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The Sports Report: Dodgers fall back into second place

Steven Duggar celebrates after hitting a two-run triple during the second inning.
(Associated Press)

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

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The crowd was on its feet again Sunday in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 6-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Another batch of “Beat L.A.” chants vibrated through Oracle Park. Albert Pujols had just come off the Dodgers’ bench to belt a pinch-hit, two-run home run to reinvigorate the masses, producing a scene befitting for October, down to the sweater weather.

Max Muncy stood at first base. Mookie Betts populated the batter’s box. Giants closer Jake McGee toed the mound. The Dodgers had two outs to make up a two-run deficit to avoid losing the three-game series, dropping the 19-game season series, and sinking back into second place in the National League West.

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The rally fell short because Betts struck out on a pitch inside, out of the strike zone and Giants right fielder Mike Yastrzemski caught Justin Turner’s flyball down the right-field line against the netting to give San Francisco sole possession of first place.

With the win, the Giants claimed the season series, 10-9, meaning they will have home-field advantage against the Dodgers if the clubs need a 163rd game to settle the division race and if they meet in the National League Division Series next month. The Dodgers (86-51) are one game behind them with 25 games remaining.

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Could Albert Pujols rejoin the Cardinals for an over-40 reunion in 2022? Fans hope so

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ANGELS

Jack Harris on the Angels: On Saturday, the Angels matched a club record by being exactly .500 for the 26th time this year.

On Sunday, they set another franchise high-mark reflective of an injury-plagued, roster-churning campaign in which they couldn’t stay in contention.

With pitchers Janson Junk and Kyle Tyler making their major league debuts in a 7-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, the Angels (68-69) have now used a club-record 61 different players this season.

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“It’s always nice when you set a record, isn’t it?” manager Joe Maddon rhetorically joked after the game. “It’s just part of what’s going on right now in the game. … The combination of [a shortened schedule] last year and some unfortunate moments for us this year has opened up this audition for a lot of guys.”

MEN’S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING

Kevin Baxter on soccer: Two games into World Cup qualifying might be too early to panic. But it’s not too early to be concerned.

And U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter seemed very concerned Sunday after his tentative, uninspired national team gave up a second-half lead and settled for a second straight draw, this time tying Canada 1-1 before a crowd of 43,028 in Nashville.

“It was disappointing,” Berhalter said. “The performance wasn’t up to what we expect. We knew they were going to be tough games. And we’re finding out they are tough games.

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“Our success is going to depend on how we’re able to deal with that.”

WNBA

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the WNBA: Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike and former Sparks stars Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie are included in the WNBA’s W25, a list of the 25 greatest and most influential players in the league’s 25-year history.

The WNBA announced the elite group on Sunday, with 10 current players making the list that was compiled by select media members and women’s basketball pioneers. A group of 72 nominees was whittled down to 25. Candidates needed to have played for a WNBA team for at least two seasons.

The full W25:

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  • Seimone Augustus
  • Sue Bird
  • Swin Cash
  • Tamika Catchings
  • Tina Charles
  • Cynthia Cooper
  • Elena Delle Donne
  • Sylvia Fowles
  • Yolanda Griffith
  • Brittney Griner
  • Becky Hammon
  • Lauren Jackson
  • Lisa Leslie
  • Angel McCoughtry
  • Maya Moore
  • Nneka Ogwumike
  • Candace Parker
  • Ticha Penicheiro
  • Cappie Pondexter
  • Katie Smith
  • Breanna Stewart
  • Sheryl Swoopes
  • Diana Taurasi
  • Tina Thompson
  • Lindsay Whalen

TENNIS

Helene Elliott on the U.S. Open: Leylah Fernandez of Canada followed up her upset of No. 3 Naomi Osaka in grand style.

The 18-year-old from Montreal upset No. 16 seed and three-time Grand Slam singles champion Angelique Kerber of Germany on Sunday to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals, righting herself after an inconsistent first set to earn a 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Fernandez, who isn’t seeded here, had a 4-2 lead in the first set but Kerber won the last four games of the set and extended that into the second set to win seven of eight games. But Fernandez, daughter of an Ecuadorian father and Canadian mother of Filipino heritage, found her footing and turned things around by breaking Kerber’s serve to pull even at 4-4. In the tiebreak, Fernandez took a 5-1 lead before Kerber — the 2016 U.S. Open winner — managed to regroup. Fernandez had three chances to win the set before she closed it out.

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The third set went on serve until Fernandez broke for 3-2. Fernandez ended the match on her first match point, when Kerber netted a backhand.

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Who needs star power? Phenoms and late bloomers stealing the U.S. Open limelight

UCLA FOOTBALL

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Bruins: Greg Dulcich has left the realm of “feel-good story” behind like he’s ditching defenders on his way to the end zone. The tight end is just a hard-working former walk-on who earned a scholarship. He’s a star for UCLA.

