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Orioles can't complete Cleveland sweep

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Orioles can't complete Cleveland sweep

Justin Masterson, backed by three double plays, pitched 7 1-3 strong innings to help the Cleveland Indians beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 on Monday night and avoided a four-game sweep. Masterson (7-8) struck out six as Cleveland broke a four-game losing streak. The right-hander gave up only one run and seven hits, improving to 5-2 over his last eight starts. Chris Perez pitched the ninth for his 27th save in 29 chances. Shin-Shoo put the Indians ahead 2-0 with a two-run homer in the third inning off Tommy Hunter (4-5). The Orioles twice ran themselves out of innings with poor decisions on the basepaths as they had a five-game winning streak stopped. Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis all had two hits for Cleveland, which opens a key three-game home series Tuesday night against AL Central leader Detroit. The Indians trail the Tigers by four games. Choo's homer was the 10th allowed by Hunter in his last seven starts and 20th this season. Baltimore cut the deficit to 2-1 with two outs in the fifth. Masterson hit Ryan Flaherty in the left foot with a pitch. Omar Quintanilla followed with an RBI double -- his first hit since being acquired from the New York Mets on Saturday. Quintanilla made his first start as manager Buck Showalter gave shortstop J.J. Hardy a rest. Hardy had a cortisone shot in his sore right shoulder before the All-Star break. Baltimore ran amok in the second and eighth. Adam Jones doubled to open the second. After Matt Wieters struck out, Jones strayed off second on a ball hit back to Masterson by Wilson Betemit and was caught in a rundown. The Indians threw the ball around like a hot potato, but eventually got Jones. It was scored 1-5-6-5-4-6. Not your everyday fielder's choice. In the eighth, Nick Markakis hit a one-out single, finishing Masterson. Indians manager Manny Acta brought in hard-throwing Vinnie Pestano, but lefty swinging Endy Chavez lined a 2-2 pitch the other way into the left-field corner for a double. Markakis hustled around third base as left fielder Aaron Cunningham picked up the ball and threw to shortstop Cabrera. He appeared determined to score when third-base coach DeMarlo Hale suddenly threw up his hands as a signal to stop. Markakis did -- halfway between third and home. By then, catcher Carlos Santana had Cabrera's relay throw in his mitt. He tossed to third baseman Jack Hannahan, who applied the tag to Markakis, who hung his head as he trotted to the Orioles' dugout. Michael Brantley's bases-loaded single off reliever Troy Patton made it 3-1 in the bottom half.

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Wizards and Warriors have an eventful history for two teams that don't play each other often

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USA Today Sports

Wizards and Warriors have an eventful history for two teams that don't play each other often

For two teams that only play each other twice a season and have no regional ties, the Wizards and Warriors have an underrated history between them. There have been thrilling games, memorable moments and a good deal of bad blood between the players.

As far as game results, Golden State has held the upper hand. That sounds about right, given the Warriors have won three of the last four championships. Since John Wall entered the league, the Warriors are 13-2 against Washington.

Before the Wizards take on the Warriors in the Bay Area on Wednesday night (10 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington), take a look back at some of the most consequential games between the teams...

March 23, 2013 - Klay vs. John

A lot of people forget about this one. Back in March of 2013, long before the Warriors became a dynasty, Wall was ejected for a confrontation with Klay Thompson at Oracle Arena.

While they were each chasing a loose ball, Thompson shoved Wall to the ground with his shoulder and Wall took offense. Before the ball was inbounded for the next play, Wall went up to Thompson and confronted him with a healthy amount of trash-talk.

The refs saw it and sent Wall to the showers. The Wizards ended up losing the game.

Feb. 28, 2017 - Durant gets hurt in his return to D.C.

Kevin Durant made the surprising decision to join the Warriors in the summer of 2016 and few fanbases were more shocked than those of the Wizards, who had long seen their franchise as a logical landing spot for the hometown star. Durant didn't make his return to Washington with his new team until February of that season, and his homecoming didn't last long.

Just 1:33 into his night, Durant suffered a knee injury when teammate Zaza Pachulia fell into him in a game against the Wizards. The injury initially appeared to be very serious, though Durant was able to return just over a month later.

One of the worst parts about it all was that Pachulia clearly flopped unnecessarily on the play. Another reason to hate flopping.

April 2, 2017 - Jennings vs. JaVale

Neither of these guys are still on the teams at play, but this was a good one. Late in the 2016-17 season, the Wizards were getting blown out by the Warriors when center JaVale McGee decided to shoot a three from the corner.

Wizards guard Brandon Jennings thought that crossed the line of good sportsmanship. Golden State was up big and there is an unwritten rule in basketball not to run up the score at the very end.

