In a battle between two of the best teams and best pitchers in the majors, Nestor Cortes' New York Yankees prevailed 4-3 at home against Shane McClanahan's Tampa Bay Rays.

McClanahan is the current favourite to win the AL Cy Young Award while Cortes is close behind, and they both put on spectacular performances in Wednesday's top fixture.

It was a rocky start for McClanahan, who was punished in the very first inning by American League MVP favourite Aaron Judge, connecting on his league-leading 25th home run of the season to make it 1-0. Nobody else has hit more than 18 home runs.

That was the only earned run McClanahan would give up, although a fielding error in the fifth inning and an intentional walk set up a three-run Kyle Higashioka blast to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.

McClanahan finished with seven strikeouts in six complete innings, allowing three hits and two walks.

Cortes held the Rays scoreless through five innings, eventually getting pulled in the sixth after the visitors finally got their first run on the board via a Manuel Margot RBI double.

Choi Ji-man's RBI base hit in the eighth inning cut the margin to 4-2, and Rene Pinto followed suit as the very next batter to make it 4-3. Clay Holmes was able to hold his nerve in the ninth frame to secure the save and the win for the Yankees.

After their performances, McClanahan (1.84 ERA) and Cortes (1.94 ERA) are two of only seven starting pitchers this season to allow fewer than two runs per nine innings.

The win moves the Yankees' league-leading record to 46-16 – six games clear of the New York Mets in second (41-23).

Astros' immaculate showing

The Houston Astros pitched two immaculate innings in their 9-2 road win against the Texas Rangers to retain the fourth-best record in the majors at 39-24.

After the Astros piled on six runs in the opening frame, including two-run doubles from both Yordan Alvarez and Martin Maldonado, Houston starter Luis Garcia took control.

In the second inning, Garcia struck out all three batters, throwing just nine pitches, with all being strikes, for a rare immaculate inning.

Incredibly, the feat was repeated in the seventh frame by Astros reliever Phil Maton, who also collected his three strikeouts in nine pitches. It is the first time in MLB history that a team has thrown two immaculate innings in the same game.

Phillies win in last-gasp walk-off

Philadelphia Phillies catcher Garrett Stubbs was the hero in his side's 3-1 home victory against the Miami Marlins.

Kyle Gibson was terrific on the mound for the Phillies, giving up one run from seven hits and no walks, pitching eight full innings and striking out six – but his team trailed 1-0 going into the ninth frame.

After a lead-off strikeout, Alec Bohm singled, and J.T. Realmuto walked, but another strikeout meant Stubbs was the last chance to make something happen – and he duly responded.

From the fifth pitch of his at-bat, with two strikes, Stubbs connected on a hanging slider and sent it over the fence for a game-winning three-run homer. It is the Phillies' 11th win from their past 13 games.

After a half-century of coaching, Romeo Crennel announced his retirement on Monday. 

"Football has been my entire life and it's been a dream come true to coach for 50 years," the 74-year-old Crennel said. "There are so many friends to thank who have helped me and supported me throughout my career.

"I especially want to thank the fans and owners of the New York Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans for allowing me to contribute to the game that I have loved so much for so long.

"I'll miss everything about coaching and teaching, but the thing I'll miss the most is being around the guys every day. My goal was to put every player and coach in the best position to succeed and I consider every guy I coached or worked with a part of my family."

After a decade of coaching in college, Crennel broke into the NFL in 1981 as a special teams coach with the Giants. He later coached the Giants’ defensive line under Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, and then followed Parcells to the Patriots and Jets to coach their D-lines.

He served as the Browns defensive coordinator for one season in 2000 before taking the same job with the Patriots, where he won three Super Bowls in a four-year span. 

His success in New England led to his first head coaching job with the Browns in 2005, but he was unable to replicate those achievements in Cleveland, going 24-40 in four years.

He later joined the Chiefs as their defensive coordinator before serving as their interim head coach for three games in 2011 and eventually earned the full-time job the following year. He went 2-14 in his lone season as head coach in Kansas City in 2012 before being fired. 

For the past eight years, Crennel worked in various positions for the Texans, serving as the defensive coordinator, assistant head coach, interim head coach and senior advisor for football performance.

As interim head coach for 12 games in 2020 following the firing of Bill O’Brien, the then-73-year-old Crennel became the oldest person in NFL history to serve as head coach in a game.  

