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After stunning NLCS exit, Cardinals try to regroup

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After stunning NLCS exit, Cardinals try to regroup

ST. LOUIS (AP) Kyle Lohse got to bed at 5:30 a.m. after the St. Louis Cardinals' flight following a most unpleasant end to the NL championship series against the San Francisco Giants.

Fatigue only added to the aftershock of a spectacular nosedive as players cleaned out their lockers Tuesday at an empty stadium still adorned with bunting. The pitcher's mound and home plate area were also covered in anticipation of a World Series opener that won't take place in St. Louis.

It might be the end of the line with the Cardinals for Lohse, who confessed to being a bit ``delirious'' from lack of sleep while discussing his future.

The rotation is full if Jaime Garcia rehabs successfully from a shoulder injury, with Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook under contract.

Given a choice, Lohse would like to stay put.

``Yeah, definitely,'' he said. ``It's been a great place for me. A lot of teams just try to be competitive, but this organization is all about trying to win another ring.''

Then he added, ``It's a business. It's a fun game, but a business. I haven't heard anything here, so that doesn't sound good.''

The 34-year-old Lohse is in a much better spot than in 2008, when he bided his time by throwing to college hitters early in spring training before signing a one-year deal with the Cardinals in March. He didn't make it to free agency after that season, getting a four-year, $41 million extension in late September.

This time he is coming off his best season, going 16-3 with a 2.79 ERA. Wherever he ends up, Lohse stressed that he wants to play for a winning organization.

``I'm not going to be obviously jumping at the first offer out there,'' Lohse said. ``It's too early right now because I don't know which teams are interested, and obviously I haven't heard from anybody.

``It's got to be a good situation.''

Nearly everyone else will return next year for another try. They will need a while to purge the awful taste of blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Giants and missing a chance to defend their World Series title.

The handful of players who showed up during the time reporters were allowed in the clubhouse on Tuesday tried their best to accentuate the positive. Center fielder Jon Jay had empathy for the Washington Nationals, who seemed to have the Cardinals right where they wanted them before coughing up a 6-0 lead in Game 5 of the NL division series, and the Rangers, who were on the verge of closing out the World Series in six games last year.

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny spent much of the day, along with the coaches, meeting with the front office. Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak are likely to address the season later in the week.

``It's tough to swallow, but in baseball that's the way it goes,'' Jay said. ``We were on the other end of the stick last year. It was a great ride, and now we know what it feels like.''

The Reds do, too. Cincinnati had a 2-0 advantage over the Giants in the NL division series and lost the final three games at home.

``I don't know if it's harder to take,'' Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said Monday night after the Game 7 loss. ``I think everybody in here wishes it ended differently, but they have a great team. The Reds had them that way, too. They're better than us.''

Before coming up empty in Game 7 of the NL championship series, the Cardinals had tied a major league record with six straight victories in elimination games.

After taking a 3-1 series lead, Cardinals players spent time on the podium answering questions from media members who already had them penciled into the World Series about why their organization has been so productive. Then they fell apart, getting outscored 20-1 the last three games to become the 12th team to blow a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series.

They batted just .190 with 27 strikeouts in the three losses, committed four errors, and were 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position. Starters Chris Carpenter, Lance Lynn and Lohse gave up 14 runs in 9 2-3 innings, and allowed Giants pitchers to drive in three runs.

Lohse got the hook after retiring just six batters in Game 7.

``I know in that situation he's got to pull the trigger quick,'' Lohse said. ``It was just unfortunate the way it kind of snowballed on us. Little things, you look at the broken bats, the choppers off the plate.

``Sometimes you just get the short end of it.''

The middle of the lineup was a trouble spot in the NLCS.

Allen Craig's .400 average with runners in scoring position led the majors, but he was just 3 for 24 with two RBIs. Holliday hit .200 with two RBIs while bothered by a back injury that sidelined him one game. David Freese, the NLCS and World Series MVP last fall, batted .192 with a homer and two RBIs. Yadier Molina batted .393, but 10 of his 11 hits were singles and he had just two RBIs.

They stewed over all of the failures on the red-eye flight home.

``The last three games happened fast, and they really came out swinging the bats and pitched really well and played great defense,'' Craig said. ``We kind of didn't do any of those very well.''

Right after absorbing his third Game 7 loss, with three organizations, outfielder Carlos Beltran kept it in perspective.

``You want to get to the next level but sometimes that doesn't happen, so you have to understand that this game is like that,'' Beltran said. ``As long as you go out there and give your best and try to do the best for the team, that is what's important.''

---

AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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10 changes that would make the NHL better

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USA TODAY Sports

10 changes that would make the NHL better

Hockey is one of the most incredible, compelling sports in the world. As fun as it is to watch on TV, it is even more compelling in person and fans in North America are treated to the best hockey in the world as played in the NHL.

But the NHL's not perfect.

SEE THE 10 CHANGES THAT WOULD MAKE THE NHL BETTER HERE

Just like every sports league, the NHL is always adjusting and making changes to the game in order to improve it through things like rule changes, expansion, playoff formats, etc.

No sport is perfect and hockey is not without its flaws, but there are a number of clear changes that could be made that would improve both the game and the league.

 SEE THE 10 CHANGES THAT WOULD MAKE THE NHL BETTER HERE

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Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Defense

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 23, three days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Training camp preview—defense 

Here are some of the big topics surrounding the defense at Redskins training camp along with some of the things I’ll be observing closely when training camp gets underway on Thursday. I looked at the topics on offense yesterday

Lining up the line

Will Phil Taylor, who seems to be a long shot to make the team after they drafted two nose tackles, get some run with the first and second teams? Also, this is a young group and Jim Tomsula will have a lot of opportunities to teach. Watching him interacting with his line and going over the details of line play is fun to watch.

Spaight vs. Vigil

The two starting inside linebacker starters are safe and the team is intrigued enough by the potential of both Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaun Dion Hamilton to make them likely bets to make the 53-man roster. That leaves Zach Vigil and Martrell Spaight competing for the last ILB roster spot. 

Spaight is a known quantity who has been a mainstay on special teams since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2015. They kept him over Vigil in the cut to 53 a year ago. But last year when injuries hit, Vigil started over Spaight. In a way, this is Round 3 between the two. 

Ryan Anderson

We know what outside linebacker starters Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith can do. Pernell McPhee will be good for four or five sacks and perhaps a forced fumble or two. Anderson, who was team’s second-round pick last year, is a big question mark. He played 193 snaps in 14 games, but he barely dented the stat sheet with no sacks and just 11 tackles. Anderson is a hard worker and they need his 

The pieces of the cornerback puzzle

This is discussed in some detail hereby JP Finlay and I’ll look at it later this week. To pick out one detail, I want to see what the rotation in the slot is. Right now the guess is that Orlando Scandrick is the starter but who will be behind him? That’s important because Scandrick has missed 25 games in the last three seasons due to injuries. 

Apke’s progress

Fourth-round safety Troy Apke displayed impressive makeup speed during offseason practices and that let him make some plays on the ball. But he needed that speed too often as he had issues in coverage. You need to be more than just fast to play in the NFL. If Apke is going to be an alternative if injury problems strike Montae Nicholson again he needs to start making some progress while he is in Richmond. 

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

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Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 3
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 17
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 40

The Redskins last played a game 204 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 48 days. 

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