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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Taking Two Of Three At Atlanta And Winning The N.L. East
by Al Galdi
Sep 18, 2014 -- 1:03pm

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Five Takeaways From The Orioles' Three-Game Sweep Of Toronto And Winning The A.L. East
by Al Galdi
Sep 18, 2014 -- 1:02pm

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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins' Blowout of Jacksonville
by Al Galdi
Sep 17, 2014 -- 6:59pm

The Redskins improved to 1-1 with a 41-10 rout of Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 14, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:


1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered a dislocated left ankle in the first quarter and is out indefinitely


Griffin looked good in his brief time in the game.  He had two read-option runs for 22 yards, including a 12-yard run on the first offensive play of the game.  He went 2-of-3 for 38 yards, including a second-and-eight 19-yard shotgun completion to tight end Niles Paul off read-option play-action and a second-and-nine I-formation incompletion intended for receiver DeSean Jackson on a play that should have been ruled a completion (the Skins challenged but were unsuccessful).

Griffin got injured on second-and-four 19-yard completion to Jackson off a play-action boot out of the pistol.  Griffin had both Jackson and receiver Pierre Garcon open and should have thrown the ball earlier, but he instead kept running and, ultimately got injured when his left foot hit the turf awkwardly and bent in a gruesome fashion.  Griffin was trying to get away from linebacker Paul Posluszny on the play.  Griffin suffered no break in the ankle, but head coach Jay Gruden on Monday (Sept. 15) offered no timetable for a return other than saying, “We'll know in a few more weeks as far as how long he'll be out.”        

This was Griffin’s fourth injury over 31 regular-season and postseason games: concussion in the Week 5 loss to Atlanta in 2012, grade-one right LCL sprain in the Week 14 overtime win over Baltimore, torn right ACL in the wild-card-round playoff loss to Seattle in Jan. 2013 and now this injury.

The other negative for Griffin was a third-and-nine sack for a nine-yard loss.  He was in the shotgun and was guilty of standing too still in the pocket.  Griffin now has been sacked 42 times over his last 15 regular-season games off getting sacked just 30 times in 15 regular-season games in 2012.  


2. Receiver DeSean Jackson, like Griffin, exited the game in the first quarter and was one of five Redskins injured

Jackson suffered an AC-joint sprain in his left shoulder on a first-and-10 deep incompletion.      

Fullback Darrel Young suffered a back sprain on a fourth-quarter second-and-nine seven-yard reception that also included a 10-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on safety Winston Guy Jr.

Running back Roy Helu Jr. exited the game in the fourth quarter due to a left-knee strain.

Left guard Shaun Lauvao exited the game in the fourth quarter due to right-knee inflammation.


3. The Redskins had one of their best offensive games of the last few seasons despite the injuries, a key absence and a surprise underperformer

The Redskins scored 41 points, producing 32 first downs and 449 total net yards of offense and no turnovers.  

The Redskins won the time-of-possession battle by 18:02.  

The Redskins’ 31-point margin of victory was the team’s largest since Oct. 7, 2007 vs. Detroit (34-3).

What was most impressive was the Redskins’ offense in the first half: 21 points, 308 total net yards, 21 first downs.  The second quarter at Dallas in 2012, the first quarter against Baltimore in 2012, the first half at Minnesota in 2013 and the first half of this game stand as the Redskins’ best offensive quarters/halves since the start of the 2012 season.

The most impressive aspect of this offensive performance: the Redskins did it despite Griffin and Jackson exiting the game in the first quarter due to injury, tight end Jordan Reed being inactive due to a hamstring injury and receiver Pierre Garcon totaling just one reception on four targets.

And the offensive numbers could have been even better.  A second-and-nine Grffin I-formation deep incompletion intended for Jackson should have been a catch according to officiating experts Mike Pereira of FOX Sports and Mike Carey of CBS Sports.


