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IT HAS BEEN six months since Alexis Díaz last saw the video of his brother’s devastating knee injury, and he swears he’ll never watch it again.

He no longer needs to.

The grief he felt — and the initial blame he shouldered — in the wake of Edwin‘s patellar tendon tear at this year’s World Baseball Classic has long since subsided, replaced by an appreciation for present circumstances. Alexis is thriving as an All-Star closer for an upstart Cincinnati Reds team still vying for a playoff spot with the regular season down to its final 2½ weeks. And Edwin is in the late stages of a long recovery, with a handful of successful bullpen sessions under his belt and an eye toward pitching in games before his disappointing New York Mets run out of them.

Alexis and Edwin will reunite at Citi Field on Friday — on Roberto Clemente Day, in honor of Puerto Rico’s most revered baseball player, and six months after Edwin crumpled to the infield turf mere moments after closing out Puerto Rico’s triumphant victory over the Dominican Republic. Edwin’s knee buckled as his teammates circled around him near the LoanDepot Park mound after he recorded the final out, a jarring turn to what should have been a jubilant moment. Edwin faced a potential career-threatening injury. But Alexis needed comfort, too.

“He was emotionally destroyed,” Edwin and Alexis’ father, Edwin Sr., said in Spanish. “When they were celebrating, the first one who got to Edwin was him. And he touched him on the back. So he thought that when he touched him on the back was when Edwin got hurt.”

Replaying the most devastating moment of their professional lives was the only way forward. Later that evening, around midnight March 15, teammates, friends and family members gathered inside Edwin’s room at the InterContinental hotel in Miami. Surgery was scheduled for the following morning. Edwin’s season — on the heels of signing a historic, $102 million contract, with so much hype surrounding his star-laden Mets — was essentially over. And Alexis, who had been shown crying on the field while Edwin was carried onto a wheelchair, was still distraught. He blamed himself.

“He was sad, emotional,” Edwin, speaking in Spanish, said of Alexis. “I saw his face and wanted him to be calm. It was something really painful. He kept saying, ‘I can’t help you, I can’t do anything,’ And I told him, ‘Relax, I’m going to recover and return soon.'”

Edwin, 29, explained that he was never jumping with teammates; he was trying to avoid others from stepping on his toes while in the middle of the celebration. His attempt at doing so caused an awkward step. Alexis wasn’t at fault. Neither was anybody else. Edwin pulled up the video to show him and replayed it multiple times, pausing at critical moments to make sure Alexis understood.

Simplemente me tocó a mi, he told him. “It was simply my turn.”

EDWIN’S ROAD TO STARDOM was a lot more straightforward than his younger brother’s, as the third-round pick of a 2012 draft that was headlined by fellow Puerto Ricans Carlos Correa and José Berríos. Within four years, Edwin was closing games for the Seattle Mariners. Two years later, he was an All-Star. Four years after that, in 2022, he was a Cy Young contender on a Mets team that won 101 games, setting himself up to become the highest-paid reliever ever. Before this year, he had never spent time on a major league injured list.

“The path was more difficult for Alexis,” Edwin Sr. said. “No doubt.”

Alexis, 2½ years younger, wasn’t drafted until the 12th round in 2015. When the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the minor league season in 2020, he was going on 24, not far removed from Tommy John surgery, and had yet to pitch beyond Class A. He threw too many balls, was too slow to home plate and hadn’t solidified himself as either a starter or a reliever. Alexis spent most of that year in his native Puerto Rico, working under the tutelage of former major league pitcher Hector Mercado, partly in person and partly through videoconference. There was urgency.

“It was always in the back of my mind that he’s got to show up and prove himself right away the next year,” Mercado said in Spanish. “So I would speed up the process really quick.”

Mercado, who met Alexis while training Edwin in the 2018 offseason that saw Edwin get traded from the Mariners to the Mets, worked with Alexis on repeating his delivery, using his lower half more effectively and establishing a multitude of different routines to account for the infrequent workload of a professional reliever, a role Mercado believed was perfectly suited for Alexis’ resilient right arm.

Alexis became a strikeout dynamo for the Reds’ Double-A affiliate in 2021, then made the major league team out of spring training in 2022 and spent the season dominating hitters, posting a 1.84 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 33 walks in 63⅔ innings. By the end of the year, it was clear the Reds had found their closer for the foreseeable future. Edwin and Alexis trained with Mercado again the following offseason. The goal was to make the All-Star team together in 2023. Instead, Alexis made it alone; Edwin’s injury has continued to push him.

“This great season that I’m having,” Alexis said in Spanish, “I’m doing it for him.”

