Giants limp into Denver with just one thought on their minds

Next man up is the unofficial motto of the NFL — all sports really, but especially the NFL, in which injuries fuel the need for constant replacements. Never has it been more poignant than when the Giants injury report was released Friday.

Linebacker Jonathan Casillas, defensive end Olivier Vernon, wide receiver Sterling Shepard, center Weston Richburg, running back Paul Perkins and defensive end Romeo Okwara all were ruled out of Sunday night’s game against the Broncos in Denver. The winless Giants didn’t bother to mention wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris, all lost for the season after suffering severe injuries in last week’s 27-22 loss to the Chargers.

It’s almost a worst-case scenario for the Giants, heading to one of the more hostile settings in the National Football League and needing contributions from players who figure to be seeing their first extensive action. Curtis Grant, a free agent from Ohio State, could see duty at inside linebacker. Roger Lewis, Tavarres King and Travis Rudolph, all undrafted free agents, are the new names at wide receiver.

The mantra “Next man up” is mostly psychological coach speak to trick a team into believing there should be no drop off when one player assumes the role of his fallen predecessor.

“It’s one of those things where we’re asking all of those guys to do pretty much across the board the same thing as one another so it will be the next man’s opportunity to go out there and play,” linebacker coach Bill McGovern said Friday.

It sounds good in theory, but the Giants know they’ll have trouble replacing Marshall, much less Beckham, the best player on the team. Despite his antics, he was a touchdown waiting to happen. It’s also devastating to be 0-5 and heading to Denver without veterans like Casillas, Richburg, Shepard and Vernon.

McGovern was asked if he can tell when the next man up is eager to prove himself or scared to death.

“As you see the week progress, you see them get excited to play,” he said. “I haven’t seen anybody be scared or afraid of anything. Our guys are excited for the opportunity to go back out there and play.”

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said that’s the way it should be. “We lost all our receivers and they’ve got to step up,” he said. “I’m sure this is a moment they’ve been waiting for their entire life. That’s why you play this game, to be able to showcase your talent. I think these guys are ready to showcase their talent. This is a perfect opportunity to go out there and ball.”

This is not what the Giants envisioned. It’s not what anyone envisioned. Being winless and decimated heading to Denver for a nationally televised game sounds like a recipe for disaster. Perhaps that’s why Ben McAdoo played the “There’s nobody giving us a chance in hell” card during his Friday press conference.

“People don’t think we can score a point without [Beckham],” he said. “They think our defense has lost its stinger.”

If by “they” McAdoo means the Giants fan base, then he’s right. The offense already was struggling to score points with Beckham, and the defense has underachieved all season. “They” also can’t be blamed for whatever led to cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie being suspended for Sunday night’s game.

Pierre-Paul didn’t seem motivated by anything other than trying to get the first win of the season.

“I’m going to go out to have the best game I want to have,” he said. “I’m pretty sure some of my teammates are going to do the same thing.”

The Giants can’t know what to expect in Denver. Their depleted roster will be relying on new faces in new roles. “Next man up” sounds good in theory. It may not play so well in Denver.

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Remember when the Golden State Warriors were just another solid Western Conference playoff team? Yeah, it feels like a long time ago. Flash back to 2013-14 and the idea of framing the entire NBA season around the team from the San Francisco Bay Area would have seemed preposterous.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Golden State’s ascension to the NBA’s championship throne is that nobody really saw it coming. A nearly unstoppable dynasty was hiding in plain sight — and the next one might be too. Look closely and you can see another team out West following the same blueprint that the Warriors laid out in the not-too-distant past. It’s not flashy new superteams in Houston and OKC, and it’s not Lonzo Ball Plus Two Max Contract Slots In 2018.

Nope, it’s Denver (yes, Denver!). When you compare these 2017-18 Nuggets to those Warriors from the season before they won the title, the parallels suggest we might be overlooking the NBA’s next great team — again.

The strategy laid out by the Warriors and since copied by the Nuggets is to build mostly through the draft, add role players with smart trades and nail one major impact free agent.

Among the top eight players in projected minutes for the Nuggets are four homegrown draft picks, three role players acquired via trade and one high-impact contributor signed as a free agent, which is the same distribution the Warriors used in 2013-14.

When it comes to the draft, both front offices did it the hard way by nailing picks outside the top five, which is a difficult task. Golden State drafted eventual All-Stars with the No. 7, No. 11 and No. 35 picks, spots that in the lottery era have developed into All-Stars 33 percent, 15 percent and 9 percent of the time, respectively. The chance of finding All-Stars with all of them is about 1-in-200.

Denver is following suit with a group consisting of Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay. That sounds crazy? The same thing could be said of Golden State’s young core four years ago. Although Stephen Curry had emerged as a likely first-time All-Star entering that season, neither Klay Thompson nor Draymond Green registered on that kind of radar. Jokic, Harris and Murray combined for 15.6 win shares last season, near the 16.1 win shares produced by Curry, Thompson and Green in 2012-13.

This season, there are the Warriors and then there’s everyone else.

"They’re going to be the highest favorite we’ve ever had going into a season, any team in any sport," according to one oddsmaker at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

They’ve truly come a long way. Entering the 2013-14 season, the Warriors were looking up at an impressive array of contenders out West that included the Spurs (one Ray Allen missed shot away from winning the previous title), Thunder (featuring MVP-to-be Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook), Clippers (with Chris Paul and a healthy Blake Griffin) and Rockets (added Dwight Howard to pair with James Harden). The road to the top of the West went through multiple established star duos and trios, leading ESPN’s Summer Forecast panel to project the Warriors for a sixth-place finish in the West.

