How a mid-at-bat change to an ax-handle bat helped ignite Kris Bryant

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Kris Bryant is pretty sure it’s not the bat, but right now, he isn’t leaving anything to chance.

After breaking his old bat during a late April plate appearance in Phoenix, Bryant grabbed his backup, an Axe Bat, and homered on his first swing with it. He had never used the unique-looking lumber, but since then, that’s all he has been swinging.

“I’ve been having good at-bats, so I don’t know if it’s the bat or what, but it’s always nice to use a new one and hit a homer,” the Chicago Cubs third baseman said earlier this week.

Axe Bats feature a handle that backers say is more conducive for a hitting grip. They’re becoming increasingly popular across the game, as American League MVP Mookie Betts uses one, and now a former NL MVP is as well. The manufacturer had been trying to get Bryant to use an Axe Bat, but until that game at Chase Field, he had tried it only in batting practice. Now Bryant won’t put it down, and his hitting coach is a fan as well.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Bryant added: “There’s a lot of science behind it. How the bat naturally comes through the zone, how it falls into the zone. You don’t have to work for it. I like the idea behind it.”10

Axe or no Axe, Bryant is in the midst of one of his better streaks at the plate, as he has reached base in a career-high 18 straight games. His OPS in that stretch is 1.077. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, since going to the Axe Bat on April 26, Bryant’s hard hit rate is 63 percent, eighth in baseball. He also homered in three straight games for the first time in his career, highlighted by a walk-off, three-run shot to win Tuesday’s game over the Miami Marlins. Bryant has been on fire.

All this good stuff has come after he struggled for the first couple of weeks of the season. But while social media was wondering if the old Bryant would return, the hitter and his team simply went to work.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

“It takes time, and it also takes a true trust and belief,” the hitting coach said. “You don’t want to be hunting for hits. You want to be hunting the process. That can be hard.”

Neither Bryant nor the people around him are quick to offer excuses for a slow-ish start — he was hitting .224 with a .689 OPS on April 11 — but few from the outside viewed the situation the way they did: While Bryant played much of last year with his left shoulder hurting, he lost his way. He was favoring it, swinging differently, and then he landed on the injured list. Twice. His season, from May until October, was laborious. His timing was gone.

“When you’re playing sporadic, getting days off, on the DL, changing your swing, you don’t really get into that good rhythm that you want,” Bryant said.

The bottom line — which Bryant would never state so definitively — is he missed almost a year at the plate. He injured his shoulder in May and just recently is feeling like himself in the batter’s box. The offseason takes everyone out of his rhythm, but for Bryant, it was three more months on top of about five.

Braves’ Fried takes liner off hand; X-rays clean

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Atlanta Braves left-hander Max Fried exited Tuesday’s start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second inning after taking a line drive off his pitching hand.

X-rays came back negative, and the Braves said Fried is day-to-day with a contusion on the hand.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Fried, born and raised in nearby Santa Monica, California, couldn’t dodge an 86 mph line drive off the bat of Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo to begin the bottom of the second.9

Fried threw two warm-up pitches, then gave way to reliever Josh Tomlin. Verdugo eventually came around to score on an RBI single by Justin Turner, leaving Fried with a final line of four runs on four hits and a walk in one-plus innings.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

“I kind of saw it come toward me, and it looked like it was coming toward my face, so I just tried to protect myself and felt it hit the side of my hand,” Fried told reporters. “Luckily I think I knew from right when it hit that it wasn’t anything too bad, but it’s just frustrating. You never want to come out of a game like that.”

Butler after 76ers’ 36-point loss: ‘We laid an egg’

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Brett Brown became a meme, Joel Embiid was mocked by Raptors fans the way he normally mocks opponents, and the 76ers suffered one of their worst losses in the franchise’s postseason history in a 125-89 defeat Tuesday night.

