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lin hong Oct 18 '18

What the Detroit Tigers were hoping would be a very big week in Ohio is off to a very slow start.

With the surprising Tigers’ biggest series of the season coming up this weekend [url=http://www.officialstarsproonline.com/...as-jamie-benn-jersey]Adidas Jamie Benn Jersey[/url] , they’re not getting much time to turn things around.

The Tigers brought a five-game winning streak and plenty of confidence into a week that’s beginning with two games against the last-place Reds in Cincinnati and ending with three against the first-place Indians in Cleveland. They started out the week 2 1/2 games behind the Indians in the AL Central, and were talking openly of leaving Cleveland with the division lead on Sunday night.

But they’re now four games back following the Indians’ home-field wins over the Chicago White Sox on successive nights and the Tigers’ 9-5 loss to the Reds on Tuesday night. The Tigers let their game get away from them in a hurry after Joey Votto hit a grand slam in the third inning off Detroit starter Matthew Boyd (4-5).

The Tigers put up the kind of late-inning outburst that often wins games — a five-run ninth inning, against Reds reliever Wandy Peralta — but the trouble was they were down 9-0 when the inning began. Reds starter Sal Romano (4-7) shut them out on four hits over seven innings and now has allowed only one run over 15 innings in his last two starts.

“This wasn’t a good game for us,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “The other guy was throwing the ball well. … It wasn’t one of our better nights. You walk a few people (six), give up a few hits and (have) some long innings, and there you have it.”

Now, the Tigers don’t have much time to bounce back as they face an afternoon game Wednesday in Great American Ball Park, with right-hander Michael Fulmer (3-5, 4.13 ERA) going up against the Reds’ best pitcher of late in Tyler Mahle (5-6, 3.96). The Reds right-hander has permitted only two earned runs over 16 1/3 innings in his last three starts.

“Detroit, you look at their record, they’re getting after it every night,” said Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman, whose team has won five of seven. “Ron Gardenhire’s got them playing hard and you’d better play the whole nine. They’re going to come after you.”

Neither pitcher in Wednesday’s game has faced the opposing team before.

Boyd hadn’t seen the Reds before, either, but Cincinnati made quick work of him, chasing him after getting five runs, six hits and three walks off him while he labored through four innings, throwing 80 pitches .

Some of the Reds’ low-average hitters did the most damage against Boyd and a Tigers bullpen that was almost flawless during the winning streak. Billy Hamilton, batting .203, went 2-for-4 with a home run and Adam Duvall, batting .196, was 3-for-4. Tucker Barnhart also was 3-for-3 as the Reds collected 13 hits.

Detroit wasted a big night at the plate by leadoff hitter Leonys Martin, who went 3-for-3 with a double and walked twice while reaching base five times.

Mahle got off to a rough start this season, losing six of his first nine decisions [url=http://www.officialstarsproonline.com/...-tyler-seguin-jersey]Adidas Tyler Seguin Jersey[/url] , but he pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Kansas City Royals in a 7-0 win last Wednesday and five shutout innings against the San Diego Padres on June 1. In between, he gave up two runs to the Rockies in five innings on June 7.

“It’s nice to put a couple (of no-run outings) close together like that,” Mahle told reporters after beating the Royals. “I was able to put some zeros up there and our team is always going to be able to score at some point.”

Fulmer is coming off a strong start, beating the Minnesota Twins 3-1 on Thursday while giving up only one run on five hits over seven innings. The win was Fulmer’s first at Comerica Park in nearly a year, or since July 15.

Matchups for the Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots:

When the Eagles (15-3) have the ball

The Patriots must be wary of a balanced offense that tore apart Minnesota, which has a better overall defense than does New England. Forget about Nick Foles (9) being a backup quarterback; his postseason performances, particularly in the NFC title game, have been strong.

Foles will try to get TE Zach Ertz (86) involved early; he was unstoppable against the Vikings. Indeed, the Eagles have three tight ends they are comfortable going to, including Brent Celek (87) and Trey Burton (88). That places an onus on safeties Devin McCourty (32), as reliable as any player at that position in the league, and Patrick Chung (23).