That’s exactly where the Warriors finished, winning 51 games in a loaded conference that featured seven 50-win teams and left a 48-win Suns team out of the playoffs.

Now there’s a real sense of déjà vu as the NBA is once again unbalanced. The Nuggets are looking up at a swath of star-heavy Western Conference powerhouses and figure to be somewhat of a high-quality afterthought. They also were picked by ESPN’s Forecast panel to finish sixth. But as the new-look contenders try to find a groove early, there’s a real opportunity for the Nuggets to steal some headlines, as they have the NBA’s easiest schedule in October and November, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI).

Breaking news: Stephen Curry and Nikola Jokic do not have similar games. And yet both succeed as offensive wunderkinds, thanks in part to a skill unmatched by any counterpart. Curry’s shooting ability is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The threat he presents by simply stepping on the floor unlocks defenses in ways that numbers can’t fully articulate.

Jokic’s playmaking presents a similar challenge. Seven-footers simply aren’t supposed to thread needles and facilitate offense to the degree he does. Maybe you’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: Since Jokic became the starting center in mid-December of last season, Denver — not Golden State — led the NBA in offensive efficiency.

The Warriors didn’t become "The Warriors" until Curry transformed into a transcendent talent, a metamorphosis that began to take shape in 2012-13, gained momentum in 2013-14 and became reality in 2014-15. He’s a bona fide superstar and a face of the NBA.

Jokic is three years younger and already ahead of where Curry was entering 2013-14.

Heading into that season, Curry had yet to make an All-Star team, even though he was coming off a 2012-13 campaign in which he ranked in the top 20 in player efficiency rating (PER), win shares per 48 minutes and real plus-minus (RPM). Though he finished 19th in RPM — an estimate of a player’s true on-court impact — the then 24-year-old Curry was still a minus defender, as his overall standing was buoyed by being fourth in offensive RPM to offset a defensive RPM of -0.78 that ranked outside the top 250.

Jokic ranked sixth in overall RPM last season with a much more balanced profile. He finished among the top 35 in both the offensive (12th) and defensive (34th) components, which should help dispel some of the notion that he’s exclusively a one-way player (even if his rim protection will never come close to matching Rudy Gobert’s). Contributing 6.7 points per 100 possessions to his team’s performance last season, Jokic outperformed Curry’s 2013-14 season, in which Curry finished sixth in the MVP race.

If you narrow the focus to those special skills — Jokic’s passing and Curry’s shooting — Jokic still reigns supreme with respect to their peer groups. Jokic averaged 6.3 assists per 36 minutes last season, 174 percent greater than the league-average starting center. Conversely, Curry’s made 3s per 36 rated 120 percent greater than the league-average starting point guard. Point-center Nikola Jokic is truly a game-changer. Even if Jokic’s playmaking doesn’t rewrite the record books like Curry’s shooting has, the fact that only Russell Westbrook, James Harden and LeBron James had more triple-doubles last season is a testament to his ability to control all facets of the game.

Although the advanced metrics indicate that Jokic already is a superstar, all signs point to this being the season that public perception catches up. Of course, Jokic will have some more help this season in the form of four-time All-Star Paul Millsap.

A veteran All-Star with a strong defensive pedigree whose on-court impact far exceeds box score contributions joins a young core hungry to compete — where have we seen that before?

When Iguodala joined the Warriors, he was coming off two straight seasons in which he ranked among the top 20 in RPM, despite averaging a pedestrian 12.7 points per game over that same span. The casual fan might have seen a dependable and versatile player, but not necessarily a star.

Iguodala’s impact was immediate and also severely understated. While Curry made the All-Star team and both David Lee and Klay Thompson pumped in more than 18 PPG, Iguodala averaged his fewest points since his rookie season, while not leading the team in any major statistical category. Without Iguodala on the floor, lineups with those three on the court outscored teams by 3.4 points per 100 possessions. In the more than 1,000 minutes with Iguodala, Curry, Lee and Thompson on the floor, the team’s net rating soared to plus-17.1, suggesting that Iguodala’s impact far outweighed anything that shows up on the back of a basketball card.

Perhaps not surprising then, Iguodala finished third in RPM that season behind only LeBron James and Chris Paul.

Millsap provides a similar under-the-radar impact that might not be gleaned from per-game averages. Last season in Atlanta, the Hawks’ net rating of plus-2.0 with Millsap on the floor was seven points greater than when he was off the floor. That’s a larger impact than Iguodala made in Denver in 2012-13, the season before he teamed up with the Warriors.

Millsap is one of just seven players who ranked inside the top 15 in RPM during each of the past three seasons, a club that includes All-NBA mainstays LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Draymond Green. At 32 years old, Millsap is two years older than Iguodala was entering 2013-14, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see him starting for one season in Denver before transitioning to the same super-sub role Iguodala has embraced in the Bay Area.

"Twenty-three years old with a money stroke from beyond the arc and two-way potential as an elite 3-and-D shooting guard." That same description could have been written in October 2013 about Klay Thompson or October 2017 about Gary Harris.

Were it not for his fellow Splash Brother, Thompson would likely be viewed as the best shooter in the world. He’s also coming off an NBA Finals in which he spent more time guarding Kyrie Irving than any other Warriors player, while holding him to 38 percent shooting and 0.8 points per play. That’s a lofty goal for Harris to match.

