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Rays move to within a win of World Series after Game 3 win over Astros –



SAN DIEGO — Kevin Kiermaier and the Tampa Bay Rays — with big assists from two former Padres who know Petco Park’s outfield well — are one win from the second World Series berth in franchise history.

Joey Wendle hit a go-ahead, two-run single two batters after another critical error by Jose Altuve, and the Rays beat the Houston Astros 5-2 on Tuesday night for a 3-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Kiermaier, a three-time Gold Glove winner in centre field, saved multiple runs for the Rays with two outstanding catches before leaving with a hand injury. Hunter Renfroe, acquired from the San Diego Padres last December, made a pair of terrific grabs in right.

“We’ve played just tremendous defence all season long,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “It’s a credit to the guys how hard they work at it.”

Towering righty Tyler Glasnow, who grew up just north of Los Angeles, will try to complete the series sweep and deliver the Rays their first pennant in 12 years Wednesday night when he opposes Zack Greinke in Game 4.

Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Tampa Bay player, said it was “an amazing feeling” to be so close to going to the Fall Classic.

“I knew that this group would be capable of getting to this point. I had no doubt in my mind,” the 30-year-old Kiermaier said, praising everyone from the front office to the coaches to the players. “This is what it’s all about. I’m so proud to be a part of this and have so much fun with these guys.”

Tampa Bay reached the World Series in 2008 but lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

“There’s a very confident mindset with this group,” Cash said. “We’ll stay consistent and do everything we can behind Glasnow to make plays.”

The innovative Rays had one of baseball’s lowest payrolls during the pandemic-shortened season and still finished with the AL’s best record at 40-20. It seems a different player comes up big every night, whether it’s an unsung hitter or reliever — sometimes both. They’ve also played spectacular defence.

The Astros got into the post-season with a 29-31 record before going 5-1 to reach the ALCS. But they’ve looked nothing like the team that won the AL pennant two of the last three years and they remain villains to many for illegal sign stealing en route to the 2017 World Series title.

Houston fell apart in the sixth, when the Rays sent 11 batters to the plate and scored five runs on four hits, two hit batters and Altuve’s error at second base. One of the runs was unearned.

Losing pitcher Jose Urquidy held Tampa Bay to two singles through five scoreless innings before Randy Arozarena singled leading off the sixth. Brandon Lowe hit a grounder to Altuve, who tried for a routine forceout but short-hopped the throw and it skipped past shortstop Carlos Correa into left field.

Enoli Paredes replaced Urquidy, and Yandy Diaz singled to load the bases. Wendle lined a single off third baseman Alex Bregman’s glove to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.

Manuel Margot, whose three-run homer in Game 2 followed the first of Altuve’s two errors, laid down Tampa Bay’s first sacrifice bunt of the season. Paredes hit Kiermaier on the hand to load the bases and then grazed Willy Adames on the pinkie with a pitch to bring in another run.

“A nightmare inning,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.

Renfroe, who like Margot began his career with the Padres, flared a pinch-hit double into right to bring in two more runs.

“That big hit has been eluding us the whole series,” Baker said. “It seems like they get whatever they want.”

Renfroe came up big with his bat and glove two nights after striking out four times. He and Margot, who also made a sensational catch in Game 2, were traded to the Rays in separate deals last off-season.

Left-hander Ryan Yarbrough pitched into the sixth for the win, holding the Astros to two runs and three hits while striking out five and walking two.

Diego Castillo pitched the ninth for his second save, stranding two runners.

“We’re in a good spot, but we’re not counting anything yet. We know we have another ballgame to win,” Wendle said.

Yarbrough allowed Altuve’s homer in the first inning, his second of the series. Michael Brantley’s homer to left leading off the sixth chased Yarbrough.

Altuve has 17 career post-season home runs, tying teammate George Springer for the most in franchise history.

Altuve also homered in the first inning of the opener, a 2-1 Rays win.

Two batters after Altuve’s shot, Bregman barely missed a home run as Kiermaier made a leaping catch of his drive near the top of the fence in centre.

“We’re not happy that we’re down 0-3, I’ll tell you that. But at the same time, we’re going to bring great energy tomorrow,” Correa said. “We’re going to go down swinging, and we’re going to go down playing our brand of baseball. Whatever happens, we’re going to do it as a team.”

