Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ryu Ks 9 Phillies as Dodgers Complete Sweep

LOS ANGELES -- Hyun-Jin Ryu strikes out nine batters and Andrew Toles powers the Los Angeles Dodgers' offense on a sunny Sunday afternoon to complete a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies with a 5-3 win.

Ryu won his first game after coming up empty in his previous five starts to begin the season. In fact, due to missing the last two seasons with elbow and shoulder injuries, Ryu had not won a game in 973 days.

"Today is definitely a milestone for me just because it's been almost a thousand days since I had a W," said Ryu through an interpreter. "I'm looking to build on from this moment and always try to put the team in a position where we can win... It's been a difficult road but now that I am here and I actually got my first win, I am very happy."

When Cesar Hernandez opened the game with a triple to deep right then scored on a Freddy Galvis single, Ryu could have lost confidence and let his struggles continue but he did not. He immediately settled down and retired eight consecutive batters, 12 out of the next 13 overall, to keep the visitors at bay.

Offensively, the Dodgers got on base eight times in the first three innings against Phillies' starter Nick Pivetta, who was making his Major League Baseball debut, but were only able to score two runs in the early innings. Toles led the game off with a double for the Dodgers and advanced to third on Cody Bellinger's infield single. Then the hot hitting Justin Turner followed with an RBI single, which extended his hitting streak to 16 games.

"You try to put good innings together every inning and scratch out as many runs as you can," said Justin Turner.

Enrique Hernandez hit a solo home run in the second inning to give the blue a 2-1 lead. However, the Dodgers failed to do much else through five innings. Fortunately, two runs were all the Dodgers needed for Ryu to be comfortable in the best outing of his comeback season. In the sixth inning, Daniel Nava was Ryu's ninth strikeout victim. Dodger Manager Dave Roberts then brought in the bullpen after 93 pitches.

"He threw the ball well," said Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts. "The pitching mix was good. The change was good. We could have tried to get him through that sixth right there. But I thought it was a real good outing for Hyun-Jin."

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Toles hit a two-out, three-run bomb to right center to give the Dodgers a 5-1 lead and some breathing room to try to close the game out.
"Andrew is fun to watch," said Roberts. "He doesn't scare from a big spot. He just wants to help us win. And today, that three-run homer was huge.

"He's still a young player in the big leagues and not knowing the entire league but really not caring. He's just going out there and competing, trying to put together at bats, playing defense, and trying to help us win baseball games."

It was Toles' fifth home run of the season, which tied him for the team lead with Corey Seager. Toles' career high thus far had been seven home runs, which was in the minors. Prior to the game, Toles was consulting with Turner on his swing mechanics.

"The guy can hit, he can flat hit. We saw it last year," Turner exclaimed. "Even the outs that he's making, he's hitting rockets all over the place. We all know how strong of a guy he is. When you swing at good pitches in the zone, they tend to go a long way."

The Phillies added two runs in the top of the ninth inning when Obudel Herrera sent a Grant Dayton pitch deep to right center with two outs. Kenley Jensen was summoned to record the final out.
The Dodgers have now won four straight games, which is their longest streak of the early season. They next host the San Francisco Giants for a series that opens Monday night with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NFL Draft’s Next Dak: Chad Kelly?

Chad Kelly could be steal of the draft
The 2017 NFL Draft is fast approaching and some teams are working overtime while trying to find their franchise quarterback. The Dallas Cowboys found their key to the future in Dak Prescott with its fourth round draft pick in 2016.  Prescott was highly rated as a National Player of the Year Candidate heading into the 2015 season for Mississippi State and finished the season as a finalist for a plethora of top player awards; he also was named the 2016 Senior Bowl MVP. Leading up to the draft, Prescott had a 2nd-round grade by most scouts but his draft stock slipped when he arrested for DUI weeks before the draft. Due to the off field infraction, many teams passed on him and he became a low-risk choice by the Cowboys and the rest is history.

The NFL Combine showcases many of the top quarterbacks hoping to be selected in the first round or to have instant success like Prescott but one quarterback who wasn't a participant was University of Mississippi's Chad Kelly, mainly because the NFL decided to take a hard stance on players who have gotten into off field trouble. He likely would have still missed showing off in front of scouts because he tore his ACL in an early November game. Kelly was cleared by doctors and was scheduled for abbreviated action during the Ole Miss Pro Day, however, he aggravated a wrist injury and had to cut his workout short. He'll get one more chance to show his abilities to scouts April 22, just five days before the start of the NFL draft.

Kelly, just like Prescott, has great mobility and had much success during his one full season while playing for a school in Mississippi and was on many preseason watch lists for awards but that's where the comparisons should end. Prescott was perceived to be a risk because of character issues but teams didn't due their due diligence and got it wrong. Kelly, on the other hand, has a track record stemming from his high school days to being dismissed from Clemson to getting into a skirmish during an Ole Miss off week while watching his kid brother's high school football game, which was probably the reason the league rescinded its invitation. On the field, Prescott is known for making smart decisions but has limitations when trying to throw downfield. Kelly has no such limitations; he's actually known to have one of the better arms in this draft class.

