Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson officially landed on injured reserve following finger surgery last week, the NFL franchise announced on Friday.

Wilson injured his right middle finger in the loss to the Los Angeles Rams on October 7 before undergoing surgery.

His10-year run of starts is the sixth longest by any quarterback in NFL history, and the longest of any active QB, but Wilson will now miss the first game of his illustrious career, which has yielded a Super Bowl title.

The eight-time Pro Bowler will sit out at least three games before the 32-year-old is eligible to come off IR.

Seahawks running back Chris Carson (neck) is also on injured reserve ahead of Sunday's clash with the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite throwing two interceptions against the Rams, Seattle's three turnovers this season are their fewest through five games in franchise history, according to Stats Perform.

Geno Smith, projected to start for the injured Wilson, has a career interception rate of 4.0, the highest among active QBs with 500 career pass attempts.

DK Metcalf caught the Seahawks' only two touchdowns in the defeat to the Rams, bringing his career total to 25 receiving touchdowns in 40 NFL games (regular and postseason).

Only three other active players had as many or more TD catches after playing 40 NFL games. Odell Beckham Jr. had 34, Rob Gronkowski had 33 and Julio Jones also had 25 (regular and postseason).

Keith Mitchell built a commanding five-shot lead entering the weekend following another impressive round at The CJ Cup.

Mitchell carded an eight-par-under 64 to soar to the top of the leaderboard after the second round in Nevada on Friday.

The one-time PGA Tour champion dazzled with a first-round 62 and the American backed that up by holing an eagle, seven birdies and just one bogey.

Mitchell is the player to beat at the halfway stage after setting a new tournament 36-hole record at 18 under.

"I spent a lot of time in the last few days leading up to this tournament working hard on my game and it's showing," said Mitchell, whose lone victory came at the 2019 Honda Classic.

"I'm very thankful for that. Just shows you that hard work pays off as long as you're doing the right things."

Former world number one Jordan Spieth (65), Kim Seong-hyeon (63), Harry Higgs (67) and Adam Scott (63) are Mitchell's nearest challengers at 13 under heading into Saturday's penultimate round.

Spieth made his move late in the day with four birdies in five holes to earn a share of second position, while another former world number one – Scott – enjoyed a red-hot finish to his day after going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-par-birdie-eagle in his last seven holes.

Scott's second round included a career-high 14 one putts, having played the final seven holes eight under – his best seven-hole stretch to close a round on Tour.

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy (67) shot his second round in the 60s to move into a tie for 19th position, nine shots behind Mitchell – alongside Abraham Ancer, who made an albatross on the par-five 14th hole, while Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama (70) and two-time CJ Cup champion Justin Thomas (67) are a stroke further back.

American star Brooks Koepka lost ground following his two-under-par 70 which left him seven under, while Dustin Johnson bounced back from his opening-round 74 with a 66.

The unbeaten Arizona Cardinals will be without head coach Kliff Kingsbury on Sunday after he tested positive for coronavirus.

Arizona announced on Friday that Kingsbury had contracted COVID-19, ruling him out of the NFL clash with the Cleveland Browns.

Cardinals quarterbacks coach Cam Turner and defensive tackle Zach Allen will also be sidelined against the Browns following positive tests.

Defensive co-ordinator Vance Joseph and assistant head coach/special teams co-ordinator Jeff Rodgers will share head coach responsibilities in Kingsbury's absence.

The Cardinals lead the NFC West and are the NFL's lone undefeated team at 5-0 as they look to stay perfect this week.

This is the fifth time the Cardinals – an original NFL franchise – have won their first five games but first time since moving to Arizona. They did it twice as the Chicago Cardinals (1922 and 1923) and twice as the St Louis Cardinals (1966 and 1974), per Stats Perform.

Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray has attempted at least 30 passes and completed more than 70 per cent of them in each of his last four games – that matches the longest such streak by a Cardinals player over the last 60 seasons. Kurt Warner had a four-game streak of that kind in 2008.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev both crashed out in the quarter-finals on a day of upsets at the Indian Wells Masters.

Tsitsipas – the second seed – suffered a shock defeat to Nikoloz Basilashvili in a memorable outing for the Georgian in the Californian desert on Friday.

