Nationals

Bengals in playoffs after 13-10 win over Steelers

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Bengals in playoffs after 13-10 win over Steelers

PITTSBURGH (AP) Marvin Lewis raised his hand, wiped his brow and let out a ``whoo.''

There used to be a time when the Cincinnati Bengals coach would make a bad decision and his team would lose.

Only that doesn't happen anymore. Not with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green changing the Bengals' woeful history one gut-check victory at a time.

The second-year quarterback and wide receiver connected for a 21-yard completion in the final seconds, setting up Josh Brown's game-winning 43-yard field goal in a 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday to send the Bengals back to the playoffs.

``Obviously we know the history is that we haven't been (in the postseason) two years in a row for the last 30 years,'' Dalton said. ``But since I have been here I haven't known that. My class, me, A.J., some of these other guys, we come in and expect to go to the playoffs.''

A place the Bengals (9-6) are heading to once again after another late-game gaffe by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger tossed an interception on the second play of overtime a week ago in a loss to Dallas. This time his pass to Mike Wallace sailed high and Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson returned it to the Pittsburgh 46.

Two plays later, Cincinnati clinched a wild-card berth while the Steelers (7-8) saw their postseason hopes disappear after losing for the fifth time in six games.

`'We should be (in the playoffs) if it wasn't for me,'' Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger's mistake helped the Bengals bail out their coach, who allowed Brown to attempt a 56-yard field goal in the swirling Heinz Field winds with 3:18 to go. The kick never had a chance and gave the Steelers a chance to put together a potential game-winning drive.

Looking back, Lewis admits he probably made the wrong choice.

``I make decisions to try and win the game,'' Lewis said. ``Today it kind of backfired on me.''

Just not on his team, which is heading to the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1981-82, six years before Green was born.

``This has been our goal coming in at the beginning of the season,'' Green said. ``A lot of people talked about we hadn't been in in back to back seasons in 30 years. I don't worry about that stuff. I've been here two years and we made the playoffs all two years. That's all we can control.''

Shredding the label as erratic - and sometimes comical - losers one improbable victory at a time, the Bengals, their precocious duo of Green and Dalton and their quickly improving defense have Cincinnati in uncharted territory.

The Bengals have been around since 1968. This is the first time they'll make the postseason in two straight non-strike years.

``I know they just think that there's some complex; there's no complex, you've just got to come play and win,'' Lewis said. ``This group in there has very little history of anything.''

Maybe that's why Bengals aren't doomed to repeat it.

Dalton completed 24 of 41 for 278 yards and two interceptions for the Bengals, which snapped a five-game losing streak to Pittsburgh. Green caught 10 passes for 116 yards and Cincinnati's defense never let the Steelers get comfortable. The Bengals sacked Roethlisberger four times and allowed Pittsburgh to complete just 2 of 14 third downs.

``Not our day and thus, not our year,'' Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. ``Just not enough significant plays at the moments. Sounds like a broken record but reality as we sit here.''

Pittsburgh did a decent job of keeping Dalton and Green in check, posting season highs with three turnovers and six sacks. The Bengals couldn't run the ball at all, managing just 14 yards against the NFL's top defense. Still, it wasn't enough for the Steelers, turning a season that looked so promising before Election Day into a muddled mess.

Instead of making playoff plans, the team that was 6-3 on Nov. 4 needs a win next week against Cleveland to avoid the first losing season in Tomlin's six-year tenure.

``It hurts bad, not making the playoffs,'' Pittsburgh cornerback Keenan Lewis said. ``We're going to be home with the rest of them, watching.''

Not Cincinnati, which took another step forward behind a young core intent on changing the perception of a team known not so long ago as ``the Bungles.''

``I grew up in Cincinnati so the city should be buzzing,'' punter Kevin Huber said. ``We have a big game next weekend. New we have to get ready to go to the playoffs.''

NOTES: Cincinnati's 14 yards rushing were the second-fewest in franchise history. The Bengals had 4 yards rushing against Baltimore in 2000 ... Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller left game in the fourth quarter with a right knee injury ... Brown is 8 of 9 since taking over for Nugent three weeks ago ... Five of Pittsburgh's eight losses this season have come by three points ... Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall had 50 yards rushing in his return after serving a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.

