Javier Baez bashes two homers as Chicago Cubs stay alive

CHICAGO — Javier Baez hit two home runs, and the Chicago Cubs staved off elimination with a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday night.

Willson Contreras also hit a solo home run for the Cubs, who trimmed their series deficit to 3-1. Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner each hit solo home runs for the Dodgers. The loss snapped a six-game postseason win streak for Los Angeles, which remains one victory shy of reaching the World Series for the first time since 1988.

Right-hander Jake Arrieta (1-0) battled into the seventh inning in what might have been his final game with the Cubs. The soon-to-be free agent allowed one run on three hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked five and struck out nine.

Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood (0-1) allowed three solo home runs and a single in 4 2/3 innings in his first career postseason start. He walked none and struck out seven.

Cubs right-hander Wade Davis allowed one run in two innings to pick up his fourth save of the postseason.

Turner pulled the Dodgers within 3-2 in the eighth on a high blast off the left field video board.

A bizarre sequence unfolded three batters later as Dodgers center fielder Curtis Granderson appeared to swing and miss at strike three. After home plate umpire Jim Wolf conferred with the other umpires, the call was overturned and ruled a foul tip.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was ejected after a vehement argument with replays being shown on the video board showing that Granderson did not make contact. Davis officially struck out Granderson on the next pitch, and also Chase Utley to escape the jam.

Chicago jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second behind a pair of solo home runs from Contreras and Baez. Contreras stood to admire his monster shot, which traveled an estimated 491 feet and slammed off the video board in left field. Baez pulled a towering blast just inside the left-field foul pole.

Los Angeles cut the deficit to 2-1 in the following inning on Bellinger’s line-drive home run down the right field line. The homer was Bellinger’s first of the series and second of the postseason.

Baez homered again in the fifth to increase Chicago’s lead to 3-1. He clubbed a low pitch into the first row of the left field bleachers for the first multi-homer postseason game of his career.

NOTES: Cubs 2B Javier Baez entered the night in an 0-for-20 postseason skid. … Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig hit safely for the fifth time in seven postseason games. … Cubs OF Albert Almora Jr. batted in the leadoff spot for the first time in the series and went 1-for-4. He replaced veteran OF Jason Heyward, who did not start for the third time in nine postseason games. … Dodgers C Yasmani Grandal made his series debut and went 0-for-1 with three walks. He hit .247 with 22 home runs and 58 RBIs in 129 games during the regular season. … Cubs C Willson Contreras and Dodgers 3B Justin Turner became the third and fourth players to homer off the left field video board in 2017.

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Fantasy Football: Week 7 kicker and defense rankings

Oct. 18 (UPI) — Check out our top 20 defense/special teams units and top 15 kicker rankings for Week 7.

Just the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions are out with Week 7 byes, meaning you should take their defenses and Matt Prater and Ka’imi Fairbairn out of your lineups.

If you own any of those players and need a bye week fill-in, travel over to my Week 7 top pickups and drops article.

My top defense for the week is the Minnesota Vikings and my top kicker is Will Lutz. Here are the rest of my top 20 defense/special teams units and top 15 kickers for Week 7. You can visit other positional rankings in the links below.

TOP SHELF

The Minnesota Vikings are my top defense for Week 7. This week the Vikings host the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore has lost three of its last four games and scored fewer than nine points in two of those losses. I’m expecting another loss here for the Ravens. The Vikings have only allowed one opponent to score more than 19 points this season and have limited opponents to 10, 17, and 14 points in the last three weeks.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the top defenses in football this season and get a matchup in Week 7 against the Indianapolis Colts. I’m expecting the Jaguars to win this AFC South matchup and put up a decent amount of defensive fantasy points. Jacksonville is my No. 2 defense for Week 7. The Jaguars have limited three of their five opponents to nine points or less this season, including an impressive performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5.

New Orleans Saints leg Will Lutz is my top kicker for Week 7. Lutz and the Saints travel to Lambeau Field on Sunday and should control possession in this one after the Green Bay Packers lost Aaron Rodgers to his broken collarbone. This one could get ugly if Green Bay can’t run the ball. I’m expecting a ton of chances for the Saints kicker to produce. Lutz had at least three field goal attempts in every game through the first four weeks. He hit a 41 yarder and made seven extra points last week against the Detroit Lions.

