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  • 28 Jun
    There is an oddly long list of gadgets that were invented in Birmingham - it includes the microwave over, the electric kettle and the pacemaker - but if England could use one of them, the photocopier, to produce a facsimile of Ben Stokes to run out at Edgbaston, they undoubtedly would.Stokes absence from the side, after tearing his right calf while bowling in the second Investec Test at Old Trafford, forces England to make a change that could threaten the balance of their side. With no batsmen added to the squad, England will call on either Steven Finn or Jake Ball to replace Stokes unless the Edgbaston pitch looks especially spin friendly, in which case Adil Rashid may get another opportunity to perform at Test level.Any of these options undoubtedly weakens Englands batting line up which, with three out of the top five batsmen struggling to make runs this summer, has relied heavily on Alastair Cook and Joe Root to shore up their innings. But its with the ball in hand that Stokes will be more sorely missed, according to Stuart Broad.The way he likes the game to move forward, you need players like that in your team, said Broad. If Cookie and Rooty continue their form hes probably more of a loss with the ball, because hes not needed [with the bat].He does change the dynamic slightly. He bats at six and hes your fourth seamer but hell be replaced by a spinner or a frontline seamer so he does give a bit more depth in the batting. We do bat a long way down so thats not too much of a worry.While some may have considered Chris Woakes to be a slightly faded facsimile of Stokes before the start of the summer, he has proved to be as useful a Birmingham product as the microwave oven.After coming into the side as a straight replacement when Stokes was injured during the Sri Lanka series, Woakes has made himself invaluable to Englands pace attack in his own right taking 26 wickets at 13.84 in four Tests this season. And his half-century, scored after he came in as nightwatchman in the first innings at Old Trafford (following his maiden Test fifty against Sri Lanka at Lords) was compiled with a composure that - while differing to Stokes explosive shotmaking - stiffens the middle-to-lower order.After checking in and checking out several times Woakes - in English conditions at least - seems to belong as a resident in Englands house, rather than being a temporary visitor. Broad has noticed the difference, but says he and James Anderson have had little to do with the transformation.Maybe its the confidence of belonging, said Broad. Its hard to tell how much hes moved forward from South Africa in that the pitches over there are much flatter and the Kookaburra ball compared to the Dukes ball that hes bowled with for his whole career.He was under a bit of pressure after South Africa with people questioning whether he could make it as a Test match bowler but hed only played six or seven Test matches. I think I took my first five-fer in maybe my ninth Test match so I said to him look, youre not in a massive rush here. Youre a talented player. Dont feel like you have to get a five-fer every time you run on the field. Do what you do for Warwickshire: hit the top of off consistently and wickets will come for you.I think he showed that at Lords. He didnt get his wickets with his best balls actually, he picked up a few cheaper ones. Hes become very consistent in putting the batsmen under pressure and when your confidence is that high you feel like you can release the ball at full whack.Hes getting his fingers behind the ball and thats helping him get bounce. You give him the ball and hes got something more about him. You feel like hes there to take wickets and thats the confidence that I gained from that five-fer at the Oval in 2009. That I can do it, I can get Ricky Ponting out, Im not just a county bowler, I can step up to that next level. This summer has been Chris Woakes delivering that belief.With the series level at 1-1, England now return to the ground where the parochial crowd provides the most hostile atmosphere for visiting teams - just ask the Australians, who had nowhere to hide from the cacophony from the Eric Hollies stand last summer. The Barmy Army will be out in force at this Test, too, although Warwickshire have promoted the match heavily within the local Asian community and worked with Pakistan fan groups to encourage attendance.To maximise home advantage, Englands pace attack will turn to Woakes for advice; a further sign of his increase in stature within the side.This week I imagine Chris will be very influential on certain field placings for Edgbaston, said Broad. Does gully come into the game? Is it fourth slip? Do you need to bowl a bit fuller? Is the bouncer a good option? Does it reverse? Theres a lot that can change in six months