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Smurfville :: The Smurfs (Everything Smurf) :: Smurf Talk :: www.pantherscheapshop.com - View Topic
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www.pantherscheapshop.com (12th Jan 19 at 8:17am UTC)
The Detroit Tigers blew a three-run lead in the eighth inning and eventually lost on a home run in the ninth. Still Stephen Curry Jersey , this was a day Jose Iglesias and Leonys Martin may look back on fondly for years.

Before Monday’s game against Oakland, the Tigers hosted a ceremony on the field in which a group of people were sworn in as American citizens. Iglesias and Martin, both natives of Cuba, were among them.

”I will never forget about my country, but it’s amazing to be part of United States,” said Martin, a 30-year-old outfielder. ”Being able to do it here in the ballpark, right in front of the fans, that was really emotional.”

Martin played for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. After defecting, he received a $15.5 million, five-year contract with the Texas Rangers in 2011. This is his first season with the Tigers.

Iglesias, a 28-year-old shortstop, made his big league debut in 2011 with the Boston Red Sox. He was traded to the Tigers in 2013, and he can look back now at the daunting process of getting used to a new country.

”It’s hard, man. You came. You face a new culture, face a new language Ryan Kalil Jersey , facing new food, new everything,” Iglesias said before the game. ”Still learning. I’ve been here for 10 years, and I’m still learning.”

Iglesias and Martin had their ceremony at a time when a national debate over President Donald Trump’s immigration policy has been dominating the news. Iglesias wasn’t about to wade into that.

”I don’t really have a comment on that. I try to stay away from that,” Iglesias said. ”If there’s anything I can do to help a human being in the end of the day, I will do it, but I try to stay away from politics.”

Manager Ron Gardenhire was excited about the ceremony.

”It’s really cool. These guys are really proud of that. I’m just hoping they can get to Canada,” he said. ”They’ve lost their visas and green cards now once they’ve taken this citizenship, so they have to get a passport so they can go with us to Canada here in a few days.”

The Tigers play a four-game series at Toronto starting Friday night.

For a brief moment, it appeared Monday’s game against the Athletics might unfold in storybook fashion – with Martin driving in Iglesias with the winning run. The score was tied at 1 in the seventh inning, and Martin hit a drive to center. Iglesias raced around from first, but he had to stop at third when the ball bounced over the wall for a double. He was thrown out at home when the next batter hit a grounder.

Nicholas Castellanos hit a three-run homer later that inning for Detroit, but Oakland rallied in the eighth and eventually won 5-4.

No matter. This was still a special day for Iglesias and Martin.

”It’s amazing,” Iglesias said. ”Become an American citizen on a ballpark, and with full uniform and everything. It’s a blessing.”




Matchups for the AFC championship game Sunday between the Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots:



When the Jaguars (12-6) have the ball:

That impressive performance in Pittsburgh very likely will be needed for the Jaguars to have a chance. That means QB Blake Bortles (5) must get time from his blockers, led by C Brandon Linder (65) and rookie LT Cam Robinson (74) Graham Gano Jersey , who is big and nasty and plays with an edge, against a spotty pass rush. New England doesn’t have any studs in the front seven, but everyone is effective. Last week, Geneo Grissom (92) and Deatrich Wise (91) each had two sacks. Who? Exactly the Patriots’ way.

Jacksonville will look to run with stud rookie Leonard Fournette (27) and valuable backup T.J. Yeldon (24). The Patriots held Tennessee, a decent run team, to 65 yards. The Jags, though, led the league in rushing yardage, and Bortles is a threat to run.

Jaguars receivers Marqise Lee (11) and Allen Hurns (88) can be a dangerous pair – Lee is vastly improved – and with the Patriots likely to try to take Fournette out of the game, how those two manage against an inconsistent secondary will be a key. In the playoffs, however, New England’s DBs, particularly S Devin McCourty (32) and CB Malcolm Butler (21) tend to step up big time.

