Patriots

Yanks, Orioles and Nats, Cards tied at 1-1

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Yanks, Orioles and Nats, Cards tied at 1-1

From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- The New York Yankees now must grudgingly acknowledge that these aren't the same Baltimore Orioles they used to knock around with merciless ease.Rookie Wie-Yin Chen outpitched 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, and the resilient Orioles beat the Yankees 3-2 Monday night to even their best-of-five AL playoff series at a game apiece.Game 3 will be held Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.Baltimore fell apart in the ninth inning of the opener Sunday, allowing five runs in a 7-2 defeat. Instead of wilting under the pressure of having to come from behind against the mighty Yankees on Monday, the Orioles stood strong."I think that's been big for us all year, the fact that we've been able to put our losses and obviously our low points behind us, really learn from them and bounce back," said right fielder Chris Davis, who had two RBIs.Before this year, the Orioles endured 14 straight losing seasons and were 79-140 against the Yankees over that span. But during this wildly successful comeback season, Baltimore has thus far split 20 games with New York."They have a good team," Yankees captain Derek Jeter conceded."It seemed like Baltimore and us have kind of gone back and forth all year and that's what we did here," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.Baltimore's turnaround from Game 1 was typified by the performance of closer Jim Johnson, who yielded all five of those ninth-inning runs on Sunday before finishing Monday's game with a 1-2-3 ninth."(Sunday) night was just a hiccup," Baltimore first baseman Mark Reynolds said. "He obviously showed what he was capable of tonight."Afterward, Orioles owner Peter Angelos made a rare appearance, shaking hands with virtually every player he came across in the clubhouse."It's always good to see the man that signs your check," center fielder Adam Jones said. "I think it means a lot to him and it obviously means a lot to the players to see the owner appreciates you going out there and busting your tail for him, for the organization and for the city."The Yankees, by virtue of finishing two games ahead of the Orioles in the AL East, have home-field advantage and will host the remainder of the games in the series. But Baltimore won all three series at Yankee Stadium and won't be intimidated by playing there for the right to advance to the AL championship series."I think the biggest thing for us is we feel comfortable playing in New York," Davis said.Hiroki Kuroda will start for New York against rookie Miguel Gonzalez, who was 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in two starts in the Bronx this season, striking out 17 and walking only one in 13 2-3 innings.In Game 2, the Orioles used the same formula that got them into the postseason: a magnificent bullpen and an ability to win tight games. Baltimore was 29-9 in one-run decisions during the regular season and 74-0 when leading after seven innings."I think having our bullpen having been as consistent as it has been gives us that confidence in these one-run games," Reynolds said. "Overall, we had the confidence today. Going into the ninth inning with a lead, we knew we were going to win."Chen gave up two runs, one earned, and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings. The Taiwan native, who pitched previously in Japan, was 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA in four outings against New York this season, including two in September in which he yielded a total of 11 runs over 11 1-3 innings."Chen did a good job of keeping us in the game," Davis said. "To hold that offense to two runs is saying something, and we were able to get timely hits when we needed it."Chen left with a 3-2 lead, and the bullpen made it stand up. Johnson retired Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki on grounders and struck out Alex Rodriguez to end it in front of a rollicking crowd at Camden Yards.Much earlier, Suzuki's deft dancing at the plate put the Yankees ahead.Pettitte, whose 19 wins and 43 starts are the most in postseason history, allowed three runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings."I thought he pitched a really, really good game," Girardi said. "I thought he had really good command of his fastball, his curveball, really all his pitches."Pettitte came out of retirement before this season hoping to pitch again in the playoffs. He was effective; Chen