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  • The St. Louis Cardinals' front office says baseballs have suddenly lost their juice this postseason, supporting a claim from a prominent data scientist that the balls have changed following a historic, homer-friendly regular season. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Saturday that St. Louis' analytics department has found the ball is flying 4 ½ fewer feet on average in the postseason. Players in both leagues have been stunned when hard-hit balls have fallen on the warning track this month, raising more questions about the makeup of the baseballs after hitters clubbed a record 6,776 home runs in the regular season — a rise attributed to unusually far-flying balls. 'I mean there's probably all kind of different theories behind that that I won't really get into,' Shildt said before a 3-1 loss to Washington in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series. 'Just the fact of the matter, it could be any number of things.' The numbers don't leave much doubt, says data journalist Rob Arthur. He was among the first to suggest tweaks to the ball may have caused home runs to spike as early as 2015, and he thinks something is off with this year's October model, too. Arthur published a story Thursday at Baseball Prospectus showing the postseason balls have more air resistance than the regular season balls, according to data pulled from MLB's own tracking system. Arthur projected home runs were down 50% through Wednesday's games compared to what would have been expected in the 2019 scoring environment, even though the average temperature for playoff games was higher than the regular season to that point. 'The data is conclusive in showing that the playoff baseball is very different from the one used in the regular season,' Arthur wrote. Major League Baseball released a statement Thursday claiming no meaningful changes have been. 'The baseballs used in Major League Baseball are manufactured in batches,' it said. 'Balls that are used in the postseason are pulled from the same batches as balls used in the regular season. Regular season and postseason balls are manufactured with the same materials and under the same processes. The only difference is the postseason stamp that is placed on the ball. As has been previously acknowledged, however, the drag of the baseball can vary over different time periods.' Fueled partly by studies from Arthur and others, players and observers have become distrustful of the ball in recent years. Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander and other pitchers have claimed MLB juiced the balls intentionally to boost scoring, creating a cascade of side effects including increased strikeouts and an abandonment of small-ball strategies like stolen bases and bunting. Commissioner Rob Manfred has denied deliberately adjusting the baseball but has acknowledged this year's ball had less drag, leading to more home runs. Manfred recently reconvened scientists from an MLB-commissioned 2018 study of the baseballs, and he plans to issue a report on their most recent findings after the World Series. Shildt revealed his front office's conclusion after being asked about a hard-hit flyout by Cardinals slugger Marcell Ozuna in Game 1 of the NLCS a night earlier. Ozuna crushed a ball to center field off Washington's Aníbal Sánchez, and Shildt was surprised when it was caught short of the warning track. 'I thought Ozuna got his ball, based on the sound, based on the swing,' Shildt said. 'But clearly it didn't get out.' Ozuna hit the ball 105.8 mph and with a 36-degree launch angle — a quality of contact with a 68% home run probability, per MLB's Statcast. A first-pitch temperature of 45 degrees may have been a factor. Ozuna hasn't been the only batter fooled out of the box. Most notably, Braves youngster Ronald Acuña Jr. was scolded after failing to run out a long fly in the NL Division Series. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was confused by a few long flies from his hitters, saying the ball 'seems a little different.' Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Saturday he hadn't seen Arthur's report or Shildt's comments, but he planned to check with his own analytics team about it. 'I'm going to ask our guys what we've got,' Boone said. 'There may be a couple of balls in Minnesota that seemed like maybe they could have gone a little further. Whether that's the cooler weather, those kind of things, I don't know. I'm just hearing about this now. I don't know what to make of that.' Verlander, as outspoken as anybody about the juiced ball, said Saturday he hasn't noticed a change, but said 'who knows?' 'I think MLB just came out with a report they haven't changed, right? I guess we've got to believe that, right?' he said with a grin. Houston manager AJ Hinch also said he hadn't noticed a difference, and he didn't seem to care what happened with the baseball. With one key exception. 'I hope every ball the Yankees hit is deflated,' he said. ___ Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake_Seiner ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • A look at what's happening around the majors today: WELCOME TO THE NLCS The Washington Nationals play in the NL Championship Series for the first time, taking on St. Louis at Busch Stadium. Aníbal Sánchez starts for the Nats against Miles Mikolas. Both teams won a deciding Game 5 on the road in the NL Division Series. The Cardinals scored 10 runs in the first inning and romped past Atlanta 13-1 while Washington rallied late and beat the Dodgers 7-3 in 10 innings. Nationals aces Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin all got plenty of work in the NLDS. Sánchez was 11-8 with a 3.85 ERA this season, then gave up one run in five innings in his lone appearance against Los Angeles. Washington manager Dave Martinez says he hasn't decided how he will line up the rest of his starting staff after Sánchez. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Adam Wainwright will start Game 2, followed by Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson, who will be available out of the bullpen at the beginning of the series. MAMMOTH MATCHUP Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros are set to meet Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees in a highly anticipated AL Championship Series beginning Saturday night at Minute Maid Park. The pitching-rich Astros led the majors with 107 wins, and are expected to start Zack Greinke in the opener. The Yankees posted 103 victories and could go with either James Paxton or Masahiro Tanaka in Game 1. These teams have recently met in the playoffs. Houston won the 2015 AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium, and also topped New York in a seven-game ALCS in 2017 on the way to its first World Series title. The Astros went 4-3 against the Yankees this season. REVVED REDBIRDS No telling what Cardinals manager Mike Shildt might say in the closed — and camera-free — locker room to fire up his team before the NLCS opener. Usually mild mannered, his curse-filled clubhouse victory speech after St. Louis battered Atlanta in the NLDS clincher went viral when a player posted it on social media. Shildt was sorry his colorful language got leaked, but didn't feel bad about the gist of his message. 'It's regretful that that was able to get out,' Shildt said Thursday, a day after the 13-1 romp. 'I will not apologize for having passion about how I feel about our team and the accomplishments of our team.' The video was posted by Cardinals rookie Randy Arozarena. Shildt said he harbored no ill will toward the 24-year-old outfielder. 'As far as Randy goes,' Shildt said, 'I completely give Randy grace. He was just excited. He's a great kid with a great heart.' CHECK THEM The Nationals will see how catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Victor Robles are feeling before Game 1. Manager Dave Martinez said X-rays showed nothing broken on the hand of Suzuki, who was hit by a pitch Wednesday night. The ball ricocheted and hit Suzuki in the head — he was going to go through concussion protocol in St. Louis. Robles, who missed the last two games of the series against the Dodgers with a strained right hamstring, will be examined to determine his status. VACANCY The Phillies have become the eighth team to head into the offseason looking for a new manager. They fired Gabe Kapler, nearly two weeks after a disappointing finish to a season of big expectations highlighted by Bryce Harper's arrival. Kapler went 161-163 in two years, his team unable to deliver following its offseason spending spree. Philadelphia finished 81-81, its first nonlosing season since 2012. The skipper carousel has been spinning. San Francisco's Bruce Bochy and Kansas City's Ned Yost retired, San Diego's Andy Green, Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle, the Mets' Mickey Callaway and the Angels' Brad Ausmus were fired, and the Cubs and Joe Maddon jointly said he would leave. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • A curse-filled clubhouse victory speech by St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt that went viral after a player posted it on social media showed a different side to the usually mild-mannered skipper — and while he was sorry Thursday that his colorful language got leaked, he did not feel bad about the gist of his message. 'It's regretful that that was able to get out,' Shildt said, speaking to reporters a day before the NL Central champion Cardinals host the wild-card Washington Nationals for Game 1 of the best-of-seven NL Championship Series. 'I will not apologize for having passion about how I feel about our team and the accomplishments of our team.' Shildt called the clubhouse 'a sanctuary that is very sacred' and said the pep talk to his players after they beat the Atlanta Braves 13-1 on Wednesday to win their NL Division Series 'should have been private.' But the bleepable rant — 'That's how we roll' was just about the lone phrase suitable for publication — was shown to the world by Randy Arozarena, a rookie outfielder for St. Louis who had three at-bats in the NLDS. 'As far as Randy goes,' Shildt said Thursday, 'I completely give Randy grace. He was just excited. He's a great kid with a great heart.' Cardinals catcher Matt Wieters referred to the episode as an example of 'when you get conversations out of the clubhouse that shouldn't be out of the clubhouse.' 'Everybody in that clubhouse knows how much he cares for them,' Wieters said. Miles Mikolas, the Cardinals right-hander who will start Friday night against Nationals righty Aníbal Sánchez, spoke about how Shildt's words could help his club. 'When you see your manager getting that excited and that fired up, it feeds into what everyone else is doing,' Mikolas said. 'It's hard not to get amped up when you got the guy who is kind of leading your team getting super amped up. It's contagious.' Mikolas, an All-Star in 2018, went 9-4 with a 4.16 ERA this season. He appeared in two games of the NLDS against the Braves, allowing one run in six innings, once as a starter and once in relief. Sánchez, less heralded than rotation mates Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg or Patrick Corbin, was 11-8 with a 3.85 ERA in 2019, then gave up one run in five innings in his lone appearance of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nationals manager Dave Martinez said he had not yet decided how he would line up the rest of his starting staff after Sánchez. Shildt said Adam Wainwright will start Game 2, followed by Jack Flaherty, then Dakota Hudson, who will be available out of the bullpen at the beginning of the series. Notes: Martinez said X-rays showed nothing broken on the hand of C Kurt Suzuki, who was hit by a pitch in Washington's 7-3 victory in 10 innings at LA in Game 5 on Wednesday night. Suzuki was going to go through concussion protocol once the Nationals arrived in St. Louis. ... CF Victor Robles, who missed the last two games of the series against the Dodgers with a strained right hamstring, will be checked out Friday before the game to determine his status. ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • One day later, Brian Snitker had shed his uniform but was still wearing the pain of yet another one-and-done postseason exit for the Atlanta Braves. 'It's going to take me a while to kind of get over this whole thing,' the manager said Thursday. Snitker and general manager Alex Anthopoulos had no quick explanations for the Braves' record-tying 10th straight loss in a postseason round. After splitting the first four games of the NL Division Series, the Braves were bowled over and embarrassed in a 13-1 loss to St. Louis in Wednesday's Game 5. 'You throw that one away,' Anthopoulos said, while adding the loss was 'a tough pill to swallow. ... From my standpoint in the front office, we need to turn the page quick.' The Cardinals' knockout blow was quick and decisive — 10 runs in the first inning. 'It happened so quick, I don't think there was anything we could do,' Snitker said. The Braves have won two straight NL East titles but haven't won a postseason series since 2001. Atlanta tied the Chicago Cubs' record for consecutive losses in playoff rounds. The inability to end that drought hurt more than one year ago, when Atlanta lost to the Dodgers. Management and players believed this team had the talent to play deep into the postseason. 'We weren't just glad to be here this year,' Snitker said. 'There wasn't a guy in that room just glad to be here.' Added third baseman Josh Donaldson, who homered in the loss: 'I think what is disappointing about it, I feel like all year we played better than we did today.' There could be significant turnover before spring training. Catcher Brian McCann announced his retirement after the loss. Anthopoulos said the team will try to re-sign Donaldson, the third baseman who will be a free agent. The Braves have 2020 team options — and face possibly difficult decisions — with starting pitcher Julio Teheran, outfielder Nick Markakis, catcher Tyler Flowers and others. Free agents relievers include: Chris Martin, Jerry Blevins, Anthony Swarzak, Darren O'Day and Josh Tomlin. Here are some things to know about the Braves entering the offseason: WHO'S ON THIRD Donaldson wasn't willing to speculate about possibly re-signing with Atlanta. His $23 million deal was the largest one-year deal ever given to a free agent. His all-around production made the Braves feel good about the investment. 'We will definitely have interest in trying to sign him back,' Anthopoulos said, adding 'When both sides have interest, that's a great starting point.' Options at third base include Austin Riley, who was left off the postseason roster following his hot start and dramatic decline, and Johan Camargo. Riley saw most of his playing time in left field. Anthopoulos said the team isn't ready to assure Riley of a starting job next season but added 'we believe in him long term.' FOR STARTERS Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz and Max Fried are probable locks atop the 2020 rotation. If the Braves pay a $1 million buyout to part ways with Teheran and don't resign Dallas Keuchel, the team may shop for a veteran to help fill the rotation. There will be another opportunity for at least one rookie to land in the rotation next season. Right-hander Ian Anderson, who finished the season at Triple-A Gwinnett, is a breakout candidate after being named the Braves minor league player of the year. The 21-year-old Anderson was the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2016. FREEMAN'S REMORSE After hitting 38 homers and finishing second in the NL with 121 RBIs, Freddie Freeman hit only .200 in the NLDS. He had a key first-inning error and then tried to take full blame for the loss while adding his late-season elbow injury was not a factor. 'I know everybody is going to say what they want to say but this one is on me,' he said. Freeman was not the only hitter in the middle of the lineup to struggle. Donaldson's homer gave Atlanta its only Game 5 run, but he hit just .158 for the series. McCann hit .188 and Markakis was at .143. MORE PRAISE FOR McCANN Snitker didn't discuss McCann's retirement following the game, waiting for the 35-year-old catcher to make his announcement. McCann said he enjoyed renewing a friendship with Snitker that began in the minor leagues, and Snitker returned the compliment on Thursday. 'I'm honored I gave him the call to the big leagues and I got to manage him his last game,' Snitker said, adding McCann ranks with the 'all-time Atlanta Braves.' ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • With the top teams out of the mix, it's on to a most unlikely matchup in the NL Championship Series. The St. Louis Cardinals are back in the NLCS for the first time since 2014 after a stunner of an inning in Atlanta. They'll face the Washington Nationals, who dispatched their playoff demons with an upset of the 106-win Dodgers. 'We know we can beat anyone at this point,' St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong said. The best-of-seven series begins Friday night at Busch Stadium. This was the first time since 2015 that both of a league's top seeds were eliminated in the division series. St. Louis was within four outs of elimination against the Braves in Game 4, but bounced back for a 10th-inning victory. The deciding game in Atlanta was over not long after it started. The Cardinals became the first team in baseball history to score 10 runs in the opening inning of a postseason game and went on to a 13-1 victory. 