New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski is my No. 2 kicker for Week 2. Gostkowski has attempted multiple field goals in three straight games and should be very active in what I think will be a shootout against the Atlanta Falcons.

SNEAKY PLAYS

The Buffalo Bills are my No. 7 defense for Week 7 with a matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Buffalo has limited the Carolina Panthers to nine points, the Atlanta Falcons to 17 points and the Denver Broncos to 16 points this season. I don’t see the Buccaneers going off in this one. Tampa Bay has lost three of its last four games. Also of note: Jameis Winston is injured and was limited in practice this week with an AC sprain in his throwing shoulder. If Winston can’t go, enter Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Tennessee Titans are my No. 8 defense for Week 7. Tennessee has won three of its last five games and faces the Cleveland Browns in Week 7, a team with uncertainty at quarterback. The 0-6 Browns have scored more than 18 points in a game only once this season and the Titans offense looked reenergized in Week 6. Look out Cleveland.

Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein is my No. 7 kicker for Week 7. Zuerlein has multiple field goal attempts in every game this season. Last week he made both of his attempts, including a 56-yarder, and was perfect on three extra point attempts. This could be field goal fest against the Arizona Cardinals in a tough NFC West skirmish.

Chris Boswell could also find himself busy Sunday in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ AFC North matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. Boswell had multiple field goal attempts in four consecutive games before belting just one in the Steelers’ 19-13 win in Week 6 against the Kansas City Chiefs. He should find more room to kick here in what should be a tight game. Boswell is my No. 13 kicker for Week 7.

Week 7 Kicker Rankings

LONGSHOTS

The Philadelphia Eagles might be a useful defense in Week 7 in an NFC East clash against the Washington Redskins. Philadelphia is my No. 9 defense this week in what I see as another Eagles victory on Monday Night Football. In Week 1, the Eagles held the Redskins to 17 points and Kirk Cousins barely completed 50 percent of his passes. Start the Eagles here as they continue to be one of the best teams in the NFL.

The Miami Dolphins are worth a streaming play this week against the New York Jets. While the Dolphins’ offense struggled out of the gate, their defense came to play this season. The Dolphins have not allowed more than 20 points in a game so far. That being said, one of those games where they did allow 20 points came in Week 3 against the Jets. But after holding the Atlanta Falcons to 17 points in Week 6, I have confidence that the Dolphins can handle Josh McCown while playing at home. Miami is my No. 11 option at the position for Week 7.

Graham Gano is worth a start in deeper leagues this week in the Carolina Panthers’ matchup against the Chicago Bears Sunday at Soldier Field. The Panthers have scored at least 23 points in three consecutive games and should do that again here behind Cam Newton. Gano has made multiple field goals in all six of his appearances this season. He is a solid streaming play.

My No. 14 kicker for Week 7 is Buffalo Bills leg Stephen Hauschka. The veteran has made at least three field goals in three consecutive games and might be a free agent in your league, as the Bills served a Week 6 bye. Pick him up if he is available and throw him in your lineup. He should be very active Sunday in the Bills’ home contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Week 7 Defense Rankings

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Boston Celtics: Gordon Hayward has surgery, unlikely to return this season

Gordon Hayward‘s first season with the Boston Celtics is probably over after five minutes of game action.

Hayward underwent surgery Wednesday night to repair a fractured left tibia and dislocated left ankle, injuries that occurred early in the season opener Tuesday at Cleveland.

Following the operation in Boston, Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN that his client is unlikely to get back on the court this season.

Calling the surgery a success, Bartelstein added, “We expect him to make a full recovery and return to his All-Star form.”

The Celtics returned home Wednesday night and lost for the second night in a row, falling to the Milwaukee Bucks 108-100. The Cavaliers beat the Celtics 102-99 on Tuesday.

Hayward addressed the Boston crowd pregame Wednesday in a message recorded from his hospital bed, saying, “What’s up, everybody? I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers. I’m going to be all right. It’s hurting me that I can’t be there for the home opener; I want nothing more than just to be with my teammates and walk out onto that floor tonight. I’ll be supporting you guys from here. I wish you the best of luck. Kill it tonight.”

Hayward, a 27-year-old forward, signed a four-year, $ 128 million contract with the Celtics in the offseason. On Tuesday, he was trying to convert a lob pass from Kyrie Irving when he and Cavaliers forward LeBron James ran into each other. Hayward immediately called for help with his ankle turned the wrong way.

