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Loons and Adrian Heath agree on two-year contract extension



Loons and Adrian Heath agree on two-year contract extension

Minnesota United remains committed to Adrian Heath.

The Loons and its manager agreed to a two-year contract extension before the 2022 season started, with a new term that run through the 2024 campaign, the Pioneer Press learned Wednesday. It’s unclear if the contract includes option years.

Heath — hired before club’s first MLS season in 2017 and first extended after 2019 season — and MNUFC agreed to the new deal before this year’s preseason camp opened in January, one source said. The deal came on the heels of Heath leading the Loons to three straight MLS Cup Playoff appearances. Only two other Western Conference clubs are on runs of three consecutive playoff berths (Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers); four had reached that benchmark in the East.

News of Heath’s deal was delayed per his request to have new contracts for his three on-field assistant coaches — Ian Fuller, Sean Mcauley and Stewart Kerr. The last of those three deals was set last month, a source said. The club is expected to announce Heath’s contract Thursday; salary figures will not be included.

Heath has become the fourth-longest tenured coach in MLS behind Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes (2009), Philadelphia Union’s Jim Curtin (2014) and Seattle’s Brian Schmetzer (2016). Those three have won trophies; Heath has not.

Heath — who holds the title of manager, given his duties as head coach and leading role in the club’s front office — has a record of 63 wins, 72 losses and 37 draws in Minnesota since 2017. Since its expansion and sophomore seasons in 2017-18, Heath is 42-34-28.

The club came close to hoisting silverware in two deep tournament runs (2019 U.S. Open Cup final, a 2-1 loss to Atlanta United, and 2020 MLS Western Conference final, a 3-2 defeat to Seattle). Minnesota bowed out of the MLS Cup Playoffs in its first round in 2019 and 2021.

Minnesota is off that pace so far this season. The Loons suffered the worst loss of its MLS era — 2-1 to Union Omaha in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 at Allianz Field in May. Omaha is in the third tier of U.S. soccer, USL League One, and they got trotted 6-0 in the quarterfinals by Kansas City on Wednesday.

The Loons (5-7-3, 18 points) currently sit 11th in the 14-team Western Conference. Seven teams make the playoffs, and Minnesota is two points back from the final berth. There is 56 percent of the regular season yet to play.

In preseason, Heath and MNUFC players said the season’s objective was to make a top four spot in the West, which earns the right to host at least one playoff game.

Heath, who prides his coaching pedigree on attacking play, has overseen a lack of goal-scoring, especially this season. Minnesota has scored a paltry 16 goals in 15 league games, which is third fewest league-wide this season behind Inter Miami and Chicago Fire.

Robin Lod leads the team with six goals in MLS play, but its trio of Designated Player attackers have combined for five (Emanuel Reynoso has three, Luis Amarilla adds two and Adrien Hunou zero).

Minnesota’s defense and goalkeeping has kept them competitive. With Dayne St. Clair as team MVP in net, they have allowed only 17 goals in 15 games. They have a minus-1 goal differential.



Orioles win fourth straight, 6-2 over White Sox, to continue best stretch since 2017: ‘It’s just been so much fun’



Orioles win fourth straight, 6-2 over White Sox, to continue best stretch since 2017

Despite the long strings of losses the Orioles have endured during his four-year managerial tenure, Brandon Hyde has often praised his team’s ability to metaphorically get hit, then hit back.

In the span of three pitches Saturday, the Orioles did so to clinch a series victory on the road over the Chicago White Sox, downing the reigning American League Central champions, 6-2, to position themselves for a four-game sweep Sunday.

Baltimore (34-39) has won four games in a row for the first time since September 2020 and enjoyed its best 35-game stretch since 2017, going 20-15 since May 19.

“We come to the park every day and expect to win, and that’s not a feeling we’ve had here in a long time,” said Trey Mancini, the club’s longest-tenured player. “It’s just been so much fun.”

