Nationals

Expect air between Washington St and Oregon St

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Expect air between Washington St and Oregon St

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) Washington State and Oregon State will likely recall the days of the old pass-happy Pac-10.

On one side there are the Cougars with new coach Mike Leach's trademark Air Raid attack. On the other are the No. 14 Beavers with sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion, who is throwing with confidence after a trying debut last season.

Mannion was named the Pac-12 player of the week after passing for a career-high 433 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Connor Hamlett with 1:17 left, in Oregon State's 38-35 victory at Arizona last weekend.

The week before Mannion threw for 379 yards - his previous career high - against UCLA.

``I think a year of getting to play for Sean was really, really good. There's nothing like playing for football players in the games, and that's especially true for a quarterback,'' Beavers coach Mike Riley said. ``The other thing about him is he really likes this game and works hard at it and spends a lot of time at it. He's truly a gym rat, he spent a lot of time studying film and studying what he had to do.''

Nationally, Oregon State's passing offense is ranked fourth with an average of nearly 363 yards per game. Mannion is ranked 10th with 350 yards in total offense per game, and eighth with an average of 27 completions per game.

Leach, who knows a thing or two about passing after leading the nation almost every year he was at Texas Tech, is well aware of the problems Mannion can pose.

``Obviously, you've got to play the pass,'' he told reporters this week. ``But on those broken plays when he gets loose, coverage has to hold up because he's got a real strong arm and sometimes when he gets loose, that stuff's way down field, and if you don't attend to it he can hurt you.''

Mannion has a pair of talented receivers to work with. Senior Markus Wheaton had 166 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Arizona.

Wheaton is averaging 134.3 receiving yards a game, just behind teammate and Pac-12 leader Brandin Cooks with 134.2 yards a game for the Beavers (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12). Cooks and Wheaton are ranked fifth and sixth nationally.

On the other side is Washington State sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday, who took over when senior Jeff Tuel injured his right knee earlier this season.

Halliday and Tuel are listed as ``or'' on Washington State's depth chart, meaning either one could get the start on Saturday, but Halliday has reportedly been getting most of the first-team snaps in practice.

Last week Halliday threw for 348 yards and a touchdown against No. 2 Oregon at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. But he also tossed a costly interception that the Ducks returned for a touchdown en route to a 51-26 victory.

Halliday has passed for over 300 yards in three straight games. Washington State (2-3, 0-2) is ranked third in the Pac-12 with an average of 333 passing yards per game as the Cougars adopt Leach's new scheme. Texas Tech led the nation in passing in six of Leach's 10 seasons there.

Halliday's go-to-guy is Marquess Wilson, who had 12 catches for 182 yards against the Ducks and became the Cougars' career leader with 2,893 receiving yards. He's averaging nearly 100 yards in receptions a game this season.

Oregon State's defense is allowing an average of only 83 yards rushing per game, ninth nationally. The Beavers are in the middle of the Pac-12 for overall defense, allowing opponents nearly 399 yards a game.

But they're allowing 315.7 yards passing - last in the Pac-12.

``I think when you're playing teams that are really good at throwing the ball, they're going to complete some passes. It's just a matter of you making some plays. We had way too many catch a long runs last week and that's what we've got to cut down,'' Riley said. ``Guys are going to complete balls. You've just got to make sure that's where they end up, is where they catch them, then you'll get a chance to make some plays.''

Washington State is struggling on defense. They've allowed opponents 20 touchdowns this season, second-worst in the league. They're giving up an average of 472 yards in total offense, 162 yards on the ground and 310 in the air.

The Beavers have won three straight to open a season for the first time since 2002. The three victories match the team's win total for all of last year when they went 3-9.

One of those wins last season was against Washington State. Mannion threw for 376 yards and four touchdowns to beat the Cougars 44-21 in Seattle.

``They're a good solid team,'' Leach said of this season's Beavers. ``They're a team that took their lumps last year, and it feels like this is their year, you know?''

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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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