Redskins

Morning glory: Early wakeup for fans in Oakland

201209301544566964628-p2.jpeg

Morning glory: Early wakeup for fans in Oakland

Game 2 of the division series between the Tigers and Athletics is Sunday at 12:07 p.m. Detroit time - or 9:07 a.m. back in Oakland.

With a night game Saturday, it will be a quick turnaround for everyone.

``I think the postseason - doesn't really matter - you're going to be fired up for any game whatever time it's at,'' said left-hander Tommy Milone, the Game 2 starter for the A's. ``Just go out there and pitch your game and take it from there.''

Milone will try to reverse a trend from the regular season in which he pitched much better at home. Milone's ERA was 2.74 at Oakland and 4.83 on the road.

``We feel comfortable wherever he pitches,'' manager Bob Melvin said. ``I think this ballpark is a lot like ours and it's fairly big - use a big part of the ballpark and pretty deep to center field and the gaps here.''

---

FIRST PITCH: Alex Smith proved he's much better at throwing a football under pressure for the San Francisco 49ers than a baseball off a mound.

Smith got rewarded with the ceremonial first-pitch honor for his loyalty to the Giants and responded with a one-hop pitch in the dirt.

``I'm disgusted with myself,'' he said after the pitch. ``Stick to throwing a football. It's so great to be out here. A huge honor, definitely. I'm humbled by it.''

Smith was decked out in a Matt Cain Giants jersey and hat to throw out the first pitch before Game 1 of San Francisco's division series against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.

Smith said he hadn't thrown off a mound since he was about 10 years old and practiced a little bit this week but was saving his arm for his day job of quarterback of the 49ers. He got some tips from Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who visited Niners practice earlier this week, but his pitch from just in front of the rubber to Sergio Romo still didn't make it there on the fly.

``He was trying to give me help with my grip, how I should hold the ball,'' Smith said. ``He's definitely not to blame. I should have listened.''

The honor comes a few weeks after Smith revealed that the NFL had fined him $15,000 last season for wearing a Giants hat to a postgame news conference - a penalty that was later revoked.

Shortly after that news came out, Giants manager Bruce Bochy wore a 49ers hat for his pregame media briefing and Giants infielder Ryan Theriot bought 49ers hats for all of his teammates.

``We certainly appreciate his support wearing a Giants hat,'' Bochy said. ``That's why we wanted to reciprocate and wear a 49ers had and have some fun with it, and have him throw out the first pitch. This club has a lot of 49ers fans, especially when they're playing that day and it's going to be good to have him out there. We may take a look at him, too. He has a good arm.''

Coach Jim Harbaugh gave Smith permission to leave the team hotel the night before a home game against the Buffalo Bills for the honor. He got a police escort to the stadium and went right back after the pregame ceremony.

---

REDS SOLO CUP: Sitting on a table near the back of the visitor's clubhouse at AT&T Park is a 2-foot high gold and silver trophy cup - a mini Stanley Cup of sorts that Cincinnati has used for motivation this season.

To capture the cup, the Reds have to win each individual series they play.

So far the idea has worked pretty well. Cincinnati won nine of its final 15 series to pull away and win the NL Central for the second time in three years.

``It's kind of a symbol of winning each series,'' Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan said. ``We carry it around with us, we drink out of it. It's just something to keep us loose. We haven't lost too many so it's been working for us and we're going to keep riding it.''

The cup began showing up around midseason, though no one is quite certain who originally came up with the idea. Outfielder Ryan Ludwick gets the most credit, but all of Cincinnati's players take part in naming the trophy for every series. They called it the Cheddar Cup in Milwaukee and the Friar Cup in San Diego.

``It could be the Windy City Cup if you're in Chicago, it could be the Golden Gate Cup if you're out here (in San Francisco),'' said pitcher Bronson Arroyo, the Reds' Game 2 starter. ``We toss some ideas around and somebody sticks with one.''

Cincinnati rode the cup to 29 series victories during the regular season. If the Reds can have similar success in the playoffs, they could end up with two more trophies.

For now, they're content sticking with the one they have.

``Baseball is such a long game, it's much easier to focus on the task at hand if you can take it in small snapshots of three games,'' Arroyo said. ``We hope it doesn't die a first-rounder.''

---

MOTOWN MEMORIES: Melvin began his career with the Tigers, playing 41 games for them in 1985. That was his only season with Detroit, but the former catcher still has vivid memories of his first home game.

