Month: August 2020

England need to hit the heights again to overcome Springboks

first_imgTOKYO (Reuters) – England will rightly be favourites to win tomorrow’s World Cup final after dethroning the All Blacks last weekend but they are likely to have to pull another big performance out of the bag to prevent South Africa from securing a third crown. The intensity of England’s performance in the 19-7 victory over double defending champions New Zealand last Saturday will be mighty tough to replicate in any case, but if any team could resist the onslaught, it is probably the doughty Springboks.The hope of the thousands of England fans pouring into the Tokyo area for the match, though, is that Australian supercoach Eddie Jones might have a few more tricks up his sleeve for the return to Yokohama International Stadium tomorrow.South Africa, by contrast, are unlikely to stray very far from the tried and tested pressure game that allowed them to bludgeon their way past Wales under a bombardment of high balls in the second semi-final last weekend. Rassie Erasmus does have plenty of star quality in his backline – not least in the dancing feet of winger Cheslin Kolbe who returns after injury in the only change to the side that beat the Welsh – but pragmatism is very much the watchword.The biggest pack in the tournament will look to constrain, harass, harry and wear down the English before another six leviathan forwards – the ‘bomb squad’ – come off the bench to try and finish the job.Halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard will try to slow the pace of the game as they did against the effervescent Japan in the quarter-finals, with the latter ready punish any English ill-discipline from the kicking tee. No team has ever won the World Cup after losing a pool match, as the Springboks did in their tournament opener against the All Blacks, but South Africa have also never lost a final, including the 2007 title-decider against England.  Having beaten Australia in the quarter-finals, England will need to complete an unprecedented sweep of victories over the three southern hemisphere superpowers in successive weeks to get their hands on the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time.HUMILIATIONThat would be a considerable achievement in itself but Jones, who was able to name the same starting line-up as that which won the semi-final, has raised expectations so high that it would no longer be considered a surprise. Jones says he has been preparing for tomorrow’s match since he took over as coach four years ago in the wake of England’s humiliating pool-stage exit from their own World Cup and the work is evident in his team.The pack, featuring standout lock Maro Itoje, the bulldozing Vunipola brothers and “Kamikaze Kid” flankers Sam Underhill and Tom Curry, believe themselves the equal of any eight and there is plenty of quality among the “finishers” on the bench too.In George Ford and Owen Farrell, England have two top quality place-kickers and world class playmakers, while wingers Anthony Watson and Jonny May have proved themselves to be the match for any outside backs at the tournament. South Africa might have finished third at the World Cup in England four years ago but they too have endured humiliation over the last few seasons, not least when they lost eight of 12 tests in 2016.Erasmus has managed to turn things around in remarkable fashion since he took over two years ago and his multi-racial, multi-lingual side have looked supremely confident and eminently comfortable in themselves and their game at this World Cup.Jones has twice before masterminded stunning upsets at the World Cup – Australia beating the All Blacks in the 2003 semi-finals and Japan downing the Springboks in 2015 – only for his team to lose their next match.His Wallabies came pretty close to backing up 16 years ago, however, with Clive Woodward’s England needing extra time and a last-minute Jonny Wilkinson drop goal to secure their maiden title at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.  World Cup finals are rarely expansive affairs and it would be no great surprise if it took something similarly dramatic to decide the champions of the ninth edition of rugby’s showpiece tournament.last_img read more