Crennel went 4-8 in those 12 games, leaving him with a 32-63 career record. Among the 142 coaches to serve as head coach in at least 75 games, Crennel's .337 career winning percentage is the fourth lowest. 

Despite a lack of success as a head coach, Crennel is considered one of the most accomplished assistants in NFL history, helping guide 17 teams to the playoffs with six conference crowns and five Super Bowl championships. 

"After 50 seasons, Romeo retires as one of the most respected figures in NFL history," Texans chair and CEO Cal McNair said. "His incredible resume and contributions to the game of football will be difficult to duplicate. Romeo poured everything he had into his players and led his teams with hard work, diligence and integrity."

The Houston Texans sprung a surprise with the third overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, selecting cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.

Many had expected the Texans to take a pass protector or an edge rusher with their top choice.

However, after the Jacksonville Jaguars took Travon Walker and the Detroit Lions selected Aidan Hutchinson, the Texans instead elected to boost their secondary with Stingley.

Stingley was many observers' second-ranked corner in the class behind Cincinnati's Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner.

But the Texans have backed Stingley to rediscover his remarkable form of his freshman year at LSU in 2019, when he helped the Tigers to a National Championship.

Stingley had six interceptions and 15 pass breakups that year, but he struggled to replicate that level of play in 2020 and missed most of 2021 through injury.

He will be tasked with improving a pass defense that allowed the third-most yards per pass play (7.12) in 2021.

The Jets (7.11) were fourth on that list and immediately followed the Texans by taking Gardner with the fourth overall pick.

Deshaun Watson was not charged by a second grand jury after it considered evidence of sexual assault and misconduct allegations.

The Cleveland Browns quarterback faces 22 civil lawsuits.

However, earlier in March, Harris County jurors did not find enough evidence for criminal proceedings, and Watson was again not indicted on Thursday after a Brazoria County grand jury also assessed the case.

"After a careful and thorough review of the facts and evidence documented in the reports prepared by the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office and the Houston Police Department, as well as hearing testimony from witnesses, the grand jury for Brazoria County has declined to charge Deshaun Watson with any crimes," Brazoria County District Attorney Tom Selleck said in a statement.

"Accordingly, this matter is closed."

Watson has strenuously denied the accusations since they emerged last year, overshadowing his attempts to push for a trade away from the Houston Texans.

He got his move to Cleveland after the first grand jury did not charge him.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said last week: "Our organisation did a tremendous amount of background on Deshaun.

"We understand the concerns and questions that exist but are confident in the extensive work Andrew [Berry, executive vice-president of football operations and general manager] and his staff have done to feel confident about him joining our organisation."

Kevin Stefanski is confident the Cleveland Browns have done their homework on Deshaun Watson after the quarterback's trade was confirmed on Sunday.

Watson agreed to waive his no-trade clause to allow the Houston Texans to deal him to the Browns.

The 26-year-old seemed to have narrowed down his options to join either the Atlanta Falcons or the New Orleans Saints, but is instead bound for Cleveland. Houston will receive a first-round pick for this year, 2023 and 2024, along with a third-round pick for 2023 and a fourth-round selection for 2024.

A bidding war for Watson materialised when he was not charged by a grand jury earlier this month, after it considered evidence of sexual assault and misconduct allegations against him.

Watson faces 22 civil lawsuits, but the grand jury did not find enough evidence for criminal proceedings. He has strenuously denied the accusations since they emerged last year, overshadowing his previous request to be traded away from the Texans.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Browns have agreed to give Watson a fully guaranteed five-year, $230million contract. That figure is $80m more than the previous record for fully guaranteed money at signing.

Browns head coach Stefanski believes Watson will be a shrewd acquisition.

Stefanski said: "Our organisation did a tremendous amount of background on DeShaun.

"We understand the concerns and questions that exist but are confident in the extensive work Andrew [Berry, executive vice-president of football operations and general manager] and his staff have done to feel confident about him joining our organisation.

"It was important for us to meet with Deshaun in person as part of our team's evaluation process, we had a candid conversation regarding his approach to coming into our organisation and community.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to coach Deshaun, he is ready to put in the hard work needed to help our team improve and make a positive impact in our community."

