Capitals

Chipper Jones' career ends with a thud

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Chipper Jones' career ends with a thud

From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- Chipper Jones didn't want to go out this way.The Atlanta Braves third baseman made a crucial throwing error and never hit a ball out of the infield Friday, his brilliant career ending with a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in a wild-card game that turned messy when fans littered the field after a disputed call by the umpires.Don't blame the umps, Jones said."I'm the one to blame."In the fourth inning, with the Braves leading 2-0 on David Ross' homer, Carlos Beltran blooped a single to right for the first hit of the game off Kris Medlen. But the Braves got what they needed from Matt Holliday, a hard-hit grounder to third base that Jones fielded with a nifty backhanded grab."A tailor-made double play" he called it.Only one problem. Jones' throw to second base sailed over the head of Dan Uggla, rolling out into right field. The Cardinals wound up scoring three runs and led the rest of the way.Turns out, that was only ball Jones got out of the infield all night. He went 1 for 5 at the plate, getting a generous call from the official scorer on his final at-bat -- a grounder to second baseman Daniel Descalso, whose leaping throw to first pulled Allen Craig off the bag. He couldn't get hit foot on the bag ahead of the 40-year-old Jones, hustling until the end.He lumbered around to third on Freddie Freeman's ground-rule double, but that was where his career ended.Uggla grounded out to end the Braves' season -- and a big league career that started in 1993. Jones spent it all with the Braves, wining a World Series title in '95, an MVP award in '99, and an NL batting crown four years ago. He'll go down as one of the greatest-switch hitters in baseball history, finishing with 468 homers and a .303 average.Jones was just crossing home plate as the Cardinals began their celebration. He kept right on running toward the dugout.It was over."I wanted to come out here and play well," Jones said. "My heart is broken not for me. My heard is broken for my teammates and my coaching staff, and all these fans that have been so great to us this year."Jones drove to Turner Field for the final time as a player with his mother, father and two of his young sons.He was amazed how calm he felt."I turned around and told my dad, This is why I know I'm ready to go. I'm not even nervous,'" Jones said before the game, with 8-year-old Shea and 7-year-old Tristan standing nearby, both wearing red Braves jerseys.But Jones sure looked shaky on that throw, which ruined what should have been another scoreless inning for Medlen.Jones, who announced his retirement in spring training, had envisioned plenty of ways his career might end."This is not one of them, I can assure you that," he said. "It's just one of those things that happens from time to time. You have a game defensively where you don't make plays that you should. You give good teams extra outs and it ends up biting you."The Braves made two more throwing errors in the seventh, handing the Cardinals three runs and a 6-2 lead without getting a ball out of the infield.Atlanta attempted to rally in the eighth, putting two runners aboard with one out. Andrelton Simmons appeared to load the bases when his pop fly to short left field dropped on a mix-up between two fielders, but the umpires called him out on the infield fly rule. That enraged the crowd of 52,631, which littered the field with debris and caused a 19-minute delay.Jones watched the ugly display from the safety of the Braves dugout."Momma didn't raise no fool," he quipped. "You never want to see something get violent like that. I know one thing for sure -- you won't be able to say that Braves fans don't care."Batting cleanup, Jones had a forgettable night at the plate. He struck out in the first. He grounded out with a runner aboard to end the third. He led off the sixth with a popup. He grounded out with runners at second and third to end the seventh, squandering a chance to pull the Braves within a run.Finally, he came up in the ninth with two outs and no one aboard.Before stepping into the box, Jones pulled off his helmet and used it to salute the crowd, most of whom hung around to see his last swing."Chipper! Chipper! Chipper!" they roared.When it was done, a small batch of fans remained behind the Braves dugout, keeping up the chant in hopes Jones might come out for one last curtain call.He never did.It was over."I'll be OK," Jones said. "When you walk out of here knowing that you brought it every day, it makes walking away on the final day a little bit easier."

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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

The Capitals probably deserved a better result on Tuesday than a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming into that game, the Leafs were averaging 5.20 goals per game and had scored no fewer than three in any of their five games to start the season. Yet, a Capitals team fresh off an 8-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers managed to hold Toronto’s offense to only one goal, the second coming only after Braden Holtby had been pulled for the extra attacker.

“There's a lot of improvements from our game in Philadelphia, that's for sure,” Barry Trotz said following the game.

