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  1. Adam Schefter is reporting tonight that the Titans are planning on starting Blaine Gabbert tomorrow in Jacksonville against the Jaguars:Say a prayer for Mariota’s nerve tonight before you go to bed. There is still the chance that he could wake up tomorrow and have his grip back.I said last week before the game that I just didn’t see how the Titans were going to win. I feel that same way tonight. The Titans coaching staff put together a great game plan last week that included some wrinkles the Texans weren’t ready for. Can they come up with some more for tomorrow? If they can Youth Quinton Spain Jersey , I will declare them the greatest coaching staff in all of the land.Hey, at least we know Gabbert can beat the Jaguars. He did it last year while playing for the Cardinals, and this is a better overall team. There is no reason he can’t do it again tomorrow...right.....right?What to watch for during Titans-Buccaneers The Titans are back in preseason action tonight as they host the Buccaneers at Nissan Stadium following a couple joint practices during the week. As always, the primary objective is to get out of the game with no major injuries, but here are a few other storylines to keep an eye on during the game. The preseason debut of Corey DavisGeorge Walker IV-USA TODAY SportsCorey Davis seems to be on track to take the field in a preseason game for the first time tonight. We don’t know how long Davis and the other starters will play, but even seeing him work with Marcus Mariota for a drive or two would be a very positive step. The Titans need their 2017 first round pick to play like the star they drafted him to be this year. With Rishard Matthews’ status still up in the air and Eric Decker dropping balls in New England, the Titans are putting a lot of eggs in the Corey Davis basket. The good news is that Davis has looked like one of the best players on the field during training camp. He still has moments of inconsistency, but he’s also making a ton of plays and has turned in some truly unbelievable catches while working against a very good group of cornerbacks. The Titans offense targets him frequently in the passing game in practices and I would expect that to be the case tonight as well. Davis turning in a strong performance and helping the first team offense click like it did in Green Bay would be a great first step for the second year wide receiver.Taylor Lewan vs Jason Pierre-PaulChristopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY SportsDuring the Titans-Bucs joint practices this week Kevin Byard Jersey , Pierre-Paul got the best of Lewan in a couple reps, including one that the Bucs’ Twitter account put out from a one-on-one pass rush drill. Pierre-Paul then scoffed at Paul Kuharsky when he asked him about competing against Lewan, acting like he dominated the Titans left tackle. JPP is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL so there is no shame in getting beat by him on a couple reps, but knowing Lewan’s personality I wouldn’t be surprised to see 77 come out with an extra large chip on his shoulder when he lines up against Pierre-Paul tonight. This should be a fun battle to watch. Wide receiver rotationUSA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinWe know that Corey Davis will likely get the start at one wide receiver position, but I’ll be interested to see who is taking the first team reps opposite him. That had been Taywan Taylor’s role for the majority of the offseason, but Tajae Sharpe has reportedly gotten some reps there this week as well. I would still expect to see Taylor open the first drive with the starters, but it’s possible that Sharpe gets a reward for a strong week of practices. In the slot, I would still expect to see Nick Williams working as the top option inside with Michael Campanaro continuing to deal with whatever injury is holding him out of practice http://www.titansauthorizedshops.com/authentic-austin-johnson-jersey , but it will be interesting to see if Deontay Burnett gets any run earlier in the game. Burnett continues to make plays in practice and looked pretty good with limited opportunities in Green Bay, but he’ll need to show more to truly get in the mix for a 53-man roster spot. The other guy I want to see more of is Devin Ross. He’s another undrafted receiver that has shown some promise in camp and had a nice catch and run on a WR screen against the Packers. I think he’s most likely competing for a practice squad spot rather than a 53-man roster spot right now, but he’s been good in camp.Will last week’s stars shine again?Benny Sieu-USA TODAY SportsThe way to earn a role — or a roster spot — during training camp and preseason is to bring it every time out. It’s not enough to just flash once and then coast. Coaches want to see consistency and for bottom of the roster players, they want to see if they can do it against better competition.That will likely be the test for the stars of the Titans first preseason game. Players like Harold Landry, Sharif Finch, Corey Levin, LeShaun Sims, and Jayon Brown will be looking to stack another strong performance as they make a case for a bigger role. Landry Authentic Derrick Henry Jersey , Sims, and Brown are all going to make this roster, but could earn more playing time. The stakes are higher for guys like Levin and Finch who are fighting for roster spots. Adoree’ JacksonChristopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY SportsJackson has been one of the stars of training camp and he may have had his biggest day during Thursday’s practice against the Bucs. He recorded three interceptions during that practice, including this pass in the endzone that he tipped to himself and then celebrated with a casual flip.The flip is cool, but the coverage here is fantastic as he mirrors DeSean Jackson’s route and makes it look easy. I get that his first preseason game wasn’t great. He gave up a couple catches and missed a tackle during the Packers opening drive, but I really think Jackson is going to have a Byard-esque breakout campaign this year. We saw him start coming on late last season and he’s picked up where he left off this year. Keep an eye on 25 tonight.
