Yanks, Orioles and Nats, Cards tied at 1-1

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Yanks, Orioles and Nats, Cards tied at 1-1

From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- The New York Yankees now must grudgingly acknowledge that these aren't the same Baltimore Orioles they used to knock around with merciless ease.Rookie Wie-Yin Chen outpitched 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, and the resilient Orioles beat the Yankees 3-2 Monday night to even their best-of-five AL playoff series at a game apiece.Game 3 will be held Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.Baltimore fell apart in the ninth inning of the opener Sunday, allowing five runs in a 7-2 defeat. Instead of wilting under the pressure of having to come from behind against the mighty Yankees on Monday, the Orioles stood strong."I think that's been big for us all year, the fact that we've been able to put our losses and obviously our low points behind us, really learn from them and bounce back," said right fielder Chris Davis, who had two RBIs.Before this year, the Orioles endured 14 straight losing seasons and were 79-140 against the Yankees over that span. But during this wildly successful comeback season, Baltimore has thus far split 20 games with New York."They have a good team," Yankees captain Derek Jeter conceded."It seemed like Baltimore and us have kind of gone back and forth all year and that's what we did here," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.Baltimore's turnaround from Game 1 was typified by the performance of closer Jim Johnson, who yielded all five of those ninth-inning runs on Sunday before finishing Monday's game with a 1-2-3 ninth."(Sunday) night was just a hiccup," Baltimore first baseman Mark Reynolds said. "He obviously showed what he was capable of tonight."Afterward, Orioles owner Peter Angelos made a rare appearance, shaking hands with virtually every player he came across in the clubhouse."It's always good to see the man that signs your check," center fielder Adam Jones said. "I think it means a lot to him and it obviously means a lot to the players to see the owner appreciates you going out there and busting your tail for him, for the organization and for the city."The Yankees, by virtue of finishing two games ahead of the Orioles in the AL East, have home-field advantage and will host the remainder of the games in the series. But Baltimore won all three series at Yankee Stadium and won't be intimidated by playing there for the right to advance to the AL championship series."I think the biggest thing for us is we feel comfortable playing in New York," Davis said.Hiroki Kuroda will start for New York against rookie Miguel Gonzalez, who was 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in two starts in the Bronx this season, striking out 17 and walking only one in 13 2-3 innings.In Game 2, the Orioles used the same formula that got them into the postseason: a magnificent bullpen and an ability to win tight games. Baltimore was 29-9 in one-run decisions during the regular season and 74-0 when leading after seven innings."I think having our bullpen having been as consistent as it has been gives us that confidence in these one-run games," Reynolds said. "Overall, we had the confidence today. Going into the ninth inning with a lead, we knew we were going to win."Chen gave up two runs, one earned, and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings. The Taiwan native, who pitched previously in Japan, was 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA in four outings against New York this season, including two in September in which he yielded a total of 11 runs over 11 1-3 innings."Chen did a good job of keeping us in the game," Davis said. "To hold that offense to two runs is saying something, and we were able to get timely hits when we needed it."Chen left with a 3-2 lead, and the bullpen made it stand up. Johnson retired Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki on grounders and struck out Alex Rodriguez to end it in front of a rollicking crowd at Camden Yards.Much earlier, Suzuki's deft dancing at the plate put the Yankees ahead.Pettitte, whose 19 wins and 43 starts are the most in postseason history, allowed three runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings."I thought he pitched a really, really good game," Girardi said. "I thought he had really good command of his fastball, his curveball, really all his pitches."Pettitte came out of retirement before this season hoping to pitch again in the playoffs. He was effective; Chen was just better."It's a playoff game," Pettitte said. "If you give up too many runs, that number doesn't have to get too high until you know you're going to get a loss."Pettitte, however, got little offensive backing. New York stranded 10 and went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position."They were tough. We weren't able to get the big hits with runners in scoring position," Pettitte said. "It was a frustrating game and one you hate to lose. It would have been nice to get this one, that's for sure."After Davis hit a two-run single to put Baltimore up 2-1 in the third inning, Matt Wieters led off the sixth with a double and scored on a single by Reynolds to make it 3-1.But New York came right back in the seventh. Eduardo Nunez got a double when Davis couldn't catch his blooper to right and Jeter followed with an RBI single. After Suzuki hit into a fielder's choice, Darren O'Day replaced Chen and struck out Rodriguez as Suzuki stole second. Brian Matusz came in and issued an intentional walk to Robinson Cano to set up a matchup with Nick Swisher.Swisher was 1 for 18 lifetime against Matusz and 1 for his last 32 in postseason play with runners in scoring position. A wild pitch moved up the runners, but the percentages held up, as Swisher hit a routine fly ball to left.The Yankees used the nifty footwork of Suzuki to take a 1-0 first-inning lead, and it had nothing to do with his speed on the basepaths.Jeter led off the game with a single and Suzuki reached when Reynolds fumbled a bare-hand pickup at first base for an error.Rodriguez hit a low line drive at second baseman Robert Andino, who caught it and doubled up Jeter. Cano followed with a drive to the base of the right-field wall for a double. The relay from Davis to Andino to Wieters beat Suzuki to the plate by plenty, but he dodged the tag coming toward home.Suzuki then circled around the batter's box, juked around the catcher's desperate lunge and touched the plate an instant before Wieters' glove found its mark.Pettitte retired the first eight batters before Andino hit a bloop single with two outs in the third. Nate McLouth also singled, and a four-pitch walk to J.J. Hardy loaded the bases for Davis, who lined a single to right.Jones followed by grounding a single just beyond the reach of Jeter at shortstop, but Hardy stopped at third after failing to spot third-base coach DeMarlo Hale waving him home. Wieters then popped out with the bases loaded.In the fourth, the Yankees used two singles and a walk to load the bases with one out. Nunez popped out before Jeter bounced into a forceout.NOTES:It was the 16th start in a Game 2 for Pettitte, most in baseball history ahead of Tom Glavine (11). ... NY 1B Mark Teixeira let a ball go through his legs in the fifth inning for an error, matching his total for the entire regular season. ... Chen was 2-5 with 3.59 ERA in 10 postseason starts in Japan. He participated in the playoffs from 2008-11. ... Suzuki has reached safely in all 12 of his playoff games. ... Cano has 19 RBIs in 18 postseason games.