Orioles

Beavers, seeking 10th win, face Longhorns in Alamo

Beavers, seeking 10th win, face Longhorns in Alamo

Oregon State generated the biggest one-year turnaround in school history and could secure its third 10-win season by beating Texas in the Alamo Bowl on Saturday.

The Longhorns? They are trying to reverse a three-year slide from the days when 10 wins were just a footnote on the way to BCS bowls.

Beating the 15th-ranked Beavers on Saturday night would be another baby step back to the elite for Mack Brown and company, with still a long way to go. Texas followed a loss to Alabama in the 2009 BCS championship game with a shocking 5-7 record - the only losing season in 15 under Brown - and an 8-5 mark last year that included a Holiday Bowl win over Cal.

Lose to Oregon State, and the Longhorns (8-4) will have a second straight eight-win season and a long offseason to think about a three-game losing streak, too.

``I think that at Texas we want to be 13-0,'' Brown said. ``The standards are higher than eight, and that's what the kids need to understand and our coaches do understand. And we are ready to take that next step and get it back to where it should be.''

Mike Riley has had to do a little rebuilding of his own after leading the Beavers (9-3) to 10 wins in 2006 and three more winning seasons after that. Oregon State matched Texas at 5-7 in 2010, then slipped to 3-9 a year ago.

The Beavers are six games better in 2012, beating one Rose Bowl team - Wisconsin - in their opener and almost beating the other - Stanford - on the road. Oregon State brings a little momentum into the Alamo Bowl because Hurricane Isaac turned the original opener against Nicholls State into the finale. So after losing to Fiesta Bowl-bound rival Oregon, the Beavers trounced Nicholls State 77-3.

Quarterbacks Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion split the snaps against Nicholls after injuries led to both being starters during the season. Riley picked Vaz, a former receiver who has 11 touchdowns and just one interception, to start against the Longhorns.

``It's been a hard decision,'' offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. ``It's probably been more difficult on the two kids. They have been kind of flip-flopping back and forth. But I think our team understands that there's two guys that can go out and win a game.''

The Longhorns saved their flip-flopping at quarterback for late in the season. David Ash was named the starter for the Alamo Bowl after starting the first 11 games before he was pulled in a loss to TCU on Thanksgiving. Case McCoy started the finale against Kansas State. Texas officials originally said Ash sustained a rib injury against the Horned Frogs, but Brown acknowledged this week that Ash was actually injured the previous game against Iowa State and made the start against TCU anyway.

The TCU game was the second time McCoy replaced an ineffective Ash. McCoy came off the bench to lead a comeback win against Kansas in October, but Ash kept his job then.

``I think he's done a great job this year,'' co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said of Ash. ``Has there been a game or two he wants back? Absolutely. That's usually the case for most players. But I think he's improved from last season.''

Applewhite, a former Texas quarterback, is taking over as play-caller and quarterbacks coach with Bryan Harsin leaving to become head coach at Arkansas State. Applewhite was the running backs coach and says any significant changes for the quarterbacks can wait.

``The last thing I want to do is scratch the hard drive and try to change a lot of things that he's really been ingrained in over the last two years,'' said Applewhite, who was Nick Saban's offensive coordinator his first year at Alabama in 2007. ``We'll talk more about that kind of stuff in the spring and where we want to go with the position, how we want to grow.''

The Longhorns will be without two players who were suspended and sent home on Friday after a report surfaced that police were investigating a sexual assault allegation against them. The players have not been identified.

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Orioles clean house, fire 11 members of scouting and front office departments

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Orioles clean house, fire 11 members of scouting and front office departments

Baltimore Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is dedicated to altering the direction of the organization and that was reciprocated Friday with the firing of 11 members of the scouting and front office departments.  

"We're in a period of change right now with the industry and we're in a period of change right now with the Orioles," Elias said. "Sometimes to make changes you've got to make changes."

Among those relieved were baseball operations director Tripp Norton, scouts Dean Albany, Jim Howard, John Gillette, Nathan Showalter, and Buck Showalter. 

Elias acknowledged the uphill battle ahead of filling numerous voids but insists it's just a part of the job 

"We're going to be very busy bringing people into this organization," he said. "This is just the organization moving along and adapting to the sport today."

Just one day removed from a judge confirming that the Orioles owe the Nationals nearly $300 million, Elias insisted this move isn't to save money.

"There are changes going on in the scouting business in terms of greater availability of information in general, video and data," Elias said. "There are instances where we will replace people's roles kind of man for man, head for head, spot for spot, but there's other instances where we're reconfiguring the way the scouts go about their business."

The O's will look completely different from this point out and players won't be the only changes.

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Sleep-deprived Nationals win one they probably shouldn’t have in Chicago behind Aníbal Sánchez

Sleep-deprived Nationals win one they probably shouldn’t have in Chicago behind Aníbal Sánchez

The clubhouse wears have never been packed so quickly. Washington was sprinting as a group to get out of Pittsburgh on Thursday night following another three-hour-plus game with a 1:20 p.m. local start looming in Wrigley Field on Friday.

Max Scherzer finished his postgame comments in less than four minutes, then quickly moved to get cleaned up and join the others. Most lockers were vacant by the time media members reached the clubhouse, which wasn’t long after the game ended. 

Despite the scramble for minutes saved, Friday was supposed to be a loss. Las Vegas knew. The players and management knew. It was a bad spot. Night game, onto a plane, then a day game against a team which played at home the previous afternoon, and was 44-19 there -- the second-best home record in the National League. 

And yet, Nationals 9, Cubs 3, and it wasn’t that close.

Some bloops fell, some situations turned out lucky. Though, Aníbal Sánchez dominated. No voodoo or charms were involved.

He went through 8 ⅓ innings before being removed after 112 pitches. He was provided a shot to finish the game -- just 15 National League pitchers have a complete game this season -- but couldn’t. A rare Anthony Rendon throwing error cost him an out, then his opportunity for a solo close to the afternoon in Chicago.

Sánchez threw 31 four-seam fastballs, 31 cutters and 28 “splitters” among his 112 pitches. He worked as a marionettist, pulling strings to change positions and outcomes throughout the day. Matt Grace finished the game. No high-end reliever was used, resetting a bullpen which had to cover five innings in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

The offense beat up Jon Lester. He didn’t make it out of the fifth inning. Everyone in the lineup -- including Sánchez -- picked up a hit. Trea Turner’s single extended his on-base streak to 30 games.

Sánchez’s work piggybacked on what the other starters did against woeful Pittsburgh. Nationals starters have allowed two earned runs in the first five games of this seven-game road trip. The offense has averaged 8.2 runs in that span. It’s hard to fathom they lost once with both sides operating in such fashion.

All of this is just a continuation of a massive turnaround. Washington is 52-26 since its nadir May 24. Only the Dodgers -- who host the Yankees on Friday night -- have a better record in that span, and by just a half-game. They have won 10 of 12 and 13 of 17. Fivethirtyeight.com now gives the Nationals a 90 percent chance to make the postseason (this includes the wild-card game).

Wins like Friday emphatically move that needle. The Cubs are trying to wind their way into the postseason. They were also set up for a clear advantage thanks to the schedule. Instead, Sánchez, throwing as slow as 68 mph and as fast as 91, controlled the day, the offense rolled through the afternoon and everyone was ready for bed after a surprise win.

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