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Kevin Durant, Team USA bounce Spain to reach Olympic semifinals

Daily News - 8 ore 30 min fa

SAITAMA, Japan — Back and forth they went, the reigning Olympic champions from the U.S. on one side, the reigning Basketball World Cup champions from Spain on the other.

The difference: The Americans had Kevin Durant.

He’s never gone to the Olympics and not won gold – and clearly, doesn’t plan on that changing. Durant scored 29 points to keep his quest for a third Olympic title alive, and the Americans are headed to the medal round after ousting Spain, 95-81, on Tuesday (Monday night PT) in a quarterfinal matchup at the Tokyo Games.

Jayson Tatum scored 13 and Jrue Holiday added 12 for the U.S., which will play the winner of the Australia-Argentina game (Tuesday, 5 a.m. PT) in the semifinals on Thursday. Luka Doncic-led Slovenia (4-0) and France (3-0 going into its quarterfinal against Italy) are on the other side of the bracket.

The Americans also gave themselves the chance of extending a streak like none other in Olympic basketball history – in all 18 of their previous Olympic men’s basketball appearances, they’ve gone home with a medal.

Ricky Rubio was brilliant for Spain, scoring 38 points and Sergio Rodriguez added 16.

It wasn’t easy, and rarely is against Spain. This was the fifth time the teams had met in the Olympic quarterfinals or later since 2004; the U.S. is now 5-0 in those games, but the margin of victory in those is a close-by-American-Olympic-standards: 9.2 points.

And this one was no different. Spain actually led by 10 in the second quarter, before the U.S. went on what became a 36-10 run over the next nine minutes to take control for good.

Spain had won three consecutive Olympic medals, taking silvers after losing to the U.S. in the gold-medal games in 2008 and 2012, followed by a bronze in 2016 after falling to the U.S. in the semifinals. And this might be the last time that the Spanish roster has some of its longtime mainstays; Pau Gasol is 41, other top players like Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez are much closer to the end than the beginning, and this might have been Spain’s best chance to beat the U.S. at the Olympics.

Spain got down seven early, then simply did whatever it wanted against the U.S. for a 10-minute stretch of the first half. It was a 29-12 run by the time it was over, a burst that turned a 17-10 early deficit into a 39-29 lead with 3:25 left until halftime.

Spain shot 13 for 22 during that stretch, the U.S. just 5 for 22 – missing 12 of its last 13 shots in the run. But just when it looked like the Americans were in big trouble, it was their turn to rally.

A 14-4 U.S. run to close the half made it a 43-43 game at intermission, the burst capped by seven consecutive points over the final 70 seconds. And with that, it was a 20-minute game to decide who would play for medals and who would be going home earlier than planned.

The Americans didn’t trail again.

They opened the second half on a 15-4 run – making it a 22-4 run going back to late in the second quarter – and went on to lead by as many as 16 before taking a 69-63 edge into the fourth.

U.S. WOMEN DRAW AUSTRALIA FOR QUARTERFINALS

The next challenge for the U.S. women’s basketball team in its quest to win a seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal is Australia as the Americans on Monday drew their rival in the quarterfinals (Tuesday, 9:40 p.m. PT).

The Opals beat the U.S. in an exhibition last month in Las Vegas and will be the latest test for a U.S. team that has been challenged at the Tokyo Games unlike any other time during its gold medal run.

“Australia will be a formidable opponent because we know each other so well and we look forward to the challenge of getting out of the quarterfinals,” U.S. coach Dawn Staley said. “We certainly have to execute on both sides of the ball and continue to get better to advance.”

The U.S. and Australia are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the world and usually meet later in the Olympics, but the Aussies barely qualified for the quarters. The Opals needed to beat Puerto Rico by 24 points on Monday night to advance after dropping their first two games of the tournament.

Despite their struggles, there won’t be a fear factor for the Australians after the victory over the U.S. in Las Vegas.

“Obviously not the team we wanted to play in the quarterfinals, but we will fight and hope to play our best game,” Australia coach Sandy Brondello said.

