few to no contributions he walks for nothing and that’s the end of the second era of Delly in Cleveland.

DZ: He can’t get past a string of the injuries that have seemed to linger for him over the last few years, and he’s not available to the team. The Cavs don’t trade Jordan Clarkson or Brandon Knight, so his minutes are few and far between anyway. He finds himself as a bubble NBA player in free agency in 10 months.

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The Milwaukee Bucks are always looking to upgrade their roster which means that these three players might be in danger of not finishing the season in Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Bucks have real championship aspirations heading into the 2019-20 NBA season. That couldn’t be said at the beginning of last season, as nobody knew exactly what this team was about to turn into. However, they surprised everyone by winning 60 regular season games and losing out in the Eastern Conference Finals.

This time around, they’ll begin the year with those aspirations and hold onto them for the entire length of the season. Because of those goals, general manager Jon Horst will be constantly looking to upgrade his team. He showed he wasn’t shy to pull the trigger on smaller moves when the Bucks traded a trio of second-round picks for Nikola Mirotic near the trade deadline.

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We can’t rule out another trade this time around as well. There are also ways Milwaukee could clear roster spots despite having a full group of guys at this time. Let’s take a peek at three players who might not finish their 2019-20 season with the Bucks.

Dragan Bender
Bender is the most likely to be cut heading into the season, or at any point, really. He has a non-guaranteed contact with a bunch of trigger dates throughout the season. If the Bucks like another veteran who has been released at any point, they can always waive Bender and go get that veteran. Bender is most likely to be cut right before the beginning of the season and around the trade deadline when veterans are negotiating buyouts with their original clubs.

Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe and the Bucks agreed to a contract extension in March that extended him for at least three more years with the fourth year being mostly non-guaranteed. However, he put up a dud for the second straight postseason and is labeled as a huge liability for this team. Horst may not be actively shopping Bledsoe, but he would likely move him at a chance for a point guard who can better space the floor and play around Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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NEXT: Bucks: 3 things Eric Bledsoe needs to be an All-Star
Ersan Ilyasova
Ilyasova technically has one more year remaining on his contract after this season, but it’s mostly non-guaranteed. That makes him attractive in trade offers near the deadline and Milwaukee could look to move him if they can upgrade their roster. D.J. Wilson is waiting in the wings and proved he could handle himself as part of the rotation last year. If Wilson takes another step forward this season, it could make Ilyasova even more expendable.

Kevin Durant may have left town, but the Warriors might not be done “ruining the NBA,” according to an ESPN report.

Should Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo become a free agent in 2021, the Warriors are “a big threat” to sign the NBA’s most recent MVP and create another super team, Ramona Shelbourne said Monday on “The Jump.”

Milwaukee has said it will offer the super max (five years, $247 million) to Antetokounmpo as a means of keeping the three-time All-Star who just led the Bucks to the NBA’s best record. However, there may be reasons to believe he could look toward the Bay Area to play with Stephen Curry, with whom he’s developed a friendship with off the floor.
“The one team lurking out there — I don’t know how this would happen — but the Warriors have always been the big threat to go after Giannis,” Shelbourne said. “It would be a difficult construction to make happen, but that is the one looming threat.”

Those into reading the tea leaves will point out Antetokounmpo shares the same agency as Curry and, when making the first pick for the NBA All-Star draft, the 6-foot-11 Milwaukee star selected Curry. Two years ago, it was Curry who grabbed “The Greek Freak” with his first pick as an All-Star captain.

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In addition, the small-market Bucks may have hurt their chances of re-signing Antetokounmpo with a controversial trade this summer. Bucks general manager Jon Horst admitted the team traded restricted free agent and former Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers partly because of a desire to avoid paying the NBA’s luxury tax. Faced with a decision of matching Brogdon’s four-year, $85 million offer sheet, the Bucks dealt a core starter for a first-round pick and two second-round picks.

If Antetokounmpo is looking to play for a team that will pay whatever it costs in order to win a championship, he needs only to look at the team opening a new arena with three recent NBA championship banners hanging in it.

