Nationals

Bolts beat Raiders in Turner's expected finale

Bolts beat Raiders in Turner's expected finale

SAN DIEGO (AP) It's decision time for Dean Spanos, the president of the San Diego Chargers.

Norv Turner already is a step ahead of Spanos. The coach thinks he's going to be fired Monday morning.

Turner watched his San Diego Chargers beat the rival Oakland Raiders 24-21 on a wet, gloomy Sunday that seemed to sum up the state of the franchise.

The Chargers (7-9) will miss the playoffs for the third straight season. The only thing left is a final team meeting Monday morning.

``Obviously, we're going to meet with the team and I'm sure they'll start looking for a new coach,'' said Turner, who has one year left on his contract, at $3 million.

Spanos said he'd have something to say on Monday.

``I haven't talked to anybody,'' Spanos said as he left Qualcomm Stadium with his two sons.

General manager A.J. Smith also is expected to be fired Monday. Smith could be replaced by Jimmy Raye, the director of pro personnel. It's expected that John Spanos, the team's director of college scouting, also would be promoted. At some point, John Spanos will oversee the franchise's football operations.

Asked if this has been emotional, Turner said: ``In there with the guys, I was brief because I want to spend some time and talk to them (Monday). It's emotional. There is a lot going on.''

San Diego's Micheal Spurlock returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.

San Diego linebacker Takeo Spikes and Oakland running back Mike Goodson were ejected following a skirmish in the second quarter.

If Turner does get fired, he'll finish 56-40 in six seasons with San Diego, but just 24-24 the last three seasons.

Turner's overall regular-season record as an NFL head coach is 114-122-1. He was 49-59-1 in Washington from 1994 until being fired with three games left in the 2000 season and 9-23 with Oakland, where he coached from 2004 until being fired after the 2005 season.

He was hired by the Chargers in February 2007 after Smith won a power struggle with Marty Schottenheimer.

Quarterback Philip Rivers was emotional as he spoke about Turner.

``It's tough You've played quarterback for a guy for 102 games. That's a lot of time spent. A lot of fun, a lot of hard work, plenty of disagreements and aggravations. It's hard,'' Rivers said. ``Other than my dad, I don't know that there has been a coach that you've had so much respect for and trust for. Six years is a long time.''

The Raiders finished 4-12.

Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor made his first career start, in place of injured Carson Palmer. Pryor threw his first career touchdown pass, a 9-yarder to Darrius Heyward-Bey early in the second quarter, and scored on a 3-yard run midway through the fourth quarter to pull the Raiders to 24-14.

The Chargers almost blew this one.

The Raiders blocked a punt by Mike Scifres, setting up Pryor's 5-yard TD pass to Denarius Moore with 1:52 left. The Raiders tried an onside kick but Spurlock recovered.

``Just when I saw that punt blocked I was like, `Geez, we're going to win this game. As ugly as it was on offense, we're going to win this game,' `' Pryor said. ``It didn't turn out that way. I just commend everybody for not stopping. Just keep going.''

Coach Dennis Allen said the TD pass to Moore ``was a heck of a football play. With Terrelle, like any young quarterback, you take a little bit of the good with the bad but overall I thought, not bad.''

Spurlock took the opening kickoff and ran up the middle of the field before cutting over to the right sideline to give the Chargers a lead they wouldn't give up.

He became the first Chargers player to have a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns in consecutive weeks. He returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown a week earlier in a victory against the New York Jets.

Pryor's TD pass came two plays after Spikes and Goodson were ejected.

Goodson was blocking Spikes when the two locked up on a pass play in the second quarter. They remained locked up after the play ended and a larger scrum broke out.

Spikes and Goodson were flagged for personal fouls and ejected. Spikes had to be restrained by field judge Scott Edwards from going after referee John Parry.

As he was leaving the field, Spikes took off his helmet and flung it. Teammate Melvin Ingram caught it.

Backup tight end Randy McMichael walked Spikes off the field and the two hugged before Spikes disappeared up the tunnel.

Parry said the two players were ejected because they kept pulling at each other's facemasks after the referees tried to separate them.

After Oakland scored, San Diego took the ensuing kickoff and went on a long drive that resulted in Rivers' 11-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates for a 17-7 lead with 2:48 left before halftime.

Pryor made some big mistakes.

With Sebastian Janikowski warming up on the sideline for a possible field goal attempt in the final seconds of the first half, Pryor scrambled but didn't get out of bounds and the clock ran out.

Early in the third quarter, Pryor got too much air under a pass and was picked off in the end zone by Quentin Jammer.

Rivers also threw a 34-yard scoring pass to Danario Alexander. Rivers completed 13 of 17 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

Pryor was 13 of 28 for 150 yards, with two TDs and one interception.

NOTES: Jammer, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2002 draft, believes he's played his final game with the Chargers. ... Raiders DE Lamarr Houston had nine tackles and four assists, plus 1 1/2 sacks and two QB hits. He also was whistled twice for offsides. ... The Chargers had 210 yards in offense. The Raiders had 265.

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Past Nationals relievers: Where are they now?

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Past Nationals relievers: Where are they now?

It’s no secret that the Nationals bullpen is one of the weakest units in baseball this season. Fans in the nation’s capital have spent two months watching relievers cough up leads and put games out of reach, and the numbers speak for themselves. 