However, compare Harris to Thompson at the same age and you come away thinking Harris has all the tools to get there. Last season, Harris averaged more points per 36 minutes, shot a better percentage from 3 and finished with more win shares than Thompson did as a 22-year-old. And he did it while playing more than 30 minutes per game, a significant piece of the rotation, even if he didn’t yet quite have as large of a role as Thompson did at that same point.

Of particular interest is Harris’ ability to stretch the floor in Denver’s high-octane offense playing off of Jokic. As the charts show, Harris is every bit as effective a catch-and-shoot threat that Thompson was back in 2012-13, though with less volume. Harris also shot a blistering 54 percent from the corners, which ranked second among the more than 100 players that attempted at least 60 of them. Offensively, Harris is every bit as advanced as Thompson was at this same point, which is frightening to consider, given Thompson’s ability to go scorched earth.

Harris has further to go than Thompson on the defensive end, where he gives up three inches and thus doesn’t have the size to check as many positions as effectively. According to Synergy, Harris ranked in just the 15th percentile in points per play allowed in the half-court, though some of that can be attributed to scheme and Denver’s generally porous defense overall. Regardless, he ranked among the league’s worst shooting guards in defensive RPM last season, despite having the tools to become a plus defender.

Golden State’s offense might get more attention, but the team also has ranked among the top five in defensive rating over each of the past three seasons. Thompson’s ability to check the opposing team’s best perimeter threat plays a significant role in that, and if the Nuggets are going to evolve into a dynasty, Harris needs to show similar development.

Golden State didn’t truly become special until Draymond Green emerged as an All-Star talent. Even with Curry, Iguodala and Thompson, the Warriors needed Green’s all-around brilliance to evolve into the unselfish, efficient, 3-point-shooting, switch-everything, two-way force that led to the winningest three-year stretch in NBA history.

It was a star turn that few saw coming following Green’s rookie season of 2012-13, in which he played just 13 minutes per game while stuck behind David Lee, Carl Landry, Andrew Bogut and even Festus Ezeli in the quest for playing time. Though he didn’t truly break out until the 2014-15 season — during which Green was thrust into a starting role after the injury to Lee — the writing was on the wall following 2013-14, as he ranked among the top 25 in RPM, sandwiched directly between LaMarcus Aldridge and Russell Westbrook.

Denver has a whole cupboard full of malleable young players who could blossom into the key piece, the most promising of which is Jamal Murray. Entering his second season, Murray projects for 2.7 RPM wins in 2017-18, which would exceed Green’s RPM wins from the 2012-13 season. While Green contributed far more in his second season, it’s also worth pointing out that Murray entered the league three years younger than Green. There’s plenty of time to play catch-up.

Even if it’s not Murray, there are other possibilities. The Nuggets have five other first-round picks, all 22 or younger, in Juancho Hernangomez, Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Lyles, Malik Beasley and Tyler Lydon, giving them plenty of options to throw at the dartboard. After all, it’s not always the prospect you expect to develop that does. Four years ago, if you had to guess which other Warriors player would turn into an All-Star, the house money probably would have been on Harrison Barnes, not Green. That Barnes developed into a useful starter gives hope for Denver, as well, as it’s not necessarily star or bust for the young horses in the stable.

Of course, the other benefit to building up the bench with young talent is it gives you options to explore trading for potentially attainable star players. Everyone talks about how Boston is loaded in young assets to acquire another star, and yet Denver’s treasure chest isn’t far off. In addition to the young collection of talent, the Nuggets own all of their first-round picks moving forward. If they decide to fast-track contention, they have a variety of pieces that could be attractive in a bid to land Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, CJ McCollum or someone of that caliber.

Of course, Denver should not start securing permits for a downtown parade this June. These things take time. And just like the Warriors before them, it’s most certainly a long shot, especially when you’re doing it without the benefit of an obvious franchise-changer like LeBron. When the Warriors won the title in 2014-15, they became the first champions in the lottery era to win it all without a single top-five pick among their top five in minutes played. But even that team had seasoned pedigree in former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut and former No. 4 overall pick Shaun Livingston. That team entered the season projected to finish seventh in the West.

Denver probably won’t seriously contend this season. And they might not register 12 months from now, either. But any conversation about who’s next absolutely needs to include the Mile High franchise that is doing a better Warriors impersonation than any other team.

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Denver Post file MAR 5 1963, MAR 14 1963 Popular Denver Couple Betrothed Enjoying a seafood dinner at the Denver Club are Miss Polly Sargeant and John Flobeck, to be wed in midsummer. Credit: Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

Years after leaving an abusive marriage Flobeck overcame her fear, championed for battered women and helped to enact sweeping comprehensive reform in the way restraining orders are enforced

She had a great sense of humor. She was very creative, very artistic, very intellectual and very well read, said Lorna Sargeant Pfaelzer, describing her sister and former Denver City Councilwoman Polly Sargeant Flobeck.

Flobeck, a fourth-generation Coloradan, died in her home state Sept. 25 after a two-year battle with lung cancer. She was 81.

“She’s a great girl. I loved her very much,” Pfaelzer said. “She was very serious about her jobs, whatever they were. I don’t know how she came to be in the position, but she was extremely passionate about it, more than any other career.”