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Of course, with a salary cap, there are always going to be financial obstacles to overcome before squeezing multiple All-Stars onto a roster. The Warriors did it to bring in Durant and they would certainly have to get creative if acquiring Antetokounmpo becomes a serious possibility.
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With Curry aboard and after re-signing All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Golden State’s payroll for 2021-22 ($156.7 million) is projected to be the third-highest in the NBA, according to Spotrac. Reports indicate the salary cap will be around $125 million next off-season, with a luxury tax threshold of $151 million. Antetokounmpo won’t be a fit financially unless the Warriors dealt one or two contracts from the likes of Thompson ($38 million), D’Angelo Russell ($30 million) or Green ($24 million).

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“It comes down to what kind of guy is Giannis? What does he want his legacy to be?” Shelbourne said. “Is he the kind of guy who stays with one team his entire career and tries to bring a championship to Milwaukee or does he pull a Kevin Durant and go join a group of super friends?”

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The wait for hockey is over! The Senators start their six game preseason schedule against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5:30pm Eastern puck drop from the Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Yesterday, the Senators announced the roster that is making the trip to The Rock.

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Roster update: The #Sens have released a 25-man roster ahead of Tuesday’s pre-season game against Toronto in St. John’s, N.L.

Mise à jour alignement : Les #Sens ont publié leur alignement de 25 joueurs en vue du match préparatoire de mardi contre Toronto à St. John’s (T.-N.-L.)

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Here’s what the lineups were this morning before they got on the plane, courtesy TSN1200.

Duclair – Pageau – Batherson
Balcers – Tierney – Rodewald
Abramov – Norris – Formenton
Kelly – Beaudin – Scherwey

Brannstron – DeMelo
Englund – Goloubef
Lajoie – Ebert
No word on the goaltenders.

Game Notes
Typical for the first preseason game, there’s not much NHL experience on that roster. Nine of the 25 participated in rookie camp
None of the former Leafs players are on tonight’s roster either
Erik Brannstrom probably will draw the most attention from Sens fans out of today’s lineup, and probably has a better chance to stick around given Wolanin’s injury
Expect a bit more star power in tomorrow’s “rematch” in Ottawa (is it still a rematch when there probably won’t be any overlap in the rosters between the two games?)
The Maple Leafs also announced their roster for today. Marner and Tavares are in the lineup, but no Matthews or Nylander
Jason Spezza is the only former Senator in the Leafs lineup tonight, but it sounds like Babcock might not be too high on him. I like Spezza too much to take joy from this disconnect between Leafs management and coaching
No stats summary because it’s the first game of preseason

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ST. JOHN’S, N.L.— Connor Brown will have to play the waiting game to face his old teammates.

Fortunately, he won’t have to wait long.

While the newly-acquired winger won’t face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the pre-season opener at the Mile One Arena here Tuesday night, he should be in the lineup Wednesday in the second game of this back-to-back series at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Brown has a chance to make his mark with his new teammates and the belief is he’ll make an impact.
Connor Brown, as a Toronto Maple Leaf Claus Andersen / Getty Images

With general manager Pierre Dorion, coach D.J. Smith and the staff trying to figure out where everybody fits, the answers to those questions will begin Tuesday night when the Senators open the exhibition schedule against the Leafs.

Among those with a chance to play a big role for the Senators this season is the 25-year-old Brown. Acquired from the Leafs in the deal that brought defenceman Nikita Zaitsev here July 1 and sent Cody Ceci to Toronto, Brown has the chance to be in an offensive role with the Senators and he’s shown in the past he’s got plenty of skill.

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While he finished with eight goals and 29 points in 82 games with Toronto last season, Brown is only two years removed from a 20-goal campaign with the Leafs in 2016-17. He has been on the top line with Colin White and Brady Tkachuk during camp and there’s belief this is a group that’s going to be given every opportunity to find chemistry.

Brown feels he can play a big role in helping the Senators get where they want to be.

“Anywhere you play you want to cement yourself as a core guy,” Brown said in an interview during camp. “That’s what I’m going to try to do here and I’m going to do my best to fit in.”

Brown’s role had changed under Toronto coach Mike Babcock and it was a big reason why he was part of the deal to the Senators. Smith, who spent the last four years in the Leafs’ organization, feels if Brown is given the right role then he can be an offensive player for this team and also be responsible at both ends of the ice.

