NCAA Football

Dodgers’ win over Nationals carries weight

June 20, 2016

The Dodgers swept the last-place Cincinnati Reds last month, only to drop three of four games against the Chicago Cubs a week later.

Something similar unfolded this month, when they swept the downtrodden Atlanta Braves one weekend and lost two of three games to the San Francisco Giants the next.

Against that backdrop, there was a measure of significance to the Dodgers’ victory over the first-place Washington Nationals on Monday.

The Dodgers had won only 13 of their previous 31 games against teams with winning records.

Their improved position in the standings was largely built on victories over the league’s bottom dwellers, including the struggling Milwaukee Brewers, whom they just beat three of four times. The Dodgers are 26-14 against teams with losing records, 14-6 against last-place teams.

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With Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg scheduled to pitch opposite each other Monday night, Nationals Manager Dusty Baker was a fan again, recalling epic showdowns of the past.

“As a kid, you watched [Juan] Marichal and [Sandy] Koufax, [Don] Drysdale and Gaylord Perry, [Bob] Gibson and Ferguson Jenkins, Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton,” Baker said.

Baker smiled.

“This is what it’s all about,” he said. “This is fun.”

You know what isn’t fun? The matchup never materializing.

A strained upper back made Strasburg a late scratch, resulting in the announced crowd of 44,712 watching the best pitcher on the planet take on Yusmeiro Petit instead.

Kershaw still did his part by pitching another minor masterpiece, limiting the Nationals to a run in seven innings. Kershaw struck out eight and didn’t give up a run until his 100th pitch. He pitched to Bryce Harper three times and struck him out each time.

Kershaw went into the game with a 10-1 record. Strasburg was 10-0. The game would have been only the second in baseball history in which both starting pitchers had 10-plus wins and one or fewer losses, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

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LeBron James might never supplant Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time, but he could still make the case that he played the greatest NBA Finals.

In the Cleveland Cavaliers’ series victory over the Golden State Warriors, James led all players in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. In doing so, he became the first player in league history to lead a playoff series of any length in all five categories.

As far as legacy-building was concerned, James was in a no-win situation from the time he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school junior. He was labeled a player who could do everything, creating a widespread expectation that he would one day do what he did in this series against the Warriors.

If there was any surprise about his performance, it was that it took this long to happen.

Of course, James isn’t the kind of person with whom the public will ever sympathize, often coming across as petty. Even in triumph, he couldn’t help himself, posting a message on Instagram that basically said, “I told you so.”

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Jim Everett looks like a perfectly healthy 53-year-old, but the former Rams quarterback acknowledged that he has health problems resulting from the 12 years he played in the NFL.

“I have a metal hip, I get headaches every once in a while,” he said.

He will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair his left shoulder.

However, Everett has no regrets about what he did for a living.

“Would I change it?” Everett said. “No.

“I loved it. I probably would have done it on Saturdays if they weren’t even paying me.”

And this is why the sport won’t have anywhere near as much trouble attracting high-end talent as some speculate. There is more information now than ever about the risks of playing football, but it’s not as if teams were running out of players to select in the draft.

No surprise here. When the Washington Post surveyed more than 500 former NFL players in 2013, more than 90% said they remain in pain on a daily basis. Still, nine of 10 respondents said they were glad to have played the sport.

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The most recent heavyweight championship boxing match was canceled because one of the combatants tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Another championship contest is scheduled for Saturday, this one between Anthony Joshua and Dominic Breazeale for the International Boxing Federation’s version of the title. The promoter of the event, Eddie Hearn, made a reasonable argument about how any boxer who tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs should receive a lifetime ban from the sport.

“This isn’t poker,” Hearn said Monday on a conference call.

Breazeale was more to the point: “It can literally be the difference between life and death.”

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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