``There was a buzz at Tiger Stadium that was unlike no other and putting on the white uniform with the English D and walking into Tiger Stadium with the people right on top of you,'' Melvin said. ``I remember Kirk Gibson got hit in the mouth by a pitch ... was bleeding all over the place. Stitched him up right there.''

Melvin would end up playing with seven major league teams, including San Francisco, Baltimore, Kansas City, Boston, the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox.

This is his second postseason trip as a manager. He took Arizona to the NL championship series in 2007.

---

DID IT RATE?: Major League Baseball's first wild-card, winner-take-all playoff games averaged a 3.7 overnight rating on TBS.

The St. Louis Cardinals' 6-3 win at Atlanta on Friday averaged a 3.3 overnight rating from the 56 metered markets and the Baltimore Orioles' 5-1 victory at Texas in the late game averaged a 4.1 overnight.

Last year, TBS and TNT averaged a 3.3 overnight rating and a 2.7 national rating for 19 division series games.

---

PUMA CAGED: Lance Berkman looked out of place, wearing street clothes in the Cardinals clubhouse while uniformed teammates milled about on the eve of the NL division series opener.

It's something the player known as Big Puma has had to get used to this season after playing a key role on the World Series title team last year. The 36-year-old Berkman has been slowed by knee problems and is unlikely to see action no matter how far this year's team goes - partly because of rust and partly because of Allen Craig's play at first base.

Berkman isn't ready to retire. The six-time All-Star hit .301 with 32 homers and 94 RBIs in 2011 but just .259 with two homers and seven RBIs in 81 at-bats this year.

``We'll see,'' Berkman said. ``The knee will get back to 100 percent, it's just a matter of whether I want to keep going or not. That's a decision that's still in the future.''

Factoring into the decision will be Berkman's desire to spend more time with his four daughters, the oldest of which is 11.

He's a career .296 hitter with six 100-RBI seasons and 360 home runs in 14 seasons, three of the last four shortened by injuries. He won't play just to improve his stats for Hall of Fame voters.

``If they want to see longevity, then no,'' Berkman said. ``If they want to see a guy hang around till he's 40 just to pile up 400-some homers, then no. I project with anybody that's in our building, and in my mind I feel good about that. As far as what other people think, that's up to them.''

Quick Links

Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

brown_pryor_usat_ig.jpg
USA TODAY Sports/@TerrellePryor

Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

#REDSKINSTALK PODCAST

Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below.

Quick Links

Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 12

adam_eaton_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 12

We're just a couple of weeks away from the midway point of the 2018 Major League Baseball season, which means many casual fantasy baseball players have collectively turned their attention to the gridiron. This is good news for those of you still interested, because outside of the truly competitive leagues, it's about to get much easier to navigate the waiver wire and make winning trades.

That said, we'll still be here all season long, providing advice for anyone looking to gain a competitive edge in their fantasy leagues. There's a lot to digest in the upcoming week, as many teams (including the Washington Nationals) will play a full seven game slate. It's an especially great time for stars in baseball, as a whopping six players are on pace to record seasons with 8.7 Wins Above Replacement or higher, but there's still plenty of great options beyond the obvious guys.

NOTE: Don’t expect to see guys like Bryce Harper or Trea Turner mentioned too often. They are clear must-starts every week. Don’t overthink it.

Week 12 (6/18-6/24)

One Nationals pitcher to start: Max Scherzer

We won't often include a guy on the level of Mad Max in our recommendations, but consider this a statement against the other pitchers. With Stephen Strasburg on the DL, Gio Gonzalez is really the only other startable option in the rotation, and while he's a fine play against the Orioles, he's not a sure thing. Scherzer is the best pitcher in baseball, so when in doubt, it's easy to fall back on his name. For now, feel free to use Gonzalez if needed, but the only clear, recommendable one this week is Scherzer.

One Nationals position player to start: Adam Eaton, OF

Consider this your reminder to not get cute and just start Adam Eaton whenever he's healthy. When he can manage to avoid time on the disabled list, he's consistenly been one of the best players in Washington, and an absolute must-start in fantasy. Yes, he's hitting "just" .286 in five games since returning from the DL, but there's no reason to believe he won't bounce back to one of the top hitters in the National League once he gets back in the swing of things. As long as he's hitting at the top of the Washington lineup, he'll be one of the top run producers in baseball.