He could read the situation and felt his days with the Leafs may be numbered because he’s making $2.1 million this season with Toronto trying to make room to sign restricted free agent Mitch Marner.

“I was at a wedding so it was a bit of a shock but I did think that something might be coming and I didn’t think my future in Toronto was cemented or certain,” he said. “I knew with the salary cap going on there, and just with the kind of role I was being used in, I knew that I was the kind of guy that would have been easier to move.

“I was honest with myself and honest about the situation so I wasn’t too shocked.”

Given the fact the Senators are going young — and Brown isn’t old by any stretch of the imagination — his three years of experience are certainly going to help.

“It’s a little bit (of a fresh start),” Brown said. “I just think I was playing a different role in Toronto with the type of players they have up the middle and with all the offence they have. I was on the penalty kill and trying to be as defensive-minded as possible playing against some of the better guys on offensive teams.

“Hopefully this year I expand the offensive side of my game.”

Brown feels there could be a fit long-term with White and Tkachuk.

“Those guys are really easy to play with,” Brown said. “Both are really good players. We’ll continue to build. I think we’re all pretty keen and we enjoy playing with each other. That’s the first step.”

Of course, Brown is well aware the position the Senators are in with young players learning on a nightly basis. There was no shortage of expectations with the Leafs, but those don’t exist here. People want the Senators to be competitive and take a step in the right direction this season.

“In Toronto, we felt we were a Cup contender and it’s a little different here being in a bit of a rebuild,” Brown said. “I’ve gotten accustomed to the team and the kind of guys we have in the system and the way we want to play. I think we’ll be a lot better than people think.”

The adjustment has been easy for Brown.

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“You always think when you see everybody around you getting traded it’s going to be you and now it comes,” said Brown. “It’s going to be a good opportunity for me here. I fit in well with the guys, everybody seems to get along and there’s a good group in there. I’m just excited to get it going.”

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Twitter: @sungarrioch

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The Senators will bring 25 players to St. John’s to face the Maple Leafs in the pre-season opener.

Here’s the roster:

Goalies

31 Anders Nilsson

34 Joey Daccord

35 Marcus Hogbeg

Defence

2 Dylan DeMelo

23 Nick Ebert

26 Erik Brannstrom

29 Cody Goloubef

39 Andreas Englund

46 Hubert Labrie

50 Maxence Gunette

58 Max Lajoie

Forwards

10 Anthony Duclair

19 Drake Batherson

37 Josh Norris

38 Rudolfs Balcers

44 Jean-Gabriel Pageau

45 Parker Kelly

47 Mark Kastelic

53 Jack Rodewald

55 Morgan Klimchuk

59 Alex Formenton

64 J.C. Beaudin

71 Chris Tierney

85 Vitaly Abramov

93 Tristan Scherway

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Atlanta Braves Country got some updates about Charlie Culberson on Sunday and with it came a sad note but for the most part, should be happy with the results.
As most of you have heard by now, Atlanta Braves Charlie Culberson was hit in the face with a 90-mph fastball while pinch-hitting during Saturday’s game.

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It was during a bunt attempt against Washington Nationals Fernando Rodney and it was just a gruesome outcome.

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Scary moment: Charlie Culberson just got hit in the face with a pitch after squaring up to bunt.

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Coaches and medical staff (from both the Braves and Nationals) rushed over while Culberson laid on the ground in pain.

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Ron Washington tried to comfort him while some of the other players kneeled.

When he was finally able to get up and helped onto a cart, you can see blood on the ground while the Braves doctor held a towel (maybe with ice) to Culberson’s face.

He did give a thumbs up to Rodney as he rolled away with a standing ovation from the crowd.

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Fast forward to the 1:37 mark to see a manager who cares for his players.

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There wasn’t much of an update post-game but manager Brian Snitker said that he was told Culberson was at least alert when they arrived to the hospital.

On Sunday, the Atlanta Braves released a statement with some positive news.

Culberson only suffered multiple facial fractures in the right cheek area and was cleared to travel back to Atlanta and meet with team doctors there.

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The Atlanta Braves didn’t announce any roster moves nor placed Culberson on the IL, that could come Tuesday when they start another series against the Phillies at home.
After Sunday’s game, Snitker said they got word that he won’t need surgery for the fractures which is really good news, however, that came with the fact that Culberson will be done for the season.

