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Giants' Scutaro takes long journey to NLCS MVP

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Giants' Scutaro takes long journey to NLCS MVP

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Fans labeled Marco Scutaro a super-sub in Oakland for all his fill-in roles. Others called him a Colorado castoff in July, and his new San Francisco Giants teammates nicknamed him ``Blockbuster'' for the often overlooked trade-deadline move.

Now he has a new title: NLCS MVP.

Scutaro tied the league championship series record with 14 hits to earn the honors, capping off his remarkable run with three singles and a walk in San Francisco's 9-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night in the decisive Game 7.

After several stops and bumps along the way, the 36-year-old has finally found a place where fans will know his name for years to come.

``As soon as you get traded, you kind of start thinking where you're going to live, your family, you have to pack,'' Scutaro said. ``I kind of thought I had a really good opportunity to make the playoffs with this team. We just started playing good, and here we are in the World Series.''

In a fitting ending to a series that saw Scutaro absorb a hard and an admitted late slide from Matt Holliday that strained the second baseman's left hip, Scutaro caught Holliday's popup through the pouring rain for the final out.

He batted .500 with two walks, scored six runs and drove in four. Hideki Matsui (2004 Yankees), Albert Pujols (2004 Cardinals) and Kevin Youkilis (2007 Red Sox) also had 14 hits in an LCS. And Scutaro's 10-game hitting streak ties Cody Ross and Alvin Dark for the longest in Giants postseason history.

Starting Wednesday night in San Francisco, he'll have a chance to break that mark when the Giants host the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series.

``It took him a couple days to adjust to us, but he really has been a leader since he got here,'' said pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who won Games 2 and 6. ``He's played great. He's played great defense. He's a true professional. He knows the game. He does all the little things right. Everything you'd lay out on a table for a guy to do, he does.''

The Giants acquired the Venezuelan native at the trade deadline. It turned out to be one of baseball's best moves, and easily one of its most overlooked.

While the rival Dodgers' spending spree made headlines from coast-to-coast, the Giants took on just $2.1 million of Scutaro's salary from Colorado in exchange for minor leaguer Charlie Culberson.

All Scutaro has done since is make opponents pay - and he earned a $75,000 bonus for winning NLCS MVP honors in the process.

``That's the best thing that's ever happened so far,'' said Giants ace Matt Cain, who threw 5 2-3 innings of five-hit ball in the clincher. ``That's why it's `The Blockbuster.'''

He had a major impact even before October, batting .339 after the All-Star break to power the Giants' playoff push. Scutaro has delivered in the biggest moments in the postseason, and in many ways, has become the 2012 version of Ross.

The Giants plucked Ross off waivers in August two years ago and watched him capture MVP honors in the NLCS against Philadelphia and help lead them to the first World Series title since moving from New York in 1958. And just like in 2010, general manager Brian Sabean's move made the biggest noise at the most key time.

Scutaro became just the fifth midseason acquisition to win a postseason MVP award.

``When we acquired Scutaro, a great job by Brian Sabean, making that blockbuster deal, as we say, that's his nickname,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. ``I knew he was a good player. But to see him day in, day out, you really appreciate the talent that this guy has. I don't know if it was possible for him to raise his game, that's how well he's played, his level. But he did after that slide.''

Scutaro was hurt on Holliday's slide in the first inning of Game 2. Scutaro got even a few innings later with his own big blow that helped the Giants even the series and end an 0-3 home slide in the postseason when he singled home two runs in San Francisco's four-run fourth inning.

Another run scored on the bases-loaded hit when Holliday misplayed the bouncing ball in left field. Scutaro left after the fifth of that 7-1 win because of his damaged hip on a play Bochy felt was illegal.

Scutaro never missed a game, and he never stopped playing all-out, either.

His sliding stops were part of a spectacular defensive effort that backed Barry Zito in San Francisco's 5-0 Game 5 victory. He even threw his arms in the air after grabbing Pete Kozma's spinning hopper in the fourth inning of Game 7.

He also delivered a two-out, two-run double to highlight a four-run second inning in the Game 6 win. And even in the Game 1 loss, Scutaro's single to left leading off the fourth was San Francisco's first hit off 18-game winner Lance Lynn.

He spent four seasons across the bay with the Oakland Athletics from 2004-07, filling in wherever he was needed in the infield - and, on occasion, in the outfield. Scutaro, who turns 37 on Oct. 30, also played for the Mets (2002-03), Toronto (2008-09), Boston (2010-11) and 95 games with Colorado this season.

No matter what happens now, he will always be remembered in San Francisco.

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Lightning game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals (34-18-7) take on the Lightning (39-17-3) Tuesday, February 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Washington.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME ON?

The Capitals-Lightning game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Lightning game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Taylor Chorney

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals-Lightning game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

CAPITALS-LIGHTNING OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 20, 22 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Galette to be a valued free agent

Originally published 12/13/17

Like the Redskins, the Broncos are no longer relevant in 2017. Both teams’ fan bases have started to look towards the coming offseason.

To give their readers what they want, the Denver Post published an article by Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus that discussed some of the top pending free agents who have done the most to increase their values in the past year. There were two Redskins named, one you would expect to see on such a list and one that might surprise some people.

Kirk Cousins is at the top of the list. “The Washington signal-caller is grading as a top-10 quarterback (82.8), and soon he’ll have the long-term contract of one,” Renner wrote. “Only this time its value will be exponentially higher than any one he would have signed back when he first became a free agent in 2016.”

But the surprising name is that of Junior Galette. After missing the last two seasons with two torn Achilles tendons, he played this year on a one-year, $800,000 deal. And while he hasn’t been on fire in the sack department with just two on the year, he has been getting pressure on the passer.

“He’s accumulated the 27th-highest pass-rushing grade of any edge defender this season, but in only 264 snaps,” wrote Renner. “At 29 years of age, it’s doubtful he ever gets back to the level of the contract that he once had on the table with New Orleans. With how he’s played this season though, some pass-rush-needy team will pay handsomely for his services.”

One team that could be considered to be pass rush needy is the Redskins. Preston Smith is the starter and supposedly one of the Redskins’ top pass rushers. But in 100 fewer pass rush snaps this year, Galette has only three fewer quarterback hits than Smith and six more hurries.

And after missing those two seasons, Galette has remained healthy. Although he was limited with a hamstring during much of the preseason, he has not missed a practice or appeared on an injury report this year.

But would the Redskins be willing to pay him “handsomely”? Perhaps a good comp would be Connor Barwin, who moved from the Eagles to the Rams this past offseason at the age of 31. He had five sacks in Philly in 2016. That got him a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.

Barwin likely will have more sacks on his ledger going into free agency so let’s say Galette could command around $3 million. Perhaps he could offer Washington a bit of a hometown discount and agree to something in the $2.75 million range. If that is the case, the Redskins would be smart to keep him around for another year.

Plenty of things could alter the equation. If Galette gets hot in the last three games and posts a few more sacks his price could rise. With Smith and Ryan Kerrigan both back next year, perhaps Galette will want to go somewhere that he might get more playing time.

The details need to be sorted out but don’t be surprised if Galette gets a lot of attention in free agency, as much as teams need pass rush, and if the Redskins have to make a very tough decision about how much he is worth.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 9
—NFL Draft (4/26) 65
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 201