Nats bullpen shines in win over Cardinals

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Nats bullpen shines in win over Cardinals

From Comcast SportsNetST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rookies in the postseason, the Washington Nationals played like poised veterans.The Nationals escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning, pinch hitter Tyler Moore blooped a two-out, two-run single in the eighth and Washington beat the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Sunday in an NL playoff opener.The Nationals, who had never come close to making the playoffs since moving from Montreal for the 2005 season, overcame a wild start by 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez.Reliever Ryan Mattheus needed just two pitches to bail out the Nationals in the seventh with St. Louis ahead 2-1. Tyler Clippard worked around an error in the eighth and Drew Storen saved it with a 1-2-3 ninth.The NL East champion Nationals led the majors with 98 wins this season, and brought postseason baseball to Washington for the first time since 1933. The Nats go for a 2-0 series lead Monday when Jordan Zimmermann opposes Jaime Garcia.The Cardinals made it to the best-of-five division series by beating Atlanta in the wild-card matchup Friday. But St. Louis wasted a 10-strikeout gem by Adam Wainwright, failing to capitalize enough on Gonzalez's career high-tying seven walks and frustrating its towel-waving fans.A standing room crowd of 47,078, among the largest at 7-year-old Busch Stadium, bundled up for a game that began in 54-degree chill and featured kaleidoscope late-afternoon shadows that bedeviled hitters for several innings.Rookie shortstop Pete Kozma misplayed Michael Morse's grounder for an error to open the eighth and set up the Nationals' go-ahead rally. Ian Desmond followed with a single off Mitchell Boggs for his third hit of the game, putting runners at the corners.Danny Espinsoa sacrificed, leaving runners at second and third, and Kurt Suzuki struck out. In a series of moves, the Nationals sent up Chad Tracy to pinch hit, the Cardinals switched to lefty Marc Rzepczynski and Washington subbed in Moore, who had two of their three pinch homers this season.Moore poked an outside pitch to right field and both runners scored easily.Wainwright became the first Cardinals pitcher to reach double digits in strikeouts since Bob Gibson also fanned 10 to beat the Tigers in Game 4 of the 1968 World Series.Wainwright was a 14-game winner coming off reconstructive elbow surgery that sidelined him all of 2011, with 10 of the wins coming at home. He's been a postseason ace with a microscopic 0.77 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 23 1-3 innings.He fanned Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman twice each and seventh-place hitter Espinosa all three times.Gonzalez allowed just one hit in five innings, on David Freese's full-count bouncer between third and short to start the fourth. But he had trouble finding catcher Kurt Suzuki's glove.The second inning was Gonzalez' shakiest when he allowed the Cardinals to score twice and take the lead without a hit. Gonzalez walked four of the first five hitters, putting St. Louis in position to score one run on a wild pitch and a second on Jon Jay's bases-loaded sacrifice fly.Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth robbed Daniel Descalso of a two-run homer off with a leaping catch to keep it at 2-1 in the sixth. Descalso had a fielding gem of his own in the seventh, ranging far to his left to glove Harper's grounder and then throwing him out by a few steps.

The ratings are in, and Josh Doctson is already an asset in Madden

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The ratings are in, and Josh Doctson is already an asset in Madden

Real-life Kirk Cousins was certainly pleased that the Redskins drafted football-snatcher Josh Doctson, but you know who else is feeling good about the selection? Virtual Kirk Cousins.

Both versions of Washington's signal caller will benefit from Doctson's presence, but while the actual wideout's pro debut is still months away, his counterpart in Madden has already been assigned a rating for the next edition of the game. Therefore, it's already known how much he'll help out on gridirons across the world's Xbox's and Playstations, even though he won't play in a real contest for a while.

And, judging by the aforementioned attributes that the folks at EA Sports gave Doctson, they expect him to be quite productive in the NFL.

The TCU product checks in as an 80 overall, a nice grade for a rookie pass catcher. Alongside that 80 is a 92 in the speed category, plus a 94 in agility. In other words: When you use the Burgundy and Gold, get this guy the rock with space around him.

For comparison's sake, Cleveland's Corey Coleman boasts the highest overall mark for an incoming receiver (82), while Houston's Will Fuller and Minnesota's LaQuan Treadwell are tied with Doctson. Meanwhile, Scot McCloughan's first pick from last year, Brandon Scherff, also was initally ranked as an 80.

As of now, those are the only three metrics that Madden's developer released, meaning Doctson's jumping ability is still unknown. If it's anything less than a 106, though, it may be time to boycott the successful franchise. Doctson can get up, and that better be appropriately reflected in the numbers.    

MORE REDSKINS: NUMBER ASSIGNMENTS FOR THE TEAM'S ROOKIES

NL East: Braves could hire Bud Black if they fire manager Gonzalez

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NL East: Braves could hire Bud Black if they fire manager Gonzalez

How weird would this be?

The Atlanta Braves are not likely to keep manager Fredi Gonzalez around long with the team holding the worst record in baseball through 26 games, and a new report has Bud Black as the prohibitive favorite to replace him. That's Bud Black, as in the guy who nearly became the Nats' manager this past winter before they turned to Dusty Baker.

Choosing Baker has proven to be smart so far as the Nats are atop the NL East after a month of games, but Black isn't expected to be sitting out long. If he were to land in Atlanta, that could make for some interesting matchups between the teams and debates among those who had strong opinions about either candidate during the Nats hiring process.

 

Kris Letang speaks on Game 4 suspension at morning skate

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Kris Letang speaks on Game 4 suspension at morning skate

PITTSBURGH -- Quick hits from Wednesday’s morning skates here at Consol Energy Center:

Soccer for Mojo: Caps left wing Marcus Johansson (upper body injury) did not participate in the Capitals’ optional morning skate but he was seen playing soccer in the hallway with forward T.J. Oshie and defenseman Matt Niskanen.

Johansson left Game 3 after taking an open-ice check from Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, but returned to the game and saw 18:20 of ice time while recording nine hits.

Letang’s take: Letang said he “respects” the NHL’s decision to suspend him for tonight’s Game 4 for his hit on Johansson. 

“The game is fast and I respect their decision and I have no other choice,” Letang said. “I tried to step on the guy. There’s no malicious intention there.”

The Penguins went 2-8-1 without Letang in the lineup this season. 

“It’s going to be tough (to watch),” he said. “We’ve been battling through (injuries) all year long. We missed Geno (Evgeni Malkin) for a long stretch. Guys were banged up all year long. Guys stepped up and guys will rise to the occasion.”  

Sestito in?: With Bryan Rust sidelined with a lower body injury, the Penguins the Penguins recalled 6-foot-5, 228-pound left wing Tom Sestito, who told reporters he has been told to be ready to play tonight. Sestito had 104 penalty minutes in 41 games for AHL Wilkes-Bare Scranton.

“I just need to finish my hits, play hard, play physical,” Sestito said. “People are going to be hitting everybody. Maybe the hands slip out (for a fight) maybe they don’t. But I’ll be out there dishing them out the same.”