Beard returns to DC as Mystics host Sparks

795674.png

Beard returns to DC as Mystics host Sparks

The matchup: If youre a team trying to snap a six-game losing streak like the Washington Mystics, facing a squad thats dropped three straight is not a bad way to go. Over the course of the season, the Los Angeles Sparks have not been a squad that is easily defeated. The Mystics know this first hand.Washington (5-22) hosts Los Angeles Friday night (7 p.m. Comcast SportsNet), which means the squad has a chance at revenge after suffering its worst defeat of the season on the Sparks home court. It also marks the return of Alana Beard, the franchises all-time leading scorer, to Washington after the four-time All-Star signed with Los Angeles (19-9) this offseason.Beard and other ex-Mystics and former DMVers were not exactly hospitable back on June 18 when they pounded the current Mystics 101-70. Washington committed 25 turnovers while Los Angeles shot 53.6 percent from the field and six players reach double figure scoring including Beards 10.Michelle Snow led the Mystics with 15 points in that game, but the aggressive centers minutes have dwindled as of late, playing a combined 11 minutes in Washingtons last two games.Owners of the worst record in the league, Washington hasn't lost seven straight games since dropping nine in a row August 13-30, 2011. After missing the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons with injuries, Beard has missed only one of Los Angeles 28 games this season. She leads the team in minutes played (31.7) while averaging 10.9 points, 3.4 assists and 1.7 steals.Last time out: For the fifth time this season and nine straight game overall, the Connecticut Sun eclipsed Washington 77-70 on Tuesday behind another dominant performance from center Tina Charles. Though Washington's leading scorer and rebounder Crystal Langhorne knocked down 10 of 14 shots and led the Mystics with 24 points and nine rebounds, Charles finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Her basket with 46 seconds remaining put the Sun ahead 73-70 after the Mystics closed the gap with an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter. Noelle Quinn and Shannon Bobbitt each scored 10 points off the bench for Washington.DMVWest: In addition to Beard, there are plenty of familiar names on the Los Angeles roster including former University of Maryland star Kristi Tolliver, who leads the high-scoring Sparks in points (18.2) and assists (4.9). The charismatic DeLisha Milton-Jones, a member of the Mystics from 2005-07, averages 9.8 points. Marissa Coleman, drafted by the Mystics in the first round of the 2009 and former teammate of Toliver and Langhornes at College Park, is averaging a career-low 3.2 points in her first season with the Sparks.
While the Mystics (69.6 points) are the only WNBA team averaging fewer than 70 points per game, Los Angeles ranks third overall with 82.8 points per game.

Quick Links

Twins double up Orioles Monday night after erasing Baltimore's early lead

usatsi_10070546_141983962_lowres.jpg
USA Today Sports

Twins double up Orioles Monday night after erasing Baltimore's early lead

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Max Kepler homered and drove in four runs, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco each had a career-high four hits and the Minnesota Twins roared back to beat the Baltimore Orioles 14-7 Monday night.

Minnesota trailed 5-0 in the second inning and 6-2 entering the fifth before cranking up the offense against Ubaldo Jimenez and an ineffective Baltimore bullpen.

A two-run double by Kepler helped the Twins knot the score in the fifth, Minnesota sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run sixth and Sano added a two-run homer in the ninth.

Joe Mauer had three hits, two RBIs and scored twice for the Twins, who reached season highs in runs and hits (21).

Adam Jones hit a three-run drive in the second inning off Kyle Gibson (1-4) for Baltimore.

MORE: 2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

It was his 125th home run at Camden Yards, moving him out of a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for the most in the history of the 26-year-old ballpark.

That proved to be the highlight of an otherwise ugly night for the Orioles.

Jimenez frittered away a five-run lead and missed a chance to earn his first win since April 19. The right-hander allowed six runs and nine hits in four-plus innings, a performance that lifted his ERA to an unsightly 7.17.

Jimenez was replaced by Tyler Wilson (2-2), who gave up six runs in 1 1/3 innings.

Down 5-0, the Twins got an RBI groundout from Mauer in third before Kepler led off the fourth with a home run.

It was 6-2 before Minnesota bunched together five hits in the fifth. After Kepler chased Jimenez with a two-run double, Eduardo Escobar hit a sacrifice fly and Polanco tied it with an RBI single.

Highlights of the Twins' sixth inning included a tiebreaking double by Mauer, a two-run double by Escobar, an error by second baseman Jonathan Schoop and a run-inducing balk when Stefan Crichton dropped the ball in the midst of his windup.

Recalled from Triple-A Rochester before the game, Gibson gave up six runs in five innings, but nevertheless earned his first victory in seven starts this season.

Quick Links

Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

In 2016, Chris Thompson simply needed to prove to Jay Gruden that he could handle 16 NFL games.

Now, looking ahead to 2017, the fifth-year running back hopes to show his head coach he can shoulder 16 NFL games and a larger workload.

"I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year," Thompson said Monday at the Redskins Charitable Golf Foundation. "[Gruden] knows now that I'm healthy and I can stay healthy, which I think that was one of his biggest concerns. So now he sees that I can handle the load, I think that I'll get a lot more opportunities this year."

Last season was by far the best in the 26-year-old's career. He played a full slate of games after playing in just 19 over his first three seasons combined, and he set career highs in rushing attempts (68), yards (356), receptions (49), receiving yards (349) and total touchdowns (5).

MORE REDSKINS: TEAM IS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE WITH PLANS FOR NEW STADIUM

He also held up well in pass protection, a key duty for him as the team's third-down running back. And it's all of those qualities — being able to contribute on handoffs and with catches while also providing help in keeping Kirk Cousins upright — that make him an excellent fit for a popular NFL duty.

The most excellent in that duty, actually, if you ask Gruden. 

"I think Chris Thompson's role is big," he said. "When you're talking about third downs, that's the most important down in football. There's nobody better as a third-down back in my opinion than Chris. He's got a huge role on this football team." 

Gruden went on to indicate that an increase in Thompson's responsibilities is likely coming, though No. 25 will still do the majority of his work when the offense needs him most.

"Whether he does some more stuff on first- and second-down will be determined," he said. "I'm sure he will. But he's so valuable on third-down that I gotta keep him in that role for now."

A 2013 fifth-round pick who came into the league with a history of injuries, Thompson has now fully gained the trust of his coaches and teammates. The 5-foot-8 running back may be small in stature, but the Redskins know he's not small in importance.  

RELATED: RANKING THE TOP ROOKIE QBS FOR FANTASY FOOTBALL