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Mike Preston: Can Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley and J.K. Dobbins dominate again? Here’s a doctor’s take. | COMMENTARY

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Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley and running back J.K. Dobbins are expected to return the Ravens’ running game to prominence, but when they get back into the starting lineup is still uncertain.

Stanley is recovering from an ankle injury that has kept him out of 29 of the Ravens’ past 30 games, while Dobbins has been sidelined since suffering a torn ACL, LCL and meniscus in his left knee, along with his hamstring, in the 2021 preseason finale. Few can predict if they will be as dominant as they were before their injuries.

It’s a toss-up.

“There is a big difference between walking on these injured joints and going back to running and doing what is expected of an NFL athlete,” said Scott Adams, a Catonsville-based orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine.

“So simply seeing them being able to walk to the media room or go through a walkthrough practice is in no way an indication that they are 100% healed.”

That pretty much sums up the status of Stanley and Dobbins, as well as the Ravens’ running game, which is ranked No. 18 in the league through two games but would be near the bottom if not for star quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Dobbins practiced fully leading up to Sunday’s home opener against the Miami Dolphins and said he felt “amazing,” but he was inactive for the game.

Before his injury, Stanley was regarded as one of the top young tackles in the league, signing a five-year, $112.8 million contract on Oct. 30, 2020. But he suffered a severe ankle injury just a few days later against the Pittsburgh Steelers and has played in just one game — the 2021 season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders — since.

Early in his coaching career in Baltimore, John Harbaugh was aggressive in pushing players to return to the field, which resulted in disagreements with trainers. But after a rash of injuries to several starters last season, Harbaugh is probably more cautious. This offseason, the team overhauled its training camp practice routine and hired a new head athletic trainer in an effort to reduce injuries.

Holding out Stanley and Dobbins early in the season is the smart thing to do.

“By far the biggest challenge after one of these severe injuries in such an elite athlete is getting that additional explosiveness and skill to come back,” Adams said. “There have been a lot of examples where athletes have been able to do it, but statistics tell us that not everyone is able to come back 100%.

“But the surgery gives them a much better chance at doing so [than] if you didn’t fix it surgically. So, you are going to need patience.”

Dobbins has a better chance to return sooner than Stanley. Nearly a decade ago, it took two years to recover from knee injuries, which forced a lot of players in the twilight of their careers to retire.

The rehabilitation process is much different now.

“There are a couple of big advances to make these injuries recover quicker,” Adams said. “One is the rehabilitation afterward, where we’ve seen improvements in being able to more rapidly advance the therapy. Athletes are running sooner, getting stronger faster and can do what is called an accelerated rehabilitation program. That can significantly shorten the recovery time.

“We have more solid fixation methods and we have more predictable ways of fixing injuries in the knee. We also know they can use the knee sooner than we used to think 10 years ago.”

There is a lot of optimism around Dobbins. He has been eager to return since training camp opened in late July. As a rookie, he gained 805 yards on 134 carries and scored nine touchdowns.

He had that rare combination of speed and power. He wasn’t a home run hitter, but he could still gain big chunks of yardage. His one-cut, downhill style was perfect for the Ravens’ offense.

After his injury last season, the Ravens brought in veterans like Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray and Le’Veon Bell, none of whom are still on active NFL rosters. This year, they’ve relied on Kenyan Drake, Mike Davis and Justice Hill, who have the fewest rushing yards (74) of any running back group in the NFL.

It’s clear Dobbins is cut above his replacements. The question is, can he return to his old form?

“For Dobbins, once the knee is stable, his strength and range of motion is back to where it was before the surgery and he satisfies the return to play criteria, I think he can get back to where he was before the injury,” Adams said.

But?

“Again, there are a number of NFL running backs who have proven that to be the case, but unfortunately there are some who have shown that they just can’t get back to 100%,” Adams said.

Stanley’s situation is different because of the length and nature of the recovery process. The former Notre Dame standout, whom the Ravens chose No. 6 overall in the 2016 draft, has had three surgeries on his left ankle since the initial injury.

He is also 6 feet 6 and 315 pounds, which puts a lot of pressure on a joint.

“Stanley is a large man and he puts a lot of weight and force across a relatively small joint, and so that does increase the challenge of making a full recovery for a number of reasons,” Adams said.

“Stanley is a challenging case now that this has gone on for a couple of years and he has had more than one surgery. The reality with him is still to be determined. Clearly the ankle is not fully recovered, or he would be out there playing. The longer that it takes for him to get back, the less predictable that full return is going to be.”

So, all the Ravens can do is wait and hope.

