September 1, 2014

Washington Redskins Preseason Game 2 Review: McCoy’s late TD difference-maker in win over Browns

If you watch the NFL preseason at all, you should expect sloppy and disjointed play, penalties and turnovers. But Monday night, before a national audience on ESPN, the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns combined to play a spectacularly sloppy, disjointed, penalty-filled preseason game, with Washington ending on top 24-23.

The teams combined for 21 penalties for 154 yards.

In what was billed as a marquee matchup between media darlings Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, the outcome was more affected by bottom of the depth-chart signal callers, as is usual for the second preseason game.

The first quarter, when both teams played with their starter, suffered flag after flag and three turnovers — and no scoring.

On the last play of the first quarter, Griffin hit a streaking Andre Roberts on a fly for 49 yards to put the first team offense into scoring position.

New head coach Jay Gruden stuck with his starters at the start of the second quarter in an effort to put a score on the board. Gruden called for three straight dive plays, challenging his offensive line to win the line of scrimmage and the one yard needed for the touchdown.

But on three straight attempts, the Browns line was up to the task. On fourth-and-one, Gruden called for an off-tackle left with Alfred Morris and the call on the field was ruled a touchdown. After review, however, it was ruled Morris’ hip had hit the ground before he crossed the goal line and the score was disallowed.

In three series, Griffin finished his night 6-for-9 for 112 yards and interception.

On the subsequent possession, the defense was able to hold the Johnny Manziel-led Browns and forced a punt. On the resulting drive, Kirk Cousins was able to move the second unit offense for a first down, but on a play-action pass as the series continued, he overthrew his receiver and it was picked off by T Gipson, who returned it to the Redskins 15-yard line.

Manziel went three-and-out, and Cleveland settled for Billy Cundiff nailing a 29-yard kick for to give the Browns a 3-0 lead.

As time was expiring in the half, Cousins found Santana Moss on a screen on third and long and the veteran   gained 24 yards for the first down. Later, Cousins hit Even Royster on a circle route out of the backfield for 24 yards down to the Browns’ two-yard line, then two plays later he bullied his way into the end zone to make it 7-3 at the half.

Washington outgained Cleveland 241-84 in the first half.

On the first drive of the second half, the Redskins drove down the field on the legs of Silas Redd, then Cousins hit the impressive Ryan Grant on a fade from 15 yards out to make it 14-3.

The Browns got into the endzone early in the fourth quarter. A 16-play, 68 yard drive culminated with Manziel’s middle screen taken by Dion Lewis eight yards for the score.

On the ensuing possession, Jim Leonhard intercepted Colt McCoy’s first pass and took it 21 yards for a touchdown. After the kickoff, McCoy found Rashad Ross on a go route for 43 yards, but the drive stalled and the Redskins had to settle for a Kai Forbath 26-yard field goal to tie the game at 17.

McCoy then led the Redskins on a six-play, 56-yard drive, capped by his 30-yard touchdown pass to Nick Williams to break the tie.

Unfortunately, Browns fourth-string QB Connor Shaw heaved a 45-yard Hail Mary to Emmanuel Ogbuehi as time expired to draw Cleveland within one point, but the two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Redskins walked away with a 24-23 decision, mercifully avoiding overtime.

Washington Nationals sign outfielder Nate Schierholtz

The Washington Nationals signed free agent outfielder Nate Schierholtz to a minor league contract and assigned him to AAA-Syracuse on Monday. Schierholtz is a left-handed hitter with a career .254/.303/.406  line and will provide insurance against injury down the stretch.

From the team’s press release:

The Washington Nationals today agreed to terms with outfielder Nate Schierholtz on a minor-league contract. Schierholtz will be assigned to Syracuse of the Triple-A International League. Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

Schierholtz is a .254 career hitter (520-for-2050) with 117 doubles, 51 home runs and 224 RBI in 776 career games with the Cubs (2013 – ‘14), Phillies (2012) and Giants (2007 – ‘12). Earlier this season, he tallied 19 extra-base hits (10 doubles, three triples, six home runs) in 99 games for the Cubs.

A left-handed hitter, Schierholtz is a career .289 pinch hitter (48-for-166) with four home runs and 23 RBI. Schierholtz’s .763 OPS in the pinch ranks fourth among active players with at least 150 career plate appearances in a pinch-hitting role.

The 30-year-old Schierholtz is one season removed from his finest offensive campaign. In 2013, his first year with the Cubs, he hit .251 and established career highs in home runs (21), doubles (32), extra-base hits (56), RBI (68) and runs scored (56).

Schierholtz is a veteran of 11 postseason contests and earned a pair of World Series rings, both with the Giants (2010, ’12). A U.S. Olympian (bronze medal) in 2008, Schierholtz was originally San Francisco’s second-round selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft.

In related news, we’ve now added “Schierholtz” to our word processor dictionary.

Washington Nationals Game 119 Review: Strasburg cruises, Harper homers in win over Mets

LAROCHE, HARPER HOMER AS NATS EXTEND DIVISION LEAD TO SIX

Last time out against the Atlanta Braves, Stephen Strasburg wasn’t himself, allowing a career-high four home runs and seven total, driving his road ERA to 5.25.

