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Verlander, Alcantara are unanimous Cy Young Award winners

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/mlb-sports-los-angeles-dodgers-houston-miami-marlins-20ffde8633202a4f41da0e081f88f1f6

HOUSTON (AP) — It didn’t take Justin Verlander long to realize he could have a special year after missing almost two full seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Heading into his fifth start, Verlander knew he was back.

“In that moment, I felt normal and like myself, pain-free, able to recover like I always have,” he said. “I think my mindset just completely shifted to like, ‘OK, I am the pitcher I’ve always been.’”

On Wednesday, the Houston ace capped his stellar season by winning the American League Cy Young Award, joining Miami’s Sandy Alcantara in the National League as unanimous selections.

It’s the second time the winners in both leagues were unanimous since the award began in 1956 and the first since Detroit’s Denny McLain in the AL and St. Louis’ Bob Gibson in the NL swept the voting in 1968.

The 39-year-old Verlander, who also won the award in 2019 after winning both MVP and the Cy Young in 2011, becomes the 11th player to win it three times. He also won unanimously in 2011.

He said this one has a different meaning.

“It shows that I’m at a different point in my life,” Verlander said. “I will always remember this Cy Young as looking back at the growth of me as a father and as a person, and just also the the rehab and all the hard work that went into the rehab and how I was just so committed to it was going to go well and I was going to come back and be me.”

Verlander led the majors with a 1.75 ERA, the lowest of his 17-year career. He becomes the fourth AL pitcher with two unanimous Cy Young Awards, joining Roger Clemens (1986, 1998), Pedro Martinez (1999, 2000) and Johan Santana (2004, 2006).

Verlander led the Astros to the best record in the AL, and while the postseason doesn’t count for the award, he got his first career World Series win in Game 5 as Houston beat Philadelphia in six games.

Verlander, who will receive a $200,000 bonus, is a free agent and said he has communicated with Astros owner Jim Crane about a possible return, but noted that Houston is far from his only potential suitor.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of people that are interested and Jim understands that based on our conversation,” he said. “He completely understands that. … So we’ll see what happens.”

Alcantara had a 2.28 ERA while pitching a major league-best 228 2/3 innings and six compete games. It’s the first Cy Young Award for the 27-year-old from the Dominican Republic, who becomes the first Marlins player to receive the honor.

“It makes me feel so special because I came here to the Marlins with my positive mentality — just tried to win,” he said. “Tried to compete, tried to get better. This year I put everything in the same spot, working hard. I’ve had great success. And now to win the National League Cy Young, I feel so happy and blessed.”

Alcantara received all 30 first-place votes, the 15th time the NL has had a unanimous winner. Atlanta’s Max Fried was second with 72 points, including 10 second-place votes, and Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Julio Urías was third 66 points and seven second-place votes.

Behind Verlander, who was the 11th AL pitcher to win unanimously, were Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox with 97 points and 14 second-place votes and Toronto’s Alek Manoah with 87 points and seven second-place votes. The three pitchers were named on every ballot.

Verlander’s 18 wins led the AL, and he had 185 strikeouts to give him 3,198 in his career, the most among active players.

Alcantara’s six complete games were the most in the majors since Chris Sale had six in 2016. The two-time All-Star went 14-9 and threw seven or more innings in 13 straight starts from May 11-July 15, which was the longest such streak since 2014.

Alcantara’s innings pitched and wins were both career highs and his ERA was his best in six seasons and ranked second in the NL.

“The hard work, the positivity, every day, fighting for my team, competing against any team. That makes it special,” he said. “My mentality all the time is to be aggressive. Try to get better every day. And I’ll keep doing the same. And let’s see if I can win the Cy Young next year, too.”

He joins Martinez (1997) as the only player born in the Dominican Republic to win the NL award. Martinez also won twice in the AL (1999, 2000) and the other Dominican winner in the AL was Bartolo Colon in 2005.

Urías was 17-7 and led the NL with a 2.16 ERA to help the Dodgers lead the majors with 111 wins in the regular season. The left-hander had 166 strikeouts after a 2021 season in which he led the majors with 20 wins.

Fried was 14-7 with a 2.48 ERA and 170 strikeouts. He was a first-time All-Star and helped lead the Braves to their fifth straight NL East crown.

Cease was 14-8 and ranked second to Verlander in the AL with a 2.20 ERA. He had a career-high 227 strikeouts and went 14 consecutive starts this summer without allowing more than one earned run.

Manoah went 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA in his second season. He had 180 strikeouts and went 4-0 with a 0.88 ERA in his last six starts to help the Blue Jays make the playoffs.

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AP Sports Writer Alanis Thames contributed to this report.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Source: https://apnews.com/article/mlb-sports-los-angeles-dodgers-houston-miami-marlins-20ffde8633202a4f41da0e081f88f1f6

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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