Orioles

RB Bell finishing up big season at Michigan State

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RB Bell finishing up big season at Michigan State

Le'Veon Bell's 2012 season really began last January, when fellow running back Edwin Baker announced he was skipping his senior year to enter the NFL draft.

Suddenly, Bell's carry-splitting arrangement in Michigan State's backfield was a thing of the past. There was no doubt about whom the Spartans would build their running game around. But even after months of preparation, the increased workload was a bit of a shock.

``It surprised me, as many carries as I got,'' Bell said. ``I'll do whatever it takes for us to win games.''

Michigan State hasn't won as many as in seasons past, but Bell has certainly done his part. The 6-foot-2 junior enters Saturday's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Texas Christian with 1,648 yards on 350 carries - and his 266-yard effort in the regular-season finale against Minnesota is the biggest reason the Spartans are in the postseason at all.

Bell was already a big-play threat before the season. He averaged over 5 yards a carry in his first two years, running for 948 on 182 attempts as a sophomore. He and Baker seemed interchangeable at times, and sharing responsibility may have helped keep Bell fresh.

There has been little time for a breather in 2012. In the season opener - a win over Boise State - Bell ran for 210 yards on 44 carries. He also caught six passes.

Before that game, Bell's career high was 20 attempts.

Bell put on some weight before the season and is now listed at 237 pounds, although he said he was actually around 242 at one point and has slimmed down while preparing for the bowl.

Michigan State (6-6) fell out of the Big Ten title race amid a slew of close calls in conference play. The Spartans' first seven league games were decided by no more than four points, and they won only two of them. Bell ran for 188 yards in a loss to Nebraska and 140 in a defeat against Iowa despite defenses geared to slow him down.

``It seems like every team we play had a specific game plan to stop Le'Veon,'' quarterback Andrew Maxwell said.

That didn't matter against Minnesota. With Michigan State needing a win to become bowl eligible, Bell ran for 266 yards on 35 carries on a cold afternoon in a 26-10 victory. He became the seventh rusher in school history to pass the 3,000-yard mark for his career.

Bell is third in the nation in rushing at 137 yards per game. He's second in total carries, 25 behind Stefphon Jefferson of Nevada, who already played his bowl.

Throw in Bell's abilities as a pass catcher and size that makes him a fine blocker, and his football future appears bright. It's certainly possible he could follow Baker's path and declare for the NFL after his junior season.

``Right now Le'Veon is the third-leading rusher in the country. He'll have a name for himself, he'll be projected. So there's a lot of advantages to doing something like that, but there's got to be value in that,'' coach Mark Dantonio said. ``I want to be fair to him and not be selfish with our program. But there's pluses and minuses on both sides, and at some point in time you have to make decisions.''

First, Bell and the Spartans will try to finish on a high note against TCU. And here's a scary thought for the Horned Frogs: Bell says the rest after the Minnesota game really helped his legs.

No surprise there. He's ready to handle the ball early and often.

``I just want to show everybody I'm a capable back,'' Bell said. ``I just want to show the nation what I can do.''

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We can’t stop staring at these Bowie Baysox commemorative moon landing jerseys

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Twitter/@BowieBaysox

We can’t stop staring at these Bowie Baysox commemorative moon landing jerseys

One of the coolest things about Minor League Baseball is the creativity that comes with it.

The stadiums. The ice cream deals. The interesting mascots. And most importantly, the uniforms.

The Bowie Baysox, the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, released special uniforms they will be wearing on Saturday for the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing.

And, oh wow, are they something. Take a look.

On the front of the uniform, you can see the image of where lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag on the lunar surface of the moon. On the back, a satellite view of the moon is pictured, with the player's number on top of it. Both the number and the cursive "Baysox" on the front are filled in with the American flag.

If you're looking for some to do on Saturday, go support the Baysox and their Moon Landing uniforms. If only there was a jersey giveaway.

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Bullpen struggles plague Nationals in loss to Orioles

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Bullpen struggles plague Nationals in loss to Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Juan Soto sat on the ground against the left-field wall, his head in his hands in the bottom of the eighth. Washington's outfielder had just reached for a long shot from Baltimore's Trey Mancini, but the ball was just out of Soto's reach and Mancini notched his 19th homer of the year, a two-run knock that gave the Orioles a 6-2 lead. 

Soto's body language symbolized more than just his frustration from the one play. By the end of the game -- the start of which was delayed 92 minutes after an onslaught of rain made Camden Yards look like a blizzard had blown into town -- the Orioles outscored the Nationals 9-2, almost the opposite of Washington's 8-1 win Tuesday.

Both teams were sluggish out of the box; a one-run ball game until the seventh, when Baltimore tore the game wide open. Washington put across its two sole runs in the third and fifth, both RBIs from Adam Eaton (he knocked in Soto on a sacrifice fly on the third, and Trea Turner on a double in the fifth). 

The Orioles briefly tied the game in the fourth, but it wasn't until the seventh when Baltimore broke down Washington's bullpen and put up two consecutive multi-run innings. 

Though Washington starter Erick Fedde, who was recalled from Double-A Harrisburg earlier Wednesday, put in six solid innings on the mound and only allowed on run on five hits in his 66 pitches, the Nationals' bullpen struggled to thwart the Orioles' comeback seventh and eighth innings.   

Since the outing was Fedde's first since he was recalled, Washington manager Davey Martinez didn't want to stretch him since he'd had two weeks off. 

"He got us through the sixth inning," Martinez said. "We had [Wander Suero] ready to go, but [Fedde] did well."

Suero, Tony Sipp and Javy Guerra combined for the seventh inning, contributing an out apiece. Suero got off to a rough start, however, and the first two batters he faced reached base. In his outing he gave up three earned runs on three hits and one walk.

After the game Suero explained that he received some bad personal news prior to the game, so he wasn't necessarily in the right mindset.

Sipp faced only two batters before he was done on the mound (he walked one and gave up a sacrifice fly to Rio Ruiz). So, when Guerra entered with two outs and two runners on, the Nationals were in desperate need of that elusive third out. 

Guerra induced a groundout to end the seventh, but couldn't carry that momentum into the eighth. To start the penultimate inning, Guerra gave up that two-run shot to left field that left Soto with his head hanging between his knees. 

Washington stuck with Guerra after those two runs crossed the plate, but as the right-hander struggled to record even one out, Martinez made the call and brought in Matt Grace to complete the inning. Three more runs crossed in the half, putting Baltimore ahead 9-2.

Now, the Nationals head to Atlanta to face the NL East-leading Braves for a four-game set. Washington is 6 1/2 games back of Atlanta, though the Nationals are the top wild-card standings in the National League.

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