Nationals

Seattle finally solves playoff futility on road

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Seattle finally solves playoff futility on road

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Instead of reveling in shaking 29 years of postseason road futility and completely looking ahead to another cross-country trip, Pete Carroll was left waiting Monday for the results of an MRI that only confirmed what the Seattle Seahawks originally feared.

Seattle will go forward in the postseason without pass-rushing defensive end Chris Clemons, who suffered a torn ACL and torn meniscus in his left knee in Sunday's 24-14 win at Washington.

Clemons was hurt when it appeared his cleat got stuck in the messy, dirty turf at FedEx Field early in the third quarter. Seattle was immediately concerned the injury could be serious and Monday's scan confirmed it.

``It's a big loss for us in a lot of ways,'' Carroll said. ``Chris has been a great football player and just a symbol of consistency in the years that we've had him, but he's been a great leader for us too and a tough dude and a guy we've become very comfortable playing with and we'll miss the heck out of him.''

The loss of Clemons and uncertainty about the availability of kicker Steven Hauschka, who suffered a calf strain, overshadowed what should have been a day of celebration after Seattle won its first road playoff game since beating Miami on Dec. 31, 1983.

Clemons was the most consistent pass rusher for the Seahawks since arriving in a trade from Philadelphia before the 2010 season. Clemons had 11 sacks in both 2010 and `11 and followed up a new contract over the summer with 11 1/2 sacks this season.

Rookie first-round pick Bruce Irvin, drafted to be a pass-rushing complement to Clemons, will get the first shot to start. Irvin set a franchise rookie record with eight sacks, but the real challenge will be whether he can hold up in the run game, an area where Clemons did well.

``This is Bruce's opportunity. This is what we drafted him to play and we'll see how he does,'' Carroll said. ``We expect him to do really well as he steps up.''

Players were not available at the Seahawks facility after arriving back in Seattle in the early hours of Monday morning. Clemons tweeted, ``I want to thank everyone for ... prayers. I will be ready for next season. We still got a Super Bowl to win!''

Even with Clemons going down, the Seahawks continued to display a level of resolve that has now carried them to six straight wins and eight of their last nine. Despite falling behind 14-0, Seattle solved the defensive problems that allowed Washington to roll down the field on its first two possessions. In turn, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks offense was given time to chip away at the two-touchdown deficit.

The 14-point hole was the largest deficit overcome in Seahawks playoff history and the largest of any game this season. Wilson directed Seattle back from a 23-10 fourth-quarter deficit to beat New England 24-23 in Week 6. Being down 14 in the first quarter seemed easy compared to that.

``I think people take notice we've put together a lot of games together,'' Carroll said. ``When you look at our schedule you can misread the schedule a little bit if you just look at the W's and the L's. We've played really good solid football for a long time. It hasn't just sprung up at the end of the season.''

Seattle's sudden defensive change was helped by hobbling Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, but also by the Seahawks not overthinking. Carroll said he was concerned that with all the intricate details of learning how Washington runs its unique offense that his defenders could be thinking too much early in the game.

But instead of sticking with the zone-read plays Seattle was ready for, the Redskins simply used Alfred Morris to run right at the Seahawks. Washington had 129 total yards in the first quarter and just 74 the rest of the way.

The sticky defense allowed Wilson and Lynch time to get Seattle's offense clicking. After falling behind 14-0, the Seahawks had five drives of 60 or more yards, including a 68-yard drive to start the second half that ended without points after Lynch fumbled at the Washington 1. Lynch atoned for the mistake with his go-ahead 27-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

Lynch carried 12 times for 99 yards after halftime. Seattle rushed for 224 yards as a team, the highest-total in franchise history for a playoff game, and third time during its six-game win streak they have topped 200 yards on the ground.

``We haven't been as solid as we are now,'' Carroll said. ``We're much more solid in our thinking and mentality and just the resolve about everything we're doing.''

Notes: Carroll said both offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley are focused on the game at Atlanta even as both are courted by other teams for possible head coaching jobs. Seattle has granted permission for Bradley to speak with Philadelphia and Bevell with Chicago. ... Carroll said the team would have kickers in on Tuesday to try out because of the uncertainty about Hauschka's calf. ... The Seahawks may also look at linebackers Mike Morgan and K.J. Wright as pass-rush options with Clemons out and Irvin filling his role.

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What to watch as Nats continue three-game series against Marlins

What to watch as Nats continue three-game series against Marlins

This is the Nationals’ first time in Miami this season, and the team finished with a 3-2 loss against the Marlins on Friday night. Here are a few things to look for as they enter the second game of the three-game series against the Floridians: 

  1. Friday night’s situational hitting was poor, NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas reported. The Nats left 10 runners on base in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins.However, the Nationals’ offense has changed this season. This was exemplified in Friday’s series opener against the Marlins, in which both Adam Eaton and Victor Robles bunted to get hits.
  2. Eaton singled on a bunt in the first inning, eventually scoring on a Juan Soto RBI single, while Robles also reached base safely in the third following Eaton’s strategy and then stole a base. These creative plays helped get men on base, but again, more often than not they stayed there. Brian Dozier hit his second home run of the season in the seventh inning, a solo shot which gave the Nats their second and final run of the night. Dozier had a rough start to the season, and after Friday’s game, he has just two RBIs – both via solo homers. He has a batting average of .182, and he’s lost playing time to Howie Kendrick as the season has moved forward. Kendrick has a batting average of .477, the highest on the roster.
  3. Anthony Rendon continued his hit streak, extending it to 17 games with a double Friday. This is the longest hitting streak in the MLB this season, as well as the third baseman’s personal record. Within the organization, Rendon is chasing Hall-of-Famer Heinie Manush’s record, which stretched to 33 consecutive hits in 1933. Can he get another on Saturday?

