Antonio Senzatela settles into rhythm in return from Rockies’ COVID-injured list

All Antonio Senzatela needed was one game back.

The big right-hander, out of big-league action since the all-star break, returned to the Rockies rotation Thursday in their 6-5 win over the Cubs at Coors Field.

Over 4 2/3 innings, he struck out six, all in succession, starting with Sergio Alcantara in the second. He finished with eight strikeouts, his most in a start since June 8.

He cruised through four innings, up until a crumbling fifth where he gave up four runs, all earned. That began with Wilson Contreras stroking a slider for a line-drive hit off the center field wall.

“The ball started climbing up a bit in the fourth and fifth inning,” manager Bud Black said. “… I’m assuming he got a little tired.”

Black said he thought it was a combination of exhaustion and the 89-degree heat that affected Senzatela’s execution in the fifth inning. But Senzatela insisted he wasn’t tired at all and felt “really good.”

“I think I just missed a couple pitches, and they got lucky,” he said. “Everything’s working really good.”

Senzatela, 26, appeared in one minor league start July 31 before returning to the majors, tossing four scoreless innings with three hits, three strikeouts and no walks. He threw 40 pitches, followed by an extra 20 in the bullpen for extra arm strength practice. On Thursday, he threw 75.

“We’re into August, so he’s got a lot of innings under his belt and a lot of pitches,” Black said. “But overall, I thought he threw the ball in a nice stretch there.”

Senzatela significantly improved over the last two years, most notably rebounding from a 6.71 ERA in 2019 to a 3.44 ERA in 2020. In 2021, the Rockies expected even more from him, but a right groin strain in May and time on the COVID-IL set him back.

But, Thursday’s start was a great way for Senzatela to gain momentum and play his way into the rotation once again.

“He’s been off for a couple weeks and coming back from the virus, so it was understandable if he was (tired), but I still thought he was making pitches,” Black said.


On Deck

Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara (6-9, 3.12 ERA) at Rockies RHP Germán Márquez (9-8, 3.51)

6:40 p.m. Friday, Coors Field

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM

Márquez, a first-time all-star, will make his 23rd start and 13th at Coors Field. In his last appearance, Márquez needed only 14 pitches to strike out three Padres hitters in succession in the fourth inning. He also blasted a 418-foot homer to center field, the second home run of his five-year career. The right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.53 ERA over his last seven home starts. He ranks third in the National League in quality starts with 15. Miami’s Alcantara had a dominant performance in his first start of August in the Marlins’ loss to the New York Yankees on Aug. 1. He pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and a walk in a no-decision. He matched a season-high with 10 strikeouts. Alcantara, 25, has started two games in his career vs. the Rockies, going 1-1 with a 1.20 ERA. Over the two games, he pitched 15 innings, striking out eight and walking four. Friday marks his second game at Coors Field. In his first outing, he pitched seven innings but took the loss.

Trending: Raimel Tapia extended his hitting streak to nine games with a 2-for-5 outing. Tapia is 17-for-40 with four doubles and four RBIs during the streak.

At issue: Catcher Dom Nunez hit 1-for-3 with a walk on Thursday, but for the season he’s still hitting .172.

Pitching probables

Saturday: Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-4, 6.70) at Rockies LHP Austin Gomber (8-6, 4.04), 6:10 p.m., ATTRM

Sunday: Marlins TBD at Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (2-6, 4.46), 1:10 p.m., ATTRM

Monday: Off

Why Steve Addazio believes CSU’s Trey McBride is “the best tight end in the country”

FORT COLLINS — Colorado State football coach Steve Addazio did not hesitate to answer a bold question.

Is senior Trey McBride the best college tight end in the country?

“Yes,” Addazio said. “I don’t say that flippantly. Because he can do it all.”

CSU opened its fall camp Thursday with heightened expectations for Addazio’s first real season after COVID-19 cancellations left the Rams with only four games last year. Few players on the roster command so much attention as McBride — the versatile 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end who returns to Fort Collins for a fourth season.