Alexis has a 2.15 ERA and 36 saves, one shy of the San Francisco GiantsCamilo Doval for the National League lead, striking out 82 batters and issuing 30 walks in 62⅔ innings. His fastball isn’t as overpowering as Edwin’s and his slider isn’t as tight, but Alexis gets more extension than anybody in the majors — 7.7 feet on average, the most in MLB — and throws from a relatively low release point, playing up his velocity and amplifying his two-pitch mix. Opposing hitters are slugging only .349 off his fastball and .212 off his slider, the latter of which he has relied on more heavily this season.

The Reds — 76-72 and tied for a wild-card spot after losing 100 games last season — feature a slew of dynamic young position players but concerns throughout their rotation. Their bullpen has been overworked as a result. Alexis’ presence has been critical.

“I feel very happy, proud of him, to be able to see my brother doing what he knows how to do,” Edwin said. “He prepared this offseason to have a great season, and thankfully he’s having it.”

SHOWSTOPPING ENTRANCE MUSIC is a must for major league closers, and Alexis’ friends throughout the sport insisted he select a trumpet-infused song in honor of Edwin, who had made “Narco” a summer anthem at Citi Field in 2022. Alexis asked Edwin for help. The two of them settled on “Matador” by Marnik & Miami Blue, which is slower at the start, quicker in the middle and every bit as grandiose throughout.

Edwin’s fingertips have been all over Alexis’ sophomore season in the major leagues.

“He’s been watching every one of our games,” Alexis said, “and he’s been able to help me more than ever.”

Edwin was 22 when he debuted in the majors, four years younger than Alexis is today. His advice to Alexis has centered on the aspects that eluded him early in his career — the importance of scouting opponents and reading swing paths, the ability to disregard blown saves and not blame yourself for losses. Alexis, who will be 27 before the end of September, has been a quick study.

“He’s super smart, and he knows what he’s doing, knows what he’s seeing,” Edwin said. “You really don’t have to tell him much.”

Edwin said everything he needed to say six months earlier, in the aftermath of a knee injury that would wipe out most of his ensuing season, if not all of it.

His words might have set the tone for Alexis’ breakout year.

“I told him, ‘This season, you need to do your thing. You need to lift the family’s name on high,'” Edwin recalled. “‘Do your thing,’ I told him, ‘and work hard because you have the potential to be one of the best relievers in the league.'”

Said Edwin Sr.: “Edwin’s positivity gave us all strength.”

Alexis still wore the emotions of his brother’s injury in the days that followed, when he set up the three-run seventh inning that fueled Mexico’s comeback and ultimately eliminated Puerto Rico in the WBC quarterfinals. But by the time Alexis reported to spring training in Goodyear, Arizona, the following day, Edwin’s injury was a distant memory.

“I forgot about it in nothing,” he said. “I got it out of my mind quick. I remember they had me pitch in a game in spring training and the ball was coming out of my hand really well and I was like, ‘Here we go.’ And I’ve just stayed in that same rhythm.”

Alexis is winding down his first season as a full-time closer, and yet he and Edwin are already on the precipice of a historic achievement. They rank second in major league history for combined saves by a pair of brothers with 251, just 76 behind Todd and Tim Worrell’s 327, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The only other pair of brothers with combined saves in the triple digits (with the qualifier being that both need to have at least one save) is Taylor and Tyler Rogers, identical twins who are currently teammates on the Giants, with an even 100.

Edwin has spent most of his life serving as a model for Alexis. But now he’s drawing strength from his younger brother, whose exploits have helped him through a long, monotonous rehab, pushing him to the verge of trimming an estimated eight-month recovery to six. The 2023 WBC marked the first time Edwin and Alexis had played on the same team, but the two of them keep talking about wearing the same uniform again — except this time on the National League All-Star team.

“Next year, we’re going to be there together,” Alexis said. “No doubt.”

“Either he relieves me or I relieve him,” Edwin said. “That would be really beautiful.”

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Buffs fall out of AP Top 25; Buckeyes up to No. 4




Buffs fall out of AP Top 25; Buckeyes up to No. 4

Colorado and Deion Sanders fell out of The Associated Press Top 25 college football poll Sunday after a resounding loss in one of the weekend’s showcase games, and the teams toward the top of the rankings were shuffled and tightened.

A season-high six teams received first-place votes, the most since the 2016 preseason poll. Georgia is still where it started at No. 1 but is down to 55 first-place votes out of a possible 63.

Michigan remained No. 2 and got a first-place vote. Texas stayed at No. 3 with two first-place votes. Ohio State moved up two spots to No. 4 and got a first-place vote after beating Notre Dame with a touchdown on its final offensive play.

The Fighting Irish slipped to two spots to No. 11.