  2. Now it’s time to see where all 32 teams rank. For reference purposes Philadelphia Eagles Womens Hoodie , here is a link to last week’s NFL Power Rankings.BLG’S WEEK 4 NFL POWER RANKINGS1 - Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 1) - Pat Mahomes is the truth. Andy Reid’s team is averaging 39.3 points per game so far. Not going to be easy to defend against this formidable mix of talent and coaching. 2 - Los Angeles Rams (LW: 2) - The Rams have rolled through their first three opponents. They stand alone at the top of the NFC at 3-0. 3 - Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 7) - Forget the ugliness of the win, Carson Wentz is back and that’s great news for the outlook of the reigning Super Bowl champions. Philadelphia’s defensive success at home is also going to make the team tough to beat for at least eight games.4 - Miami Dolphins (LW: 19) - Well, I don’t think the Dolphins have beaten anyone really great, but here they are at 3-0 and on top of the AFC East. 5 - New Orleans Saints (LW: 10) - This defense isn’t good but the Saints can still score a lot of points at will.6 - Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 5) - The Jags only lost by three points to a division rival so they’re not due for a big drop. But it’s not the best when your starting quarterback gets outplayed by a guy who doesn’t have feeling in his fingers and only played because the starter got hurt. 7 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 6) - Ryan Fitzpatrick came back to earth this week by throwing three interceptions. He also became the first player in NFL history to throw for 400+ yards in three consecutive games. The Bucs lost but their late comeback attempt showed they’re still dangerous. 8 - Atlanta Falcons (LW: 9) - The Falcons lost but they came close to winning. They’ve bounced back since a poor Week 1 offensive performance in Philly. Unfortunately for Atlanta, they’re getting hit hard with key injuries. 9 - Carolina Panthers (LW: 12) - Quality win for the Panthers to beat a solid Cincy team.10 - Green Bay Packers (LW: 3) - Aaron Rodgers’ injury limitations were on display against Washington. Green Bay is vulnerable when he’s not able to carry the team. 11 - Washington Redskins (LW: 23) - Wrote this about Washington prior to their win on Sunday: “I think it’d be very Washington of Washington to win this game after somewhat inexplicably losing at home to the Colts but I’m not going to just count on that.” Well, I should have counted on it. High variance team early on this season. Hard to rank.12 - New England Patriots (LW: 8) - It’s probably too early to say for sure that the Eagles ended the Patriots dynasty, but yes Womens Customized Philadelphia Eagles Jerseys , that’s exactly what’s happening here. 13 - Chicago Bears (LW: 15) - I go back to what I said last week: I’m buying Chicago’s defense but I’m selling Mitchell Trubisky. He hasn’t been good. 14 - Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 18) - Finding themselves in a must-win spot, the Steelers got the job done against a hot Tampa team. Pittsburgh is still last in the AFC North for now. 15 - Minnesota Vikings (LW: 4) - The Vikings entered Sunday’s game as 17-point home favorites and managed to lose to Buffalo by a final score of 27 to 6. What an embarrassment. You Vike That? 16 - Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 11) - Andy Dalton threw four interceptions on Sunday. Not gonna win when that happens. 17 - Baltimore Ravens (LW: 17) - I have nothing interesting to say about the Ravens. They seem boringly solid. 18 - Los Angeles Chargers (LW: 13) - If it’s not Bill O’Brien, it could be Anthony Lynn who ends up being the first head coach fired this season. 19 - Denver Broncos (LW: 15) - The Broncos followed up two close wins with a decisive road loss. Case Keenum didn’t look good, which is shocking. (It’s not shocking.)20 - Tennessee Titans (LW: 24) - I don’t think the Titans are actually good but I do think they’re not terrible. They’re 2-1 and their one loss was by one possession to an undefeated Miami team. With that said, the aesthetics haven’t been pleasing and there are still some issues here. 21 - Cleveland Browns (LW: 25) - It was a small sample, sure, but No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield looks legit. I think the Browns will win a couple more games this season.22 - Seattle Seahawks (LW: 26) - Turns out that the Seahawks are still tough to beat at home. Also Earl Thomas is still really good. 23 - Indianapolis Colts (LW: 22) - Andrew Luck’s lack of arm strength seems to be a real issue. The 29-year-old is averaging a mere 5.34 yards per attempt. The Colts had to bring in Jacoby Brissett just to attempt a Hail Mary in Philly. 