Nationals

Randolph leads Memphis past Milwaukee 90-80

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Randolph leads Memphis past Milwaukee 90-80

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Zach Randolph had 15 points and 17 rebounds, Marc Gasol added 12 points and 12 rebounds, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Milwaukee Bucks 90-80 on Wednesday night.

Rudy Gay added 13 points for Memphis, which won its third straight. Mike Conley had 11 points and six assists, while Marreese Speights scored 10 points.

Brandon Jennings led Milwaukee with 26 points, even though he missed his first eight shots. Marquis Daniels was the only other Bucks player in double figures with 12 points on 5 of 8 from the field.

Monta Ellis, the Bucks leading scorer at 19 points a game, missed his first 13 shots, and didn't score a field goal until 2:30 was left in the game. He ended the night with four points.

The 80 points was a season low for Milwaukee.

Memphis benefited from an intense defense in the second half, causing 12 Bucks turnovers after halftime leading to 18 points. Memphis committed 10 of its 16 turnovers in the first half.

Both teams started the game shooting poorly as Grizzlies hit just a third of their shots, while the Bucks were 6 of 26, including Ellis and Jennings, the Bucks two top scorers, missing all 12 of their combined shots in the first quarter.

Memphis committed six turnovers in the first.

Jennings would miss eight shots before connecting, while Ellis missed all 10 of his in the half.

Memphis led 43-34 at halftime by shooting 40 percent, despite Gay and Tony Allen hitting 2 of 7 each and Conley missing his three shots.

Neither team had a scorer in double figures at intermission.

Memphis took the first double-digit lead of the game on its initial possession of the second half, and eventually extended it to 60-45 as the Grizzlies turned up the defensive pressure. The Bucks, meanwhile, looked like a team struggling to catch their breath on the second night of a back-to-back.

Memphis would eventually build the lead to 16 in the third and finished the quarter with a 66-51 advantage.

Memphis never let the lead fall below double digits in the fourth.

NOTES: Memphis defeated Milwaukee 108-90 on Nov. 7. ... Memphis had 20 rebounds in the first quarter, the most for a period this season. They ended the night outrebounding Milwaukee 56-44. ... Conley needs one assist to tie Jason Williams for the most assists in Grizzlies franchise history. Williams had 2,069. ... The Bucks, who defeated the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night, are now 2-3 in second night of a back-to-back. ... The previous low point total for the Bucks this season was 81 at New Orleans on Dec. 3.

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Nationals’ ridiculous three-game scoring pace unmatched in more than 20 years

Nationals’ ridiculous three-game scoring pace unmatched in more than 20 years

The Washington Nationals are on fire right now. Almost literally, as they have been ripping the baseball and breaking records as of late. 

On Monday they scored 13 runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a dominant shutout. Those 13 runs, paired with 16 runs scored against Milwaukee on Sunday and 14 on Saturday seem like a lot in a short period of time.

That's because they are. In fact, those 43 runs scored in a three-game stretch is a new franchise record for the club. 

That scoring pace is also the first time since 1996 that a National League team has scored 13 runs or more in three straight games.

A potency of runs is not just limited to the past three games. Over the past five games (two vs. Milwaukee on Thursday and 17 against the Reds on Wednesday), the club has scored 62 runs.

Sixty-two runs. That's 12.4 runs a game.

Also, it's a franchise record and the most in the MLB during such a span since the 2007 Yankees. 

If the Nats keep scoring runs at this unprecedented pace there will be no one able to stop them as they march to the postseason. 

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Joe Ross had a strong argument to remain in rotation before leg injury

Joe Ross had a strong argument to remain in rotation before leg injury

First the news: Joe Ross exited Monday’s start with one out in the fourth inning after a comebacker hit his right leg. Ross didn’t take any practice pitches before leaving. His conversation with Davey Martinez and trainer Paul Lessard was enough to get him off the field. 

The ball was hit 110 mph at Ross. The hardest of the night. It clanged off his leg before he threw to first. It’s also terrible timing and the only thing that has slowed him in August.

Why bad timing? Because either he or Erick Fedde is coming out of the rotation Thursday when Max Scherzer is activated. Ross has a clear case he should stay. Now, he’s hurt. To what extent is unclear. X-rays were negative, according to reports out of Pittsburgh. 

But, his August has been dominant. Not good. Or decent. Dominant. He’s thrown 21 ⅓ innings and allowed one earned run. That’s a 0.42 ERA. Monday, he was on his way to a fourth consecutive win while operating with an 11-0 lead.

The Nationals eventually won, 13-0. They have seven of eight, are five games out of first place and 12 games over .500.

What’s different for Ross? Multiple things. Ross is bringing his knee higher before delivering his pitches. He’s also altered his usage. In the three previous August starts, Ross threw 50% sinkers. The average velocity of those sinkers was 94 mph.

This is why Ross appeared to be a possible bullpen weapon. It’s an interesting arm for a manager to deploy, especially with runners on base. However, that failed, as did most of his post-Tommy John surgery starts.

Then August arrived. 

Fedde has pitched well, too. His three August starts led to a 3.18 ERA. Though, his strikeout-to-walk ratio hints he hasn’t been in command of those innings. His WHIP is also 1.53. Ross’ WHIP coming into Monday was 1.00. It hints at two things: who has the higher ceiling and who is on the better run.

Both have been crucial without Scherzer, who is finally locked in to pitch for the first time since July 25. Scherzer has made two starts since July 6. Yet, the Nationals are 23-14 in that span. He’s back on the mound Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Who shows up in Chicago is now the question. Ross was in line to start Saturday. Aníbal Sánchez - bumped to Friday by Scherzer’s return - is in a spot to open the series. Stephen Strasburg is set to close the series. 

Ross deserved the chance to keep going, a move which would likely flip Fedde into the bullpen and a veteran reliever -- possibly Javy Guerra, again -- out of it. Now it’s up to his leg cooperating by the weekend.

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