chdowns (12), and he ranks in the top 10 nationally in all three

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals didnt have a postseason prayer. Until, that is, a praying mantis showed up in their dugout.Since then, the defending World Series champions are playing like world beaters.Perhaps the Royals can thank Billy Burns for their 9-1 run. Hes a spare outfielder, stuck on the bench almost all the time since being traded over from Oakland last month.But Burns holds an important side job: Hes the caretaker of Rally Mantis Jr.I think the only reason Im taking care of him is I actually care about him not dying, Burns said. So people are like, `You can take care of him. I spent one night researching, how to take care of him, so hopefully we can keep him alive.See, the Royals were sputtering, their playoff hopes fading, when a praying mantis appeared in their dugout at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 6. They beat Toronto that night and suddenly the bug-eyed insect with a triangular head had a new home.Really, who needs a Rally Monkey when you have a Rally Mantis?The first mantis crawled up on my hat and just kind of camped out there for a while, Burns said. Some of the guys just thought it was funny.Adopted by the team, it was christened the Rally Mantis and Kansas City went on to win five of six. Their new mascot traveled with the club to Minnesota, but died on Aug. 13 -- the Royals lost that day, too.The first one lasted about five or six games, Burns said. The first one was on his way out. The first one was dying when we found him.Then Junior showed up.The second one flew in out of nowhere during the game the other day in Detroit, Burns said.Burns said shortstop Alcides Escobar and pitcher Edinson Volquez used the help of a fan to catch him. After that, with extra time on his hands, Burns took over.The Royals swept their first three-game series in Detroit since 2008 and Rally Mantis Jr. boarded the charter flight for Kansas City, where the Royals beat the Twins on Thursday night to move back over .500. The surge has moved them back into the AL wild-card race.Before the victory over the Twins, Rally Mantis Jr. was moved into what Burns described as his new upgraded cage with plants and food.Right now hes got some crickets hanging out in there, some moths, Burns said. Weve been catching bugs whenever we see them.There was a photo opportunity with Junior in his new home this week and at least a half-dozen photographers swarmed to shoot Kansas Citys latest celebrity. Royals fans are showing up with mantis masks and making Rally Mantis Jr. posters.The club leaves Sunday night for Miami. Rally Mantis Jr. will make the trip.Hes part of our team now, Burns said. Hell be going everywhere. Cheap Sneakers Online Uk . Manuel was offered a position the day he was fired. He accepted earlier this week and the team made the announcement Friday. Sneakers Sale Online Uk . With his new coach and six-time Grand Slam singles champion Boris Becker watching him during an official match for the first time, Djokovic appeared tentative early against the Slovakian player, who often appeared content to keep the ball in play. . Anthony Davis had 31 points and 17 rebounds in his seventh straight game with more than 20 points, but that was only enough to keep the Pelicans competitive into the final minutes. Andrew Bogut had 10 points and 15 rebounds for Golden State, which rebounded from a loss a night earlier in Oklahoma City and snapped a two-game skid. Wholesale Sneakers Uk . The third-ranked Ivanovic, who won the event in 2008 and 10, served five aces and broke Wickmayer, also a former winner in 2009, five times. "The result looked easier than it really was," Ivanovic said. Best Sneakers Website Uk . With Parker having a quiet game for once, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw provided the scoring as France won its first major basketball title by beating Lithuania 80-66 on Sunday. It was a victory that ended a decade of frustration for Parker and a talented French generation, which lost the final against Spain two years ago and took bronze in 2005. EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald feels like he has been living through one of those Choose Your Own Adventure stories this season.He sees things going as planned during the week. Things get dicey once the weekend hits -- and this is a big one.The Wildcats become eligible for a bowl if they beat Illinois in Saturdays season finale.I think that groups (the seniors) given everything theyve got, Fitzgerald said. I think weve got some other guys that are older that have given it everything weve got. And then I think our younger guys, its been interesting. Its definitely been a baptism under fire. Youve seen some flashes or what I think were going to see in the future. And then youve seen obviously what were going to have to do regardless of the outcome starting on Monday.The question is: Will Northwestern (5-6, 4-4 Big Ten) be preparing for a bowl -- or for next year?The Wildcats were hoping a 10-3 record in 2015 would be more of a launching point after back-to-back 5-7 seasons. But the results this year are mixed.Northwestern regrouped after opening with losses at home to Western Michigan and FCS member Illinois State, winning four of the next five. But theyve dropped three of four since then, with a 29-12 loss at Minnesota last week. Now they meet their in-state rival, with Illinois (3-8, 2-6 Big Ten) trying to play the spoiler and end coach Lovie Smith s first season on a strong note.It would do quite a bit, Smith said. Just the morale, of course. And we talk a lot about finishing. You remember the last thing that you do, simple as that.Here are some things to look for when Northwestern and Illinois meet:HOMECOMING ... SORT OFSaturdays game will be Smiths first in the Chicago area in just over two years.The last time the former NFL coach led a team there was Nov. 23, 2014, when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Bears at Soldier Field, 21-13. The Bears scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter, spoiling his return to Soldier Field. Smith coached Chicago to three playoff appearances in nine seasons and led the 2006 team to the Super Bowl before being fiired following the 2012 season.ddddddddddddCATCHING CARRNorthwesterns Austin Carr was selected one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award given to the countrys best receiver along with Oklahomas Dede Westbrook and East Carolinas Zay Jones.A former walk-on, Carr leads the Big Ten in receptions (80), yards receiving (1,170) and touchdowns (12), and he ranks in the top 10 nationally in all three categories. He had five catches for 68 yards last week but left the field feeling woozy from a hit by Minnesota safety Duke McGhee.RUNNING LOWThe limited offensive success Illinois has had this season has been mostly on the ground, driven by the running of Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin . Foster has 721 yards on the season, 65.6 a game, while Corbin has a total of 453 yards and is averaging 41.2. But opposing defenses are increasingly focused on stopping the two, and in the teams three losses in its last four games, it has worked. In the blowout losses to Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, Foster averaged 56.7 yards a game and Corbin dropped well off his earlier pace to 11.7 a game.1,000-YARD BARRIERWith top rusher Foster at 721 yards and top receiver Malik Turner with 545 yards, Illinois probably will finish the season without either a 1,000-yard back or receiver. It would be the fourth time that has happened since 2011, when A.J Jenkins had 1,276 receiving yards. The only exception since then has been Mike Dudeks 1,038-yard receiving season in 2014. The last Illini running back to break the 1,000-yard mark was Mikel Leshoure in 2010 with 1,697 yards.RECORD IN REACHClayton Thorson has a chance to set Northwesterns record for touchdown passes in a season. He is tied for second with Zak Kustok with 20 and needs one to match the mark set by Brett Basanez in 2005.Thorson ranks third in the Big Ten in yards passing (2,847), yards per game (258.8) and TD throws.---For more AP college football: and ' ' '

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