Ichiro Suzuki had himself quite a day Wednesday

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Ichiro Suzuki had himself quite a day Wednesday

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The chants of "Ich-i-ro" swelled in the eighth inning as the wiry batter with the slashing swing walked to home plate. With six hits already in this doubleheader, fans expected something special from the Japanese star.Surprising even himself, Ichiro Suzuki delivered.Suzuki had a go-ahead single in the eighth inning to help the New York Yankees complete a doubleheader sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays with a 2-1 win Wednesday night that ensured they remained atop the AL East.The 10-time All-Star's performance helped New York win its fourth straight and helped them keep a half-game lead in the division over Baltimore, which beat Seattle 3-1 in 11 innings on Wednesday night."I haven't done anything different today so I don't know what the difference was," Suzuki said through a translator.The 38-year-old Suzuki made a difficult catch with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of the opener to preserve a lead for Andy Pettitte in a 4-2 victory. He went 7 for 8 in the two games and stole four of New York's seven bases in the finale."I came in the middle of the season and I always wanted to contribute, wanted to help in this pennant race and today is a great day that I was able to help," said Suzuki, who was acquired in a trade from Seattle in late July. "I'm very sad the day is over."He had three hits in the opener batting leadoff in place of Derek Jeter, who rested his sore ankle in the first game of the day-night doubleheader. Jeter started at shortstop for the first time in a week in the nightcap and got his 200th hit on Ricky Romero's first pitch.The single to center tied Jeter with Lou Gehrig for most 200-hit seasons for New York with eight.Feeling nervous and out of sync at shortstop after the long layoff, Jeter was most impressed with Suzuki's day."That's tough to do," Jeter said. "Doubleheader. I don't think I've ever done that in a doubleheader. I've been on the other side of it maybe an 0 for 8."Rafael Soriano closed both games, notching his 41st and 42nd saves, the first time he saved two in one day.The Blue Jays, playing their first doubleheader against the Yankees since 1986, were without shortstop Yunel Escobar, who began a three-game suspension for wearing eye black displaying an anti-gay slur written in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston.Toronto dropped to 66-81, guaranteeing it will not have a winning record this season.With the score 1-all, Curtis Granderson was walked by Steve Delabar (4-3) to open the eighth. He moved up on Jayson Nix's sacrifice and stole third. With two outs, Suzuki guided an opposite field hit to left for the lead. Suzuki stole two bases in the inning."It was just an unbelievable day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.Cody Eppley (1-2) got one out for his first win since April 27, 2011, for Texas against Toronto.David Phelps followed Pettitte's sparkling five-inning return to the mound from a broken lower left leg by pitching into the seventh. He gave up one run and three hits.Romero remained tied for the Blue Jays record with 13 straight losses and walked five to up his AL-leading total to 99. It was his third game in which he allowed one run and didn't win -- two no-decisions."I had a good delivery," Romero said. "That's one of the things I battled myself all year."Adeiny Hechavarria's RBI single in the second after Phelps walked was just the 24th run Toronto has scored in Romero's last 13 starts.In the bottom half, Chris Stewart drove in a run with a double to left that bounced over the wall and prevented Suzuki from scoring from first. Suzuki had singled and Nix was thrown out trying to score on a strong throw by center fielder Colby Rasmus. Romero had walked two to set up the tying run.Romero was finished after allowing seven hits in six innings. He struck out five.In the opener, Pettitte (4-3) gave up four hits in his first start since a hot shot off the bat of Cleveland's Casey Kotchman broke his left fibula on June 27."He gave us everything that we asked for," Girardi said.Pettitte struggled a bit with his command, walking two, but kept the Blue Jays from hitting the ball hard with a biting breaking ball. He put runners on in each of his first four innings and had a runner on third in the second through fourth innings. But he got timely groundouts in the second, third -- a double play -- and fourth to avoid trouble. Then had a six-pitch fifth to earn the win."My arm feels great. My break area feels great. I'm a hundred percent," Pettitte said. "Just real happy with how my arm is feeling. More than anything it's my legs. I just got to get my legs back in shape."With the 40-year-old lefty on a 75-pitch limit, Girardi mixed and matched liberally, using six relievers.Clay Rapada, Derek Lowe, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan held Toronto scoreless through seven innings. Then Robertson gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson and a run-scoring double to Omar Vziquel in the eighth.Soriano relieved with two outs and runners on second and third. He walked Anthony Gose after a foul drive that landed about a foot foul down the left-field line. Rajai Davis followed with a sinking liner to left field that Suzuki caught, pulling the glove to his stomach to protect the ball."I'm glad I don't have a big belly because if I did it might've hit the belly and popped out," Suzuki said through a translator.Toronto's 45-year-old Vizquel had two hits to move past Babe Ruth for 41st on the career list at 2,874.NOTES:Suzuki is the first Yankee with seven hits in a day in 29 years, since Dave Winfield, according to STATS LLC.Robinson. ... Cano had an RBI double and Granderson a sacrifice fly in the opener ... Toronto's Henderson Alvarez (9-13) allowed five hits in seven innings and struck out a career-high seven. ... Toronto DH Edwin Encarnacion (sore right big toe) did not play in the either game. ... To make room for Pettitte on the 40-man roster, the Yankees recalled RHP Dellin Betances from the minors and placed him on the 60-day DL.