of cricket so [well listen to] his experience of what Edgbaston has been like this summer.Edgbaston feels like our Gabba so to speak, in the way the crowd roar behind us and I think some of our results reflect that.Weve got Chris in form of his life going to home ground where hes bowled thousands of overs and that can only be a good thing.Stuart Broad is an Investec Test Cricket ambassador. For more on Investec private banking visit investec.co.uk/banking B.J. Finney Jersey .C. -- Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said after all of these years in the NBA hes still amazed at some of the things LeBron James does. Cameron Sutton Jersey . -- Vincent Lecavalier got everything but the desired result in his return to Tampa Bay. [url=http://www.cheapsteelersjerseysauthentic.com/?tag=authentic-kevin-rader-jersey]http://www.cheapsteelersjerseysauthentic.com/?tag=authentic-kevin-rader-jersey . - Levi Browns tenure at left tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers is over before it even began. Tyler Matakevich Jersey . The incident occurred at 19:56 of the second period of the Kings 4-2 road win over Edmonton on Sunday. Nolan punched Oilers forward Jesse Joensuu in the jaw in front of the Kings goal during a scrum. Greg Gilmore Jersey . Badenhop was 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 63 relief appearances for Milwaukee this season. He is 18-20 in his career with three saves and a 3. The next three weeks are going to be wild.Five of ESPN.coms intrepid MLB beat writers have teams battling it out for wild-card berths as the season hits mid-September: Eddie Matzs Baltimore Orioles, Andrew Marchands New York Yankees, Katie Strangs Detroit Tigers, Adam Rubins New York Mets and Mark Saxons St. Louis Cardinals. (Since theyre currently leading their respective divisions, we let Scott Laubers Boston Red Sox and Doug Padillas Los Angeles Dodgers off the hook -- for now.)We asked each of the above scribes to make a case for why their team has a date with a do-or-die playoff game come October. Then we asked them to respond to each of their colleagues arguments.What we got was -- well, read for yourself. And keep reading until the end, when a surprise judge joins the fray to make a final ruling.OriolesMatz: The Orioles will nab one of the AL wild-card spots because of -- get this -- their starting pitching. No, really. After blowing chunks for most of the season, Baltimores rotation is rounding into shape when it matters most. Ubaldo Jimenez has magically gone from the worst pitcher in baseball to arguably the teams most dependable starter. Kevin Gausman is currently in midair, making the leap. And Chris Tillman looked good as new in his first start back from the DL, which means that the Os can now banish their most glaring weak link (Wade Miley) to the bullpen. Combine that with a homer-happy lineup thats been scoring in bunches lately and the only reason the Birds wouldnt get a wild-card berth is if they win the division outright.Marchand: The Orioles look as if they are prime position to win a wild-card spot, but the inconsistency they have played with over the year is something that has to be a concern. Plus, they might be pitching well now, but do you really trust those starters to come up big?Saxon: Well, something doesnt add up because FiveThirtyEight has them at just 61 percent even to make the playoffs and 4 percent -- behind the Red Sox and Blue Jays -- to win the World Series. Somebody should put back on his designer black frames and remove the rose-colored glasses.Strang: Not sure I see the Orioles sustaining this level of offensive production, which, admittedly, has been absolutely wild. Youd think that at some point, even a lineup as talented as theirs has to cool off. As for the pitching staff, suffice it to say I dont see the triumphant Jimenez comeback story ending the same way Eddie might envision it. And Tillman, though very impressive in his last start against the Tigers, is not out of the woods yet with that shoulder issue. That has to be an area of concern for Baltimore moving forward.Rubin: The Orioles have several potentially fatal flaws. Among them: streaky hitters, an all-or-nothing offense and a fried bullpen. Since the All-Star break, Baltimores 4.50 ERA is second-to-last in the American League, ahead of only the lowly Twins (5.43).YankeesMarchand: For those who think the Yankees will take the wild card, the logic is simple -- they are playing as well as anyone in baseball right now. Despite the fact they have a brutal schedule, those who believe the Yankees will succeed think that going 13-5 in their final 18 games will be no problem. I tend to doubt the Yankees can get to the 89 or 90 wins it will take to win a wild card, but if they go into their final three games against the Orioles with a chance to make the playoffs, that will be a