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Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman tests positive for COVID-19 with Opening Day 12 days away

Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman tests positive for COVID-19 with Opening Day 12 days away

The New York Yankees could be without their top relief arm on Opening Night against the Nationals.

Manager Aaron Boone announced Saturday that Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is experiencing “mild symptoms” after testing positive for the coronavirus and will be away from the team “for the foreseeable future.” Chapman is the third Yankees player to contract the virus after infielder DJ LeMahieu and reliever Luis Cessa tested positive in early July.

Boone’s announcement comes 12 days before the Yankees are scheduled to take on the Nationals in D.C. to kick off MLB’s abbreviated 2020 season. New York will play three games against Washington in the only series between the two clubs this year.

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However, if any team is built to absorb the loss of its closer, it’s the Yankees. Boone said that reliever Zack Britton would be the “natural guy” to handle ninth-inning duties if Chapman isn’t ready for the start of the season. New York’s bullpen also includes Adam Ottavino, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle, each of whom—like Britton—would be a closer on most other teams.

On Friday, MLB and the players union announced that 28 of the 30 MLB teams had at least one player or staff member test positive for the coronavirus between intake screening and monitoring testing. Overall, 83 of the 11,149 samples collected have come back positive—a rate of 0.7 percent.

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Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Howie Kendrick among several Nationals players still not in Summer Camp

Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Howie Kendrick among several Nationals players still not in Summer Camp

WASHINGTON --More than a week into the Major League Baseball’s reboot, and its gleefully-named and grotesquely-sponsored Summer Camp, the Nationals are still in wait-and-see mode.

Two players tested positive for Coronavirus at intake screening. The team is not obligated to release their names and cannot do so without the player’s permission. So, what we do know is Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Howie Kendrick are among multiple players not yet in Nationals Park for workouts 12 days before the season is scheduled to begin.

Their health and safety is paramount. However, when they are not working with the team, the organization needs to formulate a baseball-specific plan to go forward without them, should the need arise. And, that time is close because the preparation window is closing.

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“Right now, we’re taking things one day at a time,” Davey Martinez said Saturday. “I’ve got to put eyes on these guys and see where they’re at. I know Soto was actually working out pretty good in the Dominican back home, so was Robles. I talked to those guys. We talked to the strength-and-conditioning guys. They think they’re in really good shape. They worked really hard. We’ll have to get them on the field.

“The biggest thing is they can be in great shape, but how much baseball shape have they done? To me, where something happens, if anybody strains an oblique, you’re looking at a significant amount of time. You’re probably looking at almost a whole season here with only 60 games. We got to be careful, we’ve got to see where they’re at. Then once they get here, we’ll determine whether they’re going to be ready or not.”

The Nationals have three exhibition games scheduled before the season opener against Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees. They can carry 30 players into that game. Martinez is trying to worry about who is in the stadium since he has no control over the clearances for the players who are not.

“We’re in a difficult situation,” Martinez said. “We really are with these guys. We’ve done everything we can. I know our strength guys have Zoomed with them and actually put them on some kind of workout program and watching them do what they can do in their apartment. You’re talking about some of our younger players, too. We don’t want to get them hurt. We’ve got to be smart. We’re also talking about a shorter season where we’ve got to win games right away. We’ll see how these guys come in and for me, it’s the baseball shape....Standing on their feet for seven, eight, nine innings.”

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Catcher Raudy Read played first base during Saturday’s intrasquad workout at Nationals Park. He was there in part because Read could well be a first baseman in the long-term. The Nationals also needed another body at the spot because Eric Thames -- their lone true first baseman available -- played for the opposing side.

The team variations spread across the infield and into the outfield because Soto, Robles and Luis Garcia remain in quarantine.

Martinez said “hopefully” the players in quarantine will be with the team soon. Even if they are, their window to be prepared for Cole is extremely limited, which is going to force the Nationals to start making contingency plans.