Nationals

Patriots look to rebound against woeful Jaguars

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Patriots look to rebound against woeful Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) It's been a decade since the New England Patriots lost consecutive games in December.

The streak seems pretty safe heading into Sunday's game at Jacksonville.

Coming off a 41-34 home loss to San Francisco, the playoff-bound Patriots (10-4) look to get back to their winning ways when they face the woeful Jaguars (2-12) on Sunday. All signs point to a lopsided affair, with New England having scored at least 30 points 10 times this season and Jacksonville having lost seven games by more than two touchdowns.

``A lot of people are counting us out for this week,'' Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said.

For good reason.

The Patriots are the only team in the league Jacksonville hasn't beaten in the regular season in the franchise's 19-year history.

And the Jaguars hardly appear poised for an upset, given they have an offense and defense that both rank 31st in the league. Jacksonville also has lost three in row against teams from the AFC East, and was only competitive against the dysfunctional New York Jets.

Nonetheless, coach Mike Mularkey is trying to convince his team it has a chance.

``I think they see that I believe we have a chance,'' Mularkey said. ``I think as we go through the week, they will see the film. If we play well enough, be where we're supposed to be, if we prepare and we put a good game together, then we have a chance every week. I think we're going to be very confident - just as we have the last 14 games.''

A defeat would give Jacksonville a franchise record for losses in a season and guarantee the team one of the top two picks in April's draft.

No one in Jacksonville's locker room is thinking about those things, though.

The Jaguars have considered all the changes that surely are on the horizon. It's likely that general manager Gene Smith will be fired after the season. Mularkey has a better chance to stick around, but owner Shad Khan has to be considering a complete overhaul since the team regressed in so many areas.

And Jacksonville has numerous pending free agents, including seven key guys who opened the season as starters.

``Just because you have one bad year, you can't say, `We're going to restart everything,''' Jones-Drew said. ``You can, but I don't think that's a formula for success.''

The Jaguars believe they know the formula for beating Brady and the Patriots.

``You have to get to him,'' Mularkey said. ``You have to put pressure on him, hope he overthrows and does some of the things I've seen on tape. He has thrown a number of passes that are tipped or overthrown, and if we do anything this week, we've got to put ourselves in position to make plays on those balls better than any week we have.''

Sounds easy, right.

Well, the Jaguars are winless in five games against Brady. He has thrown for 1,207 yards in those games, with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Regardless, Brady said he expects the Jaguars to present a challenge even though they have a league-low 15 sacks.

``There's nobody on that team that's not playing and giving everything they've got, so they rush hard,'' Brady said. ``They try to be real physical. They do some things well. I think that coach talked about focusing on what we need to do and getting a lot better as a team and our execution needs to be better.''

The Patriots nearly overcame execution issues and four turnovers against the 49ers last week.

They trailed 31-3 early in the third quarter before scoring 28 points in just over 14 minutes, a stunning comeback that tied the game at 31 with 6:43 left.

But the 49ers took the lead for good after a long kickoff return followed by a 38-yard TD pass from Colin Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree.

``It was definitely pretty bizarre,'' Patriots receiver Wes Welker said. ``It's just one of those games that kind of didn't go our way, went our way and then didn't. We've just got to move on and look forward to the next week.''

And avoid something that hasn't happened in more than 10 years.

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

After a week that gave several teams the opportunity to prove themselves in the National League East, the only team that did so was the Miami Marlins.

They aren’t as bad as we thought they were.

As for everyone else, each fan base should be disappointed.

The Atlanta Braves missed a golden opportunity to pull away from both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, they actually lost ground to BOTH teams that were playing each other.

Philadelphia did leapfrog the Nationals in the standings, but they continue to leave wins on the table due to their bullpen. This is all while Washington went 4-4 on an eight-game homstand.

And if you’re the Mets, I need to say no more in regards to disappointment. Look out because the Marlins are now on your tail.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 44-32
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: vs. Cincinnati (3), @ St. Louis (3)

It is hard to take a team seriously when they lose two out of three to the Baltimore Orioles in their home park.

Both were in demoralizing ways. First, Sean Newcomb went seven innings allowing only a single run, then two relievers gave up a combined six runs in the ninth. Despite a comeback in the ninth, they wouldn’t eventually fall in the 15th (!) inning.

And yes… we can attest, this sucks…

Second was Julio Teheran allowing four to score before Atlanta even got an at-bat. There was a wistful rally for the rest of the game, but ultimately they came up two runs short.