was just better."It's a playoff game," Pettitte said. "If you give up too many runs, that number doesn't have to get too high until you know you're going to get a loss."Pettitte, however, got little offensive backing. New York stranded 10 and went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position."They were tough. We weren't able to get the big hits with runners in scoring position," Pettitte said. "It was a frustrating game and one you hate to lose. It would have been nice to get this one, that's for sure."After Davis hit a two-run single to put Baltimore up 2-1 in the third inning, Matt Wieters led off the sixth with a double and scored on a single by Reynolds to make it 3-1.But New York came right back in the seventh. Eduardo Nunez got a double when Davis couldn't catch his blooper to right and Jeter followed with an RBI single. After Suzuki hit into a fielder's choice, Darren O'Day replaced Chen and struck out Rodriguez as Suzuki stole second. Brian Matusz came in and issued an intentional walk to Robinson Cano to set up a matchup with Nick Swisher.Swisher was 1 for 18 lifetime against Matusz and 1 for his last 32 in postseason play with runners in scoring position. A wild pitch moved up the runners, but the percentages held up, as Swisher hit a routine fly ball to left.The Yankees used the nifty footwork of Suzuki to take a 1-0 first-inning lead, and it had nothing to do with his speed on the basepaths.Jeter led off the game with a single and Suzuki reached when Reynolds fumbled a bare-hand pickup at first base for an error.Rodriguez hit a low line drive at second baseman Robert Andino, who caught it and doubled up Jeter. Cano followed with a drive to the base of the right-field wall for a double. The relay from Davis to Andino to Wieters beat Suzuki to the plate by plenty, but he dodged the tag coming toward home.Suzuki then circled around the batter's box, juked around the catcher's desperate lunge and touched the plate an instant before Wieters' glove found its mark.Pettitte retired the first eight batters before Andino hit a bloop single with two outs in the third. Nate McLouth also singled, and a four-pitch walk to J.J. Hardy loaded the bases for Davis, who lined a single to right.Jones followed by grounding a single just beyond the reach of Jeter at shortstop, but Hardy stopped at third after failing to spot third-base coach DeMarlo Hale waving him home. Wieters then popped out with the bases loaded.In the fourth, the Yankees used two singles and a walk to load the bases with one out. Nunez popped out before Jeter bounced into a forceout.NOTES:It was the 16th start in a Game 2 for Pettitte, most in baseball history ahead of Tom Glavine (11). ... NY 1B Mark Teixeira let a ball go through his legs in the fifth inning for an error, matching his total for the entire regular season. ... Chen was 2-5 with 3.59 ERA in 10 postseason starts in Japan. He participated in the playoffs from 2008-11. ... Suzuki has reached safely in all 12 of his playoff games. ... Cano has 19 RBIs in 18 postseason games.----------ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals enjoyed a typical high-output day against Jordan Zimmermann. The bats came alive when they needed it most.Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso homered early to build a nice cushion and Carlos Beltran added two long shots in a 12-4 rout over the Washington Nationals on Monday night that evened the best-of-five series at a game apiece."If we get things going, we feel like we can carry the team," Craig said. "As you saw tonight, we put a lot of good swings on the ball and really drove the ball. It was a lot of fun."The Cardinals chased Zimmermann after three innings, his shortest outing of the season, and took care of business in what could be the final home game of the season. A day after managing just three hits, there was no carry-over."You've got to be confident," third baseman David Freese said. "We're one of the few teams left. They still think they can take the series, and so do we."Johnson said Zimmermann, pitching on eight days' rest, relied too heavily on outside fastballs that the Cardinals were able to time. The right-hander's next-shortest outing this year also was against the Cardinals, when he coughed up a four-run, first-inning cushion and was chased after yielding eight runs in 3 2-3 innings during a 10-9 loss at home.He's 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in five career regular-season starts against St. Louis, which was 3 for 5 with runners in scoring position against a pitcher who led the majors in holding opponents to a .160 average in that category.The Cardinals had more than enough to compensate for a two-inning start from an ailing Jaime Garcia, who had an MRI exam for a shoulder injury. The lefty missed two months with shoulder fatigue during the season."I don't know how it happened, I don't know when it happened," Garcia said. "I'm just hoping it's not too bad."Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche hit consecutive homers in the fifth for the Nationals, who head home for the remainder of the series. The NL East champions are without All-Star ace Stephen Strasburg, shut down for the rest of the season early last month to protect his surgically repaired arm."I miss him not experiencing this with us and he misses not experiencing it with us," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "But we did the right thing, there's no question."He'd have been the guy that opened the series."Game 3 is Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park, the first postseason contest in the nation's capital since the original Senators played the New York Giants in the 1933 World Series. Edwin Jackson starts for Washington against longtime Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, who made only three starts during the regular season because of injury."You hate to get blown out, but you get walked off, it probably hurts a little bit more," the Nationals' Jayson Werth said. "The game was out of reach for a while."No big deal, a loss is a loss. We'll head home and feel good about it."Jackson pitched on the Cardinals' World Series title team last fall before signing a free-agent deal with Washington."Having E-Jax on the bump is going to be great for us," Nationals 19-year-old rookie Bryce Harper said. "He's unbelievable in the postseason, unbelievable in the playoffs. The Cardinals know that."Facing Carpenter is going to be tough for us but playing at home will be a lot of fun."Beltran homered twice in the postseason for the third time in his career, connecting in the sixth off Mike Gonzalez and eighth off Sean Burnett. Jon Jay had two hits and three RBIs, plus an outstanding catch at the center-field wall to deprive Danny Espinosa of extra bases in the sixth.St. Louis was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position during Game 1 and totaled just three hits, but the Cardinals had five hits in a four-run second Monday. Descalso hit his first postseason homer in the fourth, a day after getting robbed by Werth's leaping catch at the right-field wall. Beltran's drive off Gonzalez in the sixth banged off the facade in the third deck in left, estimated at 444 feet."I hope I never see this offense again," Johnson said in the postgame interview room.Shadows creeped past the pitcher's mound around the third inning and didn't seem to be as big of an issue in Game 2, which started 1 hours later than the opener. Both teams had issues with the playing conditions after the opener.Late last season, after complaints from Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman, the Cardinals said they'd try not to schedule late afternoon games that might be affected.Harper went 1 for 5 and struck out four times. He also was thrown out at third base on an ill-advised attempt to advance. He's 1 for 10 in the series with six strikeouts."Do I look overanxious? You think so?" Harper said to a reporter. "Maybe you should be a hitting coach."Lance Lynn, an 18-game winner who would likely replace Garcia in the rotation, struck out five in a three-inning stint marred by the consecutive homers.St. Louis opened the second with four straight hits, singles by Craig and Yadier Molina that set the table followed by an RBI double from Freese and a run-scoring single from Descalso. After the Cardinals went down in order in the first, seven of their next 11 hitters reached safely."They have a great lineup," Zimmermann said. "You get a few guys out and then you've got Beltran, (David) Freese and it never stops. You have to make your pitches and I wasn't able to do that tonight."NOTES:Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook, rehabbing from a pulled oblique, will leave the team for a few days to be with his wife, due to deliver the couple's fourth child. GM John Mozeliak said it's "not likely" that Westbrook, a 13-game winner, will be able to pitch this fall. ... Beltran has 13 career postseason homers. His last two-homer game in the postseason was Oct. 15, 2006, with the Mets against St. Louis in the NLCS. ... The Cardinals matched the franchise high for runs in a division series game. They also scored 12 in 2002 against Arizona.