Her original career was not in government. She graduated from Vassar College in 1954 with a degree in art history and was an interior designer, but no other career suited her as well as the last one she held before retirement. After a 1975 divorce, she attended business school to hone her skills at typing, shorthand and accounting. She became the assistant to the Councilman Paul Swalm. When he retired, he prodded her to run for his seat.

Flobeck served as a District 5 councilwoman from 1991 to 2003. She was active in many local civic and cultural associations and nonprofits and was a member of multiple boards, most notably the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District board and the Lowry Redevelopment Committee.

“She was a passionate, socially moderate, fiscally conservative, great person,” said former Mayor Wellington Webb. “The more you were around her and got to know her, the more you liked her.”

She had her share of hard knocks in life, yet she managed to always be a positive force with a smile on her face. She became a vocal advocate for battered women in the wake of a federal study that showed lax enforcement of restraining orders in Denver and Boulder. That and the specter of surgery convinced her that she owed it to abuse survivors to tell her own story.

In 1993, two years into her 12-year stint as councilwoman, Flobeck was diagnosed with a brain tumor. With the prospect of surgery looming, Flobeck revealed another devastating battle that she had fought in her past. A battle at home with her husband, Jack.

“I can’t tell you what set him off,” Flobeck said in a November 1993 interview with the Rocky Mountain News. “He got into this rage. He just erupted. He came toward me and he had this crazy look on his face, grabbed me around the head and hammered my head against the cement wall in the basement. That first time it scared me terribly. That is when you should leave.”

That was first of many attacks, she said. She endured steady physical abuse from him. It started when she was pregnant, she said, and escalated throughout their marriage, which ended in 1975.

“My mother was a very private person, but she was very public about having been a battered woman,” Flobeck’s son John said. “She was a very moral person and was always concerned with doing the right thing. She thought that was the right thing.”

Fawn Germer was a reporter at the Rocky Mountain News working on a year-long project about domestic violence. The Urban Institute study, which tracked women who had obtained temporary and permanent restraining orders over a year’s time, showed that Denver and Boulder police failed to make arrests in 80 percent of the cases when victims sought help. When Germer called Flobeck for comment, she learned her story of abuse.

“Polly had a big impact as a member of City Council,” Germer said Saturday. “However, in terms of what she did coming forward, that probably affected the most lives. Polly was so courageous.”

In response to the story, Flobeck’s ex-husband attempted to preserve his name in a follow-up story with the Rocky Mountain News. He started off by calling her crazy and ended by saying she “deserved to be hit” and that he had “walloped” her.

“The abuse affected her deeply,” Pfaelzer said. “She never married again. Never dated. It was a really horrible thing for her and her children. I was absolutely amazed that she went public. She was afraid of him and I admired her for doing it. I hope it helped others. It was very hard for her to do.”

Germer later called Flobeck and asked her to speak with another public official about how liberating it was to speak out against her abuser. Colorado Secretary of State Victoria Buckley decided to shared her own story of domestic abuse after Flobeck spoke to her. By January 1994, several Colorado lawmakers were pushing a package of laws aimed at protecting battered women and their families.

“I remember her quite well. She was a very special person,” Webb said. “When she was elected, she was excellent in working with us. As councilwoman, she was tireless in her work. She exceeded beyond expectations.

“Anyone in politics will talk about what a nice person she was, and that’s tough in this business. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t like Polly Flobeck.”

A private service was held in her home Monday. She was cremated and placed at Fairmount Cemetery.

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Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke delivers a pitch to the St. Louis Cardinals in the sixth inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on July 29, 2017. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

They share a spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., their clubhouses separated by a couple of concrete walls and about 400 feet of stadium grass. They opened spring training against each other this year and met 19 times in the regular season.

All to get to the one contest that counts, the National League wild-card game on Wednesday at Chase Field.

The Diamondbacks (93-69) and Rockies (87-75) meet for the chance to continue another NL West rivalry against division-winning Los Angeles in a best-of-five NL Division Series that begins Friday at Dodger Stadium.

The staff aces, Colorado’s Jon Gray and Arizona’s Zack Greinke, will meet for the first time this season in a game that features two top NL Manager of the Year candidates: the Rockies’ Bud Black and the Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo. Both are in their first year on the current job. Lovullo is in his first season as a manager.

"There are no secrets here," Black said. "They know our players. We’d like to think that we know their players and what they like to do. You know, it comes down to our side trying to halt the things that they like to do. Make our pitches in certain locations, where we feel we have to pitch certain hitters. And they feel the same thing. They know our hitters’ tendencies, they know our pitchers’ tendencies, and we know theirs.

"So it comes down to really execution. And if you don’t (execute), you know, the hitters are going to make the pitchers pay. If pitchers make their pitches, more likely than not, hitters will be out."

Arizona won 11 of the 19 meetings this season and is on a bit of a roll, having won nine of the past 13 head-to-head matchups. The Diamondbacks outscored the Rockies 101-69 in the regular season.

Mitigating any apparent numerical advantage is the fact that Greinke and Gray have had success against the other side.

Gray (10-4, 3.67 ERA) beat the D-backs twice in three starts this year, both at Chase Field. He struck out a season-high 10 in each turn in Arizona. Gray is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA in five career starts versus the Diamondbacks.

Greinke (17-7, 3.20 ERA) beat the Rockies in Arizona and at Coors Field this season, going 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts against Colorado. Four were quality starts, and the other was two outs short. He is 9-5 with a 3.93 ERA in 25 career games (24 starts) versus Colorado.

