Florida vs. LSU 2017, College World Series score: Gators take Game 1, 4-3

Florida and LSU earned tickets to the College World Series final round, a best-of-three set that will crown this year’s NCAA baseball tournament champions. Florida dismantled LSU, 4-3, to score the first strike, and the Gators stand just one win away from their first-ever CWS title.

Without the services of Alex Lange or Jared Poch, LSU threw Russell Reynolds to start Game 1 of the best-of-three final series, and he immediately put a man on first on the second batter he faced. That threat, such as it was, didn’t last long, though, as Dalton Guthrie tried to advance to second on a semi-wild pitch but was gunned down on his slide into the base.

The Bronx Bombers are back. After finishing 22nd in total offense and 19th in home runs in the league last season, the Yankees now rank fourth in the league in both of those categories. Aaron Judge is leading the way on offense, batting .324 with 44 runs, 18 home runs, and 41 RBI through the team’s first 54 games. Judge enters Tuesday night’s game with an eight-game hitting streak.

Here it is. My favorite combination of baseball skill and baseball absurdity. There is nothing better or more pure than this.

Bengie Molina ran like Yadier Molina was hanging from his ankles and begging him not to run. He was, quite possibly, the slowest baseball player I have ever seen. Perhaps the slowest baseball player I will ever see. And that’s when he was in his prime. In this game, he was 35 years old. In catcher years, that’s closer to 45 when it comes to legging out triples.

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Mike Matheny’s job isn’t so safe anymore

It has not been a pleasant 2017 season for the St. Louis Cardinals. They have a disappointing 27-32 record, a number of their everyday players aren’t living up to expectations, and they recently completed a disastrous, winless seven-game road trip. They did win a game against the Phillies last night, but that’s almost like a teenager winning a race against a toddler who keeps getting distracted by a leaf blowing on the ground.

Things came to a head of sorts yesterday when general manager John Mozeliak called a midafternoon press conference and announced … a few changes to the non-Mike Matheny coaching staff. Mozeliak started the presser by owning up to the team’s continuing struggles while acting like he was presiding over a funeral mass, and then he announced third base coach Chris Maloney was being reassigned, Pop Warner was joining the staff, and a few other changes.

The minuteman, gun and all, has one shot to win this fight literally. A single stray musket shot and it’s over. The reload time is too long, the threat too great, and both parties are trapped inside a circle.

Let’s give the minuteman a sporting chance and say it was shot by the musket. A story from India earlier this year shows that a tiger was shot with a vintage musket as recently as May. It took 13 days to die.

The minuteman gets his shot off and then gets absolutely torn to shreds by the angry tiger. There’s no reasoning with the tiger. All hope is lost. Please see Tipu’s Tiger for more information on this fight.

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The Cubs as an organization are Trump-friendly

Maddon is doing this because the Ricketts, who own the Cubs, finagled an invite from the White House that once tried to recruit Todd Ricketts as the commerce secretary, likely as a thank you for the Ricketts family’s contributions to the Trump campaign. That donation was a political statement. Making a second visit to the White House after the Cubs have already made one is a political statement. And Maddon trying to deflect by dismissing concerns that this is a political statement is such a political move that it’s a surprise he doesn’t already have a seat in congress.

When you think of the Tigers and second base, though, who do you think of? Ian Kinsler recently, sure. Hall-of-Famer Charlie Gehringer and Should-Be-Hall-of-Famer-I-Will-Fight-You Lou Whitaker from the past, of course. But it’s not like they had someone you instantly identify with the franchise.

They usually had someone, though. Of all the teams in baseball, the Tigers have been the most consistent team at finding second basemen, doing it in 17 seasons out of the last 20. It’s even more impressive when you consider how awful they were in the early ’00s. It’s a varied list, too:

Just own the trip. The Cubs as an organization are Trump-friendly, and they’re visiting specifically because Trump is here. Maddon, for all his talk about this not being political and him going out of respect for the office and an old building, is also speaking to young Republicans at a luncheon while he’s in town. Teams do not have a responsibility to visit the White House we’ve recently had this come up with the NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors. Maddon and the Cubs should stop pretending otherwise.

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The Dodgers’ rookie hit a pair of homers on Monday

Everyone is talking about Aaron Judge, as he’s baseball’s large adult son who also happens to be leading the majors in homers. What has he done for us lately, though? He hasn’t hit a dinger in days! No, now we love the even newer thing: Cody Bellinger.

The Dodgers’ rookie hit a pair of homers on Monday, giving him the NL lead with 21 … despite the fact Bellinger has only played in 51 games since he began the year in Triple-A. That last bit makes him the fastest ever to reach 21 big-league homers.

OK, fine. We don’t need to pick between the two: We have enough appreciation for both. Judge is 25 and debuted in 2016, but he didn’t play enough to lose his rookie status. Bellinger is only 21 and wasn’t even supposed to be here right now, but Dodgers injuries forced an early call-up and further injuries kept him here. Now, it’s hard to imagine the Dodgers without Bellinger, given he’s slugging .658. And even with him around, Los Angeles remains a half game out of first in the NL West.