If they had a decent running game, they might have been able to keep the Miami Dolphins’ offense off the field in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s disastrous 42-38 loss.

If they had Dobbins or Stanley, they might have been able to convert two crucial fourth downs. But right now, the Ravens can only be patient.

There is little else they can do.

Week 3

[email protected]

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 45

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Ravens by 2 1/2

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Instant Analysis: Miami Dolphins 21, Buffalo Bills 19

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Instant Analysis: Miami Dolphins 21, Buffalo Bills 19
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Chris Perkins, Dolphins Columnist

The Dolphins answered the call in a big way and now they’re the top dog in the AFC East with Sunday’s victory over Buffalo. It was an excellent performance all the way around even if it was ideal in some ways. The Dolphins showed guts, grit and talent. They’re now the team to beat in the AFC East and one of the teams to beat in the AFC.

Keven Lerner, Assistant Sports Editor

The defense bailed out the Dolphins over and over again, and Miami escaped with an incredible win and a perch atop the AFC East…and the conference itself?

Steve Svekis, Sports Senior Content Editor

And, we thought last week was earth-shaking? The Dolphins, propelled by a truly great defensive performance.against a monster quarterback, got the two greatest consecutive regular-season wins in my memory. A legitimate AFC favorite.

This will be updated.

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Hyde10: Dramatic ending, Tua’s return, defense’s stand — 10 thoughts on Dolphins 21-19 win over Bills

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Hyde10: Dramatic Ending, Tua’s Return, Defense’s Stand — 10 Thoughts On Dolphins 21-19 Win Over Bills
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Big game. Big finish. Big statement by the Miami Dolphins, too.

The Dolphins beat the Bills, 21-19, in another dramatic finish to go 3-0 and – yes, it’s early – take first place in the AFC East.

Here are 10 thoughts on Sunday’s game.

1. Play of the game I: Fourth-and-goal at the 2. A minute, 49 seconds to play. Josh Allen has Isaiah McKenzie open in the corner and throws short – and this Dolphins defense completes another goal-line stand to go with their work at Baltimore. This one gives the Dolphins the ball at their 2 and …

Play of the Game II: Punter Thomas Morstead is at the back of the end zone with the ball on the 1-yard line and punts into the back of blocker Trent Sherfield. Safety. It’s now Miami 21-19 and a field goal can win it. Buffalo got the ball with 1:25 left, Allen getting a second chance and …

Play of the Game III: Allen, running to get his offense under center at the at the Dolphins 44-yard line, can’t do it quickly enough and time runs out. You had to wait for the ref to say, “That’s the end of the game,” to be sure.

2. Tua Tagovailoa eluded a blitz, completed a nice third-down pass in the second quarter and then got a shove from Bills linebacker Matt Milano that warranted a roughing penalty. In falling, Tua’s head bounced hard off the turf and he came up woozy. He immediately was taken out of the game and went to the locker room. The upshot? He was listed as questionable, didn’t return for the half, but then passed concussion protocol and returned to start the second half. His first pass was a he day, he completed eight of 10 passes for 76 yards an an 11-yard touchdown to River Cracraft. For the day, Tagovailoa completed 13 of 18 passes for 186 yards and the touchdown.

3. Stat of the game: Buffalo ran 88 plays to the Dolphins 39. That’s nuts. It’s reflected in the time of possession, too, as the Dolphins only had the ball for 19:20. The game began with injury issues especially to the Bills defense. As it went on both sides lost players to the heat. On a 20-play, 87-yard drive in the third quarter, the Bills ate up 9:22 and players from both sides dropped out (Xavien Howard was suffering from cramping for the Dolphins). But the number of plays and time of possession

4. Give this Dolphins defense full credit. Buffalo had scored 31 and 41 points its first two games. It was up against the quarterback in Josh Allen that looks like he’s the best in the game right now. Allen threw 63 passes and had 400 yards passing and two touchdowns Sunday. He ran for another 47 yards. This defense not only effectively got a turnover off Allen to make it a 7-7 game, but made him earn everything. Everything. The Buffalo scoring drives were 10, 14, 20 and 15 plays. Sure, they didn’t come away with the win and give Buffalo and Allen credit for going 10-for-16 on third downs. But this defense held up to perhaps the league’s best offense early this year and that’s a good mark for what’s coming.

5. Buffalo was without its entire starting secondary Sunday. The two rookie cornerbacks and two safeties who began the game had a total of three starts between them. So it’s no wonder the question was how this Dolphins passing game would attack them. And? Well, for much of three quarters the Bills had to be happy in only really giving up one touchdown drive (the second came after the defense got the ball at the Bills’ 6). But then in the fourth quarter Tua and the deep passing game went to work. He threw 32 yards to an open Jaylen Hill to start the drive. Then, on third-and-22, Jaylen Waddle got behind the Bills defense for a 45-yard gain to the Buffalo 6-yard line to set up the go-ahead touchdown at 21-17. Buffalo was pay special attention to Tyreek Hill as he only had four targets and two receptions midway through the fourth quarter. That left Waddle to work deep.

