Nationals

Bears lead Lions 13-0 after 3 quarters

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Bears lead Lions 13-0 after 3 quarters

CHICAGO (AP) Jay Cutler threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall and the Chicago Bears held a 13-0 lead over the Detroit Lions after three quarters on Monday night.

The Bears are trying to solidify their spot at the top of the NFC North, while the last-place Lions are trying to get back into the race and avoid its fourth loss in five games.

Midway through the second quarter, the Bears had a scare when Cutler was slammed to the ground on a sack by Ndamukong Suh. Cutler was on the ground for a few minutes and was attended to by a team trainer before jogging off the field. He was replaced by Jason Campbell for just one play. Cutler threw an incomplete pass as the Bears went three and out.

But Cutler didn't return on the Bears' next possession. After Detroit's Mikel Leshoure lost a fumble to Julius Peppers on the Chicago 18, Cutler was replaced again by Campbell as Cutler was getting his ribs evaluated in the locker room.

Cutler, who started the second half, was 12 of 26 for 96 yards and had 35 yards rushing after three quarters.

Back from their week off, the Bears took advantage of a dropped pass by Calvin Johnson, who was wide open for a potential big gain on third down on Detroit's opening possession. On the Bears' ensuing drive, Cutler kept it alive by running for 10 yards on third-and-long. One play later, Matt Forte preceded Marshall's touchdown catch with a 39-yard run.

Chicago has already tied a club record by returning five interceptions for touchdowns - all in the past three games. They didn't get the big play on defense, but they forced three Lions' turnovers.

On Chicago's third drive of the quarter, Cutler scrambled for 24 yards and 15 more yards was tacked on after Corey Williams was called for a personal foul. The Bears eventually settled for a 39-yard field goal by Robbie Gould for a 10-0 lead.

The Bears had another opportunity to score after driving from its own one yard line, but Gould had his 47-yard field goal attempt blocked by Lawrence Jackson.

After Detroit's defense forced a Chicago three and out on the first possession of the third quarter. Stefan Logan dropped a punt and it was recovered by Chicago's Zack Bowman, who was signed last week. Michael Bush had 12 yard run and Cutler connected on a pass to Marshall for 12 yards, his first completion since being injured. But the Bears had to settle for another field goal from Gould to put them up 13-0.

Johnson finally caught a pass for Detroit midway through the third quarter as the Lions were putting together an impressive drive. On the following play, Johnson drew a pass interference call on Charles Tillman putting the ball at the Chicago 1. On the next play, Tillman denied Johnson a touchdown reception and the Lions tried to punch it in with a run by Joique Bell. Bell tried to leap into the end zone, but while he was reaching out the ball, Henry Melton knocked it out and it was recovered at the 5 by Brian Urlacher. The turnover knocked out a Lions' 79-yard drive.

The Lions have a chance to get back to .500 after a three-game losing streak put their season in peril. That ended last week, when they erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and beat Philadelphia 26-23 in overtime. But they still are last in the division, two games behind Chicago with Minnesota and Green Bay ahead of them.

Lions cornerback Bill Bentley was inactive, leaving Detroit without their top two right cornerbacks. Jacob Lacey had already been ruled out after suffering a concussion last week against Philadelphia, and with Bentley out after being listed as doubtful, Jonte Green started at right cornerback.

To shore up depth in their secondary, the Lions signed cornerback Justin Miller and released linebacker Doug Hogue. Detroit made the roster moves Monday morning. Miller hasn't played in the NFL since 2009 when he appeared in one game for the New York Jets and one with Oakland. Miller had a shot to help Detroit's weak secondary when the season started, but he was among the Lions' final cuts.

The struggles continued on offense for the Lions, who have yet to score a touchdown this season in the first quarter.

Matthew Stafford has struggled at Soldier Field. As a rookie, Stafford injured his knee in a loss. In 2010, he separated his right shoulder on a hit from Julius Peppers. Last year, he threw four interceptions in a loss while playing with a broken finger. Stafford was 14 of 25 for 105 yards and was sacked twice after three quarters. He only connected with Johnson once for 6 yards.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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USA TODAY Sports

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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