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Luke Kuechly's health again a headache for Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers dealt with the topic of Luke Kuechly‘s concussions before, but that doesn’t make it any easier this time.

The All-Pro linebacker departed the Thursday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles late in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium and was placed in the concussion protocol.

“Luke is a big part of what we do,” Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said after Carolina’s 28-23 loss.

Kuechly, 26, has now had to deal with concussion-related symptoms for the third year in a row.

The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year collided with Eagles offensive guard Brandon Brooks during a goal-line situation on what became Philadelphia’s first touchdown drive.

Kuechly, who is in his sixth season, sustained two concussions as a pro player prior to this season.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t have an update on Kuechly, but the player’s status was a big part of the postgame conversation.

“Hopefully it’s nothing too bad, he’ll get some rest and he’ll be back in no time,” Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short said.

Kuechly walked off the field with two members of the team’s medical staff. He stayed on the sideline for a few plays before he was taken away for additional evaluation.

Luke Mayo replaced Kuechly, who was credited with four tackles, as the middle linebacker. Mayo had three tackles.

“I didn’t even see the play or what happened or realized that someone was down before coach was telling me to get in,” Mayo said.

Kuechly has more tackles than any other player in the NFL since 2012.

Carolina tight end Ed Dickson said that Kuechly isn’t only the leader of the defense, but his presence has a wide-spreading impact.

“Whenever he goes down, it affects the whole team,” Dickson said.

Kuechly missed the first three games of the 2015 season, which ended with the Panthers advancing to the Super Bowl. He sat out the last six games a year ago, though he had been cleared to return by the last few weeks but the coaching staff decided it wasn’t worth it for a team that was then out of the playoff chase.

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Arsenal: Arsene Wenger says team could sell Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil

Oct. 13 (UPI) — Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez could be leaving Arsenal in the near future, according to Arsene Wenger.

The Arsenal manager spoke to reporters Friday when he made the comments. Ozil and Sanchez are under contract until next summer, when they could decide to leave the team for free.

“That’s my understanding, yes,” Wenger said when asked about Ozil’s agent asking about a new contract. “I always said that the fact that we didn’t find an agreement last year doesn’t mean the player will necessarily leave. Both [Ozil and Alexis] look happy here and overall I hope that the situation can be turned around.”

Wenger said “at the moment” the team is not close enough to a new contract to announce anything. He also said the team does not have a deadline for a new deal with either player.

“Once you are in our kind of situation we have envisaged every kind of solution yes. Yes, it’s possible [the team sells either player in January],” Wenger said.

Sanchez, 29, has two goals and five assists in 10 games this year for Arsenal and Chile.

Ozil, 28, does not have a score or an assist this year.

The Gunners face Watford at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, England.

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Ocean clams, worms release surprisingly large amounts of greenhouse gas

Oct. 13 (UPI) — Scientists have measured the amounts of greenhouse gas released by worms and clams in the Baltic Sea and the results are surprising.

Researchers estimate polychaetes and bivalves account for 10 percent of the Baltic Sea’s methane emissions — roughly the amount of methane released by 20,000 dairy cows.

Though not as ubiquitous as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, methane’s heat-trapping greenhouse effect is 28 times more potent than that of CO2.

Policy makers around the world have considered encouraging the farming of bivalves in the ocean as a way to meet the world’s growing demand for protein and to ease pressure on fishing stocks. But the latest findings — published this week in the journal Scientific Reports — suggest policy makers take a closer look at the impacts of such decisions on greenhouse gas emissions.

“What is puzzling is that the Baltic Sea makes up only about 0.1 percent of Earth’s oceans, implying that globally, apparently harmless bivalve animals at the bottom of the world’s oceans may in fact be contributing ridiculous amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere that is unaccounted for,” Ernest Chi Fru, a researcher at Cardiff University in Wales, said in a news release.

Researchers measured trace gas, isotopes and molecules in ocean sediments, some samples containing worms and clams and others devoid of microfauna. Their analysis showed the polychaetes and bivalves were responsible for an eight-fold increase in methane emissions.

Scientists believe the methane released by worms and bivalves is a byproduct of their digestive process.

“It sounds funny but small animals in the seafloor may act like cows in a stable, both groups being important contributors of methane due to the bacteria in their gut,” said lead author Stefano Bonaglia, a researcher at Stockholm University. “These small yet very abundant animals may play an important, but so far neglected, role in regulating the emissions of greenhouse gases in the sea.”

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