Nationals

LSU defense confident it can contain Manziel

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LSU defense confident it can contain Manziel

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Kevin Minter doesn't envision LSU's defense fretting over any quarterback, not even Texas A&M's explosive, headline-grabbing, dual-threat freshman, Johnny Manziel.

Minter and LSU held Oregon in check last season. Just last week, the Tigers racked up four sacks against South Carolina's Connor Shaw - a good scrambler in his own right.

So while being showered with question after question about how No. 6 LSU was going to cope with Manziel's playmaking ability, Minter acknowledged there was a part of him that wanted to roll his eyes and just say, ``We can handle this.'' But the senior linebacker didn't want to come off as disrespectful, either.

``Anything can happen. We've still got to prepare well and execute,'' said Minter, who leads the team with 63 total tackles, including 8 1/2 for losses. ``They're a very talented offense and we can't just go in there cocky thinking, `Oh, we got this. We've played teams like this before.' It can get bad for you real quick with an offense like this.''

Earlier this week, LSU watched film of the 20th-ranked Aggies' 59-57 victory over Louisiana Tech in Shreveport on Saturday night. Manziel's 72-yard touchdown run, in which he appeared to be coasting to his right on a roll-out before a sudden burst up field, got the defenders' attention.

``He's surprisingly fast. You don't necessarily know until he's leaving you,'' Minter said, adding that in watching video, he noticed defenders being caught off guard by Manziel's acceleration and breakaway speed. ``You can tell (defenders pursuing Manziel) don't go as fast as they need to and all of a sudden he takes off and they're panicking. He's 30 yards down the field already. So we've got to be able to crowd this guy and play LSU defense.''

Playing LSU defense means the kind of speed to the ball, sound positional play and sure tackling that has the Tigers ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in rush defense (89.3 yards per game), pass defense (130.3 ypg) and total defense (219.6 ypg).

The Aggies, meanwhile, lead the SEC in scoring (47.0 points per game), rushing (235.8 ypg), and total offense (543.7 ypg).

Manziel accounted for an SEC-record 576 yards against Louisiana Tech, rushing for 181 yards and three touchdowns and completing 24 of 40 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns. In six games, Manziel has nearly 2,400 yards of total offense.

``He's fast, real fast. He's a dual-threat quarterback like ones we've faced a couple times this year but he's faster. ... We have to make sure we keep him contained,'' LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan said.

``He does a pretty good job throwing the ball on the run and he also does a good job faking like he's going to throw it and when you jump to bat down the ball he'll tuck the ball and run,'' Logan added. ``Coach was telling us to make sure we stay on our feet when we get to him. Don't try to jump for the ball or anything. Make sure you get him contained and tackle him down low.''

Texas A&M does not allow freshmen to speak to the media, so reporters have not had a chance to get Manziel's opinion on the type of defense he'll be up against this week. However, it's clear that his coaches are trying to prepare him to face one of the toughest units he's seen this season.

``You never know what LSU is going to throw at us. They have such great athletes and players that they can do whatever they want and it's going to be a challenge,'' Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said. ``Watching 11 guys fly for the football on every snap is impressive. I have the utmost respect for this team. When you turn on the film, you see a hard-playing, hard-nose team and it goes a long way.''

Minter and Logan both said that while Manziel might be the fastest quarterback they've faced, they also believe the Tigers have some of the fastest players that the Aggies freshman will see on a defensive line. Defensive end Barkevious Mingo and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson are as fast as anyone playing their positions, Minter said.

This week, Jerrard Randall has been running the scout team against the starting defense, and Minter believes facing the speedy backup quarterback in practice has served the Tigers well in preparing for dual-threat QBs all season.

``He's running the ball around and to be honest with you, we haven't faced a mobile quarterback like Jerrard Randall,'' Minter said. ``He just gives a great look out there and when we go against these mobile quarterbacks I feel like we're more than prepared to face them.''

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Cubs drop protest, but not stance about Sean Doolittle's delivery

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Cubs drop protest, but not stance about Sean Doolittle's delivery

WASHINGTON -- Sunday afternoon’s discussions still revolved around Saturday night’s close, which Washington manager Davey Martinez referred to as a “fiasco” on Sunday.