Afterwards, third seed Zverev was upstaged by Taylor Fritz in another boilover at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament.

 

BASILASHVILI BANISHES STEFANOS FOR MAIDEN MASTERS SF

In the biggest win of his career, 29th seed Basilashvili conquered French Open runner-up Tsitsipas 6-4 2-6 6-4.

Basilashvili's powerful groundstrokes from the baseline troubled Tsitsipas throughout as he reached his first Masters 1000 semi-final.

Prior to this year, Basilashvili had never won a main-draw match at Indian Wells in four previous appearances.

"I have played really great matches this tournament," said Basilashvili, who is the first Georgian in a Masters 1000 semi-final since Irakli Labadze in 2004. "I was not that happy with how I played today but I was happy with how I managed my stress levels.

"First time in the quarter-finals and it is a big court and Stefanos is a super tough player. I had to keep my physical levels and energy levels in a really good shape because I knew mentally I would be a little bit tight and stressed."

 

FRITZ SAVES MATCH POINTS TO UPSET ZVEREV

Next up for Basilashvili is 31st seed Fritz, who fended off two match points to surprise Olympic Games gold medallist Zverev 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3).

Fritz dropped the opening set and rallied from 5-2 down in the decider as he earned his second top-five victory of his career en route to his first Masters 1000 semi-final.

"I was really down and out but I found a way to put myself into it," Fritz said in his on-court interview. "I really wanted to make him have to close me out and I was able to get back into the match.

"Normally you would be so nervous in those situations and in the third set tie-break, but I felt so confident being aggressive, going after my game. It feels really great to play well with the pressure on."

It is the second Masters 1000 tournament of the season to feature three players in their first semi-final – Basilashvili, Fritz and Cameron Norrie – after the Miami Open.

A record-breaking 23 races have been confirmed for the 2022 Formula One season, with Miami included for the first time.

Due to the 2022 World Cup taking place in Qatar next November and December, the FIA's World Motor Sport Council has approved a truncated 36-week season that will run from March 20 until November 20.

The first race will be in Bahrain, with the season drawing to a close in Abu Dhabi.

It is a programme that could present a gruelling test for teams, who have already been stretched in a 22-race 2021 season that does not conclude until December.

Further complicating matters is the presence of two triple-headers. The first takes in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, and the second presents a much sterner challenge, incorporating races in Russia, Singapore and Japan. 

Due to ongoing coronavirus travel restrictions, there will be no Chinese Grand Prix once again, with Imola replacing it on the schedule.

The Miami Grand Prix is a new addition altogether, meaning the United States will host two races, while Australia, Japan, Canada and Singapore are all set to return after missing the last two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It remains to be seen if there will be a new defending champion for next year, with Max Verstappen leading Lewis Hamilton by six points heading into the final stages of 2021.

Romain Langasque sits top of the Andalucia Masters leaderboard heading into the weekend after a solid opening two days, while world number one Jon Rahm missed the cut.

The Real Club Valderrama lived up to its infamous reputation as an often-gruelling course a day earlier, with numerous players highlighting the difficulty posed by the windy conditions.

Few struggled like Rahm on home soil as the Spaniard carded a seven-over 78 on what was the worst European Tour round of his career, leaving him 11 shots adrift of overnight leader Julien Guerrier, who was one clear of recent Open de Espana champion Rafa Cabrera Bello on three under.

It was all change for Guerrier and Cabrera Bello on Friday, though, as they went two and three over par respectively for the round.

Rahm dropped three more shots to leave him 10 over for the tournament and heading home early.

Matt Fitzpatrick looked to have stormed to the front of the pack and held the lead before the 18th, but like Guerrier before him, he closed with a double bogey that left him as one of four on three under for the week alongside Laurie Canter, Ryan Fox and Sebastian Soderberg.

Canter was the star of the show, however, enjoying the round of the tournament so far.

His six-under 65 on Friday, which was two shots better than anyone managed the previous day, might have been even better had he avoided a bogey on the 16th.

"The perfectionist in me would like to have played the final three holes better, it sort of took me out of the flow I was in to be honest," he told the European Tour after.

"But up until then it was probably the best 15 holes of golf I've played on tour. I've had lower scores, but in terms of control of the golf ball on a difficult course and quite challenging conditions, certainly on the front nine, it was really, really good.

