Yet another rookie QB named a starter

Yet another rookie QB named a starter

From Comcast SportsNetPete Carroll and John Schneider were overjoyed during the April NFL draft when the Seattle Seahawks were able to grab Russell Wilson in the third round.Even they couldn't anticipate that Wilson would be the Seahawks' Week 1 starter.Carroll announced Sunday night that the undersized, but highly successful rookie quarterback from Wisconsin will be the starter when the Seahawks open the regular season on Sept. 9 at Arizona. Wilson beat out Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson -- in the process of being traded to Buffalo -- for the starting gig."It's been a very exciting competition that has gone on and Russell has taken full advantage of his opportunities and has done everything that we have asked for on the field and more than what you guys could know off the field in meeting rooms and with our players and how he's represented. He's earned this job," Carroll said on a conference call Sunday night. "It was a legitimate competition as we said from the beginning and with the opportunity he's taken advantage of he deserves to start."Wilson has been a dynamic star during the preseason. For the first two weeks, his performance came against backups during the second halves of victories over Tennessee and Denver.But what Wilson displayed during those two halves were enough for Carroll to give him the start Friday night against Kansas City. Wilson's response: 13-of-19 passing for 185 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 134.8. And if he didn't show enough with his arm, Wilson added another 58 yards rushing.His total preseasons numbers thus far are eye-popping: 35 of 52 (67.3 percent) for 464 yards, five touchdowns and a league-leading 119.4 QB rating. Wilson's only preseason mistake was throwing a careless end zone interception against Tennessee.Otherwise, Wilson's been almost perfect."This isn't just based on the quarters we've seen him play. This is based on the practice and the challenges that he's undertaken here on the practice field," Carroll said. "We've combined everything and with the circumstances that have been presented he won this opening challenge here."Wilson's most recent performance had Seattle fans buzzing, with Twitter overrun with "Russellmania" comments Friday night as he picked apart the Chiefs. As the game progressed, most began accepting the idea that Wilson would be the starter.Carroll said Wilson took the news in stride."He expects to be good and he expects to be successful and he expects to make plays," Carroll said.Wilson has been able to pick up the Seahawks offense quicker because of his experience playing in a West Coast offensive system in college. He spent his first three seasons at North Carolina State before transferring for his final year to Wisconsin. In Madison, Wilson led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl and was named the first-team, all-Big Ten quarterback."He is so prepared. He doesn't seem like a first-year player," Carroll said. "He seems like he's been around. He gets it, he understands and he is a tremendous leader in that way. He doesn't do anything but the right thing in all of his work and his preparation and his competitiveness has been demonstrated again."Wilson being named the starter leaves Flynn on the sidelines and according to Carroll understandably disappointed. Flynn was Seattle's big free-agent splash in the offseason and the most highly sought after quarterback not named Manning after spending the last few seasons as Aaron Rodgers backup in Green Bay. But Flynn failed to show the same flashes as Wilson during his two preseason opportunities and sat out the game in Kansas City with a sore elbow.Flynn's injury isn't considered to be severe, but sitting out against the Chiefs didn't help his case for the job."Matt's done a great job for us in every way, just the opportunities didn't seem to come in as big a way as it did for Russell," Carroll said. "He made the most of his."

Kevin Durant taking heat from Thunder fans after Game 6 loss to Warriors

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Kevin Durant taking heat from Thunder fans after Game 6 loss to Warriors

Kevin Durant is not only one of NBA's best players, but also one of it's best liked players. He's beloved by the Thunder faithful and coveted by just about everyone else (especially Wizards fans). But his poor performance in Saturday's Game 6 loss to the Warriors has drawn unusual recrimination. 

KD seldom finds himself a target of pointed critism, either of his play or demeanor. And when he has gotten flak more recently, it's usually from the media not the public. 

Maybe that's because he comes off as humble and unassuming without being afraid to stand up for himself. Or because his partner in superstardom, Russell Westbrook, is such a lightening rod. Generally speaking, there's just nothing all that offensive or controversial about Durant. 