'It felt like we blinked and the next thing you know, it's 10-0,' third baseman Matt Carpenter said. Washington's run to the NLCS has been truly improbable, especially for a franchise that had won only one playoff series, in 1981 during its previous incarnation as the Montreal Expos. In four postseason appearances since moving to the nation's capital in 2005, the Nats came up short every time — usually in excruciating fashion. Just making the playoffs didn't seem likely after Washington lost star slugger Bryce Harper in free agency and then got off to a 19-31 start. But the Nationals went 74-38 the rest of the way to claim a playoff spot, rallied from three runs down to beat Milwaukee 4-3 in the wild-card game, and then pulled off another escape job against the mighty Dodgers in the NLDS. After again falling behind 3-0, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto tied it with back-to-back homers off Clayton Kershaw. The Nationals won it in the 10th on Howie Kendrick's grand slam, becoming the first team to rally from three-run deficits in a pair of deciding games during the same postseason. The year of the comeback, indeed. 'Oh, man, keep fighting,' Rendon said. 'We just wanted to keep believing in ourselves and not worry about what people outside of our locker room were saying, that maybe we might not make it or maybe we need to trade everybody away. We kept on believing in ourselves and just kept on playing ball.' Some things to watch for in the NLCS: BIG BOPPERS The Cardinals got huge production out of their third and fourth hitters in the victory over the Braves. Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna both batted .429 (9 of 21) in the series, each hitting a pair of homers and driving in a total of seven runs. Washington has its own big bopper, MVP candidate Rendon. The third baseman put up huge numbers during the regular season, batting .319 with 34 home runs and 126 RBIs. He kept up his torrid pace in the NLDS by hitting .412 (7 of 17) with one homer and five RBIs. BIG THREE Most teams are content to have one ace. The Nationals have three. Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.22), Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.25) and Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92) give Washington a formidable trio for a possible seven-game series. SHAKY BULLPEN Then there's the Washington bullpen. In both the wild-card game and the best-of-five NLDS, the Nationals used Strasburg, Scherzer and Corbin in relief to cover for a relieving corps that had the worst ERA in the big leagues during the regular season (5.66). That may not be an option in the NLCS, which will put the heat on pitchers such as Sean Doolittle (29 saves but a 4.05 ERA) and Daniel Hudson (six saves and a 1.44 ERA after being acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline). So far in the postseason, Washington's regular relievers have allowed eight runs and 15 hits in 13 innings, an ERA of 5.54 that is pretty much right in line with their struggles over 162 games. DON'T THINK The Cardinals' rotation is not as deep as Washington's, but they do have Jack Flaherty. The 23-year-old right-hander produced one of the greatest second halves in baseball history, going 7-2 with a 0.91 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break. That minuscule ERA was surpassed only by Jake Arietta (0.75) of the Cubs in 2015 and Greg Maddux (0.87) of the Braves in 1994. Flaherty got the win in the clinching game at Atlanta and finished the NLDS with 16 strikeouts in 13 innings, all while following the mantra 'Don't Think.' He displays that philosophy on T-shirts, on his cleats, and all over his social media accounts. 'You kind of get in that zone. You don't know how to explain it. You don't know really what's going on. You don't know what it is, but you're there and you're locked in and you're focused and you're there in every moment,' Flaherty said. 'It's letting my instincts take over, letting my actions take over.' WILD THINGS Washington is trying to become only the third wild-card team to reach the World Series since MLB went to a 10-team playoff format in 2012. In 2014, San Francisco and Kansas City both made it through after starting the postseason with victories in the wild-card game. The Giants beat the Royals for the title in a seven-game thriller. ___ Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Georgia football is the No. 1 topic every day on DawgNation Daily the daily podcast for Georgia Bulldogs fans. Catch up on everything happening with UGA athletics with host Brandon Adams and the DawgNation experts as they break down the latest Georgia football recruiting news and discuss coach Kirby Smart's quest to return the Bulldogs to the top of the SEC. On episode No. 1,048 (Oct. 10, 2019) of the podcast, Georgia fans can hear a discussion about why UGA's recent past might still huant some of its fans. Georgia football podcast: The tough truth about UGA's recent past Beginning of the show: Georgia's recent disappointing losses often get lumped by the national media into the pile of Atlanta sports failings such as the Atlanta Braves' Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday night. I'll explain on today's show why I possibly haven't given that thought enough credence and how UGA can breakthrough in its so-called 'big games' going forward. 15-minute mark: I discuss a stat that indicates UGA might be doing a bit better being explosive offensively, and limiting opposing offenses than some might realize. 20-minute mark: South Carolina insider David Cloninger joins the show to preview the game against the Gamecocks. 30-minute mark: I discuss the injury status for left guard Solomon Kindley, cornerback Tyson Campbell and defensive tackle Jordan Davis. 35-minute mark: I take a look at other SEC headlines including Florida apparently teasing the possibility of soon wearing black uniforms and I preview the Gators' game vs. LSU this Saturday, as well as other top games for the weekend. 40-minute mark: I discuss the ways in which UGA coach Kirby Smart strikes the balance between keeping players happy enough they don't transfer while also managing expectations for those who don't play as much in each game as they might hope. End of show: I share the Gator Hater Updater. The post Georgia football podcast: The tough truth about UGA's recent past appeared first on DawgNation.
