Nationals

Syracuse holds off Pitt 14-13

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Syracuse holds off Pitt 14-13

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Nose tackle Jay Bromley and the Syracuse defense needed a blow with the Orange protecting a one-point lead against Pittsburgh late in the game and Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri itching for one more chance.

That chance never came as Syracuse tailbacks Adonis Ameen-Moore, Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley and quarterback Ryan Nassib ran the ball 10 times over the final 4:52 and Syracuse held on for a stirring 14-13 victory Friday night.

The Syracuse defense, on the field for more than 34 minutes, sacked Sunseri five times for 51 yards in losses, harassed him when he did throw, and shut down the Pittsburgh running game and star Ray Graham, who had 24 carries for 57 yards.

``We just don't play defense and call it a day,'' Bromley said. ``We did our job and the offense did theirs.''

Linebacker Dyshawn Davis returned a fumble 52 yards for the Orange's other score as Syracuse broke out of a yearlong funk. Syracuse (2-3, 1-0 Big East) hadn't beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team since last October, losing eight straight since a stunning win over a ranked West Virginia team.

Syracuse also snapped a seven-game losing streak against Pittsburgh (2-3, 0-2), which had won two straight.

Both teams were coming off bye weeks, and this was their last meeting as members of the Big East. Both will join the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, and they will continue to play one another each year.

Ameen-Moore, a sophomore with only 12 career carries entering the game, scored on a 1-yard run to cap Syracuse's first possession and had 13 yards on four consecutive carries to end it.

``We had to be ready, tuned in to everything,'' Ameen-Moore said. ``I haven't scored a touchdown since I was in 12th grade. They trusted me to get the job done. It felt wonderful.''

Syracuse finally put together a solid game after four erratic efforts.

``The first half, the fumble returned for a touchdown, we did enough stuff to beat ourselves in many ways,'' first-year Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. ``I thought going in Syracuse was a good team and I come away believing the same thing.''

The Orange scored first and never trailed, played well on special teams, converted that turnover into a touchdown, and pressured Sunseri when the game was on the line. Defensive end Brandon Sharpe broke through for three sacks, and when Sunseri seemed poised to give Pitt the lead late in the fourth quarter, the defense rose again against Pitt's imposing offensive line, which averages 317 pounds.

Sunseri was called for intentional grounding and on the next play cornerback Brandon Reddish stormed in from the left side on a blitz and sacked Sunseri for a 9-yard loss and to force a punt. That all came after Sunseri had hit Devin Street for 15 yards, J.P. Holtz for another 15, and Mike Shanahan for 24 on consecutive plays to put the ball at the Syracuse 17.

``It felt great,'' Orange defensive tackle Deon Goggins said. ``It finally felt like we was clicking. During the bye week we were working on little things and it came together.''

Sunseri finished 25 of 33 for 319 yards to move past John Congemi and Rod Rutherford to fourth-all time at Pitt with 6,765 yards. Street had a career-high 10 catches for 130 yards.

After starting the season in dismal fashion, losing by two touchdowns to Youngstown State, an FCS team, and Big East foe Cincinnati, Pitt had rallied nicely behind Chryst. The Panthers stunned then-No. 13 Virginia Tech 35-17, forcing the Hokies into four first-half turnovers, and two weeks ago evened the score against FCS teams with a 55-10 victory over Gardner-Webb.

The Panthers fell behind Syracuse by two touchdowns in the first quarter, managed to force only one turnover after getting seven the previous two games, and Sunseri couldn't rally them again.

``We've got to be able to figure out the protection,'' Sunseri said. ``We have to know that. It's something you have to be able to recognize. Ultimately, it's my job to right the ship on that and I'll be able to next time.''

Syracuse's ho-huddle offense had produced lots of yardage in the first four games, but much of it had come in spurts after the Orange had fallen behind. Nassib was flawless the first time Syracuse had the ball against Pitt.

After forcing the Panthers into a three-and-out on the game's first possession, Syracuse marched quickly for the first touchdown of the game, mixing the run with the pass as the Pitt defenders seemed to struggle to get a handle on the pace of play.

Nassib had four completions for 51 yards, while Smith and Gulley combined to rush for 18 yards to set up Moore's touchdown at 9:54. Moore's first career TD came on his first carry of the season.

Through four games, the Syracuse defense had produced only four turnovers (three interceptions and one fumble recovery) as the Orange struggled with one of the worst turnover margins in the country (minus-1.5).

Syracuse made it 14-0 late in the first on Davis' fumble return. Sunseri hit Drew Carswell for a short gain near midfield. Carswell lost the ball after a hit by Jeremi Wilkes, and Davis scooped it up and scored untouched down the right side.

