Nationals

Cowboys have penalty problem, with winning twist

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Cowboys have penalty problem, with winning twist

IRVING, Texas (AP) Somewhere in the middle of six defensive penalties that gave Philadelphia first downs, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett turned to backup quarterback Kyle Orton to talk a little game simulation.

``I want to hear 800 hard counts in practice this week,'' Garrett recalled himself saying while watching jumpy Dallas defenders pile up the offsides calls Sunday.

The game was the fourth in which Dallas has committed 13 penalties this season, but here's the funny part. The Cowboys are 3-1 in those games after beating the Eagles 38-23, and they're 0-2 with their season low in yellow flags - two.

``Oh, I think there's a few different ways you can spin that,'' Garrett said. ``You know, for years the Oakland Raiders were the most penalized team and they won a lot of football games. And they used to spin it like it was an aggressive nature that they had and that's the kind of team that they wanted to be. I don't buy that completely, though. You don't want to hurt yourself as a football team.''

The penalties ultimately didn't hurt Dallas (4-5) against the Eagles because that same defense scored two touchdowns on an interception return by Brandon Carr and a fumble recovery by Jason Hatcher.

Hatcher had the first two offsides penalties, both resulting in first downs on third-down plays on the Eagles' first drive. Philadelphia was the only team in the league without points on its opening drive before getting a touchdown Sunday.

The Hatcher penalties were at least explainable because he's a defensive lineman, prone to jump when a quarterback puts some emphasis on a signal without taking the snap - the so-called hard count. It doesn't make sense when a cornerback does it away from the ball, and rookie Morris Claiborne jumped twice.

``As a defensive football team you are always teaching aggressiveness, getting off the ball, attacking and all of that,'' Garrett said. ``But at the same time you have to be disciplined.''

Maybe Claiborne was just having a bad day, perhaps his worst as a pro. He got beat for the game-opening touchdown by Riley Cooper, who had just two catches for the season before the leaping one-handed grab in the end zone. Claiborne also was called for defensive holding twice and interference once.

``It was a struggle, sort of like that third baseman when they bunt it to him early on, in the first inning, he picks it up and throws it 15 rows over the first baseman's head,'' Garrett said. ``The bunts keep coming, right? So they kept going after him, and that's an experience a lot of rookie corners have to experience in this league.''

The Cowboys, tied for second in the league with 74 penalties going into Sunday's home game against Cleveland (2-7), had 13 in three of the first five games, and most of the talk then was about an offensive line committing too many false starts and holding penalties.

Against Philadelphia, the focus of the problem shifted to the defensive line, but this was the same group that pressured Michael Vick early and sidelined him with a concussion. The Cowboys sacked rookie backup Nick Foles twice, including one that resulted in Hatcher's touchdown.

``You don't want to take the aggressiveness away from those guys,'' Garrett said. ``The best defensive lines are the ones that get off the football, and we do a pretty good job of getting off the football. For the most part we've been pretty good in this area. We just have to correct it.''

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With 'Baby Shark' as his new walk-up song, Gerardo Parra broke out of his slump for the Nats

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With 'Baby Shark' as his new walk-up song, Gerardo Parra broke out of his slump for the Nats

WASHINGTON - When Gerardo Parra stepped into the batter’s box for the first time on Wednesday afternoon, everyone in the ballpark knew something was different with the 32-year-old outfielder.

His walk-up song, “Baby Shark”, drew the immediate attention of everyone in attendance. And it would not be the last thing that Washington Nationals fans remembered from Parra on the day.

“I wanted to put on something different,” Parra said postgame. “My [two-year-old daughter Aaliyah Victoria] loves that song. Before the game, I tried merengue, reggaeton, hip-hop, then I said, ‘You know what, I want to put in Baby Shark.’ I'm happy for that.”

After his performance against the Phillies in a 6-2 victory, “Baby Shark” should probably stick around as his walk-up song.

Parra was 0-for-23 when he came to the plate in the fourth inning. Before then his last hit came on June 1 against Cincinnati. Quickly Parra broke that hitless streak and doubled to plate the go-ahead run for the Nationals. He took a first-pitch slider from Zach Eflin and drove home Matt Adams, giving the Nats a 2-1 advantage.

Later in the game, he followed that up with a home run in the eighth inning as the Nats hit back-to-back jacks. It gave Parra, who started in the outfield for Victor Robles, his first multi-hit game since his June 1 appearance and his fourth such game on the Nationals roster.

But paired with his walk-up song, Parra’s sixth-inning assist to get out Bryce Harper is going to make him a fan favorite.  As Harper tried to go from first-to-third on a Scott Kingery single to shallow center, Parra scooped up the ball bare-handed to throw Harper out at third base. Without it there would have been no outs with runners on the corners and Patrick Corbin nearing the end of his start. Instead, the Nats cruised through the rest of the inning to preserve the lead. The Phillies appealed the play but to no avail.

“That's the only chance I had to get Harper,” Parra said. “I know he's an aggressive player and I tried to get everything perfect. Bare-handed, throw the ball as fast as I can. I think that changed the game.”

“It’s 'Mini-me,'” manager Davey Martinez, who played 16 years in the major leagues primarily as an outfielder, said about Parra after the game. “That’s what I tell him too. He came down [to the dugout after the play] and said, ‘You didn’t do that, you never did that.’ I go, ‘Too bad I ain’t got video of it…’ It was a tough play, barehanded, coming up firing. He’s really good, he’s a good outfielder.”  

With “Baby Shark” as his walk-up song Parra went 2-for-4 with a home run and a game-changing assist in a one-run ballgame. It looks like Parra has found his new walk-up song.

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Trey Mancini, the Orioles' lone bright spot, exits game after getting drilled with 92 MPH fastball

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Trey Mancini, the Orioles' lone bright spot, exits game after getting drilled with 92 MPH fastball

Trey Mancini, the Orioles' only hope at an All-Star, exited Baltimore's matinee against Oakland in the top of the first on Wednesday, after he was struck on the left elbow by a 92-mph fastball from the Athletics' starter Chris Bassitt.

Baltimore's Chris Davis pinch-ran for Mancini, who left the game almsot immediately after being hit. 

Baltimore announced on Twitter that Mancini exited the game with a left elbow contusion. 

Mancini, the Orioles' first baseman and outfielder, was a bright spot in a rather lackluster Baltimore lineup.

The only Oriole with a real chance at an All-Star selection, Mancini is batting .304 in 70 games and leads Baltimore with 84 hits, 18 doubles and 16 homers.

The 27 year-old also has one of the highest slugging percentages on the Orioles (.558).

Fans reacted with anguish on Twitter after Mancini exited the game.

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