  • The Atlanta Braves could be without two long-time Braves, Julio Teheran and Brian McCann, next season. The Braves have had either McCann or Teheran on their roster every season, since McCann’s debut in 2005.  The Braves are faced with a tough decision to make this offseason with Teheran, deciding whether or not they pick up the $12 million team option for 2020 or let him test out the free agent market. Meanwhile, after the Braves heart-breaking loss in Game 5 of the NLDS, McCann announced to the media that he was retiring, putting an end  to his historic career. Brian McCann’s MLB career McCann played in 1,755 regular season games and 39 playoff games, throughout his career. He spent 10 seasons with the Braves, three with the New York Yankees and two with the Houston Astros. McCann was drafted by the Braves in the second round of the 2002 MLB Draft, out of Duluth High School. Three years later, he would make his MLB debut with the Braves at the age of 21. 15 seasons later, McCann has established himself as one of the best catchers in MLB history. Awards and Accolades 2017 World Series 7x All-Star 6x Sliver Slugger All-Star Game MVP McCann’s six Sliver Slugger awards are tied with Lance Parrish for the third-most in MLB history, for a catcher, only trailing Iván Rodríguez (7) and Mike Piazza (10). Career Stats (all-time MLB rank for catchers) 31.8 bWAR (12th) .262 AVG .337 OPS .452 SLG .789 OPS 110 OPS+ 742 Runs (10th) 1,590 Hits (13th) 294 Doubles (14th) 5 Triples (t-219th) 282 Home Runs (3rd) 1,018 RBI (4th) 25 Stolen Bases (t-63rd) 640 BB (8th) 2,740 Total Bases (8th) Julio Teheran’s career with the Braves On July 2, 2007, the Braves took a chance on this 16-year-old kid from Colombia named, Teheran, and signed him as an amateur free agent. Four years later, at the tender age of 20, Teheran made his MLB debut with the Braves. Awards and Accolades 2x All-Star Teheran is the only pitcher in Braves franchise history to strikeout at least 150 batters in seven-straight seasons. His seven total seasons of at least 150 strikeouts are the fourth-most, in Braves franchise history. The only pitchers with more seasons of at least 150 strikeouts are three Hall of Famers, Greg Maddux (8), Phil Niekro (10) and John Smoltz (12). He is one of just nine pitchers in Braves franchise history to ever strikeout over 1,000 batters in a Braves uniform. That list includes Jim Whitney, Kid Nichols, Vic Willis, Warren Spahn, Niekro, Tom Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux. Career Stats (all-time Braves franchise rank): 19.5 bWAR for Pitchers (18th) 77 Wins (27th) 3.67 ERA (28th) *min. 1,000 ip* 1.211 WHIP (9th) *min. 1,000 ip* 109 ERA+ (16th) *min. 1,000 ip* 4.23 FIP (40th) *min. 1,000 ip* 1,184 K (7th)
  • At this point, Atlanta sports fans should be numb to the disappointment. They've been through it so many times. Yet, somehow, this city's teams keep finding ways to take the misery index to new heights. A 10-spot in the very first inning? Can you believe it? Returning home with another chance to claim their first postseason series victory since 2001, the Braves were wiped out in the decisive game of the NL Division Series before many in the sellout crowd of more than 43,000 had even settled into their seats at SunTrust Park. The St. Louis Cardinals scored 10 runs their first time up — the first time that's ever happened in a big league postseason game. 'Very disappointing,' said Braves manager Brian Snitker, sounding a bit numb after a 13-1 rout. 'We all had such great expectations coming into today. Everybody was looking forward to it. I think everybody was ready. And you can't plan for that.' Indeed, no one saw it coming. Then again, maybe they should have. After all, this was an Atlanta team and a big-time game. That's rarely a good combination. 'Everything went wrong,' said Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who made a key error that helped open the floodgates in Wednesday night's debacle. To be fair, the A-T-L has managed two major professional championships: the Braves in the World Series way back in 1995 and soccer's Atlanta United, which captured the MLS Cup title last December. But the failures far outweigh those rare successes. The NFL Falcons, who've been around since 1966, have managed just two Super Bowl appearances — and both ended badly. Very, very badly. During the 1998 season, a team known affectionately as the 'Dirty Birds' reached the title game against John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately for the Falcons, one of their most respected players, Eugene Robinson, was arrested the night before the big game on charges that he solicited an undercover police officer for sex. Thoroughly distracted, Robinson was beaten for a long touchdown and the Falcons staggered to a 34-19 loss. Of course, that was nothing compared to the Falcons' most recent Super Bowl appearance. Three seasons ago, Atlanta held a 28-3 lead over the mighty New England Patriots late in the third quarter. But Tom Brady led a furious comeback that culminated with the first overtime in the game's history. Of course, the Patriots won the OT coin toss and drove the length of the field for a 34-28 victory. The NBA Hawks have never even reached the finals, but at least they're