Arsenal to re-open training ground to players

first_imgLONDON, (Reuters) – Arsenal will re-open their London Colney training ground to their players next week for individual training but the Premier League club will continue to observe social distancing rules amid the coronavirus outbreak, they said yesterday. Soccer in England was suspended indefinitely last month due to the virus and no clubs have been in training.“Players will be permitted access to the Colney grounds next week,” Arsenal said in a statement.“Access will be limited, carefully managed and social distancing will be maintained at all times. All Colney buildings remain closed. “Players will travel alone, do their individual workout and return home,” the club added.Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus on March 12, which led to the Premier League postponing the next round of matches and none have been played since.Arsenal spoke to all their players after Alexandre Lacazette, David Luiz, Nicolas Pepe and Granit Xhaka were pictured allegedly breaking social distancing guidelines. Premier League clubs have been working on the basis that the earliest they may be allowed to resume training would be in early May. The British government is expected to review current lockdown restrictions on May 7.Should teams be allowed to train, it is expected they would need two to three weeks to get prepared to play competitive matches, making the earliest possible return in June.But with the ban on mass public gatherings likely to be one of the last restrictions to be lifted, rescheduled games will almost certainly be held behind closed doors. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has been liaising with a number of sports bodies, led by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on how things might work should the green light be given by the medical experts for sport to resume safely.The Football League (EFL) which organises the three divisions below the Premier League, on Yesterday highlighted testing of players and others involved in games as the key issue.“Clearly, before any return to football can take place, suitable testing arrangements for participants must be in place and this is core to our current planning, as is ensuring there is absolutely no negative impact on the country’s front-line workers, the Emergency services, League and Club staff members,” the league said in a statement.last_img read more

Pakistan to pick only an ‘up to the mark’ Amir – Waqar

first_imgLONDON,  (Reuters) – No player is indispensable and Pakistan will pick Mohammad Amir against England only if the bowler is “up to the mark”, bowling coach Waqar Younis has said. Amir had initially pulled out of the tour but is set to join the Pakistan squad in England following the birth of his second daughter last week.Waqar suggested Amir, whose test retirement last year irked the team management, could not take his place for granted in England where Pakistan are scheduled to play three tests and as many Twenty20 Internationals from Aug. 5.“The doors are never shut for anyone even if they have played for Pakistan or (are) yet to play,” Waqar told in an online interaction with reporters on Tuesday. “He is a seasoned bowler and at times it did hurt when he left test cricket at a crucial time and we all expressed our displeasure on it.“But we have moved on and we have to see where he stands. If he’s up to the mark, then we will pick him and play him. But nobody is indispensable. I never thought we couldn’t function without one cricketer.”Jolted by the crafty left-arm quick’s shock test retirement, former captain Waqar oversaw the creation of a bigger pace pool, which includes pace mainstay Shaheen Afridi and the exciting teenager Naseem Shah. Waqar said the youngsters could learn from Amir’s experience.“In a way it’s actually good that he came and young players can actually learn from him,” said Waqar, himself a formidable swing bowler of his era.“But we will prioritise those who are doing well, and they are definitely going to get a go. With 29 players here, there’s a good healthy competition and that’s a great luxury.”last_img read more

Oddslife appoints Alexandru Teodorescu as Chief Product Officer

first_img Related Articles StumbleUpon Rasmus Sojmark & Alexandru TeodorescuSocial sports and gaming platform provider Oddslife Ltd has announced the appointment of Alexandru Teodorescu as its Chief Product Officer (CPO).Teodorescu joins Oddslife from online betting software and platform provider EveryMatrix (2005 – November 2015) where he held a number of senior management roles focusing on both strategic and commercial initiatives.Reporting to Oddslife Founder and CEO Rasmus Sojmark, Teodorescu will be charged with leading overall product development, strategy and optimisation.Teodorescu takes charge of Oddslife’s core product, as the firm continues to extend its social partnerships with European media companies such as MARCA (Spain), LiveSport.eu (Czech Republic) and Football.ua (Ukraine).Speaking on the appointment of Alexandru, Oddslife CEO Rasmus Sojmark commented:“It’s a real coup appointing Alexandru to lead Oddslife product operations. His deep knowledge of betting and user engagement will immensely help product development in what will be a busy 2016 for our company. I have no doubt we will build an exceptional product together.”Alexandru Teodorescu commented on joining Oddslife:“It is with great pleasure that I am joining Oddslife! To be part of its development and future success give me great enthusiasm. With its unique business proposition and a fantastic team Rasmus has put together, Oddslife will become a real game changer for sports and gaming engagement in the digital media space.” Share Share SBC’s Barcelona Summit to become digital-only event May 29, 2020 SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital 2020 announces free ticket initiative July 21, 2020 Submit Global audience gears up for opening day of SBC Digital Summit April 26, 2020last_img read more

