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Updated: 1 year 22 weeks ago

Myers on rise for slumping Padres offense

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 9:33pm

SAN DIEGO -- One of the San Diego Padres' struggling hitters is finally getting on a roll.

First baseman Wil Myers is 7-for-11 with a walk since going hitless in 14 consecutive at-bats with nine strikeouts.

Myers isn't totally out of his slump. His batting average is a respectable .288, but his on-base percentage is .309 and his slugging percentage is .442.

Myers also has struck out at least once in every game of the season and has a team-high 19 whiffs in 52 at-bats. However, he is hotter than most Padres save for left fielder Melvin Upton Jr., who has hit safely in eight of the last 10 games, going 13-for-36 with a double, a triple, two homers -- including a two-run, walk-off, 14th-inning blast Saturday night -- for five RBIs and seven runs.

Center fielder Jon Jay singled Saturday to end an 18 at-bat hitless streak before getting Sunday off. Right fielder Matt Kemp is in a

4-for-27 drought. Catcher Derek Norris is 2-for-18, and second baseman Cory Spangenberg is in a 4-for-23 slump, although he is riding a modest three-game hitting streak.

As a team, the Padres are hitting .226, which ranked 21st among the 30 major league teams. San Diego batters have 128 strikeouts, the second-highest total in the majors, and the Padres' offense ranks near the bottom in walks (34), on-base percentage (.281) and slugging percentage (.329).

Preview: Cubs at Cardinals

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 9:33pm

Emotions always run high in St. Louis when the Chicago Cubs come to town, but they might be cranked up another notch when John Lackey and Jason Heyward return to face their former team Monday. Lackey gets the start on the mound and Heyward likely will be in the lineup for the Cubs when they open a three-game series against the arch-rival Cardinals.

Chicago is coming off its first series loss of the season after dropping two of three to visiting Colorado over the weekend, and the Cubs' potent lineup sputtered in the two losses. The Cubs are among the highest-scoring teams in the majors, but they were held to three hits in a 2-0 defeat in Sunday's series finale after losing the series opener 6-1. The Cardinals boast the highest-scoring lineup in the majors and have hit double digits in runs four times already this season, but they did just enough with the bats in a 4-3 win in the rubber match of a three-game set with Cincinnati on Sunday. Eight different players hit homers for St. Louis in the series, and the Cardinals have belted 12 homers in the past four games.

TV: 8:09 p.m. ET, ESPN, WPWR (Chicago), FSN Midwest (St. Louis)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH John Lackey (2-0, 5.68 ERA) vs. Cardinals RH Mike Leake (0-1, 6.97)

Lackey posted the best ERA of his career in a Cardinals uniform last season before bolting to Chicago in free agency. Lackey has won his first two starts for the Cubs, and after being hit hard in a 14-6 win in his debut, he held the Reds to two runs over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts last time out. Lackey has never faced the Cardinals, but he was 11-4 with a 2.03 ERA at Busch Stadium over the past two seasons.

Leake has not impressed in his first two outings for the Cardinals, allowing four runs in each. He didn't make it out of the fifth inning in his St. Louis debut but was more effective Wednesday against Milwaukee, striking out six over six innings. The longtime Reds pitcher has fared well in 19 starts against the Cubs, going 9-2 with a 3.15 ERA and winning his last five decisions against Chicago dating back to 2012.

WALK-OFFS

1. Heyward snapped an 0-for-11 skid with a double in the ninth inning Sunday and is hitting .205.

2. St. Louis C Eric Fryer is 6-for-6 to begin his tenure with the Cardinals.

3. The Cardinals have made 14 errors, tied with Cincinnati for the most in the majors.

PREDICTION: Cardinals 5, Cubs 4

A's relieved after taking series

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 9:33pm

OAKLAND, Calif. -- It may be early in the season, but the Oakland Athletics are breathing a big sigh of relief after beating the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals in two of three, ending the homestand on a positive note.

"It's nice to take a series at home," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "A win makes the off day a little bit better and knowing you have a tough road trip ahead of you."

The A's lost six of their first seven home games before beating the Royals two in a row, including a come-from-behind victory.

"Carrying that momentum on the road trip is always nice," A's outfielder Billy Burns said. "We all worked together. The pitching held us in there until the offense could chip away for a run or two."