Washington’s team ERA among relievers is an unsightly 7.09 entering Memorial Day Weekend, nearly a full run higher than the 29th-ranked Orioles. As a unit, they’ve pitched fewer innings than any other bullpen, yet have allowed the second-most earned runs.

No one has been immune. Sean Doolittle, by far the best option in 2019, has seen his ERA balloon to 3.68. Justin Miller is the only other regular reliever with an ERA below 5, and he’s at 4.02.

It’s caused much consternation in the fanbase, and for good reason. Where did the Nationals go wrong in building this bullpen? What could they have done differently?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at four relievers who are experiencing various levels of success while no longer in Washington.

Felipe Vazquez

Vazquez has been lights out in Pittsburgh in 2019. He ranks top-10 among relievers in WAR (0.9) and top-12 in ERA (1.25). He holds the sixth-best K/9 (14.54) and is tied for the fourth-most saves in baseball with 13.

Every one of those numbers would lead the Nationals with ease. At 27, Vazquez has turned into one of the elite relievers in the sport. He’s been terrific all three years with the Pirates, and 2019 looks like his best season yet.

Of course, he wasn’t ready to be this guy in 2016 when the Nationals traded him for Mark Melancon. It was a necessary trade at the time, and one that worked out well in a vacuum. Melancon pitched well in Washington and didn’t allow a run in the 2016 postseason.

Right now, the Nats could really use a Felipe Vazquez, but the logic behind their trade at the time was sound.

Blake Treinen

Treinen has already allowed as many earned runs in 2019 (seven) as he did in all of 2018. It’s not a knock on his performance this season, where his 2.59 ERA would still lead the Nationals, but a recognition of just how dominant he was in 2018.

In the modern era of Major League Baseball, it’s just about impossible for a reliever to win the Cy Young. Even with just 80 innings pitched last year, Treinen finished sixth in Cy Young voting and 15th in MVP voting. 

That’s right. He was so good, he got down-ballot votes for MVP. It was a sensational year.

His usually-elite ground ball rate is down this season, which has led to some regression, but it’s still notable he put together a 2018 season that far outshines any individual season the Nats have seen.

It was clear in 2017 he wasn’t capable of performing as the team’s closer, eventually earning a demotion before being traded to Oakland.

Despite his enormous success in the years since the trade, it’s hard to question the Nationals here. Not only did it seem apparent Treinen wasn’t going to figure things out in D.C., but the trade brought back Sean Doolittle, the lone consistently great reliever the Nats have had in recent years.

Brandon Kintzler

Kintzler pitched parts of two seasons in Washington, but ultimately spent exactly one year with the Nationals. In that year, he tossed 68.2 innings while striking out 43 batters and walking 18.

His ERA with the Nationals was 3.54, too high for a high-leverage reliever. He struggled mightily in 2018 after being traded to the Cubs, but has settled down this season to the tune of a 2.96 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 24 innings.

As is the case for just about any halfway-decent reliever, the current Nationals bullpen would benefit from having him, but this isn’t nearly the loss Treinen or Vasquez were.

Shawn Kelley

Kelley was up-and-down in his time with the Nationals. His ERA was below three in 2016 and 2018, but the 2017 season was marred with injuries, inconsistency, and a tendency to allow home runs (a whopping 12 in just 26 innings).

Of course, Kelley was pitching better in 2018, but it wasn’t performance that led to his departure. 

In a blowout Nationals 25-4 victory over the Mets in July 2018, Kelley allowed three earned runs, including a home run. After the home run, he slammed his glove on the ground while staring at the Nats dugout.

The next day, he was designated for assignment as a result of the outburst and never pitched for the Nationals again, traded away a few days later. 

In his 33.2 innings since the trade, Kelley has been terrific. He posted a 2.16 ERA with the Athletics in 2018 and currently holds a 1.59 ERA in 2019 despite pitching his home games in Texas. He’s even filled in at closer with the Rangers, recording five saves so far this year.

Though his removal wasn’t for performance issues like Kintzler's or to acquire proven closers like Treinen’s and Vasquez’s were, the loss of Kelley can be felt just as hard. As is the case with each of these relievers, Kelley’s numbers would lead the Nationals bullpen in just about every category.

For the most part, these moves made sense at the time, for one reason or another. But the Nationals have yet to adequately replace most of these arms, and the 2019 team is suffering as a result.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Free agent Gerald McCoy to visit Baltimore

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Free agent Gerald McCoy to visit Baltimore

Kick off your holiday weekend with the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

1. One of the most obvious needs for the Ravens is help rushing the passer, and they're hoping to find some of that help on the interior in the form of free agent Gerald McCoy. The longtime Buccaneer DL visited Cleveland last week, but left town without agreeing to a contract.

Reportedly interested in playing for a contender, the former top-five pick is scheduled to visit the Ravens on Tuesday.

2. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is still struggling to throw the ball, as he noted things aren't right yet when it comes to accuracy. Media members noticed the ball wobbling through the air on many throws, and Jackson told them he thinks his hand is too high on the ball. If he's going to successfully run Greg Roman's new offensive scheme, Jackson will eventually need to be able to hit his receivers in stride with greater regularity.

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Rotoworld and Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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