FanTeam announces investment round and white label opportunities

first_imgShare Sapar Karyagdyyev: Avoiding the pitfalls of a white-label solution July 24, 2020 Submit TVBET passes GLI test for five live games in Malta and Italy August 25, 2020 Related Articles Genesis to appeal UKGC’s ‘disproportionate suspension’ July 23, 2020 Share StumbleUpon FanTeam.com, an operator in the daily fantasy sports markets in Europe, has today announced that it is welcoming further investment in order to strengthen its brand.Kristoffer Zvickell, FanTeamFanTeam.com is owned by the Maltese company Scout LTD, which itself is owned by Norwegian and Swedish private companies and individuals. FanTeam is fully licensed in the United Kingdom and Malta. Target markets are mainly the UK, Russia, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Contests are currently offered across 12 football leagues, and two hockey leagues and the site is available in six languages.Kristoffer Zvickell, CEO of Scout Ltd, said of the decision: “We are opening up for new investors to further develop, and expand our marketing strategy. Furthermore we are looking to invest in partnerships to continue our growth and strengthen our position as one of the top players in the European DFS market.”FanTeam.com has built its own software from scratch, and handles feeds from several stat-providers. Zvickell stated: “We are also continuously looking into adding new leagues, sports and events to provide the best selection of DFS tournaments 24/7.”This month will see the B2B and white label solution for FanTeam get up and running. It will be available to those in the sports betting industry either as a standalone solution, or included as part of the FanTeam tournament-network.Interested parties can find out more by emailing [email protected] or visiting the site.last_img read more