The A's make their second road trip of the year and they enjoyed their first one: a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners. This one includes stops in New York, Toronto and Detroit.

"If you're going to have these trips, it's better when they are early in the year," Melvin said. "We'll be on the east coast at 1 a.m. and have a day to get acclimated to the time difference. We like that."

Red Wings 2, Lightning 0

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 9:18pm

DETROIT -- Petr Mrazek made 16 saves for his third career playoff shutout in the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference First Round series Sunday night at Joe Louis Arena.The Lightning lead the best-of-seven series two games to one. Game 4 is Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.Mrazek replaced Jimmy Howard, who started the first two games of the series.Andreas Athanasiou and Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit.Ben Bishop made 28 saves for Tampa Bay.The Red Wings scored both goals in the second period.Athanasiou, a rookie forward, made it 1-0 with 7:18 left in the period. His one-time slap shot from the left circle of a rolling puck deflected off Bishop's blocker and in on the short side. It was the first playoff goal of Athanasiou's career.Zetterberg made it 2-0 with 2:38 left in the second period. The puck deflected in off his skate off a goal-mouth scramble.The goal went to review from the NHL Situation Room in Toronto twice. The first time was to determine if Zetterberg had kicked the puck in. When the goal was upheld on that review, Lightning coach Jon Cooper challenged that Bishop had been interfered with before the goal. The goal was once again upheld.The delay was about seven minutes.It was Zetterberg's first goal of the playoffs, his first in 14 games and second in 27 games. It was also Zetterberg's second goal in his past 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games.Bishop stopped Riley Sheahan on a breakaway with 7:37 left in the first period.Tampa Bay killed off a 59-second two-man disadvantage late in the first period. The Lightning only allowed two total shots on the two power plays combined.NOTE: Petr Mrazek replaces Jimmy Howard in goal for Detroit. Howard started the first two games of the series after Mrazek had been slumping in the regular season since mid-February. ... RW Erik Condra replaced RW J.T. Brown in the Tampa Bay lineup. Brown left Game 2 Friday night with an upper-body injury and has been ruled out for the series. ... D Brendan Smith was in the lineup for the Red Wings after being a healthy scratch for the final seven regular-season games and Games 1 and 2 of this series. Smith is in for D Kyle Quincey, who was a healthy scratch. ... The Lightning were also without C Steven Stamkos (blood clot) and D Anton Stralman (broken leg).

Arabic-speaking student kicked off Southwest flight

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 9:17pm

One day, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was proudly asking the U.N. secretary-general a question. The next, he was booted from a Southwest flight and questioned by the FBI.

For the 26-year-old student at University of California, Berkeley, it was a shocking turn.

Now he's pushing for an apology from the airline and spreading the word about what happened, which he calls a clear case of Islamaphobia.

It all started, according to Makhzoomi, after he decided to call his uncle in Baghdad after getting on the plane. While he waited for takeoff on his flight from Los Angeles to Oakland, California, they chatted in Arabic about an event he'd been excited to attend the day before: a dinner with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"I just called him and talked to him about it and everything, and he told me (to) call him when I get to Oakland, and I said, 'insha'Allah insha'Allah (God willing), I will call you when I arrive.' And during the conversation a lady was staring at me," Makhzoomi said.

The political science student thought the woman might have been concerned with how loudly he spoke on the phone. He saw her abruptly leave the plane. And suddenly, the situation turned.

"One guy came with police officers within two minutes -- I can't believe how fast they were -- and told me to get off the plane," he said.

Airline: 'Report of potentially threatening comments'

Southwest declined to provide details about the incident but said in a written statement that the airline doesn't tolerate discrimination.

"Prior to the departure of Flight 4620, our crew made the decision to investigate a report of potentially threatening comments overheard onboard our aircraft. A group of our employees including the flight crew made the decision to review the situation. We understand local law enforcement also spoke with that passenger as the aircraft departed the gate," Southwest said.

"To respect the privacy of those involved, we will not publicly share any further specifics of the event. We prefer to communicate directly with our customers to address concerns and feedback regarding their travel experience."

"No further action" was taken after questioning Makhzoomi, an FBI spokeswoman said.

Makhzoomi says he hasn't received an apology from Southwest since he got kicked off the April 6 flight.

"All I want is an apology today," Makhzoomi said. "We as a people, Iraqi, American, Iranian, we share one thing in common, and that is our dignity. If someone tries to take that away from us, we should fight but not with aggression, with knowledge and education. One must stand for his principle."