----------ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals enjoyed a typical high-output day against Jordan Zimmermann. The bats came alive when they needed it most.Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso homered early to build a nice cushion and Carlos Beltran added two long shots in a 12-4 rout over the Washington Nationals on Monday night that evened the best-of-five series at a game apiece."If we get things going, we feel like we can carry the team," Craig said. "As you saw tonight, we put a lot of good swings on the ball and really drove the ball. It was a lot of fun."The Cardinals chased Zimmermann after three innings, his shortest outing of the season, and took care of business in what could be the final home game of the season. A day after managing just three hits, there was no carry-over."You've got to be confident," third baseman David Freese said. "We're one of the few teams left. They still think they can take the series, and so do we."Johnson said Zimmermann, pitching on eight days' rest, relied too heavily on outside fastballs that the Cardinals were able to time. The right-hander's next-shortest outing this year also was against the Cardinals, when he coughed up a four-run, first-inning cushion and was chased after yielding eight runs in 3 2-3 innings during a 10-9 loss at home.He's 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in five career regular-season starts against St. Louis, which was 3 for 5 with runners in scoring position against a pitcher who led the majors in holding opponents to a .160 average in that category.The Cardinals had more than enough to compensate for a two-inning start from an ailing Jaime Garcia, who had an MRI exam for a shoulder injury. The lefty missed two months with shoulder fatigue during the season."I don't know how it happened, I don't know when it happened," Garcia said. "I'm just hoping it's not too bad."Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche hit consecutive homers in the fifth for the Nationals, who head home for the remainder of the series. The NL East champions are without All-Star ace Stephen Strasburg, shut down for the rest of the season early last month to protect his surgically repaired arm."I miss him not experiencing this with us and he misses not experiencing it with us," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "But we did the right thing, there's no question."He'd have been the guy that opened the series."Game 3 is Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park, the first postseason contest in the nation's capital since the original Senators played the New York Giants in the 1933 World Series. Edwin Jackson starts for Washington against longtime Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, who made only three starts during the regular season because of injury."You hate to get blown out, but you get walked off, it probably hurts a little bit more," the Nationals' Jayson Werth said. "The game was out of reach for a while."No big deal, a loss is a loss. We'll head home and feel good about it."Jackson pitched on the Cardinals' World Series title team last fall before signing a free-agent deal with Washington."Having E-Jax on the bump is going to be great for us," Nationals 19-year-old rookie Bryce Harper said. "He's unbelievable in the postseason, unbelievable in the playoffs. The Cardinals know that."Facing Carpenter is going to be tough for us but playing at home will be a lot of fun."Beltran homered twice in the postseason for the third time in his career, connecting in the sixth off Mike Gonzalez and eighth off Sean Burnett. Jon Jay had two hits and three RBIs, plus an outstanding catch at the center-field wall to deprive Danny Espinosa of extra bases in the sixth.St. Louis was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position during Game 1 and totaled just three hits, but the Cardinals had five hits in a four-run second Monday. Descalso hit his first postseason homer in the fourth, a day after getting robbed by Werth's leaping catch at the right-field wall. Beltran's drive off Gonzalez in the sixth banged off the facade in the third deck in left, estimated at 444 feet."I hope I never see this offense again," Johnson said in the postgame interview room.Shadows creeped past the pitcher's mound around the third inning and didn't seem to be as big of an issue in Game 2, which started 1 hours later than the opener. Both teams had issues with the playing conditions after the opener.Late last season, after complaints from Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman, the Cardinals said they'd try not to schedule late afternoon games that might be affected.Harper went 1 for 5 and struck out four times. He also was thrown out at third base on an ill-advised attempt to advance. He's 1 for 10 in the series with six strikeouts."Do I look overanxious? You think so?" Harper said to a reporter. "Maybe you should be a hitting coach."Lance Lynn, an 18-game winner who would likely replace Garcia in the rotation, struck out five in a three-inning stint marred by the consecutive homers.St. Louis opened the second with four straight hits, singles by Craig and Yadier Molina that set the table followed by an RBI double from Freese and a run-scoring single from Descalso. After the Cardinals went down in order in the first, seven of their next 11 hitters reached safely."They have a great lineup," Zimmermann said. "You get a few guys out and then you've got Beltran, (David) Freese and it never stops. You have to make your pitches and I wasn't able to do that tonight."NOTES:Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook, rehabbing from a pulled oblique, will leave the team for a few days to be with his wife, due to deliver the couple's fourth child. GM John Mozeliak said it's "not likely" that Westbrook, a 13-game winner, will be able to pitch this fall. ... Beltran has 13 career postseason homers. His last two-homer game in the postseason was Oct. 15, 2006, with the Mets against St. Louis in the NLCS. ... The Cardinals matched the franchise high for runs in a division series game. They also scored 12 in 2002 against Arizona.