Defensive coordinator Pees tired of Kruger being compared to Suggs

first_imgOWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ever since the revelation in early May of linebacker Terrell Suggs suffering a partial tear of his Achilles tendon, the Ravens have been peppered with questions about what it means for their pass rush and overall defense in 2012.On the Friday before the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, it appeared defensive coordinator Dean Pees had heard enough when asked how critical it would be for linebacker Paul Kruger to accumulate more sacks with Suggs expected to be out of the lineup until at least November. Pees reiterated the common theme of multiple players needing to step up in the star pass-rusher’s absence.Only he didn’t sound nearly as cordial in expressing that this time in comparison to previous statements.“It has nothing to do with Sizzle. It has to do with playing outside linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens,” Pees said. “You guys keep comparing; you can never compare two people. It has nothing to do with another guy. There’s no comparison; I never compare them.“It’s playing outside linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. Period. Whether it’s the Sam, the rush, the Mike, the Will, when Ray [Lewis] was out, it has nothing to do with a guy having to take another guy’s position. It has to do with that guy playing his position.”The Ravens’ pass rush will receive its first test against a Cincinnati offensive line with three new starters inside, meaning defensive end Pernell McPhee and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata may have opportunities to pressure second-year quarterback Andy Dalton.Uncertainty remains at both outside linebacker positions with Paul Kruger and Albert McClellan both unproven as three-down players, so Pees will need to be more creative in generating heat on the passer until the Ravens can accurately assess where they’re at in that department. Baltimore is still hoping rookie Courtney Upshaw can also provide a bigger impact than what he showed in an injury-plagued preseason.No one player has the ability to replace Suggs, but the Ravens hope a combination of rushers along with a deep group of cornerbacks will minimize the damage in the Pro Bowl linebacker’s absence.“Terrell is a big part of our team, a big part of what we do, and guys are going to have to step up,” safety Ed Reed said. “Not just one player, every guy that’s on offense, defense, and special teams. We’ve all got to pick up that slack, because we know what Terrell brings to the table.”Suggs was held to one sack in two games against Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, which could mean Kruger and McClellan will have their hands full generating any pressure on Dalton. The question is nothing new as the loss of the Pro Bowl linebacker may knock the Ravens defense from the elite status it enjoys annually.Pees is right that Kruger shouldn’t be held in comparison to Suggs, but asking whether the sum of the parts can not only match the 14 sacks accumulated by Suggs a season ago but also force teams to game-plan and account for pressure in the same way they’ve done in the past is a relevant and fair query.“I don’t want to come across stirred up about it,” Pees said. “I’m not, it’s just when you compare players, you take everything so far out of context. It’s not about that; it’s about how he fits in the defense, how does he do his part. He’s one of 11 of this defense and so is Sizzle when he’s in there — he’s one of 11. Whether you game plan certain ways or whatever, that’s what they are. They all have one-eleventh stock in this defense.”Needless to say, if the Ravens are unable to make Dalton uncomfortable in the pocket Monday, the questions and concerns will only grow louder.Cameron confident in tight ends getting up to speedWith Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta practicing fully on Thursday and Friday, any notion of the tight ends being game-time decisions was clearly gamesmanship on the part of coach John Harbaugh.However, with Pitta missing nearly all of training camp and Dickson injuring his shoulder in the first preseason game, it remains to be seen how quickly the pair can become acclimated in a Baltimore offense that focused exclusively on the no-huddle attack this summer. The Ravens relied on both tight ends heavily last season and you’d expect to see the same in 2012, but it will be interesting to gauge how the coaching staff handles their workload after the offense primarily went with three-wide sets in August.