Mystics dreaming of a win over Atlanta

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Mystics dreaming of a win over Atlanta

The matchup: If familiarity breeds contempt, the Mystics must be sick Atlanta. They surely must be tired of losing to the Dream, something Washington has twice since late August and hopes to avoid now in early September.\The Mystics (5-23) current seven-game skid includes a 12-point loss to the Dream (xxx) on Aug. 24 and an 82-59 thrashing six days later in Atlanta, site of Sundays contest (3 p.m.).
Washington committed 38 turnovers in the setbacks while shooting 38 percent (46 of 121) from the field. Crystal Langhorne, the Mystics leading scorer and rebounder, is averaging 15 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 steals against the Dream, winners of three of four games.Atlantas success against Washington came without the services of leading scorer Angel McCoughtry, who missed time while serving a suspension for violating team rules. The Olympian has since returned and scored 30 points Friday in a loss to WNBA champion Minnesota.Ex-Mystic Lindsay Harding had 16 points and five assists in the previous meeting, leading a Dream attack that scored 24 fastbreak points compared to the Mystics eight.Last time out: Any hopes of spoiling Alana Beards return to the Verizon Center on Friday went away quickly as Washington trailed the Los Angeles Sparks by double digits in a 96-68 loss. The Mystics trailed by 12 points after the first quarter and it only got worse. Monique Currie lad the Mystics with 16 points and Jasmine Thomas added 15. Beard scored 16 points with five assists and two steals for the Sparks, who shot 61 percent from the field.Rotating centers: Ashley Robinson opened the season as the Mystics starting center, but after a slow start for the stylish center and the team, Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey looked elsewhere for interior production. Michelle Snow took over the center role and immediately provided an assertive presence in the paint, pulling down 12 rebounds in back-to-back June games against New York and Indiana.However the 6-foot-5 Snows minutes have been slashed over the past three games, losing the starting gig back to Robinson in the process. She played only 11 minutes against New York and Connecticut, totaling four points and two rebounds, but Snow grabbed seven rebounds in 18 minutes during the blowout loss against Los Angeles.Robinson is averaging 3.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 block and 23 minutes over the last three games, slightly above season numbers of 2.4 points and 2.4 rebounds.

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Orioles offense plunges in second half of season

Orioles offense plunges in second half of season

At the All-Star break, things looked rosy for the Orioles. They were 51-36 and led the American League East by two games. The team batting average was a healthy .272, and its on-base percentage a robust .333.

The second half has been far different. While the pitching has improved somewhat, the hitting has dropped off. In the first half, the team’s ERA was 4.35 and in the second half it’s 4.19 despite the bullpen weakening. 

Prior to the All-Star break, the Orioles scored two runs or fewer in 18 of the 87 games. In the 70 games since the break, they’ve scored two runs or fewer in nearly a third of the games—28 times. 

The team’s batting average has dropped from .272 to .234 and the on-base percentage from .333 to .296. 

Who have been the major culprits in the second half offensive plunge? 

Most notably, it’s Jonathan Schoop. At the All-Star break, Schoop was hitting .304 and were it not for a plethora of excellent second basemen, he could have been named to his first All-Star Game. 

In the second half, Schoop has plunged to .210. He’s the only Oriole to play every game, and while his fielding has been sharp, his hitting hasn’t been. 

When Mark Trumbo agreed to participate in the Home Run Derby, many fans thought it would interfere with his swing. It’s had nothing to do with his second half struggles. Trumbo was batting .288 before the break, and just .196 since then.

He’s still hitting home runs. Trumbo has 17, but in the first half, he had 100 hits—55 of them singles. In the second half, Trumbo has 48 hits—with just 22 singles. 

In his career, Trumbo has always been stronger in the first half (.265) than the second (.234), but this year’s numbers have been striking. 

Most of the other Orioles’ regulars have had worse second halves, too. Chris Davis has dropped from .237 to .190, Matt Wieters from .258 to .225, and even Manny Machado has fallen off from .318 prior to the All-Star break to .277 after it. 

Many fans have complained that Buck Showalter hasn’t played Hyun Soo Kim enough recently, but the South Korean’s numbers have fallen off, too. He hit .329 in the first half and is hitting .273 in the second half.

Pedro Alvarez, who like Kim rarely starts against left-handers, has held his own in the second half, hitting .249 prior to the All-Star break and .247 since then. 

Two players, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones have seen their numbers rise. Hardy, who missed much of the first half with a broken bone in his left foot, has seen his second half average rise to .281 from .263 and Jones has ticked up from .268 to .270.

Besides Schoop who has played in all 157 games, Trumbo (154) Machado (152), Davis (152) and Jones (147) are rarely out of the lineup. 

Would the Orioles have been stronger had manager Buck Showalter rested his regulars more? 

Well, as Showalter likes to see, if you want to play more, play better. 

Wieters’ backup Caleb Joseph doesn’t have a single RBI, and Ryan Flaherty, the principal understudy for Hardy, Machado and Schoop, has just one infield start since July 24. Flaherty’s only second-half RBIs have come in a pinch hitting appearance. 

The biggest loss for the bench has been Joey Rickard, who injured a ligament in his right thumb on July 20, and hasn’t played since. 

Showalter trusted Rickard, who batted .268 in 59 games, and without him, had used Nolan Reimold more often. Reimold, though has hit just .145 in the second half. 

The Orioles tried Steve Pearce, but his flexor mass limited his appearances, and then ended his season. 

They didn’t have the reinforcements from the minor leagues they would have liked. Dariel Alvarez and Christian Walker, who have both played for the Orioles in the past, weren’t deemed worthy of a September callup. 

For the offseason, the Orioles will have to face the possible losses of Alvarez, Trumbo and Wieters to free agency, but they’re also going to have to beef up their bench so that Showalter feels better about giving some of their veterans an occasional day off. 

MORE ORIOLES: Orioles lose 1st in huge series with Toronto

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Terrell Suggs sounds like he expects Elvis Dumervil to play against Raiders

Terrell Suggs sounds like he expects Elvis Dumervil to play against Raiders

OWINGS MILLS — Terrell Suggs sounded like he expected teammate Elvis Dumervil to play Sunday, after Dumervil missed the first three games recovering from offseason foot surgery.

“We get another guy back this week, so that’s going to help us out,” Suggs said, referring to Dumervil. “It was tough not having him in there, but we get him back. Let him get in there and knock some rust off.”

Dumervil returned to practice Wednesday, which was a good sign that he was trending toward playing against the Raiders. However, the rest of the week would tell the story. Before the Ravens’ Week 3 victory in Jacksonville, Dumervil practiced on Wednesday and Thursday, but he missed practice on Friday and was unable to play against the Jaguars.

Dumervil and Suggs have not been in the lineup together at outside linebacker since Week 1 of 2015, when Suggs suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. In 2014, Dumervil and Suggs were the NFL’s top sack tandem, combining for 29 sacks.

The Ravens are tied for seventh in the league with nine sacks through Week 3, but having Dumervil return Sunday would only improve their chances of generating a pass rush against Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Through the Ravens’ first three games, Carr has been sacked just twice.     

MORE RAVENS: JERNIGAN BECOMING CONSISTENT FORCE