Nationals

0-3 vs. ranked teams, Ohio State seeking answers

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0-3 vs. ranked teams, Ohio State seeking answers

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Thad Matta is happy with his team. He is just not happy with how it is playing right now.

``Coming off of Saturday's game, their awareness better be heightened,'' he said of his players.

The Buckeyes are 11-0 against unranked teams but now stand 0-3 against Associated Press Top 25 teams after sustaining a 74-55 beating at No. 12 Illinois on Saturday.

The inability to beat elite teams has dropped the Buckeyes from No. 4 in the preseason to No. 15 in the latest media balloting.

But they say they can fix things and turn it around before Tuesday night's game at Purdue.

``We've just got to take a better approach to it,'' backup point guard Shannon Scott said. ``Before the (Illinois) game, our minds weren't really there. We were all like, laughing around, not focused. If we come to Purdue more focused, we'll be fine.''

The common denominator in all three losses was poor shooting by the Buckeyes. They shot under 34 percent in each defeat.

Compounding their misery in the loss to the Illini, they also were unfocused on defense and played sloppy with the ball. But Matta said that defeat was different.

``I have to be honest, I have to throw Saturday out,'' he said. ``We did things that were so uncharacteristic. As I told them, `Look, I'm not sure who was in your jerseys in this game.'''

Some Ohio State fans - a small segment, mind you - have been exceedingly critical of the team's play so far. Naysayers to the end, they don't think the shooting will come around. They don't believe any of the big men - Amir Williams, Evan Ravenel or Trey McDonald - will be able to hold their own. They look at the lack of offense from point guards Aaron Craft and Scott and worry about the lack of production.

In the rough-and-tumble Big Ten, they're afraid that other teams will prey on the Buckeyes' weakness.

Deshaun Thomas, the leading scorer in the conference, remains confident that things will turn around.

``I just stay positive. We were in this situation last year, when we lost at Illinois,'' he said of the team that went on to a 31-8 record, a share of the Big Ten title and a trip to the Final Four. ``I don't think this team is falling apart. There's some things we need to work on. We're going to get there. We know now what it's going to take and what we have to do to play hard and win ballgames.''

The Buckeyes (11-3, 1-1 Big Ten) had 16 turnovers against Illinois, many of them unforced. Even though they average only around 10 a game, they opened against Illinois with two turnovers and had 11 by halftime.

Matta is toying with the idea of making lineup changes. With his team trailing by 20 or so most of the second half in Champaign, Ill., he tinkered with different combinations. At one point, he didn't play a true center, instead going with Thomas underneath the basket, with thin shooting guard LaQuinton Ross at power forward and Scott at the point.

Don't be surprised if he doesn't continue to mix and match players.

``The motivation is I want to attempt to get off to a good start'' at Purdue, Matta said. ``Finding those five guys who have a flow to them is what I'm still looking at.''

The Boilermakers (7-7, 1-1) shocked Illinois in their Big Ten opener before losing at Michigan State.

Ohio State is in dire need of some good news before it hosts No. 2 Michigan on Sunday.

``We know we can't play like we did last week,'' Scott said. ``We know the way the rest of the Big Ten is going to play. We have to have a better approach. I think we're going to play a lot better.''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

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Sean Doolittle, Nationals rethinking things after another rough outing

Sean Doolittle, Nationals rethinking things after another rough outing

WASHINGTON -- Jack White and his band, The Raconteurs, found their faces on the center field video board around 7:20 p.m. They waved sheepishly as the crowd murmured, somewhat confused by what they were looking at.

Finally, a graphic went up with their name and mild I-think-I-know-that-band clapping began. Their visit to Nationals Park was brief because they had to head a mile up the street to play an 8 p.m. concert at The Anthem.

Almost five hours later, right at midnight, Christian Yelich’s fly ball landed just above the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field. He zipped around the bases with little admiration for his 41st homer. Javy Guerra bent at the waist when looked toward the fence from the pitcher’s mound.

The Nationals trailed, 13-12, heading into the bottom of the 13th inning. Sitting behind home plate? White and The Raconteurs. They had returned for plenty of post-concert baseball because the Brewers and Nationals spent the night pulverizing each other in a 14-inning, 15-14 Milwaukee win. 

However, they missed the most important part because closer Sean Doolittle suffered another disastrous night. When he’s flat this season, he’s all the way down to ground level, incapable of recording almost any outs.

Saturday’s line was a garish: ⅓ of an inning, four hits, four earned runs, three home runs, depleted velocity, increased dejection. Saturday was Doolittle’s third outing this season where he allowed four runs. It was his second such monstrosity in just more than a week.

Now the team has to figure out what to do with him.

“I felt great [Friday],” Doolittle said. “That was the best I felt in the last several weeks. And then [Saturday] man, I just didn’t have anything. So, yeah, we’re going to have to figure something out. I’m going to have to figure something out because this team, they deserve better right now.”

Doolittle has allowed seven home runs since July 29. His fastball typically runs around 94 mph. Saturday, Ryan Braun hit a 90-mph fastball into the seats. Doolittle’s arm appeared sapped on Aug. 17 with his team hanging on to a wild-card spot and tracking first-place Atlanta.

He’s downtrodden as much as frustrated after changing his pregame routine, postgame routine and bullpen warmup. No alteration has re-energized his sagging left arm.

So, he and Davey Martinez will talk Sunday about what to do. Unlike earlier in the season, the Nationals have authentic options to handle the ninth inning. Daniel Hudson appears to be the top candidate if anyone is going to give Doolittle a night off or temporarily replace him if he has to go on the 10-day injured list. Hunter Strickland could also be used. Fernando Rodney is a fall-back plan, as well as a way to close the gap created by moving another reliever to the ninth.

“I’m not saying anything definitive, but I definitely want to have a conversation with Doo, and figure something out,” Martinez said. “What best for him, what’s best for the club and just make sure that he’s ready.”

Asked directly if Doolittle is healthy, Martinez said Doolittle told him pregame Saturday he was able to pitch. In the bullpen, Doolittle started to learn he was not.

After Christian Yelich’s second-pitch home run, Doolittle’s first instinct was to attribute the damage to Yelich’s greatness. That was until the video board showed his fastball traveled just 92 mph. Keston Hiura doubled. Mike Moustakas homered. Braun homered. Doolittle scratched his head.

“I just...I don’t know,” Doolittle said. “It just wasn’t coming out tonight. That part of the order, that team? There’s really nowhere to hide.”

He tried sliders as a salve, but his second pitch is more for blindsiding than problem-solving. Eventually, Martinez removed Doolittle from the mound once Hudson was ready. Doolittle conceded postgame his workload would have to change in some manner.

“I think so at this point,” Doolittle said. “I’m giving everything I got, but, I don’t really...I don’t know. It’s really, really tough. It’s frustrating. This time of year, with whole well we’ve been playing lately, with everything’s that at stake, everything this team can still accomplish, you want to be out there. You want to help the team. But, I haven’t been pulling my weight here these last couple weeks.”

Sunday, how his weight is distributed could change.

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Stephen Strasburg gets a visit from living legend, Jack White

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Stephen Strasburg gets a visit from living legend, Jack White

Two days after claiming his 15th victory of the season, Nationals' pitcher Stephen Strasburg received a visit from a very special fan.

The legend. Jack White.

Strasburg has sported the walk-up song, Seven Nation Army, since 2010; the song was created by rock duo "The White Stripes," which was made up of Jack White and Meg White. 

With the amount of success Strasburg has seen in his career don't expect him to change his walk-up song anytime soon. 

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