Nationals

Young helps No. 6 Kansas turn back Temple, 69-62

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Young helps No. 6 Kansas turn back Temple, 69-62

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Kevin Young had 16 points, hitting four critical free throws down the stretch, and sixth-ranked Kansas fended off pesky Temple 69-62 on Sunday for the Jayhawks' 11th straight win.

Travis Releford added 14 points on 5 for 5 shooting, none of his baskets bigger than a 3-pointer from the wing with 34.9 seconds left. With the shot-clock winding down, Releford's shot gave Kansas a 65-58 lead, essentially turning away its Atlantic 10 foe.

Ben McLemore added 13 points and Jeff Withey had eight points, 11 rebounds and nine blocked shots for the Jayhawks (12-1), who enter Big 12 play having won 30 consecutive games at Allen Fieldhouse and 63 in a row against non-conference opponents.

Khalif Wyatt finished with 26 points for the Owls (10-3), who nearly had their second win over a top-10 team this season. Wyatt scored 33 in an upset of then-No. 3 Syracuse on Dec. 22.

Anthony Lee and Will Cummings added 11 each for Temple, which seemed to have the recipe for winning in the Phog down pat. The Owls only committed three turnovers - though the third one late in the game proved critical - and prevented the high-flying Jayhawks from getting in transition.

After trailing the entire first half, Temple managed to build a 54-50 lead with just under 7 minutes to go. But the Jayhawks finally got going on offense, and then held on down the stretch to start 12-1 for the third time in the last four seasons.

Temple looked as if it'd be trouble before the opening tip, when the Owls were huddling after their introduction and started watching the Jayhawks' intimidating pregame video montage.

It was little surprise that the Jayhawks raced out to a 22-10 lead by the midway point of the first half, clamping down with their intense man-to-man defense and throwing in some token press to put pressure on the Owls' backcourt, which committed a pair of early turnovers.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy eventually got a veteran group that starts three seniors to settle down, and the result was an 8-1 spurt that got the Owls right back in the game.

Wyatt led the charge by banking in a 3-pointer, and a basket by Lee - who had eight points and five boards by halftime - forced Kansas coach Bill Self to call a timeout.

Self was only starting to simmer, though. He really boiled over a few minutes later, when Elijah Johnson committed his third turnover of the half. The Jayhawks' coach slapped his hand against the video marquee at the scorer's table so hard that it knocked out a bank of lights.

Those two early turnovers by Temple? They were their only two in the first half, and Kansas - one of the nation's top defensive teams - failed to produce a steal in forging a 33-27 lead.

Kansas scored the first five points of the second half to push its lead to double-figures, but then Temple scored on its next nine possessions. Along the way, Wyatt outscored the Jayhawks 11-2 by himself, and his free throws with 14:13 left gave the Owls their first lead at 43-44.

Releford, the Jayhawks' top defender, also picked up his fourth foul during the Owls' run and spent much of the second half on the bench. That allowed Temple's talented backcourt to keep answering every time that Kansas tried to make a charge.

Releford eventually checked back into the game, and so did the Jayhawks' defense.

After pulling ahead 54-50, the Owls failed to score on five of their next six possessions, and Johnson's two drives to the basket tied the game. Moments later, McLemore stepped in front of a pass from the Owls' Cummings and went the other way for a dunk and a 58-57 lead.

Young added four consecutive free throws, and then Releford hit his big 3-pointer from the wing, allowing Self and another capacity crowd to finally start relaxing.

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Past Nationals relievers: Where are they now?

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Past Nationals relievers: Where are they now?

It’s no secret that the Nationals bullpen is one of the weakest units in baseball this season. Fans in the nation’s capital have spent two months watching relievers cough up leads and put games out of reach, and the numbers speak for themselves. 

Washington’s team ERA among relievers is an unsightly 7.09 entering Memorial Day Weekend, nearly a full run higher than the 29th-ranked Orioles. As a unit, they’ve pitched fewer innings than any other bullpen, yet have allowed the second-most earned runs.

No one has been immune. Sean Doolittle, by far the best option in 2019, has seen his ERA balloon to 3.68. Justin Miller is the only other regular reliever with an ERA below 5, and he’s at 4.02.

It’s caused much consternation in the fanbase, and for good reason. Where did the Nationals go wrong in building this bullpen? What could they have done differently?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at four relievers who are experiencing various levels of success while no longer in Washington.

