Orioles

Locker's TD run gives Titans 14-10 lead over Jets

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Locker's TD run gives Titans 14-10 lead over Jets

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Jake Locker's 13-yard quarterback keeper around left end with 20 seconds left in the third quarter gave the Tennessee Titans a 14-10 lead over the New York Jets on Monday night.

Chris Johnson set a franchise record with a 94-yard touchdown run in the first half for the Titans.

New York was attempting to keep its faint playoff hopes alive. The Jets entered the night needing to win their three remaining games and to receive some help from others to have any hope of reaching the postseason. The Jets host San Diego and travel to Buffalo in their final two games.

The Jets took a 10-7 lead when Mark Sanchez and Jeff Cumberland connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 3:19 to go in the third. The Titans responded on their next possession with Locker's first touchdown run of the season, capping a seven-play, 64-yard drive.

On Cumberland's touchdown, the Jets' tight end caught a third-and-12 pass at about the 5-yard line after getting behind Titans linebacker Tim Shaw, starting in place of injured defensive captain Colin McCarthy. Cumberland headed into the end zone from there.

The Jets began that drive at the Titans 35 after Brett Kern shanked a 30-yard punt. Kern has been one of the few steady performers this season for the Titans.

The Titans owned a 7-3 halftime lead after Johnson's long scamper in the second quarter. His touchdown run was the longest by any NFL player since Minnesota's Chester Taylor had a 95-yard TD in a 31-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 22, 2006.

After Robert Malone's 53-yard punt backed the Titans up to their own 5-yard line, Johnson rushed for 1 yard on first down. On the next play, he found a seam up the middle and appeared untouched on his way to the end zone.

Jets safety Yeremiah Bell chased Johnson most of the way and made an unsuccessful diving attempt to tackle him from behind inside the 15.

The previous record for the longest run in franchise history was 91 yards, a mark shared by Johnson and Sid Blanks. Johnson had a 91-yard run against the Houston Texans in 2009. Blanks also did it against the Jets in 1964.

This marked Johnson's sixth career touchdown run of at least 80 yards, giving him twice as many as anyone else in NFL history. Barry Sanders, Ahman Green, Hugh McElhenny and O.J. Simpson each had three touchdown runs of at least 80 yards.

Johnson was otherwise held in check, but he still headed into the fourth quarter with 110 yards rushing on 10 carries, giving him 32 career 100-yard games.

The Jets grabbed a 3-0 lead when Nick Folk's 22-yard field goal capped their first possession of the night. New York appeared to reach the end zone when Cumberland caught a 4-yard pass from Sanchez on third-and-goal, but the original ruling of a touchdown was overturned after replays showed the ball hit the ground.

Sanchez struggled after that opening drive and was 9 of 19 for 93 yards through three quarters. He threw a pair of interceptions to Jason McCourty, giving the slumping quarterback 21 turnovers this season.

The Jets allowed backup quarterback Tim Tebow to run the offense for a complete series in the second quarter. They picked up two first downs on that series and advanced to their own 44, but the drive stalled from there after a sack, a delay-of-game penalty and an incompletion.

Sanchez returned on the Jets' next series and promptly threw his first interception to McCourty.

McCourty picked off another pass in the third quarter when Sanchez overthrew a deep pass to Cumberland. A 28-yard return gave the Titans the ball at the Jets 46, but Tennessee couldn't get beyond the 35 and eventually punted.

Before the game, a moment of silence was held for victims of the shootings Friday in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman also killed his mother in her home before committing suicide.

Johnson had the names of all the victims written on the two shoes he wore for the game. He also had the words ``R.I.P. SHES'' and a cross written on each shoe. The Jets had an ``SHES'' decal on their helmets.

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

So, the Orioles made some headlines earlier this week. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but minor league pitcher Asher Wojciechowski exercised his opt-out clause and is no longer with the organization. Please keep Orioles fans in your thoughts during this trying time.

As everyone reading this is undoubtedly already aware, the Orioles *also* made a trade yesterday, sending 26-year old superstar Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return for their once-in-a-lifetime talent, the Orioles received a whopping five prospects from the Dodgers’ minor league system.

Yusniel Diaz, OF, 21

It’s fitting that this trade is being compared to the Erik Bedard trade, which was also a five-for-one, because Diaz could be a poor man’s Adam Jones. He’s not the prospect Jones was, but he could end up being a really nice player.

Talent evaluators are split on his ultimate ceiling. Some describe him as a bona fide stud, and others leave him off their top 100 lists. I’ve seen him ranked as high as 31st overall (by Baseball Prospectus), which, if accurate, is a terrific main piece in a package for a star rental. 

Most consider Diaz’s main flaw as a prospect to be his in-game power, though anyone watching the 2018 MLB Futures Game would be confused by that, as he became the second player ever to hit multiple home runs in the game. It’s possible that more power develops as he matures, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first player to hit for more power once reaching the Majors, but for now, it’s not a strength. I wouldn’t expect him to top 20 home runs in most seasons.

His bat-to-ball ability is his clearest strength, as he projects to consistently hit for a high average. His batting eye, while formerly a weakness, has become a strength in 2018, as he’s actually walked more times than he’s struck out (a rarity in this day and age). That will play well with O’s fans who are tired of seeing their players challenge strikeout records.

Dean Kremer, RHP, 22

Kremer isn’t a major name, which is a disappointment for O’s fans and one of the reasons their haul felt so uninspiring. Compared to more highly-touted prospects like Dustin May, Kremer looks like the team settled.