6. Left tackle Terron Armstead keeps showing his worth. Von Miller had two sacks in the first two games and disrupted play in each of the Bills wins. Miller wasn’t heard from Sunday. He lined up opposite Armstead all day. And all day Armstead stymied him. Midway through the fourth quarter, Miller had no tackles, no quarterback pressures and was only on the stat sheet because of a pass defensed. That’s what a star left tackle does.

7. Jevon Holland blitzed off the left side of the Bills line, sidestepped a block attempt by Devin Singletary and created the latest game-changing play by the defense. In the opener, it was a Brandon Jones sack against New England’s Mac Jones that caused a fumble which bounced into Melvin Ingram’s hands for a touchdown. This time it was Holland’s blindside hit of Josh Allen that allowed Ingram to recover the fumble at the Bills’ 6-yard line. Three players later, it was a 7-7 game.

8. Second-year player Jaelan Phillips became a target of question and pass-rush concerns this week when it should have been an issue for the whole defense. There hadn’t been many Emmanuel Ogbah or Melvin Ingram sightings, either. Well Ingram changed that Sunday. He stopped a scrambling Allen short of the goal line to be credited with one sack, and then sacked him again in the first half to cause a fumble that the Bills recovered. Throw in that fumble recovery on Holland’s sack and Ingram had an impactful first half. As for Phillips, you need more from him, but let’s remember it’s not a straight-line progression for most pass rushers or edge players. In his third year, Jason Taylor had a half-sack through eight games. If that doesn’t tell you to turn down the volume on the second-year Phillips, nothing will.

9. Quick hits:

A. What was Buffalo doing just before halftime? With six seconds left at the Dolphins 34-yard line, Josh Allen looked like he could have spiked the ball and let Tyler Bass attempt a 51-yard field goal (his long the last two years was 58 and 57 yards). Instead, Allen threw a short pass to Stefon Diggs and the clock ran out. Why? Allen bobbled the snap and there’s a rule if you bobble a snap you can’t spike the ball. So he had to go through with the play.

B. Cornerback Keion Crossen knocked the ball loose of Bills receiver Gabe Allen to turn a touchdown into an incompletion. The Bills had to take a third-quarter field goal.

C. Ingram can expect a fine for kicking/leg-whipping Allen in the groin.

10. Next game: Dolphins at Cincinnati. The dreaded Thursday night away game. Actually, there’s no statistical evidence showing any undue bias for records on Thursday night, home or away (though Dolphins did lose, 22-7, on Thursday in Cincinnat in the 2016 season). Cincinnati might have had a Super Bowl hangover in starting 0-2. Or maybe it was Joe Burrow missing the preseason with appendix surgery. Or maybe they were just fortunate to make the Super Bowl? They played the New York Jets on Sunday.

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Instant analysis from Ravens’ 37-26 win over New England Patriots

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Instant Analysis From Ravens’ 37-26 Win Over New England Patriots
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Here’s what the Baltimore Sun sports staff had to say immediately after the Ravens’ 37-26 win over the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Week 3 game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts:

Childs Walker, reporter: The Ravens pulled out a tense road win thanks to a strong all-around performance from their offense, a pair of timely interceptions from Josh Bynes and Marlon Humphrey and a huge forced fumble by rookie Kyle Hamilton. They got their running game on track with J.K. Dobbins in the lineup, Justice Hill making the most of his opportunities and Lamar Jackson dazzling as usual. Mark Andrews delivered his typical big day, and Devin Duvernay showed what a valuable player he has become with a 43-yard punt return and a tough touchdown catch in the corner.

All of that said, this was another alarming day for the Ravens defense against an offense that hardly set the world on fire in Weeks 1 and 2. They avoided the catastrophic communication lapses we saw against the Miami Dolphins, but their cornerbacks could not cover DeVante Parker, and they struggled to bring down running back Rhamondre Stevenson once he cleared the line of scrimmage. Their run defense, so stout last season, has become a problem right along with their coverage.

They’re also in danger of losing the war even when they win battles. Can they go even one week without suffering a significant injury? Rookie Daniel Faalele had to step in for Patrick Mekari at left tackle, a position he looked unprepared to play until he settled down in the second half. Nose tackle Michael Pierce and edge rusher Justin Houston, both effective through the first two weeks, left before halftime. We saw how this played out last season; they can’t keep taking these blows.