The 26-year-old Watson did not play a single game in 2021, having led the NFL in passing yards in 2020.

The Browns also confirmed on Sunday that Case Keenum has been traded to the Buffalo Bills for a 2022 seventh-round pick.

Watson's arrival will clear the way for the Browns to move former first-round pick Baker Mayfield, who has requested a trade.

The Houston Texans confirmed the trade of Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns on Friday.

For Watson and their 2024 fifth-round pick, the Texans will receive a haul of draft picks in return, consisting of the Browns' three future first-round picks, the 2023 third-round and 2024 fourth-round picks.

After consecutive four-win seasons in 2020 and 2021, Texans general manager Nick Caserio asserted the trade is one that will solidify roster foundations.

"I felt it was the right move for our organisation as we head into the new league year focused on building our roster for the 2022 season," he said in a statement.

"Our priority right now is adding to the foundation we have already put in place over the last 15 months and this trade supports that plan."

According to ESPN's Ian Rapaport, Watson and the Browns have agreed to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230million contract, smashing the previous record for guaranteed money in the NFL by $80m.

The bidding war for Watson came upon the news he was not charged by a United States grand jury, after considering evidence of sexual assault and misconduct against him.

Watson still faces 22 civil lawsuits, but the grand jury ruled there was insufficient evidence for criminal proceedings.

Texans CEO Cal McNair was full of praise for his GM on his handling of the trade amid the scandal.

"I'm extremely proud of the way Nick Caserio navigated us through this challenging situation," he said.

"He remained patient before ultimately making the decision that is best for us in the long and short term."

Deshaun Watson has agreed to waive his no-trade clause to allow the Houston Texans to deal him to the Cleveland Browns.

Watson had appeared to have narrowed his choices down to the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints in his search to find a new team as his time with the Texans comes to an end.

The Browns who, along with the Falcons, Saints and Carolina Panthers, had met with Watson, had previously been reported to be out of the running.

However, on Friday ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL Network each reported that Watson had changed his mind, instead electing to join the Browns, from whom he will receive a record-breaking new contract.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Browns have agreed to give Watson a fully guaranteed five-year, $230million contract. That figure is $80m more than the previous record for fully guaranteed money at signing.

The Texans, meanwhile, are set to receive five draft picks, including three first-rounders, in exchange for Watson.

Watson's arrival will clear the way for the Browns to move former first-round pick Baker Mayfield, the quarterback who himself this week requested a trade.

Journeyman quarterback Tyrod Taylor is expected to sign a two-year, $17million deal as backup quarterback for the New York Giants.

In his 11th season in the NFL, Taylor will play for his fifth team after stints with the Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills since being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.

According to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter, the deal for the 32-year-old includes $8.5m in guaranteed money.

The Giants did not immediately confirm the deal, but Taylor changed his Twitter bio to identify himself as a "current New York Giant".

He also posted the tweet: "NYC!!!!!"

Taylor lost his starting role with the Chargers after an injection resulted in a punctured lung shortly before kick-off against the Chiefs in September 2020, with rookie first-round pick Justin Herbert getting the start and taking over as the franchise quarterback.

Deshaun Watson was not charged by a grand jury after it considered evidence of sexual assault and misconduct allegations on Friday.

The Houston Texans quarterback faces 22 civil lawsuits, but jurors did not find enough evidence for criminal proceedings.

Watson had strenuously denied the accusations since they emerged last year, overshadowing talk of a trade away from the Texans.

The 26-year-old did not play a single game in 2021, having led the NFL in passing yards in 2020.

"After a Harris County grand jury was presented all the evidence and had the opportunity to hear from all witnesses, grand jurors declined to indict Deshaun Watson," Dane Schiller, spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said in a statement released to Stats Perform.

"Grand jury proceedings are secret by law, so no information related to their inquiry may be disclosed."

A widely released statement from Rusty Hardin, Watson's attorney, said: "We are delighted that the grand jury has looked at the matter thoroughly and reached the same conclusion we did.

"Deshaun Watson did not commit any crimes and is not guilty of any offences.

"Now that the criminal investigations have been completed, we are happy to move forward with the civil case depositions. We will vigorously defend those cases with every ounce we have."

Watson has been the subject of an investigation from the NFL, and the league said: "We have been closely monitoring all developments in the matter which remains under review of the personal conduct policy."