4. Kirk Cousins relieved Griffin and was very good, especially in the first half

Cousins completed his first 12 passes, going 14-of-18 for 170 yards and a touchdown in the first half.  He went just 8-of-15 for 80 yards and a touchdown in the second half, but the performance still overall was terrific, especially considering that it was a relief performance.  

Cousins’ two touchdown passes were a first-quarter second-and-10 20-yard shotgun connection with Young on Cousins’ first throw of the game and an early-fourth-quarter second-and-goal two-yard I-formation toss to Paul.

Cousins’ pocket presence and decision making are better than Griffin’s right now without question.  Griffin, of course, is faster and has the stronger arm and overall higher ceiling.  I never liked the idea of trading Cousins last offseason given the bad year that Griffin had in 2013, to say nothing of Griffin’s injury history.  This game was exactly why you keep Cousins on your roster.

And this game also was why spending a fourth-round pick on Cousins in 2012 was a good idea.  He has at this point has proven at the very least to be a capable backup at a bargain price (four-year, $2.57 million deal).  And he may be a quality starter.  On what planet is that poor use of a fourth-round pick?  


5. The Redskins’ defense was dominant

The Redskins tied a team record with 10 sacks, set previously on Oct. 9, 1977. The 10 sacks were the most by the Redskins in a game since the NFL made sacks an official stat in 1982.

The Redskins totaled a ridiculous 18 quarterback hits.

The Redskins held the Jaguars to 148 total net yards of offense, eight first downs and 3-of-13 on third downs.

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan tied a team record with four sacks, matching Phillip Daniels (12/18/2005), Ken Harvey (11/23/1997), Dexter Manley (10/2/1988) and Brian Orakpo (12/13/2009).

Defensive end Jason Hatcher had two quarterback hits, including 1 ½ sacks, but the stats don’t tell the story of his game.  Hatcher was a major disruptive force, earning a perfect 10.0 grade from our own Chris Cooley.  

Linebacker Perry Riley Jr. had three quarterback hits, including 1 ½ sacks.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson had three quarterback hits, including half of a sack.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo had two quarterback hits, including a sack, and was again impressive with his run defense.

Corner David Amerson had two of the Redskins’ six pass defenses.


6. Safety Bacarri Rambo committed another major mistake and is gone

The Redskins waived Rambo on Tuesday (Sept. 16) off allowing tight end Marcedes Lewis to get behind him and taking a bad angle on Lewis’ second-quarter third-and-12 63-yard touchdown reception.  Rambo, of course, also was guilty of a terrible missed tackle on receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ second-quarter 76-yard touchdown reception in the Week 1 loss at Houston.

Rambo played on just 38 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps, as safety Trenton Robinson was in on 48 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps.  He had an early-fourth-quarter interception but also was at least partly responsible for rookie receiver Allen Robinson’s fourth-quarter third-and-nine 54-yard reception.

Rambo getting waived means that just two of the Redskins’ seven 2013 draft picks are on the 53-man roster: Amerson and Reed.

Two other defensive negatives had to do with corner DeAngelo Hall.  He got beat badly on a first-quarter second-and-10 deep incompletion intended for rookie receiver Allen Hurns, who dropped the ball.  And Hall committed a second-quarter first-and-10 15-yard personal-foul penalty.  


7. Running back Alfred Morris had a very good first half

Morris had 14 carries for 63 yards in the first half, including two second-quarter one-yard I-formation-handoff touchdown runs.

Morris did have eight carries for just 22 yards in the second half, but bad blocking by Lauvao and right tackle Tyler Polumbus had a lot to do with Morris’ bad second-half.    

Rookie Silas Redd had eight carries for 41 yards, including a late-fourth-quarter fourth-and-seven 14-yard pistol-handoff touchdown run.

Roy Helu Jr. had eight carries for just 25 yards but provided the play of the game from a degree-of-difficulty standpoint: second-quarter first-and-10 nine-yard I-formation run on which Helu accumulated much of the yardage while pushing off the turf with his right arm.


