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Five Takeaways From The Orioles Taking Three Of Four Against Tampa Bay
by Al Galdi
Aug 29, 2014 -- 1:04am
ESPN 980 - Your home for the Baltimore Orioles

Game 1: 9-1 win on Monday night (Aug. 25)

Game 2: 4-2 win on Tuesday night (Aug. 26)

Game 3: 3-1 loss on Wednesday night (Aug. 27)

Game 4: 5-4 win on Thursday night (Aug. 28)

1. Home sweet home

This series marked the beginning of an 11-game homestand for the O’s, who improved to 18-6 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards since June 30.

2. Revenge sweet revenge

The O’s improved to 11-5 against the Rays this season.  The O’s went just 6-13 against the Rays last season, during which the O’s finished 6 ½ games behind the Rays for the American League’s second wild-card spot.  

3. The offense exploded in Game 1 and overall was good

The O’s blasted five homers in Game 1, hitting back-to-back bombs in the third and then back-to-back-to-back blasts in the fifth.

The O’s batted .269 (36-for-134) in the series, though they went just 8-for-35 with runners in scoring position.

First baseman/left fielder Steve Pearce went 5-for-15 with three walks and a stolen base in the series.  He hit solo homers in Games 1 and 4.

Center fielder Adam Jones went 5-for-15 with a walk, a stolen base and two outfield assists in the series.  The stolen base was a steal of home on a double steal in the bottom of the first of Game 4.  The O’s hadn’t had a steal of home since Robert Andino’s in June 2009.  

Left fielder/DH Nelson Cruz went 5-for-17 in the series.

4. The bullpen was excellent

Orioles relievers combined to throw 14 1/3 scoreless innings in the series.

T.J. McFarland tossed three scoreless innings in Game 3.

Andrew Miller combined for 2 2/3 perfect innings over Games 2 and 4.

5. The starting pitching was good in Game 1 but really bad the rest of the series

Chris Tillman allowed one run (unearned) in seven innings in Game 1, continuing his spectacular run.  He now has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 15 consecutive starts and has a 1.26 ERA over five starts this month.  

Wei-Yin Chen lasted just 4 2/3 innings in Game 2, giving up two runs on seven hits and three walks.  

Kevin Gausman allowed three runs (two earned) in four innings in Game 3, giving up six hits and a wild pitch.

Bud Norris allowed four runs in six innings in Game 4, giving up six hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch.  He had a 5.33 ERA over five starts this month.

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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Getting Swept At Philadelphia
by Al Galdi
Aug 28, 2014 -- 6:36pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 3-2 loss on Monday night (August 25)

Game 2: 4-3 loss on Tuesday night (August 26)

Game 3: 8-4 loss on Wednesday night (August 27)

1. Been a while since we’ve seen this

The Nats exited this series with their first three-game losing streak since late June.

The Nats hadn’t even lost two straight games since Aug. 4-5.

2. Does this sweep mean anything?

No.  Our Nats insider, Mark Zuckerman of, captured things perfectly: “There have been 19 World Series champions…since MLB expanded the playoffs in 1995.  And of those 19 champions, 18 experienced a losing streak of at least three games sometime in August or September (many of them to last-place opponents).  The lone exception: The 2012 [San Francisco] Giants, who managed to avoid three straight losses down the stretch en route to their second title in three years.”

3. The offense was bad

The Nats batted just .225 (23-for-102) in the series, during which they totaled just four walks.

Left fielder Bryce Harper went 0-for-9 with five strikeouts in the series.  He did have an outfield assist in Game 1.

First baseman Adam LaRoche went 0-for-9 with three strikeouts in the series.  We did learn during the series that he has been dealing with back tightness.

4. The starting pitching struggled after Game 1

Tanner Roark allowed two runs in six innings in Game 1.

Gio Gonzalez allowed three runs in six innings in Game 2, giving up six hits (including two homers).  He now has lasted more than six innings just once over his last six starts.

