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The Yankees could miss the playoffs...

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The Yankees could miss the playoffs...

From Comcast SportsNetBOSTON (AP) -- Jon Lester gave the New York Yankees ample opportunity to break open the game, and they failed nearly every time.The Yankees couldn't capitalize on Lester's career-high seven walks and fell into a first-place tie atop the AL East when Jacoby Ellsbury hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning that lifted the Boston Red Sox to a 4-3 victory Tuesday night."We had a ton of opportunities to score runs and we just didn't get the hits," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.The loss and Baltimore's win over Tampa Bay left the Yankees and Orioles tied for the division lead with 79-62 records. New York hasn't won consecutive games since a three-game winning streak Aug. 13-15, allowing the Orioles and Rays, who are just two games back, to make it a tight race with three weeks to go."We need to string together some wins," said Derek Jeter, whose ground-rule double with two on in the sixth put New York up 3-2. "You wouldn't be tied for first unless you found ways to win games throughout the course of 140-something games that we've played. So we've got to do it again."Jeter's double put him on second with just one out, but Boston reliever Junichi Tazawa came in and got out of the jam by striking out Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez."They've got a job to do, too. We didn't get anything else after that," Jeter said. "You'd like to think that you'd be able to get something going, but they made some pitches when they needed to."It was one of many moments when the Yankees didn't come through and Dustin Pedroia made them pay in the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to tie it back up at 3.Andrew Bailey (1-0) got the win after allowing one hit in one inning.David Robertson (1-7) retired his first four batters before giving up Pedro Ciriaco's single to left field with one out in the ninth. Mike Aviles then singled into the shortstop hole where Jeter fielded the ball but couldn't make the throw.Then Ellsbury capped an outstanding performance on his 29th birthday with a sharp single to right. Ciriaco came all the way around from second and slid in to beat the throw from right fielder Ichiro Suzuki to give Boston its second win in 13 games.The Red Sox wasted a chance in the seventh when they loaded the bases with one out and couldn't score. But they got outstanding work from their bullpen, which allowed just a hit and a walk with four strikeouts in 3 2-3 innings.The Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the top half on a two-run, ground-rule double by Jeter after a walk to Curtis Granderson, a single by Andruw Jones and a sacrifice by Jayson Nix.Lester had control trouble from the start, walking three in the first when the Yankees took a 1-0 lead. Jeter led off with a walk, took third on a double by Nick Swisher and scored on a groundout by Robinson Cano. Russell Martin and Steve Pearce also walked but were stranded.Lester walked the first two batters in the third and the leadoff hitter in the fourth but retired the next three batters in each inning. Then he struck out the side in the fifth, giving him 1,045 career strikeouts, the most by a Red Sox lefty. Bruce Hurst had the old mark of 1,044."He knows how to pitch. We had a lot of opportunities to score some more runs. We just didn't get it done," Jeter said. "Even though he had a lot of walks, he pitched out of it and that's what good pitchers do."The Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the third on a double by Ciriaco and RBI singles by Ellsbury and Pedroia.Ciriaco went 2 for 3 and is 17 for 35 in nine career games against the Yankees, all this season with the Red Sox.NOTES:Lester's previous career high was five walks on nine different occasions, most recently on July 22 in a 15-7 loss to Toronto in which he allowed 11 runs. ... Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte is scheduled to throw in a simulated game Wednesday. He's trying to work his way back into the rotation after breaking his ankle June 28. Pettitte hopes to throw about 60 pitches. ... Injured 1B Mark Teixeira also was with the club even though he is sidelined for up to two weeks with a strained left calf, an injury he aggravated Saturday. "I think we can get plenty of work done here. There's really not that much I can do anyway. It's a lot of ice and a lot of ultrasound and stuff like that," Teixeira said. ... Swisher snapped an 0-for-28 slump with his double in the first. ... David Phelps (3-4) pitches for the Yankees against Aaron Cook (3-9) in the second game of the three-game series on Wednesday night. ... Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda issued no walks and has just 14 in his last 15 starts.

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Wizards blow out Detroit Pistons to gain important ground in East playoff race

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards blow out Detroit Pistons to gain important ground in East playoff race

The Washington Wizards beat the Detroit Pistons 101-87 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Here are five observations from the game...