Call both teams prepared.

"In baseball, I think we are all adrenaline junkies," Lovullo said. "We love these moments. We live for them. We prepare for them. We know now to navigate through them. I enjoy feeling pressure. I feel like the entire clubhouse feels the exact same way."

The D-backs completed a 24-game turnaround this season, the biggest in the NL, while Colorado was a plus-12.

The Rockies led the NL with 824 runs and feature a pair of MVP candidates in center fielder Charlie Blackmon and third baseman Nolan Arenado. Blackmon set a major league record with 103 RBIs from the leadoff spot, and Arenado had his third straight 130-plus-RBI season. Each had 37 homers.

Arizona scored 12 fewer runs but finished third in the NL in team ERA (3.66), improving by nearly a run and a half after having the worst ERA in the majors (5.09) last season. The D-backs have their own MVP candidate in first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who amassed 36 homers and 120 RBIs.

A case could be made that Arizona right fielder J.D. Martinez, who bats behind Goldschmidt, is the best trade-deadline acquisition in many years. He erupted for 29 homers and 65 RBIs in 62 games after begin acquired from the Detroit Tigers on July 18. Martinez had 16 homers in September, tying Ralph Kiner’s NL record for the month.


"If I say yes, it’s like I don’t think I can do it," Martinez said. "If I say no, it’s like I’m arrogant, cocky. It’s one of those things where I go up there and expect to hit the ball hard. I just feel like right now I’m having success in being able to do what I want to do up there. I feel comfortable in the box and I’m getting the results."

Greinke is 13-1 at home, one victory short of Randy Johnson’s single-season record for wins at Chase Field, and he always has given his team a chance to win in the postseason. Greinke is 3-3 with a 3.55 ERA in nine postseason starts and has been better than that of late, making six starting quality starts for the Dodgers from 2013-15. Although he was only 2-2 in those six, his ERA was 2.38 and he had 41 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings.

Gray, whose fastball was clocked at 98 mph in the sixth inning of his victory at Arizona on Sept. 12, is making his first postseason start in the Rockies’ first playoff appearance since 2009. He was 5-3 with a 4.06 ERA on the road this season.

There have been three previous intradivisonal wild-card games since the current playoff format was adopted in 2012. The team with the better regular-season record won all three: the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Cincinnati Reds in 2013, the Chicago Cubs over Pittsburgh in 2015, and the Toronto Blue Jays over the Baltimore Orioles last year.

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Pitcher Chris Rusin #52 of the Colorado Rockies throws in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Coors Field on July 6, 2017 in Denver.

The benefit of runaway late-season victories put the Rockies in a favorable position heading toward the playoffs. A bullpen that has carried them so often is rested and ready to extend its reach.

Colorado’s relief corps has been the second-best unit in the National League this season, measured by WAR (wins above replacement), according to Fangraphs. Their 6.4 mark is sixth-best in the majors and trails only the Dodgers, at 7.1, in the NL.

And if the Rockies have an Andrew Miller, lefty long man Chris Rusin is it. Miller last season set playoff records for both strikeouts and scoreless innings as a reliever. Cleveland rode him through multiple-inning outings all the way to the World Series.

Rusin is a Rockies key. His 191 ERA-plus (a park-adjusted earned-run average that sands down Coors Field‘s effects) is the best among all Rockies pitchers. He can pitch in high-leverage single-batter outings or throw over multiple innings.

“Adrenaline takes over at that point,” Rusin said Saturday. “It doesn’t matter what your body feels like because you’re numb anyway. It’s what you work all season for. Just lay it all on the line.”

And in the postseason, Colorado’s bullpen will be charged with handling smaller battles.

“You shorten the game, within the game,” Rockies lefty Jake McGee said. “That’s how bullpens are run a lot in the playoffs.”

While Colorado manager Bud Black is forced to consider his bullpen management not only during a game in, say, June, but also two or three weeks later. He can’t burn out all his arms on one win at the expense of seven other games, for example.

But in the postseason, the stakes are raised, and the best pitchers get leaned on even more. For the Rockies, that means Rusin, McGee, closer Greg Holland, Pat Neshek and matchup lefty Mike Dunn. Scott Oberg and Carlos Estevez set up as a hard-throwing strikeout specialists. Antonio Senzatela may get a long-relief role. A starter or two, also, might end up in the pen. Zac Rosscup could also be used, as a left-on-left matchup.

Pitchers will see their roles expand. High-leverage situations might occur as early as the fifth inning for a reliever, even those arms more accustomed to late innings.

How Black manages his bullpen will fall to a simple precept.

“When called upon, get outs,” he said. “The magnitude of one game changes things. It goes back to Rule No. 1: Be ready for anything.”

Dodgers dealing. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts assigned right-hander Yu Darvish a bullpen session on the mound at Coors Field. Darvish moved from the Rangers to the Dodgers as the highest-profile trade deadline acquisition in July. He was meant to be a No. 2 behind Clayton Kershaw in the Dodgers’ rotation.

But Roberts has eyes on Darvish pitching at Coors Field in Game 3 of the National League division series, if it should fall that way. Darvish has never pitched a game in Denver. His bullpen session was an introduction.

Footnotes. Gerardo Parra was out of the Rockies starting lineup for a fourth consecutive game, ceding his spot to Ian Desmond in left field and Mark Reynolds at first base. Black stacked right-handers against the lefty Kershaw. But Parra is 1-for-22 over his last six games.