'I felt oppressed'

Getting escorted off the plane was only the beginning, Makhzoomi said.

From, there, he said, the situation only got worse.

"The guy who came and pulled me from the plane, he took me to the jet bridge, I believe he worked with Southwest and I must say he was aggressive in the way he treated me. He was not very nice. He tried to speak to me in Arabic, but I couldn't understand his Arabic, so I asked him to speak to me in English," Makhzoomi said. "I felt oppressed. I was afraid. He said, 'You seem that you were having a serious conversation on the phone. Who were you talking to?' "

Makhzoomi told him he had been speaking with his uncle and showed him the video of the dinner with Ban Ki-moon.

According to Makhzoomi, the man responded, "Why are you talking in Arabic? You know the environment is very dangerous."

Then, Makhzoomi said, dogs came and sniffed his bag, someone searched him at the gate and took his wallet, and FBI agents escorted him away.

He says one of the agents asked a question that surprised him: "You need to be very honest with us with what you said about the martyrs. Tell us everything you know about the martyrs.'

"The moment that she said that, I told her I never said that word, I only said insha'Allah."

The questioning soon ended.

"Southwest will not fly you back," the agent said, according to Makhzoomi. "You may go."

'New normal' for Muslims?

Makhzoomi said Southwest gave him a refund, and he booked a flight home on Delta. By the time he returned to Oakland, he was so shaken he took to his bed and slept for days.

Then, he contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The organization says it's the latest sign of an alarming trend.

"It's frightening on an individual level. This story is frightening when it's a singular incident," CAIR representative Zahra Billoo said, "and it's problematic that there's numerous complaints against Southwest and others this year. This is just the new normal for Muslims while flying."

Southwest says its primary focus is safety.

"We wouldn't remove a passenger from a flight without a collaborative decision rooted in established procedures," the airline said. "Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind. Our company could not survive if we believed otherwise. In fact, a cursory view of our workforce, as well as our expansive, multicultural customer base, is a reliable indicator that we exalt and appreciate diversity."

URGENT - Brazil Two Thirds Impeachment Vote

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 9:09pm

(CNN) -- After more than five hours of voting, a motion to impeach Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff garnered enough support to pass in the country's lower house Sunday night, but voting is still ongoing. As of 11:08 p.m. (10:08 p.m. ET), at least 342 lawmakers had voted in favor of impeachment.

Reddick's sacrifice fly lifts Athletics over Royals 3-2

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:40pm

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Josh Reddick's sacrifice fly off Joakim Soria broke an eighth-inning tie and lifted the Oakland Athletics over the Kansas City Royals 3-2 Sunday.

Soria (1-1) relieved to start the eighth, Billy Burns tripled into the right-field corner and Reddick flied to center with one out. Reddick came across the plate standing up, easily beating Lorenzo Cain's throw.

John Axford (2-0) induced three consecutive groundouts in the eighth, and Ryan Madson pitched a one-hit ninth for his fourth save in as many chances, retiring Raymond Fuentes on a game-ending lineout to first with a runner on second.

Soria lost for the first time since July 11.

Hinch looking for times to rest Astros player

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:33pm

HOUSTON -- Astros shortstop Carlos Correa earned his first day off on Sunday, prompting Astros manager A.J. Hinch to address the challenges he faces integrating a capable bench into a lineup stacked with productive regulars.

"I'm going to be preemptive with the rest for a few guys," Hinch said. "(Right fielder) George (Springer) will get a rest eventually. (Second baseman Jose) Altuve will as well."

It turned out to be good timing that Hinch elected to keep both Altuve and Springer in the lineup for the series finale against the Tigers. They combined to finish 4-for-8 with two homers, three runs and four RBIs.

Hinch insisted that his decision to sit center fielder Carlos Gomez had more to do with his desire to get reserve outfielder Jake Marisnick at-bats than catching the attention of Gomez, who is batting .190/.209/.262. Gomez has struggled since his trade deadline acquisition from Milwaukee last summer, batting just .230/.271/.356 with four home runs and 13 RBIs over 53 games. He has a 73 OPS+.

To Hinch, the sample size on Gomez this season doesn't warrant concern. But with Gomez scuffling and Marisnick providing comparable, if not superior, defense in center, the decision to play the latter is easier.