Doug Fister allowed five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings, giving up 10 hits (including two homers), a walk, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch.  He now has allowed eight earned runs in 11 2/3 innings over his last two starts off registering a 1.89 ERA over his previous 17 starts.  Also, Fister has allowed four homers over his last two starts off allowing three homers over his previous 10 starts.

5. The bullpen had another bumpy series

Nats relievers combined to allow five runs (four earned) in 6 1/3 innings.  

Ross Detwiler allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings on five hits in Game 3.  He exited this series with a 4.07 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.

Jerry Blevins gave up a solo homer in the seventh inning of Game 1.  He exited this series with a 5.13 ERA. 

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10 Takeaways From The Redskins' Loss At Baltimore And The Cutdown To 75
by Al Galdi
Aug 26, 2014 -- 2:27pm
ESPN 980 Your Home for the Redskins

Redskins fall to 2-1 this preseason with a 23-17 loss at Baltimore on Saturday night (Aug. 23).

1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was bad

The Ravens’ top three corners (Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Asa (ACE-uh) Jackson) didn’t play, and yet Griffin went just 5-of-8 for 20 yards and a pick, was sacked three times and had a fumble.  He played for seven official drives (six true drives if you take out his end-of-the-first-half kneel-down).  

Griffin’s final play was his worst: a pick on the first offensive play of the second half.  Griffin, off being in the pistol, threw the ball to a covered running back in Alfred Morris despite having tight end Jordan Reed open.  The ball deflected off Morris and linebacker Daryl Smith and was picked off by rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley.  

A late-second-quarter drive that resulted in a 51-yard punt by Tress Way included:
     •    Griffin, off being in the shotgun, with a near-pick-six on a pass intended for Jackson on a first-and-10 no-play (nose tackle Brandon Williams received a five-yard offside penalty).

     •    Griffin, off being in the shotgun, standing in the pocket while it collapsed around him on a third-and-three sack by linebacker Elvis Dumervil for a six-yard loss.

A second-quarter drive that resulted in a 27-yard punt by Robert Malone included:
     •    Griffin throwing the ball late on a first-and-10 deep pistol incompletion intended for receiver DeSean Jackson.

     •    Griffin, off being under center and play-action, running out of bounds on a first-and-10 sack credited to rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan for a five-yard loss despite having receiver Pierre Garcon open on a drift route.

Griffin’s fumble came on a third-and-five during a first-quarter three-and-out.  He appeared to take his eyes off the ball on a shotgun snap from center Korey Lichtensteiger, but Griffin did recover the fumble.

2. Griffin hasn’t thrown enough passes this preseason

This was a popular complaint during the 2012 preseason, and Griffin followed that with the greatest rookie season ever for a quarterback.  But that was before we knew where he was as a passer.  Griffin needs all of the work he can get coming off a 2013 season in which finished 22nd in the NFL in passer rating, 25th in the NFL in completion percentage and 29th in the NFL in Total QBR.

Griffin over three preseason games had 20 pass attempts.  Denver’s Peyton Manning had 54 pass attempts.  Kansas City’s Alex Smith had 51 pass attempts.  Seattle’s Russell Wilson had 39 pass attempts.  The lack of pass attempts from Griffin over three preseason games was stunning and disappointing. 

3. Quarterback Kirk Cousins shined again

Cousins relieved Griffin after his third-quarter pick and played for the rest of the game, going 14-of-20 for 122 yards, two touchdowns, no picks and no sacks.

Cousins hit the ground running, going 5-of-7 for 52 yards on his first drive, which resulted in a third-and-seven 11-yard shotgun touchdown pass to receiver Santana Moss.  So Cousins had as many completions on his first drive as Griffin had over his six true drives.

Cousins’ other touchdown pass was a fourth-quarter first-and-goal seven-yard shotgun connection with receiver Nick Williams.  That play came after a third-and-10 20-yard shotgun hook-up with tight end Niles Paul, who made a terrific leaping, turnaround catch.

