Redskins

Red Sox-Orioles: The wildest game of the season?

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Red Sox-Orioles: The wildest game of the season?

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Chris Davis had a much better day as a designated pitcher than as a designated hitter. In the first major league game since 1925 in which both teams put a position player on the mound, Davis overcame an awful day at the plate by pitching two scoreless innings and getting the win as the Baltimore Orioles outlasted Boston 9-6 Sunday in 17 innings. Davis went 0 for 8 as the DH, striking out five times and grounding into a double play. Yet in a season full of surprises for the Orioles, the first baseman by trade delivered the biggest one yet in his pro pitching debut. "I was like Sweet! I get to try something different today -- because hitting ain't working," Davis said. "Basically, that was my first thought." Adam Jones hit a three-run homer in the top of the 17th off Darnell McDonald, an outfielder the Red Sox turned to once their bullpen was empty. Boston then got two runners on to start the 17th against Davis (1-0). With a fastball in the mid-80s mph, he struck out All-Star slugger Adrian Gonzalez and got McDonald to ground into a double play to end a game that took 6 hours, 7 minutes. The last time two teams brought in position players to pitch in the same game was Oct. 4, 1925, when Hall of Famers Ty Cobb of Detroit and George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns closed out the second game of a doubleheader on the last day of the season, STATS LLC said. The last time any position player wound up as the winning pitcher was May 25, 2011, when Philadelphia infielder Wilson Valdez threw one scoreless inning in a 19-inning victory over Cincinnati. "I was just out there trying to throw strikes and not blow the game," Davis said. "In a game like that when everybody's battling, trying to get a win, both teams are throwing everything they got at each other. You don't want to blow it." Baltimore and Boston each used eight pitchers before going to Davis and McDonald. "Just when you think you've seen it all, some days you come out here and just assume the position. That was fun," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "It was a long day, but you like to get something good out of it." J.J. Hardy had a career-high five hits, including two homers, as Baltimore completed its first sweep at Fenway Park since 1994 and won its fifth in a row. The shortstop also made a relay to the plate that cut down the potential winning run to end the 16th. Robert Andino hit a three-run shot for the Orioles, who improved to a major league-best 19-9. Boston has lost five straight. McDonald had scored the tying run as a pinch runner in the eighth, and took the final swing against Davis. "He had pretty good stuff. He had a lot of life on his balls -- more than I expected," McDonald said. "I don't know what was worse -- giving up the three-run home run or grounding into a double play to end the game." Said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine: "He tried to throw it over and got hit out of the park." "I wish there was another option," he said. Boston rookie Will Middlebrooks hit his first major league homer, a grand slam that tied it at 5 in the fifth inning. Gonzalez finished 0 for 8. Davis was having a tough day when Showalter told him to go to the bullpen and begin warming up. "I waited as long as I could to even break it to Chris," he said. "You don't put somebody in that position. It's like asking somebody if they want to walk somebody or not. It's not their decision, it's yours." The first batter Davis faced was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who struck out. After Middlebrooks flied out, Marlon Byrd reached on an error by third baseman Wilson Betemit. Mike Aviles followed with a double, but Byrd was thrown out at the plate. Jones ran down the ball in left-center field and threw a strike to Hardy, and his relay was in time as Byrd barreled into catcher Matt Wieters. McDonald, who pitched one inning last year in his pro mound debut and gave up two runs, took over in the 17th and walked Betemit, who was thrown out trying to steal. Hardy doubled, Nick Markakis walked and Jones hit a drive over the left-field wall. Boston made it 6-all in the eighth when McDonald, pinch running for David Ortiz, scored on a sacrifice fly by Saltalamacchia. NOTES: The game was Boston's longest at home since an 18-inning win over the Tigers on June 5, 2001. ... The Red Sox placed RHP Aaron Cook on the 15-day disabled list with a left knee laceration and activated LHP Andrew Miller from the DL. ... Middlebrooks is the first Red Sox player whose first major league homer was a grand slam since Daniel Nava against Philadelphia on June 12, 2010. ... The Red Sox are last in the AL East, with the New York Yankees in fourth. This is the first time since the current division format began in 1994 that the Red Sox and Yankees were in the bottom two spots past May 1, STATS LLC said.

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—The best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins

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Various sources

Need to Know: Tandler's Take—The best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 20, two days before the Washington Redskins start OTAs.  

Best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins

Last week I took a stab at figuring out what the best-case and worst-case scenarios were for the key players on offense and defense. While individual stats are fun to track, it’s what the team does that really matters. What range of outcomes is realistic for the 2018 Redskins? While anything is possible, here are my thoughts on the best they are likely to be able to do and the worst. 

In both cases, I am assuming that the Redskins have reasonably good fortune when it comes to injuries and that the good and bad bounces of the ball equal out over the course of the season. 

Worst case: 6-10, last in NFC East

This is based mostly on Alex Smith having a tough time adjusting to Jay Gruden’s offense, his new teammates, and the NFC. Thinking he could struggle is not just negative thinking, there is history to back it up. 

Smith was traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs in 2013. In his first nine games, he completed just 59.7 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and four interceptions He had an adjusted net yards per attempt of 5.23. Had he finished the season there he would have ranked 28th in the NFL. His passer rating was 81.4, which would have ranked 25th. It’s safe to say he was off to a very slow start. 

But the Chiefs went 8-1 in those nine games. It is doubtful that the Redskins could survive such a slow start. In the past three seasons, with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, they were 4-17 in games where Cousins’ passer rating was under 90. If you drop the ceiling to 81, the record drops to 0-14. 

