Nationals

No. 23 Ohio tries to extend best start since '68

No. 23 Ohio tries to extend best start since '68

OXFORD, Ohio (AP) The last two weeks have been quite a time in the town of Athens, Ohio - a presidential campaign visit that brought national attention, a move into the Top 25 college football poll that gained more notice.

It's been a long time since Ohio University had such a spotlight. And it's time for the Bobcats to see how their hometown excitement plays on the road.

No. 23 Ohio (7-0, 3-0 Mid-American Conference) moved into the Top 25 on Oct. 14, its first national football ranking since it finished the 1968 season at No. 20. The Bobcats followed their ascendance in the polls with a bye week that included President Barack Obama's visit to the southeast Ohio campus.

The attention could end abruptly on Saturday, when they visit rival Miami University (3-4, 2-1) in the southwest corner of the state with everything on the line.

``We are appreciative of where we're at,'' coach Frank Solich said. ``But we also know how we've gotten there. We've gotten there by not getting excited about things.

``But I think it's obvious when your program gets highlighted the way it is highlighted, the players, coaches and fans do take some pride in that fact. With that said, they want to continue to play well and continue to be recognized. The challenge will be there with Miami.''

It's been one of the MAC's edgiest rivalries for decades. Miami has the overall lead, 51-35-2, and more historical prominence as the ``Cradle of Coaches.'' Ohio has taken control of the rivalry lately, winning the last six games, including three in a row in Oxford.

Not since 2003, when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the RedHawks deep into the national rankings, has one of these rivalry games had so much at stake for either of them. This time, it's the RedHawks looking to get notice for knocking off a ranked rival.

Ohio's success has brought more attention not only to the rivalry but to the conference as well.

``I think that's tremendous for our conference,'' Miami coach Don Treadwell said. ``What they're getting now is deserving, and it helps all of us.''

A win in Oxford would take the Bobcats to some very unaccustomed places. Ohio is trying to go 8-0 for the first time since 1968 and only the sixth time in school history. The Bobcats have won eight in a row since the final game of last season, tied for fourth-longest winning streak in school history.

Their offense gets most of the attention. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton has run a balanced offense flawlessly, throwing only one interception with 12 touchdown passes. He's already the school's career leader with 40 career touchdown passes. Last year, he threw for three touchdowns and accounted for 314 yards overall in Ohio's 21-14 win over Miami in Athens.

Tettleton also is a threat to run, which puts a lot of stress on defenses.

``I don't think you can stifle anything,'' Treadwell said. ``They do so many things so well. They have one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in our conference with Tettleton. It's not one thing you take away and hope for the best. He can do both. He's just dangerous. He knows how to win. He's the catalyst for what they do offensively.''

He's half of a dangerous duo. Junior running back Beau Blankenship has topped 100 yards in six of the seven games this season and ranks third nationally at 135.8 per game. He ran for 269 yards in a win at Massachusetts on Sept. 29, the third-highest total in school history. The Bobcats have run for 200 yards in three of their wins this season.

They'll be facing one of the nation's worst defenses. The RedHawks are giving up an average of 37.6 points per game, having allowed 56, 39, 49, 52 and 37 points. They've given up an average of 500 yards per game, ranking 115th nationally.

The RedHawks held down Ohio in their game last year and will be inspired to do it again.

``Last year was a great ballgame, where we hung on to win at the end,'' Solich said. ``I think it will be similar to that.''

In order to keep it close, the RedHawks also will need a better performance from senior quarterback Zac Dysert. The RedHawks have the MAC's second-ranked passing attack, but haven't scored a lot of points lately because of turnovers. They're coming off a 52-14 loss at Cincinnati and a 37-12 loss at Bowling Green that included five Dysert interceptions, his worst two-game stretch since 2010.

If Dysert gets going, there could be another close finish.

``I see them as a team that's capable of putting it all together,'' Solich said. ``I see signs of them doing that.''

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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Past Nationals relievers: Where are they now?

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Past Nationals relievers: Where are they now?

It’s no secret that the Nationals bullpen is one of the weakest units in baseball this season. Fans in the nation’s capital have spent two months watching relievers cough up leads and put games out of reach, and the numbers speak for themselves. 

Washington’s team ERA among relievers is an unsightly 7.09 entering Memorial Day Weekend, nearly a full run higher than the 29th-ranked Orioles. As a unit, they’ve pitched fewer innings than any other bullpen, yet have allowed the second-most earned runs.

No one has been immune. Sean Doolittle, by far the best option in 2019, has seen his ERA balloon to 3.68. Justin Miller is the only other regular reliever with an ERA below 5, and he’s at 4.02.

