Ogwumike lifts Sparks past Mystics

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Ogwumike lifts Sparks past Mystics

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Nneka Ogwumike scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Los Angeles Sparks, who beat the Washington Mystics 101-70 on Monday night and improved to 5-0 at home.

The Sparks are off to their best home start since they went 7-0 in 2006.

Washington dropped its 12th straight road game, dating to a victory at Los Angeles on July 17, 2011. The 31-point loss was the Mystics' worst defeat of the season.

Ogwumike, the top pick in this year's WNBA draft, missed last Saturday's game to attend her graduation ceremony at Stanford. The Sparks (8-3) lost that game for their first two-game losing streak of the season, but they got re-energized in their third game in four nights.

Ogwumike went 11 for 14 from the field. Candace Parker scored eight of her 11 points in the third quarter and Kristi Toliver added 15 points and six assists. The Sparks benefited from 29 free throw attempts to 13 for the Mystics (2-6).

Michelle Snow led Washington with 15 points and seven rebounds, and Natasha Lacy added 12 points in a reserve role. Leading scorer Crystal Langhorne, who had scored 20 points in each of the previous three games, was held to a season-low two.

The Sparks opened the second half on a 12-4 run and pushed their lead to 21 when Ogwumike took a pass from a falling Marissa Coleman and scored on a layup to end the scoring in the third quarter. Ogwumike made a layup off a pass from Alana Beard pass in the lane and completed the three-point play to make it 84-54.

The Sparks led 44-36 at halftime thanks largely to 19 free throw attempts compared to six for the Mystics. Beard and Toliver went a combined 11 for 13 from the line in the first half, including four in the final minute to push the lead to 41-33.

Langhorne had no points and only two field goal attempts in the first half. Parker was held to three points on 1 for 5 shooting.

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DeSean Jackson throws out first pitch at Sunday's Nationals game

DeSean Jackson throws out first pitch at Sunday's Nationals game

You know, if this whole football thing doesn't work out for DeSean Jackson, maybe he could give baseball a shot.

The Redskins wide receiver was on hand Sunday at Nationals Park to throw out the first pitch and did a pretty good job.

Photo credit @byersjackson gas that 1st pitch ⚾️💨💨

A video posted by Desean Jackson (@0ne0fone) on

Jackson throws it from the mound and gets it to home plate, though just a bit outside. The throw was certainly good enough to keep Jackson off the list of other professional athletes with horrible first pitches (see John Wall).

RELATED: DON'T FORGET ABOUT NILES PAUL

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Redskins have many options at tight end, but don't count out Niles Paul

Redskins have many options at tight end, but don't count out Niles Paul

The Redskins are loaded at tight end - Jordan Reed is the emerging star and Vernon Davis the veteran with a stellar track record. But don't forget about Niles Paul. Lost last season to a broken ankle, Paul looked strong throughout Washington's offseason work, and with the team heading to Richmond this week to begin training camp, the former Nebraska receiver has been clear he plans to compete for playing time despite his loaded position group. 

"If you’re not out there competing to be the No. 1, I don’t know why you’re in the league," Paul said on ESPN980 earlier this summer.

Paul's mindset is admirable, but Reed is locked in as the No. 1 tight end. There's no debate there. And GM Scot McCloughan did not bring Vernon Davis to Washington without plans of playing him. 

But here's the thing with Paul - he can be very good.

In the first four games of the 2014 season, Paul caught 21 balls for 313 yards and a touchdown. He was averaging nearly 80 yards receiving per game in that stretch, the best of his career. It's no surprise that Paul put up those numbers when Reed was out, as he was injured Week 1 and did not suit back up until Week 6 of that season. 

RELATED: VERNON DAVIS PLANS TO COMPETE FOR TOP SPOT 

Paul has proved himself a strong backup to Reed, and in Reed's three-year career, he has missed 14 games. Last year Reed stayed mostly healthy - he missed two games - but it would hardly be a surprise if the Redskins have to go one or more games without their new $50 million tight end. Davis will be expected to step up should that happen, but the team might lean on Paul more in that situation, in addition to a major role on special teams as well. There were also a few snaps this summer where Paul worked as a fullback - a role the tight end might have to take on with the departure of Darrel Young. 

Jay Gruden acknowledged Paul's hard work during minicamp.

"He’s done an unbelievable job in rehab to get himself to this point," Gruden said. "We didn’t expect him back until training camp."

A 5th-round pick in 2011, Paul has already surpassed expectations with a five-year NFL career. That he outpaced his rehab schedule should not come as a shock.

Should he significantly contribute this fall, even considering Reed and Davis will be the first and second targets at tight end respectively, would not be a surprise either.

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O'Day activated from disabled list after long absence

O'Day activated from disabled list after long absence

BALTIMORE—Darren O’Day is back with the Orioles after a long stint on the disabled list. O’Day, who hasn’t pitched since June 1, has been on the DL since June 3 with a strained right hamstring. 

O’Day may be especially needed on Sunday since closer Zach Britton pitched three straight days.

In 22 games, O’Day is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA and two saves. 

To make room for O’Day, the Orioles optioned left-handed pitcher Donnie Hart to Bowie. 

Hart allowed two hits in 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He pitched in three games.

RELATED: DARIEL ALVAREZ WAITS FOR OPPORTUNITY