Australia has never beaten the U.S. in the Olympics, losing to the Americans in the gold medal game in 2000, ’04 and ’08. The Australians also lost in the semifinals of the 1996 and 2012 Olympics to the U.S. as well.

The Americans have won 52 consecutive Olympic contests dating to the bronze medal game of the 1992 Olympics. They went undefeated in group play – albeit not in the dominant fashion the team is used to.

“It’s encouraging to continue to win knowing what we’re faced against,” Staley said. “We are a lot different than what we’ve been in the Olympic Games leading up to this one, in that we have just half of the team that’s been around and then the other half really hasn’t. When your makeup is such, you have a tendency to lean heavily on the people that have done it a whole lot.”

Nigeria became the first team to come within single digits of the U.S. since 2004 and France held an early fourth-quarter lead. Still, the Americans found ways to win and haven’t lost a game in group play since women’s basketball was added to the Olympics in 1976.

“The countries here at the Olympic Games, they pour into their women’s teams, and now you’re seeing the effects of it,” Staley said. “And that is great women’s basketball play. We know we’re in a dogfight every time we step on the floor. It’s great for those who just put the television on and sit down and watch players that they haven’t seen before, countries that they haven’t seen before, and see them play a great game.”

The other quarterfinals matchups on Wednesday include: Group A winner Spain (3-0) will face France (1-2, third place in Group B), Group C winner China (3-0) plays Serbia (2-1, second place in Group A), and Group C second-place finisher Belgium (2-1) drew a matchup with Japan (2-1, second place in Group B).

The U.S.-Australia winner will play the China-Serbia winner in one semifinal, and the Belgium-Japan winner plays the Spain-France victor in the other. The quarterfinals are win-or-go-home; a victory means teams are assured of two more games – the semifinals followed by a gold- or bronze-medal contest – before leaving Tokyo. The gold medal game is on Sunday.

Japan advanced to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive Olympics and coach Tom Hovasse likes the team’s chances of medaling for the first time in the country’s history.

“Now it’s an open field for us,” he said. “Yeah, I’m happy. We have confidence. We’ve beaten pretty much everybody left in the field. If we can play our game and shoot like we did today we’re going to be a tough out for anybody.”

More to come on this story.

Olympic beach volleyball: April Ross, Alix Klineman into semifinals

Daily News - 10 ore 21 min fa

By JIMMY GOLEN AP Sports Writer

TOKYO — Three-time gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings missed out on her bid to qualify for a sixth trip to the Summer Games. Fortysomething four-time Olympians Phil Dalhausser and Jake Gibb both retired after getting knocked out in Tokyo.

Defending Olympic champion Laura Ludwig is heading back to Germany after losing to the Americans in the quarterfinals on Tuesday (Monday night PT).

April Ross just keeps on playing.

The 2012 silver and 2016 bronze medalist joined with Alix Klineman to beat Ludwig and Maggie Kozuch, 21-19, 21-19, leaving Ross as the last woman with an Olympic medal still standing at the Shiokaze Park beach volleyball venue.

“It’s not like: ‘Oh, I have a medal. So, you know, I know how to do it,’” Ross said. “We just have to fight really, really hard. … So we’re stoked to still be in, and to be in the semis is amazing.”

The victory put the Southern Californians one more win away from a medal. A victory in the semifinals against Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre on Thursday (Wednesday night PT) would clinch at worst a silver; a loss would put them in the third-place match.

“Staying motivated is really easy at this point, at this stage of the game,” Klineman said. “I mean, we can pretty much taste a medal.”

A 39-year-old who already has said she is eyeing the 2024 Paris Games, Ross (Newport Harbor High, USC) inherited senior status on the U.S. beach volleyball team this week when first Dalhausser, then Gibb said after they were eliminated that they are going to retire.

But there’s no reason for Ross to think about the future – at least not beyond Thursday’s semifinal against the Swiss, who beat Brazil’s Rebecca Silva and Ana Patricia Silva Ramos, 21-19, 18-21, 15-12, on Tuesday.