One of the big stories in the league over the first few weeks of the season was how poorly the Blue Jays were playing to begin the year. We try not to make sweeping generalizations based on early-season performances, but wins in April are worth just as much as wins in September.

There was a point where it looked like the Blue Jays had already buried themselves, and people were talking about how their window was closed. In fact, there were even some whispers about whether or not they should trade Josh Donaldson in the summer. It was a dark time in Toronto.

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College World Series 2017: 5 key moments from Florida’s Game 1 win

Florida and LSU are so evenly matched that predictions are a moot point. Just let them play behind strong arms on the hill and whatever hitting is generated after that.

On Monday, the Gators and Tigers kicked off the College World Series final round, a best-of-three tilt that will determine this year’s NCAA baseball tournament champion, and damn did they deliver in an already much anticipated matchup. The game was riddled with highlights, lowlights, and lights-out pitching in between. Florida eventually prevailed, 4-3.

After UNC beat FGCU to eliminate the Eagles, that set up the hosts for another date with Davidson, which, unlike UNC, didn’t have to play a doubleheader on the regional’s final day. All of the game’s scoring occurred in the fifth, with Wildcats right fielder Will Robertson getting a two-run hit in the top of the frame and the Tar Heels’ Michael Busch slapping a solo homer in the bottom of it. That’s all Davidson would need to finish off the No. 2 team in the land and earn rights to a super regional tilt with Texas A&M in College Station.

Outside of their performance on the diamond, though, Davidson’s story involves near tragedy and curious distribution of the team’s scholarships. Most if not all of this Wildcats team won’t be playing at the professional level, but that doesn’t matter, because they’re playing with house money every time they take the field the rest of the way.

O’Linger pitched eight stellar innings in the Wildcats’ regional opener against UNC, then came back for two innings of relief work when they beat them again in the final. He also threw 236 pitches in three days during the Atlantic-10 tournament the previous weekend. Just an absolute workhorse.

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This kind of poise is unprecedented among stitch-headed people in history.

When I was 7 years old, a kid hit me in the head with a rock at a tennis court requiring five stitches. For two weeks I suffered the physical and emotional pain of that moment. Mr. Met has endured having stitches in his head for over 50 years, and has always been expected to have a smile on his face.

In the College Station super, your new favorite team Davidson tiptoed around the Aggies for five innings before blowing up their hosts’ 6-0 advantage in the sixth and seventh. Down one heading into the ninth, they tied it up in the top of the frame and held on in the bottom to send the game to extras. Starting big arm Durin O’Linger lasted 7 2/3 innings in the no decision.

This game in fact set NCAA baseball tournament history, as the Wildcats and Aggies paired up for the longest Game 1 in super regional history. Fifteen full innings were required to decide a winner on Friday, but in the end A&M prevailed on a well placed, bases-loaded single from George Janca. Saturday’s bout will most hopefully deliver similar theatrics.

In the Long Beach super regional, Long Beach State more or less handled Cal State Fullerton in nine innings, 3-0. The Dirtbags jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished, stymying Fullerton’s bats for the duration. The greatest highlight of Friday’s outing, however, was this amazing umpire who offered up the most emphatic YOU’RE OUT of the tournament thus far.

He turns 39 in October, and while his renaissance has been something various teams have enjoyed for five years now, there’s an excellent chance that he won’t pick up another Cy Young vote or All-Star appearance in his career. When a pitcher this old starts allowing bushels of runs, it’s certainly time to be skeptical.

But I’m still pretty sure Lackey will be fine. Arrieta will be fine. They’ll all be fine. The Cubs are fine. I have no emotional investment in this team, and I’m telling you they’ll be fine.

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Adrian Beltre hugs former teammate Carlos Beltran to tag him out

Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran have played in the MLB for a long, long time, and the former teammates decided to hug it out on a forceout play in the Astros-Rangers game on Saturday:

Beltre could have stepped on the bag to retire Beltran, but instead opted to trot toward Beltran. It ended in a delightful embrace between old friends who debuted in the league in 1998:

He was trying to tag me, and I had nowhere to go, Beltran told MLB.com’s Sam Butler. So I just ended up giving him a hug for the great career that he had in baseball … just a fun moment.

This should be the standard across all major sports.

If you have the opportunity, hug out the GOATs of your league to let them know your appreciation.

Sometimes sports can be so pure.

In previous iterations of the draft, this might be a spot where a small-market team like the Rays would have worked out a pre-draft deal to save money. While the primary goal of the bonus pools was to shift money from young players to owners, it’s at least a side benefit that the Rays generally get to pick the top player on their board now.

Was this the best player available, though? Depends on which scout you talk to. There are some who question if the tools will ever turn into wins, with others thinking this is as safe of a bet as you can find in the draft. Injuries are always a risk, too, but the potential ceiling is spectacular.

