The matchup: Back home after opening the second half of the season with three out of four road games, the Mystics host Atlanta on Friday (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Washington (5-17) dropped all three of those away contests, but in between downed Chicago in overtime at the Verizon Center. The Mystics remain last in the Eastern Conference, 3.5 games behind Chicago and New York for the final playoff spot. The Dream (11-11), third in the East, are led by gold medalist Angel McCoughtry and ex-Mystic Lindsey Harding. Playing head-to-head for the first time this season, Washington and Atlanta will meet four times over the final month of the regular season. Last season the Dream took three of five games in the series.Last time out: The Mystics became the latest victim of the sizzling San Antonio Silver Stars, falling 75-72 on Wednesday. Playing their fourth game in six days, the Mystics shot 3 of 13 in the first quarter and were outscored 26-12 in the third. Trailing by 15 points entering the final 10 minutes, Crystal Langhorne and Monique Currie sparked a rally as Washington pulled within six midway through the fourth quarter. Jasmine Thomass 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds cut the lead to three, but San Antonio dribbled out the clock for its 12th straight win."(We) came out in the first five minutes of the second half and just lost our composure and our focus, Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey said. They scored 26 points in that quarter. We fought our way back, missed some shots down the stretch, and didnt close out the game.Langhorne and Thomas paced the Mystics with 17 points while Currie added. The trio combined made 17 of 31 field goal attempts (54.8 percent) from the field while their teammates finished 10 of 31 (32.2 percent).Jumping for Jasmine: Beyond any thoughts of a playoff push, the Mystics second half of the season goal centers on generating consistent and improved production out of their younger players. Thomas, a first-round pick last season, struggled early in the season with her offense and running the Mystics attack. If the last two games are any indication, the Northern Virginia native might be turning the corner.In the win over Chicago, Thomas doled out a career-high eight assists and sank the go-ahead 3-pointer with 16 remaining in overtime. Her 17 points and three 3-pointers against San Antonio matched her season-high.The Dream: McCoughtry, the WNBAs leading scorer at 22.7 points per game, didn't play in Wednesdays 82-71 won over Chicago for personal reasons, the Associated Press reported. The offensively gifted forwards status for Fridays game is uncertain, Dream coach and general manager Marynell Meadors said. Harding, who directed the Mystics attack during the 2009 and 2010 playoff campaigns, is averaging 11.5 points and 3.8 assists.
FEDEX FIELD -- The Redskins got what they wanted in the running game against the Bills on Friday. But perhaps they didn’t get it from the expected source.
It was Robert Kelley, not fellow rookie Keith Marshall, who ran the ball consistently well in the absence of injured starter Matt Jones. Kelly had 12 carries for 51 yards. His longest run was nine yards indicating that he kept on grinding out years and not piling up a lot of them in one or two pops.
“I thought he ran hard,” said head coach Jay Gruden. Protected the football, had a couple of good blitz pickups that I saw. I have to make sure I look at the film and see how he did in protection overall. But for the most part I’m happy with the way he played.”
Unfortunately for Marshall, he did not get the time with the with the first offense that he was expected to get. He had one carry for three yards. On that attempt he suffered a sprained elbow and left the game. He did not return.
It’s possible that both Marshall and Kelley will make the 53-man roster as Jones’ backups. But if only one of them makes it, Kelley has to be the one. So far in the preseason he has 22 carries for 99 yards, an average of 4.5 per carry. Marshall has 16 carries for 28 yards, a 1.8-yard average.
Yes, they have been playing with different blockers in front of them and against defenses of varying qualities. But the difference in production is stark and if Jay Gruden meant what he said a few weeks ago when he stated that preseason games matter a lot when it comes to shaping the 53-man roster it’s hard to make any case for Marshall making it over Kelley.
The Redskins had plenty of players leave their preseason game against the Bills early but it doesn’t appear that any of the injuries are too serious.
Two players will undergo MRI’s, according to head coach Jay Gruden. Ryan Kerrigan, who left with a groin strain, and RB Keith Marshall, who has an elbow strain, both will get MRI’s on Saturday.
According to Brian McNally of 106.7 The Fan, Kerrigan said that he came into the game with soreness in his groin, felt it tighten up in the early going, and decided to call it a night.
Also leaving the game early were OT Morgan Moses, who has a sprained ankle, and CB Quinton Dunbar, with a shin bruise. Gruden said both are day-to-day.
The injured players have plenty of time to heal up. Players at the lower end of the depth chart will play the fourth and final preseason game in Tampa Bay next Thursday. The front-line players will have until the Redskins open the regular season against the Steelers on September 12 to heal up.
Gio Gonzalez isn’t the type to harp on his accomplishments. After quality outings, he typically deflects praise to his Nationals teammates in postgame interviews when asked to describe his personal performance.
But as much as he tends to downplay, earning his career 100th win in Friday's victory over the Colorado Rockies clearly meant something to him.
“I’m just happy it came,” Gonzalez said. “I finally showed up and I’m happy I did it here with this organization. Oakland gave me an opportunity and Washington helped me continue that opportunity and I couldn’t be happier to do it with these colors and represent the Washington Nationals.”
The feat came after two no-decisions in his previous two starts, so the third time proved to be the charm. After the game, he had a gathering of family and friends waiting outside the Nats’ clubhouse to congratulate him, some holding gold “100” balloons and others wearing hats featuring the oft-used Twitter emoji of the same number.
“I'm sure it was [on his mind],” manager Dusty Baker said. “…He didn’t want to come out of this game. He was going to get it eventually and we needed it.”
The 30-year-old left hander accomplished the milestone thanks to six innings of two-run ball on just 85 pitches against the hard-hitting Rockies lineup. Gonzalez displayed a lot of what his skipper wanted to see from him: a low pitch count, avoiding the big inning and, as he did later in the game, deliver shutdown frames immediately after the Nats offense scores.
“He threw great tonight," added Bryce Harper. Kept a very good Rockies lineup off balance and did what he needed to do. Stuck with his approach and threw like Gio knows how. Huge for him, that hundredth win. Couldn't be happier for him and his family.”
Historic achievement aside, Gonzalez has quietly turned his season around after a rough patch. In his last nine outings, he’s 5-1 with a 3.20 ERA over 50 2/3 innings. His resurgence couldn’t have come at a better time, as he’s charged with stabilizing the back-end of a rotation that’s in flux due to injuries to Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross.
“That's the key to his success,” Baker said. “Not getting runners on base or not walking people and he had a very good game tonight, excellent game. His last couple games, few games have been good. I'm just glad we were able to get him his 100th victory.”