GREAT Defence

Besides his leap to rob Bregman, Kiermaier made a diving catch of Correa’s liner with two runners on to end the third. Renfroe made a diving grab of Springer’s sinking liner to end the seventh. With the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, Renfroe also made a sliding basket catch of Kyle Tucker’s shallow fly ball.

“Taking a run away is just as valuable as driving one in,” Kiermaier said.


Arozarena, who defected from Havana to Mexico in 2015, doubled in the third for his eighth extra-base hit this post-season, one shy of tying Melvin Upton Jr. and Evan Longoria, both in 2008, for the most in a single post-season in Rays history. Arozarena has four homers this post-season.


Rays: Kiermaier exited with a bruised left hand after getting hit by the pitch in the sixth. X-rays were negative.

“Try to be hockey tough in these kind of situations, but we’ll see how my recovery process goes,” he said.


Rays: The 6-foot-8 Glasnow (2-0, 4.05 ERA) will make his fourth start of the post-season. He beat the New York Yankees 7-5 while striking out 10 in Game 2 of the AL Division Series and then started the clincher Friday night and went 2 1/3 innings on just two days’ rest.

Astros: Greinke (0-0, 5.19) will be making his third start this post-season and the 19th playoff start of his career. He experienced a sore arm during the ALDS against Oakland but said he should be fine.

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Jon Jones scoffs at Khabib Nurmagomedov taking over as pound-for-pound best, much less becoming the GOAT – MMA Fighting



Jon Jones is happy to praise Khabib Nurmagomedov on an incredible career, but he’s not ready to just hand over his spot as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, much less declare anybody else as the greatest of all-time.

At UFC 254, Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from MMA just moments after submitting Justin Gaethje to retain his lightweight title and move his record to 29-0 overall. The undefeated Dagestani superstar then asked for a the No. 1 spot in the pound-for-pound rankings as one final gesture in a career where he dominated his competition while losing only two rounds in the octagon.

While Jones conceded his No. 1 pound-for-pound ranking momentarily to help celebrate Nurmagomedov’s career, the former UFC light heavyweight champion quickly pointed out all the ways he’s superior.

“15 world titles, numbers don’t lie,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “Definitely a powerful moment, but my logic is definitely not clouded. I’ve won 15 world titles, he just won his 4th. The fact that this is even a conversation is mine blowing to me.”

For all the ways Jones congratulated Nurmagomedov for his record and resume, adding he surely “made his father along with millions of fans around the world incredibly proud,” he’s not ready to hand over his life’s work.

Jones is more than happy to remind everybody of the heady list of accomplishments he’s put together, essentially remaining undefeated – outside of a lone disqualification loss in a fight he was dominating – in the UFC over the past decade.

“When I signed with UFC I was one of the youngest fighters on the roster, youngest champion in the history of the sport and have only had three competitive fights,” Jones said. “I understand most people have never been number one in their community, state, let alone the world. My competitive nature won’t allow me to just stand by and see someone ask to be considered the best. I’ve sacrificed too much blood.

“I mean if I get out ranked by a man with only three title defenses, I don’t really know what to think anymore. Over 50% of my career have been title fights. LeBron James is allowed to win a game by one point but not Jon Jones. Man I have really spoiled you guys.”

Perhaps recency bias plays a part, but Jones just can’t fathom how his overall career suddenly pales in comparison to Nurmagomedov, no matter what he did on Saturday night at UFC 254.

“If we’re having a popularity contest, I’d gladly take my L,” Jones wrote. “This sh*t has nothing to do with fame or being a good person. I’ve giving my whole adult life to this game, I owe it to myself to speak up. People want me to stay quiet and let him have his moment while I just sit back and watch my hard work get moved down the rankings. It’s not fair to my family, or the team of people who have sacrificed to get me this far

“Not salty at all, I really do respect Khabib, I honor the type of man he is. But being the best is earned not given. Unfortunately four title fights ain’t it, no matter how much we all like [him].”

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Hamilton wins Portuguese GP to break Schumacher's F1 record – TSN



PORTIMAO, Portugal — British driver Lewis Hamilton made Formula One history on Sunday, winning the Portuguese Grand Prix for a 92nd career victory to move one ahead of German great Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton finished nearly 25.6 seconds ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and 34.5 clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for his eighth win of another dominant season. He also took an extra point for the fastest lap to extend his huge championship lead to 77 points over Bottas with just five races left.