Tua Tagovailoa will be the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins going forward and there will be no trade for Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson, according to general manager Chris Grier.

As Tagovailoa has been inconsistent since the Dolphins selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft, there had been talk Miami would be interested in bringing in a different quarterback. 

Miami did take the first steps towards acquiring Watson last year, with owner Stephen Ross being granted permission to talk to the Texans quarterback.

However, no trade was finalised for Watson, who is facing 22 civil lawsuits that remain unresolved as the NFL conducts its own investigation into sexual assault and misconduct allegations against him.

Mike McDaniel was hired as Miami's new coach early last month after five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, serving last season as the team's offensive coordinator. 

"I think the door is shut on Deshaun," Grier said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"At the end of the day, Mike and the staff have come to do a lot of work and studied Tua and they feel good about his developmental upside, what he can be and then the fit in the offense. I think we're good with Tua."

There are questions about exactly how high a ceiling Tagovailoa has, and Grier was asked whether he thinks he can be an elite quarterback.

"I can't say he can't be," Grier said. "It's a situation now where this will be built around his skill set and what the offense can be and Mike's vision of how he fits.

"So, I wouldn't say he can't be. It's too early. He's played 20 games maybe. The first year was in and out and missing games this year, but I know he's won games even this last year, and it's hard to win games in this league.

"I know people want to say he doesn't throw the ball downfield, but he's incredibly accurate, and that's the real exciting part for Mike and the coaching staff, his accuracy."

Tagovailoa completed 67.8 per cent of his passes last season and threw 16 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. 

"I will say Mike and the offensive staff watched every game, every throw and put together this tape of the roster, and it was pretty cool," Grier said.

"Mike's vision for how Tua fits into this scheme and what he can do, they're all every excited about it.

"So, I think at the end of the day, probably Tua is going to have to come in and work with him and do it on the field, but right now there's a very good comfort level with how they feel he fits into what Mike wants to do with our offense."

Gymnastics star Simone Biles is engaged to Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens.

The couple, who met shortly before the coronavirus pandemic, announced the news via their social media pages on Tuesday.

"Woke up a fiance," Biles tweeted. "I can't wait to spend forever and ever with you, you're everything I dreamed of and more!"

In January last year, Owens said the enforced shutdown of sport caused by COVID-19 allowed him and Biles to spend time getting to know one another.

"It was one of the few times in her life where everything was just shut off and she couldn't do anything," he told Texas Monthly. "So we used it to get to know each other - really get to know each other. It created our bond and made it stronger. Now I'm so thankful."

Biles, 24, is a four-time Olympic gold medallist and is regarded as one of the greatest gymnasts in the history of the sport.

She holds a record 25 world championship medals, 19 of which are gold, and is the only female gymnast with five world all-around titles.

At the Tokyo Olympics last year, Biles withdrew from four individual events for which she had qualified after pulling out of the women's team competition after just one rotation.

The United States star cited the need to focus on her mental health as she chose not to contest the individual all-round, vault, uneven bars and floor exercise finals.

Biles returned for the balance beam final, winning bronze, after which she described her pride in bringing greater attention to mental health concerns.

Owens, 26, was signed by the Texans after spending a year with the Arizona Cardinals. He played seven times in the NFL last season.

The Houston Texans will appoint Lovie Smith as their new head coach, reports claim.

Smith has just completed his first season with the Texans, where he is associate head coach and defensive coordinator.

However, the 63-year-old – who was the head coach of the Chicago Bears from 2004 to 2012 and led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2014 to 2015 – is now expected to be promoted to the head coach role.

The Texans fired first-year head coach David Culley last month after a disappointing 2021 in which Houston went 4-13.

Smith was named the NFL Coach of the Year in 2005 and has reached two Super Bowls, with the Bears in 2006 and as defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams in 2001.

He has won 89 games as a head coach in the NFL, losing 87 and is replacing the only coach to have been sacked after just one season in the history of the Texans franchise.

Eight of the nine head-coaching roles that were vacant heading into the NFL's offseason have now been filled.

Philosophical differences were behind the Houston Texans' decision to part with head coach David Culley after one season with the team, according to general manager Nick Caserio.

