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Under pressure to ease up, Biden weighs new virus response



Under pressure to ease up, Biden weighs new virus response

Facing growing pressure to ease up on pandemic restrictions, the White House insisted Wednesday it is making plans for a less disruptive phase of the national virus response.

But impatient states, including Democratic New York, made clear they aren’t waiting for Washington as public frustration grows.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that New York will end its COVID-19 mandate requiring face coverings in most indoor public settings — but will keep it for schools. Illinois announced the same.

Earlier this week, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware all disclosed plans to join states that have lifted or never had mask requirements for their schools, and Massachusetts will follow suit at the end of the month.

Biden, who has long promised to follow to “follow the science” in confronting the pandemic, is hemmed in, waiting for fresh guidance from federal health officials, who so far still recommend that nearly all Americans wear masks in most indoor settings.

Defending Biden, press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that while people are tired of masks and “we understand where the emotions of the country are,” the administration is following the advice of medical experts who rely on scientific evidence.

“That doesn’t move at the speed of politics; it moves at the speed of data,” she said.

Clearly feeling the pressure, the White House for the first time acknowledged movement in its planning, saying conversations have been under way privately to develop plans for guiding the country away from the emergency phase of the pandemic.

Federal COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said officials are consulting with state and local leaders and public health officials on potential next steps. But as governors and local officials press for clearer federal guidelines for easing or ending restrictions, states, cities and school boards are adopting an awkward patchwork of policies that differ widely from one place to the next.

“We are working on that guidance,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a White House teleconference Wednesday. “As we’ve been encouraged by the current trends, we are not there yet.”

The White House offered no timetable for the review or an indication of what it will recommend. And some critics say that’s not good enough.


Minnesota United rides unlikely goal to 2-1 win at FC Dallas



Minnesota United rides unlikely goal to 2-1 win at FC Dallas

Minnesota United’s two goals Sunday came from the most-likely and the most-surprising sources.

Forward Robin Lod set an MNUFC record for most career MLS regular-season goals in the first half and right back D.J. Taylor scored his first MLS goal in a 2-1 win with FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium.

Minnesota (5-5-3) ended a four-game winless streak against one of the top teams in FC Dallas (6-3-4). With one-third of the season gone, the Loons were in ninth place and made a big stride to make up ground.

Taylor scored a stunner in the 55th minute when he snapped long-range volley off a recycled corner kick from Emanuel Reynoso. It was the Loons first goal from outside the 18-yard box this season.

It capped a great week for Taylor, a once-reserve player who contributed his first MLS assist in the 1-1 draw with L.A. Galaxy on Wednesday.

Paul Arriola gave Taylor competition for best goal of the game with his own long-range goal only four minutes later.

In the first half, Lod banged in a rebound goal off a Reynoso 25-yard free kick which goalkeeper Maarten Paes couldn’t catch. That’s two goals in the  moments after a set piece’s initial intent breaks down.

Lod’s 22nd MLS regular-season goal broke a four-way tie club-record tie for most goals with Christian Ramirez, Darwin Quintero and Kevin Molino.

MNUFC used the same starting XI in consecutive games for the first time this season. Before Sunday, the Loons had used 12 different starting lineups in the opening 12 games this season.

Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira, the MLS leader with nine goals,  did not start Sunday. He was not mentioned in the club’s player availability report and came off the bench with a half hour remaining Sunday.


Center back Michael Boxall and midfielder Kervin Arriaga will both be suspended for Saturday’s game vs. New York City. The integral players reached yellow-card accumulation limits with first-half bookings against FC Dallas on Sunday. …Backup goalkeeper Tyler Miller was injured during warmups, with Eric Dick taking his spot on the bench Sunday. The Loons play Union Omaha in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday; Miller stared both previous games for Minnesota in the national tournament this season. … MNUFC2 extended its unbeaten streak to six games against Vancouver Whitecaps 2 on Saturday. The Loons scored two goals (Andrew Brown and Tommy Williamson), but gave up two own goals in regulation (Fred Emmings, Emmanuel Iwe) for a 2-2 tie. Emmings made two saves for the 3-1 tally in PKs.

