Strasburg gets the win - and hits a HR

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Strasburg gets the win - and hits a HR

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg took a swing and looked in amazement as the baseball carried over the left-field wall. If Strasburg's first major league homer came as a surprise, his performance on the mound did not. With Strasburg leading the way, the Washington Nationals beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 Sunday to avert a three-game sweep. In addition to his 2-for-2 performance at the plate, Strasburg (4-1) struck out eight in five innings before being lifted by manager Davey Johnson, who said the pitcher mentioned tightness in his biceps. "I don't care who it was, if I find out they have tightness, they're out," Johnson said. "I talked to him later in the game. He said it relaxed a bit and was a lot better. I'm not as concerned when it's in the biceps." Strasburg attributed the soreness in part to working too hard in the days following his previous start. "The biceps is fine," he said. "It's just throwing a lot of pitches early, then we put up a lot of runs and stuff. I just got a little tired, got a little tight, but that's nothing different than any other outing." Strasburg sent an 0-2 pitch from Wei-Yin Chen into the Baltimore bullpen in the fourth inning to put the Nationals ahead 5-3. After dusting off his home run trot and returning to the dugout, he responded to a curtain call by waving to the crowd of 41,918. "Shocking, that's for sure," Strasburg said of his clout. "I feel like in (batting practice) I have to swing a lot harder to hit it out. I just somehow ran into one." He was almost embarrassed about his trip around the bases and subsequent climb up the dugout steps. "I'm not big for going out there and showboating," Strasburg said. "It was great, but I know my place. I'm not a real hitter out there so I'm not going to go out there and act like I do it all the time." The hard-throwing Strasburg had five hits in 40 big league at-bats before Sunday. He singled and scored in the third inning, then followed a shot by Jesus Flores with one of his own in the fourth. "I didn't expect Stras to hit a breaking ball," Johnson said. "He doesn't usually see breaking balls. (Third base coach) Bo Porter came in after and said we found a left fielder." Known more for his pitching than his hitting, Strasburg excelled at both. The right-hander allowed three runs, one earned, four hits and a walk in his first career appearance against Baltimore. He retired the last 10 batters he faced. Since returning from elbow ligament replacement surgery last September, Strasburg is 5-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 14 starts. Danny Espinosa also homered, and Bryce Harper drove in two runs and scored three for the Nationals. Chen (4-1) yielded six runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings and absorbed his first major league loss. The Taiwan native was vying to become the first Baltimore starter to begin his Orioles career with five straight wins since Jimmy Key in 1997. "This is baseball. Sometimes you have a good day, sometimes you have a bad day," Chen said through a translator. "Definitely, I had a terrible start today." The loss ended Baltimore's five-game winning streak and nine-game road run. The Orioles scored the game's first three runs but got only two hits after the second inning -- both in the ninth. "If you came in today thinking you'd get their starting pitcher out of the game after five innings, you'd like your chances," manager Buck Showalter said Baltimore went up 1-0 in the first when Xavier Avery walked, advanced on a fly ball and scored on a single by Nick Markakis. The Orioles added a pair of unearned runs in the second after Harper drifted from center to left field to chase down a wind-blown fly ball, then dropped it. Robert Andino drove in a run with a groundout and Avery added an RBI single before Strasburg struck out J.J. Hardy with two outs and runners on second and third. Harper made amends in a three-run third. Strasburg singled, Espinosa doubled and Harper hit a liner to right that a diving Markakis gloved but lost when he hit the ground. The triple scored two runs, and Harper scored on a groundout by Ian Desmond. Flores gave Washington a 4-3 lead with his first homer since Aug. 18, and that only served as a prelude to Strasburg's drive. Desmond chased Chen with an RBI single in the fifth, and Espinosa homered with a runner on during a three-run eighth. NOTES: Orioles C Matt Wieters, who had the day off after a night game, will have to wait until Monday to try to snap an 0-fror-18 slump. ... Tommy Hunter (2-2) takes the mound for Baltimore on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against visiting Boston. ... Gio Gonzalez vies for his sixth win when the Nationals open a nine-game road trip Monday in Philadelphia. ... Avery got his first major league stolen base.

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Prospect report: Ilya Samsonov leads team to the KHL playoffs

Prospect report: Ilya Samsonov leads team to the KHL playoffs

Hershey update: 26-16-8-3, 5th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-2-0-0

The Zach Sanford-Jakub Vrana competition for a spot on the Caps’ third line in place of the injured Andre Burakovsky was over before it even really began. Both Sanford and Vrana were recalled by the Caps after the bye week, but only Sanford got in the lineup and Vrana was sent back down to Hershey after Sunday's game against the New York Rangers.

Vrana seems to be struggling with staying mentally focused at times in Hershey which can happen when a player knows he is on the verge of making the NHL. Still, he needs to play well with the Bears for the Caps to have confidence in him for any future call-ups.

