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This Week in Sports

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny in the dugout during action against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Cards won, 3-2. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Welcome to another weekly roundup in the world of sports. This week, France takes home its second ever World Cup with a victory over Croatia, the St. Louis Cardinals fire their longtime manager Mike Matheny, the Whitecaps struggle at home this week and Terrell Owens tells the NFL he won’t be attending his hall-of-fame induction ceremony.

World Cup

The stage was set for an epic finish to the World Cup between France and Croatia in front of 78,011 fans at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday.

Croatia came into the game with it being their country’s first chance to win a World Cup. France on the other hand, was trying to win their second World Cup and first one since 1998.

The two teams came out ready to score as Mario Mandzukic of Croatia got the first goal in the 18th minute of the match. The only problem was he scored in his own net giving France a 1-0 lead. Croatia didn’t hang their heads though and had a quick response when Ivan Perisic scored the game-tying goal just 10 short minutes later. The game saw the 10 minute pattern continue when France had the opportunity for a penalty shot in the 38th minute after a called handball. Antoine Griezmann capitalized on the penalty shot and gave France the lead back, 2-1 before the halfway point. The game was setting up to be a high scoring affair and ended up playing out that way.

In the second half, France was trying to exert their dominance and show why they were the favorites coming into the game. In the 59th minute, France’s Paul Pogba sent the French fans into a frenzy while putting a hush over the Croatian fans when he scored a goal that made the game 3-1. If Croatia and their fans had any hope left, it died six minutes later when Kylian Mbappe scored for France making the score 4-1 and essentially putting the game out of reach. Croatia didn’t go down without a fight though. Just four minutes after falling behind by three, Mandzukic scored a goal this time for his own team. But still down by two goals, it was too little too late. France would end up taking home the trophy.

Despite losing, Croatia had their chances to make it their game to win. Croatia had possession of the ball 61 percent of the time and had six corner kicks to France’s two. This 4-2 game was the highest-scoring World Cup Final game since England beat Germany 4-2 in 1966. The French manager Didier Deschamps joined exclusive company with this win on Sunday. He became just the third person ever to win the World Cup both as a player and a manager.

Major League Baseball

The St. Louis Cardinals announced on Saturday that they were parting ways with their manager Mike Matheny. Matheny was in his seventh season as the Cardinals skipper. He took over for Tony La Russa in 2011 after the Cardinals won the World Series. Matheny ended up managing the Cardinals back to the World Series in 2013 where they lost in six games to the Boston Red Sox. This is the first time the Cardinals have made the change at manager in the middle of the season since 1995. In the meantime, Cardinal’s bench coach Mike Shildt will take over as the interim manager.

The Cardinals are an organization that is used to winning and with their winning percentage dropping every year in the last three seasons, the team decided this was the appropriate time to make the change. St. Louis is currently 48-46 and seven and a half games out of first place in the National League Central. The Chicago Cubs have taken over sole possession of first place thanks in large part to the Milwaukee Brewers dropping six straight games and eight of their last 10. The Brewers have the Pittsburgh Pirates to thank for their recent woes. The Pirates hosted the Brewers for a five-game series and swept the series to get themselves back in contention just before the all-star break. This was the first five-game sweep in the majors since the Yankees swept the Red Sox in a five-game series during the 2006 season. The Pirates are now just one game below .500 and are nine games behind the Cubs.

It’s been a long, slow trek back for the Los Angeles Dodgers after a sluggish start to the season. The defending National League Champions were in last place in the NL West not that long ago. They’ve now battled back and hold a half game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks at the break. Lurching in the shadows are the Colorado Rockies who are two games out of first, and the San Francisco Giants who are four games behind the Dodgers. Colorado goes into the break on a five-game win streak while the Giants dropped their last two games.

No team in the NL East has been exactly lighting it up going into the mid-summer classic. The Philadelphia Phillies have dropped their last two games and are clinging to a half game lead over the Atlanta Braves. The Braves won on Sunday but have lost seven of their last 10. The Washington Nationals, the host team of this week’s all-star festivities, continues to play .500 ball. Their last 10 games, 5-5. Their overall record, 48-48. They’re five and half games out of first place. They have the talent to turn things around in the second half, but it will have to start with their leader, Bryce Harper, who is hitting a career low average of .214 right now.

Just when it looked like the Cleveland Indians were going to run away and hide in the American League Central, the Minnesota Twins have put themselves back on the map. Cleveland has lost six of their last 10 while the Twins have won eight of their last 10. The Twins have gained four games in the standings this week and even though they’re still seven and a half games behind the Indians, they enter the break with their confidence high and momentum on their side.