Mike Preston, columnist: The Ravens were able to hang on for the victory, but this was a battle between teams that aren’t very good. They both have a lot of holes, but the Ravens have quarterback Lamar Jackson, who makes up for a lot of the team’s shortcomings. It’s good that it’s early in the season and both teams have time to improve, but will they? The Ravens’ weaknesses on the offensive line and at the linebacker positions are glaring.

Ryan McFadden, reporter: The Ravens’ defense redeemed itself after getting torched by the Dolphins last week. Baltimore forced four turnovers, including three in the fourth quarter. At one point, the Ravens appeared to be letting the lead slip away, but Lamar Jackson made sure his team didn’t repeat the past.

C.J. Doon, editor: The Ravens learned their lesson. With the Patriots threatening to erase another big fourth-quarter lead, cornerback Marlon Humphrey’s interception in the end zone and rookie safety Kyle Hamilton’s forced fumble on a big catch-and-run by Nelson Agholor kept the lead intact, and Lamar Jackson added the exclamation point with a 73-yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown run with three minutes left. With four touchdown passes and another 100 rushing yards, Jackson continued to build his MVP case while giving the Ravens’ defense some breathing room as it figures itself out.

Tim Schwartz, editor: Take a second and imagine what this team would be without Lamar Jackson under center. It seems like every week he is breaking team or NFL records and yet the Ravens still struggle to put teams away. Four timely second-half turnovers, thanks to several poor decisions by Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and a key forced fumble by rookie Kyle Hamilton, helped prevent a second straight devastating loss. But this is the Lamar Jackson show, and we’re all just witnesses. He is dominating defenses — he ran for 107 yards, surpassing 100 for the second straight week, and jumped right to the front of the MVP conversation while accounting for five touchdowns — and has put the Ravens on his back for a 2-1 start. With the mighty Buffalo Bills coming to town next week, this was a must-win.

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Vikings come from 10 points down to defeat Lions 28-24 with last-minute TD pass

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Vikings Come From 10 Points Down To Defeat Lions 28-24 With Last-Minute Td Pass
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There were plenty of boos early in Sunday’s game but nothing but cheers at the end.

Kirk Cousins threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open K.J. Osborn with 45 seconds left to give the Vikings a 28-24 win over the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium.

It was a resounding comeback by the Vikings, who heard boos when they fell behind 14-0 in the second quarter and 24-14 in the third quarter.

The Vikings late in the third quarter lost star running back Dalvin Cook for the game with a shoulder injury. He ran for 97 yards on 17 carries before losing a fumble late in the third quarter and being injured on the play.

A questionable coaching decision ended up helping the Vikings. With the Lions already having converted four of six times in the game on fourth down, they faced fourth-and-4 at the Minnesota 30 with 1:14 left in the game and the Vikings out of timeouts.

But instead of going for it, Detroit coach Dan Campbell had Austin Seibert attempt a 54-yard field goal, which he missed badly to the right. The Vikings then drove for the winning score.

The Vikings were without star safety Harrison Smith, who was out with a concussion, and the Lions tried to take advantage of it. Jared Goff completed 25 of 40 passes for 277 yards.

The Lions gambled plenty on offense until the end. On their second possession, they went for it on fourth-and-5 at the Vikings 32 and Goff hit Amon St. St. Brown across the middle for a 30-yard gain. Jamaal Williams scored on the next play on a 2-yard run for a 7-0 lead.

The Lions extended the lead to 14-0 on a Goff’s 5-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson early in the second quarter. But the Vikings to back into the game later in the quarter on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Adam Thielen and a 4-yard TD run by Cook.

The Lions in the third quarter extended the lead to 24-14 on a 40-yard field goal by Seibert and a 13-yard touchdown run by Williams. Williams ran for 87 yards on 20 carries.

The Vikings cut the deficit to 24-21 on 6-yard touchdown run by Alexander Mattison with 7:50 left in the game. The Vikings then stuffed Williams for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 30, and took over with 3:30 left in the game.

The Vikings came up short on he drive when Cousins threw an incompletion on fourth-and-8 at the Minnesota 47 with 2:32 left in the game. But after they got the ball back, Cousins hit Osborn for the winning score.

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Rihanna to headline the Super Bowl halftime show

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Rihanna To Headline The Super Bowl Halftime Show
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Rihanna will be the “Only Girl” at the Super Bowl halftime show.

The “Umbrella” singer announced her new gig Sunday, sharing a photo on social media of a hand holding a football in the air that was then retweeted by the NFL and Roc Nation, which has a long-term deal with the NFL to “advise” on the halftime show performer.