"On the front nine, I really didn't miss a shot. A couple of holes we deliberately played away from, trying to hit it to 20-25 feet.

"I think the pins were more generous than yesterday, but even so I was obviously delighted to go out in five under, which is great around here."

But it is Langasque who takes a slender one-shot lead into Saturday, with his four-under score for the tournament coming from two rounds of 69, the latest of which including just one bogey and 15 pars as his consistency on the day paid dividends.

On the list of teams built to potentially end the Arizona Cardinals' unbeaten start to the season, the Cleveland Browns are near the top.

However, the Browns are tasked with dealing the Cardinals their first loss of the season without their best offensive player, with running back Nick Chubb ruled out because of a calf injury.

That blow robs the Browns of a runner who is second only to Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys (6.37) in yards per attempt among running backs with 5.81 and is also second with 14 runs of 10 yards or more through five games of the 2021 campaign.

Second to Pollard (4.56) among backs with at least 10 attempts in yards per carry on plays where a defender disrupts the run, Chubb (4.21) stands as arguably the elite running back in the NFL, his remarkable blend of vision, elusiveness, power and speed helping establish him as the focal point of Cleveland's attack.

Yet they may still be able to succeed against the Cardinals' defense without Chubb in their backfield.

While the Cardinals have done an excellent job keeping opponents out of the endzone – their 82 offensive points allowed are the third-fewest in the league – they have struggled to contain opposing running backs.

Arizona's defense has allowed an opponent rushing average of 5.39 yards per carry; only the Los Angeles Chargers (5.59) have performed worse in that regard.

And the Browns do have an extremely reliable reserve to call upon to take advantage of that weakness.

Kareem Hunt is averaging 5.36 yards per carry and, reflecting his ability to stay on his feet through attempted tackles, leads all backs with at least 10 carries with 3.10 yards after contact per rush.

Cleveland's success on the ground is a testament to the strength of their offensive line.

Every member of the Browns' starting offensive line has a double-team adjusted run-block win rate of at least 79 per cent, though tackles Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin are both questionable for Sunday.

Conversely, only three members of Arizona's defensive front have a double-team adjusted run defense win rate above 30 per cent.

In other words, the Browns have a clear matchup advantage in the run game and, even without Chubb, have a back with the ability to exploit it.

Cleveland's run game made a huge contribution to them scoring 42 points in a losing effort against the Chargers last week. With MVP candidate Kyler Murray helming an often explosive offense, they may need a similar showing this week to improve to 4-2. Thankfully, Hunt is more than capable of delivering such a performance. 

The Philadelphia Eagles have traded three-time Pro Bowler Zach Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals.

The 30-year-old tight end forged what the team described as a "special legacy" in an eight-year spell in Pennsylvania that included winning Super Bowl LII.

Ertz joined the Cardinals in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick in 2022 and rookie cornerback Tay Gowan, it was confirmed on Friday.

Ertz's defining moment for the Eagles came in the Super Bowl defeat of the New England Patriots three years ago, his 11-yard catch and drive for the end zone late in the fourth quarter helping to secure a 41-33 victory.

A second-round pick in 2013, Ertz made an NFL-record 116 receptions in 2018 and is second only to Harold Carmichael for catches in Eagles history, making 579 in the regular season and 33 in the playoffs.

He signed off in style on Thursday, scoring a touchdown in the 28-22 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lincoln Financial Field in what proved to be his final appearance for the franchise.

"Zach Ertz built a special legacy in Philadelphia," said chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie. "Talented, tough, and passionate, he helped to establish our team's culture and played a vital role in our success over the years.

"Zach created so many memories that will live on forever, from setting numerous franchise and league records, to reaching across the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in our first-ever Super Bowl Championship. He will always be a member of the Eagles family, not only because of what he accomplished on the field, but also because of the wonderful person, dedicated leader, and exemplary role model that he was for nine seasons in Philadelphia. We wish Zach and [wife] Julie nothing but the best."

The Cardinals, top of the NFC West after a 5-0 start, welcomed Ertz as a "talented replacement" for Maxx Williams, who is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

The Green Bay Packers head into Week 6 on the back of a remarkable overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last time out.