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Morning tip: Weaker the opponent, weaker Wizards' 1st half defense

Morning tip: Weaker the opponent, weaker Wizards' 1st half defense

The starts have to be better,  or 60-point first halves against the likes of the Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers will wear down the Wizards by the end of an 82-game season.

The Wizards (20-19) play the Portland Trail Blazers at Verizon Center where they've won 11 in a row.

They came back from a 13-point deficit to beat the Sixers on Saturday, a 12-win team that put up 56 points in the first 24 minutes.

"We had to play harder. We just let them run their offense the way they wanted to run it," Brooks said of the start. "We didn’t make them play with any duress, and we had to do that. We had to put pressure on the ball, we had to put pressure on all the screens, and we wanted to not only challenge shots but to challenge passes because that buys our backside defense time. I thought the guys did a good job.”

It's a troubling trend for the Wizards, who tend to get off on the wrong foot in first quarters against teams that shouldn't be so offensively potent. They allowed the Sixers to score 30 points, 36 to the injury-depleted Chicago Bulls, 32 to the Brooklyn Nets and 33 for the Miami Heat. 

Against the better teams, the Wizards have more of a tendency to hold them to less than 30. In two meetings, the Houston Rockets were limited to 23-point and 14-point first quarters and 23 and 24 for the San Antonio Spurs. 

The ability to play solid defense is there, but the effort isn't. 


[RELATED: By the numbers: Wizards' home streak reaches 11]

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Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McClouthan

Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McClouthan

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 16, 52 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 44
NFL draft 101
First Sunday of 2017 season 237

A six pack of thoughts to start out the week

1. I think that by the end of the week the Redskins will have two new coordinators. It looks like Matt Cavanaugh will be the offensive coordinator. Haven’t heard why Bill Callahan isn’t getting the nod; it’s possible that he likes what he’s doing now and he’s getting paid as well as many coordinators.

2.  For a quick game with the $100 in imaginary casino chips on the defensive coordinator candidates, I’ll make Greg Manusky the favorite at $40 with Mike Pettine right behind him at $35. I’ll put $10 of the rest on Gus Bradley—we’ve heard of an interview with the Chargers but not anything like a hiring—and $15 on the field. The situation is fluid but that's the way it looks right now. 

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

3. On November 21, after the results of Week 11, the Redskins were 2.5 games ahead of the Packers. They were also a half-game better than of the Falcons. Those two teams are now playing for the NFC title. It’s not how you start, or even how you do in the middle of the season. It’s how you finish.

4. I’m not much of a hockey guy but I think I’ve got to get down to the Verizon Center to see the Caps. They are blazing hot and you can tell it’s a great atmosphere at the VC.

5. I have a feeling that an announcement about a new stadium for the Redskins is going to happen sometime in the next few months. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe can’t run again; he is out of office about a year from today. He’s going to want a legacy item and a state of the art stadium in the commonwealth would fill the bill. The process of approval, financing, and construction will take up most or all of the 10 years that remains on the FedEx Field lease.

More Redskins: The Redskins week that was

6. Normally having a lot of cap space to work with is a good thing but it may not be for Scot McCloughan this year. If the Redskins trim some veterans from the payroll they could go into free agency with around $70 million to spend. McCloughan would prefer to build through the draft. But the current situation almost forces the Redskins to spend. McCloughan took some heat for going into the 2016 season with $15 million in cap space and some unfilled needs on the defensive line and at safety. If they have issues again in 2017 and there is, say, $30 million just sitting there the noise will get louder. And it won’t just be coming from fans and the media; plenty of it will come from the offices of Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.