Coming into the Syracuse game, Sunseri ranked as the Big East's most efficient passer (15th nationally) with a 166.80 rating, and he combined with Street to rally the Panthers.

Sunseri was 16 of 21 for 187 yards in the first half, and eight of those passes went to Street for 107 yards. Street's 14-yard catch over the middle on a third-and-7 from the Syracuse 20 set up Graham's 1-yard scoring run, which came on third down after some spirited play by the Orange front.

Kevin Harper's 40-yard field goal pulled Pitt within 14-10 at halftime and he hit a 27-yarder late in the third to make it 14-13. Sunseri set up the second with a gutsy throw as he was being hit, somehow finding Shanahan for a 46-yard gain down the left side.

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Follow John Kekis on Twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/Greek1947

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 8

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 8

 

It's a fun time of the year in fantasy baseball. Now that we're seven-to-eight weeks into the season, teams are starting to realize they may need the help of their top prospects in order to compete this year, which means lots of young talent getting the call. Plus, many players who began the season injured are getting healthy. Between the prospects and players returning from the Disabled List, fantasy owners should have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to setting their lineups this week.

As always, we're here to help you sort through those painful roster decisions, and we're going to keep it simple to avoid paralysis by analysis. As a reminder, It's your team, and your decisions you ultimately have to deal with, so don't treat this advice as the gospel. That said, it doesn't hurt to gain as much information as you can when making your decisions. Good luck!

NOTE: Don’t expect to see guys like Bryce Harper or Trea Turner mentioned too often. They are clear must-starts every week. Don’t overthink it.

Week 8 (5/21-5/27)

One Nationals pitcher to start: Gio Gonzalez

This is the second week in a row where every Nationals pitcher is only scheduled to pitch once. Last week, we recommended Max Scherzer because duh, and while we still think you should start him, it's also worth using Gonzalez. Gio has had a lot of success this season, sporting a 2.36 ERA in the middle of May, plus the Padres are notoriously poor against lefties (8th-worst batting average and OPS vs LHP in the majors).

Gonzalez isn't a must-start stud, mostly due to his high walk rate and resulting WHIP, but he's good enough to take advantage of the right matchups, and this qualifies.

One Nationals position player to start: Anthony Rendon, 3B

Just in case you're thinking about getting cute and sitting one of your studs, let this be a reminder that Rendon is great at what he does. In the past, we've recommended sitting him when working his way back from injury, but he's gotten enough reps at this point to get back into the swing of things.

It looks like he's struggled recently (one hit in the last seven days), but don't forget the Nats missed five straight days thanks to weather/planned off days. Plus, the Nats are set up to faces lefties in half their games this week, and Rendon has hit better against southpaws all season long.

One Nationals pitcher to sit: Tanner Roark

The Marlins have scored literally the fewest runs in baseball against right-handed pitching this season, and Roark hasn't been bad in 2018, despite the poor W-L record. Still, you're not sitting Scherzer or Strasburg, and we already recommended Gonzalez.

Roark has struggled against the Marlins in past years, as his 5.14 ERA vs the Marlins since 2015 is his 5th-worst number against any opponent, and while this year's Miami lineup looks far worse than in past seasons, and since Roark isn't the type of pitcher who gets enough strikeouts to raise his on a start-by-start basis, it's good enough of a reason for us to sit him this week. 

One Nationals player to sit: Juan Soto, OF

It's always fun when one of a team's top prospects gets called up, and that excitement doubles when the player is a teenager. It's always easy to see the high upside and imagine him taking the league by storm right from the get-go. That said, while it's worth a speculative pickup, we'd strongly recommend leaving Soto on the bench until we see A) how he hits against Major League pitching and B) what sort of playing time he'll get.


That's especially true this week, as his new manager Dave Martinez is already talking about sitting Soto against lefties, and wouldn't you know it, the Nats are scheduled to face southpaws in at least three games this week. It's possible Soto will be worth starting in the near-future, but for now, just be happy to add him to your rosters, not your starting lineups.

Any 2-start pitchers for the Nationals this week?

No. Not all starters have been scheduled yet, but the five-straight days off the Nats had last week threw a wrench into the works for their rotation, and as of now, no one is projected to make two starts.

Any 2-start pitchers worth streaming around MLB this week?

It's a really weak week for two-start streaming options. Beyond the seven or so obvious starts, who are almost certainly owned in your leagues already, there's not a lot to choose from. We'll go with the calculated risk Jake Faria of the Rays. Faria gets two starts at Tropicana Field this week, and he's been much better pitching at home during the course of his career. He'll be facing two scary opponents on paper, but the Orioles have struggled at the plate all season long (with the exception of a recent hot streak, hence the risk), and Faria has already pitched well against the Red Sox this year, allowing just one run over the course of two starts.