1. If the Wizards can keep up their recent winning ways and remain in the playoff mix at the end of this season, what they did on Monday could come in handy either for seeding or making the postseason altogether. 

They knocked off the Detroit Pistons to move into ninth place in the East, one spot outside of the playoff picture, and tied the season series at 1-1. The season series between the teams, ever-important for tiebreaker scenarios, will come down to their final matchup of the season on Feb. 11.

If Monday's game was any longterm indication, the Wizards should feel good about their chances to outpace the Pistons. They were the better team, offering a thorough beatdown on both ends of the floor. It helped the Pistons were missing Andre Drummond, but the Wizards are down three key players themselves.

Those injuries just haven't held the Wizards back like many expected they would. The Wizards are now 7-3 since they learned John Wall would miss the rest of the season due to left heel surgery. They moved to 20-26 on the year, the closest they've been to the .500 mark since Dec. 16.

2. The Wizards' defense has been something else recently. Despite arguably being the worst defensive team in the NBA overall this season, they have completely flipped the script in recent games. They came into this one boasting the eighth-best defensive rating over their past nine games.

It continued early against the Pistons who, to be fair, are among the worst offensive teams in the game. The Wizards allowed only 34 points in the first half, the fewest they have surrendered in any half this season. The Pistons shot just 30 percent from the field and 2-for-15 from three and had nine turnovers in the first half.

Those 34 points broke the season-low the Wizards set just last game against the Knicks in London, where they gave up 37 points in the second half in their win. That means the Wizards gave up only 71 points across four quarters, the equivalent of a full game. 

The Wizards' defense has been on point in recent games. Now, let's see if they can do it against the Warriors on Thursday.

3. Any concerns about the Wizards losing momentum from the London trip were quickly put to rest. Seven players reached double figures and shot a solid 45.6 percent.

Tomas Satoransky (nine points, eight assists, two steals) appears to be taking another step as a ball-handler. He is way more assertive attacking the rim that we had seen in previous years. On several occasions in this game, he blew past defenders and finished with spin moves around the rim.

Otto Porter Jr. (19 points) is also playing with more confidence, now in an increased scoring role. On numerous plays in this game, he called for the ball, sensing a mismatch, often against Jose Calderon or Luke Kennard.

4. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks remarked at Sunday's practice that he has been pleasantly surprised with how Trevor Ariza can fill up the box score. He said he knew the guy could play defense but didn't know he was so well-rounded as a scorer and in other areas of the game. 

Monday was a perfect example of that. Ariza finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers. He shot 7-for-13 from the field, 2-for-5 from three and 4-for-4 from the line.

He also, of course, was instrumental in the Wizards' strong defensive effort. He continues to make the impact the Wizards hoped for when they traded him as a tone-setting pest on the perimeter.

It may have taken a few games for that to reflect in the standings, and he needs to get his shooting percentages up, but he has clearly helped change the team's DNA defensively and is no slouch on the offensive end, either. He is averaging 14.7 points through 16 games with the Wizards, about three more per contest than he was with the Suns.

5. The Pistons playing without Drummond allowed the Wizards to find a lot of success on the boards. In their last meeting, they were out-rebounded by the Pistons, 46-31, but this time they won the rebounding margin, 45-to-40. 

The Wizards have been among the worst rebounding teams in basketball this season, but when they commit to the glass, they are tough to beat. They are now 11-0 in games where they out-rebound their opponents.

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Alex Smith spotted at Wizards game wearing big apparatus on injured right leg

Alex Smith spotted at Wizards game wearing big apparatus on injured right leg

Alex Smith was at the Wizards-Pistons game on Monday, having scored some good seats in the owner's suite. The Redskins quarterback was spotted at Capital One Arena wearing a large apparatus on his right leg as he continues his long recovery from his mid-November injury.

In previous updates about his recovery, Smith's legs were covered and he was in a wheelchair. 

In this glimpse of Smith, he appeared to no longer require a wheelchair, or one wasn't seen in the box. Instead, he was sitting in a seat and two crutches were behind him:

The Redskins and Smith's family had previously asked for privacy during his rehab. Major questions remain about whether he'll play in 2019 for the Redskins, or ever again in fact, but at the very least it's good to see him out in public.

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