Nationals

Moss credits Belichick for teaching him football

Moss credits Belichick for teaching him football

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Randy Moss joined the New England Patriots five years ago thinking he knew a lot about football.

Then, he began playing for Bill Belichick. Moss' mindset regarding his own football knowledge changed in a hurry. Only then did he learn the intricacies of his sport from ``A to Z,'' as the 49ers wide receiver now puts it.

``Everybody knows that Bill Belichick is a so-called genius,'' Moss said. ``He changes it up every week, so there's not really much input that I can give for the week.''

Moss returns to Foxborough, Mass., this weekend with his new team to face the high-scoring Patriots (10-3) in prime time - a matchup of Tom Brady and the AFC's top offense against NFL sacks leader Aldon Smith and the NFC's No. 2 defense.

``I've said time and time again, before I got to New England, I thought I knew a lot about football,'' Moss said. ``But I think he taught me a lot from A to Z. I still carry it to this day. The compliments are good and I respect coach Belichick and that organization still to this day. Hopefully, we'll have a good game coming up Sunday night. I look forward to the game, and hope the fans do, too.''

The 35-year-old Moss hardly has the playmaking role as a 14th-year pro that he did as a youngster in the league, yet that didn't stop Belichick from piling on the praise this week.

Moss has 21 catches for 326 yards and two touchdowns this season for San Francisco (9-3-1). Not bad for a guy who spent the 2011 season out of football following a frustrating year in which he bounced from the Patriots to the Vikings to the Titans.

``He's the greatest deep-ball receiver I think that's ever played,'' Belichick said. ``Nobody runs better patterns, better at the deep part of the field, than Randy Moss can. I still see him doing that. You have to respect his ability to stretch the field so deep and get behind you. It's hard to take that away and defend everything else that he can do. He's an explosive, dynamic player. Probably the smartest receiver I've ever coached. I know he absolutely knows what he's doing, knows what the defense is doing.''

Moss said earlier this week he didn't watch New England's Monday night rout of the Houston Texans because he already knew what the Patriots bring with Brady under center. Many remember that Moss' best season came for the Patriots in 2007, when he caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and a single-season record 23 touchdowns in helping lead New England to a 16-0 regular season.

When asked if he sees any similarities in how the Patriots and his current 49ers franchise are run, Moss was guarded.

``I don't really want to get into all that because whatever I say is going to be the wrong thing to say,'' he said. ``So, basically, I'll leave it at, I've still got love and respect for the New England Patriots and everything that we did as a team up there. But now I'm a 49er so, like I said, hopefully we go up there Sunday night and we give it a good game.''

Moss signed a one-year deal with the 49ers in mid-March only hours after he worked out with former NFL quarterback and coach Jim Harbaugh. Moss has been appreciative of a fresh start, and mentored younger players such as wideout Michael Crabtree.

While Moss' respect for Brady goes unsaid, the veteran receiver also appreciates how second-year pro Colin Kaepernick has handled himself after being promoted to starter four games ago in place of Alex Smith.

``Most second-year quarterbacks are just waiting in the shadow and just waiting to get their shot. I think Kap's been able to come in and just lead us as a whole unit,'' Moss said. ``Any time a guy can come in and lead like that, and I don't mean verbally, but leading by example, is what we as football players look for in a player. Especially in a quarterback. So I really just compliment his leadership and going out there and leading our offense up and down the field.''

The Niners realize Sunday's game will probably be won or lost by their defense, and that they need to score, too.

``I think you've got to do a little bit of everything,'' defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Thursday. ``Obviously when you're playing a team that scores the way this team does, you're going to have to score some points, too.''

Aldon Smith, whose 19 1/2 sacks leave him three from Michael Strahan's single-season record set in 2001 with the New York Giants, has one thought for anybody questioning whether San Francisco's defense can keep up Sunday.

``We can stop `em, yeah, yeah!'' Smith said. ``We've played good offenses before. It's not the first offense we've played that has talent.''

Yes, San Francisco won at Green Bay against an Aaron Rodgers-led offense in the season opener, then beat Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome on Nov. 25.

Yet fellow linebacker Ahmad Brooks isn't sugarcoating the challenge ahead of stopping Brady and Co.

``You got to,'' he said. ``If you don't, then he'll tear you apart.''

Notes: WR Mario Manningham, who missed last Sunday's win against the Dolphins, is still nursing an injured right shoulder. He caught balls during Thursday afternoon's practice. ``I'm getting there,'' Manningham said, patches from an electric stimulation machine attached to the shoulder as he walked through the locker room. ``Taking it day by day. We'll see.'' ... Aldon Smith announced Thursday he will donate $5,099 for each of his regular-season sacks to Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco and The Peninsula. He said he has never spoken to nor met Strahan.

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

After a week that gave several teams the opportunity to prove themselves in the National League East, the only team that did so was the Miami Marlins.

They aren’t as bad as we thought they were.

As for everyone else, each fan base should be disappointed.

The Atlanta Braves missed a golden opportunity to pull away from both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, they actually lost ground to BOTH teams that were playing each other.

Philadelphia did leapfrog the Nationals in the standings, but they continue to leave wins on the table due to their bullpen. This is all while Washington went 4-4 on an eight-game homstand.