This isn't our most confident recommendation, but there are far worse options you could turn to in a brutal week.

One player you might not realize you should pick up: Andrew Heaney, SP (Angels) 

Heaney continued his recent stretch of strong play, as while he allowed four runs and walked on Saturday, none of the runs were earned, and he struck out seven. Heaney is a former top prospect, having once been considered the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, and he has a superb 10.5 K/9 this season, to go along with a quality 57 percent groundball rate. That means he's not allowing a lot of contact, and the contact he is allowing isn't doing much damage.

Given his prospect pedigree and strong peripherals to start the year, Heaney is well worth an add if you find him available on the waiver wire. He's not just a speculative pickup, but somebody worth inserting into your starting lineup right away. Hopefully, because he plays on the west coast and isn't a household name, he's still available in some of your leagues.

One player you might not realize you should drop: Robinson Cano, 2B (Mariners) 

If somehow Cano is eligible in a DL spot in your league, and you don't have the spot filled with another star, then you can disregard this one. But, if he's listed in your league as suspended and not injured, then he likely won't be worth holding onto during his time away. 80 games is a lot, obviously, and a guy who's going to miss half the games in a season needs to be sensational in the other half to make up for it. Cano's past his prime, and while when healthy he's obviously still worth starting, he's not the type of guy you tie up a bench spot with, unless you're in the deepest of leagues.

Plus, if you're savvy, you can always remember to pick up Cano again a week or two before his suspension is up, since no one else in your league is likely to snag him in the meantime. For now, though, feel free to use the roster spot on somebody who will contribute over the next three months.

MORE NATS NEWS:

- Too Soon For Soto?: Nats make a bold call-up
- Rankings Update: Where did the Nats fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?

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The Lightning are matching their 4th line against Ovechkin...and it’s working

The Lightning are matching their 4th line against Ovechkin...and it’s working

When the starting lines were announced on Saturday, you may have been surprised to hear Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson were starting against Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan.

Because the game was in Tampa Bay, the Capitals had to give their starters first. That means Lightning coach Jon Cooper saw the Caps’ were starting their top line and decided to put out his fourth.

And it worked.

On Saturday, Paquette scored just 19 seconds into the game and Callahan scored 33 seconds into the second period. Ovechkin’s line did not manage a shot on goal for the first two periods of the game. Ovechkin did finally score, but it came late on a six-on-five with Braden Holtby pulled and it was not against the fourth line.

The fourth vs. Ovechkin matchup is something the Lightning began in Game 2. No three forwards have played more against Ovechkin at five on five in any game since Game 2 than Kunitz, Paquette and Callahan. Prior to Game 5, they matched up against Ovechkin around six to seven minutes per game. On Saturday, however, Cooper went all in.

At five on five play, Kunitz was on the ice against Ovechkin for 13:04, Paquette for 13:42 and Callahan for 13:46. The results speak for themselves as that line outscored Ovechkin's 2-0. In fact, for the series Ovechkin has produced six points and only two of them have come at five-on-five play.

A fourth line vs. a top line matchup is a risky move because it takes time away from your top offensive playmakers. You typically see top lines face each other or a first line against a second line because, when you line match you are letting the opposing coach dictate how much your own players play. With a fourth line matchup getting essentially top line minutes, that takes time away from players like Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

If you look at the five-on-five time on ice for Game 5, Kucherov skated 14:06 and Stamkos 13:37 while Kunitz was on for 14:00, Callahan for 14:45 and Paquette for 14:57.

It is a risky move, but it makes sense for the Lightning. Through four games, the Capitals were the better team five-on-five, but Tampa Bay’s power play was unstoppable. Using the fourth line is a good strategy for Cooper in situations like in Game 3 and Game 4. The Lightning slowed Washington’s five-on-five production and Stamkos and Kucherov still produced enough on the power play even with reduced minutes. It also works for games like the one we saw Saturday.

In a game like Game 5 when your team jumps out to a 3-0 lead, you can afford to roll your lines even if it means giving the fourth line more minutes than the first.

You would think a fourth vs. first matchup would give the Capitals a distinct advantage, but it has not worked out that way. The fourth line has been able to stifle Ovechkin and Co. enough and the Lightning's power play has made up the production lost by the first line's reduced minutes. When the fourth line can score two goals of its own, well, that's just an added bonus.

Ovechkin has to lead his line to a better performance in Game 6. If the Caps’ top line can’t get the better of the Lightning’s fourth, then this series will be over on Monday night.

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