Even before this announcement, it was pretty safe to assume that would be the expectation for an injury like that.

That will be another major blow to the Atlanta Braves bench, the second this week after Johan Camargo went down with a shin fracture from a foul ball.

The “hybrid platoon” bench at this point is Rafael Ortega, Matt Joyce, Francisco Cervelli, Brian McCann, Tyler Flowers, Billy Hamilton, Adeiny Hechavarría, Adam Duvall, and Austin Riley.

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There is a chance that Camargo could recover in time as the Braves are saying it’s minor enough to treat it as a bruise.
Culberson is the Brave’s nominee for the 2019 Roberto Clement Award and after seeing how the staff and team was fired up for him and what they said about him on Saturday should add to his case.

Here’s to a quick and healthy recovery, Charlie!

NEXT: The Braves Bullpen Will Still Have The Good Cards Next Season
The Atlanta Braves rallied to win 10-1 on Saturday and clinched a playoff berth but dropped Sunday’s series finale seven-nil.

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With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Atlanta Braves are closing in on a second straight NL East division title. The Dodgers wrapped up the NL west long ago but the rest of the NL playoff picture is less certain. The Cardinals enter play on Monday with a two-game edge in the central and five teams are within 4.5 games of each other in the wild card.

So with that info, today’s off day discussion topic is. Who do you want to see make the playoffs? What is the ideal matchups for the Braves?

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Julio Jones, the star Atlanta Falcons receiver, hit 20 mph during his dash to the end zone on Sunday, giving his team a wild 24-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

DREW BREES GIVES HEALTH UPDATE

“I’m looking around and, OK, it’s a footrace now,” Jones said. “That was it. It really wasn’t like I had to try hard or anything like that. I just had to stay on course.”

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Julio Jones hit a staggering 20 MPH on that catch-and-run for six.#NextGenStats, powered by @awscloud

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Jones crossed over the goal line and kept right on going, disappearing down the tunnel. He finished with five catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns, also hauling in a 4-yard score that gave the Falcons their 11-point lead early in the third quarter.

Doug Pederson held his day-after press conference on Monday following the Eagles’ Sunday night loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Philadelphia’s head coach didn’t offer much in the way of injury updates, unfortunately, but he did touch on a number of topics worth addressing here.

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Crossing out plays
Pederson was asked about how much losing Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Dallas Goedert early in the game changed the offensive game plan. You might be able to guess the answer!

If affects it. It affects it a lot. If you were to look at my call sheet this morning, you would see a lot of scratch-outs on plays and different things.

One thing that I said after the game, too, is with [Eagles offensive coordinator] Mike Groh, [Eagles offensive line/run game coordinator] Jeff Stoutland, and the offensive staff making the adjustments we needed to make and coaching those young guys up, Mack Hollins, J.J. [Arcega-Whiteside]. And what’s interesting, if you watch the game as we did this morning, I mean, Zach [Ertz] is telling guys where to go. Nelly [Nelson Agholor] is telling — we’re moving guys. Our pieces are moving and we’re putting guys in positions that didn’t practice in those positions during the week and still had a chance at the end of the game. Took the lead and had a chance.

My hat’s off to those guys for hanging in there.

I don’t know about you but I still can’t get over how ridiculous it is that the Eagles essentially lost Jeffery, Jackson, and Goedert — a trio that combined for 15 receptions, 221 yards, and four touchdowns in Week 1 — in PREGAME WARMUPS. None of these guys were on the injury report leading up to Sunday night. And it’s not even like they got hurt over the course of the game, which is to be expected from such a dangerous sport. Three key offensive starters getting hurt while jogging around on the field before the game is an entirely new level of bad luck.
John Clark

@JClarkNBCS
I’m told DeSean Jackson & Alshon Jeffery did not feel comfortable pregame. Dallas Goedert had calf issue pregame, didnt play at all. You dont want calf to pop

Alshon Jeffery played 6 snaps with calf. DeSean Jackson 11 snaps with groin

I’m told DeSean is hoping to play Sunday

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A key feature of the Eagles’ offense heading into 2019 was their ability to use two different personnel packages: 11 (three wide receivers) and 12 (two tight ends). They have the talent to be an effective offense from either deployment, which isn’t something every team can claim.