“When you talk about a complete tight end for the next level, that can get open and catch the ball, that can block people, is physically tough and (football) is their world … that’s the best tight end in the country right there,” Addazio said.

McBride — a Fort Morgan native with a brother, Toby, on the roster — embraces Addazio’s sky-high expectations.

“There are a lot of great tight ends out there. I’ve still got a lot of things to prove,” McBride said. “But I think I can definitely be one of the top tight ends in the country this year. That’s kind of my goal. There are a lot of things that have to fall into place. I’m excited to play this season and see how it goes.”

McBride established himself among the nation’s elite in a breakout sophomore year with 45 catches for 560 yards and four touchdowns. His high production rate continued a season ago with 15 yards per reception.

Addazio is equally impressed with McBride’s physicality and technique as a blocker. However, Addazio said the Rams opened camp on Thursday with a strong emphasis on their passing game. McBride is a big reason why.

“I know (Addazio) wants to throw the ball a little bit more and be explosive,” McBride said.

McBride considered entering the NFL Draft after his junior year but returned to Fort Collins with the desire to improve his stock. He said the next step is knowing “what every single person on the field is doing” alongside starting quarterback Todd Centeio.

“I really respect (Centeio). He’s a hard-working guy. He’s a winner. He loves football. It’s been great,” McBride said. “Every week, he has a bunch of receivers out there throwing with him. … He wants to be the guy. It’s exciting.”

Team vaccination rate. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson announced last month that football games will not be rescheduled and teams will receive a forfeit this season if they are unable to field enough players due to a positive COVID-19 test or subsequent teammate/staff quarantine. That shouldn’t be a problem for CSU.

“We have over 99% of our team vaccinated,” Addazio said on Thursday. “We’re still taking all kinds of safety measures. We’re not taking anything for granted.”

It does not appear that CSU received significant pushback from players on getting the shot.

“I just got vaccinated this last week,” punter Ryan Stonehouse said. “As a team, we’re all kind of together in this. … Which has been good because that can ruin team culture. We are able to have open conversations. The coaching staff hasn’t put any pressure on guys. I think it’s their decision to get a shot so they can go play this season.”

Colorado Rapids trade forward Nicolas Benezet to Seattle Sounders FC

On the same day the Rapids officially said goodbye to defender Sam Vines, the club announced it was trading forward Nicolas Benezet to Seattle Sounders FC.

Colorado will receive $50,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) from Seattle in exchange for the Frenchman, and could acquire an additional $50,000 in GAM if certain conditions are met, according to a team release sent out Thursday afternoon.

“We thank Nico for his contributions to our club and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Rapids general manager Pádraig Smith said in the release.

Benezet, 30, joined the Rapids ahead of the 2020 season, and recorded four assists in 23 appearances.

Earlier in the day, Vines’ long-anticipated transfer to Belgian side Royal Antwerp FC became official. The 22-year-old Colorado Springs native ends his time with the Rapids having appeared in 53 matches since his MLS debut on Oct. 21, 2018, notching two goals and four assists.

Jimmer Fredette added to Nuggets’ Summer League roster, practice resumes Friday after COVID-19 pause

The Nuggets expect to begin their Summer League mini-camp Friday with a roster shakeup following a short COVID-19 pause.

One notable addition: Shooting guard Jimmer Fredette.

The No. 10 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft had a legendary BYU career with seemingly unlimited 3-point range. Fredette averaged 28.9 points his senior season, led the Cougars to a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the Sweet 16.

But Fredette (6-2, 195) never stuck in the NBA. He played six seasons for five teams — Kings, Bulls, Pelicans, Knicks and Suns — before signing a professional basketball contract overseas. He starred last season for the Shanghai Sharks (Chinese Basketball Association) averaging 26.9 points while shooting 39% from behind the arc.