The Orioles took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning, with Jorge Mateo having scored both of their runs on a third-inning home run and a fifth-inning error by shortstop Leury García that allowed him to score from second after a double. With two on and two outs, Cedric Mullins’ swinging bunt loaded the bases for Mancini, who took a Lance Lynn fastball to the side of his left hand. It brought in Baltimore’s third run but left Mancini in pain, prompting him to follow Hyde and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel into the dugout to get examined as the White Sox made a pitching change.

When play resumed, Mancini was at first base, and he scored from there when Austin Hays drove home three with a double on José Ruiz’s second pitch. In 22 games this month, the Orioles have scored at least six runs in half of them.

“I’m seeing guys that are playing with a ton of energy, playing to win,” Hyde said. “I think we’re playing with some confidence right now.”

Mancini recently missed a handful of games after a pitch hit his right hand during a series in Toronto, prompting Hyde to joke that Saturday’s inside fastball “evened it out.” Mancini had his left hand wrapped after the game but said this injury was “definitely better” than the previous one and he’s “not too concerned about it at all.”

A budding pitching staff also continued its run of excellence, with the only run the group surrendered through eight innings being an unearned one in the third against Spenser Watkins, who allowed five hits in five innings. Bryan Baker, Nick Vespi and Dillon Tate each worked a scoreless frame before Tate opened the ninth by hitting a pair of batters, leading to the game’s final run on an RBI groundout to third.

Still, Baltimore’s staff has allowed only four runs in its past 43 innings and has held the opposition to two or fewer runs in seven of the past nine games.

“Obviously, our body of work over the year has been good so far,” Baker said. “It’s pretty awesome to feed off of each other and see one guy after another go out there and try to put up a zero.”

Mancini meets cancer survivor

Before the game, players and coaches from both teams stood on the baselines to recognize 7-year-old cancer survivor and fighter Beau Dowling as part of the “Home Run for Life.” Dowling then sprinted around the bases, high-fiving Orioles players and coaches as he went to first base and members of the White Sox going from third to home.

Once the ceremony was over, Mancini, who missed the 2020 season undergoing treatment for stage 3 colon cancer, stayed at home plate to speak with Dowling and his family.

“It was so cool,” said Mancini, the league’s 2021 Comeback Player of the Year. “I knew that we had a pregame ceremony. I didn’t know what it was, but once I found out, I wanted to go over there after he ran the bases and just tell him that he was awesome. I told him that I had cancer two years ago and I’m doing just fine now and doing well, and I know the same thing is gonna happen for him, too. I just wanted him to know that, but that was really cool to see both teams on the line and his family out there, and it was absolutely incredible to be a part of.”

Around the horn

>> The game began after a 1-hour, 21-minute rain delay.

>> To add Watkins to the roster, the Orioles optioned right-hander Marcos Diplán to Triple-A Norfolk. Infielder Rylan Bannon was also optioned to create room for Jonathan Araúz, who was optioned after he was claimed from the Boston Red Sox on June 15 and thus had to be in the minors for 10 days before being recalled.

>> Diplán, Bannon and catcher Cody Roberts are serving as the Orioles’ taxi squad.

>> Catcher Adley Rutschman and outfielder Anthony Santander received days off, while second baseman Rougned Odor missed a third straight game with a sore back.

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Chicago Cubs rally but melt late, falling to the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 on a sweltering afternoon at Busch



Chicago Cubs rally but melt late, falling to the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 on a sweltering afternoon at Busch

Adrian Sampson admitted to being mad when Chicago Cubs manager David Ross called him into his office last weekend and told him he was being sent down to Triple-A Iowa.

Sampson had just pitched 4 ⅔ shutout innings of relief against the Atlanta Braves and figured he was safe for the time being.

“I was a little upset,” Sampson said Saturday after a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. “I think I handled it not the best, but I thought I told him what I wanted to tell him. You have to be careful when things like that happen. You say the wrong thing and it deters people from wanting to keep you around. I tried to be precise with my words and told him I was not happy with the decision.”

Sampson eventually cooled down and realized the Cubs were going to do “what’s best for the Cubs.” An injury to Daniel Norris gave the Cubs the chance to bring Sampson back from Iowa, and he found himself in the starting rotation Saturday.