"This is a 12-game look at a pretty established player," Hinch said of Gomez. "I don't want to overreact to a slow start. He needs reps, he needs to get some rhythm, some timing, things that are important to his game. Whether a day off followed by another day off clears his mind and clears his head and gets him kick started for Texas (Tuesday), we hope so.

"Reality is we have got a really good center fielder who could start on a lot of teams who hasn't gotten the first couple of weeks, and that's on me."

Nats' Harper keeps going deep

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:33pm

PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper wishes his bit of homer history would have occurred in a winning effort, but he certainly won't argue the company.

Harper hit a towering home run in the top of the 10th inning Sunday afternoon to give him homers in six consecutive games at Citizens Bank Park and hand the Washington Nationals a 2-1 lead they would later blow. The Philadelphia Phillies rallied for a 3-2 win in 10 innings.

Harper, who homered in each of his past four games overall and now has six homers and 15 RBIs on the year, joined Ernie Banks as the only two players to hit home runs in Philadelphia in six straight games.

"I just love playing here," Harper said. "I see the ball really well here. It's a great place to play, great park to play in.

"It's awesome, definitely a pleasure to even be in the same sentence as Ernie Banks. But at the end of the day, you want to win ballgames."

His team is doing plenty of that, and Harper is a big -- perhaps the biggest -- reason why. The Nationals, off to their best start in franchise history, are 9-2, the best record in baseball.

The 23-year-old outfielder raised his batting average to a stellar .359 to go with a .458 on-base percentage. His 1.356 OPS ranks first in the majors.

"This is what I heard about him," manager Dusty Baker said. "And I'd seen it a few times on TV. But what he's doing is MVP star stuff. I've been fortunate to have some great players, played with them and played for me. He's certainly making his mark."

"MVP star stuff" isn't something different for Harper, who won the award as the NL's unanimous MVP in 2015. With Harper coming into his prime, the Nationals, who added talent in the offseason, could be set for a successful season.

Trial opens for deputy in unarmed man's death

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:27pm

Robert Bates, a former insurance businessman turned volunteer deputy, goes on trial Monday in a fatal shooting involving an officer and an unarmed black man, and Bates doesn't deny pulling the trigger of his service revolver to put a single deadly shot into Eric Courtney Harris' back.

But what jurors -- who will be selected through proceedings starting Monday in a modest Tulsa, Oklahoma, courtroom -- will likely hear is that that in a heartbeat, a human mistake became a human tragedy.

Bates fired his weapon as he assisted officers of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office in subduing Harris, the subject of an undercover sting operation who was attempting to flee that dreary Oklahoma Thursday in April last year.

Bates was "attempting to use less lethal force, believing he was utilizing a Taser, when he inadvertently discharged his service weapon, firing one round which struck Harris," according to statements from the Sheriff's Office shortly after the shooting.

The death of Harris is one of several nationally known cases in which the killing of an unarmed black man by law enforcement has galvanized people over tactics that police are trained to use.

On Monday, 65 potential jurors will pack into District Judge William J. Musseman's courtroom, where Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen A. Kunzweiler and the Bates defense team will begin selecting the 12 that will decide Bates' fate.

He is facing a second-degree manslaughter charge. Bates has pleaded not guilty, but if convicted, he could be sentenced to up to four years prison.

With opening statements expected on Wednesday, prosecutors will have to prove to the jury that Bates' actions amounted to "culpable negligence," according to Bates' defense attorney, Clark Brewster.

After months of pretrial motions and a change of judges, Brewster is confident that the defense will fend off that prosecution attempt.

"I expect an interesting trial, and I am confident in how this case will be tried," Brewster told CNN in a telephone interview.

Tulsa District Attorney Kunzweiler's office responded to inquiries from CNN with a statement saying the prosecution is not making any comment before the trial starts.

In previous interviews with CNN, Brewster contended his client "owned it, stepped up and was totally transparent" about his actions the day he shot Harris, and Brewster maintains that his client shouldn't go to jail for an accident.

On April 2, 2015, Bates was parked several blocks away from the site where an undercover deputy was conducting a sting operation that was set up, according to Tulsa authorities, to catch Harris in the act of illegally selling a gun.

Bates said in an interview on NBC's "Today Show" he had participated in "several hundred" such operations but always in a backup role where he would "clean up" after deputies made an arrest, taking photos and notes.