pretty significant accomplishment in itself.Matz: If Marchand himself cant even defend the team he covers (I tend to doubt the Yankees ...), then theres no need for me to pile on. My work here is done.Saxon: Remind me not to hire you if Im looking for someone to sell my house. Those who believe??You were supposed to believe, Andrew. That was the assignment! Since you dont, I dont either.Strang: I imagine the sort of success the Yankees have had since selling off assets at the trade deadline isnt something anyone would have predicted, but eventually the joyride must end. Youth and inexperience will leave the Yanks exposed as the playoff race heats up, with a slew of games against divisional opponents also desperate to nail down a playoff spot.Rubin: Gary Sanchez might be a nice story, but the Yankees simply do not have the pitching horses to get to the 89 to 90 wins it will take to earn a wild-card spot in the American League this year. Furthermore, while playing the teams ahead of them in the standings in a simple sense might seem like an opportunity, it realistically means the Yankees have too steep an uphill battle.TigersStrang: After missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 2010, the Detroit Tigers appear primed to secure a postseason berth in 2016 because their key offensive contributors are swinging the bats well at precisely the right time. Look at the clubs big boppers -- Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton, who are all crushing the ball in September. Factor in that second baseman Ian Kinsler is also scorching hot this month (.314), and his fellow infielder Nick Castellanos is aiming to return within the next week, and the Tigers have one of the most potent lineups in baseball. Beyond that, the Tigers are in the midst of 17 consecutive games against American League Central teams, providing them ample opportunity to make up ground against divisional opponents.Marchand: If the Tigers dont make the playoffs, it is all on them. While the majority of the wild-card contenders are in the AL East beating each other up, the Tigers only have to just worry about becoming complacent as they face a much easier road.Matz: When it comes the wild card, gaining ground on divisional opponents matters not. What does matter is winning, and given that seven of those 17 AL Central games are against an Indians squad thats owned Detroit this year (11-1), well -- good luck with that.Saxon: You lost me when you started spouting facts and evidence. Im just not a big fan of aging, slugging teams with no athleticism and iffy relief pitching in October.Rubin: The Tigers fatal flaw will be their rotation. In a seven-start stretch that also included an absence for a lat issue, Jordan Zimmermann has a 4.94 ERA. Beyond that, three kids in the rotation are unproven.MetsRubin: Forget the fact that the Mets are among the hottest teams in baseball, having won 16 of 21 games entering the week. The Mets will reach the postseason as a wild-card entrant primarily because of their soft schedule the remainder of the season. After completing a series on Wednesday against the Nationals, the Mets do not play another game against a team with a winning record.dddddddddddd Meanwhile, the Cardinals and Giants -- the competitors for the NLs two wild-card spots -- have to play each other four times beginning Thursday. The Cardinals also have two series remaining against the Cubs, while the Giants have two series remaining against the Dodgers.Marchand: The biggest reason not to believe in the Mets is because they are the Mets. Their tortured history is replete with epic failures in the face of victories. Could one more be on the horizon?Matz: As my mother will tell you, Im a good boy who follows directions, and my marching orders here were to shoot a hole in every one of these theories (except mine, of course). To do that, Im calling on my experience with logic puzzles back in Mrs. Harris fifth-grade math class. If the Mets and Cardinals arent wild cards (which, per my instructions, they cant be), then the wild cards must be the second-place NL West team (Giants or Dodgers), and the ... Marlins?Saxon: When you put it that way, its kind of hard to argue. I guess Ill just go with, Its the Mets, Adam, and leave it at that.Strang: Heading into spring training, I picked the Mets to win it all this year, and a big reason was their stable of impressive young pitchers. Fast-forward six months and the staff looks, well, quite a bit different. No?Matt Harvey. No Jacob deGrom. No Steven Matz. That certainly hasnt seemed to hurt the Mets lately, but even with a crazy favorable schedule to finish out the year, one has to wonder whether the sum of all the injuries -- and not just those to the pitching staff -- eventually takes its toll.CardinalsSaxon: If you believe the moral of the old fable The Tortoise and the