Hamilton won his first F1 race in 2007 and first title the following year. But his career really took off when he replaced the retired Schumacher at Mercedes in 2013. Hamilton added five more F1 titles and the runaway championship leader is now set to equal Schumacher’s record of seven.

“I could only ever have dreamed of being where I am today,” an emotional Hamilton said. “It’s going to take some time to fully sink in. I can’t find the words at the moment.”

Shortly after crossing the line and celebrating with the team’s mechanics and engineers, Hamilton paused to share a long hug with his father, Anthony Hamilton, who then filmed the scene on his i-pad as Hamilton celebrated on the podium while the crowd cheered him loudly.

Then it was time for the traditional Champagne spraying, although Verstappen and Bottas had the last word this time, as Verstappen poured the bottle over Hamilton’s head and Bottas sprayed him good-naturedly in the face with his.

Hamilton took a record-extending 97th career pole position, starting ahead of Bottas and Verstappen on a track being used for the first time in F1.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. briefly held the race lead and then Bottas led until Hamilton passed him on Lap 20.

After that Hamilton coasted to the finish line and into the record books.

The only thing that did trouble him was a bout of cramp in his right calf muscle, but that did little to deter him.

Plenty of mask-wearing fans sat in the stands around the undulating 4.6-kilometre (3-mile) circuit in Portimao. The track has frequent elevation changes and notably caused drivers problems with grip —among them Charles Leclerc but the Ferrari driver did well to finish fourth in an uncompetitive car. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly made a great late overtake on Racing Point’s Sergio Perez to take fifth place.

Hamilton made a hesitant start while Bottas was overtaken by Verstappen only to gain the position back and then overtake a surprisingly cautious Hamilton as rain started falling.

“I had a huge oversteer,” Hamilton said. “I backed off massively.”

But Sainz Jr. zoomed up from seventh to first on the quicker soft tires, until Bottas passed him on Lap 6, Hamilton did so on Lap 7 and Verstappen on the next.

Perez had a lucky escape at the start when he made contact with Verstappen and flew sideways off the track, without getting hit by another car. Kimi Raikkonen went from 16th to sixth with some typically daring moves but the 41-year-old Finn started to drift back while, up ahead, Bottas led until Hamilton overtook him.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, from Montreal, made a reckless move on the left of Lando Norris and went off track after clipping the McLaren on Lap 19. Stroll was given a 5-second time penalty.

Toronto’s Nicholas Latifi was 18th in his Williams Mercedes.

Hamilton’s speed advantage was such that he was soon well clear of Bottas, whose rear right tire was graining. He perhaps gambled on Hamilton losing tire grip himself, but the gap was 10 seconds when Hamilton pitted for new tires on Lap 41.

Bottas came in on the following lap and when he came out he was caught in traffic and struggling for rhythm.

The day belonged to Hamilton, and it appears inevitable that title No. 7 will follow suit.

After which, the only thing left will be 100 victories on his way to setting another record for titles.

His first win came in Canada, 13 years ago, when driving for McLaren, and the team sportingly sent Hamilton a Tweet featuring a bottle of Champagne and the words “You never forget your first.”

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Khabib Nurmagomedov ends career with perfect record, perfect timing – MMA Fighting



The timing of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement may have been surprising, but given how he’s dictated his entire career, it shouldn’t have been.

Forget going 30-0. Forget potential legacy fights, grudge matches. Forget the money. Nurmagomedov picked the perfect time to walk away.

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His hand raised, victorious in a place that idolizes him, a dangerous opponent vanquished, Nurmagomedov took even stronger hold of a moment that he had already seized and ended things on his terms.

“It was my last fight,” Nurmagomedov stated, shortly after submitting Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254.

He went on to explain how difficult it was to go forward with Saturday’s fight in the wake of the passing of his father Abdulmanap, a monumental figure not just in Nurmagomedov’s life but for the entire Republic of Dagestan. He promised his mother that the next one would be his last and he intends to keep that promise. He also took a swipe at past opponents Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, reminding everyone that they’d fallen before him just as all the others did.

Those are a couple of reasons to believe that this retirement will stick. Another is that Nurmagomedov has always been clear with his intentions, and even with everyone knowing what his plan—Father’s Plan—was both inside and outside the cage, not a single soul could stand in its way.