Dodgers TBA at Rockies LHP Tyler Anderson (6-6, 4.81 ERA), Sunday 1:10 p.m. AT&T SportsNet, 630 AM

Anderson will pitch his final regular-season outing after making a late move to secure the No. 2 spot in the Rockies rotation. He has been outstanding of late, with three scoreless outings in his past four starts. Last week, Anderson gave up just four hits in seven shutdown innings against the Miami Marlins for his sixth victory. He struck out five and, more importantly, did not walk a batter. If the Rockies can get that far, Anderson would likely start Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Los Angeles on Friday. Meanwhile, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was undecided for his Sunday starter. He said Ross Stripling (3-5, 3.86) would be in play if the right-hander did not pitch in relief Saturday. Nick Groke, The Denver Post

Wednesday NL wild card: Rockies RHP Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67) at Diamondbacks Zack Greinke (17-7, 3.20), 6:08 p.m., TBS

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The $7,200 that the Montezuma County Hospital District loses monthly because of a mistake by state lawmakers may not seem like a lot, but Keenen Lovett insists the rural health care provider is feeling the loss.

“It is an urgent matter for us,” said Lovett, an attorney who represents the district. “You take out that kind of money … and yeah, it’ll make a difference.”

The sense of urgency in certain parts of the state is what prompted Gov. John Hickenlooper to call state lawmakers back into a special session to fix legislation that mistakenly exempted retail marijuana from sales taxes in nine special districts around the state.

But not all share the same outlook. The leaders of the Republican-controlled state Senate made clear they plan to adjourn the special session without passing legislation to fix the glitch.

This week, Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, once again called on the Democratic governor to rescind the executive order and complained that he did not adequately consult Republican lawmakers about the special session.

Instead, Grantham said the Senate would wait until the legislature reconvenes in January to act. By that point, the total revenue loss is projected to top $4.5 million, but most districts are expected to avert significant impacts to public services.

“There should have been a little more talking on the front end instead of the last-second, eleventh-hour crisis being thrown at us in the legislature,” Grantham said in an interview. “This will end up being taken care of in January.”

Grantham’s political action committee later sent a fundraising solicitation blasting the governor for wasting money with a special session, saying Hickenlooper was “toying with taxpayer dollars to advance his political agenda.”

If lawmakers are concerned about the cost, they can decline their per-diem payment — which accounts for the bulk of the $25,400 cost for each day of the special session. To pass the bill, it would take a minimum three days.

House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, called critics of the special session “obstructionists.”

“I think there’s a simple fix,” she said in an interview. “We can come back for three days, get it done and be done with it. We can’t forget that, by not taking action, this is having a negative impact on Coloradans.”

The apparent impasse and political gamesmanship threaten to tarnish the bipartisanship that defined 2017 session when it adjourned in May and touted the legislation in question — Senate Bill 267 — as the term’s crowning achievement.

The new law exempted recreational marijuana sales from the state sales tax and instead boosted the special sales tax on pot to 15 percent. The move prevented special districts from imposing a sales tax on recreational pot that they previously collected.

Republican lawmakers — many of whom opposed the original legislation — are raising questions about whether the bill to fix the issue would violate the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

House GOP leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock said TABOR requires any new tax to go to the voters for consent, and reinstating a special district tax on marijuana qualifies, even if voters previously approved it.

“The fact is 267 is law so … no matter what happened, if we are going to enact some change that will result in net revenue increase for any district, we have to go to the voters,” he said.

Democratic lawmakers and the governor’s office point to court decisions that give the General Assembly the ability to modify tax policy in certain cases without seeking voter approval again. But Democratic leaders declined to release a legal analysis from nonpartisan legislative staff that they say supports their approach.

“We are only doing what voters have already asked,” said House Democratic leader KC Becker, one of the sponsors of the new law.

The issue came to the forefront soon after the session ended, just days before it took effect. Hickenlooper’s administration worked behind the scenes for months to reverse it through an administrative rule only to be told it must to go the legislature for approval.

“Where I grew up, when you made a mistake like that, you fixed it,” Hickenlooper told reporters this week. “I was taught you acknowledge the mistake, you apologize and then you fix it as quickly as you can.”

Colorado’s top Republican lawmaker @SenatorGrantham is fundraising off #COGov‘s decision to call special session #copolitics #coleg

— John Frank (@ByJohnFrank) September 28, 2017

Colorado is home to dozens of voter-approved special districts that impose their own taxes to pay for certain services, such as ambulance, fire, water and sanitation, but only a handful that levy sales taxes are affected.

Two Denver-based districts are losing the most. The Regional Transportation District is receiving about $560,000 less a month. The Denver metro area’s Scientific & Cultural Facilities District — which includes the Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and more than 275 other arts and culture organizations — is short roughly $56,000 a month.

The special districts contacted by The Denver Post supported the special session and emphasized the need for a fix. But the majority of the districts affected could not point to immediate impacts if the new law is not immediately amended.

RTD, for instance, has lost more than $1.6 million to date and could lose as much as $4 million if the legislature doesn’t fix the problem until January. But it’s still only a fraction of a percent of the eight-county transit district’s $1.2 billion budget. That’s such a small difference that RTD officials said they won’t even need to go back to their board for budget adjustments this year.

Similarly, officials with the Pikes Peak and Roaring Fork transportation districts said they don’t expect the shortfall to cause any cuts to service this year. Deborah Jordy, executive director of the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District, said she couldn’t pinpoint any direct impacts from the funding loss at this point.