But the aftermath of Game 6 has been another story entirely. Fans from all over -- including Oklahoma, Texas and Washington D.C. -- have absolutely flogged the 2014 MVP. The blame campaign started as people filed out of Chesapeake Arena. 

Obviously the reaction is extreme and vitriolic. But it reflects intense disappointment in Durant's play and the belief that he doesn't get his fair share criticism for the Thunder's underachievement. 

The seven-time All-Star performed abysmally by his standards, scoring 29 points on 31 attempts (!). Things really devolved in the fourth quarter, where he shot 1 of 7 from the field, turned the ball over twice and looked helpless on defense.

KD was hard to watch (as was Westbrook), but that alone isn't enough to inspire such outrage. The circumstances of the loss added kerosene and struck the match. 

Oklahoma City held a 94-87 advantage with 5:48 left in regulation, at which point Inpredictable.com calculated their win probability at 88 percent. The series could have and should have been a wrap. Instead, Durant and Westbrook combined for four points, six turnovers and two fouls the rest of the way. It was among the more stunning collapses in recent playoff memory. 

And this wasn't a case of constant lead changes. The Thunder had been ahead for nearly the whole night, but imploded in front of a sellout crowd at home (where they had already obliterated the Golden State twice).

Their second of back-to-back losses blew a 3-1 series lead and set up Game 7 in Oakland, where the defending champs won 39 of 41 regular season contests on the way to a record 73 wins. 

The consensus before tipoff had been that Game 6 was a must-win for OKC. The Warriors would become heavy favorites if they were allowed two games of momentum for a death match at Oracle Arena. 

But the Thunder didn't win, and if they lose the series, expect a different narrative than in the past.

"Durant doesn't have the right pieces around him" could turn into "Durant struggles under pressure" very quickly. 

Hershey advances to Calder Cup Finals with Game 5 win over Toronto

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Hershey advances to Calder Cup Finals with Game 5 win over Toronto

The Hershey Bears are headed to the Calder Cup Finals for the first time since 2010 after a 3-2 win over the Toronto Marlies on Sunday. The Bears dispatched the Marlies in just five games to win the Eastern Conference despite a dominant regular season by Toronto.

The Marlies led the AHL in the regular season with 114 points, but, as Caps fans well know, that doesn’t mean much when it comes to the playoffs. The Bears jumped out to a 3-0 series lead before finishing Toronto off  in Game 5.

After suffering a blowout 5-0 loss at the hands of the Marlies on Friday, Hershey started things off quickly in Game 5 building a 3-0 lead just 2:13 into the second period. Liam O’Brien opened up the scoring midway in the first as two Toronto defensemen were caught chasing Dustin Gazley who found O’Brien with a beautiful feed to setup the goal.

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Defenseman Christian Djoos would make it 2-0 in the second, then add an assist on Nathan Walker’s goal to extend the lead to 3-0.

Toronto made a comeback bid, pulling to within one after goals from William Nylander and Nikita Soshnikov, but that would be as close as the Marlies would climb. Former Caps prospect Connor Carrick also tallied an assist on Nylander’s goal.

Justin Peters was strong in net for the Bears with 21 saves, 10 of which came in the third period as Toronto tried furiously to tie the game, turning aside 21 of 23 shots in the winning effort.

The win marks the 23rd conference championship in franchise history. Hershey will look to win its 12th Calder Cup against the Lake Erie Monsters of the Western Conference.

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Barrage of homers lead Nats past Cardinals in series finale

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Barrage of homers lead Nats past Cardinals in series finale

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 10-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.

How it happened: Sometimes in baseball all it takes is a second look at a pitcher and on Sunday the difference between the Nationals' first run through the lineup and their second against Cardinals starter Michael Wacha was quite significant.

For the first three innings, the Nats were held hitless, the only baserunner earned on a walk to Wilson Ramos. But then in the fourth, things quickly devolved for Wacha. The Cardinals right-hander gave up two hits to lead off the frame, the second to score a run. He then allowed a two-RBI single to Ramos with two outs.