And if you’re the Mets, I need to say no more in regards to disappointment. Look out because the Marlins are now on your tail.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 44-32
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: vs. Cincinnati (3), @ St. Louis (3)

It is hard to take a team seriously when they lose two out of three to the Baltimore Orioles in their home park.

Both were in demoralizing ways. First, Sean Newcomb went seven innings allowing only a single run, then two relievers gave up a combined six runs in the ninth. Despite a comeback in the ninth, they wouldn’t eventually fall in the 15th (!) inning.

And yes… we can attest, this sucks…

Second was Julio Teheran allowing four to score before Atlanta even got an at-bat. There was a wistful rally for the rest of the game, but ultimately they came up two runs short.

Missing on a golden opportunity to emerge as the frontrunner in the NL East, the Braves dropped the ball. Once excited for a finalized rotation to be back together, there are still some gaps to fill. The team averaged 6.8 runs this week and managed only two wins.

And still no Robert Acuna Jr.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 41-34
Last 10: 7-3
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Yankees (3), vs. Washington Nationals (4)

Winning series will get you in the postseason. Taking two-out-of-three over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Nationals gives them four straight series wins.

None of those series victories were bigger than taking two at Nats Park.

In those six games Odùbel Herrera had 12 hits, four home runs, nine RBIs for a .444 average. He is leading the charge for a team that scored 39 runs in only six games.

Their starters are giving them quality outings as well. With each starting pitcher this week having a 1.40 WHIP or lower, there has been no downtick from them. However, all of their losses are attributed to their bullpen, including three blown saves.

On June 18, they optioned their closer Héctor Neris to Triple A after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. While he did have a 6.00 ERA, and a 9.45 ERA in June, he did get the job done in the final innings of games. On 13 save opportunities this year, he got 10 saves.

They hope Seranthony Domínguez (four saves) can turn around the bullpen as they make a push to the All-Star Game.

Washington Nationals

Record: 41-35
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Tampa Bay Rays (2), @ Philadelphia Phillies (4)

All things considered it wasn’t the worst week for the Nationals. Despite losing a series to Philadelphia and dropping a Gio Gonzalez start to Baltimore, Washington gained a half game on the Braves.

But, you have to demand better on an eight-game homestand. These games may be the ones that could haunt the Nats come late-August and September.

Yet there are a lot of highlights this week.

-Juan Soto retroactively hit a HR on his first-ever MLB at-bat
-The Nats pick up reliever Kelvin Herrera in a career-year
-Despite trailing by four, and a rain delay, the Nats came back

Most importantly though Bryce Harper is out of his funk.

…and the fire is back, which may be the most important headline this week.

New York Mets

Record: 31-44
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Pirates (3), @ Marlins (3)

Finishing up a 10 game road trip with a 3-7 record, all the Mets needed was a return home.

Wrong, New York followed that up by getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field.

And one of those losses, just one, featured seven Dodger home runs.

Also another of the few productive players for the Mets could be heading to the DL. Centerfielder Brandon Nimmo (.283, 12 HR) took a pitch off of his hand this past weekend.

Miami Marlins

Record: 31-47
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. Diamondbacks (4), vs. Mets (3)

A 3-3 West Coast road trip is not too shabby for the Marlins who are playing .500 ball in the month of June (11-10).

It gave the opportunity for Kyle Barraclough to pick up two more saves, bringing his total up to seven this season. His stellar relief performances will likely garner him the honor as the Marlins’ lone representative in the All-Star Game next month.

He’s pitched 11.2 straight innings of hitless baseball. Barraclough has also not allowed a run since May 8 (19 appearances).

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

The countdown to the MLB All-Star game in Washington ticks on, but the stars of its host city struggled this week in the voting.

Last week, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Matt Adams dropped one position from the first week's ballot. This week, the downward trend continues, perhaps a sign of the ambivalence among Nationals fans following a mixed record since week two's update.

The Nats won three of their seven games last week with a blowout 2-12 loss to the Phillies on Friday. Maybe they're feeling bogged down by the incessant rain delays in the DC-Maryland area

Regardless, Bryce Harper dropped another spot on the fan voting ballot this week to settle in the No. 3 spot among outfielders with 1,403,335 votes. Leading him are No. 1 Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis with 1,829,276 votes and No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Matt Kemp with 1,498,827 votes. It's worth noting that Harper trails Kemp by less than 100,000 votes, a very reasonable gap to recover from, and leads No. 4 Colorado Rockies centerfielder Matt Blackmon by over 400,000 votes, a somewhat safe separation. 

Matt Adams, however, was not so lucky. After dropping from No. 14 to No. 15 last week, he fell out of the top 15 in this week's voting. In this week's results, only 8,000 votes separate Nos. 14 and 15, so it's okay to be hopeful that your vote will make a difference. 

Trea Turner is still holding onto the No. 5 spot in the shortstop category, with an over 100,000 vote increase from last week's voting update pushing him up to 380,331 votes. The shortstops' rankings haven't changed since last week, so the San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford, Braves' Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell and Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story remain in the top four spots.

Nats fans, now's the time to keep casting those votes to keep your favorites on this year's National League roster. You can keep voting until July 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET, up to five times every 24 hours. Read more about how to vote for your favorite players in the MLB All-Star Game HERE

The 2018 National League - American League matchup is in Washington, D.C. on July 17.

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