“Both guys – it’s a tribute to both of them – even though they’ve missed practices, they’re not missing meetings, they’re not missing any walk-throughs, they’re not missing any rehab or strength and conditioning,” Cameron said. “[Quarterback Joe Flacco] has such a great rapport with those guys. Not only are they together on the field, they’re around Joe all the time. So I’m thrilled to have them back, and I think they’ll pick up right where they left off with no concerns at all.”The Ravens used plenty of single-back looks in August, which makes you think we could see Dickson lining up at tight end with Pitta moving to a slot position on a semi-regular basis, but the offense also wants to have more speed on the outside with Jacoby Jones as the No. 3 receiver and possession wideout Anquan Boldin sliding to the slot.Regardless of how the rotation plays out this season, Monday might be too soon to draw conclusions based on how the playing time is split up against the Bengals as the tight ends are still working their way back into football shape.Tucker letting it rip on kickoffsOne question asked by fans throughout the preseason has been about rookie kicker Justin Tucker’s unimpressive performance on kickoffs.Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg reminded everyone Thursday that the rookie was directed not to send kickoffs as far as he could in order for the staff to evaluate its the kickoff coverage, which struggled a year ago. Tucker was only allowed to take five steps in approaching the ball instead of the ability to take a longer approach to the tee.With the regular season now upon us, Tucker will be allowed to put his full foot — with full steps included — into each and every kickoff in hopes that the rest of the unit won’t receive as many opportunities to cover.“He’s certainly going to try,” said Rosburg in describing how Tucker will simply boot it as far as he can. “That is the way we kick off; we try to kick it as far as we can, and we’ll give him that opportunity. You may have seen in the St. Louis game, I believe he did it twice if I’m not mistaken, and one they brought out [of the end zone] and the other one was [kicked] out of the end zone.”Organization supports Ayanbadejo’s stance on marriage equalityThe bizarre story of Maryland House of Delegates member Emmett C. Burns Jr. writing a letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti stating his opposition to linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo’s public support of marriage equality created quite a stir this week.But the Ravens are standing by the veteran’s side.Ayanbadejo has spoken openly in support of gay marriage countless times, which promoted Burns to write a letter expressing how “appalled and aghast” he was over the public stance and imploring Bisciotti to silence his player. In response, team president Dick Cass issued a statement supporting Ayanbadejo’s right to free speech and even delivered a message directly to the player regarding the matter.“He said, ‘We’re in support of you, and it’s good that you’re able to voice your opinion and say how you feel,’” Ayanbadejo said. “But Dick personally told me that we’re not an organization that discriminates and he was telling me how he was on Pro Football Talk and he was reading all the comments that people have said and he was overwhelmingly surprised and happy to see that football fans were supporting me and what I said. He told me that I should go there and I should read it.”Ayanbadejo believes we’ve seen a dramatic shift in support over the last four or five years, with more people beginning to support marriage equality. Cass also offered him a take on the state of NFL locker rooms as it relates to the issue of equality.“He believes the culture in locker rooms is changing as well,” Ayanbadejo said. “He believes there are gay players in the NFL — they’re just not publicly gay. He thinks that, for the most part, players just want to play with good players. They don’t care who your mother, your father, who you are, what color or creed you are as long as you can play football at this level.”last_img read more