“I just have no answer to those questions,” Ross said. “I’m here. I’m feeling good and ready to keep fighting.”

And this time she has the 31-year-old Klineman (Mira Costa High, Stanford) to keep her young. She is Ross’ third partner in as many Olympics and the first one who is younger.

“I’m not surprised at her success,” said Klineman, a first-time Olympian. “I train with her every day, and I’m around her all the time. And I just see how motivated and driven she is in all aspects of her life.”

Klineman said spending time with Ross has taught her what it takes to have sustained success – not just during practice but also on the road, when Ross might be reading a book about improving one’s mindset or listening to a podcast about recovery after working out.

“She’s taught me a lot in this journey. And so I’m really grateful to be by her side,” Klineman said. “She was just always trying to be at her best. And so I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s been here three times.”

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Ludwig, 35, opened her fourth Olympics with a loss to Switzerland, but then beat Japan in the next match of the round-robin and took the third by default because of a positive COVID-19 test that sent the Czechs home from Tokyo. She and Kozuch outlasted Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Santos Lisboa in three tight sets to reach the quarterfinals.

They led the Americans by three points early on and still had an 18-17 lead before Ross and Klineman took the first set. In the second, the Americans pulled away after a 16-all tie.

For Ludwig, who took time off to have a baby after the Rio de Janeiro Games, the struggle was to focus on these Olympics and not what she had done in the past.

“It’s more about the pressure from yourself, because you achieved something and you want to achieve the same or more,” she said. “And you feel the potential and want to have everything. But it’s good to stay focused on what you have now and reflect what is possible now … and not think already about the future – what could have been, medal or not. I think that makes it more difficult and frustrating if you don’t make it.”

LAPD officer dies from COVID-19 complications

Daily News - 10 ore 41 min fa

A 27-year veteran officer with the Los Angeles Police Department died from COVID-19 related complications on Monday morning, Aug. 2, the department announced.

Officer Becky Strong was identified by the LAPD on Monday evening and was at least the eighth LAPD officer to die as a result of COVID-19. She began working for the department in 1994 and was recently assigned to the South Traffic Division, the LAPD said.

“Our deepest condolences go out to Officer Strong’s entire family, colleagues, and friends in this most difficult time,” the LAPD said in a tweet.

It is with an extremely heavy heart that we mourn the loss of LAPD Police Officer Becky Strong, who passed away this morning from complications of COVID-19. Our deepest condolences go out to Officer Strong's entire family, colleagues, and friends in this most difficult time. pic.twitter.com/iZANUFlIyN

— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) August 3, 2021

As of July 27, the LAPD had reported nine deaths related to COVID-19 infections, with seven being sworn officers and two civilian employees, the City of Los Angeles said on Friday, July 30.

In total, the LAPD has had 2,787 employees test positive for COVID-19 and one reported reinfection, the city reported. As of Friday, 102 LAPD  employees were self-isolating at home due to exposure, the city said.

Prior to Strong’s death, the last reported COVID-19 death reported among LAPD officers was that of Sgt. Anthony White in April.

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Karsten Warholm beats Rai Benjamin, crushes 400 hurdles world record in Olympic race for the ages

Daily News - 11 ore 9 sec fa

TOKYO — The 400-meter hurdles field had just settled into the starting blocks at Olympic Stadium on a brutally hot early Tuesday afternoon.

Norway’s Karsten Warhold, the World champion and pre-race co-favorite, nervously shrugged his shoulders twice and then turned to his left, looking back at Team USA’s Rai Benjamin, the other co-favorite, one lane behind him.

Warholm wouldn’t see Benjamin again for another 46 seconds.

Warholm triumphed in an Olympic final for the ages even more mind-blowing than the two years of relentless hype that  preceded it, rocketing to a 45.94 clocking to become the first person to break 46 seconds in the event.

“I mean, man it’s so crazy,” Warholm said.

Crazy? So was Benjamin finishing in 46.17, well under the previous world record of 46.70 the Norwegian set last month, and still finishing two-tenths back. Or Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos clocking 46.72 to become the third fastest man in history yet had to settle for the bronze medal.

