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A-Rod, Granderson still out of lineup for Game 4

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A-Rod, Granderson still out of lineup for Game 4

DETROIT (AP) Alex Rodriguez was benched twice for the same game.

Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson were still out of New York's starting lineup for Game 4 of the AL championship series on Thursday, a day after the game was postponed by rain.

New York trailed 3-0 in the AL championship series against Detroit. Manager Joe Girardi has juggled his lineup throughout the postseason, trying to find the right combination.

The Yankees kept their lineup the same as it would have been Wednesday - with Rodriguez on the bench for the third time in nine postseason games.

``There's really not a whole lot to change because of rain,'' Girardi said. ``Our decisions aren't made on a whim.''

Rodriguez pinch hit for Raul Ibanez in the sixth inning when Jim Leyland brought in left-hander Drew Smyly. A-Rod hit a flyball to center field to end the inning with runners on first and third. He dropped to 3 for 24 with no RBIs in these playoffs.

Granderson joined Rodriguez on the bench after another hitless night in Game 3 dropped the center fielder to 3 for 29 with 15 strikeouts. Granderson hit 43 homers with 106 RBIs this season.

``I wasn't in yesterday. I didn't expect it to change. I'll be ready whenever they need me,'' Granderson said. ``My swing is OK. It could be better, but it is OK. It's hard to get a lot of hits when you are swinging at pitches out of the zone, and that's the big problem right now. It's a lot simpler if you swing at strikes.''

Nick Swisher, benched in Game 3, returned to the lineup in right field and had an RBI double in the sixth inning. Eric Chavez started at third base in place of Rodriguez. Brett Gardner started in Granderson's normal spot.

Chavez entered 0 for 14 in the postseason.

``His at-bats have been OK,'' Girardi said. ``I thought he got the barrel of the bat to (Detroit ace Justin) Verlander three times.''

Rodriguez has looked particularly overmatched against right-handers, going 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts in the postseason. Detroit's entire playoff rotation is right-handed, including Game 4 starter Max Scherzer.

Rodriguez's rocky postseason - he's also been removed for a pinch-hitter three times - raised questions about his future with the Yankees. He has $114 million and five years left on his contract, which includes a provision that he can't be traded without his approval.

``I feel he can help us. I don't worry about rumors. Any time you have a player of Alex's stature, it's going to be a hot-button,'' Girardi said. ``No one knows what tomorrow holds for any of us.''

New York ace CC Sabathia was slated to take the mound Thursday against Scherzer.

In Game 3, Girardi let Ibanez hit against left-hander Phil Coke in the ninth inning, and Ibanez ended the game by striking out. The switch-hitting Swisher - not Rodriguez - was in the on-deck circle preparing to pinch hit.

``I was ready to hit, and I was just waiting for my number to be called,'' Rodriguez said Wednesday. ``Any time I'm in any lineup, I think that lineup is better and has a better chance to win. ... Any time I'm in the box, the game can change, and everyone knows that.''

Wednesday's rainout also put the Yankees in a tough position with their starting rotation, making it less likely that Sabathia would be able to start Game 7 if the series lasts that long. Phil Hughes left Game 3 in the fourth inning with a stiff back, but Girardi says the prognosis on him is good.

``We believe that he's going to be OK, and he could be available,'' Girardi said.

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Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

The NFL started taking into account a new factor when putting together its schedule this year. The concept is called rest disparity. It stems from a complaint made by the Giants last year. And, of course, when the Giants have a cold, the NFL sneezes and immediately does whatever it takes to cure the cold. 

Here is how Peter King laid it out this morning on the MMQB:

Last year, I heard the Giants were not pleased with their schedule because they felt they were too often playing teams more rested than they were. In consecutive October weeks, they played teams coming off byes, for instance. The NFL calculated a figure for every team based on the number of combined days of rest for their foes or for the team, calculating, for instance, in those two weeks, the Giants were a minus-14 (minus-seven for each of the foes, Seattle and Denver, coming off byes). In all, by my math, the Giants were a league-worst minus-22 in “rest disparity.”

So the schedule makers worked to minimize the rest disparity this year. According to King, the worst rest disparity in the league this year is minus-11. The Giants are minus-eight. 

The question that Redskins fans will have immediately here is if the Giants’ rest disparity was reduced at the expense of the team in burgundy and gold. The answer that will surprise many is no. 

The Redskins rest disparity in 2018 will be either minus-one or zero. The variance is due to the possibility that their Week 16 game in Tennessee will be flexed to a Saturday game (see details here). If the game stays on Sunday, they will be at minus-one in rest disparity. If it gets moved, they will have had exactly as much rest over the course of the season as did their opponents, in aggregate. 

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty, here is how it breaks down. In eight or nine of their games, they will have had the same amount of rest as their opponents. They play one game coming off of their bye, a Monday night game in New Orleans. The Saints play the previous Sunday, giving Washington a plus-seven in days of rest. That is canceled out when they play the Falcons in Week 9 after Atlanta’s bye. 

Due to their Thanksgiving game, they get three extra days off going into their Week 13 Monday night game in Philadelphia. Two weeks later the Jaguars will have those three extra days of rest when they host the Redskins, having played on Thursday in Week 14.

They lose a day relative to their opponents coming off of those Monday night games against the Saints and Eagles. The Redskins get an extra day prior to visiting the Giants in Week 8 as New York has a Monday night game in Week 7. 

So far, that comes to minus-one in rest disparity. That will remain in place if they play the Titans on Sunday, December 23. If the game is flexed to Saturday, they will gain a day of rest on the Eagles in Week 17, zeroing out the rest disparity for the season. 

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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.

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Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

There's a saying in sports that goes, "A series doesn't start until a team loses at home." For the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, their series won't start until someone wins at home.

Four games into the series, the road team has won every game. Columbus took Game 1 and Game 2 from Capital One Arena and the Caps answered back by winning Game 3 and Game 4 in Ohio.

"We came [to Columbus] to try to get the first one," Barry Trotz said after Thursday's win. "Did that. We came here to get the second one. Did that. All we've done is just got on even terms."

Now the series is a best of three with two of those final three games in Washington, but how much of an advantage does that really give the Caps?

"We've got to make sure that we're ready to go," Trotz said. "I think we have been since we got here. We've just got to do it at home."

The various playoff struggles the Caps have suffered in the Alex Ovechkin era have been well-documented to this point. One particularly maddening issue is the team's struggles to win at home. Since 2008, the first year the Ovechkin-led Caps made the playoffs, the team is just 28-25 in home playoff games. Since 2015, Trotz's first season as head coach, the Caps are 12-10 in Washington.

Part of that is just the nature of hockey. Upsets are prevalent in the playoffs in the NHL and home-ice advantage does not mean as much as it does in other sports. But it should mean more than 28-25.

Besides having the crowd on your side, home ice also provides matchup advantages. The home team gets the second line change at home, meaning during a stoppage in play the home coach gets the opportunity to see who the opponent puts on the ice before making his own change. For the Caps, this means getting Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against Artemi Panarin.

Trotz has matched his top shutdown pair against Columbus' top line all series long. According to Natural Stat Trick, when Niskanen was on the ice in Game 4 he held Panarin's Corsi For percentage to 36.36. When Niskanen was not on the ice, Panarin's percentage shot up to 71.43. 

Theoretically, it should be much easier for Trotz to get those favorable matchups at home. Now all the Caps have to do is take advantage.

"Our home record hasn't been really great in the last little stretch at the end of the season here and obviously the first two games of the playoffs," Trotz said. "We owe it to our fans, we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of that."

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