Concerns rising over Ravens’ lack of options in passing game

first_img(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)BALTIMORE — Unless you’re heavily invested in the futures of such Ravens players as Tyrod Taylor, Aaron Mellette, and Asa Jackson, there wasn’t much to like Thursday night despite a 27-23 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons.Head coach John Harbaugh said it all as the first half ended with the Ravens trailing 20-7 after the offense was held to just 131 total yards, the defense had surrendered 255 yards, and the team had committed five penalties for 42 yards. The effort was sloppy, out of rhythm, and unlike anything the sixth-year coach could remember in his tenure in Baltimore — even if it was only the second preseason game of the summer.“That first half was about as poorly as we could play,” Harbaugh said at halftime. “I can’t remember us playing worse since we came here.”Speaking with more perspective after a 21-point fourth quarter that propelled the Ravens to a 2-0 start in the preseason, the coach acknowledged that many of the first-half mistakes were correctable and he was right. As shaky as the defensive effort was, Dean Pees’ unit has several new pieces that need to gel over these next three weeks prior to the regular-season opener. The secondary will be aided by the return of top cornerback Lardarius Webb, and most players on which the Ravens are counting have track records that create a certain comfort level.The penalties are a concern when you recall the Ravens being plagued by them last year — ranking 31st in the NFL — but they weren’t of the variety causing you to lose too much sleep.Of course, the area raising the most concern for the second week in a row is the stagnant performance of the offense as the Ravens couldn’t run nor throw the ball with any level of consistency in the first 30 minutes of play. The lone highlight was a 77-yard touchdown strike from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith on a crossing pattern over the middle of the field on the first play of their second offensive series.Aside from that one play, the Ravens were held to 54 yards on 18 plays and managed just three first downs before halftime. Baltimore carried the ball 10 times for just 13 yards in the first half as the starting offensive line opened few running lanes with Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda not quite ready for game action.Wide receivers not named Smith were held to one catch for four yards on six targets prior to Mellette’s 40-yard touchdown to open the fourth-quarter scoring.“We kind of beat ourselves with penalties and certain miscues, and it’s tough to play from behind,” Smith said. “When you’re not playing many plays, it’s tough to recover from that, but we’ll be fine. We know what the mistakes were that we made, and you can’t make penalties, so obviously we need to correct that.”There are only so many times you can go to the “throw a quick slant to Torrey Smith for a touchdown” trick in the playbook.The results of Thursday night’s game are truly inconsequential as we’ll all forget the score of the game in just a few weeks, but the current state of the passing offense continues to look like one of panic. Beyond Smith, not a single receiver emerged as Jacoby Jones was held to one reception and newly-signed veteran Brandon Stokley wasn’t targeted after playing only a handful of plays in the slot.With Ed Dickson still sidelined with a hamstring injury, current starting tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was targeted twice in the first half — one negated by a penalty — and failed to record a reception.It was Jones again running a questionable route that contributed in part to a second Flacco interception in as many weeks.“I threw it into a bee’s nest,” said Flacco about the second-quarter pick. “I thought Jacoby might be able to get around the Sam linebacker, so I kind of threw it off of his shoulder, but Jacoby was just getting behind there, so I threw it into too many people.”It’s becoming apparent that the Ravens are discovering what the Houston Texans did about Jones’ limitations as a wide receiver. The Pro Bowl return specialist’s ideal role is the one he served last year as a vertical threat on the outside in three-wide sets and as a player you can use for a handful of gadget plays over the course of the year.But Jones hasn’t been as disappointing as third-year receiver Tandon Doss, who didn’t even draw any playing time with the starting offense on Thursday as Stokley took the reps in the slot. Though not the deciding factor by any stretch, Doss was viewed as a real piece of the puzzle along with tight end Dennis Pitta this offseason to replace veteran Anquan Boldin’s production.Instead, it’s been a quiet summer for the 2011 fourth-round pick, who has struggled to gain separation in practices and each of the first two preseason contests. Doss suffered a drop on a pass originally ruled to be a fumble in the third quarter before he did manage to make up for it with a 5-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.“That was really, really great to see,” Harbaugh said. “Consistency is important, too. You’ve got to stack good plays. We’ll have to go back and look at that and just see for every guy how that plays out. You really need to watch the tape and kind of see where the situation is to evaluate it fairly.”Harbaugh’s correct and much of what he saw on both sides of the ball was correctable, but he’ll also find a group of wide receivers and tight ends that struggled to gain separation over the first three quarters of play. And while it’s only a preseason game for the established veterans with track records, these are the precious opportunities to find out as much as you can about the unknown commodities on your roster.The likes of Doss, David Reed, LaQuan Williams (who followed a strong preseason opener with two drops Thursday night), and the injured Deonte Thompson haven’t looked up to the task for the most part in the two preseason games or practices, leaving the door open for Stokley and newly-signed veteran tight end Dallas Clark to receive extensive opportunities in the all-important third preseason game.Four weeks into the summer, a long-term and potentially season-ending hip injury to Pitta and a disappointing Doss have left the plan to replace Boldin in shambles as the Ravens are now looking for any help they can get to augment the passing game.Beyond Smith and Ray Rice out of the backfield, who can you trust as pass catchers?Flacco has talked a good game all spring and summer about trusting his young receivers, but you wonder how much of that is the sixth-year quarterback trying to be a good teammate at this point as he can’t truly rely on anyone but Smith in the current batch of healthy receivers and tight ends.At least there’s always Rice and the check-down to count on.“We really don’t think about it too much besides when we’re questioned about it,” Flacco said about the perceived offensive struggles. “You guys look more at that stuff. We just go out there and play and do it with who we have out there. I think the guys are doing a great job.”Who we have out there.Whether he intended to or not, the quarterback said it all with that portion of his response.And Thursday made you continue to doubt if who the Ravens have out there will be enough this year.last_img read more