Mason Crosby was the hero with a match-winning field goal, though his successful punt came on the back of three misses, not to mention the Bengals' Evan McPherson twice clipping the post with efforts in both regulation time and overtime.

The win took the Packers to 4-1 for the season, and next up are old rivals the Chicago Bears on Sunday. 

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens (also 4-1) will look to build on their Lamar Jackson-inspired comeback against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday by beating the similarly in-form Los Angeles Chargers, and the Arizona Cardinals will look to continue their perfect start to the season as they travel to Cleveland.

 

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

One of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL rears its head in Week 6, with Green Bay travelling to Chicago. The foes share 22 championship titles between them, and this divisional contest in the NFC North is sure to serve up a treat.

The Packers are 21-5 in regular-season games against the Bears since 2008, when Aaron Rodgers became Green Bay's starting quarterback - indeed, Rodgers has started 25 of those meetings and is 11-2 in the 13 games he has started against Chicago since 2014, throwing 33 touchdown passes and no interceptions in 11 wins. There are three other matchups in which one team has beaten the other 21 times since 2008: Baltimore over the Cleveland Browns (22-4) and the New England Patriots over the New York Jets (22-5) and the Buffalo Bills (21-5).

This is the Packers' first road game against a division rival this season. Green Bay won all three of their away games against NFC North rivals in each of the past two campaigns.

Chicago are 3-2 for the season, though they have a league-low 728 passing yards. The Saints, with 904, are the only other team below 1000. If the Bears are to get anything from this game, they may well rely on the defensive prowess of Khalil Mack, who led the team with seven tackles in Week 5's 20-6 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Rodgers will be looking to pick out Davante Adams, meanwhile. He caught 11 passes for 206 yards in the win in Cincinnati. It was the third time since 1997 that a Packers player had 200 or more receiving yards in one game. 

Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens

This will be the first meeting between the Chargers and Ravens since the 2018 Wild Card round – Los Angeles claiming a 23-17 win on that occasion.

The Ravens are 3-1 in the regular season at home against the Chargers, though the last three games have been decided by seven points total. Baltimore go into the game on the back of a brilliant comeback win over the Colts. They trailed by 19 points with less than one minute remaining in the third quarter but came back to win 31-25 in overtime - their largest second-half comeback victory in franchise history.

Quarterback Jackson threw for 335 of his 442 passing yards in the second half and overtime, while completing 90.6 per cent of his passes (29/32). Over the last 30 seasons, there have been 635 quarterbacks to attempt at least 30 passes in the second half/OT of a game – he is the only one with a completion percentage over 90 per cent.

Los Angeles QB Justin Herbert, meanwhile, accounted for five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) along with 427 total yards in just his 20th career start in the Chargers' 47-42 win in Cleveland. For any quarterback in his first 20 career starts, Herbert ranks first in completions (535), second in pass yards (5912) and third in total touchdowns (50).

Arizona Cardinals @ Cleveland Browns

The Cardinals' dream start to the season continued with a 17-10 triumph over the San Francisco 49ers. Arizona is the only unbeaten team in the NFL. This is the fifth time the Cardinals, an original NFL franchise, have won their first five games but first time since moving from St. Louis in 1988.

Arizona have won their last four games against the Browns, dating back to 2007. Before this streak, they had never won more than two consecutive games versus Cleveland. The Browns lead the all-time series, 33 wins to 15, with three ties.

The Browns, however, have won their last six games against NFC teams, including wins against the Bears and Vikings this season. Cleveland’s last loss against an NFC opponent was to the Cardinals in Arizona in 2019 (38-24).

Cleveland's Nick Chubb has 4080 yards rushing in his 49-game NFL career, and will likely become the third active player who had at least 4000 rushing yards through his first 50 games in the NFL, joining Ezekiel Elliott (4881) and Le'Veon Bell (4225).

Elsewhere...

The Patriots have endured a difficult start for the season, going 2-3 through the opening five games. The 4-1 Cowboys are next up, though New England have history on their side, having won six straight games against Dallas, a run dating back to 1998.

London calls for the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars, as the Florida rivals go head-to-head at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Jaguars' 37-19 loss at home to the Tennessee Titans last week extended their losing streak to 20 games. It is just the second 20-game losing streak in NFL history (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 26 straight between 1976 and 1977).

