Nationals

Big-game Redskins role reversal for RG3, Shanahan

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Big-game Redskins role reversal for RG3, Shanahan

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Compare what was said Wednesday by Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan. One sounds like a stereotypical coach. The other could be mistaken for an overeager player.

A case of role reversal hit the Washington Redskins on Wednesday. The rookie quarterback, on the day of his Pro Bowl selection, downplayed Sunday's winner-take-all game against the Dallas Cowboys with one-game-at-a-time-type answers, while the veteran hard-nosed coach was the one whose words could be featured on a banner to promote a game that will decide the NFC East.

``It's the biggest stage, but none of us are looking at it that way,'' Griffin said. ``It's another game we have to go out and win, and that's the way we look at it. Every moment in your life is the biggest one at that time, so we look forward to having many more of these, but we've got to make sure we take care of this one.''

Griffin, elected a team captain at midseason, said he'll give his teammates that same even-keel message.

``Basketball, the big game, track, the finals, whatever it is, whenever you play the moment up too much it can become too big to seize the moment,'' said Griffin, whose big moments include winning a bowl game and the Heisman Trophy while at Baylor. ``So you just want to make sure you don't make something so big that you can't grab ahold of it.''

After Griffin left the room, along came Shanahan, who is looking to end a personal playoff drought. The coach won two Super Bowls with John Elway and the Denver Broncos in the 1990s but lost make-or-break games in the final weeks of the 2006 and 2008 seasons. He hasn't been to the postseason since 2005.

``These are the games you'll remember for the rest of your life. Win or go home,'' Shanahan said. ``I don't care what playoff game, when I look back as an assistant or as a head coach, you go back and you think about the great experiences you had or the bad memories you have.

``You want to take advantage of these opportunities when they exist. They don't come around every day. And when they do come around, you want to make sure that you play your best and you prepare yourself the best possible way.

``And you tell that guys that this is not just a normal game. You've got to make sure the attention to detail's there. You can't make mistakes. The concentration level's got to be there.''

Stay medium? Or get pumped? Think of it like any other game? Or treat it as special?

Or somehow do both?

With all due respect to Griffin - who has deservedly won praise all season for having poise beyond his years - the coach probably comes closer to reflecting the attitude in the locker room.

After all, the Redskins haven't been to the playoffs since 2007, and they haven't won a division title since 1999.

``This has only happened to me once before, where if you win that final game, you've got a playoff spot,'' left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said.

``It's a special feeling, and when you go a lot of seasons in a row without really playing for anything meaningful in December, it's quite a change. ... We're going to be hyped up. I don't think there's any way around that.''

The Cowboys-Redskins game has been moved to Sunday night and will mark the end of the regular season. It's possible that Washington (9-6) could lose and still get a wild card berth, but only if the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings both lose earlier in the day.

There was one point on which Shanahan and Griffin agreed: These are the types of games that can make a career.

``At the end of the day, everybody is compared to winning championships, if you like it or not,'' Shanahan said. ``Is it fair all the time? Probably not. But how you're going to be judged or ranked is how you play in those games. They define you, sometimes.''

Griffin has already shown he can handle high-profile games, winning his NFL debut, his Monday night debut and his Thanksgiving debut. He ranks either first or second in the league in passer rating, yards-per-attempt and interception percentage.

He said he'll be able to do more physically against the Cowboys after his sprained right knee prompted coaches to limit the game plan in a 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

``Nothing's definite in the league with how you're going to be judged,'' Griffin said. ``But if you play big in the big stages, people tend to write good things about you, so we all want to play well on the big stage.''

While Shanahan's words could be used to market the game, Griffin didn't miss a chance to market himself. He was asked about a $10,000 fine, which he is appealing, levied recently by the NFL for wearing attire from his personal sponsor Adidas instead of league sponsor Nike at a postgame news conference.

``I understand the principle of that. And I respect that,'' Griffin said. ``That why I haven't really worn that much Adidas at all.''

``Three stripes,'' he added with a smile, a reference to the Adidas logo. ``That's all I can say about that. Name-dropping all up in here.''

Griffin got a mention by the NFL later in the day when he, left tackle Trent Williams and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander were the Redskins players selected to the Pro Bowl. All three are first-time selections with distinct stories: the rookie phenom, the athletic lineman who rededicated himself after last year's drug suspension, and the special teams standout finally getting his due.

``You can't play down those kind of things,'' Griffin said. ``I've always said my whole football career that you don't play for awards. They just come. You don't say you're going to win the Heisman. You don't say you're going to win MVP. You go out and you prove it on the field, and if everyone feels that way then they'll give you that award.''

Notes: WR Dezmon Briscoe did not practice Wednesday after missing his flight back from the Christmas break. ``That'll cost a little cash,'' Shanahan said. ... RT Tyler Polumbus (concussion) and LB London Fletcher (sprained left ankle) did not practice, while CB DeJon Gomes (sprained left knee) was limited. ... The Redskins' new bubble paid off Wednesday when a winter storm forced the team inside for practice. A year ago, the players would have piled into cars to drive to a gym or an airport hangar.

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter:http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

After a week that gave several teams the opportunity to prove themselves in the National League East, the only team that did so was the Miami Marlins.

They aren’t as bad as we thought they were.

As for everyone else, each fan base should be disappointed.

The Atlanta Braves missed a golden opportunity to pull away from both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, they actually lost ground to BOTH teams that were playing each other.