Tarik El-Bashir and I talk about the Sanford-Vrana competition and who we think has the higher ceiling in this week’s Capitals Faceoff Podcast. We also touch on Stanislav Galiev who had another impressive weekend with three goals. As well as he has played of late, I don’t foresee any recall upcoming for him. I believe the Caps are ready to move on after this season when Galiev’s contract expires.

Forward Travis Boyd was recalled by the Capitals on Tuesday, his first call-up to the NHL. Washington was in need of an extra forward for a road game in Philadelphia on Wednesday. The recall is a reward for his stellar work in Hershey this season. He did not play in Wednesday’s game and is not expected to crack the lineup while with the Caps.

After a rough stretch for Hershey in net, Vitek Vanecek appears to be settling in again. He came on in relief of Parker Milner on Friday and stopped all 18 shots he faced. He also earned a 33-save shutout in his start against Providence on Saturday, his fourth shutout of the season.

Unfortunately, Vanecek couldn’t finish the week on a high note as he gave up four goals on 28 shots on Saturday in a 5-1 loss to Bridgeport.

RELATED: Prediction recap: Caps win heated affair in Philly

Other prospect notes:

Connor Hobbs found himself in a bit of hot water on Saturday for a dangerous hit he delivered to Moose Jaw forward Brett Howden. Howden was already tied up with another player along the boards when Hobbs laid into him.

The highlights of the game offer a view of the hit, though it is very brief. You can watch it here.

Hobbs was assessed a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct.

Not surprisingly, there was a difference of opinion over the hit after the game.

“I don’t think he got him in the head at all,” Regina head coach John Paddock said.

Moose Jaw head coach Tim Hunter, however, said “That’s a predatory hit. That’s a major penalty. When a guy is being checked with no route to avoid another check and he’s vulnerable and someone takes liberties to try and run him over when he can’t get out of the way, that’s a predatory hit and a major penalty and a suspendable offence.”

Hobbs received a one-game suspension for the hit and missed Regina’s game on Monday. In the three games he did play in this week, Hobbs tallied one goal and three assists.

Goalie Ilya Samsonov finished off a brilliant season in the KHL with a 1-0 shootout win on Friday. He had 31 saves for the game.

Russian Machine Never Breaks does a thorough breakdown of the regular season finale. Check it out here.

Samsonov finished the season with a 15-3-5 record, a .936 save percentage and a 2.13 GAA, helping lead Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the top record in the eastern conference. Now it’s on to the playoffs where Metallurg will look to defend its championship from last season.

Samsonov helped the team get off on the right foot with a 4-2 Game 1 win against Kunlun Red Star. The young netminder turned aside 26 of the 28 shots he faced for the win. Game 2 will be played on Friday.

It was another impressive week for defenseman Chase Priskie in Quinnipiac as he tallied two assists on Saturday. Despite being a defenseman, Priskie leads the team in points this season with 25 (7 goals, 18 assists) in 30 games. He has been red hot over the second half of the season with 19 points in his last 14 games.

Priskie’s 19 power play points leads all defensemen in the ECAC. His seven goals, 18 assists and 25 points also all rank in the top four among the league’s defensemen.

MORE CAPITALS:  The Caps are hopeful Niskanen avoided serious injury

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Report: Ravens mulling cutting Dennis Pitta to create more cap space

Report: Ravens mulling cutting Dennis Pitta to create more cap space

A decision on whether to cut or keep Dennis Pitta is one of many issues facing the Ravens this offseason.

According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the Ravens “may balk” at the $5.5 million salary Pitta is due next season. That makes sense, considering Pitta was just 28th in the NFL among tight ends in yards per catch (8.5) despite leading all tight ends with 86 catches. Pitta only had two touchdown catches, and there is concern he no longer has the speed to make explosive plays after two major hip surgeries.

Free agency begins March 9, but cutting Pitta with a June 1 designation would create the most cap space for the Ravens - $5.5 million.

However, if the Ravens release Pitta, they would turn the tight end position over to a question-filled group that includes:

Ben Watson – He is 36 years old, and missed all of the 2016 season with an Achilles injury. Cutting Watson and saving $3 million in cap space might make more sense than cutting Pitta. Especially if Pitta agrees to a pay reduction, as he did before last season.

Nick Boyle – He missed 10 games last season due to his second suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. Another suspension could lead to the end of Boyle’s career.

Crockett Gillmore – He must prove he can still healthy after missing seven games in 2016, and 15 games over the past two seasons.

Darren Waller – He was suspended four games in 2016 for his first PED violation, and he has caught just 12 passes in his first two seasons.

Maxx Williams – He is coming off major knee surgery.

Pitta remains a favorite target of quarterback Joe Flacco, and even if Pitta struggles to make splash plays, he is still a chain-mover as a possession receiver. You can make a case for cutting or keeping Pitta. The Ravens will soon make their verdict.

MORE RAVENS: Stanley and his adopted dog from BARCS to be on Animal Planet