MLB

Cole fans eight as Yankees defeat Guardians to force ALDS Game 5

By Sports Desk October 16, 2022

The New York Yankees held their nerve in the ninth inning this time after Gerrit Cole set up a 4-2 win over the Cleveland Guardians to force an ALDS-deciding Game 5.

Yankees starting pitcher Cole had eight punchouts across seven innings where he allowed only two runs at Progressive Field as the visitors squared up the series at 2-2 on Sunday.

The Guardians had rallied back from a 5-3 deficit to win Game 3 on Saturday, but Wandy Peralta closed it out comfortably this time, needing only seven pitches to claim the outs of Josh Naylor, Oscar Gonzalez and Andres Gimenez.

Facing elimination, the Yankees opted to shake up their lineup with rookie Oswaldo Cabrera replacing Isiah Kiner-Falefa at shortstop and Aaron Hicks shuffling into Cabrera's spot in left field.

Anthony Rizzo, who went two-for-four, drove in Gleyber Torres for the opening run of the game in the first inning, before the Yankees added two more in the second from a Harrison Bader two-run blast over deep left-center field from Cal Quantrill. Bader's blast was his third home run of the ALDS.

The Guardians rallied with runs in each of the third and fourth innings, firstly from Jose Ramirez's RBI bloop single into shallow left field followed by Naylor's solo homer.

Aaron Judge went one-for-four and tagged in the sixth inning from Giancarlo Stanton's sacrifice fly to pad the lead before Cole was retired after the seventh, with the Yankees bullpen finishing the job.

The win means the Yankees will host the series-deciding Game 5 on Monday for a spot in the ALCS against the Houston Astros.

The Yankees boast a 15-15 record in winner-take-all postseason games compared to Cleveland's 1-7.

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  • Fifteen years on from Portsmouth stunner, was Ronaldo ever a great free-kick taker? Fifteen years on from Portsmouth stunner, was Ronaldo ever a great free-kick taker?

    Cristiano Ronaldo has scored many famous goals.

    Undoubtedly, though, one of his most celebrated strikes came 15 years ago, on January 30, 2008.

    On a winter evening at Old Trafford, Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth rocked up in fine form on the road, having won seven of their 12 away games in the Premier League.

    Yet Ronaldo, in the midst of a 31-goal season in the top tier, was the difference. 

    Having put Manchester United ahead in the 10th minute, Ronaldo stepped up, just under 30 yards out from goal, three minutes later.

    His free-kick, taken in what would become his trademark style, went up, over the wall and swerved remarkably into the right-hand corner. David James, the Portsmouth goalkeeper, had no chance.

    That goal is often thought of as the typical Ronaldo free-kick. Power, panache and pinpoint accuracy.

    But is Ronaldo actually as good as a free-kick taker as that goal might suggest? Using Opta data, Stats Perform has taken a look.

    Quantity, not quality?

    Since that goal against Portsmouth up until the day his second spell at United ended (November 23, 2022), Ronaldo had more shots from direct free-kicks than any other player in Europe's top five leagues.

    Of the 645 shots Ronaldo had, 41 resulted in a goal. That is from 700 club games, across stints at United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

    On the face of it, that goal tally does not stand out as particularly impressive, at least given the fact that Ronaldo netted 619 times in total.

    Yet he is behind only Lionel Messi (who else?) when it comes to goals from direct free-kicks, with the Barcelona great scoring on 51 occasions from such situations.

    That gives Messi an 8.1 per cent conversion rate from free-kicks in that timeframe, in contrast to Ronaldo's 6.3 per cent.

     

    Naturally, given their status in the game, Ronaldo and Messi will almost always pull rank when it comes to set-pieces, especially at a free-kick in a dangerous position.

    Miralem Pjanic, who ranks third for direct free-kick goals and was a club-mate of both players at Barca and Juve respectively, boasts better conversion rate than either (nine per cent).

    Neymar's 13 goals from 147 attempts gives him an 8.8 per cent success rate, while James Ward-Prowse's 12 per cent (15 from 125, though this figure of course does not account for his strike against Everton earlier in January) is close to double what Ronaldo managed.

    Indeed, when ranked against players from Europe's big five leagues that scored 10 or more direct free-kicks between January 31, 2008 and November 23, 2022, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dani Parejo had lower conversion rates than Ronaldo.

    Club by club

    So, having established that Ronaldo's free-kick finishing was somewhat erratic following that stunner against Portsmouth, let's check on how he stacked up at each club.

    Across his career in Europe's top five leagues, Ronaldo netted 48 free-kicks in all competitions, from 782 shots (6.1 per cent).

     

    Thirteen of those goals came at United, with five each in his final two seasons of his first spell at the club.

    Indeed, Ronaldo's peak when it came to free-kicks was definitely between the 2007-08 season and the 2013-14 campaign, when he scored 35 times from that type of dead-ball situation.

    His best single season tally was six, in the 2009-10 season – his first at Madrid.

    From 2014-15 onwards he did not manage more than three free-kick goals during a season, while he scored only twice from 86 such attempts while at Juve, and managed no goals from four free-kicks in his second stint at United.

    One of the greats?

    As well as his effort against Portsmouth, Ronaldo has many other memorable free-kicks in the bank.

    His stunning, 40-yard strike against Arsenal in the 2009 Champions League semi-final; a mesmerising hit from even further out in a Madrid derby in 2012; and who can forget that spellbinding, hat-trick sealing effort that secured a last-gasp draw for Portugal against Spain in a 3-3 thriller at the 2018 World Cup.