The Nuggets also added Davon Reed to their Summer League roster. The No. 32 overall selection of the 2017 NBA Draft split his first two seasons between the Suns and Pacers. Last year, in the G League, Reed averaged 12.7 points and 6.5 rebounds. He has appeared in 31 career NBA games.

Denver’s first three Summer League practices were canceled due to “health and safety protocols” after a positive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing, a league source confirmed to The Denver Post.

However, the Nuggets are expected to practice Friday in Denver, per a team news release. The Nuggets did not remove any players from their initial Summer League roster to make room for Reed and Fredette. Their first game is Sunday.

K-Mart to join staff. Former Nuggets power forward Kenyon Martin will join the team’s Summer League coaching staff, according to ESPN’s The Undefeated. Martin played seven seasons in Denver (2004-11) with 361 career starts. He was an essential piece of the team’s run to the 2009 Western Conference Finals.

Hyland signed. The Nuggets announced on Thursday they have signed 2021 first-round NBA Draft pick Bones Hyland to a multi-year contract. Denver selected Hyland with the No. 26 overall from VCU. The 6-foot-3 guard is considered an offensive sparkplug after he finished his sophomore year averaging 19.5 points on 37% 3-point shooting. Hyland is expected to participate in Summer League.

Trevor Story blasts two home runs as Rockies clinch series over Cubs

A week ago, Trevor Story was trying, not very successfully, to tune out all of the noise surrounding the trade deadline.

Thursday afternoon at Coors Field, Story was laser-focused on baseball. The Cubs paid the price.

The Rockies’ all-star shortstop hit two home runs and drove in three runs in a 6-5 victory as Colorado clinched the three-game series.

“I think I’m in the right mode,” said Story, who homered at Coors Field for the first time since July 1. “It’s a lot easier to do it now that those (trade rumors) have passed. That’s what it’s all about for me … just playing this game. Because I enjoy it. That’s when I’m at my best.”

Story, who’s hit 15 home runs this season, extended his hitting streak to a season-high eight games. Thursday marked the 17th time in his career that he slugged two homers in a game. His 17 career multi-home run games as a shortstop are the fourth-most in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Alex Rodriguez (31), Cal Ripken Jr. and Nomar Garciaparra (18 each).

Still, Story, who’s hitting just .247, has run hot and cold, but manager Bud Black is hopeful Story is about to hit his stride.

“He’s been just a little bit off this year, as we know, but games like today can get a guy going,” Black said. “We’ve said that a couple of different times, but that homer to right was smoked and that homer to left was clicked pretty good.”

Story believes he’s about to break out.

“I feel good about it and I feel really solid in the box and I’m taking care of pitches I want to take care of,” he said.

The shortstop wasn’t the only one invited to the Coors Field home run party. Connor Joe, who started at first base, led off the second inning with a solo homer off Cubs starter Jake Arrietta, Joe’s third of the season.

Sam Hilliard, who started in right field on a day when veteran Charlie Blackmon got a breather, led off the fourth with a blast that rocketed 465 feet into the second deck in right field, the longest homer of Hilliard’s career.

“For me, it’s a matter of realizing not to try and do too much, and not trying to generate the power,” said Hilliard, who hammered Arrieta’s 1-2, hanging curveball. “Let the pitcher do it. You know, that was a curveball. It’s not like it was a really hard pitch. And it was a two-strike count, but I wasn’t swinging hard. It’s just a matter of connecting. Hit the ball out front — like I did. When I do that, the ball jumps.”

Since returning from the all-star break, the Rockies have hit 28 home runs in 18 games. More encouraging, they’ve launched 18 homers in their last 10 road games. That’s a significant power surge for a team that only a short time ago was on pace to hit the second-fewest homers in franchise history.

Right-hander Antonio Senzatela, making his first big-league start since returning from the COVID injured list, dominated the Cubs for four innings, yielding no runs and only two hits. He fanned six — all in succession — in the third and fourth innings.

But the right-hander crash-landed in the fifth when the Cubs tied the game with four runs on five hits. The big blows were Wilson Contreras’ two-run double off the fence in right-center, followed by Ian Happ’s RBI single to left.

