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The Sports Report: L.A. loves Joe Kelly now

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly (17) yells back at Houston Astros' Carlos Correa.
Joe Kelly yells back at Carlos Correa after the sixth inning.
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers were up three runs en route to a 5-2 victory at Minute Maid Park. The bases were empty. Alex Bregman had worked a 3-0 count against Dodgers right-hander Joe Kelly. The scene didn’t scream tension. But Kelly abruptly reminded the Astros of his club’s feelings with a 96-mph fastball behind Bregman’s head. Bregman calmly looked away, bent over to remove his ankle guard, and took his base without a word. Kelly then yawned.

The next close call wasn’t disregarded. Three batters later, with runners on first and second and two outs, Kelly hurled an 87-mph curveball that narrowly missed Carlos Correa’s head. The ball bounced away and the runners advanced. It was ruled a wild pitch. Correa stared at Kelly.

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The at-bat ended with Correa swinging through a curveball for strike three. He and Kelly exchanged words as Kelly walked off the field. Kelly stuck out his tongue at Correa. He mocked him with a pout. He sprinkled obscenities around the faces.

Then, finally, the benches and bullpens cleared when an angry Correa continued approaching the Dodgers dugout. Social distancing was forgotten. Masks were optional. The unlawful gathering lasted about a minute. Only words and droplets were exchanged.

The sequence was a reminder that Dodgers weren’t going to let the Astros’ cheating in 2017 slide. It was the team’s first visit to Houston since Game 5 of the 2017 World Series and the clubs’ first meeting since the scandal was uncovered over the offseason and became top storyline in spring training before the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down Major League Baseball.

Kelly wasn’t on the 2017 Dodgers team that fell to Houston in seven games in the World Series. But he was on the Boston Red Sox club that had lost to the Astros in the American League Divisional Series. His fate, he apparently decided, was also impacted by the Astros banging on trash cans to relay pitches to hitters.

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Bill Plaschke thanks Joe Kelly for stepping up when needed. Read it here.

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ANGELS

Mike DiGiovanna on the Angels: A typical Angel Stadium home opener, this wasn’t. There were no fans, of course, the pandemic forcing teams to open a shortened 60-game season in empty stadiums, but there was none of the traditional pomp and circumstance, either.

Teams did not assemble along the lines for pregame introductions, like they did in last week’s season openers. Players were scattered around the field when the national anthem began, some looking surprised when the song was announced.

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About the only indication this was more than an ordinary game was the red-white-and-blue bunting draped on the club-level suites and the facing of the upper deck throughout the stadium.

It wasn’t the kind of pressure-packed atmosphere Rendon is known to thrive in, but the new Angels third baseman, who signed a seven-year, $245-million contract in December, made the most of it in a 10-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: The Chargers’ 2019 season was impacted by a high-profile training-camp holdout that dragged into late September.

The team faced a similar potential issue in 2020 until agreeing to give Joey Bosa the most guaranteed money in NFL history for a defensive player.

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The Chargers and Bosa settled on a five-year, $135-million extension Tuesday, the deal including a record $102 million in guaranteed salary, according to a person with knowledge of the terms.

Barely 24 hours earlier, on a conference call with reporters, general manager Tom Telesco had refused to address Bosa’s contract specially, saying only that he hoped the defensive end would report for the start of training camp.

Turns out, Telesco was playing things cool, with the mega-deal on the verge of completion.
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LAKERS

Tania Ganguli on the Lakers: Anthony Davis sat in the ballroom wearing Lakers shorts, a long-sleeved T-shirt, a black ball cap and dark glasses.

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It wasn’t especially bright in the room, but Davis had to protect his eyes. Having been poked in the eye during a scrimmage on Saturday, Davis was still experiencing discomfort from the injury. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said that it’s possible Davis won’t play in the team’s bubble opener on Thursday against the Clippers.

“We’re hopeful that he does and we’ll see how that plays out,” Vogel said. “He’s going to continue to be evaluated each day.”

The Western Conference-leading Lakers will play eight seeding games before the playoffs begin. The seeding games will help determine first-round matchups.

NFL

Sam Farmer on the NFL: More than 20 NFL players already have decided a tenuous season in the age of coronavirus isn’t for them.

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Those players, some of them standouts, have opted out of playing in 2020, a feature of the recently amended collective bargaining agreement that allows them to push the pause button on their careers.

The New England Patriots were jolted the hardest, with six players tapping out, among them linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung, fixtures on last year’s No. 1-ranked defense, and starting right tackle Marcus Cannon. All three players are in their 30s.

Meanwhile, players around the league reported to their teams Tuesday for the official start of training camps, which begin with four days of COVID-19 testing.

The opt-outs were a bruising combination punch to the gut of a New England franchise looking to regain its footing after the departure of quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots have won a record six Lombardi Trophies since 2001.

