Nationals

Panthers eliminate Bolts from playoff picture

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Panthers eliminate Bolts from playoff picture

SAN DIEGO (AP) Mike Tolbert, Cam Newton and the rest of the Carolina Panthers came to San Diego with no chance of making the playoffs.

Now the San Diego Chargers are out of the playoff picture, as well.

Tolbert scored twice against his former team and DeAngelo Williams turned a tipped pass from Cam Newton into a 45-yard touchdown reception to lead the Panthers to a 31-7 victory against the punchless Chargers on Sunday.

Carolina (5-9) won consecutive games for the first time since last December.

``It's a great feeling to be able to score the first two touchdowns back here,'' Tolbert said. ``It's indescribable.''

The Chargers (5-9) clinched their first losing season since 2003, when they were an NFL-worst 4-12. Coach Norv Turner is expected to be fired at season's end, most likely along with general manager A.J. Smith. They will miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

The Chargers did a face-plant a week after upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-24 to remain mathematically, if not realistically, alive in the playoff picture.

Some of that might have had to do with Tolbert extensively briefing the defense about his former team.

Also, Panthers coach Ron Rivera was with the Chargers from 2007-2010, first as inside linebackers coach and then defensive coordinator. Also, Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is a former Chargers tight ends coach.

``Now that the game is over, I can go ahead and say it. I gave a lot of tips to our defense about their offense, the keys, the checks, the audibles and stuff like that.'' Tolbert said. ``I think that helped. I think they had less than 200 yards of offense. Our defense played great, so it definitely helped.''

Tolbert, who left San Diego as a free agent in March, capped Carolina's first two drives with 1-yard scoring runs.

Tolbert leaped over the top of the pile for his first TD to cap the game's opening drive, which went 80 yards in 13 plays.

``They don't think a little fat man can jump but I can definitely get up,'' Tolbert said.

His second TD was set up when Philip Rivers lost a fumble. Tolbert went in standing up for a 14-0 lead.

Both times he did his TD dance, the Dougie.

``That's in my nature. I'm a guy that loves to have fun when I'm playing games, so I'm going to dance regardless,'' he said.

``You can't critique that,'' said Newton, who cut his right index finger just before halftime and twisted an ankle, but said he'll be OK. ``He has a wild range of moves in his repertoire. I don't think even he knows what he's going to do.''

Tolbert said his split from the Chargers wasn't about money.

``Some things happened between myself and the front office that I'd rather not get into,'' said Tolbert, who's on a long list of players shown the door by Smith, in danger of losing his job because of glaring roster deficiencies. ``Let's say things didn't happen the way we thought they were going to happen.''

The running back said he played with ``a whole bag of chips'' on his shoulder.

Tolbert doubled his touchdown production this season. His two touchdowns in a span of 3:35 were one more than San Diego running back Ryan Mathews has this season. Mathews broke his left collarbone in the second quarter. He broke his right collarbone in the exhibition opener.

``Anytime you know about the personnel it helps you game-plan, especially on defense,'' Rivera said. ``Knowing about Gates, knowing about Malcom Floyd, knowing about Philip, that was huge.''

Said Newton: ``It was kind of a gift or a curse to a degree because there was a lot of familiarity coming into this game with a lot of coaches on each other's staff before, knowing what they were trying to get done. But it came down to the players executing.''

Rivers lost another fumble in the fourth quarter, his 22nd turnover this season and 47th in less than two full seasons. He was sacked six times. Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson had two each.

San Diego lost for the eighth time in 10 games, and dropped its third straight home game.

``I wasn't thinking about the playoff scenarios,'' Turner said. ``When you are not able to handle the things you have to do on a day-to-day basis or game to game, it's hard to consider yourself a playoff team.''

The only bright spot for the Chargers came when Antonio Gates tied Hall of Famer Lance Alworth's club record with his 81st career touchdown catch, a 9-yarder from Rivers with 14:02 left. Gates just got his second foot down before going out of bounds.

That score was set up when the Chargers got their best starting field position of the day, on the Carolina 38, when Larry English recovered Williams' fumble.

Until then, the Chargers had run only two plays from scrimmage in Panthers territory, reaching the 44.

Gates' TD allowed the Chargers to avoid their first shutout since a 34-0 loss at Kansas City on Oct. 31, 1999, a span of 211 regular-season games.