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AJ Pollock’s homer in the 9th helps the Chicago White Sox beat the New York Yankees 3-1 in Game 1 of a doubleheader



AJ Pollock’s homer in the 9th helps the Chicago White Sox beat the New York Yankees 3-1 in Game 1 of a doubleheader

Johnny Cueto was terrific in his Chicago White Sox debut last Monday in Kansas City.

He was even more impressive in his second start of the season Sunday against the New York Yankees.

The veteran right-hander allowed six hits in six-plus scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium but did not factor in the decision. The Sox gave up a late lead only to respond with two in the ninth for a 3-1 victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

“He’s an artist,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s fun to watch him pitch a game. And that’s what he’s been, an outstanding starting pitcher, because he gives you a different look four times in a game.”

AJ Pollock put the Sox ahead in the ninth with a leadoff homer to left on a 1-0 fastball from Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman.

“You’ve got to stay short to him,” Pollock said. “He’s got some good velocity, good cut on his fastball, so just trying to hit a line drive and it worked out.”

Andrew Vaughn drew a one-out walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a passed ball before scoring on a double by Adam Engel, making it 3-1. Liam Hendriks struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 13th save.

It was a nice bounce-back performance by the Sox after the Yankees tied the score at 1 in the eighth when Aaron Judge homered to left on an 0-2 sinker against reliever Kendall Graveman.

The Yankees put two on with one out in the inning, but Graveman rebounded to get Josh Donaldson to fly out to center and Aaron Hicks to pop out to third.

“Most times when you do that, (you) lose your concentration and there is another run on the board,” La Russa said of Graveman. “He got the zero afterward, gave us a chance to win.”

Cueto put the Sox in an excellent position early.

“I had good command of all my pitches today and they had very good movement and I was able to locate them up and down the zone,” Cueto, who was receiving fluids in the aftermath of Game 1, said in a statement. “That was the key to keep the Yankees off-balanced today.”

The Sox went ahead 1-0 on an RBI single by Yasmani Grandal in the fourth.

And Cueto kept “dealing,” as Pollock said. He struck out five and walked two in the 95-pitch outing.

“He’s been awesome for us,” Pollock said. “Works fast and has all sorts of pitches to get them off-balanced. Shimmy shake (delivery). It’s awesome to play behind him. It’s great having him out there for the first game of a doubleheader because of the tone he just set for us.”

Cueto has pitched 12 scoreless innings, the third-longest streak for a Sox starter at the beginning of his tenure with the team since 1974, according to STATS. Ken Brett pitched 17 scoreless innings in 1976 and Jack McDowell went 13 innings in 1987.

Cueto allowed two hits and struck out seven in six scoreless innings against the Royals.

“When (general manager) Rick (Hahn) mentioned that we were going to be able to bring him into the organization, he has a special relationship with our pitching coach (Ethan Katz) because they were in San Francisco together (in 2020),” La Russa said. “Ethan was watching the videos (before Cueto’s arrival from Triple-A Charlotte) and said, ‘Man, he’s throwing free and easy. That’s vintage stuff.’”

Cueto exited after allowing two singles to begin the seventh. Joe Kelly struck out Marwin Gonzalez, picked off Hicks at second and struck out Jose Trevino to maintain the one-run lead.

“Kelly was just perfect,” La Russa said.

The Yankees got the run in the eighth, but Pollock came though with the big hit in the ninth to give the Sox what La Russa called a “hard-earned” victory.


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Orioles get third walk-off win in four days, rally for 7-6 victory in 11 innings to secure rare series win versus Rays



Orioles get third walk-off win in four days, rally for 7-6 victory in 11 innings to secure rare series win versus Rays

As lightning flashed and thunder rolled, there was a crack of the bat added to the mix — an equally resounding sound before the skies above Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened and began pelting the field with rain.

The probability of this all coinciding — the rain on cue following a rare hit with a runner in scoring position — gave credence to the adage that anything can happen at the ballpark. On Sunday for the Orioles’ series finale with the Tampa Bay Rays, that took the form of Austin Hays’ two-out, two-run single to tie the game at 6 in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Ryan McKenna and Chris Owings crossed the plate. Hays rounded first. Then one more crack sounding from above rather than from the batter’s box sent the players tumbling toward the dugout and the grounds crew scrambling onto the field, tarp in tow.