8. Tight end Niles Paul and receiver Ryan Grant took advantage of others’ absences

Tight end Logan Paulsen actually started in place of Reed, but it was Paul who played on 71 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps and finished with eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets.  He did have a drop late in the third quarter on a first-and-10 incompletion.  But that drive resulted in Paul’s second-and-goal two-yard touchdown reception.

Grant played on 44 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps thanks to Jackson’s injury and finished with five receptions for 57 yards on eight targets.
    

9. Redskins special teams had a second straight uneven game

The good from Redskins special teams included:
     •    kicker Kai Forbath going 2-for-2 on field goals of 36 and 42 yards despite being questionable with a right groin injury

     •    receiver Andre Roberts’ third-quarter 37-yard punt return that helped to set-up Forbath’s third-quarter 36-yard field goal

     •    punter Tress Way blasting two first-quarter 61-yard punts and a 48-yard punt to the Jags’ 14 in the second quarter

But the bad from Redskins special teams included:    
     •    Roberts totaling just 22 yards on his six other punt returns

     •    Way producing a mere 29-yard punt in the third quarter

     •    Five of the Redskins’ 11 penalties being on special teams, including two by special-teams captain and linebacker Adam Hayward


10. Miscellaneous notes:

This victory snapped a nine-game regular-season losing streak for the Redskins.

Inactives for the Redskins were:
     •    Reed due to the hamstring injury he suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    defensive end Kedric Golston due to a groin injury suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    receiver Santana Moss for a second straight game

     •    corner Tracy Porter (hamstring) for a second straight game

     •    linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee) for a second straight game

     •    rookie guard Spencer Long for a second straight game

     •    quarterback Colt McCoy for a second straight game

The Redskins also played this game without:
     •    safety Brandon Meriweather, who is serving a two-game suspension without pay for a sixth violation of player-safety rules

     •    defensive end Stephen Bowen, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee last Dec. 3

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to season-ending surgery to repair ACL and LCL tears in his left knee last Nov. 21

     •    linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a high-ankle sprain in the preseason-opening win over New England on Aug. 7

     •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28


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Five Takeaways From The Orioles Taking Three Of Four Against The Yankees
by Al Galdi
Sep 15, 2014 -- 11:56am
ESPN 980

Game 1: 2-1 11-inning win on Friday afternoon (Sept. 12)

Game 2: 5-0 win on Friday night (Sept. 12)

Game 3: 3-2 loss on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 13)

Game 4: 3-2 win on Sunday night (Sept. 14)


1. First baseman Chris Davis is done for the regular season


We learned on Friday that Davis had been suspended for 25 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for amphetamines associated with the drug Adderall.  The suspension was to cost Davis the Orioles’ remaining 17 regular-season games and eight postseason games should the O’s advance that far.

Under the terms of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention And Treatment Program, a first offense for a stimulant violation results in follow-up testing.  A second violation brings a 25-game suspension, and a third offense results in an 80-game suspension.  So Davis, obviously, failed a test for a second time.

Davis released a statement of apology through the Major League Baseball Players Association: "I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans.  I made a mistake by taking Adderall.  I had permission to use it in the past but do not have a therapeutic-use exemption this year.  I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately."

One of two things happened here: 1) Davis legitimately needs Adderall, took it without an exemption, and got caught or 2) Davis took Adderall as a performance-enhancer in a frustrating season without an exemption and got caught.  Whatever the case, this was a foolish and completely avoidable misstep.

Davis has an OPS+ of just 97 (100 is average) this season off his incredible 2013: OPS+ of 168, MLB-leading 53 homers, MLB-leading 138 RBI, MLB-leading 370 total bases.  Two bright spots, though, for Davis this season: 1) he’s second on the O’s with 26 homers and 2) his advanced defensive numbers at first base are very good, and he has played some at third base in the absence of Manny Machado.

