Nationals

No. 3 K-State boasts 111-0 edge in points off TOs

No. 3 K-State boasts 111-0 edge in points off TOs

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) In the one statistical category all coaches respect, Kansas State has an undeniable advantage.

The Wildcats' four turnovers through their first eight games are the fewest in the country, and the 24 they've forced are fifth-most. The result is a plus-20 turnover margin that's more than triple any other Big 12 team.

The result? Kansas State (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) has outscored opponents 111-0 off turnovers.

Yes, that's not a misprint - 111-0 in points off turnovers.

``They just don't turn the ball over,'' said TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose team will try to ruin the Wildcats' unbeaten season Saturday. ``If anything's real scary out there, then they'll just take what they get, or whatever happens, get to the next play.''

The Wildcats' offense hasn't relinquished possession since Sept. 15 against North Texas, and their only turnover in Big 12 play came on a muffed punt against Iowa State.

By contrast, they forced five turnovers in last Saturday's win over Oklahoma State.

``You travel on the road, and you play a good football team, and you turn the ball over, you're poor on special teams and you don't tackle well, you essentially don't give yourself a chance to win,'' Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said after the game.

Impressive as the Wildcats have been, longtime coach Bill Snyder still isn't content. He made a point of telling his team in Monday meetings that four turnovers this season are four too many.

``I was like, `Coach, we haven't turned the ball over in like, five games!''' tight end Travis Tannahill said. ``One every two games is too many - one a season is too many for him.''

Snyder always stresses self-improvement, rather than comparing his team to any past or present opponents. But as turnovers go, the Wildcats' overall numbers are incomparable.

Even among BCS championship contenders, Kansas State's ability to retain the ball on offense is stunning: Alabama has eight turnovers (all fumbles) and ranks fourth in turnover margin; Notre Dame has 11 turnovers (five fumbles, six interceptions) and is 19th; and Oregon has 18 turnovers (eight interceptions, 10 fumbles) to rank 17th in turnover margin.

In other words, the Crimson Tide still have double the number of turnovers as Kansas State.

It all comes back to Snyder's insistence that ball security is the overwhelming priority on offense, and assertiveness the paramount part of playing defense.

Heisman Trophy candidate Collin Klein, who is expected to play Saturday after sustaining an apparent head injury, has only thrown two interceptions while steering clear of turnovers by tucking the ball and running rather than throwing into coverage.

``Running the options, if anything's real scary out there, then they're not pitching it,'' Patterson said. ``They'll just take what they get, or whatever happens, get to the next play.''

``They're real consistent. They don't really make too many mistakes,'' TCU cornerback Jason Verrett added. ``Their quarterback is real good, he's real patient.''

On the other side of the ball, the emphasis is on creating turnovers through a willingness to take chances on making a play. Defensive back Allen Chapman may get beaten occasionally, but he also picked off three passes against the Cowboys, returning one of them for a touchdown.

In practice, the priorities are the same.

The Wildcats focus on making scenarios as realistic as possible, with the No. 1 offense often going against the first-team defense in an attempt to recreate the speed of the game.

Running back Angelo Pease never saw a scout team defense continually try to strip the ball from the offense in practice before he came to Kansas State.

``When I was in JUCO, we didn't do it. When I was in high school, we didn't do it,'' Pease said. ``Our scout team goes hard. They try to intimidate the other team, stripping the ball and going hard. I think that helps us.''

The 10 minutes of ball security drills that running backs and tight ends endure every practice also helps. Fail the drill once, a player might get away with repeating it. Let it happen again and there will be repercussions, especially if the ball goes on the ground in live practice.

``You'd probably be running, probably doing push-ups, something like that,'' Pease said. ``Every time you fumble the ball it's like, `What if you were in the game?'

``We try to treat everything like a game situation,'' he said. ``If you fumble in the game, that one turnover could be the cause of losing or winning the game, so we take it very seriously.''

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Managers in Nationals-Orioles series embrace shared history as they face off for the first time

Managers in Nationals-Orioles series embrace shared history as they face off for the first time

Brandon Hyde and Davey Martinez have spent countless days on the same fields, but Tuesday night was the first time they found themselves managing against one another.

