ing safeties, a linebacker to replace Fletcher and probably a right tackle. from miaowang123's blog

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MADRID, Spain -- Defending champion Rafael Nadal gave his clay-court doldrums a boost by reaching the Madrid Open semifinals on Friday with a dominant performance against Thomas Berdych. Tyrann Mathieu Jersey . In the womens tournament, two-time defending champion Serena Williams withdrew with a leg injury, while Maria Sharapova ousted Li Na in the quarterfinals. The top-ranked Nadal had lost his previous two quarterfinal matches on clay for his worst run on the surface in a decade. But buoyed on by a partisan crowd, Nadal overpowered Berdych 6-4, 6-2 to advance at the Magic Box. "I brought great energy and intensity to it and thats the best news, that its my best (on clay) yet," Nadal said. "The things that, historically, Ive done well on this surface I managed to do them again today." Nadal has been improving with every match in Madrid after losing at the quarterfinals stage in preceding tournaments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. But he showed no sign of the nerves that had uncharacteristically crept into the game of the most successful clay-court player ever as he pushed Berdych to the corners and punished him with a powerful forehand that accounted for 16 of his winners. "My play is good when Im hitting my forehand well, especially on clay," said Nadal, who is vying for his third title in the Spanish capital. "In Monte Carlo I used my backhand more and not my forehand, and when I have to hit five or six backhands in a row it doesnt help my game." Berdych, who dropped to 3-18 against Nadal, couldnt keep up in the hot sun beating down on Manolo Santana centre court. Nadal faces countryman Roberto Bautista Agut after the 45th-ranked player beat Colombias Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 6-4. David Ferrer followed Bautista Aguts victory with a 7-6 (3), 6-3 win over Ernests Gulbis to become the third Spaniard in the semis. Kei Nishikori prevented an all-Spanish lineup in the final four by beating Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-4 in the late match. The win also ensures that he will become the first Japanese player to break into the top 10 when the new world rankings are released on Monday. Nishikori remained undefeated on clay this season in nine matches after winning the Barcelona Open title. The top-ranked Williams has had her left thigh heavily bandaged this week and said she injured it during a first-round victory over Belinda Bencic on Sunday. "It started to get better but, most importantly right now, I just need some time to rest and recover. Its beyond words. Its so frustrating," Williams said in a statement. "This is not the way I wanted this week to end." The withdrawal gave 2011 champion Petra Kvitova a walkover and a spot in the semifinals. The 32-year-old Williams said the injury would not keep her out of the French Open, with the defending champion tweeting she would play in Rome next week before the second Grand Slam of the season starts on May 25. Sharapova reached the semis after she rallied to beat Li 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3. Li was in control until she failed to convert two break points in the 11th game of the second set. Errors then began creeping into the Australian Open champions game as Sharapova evened the match. After an exchange of breaks in the third set, the ninth-ranked Russian broke again and then held serve to win on Lis 43rd unforced error. "It really could have gone her way today. You know, it was just a matter of a few points in the second set," said Sharapova, who came through despite seven doublefaults. "I was down, I didnt play a great first set, and I found a way to get myself in a position to be in the third." Sharapova faces third-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals after the Polish player beat French qualifier Caroline Garcia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Kvitova will face fourth-seeded Simona Halep after the Romanian ousted Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-2. Darwin Thompson Jersey . - The Chicago Bears have agreed to a one-year contract with free-agent centre Brian de la Puente. Juan Thornhill Jersey .C. -- The Carolina Panthers announced Thursday theyve signed free agent wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery to a two-year contract, helping rebuild a depleted wide receiving corps.BALTIMORE -- It was one of those rare days when everything went right for the Houston Astros. Houston took an early lead and added to it late. The starting pitching was solid. The bullpen was nearly perfect. The result was a 5-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday that enabled the young Astros to avert a three-game sweep. "Overall, a good team win," manager Bo Porter said. Jason Castro and Marc Krauss homered to account for all of Houstons offence, and Jarred Cosart (2-3) allowed two runs over six innings for the Astros, who had lost seven of eight before ending Baltimores five-game winning streak. Castro hit a three-run homer off Chris Tillman (3-2) in the first inning, and the Astros made the advantage stand up. "When we can come out and score early, thats really when were at our best," Castro said. "It kind of gives some of the young staff a little bit of a breather from the beginning." It was 3-2 before Krauss connected against T.J. McFarland with a runner on in the seventh. "Those are the runs we have not been able to get," Porter said. "Those tack-on runs that give you an extra cushion, make it a three-run lead instead of a one-run lead. That was a huge home run." Houston is 11-11 when it hits a home run and 1-15 when it doesnt. Although the Astros bullpen came in with a 6.21 ERA, Tony Sipp struck out five in two perfect innings and Chad Qualls worked a hitless ninth for his second save. "I have confidence no matter who they put in behind me that they can get the job done," Cosart said. Jose Altuve had three hits for the Astros, who improved to 6-12 against the Orioles -- including 2-10 at Camden Yards. Everything seemed to fall into place for the team with the worst record in the major leagues. "Weve played some good baseball the last two days," third baseman Matt Dominguez said. "Pitched the ball well, got some timely hits. Hopefully that can give us a jumpstart." Adam Jones drove in both Baltimore runs, giving him 501 RBIs in 981 career games. Tillman gave up three runs, four hits and a season-high five walks in fivee innings. Joe Montana Youth Jersey. The right-hander settled down after issuing three walks and a home run in the first inning, but needed 105 pitches to get 15 outs. "It was a struggle for me. Fastball command wasnt there for me from the get-go," Tillman said. "It was a battle all day." Before the game, the Orioles activated Chris Davis (strained left oblique) from the 15-day disabled list and put catcher Matt Wieters on the DL with a strained right elbow. Davis went 2 for 4 in his first game since April 25. "Felt good," Davis said. "Timing is a little off, little in-between. But it was definitely good to be in there, moving around again." Houston took a 3-0 lead before Tillman retired a batter. After Altuve and Dexter Fowler walked, Castro hit the right-handers next pitch over the centre-field wall. Tillman has yielded seven first-inning runs this season, his most in any inning. "He kept us in the ballgame and threw some zeros up after that," manager Buck Showalter said. "But it wasnt what hes capable of or what weve come to expect. Or more importantly, what Chris has come to expect." Jones hit a two-run single to get Baltimore to 3-2 in the third. A double by Davis in the fifth put two runners in scoring position, but Jones struck out before Nelson Cruz flied out. NOTES: The Orioles were denied consecutive three-game sweeps for the first time since 2005. They won three in a row at Tampa Bay before facing the Astros. ... The game drew 45,944 fans, the second sellout of the season at Camden Yards. ... Baltimores Nick Markakis singled in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to 18 games, one short of his career high. ... Tillmans 399th and 400th career strikeouts came against George Springer in the first and third. ... Houstons Alex Presley snapped an 0-for-14 skid with a sixth-inning single. ... Bud Norris takes the mound for Baltimore on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against Detroit. The Astros return home to face Texas. ... Since coming to Houston from the Padres organization, Sipp has retired all 12 batters hes faced with seven strikeouts. ' ' '

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