Florida State dropped a spot to No. 5 after a victory at Clemson, but it nevertheless received three first-place votes.

No. 6 Penn State and No. 7 Washington each moved up a spot. The Huskies received a first-place vote.

USC fell three places to No. 8, while No. 9 Oregon and No. 10 Utah each moved up a spot to give the Pac-12 four teams in the top 10 for the first time in the history of the conference.

The Ducks’ blowout of Sanders’ Colorado team knocked the Buffaloes all the way out of the AP Top 25 from No. 19.

Colorado has been the story of the early season, starting 3-0 after winning just one game last season. The Buffaloes jumped into the rankings with an opening-week upset of TCU, last season’s national runner-up.

After the Buffaloes were dominated at Oregon, USC comes to Boulder next week to give Colorado a chance to either jump back in the rankings or become an afterthought for voters for the rest of the season.

Utah’s victory over UCLA sent the Bruins falling out of the poll, leaving the Pac-12 with six ranked teams after two weeks with a conference-record eight.

Alabama, which fell out of the top 10 last week for the first time since 2015, inched up a spot to No. 12 after beating Ole Miss, which dropped five spots to No. 20.

Poll points

Six teams receiving first-place votes is the most in a regular-season poll since Nov. 1, 2015.

In that poll, Ohio State was the No. 1 team, and like Georgia, it had been that way since the preseason as the defending national champion. The Buckeyes received only 39 first-place votes. No. 2 Baylor got six first-place votes, as did No. 3 Clemson. No. 4 LSU got five. No. 5 TCU received four and No. 7 Alabama had one.

Moving in

Three teams entered the rankings this week, all for the first time this season:

No. 23 Missouri is ranked for the first time since a brief stay in 2019.

No. 24 Kansas is ranked for the second consecutive season. The Jayhawks have not had two straight years with poll appearances of any kind since 2008-09.

No. 25 Fresno State, which has won 13 straight games, the second-longest streak in the country behind Georgia, finished last season at No. 24.

Moving out

Joining Colorado and UCLA in falling out the poll was Iowa. The Hawkeyes have yo-yoed in and out of the rankings and did not receive a point this week after getting shut out at Penn State.

Conference call

The SEC moves back into the top spot, though more than half are in the bottom batch.

SEC: 7 (Nos. 1, 12, 13, 20, 21, 22, 23)
Pac-12: 6 (Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10, 16, 19)
ACC: 4 (Nos. 5, 15, 17, 18)
Big Ten: 3 (Nos. 2, 4, 6)
Big 12: 3 (Nos. 3, 14, 24)
Mountain West: 1 (No. 25)
Independent: 1 (No. 11)

Ranked vs. ranked

No. 10 Utah at No. 19 Oregon State: First ranked matchup between the two after 25 meetings.

No. 24 Kansas at No. 3 Texas: The first time the Jayhawks have played the Longhorns when they are ranked.

No. 13 LSU at No. 20 Ole Miss: The 11th ranked matchup in the rivalry.

No. 11 Notre Dame at No. 17 Duke: Maybe the biggest home game in Duke history will be the first trip to Durham, North Carolina, for ESPN’s “College GameDay.” With Duke off the board, only six schools in Power 5 conferences have not hosted the pregame show: California, Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers, Syracuse and Virginia.

Coaches’ poll

Ohio State’s victory over Notre Dame helped the Buckeyes creep up a spot to No. 3 in the AFCA Coaches Poll. No. 1 Georgia earned 61 of 64 first-place votes, while No. 2 Michigan earned two votes and No. 8 Washington got the other.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Texas lands 4-star Baker, No. 2 OT in 2024 class




Texas lands 4-star Baker, No. 2 OT in 2024 class

Texas‘ on-field success to begin the 2023 season — highlighted by a Week 2 victory in Tuscaloosa over Alabama — is translating to the recruiting trail.

Four-star offensive tackle Brandon Baker committed to Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns on Sunday night.

Baker (No. 39 in the 2024 ESPN 300), the No. 2 offensive tackle in the cycle, becomes the ninth ESPN 300 pledge for the Longhorns in a class ESPN has 17th in its latest team rankings.

Texas won out for Baker’s pledge over Ohio State, Florida State, Oregon and Nebraska.

The Mater Dei High School (California) product would be the first ESPN 300 offensive tackle to sign with the program since Devon “DJ” Campbell, Kelvin Banks and Neto Umeozulu were all part of a 2022 class that was ranked fifth by ESPN.

Texas’ offense has averaged 432.8 total yards through four games (seventh in the Big 12) and is fifth in the conference with 277 passing yards a game.