Felipe Vazquez

Vazquez has been lights out in Pittsburgh in 2019. He ranks top-10 among relievers in WAR (0.9) and top-12 in ERA (1.25). He holds the sixth-best K/9 (14.54) and is tied for the fourth-most saves in baseball with 13.

Every one of those numbers would lead the Nationals with ease. At 27, Vazquez has turned into one of the elite relievers in the sport. He’s been terrific all three years with the Pirates, and 2019 looks like his best season yet.

Of course, he wasn’t ready to be this guy in 2016 when the Nationals traded him for Mark Melancon. It was a necessary trade at the time, and one that worked out well in a vacuum. Melancon pitched well in Washington and didn’t allow a run in the 2016 postseason.

Right now, the Nats could really use a Felipe Vazquez, but the logic behind their trade at the time was sound.

Blake Treinen

Treinen has already allowed as many earned runs in 2019 (seven) as he did in all of 2018. It’s not a knock on his performance this season, where his 2.59 ERA would still lead the Nationals, but a recognition of just how dominant he was in 2018.

In the modern era of Major League Baseball, it’s just about impossible for a reliever to win the Cy Young. Even with just 80 innings pitched last year, Treinen finished sixth in Cy Young voting and 15th in MVP voting. 

That’s right. He was so good, he got down-ballot votes for MVP. It was a sensational year.

His usually-elite ground ball rate is down this season, which has led to some regression, but it’s still notable he put together a 2018 season that far outshines any individual season the Nats have seen.

It was clear in 2017 he wasn’t capable of performing as the team’s closer, eventually earning a demotion before being traded to Oakland.

Despite his enormous success in the years since the trade, it’s hard to question the Nationals here. Not only did it seem apparent Treinen wasn’t going to figure things out in D.C., but the trade brought back Sean Doolittle, the lone consistently great reliever the Nats have had in recent years.

Brandon Kintzler

Kintzler pitched parts of two seasons in Washington, but ultimately spent exactly one year with the Nationals. In that year, he tossed 68.2 innings while striking out 43 batters and walking 18.

His ERA with the Nationals was 3.54, too high for a high-leverage reliever. He struggled mightily in 2018 after being traded to the Cubs, but has settled down this season to the tune of a 2.96 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 24 innings.

As is the case for just about any halfway-decent reliever, the current Nationals bullpen would benefit from having him, but this isn’t nearly the loss Treinen or Vasquez were.

Shawn Kelley

Kelley was up-and-down in his time with the Nationals. His ERA was below three in 2016 and 2018, but the 2017 season was marred with injuries, inconsistency, and a tendency to allow home runs (a whopping 12 in just 26 innings).

Of course, Kelley was pitching better in 2018, but it wasn’t performance that led to his departure. 

In a blowout Nationals 25-4 victory over the Mets in July 2018, Kelley allowed three earned runs, including a home run. After the home run, he slammed his glove on the ground while staring at the Nats dugout.

The next day, he was designated for assignment as a result of the outburst and never pitched for the Nationals again, traded away a few days later. 

In his 33.2 innings since the trade, Kelley has been terrific. He posted a 2.16 ERA with the Athletics in 2018 and currently holds a 1.59 ERA in 2019 despite pitching his home games in Texas. He’s even filled in at closer with the Rangers, recording five saves so far this year.

Though his removal wasn’t for performance issues like Kintzler's or to acquire proven closers like Treinen’s and Vasquez’s were, the loss of Kelley can be felt just as hard. As is the case with each of these relievers, Kelley’s numbers would lead the Nationals bullpen in just about every category.

For the most part, these moves made sense at the time, for one reason or another. But the Nationals have yet to adequately replace most of these arms, and the 2019 team is suffering as a result.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Free agent Gerald McCoy to visit Baltimore

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Free agent Gerald McCoy to visit Baltimore

Kick off your holiday weekend with the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

1. One of the most obvious needs for the Ravens is help rushing the passer, and they're hoping to find some of that help on the interior in the form of free agent Gerald McCoy. The longtime Buccaneer DL visited Cleveland last week, but left town without agreeing to a contract.

Reportedly interested in playing for a contender, the former top-five pick is scheduled to visit the Ravens on Tuesday.

2. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is still struggling to throw the ball, as he noted things aren't right yet when it comes to accuracy. Media members noticed the ball wobbling through the air on many throws, and Jackson told them he thinks his hand is too high on the ball. If he's going to successfully run Greg Roman's new offensive scheme, Jackson will eventually need to be able to hit his receivers in stride with greater regularity.

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Rotoworld and Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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