Nationals

Belichick expects changes from Pats rout of Texans

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Belichick expects changes from Pats rout of Texans

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) A regular-season rout can be a poor predictor of the postseason rematch.

Coach Bill Belichick has another chance to remind his New England Patriots of that less than a month after their 42-14 romp that shoved the Houston Texans into their late-season plunge.

The stakes will be much higher when the Texans return next Sunday to the field where they flopped. The winner of the divisional-round matchup goes to the AFC championship game.

``The game that we play now doesn't have much to do with the game we played before,'' Belichick said Sunday, one day after the Texans advanced with a 19-13 wild-card win over the Cincinnati Bengals

Two years ago, the Patriots beat the New York Jets 45-3 in the 12th game of the season. Just six weeks later, the Patriots had the NFL's best record but lost to the Jets 28-21 in a divisional game.

It's a history lesson Belichick is sure to review this week.

``I don't think it's anything that wasn't mentioned until that situation occurred, but it's an example we can point out,'' he said in a conference call during a break from preparing for the Texans. ``We talked about that many times before, how other games don't have anything to do with this game. It stands on its own.

``That is and always will be the case, but it's an example to point out of how little relevance the previous game with the same team really does have.''

The Texans had the league's top mark when the ball was kicked off to start their game at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 10. But less than six minutes into the second quarter, they trailed 28-0 after Tom Brady's fourth touchdown pass.

That gap grew to 42-7 midway through the fourth quarter, with Arian Foster's 1-yard run the only touchdown until backup quarterback T.J. Yates ran in from 1 yard with two minutes left.

That began a stretch of three losses in four games before the Texans did just enough to beat the Bengals.

The Patriots held Foster to 46 yards rushing, his fourth-lowest output in a season in which he averaged 89 yards per game.

The real Foster is more like the one who ran a season-high 32 times for 140 yards and the game's only offensive touchdown against the Bengals. That made him the first NFL player to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his first three playoff games.

``There's no question that he's the key guy for Houston and their offense, but his production also complements the other players as well and the other parts of the game,'' Belichick said. ``Yesterday I thought he made a decent amount of yardage breaking tackles and making the defender miss a tackle in the hole or that kind of thing.''

Starting tackle Derek Newton, tight end Garrett Graham and linebacker Brooks Reed played against the Bengals after missing the first game against the Patriots.

``We were pretty sure that Reed wasn't going to get in the game, but all the rest of them we prepared for,'' Belichick said, ``the ones that were able to play played and the others (who) didn't. It's kind of the same thing this time. They have a couple guys that are out, but they added a couple of new players as well so we have to be ready for all of them.''

One of the Patriots' most important players missed that opening meeting. But tight end Rob Gronkowski returned from a five-game absence after breaking his left forearm and had a touchdown catch in the 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins in the regular-season finale.

Belichick expects many more changes than just the personnel.

``When you play a team twice during the season, the games are totally different. They never go the same way,'' he said. ``We'll be able to certainly look at some of the matchups individually, guys that faced each (other) in the game. As far as plays and calls and things like that matching up, I'm sure they'll have some new wrinkles. I'm sure we'll have some, too. It will be totally different.''

The coaching staff prepared last week for all three potential opponents.

But when Houston won on Saturday, Belichick and his staff didn't have to wait for the Baltimore Ravens to beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-9 on Sunday to determine the opponent.

The Texans were coming back.

``We spent a significant amount of time on them last week,'' Belichick said.

Now they have more to analyze from Saturday's victory.

``They had a couple pieces that were specific for Cincinnati, not revolutionary,'' he said. ``There are some good examples of things we can learn (from) that game, but, ultimately, our game, our matchups are different (from) theirs and will be different from the first game.''

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Soto's 2-run HR lifts Nats past Yanks 5-3 in resumed Game 1

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USA Today Sports

Soto's 2-run HR lifts Nats past Yanks 5-3 in resumed Game 1

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Juan Soto's latest feat: homering in a game played before he made his major league debut.

Huh?

The 19-year-old Soto delivered a tiebreaking, pinch-hit, two-run shot in the sixth inning of a game that began and was suspended because of rain last month, five days before he was called up from the minors for the first time, to lift the Washington Nationals to a 5-3 victory over the New York Yankees in the opener of an unusual doubleheader Monday.

Game 1 resumed with the score 3-all and the Nationals about to bat in the bottom of the sixth. After Bryce Harper -- who had a full beard back on May 15, when the game began, but was clean-shaven this time -- struck out, and Anthony Rendon singled, Soto drove a 97 mph fastball from Chad Green (4-1) to the back of the second deck in right field.

"I thought he had a good chance to hit the ball hard," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "That was hard."