Chicago trimmed the Rockies’ lead to 6-5 in the sixth off right-hander Tyler Kinley. Colorado native David Bote ripped a double off Kinley to open the inning and scored on Frank Schwindel’s bloop single.

But Colorado tied down the victory when Jhoulys Chacin, Carlos Estevez and Daniel Bard combined to pitch four scoreless innings, with Bard setting Chicago down in order in the ninth to record his 17th save.

The Rockies open a three-game series against Miami on Friday at Coors Field.

U.S. automakers pledge huge increase in electric vehicles

WASHINGTON — Declaring the U.S. must “move fast” to win the world’s carmaking future, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a commitment from the auto industry to produce electric vehicles for as much as half of U.S. sales by the end of the decade.

Biden also wants automakers to raise gas mileage and cut tailpipe pollution between now and model year 2026. That would mark a significant step toward meeting his pledge to cut emissions and battle climate change as he pushes a history-making shift in the U.S. from internal combustion engines to battery-powered vehicles.

He urged that the components needed to make that sweeping change — from batteries to semiconductors — be made in the United States, too, aiming for both industry and union support for the environmental effort, with the promise of new jobs and billions in federal electric vehicle investments.

Pointing to electric vehicles parked on the White House South Lawn, the president declared them a “vision of the future that is now beginning to happen.”

“The question is whether we lead or fall behind in the race for the future,” he said, “Folks, the rest of the world is moving ahead. We have to catch up.”

In obvious good spirits, the president hopped into a plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler Rubicon that can run solely on batteries and took a quick spin around the driveway after the ceremony.

Earlier Thursday, the administration announced there would be new mileage and anti-pollution standards from the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department, part of Biden’s goal to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. It said the auto industry had agreed to a target that 40% to 50% of new vehicle sales be electric by 2030.

Both the regulatory standards and the automakers’ voluntary target were included in an executive order that Biden signed as a gathering of auto industry leaders and lawmakers applauded.

The standards, which must go through the regulatory process, would reverse fuel economy and anti-pollution rollbacks done under President Donald Trump. At that time, the mileage increases were reduced to 1.5% annually through model year 2026.

The new standards would cut greenhouse gas emissions and raise fuel economy by 10% over the Trump rules in car model year 2023. They would get 5% stronger in each model year through 2026, according to an EPA statement. That’s about a 25% increase over four years.

The EPA said that by 2026, the proposed standards would be the toughest greenhouse emissions rules in U.S. history.

Still, it remains to be seen how quickly consumers will be willing to embrace higher-mileage, lower-emission vehicles over less fuel-efficient SUVs, currently the industry’s top sellers. The 2030 EV targets ultimately are nonbinding, and the industry stresses that billions of dollars in electric-vehicle investments in legislation pending in Congress will be vital to meeting those goals.

Only 2.2% of new vehicle sales were fully electric vehicles through June, according to Edmunds.com estimates. That’s up from 1.4% at the same time last year.

Biden has long declared himself “a car guy,” his blue collar political persona intertwined with support for union workers and his role, as vice president, in steadying the auto industry after the economic collapse in 2008. He told General Motors CEO Mary Barra that he wanted to reserve a certain test drive.

“I have a commitment from Mary: When they make the first electric Corvette, I get to drive it,” Biden said. “Right, Mary? You think I’m kidding. I’m not kidding.”

Dave Cooke, senor vehicles analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the new rules are close to matching the final year of standards enacted when Barack Obama was president that were rolled back by Trump.

But Cooke said he is concerned that the regulations extend the number of years automakers get double credit toward complying with the standards for every electric vehicle they sell. That allows more emissions from internal combustion vehicles, he said.

Last week, The Associated Press and other news organizations reported that the Biden administration was discussing weaker mileage requirements with automakers, but they since have been strengthened. The change came after environmental groups complained publicly that they were too weak.

Transportation is the single biggest U.S. contributor to climate change.