One Nationals pitcher to sit: Erick Fedde

We likely would have advised against starting Fedde regardless of matchup, given his relative struggles in his two starts with the Nats this season. He's got a nice 9:2 strikeout-to-walk rate, but the ERA sits at an unsightly 5.91. What makes matters worse is the matchup; Fedde is once again slated to face the vaunted New York Yankees lineup. In New York, he allowed two home runs in just five innings, and while Nats park isn't the hitter's haven that Yankee Stadium is, the sluggers in their lineup make for a daunting matchup in any city.

Fedde probably isn't owned in most leagues, and there's no reason for that to change, even with his spot in the rotation likely secure as long as Strasburg isn't throwing.. 

One Nationals player to sit: Daniel Murphy, 2B

Nats fans were understandably rejoicing when Daniel Murphy returned to the lineup last week. It's always fun when one of your stars is back on the field after missing so much time. Still, like most players who haven't face in-game pitching in several months, Murphy has been slow to re-adjust at the plate. He's recorded just two hits in 15 at-bats, has only walked once, and has yet to notch an extra-base hit of any kind. His OPS is below-.200, and while no one should expect that to last, there's no need to rush him back into your lineups either.

It would be pretty tempting to slot Murphy into your 2B or middle infield spot now that he's healthy, since you likely drafted him to be one of your studs, but given his lengthy absence, the nature of his original injury, and his slow start since returning, it's probably a good idea to leave him on your bench for a week or two. Once he starts driving the ball again, he can start to return value for you, but there's no reason to let him drag you down in the meantime.

Any 2-start pitchers for the Nationals this week?

Given that the rotation is currently in a state of flux, we can't confidently say any starter will get two starts. Fedde looks like the most likely candidate, but as we outlined above, he's still a pitcher you want to avoid for now.

Any 2-start pitchers worth streaming around MLB this week?

One of my favorite sleepers this week is Domingo German. One of the most surprising stats in all of baseball right now is that among starting pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, German has the second best swinging strike rate, behind only Max Scherzer. Swinging strike rate is a great stat to use when projecting future strikeout potential, and German's 15.9% is mighty impressive. German has a start at home against the Mariners and on the road against the Rays, so while it's not a cakewalk week, it's not especially daunting either. As an added bonus for those in points leagues, German is RP-eligible, giving you some extra roster flexibility.

The walks are a little high (21 in 53.3 innings) which has let to an elevated WHIP and ERA, but it's a good rule of thumb to follow the strikeouts when identifiying quality fantasy pitchers, and considering most of the two-start guys this week are obvious studs who are certainly already owned in your league, German is the exact type of option you should be looking to stream.

One player you might not realize you should pick up: John Hicks, C/1B (Tigers) 

This is a sneaky move, the kind that could easily get overlooked in most fantasy leagues but could provide a great return on investment. With Miguel Cabrera's unfortunate season-ending biceps injury providing an opening in the everyday lineup in Detroit, Hicks (who is catcher elgibile) will be taking most of the team's at-bats at first base going forward. While he's probably not worth rostering as a first baseman in most leagues, catcher is a notorious black hole in fantasy baseball in recent years, and this season might be the wost yet.

Hicks will maintain catcher eligibility all season long, yet he'll play the far less demanding first base every day, giving him less wear and tear on his legs, less concern with running the pitching staff, and most importantly, regular at-bats in a surprisingly not-atrocious lineup. Hicks isn't the type of guy you'd refer to as a league-winner prior to Opening Day, but he could make a real impact on a championship roster in the second half of the season.

One player you might not realize you should drop: Jake Junis, SP (Royals) 

Junis isn't the type of pitcher that I'd classify as a must-drop, but you shouldn't hesitate to move on if there's a clear better option on the waiver wire. Junis started the season strong and looked like a legitimate breakout player, but he's allowed six earned runs in each of his last two starts. A poor two-start stretch isn't the end of the world, which is why I'm not suggest that everyone jump ship regardless of team context. That said, he doesn't have the pedigree of a top pitching prospect, and he plays for one of the five worst teams in baseball, meaning you can't expect many wins even when Junis is throwing well.

At the very least, you prbably should leave Junis on the bench for the time being, and again, if there's an option you've been eyeing on the waiver wire, now is the time to strike. Don't feel bad if that means leaving Junis behind to free up a roster spot for your team.

MORE NATS NEWS:

- Nice Threads: MLB reveals All-Star jerseys
- Rankings Update: Where did the Nats fall?
- On the Farm: Latest Nats prospect report