Nationals

NFL Capsule: 49ers at Patriots

NFL Capsule: 49ers at Patriots

SAN FRANCISCO (9-3-1) at NEW ENGLAND (10-3)

Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC

OPENING LINE - Patriots by 5 1/2

RECORD VS. SPREAD - San Francisco 8-5; New England 8-5

SERIES RECORD - 49ers lead 7-4

AP PRO32 RANKING - 49ers No. 3; Patriots No. 1

LAST MEETING - Patriots beat 49ers 30-21, Oct. 5, 2008

LAST WEEK - 49ers beat Dolphins 27-13; Patriots beat Texans 42-14

49ers OFFENSE - OVERALL (12), RUSH (2), PASS (26)

49ers DEFENSE - OVERALL (2), RUSH (2T), PASS (2)

PATRIOTS OFFENSE - OVERALL (1), RUSH (7), PASS (5)

PATRIOTS DEFENSE - OVERALL (26), RUSH (8), PASS (29)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES - Patriots have highest-scoring offense in NFL, while 49ers have allowed fewest points. ... 49ers clinch AFC West with victory combined with Seattle loss. They clinch playoff berth with win even if Seahawks win. Patriots have locked up AFC East title. ... Both teams take care of ball with Patriots having fewest turnovers (10) and 49ers tied for second (12) ... 49ers' Colin Kaepernick first QB in NFL history to throw for 175 yards and run for 50 in consecutive games. ... San Francisco among best against run and pass, allowing second fewest yards against both. ... WR Randy Moss faces team he spent three seasons and part of a fourth with, making 259 catches for 50 TDs before being traded to Minnesota Vikings after fourth game in 2010. ... LB Aldon Smith leads NFL with 19 1/2 sacks. ... Frank Gore needs one rushing TD to pass Joe Perry and Roger Craig with franchise-record 51. ... San Francisco defense second best in league on third down, allowing conversions on 31.4 percent of plays. ... Patriots 21-0 in second half of seasons starting in 2010. ... Patriots won past 20 December home games. ... Tom Brady has thrown TD pass in 45 consecutive games, trailing only Drew Brees (54) and Johnny Unitas (47). ... Devin McCourty had second interception in end zone this season when he picked off Matt Schaub on Houston's first series Monday night. ... Wes Welker needs five catches to become first receiver with five seasons of at least 100. ... Stevan Ridley has rushing TD in each of last 6 games.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Nationals’ ridiculous three-game scoring pace unmatched in more than 20 years

Nationals’ ridiculous three-game scoring pace unmatched in more than 20 years

The Washington Nationals are on fire right now. Almost literally, as they have been ripping the baseball and breaking records as of late. 

On Monday they scored 13 runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a dominant shutout. Those 13 runs, paired with 16 runs scored against Milwaukee on Sunday and 14 on Saturday seem like a lot in a short period of time.

That's because they are. In fact, those 43 runs scored in a three-game stretch is a new franchise record for the club. 

That scoring pace is also the first time since 1996 that a National League team has scored 13 runs or more in three straight games.

A potency of runs is not just limited to the past three games. Over the past five games (two vs. Milwaukee on Thursday and 17 against the Reds on Wednesday), the club has scored 62 runs.

Sixty-two runs. That's 12.4 runs a game.

Also, it's a franchise record and the most in the MLB during such a span since the 2007 Yankees. 

If the Nats keep scoring runs at this unprecedented pace there will be no one able to stop them as they march to the postseason. 

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Joe Ross had a strong argument to remain in rotation before leg injury

Joe Ross had a strong argument to remain in rotation before leg injury

First the news: Joe Ross exited Monday’s start with one out in the fourth inning after a comebacker hit his right leg. Ross didn’t take any practice pitches before leaving. His conversation with Davey Martinez and trainer Paul Lessard was enough to get him off the field. 

The ball was hit 110 mph at Ross. The hardest of the night. It clanged off his leg before he threw to first. It’s also terrible timing and the only thing that has slowed him in August.

Why bad timing? Because either he or Erick Fedde is coming out of the rotation Thursday when Max Scherzer is activated. Ross has a clear case he should stay. Now, he’s hurt. To what extent is unclear. X-rays were negative, according to reports out of Pittsburgh. 

But, his August has been dominant. Not good. Or decent. Dominant. He’s thrown 21 ⅓ innings and allowed one earned run. That’s a 0.42 ERA. Monday, he was on his way to a fourth consecutive win while operating with an 11-0 lead.

The Nationals eventually won, 13-0. They have seven of eight, are five games out of first place and 12 games over .500.

What’s different for Ross? Multiple things. Ross is bringing his knee higher before delivering his pitches. He’s also altered his usage. In the three previous August starts, Ross threw 50% sinkers. The average velocity of those sinkers was 94 mph.

This is why Ross appeared to be a possible bullpen weapon. It’s an interesting arm for a manager to deploy, especially with runners on base. However, that failed, as did most of his post-Tommy John surgery starts.

Then August arrived. 

Fedde has pitched well, too. His three August starts led to a 3.18 ERA. Though, his strikeout-to-walk ratio hints he hasn’t been in command of those innings. His WHIP is also 1.53. Ross’ WHIP coming into Monday was 1.00. It hints at two things: who has the higher ceiling and who is on the better run.

Both have been crucial without Scherzer, who is finally locked in to pitch for the first time since July 25. Scherzer has made two starts since July 6. Yet, the Nationals are 23-14 in that span. He’s back on the mound Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Who shows up in Chicago is now the question. Ross was in line to start Saturday. Aníbal Sánchez - bumped to Friday by Scherzer’s return - is in a spot to open the series. Stephen Strasburg is set to close the series. 

Ross deserved the chance to keep going, a move which would likely flip Fedde into the bullpen and a veteran reliever -- possibly Javy Guerra, again -- out of it. Now it’s up to his leg cooperating by the weekend.

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