But, according to official accounts, as deputies rolled up to arrest Harris after the alleged sale, Harris bolted from the vehicle and ran toward Bates' position where the two -- along with other officers -- tussled until Bates' fired his gun.

Brewster said he has a bevy of experts including Yale professor and forensic psychiatrist Charles Morgan who will testify to the effects of the stress Bates' was under as he made the mistake of drawing his gun and not his Taser that day. The defense also plans to call a cardiologist to the stand to testify about the what the defense contends was the poor condition of Harris' heart at the time he was shot.

But having an expert testify to a purported medical condition "is irrelevant unless one of those experts can say that being shot in the back did not contribute to his death," said Harris' family attorney Dan Smolen, who has filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Harris' estate.

Members of the Harris family plan to be in court for jury selection and for the duration of the trial, said Smolen.

The NAACP and local lawmakers such as state Rep. Mike Shelton of Oklahoma County led the call to put pressure on Oklahoma's top legal brass to bring charges in the case.

What Bates is accused of is an example of power unchecked, said Shelton. "He [Bates] wanted to play cops and robbers and that's what he did," Shelton said.

Shelton is alluding to the fact that Bates, a volunteer reserve deputy, is a close friend to former Sheriff Stanley Glanz. After serving for almost 30 years as Tusa's sheriff, Glanz resigned in September when a grand jury indicted him on a pair of misdemeanor charges, one of them accusing him of withholding details related to Bates who fatally shot Harris.

Bates apologized to Harris' family, whose members have rejected allegations he was violent and on drugs despite a postmortem toxicology screen that showed Harris had methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates and other drugs in his system.

"I think the community pressure worked ... Before that pressure they had no plans to indict [Bates]," said Shelton, who has been in the Oklahoma legislature for 12 years.

"In this situation, the people are satisfied that the process is working, but there is still a concern with the justice system and the disturbing pattern of how Stanley Glanz ran his department."

Phillies' outfield fails to contribute on offense

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:18pm

PHILADELPHIA -- Pete Mackanin was pretty blunt over the weekend when he talked about the lack of offense his Philadelphia Phillies were getting from their corner outfield positions to begin the 2016 season.

"There's not much tinkering I can do," the manager said.

He did some Saturday, inserting Darin Ruf, a natural first baseman, into left field.

After Ruf's 0-for-4, three-strikeout performance Saturday night, Phillies left fielders were hitting .081 with one home run, one RBI and 13 strikeouts.

It didn't look much prettier in right field. Cedric Hunter's 0-for-4 outing dropped the average of Phillies right fielders to .150.

Combined, the offensive production of Phillies corner outfielders entering Sunday was 9-for-78 (.115) with one home run, two RBIs and 27 strikeouts.

"You can't get around it. It's not good," Mackanin said.

Mackanin made another adjustment Sunday, starting Tyler Goeddel in left field and putting Peter Bourjos -- who got the night off Saturday from his usual left field position -- in right field.

Bourjos broke out of a slump and went 2-for-4 Sunday, scoring the tying run in the 10th and final inning of a 3-2 Phillies win over the Washington Nationals.

"Not too far in the future we're going to probably have to make some moves if these guys don't come around," Mackanin said.

Candidates to be promoted from the Triple-A level include veteran Will Venable, David Lough, Cameron Perkins and Darnell Sweeney. Mackanin said the team hasn't had much discussion yet on the possibility of calling up highly-touted prospect Nick Williams.

Making things more difficult, Cody Asche, who played 63 games in left field last season, still hasn't returned to baseball activities from an oblique injury that he aggravated late in spring training. He isn't expected to until early May.

The Phillies, who are tied for next-to-last in the majors in runs scored, probably can't wait that long.

Mistakes are hurting Tigers

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:18pm

HOUSTON -- Since it was Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler who showcased his veteran savvy by allowing an infield popup to drop in the fifth inning in order to retire a faster runner at second base (Colby Rasmus) in exchange for a slower runner at the plate (Tyler White), Kinsler is the best candidate to speak on the Tigers' sloppy weekend.

Detroit committed two errors plus a couple ill-advised baserunning decisions during its weekend series with the Astros, sacrificing runners at third with overly aggressive baserunning on Friday and Saturday before putting two Astros in scoring position via a throwing error from first baseman Miguel Cabrera with two outs in the fourth inning Sunday.

