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Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi on umpire Laz Diaz’s missed call: ‘I thought it was a strike’

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Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi on umpire Laz Diaz’s missed call: ‘I thought it was a strike’

The Red Sox stopped short of blaming home plate umpire Laz Diaz and his disastrous strike zone for their 9-2 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night.

But they would’ve had a decent argument if they wanted to make one.

Diaz whiffed on what looked like a called strike three that would’ve ended the ninth inning with the Red Sox and Astros tied, 2-2.

With two men on, Nathan Eovaldi threw a backdoor curveball to Jason Castro that appeared to clip both the outer and upper edges of the zone. Eovaldi started walking off the mound, but Diaz said it was a ball.

Two pitches later, Castro stung a splitter into right field to push ahead the go-ahead run.

“I thought it was a strike,” Eovaldi said afterwards. “But I’m in the moment. I’m trying to make my pitches. I’m attacking the zone. I came in in the ninth inning and gave up a double to Carlos Correa and I tried to go to work there and got some outs to prevent him from scoring. I had two strikeouts and then facing Castro, I felt like I was in control of the at-bat. I felt like I made a good pitch on the outside cordner and it didn’t go my way.

“But I have to come back and I have to answer and make another good pitch. I threw a fastball and he fouled it off, then I went with a splitter. I had a good feel for it tonight. He put a good swing on it and got a base hit.”

The call was controversial, though it wasn’t an egregious call. It looked like a strike on camera and on paper. The MLB Gameday app showed it clipping both edges.

But the call was made worse because Diaz had a terrible night behind home plate. He missed 23 ball-strike calls, according to ESPN Stats and Info. It was the worst performance by a home plate umpire all postseason.

“You’re going to get calls that go your way and some that don’t go your way,” Eovaldi said. “Our job is to go out there and keep attacking the zone.”

Manager Alex Cora said “a lot of people thought it was a strike.”

But Diaz also gave Eovaldi a gift earlier in the inning, when Eovaldi clearly missed on a fastball low and away to Aledmys Diaz but the umpire called it a strike anyways. Eovaldi then struck him out.

It was the same pitch Laz Diaz had mistakenly called a strike on J.D. Martinez twice in two different at-bats earlier in the game. After one of them, Martinez nearly got tossed and Cora had to run out to save him.

“I didn’t agree with the J.D. call,” Cora said. “I didn’t. The way the catcher reacted to the whole thing, I think we thought it was a ball. He thought it was a strike. We didn’t agree with that one.”

But Cora said he wasn’t going to get thrown out of the game so he stayed composed.

“J.D. doesn’t argue much,” Cora said. “And the way he reacted, I had to jump right away. I don’t want him to get thrown out.

“It is what it is. It’s a tough job.”

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The Chicago Bears interviewed Brian Daboll for their coaching vacancy. Here’s what to know about the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator.

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The Chicago Bears will interview Brian Daboll for their coaching vacancy. Here’s what to know about the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator.

The Chicago Bears have reached out to at least 13 general manager candidates and 10 coaching candidates for interviews. As they go through the interview process, we’re looking at each of the prospective hires.

Brian Daboll interviewed for the coach opening Sunday, the team announced.

Brian Daboll

Title: Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator

Age: 46

Experience

Daboll has been the Bills offensive coordinator for four seasons and was the AP Assistant Coach of the Year in 2020 as he guided quarterback Josh Allen to a Pro Bowl season. In the last two seasons combined, Allen has thrown for 8,951 yards with 73 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.

Daboll also has been an offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs (2012), Miami Dolphins (2011) and Cleveland Browns (2009-10). He was the New York Jets quarterbacks coach in Brett Favre’s season there and was an assistant with the New England Patriots for 11 seasons and five Super Bowl teams.

You should know

Daboll began his career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State on Nick Saban’s staff and rejoined Saban to be the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach during the 2017 season at Alabama. He coached quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, who stepped in during the national championship game to lead a second-half comeback.

Daboll is also interviewing for the Dolphins job to potentially work with Tagovailoa again.

Chicago connection

The Bills backup quarterback this season was former Bear Mitch Trubisky, who joined the team with the idea he could reboot his career. Trubisky, however, wasn’t needed much. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 43 yards with an interception and ran 13 times for 24 yards and a touchdown.