4. Is there a quarterback controversy?

No.  Not yet.  Griffin has a much higher ceiling than Cousins does, and remember, it’s not like Cousins has set the world on fire over his eight regular-season games (eight touchdown passes versus 10 picks, 56.2 completion percentage, 68.6 passer rating, 51.5 Total QBR).  

But the discussion of whether this team this season is better off with Cousins at quarterback isn’t ridiculous.  Redskins coaches have been frustrated by Griffin’s performance this summer, and that sentiment was echoed by Joe Theismann on the telecast of this game on the Redskins Broadcast Network: “Kirk Cousins has played much better at the quarterback position than Robert Griffin III has.”  

Additionally, remember what’s Mike Reiss wrote earlier this month: “One of my biggest takeaways from Patriots-Redskins joint practices was surprise that Robert Griffin III didn’t look like the best quarterback on his own team.  In fact, I thought Kirk Cousins was better than him, from the perspective of running the offense, fine-tuned mechanics and how decisively the ball came out of his hand.  I wondered if I was alone, and then heard the same sentiment echoed by some others in the Patriots organization.”   

5. Ultimately, this all may come down to one thing: the read-option

The biggest reason to believe in Griffin, of course, is how great he was in 2012.  What helped to make him so good that season was the success of the read-option, which only comprised between 10-20 percent of the Redskins’ offensive plays but was a factor on many more because of the threat of it every time Griffin lined up in the pistol.  

We saw zero read-option plays over the first two games of last season, and the results were terrible.  We then saw read-option plays over the next 11 games, and the offensive results improved.

We saw just two read-option-looking plays with Griffin in the game over the first three preseason games.  Both were in this game: a first-and-five 19-yard run by running back Alfred Morris on the Redskins’ first offensive play of the game and a second-quarter second-and-nine one-yard run by Morris.  It's important to note that both of those plays weren't true read-option plays (there was no "option"; the plays were inside-zone runs).  Also, both of those plays were run out of the shotgun, which is the formation that head coach Jay Gruden used to run read-option while he was Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator.

Are the Redskins simply playing possum and planning to bust out more read-option come Week 1 at Houston?  Or are they truly trying to get away from the read-option?  And if the latter is the case, is Griffin capable of having another great season?  Because as we’ve seen over the last two seasons, when he’s not a run threat, the offense just isn’t that good.

6. Safety Brandon Meriweather has been suspended again

Meriweather was hit with a third-and-four 15-yard personal-foul penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Torrey Smith on the second-quarter drive that resulted in Justin Tucker’s 36-yard field goal.  We learned on Monday (Aug. 25) that the NFL has suspended Meriweather without pay for the first two games of the regular season for a sixth violation of player-safety rules.

Meriweather’s availability has been a major issue over his three seasons with the Redskins.  
     •    Meriweather played in just one game in 2012 due to an injured left knee in the preseason and then a torn right ACL suffered in the Week 11 rout of Philadelphia.  

     •    Meriweather played in 13 games last season.  He missed the Week 1 loss to the Eagles due to a groin injury.  He missed the Week 8 loss at Denver due to a one-game suspension for two illegal hits in the Week 7 shootout win over Chicago.  And he missed the Week 14 loss to Kansas City due to a chest injury.

A positive for Meriweather was delivering a massive hit on running back Bernard Pierce on a first-and-10 carry for a five-yard loss on the first-quarter drive that resulted in the Ravens’ second turnover on downs.  

7. The defense did mostly look good

This was the first real test of the Redskins’ defense this preseason, given that New England didn’t play so many of its starters and Cleveland’s quarterback play was so poor.

The Skins totaled three sacks, including one from debuting defensive end Jason Hatcher.  He beat right guard Marshal Yanda for a third-and-seven sack for a 12-yard loss during a first-quarter three-and-out.  Gruden said after the game that Hatcher appeared to be “a little winded out there,” but I was encouraged with what we saw from Hatcher given that 1) he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in June and 2) he turned 32 on July 13.