Before heading to the nation’s capital to manage the Washington Nationals, Martinez coached under Joe Maddon with the Chicago Cubs from 2015-17. Brandon Hyde was also in Chicago during those years, coaching first base and then succeeding Martinez as Maddon’s bench coach prior to his hire in Baltimore last offseason.

While both figures are competitive enough to not need any added motivation against the opposing team, it’s still a fun moment for the two longtime friends to appreciate.

“Oh, he’s awesome,” Martinez told reporters in the visitor’s dugout before Tuesday’s game when asked about his relationship with Hyde. “I know him and his family very well, almost like family of mine. When we got in town we had dinner together, so it was kind of fun.”

Martinez went on to emphasize he knows Hyde will be playing to win, too.

“Obviously we both know he’s very competitive,” Martinez continued. “He knows that we want to win and he wants to win, so put everything aside. We’re going to compete.”

Despite the difference in records and team expectations in 2019, Hyde was pretty clear about his desire to take down his former colleague.

“Obviously me and Dave are very close friends and I wish him all the success in the world,” Hyde echoed during his own pregame availability. “But obviously I hope we beat them these next couple games.”

Martinez is not the only National to have a relationship with Hyde.

“Davey’s over there, Henry Blanco’s very close friend of mine, Joe Dillon the hitting coach I played with in high school, so I have some close relationships on that staff,” Hyde said.

Martinez knows the Nats can’t let their guard down against weaker opponents, Orioles included. As he put it, the Nationals “gotta come out and play baseball like we always do.”

And yet, even though each manager is putting his best foot forward to try to win the game, same as every other night of the season, it’s hard to ignore the unique relationship between the two.

For most, it’s just another night of baseball. But as Brandon Hyde put it most simply, “this will be a little bit different managing against Davey on the other side.”

Orioles-Nationals has yet to fully develop into a true rivalry, but perhaps a few more games that feel just “a little bit different” will help one blossom going forward.

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Max Scherzer feeling 'a lot better' but next start date is still up in the air

Max Scherzer feeling 'a lot better' but next start date is still up in the air

BALTIMORE -- Some pitching clarity was acquired Tuesday.

Erick Fedde will make a spot start Wednesday in the second, and final, game between the Orioles and Nationals. That bumps Stephen Strasburg to Thursday. Max Scherzer's next start remains a question.

The Nationals decided Strasburg would pitch Thursday once they put Scherzer (mid-back strain) on the 10-day injured list July 13. Moving Strasburg a day allows Washington to dispatch its best arms against first-place Atlanta during a four-game series instead of burning one against Baltimore, the worst team in the major leagues.

Scherzer threw Tuesday in the outfield and "said he felt a lot better," according to Davey Martinez. Next is a check Wednesday morning, then further work. Martinez wants Scherzer to throw a bullpen session before making a start. That could happen Thursday in Atlanta. If Scherzer throws a bullpen session then, he could pitch as early as Saturday, when he is first eligible to come off the injured list. 

Scherzer could also pitch Sunday in Atlanta. The Nationals can easily manipulate the situation once they have Scherzer throw a bullpen session. Patrick Corbin will pitch Friday -- receiving an extra day of rest himself -- then Anibal Sanchez would be on turn Saturday after an extra day of rest. 

If Scherzer is ready to go this weekend, the Nationals could have lucked into a position where they pitch all four of their best pitchers on extra rest against first-place Atlanta.

"It's hard to tell with Max," Martinez said. "Max always feels he's ready to pitch. I just want to see him progress."

One of the issues last weekend in Philadelphia was Scherzer's back problem did not improve from Friday to Saturday, prompting the team to eventually decide an injured list stint was best.

In the interim, Austin Voth, who pitched Tuesday, and Fedde receive cameo appearances. Martinez said in Philadelphia the fifth starter spot is "open" between Voth, Fedde and, more distantly, Joe Ross. 

"[Tuesday] I'm just worried about Austin Voth going out there and competing and keeping us in the ballgame," Martinez said. "Worry about [Wednesday on Wednesday]. Both of those guys are part of our future right now. We hope that they both pitch well."

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