That said, he’s currently sporting the best K/9 ratio in the minors, and could end up being a diamond in the rough. He’s come a long way since being a 14th-round pick two years ago, and you have to wonder if the Orioles’ much-maligned pitching development can pick up where the much more successful Dodgers instructors left off.

Kremer is also notable for being the first Israeli-born player ever drafted in Major League Baseball.

Rylan Bannon, IF, 22

Bannon was an 8th-rounder last year and is having somewhat of a breakout this season. He’s leading the league in home runs, though playing in a notorious band box of a home park is skewing those numbers.

Bannon is undersized, but has a reputation of a good, if not elite, fielder. He’s a third baseman, but will likely spend some time at second as well. If the power breakout is real, he could end up a solid starter for the Orioles down the road. Again, that’s about all you can hope for in trades of this nature.

Zach Pop, RHP, 21

Pop has been described as potentially a future “right-handed Zach Britton,” which every O’s fan would take in a heartbeat. Of course, he’s not ranked like a future All-Star, as even in the weaker Orioles farm system he’s likely no better than around 25th. 

Still, the filler players in big trades like this are just lottery tickets, and considering his lack of pedigree, Pop seems like a relatively “safe” pitcher with projectability. He strikes out a lot of batters and gets a lot of ground balls, and at the very least can likely become a decent middle reliever.

Breyvic Valera, IF, 26

In a best-case scenario, Valera becomes the Orioles’ Ryan Flaherty replacement. If you squint, you can see somewhat decent upside in each of the other returning players, even despite their modest prospect rankings, but Valera is a clear utility player. 

He gets on base and hits for contact well enough to stick around and has proven capable of defending multiple positions, so there actually might be a spot for him at the end of the Orioles bench.

Overall

This trade has been described as anywhere from adequate and somewhat deflating to a great haul O’s fans should be excited about. Four of the five players have decent ceilings, though the chance of all four (or even just two of them) reaching those ceilings is highly unlikely. It’s just the nature of baseball.

Ultimately, this trade will be judged on the success or failure of Yusniel Diaz, who is the clear centerpiece of the package. Whether or not he succeeds will be partially up to him, and partially up to the front office and player development team.

If this trade is the beginning of the core for the next competitive Orioles team, then it’ll have to be considered a success. If these players each bust out of the league, then it was still the correct decision to trade Machado instead of settling for draft pick compensation, but it will still sting all the more for O’s fans seeing Manny soar to new heights elsewhere.

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Nationals players were critical of Dave Martinez's decision-making in the first half

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Nationals players were critical of Dave Martinez's decision-making in the first half

Baseball fans love the long ball. They love the flashy plays. They love the no-hit bids and the rare perfect game. All of these things dominate headlines and capture our attention. 

The often overlooked bullpen of a club, however, almost always serves as the glue holding everything together. Relief pitching is derived of unsung heroes who are asked to perform on short notice and in sticky, high-pressure situations. 

Head skipper of the Washington Nationals, Dave Martinez, is being criticized for his handling of the bullpen during the first half of the season. 

By now it's well-documented that the Nats played their first 96 games at .500 leaving the club in third place in a division the team has walked all over back-to-back years. 

Sure, one can chalk it up to injuries, lack of roster changes or an inexperienced first-year manager working through kinks. But, there's a reason this team expects to compete for a pennant year in and year out: depth. The buzz around Martinez's decision-making continues to point toward his inability to dish out relief pitching assignments to the player's liking.  

Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Sammy Solis and Matt Grace once made up the team's relief staff in May. Between disabled-list periods for Kintzler and Madson, and Sammy Solis being sent down to Class AAA Syracuse, the staff took a beating in the month of June. 

Nats relievers aren't necessarily upset about overuse, but more so because of a lack of communication between player and manager. 

At times during the first half of the season, relief pitchers felt overworked and that their wishes were not being acknowledged nor granted by Martinez. 

Sean Doolittle was quick to point out that the addition of Kelvin Herrera, who joined the team on June 18, sparked a change in Martinez's approach. 

“Over the last maybe month or so, maybe since we got Herrera, he’s gone around to the relievers and been a lot more proactive with that communication,” Doolittle said.

On a more tricky note, trust has also been targeted as an area needing improvement. 

When a starter gets in a jam or doesn't seem like he is 100%, Martinez often calls on reinforcements to begin the warming up process. Guys have noticed a pattern in which relief pitchers who initially warm up are often not the ones who start the following inning. 

From a relief pitcher's perspective, this is a sign of Martinez's distrust. Dramatic or not, there was a glaring disconnect throughout the first half of play. 

“With a veteran group, I think we all expect to come into a team and say we’ve all been there; we just want things to go boom, boom, boom and be a piece of cake. But we also all know it’s not like that,” Shawn Kelley said.

Handling his veteran rotation in the second half of the season should become easier for Martinez as Stephen Strasburg is expected to start Friday. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list June 10 with right shoulder inflammation. 

Strasburg pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac on Sunday, allowing three runs while striking out seven and walking one. It was his second rehab start since going on the DL. He allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings for Potomac on July 11. Strasburg is 6-6 with a 3.46 ERA this season, striking out 

95 in 80 2/3 innings.

One thing that hasn't been criticized is Martinez's positive attitude. Players often rave about him as a person and how he brings a source of energy in the clubhouse. 

This was on full display during Monday night's Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. 

Moments after Bryce Harper won the Derby, Martinez was among the first to congratulate his All-Star slugger as he hoisted him in the air. 

As the second half of the season gets underway Friday, expect to see a manager who brings forth an openminded approach to his club while in pursuit of a deep October run.