The deal with automakers defines electric vehicles as plug-in hybrids, fully electric vehicles and those powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Environmental groups welcomed the movement but also said the administration should move faster.

“Given how climate change has already turned our weather so violent, it’s clear that we need to dramatically accelerate progress,” said Simon Mui of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Scientists say human-caused global warming is increasing temperatures, raising sea levels and worsening wildfires, droughts, floods and storms globally.

Several automakers already have announced electric vehicle sales goals similar to those in the deal with the government. Last week Ford’s CEO said his company expects 40% of its global sales to be fully electric by 2030. General Motors has said it aspires to sell only electric passenger vehicles by 2035. Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, also pledged over 40% electrified vehicles by 2030.

The Trump rollback of the Obama-era standards would require the fleet of new vehicles to get a projected 29 mpg in “real world” driving by 2026. Cooke said under the Biden EPA proposal, the mileage should be similar to the 37 mpg that the Obama rules were to achieve.

General Motors, Stellantis and Ford said in a joint statement that their recent electric-vehicle commitments show they want to lead the U.S. in the transition from combustion vehicles.

They said such a “dramatic shift” from the U.S. market today can only happen with policies that include incentives for electric vehicle purchases, adequate government funding for charging stations and money to expand electric vehicle manufacturing and the parts supply chain.

The United Auto Workers union, which has voiced concerns about being too hasty with an EV transition because of the potential impact on industry jobs, did not commit to endorsing the 40% to 50% EV target. But UAW said it stands behind the president to ”support his ambition not just to grow electric vehicles but also our capacity to produce them domestically with good wages and benefits.”

Biden on Thursday repeatedly extolled the virtues of American union workers and said that the challenges of climate change could present an opportunity for “good paying union jobs.”

Under a shift from internal combustion to electric power, jobs that now involve making pistons, fuel injectors and mufflers will be supplanted by the assembly of lithium-ion battery packs, electric motors and heavy-duty wiring harnesses.

Many of those components are now built overseas, including in China. Biden has made the development of a U.S. electric vehicle supply chain a key part of his plan to create more auto industry jobs.

In a bipartisan infrastructure bill awaiting Senate passage, there is $7.5 billion for grants to build charging stations, about half of what Biden originally proposed. He wanted $15 billion for 500,000 stations, plus money for tax credits and rebates to entice people into buying electric vehicles.

Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press writers Hope Yen, Jonathan Lemire and Seth Borenstein contributed from Washington.

Richard Trumka, longtime president of AFL-CIO, dies at 72

By BRIAN SLODYSKO and THOMAS BEAUMONT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Richard Trumka, the powerful president of the AFL-CIO who rose from the coal mines of Pennsylvania to preside over one of the largest labor organizations in the world, died Thursday. He was 72.

The federation confirmed Trumka’s death in a statement. He had been AFL-CIO president since 2009, after serving as the organization’s secretary-treasurer for 14 years. From his perch, he oversaw a federation with more than 12.5 million members and ushered in a more aggressive style of leadership.

“The labor movement, the AFL-CIO and the nation lost a legend today,” the AFL-CIO said. “Rich Trumka devoted his life to working people, from his early days as president of the United Mine Workers of America to his unparalleled leadership as the voice of America’s labor movement.”

President Joe Biden eulogized Trumka from the White House and said the labor leader had died of a heart attack while on a camping trip with his son and grandkids. He said he spoke with Trumka’s widow and son earlier in the day.

“He wasn’t just a great labor leader. He was a friend,“ Biden told reporters Thursday. “He was someone I could confide in, and you knew, whatever he said he would do, he would do.”

A burly man with thick eyebrows and a bushy mustache, Trumka was the son and grandson of coal miners. He was born in 1949 in the small southwest Pennsylvania town of Nemacolin and worked for seven years in the mines before earning an accounting degree from Penn State and then a law degree from Villanova University.