Philadelphia’s wideouts supposedly were a weakness heading into the season. Not quite. Alshon Jeffery (17) is a clear No. 1 target with excellent hands and the ability to get open all over the field. That frees up vastly improved Nelson Agholor (13) and veteran Torrey Smith (82). They will challenge the Patriots’ solid cornerbacks, Malcolm Butler (21) and Stephon Gilmore (24).

New England’s defensive backs will need a bolstered pass rush, something the Patriots manufacture with a variety of players, from Trey Flowers (98) to Geneo Grissom (96) to Lawrence Guy (93) to rookie Adam Butler (70) to the rejuvenated LB James Harrison (92). Philly is most staunch at center with Jason Kelce (62) and right tackle with Lane Johnson (65), both All-Pros.

One thing the Eagles are sure to try to keep New England’s offense on the sideline is getting Jay Ajayi (36), former Patriot LeGarrette Blount (29) and rookie Corey Clement (30) some open space for runs. New England LB Kyle Van Noy (53) figures to have a busy day unless Philly falls behind.

When the Patriots (15-3) have the ball

Tom Brady (12) has won five Super Bowls, four times as game MVP. Never mind that he is 40, he’s playing as if he’s in his prime – hey, he might be – and will test Philadelphia’s versatile defense from the outset.

Oddly, while Brady led the NFL with 4,577 passing yards, no QB who paced the NFL in that category has won the Super Bowl in that season, going 0-5. Brady couldn’t do it, and the others were Peyton Manning [url=http://www.officialredwings.com/...s-gordie-howe-jersey]Adidas Gordie Howe Jersey[/url] , Rich Gannon, Kurt Warner and Dan Marino.

It’s essential that the Eagles get in Brady’s face throughout. That means DLs Fletcher Cox (91), the best defensive player in this postseason, Brandon Graham (55), rookie Derek Barnett (96) and former Patriot Chris Long (56) must apply pressure. That’s doable but not easy against an offensive line without any stars, but with plenty of skill. LT Nate Solder (77) and C David Andrews (60) are the key guys up front.

Philly must be alert not only for all of Brady’s targets – WRs Brandin Cooks (14), Danny Amendola (80), Chris Hogan (15), RBs James White (28) and Dion Lewis (33) – but for Lewis and White in the running game. Both are shifty and flexible and have Brady’s trust.

The Eagles’ secondary, often criticized for its inconsistency, has gotten very stingy in the playoffs. Of course, CBs Ronald Darby (41), Jalen Mills (31) and Patrick Robinson (21) haven’t faced this kind of offense.

Perhaps most critical among all matchups is whether All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski (87) has recovered from a concussion. His confrontations with veteran S Malcolm Jenkins (27) could be telling.

Special Teams

Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski (3) rebounded from a rough 2016 to have a strong season. He made 37 out of 40 field goals in the regular season, going 4 for 4 on kicks of 50 or more yards. He is one of the league’s most clutch kickers and is third in career postseason points in NFL history.

Lewis is the only player in this game to have returned a kickoff for a touchdown this season. He ranked fourth in the NFL with 24.8 yards per return.

Amendola is also a threat on punt returns. He averaged 8.6 yards per return during the regular season, including a long of 40 yards, and had a big one against Jacksonville in the AFC title game.

Philadelphia’s Jake Elliott (4) set a postseason club record with a 53-yard field goal and has longer range than Gostkowski. But he is less reliable on extra points, having missed four.

P Donnie Jones (8) ranked 17th in net average and Kenjon Barner (38) filled in nicely after Darren Sproles was injured. Barner’s best punt return went for 76 yards.

Coverage units are solid despite losing special-teams captain Chris Maragos.

Coaching

Philly was in attack mode from the outset against Minnesota, and that’s a good reflection on Doug Pederson and his staff. Pederson knows he can’t back off against New England, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is known for being aggressive.

Not much has to be said about a New England staff that is 5-2 in Super Bowls. A twist, not unprecedented but interesting, has both coordinators, Matt Patricia on defense and Josh McDaniels on offense, bound for head coaching spots elsewhere. Don’t look for it to have any effect on this game.

Intangibles

The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl; their previous NFL title was in 1960. They have that extra edge that perennial underdogs – even in home playoff games as the No. 1 seed – would carry. Their confidence is soaring after they tore apart the stingiest scoring defense in the league for the conference championship.

New England probably doesn’t need anything in this category. But the Patriots always seem to find some extr