“It was so strong, so strong, amazing,” Dos Santos said. “the race, I could see the results and whoa, so, so strong. Really, really amazing.”

In less than a month Warholm has knocked nearly a second off what had been for parts of three decades one of the sport’s most unapproachable world records—Kevin Young’s 46.76 winning time at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

“It’s just so big. It’s almost like history here,” Warholm, who also gets the gold medal for the understatement of the Games.

Not all the drama was on the track Tuesday morning.

Heading into the sixth and final round of the long jump, Brittney Reese was within reached of a second Olympic gold medal, tied with Nigeria’s Ese Brume at 22-feet, 10 1/2 inches, but leading on the tie breaker of second best jump.

But Reese could only watch helplessly as Germany’s Malaika Mihambo stole the gold medal on her final jump, landing at 22-11 3/4, and resigning Reese to silver in her final Olympics Tara Davis, the NCAA indoor and outdoor champion for Texas and former Agoura High standout, was sixth at 22-5 1/4.

“I think it was maybe the most exciting competition in women’s long jump history,” Mihambo said.

Five years earlier Reese lost the Olympic title in the fifth round. In the last two Games, Reese, a four-time World champion, has lost the gold medal by a total of two inches.

“It is a great feeling. I had a great career, and a great journey,” Reese said. “I have been in this sport for 13 years, and I can’t complain for finishing my career with a silver. It was a great competition, won by inches. I have  (Olympic and World Indoor and Outdoor) 11 medals, and I am at my fourth Olympics and got medals in three of them. There is no reason to hang my head, I just got beaten today.

“I am used to beating people in the sixth jump, and I got beaten in the sixth jump today, so that is funny.”

Young’s world record seemed more untouchable the longer it stood.

Until recently, Bryan Bronson had come the “closest” with a 47.03 clocking in 1998. Kerron Clement was the fastest man this century, running 47.24 in 2005.

While Warholm won the 2017 World Championships, it was Benjamin who got the sport thinking Young’s record might be vulnerable after all.

After Benjamin ran 47.02 to win the 2018 NCAA title for USC, equaling Edwin Moses as the second fastest man ever, Young predicted he would take the world record to 45.9.

Benjamin only fueled the world record speculation when he opened the 2019 season running 44.31 over the flat 400 behind then roommate Michael Norman’s 43.45 at the Mt. SAC Relays.

But he picked up a heel injury in the lead up to the 2019 World Championships in Doha where Warholm defended his title 47.42 to 47.66.

Healthy again, Benjamin just missed the mark in winning the Olympic Trials uncontested in 46.83 on June 29. It was no long longer a question of if Young’s record would fall, only when.

Two days later, Warholm finally erased Young from the record book, running 46.70 at the Bislett Games in Oslo.

“I think it’s an event that has gone through a renaissance and in the women’s I think the record has been broken a couple of times in the recent years,” Warholm said referring to Olympic and World champion Dalilah Muhammad lowering the women’s world record twice in 2019 and then Sydney McLaughlin breaking the 52-second barrier, going 51.90 at the Olympic Trials.

“As for the men’s, it’s been something that we’ve been talking a lot about and there have been some guys that have been running the time, so I was able to track the new world record, so it was about time someone broke it, and I’m just happy to be him.”

Benjamin, however, refused to engage in the world record conversation.

“To be honest with you, I’ve been trying to avoid that question because the Norwegian media has been butchering me about that, they say I talk about it too much,” he said during the prelims. “I’m just here to win a gold medal for Team USA and for myself. I’m really ready. I am just focused on winning, that is it.”

In a sneak preview of the final only hours later, Warholm and Benjamin were paired in the same semifinal Monday night, the Norwegian unnecessarily surging in the final meters to edge the American 47.30 to 47.37.

“The final will be so strong,” Dos Santos said. “It will be the beautiful race and that’s good for everybody.”

And it was indeed a thing of beauty.

Like Benjamin, Warholm tuned out the world record noise, focusing on plugging the missing hole in his otherwise glittering resume–an Olympic gold medal.