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MLB

Bill Shaikin on baseball: Four more players on the Miami Marlins have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, meaning that half the players on the Marlins’ roster have been infected.

Major League Baseball has not said whether the additional test results will further delay the Marlins’ season. The results were confirmed by a person with knowledge of the results but not authorized to discuss them.

The Marlins were supposed to return to Miami on Sunday night, but they remain isolated in their Philadelphia hotel. According to the league’s health and safety protocol, players testing positive cannot travel — let alone play — until they subsequently test negative twice in tests administered at least 24 hours apart.

SPARKS

Kahleah Copper and Azura Stevens had 21 points apiece and the Chicago Sky beat the Sparks 96-78 on Tuesday night.

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Cheyenne Parker added 12 points and Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot and Gabby Williams scored 11 apiece for Chicago (2-0). Vandersloot finished with 10 assists. Stevens and Copper each grabbed a career-high nine rebounds.

Brittney Sykes led the Sparks (1-1) with 16 points.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

Dodgers at Houston, 4 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

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Seattle at Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, KLAA 830

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

The National Football League was found guilty of violating an antitrust law on this date in 1986, but survived the United States Football League’s $1.69-billion suit when a jury of five women and one man awarded damages of just $3 to the failing football league.

The verdict came after about two years of pretrial litigation and 2½ months of trial testimony in New York’s U.S. District Court.

Although the decision discredited the NFL, it undermined the future of the USFL, which had planned to switch its season to the fall in direct competition with the NFL.

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A number of NFL teams had the rights to several of the USFL’s star players, which included Herschel Walker, Jim Kelly, Doug Williams and Kelvin Bryant. The Rams made New Jersey quarterback Doug Flutie one of their 1985 draft choices.

Here is a look at other memorable moments and outstanding sports performances on this date:

1957 — Floyd Patterson scored a technical knockout over Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson at 1:52 of the 10th round to retain his heavyweight title before a crowd of 18,101 at the Polo Grounds in New York. Patterson was a 5-1 favorite even though he had not fought in eight months. Jackson suffered a bruised kidney and was hospitalized after the fight.

1960 — A reported 100,000 fans lined a parade route in Buffalo to welcome the Bills, one of the original franchises of the new American Football League. The next day the Bills played the first AFL preseason game against the Boston Patriots, who were led to a 28-7 victory by quarterback Bruce Songin before 16,474 fans at War Memorial Stadium.

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1979 — Amy Alcott shot a seven-under-par 285 to beat Nancy Lopez by three shots in the Peter Jackson Classic at Richelieu Country Club in Quebec. Alcott started the final round with a two-stroke advantage over Lopez and increased it with a three-under 70 to Lopez’s 71. The tournament was later renamed the Canadian Women’s du Maurier Classic, one of the LPGA Tour’s major tournaments from 1979 to 2000.

1989 — Javier Sotomayor, 22, of Cuba, became the first high jumper to clear eight feet at the Central American and Caribbean Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Sotomayor, viewed by many in track and field as the best ever in the event, broke his world record of 7-11½. His jump was measured at 2.44 meters, which converted to 8.005249 feet.

1990 — Beth Daniel erased a five-stroke deficit when she shot a final-round 66 to win the Mazda LPGA Championship at Bethesda (Md.) Country Club. Daniel beat Rosie Jones by a stroke and earned $150,000, the largest winner’s payoff in LPGA Tour history. The win was Daniel’s only major tournament victory in almost 26 years as a professional.

1992 — The U.S. 400-meter freestyle relay team won the gold medal at the Summer Games in Barcelona when it beat a Unified team made up of swimmers from 12 of the 15 former Soviet-bloc republics. The American team of Joe Hudepohl, Matt Biondi, Tom Jager and Jon Olsen swam in a winning time of 3:16.74 to the Unified team’s 3:17.56.

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1996 — The United States had a gold-medal day at the Summer Games in Atlanta when Michael Johnson ran to an Olympic 400-meter record of 43.49 seconds. Later, Carl Lewis long-jumped 27 feet 10½ inches to win his ninth and final gold medal, equaling the American mark held by swimmer Mark Spitz.

2008 — Former NBA official Tim Donaghy admitted he brought shame on his profession when he was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for betting on games that he officiated in the 2006 and 2007 seasons and that he made calls that affected the point spread in those games. Donaghy, who was sent to a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Fla., served as an NBA referee from 1994 to 2007.

2012 — Dana Vollmer of the United States set a world record in the 100-meter butterfly at the Summer Olympics in London when she touched the wall first in 55.98 seconds, shaving eight-hundredths of a second off the mark set by Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden at the 2009 world championships in Rome. Vollmer, a graduate of California, swam a smooth and powerful second half to beat China’s Ying Lu and Australia’s Alicia Coutts.

And finally

Michael Johnson wins gold at the 1996 Olympics. Watch it here.

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Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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