The Jags hurt the Steelers with big plays, and the Patriots have been vulnerable to those at times. Jacksonville will require a bunch of them to stay close.



When the Patriots (14-3) have the ball

Start with Tom Brady (12). We could almost end there, too.

At 40, the four-time Super Bowl MVP plays as if he’s 30. He might have slowed down in December J.J. Jansen Jersey , but does anyone think the All-Pro quarterback won’t be on-target to fellow All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski (87) or WRs Brandon Cooks (14), Danny Amendola (80), Chris Hogan (15) and RBs James White (28) and Dion Lewis (33)?

The caveat comes from Jacksonville’s pass rush. Sacksonville had 55 in 2017, then four more in the playoffs. The biggest threat, All-Pro DL Calais Campbell (93) had 14+ during the regular season and has none in January. He must be itching to get a QB down on the ground.

Fellow pass rushers Yannick Ngakoue (91), a strip-sack artist, Dante Fowler Jr. (56), Marcell Dareus (99) and Malik Jackson (97) could add to Brady’s discomfort; Brady’s biggest dislike is not being able to set himself to throw.

Trying to keep that pass rush honest will be the most underrated O-line in the game, paced by LT Nate Solder (77) and C David Andrews (60).

White has been super reliable in past postseasons, but Lewis has become the primary running back.

Jacksonville’s cocky secondary features All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey (20) and solid A.J. Bouye (21), and two castoff safeties who have been solid, Barry Church (42) and Tashaun Gipson (39). They will unquestionably be challenged by Brady’s receiving group.



Special Teams

After struggling by his standards in 2016, Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski (3) is back to being close to automatic: 37 out of 40 in 2017, 4 for 4 on kicks of 50 or more yards. Gostkowski’s 165 postseason points trail only Adam Vinatieri (234) and David Akers (175).

Lewis is the only player on the four remaining teams in the playoffs to have returned a kickoff for a touchdown this season. He ranked fourth in the NFL with a 24.8 yards per return.

Amendola is also a threat on punt returns. He averaged 8.6 yards per return during the regular season, including a long of 40 yards.

Jacksonville’s penchant for trick plays on special teams is something to watch. The Jaguars turned three fake punts into touchdowns during the regular season.

Josh Lambo, signed in mid-October to replace errant Jason Myers Youth Josh Rosen Jersey , is a former Major League Soccer goalkeeper who has made 21 of 22 field goals, including both in the postseason, and 29 of 31 extra points.

Brad Nortman ranked 31st in the league in net average (44.1) and had two punts blocked, including one last week at Pittsburgh.

Returners Corey Grant and Jaydon Mickens have the speed and agility to break long returns.



Coaching

Give Doug Marrone tons of credit for changing the culture in Jacksonville. No more Lax Jax. This is a tough, relentless bunch on defense, and one that while up and down has become more threatening with the ball. Marrone has the Jags believing, and when was the last time folks in North Florida could say that?

Defensive coordinator Todd Wash should be getting looks for a top job. Yes, the roster was vastly improved on D over the past two years and Wash has molded it well.

OC Nathaniel Hackett isn’t nearly as accomplished, but he outcoached his Steelers counterparts last week.

What else needs to be said about the Patriots’ leadership, which gets them this far all the time? Suffice to point out that OC Josh McDaniels and DC Matt Patricia both have been front-runners for head coaching jobs this offseason.



Intangibles

The Jaguars are one of four teams never to make a Super Bowl. Their win in Pittsburgh has them stoked, and their youthful exuberance that some might describe as over the top actually has served them well so far. Then again, riling up Brady’s bunch rarely is a good strategy.

Somehow, the Patriots have convinced themselves they are either disrespected, distrusted or dismissed outside of New England. Not a bad motivational tool, even if it seems to ring hollow for a five-time champion.



AP Sports Writers Mark Long and Kyle Hightower contributed.




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