    Ronaldo might have gone off the boil from dead balls since the halcyon days either side of his move from Manchester to Madrid, yet there's no doubting that when he hits them true, there's not much any goalkeeper can do.

    While he may not go down as one of the greatest free-kick takers in history statistically, he has definitely been a scorer of some great free-kicks down the years.

    And who knows, maybe there'll be more to come in Saudi Arabia.

  • Antetokounmpo not taking anything for granted after sixth career 50-point game Antetokounmpo not taking anything for granted after sixth career 50-point game

    Giannis Antetokounmpo was determined to reach 50 points as he piled on 12 in the last four minutes of the Milwaukee Bucks' 135-110 home win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

    It was the sixth 50-point performance of Antetokounmpo's career, and after coming into the season with four, he has managed two this month following his career-high 55 against the Washington Wizards on January 3.

    He shot a blistering 20-of-26 from the field – including 16 of Milwaukee's first 21 points – adding 13 rebounds and four assists, and while he could have settled for a strong effort and a comfortable win, he decided to make it a memorable night down the stretch.

    Sitting on 38 points with 3:51 remaining, Antetokounmpo hit four free throws and a layup to reach 44, before closing the game with back-to-back three-pointers to bring up his 50.

    Speaking after the victory, the two-time MVP and 2021 NBA Finals MVP said these are opportunities you do not want to waste.

    "I knew that if I was able to get the rebound, I was going to shoot," he said. "It doesn't always work out, but tonight it did. 

    "I didn't hesitate at all. I was able to get my legs under my shot, stayed there, and just watched the ball go in.

    "It's one of those moments you can never take for granted because you never know when you're going to have those moments again."

    Antetokounmpo's team-mates decided to bring the locker-room celebration out to the court, showering their franchise player with bottles of water in front of the sold-out Fiserv Forum.

    "We might as well do it in front of everybody," Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said. "It's really just to show how much we appreciate him. For him to go out there and do that is amazing, no matter how many times you score 50 points.

    "It's a great time – everybody just kind of gets on his shoulders and we're just along for the ride. At that point, we just got to support him. If he passes it to us, make the shot, but for the most part, we know who's going to carry us."

    Head coach Mike Budenholzer joined Holiday in awe of his star player, highlighting all the hard work he puts in.

    "Tonight, I think 50 on 26 shots is impressive," he said. "Just everything he did, his aggressiveness, a couple threes, especially late, but he's shooting it well. 

    "It feels like a few more catch and shoots – if we can generate a few of those for him and build the confidence in that area, those are areas where he's improving."

    The Bucks improved their record to 33-17, leaving them third in the Eastern Conference and with the fourth-best record overall, while the Pelicans slipped to 26-25 after their eighth consecutive loss as they battle a number of key injuries.

  • Hobbling Mahomes gains revenge against Bengals as Chiefs make Super Bowl LVII Hobbling Mahomes gains revenge against Bengals as Chiefs make Super Bowl LVII

    A limping Patrick Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to Super Bowl LVII with a 23-20 defeat of the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game.

    Mahomes had sustained a high ankle sprain in the Divisional round victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars but was determined not to miss the opportunity to gain revenge following last year's loss against the Bengals at the same stage.

    In that reverse, Mahomes followed an outstanding first half with an uncharacteristically shambolic second that cost the Chiefs.

    However, on Sunday, as the game wore on and the temperature dropped, Mahomes showed signs of his injury affecting him but refused to relent, finishing with 29-of-43 passing for 326 yards and two touchdowns, along with a vital late run.

    Mahomes was largely able to stay clean in the first half while Joe Burrow took some punishment, but the Chiefs' sole TD pass found Travis Kelce on fourth-and-one.

    Memories of last year's loss might have come to mind as the Bengals came out stronger in the third quarter and Tee Higgins sensationally reeled in a pinpoint Burrow TD pass down the sideline.

    A hobbling Mahomes battled on and connected with Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a scrambling score, only for Burrow to find Ja'Marr Chase deep on fourth-and-six to set up Samaje Perine to run it in.

    With the scores tied, both QBs struggled to get the job done as overtime neared, but Chris Jones sacked Burrow to force a Bengals punt, with Skyy Moore's 27-yard return keeping the Chiefs alive.

    When Mahomes – understandably reluctant to run the ball until that stage – made up five yards and was shoved by Joseph Ossai after running out of bounds, a 15-yard penalty left Harrison Butker with the 45-yard game-winning field goal to set up a Super Bowl meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Kelce keeping fine company

    Restricted by his injury, Mahomes needed help from his receivers and got it. He completed passes to 10 team-mates, but Kelce was unsurprisingly his primary target, completing seven of nine attempts for a TD.

    That was Kelce's 15th receiving TD in the postseason, drawing him level with fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski and now trailing only wide receiver Jerry Rice (22) for all-time postseason scores.

    Burrow takes a beating

    This was the first time Burrow had lost to Mahomes, with the Chiefs clearly irked by talk of the Bengals QB's dominance in this matchup. The Chiefs got to Burrow time and again early on, with four sacks before halftime.

    Coming into the game, Burrow was 14-1 this season when sacked four times or fewer but 0-3 when sacked five times or more. That fifth and final sack from Jones proved so pivotal.

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