still around. Atlanta's two NHL teams both moved to Canada due to financial problems — the Flames going to Calgary in 1980, the Thrashers following suit in 2011 by relocating to Winnipeg. Neither franchise won a single playoff series. And let's not forget college football's Georgia Bulldogs, who are essentially an Atlanta team. They were dealt excruciating losses the last two seasons by Alabama, which rallied from a pair of 13-point deficits to win the 2018 national championship game with a 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime, and then pulled off another comeback in last season's Southeastern Conference title game to deny the Bulldogs a return trip to the national playoff. Both games were held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in the shadow of the Atlanta skyline. When it comes to postseason disappointment, no one can match the Braves. The franchise is well known for its record 14 straight division titles from 1999 through 2005, but just as much for having collected only one World Series title with all those playoff appearances. The most bitter loss came a year after its biggest triumph: the Braves easily won the first two games of the '96 Series at Yankee Stadium and were up 6-0 in Game 4, seemingly assured of building a 3-1 lead. But New York's Jim Leyritz tied the game with a three-run homer, the Yankees won in extra innings and would go on to take the title, four games to two. The Braves have never come so close again to winning a title. Even worse, they've now lost 10 straight playoff rounds since their last triumph in the 2001 NLDS, tying the ignominious record for postseason failure set by the Chicago Cubs from 1908 to 2003. Rubbing even more salt in the wound, eight of those series setbacks have ended with a loss on Atlanta's home field. It happened again Wednesday. The Cardinals celebrated in the middle of the field before gathering on the pitcher's mound to pose for a triumphant picture with the Braves logo serving as a backdrop on the enormous center-field video board. 'I think it was more of a shock than anything,' Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson said. 'You don't expect something like that to happen, especially with how well we played all season.' He might as well have been speaking for the entire city. Then again, it wasn't really a surprise. ___ Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com ___ For more AP college football coverage: www.collegefootball.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • A look at what's happening around the majors today: IT'S ALL ON THE LINE Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole has won a franchise-record 17 straight decisions heading into the deciding Game 5 of their AL Division Series against visiting Tampa Bay. The winner meets the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series starting Saturday. Cole is 17-0 in 23 starts since a May 22 loss to the Chicago White Sox. He has allowed 92 hits over 154 1/3 innings during that span, striking out 241 and walking 32. That includes an outstanding outing in a 3-1 Game 2 win over the Rays, when he struck out 15, didn't walk a batter until his final one, and allowed four hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Tyler Glasnow starts for the Rays after taking a 6-2 loss in the opener, when he gave up two runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings, including José Altuve's go-ahead, two-run homer in the fifth. Both starters came up with the Pirates organization and were teammates in Pittsburgh from 2016-17. Cole was the top pick in the 2011 amateur draft and was traded to Houston in January 2018 for right-handers Michael Feliz and Joe Musgrove, outfielder Jason Martin and infielder Colin Moran. Glasnow was a fifth-round selection in that same draft, and was dealt to the Rays on July 31 last year along with outfielder Austin Meadows and a player to be named (right-hander Shane Baz) for right-hander Chris Archer, who went 3-9 for Pittsburgh this year. FLYIN' HIGH St. Louis has reached the NL Championship Series for the first time in five years after a 13-1 rout Wednesday at Atlanta in Game 5 of their Division Series. Marcell Ozuna and the Cardinals set a postseason record with 10 runs in the opening inning and handed the Braves yet another playoff heartbreak. Before many fans had reached their seats, the Cardinals were already booking their plans for the NLCS, where they will face the wild-card Washington Nationals in a best-of-seven set beginning Friday night in St. Louis. Howie Kendrick hit a tiebreaking grand slam in the 10th inning and the Nationals overcame a three-run deficit with a late rally against Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles bullpen to win 7-3 in their own Game 5 at Dodger Stadium. 