"We're playing good baseball," Kinsler said somewhat curiously when asked about cleaning up their play. "I think scoring early is something that we'd like to do. We've done it in a couple games this season but we've played really good baseball so far."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus made baserunning an emphasis during spring training, yet in the series opener Kinsler was thrown out attempting to go from first to third on a Cabrera first-inning single. On Saturday night, third baseman Nick Castellanos was erased when he tried to stretch a double into a triple, potentially costing Detroit a big inning.

Cabrera attempted to erase Marwin Gonzalez at second base with his toss, but it was errant and allowed Gonzalez and Jake Marisnick, who reached on an infield single, to advance one base. Jose Altuve followed with a two-run single that ultimately provided Houston the cushion it needed to eke out a 5-4 win.

The Tigers pressed the Astros in the two games they lost this weekend. Superior fundamental play might have resulted in a road series sweep.

"I thought the last two games were sloppy," Ausmus said.

"We did a nice job both games (Saturday and Sunday) coming back, getting ourselves back in the game from an offensive standpoint. But I think we can play cleaner games than we did yesterday and today."

Medical marijuana now legal in 24 states

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:05pm

Pennsylvania just became the 24th U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana.

Gov. Tom Wolf approved the measure Sunday, allowing the sale and consumption of cannabis for treating specific diseases or symptoms.

Wolf, a Democrat, said in a statement that the measure "will improve the quality of life for patients and their families throughout Pennsylvania" by giving them access to a new treatment option.

The state will roll out its medical marijuana program over the next 18 to 24 months.

Under the new law, up to 150 dispensaries can obtain an authorization to sell weed to patients with a doctor's certification.

According to a fiscal impact report, Pennsylvania estimates application and registration fees will net $10 million within a year.

The state will collect a 5 percent tax on medical marijuana purchases.

Among the diseases included in the statute's definition of "serious medical condition": Cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, glaucoma and PTSD.

Voters in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and D.C. have legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational use, and 20 states and D.C. have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. However, it's still a banned substance under federal law.

Artists of Coachella 2016

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:05pm

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival kicked off April 15 in Indio, Calif.

Angels' bullpen is a work in progress

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:03pm

MINNEAPOLIS -- Los Angeles Angels relievers are struggling at the start of the 2016 season, and nowhere was that more evident than at Target Field over the weekend.

The Angels were in position to win all three games, only to see their bullpen struggle once again to hold a lead. Friday's starter Garrett Richards left the game in line for his first victory, but he saw Greg Mahle, Mike Morin and Fernando Salas combine to allow three runs in just two innings as the Twins earned their first win of the season.

The following day, the clubs were locked in a late-inning tie when Los Angeles' best setup man, Joe Smith, allowed back-to-back solo homers in the eighth inning as Minnesota finished off a series win.

Smith blew another lead in the eighth Sunday, allowing the tying run to score after back-to-back singles to start the inning. Cory Rasmus walked a batter in the 12th to put the eventual winning run on base, and closer Huston Street yielded a game-ending single to Oswaldo Arcia.

"It's no secret, our bullpen hasn't been as good as we'd wanted it to be to start the year," Smith said. "I'm supposed to be the one that comes in before (Street) and make sure nothing else happens and turn the ball over to him. We haven't been able to do that."

Part of the struggles have come from a lack of identity. Other than Smith and Street, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been forced to mix and match among his other relievers to try to get from the starters to the back end of his bullpen.

Scioscia said he believes the Angels possess the ingredients to have a solid relief corps but that it may take some time to sort things out. That is the goal moving forward, preferably sooner rather than later.

"I think our bullpen is going to evolve, there's no doubt about that," Scioscia said. "I think we will get a little bit of clarity as we move on, but the best scenario would be for all of them to be throwing the ball well. If they match up, great, if you can get whoever is fresh and let them pitch the seventh inning, that's great, too. But we're gonna do whatever we need to do to close out some games out. We have a lot of confidence in those guys."