It’s caused much consternation in the fanbase, and for good reason. Where did the Nationals go wrong in building this bullpen? What could they have done differently?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at four relievers who are experiencing various levels of success while no longer in Washington.

Felipe Vazquez

Vazquez has been lights out in Pittsburgh in 2019. He ranks top-10 among relievers in WAR (0.9) and top-12 in ERA (1.25). He holds the sixth-best K/9 (14.54) and is tied for the fourth-most saves in baseball with 13.

Every one of those numbers would lead the Nationals with ease. At 27, Vazquez has turned into one of the elite relievers in the sport. He’s been terrific all three years with the Pirates, and 2019 looks like his best season yet.

Of course, he wasn’t ready to be this guy in 2016 when the Nationals traded him for Mark Melancon. It was a necessary trade at the time, and one that worked out well in a vacuum. Melancon pitched well in Washington and didn’t allow a run in the 2016 postseason.

Right now, the Nats could really use a Felipe Vazquez, but the logic behind their trade at the time was sound.

Blake Treinen

Treinen has already allowed as many earned runs in 2019 (seven) as he did in all of 2018. It’s not a knock on his performance this season, where his 2.59 ERA would still lead the Nationals, but a recognition of just how dominant he was in 2018.

In the modern era of Major League Baseball, it’s just about impossible for a reliever to win the Cy Young. Even with just 80 innings pitched last year, Treinen finished sixth in Cy Young voting and 15th in MVP voting. 

That’s right. He was so good, he got down-ballot votes for MVP. It was a sensational year.

His usually-elite ground ball rate is down this season, which has led to some regression, but it’s still notable he put together a 2018 season that far outshines any individual season the Nats have seen.

It was clear in 2017 he wasn’t capable of performing as the team’s closer, eventually earning a demotion before being traded to Oakland.

Despite his enormous success in the years since the trade, it’s hard to question the Nationals here. Not only did it seem apparent Treinen wasn’t going to figure things out in D.C., but the trade brought back Sean Doolittle, the lone consistently great reliever the Nats have had in recent years.

Brandon Kintzler

Kintzler pitched parts of two seasons in Washington, but ultimately spent exactly one year with the Nationals. In that year, he tossed 68.2 innings while striking out 43 batters and walking 18.

His ERA with the Nationals was 3.54, too high for a high-leverage reliever. He struggled mightily in 2018 after being traded to the Cubs, but has settled down this season to the tune of a 2.96 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 24 innings.

As is the case for just about any halfway-decent reliever, the current Nationals bullpen would benefit from having him, but this isn’t nearly the loss Treinen or Vasquez were.

Shawn Kelley

Kelley was up-and-down in his time with the Nationals. His ERA was below three in 2016 and 2018, but the 2017 season was marred with injuries, inconsistency, and a tendency to allow home runs (a whopping 12 in just 26 innings).

Of course, Kelley was pitching better in 2018, but it wasn’t performance that led to his departure. 

In a blowout Nationals 25-4 victory over the Mets in July 2018, Kelley allowed three earned runs, including a home run. After the home run, he slammed his glove on the ground while staring at the Nats dugout.

The next day, he was designated for assignment as a result of the outburst and never pitched for the Nationals again, traded away a few days later. 

In his 33.2 innings since the trade, Kelley has been terrific. He posted a 2.16 ERA with the Athletics in 2018 and currently holds a 1.59 ERA in 2019 despite pitching his home games in Texas. He’s even filled in at closer with the Rangers, recording five saves so far this year.

Though his removal wasn’t for performance issues like Kintzler's or to acquire proven closers like Treinen’s and Vasquez’s were, the loss of Kelley can be felt just as hard. As is the case with each of these relievers, Kelley’s numbers would lead the Nationals bullpen in just about every category.

For the most part, these moves made sense at the time, for one reason or another. But the Nationals have yet to adequately replace most of these arms, and the 2019 team is suffering as a result.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Free agent Gerald McCoy to visit Baltimore

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Free agent Gerald McCoy to visit Baltimore

Kick off your holiday weekend with the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

1. One of the most obvious needs for the Ravens is help rushing the passer, and they're hoping to find some of that help on the interior in the form of free agent Gerald McCoy. The longtime Buccaneer DL visited Cleveland last week, but left town without agreeing to a contract.

Reportedly interested in playing for a contender, the former top-five pick is scheduled to visit the Ravens on Tuesday.

2. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is still struggling to throw the ball, as he noted things aren't right yet when it comes to accuracy. Media members noticed the ball wobbling through the air on many throws, and Jackson told them he thinks his hand is too high on the ball. If he's going to successfully run Greg Roman's new offensive scheme, Jackson will eventually need to be able to hit his receivers in stride with greater regularity.

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Rotoworld and Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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