Philadelphia did leapfrog the Nationals in the standings, but they continue to leave wins on the table due to their bullpen. This is all while Washington went 4-4 on an eight-game homstand.

And if you’re the Mets, I need to say no more in regards to disappointment. Look out because the Marlins are now on your tail.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 44-32
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: vs. Cincinnati (3), @ St. Louis (3)

It is hard to take a team seriously when they lose two out of three to the Baltimore Orioles in their home park.

Both were in demoralizing ways. First, Sean Newcomb went seven innings allowing only a single run, then two relievers gave up a combined six runs in the ninth. Despite a comeback in the ninth, they wouldn’t eventually fall in the 15th (!) inning.

And yes… we can attest, this sucks…

Second was Julio Teheran allowing four to score before Atlanta even got an at-bat. There was a wistful rally for the rest of the game, but ultimately they came up two runs short.

Missing on a golden opportunity to emerge as the frontrunner in the NL East, the Braves dropped the ball. Once excited for a finalized rotation to be back together, there are still some gaps to fill. The team averaged 6.8 runs this week and managed only two wins.

And still no Robert Acuna Jr.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 41-34
Last 10: 7-3
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Yankees (3), vs. Washington Nationals (4)

Winning series will get you in the postseason. Taking two-out-of-three over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Nationals gives them four straight series wins.

None of those series victories were bigger than taking two at Nats Park.

In those six games Odùbel Herrera had 12 hits, four home runs, nine RBIs for a .444 average. He is leading the charge for a team that scored 39 runs in only six games.

Their starters are giving them quality outings as well. With each starting pitcher this week having a 1.40 WHIP or lower, there has been no downtick from them. However, all of their losses are attributed to their bullpen, including three blown saves.

On June 18, they optioned their closer Héctor Neris to Triple A after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. While he did have a 6.00 ERA, and a 9.45 ERA in June, he did get the job done in the final innings of games. On 13 save opportunities this year, he got 10 saves.

They hope Seranthony Domínguez (four saves) can turn around the bullpen as they make a push to the All-Star Game.

Washington Nationals

Record: 41-35
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Tampa Bay Rays (2), @ Philadelphia Phillies (4)

All things considered it wasn’t the worst week for the Nationals. Despite losing a series to Philadelphia and dropping a Gio Gonzalez start to Baltimore, Washington gained a half game on the Braves.

But, you have to demand better on an eight-game homestand. These games may be the ones that could haunt the Nats come late-August and September.

Yet there are a lot of highlights this week.

-Juan Soto retroactively hit a HR on his first-ever MLB at-bat
-The Nats pick up reliever Kelvin Herrera in a career-year
-Despite trailing by four, and a rain delay, the Nats came back

Most importantly though Bryce Harper is out of his funk.

…and the fire is back, which may be the most important headline this week.

New York Mets

Record: 31-44
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Pirates (3), @ Marlins (3)

Finishing up a 10 game road trip with a 3-7 record, all the Mets needed was a return home.

Wrong, New York followed that up by getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field.

And one of those losses, just one, featured seven Dodger home runs.

Also another of the few productive players for the Mets could be heading to the DL. Centerfielder Brandon Nimmo (.283, 12 HR) took a pitch off of his hand this past weekend.

Miami Marlins

Record: 31-47
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. Diamondbacks (4), vs. Mets (3)

A 3-3 West Coast road trip is not too shabby for the Marlins who are playing .500 ball in the month of June (11-10).

It gave the opportunity for Kyle Barraclough to pick up two more saves, bringing his total up to seven this season. His stellar relief performances will likely garner him the honor as the Marlins’ lone representative in the All-Star Game next month.

He’s pitched 11.2 straight innings of hitless baseball. Barraclough has also not allowed a run since May 8 (19 appearances).

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

The countdown to the MLB All-Star game in Washington ticks on, but the stars of its host city struggled this week in the voting.

Last week, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Matt Adams dropped one position from the first week's ballot. This week, the downward trend continues, perhaps a sign of the ambivalence among Nationals fans following a mixed record since week two's update.

The Nats won three of their seven games last week with a blowout 2-12 loss to the Phillies on Friday. Maybe they're feeling bogged down by the incessant rain delays in the DC-Maryland area

Regardless, Bryce Harper dropped another spot on the fan voting ballot this week to settle in the No. 3 spot among outfielders with 1,403,335 votes. Leading him are No. 1 Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis with 1,829,276 votes and No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Matt Kemp with 1,498,827 votes. It's worth noting that Harper trails Kemp by less than 100,000 votes, a very reasonable gap to recover from, and leads No. 4 Colorado Rockies centerfielder Matt Blackmon by over 400,000 votes, a somewhat safe separation. 

Matt Adams, however, was not so lucky. After dropping from No. 14 to No. 15 last week, he fell out of the top 15 in this week's voting. In this week's results, only 8,000 votes separate Nos. 14 and 15, so it's okay to be hopeful that your vote will make a difference. 

Trea Turner is still holding onto the No. 5 spot in the shortstop category, with an over 100,000 vote increase from last week's voting update pushing him up to 380,331 votes. The shortstops' rankings haven't changed since last week, so the San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford, Braves' Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell and Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story remain in the top four spots.

Nats fans, now's the time to keep casting those votes to keep your favorites on this year's National League roster. You can keep voting until July 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET, up to five times every 24 hours. Read more about how to vote for your favorite players in the MLB All-Star Game HERE

The 2018 National League - American League matchup is in Washington, D.C. on July 17.

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