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  • 16 Apr
    Washington Nationals starting pitcher?Stephen Strasburg returned from the disabled list Sunday and held the?Cincinnati Reds?hitless for 6 2/3 innings before he was removed from the game after throwing 109 pitches.Strasburg struck out five batters and walked four in Washingtons?12-1 win over the Reds at Nationals Park.The NationalsSAN DIEGO -- The teams best offensive linemen dropped his helmet to the floor during halftime Saturday evening, threw down his shoulder pads and let his pants slide to the floor, whatever it took for his body to breathe.Nearby, a group of linebackers and their position coach gathered around a trainers table, sharing insights about the opposing tight end, but few ideas on how to stop him.The head coach then brought his players together in the middle of the room, and they sunk to one knee. Down by 28 points, he urged them to keep playing hard and win the second half. Just as he stepped back to adjourn the meeting, the players emphatically pounded their chests before starting the long walk back to the field.The scene was typical of hundreds of halftime interactions and pep talks that took place last weekend on college campuses across America, only this one had a unique international layer.The University de las Americas Puebla football team crossed the border to take on the University of San Diego Toreros in an exhibition game Saturday evening -- 16 days before the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans bring the NFL to Mexico City for the first Monday Night Football game outside the U.S.The Aztecas eventually lost to San Diego 49-25 putting a blemish on their undefeated season back home. Coaches and players from both sides learned a lot about the other, and all agreed they benefited from the experience, even if it just means learning from mistakes.Its a good way to measure the level we have over there, and the level over here, said UDLAP wide receiver Robin Israel Gonzalez Carmona, who delivered the play of the night when he scored on a 99-yard touchdown reception in the games closing minutes.There were plenty of other highlights inside 6,000-seat Torero Stadium, where Jim Harbaugh began his head coaching career and turned the program around from 2004 to 2006 before moving on to Stanford, the San Francisco 49ers and now Michigan.On the opening series of the game, San Diego faced a third down near midfield when UDLAP safety Osvaldo Zumalacarregui Taboada blitzed into the backfield and delivered a jaw-rattling sack on quarterback Anthony Lawrence.Suddenly, the Toreros were tightening their chinstraps.They came out and hit, Lawrence said. They were really physical.Thanks to a leaping touchdown catch by Jean Claude Madin Cerezo, the Aztecas managed to keep the score tied 7-7 heading into the second quarter. After a rough stretch of 28 unanswered points, the Aztecas responded to the pleas of head coach Eric Fisher at halftime and outscored the Toreros 10-0 in the third quarter. UDLAP got a safety on an errant snap by the San Diego punt team, and later scored on a sliding touchdown grab by Jose Humberto Noriega Montiel, who finished with 12 catches for 96 yards.Through it all, the team from Mexico never slowed down. Thats what San Diego head coach Dale Lindsey said hell remember most about UDLAP, a private university located in Cholula, Puebla, about 80 miles east of Mexico City.They were much better than our players thought they were going to be, said Lindsey, whose team is 7-1 this season in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. They really fought. I really had great admiration for them. They never quit.The Aztecas never stopped having fun, either, and their fans never stopped cheering. After his 99-yard touchdown, Gonzalez Carmona looked up from the water cooler, blew kisses to the crowd and took a bow to acknowledge their glee.Gonzalez Carmona said crossing the border to play a U.S. college team is the perfect barometer for Mexican players and exposes weaknesses that usually dont arise against weaker opponents at home. UDLAP is 9-0 this season against teams in its conference, and most of the wins have been one-sided. He added that the differences between the Aztecas and the Toreros werent those of size, speed or athletic ability, but rather discipline and detail.They didnt make mistakes and we did, he said.Indeed, that was the most frustrating part of the game for Fisher, a Kansas City, Missouri, native who began coaching overseas with the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe in 2003. He arrived in Mexico City the following year as the athletic director and coach of the American School Foundation, a K-12 private school, and has been in his current position at UDLAP since 2009, amassing a 69-16 record.We havent been hit in the mouth like that for a while, Fisher said after Saturdays game.Like most college coaches, Fisher wants players who are physically strong and mentally tough and who can remember playbooks and recognize opposing defenses. If he cant find them in Mexico, he knows where to find them north of the border.Two of his players, Milton Earls and Jordan Brooks, are from the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista.The idea of playing college football in Mexico never occurred to Earls and Brooks as recently as a couple of years ago.Neither player was heavily recruited out of high school, so they planned to continue playing at the junior-college level. Shortly after their senior seasons, however, they were invited to participate in an all-star game between San Diego-area seniors and the under-19 national team from Mexico.UDLAP had recruiters at the game. Afterward, they invited Earls and Brooks on a recruiting trip.We were kind of iffy about it at first, because it was playing football in another country, but when we went out there to visit, we had a blast, Earls said. They offered us full-ride scholarships the same day we went out.Outside of the usual adjustments college athletes face as freshmen, the biggest challenges for Earls and Jordan have been the language barrier and elevation. UDLAPs home stadium sits at 7,000 feet, about 1,600 feet higher than the University of Colorados. The Aztecas played near sea level Saturday night, but they climbed way up in competition.The Aztecas acquitted themselves well against stout competition, and chances are they will be even more prepared next time. Cheap Air Jordan 4 Mens . 