Hare, then you buy that the Cardinals will reach the NL wild-card game. While the other two contenders, the Mets and Giants, have had wild swings of fortune this season, the Cardinals have just kept plodding along. Their longest losing streak this season is five games. Their longest winning streak is five games. They came one right after the other in mid-June. So all they have to do is continue their steady-as-it-goes approach and one of the other two contenders figures to beat itself. The other thing they have going for them: Starting Thursday, the best road team in baseball has 10 of its final 17 games away from Busch Stadium. If they get into the postseason, who knows? Maybe theyll finally get hot.Marchand: This does not feel like a classic Cardinals team. They have been great on the road, but that could be reaching its expiration point.Matz: See Matz on Mets.Strang: The Cards had dropped four of their past six games heading into Tuesdays action, including Mondays loss, in which they mustered just one hit off Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks (who, granted, has been lights-out against pretty much everyone in recent months) and saw Matt Carpenter exit the game with back tightness. More concerning is that St. Louis still has another set against the Cubs before closing out the season with a seven-game homestand. That stretch at home should be a good thing, especially considering their caliber of competition -- except for the fact, as Saxon astutely pointed out, that the Cards have been awful at Busch Stadium this year.Rubin: We already covered the disparity in schedule strength the remainder of the season to justify why the Mets will reach the postseason over St. Louis. Now lets zero in on the Cardinals swoon, which is being fueled by inconsistent starting pitching, erratic defense and a glaring lack of setup men. Jaime Garcia produced an 8.06 ERA in a five-start stretch through last Thursday. Meanwhile, Aledmys Diaz has only a .957 fielding percentage, with 16 errors through 93 games at shortstop.The above -- vs. the rest of the fieldJudge David Schoenfield: Lets start with the American League, where Im sentencing Matz to watching the 1988 Orioles highlight tape after he invoked Jimenez as evidence of a strengthening rotation. Sure hes had four good starts in a row. However, its still Ubaldo Jimenez, and four good starts merely means four bad ones are likely to follow. Also the Orioles are under .500 since July 1, and is that Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs Im seeing in their outfield?As the saying goes, rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel. This court cant rule in favor of the Yankees, even with this cute little story they have going on with these kids and this no-name pitching staff. You know whats not so cute though? They still have five players making $20 million-plus, if you include the departed Alex Rodriguez. Those five guys make more than 13 entire teams. So enough with this nonsense that the Yankees are some Little Engine That Could. Also, the court fines Marchand to repeated viewings of the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series for his cheap shot against the Mets.So the judge rules in favor of Strang and the Tigers. The schedule is the key here, with four games left against the Twins, three against the rapidly expiring Royals and three to finish the season against the hapless Braves. Yes, they do have seven games against the Indians and -- hold on, you say theyre 1-11 against Cleveland? They lost to the Twins on Tuesday? Maybe we should be thinking of the scorching-hot Mariners here instead?But because the Mariners never win anything ...Ruling: Blue Jays and TigersNow, over in the NL, I cant believe this race is still going on. I think the Mets just signed Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman for the rotation. How have the Giants and Cardinals not pulled away? Anyway, Rubin has presented irrefutable evidence: The Mets schedule is softer than the Wilpons bank account, with only one of their remaining 17 games against a team currently with a winning record.Saxons argument for the Cardinals basically boils down to Theyre the Cardinals. Thats actually a good argument! Did you know cockroaches can survive without food for a month? Thats the Cardinals. Its how theyve made the playoffs the past five seasons and 12 out of the past 16. It also helps that the Giants have seemingly cracked here in the second half, with Bruce Bochy managing his bullpen like a 12-year-old boy who just ate three dozen doughnuts while downing a supersized Slurpee.Ruling: Mets and Cardinals Cheap Jerseys China NFL Jerseys Cheap NBA Jerseys Wholesale NHL Jerseys Wholesale MLB Jerseys Cheap Soccer Jerseys China Wholesale NCAA Jerseys Wholesale Football Jerseys Wholesale Basketball Jerseys Wholesale Baseball Jerseys ' ' '