It has been a difficult week for the Raiders, whose coach Jon Gruden resigned due to the emergence of offensive emails. Las Vegas take on the Denver Broncos, who they have more wins against than any other opponent in their history.

Cincinnati will look to bounce back from their defeat to the Packers when they take on Detroit. They have won six consecutive games against the Lions, going back to 1998, and a win on Sunday would see the Bengals equal a team record for the most successive victories against a single opponent, matching seven-game streaks against the Houston Oilers (1981- 1984) and the Browns (2014-2017).

Kevin Durant is confident a resolution can be found amid Kyrie Irving's refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19 that is preventing him practising or playing with the Brooklyn Nets.

New York City has a mandate in place, which states NBA players must have had a jab to protect against coronavirus.

Irving stated this week he is neither pro nor anti-vaccination and has respect for both sides of the argument, but as yet he has not had at least one shot, which is the minimum required for him to play home games at the Barclays Center and in fixtures at Madison Square Garden where the New York Knicks play.

The Nets decided Irving will have no involvement with the team until he complies with the rules, but Durant – who joined alongside his team-mate as a free agent in 2019 – is optimistic a resolution will be found.

Speaking after the Nets completed their pre-season duties with a 107-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Durant said: "I definitely want Kyrie to be around.

"I wish none of this stuff would happen, but this is the situation that we are in. Kyrie made his decision on what he wanted to do and he chose to do what he wanted to do, and the team did the same.

"It's on me to just focus on me, and do my job, and let those two parties handle that situation. I want our whole team together, and I want us to be at full strength, but sometimes it don't work out that way. But I am still positive that things will work out the best for both parties."

Durant is not upset over Irving's decision, though he acknowledged the situation is not ideal for a star-studded Nets team with championship aspirations.

"We still get to do [what] we love to do every day. This is not the ideal situation coming into the season but some of this, it's out of our control," he added.

"So, what we can do is come in and focus on our jobs every single day. What is being mad going to do?

"We are not going to change his mind, know what I'm saying? We'll let him figure out what he needs to do and the team figure out what they need to do.

"I can't be too mad at somebody making a decision for themselves.

"Who am I to get upset at that? Just focus on what we got in this locker room. When [Irving] is ready, I am sure he will talk to [team owner] Joe [Tsai] and [general manager] Sean [Marks] and they'll figure it out and they'll tell us. Until then we are going to keep grinding."

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says Max Scherzer was his "ace in the hole" after using him in the ninth inning for his first career save in Thursday's 2-1 series-deciding win over the San Francisco Giants.

Scherzer slammed the door on the Giants to clinch a 3-2 National League Division Series victory for the Dodgers after Cody Bellinger's RBI single for Justin Turner to score the go-ahead run in the ninth inning.

The 37-year-old right-hander, who had started Game 3 for 10 strikeouts across seven innings, was handed the ball to save the game on this occasion after warming up in the bullpen. It was Scherzer's first career save in his 432nd appearance.

"It was seeing the flow and how the game was going to play out, knowing we have an ace in the hole and trying to find the ultimate leverage spot to use him," Roberts told reporters after the game. "How the game played out, it made a lot of sense."

Roberts had used five pitchers before Scherzer's introduction, starting Corey Knebel before Julio Urias took over in the third inning, tossing down five strikeouts across four innings.

The game was tied at 1-1 leading into the ninth inning when Bellinger, who has had a season to forget, drove in Turner.

Bellinger, the 2019 National League MVP, hit at .165 with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs during the regular season, but he has batted at .294 with three RBIs in the postseason.

"Even for me, it's like going into that at-bat prior where he punched, he saw close to 10 punches, he grinded and competed, that last at-bat there was fight in there," Roberts said about Bellinger.

"It wasn't about mechanics, it was about a fight. It was me versus you. Cody versus [Giants pitcher] Camilo Doval.

"He got a huge hit. Like I said, Cody has grown a lot from adversity. For him to come up with the big hit, I'm very happy for him."

The result means the Dodgers have reached the National League Championship Series, where they will face the Atlanta Braves. The Dodgers are through to this stage for the fifth time in six seasons.

LA had to overcome the Giants, who boasted the best majors regular season record at 107-55, but Roberts said they were not content with that.