Ravens control own path in returning to playoffs

first_imgAfter securing their biggest win of the season to prevent their playoff hopes from becoming a faint dream, the Ravens now have their path to the postseason staring them directly in the face.The 28-13 win over the Miami Dolphins puts Baltimore in a position where three consecutive wins to close the regular season will guarantee a return to the playoffs after a one-year absence. The Ravens currently stand seventh in the AFC playoff hunt, but the Week 17 rematch between current No. 4 seed Cincinnati and No. 5 seed Pittsburgh — who owns a better division record than the Ravens — guarantees they would leapfrog one of their AFC North foes should they handle their own business over the final three weeks of December.“We’re pleased with the fact we’re in the hunt, that we control our own destiny,” head coach John Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. “You can ask for more, but boy, it’s a great accomplishment to be in that position right now. It’s just our job to make the most of it, and our guys are very aware of that. They really are. Our guys are really tuned into the fact that it’s in their hands, and it’s our responsibility to get the job done.”Of course, the Ravens still have a chance to take the division if they win out and both the Bengals and the Steelers lose at least one game down the stretch. So, how realistic is that outcome?It’s very difficult envisioning 2-11 Jacksonville giving the Ravens too much trouble in Baltimore this Sunday, but a Week 16 trip to Houston won’t be easy as the Texans are currently in the best shape of the 7-6 teams due to a superior conference record and have won three of their last four games. Should Baltimore get by Houston, a Week 17 meeting with the Browns is never one to overlook, but the game will be played at M&T Bank Stadium, giving the Ravens a distinct edge.As for the Bengals, a road trip to Cleveland on Sunday and a Monday night home game against Denver in Week 16 will be dangerous to navigate before their regular-season finale in Pittsburgh. The Steelers travel to Atlanta — who will be coming off a short week following a Monday night road game — this Sunday and host Kansas City in Week 16 before welcoming the Bengals to Heinz Field for the season finale. Pittsburgh would win the division by winning its final three games.It’s nearly impossible trying to predict the fate of these three AFC North teams who have been up and down at various times this season, but the Ravens’ ability to take care of business in Miami makes their objective clear.Win out and they’re in the playoffs.Another loss and they again find themselves looking around to see how others are faring.last_img read more

“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 12-6 win over San Diego

first_imgWho stood out in the Orioles’ 12-6 win over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday afternoon?In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 77th game of the 2016 season.1st — Mark Trumbo hit his 23rd home run of the year to regain sole possession of the major league lead after Cincinnati’s Adam Duvall had hit his 22nd earlier in the day. The two-run shot to left capped off a four-run fourth inning after the Orioles hadn’t collected as much as a baserunner in their first three frames against San Diego lefty Christian Friedrich. Trumbo added a two-run double in the top of the ninth to help eliminate any lingering doubt that Baltimore would win its seventh straight game. Trumbo has eclipsed his 2015 total for home runs in 217 fewer plate appearances than he had a year ago.2nd — Manny Machado drove in three runs and hit his 29th double of the season as he continues to play at an MVP-caliber level just shy of his 24th birthday. His RBI single in the fourth gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead, and he would aggressively advance to second on a pitch in the dirt before scoring on Trumbo’s long ball. Machado would later plate two with an automatic double in the ninth that provided more breathing room after the Padres had cut a 7-0 deficit to 7-3.3rd — Jonathan Schoop extended his hitting streak to 11 in a row and doubled home the first run of the game in the top of the fourth. The young second baseman would add another double and a single in addition to crossing the plate three times in the victory. Schoop improved his average to .301 and is now sporting an .848 on-base plus slugging percentage.Home — Yovani Gallardo carried a one-hit shutout into the sixth inning before running into trouble and giving up a three-run homer to Brett Wallace. However, he arguably showed his best stuff of the season and touched 92 miles per hour with his fastball in the sixth while also collecting two hits on the day. … Baltimore has scored 11 or more runs in three straight games. … The Orioles tied the major league record for home runs in the month of June when Trumbo hit their 55th to tie the 1996 Oakland Athletics. Baltimore is three shy of the record for homers in any month, an honor shared by the 1987 Orioles (May) and the 1999 Seattle Mariners (May). … Adam Jones reached bases three times and extended his hitting streak to a season-best 10 in a row. … The Orioles secured their third seven-game winning streak of the season after not having a single stretch of victories lasting that long from 2006-2015. … Beginning a four-game set in Seattle on Thursday night, Chris Tillman takes the hill against Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker.last_img read more