Nats' Belisle feels ready, but not quite done with rehab games

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Nats' Belisle feels ready, but not quite done with rehab games

Fresh off three rehab appearances with the Single-A Potomac Nationals, the next stop for Nats reliever Matt Belisle is likely to be Double-A Harrisburg. Belisle expects to pitch two innings there on Tuesday before the team can determine his next step.

Belisle pitched two innings on Saturday night with the P-Nats and allowed two earned runs on four hits with three strikeouts. He feels like he could return now if needed, but it's not up to him.

"I'm ready," the 35-year-old said. "I feel great with the calf. I'm doing everything I can. The therapist and everybody have said I'm good to go. I'm ready to rock."

Belisle has been on the disabled list since April 27 with a right calf strain. The two runs he gave up on Saturday are the only ones he's allowed in four innings on his rehab assigment. He allowed six hits and struck out five in those games.

Belisle made seven appearances with the Nationals before injuring himself fielding a groundball against the Phillies on April 27. He says he feels good both physically and in terms of his performance on the mound.

"I never took off. I was pitching off the mound and doing side sessions quite a bit. I guess when you get up you lose a little bit of feel, but it's not like coming in and starting all over again," he explained. 

"I've done this a few times before. How you play catch is a big and important factor. The more action you get, the better… You need to step in ready to fire and go."

Strasburg, Wacha face off in Nats-Cardinals series finale

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Strasburg, Wacha face off in Nats-Cardinals series finale

Nats (29-21) vs. Cardinals (26-24) at Nationals Park

The Nats and Cardinals close out a four-game series on Sunday at Nationals Park with two big name pitchers set to square off. For the Nats, it will be Stephen Strasburg (8-0, 2.79). For the Cardinals, it will be Michael Wacha (2-5, 5.04), who is not off to the greatest start this season. 

The Cardinals have taken two straight games after the Nats won the series opener on Thursday. The Nationals aim for the split without Jayson Werth, who is sitting the series finale. Michael Taylor is in to play center field with Ben Revere in left. Taylor is batting in Werth's second spot in the lineup.

First pitch: 1:35 p.m.
TV: CBS-9, MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 183
Starting pitchers: Nats - Stephen Strasburg vs. Cardinals - Michael Wacha

NATS

LF Ben Revere
CF Michael Taylor
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
1B Ryan Zimmerman
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Stephen Strasburg

CARDINALS

3B Matt Carpenter
SS Greg Garcia
LF Matt Holliday
1B Matt Adams
CF Randal Grichuk
RF Brandon Moss
2B Jedd Gyorko
C Eric Fryer
RHP Michael Wacha

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2015-16 Capitals in Review: Justin Williams

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2015-16 Capitals in Review: Justin Williams

With the Capitals’ 2015-16 season now in the rearview mirror, we continue with our numerical player-by-player roster analysis.

