Nationals

Miller coming off big playoff debut for Seahawks

Miller coming off big playoff debut for Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Zach Miller came to Seattle in 2011 with a big contract and a penchant for catching a lot of passes.

After the tight end spent his first season with the Seahawks mainly as a blocker and catching very few balls, there were plenty of questions about whether the team made a smart investment.

If they weren't before, those questions were gone after Miller's performance in last Sunday's wild-card playoff victory over Washington.

``He'd like to do everything and catch 10 balls a game, but in the system the way it is, he's there for really opportunities and to make things happen when he gets his chances, and he's done a great job,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

That deal Miller signed in 2011 possibly paid for itself with his performance in the Washington win. Miller caught just four passes but they might have been the four biggest receptions in his two seasons in Seattle. He twice converted third-and-long situations on drives that led to points and caught a critical 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks' 24-14 victory.

Miller's four catches against Washington were tied for second-most of any game not just this season but in his two years with the Seahawks.

``You have a lot of guys that are receiving tight ends or blocking tight ends and in this system you have to be able to do a little of all of it,'' Miller said.

Before he came to Seattle, Miller was known more for his ability as a pass catcher. In his final two years with Oakland, Miller caught 66 and 60 passes, respectively, and ranked among the top 10 in the league in receptions by a tight end both seasons.

That translated into a big payday for Miller before the start of the 2011 season when he joined the Seahawks on a five-year contract. But the numbers he posted in Oakland simply didn't make the trip up the coast.

Much of that was the circumstance Miller was thrown into. A year ago, the Seahawks were in the midst of revamping their offensive line and trying to do it without the benefit of offseason workouts due to the NFL lockout. That led to problems with protection once the season began and the need to use Miller as an extra offensive lineman.

Carroll said Miller accepted whatever was asked.

``He's such a good team guy that the only problem would be if he'd felt it, if he was frustrated by it,'' Carroll said.

With a solidified offensive line, Miller has gotten more chances to be a receiver this season and is often a target late in plays for rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. He caught a pass in every game but one and had five receptions against the New York Jets in November, Miller's most since his final game with the Raiders.

But his most important catches of the season came last Sunday.

It started in the first quarter when the Seahawks were already facing a 14-0 deficit. On a third-and-12 at their own 18, Wilson saw Miller open, but the pass was underthrown. Miller reached back, picking the ball just off the top of the turf, then spun off two tacklers and dove to get the first down. It was the Seahawks' initial first down of the game and eventually led to a field goal.

``Definitely the way the game started we needed to convert a third down and it happened to be third and long and it ended up being a big play,'' Miller said. ``We got points on that drive, which was huge and kind of got the offense rolling.''

Miller's other big catch came in the fourth quarter on the drive that gave Seattle the lead. Facing third-and-10 at the Seahawks 46, Miller initially stayed in to block as a defensive tackle looped around. That block bought Wilson time, but all his options were covered downfield. Miller then started a late route and Wilson found him in stride for a 22-yard gain.

Three plays later, Marshawn Lynch scored on a 27-yard run and Miller made a difficult catch on the 2-point conversion to give the Seahawks the lead.

``I thought it was cool the way it happened and definitely love the trust in Russell to expect me to be there and throw it out to me,'' Miller said.

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Wild-card tracker: Nationals thankful for Marlins, Cubs slide back

Wild-card tracker: Nationals thankful for Marlins, Cubs slide back

Back before all this mania, Miami, as putrid as its season would be, loomed as a factor.

Handling the Marlins would be key for any contender. It wasn’t a question of winning, but of how much winning would occur against one of the league’s worst teams.

Following Friday’s 6-4 win in a sparsely attended Marlins Park, the Nationals moved to 14-3 against Miami this season. They are 16 games over. 500 for the year. They are plus-11 against Miami alone.