The O’s have been without Machado since he injured his right knee on Aug. 11.  He underwent season-ending surgery on the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) in his right knee in late August.  Additionally, catcher Matt Wieters hasn’t played since May 10 and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on June 17.


2. The starting pitching was terrific with the exception of one inning

Kevin Gausman tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 1, recording seven strikeouts.

Bud Norris tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 2, recording 10 strikeouts.

Miguel Gonzalez allowed three runs in six innings in Game 3, though he gave up just three hits and three walks.  All three runs came in the top of the second, which featured a solo homer, a walk, a double, an RBI single and a steal of home.

Chris Tillman allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings, recording six strikeouts.  He now has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his 19 starts.  The Orioles’ record for such a streak is 25, which was set by Dave McNally in 1968.  

3. The bullpen was excellent

Orioles relivers combined to allow just two runs in 11 1/3 innings in the series, totaling 13 strikeouts.


4. The offense overall was bad…

The O’s totaled just one homer and batted just .230 (31-for-135) in the series, though they did total 11 walks over Games 1 and 2.


5. …but the theme of unlikely heroes continued for the O’s

Steve Pearce started all four games at first base and went 5-for-14 with two walks in the series.

Jimmy Paredes had a pinch walk-off two-run double in Game 1.

Left fielder Alejandro De Aza had two RBI triples in Game 2, which also included shortstop Ryan Flaherty providing an RBI double, a walk and a run and DH Delmon Young producing a two-run single.

Third baseman Kelly Johnson, a former Yankee whom the O's acquired from Boston on Aug. 30, hit a walk-off double in Game 4.


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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Taking Three Of Four At The Mets
by Al Galdi
Sep 14, 2014 -- 8:20pm
Nationals

Game 1: 6-2 win on Thursday night (Sept. 11)

Game 2: 4-3 loss on Friday night (Sept. 12)

Game 3: 10-3 win on Saturday night (Sept. 13)

Game 4: 3-0 win on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 14)


1. The offense was very good


The Nats batted .292 (42-for-144) in the series, despite going just 9-for-46 with runners in scoring position.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon went a ridiculous 11-for-19 in the series.

Center fielder Denard Span went 5-for-13 with walk and 2-for-2 on stolen bases in the series.

Shortstop Ian Desmond went 6-for-16 with two walks and 3-for-3 on stolen bases in the series.  Desmond exited this series with 22 homers and 21 stolen bases, giving him a 20-20 season for the third straight year.  He joined Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and Alex Rodriguez as the only shortstops in major-league history to go 20/20 at least three times.

Right fielder Jayson Werth did not play in Game 2 but went 4-for-12 with a walk in the series.
 

2. The starting pitching was uneven

Tanner Roark allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings in Game 1, during which he did commit a throwing error.  Roark was pulled despite throwing just 87 pitches, but he is at a career-high innings total, so the Nats may simply be looking not to overthrow him at this point.

Gio Gonzalez allowed four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings in Game 2.  He allowed six hits and a hit-by-pitch on 110 pitches but did record seven strikeouts and did issue just one walk.  Gonzalez unwillingly exited the game in the bottom of the seventh, slamming the ball into manager Matt Williams’ hand and then having an animated discussion with him in the dugout.  Both men downplayed the emotion after the game.

Doug Fister allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings in Game 3, getting pulled after just 75 pitches.

Jordan Zimmermann tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 4.  He wasn’t nearly his usual-efficient self (103 pitches), but the run prevention obviously was there.


3. The bullpen was excellent

Nats relievers combined for 9 1/3 scoreless innings in the series.


4. Things got chippy in Game 1

Mets starter Bartolo Colon got rocked, allowing six runs (five earned) in three innings.  The top of the first saw him give up a two-run homer to first baseman Adam LaRoche and then hit Desmond with a pitch.  The top of the fourth saw Colon give up a two-run homer to Rendon and then hit Werth with the next pitch, causing Colon and eventually manager Terry Collins to be ejected.  