'We know we can beat anyone at this point,' Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong said. Atlanta has lost 10 consecutive postseason rounds since the last time the team advanced 18 long years ago, tying an ignominious mark set by the Chicago Cubs between 1908 and 2003. WAITING GAME The Yankees could be getting back a pair of injured players for the ALCS. CC Sabathia threw a bullpen Wednesday and manager Aaron Boone said the 39-year-old left-hander is feeling 'considerably better.' Sabathia was replaced by left-hander Tyler Lyons on the Division Series roster, and Lyons pitched a perfect inning in the second game of the three-game sweep against Minnesota. Center fielder Aaron Hicks, who last played on Aug. 3, has recovered from a right elbow flexor strain and returned to New York from the team's complex in Tampa, Florida. Rosters are due at 10 a.m. local time the day of the opener. HANGING 'EM UP Atlanta catcher Brian McCann is retiring after a terrific 15-year career that included two stints with his hometown Braves. He made the announcement Wednesday following a 13-1 loss to St. Louis in the decisive Game 5 of their NL Division Series. 'It's sad, but it's time,' the 35-year-old said softly in a somber Atlanta clubhouse. 'I had a long career. Fifteen years is a long time, catching every day. I got to play in my hometown.' McCann played his first nine seasons with the Braves. Following three seasons with the New York Yankees and two with Houston, he returned to Atlanta to renew a friendship with Braves manager Brian Snitker that began in the minors. The seven-time All-Star won a World Series title with Houston in 2017 but couldn't realize his dream of helping to bring Atlanta its second championship. He finishes with a .262 batting average, 282 home runs and 1,018 RBIs. 'I went to high school here, I grew up here, I got to play nine years here to start my career,' McCann said. 'I got to play with some of my heroes growing up and coming back to play with a new generation, I'd say it was a success.' ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

News

  • Kenny Dixon, the longtime drummer for Georgia-raised country music star Kane Brown was killed in a car accident, the band confirmed Sunday. >> Read more trending news  Dixon was from Dalton, Georgia. It's unclear where the crash happened but his bandmates say he died Saturday. 'It is with profound sadness and disbelief that we confirm we lost our drummer Kenny this weekend in a tragic car accident,' the band wrote in a statement. 'Kenny was a member of our family from the very beginning, and our hearts are with his fiancée Sarah, his son and everyone who knew and loved him. He was truly one of the greatest and kindest people on and off stage we’ve ever known.” Dixon's fiance, Sarah Hendrick, also confirmed the musician's death in an Instagram post on Sunday. 'I’m at a loss of words. I don’t even know how to write this or ever thought I would have to. Kenny passed away last night in a car accident. I know I have to be strong for Levi and God is gonna pull us through this. We have a forever guardian angel watching above us now. Please keep Levi, my family, and Kenny’s family in your prayers,' she wrote. Dixon and Hendrick were set to wed Nov. 30 in Dalton, according to the couple’s wedding website on The Knot. They were parents to a son, Levi. Brown also commented on the drummer’s death on social media.
  • A former University of Georgia student pleaded guilty Friday to running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors, including fellow students and their families, from his Athens fraternity house. >> Read more trending news  Syed Arham Arbab, 22, of Augusta, admitted to defrauding 117 people in a scheme that attracted about $1 million from investors, prosecutors said. A news release said Arbab spent funds on clothes, shoes, adult entertainment and gambling trips to Las Vegas. “The defendant engaged in a pattern of deceit to gain the trust of unwitting investors who gave him their hard-earned money for what they believed was a sound investment,” Charlie Peeler, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, said in the release. From May 2018 to May of this year, Arbab sought investors for Artis Proficio Capital Management and Artis Proficio Capital Investments. Prosecutors said Arbab issued false account statements and misrepresented the size of the funds and returns. Among his false claims, prosecutors said, Arbab said a former UGA athlete and NFL star was among his investors. Arbab pleaded to a single count of securities fraud. He is scheduled for sentencing in January. In late May, the Securities and Exchange Commission initiated a civil complaint against Arbab, which is pending. In June, a federal judge froze Arbab’s assets and those of his investment funds. At the time, the SEC alleged Arbab defrauded at least eight investors of $269,000, but warned that the size of the scheme could be larger. In text messages, Arbab allegedly told investors his firm was “different because we target young investors/college kids,” and he charged lower commissions, the SEC complaint said. Arbab allegedly told investors he guaranteed investments of up to $15,000. The SEC said Arbab also sold “bond agreements,” which were like loans. Instead, Arbab allegedly deposited funds in his bank account and used new proceeds to pay off previous investors who sought money. A bio on the website for Artis Proficio stated that Arbab graduated cum laude from UGA with a degree in cellular biology, and that at the time, he working on a masters of business administration at UGA’s business school. Prosecutors said Arbab had in fact been rejected from the MBA program at UGA’s Terry College of Business.
