Redskins

Losing campaign winding down for Mystics

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Losing campaign winding down for Mystics

During Michelle Snow's previous nine WNBA seasons, which followed a highly successful run at the University of Tennessee and winning a state championship in high school, she never experienced a losing campaign.Before entering the pro ranks this year as a rookie, Natalie Novosel was one of the headliners for a Notre Dame program that finished the 2011-12 season as National runner-ups.Just two seasons ago, second-leading scorer Monique Currie helped guide the Washington Mystics to the Eastern Conference title and a second straight playoff appearance.Those were the days - and nothing like what trio and the rest of the Mystics have endured in 2012. Well, except for Currie and the handful of others who have now suffered through a second straight trying season. With two games remaining, including the home finale Friday night against Indiana, Washington (5-27) needs to a win to match last season's total of six. Should they lose both, the Mystics will finish the season with a 13-game losing streak, and the second worst record in franchise history."It's hard to believe that just two seasons ago we won the Eastern Conference regular season," said Currie, who returned to a full-time role this season after missing nearly all of 2011 with a knee injury. Once again the DC area native is the team's second-leading scorer (11.8), but in a completely different and bummer of a scenario."This season especially has been one of the most difficult for myself. You have to take the highs with the lows. Nothing comes easily. It's a learning experience - just something I'd rather not experience again."For Snow, a 10-year veteran who signed with the Mystics as a free agent this past offseason, the barrage of defeats has been all about "life lessons.""First losing season, you see things from a totally different perspective," said the 6-foot-5 center. "You realize how hard it is to overcome some of the mental battles. You find yourself constantly trying to keep your confidence and keep your head in the right place so you can be productive and contribute to your team...It's depressing; it's hard to deal with."Crystal Langhorne, the Mystics leader in scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage will miss the final two games with a left foot strain after sitting out Sunday's loss to New York. Washington closes out the regular season Saturday at Chicago.Washington is the only WNBA team averaging fewer than 70 points per game (69.3), ranking near the bottom in field goal and 3-point shooting. Since the returning from the Olympic break in mid-August, the Mystics have won just one game in 13 attempts with many of the losses coming in double figure fashion, twice by the Fever. The team's last victory came more than a month ago - August 19 at the Verizon Center against Chicago."I think that's been one of the toughest adjustments, the losing," said Novosel, who lost all of four games during her senior season at Notre Dame. "Getting into my mind that this isn't how the WNBA is, we're not supposed to have losing season and not to get used to that."The losing hasn't stopped, but the recent effort has improved; in its previous game, Washington led by nine points in the fourth quarter on Sunday before falling 75-68 to New York. "The greatest lesson you can have is to hold your integrity around what you're doing, always keep a positive attitude, continue to improve, continue to work," Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey said. "That's exactly what we've done."While the Liberty remain in the postseason hunt, the Mystics lost that Dream for good during the current skid."It's been a difficult road all season, that's obvious," Currie said. "What hasn't changed for us is we continue to work hard although we continue to work hard, though we're kind of just playing just to finish the season because we don't have any postseason chances."Chances against the Fever (20-12), losers of three straight, perhaps hinge on whether the Mystics can conjure up memories of their 67-66 win over Indiana back on June 15. Beats thinking about the past 11 games.

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

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USA Today Sports

Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.

Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:

"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."

All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.

Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.

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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

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USA Today Sports

Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.

GOING DOWN?

Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.

NO HOMERS

Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.

UP NEXT

Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.