Rookie Trent Murphy and fellow linebacker Ryan Kerrigan registered the Redskins’ other two sacks.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson had two tackles for loss, a pass defense and a forced fumble.  

8. As for more of the bad from the defense…

The Ravens’ first-quarter drive that resulted in their second turnover on downs also included:
     •    Corner DeAngelo Hall’s third-and-four 16-yard defensive pass-interference penalty

     •    Horrendous tackling on a second-and-15 30-yard reception by receiver Steve Smith Sr.  Hall and safety Ryan Clark were among those who failed to bring Smith down.  

Corner E.J. Biggers got beat on Steve Smith Sr.’s late-second-quarter 24-yard touchdown reception.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo had a missed tackle on fullback Kyle Juszczyk (YOOZ-check) on his 23-yard reception on the game’s first offensive play.

9. The roster has been trimmed

The deadline to cut down to 75 players was on Tuesday (Aug. 26) at 4:00 p.m.  Notable cuts included:
     •    Linebacker Rob Jackson, who was released on Sunday (Aug. 24).  His departure nails the coffin shut on the Redskins’ 2008 10-man draft class.  Jackson was a seventh-round pick and the lone remaining member from that class on the team.  Only one other player, San Diego guard Chad Rinehart, is still in the NFL.

     •    Guard/center Mike McGlynn, who was released on Tuesday (Aug. 26).  He was signed by the Redskins on March 28 and has been a consistent starter in the NFL, including starting 33 games (regular season and postseason) for Indianapolis the last two seasons.

     •    Guard Adam Gettis, who was waived on Monday (Aug. 25).  He was a fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

A player who survived the cutdown to 75 was linebacker Everette Brown, who was signed on July 28 off linebacker Brandon Jenkins being waived on July 27.  Brown was taken by Carolina in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft and played for current Redskins outside linebackers coach Brian Baker while with the Panthers.  Also, Brown, like Jenkins, played collegiately at Florida State.  Brown’s chance of making the 53-man roster improved with the cuts of Jackson and linebacker Adrian Robinson.

10. Miscellaneous notes:

Notable injuries for the Redskins in this game:
     •    Safety Phillip Thomas – re=injury of his surgically-repaired left foot

     •    Rookie offensive tackle Morgan Moses – sprained right MCL

     •    Orakpo - ankle sprain

     •    Corner Chase Minnifield - hamstring strain

The drive that resulted in Malone’s second-quarter 27-yard punt also included left tackle Trent Williams committing a third-and-nine 10-yard holding penalty.  That infraction negated a 26-yard reception by Reed, who broke several tackles.

Lichtensteiger struggled on consecutive plays on the Redskins' first drive, getting blown up on a second-and-nine Morris I-formation-handoff run and then delivering a high shotgun snap on a third-and-10 shotgun sack of Griffin for a four-yard loss.  Also, Griffin’s first-quarter fumble came on a botched shotgun exchange with Lichtensteiger, although Griffin appeared to take his eyes off the ball.  Lichtensteiger briefly came out of the game in the first half, and right guard Chris Chester shifted to center, but the reason for Lichtensteiger's brief departure was an equipment issue according to our own Chris Cooley.

Special teams had a mixed night:
     •    Receiver Andre Roberts had a first-quarter 23-yard punt return.

     •    Way had punts of 27 and 51 yards in the second quarter.

     •    Malone had punts of just 40 yards in the first quarter, 45 yards in the second quarter and 38 yards in the fourth quarter.

     •    Three different Redskins recorded kickoff returns: receivers Rashad Ross and Aldrick Robinson and running back Evan Royster.

This loss snapped the Redskins’ eight-game winning streak in the preseason.  The Redskins’ last preseason loss had been at Chicago on Aug. 18, 2012.