24 - San Francisco 49ers (LW: 14) - The Niners are 1-2 and now Jimmy Garoppolo is done for the season. That’s tough. 25 - Detroit Lions (LW: 29) - Maybe Bill Belichick www.eaglescheapshops.com , not Matt Patricia, was the issue with the Patriots. 26 - Buffalo Bills (LW: 32) - CIRCLE THE WAGONS! The Bills are on the board after randomly destroying Minnesota. Josh Allen is out here hurdling linebackers. 27 - New York Jets (LW: 20) - Sam Darnold has shown some potential but he’s also shown that he’s only 21 years old and has a lot of growing pains to work through. 28 - Dallas Cowboys (LW: 21) - Dak Prescott isn’t good. 29 - New York Giants (LW: 30) - The Giants aren’t totally lifeless, but I’m not going to give them a ton of credit for beating a bad Texans team. 30 - Houston Texans (LW: 27) - 2018 Deshaun Watson has hardly looked like 2017 Deshaun Watson. In his defense, his offensive line hasn’t been great. That’s not a surprise considering the Texans only have one starter returning from last year. No continuity there. 31 - Oakland Raiders (LW: 28) - The Raiders really gave Jon Gruden a 10-year, $100 million contract. Lol. 32 - Arizona Cardinals (LW: 31) - The Cardinals are benching Sam Bradford after just three starts into the dumb contract they gave to him. Josh Rosen time.Eagles Injury Report: Alshon Jeffery returns to practice The Philadelphia Eagles released their first official injury report on Wednesday in advance of their Week 2 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.The big news is that Alshon Jeffery returned to practice for the first time since having offseason surgery on a torn rotator cuff he played through during the entire 2017 season. Jeffery was only a limited participant in practice, and he’s not expected to play this weekend, but it’s good to see he’s progressing towards a return. It was previously reported he might make his season debut in Week 3 against the Colts.Speaking of potential Week 3 returns Philadelphia Eagles T-Shirt , Carson Wentz was also limited in practice. He’s going to be out again this week since Doug Pederson said Nick Foles will be starting against the Bucs. But there are multiple signs pointing to Wentz possibly returning to the field next week.Two other players were limited on Wednesday: Darren Sproles and Shelton Gibson. Neither player was on the injury report last week so they must have gotten a little dinged up in last week’s game against the Falcons (or during practice today). Gibson curiously only played four offensive snaps against Atlanta. He still played 22 special teams snaps (81%), though, so he wasn’t completely held back by injury. I’d guess Sproles and Gibson will be fine to play this week, but we’ll see. The Eagles WERE certainly showing a lot of interest in receivers before signing Kamar Aiken, who figures to contribute on special teams. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES INJURY REPORT (WEDNESDAY)LIMITED PARTICIPATIONQB Carson Wentz (knee)WR Alshon Jeffery (shoulder)RB Darren Sproles (hamstring)WR Shelton Gibson (knee)TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS INJURY REPORT (WEDNESDAY)The Bucs are dealing with a number of significant injury issues.The following starters did not practice: wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and cornerback Brent Grimes. Tampa Bay’s other starting corner Philadelphia Eagles Hats , Vernon Hargreaves III, was placed on injured reserve. Rookie first-round pick Vita Vea, who is a top backup to Gerald McCoy and old friend Beau Allen, was also out. Starting left tackle Donovan Smith and starting right guard Caleb Benenoch were both limited in practice as they’re dealing with knee injuries.DID NOT PARTICIPATEWR DeSean Jackson (concussion, shoulder)DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee)CB Brent Grimes (groin)DT Vita Vea (calf)LIMITED PARTICIPATIONOT Donovan Smith (knee)OG Caleb Benenoch (knee)
  3. The rumor mill can be strong this time of year. With all sorts of potential scenarios flying Womens Customized Houston Texans Jerseys , it’s easy to get excited about the various possibilities running rampant in pro ball media. One involving your Houston might actually have legs—or more appropriately—hands. According to NFL.com writer Jeremy Bergman, there’s a legit chance Dez Bryant could be dressed in battle red and deep steel blue, catching passes from Deshaun Watson before the sun sets on August.Bergman predicts:While the personality/character rumors of Bryant’s off-field persona don’t exact blend with Bob McNair’s Captain-America-Meets-Eagle-Scout player profile, it’s hard to deny having Bryant teamed with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V, and Bruce Ellington