Nationals

Toledo, Utah State poised for Potato Bowl matchup

Toledo, Utah State poised for Potato Bowl matchup

BOISE, Idaho (AP) In so many ways, 2012 has been a season of firsts for Utah State.

The No. 18 Aggies set new school marks with 10 wins and six home victories. They won their first outright conference title since 1936.

The Aggies (10-2) reached new heights behind one of the nation's stingiest defenses, an opportunistic offense and a senior class that has been one of the best ever recruited to campus.

Yet despite all the accolades and achievements, fourth-year coach Gary Andersen knows there is one more milestone yet to be crossed off this year's list.

``For me, this team will always go down as one of the special groups I've ever been around for what they've accomplished,'' Andersen said. ``What they've accomplished to this point, no one can ever take away from them.

``We've been able to get a couple of championships on our wall since we've been there. But we don't have a bowl game trophy up there yet, and we need to be able to get that done.''

The Aggies will get their shot when they square off with Toledo (9-3) in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium in Boise. The game is one of two marking the kickoff of college football's frenzied bowl season.

In their first-ever meeting, Utah State is favored by 10 1/2 points. But if the history of this bowl game is any guide, this matchup between teams from the WAC and MAC will be fun to watch, tight and likely decided in the final minutes. Last year, Ohio scored a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining to knock off the Aggies 24-23.

That loss left a bitter taste, but also laid the foundation for the team's goals and mindset heading into 2012, said senior cornerback Will Davis.

``Last year we didn't get it done ... now we're back in the same spot and it's like a second chance. You don't want to lose a second chance, a second opportunity,'' said Davis, who leads the Aggies with five interceptions.

For Toledo, it's a chance for coach Matt Campbell to put a stamp on his first full year at the helm.

Last season, Campbell, who at 33 is the youngest coach in FBS ranks, took over after Tim Beckman was lured away to Illinois and guided the Rockets to victory over Air Force in the Military Bowl. This year, Campbell has led a team that was supposed to be in rebuilding mode after losing a big batch of talented seniors. Campbell and his staff were also forced to deal with injuries to a handful of key players on both sides of the ball.

Yet the team found ways to win. During one stretch, Toledo won eight straight, including an upset of then-No. 18 Cincinnati, crept into national polls and for the first time in school history cracked the BCS standings.

``Last year we had a really talented football team,'' Campbell said. ``This year's senior class, there are a lot of guys that have played a lot of football. Maybe it's not the big-name guys, but their leadership ... has been outstanding. I really think it set the foundation for our football program for not only this year, but for years to come.''

Toledo's injury woes also occurred at quarterback. Junior Terrance Owens, the starter who threw for 2,677 yards and 14 touchdowns, missed the finale against Akron with an ankle sprain. Backup Austin Dantin ensured the offense didn't miss a beat, throwing for a career-best 327 yards and five touchdowns in a 35-23 win over the Zips.

Campbell said Thursday he wanted to see how Owens performed in practice before making a decision on his starting quarterback.

``I would expect to see both playing in the game,'' Campbell said.

Either way, the Toledo offense is likely facing its toughest challenge of the season against Utah State's defense.

The Aggie defense is ranked in the top 15 in points allowed (15.4), total yards allowed and rushing defense. The Aggies also average 3.2 sacks per game and have only allowed opponents 13 touchdowns in 39 trips inside the red zone.

``The most staggering statistic is the first quarter, and allowing only six points all season,'' Campbell said. ``They try to take away your best players and they do a good job of that.''

Toledo's offense is led by all-conference tailback David Fluellen. The junior has rushed for 1,460 yards, eighth among FBS running backs. He has 13 TDs and three games with more than 200 yards rushing. He's also a threat on passing plays, and his 32 catches are third best on the team.

``When you sit back and look at them and really break them down, you see they have a very powerful run game,'' Andersen said. ``They are able to run the ball consistently week in and week out, regardless of opponent. We'll have a good challenge for our defense.''

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Adam Eaton calls Todd Frazier ‘childish’ after the ex-teammates get into it again

Adam Eaton calls Todd Frazier ‘childish’ after the ex-teammates get into it again

NEW YORK -- Normal is not something the Nationals do this season.

Monday’s pivot from the mundane -- an otherwise run-of-the-mill 5-3 baseball game -- came when Adam Eaton was jogging toward the visitors dugout in the bottom of the third inning when he stopped to respond to New York third baseman Todd Frazier, whom Eaton said was chirping at him all night.

This is not new. The two were teammates on the Chicago White Sox in 2016 and did not get along. Last year, Frazier and Eaton also had an exchange. The one Monday night at Citi Field prompted several members of the Nationals to hop over the dugout railing while Frazier and Eaton were being restrained near the first base bag. First base umpire Mike Estabrook cutoff Eaton who was walking toward Frazier after initially heading to the dugout following a 4-6-3 double play which ended the inning for the Nationals. When Frazier came toward the Mets dugout from his position at third base, the two began their spat.

Afterward, Frazier declined to comment in the Mets’ clubhouse, saying only, “It was nothing.” Eaton took the opportunity to expound on his displeasure with the incident, its continuation and Frazier himself.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Eaton said. “Gosh, who knows what goes through that guy’s mind? He’s chirping all the way across the infield. He must really like me, [because] he wants to get my attention it seems like every time we come into town, he really cares what I think about him. I don’t know what his deal is, if he wants to talk to me in person or have a visit or what it is. But he’s always yelling across the infield at me, making a habit of it.

