Surprising hero propels Yankees in Game 1...

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Surprising hero propels Yankees in Game 1...

From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- For eight innings, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles staged a magnificent duel worthy of two division foes that split 18 games during the regular season and finished two games apart in the standings.Then the Yankees brushed aside the upstart, inexperienced newcomers and crashed a party 15 years in the making.Russell Martin led off the ninth inning with a tiebreaking home run off Jim Johnson, CC Sabathia turned in a sparkling pitching performance and the Yankees pulled away to a 7-2 victory Sunday night in the opener of their AL divisional series.Sabathia allowed two runs and eight hits in 8 2-3 innings to help the Yankees take the edge off the Orioles' first home playoff game since 1997. The husky left-hander went 0-2 in three starts against Baltimore during the regular season, but in this one he returned to form and improved his lifetime record against the Orioles to 17-4."Fastball command was good, worked off that," Sabathia said. "Throwing the ball pretty good getting the corners. Tried to stay out there and make some pitches."Sabathia is 6-1 with the Yankees in the postseason, 4-0 in the division series."I thought he gave us a great performance," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "Didn't give up a lot of hard hit balls tonight, had a really good changeup tonight, and I thought he used it very effectively."With the score 2-all, Martin drove a 2-0 pitch from Johnson into the left-field seats."I definitely wasn't thinking home run," Martin said. "He left a fastball up and I put good wood on it."It was the first of four straight hits off Johnson, who led the majors with 51 saves. Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter followed with singles, Ichiro Suzuki drove in a run with a swinging bunt and one out later, Robinson Cano hit a two-run double.In his seven prior appearances against New York, Johnson allowed one run in seven innings and had three saves. Nick Swisher capped the five-run ninth with a sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter."I made mistakes," Johnson said. "I obviously paid for those, and that was location. It wasn't anything else. Two fastballs that really cost us. Just have to make a better pitch. That's all it comes down to."Game 2 will be played Monday night.The start of the game was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 26 minutes, and that did nothing to lessen the enthusiasm of the 47,841 fans who endured 14 straight losing seasons while waiting for the Orioles to play a postseason game at Camden Yards."We're obviously disappointed we couldn't give them a win, but at least we're playing a five-game series instead of a shootout," Orioles right fielder Chris Davis said.Baltimore left seven on base and went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position."We stayed in as long as we could," Davis said. "We're finding out what playoff baseball is all about. You've got to capitalize on every opportunity that you give yourself and we weren't able to do that."Then again, it's tough to mount a sustained rally against someone as polished and dominant as Sabathia."He just kind of wore us down," Davis said. "You have to tip your hat to him. He held us to two runs and gave them a chance to win in the end."Orioles starter Jason Hammel allowed two runs, four hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings. The right-hander underwent knee surgery in July and returned to pitch two games in September before his right knee began to bother him again. After working his way back into form, Hammel donned a knee brace and gave Baltimore a solid 112-pitch outing in his first start in nearly a month.New York missed an excellent chance to take the lead in the seventh. After Troy Patton walked Martin and Ibanez, Darren O'Day entered and Jeter dropped down a perfect two-strike sacrifice bunt. With the infield drawn in, Suzuki hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Robert Andino, who threw home. Matt Wieters grabbed the ball on the short hop and tagged out Martin. O'Day then struck out Alex Rodriguez.Neither team got a runner in scoring position again until J.J. Hardy started the Baltimore eighth with a double. He did not advance."Being able to get out of that with a tie and give us a chance to get up and score some runs, which we did, was just a big spot," Sabathia said.Immediately after Orioles fans cheered and waved their orange towels following a first-pitch strike by Hammel to open the game, the Yankees went to work. Jeter hit a leadoff single and Suzuki followed with an RBI double into the gap in left-center. But Suzuki was thrown out trying to steal third, and Hammel settled down by striking out Rodriguez and retiring Cano on a broken-bat fly to right.Sabathia retired the first six batters he faced without allowing a ball out of the infield, then ran into trouble in the third inning. Davis led off with a single, Lew Ford singled and both runners moved up on a bunt before Nate McLouth bounced a two-run single into right field for a 2-1 lead.New York promptly tied it in the fourth, but another potential big inning was short-circuited when a runner was thrown out on the basepaths. After Hammel walked two of the first three batters, Mark Teixeira ripped a liner off the right-field scoreboard. The hit brought home a run, but Teixeira -- who only recently returned from a strained left calf -- was thrown out at second by Davis. That left Swisher at third base with two outs, and after an intentional walk to Curtis Granderson, Martin hit a fly to center.Singles by Davis and Andino put runners at the corners with one out in the fifth before McLouth looked at a third strike and Hardy grounded out.NOTES:Andy Pettitte will bring 42 games of playoff experience into Game 2 on Monday night as the starting pitcher for the Yankees. Orioles rookie Wei-Yin Chen will be making his postseason debut. ... Wieters went 0 for 4 against Sabathia and now is 5 for 28 (.179) lifetime against him. ... In 16 career division series openers, Jeter is batting .448 (26 for 58) and reached base in 15 games. ... Suzuki has at least one hit in 10 of his 11 career postseason games and has reached base in all of them. He's also hit in 20 straight games at Camden Yards, a streak that began in 2008.