Aside from a flurry of chances from Toronto early in the first, the game was largely even between the two sides until Connor Brown put the Leafs up 1-0 in the third period.

RELATED: EVGENY KUZNETSOV COULD HAVE CHANGED TUESDAY'S GAME, HERE'S HOW

Despite their effort, however, do not take this game as proof that Washington has solved all of its blue line issues. Tuesday was just merely a step in the right direction.

“We did some things better [Tuesday],” Braden Holtby said. “The outcome could have been a little worse if luck wasn't on our side today on a few plays. We've got to keep a realistic mindset on that too.  But we did a lot of good things [Tuesday]. Our defense did a really good job at handling their speed and their size.”

Surprisingly, it was not the defense that cost Washington the game, but the offense. When the Caps needed a goal, they simply could not generate one against goalie Frederik Andersen.

Yes, the team needs to find more of a balance and get a full 60-minute effort on both ends of the ice, but there was also hope in the locker room on Tuesday that if they continue to improve in their own zone, it will ultimately lead to more offense in the other end.

“Everything is developed from the defensive zone,” Holtby said. “That's the way we've always had success scoring goals. If you're taking risks offensively, that's not a consistent way to play. You might win some games, but you're not going to win games consistently. That's what our foundation of our team is built around, our breakout, especially on our goal line and that what creates a lot of our offense.”

MORE CAPITALS: WHO STOOD OUT IN TUESDAY'S DEFENSIVE BATTLE?

What the first seven games of the season has shown is that the Capitals’ fate rests on its blue line. Yes, they need more depth scoring from their third and fourth line, but this team’s weakness is its defense. How they respond to their early struggles will determine the fate of the season.

“We'd be kidding ourselves if we're not going to have some growing pains along the way,” Holtby said of the team. “It's just how we handle them and what we do with them. How do we fight through them and get better?”

Tuesday’s game may have ended in a loss, but it was an effort the defense can build around. That is the silver lining. If they do build on this game, the Capitals still have a playoff caliber roster. If they do not, well, there is no telling how far Washington can sink.

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Prediction recap: No one saw Tuesday's defensive matchup coming

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Prediction recap: No one saw Tuesday's defensive matchup coming

Well…that certainly did not go the way many thought. With two of the best offenses squaring off against two questionable defenses, the goals were expected to come fast and furious on Tuesday between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. Instead, Braden Holtby and Frederik Andersen allowed only one goal between them on the night with Toronto adding and empty netter for the exclamation point in a 2-0 win over the Caps.

So this was a game that did not go at all the way anyone expected. With that in mind, let’s go over the predictions!

RELATED: WHEN THE OFFENSE WENT SILENT, HERE ARE THE CAPS WHO STOOD OUT ON DEFENSE

Fan predictions:

Wrong

After allowing eight goals to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Caps did a good job stifling one of the NHL’s bright young talents. Matthews only managed one shot on goal for the game.

Wrong

After a strong start for the Caps’ offense, no one was able to get one past, least of all Andre Burakovsky despite four shots on goal and seven total shot attempts.

Push

There was no overtime and I really liked just how bold this prediction was, so I will give it a push.​

JJ’s predictions:

Both teams will combine for at least 10 goals – Wrong

I was close though, only eight goals short.

Evgeny Kuznetsov will score a goal – Wrong

Had Kuznetsov shot the puck before he was caught on the backcheck on his power play opportunity in the second period, I may very well have gotten this one right. But Kuznetsov once again resorted to the bad habit of waiting too long to get the shot off and it turned a great opportunity into a much more manageable one for Andersen.

Toronto will outshoot Washington by at least 10 shots – Wrong

Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Caps had only managed to outshoot their opponents once in six games. Toronto had been held to fewer than 31 shots only once in five games. So what happened? The Caps and Leafs each managed 30 shots on goal. Go figure.

MORE CAPITALS: TYLER GRAOVAC'S GAME ENDED EARLY ON TUESDAY, HERE'S WHY

Scoreboard:

Fans
Correct: 0
Wrong: 2
Push: 1

JJ
Correct: 0
Wrong: 3
Push: 0

Both the fans and I are off to a roaring start. Better luck next game.

Want to see your tweet among the fan predictions for the next game? Tweet your prediction to @JJReganNBCS every game day! Remember, we don’t just want to know who will win or the score, we want to see specifics. Be bold!