While the Houston Astros have consistently been one of the best teams in baseball all season long, the Seattle Mariners can’t seem to make up their mind. Seattle was threatening to take over as the top team in the AL West last week. This past week however, they’ve lost four straight games and are now five games behind the Astros. They’re now closer in the division to the Oakland A’s who are eight games back of Astros and just three games back of them. The A’s have also won seven of their last 10 including two straight before the break.

Don’t look now, but there has been separation created in the AL East. All season long, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have been neck-and-neck often being tied for the lead or within one or a half a game of each other. But Boston has been the hottest team in the league as of late winning 19 of their last 23 games. New York hasn’t been playing bad baseball, but with the level Boston has elevated their play to, the Yankees have slipped in the standings. The Yankees are four and a half games behind Boston heading into the break. Even though they have fallen behind Boston, their .653 winning percentage is the second best in the league.

ESPN’s top five power rankings

1. Houston Astros (64-35)
2. Boston Red Sox (68-30)
3. New York Yankees (62-33)
4. Chicago Cubs (55-38)
5. Los Angeles Dodgers (53-43)

The Collegiate’s top five power rankings

1. Boston Red Sox (68-30)
2. Houston Astros (64-35)
3. New York Yankees (62-33)
4. Chicago Cubs (55-38)
5. Seattle Mariners (58-39)

The 2018 Home Run Derby is Monday night in Washington D.C. The contestants are headlined by the hometown bat of Bryce Harper. He’ll face off against Atlanta Braves’ star, Freddie Freeman in the first round. The other derby contestants include Max Muncy, Alex Bregman, Rhys Hoskins, Jesus Aguilar and a pair of Cubs teammates in Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez. The derby starts at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. On Tuesday, the game’s biggest stars will take center stage in the 2018 MLB All-Star game at Nationals Park in the nation’s capital. The game starts at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

West Michigan Whitecaps

The West Michigan Whitecaps had a rough week despite being home for all but one game. On Monday, July 9, the Whitecaps finished their four-game series with the Lake County Captains. They were trying to pull even and split the series with the Captains, but failed to do so and ended up losing 10-6. After having Tuesday off, the Whitecaps returned home for a three-game set with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on Wednesday.

Game 1 of the series saw the Whitecaps end their three-game losing streak by beating the Rattlers 3-2. The next night, West Michigan once again proved to be too much for the Rattlers to handle when they squeezed out another one-run victory by a score of 4-3. On Friday, the Rattlers returned the favor getting a one-run win of their own to take down the Whitecaps 6-5.

After a series win against Wisconsin, the Whitecaps welcomed the Beloit Snappers to Fifth Third Ballpark hoping for another series win. Beloit had other plans taking the first game of the series 4-3 on Saturday for the Whitecaps’ fourth straight one-run game. On Sunday, a one-run game would’ve been nice to see as the Snappers instead decided to overwhelm the Whitecaps by a score of 8-1 handing them their third straight loss.

For the week, the Whitecaps went 2-4 and currently sit at 11-13. They are five and a half games out of first place but have a lot of work to do to climb back into the division where they’re currently in seventh place out of eight teams.

The Whitecaps will try to avoid being swept by Beloit when they host them tonight for the third and final game of the series. After that, they’ll have a travel day on Tuesday followed by a three-game series in Kane County with the Cougars starting on Wednesday. Then on Saturday, they’ll take on the Quad Cities River Bandits for another three-game series. The Whitecaps won’t return home until Wednesday, July 25 when the Lake County Captains come back to town. For tickets to upcoming games, click here.

National Football League

One of the biggest honors a professional athlete can achieve in his or her career is being recognized as one of the best to ever do it and be voted into the hall-of-fame. Terrell Owens, however, appears to have decided that since he got his feelings hurt by the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame voters, that he is not going to attend the induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio this coming August.

Owens is choosing to boycott because he feels like he should’ve gotten in on his first year of eligibility instead of his third year. Owens is also saying this is not just for him but for other guys like Jerry Kramer who, “shouldn’t have had to wait that damn long either.”

Owens’ career numbers are hard to argue with, but his on-the-field and sometimes off-the-field antics rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and that includes hall-of-fame voters. Owens has every right to be upset that he was kept out of the hall for three years simply because he wasn’t a “likable guy.” Voters shouldn’t be able to discriminate against someone’s eligibility simply because they don’t like him.

If Owens holds true to his word and doesn’t show up, it would be the first time in any of the major North American sports that a living player will not show up for his induction ceremony. The NFL told Owens that if he does not show up, his induction video and time designated to honor him will be skipped over. They will mail him his gold jacket but at the ceremony itself, it will be like he was not inducted.

Owens is reportedly planning to hold his own hall-of-fame ceremony at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

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