Still, over the long term, the consequences are significant. Next fiscal year, RTD’s losses are projected to climb to $8 million as pot sales are expected to grow.

“The longer that the error remains in place, the more that residents who receive the voter-approved services will be impacted,” said Scott Reed, a RTD spokesman. “Six million dollars (a year) funds a substantial amount of bus or train service — and that will need to be taken into consideration with our upcoming budgets.”

“The issue is it’s cumulative,” said Jordy, whose organization stands to lose about $750,000 annually. “The sooner we get it fixed, the better.”

What it means for hospital

The new law is a wide-ranging spending measure that pumped money into hospitals, roads and schools. The main thrust exempted the hospital provider fee from counting toward the state’s spending cap, a move needed to funnel money to rural health care facilities.

Ironically, it ended up cutting funding to just the sort of hospital it was supposed to help.

Montezuma County voters in 2015 approved a 1-cent sales tax to help fund a $30 million expansion of Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez, a town of about 9,000 whose hospital serves a much larger region.

In July, the revenues generated by the tax dropped by about 6 percent. And now, the nonprofit rural hospital has to make up the money out of its operating budget.

“Us losing money now does hurt us,” Lovett said. “It hurts us down the road. We’re going to be paying (interest) on those amounts for however much longer they don’t fix this.”

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Surgeons remove 28 magnets from 2-year-old’s bowel

A Colorado family is warning other parents about the dangers of Buckyballs after a 2-year-old girl swallowed 28 of the small magnets that sent her to the hospital.

Ella McBrien swallowed the small high-powered magnets when her father, Kyle McBrien, stepped away to use the bathroom. Her parents told FOX31 Denver on Sunday the girl likes to put things in her mouth.

"It was terrifying," girl’s mother, Elizabeth McBrien, said. "I was losing it, he luckily kept it together."

The X-rays showed the magnets linked together to form a circle in the girl’s bowel. The magnets pinched a piece of the organ, forming a whole. The inital procedure to remove the BB-sized spheres failed, leading doctors to use a specialized endoscopy to remove them.

"They were pinching the bowel and causing the early formation of a hole within the bowel by the time we got in there," Dr. Robert Kramer, who was working on the 2-year-old’s case, told the news station. "That can have very significant implications. In the worst cases there has been deaths associated with these."

They successfully removed the magnetic balls and the toddler was moving around normally within a few hours after the procedure, according to FOX31.

A Colorado toddler was hospitalized after she swallowed 28 of the magnetic balls, her parents said on Sunday.

(AP Photo/CPSC )

Buckyballs have previously injured and sickened children. The items were initially recalled in 2013 after several cases of children swallowing them were reported. Courts reversed the U.S. Consumer and Product Safety Commision’s order in 2016.

"We are starting to see more of these high power magnet ingestions now that they are back on the market," Kramer said.

Kyle McBrien said he’s telling his daughter’s health scare to warn other parents about the dangerous items.

"It sounds as benign as humanly possible — magnets, you don’t think anything of it. I think just to understand exactly what the true risk is," McBrien said.

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It’s no secret that each location is highly unique. That means that each unique location has its own set of fun facts! In this article, we will share with you some facts about the state of Colorado, a beautiful part of the United States of America.

1. The cheeseburger was invented in the Colorado city of Denver by one Louis Ballast.

2. “Colorado” means “colored red.” The name is Spanish.

3. The longest continuous street located within the United States, Colfax Avenue, is in Denver, Colorado.

4. Colorado is the only state to have ever had three governors serve in one day.

5. Each year Colorado is host to the largest rodeo in the entire world, the Western Stock Show.

6. Colorado’s capital state building’s thirteenth step is exactly one mile above sea level. It is located in the city of Denver.

7. Colorado’s city of Pueblo is the only location within the United States where there are four recipients of the Medal of Honor who are still living.

8. The state of Colorado has almost as many dead towns as there are live ones. In fact, there are roughly 500 ghost towns spread out throughout the state. These towns are highly fascinating to not only the locals but the tourists who regularly travel to Colorado.

9. Underneath the Rocky Mountains roughly 1000 feet, which cover a portion of Colorado, lies the largest oil reserve in the world that remains untapped.

10. In the state of Colorado, it is considered illegal to ride a horse while under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.

In conclusion, Colorado is a highly unique and beautiful state within the United States. We recommend using this list of fun facts about the state to wow your friends and family about what you know.

Photo provided by Pawnee Waste LLC Construction crews are building the landfill near Grover to handle oil and gas industry waste, including low-level radioactive waste. They will use clay and plastic liners to protect land and groundwater.

Colorado landfills have been illegally burying low-level radioactive waste from the oil and gas industry that they are not approved to handle, state health officials revealed this week.

State health regulators, confirming at a meeting with local governments the disposal of unknown amounts at ordinary landfills, are trying to prohibit the practice and buttress their oversight. Colorado’s booming oil and gas industry produces millions of tons of waste, some of it radioactive, and both waste producers and landfill operators are obligated to handle it properly.

“There is some of it that is just going to solid waste landfills. … It is probably, mostly, staying in state,” Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment hazardous materials and waste management director Gary Baughman said at the meeting Wednesday.

CDPHE regulators said they don’t know of any “imminent” threat to public health, noting that landfill operators must monitor water that leaches through waste.