Kansas City managed to start 9-0 in 2013 because of a running game that produced at least 100 yards rushing every game and a defense that got at least one takeaway every game and got three or more turnovers in a game five times. 

Could the Redskins duplicate that and survive a slow start by Smith? It’s possible, but this is the worst-case scenario. And there is no guarantee that the Redskins will significantly improve a running attack that was 27thin the league last year or a rushing defense that was dead last. 

Offensively, the hope is that Derrius Guice will improve the running game. But rookies are, well rookies. And being a high draft pick is no guarantee of success. In the past three drafts, 20 running backers were drafted in the first three rounds. Of those players, four rushed for 750 yards or more as rookies. Maybe Guice will be one of the productive players but the odds are not in his favor. This isn’t saying he will be a bust; however, he may not have instant impact. 

One other note about the rushing game. It’s important to remember that both tackles are coming off of surgery, the right guard was injured last year, the center has all of six starts under his belt, and left guard remains up in the air. Maybe everything will hum when the season starts but that seems like a tall order. 

Improvement in the stopping the run also relies at least in part on rookies. Daron Payne will have an adjustment period as will Tim Settle. The inside linebacker spot should be stronger but it’s hard to say that it will be a strength. The rushing defense probably won’t be last again, but it may not climb out of the twenties in the rankings. 

The Redskins haven’t been awful at getting takeaways, but they have not done it at a consistently game-changing level. They have three or more takeaways in a game five times in their last 30 games. I don’t see any reason to think that this will change dramatically. 

To put the 6-10 worst-case scenario onto the schedule, the Redskins could go 2-4 in the division with splits against the Cowboys and Giants and getting swept by the Eagles. Against the NFC South, which had three teams with 10 wins or more last year, they might be 1-3. That leaves a split with the AFC South (two of the final eight teams in the playoffs last year) and of their two other NFC games for a 6-10 record. 

Best-case scenario: 10-6, Wild card, win a playoff game

This scenario doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation beyond flipping the elements of the worst case into more positive outcomes. 

Smith could pick up where he left off last year when he completed 67.5 percent of his passes and was third in the league with 7.2 adjusted net yards per attempt. Maybe the yards per attempt will drop some as he tries to find a consistent deep target.

A healthy Jordan Reed would help Smith out tremendously. If Reed can participate in most of training camp, the two could hit the ground running. Smith’s ability to connect with Josh Doctson on some 50-50 balls also will be important. 

As for the running game, Guice could break out early behind a line that gels quickly. It’s not out of the question for him to gain 1,000 yards (that’s just about 65 yards per game), maybe a little more. A healthy Chris Thompson could kick in over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. 

Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis could pick up right where they left off last year before Allen was lost for the season with a foot injury and Ioannidis missed two games with a broken hand and was hampered by the injury for a few weeks after that. That would let Payne and Settle, well, settle into the pro game. 

The Redskins also would need at least to maintain the solid pass defense they had last year. And they would benefit from fewer turnovers on offense (27 last year, 26thin the NFL) and by adding a few takeaways to the 23 they got in 2017.

So how could they pull this off? The would need to go 4-2 in the division, with a sweep of the Giants and splits against Philly and Dallas. They then would need 2-2 records against the NFC South and AFC South. That part of it is probably the toughest task. To get to 10 they would need to beat the Cardinals on the road in the season opener and then have a good day against Aaron Rodgers and get a win over the Packers. It’s not an easy road but if enough pieces fall into place it’s not out of the question. 

A 10-6 record should be good enough for a wild-card spot. If they get through their fairly tough schedule with double-digit wins, they should be good enough to go on the road and take out the three or four seed. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 23
—Training camp starts (7/26) 68
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 82

The Redskins last played a game 139 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 113 days. 

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Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

There was no tougher critic on Matt Niskanen’s Game 5 performance on Saturday than Niskanen himself.

Niskanen and his defensive partner, Dmitry Orlov, were on the ice for all three of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s three goals in the Capitals’ 3-2 loss. That was striking given the Orlov-Niskanen duo is typically Washington’s best defensive pair.

That was not the case on Saturday and Niskanen took full responsibility afterward.

“First three goals are all my fault,” Niskanen said. “I had a tough first 20:30 so I've got to be better next game.”

Pretty much no one played the first goal right.

The goal came just 19 seconds into the game. Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov looked like he could have gotten the puck, but instead played the body of Cedric Paquette. Niskanen stepped up at the blue line, but the Lightning got the puck past him creating a short rush that beat Braden Holtby who was way too far back in the crease.

Yes, Niskanen got caught a bit high, but he was just as at fault as Orlov, Kuznetsov and Holtby.

The second goal happened because Steven Stamkos tripped Orlov to create a turnover and it wasn’t called.

Niskanen got in between Ondrej Palat and the puck, but Palat beat both him and Holtby on the shot. Not sure I would put this one on Niskanen.

The third goal…well, that one was a bad play by Niskanen.

When you go one-on-one with a player, a defenseman cannot allow that player to turn the corner. That’s especially true when that player is defenseman Anton Stralman who is not exactly gifted with blazing speed. This was just a complete misplay.

Regardless of how many goals were strictly on Niskanen, that’s not the point. This was a message not so much to the media but to the team. That message was this: This one’s on me, I will be better next game.

Leaders always take responsibility. Niskanen is taking the blame here and saying he will be better in the hopes the team around him will be better as well.

They will need to be to win Game 6.

“A lot of people counted us out when we were down 0-2 in the first round,” Niskanen said. “Things got hard in the last series where we could have melted and we just kept playing. So that's what we've got to do again, bring our best effort for Game 6 at home, win a game and then we'll go from there.

“But we're focused on bringing our best game of the season for Game 6 and we'll be ready to go.”

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