The matchup: The two teams currently on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture also own the longest losing streaks in the WNBA. One of those skids comes to an end when the Washington Mystics travel to face the New York Liberty on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Mystics (5-20) returned from the Olympic break with a slim chance at a playoff berth. Losing four straight and six of seven since has not helped their cause. Washington sits 4.5 games behind Chicago, currently the fourth and final seed, and four back of New York.The road has not been kind to the Mystics, who have dropped 12 of 13 away from the Verizon Center. However the one victory came at New York immediately before the break, a stunning 70-53 win behind 24 points from Crystal Langhorne. Since then, five straight road losses, four by at least 15 points.The Liberty (9-16), losers of three straight, committed 21 turnovers and shot 32 percent from the field in the previous loss to the Mystics. Cappie Pondexter, the WNBAs leading scorer with 20.7 points per game, averaged 23.5 points in two games against the Mystics this season including 25 in a June win at Washington.Last time out: Holding a two-point lead at halftime, the Mystics lost their way during the second half at Atlanta, outscored by the new-look Dream 51-28 over the final two quarter. Despite playing without the leading scorer Angel McCoughtry, suspended for a team violation, Atlanta gave new head coach Fred Williams his first victory by scoring 24 fast-break points compared to Washingtons eight and opening the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run. We turned the ball over which led to some easy baskets for them, Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey said. The other piece of it is we fouled and got them on the free throw line. When you play with that combination it leads to easy points for the other team.Monique Currie scored a team-high 14 points and Crystal Langhorne had 13 for the Mystics, who have lost their last three games by an average of 16.6 points.Consistent Currie: Since returning from the Olympic break, the Mystics small forward has reached double digit points in six of seven games yet did not tally more than 14 points in any game during that span. Washingtons second-leading scorer on the season (10.7) had seven such outings in 18 games before the break, including a season-high 21 points against Connecticut, but also scored in single-digit scoring seven times. Currie is averaging 11.4 points during the second half of the season along with 1.7 steals.
Gio Gonzalez' seesaw 2016 regular season is officially in the books. Next stop: the NL Division Series where he will face the L.A. Dodgers, likely in Game 3 and possibly with one of the two teams' season on the line. Either way, it will be important.
Over the years, teams have trotted out far less accomplished pitchers in playoff games, ones with nothing close to the track record of Gonzalez. And for long stretches this season, he has been effective, like in July and August when he held a 3.16 ERA across 11 starts.
But a lot has happened since August for Gonzalez, both on the field and off of it. In his five starts since, he's given up 19 runs in 23 innings. That stretch includes his 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday night against the Diamondbacks, when he gave up three runs on eight hits and three walks and threw a whopping 100 pitches.
Just in time for the playoffs.
The Nationals have an unenviable situation without Stephen Strasburg, who is rehabbing a right flexor strain, and with Joe Ross still building his workload. They better hope the version of Gio Gonzalez they see in the NLDS is better than the one they have witnessed over the last several weeks.
“It wasn’t that good, but we didn’t score any runs either. He had a lot of pitches in a short period of time," manager Dusty Baker said after the Nats' 3-0, rain-shortened loss.
"They ran his pitch count up. They didn’t swing at very many balls and it looked like they were trying to wait on his fastball."
Gonzalez will now have to make adjustments in bullpen sessions over the course of the next 12 days. He will have to do that with a lot on his mind. Gonzalez heads to the funeral of close friend Jose Fernandez on Thursday and was pitching with extra emotion against Arizona.
“He’s an emotional-type guy," Baker said. "I talked to him a little bit about Fernandez and he was pitching for him and for us. Just wasn’t a very good night."
Now Gonzalez will have plenty of time to grieve and recalibrate before he sees the Dodgers. Whether that hurts or helps has yet to be determined.
“It can [help]. Just depends on, not only can it reset him, but after things have subsided some… they say time heals all wounds, but some wounds take longer to heal," Baker said.
"It probably won’t really set in until after the season when he’s back in Miami and around and Jose’s not around. Hopefully, he can have a couple good ‘pens and get it back together because we’re certainly going to need him come playoff time."
Gonzalez does have some success against the Dodgers to build off of. He holds a 1.69 ERA across 32 innings vs. L.A. since 2012 and held them to one run through six earlier this season.
Gonzalez is also just ready for a fresh start.
"You start the postseason with a zero ERA. It's a new series. New way to look at it," he said.
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Even when things are going well in Dallas it seems like controversy is never too far away. The latest stems from wide receiver Dez Bryant injuring his right knee during last Sunday's victory over the Bears.
News of the severity of the injury did not emerge until Wednesday, when Cowboys coach Jason Garrett revealed Bryant suffered a hairline fracture where his tibia bone hits the knee.
Why the wait? Reports from Dallas show that Bryant missed his scheduled MRI on Tuesday and the tests could not be held until Wednesday. Bryant also missed team meetings on Tuesday.
Due to missing the meetings and MRI Tuesday, Bryant has been fined an undisclosed amount, per the reports.
The injury comes at a tough time for the Cowboys as the offense has moved the ball well with rookie QB Dak Prescott.
Dallas has won two games in a row after a narrow loss to the Giants to open the year. In three games, Bryant has 150 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Against Washington in Week 2, Bryant went for more than 100 yards receiving. Late in that game, the Redskins began to shadow Bryant with Josh Norman.