“Rihanna is a generational talent, a woman of humble beginnings who has surpassed expectations at every turn,” Roc Nation founder Jay-Z said in a statement. “A person born on the small island of Barbados who became one of the most prominent artists ever. Self-made in business and entertainment.”

Seth Dudowsky, who oversees music at the NFL, also called her a “once-in-a-generation artist who has been a cultural force throughout her career.”

With week 3 of the NFL underway, Super Bowl 2023 is still almost five months out but the headlining gig was already cause for rampant rumor-mongering.

Taylor Swift, who has a new album due out in October, was the talk of the town late last week, but reportedly passed until she rerecords all of her albums to get out from under the control of former manager Scooter Braun.

The “Shut Up and Drive” singer was previously offered the stage at the 2020 championship, but turned down the job in support of Colin Kaepernick.

“I just couldn’t be a sellout, I couldn’t be an enabler,” she told Vogue in October 2019. “There’s things within that organization that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way.”

Super Bowl LVII is scheduled to be played on Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Last season’s final game was headlined by Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent at SoFi Stadium.

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Nearing a return, Twins outfielder Trevor Larnach suffers setback with wrist

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Nearing A Return, Twins Outfielder Trevor Larnach Suffers Setback With Wrist
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Nearly three months after having a bilateral repair to address a core muscle injury, outfielder Trevor Larnach was on the verge of returning to the Twins — possibly even this weekend. He felt great, he said, and he was excited to get back to try to help an injury-depleted Twins’ roster.

And then, another setback, the latest twist to a frustrating season for Larnach. This one appears as if it will end his season, though the Twins have not yet made that announcement. During a rehab game with the Triple-A Saints this week, Larnach took a swing and felt something with his wrist.

“The next day, I couldn’t hold a bat,” he said. “Ever since then, it’s been rehab again, so as frustrating as it is, there’s not much I can do about it.”

Larnach, 25, played five rehab games for the Saints, the last coming on Sept. 21, before he was shut down. He was in the Twins’ clubhouse on Sunday morning, though not because an activation is near, manager Rocco Baldelli said.

“He’s here more to get looked at, spend a little time around the guys, too, but mainly to get seen by the medical guys,” Baldelli said.

Larnach has played in just 51 games this season for the Twins after being recalled from Triple-A, where he started the season, in early April. Larnach dealt with a groin strain in May before landing on the IL again in late June. He hit .231 with a .712 OPS, but he spent most of the season mired in the rehab process down at the Twins’ complex in Fort Myers, Fla.

While outside doctors initially gave him an optimistic outlook of six weeks to heal after his core muscle surgery, he quickly came to realize that he would need more time than that to recover after his late-June surgery.

“You learn really quick that that’s not really even reasonable, especially for a professional athlete trying to play at their highest level,” Larnach said. “It wasn’t really relevant to me. I had to take a step back to look at what I needed to do to feel really good. I did that, and I learned a lot from it.”

The rehab process, he said, had him working constantly, with the Twins’ training staff, at home on his own and with specialists as he tried to get back. Should he be healthy enough, Larnach said he has given some thought to the possibility of playing winter ball to make up for some of the playing time he missed this season.

“Trust me: I wasn’t there for a vacation. I was there to try and be healthy as soon as possible. I learned from it,” Larnach said. “I felt great coming back. I thought I did a really, really good job going through that whole process. But then this thing was just kind of really, really unexpected.”

LEWIS UPDATE

Royce Lewis, another big piece of the Twins’ future, was in the clubhouse over the weekend, reuniting with his teammates and writing hand-written thank-you notes to those who had helped him this season.

The 23-year-old shortstop has been rehabbing in Fort Myers after undergoing a second surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament in June. At this point, he hasn’t been doing much activity, though he said he’s in a stage where he’s slowly starting to transition to add in more. Lewis plans to stay in Fort Myers through October before heading home to continue his rehab.

Lewis missed all of last season after tearing his ACL before spring training. After a year-long rehab process, Lewis returned healthy and performed well both at Triple-A and his brief taste of the majors —  he slashed .300/.317/.550 with a .867 OPS in 12 games with the Twins — before reinjuring his knee during a collision with the outfield wall.

“Obviously (the) same injury, but totally different. The procedure was different. Everything about it feels different,” Lewis said. “I feel a lot better than I did before. I don’t know why that is, but I’ll take it.”

BRIEFLY

The Twins played a video tribute to Kurt Suzuki, who is set to retire after this season. Suzuki played for the Twins for three seasons between 2014-16. The 38-year-old catcher has played for the Angels the past two seasons.

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