Thursday night, Strasburg conquered those demons, pitching seven innings without giving up an earned run to lead the Washington Nationals to a 4-1 win over the New York Mets, sweeping their division rival at Citifield.

Washington moves to 66-53. Coupled with the Braves loss to Los Angeles earlier in the evening, the Nats now hold a six-game lead in the N.L. East. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 117 Review: Fister strong, Taylor homers in debut as Nats pound Mets

MICHAEL TAYLOR WITH FIRST MLB HIT, HOMER IN ROUT

The Washington Nationals needed a game like this.

After a disappointing weekend series with the Atlanta Braves, the Nats broke out in a big way against the New York Mets, slugging four home runs — including three in one inning — and Doug Fister tossed seven shutout innings as the Nats dumped the Mets 7-1 at Citifield in Queens.

The win, coupled with the Braves loss to the Dodgers, gives the Nats a five-game lead in the N.L. East.

One of the three homers hit in the sixth inning came from Michael Taylor, making his first start in the Major Leagues. [Read more...]

Gruden being patient with Griffin as training camp winds down

In his press conference from training camp today, Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden discussed several aspects of Robert Griffin III’s adjustment to Gruden’s offensive systems. Gruden, the rookie head coach, has been pleased overall with Griffin’s progress, but indicated that the adjustment period hasn’t been completely smooth sailing.

“Well, there’s been a lot of good, there’s been some bad, as most quarterbacks go through in training camp,” Gruden said. “You’ve seen all the different looks [Griffin]’s getting, and overall I think he’s making progress at a good rate. We just need to make sure it carries over into games. He’ll get a few more reps Monday night, and he’ll get more Game 3. Hopefully, by Houston he’ll be ready to roll. But I think when you watch the tape every day, if he throws a ball 45 times, 35 of them are pretty good – good decisions. Then there’s a couple of them we have to correct. But he’s doing good.” [Read more...]

Washington Redskins Training Camp Report: Injury and position battles news

Washington Redskins training camp in Richmond is winding down, but head coach Jay Gruden hasn’t been able to fully evaluate all his players due to some injury concerns this August. The new boss addressed some of those issues, and some position battles, in his press conference on Monday. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 116 Review: Gio shaky, offense absent in Sunday night loss to Braves

After the marathon game Saturday night, including a nearly four-hour rain delay then extra innings, the Washington Nationals could have used a crisp, clean outing from starter Gio Gonzalez.

They didn’t get it.

Gonzalez was shaky and the offense was almost non-existant, as the Nats fell to the Atlanta Braves 3-1 at Turner Field. The loss drops the Nats lead over the Braves to 3 1/2 games in the N.L. East.

Gonzalez allowed just two runs, but gave up six hits and four walk in just 4 2/3 innings. He needed 111 pitches to record the 14 outs, though eight of those came via strikeout.

The Nats got on the board first, as Ian Desmond socked his 18th homer of the season to right center field. But that’s all they got.

Atlanta drew even in the bottom of the inning. Justin Upton clubbed a 3-2 changeup to straight-away left field for his 21st homer of the year. It also marked Upton’s 1000th hit and 500th RBI of his career.

Gonzalez (L, 6-9, 4.00) then proceeded to allow two home base runners in the inning, but escaped unscathed — except for his elevated pitch count.

That high pitch count finally got to him in the fifth.

Emilio Bonifacio lead off with a bunt single and Gonzalez walked Tommy LaStella, though the rookie second baseman tried to sacrifice. Freddie Freeman grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and it looked like Gonzalez might escape danger again.

But he issued another walk, this time to Upton. Jason Heyward then hit a grounder to Danny Espinosa, playing in short right field on an extreme shift, but Adam LaRoche also tried for the grounder and Gonzalez failed to cover first base. Heyward was safe and Bonifacio scored on the play without a throw.

Braves starter Alex Wood cruised. Over 7 1/3 innings, he gave up just the Desmond homer, four other hits, and three walks, striking out 12 along the way.

Atlanta picked up another run in the eighth off Jerry Blevins in his second inning of work. He sandwiched a walk to Chris Johnson between strikeouts of Heyward and Gerald Laird. But consecutive hits by Ramiro Pena and pinch-hitter Evan Gattis — both right-handed hitters – pushed the Braves’ third run across.

Blevins is allowing a .321/.400/.449 slash line to right-handed hitters this season.

The Nationals have a much-needed day off Monday before starting a three-game series with the New York Mets on Tuesday at Citifield. Doug Fister (11-3, 2.49) pitches for the Nats. The Mets have not announced their starter.

NATS NOTES: The Nats recalled OF Michael Taylor from AAA-Syracuse and placed OF Steven Souza on the 15-day D.L. with a “left shoulder contusion” sustained when he slammed into the right field wall chasing a home run in Friday night’s game.

  • Denard Span went 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to 14 games and on-base streak to 36 games.
  • LaRoche had a rough night, striking out all four times at bat, stranding five runners.
  • Jayson Werth, nursing a litany of injuries, went 0-for-1 but walked three times.