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The redshirt junior tight end had a team-high 117 receiving yards on three catches against No. 16 Louisiana State on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, including a 75-yard touchdown catch in which he juked past a defensive back and split another pair of defenders at the five-yard line before getting tossed into the end zone.

It was UCLA’s longest play from scrimmage in its 38-27 win over LSU and it turned the momentum immediately toward the Bruins sideline after the Tigers (0-1) scored on the previous drive. It took UCLA (2-0) only one play to answer as Dulcich lined up on the left side of the line as if he were run-blocking, cut across the formation untouched and found no defender within five yards of him.

USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: Calen Bullock was trying his best to keep calm, but as the USC freshman safety emerged from the Coliseum tunnel on Saturday afternoon, the butterflies in his stomach were doing backflips.

Just a few days earlier, the freshman had been thrust unexpectedly into a starting role after redshirt senior safety Isaiah Pola-Mao tested positive for the coronavirus. Bullock hadn’t played a football game in nearly two years after his senior season at Pasadena Muir High was canceled amid the pandemic. But with its two-time captain and defensive leader forced to quarantine for the season opener against San Jose State, the Trojans entrusted the true freshman to take his place.

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Bullock, after hearing the news, reached out to Pola-Mao to assure he wouldn’t let him down.

“You’re made for this,” Pola-Mao assured the freshman. “It’s your turn.”

It didn’t take long during Saturday’s 30-7 victory for Bullock to prove him right. After the nerves subsided, Bullock burst onto the scene with a dynamite debut, flying to the ball and leading USC in tackles (eight). In a standout day for the defense, no one stood taller.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1920 — Jack Dempsey knocks out Billy Miske in the third round to retain the world heavyweight title. It’s the first radio broadcast of a prizefight.

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1920 — Bill Tilden wins his first of seven U.S. Open men’s singles titles, defeating Bill Johnston, 6-1, 1-6, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y.

1941 — Bobby Riggs beats Frank Kovacs in four sets to win the men’s title in the U.S. Lawn Tennis Assn. championships. Sarah Palfrey Cooke wins the women’s title with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Pauline Betz.

1948 — The United States sweeps Australia 5-0 to retain the Davis Cup title.

1975 — Chris Evert wins her first of six singles titles in the U.S. Open with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, victory over Evonne Goolagong. In the men’s semifinals, Manuel Orantes performs one of the great comebacks in tennis history, saving five match points to defeat Guillermo Vilas, 4-6, 1-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4, after trailing two-sets-to-love and 0-5 in the fourth set.

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1980 — Chris Evert Lloyd beats Hana Mandlikova of Czechoslovakia to win her fifth U.S. Open singles title in the last six years.

1980 — John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors battle in perhaps their greatest U.S. Open match. McEnroe edges Connors in the semifinal, 6-4, 5-7, 0-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) in front of a packed Louis Armstrong Stadium.

1991 — A pair of teenagers play a level of tennis beyond their years in a women’s semifinal match at the U.S. Open. Seventeen-year-old Monica Seles beats 15-year-old Jennifer Capriati, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (3) to advance to her first U.S. Open final.

1992 — Noureddine Morceli of Algeria smashes the world record for 1,500 meters, clocking 3:28.86 at an international track and field meet in Rieti, Italy. Morceli breaks the record of 3:29.46 set by Said Aouita of Morocco in 1985.

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1993 — Helena Sukova of the Czech Republic beats Martina Navratilova 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. Navratilova’s loss leaves the United States without a women’s quarterfinalist for the first time in the tournament’s history, dating to 1887.

1995 — Cal Ripken plays in his 2,131st consecutive major league game to surpass Lou Gehrig’s 56-year record. Ripken receives a 22-minute standing ovation and later hits a homer in Baltimore’s 4-2 win over California.

2003 — In the U.S. Open, No. 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne wins the all-Belgian women’s singles final, beating No. 1 Kim Clijsters, 7-5, 6-1.

2017 — CoCo Vandeweghe becomes the third American to get into the U.S. Open women’s semifinals, beating top-seeded Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (4), 6-3. Madison Keys completes the sweep for American women, giving the host country all four U.S. Open semifinal spots for the first time in 36 years. The 15th-seeded Keys takes 69 minutes for a 6-3, 6-3 victory over 418th-ranked qualifier Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. The Americans haven’t had all four semifinalists at the U.S. Open since 1981, when Tracy Austin beat Martina Navratilova for the title. Chris Evert and Barbara Potter also made the semifinals.

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2017 — FIFA orders that a World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Senegal be replayed after the referee is found guilty of match manipulation and banned for life. South Africa beat Senegal 2-1 in the qualifier last November, helped by a penalty awarded by Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey for a nonexistent handball.

And finally

Cal Ripken Jr. breaks Lou Gehrig’s record. Watch and listen here.

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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