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Cardinals to go with rookie Lindley at QB vs Rams

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Cardinals to go with rookie Lindley at QB vs Rams

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley will get his chance to revive the dormant Arizona offense, making his first NFL start when the Cardinals are home against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt announced his decision to go with the sixth-round draft pick from San Diego State after practice Wednesday.

John Skelton, benched in favor of Lindley early in last Sunday's 23-19 loss at Atlanta, said he is ``frustrated'' with the situation.

Meanwhile, quarterback Kevin Kolb, out for four games with a rib injury, was able to participate in part of practice and said he was encouraged by his progress.

Lindley is the third player this year to start at quarterback for the Cardinals, who have lost six straight after starting the season 4-0.

Whisenhunt gave Skelton the hook after the quarterback missed a wide open Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone, one of several errant throws by the quarterback early in the game. Lindley was just 9 o 20 for 64 yards in relief of Skelton, but once the change was made, it seemed obvious the rookie would keep the job, at least until Kolb is healthy enough to play.

``He did a nice job in a hostile environment handling the game, without a lot of practice during the week,'' Whisenhunt said. ``So where we are as a team and as an offense, it gives us a chance to see what he can do, see if he can't get, with a week of practice, if he can get in there and get us going and help us move the ball and score some points.''

Arizona's offense ranks 31st out of 32 NFL teams, 30th in passing and 26th in rushing.

Whisenhunt said he likes how comfortable Lindley seems to be on the field.

``The speed of the game, getting used to that, being able to be comfortable with the offense and make the reads and the throws, he's done a nice job with that since he's been here,'' the coach said. ``A lot of that's because he played a lot in college, but we'll see with a week of practice how he handles that. He got that in the preseason, the last preseason game, so hopefully it's a little more familiar with him.''

Lindley downplayed any chance nerves would bother him when he takes the field Sunday.

``I don't really get nervous,'' he said. ``I think more right now it's just getting the reps in practice is what I want to do. I just want to make sure I'm ready because if I'm prepared, I'm ready to go, come Sunday it's just about getting it done and there's nothing really to it but to just do it when I'm out there. I'm going to be excited. I'm probably going to have to take a deep breath and make sure I'm cool, calm and composed. But that's more excitement, not nervousness.''

It will help that the game is at home.

``I know that not having to deal with the noise, with the guys having the advantage on the edge rushing, that's always something that is better about playing at home,'' Whisenhunt said.

The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Lindley was a four-year starter at San Diego State, finishing with a school record 49 consecutive starts. In the process, he set Mountain West Conference records for completions (961), attempts (1,732), yards passing (12,690) and total offense (12,415).

He was inactive in Arizona's season opener but moved up to the No. 2 quarterback spot when first Skelton, then Kolb, was injured.

``My main goal was to just get better every week,'' Lindley said. ``I knew the chips were going fall where they were. I don't think anybody can predict the future so I didn't spent much time doing that. I just made sure if it ever happened I was ready and I got better every week.''

Kolb was listed as limited, the first time he had practiced at all since he was injured late in the team's overtime loss to Buffalo on Oct. 14. The team's success early came with Kolb at quarterback. He came off the bench to direct the winning touchdown drive when Skelton went down with an ankle injury late in the opener against Seattle. Kolb was at the controls in subsequent wins over New England, Philadelphia and Miami, but was sacked nine times in a loss at St. Louis, then hurt late in the Buffalo game.

``There was some stuff that affected me a little bit, but I think overall it was very positive,'' he said after practice. ``I'm not going to set a time or a date. I checked out good afterward. We'll see how the soreness is tomorrow and then move from there.''

Kolb said that he could feel the ``overall wear and tear'' of throwing the ball so much after such a long time off.

He said he also could feel the soreness when he was ``really trying to come across on one, a reactionary-type throw where he buzzes open late and you've got to turn and make an accurate, athletic throw, you have to be able to do that in the game obviously. The throw was still accurate today the couple of times I did do it, so that's good.''

Skelton, who beat out Kolb for the starting job in the preseason, started losses to Minnesota, San Francisco and Green Bay before being benched last Sunday.

He said he was frustrated with ``the whole situation.''

``Obviously losing six in a row is frustrating,'' Skelton said, ``and then what transpired on Sunday and now the benching. It's frustrating.''

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

MORE CAPITALS STORIES:

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.