would make Houston’s receiving corps into one of the most dangerous in the league. Now www.thetexansfootballauthentic.com , if only Houston could wrangle a few of those Dallas offensive linemen away from JerryWorld. Would you welcome Bryant with open arms? Or do you not want any part of this idea? Have someone else in mind? Put your GM hat on and tell us what you’d do in the comments.Houston Texans Game Day Live: Houston Texans vs. Dallas Cowboys (First Quarter) Here’s quarter one of the annual preseason finale between the Texans and Cowboys.This will mark the last time you see several players in a Houston uniform. Let’s get on with it. NOTE: Please do not post any images, videos, GIFs, or non-text comments in any of BRB’s live game threads. They tend to slow the thread down and can take a long time to load. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.NOTE II: Due to the fast-paced nature of these threads, there will be no warnings before bans on game day. If a moderator deems a comment or user to be problematic, he or she will remove that person from the discussion for the good of the collective game day experience. If you’re on the wrong side of the law today and want your posting privileges reinstated Houston Texans T-Shirt , please send an e-mail to one of us tomorrow.NOTE III: Please refrain from any reference to or mention of any religion or religious figure, even if you believe it’s celebratory or inoffensive. If you make such a reference or comment, it will be deleted and you will be warned. Two violations of this rule will result in a ban.
  4. It seems in the NFL Authentic Chukwuma Okorafor Jersey , rules were made to be broken It’s only breaking the law if you get caught. I strive everyday to be an upstanding, law abiding citizen. I believe the majority of individuals try to live within the parameters of the law, because a society without laws would be utter chaos. With a survival-of-the-fittest credo, society most definitely would suffer the consequences. We might not always agree with the rules, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have merit. Civilization depends on the law.That being said, if we’re being honest, how many of us law-abiding citizens actually break the law every day? Or perhaps we skate along the boundaries of the rules, oftentimes dipping a toe into the forbidden water before quickly pulling it back to safety. I for one readily admit that I’ve been guilty of such behavior.Let me explain. I routinely set my cruise control five miles an hour over the posted speed limit because I know the cops usually won’t pull a vehicle over for that level of infraction. I’m knowingly breaking the law and, truthfully, without a shred of remorse. I think most of us can admit to pushing the boundaries of the law at some point in our lives.True story — one day I was traveling home from work on a local interstate highway when I noticed a vehicle closing in behind me rather rapidly. My mind immediately presumed cop car, seeing how I was driving over the speed limit, as I’ve already admitted. Thankfully, the vehicle wasn’t a cop car, but I had to chuckle when I recognized the driver of the vehicle as it went flying by. It was the pastor of a local church who was also a friend of mine. It just so happened that he was a guest speaker at our church a couple of weeks later. I approached him after the service and, with a big smile on my face, asked him if he felt it was a sin to break the law. He smiled back slightly confused and said, “What?” I explained I was just jerking his chain and mentioned how he had blown my doors off a couple weeks back. He just laughed and said, “Oh http://www.authenticspittsburghsteelers.com/cheap-alejandro-villanueva-jersey , I remember that day. I was late for Wednesday night service.”We justify our behavior when the end justifies the means. The world of sports is no different. Individuals have been trying to get a leg up on the competition since sports began. Whether it’s an aging pitcher taking the mound with a file in his pocket or Vaseline under the bill of his cap, a basketball player mastering his flop technique or overacting on a play trying to draw a foul, or a soccer player....just don’t get me started about that insanity, participants in all sports have looked for ways to level the playing field. Some perfectly legal, others not so much.The NFL is no different. Actually the league’s most successful franchise over the past two decades, the New England Patriots, are notorious for pushing the boundaries of the system, whether it be Spygate, drones, deflated footballs, or childishly vague injury reports. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t argue with the results. It’s not the only reason for their success, but it’s most definitely one of the reasons.The league is besieged at the moment with a plethora of new rules and the confusion associated with the enforcement of these rules. Some teams have been slow to adjust and have wasted their energy screaming in protest or banging their head against the proverbial wall, while the more successful franchises have looked for ways to exploit said rules. Two plays immediately come to mind, one on offense and one on defense.First is the ‘rub play’ on offense. This basically illegal maneuver occurs when a legal receiver ‘accidentally’ collides with a defender before the ball is in the air, purposely trying to create a successful passing play down the field for another suddenly open receiver. If executed properly, it’s nearly impossible to imply intent and a flag is seldom thrown. This play is basically impossible to defend and all of the most successful offensive units in the game today are utilizing some form of this play. I’ve been playing close attention to the aforementioned Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs http://www.authenticspittsburghsteelers.com/cheap-david-decastro-jersey , and the Los Angeles Rams this season, and they excel with this pick-play. Each team possesses a offensive mastermind capable of creating opportunities to utilize it and smart enough to teach their players how to execute it without getting flagged. I was going to suggest the Steelers try to utilize this play, but I changed my mind after writing the sentence. We can’t even fair-catch a punt without getting a holding penalty. Trust me, I wish I was joking.The second area I feel the Steelers are failing to capitalize on lies in the techniques executed by their defensive backs. Offensive creativity is at an all-time high around the NFL. Add in the new rule changes implemented over the last few years and modern defenses are faced with a daunting task to say the least.Modern offenses have evolved to the point it’s almost a game of pitch-and-catch between the QB and his receivers. Somewhere on the field there’s an open receiver or a glaring mismatch. It’s the QB’s job to identify these opportunities and deliver the ball accurately and on time. As it’s getting harder to disguise pre-snap schemes from a base defense, most successful defenses are focusing on disrupting the timing between the QB and the receivers. There really are no dominant defenses in the league anymore. Defenses are now measured by turnovers, splash plays, and limiting points scored against. Even a defense stacked with talented players like the Rams will regularly surrender more than 400 yards a game in this day and age. So how do some defenses achieve success in today’s NFL. Quite simply, they cheat.Actually they bend the rules, utilizing excellent technique and hand placement. They immediately jam the receivers at the line, when possible, to disrupt the timing of the play. Now the big difference between the Steelers and a successful secondary like the Jaguars is what happens next. If the Jaguars’ DB misses the jam and the receiver gets a clean release, the DB will immediately grab the receiver before he gains separation. This might be a wrist grab, a jersey pull, or a hand on the hip. This is done ever-so-subtly to avoid drawing a flag, but better to draw a 5-yard penalty than give up a long touchdown pass. If the technique was successful and coverage has been re-established, the DB will then attempt to maintain contact with the receiver throughout the route, utilizing a grab here or a pull there. Remember, it's not a penalty if you don't get caught. Many times this technique will allow the defender to peek into the backfield to see how the play is developing behind him. The Steelers’ defensive backs are woefully behind the times when it comes to utilizing this technique. Joe Haden is the only DB that I can recall executing it properly.I want the Steelers to win the right way http://www.authenticspittsburghsteelers.com/cheap-jordan-berry-jersey , not by any means possible. But sometimes you have to roll with the changes.Predicting the Steelers Week 2 inactive list vs. the Chiefs As the season gets rolling, the injury report will be a driving factor behind what players will make up the seven-man inactive list. Here is the official game status for Sunday:Game StatusDoubtful:CB Joe Haden (Hamstring)G David DeCastro (Hand)DE Tyson Alualu (Shoulder)Questionable:QB Ben Roethlisberger (Elbow) CB Artie Burns (Toe)TE Vance McDonald (Foot)DE Cam Heyward (Knee)Here are the candidates to end up inactive for Week 2:Definitely:This section is reserved for players that have been ruled out. As of Friday, no players carry that designation. Most Likely:QB