“It was the only thing missing from my collection,” he said. “I had a world championships (gold). I had European championships, I had the world record, the European record.

“The Olympic gold medal is what everybody talks about. I knew this race was going to be the toughest of my life, but I was ready.”

And he was.

Warholm, running in lane 6, bolting at the gun, opened a sizable lead down the backstretch. Benjamin began to reel him in around the final turn and then pulled close over the ninth hurdle, almost even at the 10th and final hurdle and seemed to have momentum. But Warholm surged again and Benjamin could not respond.

“I didn’t touch one hurdle,” Warholm said. “I was even able to find another gear coming home, so ‘wow’.”

That he had also ran well under the two previous world records provided little consolation for Benjamin.

“Knowing that you want to be the best, this is what it costs,” he said. “It’s hard. It hurts. But it is what it is.

“I always give myself 24 hours to process things. Right now I am just full of emotion. I have worked so hard. This is what matters. I got a medal but it just hurts to lose.”

Viewing the race from a few steps further back Dos Santos had a different perspective.

“Every guy can be better and (this race) broke the world record, it’s amazing,” he said.

Benjamin and Dos Santos, and especially Warholm hadn’t just run historically fast. They had changed the mindset that been entrenched in their sport for nearly 30 years.

Dos Santos recalled his first reaction as he looked up at the stadium scoreboard above the finish line as the results began to flash on the screen.

“This is possible.”

 

 

Angels’ youth movement continues with Chris Rodriguez’s first big-league start, and a loss

Daily News - 12 ore 32 min fa
  • Angels right fielder Adam Eaton leaps to catch a flyout by the Rangers’ Eli White in the second inning of Monday’s game in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez throws to the plate during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Texas Rangers starting pitcher Dane Dunning throws to a Los Angeles Angels batter during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani swings at a pitch from Texas Rangers starter Dane Dunning in the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. Ohtani grounded out to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the at-bat. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Rangers shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa is unable to reach a single hit by the Angels’ Jose Iglesias in the second inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez throws to the plate during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • The Rangers’ Andy Ibanez shakes his left hand after being hit by a pitch thrown by Angels starter Chris Rodriguez in the second inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. Ibanez continued playing in the game. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Andy Ibanez of the Rangers scores on a passed ball against the Angels in the second inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Andy Ibanez is greeted by Rangers teammate Eli White after scoring in the second inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Angels first baseman Phil Gosselin reaches out to field a groundout by Texas Rangers’ Jason Martin in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Dane Dunning of the Rangers pitches against the Angels in the third inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Shohei Ohtani of the Angels swings as he strikes out in the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Phil Gosselin of the Angels is greeted in the dugout after scoring in the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani adjust his helmet during his at-bat in the fifth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez throws to the plate during the fifth inning of Monday’s game against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels shortstop Jose Iglesias, left, catches a throw to the bag as Texas Rangers’ Isiah Kiner-Falefa steals second base in the fifth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez pitches in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Brock Holt is greeted by Rangers teammate Adolis Garcia after stealing home against the Angels in the sixth inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Adolis Garci aof the Rangers is tagged out by Phil Gosselin of the Angels in the sixth inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Angels starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez, left, and catcher Max Stassi, right, greet each other after working against the Texas Rangers in the sixth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • The Rangers’ Brock Holt, left, connects for a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the seventh inning of a baseball game as Los Angeles Angels’ Max Stassi, center, and umpire Joe West, right, look on in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Shohei Ohtani of the Angels tosses a ball as he sits in the dugout during a game against the Rangers on Monday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Angels center fielder Brandon Marsh reaches to field a single hit by the Rangers’ Curtis Terry in the seventh inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels manager Joe Maddon, left, takes the ball from starter Chris Rodriguez, center, as catcher Max Stassi, right, stands by in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Joe Barlow of the Rangers crouches behind the mound before pitching against the Angels in the eighth inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Shohei Ohtani of the Angels adjusts his helmet during his final at-bat of the game in the eighth inning against the Rangers at Globe Life Field on Monday night in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Joe Barlow of the Rangers pitches against the Angels in the eighth inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • A fan holds up a sign with the likeness of the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani on it as Ohtani, rear, stands on deck during the eighth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Shohei Ohtani of the Angels walks back to the dugout after striking out in the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Spencer Patton of the Rangers pitches in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Rangers pitcher Spencer Patton and catcher Jonah Heim celebrate their 4-1 victory over the Angels on Monday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Eli White #41, Jason Martin #50, and Adolis Garcia #53 of the Texas Rangers run to the infield after the 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani warms up before the team’s baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • A fan looks at the screen on his phone, with an image of the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani standing by the on-deck circle during the first inning of the team’s game against the Rangers on Monday night in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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ARLINGTON, Texas — When everyone else flipped their calendars from July to August, the Angels flipped theirs from 2021 to 2022.