Asdrúbal Cabrera homered again, Trea Turner hit two homers, and Daniel Hudson pitched two innings to earn the save. So, the Nationals, 84-68, hold a one-game lead for the top wild-card spot. Milwaukee won again, joining a long list of teams to beat up on the Pittsburgh Pirates since the post-All-Star-break portion of the schedule began. Pittsburgh may be the league’s worst team, at the moment, and the Brewers host it for two more this weekend.

Trouble is brewing for Chicago. It lost again to St. Louis -- this time a 2-1 mid-day defeat in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have lost four in a row. They are three games behind the Nationals and two behind the Brewers. Their path to 90 wins, which may ultimately be the threshold for postseason entrance, is narrowing.

The Mets won their third consecutive game. They are hanging around, 3 ½ games behind the Brewers with nine remaining on the schedule. Their wild-card elimination number is six.

News for Philadelphia is more dire. The Phillies dropped to 78-74 Friday night following a 5-2 loss in Cleveland. They are now five behind Milwaukee. Their wild-card elimination number is a mere five. 

Which brings us to the more detailed math portion of this program. Here are the postseason chances for each team, according to fivethirtyeight.com:

Nationals, 96 percent

Brewers, 84 percent

Cubs, 15 percent

Mets, 5 percent

Phillies, less than one percent

Coming up Saturday:

St. Louis at Chicago, 2:20 p.m., Hudson (16-7, 3.35 ERA) vs. Quintana (13-8, 4.37)

New York at Cincinnati, 4:10 p.m., Wheeler (11-7, 4.09) vs. DeSclafani (9-9, 3.93)

Washington at Miami, 6:10 p.m., Strasburg (17-6, 3.49) vs. Yamamoto (4-5, 4.87)

Philadelphia at Cleveland, 7:10 p.m., Vargas (6-8, 4.48) vs. Plesac (8-6, 3.64)

Pittsburgh at Milwaukee, 7:10 p.m., Marvel (0-2, 9.00) vs. Davies (10-7, 3.70)

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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Jonathan Villar steals 37th base of the season

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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Jonathan Villar steals 37th base of the season

Check out the latest news and notes from the  Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse. 

Player Updates:

2B Jonathan Villar went 1-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored in Friday’s win over the Mariners. Villar singled to lead off the bottom of the first inning and came around to score on Anthony Santander’s three-run homer. He stole his 37th base of the season after walking to lead off the seventh. The speed is great, but he’s also pitched in 23 homers, 69 RBI, and 106 runs scored to go along with a .277/.344/.462 batting line. 

2B Hanser Alberto went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and a walk Friday against Seattle. Alberto is now up to 12 homers on the year, with nine of them coming during the second half. The 26-year-old has faded here in September, but he still finds himself among the league-leaders with a .313 batting average. Nobody would have predicted that in the spring.

OF Anthony Santander finished 1-for-4 with a three-run homer in Friday’s 5-3 win over the Mariners. Santander delivered the big blow in a four-run first inning against Felix Hernandez. He’s now homered twice in his last three games, bringing his total to 20 despite appearing in just 91 games this season. The Orioles are looking for building blocks and the 24-year-old switch-hitter would appear to be one of them.

SP Aaron Brooks threw seven innings of one-run ball for the win against the Mariners on Friday. He came on in relief of opener Richard Bleier, who allowed a two-run shot to Kyle Lewis over his two innings of work. Brooks induced just three swinging strikes in his 83 pitches, but it didn’t really matter, as he Seattle’s lineup to just one hit while walking one and striking out four. 

Injuries

OF Mason Williams, knee, out indefinitely

RP Hunter Harvey, biceps, sidelined, day-to-day

RP Josh Rogers, elbow, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely 

SP Alex Cobb, back, 60-Day IL, 2020

Coming Up:

Saturday, 9/21: Mariners at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Sunday, 9/22: Mariners at Orioles, 1:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Monday 9/23: Orioles vs Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. Rogers Centre

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