Mason Rudolph- the only way that Rudolph gets helmet is if Ben is unable to play.OT Zach Banner- last week showed us that the Steelers only plan on dressing seven offensive linemen unless there is a special circumstance. Until injuries mount up, Banner will continue to develop in practice only.CB Joe Hayden- after leaving the game early last week and failing to practice at all for this week, I’m surprised Hayden wasn’t already ruled out. It would be super-shocking if he is active on game day so Coty Sensabaugh should move back into the rotation.DE Tyson Alualu- with a doubtful designation and being limited in practice on Friday, it looks as if Alualu will be held out of the game and LT Walton will get the helmet instead.S Marcus Allen- he was the odd man out at safety last week and all the remaining players ahead of him are still healthy.Possibly:G David DeCastro or Matt Feiler- out of all the players that are listed as doubtful, DeCastro has the best chance of playing. It all comes down to if the swelling in his hand decreases enough for them to put on a cast. If he can’t go, Feiler will take the backup role as Finney would move into the starting lineup.WR Justin Hunter, WR James Washington, or TE Xavier Grimble- with the return of Vance McDonald, there is an extra receiver position that the team will most likely not be able to carry. Do they roll with only two TE’s like last week or do they not need six WR’s?Unlikely:QB Ben Roethlisberger- he was a full participant practice on Friday. Unless he has a setback, I don’t think that he will miss this game.DE Cam Heyward- he was a full participant both Thursday and Friday. It would be a surprise to see him inactive on Sunday.TE Vance McDonald- I’m not sure why he’s even on the status list. He was a full participant all week and appears to have had no setbacks.CB Artie Burns- he was a late addition to the injury report after being limited on Friday with a toe. But with Joe Haden most likely not being able to go, it would take a lot to keep him out of the game.Projected Inactive List:Mason Rudolph Zach Banner Joe HaydenTyson Alualu David DeCastro Marcus AllenJustin HunterI have all players that are doubtful as not playing while all questionable players dress for the game. When it came to who to sit in place of Vance McDonald, I really hope it’s Justin Hunter. James Washington should have his role increasing by the week and Hunter just doesn’t bring much versatility or combativeness.Feel free to list your projected inactives in the comments below.
  5. Claude Giroux Jersey

    CLEVELAND — Cody Allen is one of the least acclaimed yet most productive closers in the major leagues. On Friday night. when the Cleveland Indians open a three-game series with the Oakland A’s Brian Elliott Jersey , Allen will be in uniform at Progressive Field for the first time as the Indians’ career saves leader. In pitching the ninth inning of a 3-2 Cleveland win in Kansas City on Wednesday, Allen posted his 140th career save, breaking Bob Wickman’s franchise record of 139, which had stood since 2006. “He means so much to all of us,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of Allen. “This is a kid who was drafted in the 16th round, but through being a consummate professional, he’s now the Indians’ all-time leader. That’s pretty awesome. It’s a big accomplishment, and he’s not close to being done.” Allen (2-3, 3.38 ERA) ranks seventh in the American League this year with 18 saves, but his year-in, year-out consistency has been his trademark. He has had at least 30 saves in each of the last three seasons. Only two other closers in the majors can say that: the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen and Boston’s Craig Kimbrel. “This is something I’m extremely proud of,” Allen said of passing Wickman as the club’s saves leader. “It’s something I get to hang my hat on for my career. It’s very cool.” The A’s (48-39) come to Cleveland with nearly the same record as the Indians (48-37), but what a difference a division makes. The first-place Indians lead the AL Central by 11 1/2 games. The A’s are in third in the AL West, 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Houston Astros. The A’s won two of three games from the Indians last weekend in Oakland. That was part of a longer streak in which the A’s have won eight of their last nine. Since June 16, Oakland is 14-3. “I think we’re having a lot of fun,” A’s third baseman Matt Chapman told MLB.com, “and no matter what the score is, I don’t think we count ourselves out. There’s no panic in the dugout. We just keep playing our game. We trust that we’re a good team.” On Friday night, the A’s will send Paul Blackburn (2-2 Claude Giroux Jersey , 6.46 ERA) to the