Nationals

Texans stay unbeaten, hold on to beat Jets 23-17

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Texans stay unbeaten, hold on to beat Jets 23-17

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) After Arian Foster ran over the New York Jets all night, it was time for the defense to seal things for the Houston Texans.

A six-point lead. Three minutes left. Mark Sanchez and the Jets 84 yards away from sending the Texans to their first loss with a crowd-pleasing comeback.

Not on this night.

Kareem Jackson intercepted Sanchez with 1:51 remaining as the Texans held on for a 23-17 victory Monday night and a 5-0 start.

``That's what you dream about,'' defensive end J.J. Watt said. ``It's Monday Night Football. You're on the field. You have a chance to end the game. That's what you want. For us to go out there and do that, it's huge.''

Foster ran for 152 yards and a touchdown, and the Texans overcame some big throws by Sanchez, a few exciting moments by Tim Tebow and a 100-yard kickoff return by Joe McKnight to beat the Jets for the first time in team history. The Texans (5-0) joined the Atlanta Falcons as the NFL's only teams without a loss.

``Arian stepped up and played huge,'' quarterback Matt Schaub said. ``We're very excited to be 5-0 and get a win on the road.''

It was a close one, though. Much closer than most expected. After all, the Jets (2-3) were heavy underdogs after coming off a 34-0 loss to San Francisco last week, but made a game of it.

``You got to give yourself a chance to win and we did that tonight,'' said Sanchez, whose throw was intercepted by Jackson after tipping off the hands of Jeff Cumberland.

Schaub was 14 of 28 for 209 yards and a touchdown to Owen Daniels, winning his ninth straight game - the longest active streak in the NFL - dating to last season. Daniels finished with four catches for 79 yards for the Texans, who have just their second five-game winning streak in team history.

``A big part of that is it doesn't matter on this team about stats or individually what is going on,'' Daniels said. ``It's great to be a part of something like that.''

The enthusiasm was tempered, though, by a left knee injury to star linebacker Brian Cushing that coach Gary Kubiak said he was ``very concerned'' about.

``I don't know what happened,'' Kubiak said. ``They tell me he cut on a play and his foot might have got stuck in the turf.''

Tebow got the MetLife Stadium crowd fired up at times during the game, including running for a first down on a fake punt. He also threw a pinpoint deep pass that newly signed Jason Hill should have caught, and later took a direct snap and ran for 13 yards to get the ball near the goal line in the fourth quarter. But other than that, Tebow spent most of his time on the sideline - again.

``You know, going in, I had no idea when I would go in,'' Tebow said. ``I just try to be ready at all times.''

After Shayne Graham's 42-yard field goal made it 20-7 late in the third quarter, McKnight got the Jets right back into it with his 100-yard kickoff return - his second of his career - to cut the Texans' lead to 20-14 with 4:38 left in the third quarter.

New York then attempted an onside kick, but the ball went through Chaz Schilens' hands and Shiloh Keo recovered, giving the Texans the ball with good field position.

``If I caught it, we probably would've won the game,'' Schilens said. ``Huge letdown.''

Schaub hit fullback James Casey for 30 yards to quiet the crowd, but the Jets' defense held the Texans to a 22-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the quarter.

Nick Folk's 21-yard field goal with 11:55 left made it 23-17, but it appeared the Jets would get more.

Sanchez hit Cumberland for 24 yards on first down, and then Jeremy Kerley for 36 yards two plays later. Then, Tebow came in - with Sanchez lined up as a wide receiver - and rumbled up the middle for 13 yards to make it first-and-goal from the 3. The crowd at MetLife Stadium went wild, sensing a chance at Tebow's first touchdown since being acquired by New York in March.

Tebow stayed in but was stopped for no gain. Then, Sanchez - who has been under fire with many calling for Tebow to take his starting job - had a pass tipped by Watt and then threw incomplete to Schilens in the end zone on third down.

``We could've won, we should've won,'' Schilens said. ``We got in the way of ourselves again. Sooner or later, we'll fix it.''

Foster walked untouched into the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Texans a 14-7 lead with 11:11 left in the first half. He gained 42 yards on three straight carries on the 67-yard drive.

The Jets threatened late in the half, but Sanchez's pass was tipped by Watt and went off Kerley to Brice McCain, who ran back the interception 86 yards before Kerley caught him at the New York 9. Graham made a 27-yard field goal as the half ended to make it 17-7.

The Texans opened the game by scoring on an efficient 8-play, 85-yard drive capped by a 34-yard touchdown catch by a wide-open Daniels less than 4 minutes in. Daniels, who earlier gained 14 yards on a screen pass, got wide open behind the secondary as New York's safeties both bit on Schaub's play-action fake.

``It was huge to start fast,'' Schaub said. ``We knew they were going to come out ready to play, fired up, with a lot of energy. We were just trying to take that wind out of their sails.''

The Jets tied it late in the opening quarter, taking advantage of an interception by Antonio Cromartie. Four plays later, the Jets tied it for their first points in two weeks - a 27-yard TD catch by Cumberland.

``It was a lot of courage, a lot of effort that we showed,'' Tebow said. ``It wasn't always perfect and we always didn't execute the way we want to, but you can never question our toughness or our effort or our character.''

NOTES: Cromartie held Andre Johnson to one catch for 15 yards. Johnson also had a drop. ... Jets C Nick Mangold left early in the third quarter with an injured ankle, but returned later in the period. Jets backup receiver Clyde Gates injured his left shoulder and his arm was in a sling after the game. Linebacker Josh Mauga had his right arm in a sling afterward. Jets defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis injured in a knee in the fourth quarter.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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USA TODAY Sports

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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