Nats reliever Matt Thornton then hit third baseman Daniel Murphy with a pitch in the bottom of the eighth, causing Murphy to leave the game with an injured left wrist.  

The rest of the series featured four hit-by-pitches by Nats starters: one by Gonzalez in Game 2, one by Fister in Game 3 and two by Zimmermann in Game 4.


5. Defense bit the Nats at least a little for the second time in three series

Catcher Wilson Ramos committed a missed-catch error during the Mets’ three-run first in Game 2.

Desmond committed an error during the Mets’ one-run sixth in Game 3.


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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Taking Two Of Three Against Atlanta
by Al Galdi
Sep 11, 2014 -- 2:37pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 2-1 win on Monday night (Sept. 8)

Game 2: 6-4 win on Tuesday night (Sept. 9)

Game 3: 6-2 loss on Wednesday (Sept. 10)


1. Revenge against your biggest rival, despite one Nats killer continuing his tear


The Nats, in taking two of three against the Braves, improved to 6-10 against them this season and exited this series with a magic number of 10 to clinch the National League East.

Nats killer and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman did go 5-for-11 with a walk in the series.  He now has a .476 batting average, .521 on-base percentage and .778 slugging percentage against the Nats this season.

Next up for the Nats is an 11-game road trip, which comprises their final road games of the regular season: four games at the Mets, three games at the Braves and four games at Miami.


2. It certainly appears as if Drew Storen is back as the Nats’ closer

He struck out the side in a perfect ninth in Game 1 and then tossed another perfect ninth in Game 2, giving him three saves in three days despite manager Matt Williams continuing to insist that he’s going closer-by-committee.  Storen exited this series with a 1.29 ERA and 0.96 WHIP this season.  

Former closer Rafael Soriano allowed a double and a single in a scoreless eighth in Game 3, which marked his first outing since giving up three runs on two homers on Sept. 5.

A negative for the bullpen was Jerry Blevins’ outing in Game 3: three runs in one-third of an inning, though two of the runs were plated on a two-run double given up by Ryan Mattheus.


3. The starting pitching was terrific in Game 1 and solid the rest of the series

Doug Fister, off struggling over his previous three starts (11 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings), was back to his usual stellar self in Game 1.  He tossed seven scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and three walks.  The highlight of Fister’s outing came in the top of the seventh, when manager Matt Williams came to the mound but decided to leave Fister in the game with two outs, runners on first and second and shortstop Andrelton Simmons at the plate.  Williams after the game: "I asked him if he wanted this man, and he said, 'Yes,' so I turned around and went back to the dugout.”  Simmons ended up grounding into a fielder’s choice, one of 11 groundball outs recorded by Fister.

Jordan Zimmermann allowed four runs (two earned) in six innings in Game 2, recording seven strikeouts.  He now has a 2.40 ERA over his last nine starts.  

Stephen Strasburg allowed three runs in six innings in Game 3.  He gave up seven hits, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch but also recorded eight strikeouts and issued no walks.  Strasburg and Zimmermann are tied for first on the Nats with 21 quality starts apiece this season.  


4. The offense had an off series

The Nats batted just .242 and totaled just eight walks in the series.

The Nats totaled just four runs in Games 1 and 3, during which the Nats went a combined 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

36-year-old Braves starter Aaron Harang allowed one run (unearned) in seven innings in Game 3, recording nine strikeouts.  He now has allowed just two unearned runs in 20 innings over three starts against the Nats this season.  

A bright spot remained first baseman Adam LaRoche, who went 4-for-11 with a walk in the series.  He had two RBI singles in Game 2.


5. Two key absences in Game 3

Third baseman Anthony Rendon (illness) and shortstop Ian Desmond (back) did not play on Wednesday, but neither was expected to be out for long.


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