"I think what great ball clubs have the ability to do, is understand the gravity of a moment and a series in this case," he said. "Give everything you have to that series, which we did.

"It was a huge series but we also understand our job is not done. Now our focus turns to the Braves."

Tom Brady had no problem with his thumb as the superstar quarterback guided the Tampa Bay Buccaneers past the Philadelphia Eagles 28-22 on Thursday.

All eyes had been on Brady pre-game after the seven-time Super Bowl champion hurt his thumb in last week's rout of the Miami Dolphins.

But Brady looked fine on the road in Philadelphia, where the 44-year-old threw two touchdowns as NFL champions the Buccaneers held off the fast-finishing Eagles.

"I feel great, awesome," said Brady, who finished 34 for 42 for 297 yards, two touchdowns and an interception without being sacked.

"It's football season, so I'm just prepared to play football. I feel great, I really do."

It was Brady's 10th career win on three days' rest, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Peyton Manning for the most by any quarterback since the 1970 merger.

Brady's performance helped the Buccaneers – who lost Richard Sherman to injury in the opening half having played without Rob Gronkowski – win their third straight game as they improved to 5-1 for the season.

It marked just the fifth time in franchise history the Buccaneers have won five of their first six games. In each of the other four – including the 2002 Super Bowl campaign – they went on to make the playoffs.

The Buccaneers had to withstand a rally from the Eagles, who were 28-7 down before fighting back to close within six points of the visitors.

"It was a good win. You know, it's tough to win on the road. Obviously, we didn't play our best, so we gotta get back to work," Brady said.

"We gotta good little break here, use it and get back to work, see if we can get better."

World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their spot in the National League Championship Series (NLCS) for the fifth time in six seasons after a 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants in the winner-takes-all showdown.

The Giants suffered ninth-inning heartbreak in Game 5 of the Division Series decider after Cody Bellinger drove in the go-ahead run, while the MLB playoff concluded in contentious fashion on Thursday.

Dodgers ace Max Scherzer – in his 432nd career appearance – got his first professional save for the Dodgers after former NL MVP Bellinger continued his bright postseason by driving in Justin Turner for the decisive run in the ninth.

The Dodgers, who became the first team in MLB playoff history to have their relievers pitch 8.0-plus innings with 12 or more strikeouts and no walks in a game, will now face the Atlanta Braves in the best-of-seven NLCS, starting on Saturday.

After five scoreless innings, the game came to life in the sixth with Corey Seager landing an RBI double from starting pitcher Logan Webb to drive Mookie Betts home to give the Dodgers the lead.

Betts finished the game with four hits, becoming the first player in Dodgers history to achieve the feat in a winner-takes-all playoff contest.

But the Giants responded immediately with Darin Ruf crushing a solo homer to level the game up at the bottom of the sixth inning.

Giants ace Webb finished with seven strikeouts across seven innings, while Julio Urias came on in the third inning, tossing down five K's across four innings.

At the top of the ninth inning with two runners on, Bellinger hit Camilo Doval low into right centerfield with an RBI single.

Bellinger delivered the game-winning RBI in a serious-clinching victory for the fifth time in his career – the most by any player in MLB postseason history, according to Stats Perform.

The game ended on a controversial call for Wilmer Flores' check swing from Scherzer's slider called a swing and third strike to end the Giants' campaign following their remarkable 107-55 regular season.

 

Red Sox at Astros

The opening game of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) takes place on Friday as the Houston Astros host the Boston Red Sox. Framber Valdez and Chris Sale will start on the mound for the respective sides.

The Seattle Kraken celebrated history on Thursday by defeating the Nashville Predators 4-3 for their first ever NHL win.

In the expansion franchise's second game, the Kraken claimed an historic victory thanks to Brandon Tanev's two goals away to the Predators in Nashville.

The Kraken were beaten 4-3 by the Vegas Golden Knights on their debut, despite leading 3-0 on Tuesday.

But the Kraken were not to be denied a second time, Tanev's empty-net goal with just over a minute remaining sealing the memorable win on the road.

"I think you saw a little bit of that stress in us in our play in the third period," said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.

"Guys were calm and pretty focused. I know guys were really excited to be able to get the first win, especially as it sinks in. It's the first win in franchise history, that's a big deal for everybody."

Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer, who made 12 saves in the third period, added: "I think it's phenomenal.

