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.
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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