Nationals

Leslie, No. 25 NC State rout Bonnies 92-73

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Leslie, No. 25 NC State rout Bonnies 92-73

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) C.J. Leslie scored a career-high 33 points to lead No. 25 North Carolina State past St. Bonaventure 92-73 on Saturday.

Scott Wood added a season-best 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting and Lorenzo Brown had a season-high 11 assists for the Wolfpack (9-2).

The nation's most accurate shooting team shot 57 percent, never trailed and now heads into its weeklong holiday break on a five-game winning streak.

Eric Mosley had 18 points for the Bonnies (7-4). They were outscored 50-24 in the paint, shot just 40.6 percent, never got closer than 12 in the second half and had their two-game winning streak snapped.

Wood made his first eight shots in building upon his previous season best, a 17-point performance in the win against Stanford last time out. Brown finished two assists shy of his career-high 13 set last December against Syracuse.

And Leslie, who beat the Bonnies last year on a last-second layup, took care of them much earlier this time, in the process surpassing his previous high of 24 points set last season against North Carolina.

Leslie was 10 of 13 from the field and 13 of 18 at the free throw line. He locked up his seventh straight double-figure game well before halftime, scoring 18 points in the opening 20 minutes and throwing the pass that had PNC Arena buzzing.

He poked the ball free from the Bonnies near midcourt and chased it down in the left corner before dribbling toward the basket and lobbing a perfect alley-oop for Brown - whose two-handed slam made it 26-18 with 6:25 left. That defining play came early in the 17-4 run midway through the half that broke the game open.

N.C. State, which makes a Division I-best 53 percent of its shots, came away with points on nine straight trips downcourt. Freshman T.J. Warren's fast-break dunk with just under 4 minutes left capped the run and pushed the lead to 36-22.

Warren finished with 13 points.

Youssou Ndoye added 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Bonnies. The reigning Atlantic 10 champions had won their previous two games by a combined 74 points but were denied in their attempt to match their best start since opening 8-3 in 2001-02.

Only one thing really went wrong all day for N.C. State: Big man Richard Howell, who was going for his fifth straight double-double, was in perpetual foul trouble and finished with no points and five rebounds in 12 minutes.

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Nats' offense needs to get going to maintain control in NL Wild Card race

Nats' offense needs to get going to maintain control in NL Wild Card race

Playoff prediction formulas have the Nationals at above 90 percent to qualify, but at the moment it doesn't exactly feel that way. 

With their 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Monday night and the Brewers' win over the Padres, the Nats are now only 1 1/2 games up in the NL Wild Card race. Milwaukee erased two games in four days.

The Nats are just a half-game ahead of the Cubs for the first spot. They want that for home field advantage.

The schedule has been unforgiving with this series against St. Louis the Nats' fourth straight against a division-leading foe. The Cardinals are in the drivers seat in the NL Central with an 84-66 record overall and a 26-11 mark since Aug. 7.

Offense has been the Nats' most glaring issue of late. Their two runs on Monday gave them only 10 total in their last four games. The lone win came Sunday when the offense broke out for seven runs to avoid a sweep against the Braves.

The Nationals are going to need to get their bats going to close the deal on a postseason berth. They have only 13 games remaining and all but three are against clubs with winning records. They have two games to go against the Cardinals, who boast the NL's second-best ERA.

Several Nats players have stood out recently for their shortcomings at the plate. Trea Turner, who went 0-for-4 on Monday, is now 5-for-31 (.161) in his last eight games. He's sporting a .284 on-base percentage in his last 17 outings.

Adam Eaton also went 0-for-4 against the Cardinals and is currently 2-for-15 going back to the start of the Braves series on Friday night. He's batting .163 in his last 16 games with a .229 OBP.

That's just the top of the order. Ryan Zimmerman is now hitless in three straight games. Gerardo Parra, who for most of this season has been a plus off the bench, is 3-for-46 (.065) going back to Aug. 13.

Then there's Yan Gomes, who despite getting a hit on Monday is now 3-for-20 (.150) in his last six games. Gomes has done an admirable job by catching nine of the last 10 games, but Kurt Suzuki's bat has been missed. Suzuki, who has 16 homers and 58 RBI in only 81 games, has been sidelined due to right elbow inflammation. 

The lack of offense has put undue pressure on the pitching staff. Stephen Strasburg wasn't sharp on Monday, but managed to get through five innings with only two runs allowed. The Nats' bullpen then gave up a pair of runs split between Sean Doolittle and Hunter Strickland in the seventh.

It wasn't pretty, but allowing four runs is manageable. Scoring only two runs is a major problem. The Nats are now 5-24 this season when they score two or fewer runs.

Scoring is what got the Nationals to this point, currently holding a playoff spot. Since May 24, when they began their turnaround at 19-31, the Nats have scored more runs than any other NL team. 

They have to get back to that and soon. A lot can happen in the next 13 games.

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Steelers bolster secondary by trading for disgruntled Minkah Fitzpatrick

Steelers bolster secondary by trading for disgruntled Minkah Fitzpatrick

According to a report from Ian Rapoport, the Ravens will have to deal with Minkah Fitzpatrick two more times this season.

The Steelers boosted their secondary by adding Fitzpatrick in a trade with the Dolphins on Monday night. The Steelers sent their 2020 first-round pick to the Dolphins in exchange for the cornerback.

The Dolphins, after their opening week loss to the Ravens, gave permission for Fitzpatrick to seek a trade. Then the Steelers came calling. 

Fitzpatrick is a second-year defensive back who was a 2018 first-round pick out of Alabama. He expressed frustration in recent weeks about playing out of position and the team's lack of direction. 

Against the Ravens, Fitzpatrick was torched in the secondary that allowed Lamar Jackson to throw for five touchdowns in a 59-10 win. 

The Steelers will most likely have Fitzpatrick fully integrated to the lineup by the time they host the Ravens on Oct. 6. They'll head to Baltimore on Dec. 29 in Week 17.

At 0-2, the Steelers are making a big gamble on Fitzpatrick and his future in the league considering what their 2020 draft pick could be.

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