"It doesn't only speak for the group, it speaks for the organisation and rewards the people that put in the work for two years or longer."

Tom Brady and Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their third consecutive game after outlasting the Philadelphia Eagles 28-22.

Brady threw two touchdowns as the in-form Buccaneers held off the fast-finishing Eagles, who fought back from 28-7 down in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Despite playing without star Rob Gronkowski and losing cornerback Richard Sherman to a hamstring injury early in the first quarter, the Buccaneers survived to make a 5-1 start to the season for the first time since 2005.

Brady – playing with an injured thumb – made a red-hot start on the road, tossing touchdown passes on Tampa Bay's first two drives while going 11-of-12 passing for 121 yards.

The seven-time Super Bowl winner finished 34 for 42 for 297 yards, two touchdowns and an interception without being sacked.

O.J. Howard and Antonio Brown caught passes from Brady in between Jalen Hurts' TD throw to Zach Ertz for the Eagles in the opening period.

The Buccaneers took a 21-7 lead into half-time courtesy of Leonard Fournette's two-yard run and he stretched the lead with less than six minutes remaining in the third quarter after another run.

Hurts – who finished 12-of-26 passing for 115 yards, one touchdown and an interception while he rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries – tried to spark a comeback for the Eagles, rushing for two TDs having last week become the first quarterback with two rushing touchdowns in a win for Philadelphia since Mike Vick in 2010.

But Brady and the Buccaneers held on to continue their quest for back-to-back Super Bowls.

Angelique Kerber was knocked out in the Californian desert after a straight-sets quarter-final defeat to Paula Badosa at the WTA Indian Wells Open.

Badosa, who made this year's French Open quarter-finals, squandered two match points at 5-2 in the second set against three-time grand slam champion Kerber before steadying to secure her fifth final-four appearance of the season on Thursday.

In the semi-finals, Badosa will face Tunisian 12th seed Ons Jabeur, who got past Anna Kontaveit in straight sets, confirming her historic rise into the top 10 of the rankings, as the first-ever Arab player to achieve the singles feat on either the WTA or ATP Tour.

 

KERBER TOPPLED BY BADOSA

Former world number one and 10th seed Kerber bowed out at Indian Wells, with Badosa triumphing 6-4 7-5 in 86 minutes.

In her Indian Wells debut, 21st seed Badosa responded strongly after fluffing two match points to become the first Spanish woman to make the event's semi-finals in 18 years.

"It sounds amazing," Badosa said during her on-court interview. "The second set was very mental. I wanted this match so badly. I got super nervous.

"For one second I thought who was on the other side of the net and I got more nervous against a three-time grand slam champion. It means a lot to me. It's amazing."

In the first set, Badosa broke Kerber at 4-4 before serving out the opening set where she was excellent on her first serve, staving off the German's only two break points.

The Spaniard raced to a 5-2 lead in the second set and had two match points on Kerber's serve. The experienced Kerber responded by holding serve and then breaking back, before levelling at 5-5.

But Badosa showed her mettle by winning the final two games, breaking Kerber for victory as she upped her level.

 

JABEUR SEALS TOP-10 BERTH WITH TRIUMPH

Jabeur defeated Estonian 18th seed Kontaveit 7-5 6-3 to move into the top 10 for the first time in her career.

The Tunisian will become the first Arab player to make the top 10 when the updated WTA rankings are made official on Monday, but she also qualified for the biggest semi-final of her career to date.

"It feels amazing," Jabeur said. "We've been working hard since years. When I spoke at the end of last season, I said I wanted to be in the top 10. People doubted us as a team, we proved them wrong.

"Being a top 10 means a lot but we're not going to stop here. We're going to go further hopefully."

Jabeur, who made this year's Wimbledon quarter-finals, triumphed in 86 minutes, although she did not have it all her way, in a match full of momentum swings.

The 27-year-old Jabeur had been a double break up at 4-1 in the first set before Kontaveit hit back to level at 5-5, only for her to break back immediately and serve out the set.

Jabeur broke Kontaveit to love at 3-3, rattling off the final three games, including two breaks, to secure victory and keep alive her hopes of making the WTA Finals.

Jorge Soler's availability for the National League Championship Series (NLCS) remains unclear but the Atlanta Braves are preparing to be without him.