Preview: Mets at Phillies

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:03pm

After dominating the Phillies last season, Noah Syndergaard takes aim at Philadelphia again Monday when his New York Mets visit for the first of three games. Syndergaard not only owned the Phillies in 2015 but has been New York's best starter to this point in the current campaign.Syndergaard started twice against Philadelphia last year, posting a 1.46 ERA with a 15-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in two victories. He has a 0.69 ERA to start this season and will be looking to lead New York to its fourth win in five games following the team's successful weekend series against Cleveland. The Phillies dropped two straight against the Nationals over the weekend before avoiding a sweep with a 3-2 comeback victory on Sunday. Philadelphia will turn to Jerad Eickhoff, who allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings against New York on April 8.TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, SNY (New York), TCN (Philadelphia)PITCHING MATCHUP: Mets RH Noah Syndergaard (1-0, 0.69 ERA) vs. Phillies RH Jerad Eickhoff (1-1, 1.50)Syndergaard's two starts against the Phillies last season were highlighted by a 7 1/3-inning scoreless performance on May 27. Freddy Galvis and Ryan Howard homered against him in 2015, but Odubel Herrera was 0-for-6 and Cesar Hernandez was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Syndergaard has begun 2016 by holding Kansas City and Miami to a combined one run in 13 innings with 21 strikeouts and only two walks.Eickhoff bounced back nicely from his decent start against the Mets by holding the Padres to four hits over seven scoreless innings. He struck out nine without a walk in that performance and continued to shine against right-handed batters, who are 3-for-23 against him this season. New York certainly is getting familiar with Eickhoff, who has made 10 career starts - four against the Mets - and is 1-3 in those outings despite a respectable 2.88 ERA.WALK-OFFS1. The Phillies have scored three runs or fewer in 11 of their 13 games, including seven straight.2. Philadelphia won two of three at New York from April 8-10 with Jacob deGrom outdueling Eickhoff in the Mets' only victory.3. Mets OF Michael Conforto went 5-for-12 with three doubles and a home run in the series at Cleveland.PREDICTION: Mets 5, Phillies 3

Moscot's start welcome in downtrodden Reds rotation

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:03pm

ST. LOUIS -- Given Cincinnati's current pitching situation, which ranges somewhere between dire and awful, forgive Reds management or fans if Jon Moscot looked like the next coming of Greg Maddux on Sunday.

No, Moscot didn't shut St. Louis down in Busch Stadium, or earn the win. But his 5 2/3 innings of work, which included six hits, three runs, a walk and two strikeouts against the game's highest-scoring team, was more than good enough to keep Cincinnati in a game it eventually lost 4-3.

"There's a lot to build on," Moscot said. "I'm excited for the next start."

Throwing nearly two-thirds of his 102 pitches for strikes, Moscot was able to use his off-speed pitches to obtain outs. His outing might have reached into the seventh inning except that St. Louis taxed him for 20, 19 and 22-pitch innings with a series of long at-bats before Moscot ran out of gas in the sixth.

"He gives us a shot of life in the rotation which is terrific," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I would have loved to see him finish the sixth inning, but he did a nice job."

Nice enough to earn another start on Friday night against the Chicago Cubs, in all likelihood.

First on CNN: U.S. and Russia meet on cybersecurity

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 8:00pm

Senior cybersecurity officials from the U.S. and Russia are holding meetings this week on cybersecurity, renewing efforts to prevent the countries from mistakenly getting into a cyber war, U.S. officials say.

The meetings in Geneva include officials from the White House, State Department and FBI and will include a review of cybersecurity agreements signed in 2013 by the two countries, a senior administration official told CNN.

The meetings come in the wake of a cyber attack that crippled parts of the Ukrainian power grid in December, a breach that U.S. investigators concluded to be a first-of-its-kind confirmed cyber attack on civilian infrastructure. Senior U.S. security officials believe Russia was behind the attack, though the Obama administration has stopped short of attributing the attack to Russia.

Attributing attacks is notoriously difficult because sophisticated hackers mask where their attacks are coming from.

There's been an icy relationship between the U.S. and Russia on cyber and other issues since 2014 when Russia invaded eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea.

While Russian officials have suggested the meetings this week represent a return to normal, U.S. officials have tried to play down the status of the Geneva meetings.

"This meeting is not a restart of the Bilateral Presidential Commission working group (suspended in 2014 after Ukraine) but it is in our interest to discuss cybersecurity issues with Russia, including to review the 2013 Bilateral U.S.-Russia Cyber (confidence-building measures)," said the senior U.S. official.

One such confidence-building measure was establishment of a hotline to allow U.S. and Russian officials to talk to each other during a cybersecurity crisis.