The Chargers had kept their faint playoff hopes alive with a 34-24 upset win at Pittsburgh a week earlier, but couldn't get out of their own way at home.

Newton was 19 of 33 for 231 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers followed up their 30-20 upset victory against Atlanta with their first consecutive victories since beating Houston and Tampa Bay last December.

Rivers dropped back to pass on the Chargers' first possession and the ball flew out of his hand for a fumble that was recovered by Nate Chandler at the San Diego 21. Four plays later, Tolbert went in standing up to make it 14-0.

After forcing the Chargers to punt, the Panthers needed six plays to go 72 yards and take a 21-0 lead. On second-and-10 from the Chargers 45, Newton's pass was tipped by Jarret Johnson. Williams plucked it out of the air and took it all the way in for a touchdown.

The Panthers piled on with Graham Gano's 33-yard field goal with six seconds before halftime and Newton's 4-yard scoring pass to Steve Smith midway through the third quarter for a 31-0 lead.

Rivers was 16 of 23 for only 121 yards, his fifth-lowest total as a starter. San Diego was outgained 372 yards to 164.

NOTES: Turner's son, Scott, is offensive quality control coach for the Panthers. ... Carolina G Zack Williams injured his knee during pregame warmups. ... Attendance was announced as 53,832 but there were fewer than that in the 70,000-seat stadium. It was the third straight TV blackout in Southern California and the fourth this season. ... At 2-5, the Bolts will have their first home losing record since 2003, when they were 2-6.

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Adam Eaton calls Todd Frazier ‘childish’ after the ex-teammates get into it again

Adam Eaton calls Todd Frazier ‘childish’ after the ex-teammates get into it again

NEW YORK -- Normal is not something the Nationals do this season.

Monday’s pivot from the mundane -- an otherwise run-of-the-mill 5-3 baseball game -- came when Adam Eaton was jogging toward the visitors dugout in the bottom of the third inning when he stopped to respond to New York third baseman Todd Frazier, whom Eaton said was chirping at him all night.

This is not new. The two were teammates on the Chicago White Sox in 2016 and did not get along. Last year, Frazier and Eaton also had an exchange. The one Monday night at Citi Field prompted several members of the Nationals to hop over the dugout railing while Frazier and Eaton were being restrained near the first base bag. First base umpire Mike Estabrook cutoff Eaton who was walking toward Frazier after initially heading to the dugout following a 4-6-3 double play which ended the inning for the Nationals. When Frazier came toward the Mets dugout from his position at third base, the two began their spat.

Afterward, Frazier declined to comment in the Mets’ clubhouse, saying only, “It was nothing.” Eaton took the opportunity to expound on his displeasure with the incident, its continuation and Frazier himself.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Eaton said. “Gosh, who knows what goes through that guy’s mind? He’s chirping all the way across the infield. He must really like me, [because] he wants to get my attention it seems like every time we come into town, he really cares what I think about him. I don’t know what his deal is, if he wants to talk to me in person or have a visit or what it is. But he’s always yelling across the infield at me, making a habit of it.

“He’s one of those guys who always says it loud enough that you hear it but can’t understand it. So, he’s making a habit of it. I ignored him a couple times chirping coming across, but I had it to the point where I’m not going to say the saying I want to say but you got to be a man at some point. So, I turned around, had a few choice words with him. It’s funny, I was walking towards him, he didn’t really want to walk towards me but as soon as someone held him back then he was all of a sudden he was really impatient, like trying to get towards me. Just being Todd Frazier. What’s new?”

Asked if he is surprised such exchanges are still happening three years after they played together, Eaton said he was.

“Yes, absolutely,” Eaton said. “He’s very childish. I’m walking with my head down, play’s over, I’m walking away. I can still hear him. I’m a 30-year-old man with two kids, got a mortgage and everything. He wants to loud talk as he’s running off the field. At the end of the day, I got to be a man about it. I tried to stay patient with the childishness, but it is what it is. I got to stand up eventually.”

He did, and what could have been merely Game 47 for a struggling team turned out to be something else.

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Patrick Corbin’s rough beginning a hole Nationals can’t emerge from

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Patrick Corbin’s rough beginning a hole Nationals can’t emerge from

NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 5-3, Monday to drop their record to 19-28. Here are five observations from the game…

1. A wondrous, very Mets day preceded the game.

Their general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, held a press conference to announce...Yoenis Cespedes -- already out because of dual heel surgeries -- suffered multiple ankle fractures during a ranch accident over the weekend. Van Wagenen then went on to profess his support for maligned New York manager Mickey Callaway -- for the most part. Last, and most important to writers, three boxes of donuts were in the press box with a note: “Have a great series! -- BVW”.