But state officials asked cities and counties to help stop improper disposal of the industry’s so-called technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials (TENORM) — sludge from filter bags, pipelines and storage tanks, and possibly drill cuttings. Radioactive materials can cause cancer.

Landfills authorized to accept radioactive materials must use liners and other protective barriers to protect land and water. All landfill operators must ask waste haulers to characterize their loads, especially if they could hurt public health and the environment.

CDPHE environment programs director Martha Rudolph said lawmakers must help by fixing a glitch in state laws. A solid waste statute requires CDPHE to prohibit disposal of radioactive waste at landfills not designed and designated to handle it safely. CDPHE also is charged with regulating radioactive materials. But a provision in the radioactive materials statute says CDPHE cannot regulate disposal of those materials.

Lawmakers should give clarity by removing that last provision, Rudolph said, and CDPHE then would create a new rule for putting low-level radioactive waste in landfills after hearing from companies and Colorado residents.

Today, only two landfills are approved to accept low-level radioactive waste routinely. And a new, specialized Pawnee Waste facility east of Fort Collins is being built, with 350,000 cubic yards of dirt excavated so far, to dispose of up to 15 million tons of the oil and gas industry’s radioactive waste. Pawnee officials said they’ll open it in November and that plastic liners, clay barriers and electronic leak-detection sensors will protect land and groundwater.

Oil and gas companies in Colorado, extracting fossil fuels from more than 55,000 wells, generate roughly 500,000 tons of solid waste per year, including low-level radioactive waste.

“It is in the industry’s best interest to mitigate long-term risks. And it is in the public’s best interest. This radiation lasts for a long time,” Pawnee project manager Jane Witheridge said. “If we don’t treat it differently from municipal solid waste, we would not be serving either the industry or the environment as it should be in Colorado. This is being done in North Dakota. It is being done in Texas.”

The Pawnee landfill “will be a great place to send” radioactive waste “but it is probably not enough” to handle all the waste the industry is likely to produce in the future, said Joe Schieffelin, CDPHE’s solid waste program manager. “That’s one of the pieces of information we are trying to get from the oil and gas industry.”

CDPHE regulators don’t know how much low-level radioactive waste has been disposed of improperly at landfills, Schieffelin said. “We don’t have information on the concentrations, either,” he said.

Operators of existing landfills have raised questions about CDPHE’s push for “a rule-making” to govern disposal of low-level radioactive waste in landfills. State officials told Front Range local officials from Weld County and as far south as Trinidad that they view them as partners in making sure landfills are safe. Once CDPHE approves landfills, local governments issue permits that let the landfills receive waste.

Waste Management Inc. officials, who run seven landfills in Colorado, said Thursday that they are collaborating with CDPHE and others to clarify procedures related to disposal of naturally occurring radioactive material, which is present everywhere.

“Waste Management of Colorado does not accept low-level radioactive waste,” company spokeswoman Isha Cogborn said.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, a fossil fuels industry trade group, did not respond to questions, but it issued a statement indicating COGA doesn’t see disposal of low-level radioactive waste in landfills as a problem.

“While circumstances may be different in other states, there have been no indications this is an issue for oil and gas waste in Colorado,” reads the statement attributed to COGA president Dan Haley. “We have spoken with the state, with members of the waste industry, and others to begin exploring the realities of this matter.”

Some companies have approached Pawnee about using the new landfill.

It is unclear whether CDPHE is taking enforcement action in cases where radioactive waste was buried illegally in unapproved landfills.

A May 12 letter from Schieffelin to landfill operators alerted them that CDPHE “has become aware of a potential issue” of landfills accepting waste containing radioactive material. Landfills cannot accept such waste “unless a landfill is specifically designated for that purpose,” the letter said.

“By accepting TENORM in general and (industry) exploration and production TENORM waste in particular, your landfill could be in violation of the law. Many sites are not characterizing potential TENORM materials and, therefore, the department is concerned that many sites may be unknowingly in violation.”

Legal responsibility shifts from waste generators to landfill operators once waste is accepted. If improper waste hasn’t been characterized accurately, the landfill operator can seek remedies from waste generators.

Only Clean Harbors landfill in Adams County and the Southside Landfill in Pueblo County are approved to routinely handle low-level radioactive waste, CDPHE records show.

In 2016, Pawnee got approval from CDPHE and Weld County for its landfill designed to handle radioactive waste. Pawnee officials say it will protect groundwater against radioactive contamination with a high-density polyethylene synthetic liner and clay barriers. The waste would be buried in containers, with electronic sensors to detect leaks, all kept at least 20 feet away from groundwater.

Some landfills recently received case-by-case approvals from state or local authorities to dispose of oil and gas industry low-level radioactive waste, Baughman said.

“It has become clear that what we have out there is an un-level playing field at solid waste landfills,” he told local government officials.

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Comcast customers in Denver on Monday experienced phone, internet and cable outages.

A construction-related problem led to the outage, Comcast said.

“This afternoon there was a fiber cut in Denver area as a result of construction excavation work. As a result, some Comcast customers in Denver are experiencing phone, internet and cable outage,” Leslie Oliver, a company spokeswoman. “We are sorry for the inconvenience, and we have crews currently working to repair the fiber cut and restore service as quickly as we can.”

There was a fiber cut in Denver. Crews are working to repair and restore service. We apologize for any inconvenience. @comcastcares

Outages were reported late in the afternoon Monday and ran into the evening.

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