Nationals

Arkansas AD Long turns attention to coaching hire

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Arkansas AD Long turns attention to coaching hire

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has been in the market for a new head coach since April 10th, the day he fired Bobby Petrino for his laundry list of misdeeds.

The Razorbacks (4-8, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) will soon find out how much of a benefit that head start was for Long, who didn't wait long to announce that interim coach John L. Smith wouldn't return next season.

Long reached his decision on Smith's fate quickly following Friday's season-ending 20-13 loss to No. 8 LSU. The athletic director told the former Michigan State and Louisville coach of his decision Saturday morning, though Smith will remain with the program as a consultant through the end of his 10-month contract on Feb. 23, 2013.

While Smith didn't prove the long-term answer for Arkansas, his tenure did allow Long to research and identify interested coaches across the country.

That was a problem for the athletic director following Petrino's surprising April 1 motorcycle accident that led to revelations he had hired his mistress to a position in the athletic department - and initially lied about her presence during the wreck. Most coaches were entrenched at that time in their current positions following spring practice, a factor that led to Smith's hiring.

``Last April, when I appointed coach Smith for the 2012 season, I indicated I thought this would provide us the opportunity to take the time necessary to identify the right coach for the future and to do so in a time that would allow us to attract quality candidates,'' Long said in a statement.

Long has offered few clues about the identity of his next target (or targets), and he declined a recent interview request from The Associated Press through a spokesman.

The former Pittsburgh athletic director, who hired Petrino away from the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 despite the coach's history of misleading his employers, admitted last month that the number of likely other openings across the country would make the search more difficult. Since then, three other SEC teams (Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn) have fired their coaches, and all are in likely competition with the Razorbacks for similar candidates.

``That's certainly one of those complicating factors,'' Long said last month.

The last time Long hired a football coach at Arkansas was following Houston Nutt's departure after the 2007 season. That search included several well-publicized flirtations with coaches at other schools, including Wake Forest's Jim Grobe - a mistake Long has seemed intent on correcting this time around.

Little about Arkansas' search in April leaked out before Smith's hiring was announced, and Long said in October he would be wary during this search of coaches seeking to use any interest to get raises in their current jobs. Long has refused to eliminate nearly anyone from the candidate pool, including ``top'' assistant coaches from the college game or NFL.

``There's a lot of different types of people that can fill this job and be very successful,'' Long said.

While Arkansas' search began in earnest the day following the loss to the Tigers, Smith and the players were left to reflect on one of the most disappointing seasons in school history.

The Razorbacks, 21-5 the last two seasons under Petrino, entered the season full of their usual Petrino-like bravado - openly talking about the possibility of winning the SEC and a national championship. Their hopes were based on the return of senior quarterback Tyler Wilson and a healthy Knile Davis at running back.

Wilson lived up to expectations this season, leading the SEC in yards passing (302.8) per game, despite a struggling offensive line that had consistent problems protecting him. However, Arkansas' defense was unable to recover from the graduation of several of its top players, allowing an SEC-worst 292.1 yards passing per game, and Davis was never able to regain his 2010 form when he led all conference running backs in rushing.

``As rough in some aspects as this year's been,'' Wilson said after the LSU loss. ``And let's not sugarcoat it, it's been tough, it's been a grind to come to work and prepare every single day.

``But you learn so much during it. I wouldn't trade it for anything.''

Wilson said last week that he didn't regret returning for his senior season, and he stressed the positives about his time at Arkansas following the loss to the Tigers. The Razorbacks improved their win total in each of Wilson's first four seasons before bottoming out this season, a stretch that included a trip to the Sugar Bowl and a Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State.

``I'm extremely excited about that and proud of that moving forward,'' Wilson said. ``I think the expectations are high. There's no reason why we can't achieve success in the future.''

Smith had been his usual upbeat self in the weeks leading up to the end of the season, though he did fight back tears while discussing the future of the Razorbacks and himself last week. The 64-year-old spent plenty of time before and after Friday's game handing out hugs, and he wasn't shy about offering up smiles - even after a losing season during which he also battled a very public $40.7-million bankruptcy case.

``I will remember this as a tremendous year,'' Smith said. ``I loved every minute of it. I loved being with these guys. I tried to do all we could do. So it's a step in my life that, with what goes on in those locker rooms, you can't turn your back on those guys.

``And vice versa. Those guys, we're going to love each other forever. There's a lot of great young me in there. I'm going to look back on it as a step in my life, an opportunity I had, to coach great young men at a great institution. I'm blessed.''