Soler, who won the 2016 World Series with the Chicago Cubs, was pulled from the Braves' line-up for Game 4 of the National League Division Series (NLDS) against the Milwaukee Brewers following a positive COVID-19 test.

The 29-year-old will miss at least five days before the joint COVID-19 committee can clear him.

Atlanta are due to open their NLCS matchup against either the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco Giants on Saturday.

Soler moved to the Braves from the Kansas City Royals in July and has hit a combined .223 with 27 homers and 70 RBIs during the regular season.

The Braves are awaiting Soler's clearance having been removed from their 26-man roster, however, manager Brian Snitker is preparing to be without him for the whole best-of-seven NLCS.

"We've got to approach it like I don't know if he'll be here for the NLCS," Snitker told reporters on Thursday.

"That's how we have to approach it. Until he shows up and is cleared and does everything that MLB needs him to do, we're going to look like it's like he's not going to be here."

Soler was the 2019 American League (AL) home run leader with the Royals and delivered 14 home runs and 33 RBIs in 55 games following his move to the Braves.

"I don't know that this team has been dependent, as we've shown, on one guy all year, quite honestly," Snitker added. "The guys keep playing the game.

"Would you like to have him? Yeah. If we don't, so be it. Just go out and win however else we can."

Robert Streb leads The CJ Cup by one stroke following the opening round as American star Dustin Johnson struggled.

Streb carded a career-low 11-under-par 61 to set the early pace at The Summit Club in Nevada on Thursday.

The two-time PGA Tour champion joined Brandt Snedeker (2007 Farmers Insurance Open) as the only players to start a tournament at seven under in their first six holes (in the ShotLink era).

Streb made a red-hot start, having gone birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie in his opening six holes and while he bogeyed the 11th following the turn, the American reeled off another five birdies to close out the day.

"I've never had a start like that, so it was kind of fun," Streb said. "I was trying to stay in the moment as best I can and, I don't know, you just feel like you can start aiming at stuff. Things seemed to be going my way.

"Slowed down a little I guess in the middle, but it was a really, really good round. Even that bogey, I almost made the putt, so it just went really well."

Countryman Keith Mitchell is Streb's nearest rival, while Harry Higgs is three strokes off the pace at eight under heading into the second round.

Sergio Garcia, Viktor Hovland and Hudson Swafford are a shot further back, one stroke better off than Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, former world number one Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Four-time major winner and 2018 champion Brooks Koepka shot a first-round 67 to be within six strokes of Streb, while Rory McIlroy – featuring for the first time since his dismal Ryder Cup campaign for Europe – posted a four-under-par 68.

Justin Thomas, a two-time winner of the event, had to settle for an opening-round 69 as former world number one Johnson endured a forgettable two-over-par 74.

After a flawless front nine, which featured two birdies, Johnson capitulated with a double-bogey and three bogeys on the back nine.

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson will miss the start of the NBA regular season due to a right foot injury.

Pelicans vice-president of basketball operations David Griffin confirmed Williamson's absence after the former number one draft pick underwent scans earlier this week following offseason foot surgery.

Griffin was unable to provide a "fixed timeline" on Williamson's return to play, although he said the 2021 All-Star would undergo further scans in roughly a fortnight's time.

"It's everyone's goal that Zion return to play as soon as safely possible," Griffin said on Thursday.

"Obviously, two to two-and-a-half weeks from now means he will not be on the floor for the first week of games. When he is able to return safely, we will do that."

The Pelicans are due to start their NBA season against championship-hopefuls the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.

Williamson, who had said last month he hoped to play in the Pelicans' opening game, has been cleared to start running and do individual on-court work.

Griffin clarified Williamson had not suffered a setback and no timeline had been set on the 21-year-old joining in more training activities.

"It just takes a certain amount of time for guys to lay the bone that the doctors want to see," Griffin said. "This is where our timeline is.

"Throughout the process, we'll be heading toward that [joining team training]. It may be well before the two-and-a-half weeks that he does that. It's really just a function of how things progress."

Williamson averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game across 61 appearances in the 2020-21 NBA season for the Pelicans.

The top pick in the 2019 draft, Williamson had only managed 24 games in his debut season, averaging 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 2019-20.

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