Trumka was tough and combative, a throwback to an old guard of union leaders from the labor movement’s heyday. But he rose in a distinctly different era, as union membership declined and labor struggled to retain political power. He often focused on making the case for unions to the white, blue-collar workers who had turned away from Democrats — and speaking bluntly to them.

Trumka met with President Donald Trump on trade and health care issues, but their relationship remained contentious. He called Trump a “fraud” who had deceived the working class. Trump criticized Trumka as ineffectual. “No wonder unions are losing so much,” Trump tweeted in 2019.

At times, Trumka challenged blue-collar workers to confront their own prejudices, including a forceful denunciation of racism in the union ranks during Barack Obama’s first campaign for the White House.

“We can’t tap dance around the fact that there’s a lot of white folks out there … and a lot of them are good union people, they just can’t get past this idea that there’s something wrong with voting for a Black man,” he said during an impassioned 2008 speech.

Until his death, he used his power to push for health care legislation, expanded workers rights and infrastructure spending.

Trumka was focused on the future, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said, in the form of the proposed $1 trillion infrastructure bill that he believed would propel organized labor forward.

“He saw that if we were using the breadth and power of the labor movement and training it on a single goal that no one could stop us,” Shuler said.

Larry Cohen, a longtime labor activist and former president of the Communications Workers of America, said Trumka’s death was a “devastating” loss for labor, in part because of his long-standing relationship with Biden.

“His ability to talk to the president of the United States will be very hard to replace. It’s a long history, based on personal trust. It’s remarkable,” said Cohen, who had known Trumka since the early 1980s.

Trumka burst into national union politics as a youthful 33-year-old lawyer when he became the United Mine Workers of America’s president in 1982. Pledging the economically troubled union “shall rise again,” Trumka beat sitting president Sam Church by a 2-to-1 margin and would serve in the role until he became the AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer in 1995.

There, he led a successful strike against the Pittston Coal Company, which tried to avoid paying into an industrywide health and pension fund.

“I’d like to retire at this job,” Trumka said in 1987. “If I could write my job description for the rest of my life, this would be it.”

At age 43, Trumka led a nationwide strike against Peabody Coal in 1993. During the walk-off, he stirred controversy.

Asked about the possibility the company would hire permanent replacement workers, Trumka told The Associated Press, “I’m saying if you strike a match and you put your finger on it, you’re likely to get burned.” Trumka insisted he wasn’t threatening violence against the replacements. “Do I want it to happen? Absolutely not. Do I think it can happen? Yes, I think it can happen,” he said.

As AFL-CIO president, he vowed to revive unions’ sagging membership rolls and pledged to make the labor movement appeal to a new generation of workers who perceive unions as “only a grainy, faded picture from another time.”

“We need a unionism that makes sense to the next generation of young women and men who either don’t have the money to go to college or are almost penniless by the time they come out,” Trumka told hundreds of cheering delegates in a speech at the federation’s annual convention in 2009.

That year, he was also a leading proponent during the health care debate for including a public, government-run insurance option, and he threatened Democrats who opposed one.

“We need to be a labor movement that stands by our friends, punishes its enemies and challenges those who, well, can’t seem to decide which side they’re on,” he said.

During the 2011 debate over public employee union rights in GOP-controlled statehouses, Trumka said the angry protests it sparked were overdue.

Trumka said he hoped then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s bill to strip public employee unions of their bargaining power could renew support for unions after decades of decline. The move drew thousands of protesters to the Capitol in Madison.

Whether he meant to or not, Trumka said, Walker started a national debate about collective bargaining “that this country sorely needed to have.”

Remembrances poured in Thursday from Trumka’s Democratic allies in Washington.

“The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior at a time when we needed him most,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in announcing Trumka’s death from the Senate floor.

“Richard Trumka dedicated his life to the labor movement and the right to organize,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, perhaps Trumka’s closest ally during Obama’s presidency, remembered Trumka as the “son and grandson of a miner,” who brought that family history to the halls of power in Washington.

