Braves end the Yanks' winning streak at 10

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Braves end the Yanks' winning streak at 10

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves eventually caught the ball, and the New York Yankees. Jones atoned for a costly error by cutting down the potential tying run at the plate and the Braves held on to end the Yankees' 10-game winning streak with a 4-3 victory Tuesday night. "Sometimes you're going to whiff on some balls," the All-Star third baseman said. "But you've got to have a hockey goalie mentality down there. You've got to flush it or you're going to get the next one down your throat." The Yankees were trying to match their longest winning string in nearly a half-century. Instead, the Braves threw out two runners at home and won for only the second time in nine games -- their skid included four losses to the Yankees. "They pitched really well and had some really good defense. That's kind of what we've been doing," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. Jason Heyward singled home the go-ahead run in the sixth inning off Hiroki Kuroda (6-7). Heyward also tripled and scored, and nailed Mark Teixeira at home with a strong throw from right field. "We wouldn't have gotten there if it wasn't for Jason Heyward," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. Rookie Andrelton Simmons drove in two runs and Jones delivered an RBI double for the slumping Braves. Down by a run, the Yankees threatened in the seventh. Curtis Granderson opened with a single off Jonny Venters, Alex Rodriguez walked and the runners moved up on a groundout. Teixeira followed with a sharp grounder and Granderson broke home, but Jones made a strong throw and catcher Brian McCann applied the tag. Raul Ibanez then struck out. "You play third base, you know you're going to have the lowest-fielding percentage in the infield," Jones said. "You get some rockets, some balls with topspin. The big thing on that play was the pick. Once I picked it, I could make the throw and Mac set a nice target." The Yankees' recent run was built entirely against NL teams. Only once since 1965 had the Yankees won 11 in a row, and that was in 1985. The team's record winning streak was 19 in 1947. "None of the breaks kind of went our way tonight," Teixeira said. Tim Hudson (5-3) labored through five innings and four relievers preserved the lead. Craig Kimbrel closed for his NL-leading 20th save. The Braves were hurt by missing mitts more than missing bats in the early innings. In the second, center fielder Michael Bourn got twisted around trying to track down Nick Swisher's deep drive. Bourn tapped his glove, then saw the ball glance off the tip as he ran into the padded wall on a two-run double. Swisher was sidelined the past two games with a bruised left quadriceps. In the fourth, Ibanez hit a grounder that first baseman Freddie Freeman misplayed for an error. With two outs and two on, Jones let Russell Martin's low liner skip off his glove for an error that scored a run and made it 3-all. As the crowd cheered, the 40-year-old Jones looked down at the ground, took off his mitt and scuffed the dirt. "I could've made that play," he said. Jones grounded an RBI double in the top of the fourth, a day after the scuffling star said he needed to do more at the plate. Later in the inning, Simmons hit a bases-loaded single that scored a run, but Heyward was nailed at third base for the third out an instant before Jones slid home. Heyward threw out Teixeira in the fifth. In the sixth, Heyward victimized Teixeira again, hitting a hard grounder that nailed the first baseman in the left foot for an RBI single with two outs that put Atlanta ahead 4-3. NOTES: Freeman (injured finger) was back after missing five starts. ... Ibanez doubled to end an 0-for-15 slide. ... Yankees starters have pitched at least six innings in 19 straight games. ... Yankees RHP Michael Pineda, out for the season with a tear in his shoulder, has been with the team for a few days. He hopes to resume throwing in September and aiming to ready for spring training next year. ... Yankees RHP David Aardsma struck out two and walked one in one inning of a Gulf Coast League game. It was the reliever's first outing since elbow-ligament replacement surgery last July. ... The Braves and the Nationals will make up their June 1 rainout as part of a day-night doubleheader on July 21 in Washington. ... Rene Meulensteen, first team coach of soccer power Manchester United, watched the Yankees take batting practice. He recently gave a clinic in Kalamazoo, Mich., where Derek Jeter grew up. "Tall, runs well, good with the eyes. Might've been a good player in our sport," he said.

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Capitals’ playoff opponent watch: Bruins slide to wild card, but will they stay there?

Capitals’ playoff opponent watch: Bruins slide to wild card, but will they stay there?

In the final stretch of the season, it’s time to start projecting possible first round matchups for the Caps.

Washington has given itself some breathing room away from the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they can’t seem to shake the Columbus Blue Jackets who remain hot on their heels for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. As of now, however, the Caps remain in first place in the division which would mean a first-round matchup against the second wild card team.

As of right now the Caps would be playing: The Boston Bruins (86 points)

Caps’ record vs. Bruins this season: 2-0-0 (1 game remaining on April 8)

Boston slid out of third place in the Atlantic, but they did manage to stay in a playoff spot with two wins to end a four-game skid. This is not a wild card team to sleep on given that they boast one of the top offensive players and agitators in the NHL in Brad Marchand and a top netminder in Tuukka Rask. There is a concern, however, that Rask has been overworked this season and that is a sentiment shared by Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. As good as Marchand is, Boston won’t be going anywhere without Rask. Does he have enough left in the tank to lead the Bruins into the postseason and if he does, how much more will he have left for the playoffs?