  • When Stoneham firefighters arrived at a two-alarm fire around 12:30 p.m. Saturday, a woman living at the single-family home was on her roof overhang escaping the flames. >> Read more trending news   Stoneham police officers instructed her to jump from the overhang, and she was caught by Stoneham police officers Stephen Aprile and John Burton. She was the only person at the home at the time of the fire. 'Today marks the last day of Fire Prevention Week and the theme for this year covered how important it is for people to have an escape plan to get out of their home,' says Stoneham fire Chief Matthew Grafton. 'The resident who was at home at the time of (Saturday's) fire is an excellent example of someone who knew to find an available escape route and got herself safely out of the house as quickly as possible.' The fire was in the kitchen on the first floor and smoke was billowing from all windows. Crews from the Woburn, Melrose, Wakefield, Winchester and Reading fire departments helped on scene while Saugus, Medford and Malden firefighters helped with station coverage. Firefighters prevented the flames from spreading to the rest of the house, but the home sustained heavy damage from smoke and water, estimated at $150,000 to $200,000. The family of six who lived at the home is being helped by family and friends in the area. One dog was rescued and taken to a vet for evaluation. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
  • The final day of the Atlanta Air Show is canceled after a pilot ejected from a plane Sunday afternoon. The airshow began Saturday and was scheduled to continue Sunday afternoon at Tara Field near the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton.  >> Read more trending news  Capt. Kevin Domon-Grenier, a pilot with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, ejected from his aircraft shortly before the squadron was due to perform, the Snowbirds announced on Twitter on Sunday.  Domon-Grenier’s CT-114 Tutor crashed prior to the show’s opening, Airshow officials said. He made it safely to the ground and is OK, the CF Snowbirds said.  Nobody was injured when the plane crashed in an unpopulated area, according to the Snowbirds.
  • New Birth Missionary Baptist Church plans to redirect a donation it received from rap artist Kanye West to Atlanta’s Morris Brown College, officials said.  Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant on Sunday announced a financial contribution to the HBCU’s general scholarship fund, according to a New Birth spokesman.  The announcement came during the 9:30 a.m.  church service. Bryant, senior pastor of New Birth in Stonecrest, said the funds  will be used to make a financial contribution in honor of the Grammy Award-winning artist’s late mother Donda West, who previously served on the faculty at Morris Brown.  The size of the donation wasn’t immediately announced. Morris Brown College has struggled financially since losing its accreditation in 2002. Only a few dozen students attend the college, down from as many as 2,700 in the mid-1990s. Among Historically Black Colleges and Universities, it is the only one in Georgia founded by African Americans. Kevin James, the college’s interim president, told New Birth’s congregation Sunday that Morris Brown was approved Friday as a higher learning institution by the Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission. He called it a “major step” toward accreditation.  “When you lose your accreditation, you close,” James said during the Sunday service. “But for some reason, for the past 17 years, Morris Brown College has been able to survive. We will be the first historically black college in history ... since 1837 to actually come back and be fully accredited under these circumstances.”   Kanye West visited New Birth Sept. 15 for a popup Sunday performance as a part of his “Sunday Service” series. Lines waiting outside New Birth began forming several hours before the service. RELATED: Kanye West brings ‘Sunday Service’ to Atlanta West has been making such appearances on Sundays this year, including one in Dayton, Ohio, to help that community in the wake of a mass shooting and on Easter Sunday to bring a message of faith to those attending the music festival Coachella. The announcement from New Birth came a day after West brought his Sunday Service series to Howard University, a prestigious HBCU in Washington, D.C.  It also came weeks after West defended his endorsement of President Donald Trump, whose support of HBCUs has been mixed.  MORE: HBCUs and Trump: up and down relationship “I went into prayer, and it dawned in me in prayer that Dr. Donda West, who was the mother of Kanye West, is a former professor at Morris Brown College,” New Birth’s Bryant said during Sunday’s service.  Donda West started her teaching career at Morris Brown College as an English instructor in the 1970s, and later became the department chair, according to an obituary. “I know what Dr. Donda West represented while at Morris Brown, and her mind for African American literature, was to empower, equip and engage students to be something radical that can change community and change society,” Bryant said.  In other news: 
  • Robert Downey Jr.'s first film since leaving the Marvel Universe still involves CGI, but of the animal variety. The former Iron Man is the title character in Universal Pictures' 'Dolittle.' It's the latest movie version of the story about the doctor who can communicate with animals. >> Read more trending news  Antonio Banderas appears to have a role in the film as an antagonist to Dolittle, while Octavia Spencer, Kumail Nanjiani, Ralph Fiennes, Emma Thompson, John Cena, Selena Gomez and Downey Jr.'s Marvel co-star Tom Holland lend their voice talents. Downey Jr. executive produces the film, which will be released Jan. 17, 2020. Watch the trailer below.