“You know, Rich had a view of the White House from his office,” Perez said, recalling that Trumka displayed one of father’s mining helmets in his office. “His father and grandfather never could have imagined their son and grandson ascending to such a high level. But what they’d be even more proud of is that he didn’t allow it to go to his head. He never forgot his roots.”

___

Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. Associated Press writer Bill Barrow contributed to this report from Atlanta.

___

This story has been corrected to show that Nemacolin is in southwest Pennsylvania, not southeast.

U.S. Women’s Basketball Team Advances to Gold Medal Game After Trouncing Serbia

(SAITAMA, Japan) — Soon after the U.S. women finished off Serbia to reach the Olympic gold medal game, members of the Japanese military honor guard started practicing for the medal ceremony.

The U.S. already knows that drill.

Brittney Griner had 15 points and 12 rebounds to help the Americans beat the Serbians 79-59 on Friday to advance to title game.

“This is exactly where we want to be,” said Breanna Stewart, who also had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. “Everything is on the line. We’re going to do what we can to make sure we come home with a gold.”
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The Americans are now one win away from a seventh consecutive gold medal which would match the U.S. men’s team that won seven Olympic titles in a row from 1936-68.

It would also give Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi five gold medals — the most ever by a basketball player in the Olympics. The Americans will face either Japan or France on Sunday.

“I think everybody here wants to win gold for them, for us, for everybody that’s started this streak that got us here,” Griner said. “You know there’s a lot of different reasons why we want to win this gold medal. So I think you’re going to see some really good basketball in the gold medal game.”

The U.S. got a scare when Taurasi, grimacing and appearing to rub her left hip after collision, left the game midway through the third quarter. U.S. trainer Ed Ryan was talking with Taurasi when she went to the bench and she didn’t return. Taurasi missed the three exhibition games in Las Vegas with a hip pointer but appeared to moving without any issues during timeouts.

“Yeah, I’ve been battling this hip thing for a little bit so it’s just a little bothersome,” Taurasi said. “It’s fine.”

The U.S., which beat both France and Japan in pool play, has won 54 consecutive Olympic games now dating back to the semifinals of the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The Americans got off to another strong start for the second straight game. Trailing 4-3, they methodically went on a 20-4 run to take control with a berth in the gold medal game on the line. Griner had four points on one possession. She hit two free throws after a foul was upgraded to unsportsmanlike and then scored cutting to the basket on a pin-point pass from Stewart and the Americans led 25-12 after one.

Neither team could really get much going for the first few minutes of the second quarter as there were more missed shots and turnovers than points. Serbia cut the deficit to nine points behind Yvonne Anderson, who played at Texas and became a Serbian naturalized citizen last year to play in the Olympics. She finished with a team-high 15 points.

The U.S. scored the next nine points, a run started by A’ja Wilson’s three-point play and led 41-23 at the half. The lead ballooned to 23 points in the third quarter before the Serbia reserves started pressing and cut the deficit to 14 late in the period. The Americans scored the final five points to put the game away.

Serbia rested its starters for most of the second half with the bronze medal game roughly 24 hours away. The country won the bronze in the 2016 Rio Games.

“When you have one last chance to get a medal, it’s definitely who will want it more, who will be more hungry,” Serbia coach Marina Maljkovic said.

Serbia didn’t get a chance to warm up until 25 minutes before the game because traffic delayed the team’s arrival and the NBC Spydercam that hovers above the court had a cable break about 40 minutes before tip.

“It definitely was untimely to have these issues,” said Anderson. “What can you do? We’re an hour away and hit traffic. We tried to come out and there were camera issues. In the end you have to take what you’re given. We already faced an uphill battle.”

Serbia shot just 30% from the field — including missing 15 of its 19 3-point attempts.

Americans April Ross and Alix Klineman Win Gold in Women’s Beach Volleyball After Beating Australia

(TOKYO) — April Ross now has the complete set of Olympic beach volleyball medals: silver in London, bronze in Rio de Janeiro and a gold she won with Alix Klineman at the Tokyo Games on Friday with a victory over Australia.