The Sixers now trail the Raptors 3-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“I think we laid an egg,” guard Jimmy Butler said after the 76ers coughed up 19 turnovers leading to 31 Toronto points and failed to crack 100 points for the fourth time this series.
By halftime, Philadelphia had more personal fouls (16) than made field goals (14), and the Sixers’ two All-Stars, Embiid and Ben Simmons, struggled as much as anyone. The duo combined for seven turnovers in the first half, which was more than the field goals and assists they combined to register in that span (six).cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Embiid, still reeling from the upper respiratory infection that limited him in Game 4, finished with 13 pcheap nike nfl jerseys wholesaleoints on 5-for-10 shooting (2-for-6 from 3), six rebounds, one assist and eight turnovers. In the past five postseasons, only two players have finished a game with one or zero assists and eight or more turnovers: Kevin Durant in 2016 and Embiid, who has now done it twice, as he matched his one-assist, eight-turnover game in the first round against the Miami Heat last year.10

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I know I got to do a better job for us to win. I got to do the little things. When I’m needed to score the ball, I got to show up. Setting screens, I got to do a better job of rebounding the ball. So that’s on me. … I just got to do more.”

Embiid played one of his finest games as a pro in Game 3 against the Raptors, putting up 33 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks to put the Sixers up 2-1 in the series. In the two losses since, he has totaled just 24 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.

When the Sixers center checked out of Game 5 for good with 9:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, fans in the stands at Scotiabank Arena — including Canadian rapper Drake, the Raptors’ global ambassador — spread their arms out and mimicked Embiid’s airplane celebration that he broke out after his late windmill dunk in Game 3.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Embiid hasn’t been able to help the Sixers land a win since.

“I just saw them shake their bodies,” Embiid said of the fans. “I didn’t pay attention about what the hell they were doing. Good for them. … I don’t care if it offends anybody, but what I do is all about having fun. I don’t care. And I’m going to do that because I know I’m going to dominate.”

Kyrie Irving’s failed leadership tells the story of the Celtics’ failed season

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cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesaleAt first, it seemed like things were going to be just fine.

When the Boston Celtics convened for media day back in September, they were the heavy favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in this season’s NBA Finals, and arguably no team in the league had a brighter road ahead.

Brad Stevens saw something different.

“I knew going in that it was going to be super challenging, but October screamed it,” the Celtics coach told ESPN recently. “I knew after the first two exhibition games, it was going to be really, really hard.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

It turned out to be harder than he could have imagined. And in the end, it was too difficult to overcome, as Boston suffered a fourth consecutive loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday to crash out of the second round of the playoffs.9

This was not what was supposed to happen to a team that made the conference finals the past two years — and then added a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to the mix.

There are plenty of reasons to explain why this season was so hard, and why these Celtics were so disappointing. At the root of all of them, though, is Irving — and, more specifically, his leadership through words and actions on and off the court.

Those comments became the guideposts of this long, strange trip of a season in Boston, the things that — in retrospect — were signaling to the world how hard this was turning out to be for the Celtics.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Irving’s words not only defined the Celtics’ disappointing season; they help to explain how a season that was supposed to mark Boston’s return to the top of the sport instead left all involved searching for answers.

Real Deal: Panthers sign undrafted RB Holyfield

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The Carolina Panthers are taking a chance on an undrafted player whose father is a boxing legend in their search for a running back to pair with Christian McCaffrey as a one-two punch.

Georgia’s Elijah Holyfield, the son of four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, has agreed to terms with Carolina after being bypassed in the draft, the team announced Monday.

The elder Holyfield told ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure in February at the Super Bowl that he hoped his son got a chance to play for Atlanta, where he grew up. Elijah Holyfield will have to settle for playing the NFC South rival Falcons twice a season if he makes the rostercheap nfl jerseys china nike

Holyfield’s draft stock dropped after he posted a 4.78 time in the 40-yard dash and didn’t demonstrate great explosion. Known more for his quickness than speed, the 5-foot-10, 215-pound back may be a better fit to complement McCaffrey than fifth-round pick Jordan Scarlett out of Florida.10

The Panthers entered the offseason looking for a back who could do many of the same things McCaffrey does, in order to give the 2017 first-round pick a break. McCaffrey played 91.3 percent of the team’s offensive snaps and set an NFL single-season record for a back with 107 catches in 2018.

Scarlett is known more as an inside power runner, catching only 10 passes last season.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Holyfield is more of a do-it-all back like McCaffrey. Holyfield rushed for 1,018 yards and seven touchdowns on 159 carries and had five catches for 40 yards this past season as he split time with D’Andre Swift, who rushed for 1,049 yards.

Holyfield will compete with Scarlett, Cameron Artis-Payne, Reggie Bonnafon and Elijah Hood for the spot behind McCaffrey.

Holyfield isn’t the only new arrival from Georgia. The Panthers made wide receiver Terry Godwin a seventh-round pick on Saturday. Godwin likes the addition of his former teammate.

“I know what he can bring to the table and I know what type of athlete he is,” Godwin said of Holyfield. “It’s going to be an exciting camp for us.”

Smith back in Panthers fold, to receive honor

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Steve Smith can finally set aside the bitterness from being released by the Carolina Panthers in March 2014.

The organization announced Monday that their all-time leading wide receiver would be a part of the 2019 Hall of Honor.

Smith joins quarterback Jake Delhomme, tight end Wesley Walls and offensive tackle Jordan Gross as the first players named to the shrine since Sam Mills retired and was honored following the 1997 season.

“It’s good to be back,” Smith told the team. “There’s very few things in my life that really make me emotional to where I want to tear up.That penetrates a place I generally don’t go.’‘cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Smith was so bitter about being released by then-general manager Dave Gettleman after the 2013 season that he said he told a local radio station that if he got the chance to play against Carolina, everyone should “put on your goggles because there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere.”

Smith got his shot at Carolina during the 2014 season when, as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, he had seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

“They didn’t even deserve me to spin the ball on them,” Smith said afterward.9

Smith later admitted in the NFL Network’s “Steve Smith: A Football Life” that his release was personal and that he “bumped heads” with quarterback Cam Newton.

“We bumped heads for the obvious reasons,” Smith said. “He’s the first pick and he was a star where he was. I was 31 years old. I had three kids. So we were two different people in two different phases of their life.’‘cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Gross said Smith’s lack of patience with Newton was a factor in the decision to release him.

“Really, I think the organization felt for Cam to flourish they needed Steve to step down,” he told the NFL Network.

Said former Carolina wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl, “Emotionally, it was hard for everybody because of what he’d done for this organization, the impact he’s had in the community.”

Much of Smith’s anger was directed at Gettleman because there was no advance notice of his release before it became public knowledge. Smith heard the news on a Charlotte radio station.

Being selected to the Hall of Honor by new owner David Tepper has helped heal old wounds.

“For some, long overdue,” Smith said. “For others, surprised just as much as me. Some maybe didn’t foresee that this would ever come to fruition, the reconnecting.”

Melbourne Victory take second-string side to face Daegu FC

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Melbourne Victory have taken the kids to South Korea for their midweek AFC Champions League distraction, leaving the bulk of their senior squad at home to prepare for Sunday’s A-League semifinal.

All five foreigners have been spared the gruelling 20-hour door-to-door trip to face Daegu FC on Wednesday night.

Victory’s result against the K League 1 side will have no bearing on their season, given they have already been mathematically eliminated from the tournament.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

As Victory boss Kevin Muscat has just one priority — reaching the A-League Grand Final — he opted for a travelling party of just 15 players.

Of the team that defeated Wellington Phoenix 3-1 on Friday night, Thomas Deng, James Donachie and Elvis Kamsoba are the only starters to travel, along with substitutes Storm Roux and Kenny Athiu.10

Along with the foreign five, Lawrence Thomas, Terry Antonis, Leigh Broxham, Carl Valeri and Anthony Lesitotis were told to stay put.

James Troisi, the club’s sole member on the injury list as he recovers from a small hamstring tear, also won’t be risked.

Ola Toivonen, who scored Victory’s third goal in the elimination final against Wellington, said the contest with the Phoenix took a toll.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“We knew it was gonna be a physical game and we were ready for it,” he said. “We played smart. So we deserved to win.”

Toivonen’s chip from an acute angle over Filip Kurto was a superb individual effort from Friday’s man of the match.
He might have finished with a hat trick except he twice played in teammates while in goal-scoring positions.

“I’m not really a goalscorer. I like to put other players in positions as well,” he said.

Having scored twice against Sydney FC this season already, Toivonen will be a marked man at Jubilee Stadium.

The 32-year-old said he was delighted to be heading to Kogarah, where he scored a fine free kick back in November, and not their most recent venue, the SCG.

Adelaide into A-League semifinals after last-gasp extra time win over Melbourne City

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Ben Halloran produced a last-minute extra-time winner for Adelaide United, sending the Reds into the A-League semifinals at the expense of Melbourne City.