No. 14 Justin Williams

Age: 34 (turns 35 on Oct. 4)

Games: 82

Goals: 22

Assists: 30

Points: 52

Plus-minus: Plus-15

Penalty minutes: 36

Time on ice: 16:39

Playoff stats: 12 games, 3 goals, 4 assists, minus-3, 14 PIM, 15:28

Contract status: One year remaining on two-year, $6.5 million contract ($3.25 million cap hit)

A little less than a year ago Justin Williams signed a two-year contract with the Capitals for two reasons – to be closer to his wife’s family outside of Philadelphia and to win a fourth Stanley Cup ring.

Following the Caps’ second-round playoff elimination by the Penguins, Williams was asked to evaluate his first season in Washington.

“Listen, it was a failure,” Williams said. “I’m not going to beat around the bush. I came here to try to help this team win and I didn’t do it. People will be upset about that, calling it a failure, but there’s only one team that gets to finish the season with a win and we weren’t it this year, so I consider it a failure from that aspect, but a positive that I know this team can do it.”

From the start, Williams brought the Capitals everything they’d hoped. His 22 goals ranked third on the team behind Alex Ovechkin (50) and T.J. Oshie (26). His 30 assists ranked fourth behind Evgeny Kuznetsov (57) Nicklas Backstrom (50) and John Carlson (31).

He worked efficiently along the boards and in front of the net. He teamed up with Jason Chimera to expertly kill penalties. And when the Caps started running away from the rest of the Eastern Conference he emphasized the need to stay focused on the ultimate goal.

In fact, Williams was the only player during the team’s breakup day who didn’t buy the assertion that the Caps had peaked too soon.

“There’s no such thing,” he said with an air of defiance. “No. No way.  You always want to be your best.”

Oddly enough, Williams, who earned a reputation as Mr. Game 7 because of his seven goals, seven assists and 7-0 record in such occurrences, never had the chance to play in one during his first post-season with the Caps. In fact, Williams went his first eight playoff games without a goal on 17 shots and took eight minutes in penalties in a Game 5 loss to Philadelphia.

Many of his scoring opportunities either missed the net or landed softly in the belly of goaltenders Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth and Matt Murray, leading to speculation he might be playing through an injury.

“No, I was fine,” Williams said. “Everyone’s got something. I was fine.”

Williams played his best hockey in the final four games of the Pittsburgh series, recording three goals and two assists, including a goal and an assist in the Caps’ season-ending 4-3 overtime loss to the Pens.

“The only thing I can process is that it sucks,” Williams said. “Obviously, it stinks losing, but knowing that someone else, another team got the better of you is very, very frustrating. The handshake line, looking at people moving on, that will drive me for next year.

“The margin of error is tiny, it’s small, and when it’s that small it’s about scoring big goals and owning the big moments. They owned more of them than we did and, in turn, won a couple overtime games that could have changed the series. It is what it is. There’s moments in playoff series where you need to rise up and we didn’t get it done.”

That said, Williams says he is “absolutely” happy with his decision to sign with Washington. He rejected offers from a handful of other teams, including the Montreal Canadiens, because he thought the Caps had an excellent chance to win it all. That opinion hasn’t changed.

“There’s nothing like coming to a new team that wants you and fitting in and finding your space and your role and I feel I did that and I’ve enjoyed meeting and spending a lot of time with my new teammates,” he said.

“I know this team has a lot of heart and I know this team never quits and I know this team has a great will win. That’s what I assumed coming here and that’s the impression I have now.”

Never known for being one of the NHL’s fastest skaters, Williams relies more on his positioning, tenacity and direct routes to the puck to create offense. He acknowledged the Caps had trouble with the Penguins’ speed in their six-game series.

“We showed throughout the year that we can adapt to any style, but, more importantly, you want the (opponent) to have to adapt to you and you want to play your game,” he said. “Pittsburgh, they played well. They swarmed us. They didn’t give us much space. They flipped pucks to a lot of speed. They deserved to win, I guess.”

Since their playoff exit, the Capitals have emphasized a need for more speed on their third and fourth lines. If Marcus Johansson is moved from third-line center to second-line left wing next season, Williams could return next season as the Caps’ second-line right wing, especially if the team wants Tom Wilson to move up to a third line with a speedier and more creative center acquired through a trade or free agency.

“Listen, that’s not a job for me to say what we need,” Williams said. “What we need is a winner. I’m certainly not going to say that we can’t do it because we can and sometimes you want people against you because then you have something united to work for and we’re going to prove you wrong and tell all the naysayers right now that are saying that we can’t get it done, bring it on.

“We’re one of the best teams in the league, just not the best this year. As I said, the margin of error is tiny. We’re close, but not there.”

With the possibility of Jason Chimera moving on as a free agent this summer, Williams could become the Caps’ senior statesman next season in what could be his last chance to win a Stanley Cup in Washington. He wants the Capitals to understand that having the pieces in place is just the first step toward winning a championship.

“You’re always learning something,” he said. “You can’t hope to win. You have to make yourself win. You’ve got to will yourself to win.”