“He’s one of those guys who always says it loud enough that you hear it but can’t understand it. So, he’s making a habit of it. I ignored him a couple times chirping coming across, but I had it to the point where I’m not going to say the saying I want to say but you got to be a man at some point. So, I turned around, had a few choice words with him. It’s funny, I was walking towards him, he didn’t really want to walk towards me but as soon as someone held him back then he was all of a sudden he was really impatient, like trying to get towards me. Just being Todd Frazier. What’s new?”

Asked if he is surprised such exchanges are still happening three years after they played together, Eaton said he was.

“Yes, absolutely,” Eaton said. “He’s very childish. I’m walking with my head down, play’s over, I’m walking away. I can still hear him. I’m a 30-year-old man with two kids, got a mortgage and everything. He wants to loud talk as he’s running off the field. At the end of the day, I got to be a man about it. I tried to stay patient with the childishness, but it is what it is. I got to stand up eventually.”

He did, and what could have been merely Game 47 for a struggling team turned out to be something else.

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Patrick Corbin’s rough beginning a hole Nationals can’t emerge from

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Patrick Corbin’s rough beginning a hole Nationals can’t emerge from

NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 5-3, Monday to drop their record to 19-28. Here are five observations from the game…

1. A wondrous, very Mets day preceded the game.

Their general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, held a press conference to announce...Yoenis Cespedes -- already out because of dual heel surgeries -- suffered multiple ankle fractures during a ranch accident over the weekend. Van Wagenen then went on to profess his support for maligned New York manager Mickey Callaway -- for the most part. Last, and most important to writers, three boxes of donuts were in the press box with a note: “Have a great series! -- BVW”.

Things are always a little different in Flushing. That was a problem for the Nationals.

In what could be labeled a “reverse-lock” situation, Washington’s $140 million starter, Patrick Corbin, was outpitched by unknown and often ineffective Wilmer Font, whom the Nationals smacked around just five days ago. The Nationals, as they often do, dragged themselves back into the game after trailing 4-0. A Juan Soto single drove in Anthony Rendon in the eighth to cut the lead to 4-3. Rendon was on base four times.

And, again, it was just enough to produce a close loss. Washington put two runners on with none out against dynamic New York closer Edwin Diaz before Kurt Suzuki flew out, Trea Turner grounded into a fielder's choice and Adam Eaton flew out.

The Nationals drop to nine games under .500 following one-run and two-run defeats. They also fell to 2-14 in series openers.

2. A rough, short evening for Corbin.

He trudged through the night on 98 pitches. Corbin lasted just five innings. He walked three, gave up four earned runs, struck out seven.

His night was a mess early. Amed Rosario and Pete Alonso homered in the first inning. Two walks in the third -- one with two outs -- led to two more runs scoring. He zipped through the fourth and fifth before being removed.

Corbin has endured two blowups this season in an otherwise quality first two months: Monday and April 29 against St. Louis. The latter outing featured four walks and a homer allowed against one of the league’s better offenses. Monday’s bad outing came against a Mets lineup which did not feature Robinson Cano to start and entered the evening 21st in wOBA.

Bad timing. Bad night.

3. Tanner Rainey made his Nationals debut Monday. He was interesting.

Rainey gave up a hustle double to pinch-hitter Cano -- yes, hustle and Cano -- but otherwise showed a sharp fastball-slider combination.

Rainey was the return for Tanner Roark in the offseason trade that sent Roark to Cincinnati during the Winter Meetings.

He has command trouble. He also throws 98-100 mph with ease. Asked in spring training where that velocity comes from, Rainey said his legs and weight lifting. No secret sauce. He lifted more, he threw harder. And he subsequently repeated the process.

Rainey’s velocity will always intrigue. The question is if he can command his two-pitch arsenal enough to become an actual bullpen weapon. The baseline tools are there.

4. A shuffle in the relief corps is coming.

Tony Sipp (oblique) was activated from the 10-day injured list Monday. Dan Jennings was designated for assignment. That experiment is over. Jennings signed a minor-league contract April 15. He was in the majors April 30. He’s gone less than a month later. He did not pitch well.

The Nationals claimed right-handed Javy Guerra off waivers Monday. Guerra was designated for assignment by Toronto. Guerra pitched 14 innings for the Blue Jays this season, with a 3.86 ERA and 3.17 FIP. In other words, distinctly better than most in the Nationals bullpen.

Washington expects Guerra to arrive in New York on Tuesday. Kyle McGowin is likely to be sent back to Triple-A Fresno to make room. So, two fresh pitchers in the bullpen early in the week.

Trevor Rosenthal should also be back shortly. He is expected to throw an inning for Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday. Rainey will likely be sent back to the minor leagues to make room there.

And, a situation in West Palm Beach, Fla., to keep an eye on: reliever Austen Williams had to be shut down to allow his shoulder to rest. Williams threw 40 pitches at the spring training facility the first week of May, when he appeared on his way back from the 10-day injured list. However, he has stopped throwing after experiencing further shoulder soreness. He was placed on the injured list April 19 because of a sprained right AC joint.

5. Matt Adams worked with the team on the field Monday, which he expects to do the next two days.

He’s on the verge of being activated before the week is out.

“I watched him [Monday] and he took some really good swings,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how he feels [Tuesday]. I’m assuming that he might be a little sore, because he did take some swings and he’s going to continue to do baseball activities [Monday]. But we’ll see how he feels.”

Adams’ 15-day absence has handcuffed Martinez in multiple ways. Take Sunday. Right-handed slider-thrower Steve Cishek on the mound. Left-handed hitters’ OPS against Cishek is 143 points higher than right-handers. But, no Adams meant no left-handed pinch-hitter.

Those issues should be over soon.

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