The Angels gave the ball to their top two pitching prospects – neither of whom had ever started a big-league game before – on the first two days of August.

Chris Rodriguez, who had been up earlier this season as a reliever, pitched into the seventh inning in the Angels’ 4-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Monday.

Rodriguez gave up four runs – three earned runs, two of which scored after he was out of the game – a day after top prospect Reid Detmers also took the loss in his big-league debut.

The moves with Rodriguez and Detmers were accompanied by the promotion of former top prospect Jo Adell, who didn’t play on Monday.

Before the game, Angels manager Joe Maddon straddled the line between the future and the present when explaining the philosophy behind the promotions.

“We’re at that point, organizationally, right now (when) it’s the right time to give opportunity to young players like this,” Maddon said. “It’s very important for us going in the offseason to know exactly what we have, and what we need to do to move forward for next year. Having said that, that does not mean conceding anything at all.”

Maddon certainly isn’t going to publicly say this season is over, not with two months to play. But their playoff chances are slim, and they currently have no idea when center fielder Mike Trout and third baseman Anthony Rendon will be back, further muddying the situation.

Few would question the decision to begin building toward 2022 by getting a look at some of the players who might or might not be key pieces, most notably the starters.

Rodriguez, 23, had shown the Angels impressive stuff in spring training, so much that they opened the season with him in the bullpen despite his lack of experience. A back injury in 2018 and 2019 and the pandemic in 2020 had limited him to three games in the previous three seasons.

He had a 3.66 ERA in 13 games in relief, sandwiched around a month with a shoulder injury. The Angels eventually decided they wanted to try him as a starter, because he could be more valuable and also because it was difficult to manage around him in the bullpen when they wanted to build in so many days off for him.

Rodriguez had a 4.87 ERA in just 20-1/3 minor league innings, but he apparently showed enough to warrant a return to the big leagues.

And in his first game back he clearly showed the potential to be a reliable major-league starter.

“I feel like it was a quality start,” Rodriguez said. “Things can always be better. I like the way I competed, and I got out of some jams. But then again, there are some situations where I can be better and I can avoid those runs. That being said, I’ve got to build off this one and keep it going.”

Rodriguez retired the Rangers in order in four of his six full innings. One of the runs he allowed was on a passed ball, and the second was on a double-steal. With runners at the corners and two outs in the fifth, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa broke from first and catcher Max Stassi’s throw to second was in the dirt. Shortstop José Iglesias’ return throw to the plate was too late to get Brock Holt.

Maddon said the Angels “got messed up” on the double-steal defense they had intended on that play.

The last two runs charged to Rodriguez scored after he was pulled in the seventh inning.

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Rodriguez threw 86 pitches, including 58 two-seam fastballs. He averaged 94.7 mph and hit 96 mph with his two-seamer. Rodriguez got called strikes or whiffs with 38 percent of his pitches, which is well above average.

“He kept getting better,” Maddon said. “That sinker came alive. He seemed to get more confidence in it. He got more relaxed on the mound.”

Rodriguez said he was happy to get the opportunity to start: “When I am a starter I feel like I’m in control of the game. I feel like the team is on my back and I like that feeling. That, to me, is important. I want to be in charge of the winning and losing. It’s such a blessing I was able to come up and start a game in the big leagues.”