Due to injury and character concerns, it's likely that Kelly won't be drafted before the sixth round, if at all. But one team that should be considering adding Kelly to the fold is the Kansas City Chiefs because head coach Andy Reid has gotten all that he can out of Alex Smith aka check down Charlie. Smith lacks the ability to push the ball down the field but he's accurate enough to help Kansas City get to another 10-win season, but certainly, they are looking to be more than also-rans. This is the perfect situation for Kelly; he can learn under the quarterback gurus Reid and Brad Childress and watch how Smith prepares. During practices, Reid will salivate at the quarterback with the strongest arm he's had at his disposal since Donovan McNab.

By most accounts, this upcoming draft doesn't have a signal caller who's ready to lead an NFL team out the gate. Maybe because they haven't seen what Kelly can do in a while and have forgotten about him. Don't be surprised when Kelly jumps out on the scene and takes the league by storm in the near future. You heard it here first. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Exclusive One on One with Thon Maker

Image result for thon maker

Just two years ago, I spoke with an 18-year-old Thon Maker for a feature story, as he was prepping for the Ball Is Life High School All-American game. He was later voted the MVP of that game, and lived up to the hype that preceded that day. Maker was the 10th player selected in the 2016 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

I caught up with Maker to find out how his rookie season was going for him. This discussion took place on March 15 in Los Angeles, shortly after his Bucks defeated the Clippers 97-96. Maker got the start in that game but only played seven minutes, however he did make a key three pointer in the second half that swung momentum in his team’s favor.

On his NBA experience:
Right now, I’m in the flow because I’ve been playing a lot more, so it’s been good. I first started out developing and seeing how everything was going and now I’m in the action. So I just have to go out there and perform.

What he’s working on to finish his season strong:
I need to continue working on my body. I want to come back stronger for next season. There are a lot of games being played right now, so that will have to wait. On the defensive side of the floor, I need to work on being more vocal and finding ways to help us win.

On what his life has been like since joining the NBA compared to before:
It has been good… very, very satisfying. I’ve worked really hard for it and I will continue to work hard every single time. I feel like the results, so far, are where I wanted them to be. To jump from where I was to get to the league, I did whatever it took to get here and I’m going to do whatever it takes to stay here. That is always my mentality.

Adjustments made to his playing style:
Right now, I’m playing more of the five so I’m dedicating time to my footwork, the quickness to fight around other teams’ centers because they are much bigger, so for me that’s important. I’ve been able to learn how to talk loud and talk more often than I did.

Best experience of this season:
I would honestly say it’s the preparation for each game, each night… and just knowing that being in the NBA, the preparation part is pretty big and working at it is very exciting. We used to just watch the games back home but to, now, be a part of it and experience it is a wonderful feeling.

NBA city with best food:
We go to a lot of restaurants. Hmm (ponders response). Who has good food? Can’t remember the name of the restaurant but Detroit and New York. We go out as a team whenever we travel for road games.

Expectations for rest of season:
As a team, we want to continue playing the way we are playing right now and I don’t expect nothing less than this. So for us, we’re on a good pace for the playoffs and just have to focus on one game at a time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Clippers Rout Kings, Get Home Court in Round One

LOS ANGELES — With home court advantage for the first round matchup against the Utah Jazz in the NBA playoffs hanging in the balance, the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Sacramento Kings 115-95 in front of a raucous Staples Center crowd in its final regular season game.

“I wanted to win the game,” said Doc Rivers. “I thought it was good for our guys to win, but honestly home court is still more important and we got that, so that’s nice to get for us.  That’s a bonus.”

DeAndre Jordan led the Clippers with 18 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocked shots.  Chris Paul scored 17 points with nine assists. J.J. Redick contributed 18 points, including three from downtown, breaking his own Clippers’ single season three-point record with his 201st make from behind the arc this season.

Chris Paul’s midrange jumper halfway through the first period gave the Clippers a 17-15 lead, which they would never relinquish. Los Angeles led Utah 30-23 after the first quarter.

“We played all of these games to get to this position,” said Paul. “We had our ups and downs [this season], but all that’s over now, and it all means nothing anymore.”

Most people would have expected the Clippers to pull away from the Kings early in this game considering what was on the line but there they were, only leading the Kings 41-39 with 5:58 remaining in the second quarter.  The lead grew to as large as 10 points after that but Sacramento kept fighting and only trailed by six with a 53-47 halftime score.

The Kings made the first basket of the third quarter, and it appeared the Clippers wouldn’t be handed the fourth seed in the West. The game was played within a six-point margin for the first portion of the third. However, the fight turned into a sparring match for the Clippers, as the Kings started to run out of gas, which was signified by Kings’ guard Ben McLemore missing a breakaway dunk. The lead would be stretched to 14 by the end of the third.

 The Clippers finish the season strong by winning their seventh consecutive game, which is the longest active streak in the NBA.

The focus now turns to preparing for the playoff matchup with Jazz, which begins Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center.

“We have to clean up our mistakes,” said Griffin. “This is what we played 82 games for.”