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Rangers finish sweep of M’s, lead AL West by 2.5




Rangers finish sweep of M's, lead AL West by 2.5

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers secured a crucial three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners in the tight AL West by hanging on through a rough patch from a bullpen that not long ago threatened to derail a promising season.

Suddenly 2 1/2 games up in the division after a 9-8 victory in their home finale Sunday, the Rangers hit the road for the final seven games looking to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the American League playoffs and home-field advantage in a Division Series.

“I packed like a normal seven-day trip,” Texas starter Nathan Eovaldi said. “We can always buy more clothes on the road. Yes, it’s a lot more clear. But we still have a lot of work that has to be done.”

Marcus Semien homered twice, and Corey Seager had an early two-run shot among a season-high six homers for the Rangers as they withstood two Seattle rallies.

Adolis Garcia, Leody Taveras and rookie Evan Carter also went deep for the Rangers, who had their most homers in a game at Globe Life Field, which opened four seasons ago.

Texas (85-70), in its first winning season since 2016, won its fifth consecutive game while defending World Series champion Houston, which started the weekend with a half-game lead in division, was swept at home by 102-loss Kansas City.

Teoscar Hernandez, who homered, drove in two runs for the Mariners along with Jarred Kelenic and Eugenio Suarez. Seattle nearly erased deficits of five and four runs before getting swept for the second time in three series.

Seattle (84-71) trails Houston by a half-game for the third and final wild card.

The Mariners play their final seven games at home, starting with the Astros on Monday before meeting Texas again in a season-ending four-game series. The Rangers start the week at the Los Angeles Angels.

“We will turn the page,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We will let it go. I know there will be 45,000 of our closest friends there helping us out the way they can. It’s going to be super exciting. What can I say?”

Texas reliever Chris Stratton gave up consecutive two-out RBI singles to Hernández, Kelenic and Suárez as Seattle closed to 9-8 in the seventh before Jonathan Hernandez came on to get pinch-hitter Dominic Canzone on a popout.

After Jonathan Hernández faltered with two outs in the eighth, Brock Burke replaced him and struck out Cal Raleigh with runners on second and third.

Jose Leclerc finished for his fourth save, with first baseman Nathaniel Lowe making a nifty snag of a sharp grounder down the line from pinch-hitter Jose Caballero for the final out with the potential tying run at second base.

“We got through it,” Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. “We used a lot of pitchers, but we found a way to get through it. Great series. Entertaining series. A lot of drama.”

That bullpen was a big part of the reason the Rangers dropped as far as three games back earlier this month after leading the division all but one day of the season into late August, but Texas got the crucial outs needed in all three games to improve to 8-1 against the Mariners this season.

“We did what we were hoping to do,” Bochy said. “To get a sweep, that’s tough to do against a good club like Seattle. We have seven games left here so we’re in better position than … not too long ago. Just shows you the fight in this club, the determination.”

Semien hit his 10th leadoff homer this season, extending his club record. The drive came off Bryan Woo, who gave up a double to Semien and a single to Seager on the first two pitches of his major league career in his debut at Texas in June.

A solo shot in the fourth gave Semien his third multi-homer game this season, all in September, on a drive to center that caromed out of the glove of Julio Rodriguez and over the wall.

Semien’s 27th homer that could have been an out on a spectacular play gave him 178 hits for the season, but Rodríguez retook the AL lead with two hits for 179 as they jockey for tops in the league in that category.

“No, I think it was more Julio saying I owe him one,” Semien, a second baseman, said when asked if his teammates said anything in the dugout. “I don’t think a ball at second base can get over the fence, so I’ll have to figure out a way to give him something back.”

Seager’s 33rd homer gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead in the third, and Taveras ended Woo’s outing with his 13th home run, a two-run shot in the fourth.

Woo (4-5) matched the six runs he allowed in his debut against the Rangers, in 3 1/3 innings this time after lasting just two innings in Texas’ 16-6 win on June 3.

Eovaldi (12-4) won for the first time since July 18, making his fifth start since missing seven weeks with a right forearm strain. He left with the bases loaded and a 7-2 lead in the sixth, but ended up allowing five runs in five-plus innings.

Attendance spike

The Rangers drew 35,412 fans to finish the season at 2,533,044, an average of 31,272. The total was the club’s largest since 2016, the last time Texas had a winning record. The Rangers saw a 26% increase from last season, the biggest year-to-year jump since a 31% increase from 1995 to 1996.

Up next

RHP Luis Castillo (14-7, 3.06 ERA) pitches for Seattle against Houston. He is fourth in the AL in ERA.

RHP Jon Gray (8-8, 4.22) is set for Texas to open a three-game series at the Los Angeles Angels on Monday. He hasn’t made it through the fourth inning in any of his past three starts.

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