It was Soto's sixth homer since he was brought up from Double-A Harrisburg on May 20 -- and second against the Yankees. Soto stood and admired this one before beginning his trot around the bases.

"A pitch right in his hot zone. Soto got us again," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Obviously a really good looking player. Two pretty big shots he's hit against us."

Soto also was involved in a double play while playing left in the seventh. Didi Gregorius lined to Soto, and he lobbed the ball to shortstop Trea Turner, who sprinted to second base to double off Gary Sanchez.

Soto's stats -- and all others from Game 1 -- will count as being part of the originally scheduled game on May 15, but Soto's official debut will still be considered on the actual date it happened, according to the Nationals, citing the Elias Sports Bureau.

"I wish he was climbing the ladder more routinely. He should be in about Double-A now," Boone said. "What can you say? Nineteen and obviously doing really well."

Wander Suero (1-0) got the win for 1 1-3 scoreless innings -- one inning on May 15, and one out on Monday.

Sean Doolittle struck out Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and got Gary Sanchez to fly out to center in the ninth for his 18th save.

Game 2, which was completely rained out May 16, was to begin a half-hour after Game 1 finished, with Washington's Erick Fedde facing New York's Sonny Gray.

The Nationals had lost five of six games entering the day.

In the month-plus since the games were supposed to be played, both teams' rosters changed, of course. Aside from Soto's arrival, two position players who started the game for Washington, Howie Kendrick (out for the season with an injury) and Andrew Stevenson (demoted to the minors) are no longer around. For the Yankees, their original starter at first base, Tyler Austin, is in the minors.

Martinez said the closest thing he could compare this situation to was Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, when the Tampa Bay Rays -- he was Joe Maddon's bench coach then -- wound up losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in a contest that began on a Monday, was halted in the sixth inning because of rain, and concluded on a Wednesday.

"It's weird, man," Martinez said.

STREAK ENDS

Another oddity: The loss means the Yankees' streak of winning eight consecutive series now gets retroactively shortened to seven series, because it's as if Game 1 took place entirely on May 15.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Yankees: OF Brett Gardner was not listed in the lineup for Game 2 because an MRI exam showed swelling in his right knee, although Boone said he didn't expect Gardner to go on the DL. ... With Gardner's status uncertain, the Yankees recalled OF Clint Frazier from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre and optioned INF Ronald Torreyes to that minor league affiliate.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson, on the DL for two weeks with a strained right hamstring, took fielding practice before the start of play Monday and said he "felt fine." Hellickson has taken two bullpen sessions and "felt 100 percent," so expects to be able to return soon. ... 1B Matt Adams was "still a little sore" after getting hit by a pitch on a finger Friday.

UP NEXT

The Nationals open a three-game series at home against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, and Martinez has not yet announced who his starter will be. The Yankees return to New York for a three-game set against Seattle, with RHP Domingo German (1-4, 5.23 ERA) pitching on Tuesday against Mariners LHP Marco Gonzalez (7-3, 3.42).

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Term, not money, was the main sticking point in Brian MacLellan's negotiations with Barry Trotz

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USA TODAY Sports

Term, not money, was the main sticking point in Brian MacLellan's negotiations with Barry Trotz

Despite winning a Stanley Cup less than two weeks ago, the Capitals found themselves without a head coach on Monday with the stunning news of Barry Trotz’s resignation.

At Wednesday’s breakdown day, Trotz told the media he wanted to be back in Washington. General manager Brian MacLellan said he wanted Trotz back. But both alluded to possible issues that had to be sorted out in any contract negotiations.

Obviously, those issues were not resolved.

“[Trotz’s] representative wants to take advantage of Barry’s experience and Stanley Cup win and is trying to negotiate a deal that compensates him as one of the better coaches in the league, a top four or five coach,” MacLellan said in a press conference with the media on Monday. “He’s looking for that kind of contract.”

But if you think money was the main sticking point between the two sides, that’s not the case. Money was a factor, but there was a bigger factor that held up negotiations, according to MacLellan.

“I think the five-year term is probably a sticking point,” he said. “We have a coach that's been here four years. You do another five, that's nine years. There's not many coaches that have that lasting ability. It's a long time and it's a lot of money to be committing to that, to a coach.”

Of the head coaches currently employed in the NHL, only Joel Quenneville has been the head coach of his current team, the Chicago Blackhawks, for over nine years.

Trotz’s contract included a clause that would extend his deal a further two years if the team won the Stanley Cup. While the team was comfortable with that clause and did engage in talks on renegotiating the contract after the season, they were not willing to sign him to a deal as expensive or, more critically, for as long as Trotz sought.

“I don’t think all teams pay that type of money and years," MacLellan said. "Certain teams are open to it and the rest of the league isn’t.”

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