RELATED: As the season winds down, Ovechkin is ramping up

Other possible playoff opponents

Columbus Blue Jackets (105 points)

Caps record vs. Blue Jackets this season: 2-1-1 (1 games remaining on April 2)

Columbus and the Caps battled in a tight game over the week that saw the Caps earn a narrow 2-1 shootout win. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is making a case for the Vezina or the Hart with this play. He has a .935 save percentage and 1.97 GAA and is more than capable of leading the Blue Jackets deep into the playoffs. But, as Columbus continues winning, the battle for the Metro is becoming more and more of a two-team race. Pittsburgh, currently five points back of the Caps, would have to pass both Columbus and Washington for a Caps-Jackets first-round matchup. That seems unlikely at this point.

Pittsburgh Penguins (103 points)

Caps record vs. Penguins this season: 2-0-2

With the Caps and Columbus separating themselves from the Penguins, the race to win the Metro has suddenly become the race to avoid a first-round matchup with Pittsburgh. While the Caps have earned at least a point in each game against the Penguins this season, you can go ahead and throw the records out when it comes to these two teams. While this may not be the matchup you want to see in the first round, it perhaps would not be the worst thing in the world for Washington. The Penguins are not a healthy team right now as they are dealing with several injuries to key players including Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Would the Caps be better off getting Pittsburgh early while they are still getting healthy?

Toronto Maple Leafs (87 points)

Caps’ record vs. Leafs this season: 1-1-0 (1 game remaining on April 4)

It’s hard to know what to expect from a young team like the Leafs when they reach the postseason. Toronto is way ahead of schedule with its rebuild and was not expected to reach the playoffs this year. With Mike Babcock behind the bench as well as young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Nikita Zaitsev this is a dangerous team that will be playing very loose and free with no expectations. Plus, they are a team the Caps always seem to struggle against. The last time these two teams met, Braden Holtby was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period. The health of goalie Frederik Andersen is a concern, however, as he is dealing with an unspecified injury. That could lead Toronto to slide in the standings down a wild card spot or perhaps even out of the postseason altogether, depending on how much time he may miss.

Tampa Bay Lightning (83 points)

Caps’ record vs. Lighting this season: 2-0-1

Every time I’m ready to write the Lightning off, they surge. Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman are single-handedly keeping a beaten up Tampa team in the playoff race. Here’s what makes them so dangerous: At some point, a Lightning team that has reached the conference finals in each of the past two seasons is going to start getting some of their injured players back such as Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson. At full strength, Tampa is much better than a wild card team. No one wants to be playing them when they finally do get healthy.

New York Islanders (82 points)

Caps’ record vs. Islanders this season: 2-3-0

I'll be honest, I have no idea really what to make of the Islanders right now. They recalled Jaroslav Halak from the AHL and he started in a shootout win over Pittsburgh. Since then, they went back to Thomas Greiss and have lost both games. Now, to be fair, New York scored only one goal in both games so you can’t lay all those problems at the feet of Greiss. Having said that, however, why recall Halak if you’re not going to use him? Now the Islanders are back to three goalies and seemingly no plan on how to utilize them. This feels like a team just throwing everything at the wall and hoping something will stick. I am not giving them much chance of getting back into the wild card.

Carolina Hurricanes (82 points)

Caps’ record vs. Hurricanes this season: 3-1-0

A 12-game point streak in which the Hurricanes have gone 8-0-4 has resurrected Carolina’s playoff hopes. Rookie Sebastian Aho has been tremendous, Jordan Staal remains as dangerous as ever and the goaltending, long thought to be the Achilles heel of this team, has been just good enough. It’s not great, but it is not the glaring weakness it was last season. Bill Peters is one of the most underrated coaches in the NHL and the Hurricanes are peaking, but is there enough time left for them to climb over the teams in front of them?

For more Capitals coverage, check out the newest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!

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Jay Gruden says QB Kirk Cousins will have to adjust to Redskins' taller wide receivers

Jay Gruden says QB Kirk Cousins will have to adjust to Redskins' taller wide receivers

The Redskins have added some height to their receiving corps in free agency but that doesn’t mean that coach Jay Gruden leans strongly towards the big guys.

“I like big receivers. But I also like little ones like Jamison [Crowder],” said Gruden at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. Crowder, 5-9, is the team’s leading returning receiver after he caught 67 passes for 847 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Still, adding the 6-4 Terrelle Pryor and the 6-3 Brian Quick along with the hoped-for return to health of last year’s top draft pick, the 6-2 Josh Doctson.

“It’s a great advantage to have,” said Gruden. “To have guys 6-foot-5, 6-foot-3, has a 42-inch vertical and you throw Crowder in there and you get that change of direction.”

Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ primary targets at wide receiver in the two years he has been the starter have been Pierre Garçon, who is six feet tall, and DeSean Jackson, who is generously listed at 5-10. They both departed as free agents. Garçon and Jackson receivers had many strengths in their games but going up and high-pointing the ball to make a catch over a defender was not one of them. That changes with Pryor, Doctson, and Quick.

“I think that’s something that Kirk has to really get used to,” said Gruden. “That’s going to take some time in OTAs and training camp. I think he’ll probe that and see what he can get away with.”

MORE REDSKINS: Doctson's short tweet delivers good news for Redskins

Gruden is wondering if he can get away with a pattern that they tried several times last year with very little success, a play that drew the ire of many fans on social media and talk radio.

“We can throw a lot of fades now,” said Gruden, laughing.

With some taller targets, they might actually have a shot at completing more of those. In any case, it will be very interesting to see how Cousins adjust to the team’s new type of receiver and what plays Gruden will call to take advantage of their height.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.