Things are always a little different in Flushing. That was a problem for the Nationals.

In what could be labeled a “reverse-lock” situation, Washington’s $140 million starter, Patrick Corbin, was outpitched by unknown and often ineffective Wilmer Font, whom the Nationals smacked around just five days ago. The Nationals, as they often do, dragged themselves back into the game after trailing 4-0. A Juan Soto single drove in Anthony Rendon in the eighth to cut the lead to 4-3. Rendon was on base four times.

And, again, it was just enough to produce a close loss. Washington put two runners on with none out against dynamic New York closer Edwin Diaz before Kurt Suzuki flew out, Trea Turner grounded into a fielder's choice and Adam Eaton flew out.

The Nationals drop to nine games under .500 following one-run and two-run defeats. They also fell to 2-14 in series openers.

2. A rough, short evening for Corbin.

He trudged through the night on 98 pitches. Corbin lasted just five innings. He walked three, gave up four earned runs, struck out seven.

His night was a mess early. Amed Rosario and Pete Alonso homered in the first inning. Two walks in the third -- one with two outs -- led to two more runs scoring. He zipped through the fourth and fifth before being removed.

Corbin has endured two blowups this season in an otherwise quality first two months: Monday and April 29 against St. Louis. The latter outing featured four walks and a homer allowed against one of the league’s better offenses. Monday’s bad outing came against a Mets lineup which did not feature Robinson Cano to start and entered the evening 21st in wOBA.

Bad timing. Bad night.

3. Tanner Rainey made his Nationals debut Monday. He was interesting.

Rainey gave up a hustle double to pinch-hitter Cano -- yes, hustle and Cano -- but otherwise showed a sharp fastball-slider combination.

Rainey was the return for Tanner Roark in the offseason trade that sent Roark to Cincinnati during the Winter Meetings.

He has command trouble. He also throws 98-100 mph with ease. Asked in spring training where that velocity comes from, Rainey said his legs and weight lifting. No secret sauce. He lifted more, he threw harder. And he subsequently repeated the process.

Rainey’s velocity will always intrigue. The question is if he can command his two-pitch arsenal enough to become an actual bullpen weapon. The baseline tools are there.

4. A shuffle in the relief corps is coming.

Tony Sipp (oblique) was activated from the 10-day injured list Monday. Dan Jennings was designated for assignment. That experiment is over. Jennings signed a minor-league contract April 15. He was in the majors April 30. He’s gone less than a month later. He did not pitch well.

The Nationals claimed right-handed Javy Guerra off waivers Monday. Guerra was designated for assignment by Toronto. Guerra pitched 14 innings for the Blue Jays this season, with a 3.86 ERA and 3.17 FIP. In other words, distinctly better than most in the Nationals bullpen.

Washington expects Guerra to arrive in New York on Tuesday. Kyle McGowin is likely to be sent back to Triple-A Fresno to make room. So, two fresh pitchers in the bullpen early in the week.

Trevor Rosenthal should also be back shortly. He is expected to throw an inning for Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday. Rainey will likely be sent back to the minor leagues to make room there.

And, a situation in West Palm Beach, Fla., to keep an eye on: reliever Austen Williams had to be shut down to allow his shoulder to rest. Williams threw 40 pitches at the spring training facility the first week of May, when he appeared on his way back from the 10-day injured list. However, he has stopped throwing after experiencing further shoulder soreness. He was placed on the injured list April 19 because of a sprained right AC joint.

5. Matt Adams worked with the team on the field Monday, which he expects to do the next two days.

He’s on the verge of being activated before the week is out.

“I watched him [Monday] and he took some really good swings,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how he feels [Tuesday]. I’m assuming that he might be a little sore, because he did take some swings and he’s going to continue to do baseball activities [Monday]. But we’ll see how he feels.”

Adams’ 15-day absence has handcuffed Martinez in multiple ways. Take Sunday. Right-handed slider-thrower Steve Cishek on the mound. Left-handed hitters’ OPS against Cishek is 143 points higher than right-handers. But, no Adams meant no left-handed pinch-hitter.

Those issues should be over soon.

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