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At our first editorial meeting to discuss ideas for Indias 500th Test, inevitably the thought strayed to the future and temporarily the mood turned sombre. It had taken just over eight decades for India to reach 500, but how many more to the 1,000th? Will there be a 1,000th?But it was apparent in a moment how absurd and incongruous that thought was. It was an occasion not for foreboding, but for gratitude. For as long as it has existed, Test cricket has been a reminder that higher and lasting pleasure can be derived from engagement and absorption, from anticipation and waiting, and from enjoying the journey as much as the destination.And it is more relevant and resonant than ever before in a world that is prone to living in moments. Few other sports are as sharply defined by singular moments as cricket, but its the sum of those moments that makes Test cricket the grandest, the deepest and the most profound of sporting experiences. Once you make the connection, it usually lasts for life.Mine started nearly four decades ago, with a small transistor radio clutched to my ear in the early winter mornings. India were playing the Bobby Simpson-led, Kerry Packer-depleted Australia, and the series, swinging one way and the other, ended in an epic six-day Test, with India falling short of a 493-run target by only 47 runs to concede the series 3-2.I was yet to hold a bat, and beyond the short Films Division news reels that played in movie theatres, I had seen no other cricket. I read up a short book by Vijay Merchant on the basics of the game, and it might have been an aunt who filled me up with some background, but the rest the mind imagined. I can swear I had a fairly graphic image of Sunil Gavaskars forward-defensive shot even before I watched him play.The colour of the game has changed immeasurably in the last four decades. The World Cup arrived in the 80s; Sachin Tendulkar ruled the heart in the 90s when India only won at home; the Test team truly arrived in the first decade of the new century; and in the last 10 years, the IPL has rewritten the rules of the game, both of how it is played and watched. But even more significantly, from the transistor radio in the 70s, Indians have at their command home-entertainment options that are no longer limited to even to the 1,700-odd television channels available.For Test cricket, this challenge also brings an opportunity. There is no doubt that the base has shrunk and will shrink further. But a niche is not necessarily an obscure corner. It can be distinct, high-profile and aspirational. It can be clutter-breaking, the rarer pleasure requiring fans to spend the commodity considered thee most scarce: time.dddddddddddd The faithful will be rewarded, and they will enlist more. In many ways, it is already a miracle that a sport lasting 40 hours a game has lasted 140 years. It will endure.It is perhaps no more than a coincidence, but what can be a bigger celebration of Indias 500th Test than the fact that it marks the beginning of Indias biggest home Test season in memory. Fault them for whatever else, BCCI officials, current and those just out of office, have shown a remarkable commitment to Test cricket. Thirteen is a significant number. With 103 Tests, the previous decade was Indias most prolific, and this decade, with 66 Tests already, is well on its way to match or exceed it. And if India stay the course, the 1,000th could come in double-quick time. Institutionalising a home season would be a progressive use of the BCCIs clout.It is also pertinent that Test cricket is going to smaller towns, with as many as six new Test venues being added. Players occasionally grumble about smaller venues that lack the attractions of the big cities, but arousing fan interest is a greater imperative. Test cricket needs spectators in the grounds, and it is worth taking the chance on smaller venues, which now have excellent playing facilities. It is now incumbent on the state associations to make fans feel welcome. They could start by making daily tickets easily available instead of the take-it-or-leave-it season tickets. Clean toilets and drinking water would be nice too. Love cant forever be one-sided, and it can no longer be taken for granted.?But it matters as much, if not more, that the players care. And in Virat Kohli, India have at the helm a cricketer not merely of considerable skills but with a passion to match. Kohli is a man of the times, a hero and an icon that the fans of his generation identify with. And he brings to Test cricket both the edge of his personality and the syntax of the shorter formats, in which he first earned his fame. He respects the challenges of Test cricket, but plays it on his own terms. His rage not only fuels the engine of his young team, it also fires public imagination.The 500th is a good reason for celebrating the past, and we will do so on these pages through the course of this Test. But there is much to look forward to too. The best way to celebrate this season would be to turn up at the grounds, tune in to the action on TV, or simply log on to our sites. We will be doing our bit, ball by ball. If you think Test cricket is worthy, its time to show it. ' ' ' no-hit bid ended in the eighth inning, when reliever Matt Belisle gave up a single to Ramon Cabrera.Its tough taking a guy out of a no-hitter, but we have to think about the future and where he had come from off the DL, Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. You just think, Were going to need him.Strasburg (11-0) has won a franchise-record 14 straight decisions and is the first NL starter to begin a season 11-0 since San Diegos Andy Hawkins in 1985. He did not disagree with Bakers decision to remove him.I understand where hes coming from, Strasburg said. Theres more important things, hopefully, down the road for this team.Strasburg was just five pitches shy of his highest pitch count this season. He left to a standing ovation from the crowd of 37,328 and was replaced by?Blake Treinen,?who got?Billy Hamilton?to ground out.I felt pretty good, Strasburg said. It was weird, warming up. My changeup was the only pitch I could really locate, and then I couldnt find the strike zone with it today, but the curveball and slider were really good.The Nationals placed right-hander?Joe Ross on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation to open a roster spot when Strasburg was activated Sunday.Ross, 23, labored through 5 1/3 innings against Cincinnati on Saturday, allowing a season-high 10 hits and four earned runs. Ross velocity was noticeably down.Strasburg hadnt started since June 15 after he suffered an upper-back strain. The Nationals scratched him from two starts before making the DL move June 26 and backdating it to June 16.Strasburg, who signed a seven-year, $175 million contract extension in May, lowered his season ERA to 2.71 with Sundays performance.Moving Ross (7-4, 3.47 ERA) to the DL also means rookie?Lucas Giolito?will remain in the rotation. 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