Halloran sent a packed Coopers Stadium into delirium and his team into a clash with Perth, ending City’s season on Sunday night just as both sides appeared to be settling in for penalties.

The forward latched onto a cut-back from Baba Diawara after Ryan Kitto’s through-ball was midjudged by City’s marquee defender Richie De Laet — a painful end to an otherwise fine season from the Belgian.

Halloran, Craig Goodwin and goalkeeper Paul Izzo were all brilliant in the win. Adelaide coach Marco Kurz was a jubilant figure among many at Coopers Stadium on the final whistle.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“It was another fantastic night for the boys and the supporters,” he said. “To see the supporters together with the boys in celebration — that is my job.9

“It’s not fair to say one player was outstanding … the team is the star.”

City boss Joyce, after missing out on the Asian Champions League qualification his club had set as a goal but never managed, was distraught.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“It’s raw. It’s tough to take,” he said. “You can’t say much really. [The players] are obviously flat.”

Adelaide face a quick turnaround to prepare for Friday night’s formidable challenge of Tony Popovic’s Glory.

Popovic, sitting high in the stands at Coopers Stadium scouting his opponents, cannot have seen much he will fear. Perth will start as clear favourites, given their record and the benefit of a week off after United and City had slogged it out for 120 minutes.

Although Halloran smashed a first-half effort onto the bar, the home side didn’t put a shot on target for 112 minutes.

City weren’t much better, at least working Paul Izzo, but without a cut-through moment to capitalise on their late-match dominance. If the first elimination final, won 3-1 by Melbourne Victory, was an example of an explosive all-out brawl of a final, this was a war of attrition.

Indians to detail Kluber’s prognosis on Friday

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The Indians decided during the winter their starting pitching would carry them to another October.

Cleveland’s ride might end before then.

Corey Kluber’s broken right arm might alter the plans for a season the Indians hoped would include a fourth straight AL Central title.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Kluber, 33, suffered a non-displaced fracture Wednesday night when he was struck by a line drive in the fifth inning of a start against Miami. Kluber, who struggled through the season’s first month, couldn’t avoid the 102 mph comebacker hit by Marlins infielder Brian Anderson. After being nailed, Kluber chased after the ball while his right arm stayed motionless against his side. He swatted the ball with his glove toward the bag before walking dejectedly back to the mound.

All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor hasn’t taken off after being sidelined to start the season with a sprained ankle, and All-Star third baseman Jose Ramirez has yet to break out of a slump that stretches back to August.10

When Cleveland’s front office chose not to trade Kluber or Trevor Bauer and to reconstruct the team’s roster by allowing All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley to leave as a free agent and trading sluggers Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso and Yandy Diaz, it did so believing the pitching depth would be enough to get the Indians back to the playoffs.

That theory is about to be tested.

Clevinger is still probably a few weeks from returning, although he played catch this week and appears to be ahead of schedule.

The Indians are likely to go to a five-man rotation in May with Jefry Rodriguez getting starts. He has made two starts while filling in for Clevinger and is scheduled to start Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox. Kluber would have started Monday, and manager Terry Francona will either juggle his rotation or reach down to Triple-A Columbus and bring up either Adam Plutko or Cody Anderson.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Plutko opened the season in the minors and has been recovering from a forearm strain. Anderson has missed most of the past two seasons after Tommy John elbow surgery, but the Indians think he could be ready soon.

Red Sox get 10 straight hits in nine-run inning

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The Boston Red Sox strung together 10 consecutive hits against Chicago White Sox left-hander Manny Banuelos, ending one hit shy of the major league record during a nine-run third inning Saturday night.

Banuelos retired his first eight batters before Christian Vazquez opened Boston’s two-out rally with a single. Xander Bogaerts, Michael Chavis and Eduardo Nunez each homered, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez had RBI doubles, and Vazquez capped the streak with another single before White Sox manager Rick Renteria pulled Banuelos with a 9-1 deficit.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Carson Fulmer replaced Banuelos and interrupted the hit parade by walking Andrew Benintendi. Betts flew out to right to end the inning after 14 batters.8

The Red Sox won Saturday’s game 15-2.

The Colorado Rockies had a major league-record 11 straight hits during a 17-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Coors Field in Denver on July 30, 2010.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Boston went on to score five runs in the fourth and one run in the fifth to take a 15-1 lead.