What has been said

“I hate to keep giving him so much credit because I don’t want anyone to steal him from me,” wide receiver Stefon Diggs told ESPN last January. “He’s a guy that knows what he’s doing, he knows the flow of the game, knows when to call what. We just trust him. Whatever he calls, I’m running it. … He always has our back and I ain’t seen him miss yet.”

“He knows offense to the core,” former NFL executive Scott Pioli told the Bills website. “He comes from a family of coaching that’s founded in discipline, detail and the basics and fundamentals of the game. Brian was also in a lot of places where there was an emphasis put on accentuating the positive and limiting the negatives. He knows that their best football player is Josh Allen, and everything has to try to be centered around him and his strengths.”

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British police arrest 2 in investigation into Texas standoff

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British police arrest 2 in investigation into Texas standoff

By JAKE BLEIBERG and ERIC TUCKER

COLLEYVILLE, Texas (AP) — Police in England said Sunday they had arrested two teenagers in their investigation into an armed British national holding four people hostage during a 10-hour standoff at a Texas synagogue.

The Greater Manchester Police did not name the suspects or whether they faced any charges. They described them as teenagers who were in custody for questioning.

FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont referred questions to police in Manchester.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

A rabbi who was among four people held hostage at a Texas synagogue said Sunday that their armed captor grew “increasingly belligerent and threatening” toward the end of the 10-hour standoff, which ended with an FBI SWAT team rushing into the building and the captor’s death.

Authorities identified the hostage-taker as a 44-year-old British national, Malik Faisal Akram, who was killed Saturday night after the last hostages ran out of Congregation Beth Israel around 9 p.m. The FBI said there was no indication that anyone else was involved, but it had not provided a possible motive as of Sunday afternoon.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker credited security training that his suburban Fort Worth congregation has received over the years for getting him and the other three hostages through the ordeal, which he described as traumatic.

“In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.”

President Joe Biden called the episode an act of terror. Akram could be heard ranting on a Facebook livestream of the services and demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia on Sunday, Biden said Akram allegedly purchased a weapon on the streets.

Federal investigators believe Akram purchased the handgun used in the hostage taking in a private sale, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Akram arrived in the U.S. at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York about two weeks ago, a law enforcement official said.

Video from Dallas TV station WFAA showed people running out a door of the synagogue, and then a man holding a gun opening the same door just seconds later before he turned around and closed it. Moments later, several shots and then an explosion could be heard.

“Rest assured, we are focused,” Biden said. “The attorney general is focused and making sure that we deal with these kinds of acts.”

Akram arrived in the U.S. recently on a tourist visa from Great Britain, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended to be public. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that its counter-terrorism police were liaising with U.S. authorities about the incident.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said the hostage-taker was specifically focused on an issue not directly connected to the Jewish community. It wasn’t clear why Akram chose the synagogue, though the prison where Saddiqui is serving her sentence is in Fort Worth.

Michael Finfer, the president of the congregation, said in a statement “there was a one in a million chance that the gunman picked our congregation.”

Authorities have declined to say who shot Akram, saying it was still under investigation.

Authorities said police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighborhood soon afterward.

Saturday’s services were being livestreamed on the synagogue’s Facebook page for a time. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion at times during the livestream, which didn’t show what was happening inside the synagogue.

Shortly before 2 p.m., the man said, “You got to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead.” Moments later, the feed cut out. A spokesperson for Meta Platforms Inc., the corporate successor to Facebook Inc., later confirmed that Facebook had removed the video.

Akram used his phone during the course of negotiations to communicate with people other than law enforcement, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Multiple people heard the hostage-taker refer to Siddiqui as his “sister” on the livestream. But John Floyd, board chair for the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations — the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group — said Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved.

“We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia,” said Floyd, who also is legal counsel for Mohammad Siddiqui.

Texas resident Victoria Francis, who said she watched about an hour of the livestream, said she heard the man rant against America and claim he had a bomb. Biden said there were apparently no explosives, despite the threats.

“He was just all over the map. He was pretty irritated and the more irritated he got, he’d make more threats, like ‘I’m the guy with the bomb. If you make a mistake, this is all on you.’ And he’d laugh at that,” Francis said. “He was clearly in extreme distress.”

Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 15 miles (23 kilometers) northeast of Fort Worth. By Sunday morning, the police perimeter around the synagogue had shrunk to half a block in either direction and FBI agents could be seen going in and out of the building. A sign saying “Love” — with the “o” replaced with a Star of David — was planted in a neighbor’s lawn.

Reached outside his home Sunday, Cytron-Walker declined to speak at length about the episode. “It’s a little overwhelming as your can imagine. It was not fun yesterday,” he told the AP.

Andrew Marc Paley, a Dallas rabbi who was called to the scene to help families and hostages upon their release, said Cytron-Walker acted as a calm and comforting presence. The first hostage was released shortly after 5 p.m. That was around the time food was delivered to those inside the synagogue, but Paley said he did not know if it was part of the negotiations.

“He appeared a little unfazed, actually, but I don’t know if that was sort of shock or just the moment,” Paley said of the first hostage who was released.

Cytron-Walker said his congregation had received training from local authorities and the Secure Community Network, which was founded in 2004 by a coalition of Jewish organizations and describes itself as “the official safety and security organization” of the Jewish community in North America. Michael Masters, the CEO of the organization, said the congregation had provided security training in August and had not been previously aware of Akram.

The standoff led authorities to tighten security in other places, including New York City, where police said that they increased their presence “at key Jewish institutions” out of an abundance of caution.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter that “this event is a stark reminder that antisemitism is still alive and we must continue to fight it worldwide.”

___

Tucker reported from Washington, D.C. Also contributing to this reporter were Associated Press writers Paul J. Weber and Acacia Coronado in Austin; Michael Balsamo in Washington; Colleen Long in Philadelphia; Elliot Spagat in San Diego; Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island; Michael R. Sisak in New York; Holly Meyer in Nashville, Tenn.; and Issac Scharf in Jerusalem.

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49ers hang on late for 23-17 wild-card victory over Cowboys

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49ers hang on late for 23-17 wild-card victory over Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas — Versatile receiver Deebo Samuel ran 26 yards for a touchdown the play after an interception by Dak Prescott, and the San Francisco 49ers held on for a 23-17 wild-card victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

The Cowboys had a final chance with 32 seconds remaining and were at the San Francisco 41 with 14 seconds to go when Prescott took off up the middle intending to slide and spike the ball for a final play.

But Dallas didn’t get the snap off from the 24 until after the clock hit 0:00. After a brief delay, referee Alex Kemp announced the game was over.

The 49ers overcame an interception by Jimmy Garoppolo when they led by 13 in the fourth quarter. Prescott ran for a touchdown to get within a score, and had a chance to drive Dallas to a go-ahead score. But the 49ers got a stop at midfield when Prescott’s desperation fourth-down pass was just out of the receiver Cedrick Wilson’s reach.

After a 14th penalty from the NFL’s most-penalized team in the regular season that helped San Francisco run out most of the clock — and the frantic final seconds as Dallas tried for the win — the 49ers (11-7) clinched their first playoff victory at the Cowboys in a storied postseason rivalry.

Now they head to Tampa Bay for a divisional game, looking for another trip to the NFC championship game.

The wait for Dallas (12-6) to get that far in the playoffs will reach at least 27 years after another first-game flameout in the postseason for Prescott, the second in three trips for the star quarterback. It was his first playoff game since signing a $40-million-a-year contract in the offseason.

The 49ers were in control in the fourth quarter, but not leaning on the running game they figured could carry them to a win when Garoppolo threw an interception to Anthony Brown that set up Prescott’s 7-yard scoring run.

Garoppolo’s mistake wasn’t long after Prescott was picked off at the Dallas 26 by K’Waun Williams and Samuel ran untouched on a cutback up the middle to the end zone on the next play for a 23-7 lead.

San Francisco lost star pass rusher Nick Bosa to a concussion just before halftime when he was crunched in the head and neck area by teammate D.J. Jones. But the 49ers kept enough pressure on Prescott, finishing with five sacks while holding the NFL’s No. 1 offense to 307 yards.

San Francisco scored on its first four possessions, but three times settled for field goals from Robbie Gould to help keep the Cowboys close.

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