Hard to find a Patriots equal in soft AFC

Hard to find a Patriots equal in soft AFC

John Elway created a stir this week when he said his Broncos, after a 3-1 start, had “gotten a little bit soft." Elway, the Broncos GM, said that after five straight Denver losses – the last two by the combined score of 92-39

Denver’s head coach Vance Joseph said Elway’s remark bothered him. He talked to his players about it. On Sunday, the Broncos went out and did something about it. They lost by just three at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. Yay.

They’re pretty much all soft in the AFC this year. Check out the AFC West. There’s Denver. And the Raiders – who the Patriots handled with disturbing ease on Sunday, 33-8. The 5-4 Kansas City Chiefs, who lost on the road to the one-win Giants after starting the season 5-0.

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The AFC East is soft. Miami was 4-2. It’s lost four straight including a 40-0 loss to Baltimore. The Jets were 3-2, they’re now 4-6 (which is a minor miracle given how ragged their roster is). The Bills were 5-2, now they’re 5-5 having lost by a combined 101-34 the past two weeks as head coach Sean McDermott willingly stuck a butter knife in an electrical outlet and replaced Tyrod Taylor with a not-ready-for-preseason-Week-4 Nathan Peterman.

The AFC South is led by the Jaguars and Titans. Jacksonville – which can play some defense – isn’t as bad as the rest. The Jags have won four straight and play cutthroat defense, but they had their hands full with the 0-10 Browns on Sunday. During the week, running back Leonard Fournette complained about having to play in the cold in Cleveland. At least he showed up Sunday and ran for 111. The Titans are awful when they leave Tennessee, which was further proven last Thursday when they lost 40-17 at Pittsburgh. Since October began, they’ve been outscored 122-43 in four road games. Their one road win in that span was a 12-9 decision over Cleveland. 

The big, bad AFC North contingent led by the Steelers at 8-2? Talented. But led by a forever-whining, passive-aggressive quarterback who openly and annually mulls retirement and two “me first” skill guys in Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. Their greatest strength may be in executing elaborate post-touchdown skits. Vital.

Meanwhile, here are the boring-ass Patriots. Yeah, they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and continuity in the program and coaching staff, but the gap between them and everyone else in the conference is that they don’t worry about the cold or the road or the five-act plays after they score.

They stayed a week in Colorado Springs to get ready for the altitude. Two Patriots – Stephon Gilmore and Danny Amendola – had to be treated for dehydration in the second half. After five PLAYS, Raiders rookie Obi Melifonwu was asking out of the game saying he couldn’t breathe.

The Raiders – a team that went 12-4 last year - haven’t improved a bit defensively all season. They are – under head coach Jack Del Rio – one of those “we do what we do” defenses the Patriots love to face because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Brady is now 8-1 against Del Rio-led teams/defenses and the numbers against Del Rio’s teams are absurd: 225 completions on 310 attempts for (73 percent) for 2,387 yards, 21 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

It just feels like the AFC is a collection of teams, with an overwhelming majority of them in turn-it-on, turn-it-off mode. Their coaches are just kind of casting about, constantly open to suggestion and willing to give anything a shot because, hell, they better try something to get hot or they’ll be passing out resumes at the Combine in four months.

The Patriots remaining schedule goes like this: Dolphins, Bills, Dolphins, Steelers, Bills, Jets. Shake me awake on December 17 when the Steelers game comes. And we have a mountain of data explaining how that one will go too.

I’m not weary of the team. It’s historic and fascinating, like watching a hooded Mozart compose and a helmeted Van Gogh paint every week. But the exercise of trying to conjure scenarios where the Patriots play November football with the exquisite ineptitude of their opponents is not easy.

They are doing this without Julian Edelman or Dont'a Hightower. They played Sunday without Chris Hogan, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon and Matt Slater.

Offenses can’t score against them. Defenses can’t stop them. They create points on special teams. They manage the game, the clock and their opponents like simple arithmetic while every other team’s doing trigonometry. What was broken in September has been long fixed.

The time will come again when the Patriots appear just as inept, clueless and mired in mediocrity as every other AFC team appears right now. But it won’t be this year.

So embrace the softness? I guess?

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Wentz, Eagles roll over Cowboys 37-9 after losing kicker

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Wentz, Eagles roll over Cowboys 37-9 after losing kicker

ARLINGTON, Texas - No kicker, no problem for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Carson Wentz threw for two touchdowns and three 2-point conversions after Philadelphia lost kicker Jake Elliott to a head injury, and the Eagles all but wrapped up the NFC East with a 37-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

The Eagles (9-1) outscored the Cowboys 30-0 in the second half while extending their winning streak to eight games, their longest since 2003-04 and tied with New Orleans for the best current run in the NFL.