Missing on a golden opportunity to emerge as the frontrunner in the NL East, the Braves dropped the ball. Once excited for a finalized rotation to be back together, there are still some gaps to fill. The team averaged 6.8 runs this week and managed only two wins.

And still no Robert Acuna Jr.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 41-34
Last 10: 7-3
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Yankees (3), vs. Washington Nationals (4)

Winning series will get you in the postseason. Taking two-out-of-three over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Nationals gives them four straight series wins.

None of those series victories were bigger than taking two at Nats Park.

In those six games Odùbel Herrera had 12 hits, four home runs, nine RBIs for a .444 average. He is leading the charge for a team that scored 39 runs in only six games.

Their starters are giving them quality outings as well. With each starting pitcher this week having a 1.40 WHIP or lower, there has been no downtick from them. However, all of their losses are attributed to their bullpen, including three blown saves.

On June 18, they optioned their closer Héctor Neris to Triple A after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. While he did have a 6.00 ERA, and a 9.45 ERA in June, he did get the job done in the final innings of games. On 13 save opportunities this year, he got 10 saves.

They hope Seranthony Domínguez (four saves) can turn around the bullpen as they make a push to the All-Star Game.

Washington Nationals

Record: 41-35
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Tampa Bay Rays (2), @ Philadelphia Phillies (4)

All things considered it wasn’t the worst week for the Nationals. Despite losing a series to Philadelphia and dropping a Gio Gonzalez start to Baltimore, Washington gained a half game on the Braves.

But, you have to demand better on an eight-game homestand. These games may be the ones that could haunt the Nats come late-August and September.

Yet there are a lot of highlights this week.

-Juan Soto retroactively hit a HR on his first-ever MLB at-bat
-The Nats pick up reliever Kelvin Herrera in a career-year
-Despite trailing by four, and a rain delay, the Nats came back

Most importantly though Bryce Harper is out of his funk.

…and the fire is back, which may be the most important headline this week.

New York Mets

Record: 31-44
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Pirates (3), @ Marlins (3)

Finishing up a 10 game road trip with a 3-7 record, all the Mets needed was a return home.

Wrong, New York followed that up by getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field.

And one of those losses, just one, featured seven Dodger home runs.

Also another of the few productive players for the Mets could be heading to the DL. Centerfielder Brandon Nimmo (.283, 12 HR) took a pitch off of his hand this past weekend.

Miami Marlins

Record: 31-47
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. Diamondbacks (4), vs. Mets (3)

A 3-3 West Coast road trip is not too shabby for the Marlins who are playing .500 ball in the month of June (11-10).

It gave the opportunity for Kyle Barraclough to pick up two more saves, bringing his total up to seven this season. His stellar relief performances will likely garner him the honor as the Marlins’ lone representative in the All-Star Game next month.

He’s pitched 11.2 straight innings of hitless baseball. Barraclough has also not allowed a run since May 8 (19 appearances).

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

The countdown to the MLB All-Star game in Washington ticks on, but the stars of its host city struggled this week in the voting.

Last week, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Matt Adams dropped one position from the first week's ballot. This week, the downward trend continues, perhaps a sign of the ambivalence among Nationals fans following a mixed record since week two's update.

The Nats won three of their seven games last week with a blowout 2-12 loss to the Phillies on Friday. Maybe they're feeling bogged down by the incessant rain delays in the DC-Maryland area

Regardless, Bryce Harper dropped another spot on the fan voting ballot this week to settle in the No. 3 spot among outfielders with 1,403,335 votes. Leading him are No. 1 Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis with 1,829,276 votes and No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Matt Kemp with 1,498,827 votes. It's worth noting that Harper trails Kemp by less than 100,000 votes, a very reasonable gap to recover from, and leads No. 4 Colorado Rockies centerfielder Matt Blackmon by over 400,000 votes, a somewhat safe separation. 

Matt Adams, however, was not so lucky. After dropping from No. 14 to No. 15 last week, he fell out of the top 15 in this week's voting. In this week's results, only 8,000 votes separate Nos. 14 and 15, so it's okay to be hopeful that your vote will make a difference. 

Trea Turner is still holding onto the No. 5 spot in the shortstop category, with an over 100,000 vote increase from last week's voting update pushing him up to 380,331 votes. The shortstops' rankings haven't changed since last week, so the San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford, Braves' Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell and Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story remain in the top four spots.

Nats fans, now's the time to keep casting those votes to keep your favorites on this year's National League roster. You can keep voting until July 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET, up to five times every 24 hours. Read more about how to vote for your favorite players in the MLB All-Star Game HERE

The 2018 National League - American League matchup is in Washington, D.C. on July 17.

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