The Americans beat Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy of Australia 21-15, 21-16 under a blazing sun in a match that was mercifully quick for the biggest crowd yet at Shiokaze Park — about 60 people in the temporary stadium that seats 9,600.

Playing in 92-degree Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) temperatures under the hot Tokyo sun, the Americans finished off the Aussies in 43 minutes. In the bronze medal match earlier Friday, Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland cruised to a straight-set victory over Latvia.
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The silver for Australia was its first beach volleyball medal since Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst took gold on Bondi Beach in 2000. But they were never really close against the Americans, who tied for the top spot in the Olympic qualification points race and lost just one set in seven matches in Tokyo.

With side changes every seven points and technical timeouts every 14, the players retreated to benches, where an awning was rolled up over their heads for shade. A towel covered the seat so they wouldn’t stick to the hot cushion; support staff put icepacks on their heads, or wrapped them in wet towels.

And then there was hydration. So much hydration.

Klineman, a first-time Olympian, and Ross, who has three medals in as many trips to the Summer Games, needed just 20 minutes to claim the first set. They fell behind 2-0 in the second before scoring 10 straight points to pull away.

That silenced the chants of “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” from the Australians in their bright yellow shirts and brought out the cheers of “U-S-A!” from those in the red, white and blue. Australia survived three championship points before Artacho del Solar served into the net to seal the U.S. victory.

After a long hug, Klineman went to the bench to douse herself in water, then the pair went over to the stands and posed with an American flag.

The Swiss cruised to a straight-set victory over Latvia to claim the first Olympic medal ever for their country’s women on the beach. They edged Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka 21-19 in the first set before opening a 5-1 lead in the second and pulling away to win 21-15.

Graudina was the first person to make the Olympics after coming up through an NCAA beach volleyball program that started in 2012. She played at Southern California, where she was the 2019 national player of the year and led the Trojans to the 2021 national championship.

Tom Daley Has Unveiled His Olympic Knitting Masterpiece

Tom Daley has been making a name for himself at the Tokyo Olympic Games on and off the diving board.

The British diver, who has been competing in the Olympics since he was 14 years old, won a gold medal last week in synchronized 10-m platform diving alongside his diving partner, Matty Lee. Daley, though, has stayed in the headlines thanks to what he calls “his secret weapon”—his knitting skills.

Daley went viral when he was spotted knitting while cheering on the divers at the women’s 3-meter springboard final. It was such an unexpected sight that the BBC’s sports commentators mentioned it on air during their coverage of the diving competition. “What do you reckon he’s crafting there?” asked BBC commentator Katherine Downes. “I wonder who he’s making that purple concoction for?” It even made it to Team Great Britain’s official Twitter page. (Daley later reported that he was making a sweater for his friend’s French bulldog.)
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Since then Daley’s knitting has been newsworthy—especially when he posted the medal cozy he made to keep his gold medal safe from scratches on his knitting Instagram account, @madewithlovebytomdaley. Now, Daley has unveiled his masterpiece, a Team Great Britain cardigan with the Olympic rings emblazoned on the back, sharing the image of the incredibly complex craft project on his social media.

“When I got to Tokyo, I wanted to make something that would remind me of the Olympics to look back on in the future,” he captioned the photo. “I designed a pattern for the colour work that would signify everything about these games! On the back I went for classic @teamgb logo, the shoulders have a flag and GBR on them. For the front I wanted to keep it simple and I tried my best to embroider TOKYO in Japanese!” The end result is a downright stunning hand-knit cardigan, sure to impress even the most prolific amateur knitters.

While he has the world’s attention, Daley decided to use his platform for good. “Since my knitting page is gaining momentum, I wanted to take the opportunity to try and raise some money for the @thebraintumourcharity in memory of my Dad!,” he wrote. “Any donations would be greatly appreciated.” Daley’s father, Robert Daley, died in 2011 after a battle with brain cancer.

Read more about the Tokyo Olympics: