From Comcast SportsNetPHOENIX (AP) -- Lance Lynn wasn't at his best Monday night -- just good enough for five scoreless innings and another victory.The big, young St. Louis right-hander gave up three hits to become the majors' first six-game winner and the Cardinals held on for a 9-6 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.Rafael Furcal hit the 30th leadoff home run of his career for St. Louis, the first of five homers for the Cardinals on the night. Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday hit consecutive homers to open the third off Joe Saunders (2-2). Allen Craig and David Freese homered to start the seventh after Arizona had scored six times in the sixth to cut the lead to 7-6."It was nice for them to come out swinging the bats right from the top, a pretty good display of some power," manager Mike Matheney said. "Then obviously the ones we got later were a lot more valuable than what we thought they would be."Lynn (6-0), the first St. Louis pitcher to start the season with six wins since Bob Tewksbury in 1994, left with a 7-0 lead. Cody Ransom hit a two-run homer in the Diamondbacks' rally."We're winning games while I'm on the mound," Lynn said. "That's all that matters."Jason Motte gave up a pair of singles in the ninth but no runs for his fifth save in six tries.Lynn struck out seven and walked four. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound 24-year-old has allowed six earned runs in six starts. It was his shortest outing of the season, and he acknowledged he had problems with his command."Tonight was a struggle," Lynn said. "You know you're not going to have your best stuff every time out. Tonight I was able to battle through it."Saunders, who entered the game with a 1.24 ERA, allowed seven runs, six earned, on nine hits in 3 1-3 innings."I just didn't have it," he said, "plain and simple."The Diamondbacks, back from a 5-5 road trip, have lost three in a row and five of six. They have dropped eight of their last 10 at home."We haven't played the way we're capable of recently," manager Kirk Gibson said. "If we're going to beat this team we're going to have to play a lot better."Furcal put St. Louis ahead to stay with a leadoff shot an estimated 441 feet onto the porch in left-center, just above the 413-foot sign. After two outs, Allen Craig singled, then scored on Freese's double into the left field corner. The Cardinals made it 3-0 when Yadier Molina singled to right field. Justin Upton's throw to the plate was high and Freese slid under catcher Miguel Montero's tag.Beltran's eighth home run, leading off the third, followed by Holliday's sixth homer of the season, put the Cardinals up 5-0.They made it 7-0, with help of an unearned run, in the fourth. Tyler Green singled, then Montero threw the ball away on Lynn's sacrifice bunt try. Furcal followed with an RBI single, then Holliday walked to load the bases. Reliever Brad Ziegler walked home the seventh run on four pitches.Arizona broke through against reliever J.C. Romero, who faced five batters without an out in the sixth inning. Montero led off with a single, then Ransom hit his fourth home run of the season, a 452-foot shot into the left field seats. Lyle Overbay walked and Aaron Hill singled, then both scored on Ryan Roberts' double. A.J. Pollack reached on an infield single, then Gerardo Parra's bunt brought Roberts home to make it 7-5 with no outs.Fernando Salas relieved Romero and retired the next two batters, but Montero's RBI singled up the middle cut the lead to 7-6.Reliever Bryan Shaw gave up home runs to Craig and Freese to start the seventh as St. Louis stretched it to a three-run game.NOTES:St. Louis batters have hit consecutive home runs four times this season. ... The Cardinals' Lance Berkman, on the DL with a left calf strain, says he expects to be activated on Friday. ... The Diamondbacks were without first base coach Eric Young because of the death of his father. Bullpen coach Glen Sherlock filled in at first base. ... Upton batted second in the lineup for the first time since Sept. 14, 2010. He was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before being lifted in a double switch after the fifth. ... The Cardinals have scored in the first inning in each of their last seven games. ... The Diamondbacks send ace Ian Kennedy (3-1, 3.23) to the mound Tuesday night against the Cardinals' Jake Westbrook (3-2, 2.12). ... Arizona's franchise record for coming from behind to win is six runs, accomplished six times. ... The final seconds of the Phoenix Coyotes' series-clinching NHL playoff victory over Nashville were shown on the Chase Field big screen.
The new season begins for the Wizards on Thursdsay at the Atlanta Hawks (CSN, 6:30 p.m.). While coach Scott Brooks hasn't made his starters official, this is a good educated guess on who to see introduced on opening night.
They do plenty of things well but some minor adjustments to their games will go a long way to flipping a .500 record in 2015-16 into a winning record and a playoff appearance.
PG John Wall: He’s almost all the way back from having surgeries to both knees May 5. Wall’s only issue is conditioning. He averaged 20 points and 10 assists last season, though defensively he wasn’t All-NBA anymore. It’s not about his final stat line but more about two key numbers that will determine his advancement on the offensive end. 1) Turnovers. Averaged a career-high 4.1 giveaways last season, in part, because he carried a lion’s share of the offensive burden. Below 3.0 should be his target and with Brooks moving him off the ball more often that should help. 2). Three-point shooting. The one area where Wall lags behind other competition at his position is defenses will go under screens on the pick-and-roll or double others while leaving him open at the three-point arc. He has never shot better than 35.1%. If he can hit 40%, it’s a whole new ballgame.