And after 51 minutes, play resumed and promptly headed to extra innings, where the Orioles would up winning, 7-6, via Rougned Odor’s fielder’s choice that scored Adley Rutschman from third. It’s Baltimore’s third walk-off win in the past four days — the first time the Orioles have had such a stretch since 1974, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

It was all part of a most unusual Sunday at the park, featuring a first-inning injury to starting pitcher Spenser Watkins that forced Baltimore into an unexpected — and very undesirable — bullpen game. And it amounted to a series victory for the Orioles, taking two of three games after entering the series with a 15-game losing streak to Tampa Bay. It’s the Orioles’ (17-25) first series win against the Rays since sweeping a three-game set July 31 to Aug. 2, 2020.

“We’ve lost a lot of close games to these guys over the years, and a lot of us younger guys that are starting to get some more time now, we’re just continuing to fight,” Hays said. “We don’t want to lose those games anymore.”

In the 10th, Rutschman appeared primed to end the game himself. But his deep fly ball to right field died at the warning track. To begin the 11th, he stood at second as the automatic runner and took third via Owings’ bunt, bringing Odor to the plate.

Odor has a penchant for the dramatic. On Friday, his walk-off, two-run home run ended a 13-inning affair in style. Sunday’s knock traveled a lesser distance and took a defensive miscue to make it happen, sliding under Ji-Man Choi’s glove as he charged in from first base. They all count the same, though, resulting in a victory.

Ramón Urías and Odor drove in runs in the third inning, and Ryan Mountcastle launched a solo homer into the home bullpen beyond left-center field. Two errors from Rays fielders helped plate one more run in the seventh.

Then came the ninth, when Mountcastle led off with a single and Urías soon followed with a walk. Both were pinch-run for, and Hays soon scored both with his knock, setting up for the game-winning fielder’s choice.

“We don’t quit,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Just proud of our effort. All our guys played to the end.”

An early departure for Watkins

The way Joey Krehbiel entered the game about four hours earlier in the top of the first inning was emblematic of the hasty nature — and extreme circumstances — that forced the first inning pitching change. The right-hander grabbed his glove and a Red Bull, slipped one on his hand and brought the other to his lips, as he made his way onto the field.

It was just about the worst-case scenario for the Orioles on Sunday, a get-away day before a road trip consisting of eight games in eight days against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The deeper right-hander Watkins could work, the better.

Instead, the line drive off Ji-Man Choi’s bat sailed at 105.9 mph and collided with Watkins’ forearm, sending the pitcher for a brief walk around the mound before he made his way into the dugout and down the stairs toward the training room. The initial X-rays were negative, the Orioles announced, and Watkins said he was “sore right now,” but it’s “too early to tell” whether he’ll be sidelined long term.

But the short-term implications left Baltimore’s bullpen in charge of recording 27 outs — and then six more in extra innings — and Tampa Bay held a four-run advantage by the time Baltimore got itself out of the first inning.

“I really didn’t know what we were going to do,” Hyde said.

The first three batters each singled off Watkins, and after Krehbiel recorded two outs, Isaac Paredes blasted a three-run homer. Krehbiel completed a career-high three innings, though, allowing just one more hit after the first inning. Those innings, while unspectacular, helped cover for a bullpen that still required five additional arms to close out the game — giving up just two additional runs.

Left-hander Cionel Pérez, especially, stranded five base runners across two scoreless innings in the 10th and 11th. When he bounded off the mound, Rutschman was the first to greet him, full of giddy excitement.

“They absolutely sucked it up,” Hyde said. “Pitching won us the game in a situation where it could’ve been ugly early, and they did a great job of just letting us hang around.”

Around the horn

  • Mountcastle left in the ninth inning due to heat-related body cramps, the Orioles announced. Hyde said Mountcastle said the cramps won’t lead to any absences going forward.
  • Kyle Stowers hit three home runs for Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday, finishing 3-for-5 with five RBIs. The three blasts bring his season total to nine, leveling him with Coby Mayo for the most in the organization.
  • Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in baseball, could be in line for a major league debut sooner rather than later following Watkins’ injury — and his own standout performances. Rodriguez completed six innings for the first time this season, throwing 86 pitches and striking out nine batters while allowing two runs on four hits for Triple-A Norfolk.

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