The fear is that a cyber attack appearing to come from the other's territory could mistakenly lead to a real confrontation between the two countries.

The hotline remains in force, the senior administration official said.

NBA roundup: Cavaliers rally to take Game 1

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 7:48pm

CLEVELAND: LeBron James had 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Big Three combined for 81 points in a hard-fought 106-101 victory Sunday against the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

The Cavs survived a 3-point onslaught from the Pistons, who made 15 3-pointers and shot 52 percent from deep.

Kevin Love had 28 points and 13 rebounds and Kyrie Irving had 31 points and six assists for the Cavaliers, who trailed by seven with 11 minutes left before rallying behind James.

Game 2 is Wednesday night at Cleveland.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 21 points for the Pistons and Marcus Morris scored 20 -- but Morris had just one in the second half.

A 3-pointer from Reggie Bullock with 11:03 left in the fourth quarter matched the Pistons' largest lead of the game at 83-76, forcing the Cavaliers to call a timeout to get James back in the game. It took him 1:40 to have the game tied at 83, and the Cavs rolled behind their star.

Heat 123, Hornets 91

MIAMI -- Luol Deng scored 31 points to help Miami take Game 1 of this first-round series.

Deng shot 11-of-13 from the field and 5-of-7 from 3-point range in his first postseason appearance for the Heat, who never trailed and built a double-digit lead midway through the first quarter.

Hassan Whiteside finished with 21 points, 11 and three blocks in his playoff debut. Dwyane Wade scored 16 points and Goran Dragic had 10 assists in his Miami playoff debut.

The Heat tied a team playoff record for points in a quarter by taking a 41-22 lead at the end of the first period.

Nicolas Batum scored 24 points and Kemba Walker finished with 19 points for Charlotte.

Heat 123, Hornets 91

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 7:33pm

MIAMI -- Luol Deng scored 31 points as the Miami Heat routed the Charlotte Hornets 123-91 in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Sunday.Deng shot 11-of-13 from the field and 5-of-7 from 3-point range in his first postseason appearance for the Heat, who never trailed and built a double-digit lead midway through the first quarter.Hassan Whiteside finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds in his playoff debut. Whiteside shot 9-of-11 from the field and blocked three shots.Dwyane Wade scored 16 points and Goran Dragic had 10 assists in his Miami playoff debut. Amar'e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson were Miami's other double-figure scorers with 11 points each.The Heat tied a team playoff record for points in a quarter by taking a 41-22 lead at the end of the first period. The previous high was set against New Jersey May 10, 2006.Deng scored 14 points in the quarter and Whiteside added 10 points leading Miami to its 19-point advantage. Whiteside's hook shot with 4:42 left gave the Heat their first double-digit lead at 23-13. Deng was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers in the period and Josh Richardson's conversion from beyond the arc with 44 seconds left increased Miami's advantage to 39-20.The Hornets avoided a larger first-half deficit as they converted 21-of-28 free throws.Nicolas Batum scored 24 points and Kemba Walker finished with 19 points for Charlotte.Unlike the Heat's regular-season finale at Boston on Wednesday, when they squandered a 24-point halftime lead and lost by double digits, Miami built a 17-point advantage at halftime and ran off seven unanswered points to start the second half.Deng scored five points during the early second-half spurt and his layup 2:23 into the second half gave Miami a 74-50 lead.Game 2 will be Wednesday night at Miami before the series shifts to Charlotte for games three and four Saturday and April 25.NOTES: F Nicolas Batum tested his sore left ankle in workouts before Game 1 to gauge his eventual availability for the series opener. Batum, who averaged 14.9 points per-game, sat out Charlotte's regular season finale against Orlando on Wednesday. ... C Al Jefferson continued his reserve role in game one. Coach Steve Clifford considered returning Jefferson to the starting lineup but opted to remain with Cody Zeller at center. ... C Hassan Whiteside, F Justise Winslow and G Josh Richardson made their playoff debuts against Charlotte. Meanwhile, Heat veterans G Dwyane Wade, F Joe Johnson and F Udonis Haslem have a combined 377 post-season appearances entering Sunday's game. ... A sore left foot won't keep Haslem from playing in the series, according to coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I've seen the man play through, literally, a broken foot for two months in the playoffs," Spoelstra said.