Ravens officially commit to Harbaugh as they enter new era

first_imgJust over a month after stating their long-term commitment to John Harbaugh, the transitioning Ravens have finally made it official with a new four-year contract announced on Thursday.The Super Bowl XLVII-winning head coach who led Baltimore to its first AFC North championship since 2012 this past season is now under contract through 2022, removing any doubt about owner Steve Bisciotti’s choice to lead the Ravens into a new era. With Eric DeCosta now the general manager — with Ozzie Newsome remaining in a “significant” role — and Lamar Jackson the starting quarterback, Harbaugh will enter his 12th season as head coach with the Ravens trying to build upon their first trip to the playoffs since 2014 and facing a number of difficult roster decisions.“I’m very excited with this contract, the opportunity to continue our work here, and I’m humbled by it,” Harbaugh said in a statement released by the organization. “I am thankful for the support from the Ravens, especially Steve Bisciotti. We’re working hard to make the 2019 Ravens the best we can be. We have an excellent team foundation, and we have a great organization with smart, hard-working people.”It’s an outcome that appeared unlikely less than three months ago when Baltimore entered its Week 10 bye with a three-game losing streak and veteran quarterback Joe Flacco nursing a hip injury. Harbaugh and his coaching staff revamped a formerly pass-heavy offense with Jackson at the helm as the Ravens would go 6-1 and lead the NFL in rushing yards over the final seven weeks of the season. The changing of the guard at quarterback was completed prior to Week 15 when Harbaugh declared Jackson the permanent starter and benched a healthy Flacco, the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player and best signal-caller in franchise history who arrived in Baltimore at the same time as the head coach in 2008.With reports circulating about other teams’ interest in their head coach, the Ravens announced the night before their critical Week 16 tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers that Harbaugh would return for the 2019 season — the final year of his previous contract — as the sides worked toward a long-term extension. With players rejuvenated by the news, Baltimore secured its biggest road victory in years against the Chargers and clinched the division title with a win over Cleveland the following week, ending a three-year playoff drought with a 10-6 record.The challenge now becomes building a more balanced and sustainable offense to aid in the development of Jackson, who set an NFL record for rushing attempts by a quarterback (147) despite starting only seven games as a rookie. The Ravens didn’t ask the 2018 first-round pick to do much as a passer, a plan that worked beautifully over the second half of the season before being smothered by the Chargers in a 23-17 loss in the wild-card round. Jackson, 22, completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,201 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions in the regular season, but he struggled with accuracy outside the numbers and his 15 fumbles — including three in the playoff loss — led the NFL.On Jan. 11, Harbaugh promoted Greg Roman to offensive coordinator after the assistant head coach and run-game guru was credited for implementing his rush-heavy schemes in the second half of the season. A target for criticism after the ugly playoff defeat to Los Angeles and throughout his three-year tenure, former offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg declined to remain on the coaching staff in a different capacity. Roman will become Harbaugh’s sixth offensive coordinator since the start of the 2012 season, a variable frequently cited in Flacco’s post-Super Bowl decline.Harbaugh’s 114 victories — including 10 postseason wins — are easily the most in Ravens history, and he is the only head coach in league history to win a playoff game in six of his first seven seasons. However, Baltimore owns a rather ordinary 50-46 regular-season record since the start of the 2013 season and has just one playoff victory over the last six years. Bisciotti acknowledged he considered replacing Harbaugh after the 2017 season, leading many to assume the 56-year-old was coaching for his job this past year despite having just one losing campaign in his career.The new four-year contract will silence the discussion about the coach’s future, but Harbaugh would be the first to dispute the notion of having long-term security in the crucible that is the NFL. The franchise’s history backs that claim as Bisciotti fired former head coach and Super Bowl XXXV winner Brian Billick only one season after awarding him a four-year extension in 2007.How the Ravens fare with Jackson at quarterback will be the largest factor in determining whether Harbaugh’s new contract serves more as a temporary reprieve or as the second act of what could eventually be a Hall of Fame coaching career.Bisciotti is certainly betting on the latter with the only head coach he’s ever hired.last_img read more