Chicago manager Joe Maddon started a chaotic situation when he popped out of the dugout following Sean Doolittle’s first pitch in the ninth inning Saturday. Maddon contended Doolittle’s “toe-tap” was an illegal delivery, akin to when Chicago reliever Carl Edwards Jr. tried to add a pause in spring training, but was told the move was illegal.

The umpires told him, and Doolittle, the delivery was legal. Chicago filed a protest with the league. After consulting with Major League Baseball and MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, Joe Torre, the Cubs dropped their protest Sunday morning.

A point of differentiation is whether the pitcher is taking a second step. Umpires previously determined Edwards was taking a second step. They determined Doolittle was not. This is a judgment call for the umpires and is not reviewable.

Official Baseball Rule 5.07(a) states in part: “The pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is a runner, or runners, on base it is a balk under Rule 6.02(a); if the bases are unoccupied it is an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b).”

The league, according to Maddon, said there is a difference between Edwards placing his full foot on the ground and Doolittle grazing the mound with a cleat when he delivered. Maddon continued to not agree with the interpretation.

“We went through the whole process,” Maddon said. “Our guys in the office spoke to MLB and I talked to Mr. Torre. The whole thing I wanted to really get done was protect Carl. I really didn’t anticipate a whole lot to be done with it. Even though I still don’t agree with the conclusion, because I think it’s exactly what Carl did, only a different version of it. But the point was, I would not be a good parent if I had not spoken up for my guy. And that’s what I was doing last night and, again, it’s just to eliminate any gray area there just for future because it’s going to happen again down the road somewhere and you’re just trying to delineate what is right and what is wrong. In my mind, it wasn’t a judgment call, I thought it was black-and-white. It wasn’t gray.”

Maddon said multiple times that Doolittle tapped with his toe in addition to grazing the mound, both of which, he contended, were not legal or different than Edwards' attempt at deception.

The congenial Doolittle was steamed postgame Saturday and remained irritated Sunday. Saturday, he took multiple shots at Maddon during his postgame commentary. He also taunted the idea when throwing warmup pitches while Maddon argued with umpires by making exaggerated kicks with his leg and multiple stops with his foot. Doolittle switched to a delivery without any stops -- one he often uses -- after the protest as a way to show Maddon he didn’t need the tweak to be successful.

“In that moment, he's not trying to do anything other than rattle me and it was kind of tired,” Doolittle said Saturday. “I don't know. Sometimes he has to remind people how smart he is and how much he pays attention to the game and stuff like that. He put his stamp on it for sure.

"I actually have to thank him. After they came out the second, the [Kyle] Schwarber at-bat, I threw two fastballs and a slider and a fastball to [Kris] Bryant and those were probably the best ones I've thrown in a while. I don't do the tap when there's somebody on base so I can keep my pickoff move available if I need it. I've had a lot of traffic recently, so I've had practice doing it, so it wasn't like a huge adjustment to me. I don't know. In a way, I kind of need to thank him."

Asked Sunday if Doolittle’s comments were relayed to him, Maddon smiled and said yes.

“Listen, I have no issue with that whatsoever,” Maddon said. “We’re all emotional. I’ve said a lot of things I didn’t want to say years ago -- even in this ballpark. I think if he understood the entire context, he might have had a different opinion. Even if he was the manager himself -- if he was me -- or if he was being protected by his manager under similar circumstances, I think his stance may be different.”

No one -- the league, Maddon or Doolittle -- changed their perspective a day later.

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

The St. Louis Blues won a decisive Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks 5-0, pushing the Sharks to the brink of elimination.

The Blues are now one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final since the 1969-70 season, where they lost to the Boston Bruins in a sweep.

St. Louis started the scoring early when Oskar Sundqvist netted his second goal of the series in the first five minutes of the game. 

Jaden Schwartz then tallied his first goal of the game off a juicy rebound in front of Martin Jones to start the scoring in the second period. It was Schwartz's 10th goal of the playoffs, which tied him for third all-time in Blues history for goals in the postseason.

Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Blues lead off a penalty shot. He's the first player in Blues franchise history to score a penalty shot goal in the playoffs.

Schwartz then added two more goals in the third period for a hat-trick. The first came on a 5-on-3 power play advantage off a scramble in front of the net, and the second came from a backdoor one-timer pass from Tarasenko.

Schwartz now has 12 goals these playoffs, and it's his second hat-trick of the playoffs.

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington recorded 21 saves for a shutout, and he's the first rookie goalie to accomplish that feat for the Blues.

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