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Morning tip: Figuring out Wizards' new rotations a challenge for Scott Brooks

Morning tip: Figuring out Wizards' new rotations a challenge for Scott Brooks

The mood changed immediately after the Wizards' embarrassing loss at the Philadelphia 76ers, with John Wall leading a lively discussion with the bigs in practice about coverages that were busted time after time.

Today's opponent, the Utah Jazz, are much better and a repeat performance will lead to another one.

"Whether we were in our pick-and-roll coverage, whether we were in our pindown coverage, our switches, everything was always a second late," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of the 120-112 defeat. "When you do that you're always behind. You're always playing catch-up every possession. It wasn't just one guy. It was two or three guys on the same possession which has been rare for us.. Hopefully we can put it behind us."

The Wizards trailed 43-41 in the second quarter with mostly starters on the floor in Philadelphia. By halftime they were down 61-49. The only player in the last eight minutes of the second to make a field goal for the Wizards was Bradley Beal, who had a game-high 40 points. 

When Trey Burke entered, he appeared uncomfortable running the offense. Tomas Satoransky, who has played in combination with him recently, didn't log any minutes. Jason Smith, who was displaced with the arrival of Bojan Bogdanovic and Ian Mahinmi in the lineup, only played four minutes but was a spark early in the fourth when the Wizards mounted a comeback. 

Mahinmi only lasted seven minutes after back spasms, which flared up before the game, kept him on the bench in the second half. Bogdanovic had a full practice with his new team for the first time Saturday.

"We're trying to find some consistency. Getting Ian back, hopefully we can get him back to a stretch of games where he can play and build a chemistry with the group he's out there with," Brooks said. "Now Bojan so we can have him out there with that group. It's consistency and understanding where we can get some points. Trey and Tomas, I got to try to figure out what's the best minute-wise and who plays and the matchups."

 

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Need to Know: Sunday six pack—Cousins' next step and a positive step for Doctson

Need to Know: Sunday six pack—Cousins' next step and a positive step for Doctson

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 26, 11 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 3
—NFL Combine (3/2) 4
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 50
—NFL Draft (4/27) 60
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 196

Sunday six pack

1. JP and I looked at the question of whether Kirk Cousins would “take the next step”. We interpreted the question differently.

Here’s some of what JP had to say:

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

And part of my answer:

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

2. Apprently, Josh Doctson is running and cutting. That’s great but it’s a long way from being productive on the field in the fall. We’ll see how this turns out.

3. The combine is five days away and as of now no Redskins officials are scheduled to speak to the media in Indianapolis. They are one of three teams, along with the Patriots and Saints, no having a coach or GM-type take the podium. Those fans who have wanted the Redskins to be more like the Patriots are getting their wish. Well, except for all those Super Bowl trophies, anyway.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

4. I’m not sure what the chances of Cousins getting traded to the 49ers are but they are monitoring the possibility in San Francisco.

Looking at the list of trades in my friend Matt Maiocco’s post, I think if Cousins is dealt most Redskins fans would like to see something like the Palmer or Cutler trades. Reality is probably closer to the Alex Smith trade.

5. San Francisco signed career mediocrity DT Earl Mitchell, who had been released by the Dolphins.

The deal will pay him $5.5 million in the first year. Mitchell played in nine games last year, starting five. He hasn’t had a sack since 2014 and he has only 5.5 in his seven-year career. This is of interest here because it isn’t good news for a team that will be looking for defensive linemen in free agency. If players without sacks over the last two seasons can get that kind of money, imagine what productive D-linemen will get paid.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

6. Speaking of linemen who are going to get paid by somebody, Chris Baker retweeted this video of his Week 3 sack of Eli Manning.

The tweeter here was correct; Eli was off the rest of the game as I noted a few days later. Baker’s sack was a huge factor in the Redskins’ win.

In case you missed it

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.