Baseball: Diamondbacks down Rockies to earn playoff berth against Dodgers

Colorado Rockies players celebrate in the dugout after scoring a run in the 2017 National League wildcard playoff baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 05 October 2017
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Baseball: Diamondbacks down Rockies to earn playoff berth against Dodgers

LOS ANGELES: The Arizona Diamondbacks withstood a fierce late rally from the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday to win their National League wildcard playoff duel 11-7 and advance to a meeting with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Back-to-back home runs from Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story in the top of the eighth inning saw the Rockies claw their way back to within one run of the D-Backs at 8-7.
But A.J. Pollock’s triple for Arizona in the bottom of the eighth allowed J.D Martinez and Jake Lamb to score and gave the Diamondbacks’ breathing space at 10-7.
Pollock then scored after Jeff Mathis reached base on a bunt off pitcher Greg Holland to put the Diamondbacks 11-7 ahead.
The Rockies clawed a run back after Carlos Gonzalez’s single saw Ian Desmond score in the top of the ninth but it was not enough.
Arizona will now advance to a NL best-of-five playoff series against the Dodgers, who had the best record in the major leagues this season, with game one on Friday.
Earlier, Arizona seized a 3-0 lead in the first inning as David Peralta and Ketel Marte singled before Paul Goldschmidt smashed a three-run homer, blasting a hanging curve ball from Colorado right-hander Jon Gray over the left-field wall.
The Diamondbacks boosted their margin to 4-0 in the second inning when Peralta singled and scored on a triple to the center field wall by Dominican shortstop Marte, prompting Colorado to remove Gray from the mound.
Daniel Descalso blasted a two-run homer to the rightfield stands in the third inning to stretch Arizona’s edge to 6-0.
The Rockies finally responded in the fourth when Arenado reached on a fielder’s choice, took second on Story’s single and scored on Gerardo Parra’s single to centerfield.
Story scored for third base when Mark Reynolds grounded out to first base and Jonathan Lucroy smacked a line drive double to right field to score Parra and pull Colorado within 6-3.
Moments later, Alexi Amarista smacked a single up the middle to score Lucroy, lifting the Rockies within 6-4 and prompting Arizona to remove starting pitcher Zack Greinke after the shortest playoff start of his career.
Lucroy pulled the Rockies within 6-5 in the seventh when he doubled, took third base on a wild pitch and scored when Charlie Blackmon hit a sacrifice bunt to second base.
Arizona struck for two runs in the seventh after Jake Lamb singled, Daniel Descalso walked and Archie Bradley smacked a two-run triple to centerfield, boosting the Diamondbacks’ edge to 8-5.
The Diamondbacks-Dodgers winner will face either Washington or the defending champion Chicago Cubs in the National League finals to decide a berth in the World Series.
The American League playoffs continue Thursday with Boston at Houston and the New York Yankees at Cleveland in the openers of their best-of-five matchups.


Rafael Nadal not satisfied after reaching 12th Monte Carlo final

Updated 21 April 2018
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Rafael Nadal not satisfied after reaching 12th Monte Carlo final

  • Super Spaniard looking for a record-breaking 11th Monte Carlo Masters title.
  • Nadal faces Japan's Kei Nishikori in Sunday's final.

Rafael Nadal’s priority after reaching his 12th Monte Carlo Masters final was to whip out his phone and frantically text coach Carlos Moya.
Despite a comfortable 6-4, 6-1 win against No. 5-ranked Grigor Dimitrov, he had a pressing concern given how quickly he was texting.
What frantic emergency could command such attention?
“I was texting Carlos to tell him that we need to book a court quick,” Nadal said. “I wanted to hit some forehands winners that I think I need for tomorrow.”
So the top-ranked Nadal, a 10-time French Open champion with 75 career titles, hurried to another clay court just for forehand practice ahead of Sunday’s final against Kei Nishikori, an opponent he has beaten nine times out of 11.
While it may seem absurd, it is a reminder of the relentless perfectionist Nadal is even on his best surface.
No matter that he has not dropped a set in six matches since coming back from a recurrence of a right hip injury; he is more focused on ironing out even the smallest of flaws.
Even though he crushed Dimitrov, as he had Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals on Friday, Nadal was not satisfied.
“I really had a lot of chances in the first set to have (a) little bit better score. I didn’t convert (them),” he said. “The only way to hold the level, and to hold the chances to keep winning after 10, 12 years, is to improve things.”
He remains on course for a record-extending 11th Monte Carlo title and record 31st Masters. He shares the Masters record with Novak Djokovic, whose 30 wins include two here.
Nishikori, who is making an encouraging return from a serious right-wrist injury, beat No. 4 Alexander Zverev 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s getting there,” said Nishikori, who has missed the past two majors because of a torn tendon. “Little bit sore still.”
Nishikori won on his first match point when Zverev scooped a backhand wide. The German player looked jaded, having finished a long and grueling quarterfinal at 9 p.m. on Friday.
Nishikori has never won a Masters and last reached a final two years ago in Montreal. He beat Nadal in their last encounter two years ago to take the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
He knows it will be a different challenge toppling him in Monte Carlo.
“He’s been dominating crazy this week,” Nishikori said. “On clay he’s the king.”
Nadal never looked imperious as he beat Dimitrov for the 11th time in 12 career meetings.
“In the second set, he started to miss more,” Nadal said modestly. “I was there solid. That’s all.
“Being in 12 finals already here is something difficult to imagine,” added Nadal, who has lost only one, to Djokovic in 2013.
Dimitrov came out firing, but he was mostly more miss than hit.
The Bulgarian cracked trying to serve for 5-5. He made consecutive double faults and hit a wild forehand long to trail 15-40. He saved one set point but Nadal was in ruthless mode and took the next chance.
Two consecutive love breaks and three easy holds made it 5-0 to Nadal in the second set.
Nadal’s victory at Monte Carlo last year made him the first men’s tennis player in the Open era to win the same title 10 times. He then won a 10th title at Barcelona and at Roland Garros.