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Max Scherzer grits his way through broken nose in stellar outing, win vs. Phillies

Max Scherzer grits his way through broken nose in stellar outing, win vs. Phillies

WASHINGTON -- With a broken nose, pronounced black eye and seven shutout innings, Max Scherzer provided a striking capper to the Washington Nationals' day-night doubleheader sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Scherzer himself? He shrugged off his work in the Nationals' 2-0 victory Wednesday night as business as usual.

"Trust me, this thing looks a lot worse than it actually is," Scherzer said. "I felt zero pain. There's been plenty of other injuries where I felt a lot of pain and I've had to pitch through. I'll hang my hat on those starts, but tonight I felt zero pain. This is part of what you have to do. You take the ball every fifth time.

"That's my responsibility to the team, to make sure I always post, and I knew I could post tonight."

Brian Dozier and Victor Robles hit solo homers to support Scherzer (6-5) as Washington won for the 16th time in 23 games. Philadelphia has dropped seven of its last nine and 12 of 18.

In the first game, Patrick Corbin struck out eight while allowing one run over seven innings as the Nationals earned a 6-2 victory in the delayed series opener after the teams were rained out Monday and Tuesday.

Scherzer bunted a ball off his face during batting practice Tuesday, but it didn't stop him from making his scheduled start. His injury may have provided an extra layer of intimidation in the form of a black eye more worthy of a boxing ring than a baseball diamond.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner sported a pronounced bruise arcing beneath his right eye, adding another hue to a glare that already featured one blue eye and one brown eye.

"Going out there and throwing, the only thing I had to deal with was the swelling underneath the eye," Scherzer said. "It was kind of jiggling around, and so in warmups I just had to get used to knowing what it was feeling like to throw the ball and just have that swelling."

While he wasn't at his most efficient on a humid night, piling up 117 pitches, Scherzer was rarely threatened. He struck out 10, yielded only four hits and permitted just two runners to reach scoring position. And he finished strong, striking out three in a row after Cesar Hernandez led off the seventh with a double.

"It really is one of the most impressive things I've seen in a while," Dozier said. "He's probably the best pitcher in our generation, and you don't get that status unless you take the ball every fifth day, no matter if you're doing good, doing bad, you got a broken nose. You always want the ball."

Bryce Harper, Scherzer's former Nationals teammate, was 0 for 4 with four walks in the doubleheader and was loudly booed before each plate appearance -- especially in the better-attended nightcap. This series is his second trip back to Washington, where he played from 2012-18, since signing a 13-year, $330 million contract with Philadelphia in March.

Dozier belted a two-out solo shot in the second off Jake Arrieta (6-6), who allowed two hits and struck out three over six innings and had the misfortune of matching up with Scherzer on the wrong day.

"Max is just one of the best to ever toe the rubber, honestly," Arietta said. "We have ran into him a couple of times. That's just what he does. He is tough to square up, and he is throwing three or four pitches for strikes with electric stuff. Just a tough one."

Robles homered off reliever Pat Neshek in the eighth. Neshek departed two batters later with a left hamstring strain, and manager Gabe Kapler said he was likely to land on the injured list less than a week after returning from an absence of more than three weeks caused by a shoulder strain.

Wander Suero pitched a perfect eighth for Washington, and Sean Doolittle worked the ninth for his 15th save in 18 tries.

Philadelphia was 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position between the two games.

Corbin (6-5), whose start was pushed back twice this week, allowed a solo homer to Scott Kingery in the first inning of the opener. But he let just one other runner to reach third while ending a personal three-game skid.

"It's not ideal, but you have to deal with it to make sure you are ready," said Corbin, who is one strikeout shy of 1,000 for his career. "I was glad we got that one in today."

Dozier and Gerardo Parra had RBI doubles against Phillies starter Zach Eflin (6-7). They later hit back-to-back homers in the eighth inning off Cole Irvin to seal the victory.

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This Nationals fan's Max Scherzer broken nose shirt is the best thing you'll see today

This Nationals fan's Max Scherzer broken nose shirt is the best thing you'll see today

Nationals ace Max Scherzer added another incredible chapter to his legendary career Wednesday, pitching seven shutout innings against the Phillies after breaking his nose in a batting practice accident the day before. 

To honor Scherzer's toughness, one amazing Nats fan wore arguably the greatest shirt ever seen at a baseball game.

(Photo: NBC Sports Washington)

This isn't a good shirt. This is a GREAT shirt, worthy of the man who's face it features. 

Someone get this fan a signed Scherzer baseball. 

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