Rodriguez certainly gave the Angels a chance to win, but their depleted lineup couldn’t support him. The Angels scored just one run in five innings against Dane Dunning, and then nothing against the Texas bullpen.

What Causes I.B.S.?

NY Times - 12 ore 35 min fa
Experts are starting to untangle the biological underpinnings of this common yet perplexing disorder. What they’re finding could offer clues on how to treat it.

Matthew Stafford hurts his thumb, Rams cross their fingers

Daily News - 12 ore 41 min fa

IRVINE — Among the questions hanging over the Rams’ high expectations this season, one looms like a pin over a Super Bowl party balloon.

What if quarterback Matthew Stafford gets hurt?

The Rams found themselves facing that worry head-on Monday when Stafford went to the sideline after hitting his right thumb on a teammate’s helmet as he followed through on a pass late in a training camp practice.

There was no immediate indication of the severity of the injury, which affects the thumb on which Stafford had surgery in March to repair a ligament tear that hampered him the second half of the 2020 season.

“I don’t know anything yet. No more information yet,” said Coach Sean McVay, who dispenses all official Rams injury information.

McVay was asked what his gut reaction was when he saw this happen to his offense’s $27 million-per-year leader, for whom the Rams traded quarterback Jared Goff and three draft picks to the Lions in January.

“Probably what you’d expect,” McVay said with a slight smile.

Let’s guess: Two words. Oh, blank.

“I think he’ll be OK. We’ll just see what happens,” McVay said.

The injury happened during the Rams’ last practice in shorts and helmets before they’re permitted to start working out in pads on Tuesday, and five days before they scrimmage against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday in Oxnard. Scrimmages are the closest thing to game action Rams starters will get before the regular season opens on Sept. 12. McVay holds them out of preseason games to reduce the risk they’ll get hurt.

Other context only worsens the blow if Stafford has to miss any time.

It comes after the Rams lost No. 1 running back Cam Akers to an Achilles tear sustained in an offseason workout on July 19, leaving Darrell Henderson as the team’s only experienced ball carrier.

And the way it happened bears an eerie resemblance to Goff’s thumb injury in the second-to-last regular-season game of 2020.

Goff needed surgery, missed the final regular-season game and was benched in favor of John Wolford, one of the first public signs that the 2018 Super Bowl quarterback had fallen out of favor.

Monday, Wolford, 25, stepped up and took first-unit practice reps as Stafford, 33, had the hand bandaged by Reggie Scott, the Rams’ vice president of sports medicine and performance.

Wolford, former Steelers backup Devlin “Duck” Hodges and second-year undrafted player Bryce Perkins are the other quarterbacks on the 90-man roster.

Stafford walked off the field with the rest of the team after practice, the thumb wrapped, his helmet dangling by the face guard from his other fingers, briefly covering it all with a towel as he walked past reporters.

Later, Stafford was seen walking out of the Rams’ UC Irvine facilities with the right hand still in a wrap, working his phone with his left.

McVay wouldn’t speculate immediately after practice, at which point Stafford hadn’t been examined.

But the coach sounded hopeful that it’s not serious – or that if it is serious, Stafford could return sooner than most players, the way legend says he did in 12 seasons in Detroit.

“Look at what he played through all last year, having to get the thumb cleaned up,” McVay said.

Without referring to Goff’s identical incident, McVay called a hand-on-helmet mishap “something that consistently occurs” as quarterbacks follow through on throws over a rush.

“It’s one of those things where I’m saying to myself, man, I feel stupid that I didn’t implement some of the things to prevent that,” McVay said. “I’ve seen some teams around the league that have those shells on their helmet where you can at least soften the blow when you do come down on top of it.

“What you say is hopefully you don’t have to learn the hard way, and you start to implement things like that to try and minimize the risk of injury.”

In other injury news, McVay said he had no updates on rookie defensive back Robert Rochell (wrist) and defensive lineman Bobby Brown III (thumb).

But suddenly, those weren’t the biggest questions.