The Texans ended a disappointing campaign 4-13, and offensive coordinator Tim Kelly has also departed after eight years with the franchise, which finished third in the AFC South for a second consecutive season.

The Texans ended their season with a 28-25 loss to the Tennessee Titans, leading a late fightback against their rivals after finding themselves 21-0 down at the halfway point.

Caserio, who has been in the GM post for just a year, released a statement explaining the decision to relieve both Culley and Kelly of their duties, with the Texans ending the season ranked last in the NFL for total offense, and Culley having reportedly resisted attempts to make changes to his offensive staff. 

"Earlier today, I met with David Culley and Tim Kelly to inform them we will be moving in a different direction with the head coach and offensive coordinator positions," the statement read. "I came to this difficult but necessary decision after reviewing our football operations.

"While a change after one season is unusual, we had philosophical differences over the long-term direction and vision for our program moving forward. 

"We appreciate coach Culley for helping us navigate through a difficult season, but it is my responsibility to make decisions that I feel are best for our organisation.

"The search for the next coach of the Houston Texans will begin immediately."

The Arizona Cardinals continued their excellent road form as they edged the Dallas Cowboys 25-22 in a potential-playoff preview with Kyler Murray leading the way on Sunday.

The Cardinals improved their season record to 11-5 and their road record to 8-1, snapping a three-game skid, with Texas-born Murray throwing two touchdowns as he completed 26 of 38 attempts for 263 yards.

The Cowboys had trailed 22-7 at the final charge but stormed back into contention as Dak Prescott threw three TD passes for the game but Murray expertly managed the clock late.

Murray found Antoine Wesley for two TDs including a spectacular catch in the third quarter, while Jonathan Ward made a remarkable helmet catch on a fake punt.

The Cowboys lost Michael Gallup to injury upon his second-quarter receiving touchdown and did not return, not helping their cause.

Prescott, who completed 24 of 38 passes for 226 yards along with 20 rushing yards, found Cedrick Wilson and Amari Cooper for final-quarter TDs to tighten the game but he also had a costly fumble at 22-14.

Chargers snap skid as Williams scores 101-yard return

The Los Angeles Chargers snapped a two-game skid with a 34-13 victory over the Denver Broncos to boost their Wild Card hopes as they improve to a 9-7 record.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert threw 22 of 31 passes for 237 yards with two touchdowns, breaking the franchise record for single-season touchdown passes at 35.

Andre Williams scored a 101-yard kickoff return touchdown in the fourth quarter, while Austin Ekeler returned to LA's line-up and was important, with 17 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown, along with three receptions for 54 yards.

 

Lance leads 49ers to key win in Wild Card race

Trey Lance stepped in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo and provided two touchdown passes as the San Francisco 49ers won 23-7 over the Houston Texans.

Lance completed 16 of 23 passes for 249 yards with the two TDs and an interception to help the 49ers improve to 9-7 in the NFC Wild Card pursuit.

Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell scored the touchdowns as the 49ers scored 20 second-half points to secure the win.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is bullish that he can play through his right thumb injury in Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

The 49ers are 8-7 in the NFC West and can secure a playoffs berth with victory against the Texans.

Garoppolo, who will be a key part of their postseason bid, only threw under supervision at the team's Wednesday practice but said he was "definitely" a chance to play.

"I played the entire game with it basically, so it's really just about being able to grip the ball and do the things I normally do and we're gonna go test those out today, see how it feels and go from there," Garoppolo told reporters. "But I feel confident in it."

Garoppolo had missed the 49ers' bonus practice on Monday as he waiting for swelling in the thumb to subside.

"We'll see how it looks today," Garoppolo added on Wednesday. "If it looks good, it looks good. If it looks bad, it looks bad.

"It's just one of those things that you have got to test it out and go through it. Until we do that, it will be hard to say. But we'll all be on the same page and we'll do the right thing for the team."

The 49ers QB continued: "It's a torn ligament so it is what it is. The pain, it's not going anywhere so I know what that feels like but it's just about being confident and going out there and being able to do what I normally do with the football. We'll see where it gets us but I feel good right now with it."

Garoppolo has a completion rate of 68 percent this season for 3,494 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions across 14 games.

If Garoppolo is not deemed fit, rookie Trey Lance will be in line to make his second NFL start having filled in against the Arizona Cardinals on October 10.

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