So, Jennings pushed McGee to the ground and afterwards both had a series of entertaining quotes about the matter. A league-wide debate about unwritten rules also broke out in the ensuing days.

Among the things said in the aftermath, Jennings pointed out how he could have done more.

"Thank God he didn't go to the rack," Jennings said. "It probably would have been worse for him... I'm old school. Like I said, he better be glad he shot that three and didn't go to the rack."

Oct. 27, 2018 - Draymond vs. Brad

Wizards fans should remember this well because it was the most recent spat between the teams. On Oct. 27 of last year, Bradley Beal and Draymond Green were both ejected for a fight at Oracle. It started after a missed shot with the Wizards on offense as both players were jockeying for position to grab the rebound.

They got tangled and ended up falling out of bounds into the stands in a tussle. Many players joined in on the fun.

Amazingly, neither Beal or Green were suspended. Others weren't as lucky, including Markieff Morris and Carrick Felix who stepped onto the court when they were supposed to remain on the bench. 

None of this is to suggest the Wizards and Warriors will be at each other's throats on Wednesday night, but history suggests it should be an entertaining game.

 

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Braden Holtby reveals the real reason for his struggles last season

Braden Holtby reveals the real reason for his struggles last season

Last season was by far Braden Holtby’s worst in the NHL.

With a .907 save percentage and 2.99 GAA, Holtby was not even considered the starter for the Capitals heading into the playoffs. While his overall numbers were low, things really spiraled at the start of February.

From February 2 to March 6, Holtby managed a save percentage of only .878 and gave up a whopping 4.32 GAA. It was the worst stretch of his professional career.

There have been many theories as to the cause of Holtby’s struggles. From 2012-13 through last season, only one goalie played in more games than Holtby’s 340. After Philipp Grubauer took over, Holtby thrived in the postseason.

But neither goalie coach Scott Murray or Braden Holtby believe the issue was fatigue.

“You don't want to overuse a No. 1 guy, but [Holtby’s] a guy that has proven he can play some games and be productive,” Murray said.

The real issue, in Holtby’s mind, was the changing culture of the NHL and its focus on offense.

“It's a skill-based league now, not a toughness based league,” Holtby told NBC Sports Washington. “I see that in the league trying to take players out that play a physical game. It's hard. It's strange for us that grew up kind of loving that game because of the toughness and the heart that it took and different ways to win games. It's hard to see that kind of softness come through. That's one of those things I struggled with last year and I think you grow up and try and just ignore it and control your own game.”

It’s no secret that the NHL is trying to increase scoring with changes such as making goalie pads and pants smaller and referees calling games tighter leading to more penalties and less physical play. The league’s efforts seem to be working - in the 2017-18 season, the average goals scored per team jumped up by 10 percent.

Here are the average goals per game per team in the NHL from the 2010-11 season through 2016-17:

2010-11: 2.79
2011-12: 2.73
2012-13: 2.72
2013-14: 2.74
2014-15: 2.73
2015-16: 2.71
2016-17: 2.77

In every season during that stretch, the average fell between 2.71-2.79. In the 2017-18 season, however, that average jumped up all the way up to 2.97.

Successful NHL goalies are expected to have a save percentage over .910 and a GAA below 2.50. But what happens when that standard changes? For Holtby, he struggled to evaluate his own performance. He felt he was playing well, but the numbers told a different story.

“That was one of the real challenges last year, especially through the first four months or so,” Holtby said. “We try to evaluate it every game the same based on every play and not how the game is and it felt that, both [Murray], [goaltending director Mitch Korn] and I felt that I was playing better than I had years passed and the numbers just weren't obviously showing that and it became frustrating and that started to creep in my game. That's kind of a main reason why you saw the drop off in February.”

If the issue was not fatigue, however, then why was time off the solution?

According to Murray, it wasn’t.

“It's always good to have rest, but I think more importantly he had to reinvent himself a little bit and reestablish his foundation that got him here in the first place which is a blue-collar attitude,” Murray said. “I'm going to work and I'm going to stick to what I'm good at, my habits and make sure they're good and let some of the outside stuff go. I think that was just as important as rest, kind of that reset button and understanding who he was and what got him there and getting back to that.”

It’s an important lesson that Holtby will have to remember for this season as scoring has jumped up yet again even over last season. In the first month of play, the average number of goals per game per team has climbed to 3.10. Should that trend stick, it will be the first time the average has gone over 3.00 since 2005-06.

“You know there's going to be more goals, more chances,” Holtby said. “Just focus on every play and just leave out the rest because those are things you just can't control. That's just life.”

 

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