Washington Nationals Game 115 Review: Nats top Braves in 11 after nearly 4 hour rain delay

It took a while to get this one started — and finished — but for the Washington Nationals, it was well worth the wait.

A steady rain delayed the start back to after many folks’ bedtimes on the east coast, then extra innings delayed the outcome that much further. But a three-run outburst in the 11th inning lifted the Nats to a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

The Nats extend their division lead back to 4 1/2 games.

Anthony Rendon led off the 11th with a single off Braves reliever David Carpenter and went to second on Adam LaRoche’s ground ball single to right. Carpenter got Ian Desmond to line out to left, though Justin Upton took a bad route and had to make a circus catch on the hard liner.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez lifted Carpenter in favor of James Russell, but Russell walked Bryce Harper on five pitches. Gonzalez went back to his pen, this time for Anthony Varvaro, who gave up a pair of runs in Friday night’s game.

Wilson Ramos greeted Varvaro with a soft liner to center for an RBI single. Kevin Frandsen followed with a double to the right field corner that scored LaRoche and Harper. The Braves muffed the relay to the infield, and Ramos tried to score. He was originally called safe as Even Gattis made a very high tag on the slide, but after review Ramos was ruled out.

Regardless, the Nats had their three-run lead.

All that was left was for Rafael Soriano to pitch the bottom of the inning, and he did so uneventfully for his 26th save of the season.

Previously to the 11th inning, all the scoring in this one came back in the sixth. LaRoche hit a solo homer off Braves starter Aaron Harang, his 16th of the season, then in the bottom the Braves evened it up as they loaded the bases with no outs against Nats starter Tanner Roark, then a sacrifice fly by Jason Heyward tied the game.

Roark wiggled out of the inning allowing just the one run as he struck out Gattis and got a comebacker from Chris Johnson to end the frame.

Roark had another terrific outing, allowing just the one run on six hits and three walks over seven innings, striking out six.

NATS NOTES: CSNWashington’s Mark Zuckerman reported before the game the Nats plan to recall OF Michael Taylor from AAA Syracuse before Sunday’s game. Taylor has had a breakout season in the minors. No corresponding move was announced, though Jayson Werth and Steven Souza Jr. both played Saturday in the late innings.

  • Denard Span continued his hot hitting, going 2-for-5. His average is up to .305 for the year.
  • Harper went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
  • The Nats were 2-for-7 with RISP and left seven on base.
  • Desmond went 0-for-5, but did steal a base.
  • LaRoche went 3-for-5 with a homer, two runs and an RBI.

Washington Nationals Game 114 Review: Strasburg rocked; Nats comeback falls short against Braves

Stephen Strasburg has had better nights — but not any worse.

For the first time in his career, the Washington Nationals starter gave up four home runs in one start and dug the Nats a deep hole. Despite clawing back to within one run before the seventh inning stretch, the Nats never did tie and lost to the Atlanta Braves, 7-6, at Turner Field.

The Braves snapped an eight-game losing streak in the process and cut the Nats lead in the division to 3 1/2 games.

In 15 starts against the Braves, Strasburg is 3-6 with a 4.62 ERA.

Strasburg (L, 8-10, 3.68) surrendered homers to Justin Upton (20) in the first inning, his brother B.J. (8) and Freddie Freeman (16) in the second, and Tommy LaStella in the fifth inning. LaStella’s homer in the fifth — the first of his career – ended up being the difference in the game.

B.J. Upton had not homered in over 130 at bats.

Strasburg’s final line was ugly. He gave up seven runs on seven hits and two walks, though he did strike out nine in five innings. But the home runs were the killer.

The Nats trailed 7-0 entering the middle innings but made a game of it. The rally started in the sixth. Scott Hairston pinch-hit for Strasburg and was hit by Braves starter Ervin Santana. Denard Span ( 3-for-4, .304) singled to put runners at the corners. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a  single to center that plated Hariston, then Anthony Rendon connected for his 15th home run of the season to cut the deficit to 7-4.

Washington pulled within two in the seventh. Wilson Ramos led off the inning with a no-doubt-about-it shot for his fifth homer of the season. Later, Kevin Frandsen reached on an error, went to third on Span’s single and scored on Cabrera’s sacrifice fly to left.

But the comeback stalled in the late innings, as Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel pitched clean slates in the eighth and ninth innings.

The second of the three-game series is Saturday at 7:10 pm ET. Tanner Roark (11-7, 2.94) faces Aaron Harang (9-6, 3.41).

NATS NOTES: Steven Souza Jr. made his first start since his recall in right field for Jayson Werth, but he didn’t last long. Chasing Freeman’s homer to right, he crashed full-speed into the outfield fence. He stayed in the game for another at bat, but after watching the video, it’s hard to imagine how. The Nats said he was day-to-day after the game, but then again, aren’t we all.

Nats Nightly: Nationals 5-3 over Mets on Bryce Harper’s walk-off HR in the 13th

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington and “Doghouse” of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 5-3 win over the New York Mets in 13 innings.

Also, thanks to everyone that has listened to this show over the past 14 months, lifting us to over 100,000 listens!

New Baseball Podcasts with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio
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