Losing Goedert immediately took 12 personnel off the board on Sunday night. Now, the Eagles deserve some blame for not being better prepared to handle an injury at tight end since Goedert and Zach Ertz are the only two players at their position on the 53-man roster. The team did have Alex Ellis as a third tight end for Week 1 but they waived him in order to promote cornerback Craig James from the practice squad. Pederson explained that decision:

We had confidence in our two tight ends. We went in with a game plan of executing with a lot of the play-action pass game with two tight ends, the run game with two tight ends. It just felt comfortable with both guys.

And then in our 11-personnel, having Zach and Dallas working there. And then just having the extra DB just available on special teams and then if needed in the secondary, just keeping that extra guy out.

It’s also difficult to blame injuries and injuries alone for the team’s slow start considering they had the worst first quarter scoring offense in the NFL last year and had zero first quarter points in Week 1 this season.

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Still, Pederson has a valid gripe. It’s not like the Eagles had much time to game plan knowing they weren’t going to have Jeffery, Jackson, and Goedert. The coaching staff had to make major adjustments on the fly. And despite this, they were still in good position to win the game if not for Nelson Agholor’s egregiously dropping a go-ahead touchdown pass.

Injuries happen in the NFL. It’s the nature of the game. What happened in Atlanta, though? That’s just not normal. How do you possibly prepare for losing three key starters in warmups?

Taking accountability
Kudos to Pederson for taking the blame for the Eagles’ slow starts.

Q. Slow starts were prevalent last year, when you self-scouted last off-season, what did you find was the No. 1 reason for not scoring points in the first quarter, and how have you tried to address that this year?

DOUG PEDERSON: I just have to find the magical plays.

Q. Do you think it’s plays or is it more execution?

DOUG PEDERSON: It’s always the plays. That’s on me. I have to do a better job.

The plays aren’t the only issue. Execution could afford to better. But Pederson made the right call to put it on himself and not on his players. He even threw the “better job” Andy Reid-ism in there.

Now actually go fix it, Doug. It’s overdue.

Not sticking with the run game
It was disappointing to see the Eagles struggle to run the ball effectively against an Atlanta defense that ranked 32nd in opponent yards per carry in 2018 and struggled again in Week 1 this year. Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard combined for just 46 yards on 18 carries (2.6 average). Their longest runs on the night? Five yards each.

Pederson discussed how the absence of 12 personnel hurt the Eagles’ running game:

Q. What was the biggest reason why you went away from the run? Was it Dallas Goedert’s absence, the way the game was playing out, a combination of both?

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DOUG PEDERSON: A little bit of both. We struggled to run the ball, something we kind of pride ourselves on. Last week, I might have mentioned that we were going to face a much better Atlanta Falcon defense than we saw in week one. That’s just — this is the NFL and a lot of pride on that side and they are well-coached.

So we knew that going into this football game. We were going to try to run and try to establish it and we struggled a little bit there. We have to make those corrections.

That’s a big part, too, with a lot of the personnel changes, with tight ends and things like that, that got us a little bit away from it. I’m not going to make an excuse, but it does affect it just a little bit.

Praise for Carson Wentz
A big theme following Sunday’s loss was Eagles players having respect for Wentz nearly willing the team to victory despite less than ideal circumstances. Pederson similarly praised the team’s starting quarterback:

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On Monday afternoon, while walking home from work, I found myself doing something that automatically—acutely—made me question my own sanity, which is to say that I found myself listening to the radio broadcast of a game between the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers.

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There was a superficially satisfying answer to the question of why I would have voluntarily done this to myself: It was the only game on. The 4:10 p.m. ET start was Monday’s only afternoon contest. There was no other baseball, and I wasn’t particularly interested in pursuing either the minor self-betterment of an educational podcast or the mild dread of a half-hour inside my own mind. I was going to listen to afternoon baseball. But this answer was, again, only satisfying in a very shallow sense. Sure, it was the only game. But it was still the 2019 Orioles (49-100) against the 2019 Tigers (44-104) (!) on September 16. It was the sort of game that seems to exist primarily as a prompt for the question of why baseball exists at all; as an affront to the very idea of decency; as proof positive for the belief that nothing really matters. That Baltimore and Detroit were even allowed to play in late September felt fundamentally absurd, or, at least, worthy of some kind of trial at the Hague.