SG Bradley Beal: He has $128 million reasons to take his game to the next level. While health is a major factor, that’s true of every single player. Beal has to be more than a shooter and move out the teens with his points average up to the 20s. Shooting guards like James Harden and DeMar DeRozan separate themselves from the pack because of some unique abilities that Beal has yet to show. 1). Foul line. For his career, Beal attempts just 2.8 free throws per game. That’s not enough. His goal is 7-8 a game and he has to shoot better than 78%. 2). Creating for others. Beal routinely would face blitzes from multiple defenders who didn’t respect other scorers on the floor. Beal can loosen those coverages by lifting his assists from 3.0 and rebounding from 3.7. Brooks will attempt to help by giving him the ball in different positions on the floor.
SF Otto Porter: The skills are there, but the assertiveness isn’t always present. The Wizards require a third scorer who can get more than 11.6 points per game. He was drafted No. 3 overall in 2013 because he was considered the safest bet – and the most polished – because of his high basketball IQ. It’s time that he uses it. 1). Focus on mid-range. Porter isn’t really a three-point shooter. Despite his 36.7% from deep last season, he hovered below 30% for most of the season and this contributed to his disappearing act (as did his habit of looking at his feet before shooting). Though the mid-range game is a lost art in NBA with everyone in love with the three-ball, this is Porter’s strength. He can hit threes but he prefers to be moving to the ball on that catch. 2). Off-ball movement. He’s great at finding holes in the defense for shots in the paint. This type of player should average more than 1.2 foul shots a game and 1.0 assists, which are his career averages. His vision is too good for that.
PF Markieff Morris: Twenty-seven games after being traded to D.C. last season felt more like a lengthy training camp. The Wizards went from the bottom of the table in rebounding to top six during games with Morris. He’s a perfect example of how a player’s actual rebounding numbers (5.9) isn’t necessarily representative of his impact on rebounding for a team. 1). Stretch four. Morris doesn’t have to be a specialist from three-point range but more accurate than 31.6% to force defenses to respect him, which will spread the floor even more for Wall and Beal. He has good form. If he can bump up his touch by 5%-7% it would make a world of difference. 2). Defense. When he's committed he can use his 6-10 frame.
C Marcin Gortat: Averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds in a down season is pretty good output for centers today. Like Porter, he has been prone to spikes and dips for long stretches. He runs the floor extremely well and is the best screen-setter on the team. Wall and Beal can play a two-man game with him, which allows the offense to have better flow and less predictability. 1) Pick-and-roll defense. This has been a major weakness with the Wizards as more and more teams ditch play sets for basic pick-and-roll actions to create mismatches. The communication between the frontline and backline haven't been consistent for the last two years, and now that Gortat is responsible for making a lot of the defensive calls it will be on him. 2). Less finesse and more power at the rim. Gortat has a habit of fading away from the basket too much, particularly when he's facing shot-blockers such as Hassan Whiteside. Gortat has to go at those kind of players who will take the bait when showing them the ball. He can get more whistles that way, put them in foul trouble and get to the line more.
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OWINGS MILLS – Ravens coach John Harbaugh strongly defended quarterback Joe Flacco after Wednesday’s practice, in the midst of a difficult season for his franchise quarterback, and with the Ravens (3-4) riding a four-game winning streak.
Flacco’s current quarterback rating is 75.4, which would be the second-lowest of his nine-year career if the season ended today. He has thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdown passes (five).
So does Harbaugh think Flacco is “elite”? Asked how he assessed Flacco’s play at this point in the season, Harbaugh did not hold back.
“I’m a Joe Flacco guy, and I believe in Joe,” Harbaugh said following Wednesday’s practice. “Joe Flacco is a great football player. Joe Flacco is the key to our success. So we need to all do everything in our power, so all the things fall into place for him. He can play. He can throw it, he can make decisions, he can score touchdowns for us, he can do all the things we need to do. We need to make sure that we give him a chance to do that. Joe will take care of what he needs to do.
“I’m not worried about Joe taking care of what he needs to do. Joe works on it harder than anybody, cares about it more than anybody. But we need to protect him, we need to run routes, we need to create confidence in our passing game, we need to run the ball well.”
But after Wednesday’s practice, Flacco admitted he needed to play better, regardless of injuries along the offensive line, or struggles with the Ravens’ running game.
“I am obviously not playing good enough,” Flacco said. “We are not a good offense, and it starts with the quarterback. I have to be better. We have to be more precise, and that starts with me – just more consistent overall.”
How well Flacco performs after the bye will be a major key to the Ravens’ fate. But despite Flacco’s recent struggles, his coach still has his back.
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