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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Taking Two Of Three Against San Francisco
by Al Galdi
Aug 25, 2014 -- 12:05pm
ESPN 980 - Your home for the Washington Redskins

Game 1: 10-3 loss on Friday night (August 22)

Game 2: 6-2 win on Saturday (August 23)

Game 3: 14-6 win on Sunday afternoon (August 24)

1. The streak is over, but the success continues

Game 1 snapped the Nats’ 10-game winning streak, but the Nats exited this series having won 12 of 13 and 15 of 18.

This series concluded a 9-1 homestand.

2. The offense was excellent with runners in scoring position

The Nats went 14-for-27 with runners in scoring position in the series, including 10-for-17 in Game 3.  

The Nats overcame a 5-0 fourth-inning deficit in Game 3, totaling 18 hits and six walks.

Right fielder Jayson Werth went 6-for-12 with a walk in the series, totaling four RBI, three runs and two stolen bases.

Center fielder Denard Span went 0-for-4 in Game 1 but 4-for-10 over Games 2 and 3.

Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera went 3-for-8 with three walks in the series.  He did leave Game 3 with tightness in his right side.

3. The starting pitching was bad in two of the three games

Doug Fister had a rare bad outing in Game 1, allowing four runs in six innings.  He gave up seven hits, including two homers, and was unusually inefficient (107 pitches over the six innings).  Fister pitched with stitches on his neck, and revealed after the game that he recently “had some skin cancer removed” but that “had no effect” on his start.

Jordan Zimmermann allowed two runs in eight innings in Game 2, recording eight strikeouts.  

Stephen Strasburg got rocked in Game 3, giving up five runs in four innings on eight hits (including two solo homers), two walks and a wild pitch.  He now has allowed four or more earned runs in four of his last eight starts.  

4. The bullpen was bad in Game 1 but good the rest of the series

Jerry Blevins and Ross Detwiler combined to allow six runs (five earned) in three innings in Game 1.  But Nats relievers combined to allow one run in six innings over Games 2 and 3.

5. Outfielder Nate Schierholtz has joined the major-league roster

The Nats made several roster moves on Saturday, including selecting the contract of Schierholtz and optioning outfielder Michael A. Taylor to Triple-A Syracuse.

Schierholtz was signed by the Nats to a minor-league contract on Aug. 18 and is in his age-30 season.  He was woeful with the Cubs earlier this season (OPS+ of just 48).  But he had a 108 OPS+ with the Cubs in 2013.  And Schierholtz's .763 OPS as a pinch hitter ranks fourth among active players with at least 150 career plate appearances in a pinch-hitting role.  

Taylor, one of the Nats' top-ranked outfield prospects, hit .167 (3-for-18) in seven games during his first major-league stint.

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Five Takeaways From The Orioles Getting Swept At The Cubs
by Al Galdi
Aug 25, 2014 -- 11:46am

Game 1: 4-1 loss on Friday afternoon (Aug. 22)

Game 2: 7-2 loss on Saturday (Aug. 23)

Game 3: 2-1 loss on Sunday afternoon (Aug. 24)

1. Been a while since we’ve seen this

This series gave the O’s their first three-game losing streak since late May and concluded a 4-5 road trip.  The Orioles’ next 11 games are at home.

2. Third baseman Manny Machado is done for the season

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette confirmed on Saturday that Machado, who suffered a right knee sprain on Aug. 11, will undergo season-ending surgery on the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) in his right knee in the next week.  The procedure is the same that was performed on his left knee last Oct. 14.

Machado didn’t make his season debut until May 1 thanks to the left knee surgery last October.  He struggled in May, showed improvement in June, but then served a five-game suspension for his behavior in an early-June series against Oakland.  But Machado had been very good since the suspension, posting a .921 OPS in July and a .940 OPS in August.    

Machado continued to shine defensively this season, posting a 1.1 dWAR and 9.6 UZR/150 and registering seven Defensive Runs Saved.  Those numbers aren’t on the level of his historically-excellent 2013 defensive season, but they’re still well above league average.  

3. The offense was awful

The O’s batted just .143 (13-for-91) in the series.

Right fielder Nick Markakis went 0-for-12 with four strikeouts in the series.