The three runs in the fourth off Wacha gave them the lead, but a five-run seventh inning put this one on ice for the Nationals. Anthony Rendon led off with a solo homer and Jayson Werth cleaned up the rest with a pinch-hit grand slam. It was Werth's sixth career grand slam and his first ever as a pinch-hitter. It was also just the second pinch-hit grand slam in Nats' history following Justin Maxwell's in September of 2007. You don't see them very often.

Ramos then added a two-run homer in the eighth to make it 10-2. It was Ramos' third hit of the day.

Ten runs were more than enough help for Stephen Strasburg and the Nats' bullpen. Strasburg gave up one run on a homer to Brandon Moss, but otherwise limited damage throughout the afternoon with six hits and two walks spread across six strong innings. Strasburg now has the best start in franchise history at 9-0.

The Nats' bullpen ran into some trouble in the seventh with a bases-loaded jam with one out, but Felipe Rivero escaped the frame with just one run allowed and a lead intact. The run came on a sac fly by Matt Adams, but all things considered, it could have been much, much worse. 

What it means: The Nationals closed their homestand on a positive note as they get set for an 11-day road trip, which is tied for the longest one they have this season. They also finished their season series against the Cardinals with a 5-2 record. That's a nice change of course after they went 8-18 against them from 2012 through 2015.

Rendon smacks homer No. 4: Rendon added an insurance run in the eighth inning with a solo home run to right field on the first pitch he saw from reliever Jonathan Broxton. After having zero homers in April, Rendon has four this month. He has reached safely in 20 of his last 22 games. In 18 games going back to May 10, Rendon is 24-for-63 (.381) with two homers, six doubles, a triple, 10 RBI, 12 walks, 11 runs and three steals. He posted his 10th multi-hit outing of that 18-game stretch. Even taking Saturday night off did not cool him down.

Ramos hits No. 6: Ramos reached base four times on Sunday with a walk and three hits in three at-bats. He hit a two-run bomb to left field in the eighth inning, his sixth homer of the season. Ramos is now batting .336 through 40 games this season.

Zimmerman gets another XBH: After going 4-for-4 with two homers on Saturday night, Zimmerman notched another extra-base hit on Sunday with his double in the fourth inning. Zimmerman now has 10 doubles on the season and 14 extra-base hits in May after posting just four in April. The problem for Zimmerman has been consistency this season in putting together more than two solid games in a row. Just last week he had two hits in consecutive games on May 23-24, then went hitless in four straight outings. On May 10 he had two homers, but that was during a stretch where he went 5-for-37 across nine games. It has truly been feast or famine for the Nats' first baseman this season.

Harper drives in a run: Harper's RBI single to score Michael Taylor in the fourth inning gave him his fourth straight game with a hit. He also has an RBI in five of his last eight games despite only having four hits during that stretch. Harper has scored a run in four straight outings. Overall, though, it was another frustrating day for Harper, who went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. After he popped out in the sixth, he was shown on a television replay chucking his batting helmet in the dugout.

Strasburg left in, then pulled: Strasburg's exit after six innings was part of some creative managing for Dusty Baker. He sent Strasburg out to start the seventh after 104 pitches, but then brought in Oliver Perez before Strasburg even threw a pitch in the inning. He called on Perez once Cardinals manager Mike Matheny brought in Kolten Wong as a pinch-hitter. And once Matheny saw Perez come in, he replaced Wong with Aledmys Diaz to pinch-hit. There was a pitching change and two pinch-hitters inserted into the game all before a single pitch was thrown. The Nats, by the way, have now won all 11 of Strasburg's starts this season and 15 in a row dating back to 2015.

Up next: The Nats embark on a long road trip beginning with three games in Philly. They play three at the Phillies, then three at the Reds and White Sox. Monday night will be a 7:05 p.m. start with Tanner Roark (3-4, 2.71) set to pitch opposite Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.97).