 

Download the MyTeams app for coverage from NBC Sports Washington of the Nationals/Marlins game on Saturday. The game broadcast will be at 6:10 PM ET on 106.7 the Fan and MASN2. 

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Middling Anibal Sanchez and quiet bats do Nationals in against Marlins

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Middling Anibal Sanchez and quiet bats do Nationals in against Marlins

The Washington Nationals lost to the Miami Marlins, 3-2, Friday night to drop back to 9-9. Here are five observations from the game...

1. For all the offseason efforts at improvement, winning the National League East could come down to its one member which is trying to lose.

The four spenders each play Miami 19 times. By the end, going 11-8 against the in-the-tank Marlins may become a lamentable part of some team’s 2019 legacy. They either brought in a marquee pitcher, a generational outfielder or a former MVP third baseman. But they didn’t do enough against the Marlins, costing themselves the single, taut playoff spot that emerges from the division. It’s a viable storyline to project.

The Nationals took their first negative step toward that fate Friday in a 3-2 loss to the Marlins.

The situational hitting was poor -- Washington left 10 runners on base. The starting pitching was so-so -- Anibal Sanchez took the loss. The bullpen made one dire mistake -- Matt Grace’s first pitch hit left-hander Curtis Granderson with the bases loaded, forcing in the decisive run. The luck wasn’t great -- Caleb Smith, a quality left-hander marooned in Miami as the staff’s best pitcher, was on turn. Anticipate him representing Miami at the All-Star Game this season.

Brian Dozier homered. Mark that in the positive column. Joe Ross pitched two innings of quality relief. Put him next to Dozier.

Otherwise, the loss was sigh-worthy for a team trying to lurch forward, ending its up-and-down run of the first three weeks.

2. Another day, another hit for Anthony Rendon.

His sixth-inning double extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest in Major League Baseball this season. It’s also an extension of a personal best for Rendon.

Rendon’s 15 extra-base hits in 17 games is a Nationals/Expos record.

Who is he chasing for the organization’s hit streak record? Hall-of-Famer Heinie Manush, who hit safely in 33 consecutive games back in 1933.

Manush played for the Senators from 1930-1935. He hit .336 when he set the Washington record for consecutive game with a hit. He led the league in triples (17) and hits (221) that season.

Manush won a batting title in 1925 when he hit .378 for Detroit. Rendon is currently hitting .377 in the opening weeks of the season.

3. Sanchez was ok. Not great, not terrible. Just ok.

He lasted 5 ⅓ innings, allowed five hits, three earned runs, walked four and struck out six. His ERA is 4.91.

Regression for Sanchez this season was expected. His 2.83 ERA in Atlanta last season came strongly against the current of his previous pitching. Sanchez had a 5.67 ERA over the three prior seasons.

However, this has been a leap back, a full two runs in arrears of last season’s ERA. More troubling than the ERA is Sanchez’s path through lineups. His walk rate is up, his strikeout rate down.

As the season moves along, a comparison point for Sanchez will be the results of left-hander Wade Miley in Houston. The Nationals made a multi-year offer to Miley which was better than the offer he eventually settled on with the Astros, according to a source. Miley ended up signing for just one year in Houston because the free agent market went south, and Washington quickly pivoted to Sanchez. Keeping track of the two via ERA-plus (which accounts for park factors) during the season will be a fun exercise. Coming into Friday, Miley was by far the better pitcher in that department, 129 to 95. Another bloated outing from Sanchez only increased that gap.

4. The Nationals hoped to play a different brand of offense this season. They wanted to deploy more athleticism, using speed and contact to produce runs.

They took the idea to the extreme Friday. Adam Eaton and Victor Robles both bunted for hits. Eaton scored Washington’s first run after reaching base via his drag bunt up the first base line.

Robles stole second and ended up on third following his bunt in the same direction in the third inning.

Creative work at the plate for both.

5. Another bullpen twist hit Friday. Austen Williams was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a sprained right AC joint. Austin Adams was called up to replace him.

Williams had a disastrous outing Wednesday in the Nationals’ 9-6 win over the Giants. He allowed four earned runs -- on two home runs -- after the Nationals entered the ninth inning with a 9-2 lead. Williams’ inability to get an out in the ninth eventually forced closer Sean Doolittle into a game he never should have entered.

Doolittle’s entrance also complicated the current series in Miami. He pitched back-to-back games to close the series against San Francisco. His Friday availability was in question because of that, though the Nationals didn’t end up needing him.

The right-handed Adams, 27, joins the team from Triple-A Fresno. He struck out 12, allowed a hit and didn’t give up an earned run in his six innings with the Grizzlies.

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