“We sent him down last time after a really good performance that saved our bullpen,” Ross said. “It’s a negative message after a really good performance. But he stayed true to himself and now he’s back here making a start for us. Things work out.”

Sampson pitched five strong innings, allowing two runs on four hits with five strikeouts in 97-degree heat. He left trailing 2-1 and got a no-decision after the Cubs tied it at 3 on Rafael Ortega’s two-run, eighth-inning home run.

But the Cardinals came back to score a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning off Mark Leiter Jr. and held on to even the series at a game apiece. The Cubs are 0-35 this season when trailing after seven innings.

Alec Mills starts the series finale Sunday.

Sampson, 30, was acquired off waivers from the Seattle Mariners on May 13 but designated for assignment eight days later before getting a chance to pitch. He signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs on May 31, continuing his up-and-down-and-up-again career that seems to be on the rebound again.

He wasn’t surprised that he was sent down as a reliever, told the manager it was the wrong decision and called up as a starter in the same week.

“Baseball is weird, so nothing surprises me anymore,” he said. “I’ve seen it all.”

Maybe, but it’s only June and he plays for the Cubs, so chances are he hasn’t seen it all just yet.


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Pete Alonso cranks third multi-homer game of season in Mets’ 5-3 win over Marlins



Pete Alonso cranks third multi-homer game of season in Mets’ 5-3 win over Marlins

Pete Alonso just might strut into the July 18 Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium as the MLB leader.

Alonso collected his third multi-home run game of the season and 14th of his career in the Mets’ 5-3 win over the Marlins on Saturday. His second homer of the afternoon — a 433-foot line drive to center field — snapped a tied game in the eighth inning and gave the Amazin’s the lead they would need to bury the Fish. It was the fourth time this season Alonso crushed a home run to break a tied game.

Seth Lugo, fresh off the paternity list after he welcomed his newborn son, retired the side in the eighth with a crucial shutdown inning following Alonso’s tie-breaking blast. Edwin Diaz recorded his second save in as many days, and 16th of the year, before the Mets walked onto the field and fell into their familiar and frequent high-five line to celebrate their eighth win in their last 12 games.

The Mets improved to 47-26 on the season, still boasting the best record in the National League. Only the 1986 (52-21) team posted a better record through the first 73 games of the year.

Alonso entered Saturday hitting just .190 against left-handers this season, but that average improved when the Mets slugger cranked his fifth home run off a southpaw this year. His solo home run off Trevor Rogers put the Mets on the board in the second inning.

The Mets first baseman picked up his 21st and 22nd home runs of the season in the second of a three-game series in Miami. He leads the National League in homers and is tied for second in MLB with Yordan Alvarez and Mike Trout. Aaron Judge leads the league with 27 homers. Alonso leads MLB with 69 RBI, and no one is particularly close to snatching away that first-place ranking. Francisco Lindor also has 56 RBI, fourth-most in MLB, making the Mets the only team in the majors with two players who have recorded 50 or more RBI this season.

The Amazin’s got another quality start in Miami when, for just the third time this season, Chris Bassitt pitched seven or more innings on Saturday. The Mets right-hander worked efficiently, despite some off-and-on traffic on the basepaths, and finished the seventh inning at 90 pitches. His ERA slightly improved to 4.01, after an ugly stretch of starts from May-June that altered the good season he had otherwise started.

Bassitt gave up three earned runs on six hits and collected five strikeouts in the no-decision against the Marlins. All of the run-scoring damage came on a pair of home runs. Jesus Sanchez took Bassitt deep in the fourth inning on a two-run dinger, and Bryan De La Cruz added on with a solo shot in the fifth. Bassitt has given up 13 home runs in 15 starts this season as the long ball continues to be a thorn in his side during his debut year for the Mets.

But, as long as Alonso continues having an All-Star season and the Mets offense keeps putting up runs, the Mets will happily take a start like Bassitt’s on Saturday to help advance their winning ways.


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