Third baseman Chris Davis went 1-for-11 with five strikeouts in the series.

4. The starting pitching was bad until Game 3

Kevin Gausman allowed three runs in five innings in Game 1, giving up six hits (including two homers).  Gausman did record seven strikeouts.

Bud Norris allowed four runs in two innings in Game 2, lasting just two innings in part because of a three-hour nine-minute rain delay after the bottom of the second.

Miguel Gonzalez, making his first start for the O’s since Aug. 7, allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings in Game 3.

5. Ubaldo Jimenez shined in his first outing as a reliever for the O’s

He allowed one run in four innings in relief of Norris in Game 2, recording five strikeouts.  The outing essentially played out like a start for Jimenez, as his appearance came after the near three-hour rain delay.

Orioles relievers combined to allow four runs in 10 2/3 innings in the series.  Tommy Hunter gave up two runs in two innings on four hits in Game 2.

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Five Takeaways From The Nationals' Four-Game Sweep Of Arizona
by Al Galdi
Aug 21, 2014 -- 7:29pm
Anthony Rendon

Game 1: 5-4 11-inning win on Monday night (August 18)

Game 2: 8-1 win on Tuesday night (August 19)

Game 3: 3-2 win on Wednesday night (August 20)

Game 4: 1-0 win on Thursday (August 21)

1. An unreal run

The Nats exited this series with:
     •    10 consecutive wins, the franchise’s longest winning streak since a 10-game winning streak in June 2005

     •    Five walk-off wins in six days, becoming the first team to do that since the 1986 Houston Astros (who had a major-league-record five consecutive walk-off wins)

     •    The National League’s best record (73-53) and run differential (+102)

2. The offense was great

The Nats batted .293 (39-for-133) in the series and, maybe even more impressively, totaled 18 walks.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon had a pinch walk-off RBI single in Game 3 and hit the infield single that yielded the walk-off throwing error by third baseman Jordan Pacheco in Game 4.  Rendon went 6-for-14 with two walks in the series.  

Left fielder Bryce Harper went 7-for-15 with a walk in the series.  He scored the game-winning run in Game 3, getting on base thanks to a single on which he got jobbed on a 3-0 pitch that should’ve been ball four but still managed to work the hit.

Right fielder Jayson Werth went 5-for-14 with three walks in the series.

Catcher Wilson Ramos played in Games 1, 3 and 4 and went a combined 4-for-12.

First baseman Adam LaRoche had his first career walk-off homer, a solo bomb in the bottom of the 11th of Game 1.  He went just 2-for-14 in the series but totaled four walks.

The Nats won Game 4 despite going 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

3. The starting pitching was excellent

Jordan Zimmermann allowed three runs in seven innings in Game 1.  He now has a 2.14 ERA (eight earned runs in 33 2/3 innings) over his last five starts.

Stephen Strasburg allowed one run in eight innings in Game 2, giving an overworked bullpen some much-needed rest.  Strasburg now has a 2.30 ERA at home versus a 4.77 ERA on the road this season.

Tanner Roark tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 3.  Exiting the game, only five major-league pitchers had 10 or more starts giving up one run or fewer while going seven or more innings: the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright, Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels and Roark.

Gio Gonzalez tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 4.  He had struggled to some extent in six of his previous seven starts.

4. The four-game sweep came despite more struggles for the bullpen

Tyler Clippard, closing for an overworked Rafael Soriano, allowed a game-tying solo homer in the top of the ninth of Game 1.  Clippard then allowed a game-tying two-run homer in the top of the eighth of Game 3.

Craig Stammen loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the 11th of Game 1 but escaped the inning unscathed.

5. Outfielder Nate McLouth’s season is over

He underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Thursday to repair a torn right labrum.  McLouth was a major disappointment this season, batting just .173 and posting an OPS+ of just 46 (100 is average) over 162 plate appearances despite receiving starter’s money (two-year deal reportedly worth $10.75 million) last December.

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