The starting pitcher for the game, for example, was Masato Yoshii. His 5.86 ERA for the season was good for an ERA+ of 99. Completely average once you accounted for park effects.

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Tim Tebow got promoted by the Mets. He’s not playing all that well, though.

Hello, this is an urgent and breaking news regarding Tim Tebow’s baseball career. On Sunday, the Mets organization announced that Tebow would be moving up to the team’s high-A affiliate in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. He’s now one step under the AA level of Minor League Baseball.

Here’s a look at how Tebow has been hitting with the Columbia Fireflies, which he joined in March.

The Astros have the best lineup in baseball, and it’s not close: their OPS+ is 126, while the second-highest in the league is the Nationals at 114. While the Astros clearly need another starter to give them depth and comfort, between the Dallas Keuchel renaissance, Lance McCullers, and a bullpen full of strikeouts, they still have managed to rank seventh in the majors and fourth in the AL in ERA+.

The Astros might reach 300 runs scored before all 30 teams have even crossed the 200-run threshold. They’ve scored 90 more runs than they’ve allowed even with a rotation that isn’t quite where it needs to be. If they go just .500 the rest of the way, given they already have 38 wins, they’d still win 92 games. It’s still way too early in the season to know if they’ll actually win the World Series hell, the Indians were literally one game away from being champs last year and couldn’t pull it off but you can forgive if any SI editors feel a little smug about their mag’s prediction this summer.

Mr. Met flipped off a fan following New York’s 7-1 loss to the Brewers, and the Mets tweeted an apology that was way too vague. Like, in the sense it can be applied to any mistake anyone in the Mets organization makes from now on vague.

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Clippers center Willie Reed arrested on domestic violence charge

Clippers center Willie Reed was jailed early Sunday in Miami on domestic violence charges.

According to Miami-Dade jail records, Reed was charged with misdemeanor battery after being booked at 3:06 a.m. ET with a $1,500 bond. The Miami Herald reported he was still being held as of 7:30 a.m. ET.

Details surrounded the arrest aren’t known.

The news comes just days after Reed agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million contract with Los Angeles following a breakout season backing up Heat big man Hassan Whiteside.

Reed, 27, went undrafted in 2011 but played in the NBA’s developmental league. He joined the Nets on a one-year deal in July 2015, but left the team the following April for personal reasons. He then signed with the Heat last July, averaging 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds for Miami last season.

Reed’s best game came in a Jan. 3 loss to the Suns when he posted career highs of 22 points and 18 rebounds.

With that, they’ve opened up a possibility that seemed remote for most of the past year, that we won’t see a fourth straight Warriors-Cavs NBA Finals, that other teams in the woebegone East have a fighting chance of knocking off James and whomever he is calling his teammates next spring.

Yes, there is a chance next season — the regular season, no less! — could be interesting. Imagine that.

Certainly, the Celtics, with the addition of All-Star wing Gordon Hayward, are best positioned to take advantage of the Cavaliers’ turmoil. They beat out Cleveland in the regular season, of course, but were thwacked by the Cavs in the conference finals. Irving averaged 25.8 points in that series and shot, incredibly, 62.2 percent from the field. Dump Irving, and the Celtics have that much better a chance of beating Cleveland.

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Former Raptor Charles Oakley’s casual sexism shouldn’t be tolerated

During his 18-year NBA career, former Toronto Raptor Charles Oakley became synonymous with the tough-guy image among his NBA peers and fans. He scrapped and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, even when his words were unkind (which, many of the times, they were).

And over the weekend, during a panel discussion before a Big3 event, Oakley continued to speak his mind, saying that some current NBA players should wear dresses.

While Oakley gained a reputation for not backing down from any opponent in the NBA, there’s nothing tough about these comments. There’s nothing about casual sexism that should be accepted or thought of in any positive light. Oakley’s reputation as an enforcer or a brawler doesn’t absolve him of comments that are clearly demeaning to the female basketball fan.

The Thunder already made a serious upgrade by adding Paul George via trade to pair with 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, but snagging Anthony from the Knicks would create a formidable Big Three in OKC. It could also unleash the Olympics version of Anthony at the power forward spot in specific lineups.

However, as intriguing as the basketball fit may be, a trade between the Thunder and Knicks doesn’t make much sense. The Thunder don’t have much to offer in exchange for Anthony. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis were sent to the Pacers in the George deal. Steven Adams signed an extension last October, plus he’s more valuable than Anthony at this point in his career, so he isn’t leaving. Enes Kanter is an expensive big man the Knicks likely wouldn’t want as a key piece of a trade package.

If the Thunder are serious about adding Anthony, a third team will need to help out. Of course, Anthony still holds that valuable no-trade clause and can veto any move he doesn’t like. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported Saturday that Anthony remains focused on heading to Houston.

A trio of Westbrook, George and Anthony would be highly entertaining. It’s just not realistic at this point.

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