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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.''

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

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In a contract year, Andre Burakovsky is still trying to find offensive consistency

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In a contract year, Andre Burakovsky is still trying to find offensive consistency

Injuries and a suspension to Tom Wilson have kept things interesting for Todd Reirden in his first season as head coach of the Capitals.

At first, that meant figuring out an optimal lineup out of the players who were still available. But now there will be another challenge Reirden faces as the team continues to get healthy and that’s figuring out who to take out of the lineup.

On Tuesday, that player was Burakovsky.

“I just felt like going into [Tuesday’s] game that the other players had taken more advantage of the opportunity than he had recently,” Reirden said before Tuesday’s game. “For me, it's a rewards/earned ice time situation where there's a lot of competition. What happens is when players get opportunities and they play well, then it creates competition. Some have to win, some have to lose in that competition. Right now, that's what we've chosen to go with.”

Burakovsky’s career has been plagued by up-and-down play and scoring slumps. For the season, he has managed only eight points in 29 games. He did manage to score the game-winner against Arizona on Dec. 6, but that goal came after two very lackluster period of play by him.

“It's part of sports, I guess,” Burakovsky said Wednesday. “It is a tough sport. You're competing against the best players in the world. That's just how it is right now and I've just got to battle through it.”

Burakovsky has been cycled throughout the lineup this season, but has not gained any traction with any line or with any particular linemates so far. Thus, a player with top-six skill finds himself on the outside looking in at the lineup.

“I think guys on the team has been playing really well and deserve to play and have done a little bit more than maybe I have in the past now,” Burakovsky said. “We've been winning so that's most important thing and when I get the chance, I'm just going to go in and do my thing, play my game.”

Reirden said he was impressed by how Burakovsky has responded in practice. Given Reirden’s “rewards” system of coaching that should mean Burakovsky gets back into the lineup sooner rather than later. But if he continues to struggle to keep his production up, he will have a hard time staying in.

With both Oshie and Wilson now back from injury, the Caps have 14 forwards on the roster meaning two forwards will have to be scratched each game. There’s no one currently in the top six you would take out for Burakovsky and considering how well players like Brett Connolly are playing plus the chemistry the fourth line has found, there is not much room to plug in a struggling winger who still cannot find any consistent production.

This also calls into question what Burakovsky’s future on the team may be. Burakovsky is on the final year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. It will take a qualifying offer of $3.25 million from the Caps just to retain his rights as an RFA meaning general manager Brian MacLellan is going to have to determine if he is worth that much.

As dire as his contract situation may appear from the outside looking in – especially for a player who has had confidence issues in the past – he says his next contract is not something he is thinking too much about.

“I'm not worried about my future,” Burakovsky said. “I know what I can do out there. I think I've proved what I can do and sometimes you just have to battle a little bit harder than you wanted to and it's going to happen. Right now, I think it's kind of what I'm doing.”

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It's not just Alex Smith - Derrius Guice also dealt with post-surgery infection

It's not just Alex Smith - Derrius Guice also dealt with post-surgery infection

During the last month, the average Redskin fan learned more about post-surgery infections than most football fans ever considered. 

The news surrounding Alex Smith's recovery from a broken leg has been upsetting, particularly that Smith has dealt with a serious infection and had to undergo multiple procedures to clean up the wound. Smith's situation was unique, he broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg, and the fracture wasn't clean

Still, alarming news emerged this week that Smith was not the only Redskins player to deal with post-surgery infection. 

Rookie Derrius Guice injured his knee in the preseason, ending his season and ruining a full offseason of momentum. Before he ever played a game, Guice became a fan favorite with his engaging enthusiasm. Then, he injured his knee in the preseason and was lost for the year. 

For many players, surgery is tough, but then rehab begins. 

For Guice - like Smith - that wasn't the case.

After his knee surgery, Guice suffered an infection that lasted two months and required three additional procedures, The Washington Post reported. That required seven weeks of antibiotics which included significant use of IVs, swelling, flu-like symptoms and having his knee drained. 

The experience forced Guice to stay in Louisiana for months, closer to Dr. James Andrews office in Gulf Breeze, Florida, and away from his Redskins teammates in Ashburn. 

Now, finally, Guice is feeling better and expects to be all the way back for offseason work in 2019. That's great news for the Redskins.

Guice was considered to be the focal point of the Washington offense before the knee injury in the preseason, and he's a running back with immense potential. 

On some level, however, it's quite alarming that both Smith and Guice suffered infections after major injuries. 

Smith's injury was grotesque enough that there were immediate worries of infection. Even with the advanced concern, the infection still came. 

Guice's injury was severe, but not like Smith. And still, the infection came. 

It would take a forensic medical team to compare the situations and figure out if there is something the Redskins need to address. That won't happen on this page. 

At the same time, however, what were the odds back in training camp that the Redskins' then starting quarterback and running back would not only need surgery on their leg, but both would suffer from post-op infection? 

Like many things with the Redskins' 2018 season, there seem to be more questions than answers. The good news, Guice should be back for 2019. As of now, the same can't be said for Smith. 

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