Certainly, there are unanswered questions. That’s how these things go. But he’s done just about everything in his power to guarantee that he’s included in any serious conversation regarding who is the greatest fighter of all-time. Realistically, that’s all anyone can ask for given how comparing different eras is an imprecise science.

Even if you’re not wowed by the 29-0 record (an odd thing not to be wowed by), the quality of his victories stands out. He dominated the very best competition in MMA, including Gaethje, Poirier, McGregor, and Rafael dos Anjos, all of whom held UFC gold themselves at one point in their careers. And when we talk about Nurmagomedov’s domination, we have to look beyond the scorecards. He made the best of the best look average compared to him.

Saturday’s win showed there was still plenty of room for growth for Nurmagomedov, who turned 32 this past September. Rather than immediately go to his wrestling, Nurmagomedov charged at the hard-hitting Gaethje and pressured him non-stop in the standup. In the standup, with Gaethje of all people. So much for the narrative that Nurmagomedov isn’t much of a striker.

He got it done with his grappling in the end, turning Gaethje into a white belt volunteering for a jiu-jitsu demonstration, and if this was the only Nurmagomedov fight you’d learn quickly how he earned his fierce reputation. It was as fine an exclamation point as any for one to close their career on and even if this isn’t truly the end, Nurmagomedov picked a hell of a good time to take a break.

What fresh fights are left that fans are just dying to see? Would-be UFC 254 replacement Michael Chandler? Charles Oliveira? Dan Hooker? Kevin Lee? All respectable names, all of whom would have far more to gain from a fight with Nurmagomedov than Nurmagomedov himself. Even those with a fondness for old-fashioned resume building have to admit that any future fights would be more for fan-fulfillment than Nurmagomedov’s self-fulfillment.

The two biggest missed opportunities are his cursed series of scheduled bouts with Tony Ferguson and a bout with retired legend Georges St-Pierre that both men expressed having a strong interest in. You can blame the mischievous MMA Gods for the first one not coming to fruition, and the tight purse strings of the UFC for the second. Either way, one can make a strong argument that Nurmagomedov has surpassed Ferguson at this point, and a win over a 40-year-old “GSP,” no matter what weight class it took place at, would be more of a luxury item than an essential piece of the Nurmagomedov collection.

Looking back, all the talk of what UFC President Dana White’s super secret special plans were for Nurmagomedov seems silly, given that it was always Nurmagomedov and his team who were going to decide his future. At Saturday’s post-fight presser, White seemed resigned to that fact that this might truly be the last time we see Nurmagomedov compete inside the octagon. For better (Nurmagomedov refusing to fight McGregor a second time regardless of the potential payday) or worse (Nurmagomedov going nuts at UFC 229 after fighting McGregor the first time), Nurmagomedov calls the shots when it comes to when and why he fights.

I’m not ruling out a comeback. This is an extraordinarily emotional and difficult time for billions of people all over the world, including Nurmagomedov. Much like St-Pierre, Nurmagomedov has been singularly focused for so long on one goal—a goal with constantly shifting parameters, mind you—that if he can bring things to a halt for just a moment, he should. There’s no way for any of us to know what Nurmagomedov’s exact mental state was in the lead-up to his final fight. There’s no way for us to know where his head will be at tomorrow. And two years from now? Who’s to say that someone else doesn’t rise up through the ranks to challenge his GOAT status, prompting him to dust off his papakha for one last ride.

Is he the best ever? Does it matter? He wins any hypothetical matchup at 155 pounds, and that includes prime versions of B.J. Penn, Frankie Edgar, Benson Henderson, Eddie Alvarez, Shinya Aoki, and whatever other lightweight great you want to throw in the mix. You can take just about any fight from his career and use that as a snapshot for what a relentless winner he was. The most controversial fight of his career, a striking battle with Gleison Tibau at UFC 148, ended with Nurmagomedov earning 30-27 scores from all three judges. Even at his “worst,” Nurmagomedov won big.

UFC 254 was Nurmagomedov at the peak of his powers. If he was to lay his gloves down, he made sure it was after reminding everyone what it looked like when he got his hands on his opponents. Question what more he could have done if you want, question if this retirement will stick, but one thing you can’t question is the man’s timing. After another flawless performance, nobody can argue that “The Eagle” hasn’t picked the highest possible point from which to soar off into the sunset.

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