mound. In his last start on June 29 in Oakland, Blackburn baffled the Indians, pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings and giving up just three hits in a 3-1 victory. Blackburn has started five major league games this year. In the one against Cleveland, he is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .150. In the other four starts, he’s 1-2 with an 8.83 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .324. In two career starts against the Indians, Blackburn is 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA. Cleveland will counter with Carlos Carrasco (8-5, 4.24), who will make his first start since June 16, a 9-3 loss to Minnesota in which he was knocked out of the game in the second inning after getting hit in the right arm by a line drive off the bat of Joe Mauer. Carrasco was placed on the 10-day disabled list the next day with a right elbow contusion. He made one rehab start at Double-A Akron on June 30, pitching four scoreless innings and giving up one hit with four strikeouts and one walk. Carrasco’s last legitimate start was his best start of the year, a 4-0 win over the Chicago White Sox on June 11. In that game, he pitched seven scoreless innings and gave up two hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts. In six career appearances, including five starts, against Oakland, Carrasco is 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA. LOS ANGELES — At 48 home runs this month and counting, the Los Angeles Dodgers are closing in fast on a franchise record that, while impressive, has not been around all that long. In June of last season, buoyed by the arrival of slugging first baseman Cody Bellinger Ray Nitschke Jersey , the Dodgers hit 53 home runs. No Dodgers team had hit that many before the calendar turned a page, although the 1953 team did hit 49 home runs in two separate months. Poised to slow the Dodgers’ current home run train is the Chicago Cubs‘ Kyle Hendricks, who will pitch Wednesday in the third game of the current series. It is the second series in two weeks between the participants of last year’s National League Championship Series. If he needs a model to follow, Jon Lester’s outing Tuesday would be a good one. Lester went five innings and the Cubs did not allow a long ball to the powerful Dodgers lineup in a 9-4 victory. The Dodgers’ power explosion has been particularly impressive considering that not too many balls were flying out of the park early in the season. The Dodgers hit 25 home runs in March/April and 31 in May. Now this. “Our lineup is built to slug,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We have guys that can hit a homer, doesn’t matter where they hit in the lineup. But everyone is capitalizing on the mistakes and taking the pitches when they need to.” For Hendricks, he has given up three home runs in four June starts and 14 already this season. The most he has ever given up in a season is 17 in both 2015 and 2017. Of more concern for Hendricks is that the Cubs have lost four of his last five starts. On Thursday at Cincinnati, he lasted just 5 2/3 innings and the Cubs lost the first of four consecutive games against the Reds. The right-hander has given up 13 June runs. He is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in three regular season starts against the Dodgers. “I’ve got to stick with what I’m doing,” Hendricks said, according to MLB.com. “I felt better (Thursday). I made better pitches. I convicted the pitches. The last inning, I wasn’t repeating my mechanics, got out of it. Before that, everything was good.” It was not that long ago when Dodgers starter Alex Wood was trying to find some consistency. But a mechanical adjustment on the club’s previous homestand, along with the resolution of leg cramps that affected some of his early-season starts have changed his fortunes. Wood has won each of his last two starts, including an outing Friday against the New York Mets when he gave up two runs over six innings with seven strikeouts. He is 2-2 lifetime against the Cubs with a 2.93 ERA in eight games (five starts). While the Dodgers have been slugging their way back to respectability this month, the Cubs have been in a prolonged offensive funk. But the tide appeared to turn Tuesday. Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis held a meeting with the position players Tuesday afternoon and the club’s hitters went out and scored nine runs with 15 hits on Tuesday. “Around the (batting practice) cage I have been talking to some of the guys and had some really good conversations,” manager Joe Maddon said. “But with Chili today, he wanted to talk to the guys about (things) specifically.”
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