It was also very lovely.

It was a classic example of the baseball often described as “meaningless”; that’s in direct contrast to the baseball described as “meaningful,” which is, generally, baseball with postseason ramifications. It’s a convenient shorthand—widely understood and plainly useful. But it’s built on a very particular idea of “meaning.” It’s meaning that can be derived only from winning. This is the most obvious kind of meaning. It’s the objective, macro, big-picture kind. It’s self-explanatory. It’s just not the only kind that’s out there.

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Monday’s Orioles-Tigers game was not good—not in the sense that the term is typically used in Major League Baseball, anyway. (This is another kind of meaning; it’s aesthetic, or statistical, depending on your personal standard for “good” baseball, but either way, this game was not that.) Yet nor was it bad. It was baseball. There was a two-run home run in the first inning. Both sides went down one-two-three in the second. I listened to the radio broadcast describe a foul ball clanking off an empty seat in the upper deck, and I noticed the sun turn to the kind of golden haze special to the window between late summer and early fall. I listened to advertisements for schools, medical centers, the lottery. Miguel Cabrera jogged out a soft grounder to first, and I tried not to think about aging. The broadcast discussed the afternoon’s “Bark in the Park” event. (Such well-behaved puppies!) Both teams called to the bullpen. Rio Ruiz pinch hit for Richie Martin; Baltimore’s infield juggled itself to accommodate him. There was a lazy pop-up, a slow grounder, a double nearly stretched into a triple—a 12-pitch at-bat between Anthony Santander and Buck Farmer. Trey Mancini debated balls and strikes, because he cared, because how couldn’t he? The crowd buzzed a steady static noise. They stood and cheered for the final at-bat.

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The Tigers won, 5-2. It mattered as much as a game between baseball’s two worst teams can matter in September—which is to say, not at all, in any technical sense, unless you’re particularly concerned about the potential draft order for next year. But this technical sense is the objective, macro, big-picture sense. This technical sense may be why professional baseball exists as an enormously profitable business, but it is not why baseball exists. And, of course, there is no one clear answer to that second question—but whatever there is, it’s probably closer to the texture of a game between two terrible teams on September 16 than it is to anything else.

When I miss baseball in the winter, I do not miss the postseason. I do not miss the highlights, I do not miss the debates over who will deserve the Cy Young, I do not miss anything that seems as if it is meant to be remembered. I miss the cadence of games. I miss MLB’s copyright disclaimer on broadcasts. I miss background noise. I miss the Orioles versus the Tigers on September 16.

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Listening to Monday’s game between the Orioles and Tigers was not an especially productive use of time; there was nothing efficient, or instructive, or beneficial in it. There was no point. And it was great: It meant something.

The Orioles announced a series of front office moves Monday, headlined by the hiring of Matt Blood as the team’ new director of player development. Blood has worked previously as the director of player development and baseball innovations with the Rangers and as an area scout in the Cardinals organization. In his new role, Blood “will spearhead staff recruitment, technology programs, and player development strategies throughout the minor leagues,” the Orioles announced.

“Matt has an unrivaled network when it comes to identifying up-and-coming talent, and his his knowledge of the latest trends in the player development sphere will help to keep us on the forefront of this critical area,” general manager Mike Elias said of Blood.

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Baltimore also announced several internal promotions. Mike Snyder, who’d previously served as the team’s director of Pacific Rim operations, has been named the Orioles’ new director of pro scouting. Assistant director of scouting Brad Ciolek has been named the team’s new supervisor of domestic scouting operations. Baseball systems developer Di Zou has been named manager of baseball systems and “will continue to assume a growing role in building out the Orioles’ digital workspaces and analytics capabilities.” Scouting administrator Hendrik Herz and baseball ops assistant Chad Tatum have been appointed to the newly created roles of scouting analysts, wherein they will “evaluate amateur players for the draft using video, data and in-person evaluations.”