Philadelphia leads the second-place and defending division champion Cowboys (5-5) by four games with six to play after handing Dallas its worst home loss at 8-year-old AT&T Stadium.

Dallas' Dak Prescott threw a career-high three interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in his second straight loss without star running back Ezekiel Elliott, serving a six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence.

Jake Elliott's injury wasn't a factor for nearly a half because the NFL-leading Eagles couldn't get in scoring position. They failed to get a first down on five straight first-half drives, starting with one at the Dallas 15 when Elliott missed a 34-yard attempt and soon after left the field.

Trailing 9-7 at halftime, Wentz led the Eagles on scoring drives of 75, 90 and 85 yards, the middle one boosted by Jay Ajayi's 71-yard run against his hometown team in his second game since getting traded by Miami.

"The biggest thing was sticking with the game plan," said Wentz, who is up to 25 touchdown passes with just five interceptions. "The big boys up front kind of came out angry. We ran the ball the second half really effectively."

Ajayi had 91 yards on seven carries and LeGarrette Blount added 57 on 13 carries, including a 30-yarder leading to the last offensive touchdown.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson declared at halftime that he would go for every fourth down and try 2-point conversions after every touchdown.

It came into play right away when Corey Clement scored on an 11-yard run to open the second half and ran in a screen pass behind three blockers for the 2-pointer.

The first fourth-down try was Wentz's 17-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery for a 29-9 lead. That 2-point pass failed. Torrey Smith had the other TD catch, an 11-yarder.

After Derek Barnett hit Prescott's leg and arm as he was throwing, Nigel Bradham picked up the loose ball and ran it 37 yards for a touchdown. Wentz's 2-point pass to Trey Burton provided the final margin.

"We got some nice 2-point conversions," said Wentz, who was 14 of 27 for 168 yards. "Now we've got to go back to the drawing board with our 2-point plays."

The Cowboys appeared to have fixed the problems of missing injured left tackle Tyron Smith and 2016 All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee from a week earlier, when they allowed eight sacks of Prescott along with three Atlanta scoring drives following Lee's injury in a 27-7 loss to the Falcons.

But after protecting Prescott fairly well before halftime, Dallas allowed three sacks and 180 of Philadelphia's season-high 215 yards rushing in the second half. Lee's replacement at weakside linebacker, Anthony Hitchens, left with a groin injury after halftime.

Prescott was 18 of 31 for 145 yards for a career-worst 30.4 passer rating before backup Cooper Rush took mop-up duty.

"It's no excuses," said Prescott, who teamed with Elliott in a remarkable rookie season that is now a distant memory with already two more losses and three more interceptions than Prescott had a year ago. Elliott won't be back until the final two games of the regular season.

"We're not saying injuries or any of that's bothering us. We're not saying it's the reason we're not winning is because of those guys."

NO RUST THIS TIME

The Eagles had a focus on being better following the bye after losing nine of 11 last season after a 3-0 start going into the break. Now Philadelphia will take a shot at the best record in the NFL with history on its side when starting this strong. The Eagles have two NFL championships (1949, 1960) and two trips to the Super Bowl (1980, 2004, both losses) following 9-1 starts.

SECOND-HALF MELTDOWNS

The Cowboys have been outscored 47-0 in the second half the past two weeks following a three-game winning streak that seemed to have Dallas back on track following an NFC-best 13-3 record last season.

"It would be pretty tough not to panic, but I don't think we are panicking," said running back Alfred Morris, who had 91 yards filling in for Ezekiel Elliott. "It's been two tough losses, ugly losses on top of that. But at the same time, I know the character of this team and the fight we have."

EMERGENCY KICKER

Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is the emergency kicker for the Eagles. But he completely missed the safety net on a practice try on the sidelines, sending the ball into the stands. He did reach the goal line with his first kickoff, though.

UP NEXT

Eagles: Home against Chicago next Sunday.

Cowboys: Los Angeles Chargers visiting for annual Thanksgiving game.

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