Archives for posts with tag: WTOP

MLB’s Trading Deadline saw the Nationals make multiple moves-each for a bullpen bandage (as opposed to previous bandaids or napkins like Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings).  Dan Hudson, Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland (yes, that guy) come to DC to patch up the worst bullpen in the big leagues.  And while the Nats still need to get solid starting pitching plus continue to produce on offense to make the middle relievers worthwhile pickups, it’s a step in the right direction even in the middle of a week where the team dropped four of six to now lose three straight series.

Digesting the Division- Atlanta (66-47) went 4-3 last week with a huge road series win at the Nationals.  While the Braves aren’t running away with the NL East (they’re 12-10 since the All Star break), they aren’t imploding either (6-4 against division foes since the hiatus).  Philadelphia’s 3-3 week moves Bryce Harper’s Bunch into a second-place tie with the Nats, just in time to visit fellow Wildcard contenders Arizona and San Francisco.  The New York Mets (55-56) had the best week in the division at 5-1, and their trade for Marcus Stroman keeps them in the conversation for some time.  Miami’s irrelevance was underscored at the deadline as Derek Jeter spent all of 2018 getting rid of their servicable players.  Dark days, indeed.

Wild Wildcard Race-  three and a half games separate seven teams competing for two playoff spots.  While St. Louis and Milwaukee are also involved in the NL Central race with the Chicago Cubs, it’s Wildcard or bust for Arizona and San Francisco (barring a collapse of epic proportions by the Los Angeles Dodgers).  While right now it’s the Cardinals followed by the Nats and Phillies, expect weekly and even daily changes to the pecking order over the final 50 games of the season.

O’s Woes- the Birds are 38-73 after a 3-3 week that has them now on pace to win 55 games; while a sub-100 loss campaign remains a possibility they’d have to finish 25-26 to get there.  This week’s bright spot in the Charm City is Trey Mancini, who’s already reached a career high with 26 home runs and is on pace to pass his career mark of 78 RBI while counting down the days to when he’ll eventually sign years from now as a free agent with Atlanta.

Harper’s Weekly- Bryce batted .111 as his average drops to .248.  He’s still on pace to hit 28 homers and 107 RBI while the free-swinger remains on track to strike out 190 times.  He also has seven weeks to prepare for a potential showdown with Hunter Strickland, who hit Harper in the hip on Memorial Day 2017 in retaliation for two homers hit in the 2014 playoffs.  What are the odds they face one another once in the four-game September series?

Last Week’s Heroes- Anthony Rendon hit .304 with a pair of homers and 9 RBI (SIGN HIM IMMEDIATELY) while Howie Kendrick went 5-for-10 at the plate and Juan Soto belted 3 home runs.  Joe Ross (!?!) one week after getting roasted by the Los Angeles Dodgers at home tossed 5.1 scoreless innings at Arizona (an infield single ruining the no-hit bid), while Tony Sipp, Daniel Hudson and Roenis Elias were all sharp out of the bullpen.

Last Week’s Humbled– after being named July’s NL pitcher of the month, Stephen Strasburg hiccuped by allowing nine earned runs over 4.2 innings against the Diamondbacks. Patrick Corbin had a less than ideal start in the rubber game Sunday. Anibal Sanchez allowed four runs over five innings against Atlanta.  And Roenis Elias suffered a strained hamstring running out a grounder.  At the plate, Yan Gomes batted .091 while Victor Robles hit .063.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats face the New York Mets with Stephen Strasburg attempting to regain his July groove (5-0, 44 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.14) against the Mets deadline-week pickup Marcus Stroman (6-11 but with a 3.07 ERA this year).  Will the Nationals still be in the Wildcard lead?

Game to Miss- Wednesday the team wraps up its series with San Francisco, who starts “Shaun Anderson”. Not to be confused with former Navy scoring machine “Sean Anderson” or current WTOP PM Drive Anchor “Shawn Anderson”.  I’m not ready to have multiple worlds collide…even on a weekday afternoon.

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PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM:

At the beginning of February, most conferences have set their course for 2019.  The ACC (seven ranked teams) and Big Ten (five schools in the top 25) have earned top-heavy reputations, while the rest of the Big 12 is getting in position for Kansas to win the league yet again (I think the Jayhawks could spot anybody a three-game lead Super Bowl weekend and still find a way to capture the conference’s regular season title).  Even the Pac-12 has effectively fallen off the west coast (they’ll wash back in with the next high tide, I believe).  The Big East?  While it  remains the dominion of defending national champ Villanova (Wildcats after early stumbles currently stand atop the league) and while Marquette is a top 10 team, there’s a rugby scrum among the bottom eight.  The week began with one-half game separating third from last place.  Seton Hall and St. John’s have both had turns in the top 25, and are now both securely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, while recent tournament regulars like Providence, Creighton and Xavier are in danger of seeing their respective streaks of making the Big Dance end.  If things hold, be prepared to break out the conference tiebreakers for seeding the upcoming Big East Tournament in March.  And beware– the fifth tiebreaker is a coin flip.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange are a part of a top-heavy ACC one month into the schedule…and have a chance to make a move with five straight games against schools at .500 or below in the conference.  Problem is, two are currently ranked (Florida State & NC State) and there are no easy outs in this league this winter.  Hopefully coach Jim Boeheim won’t be tossing his jacket in frustration anytime soon (he’s done it six times this winter according to nunesmagician.com).

 

Friday’s Game:

#21 Maryland (17-5, 8-3 Big Ten) at #24 Wisconsin (15-6, 7-3), 9 p.m., Big Ten Network.  The last time these two teams played we saw the ceiling and floor of this winter’s Terrapins:  they led the Badgers 33-15 at the half before shooting 5-for-19 with five turnovers after intermission while hanging on to a 64-60 victory.  Since that night the Badgers have won four straight (including an upset of then-#2 Michigan) while holding opponents to 52.8 points per game.  Ethan Happ has been averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists during that stretch and one hopes this battle of big men will be better than the one in College Park:  Happ was held to 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting while Bruno Fernando was hampered by foul trouble (21 minutes played).  Fernando’s more than bounced back from that effort, posting four straight double-doubles.

 

Saturday’s Games:

#12 Virginia Tech (17-3, 6-2 ACC) at #23 NC State (16-5, 4-4), 12 p.m., ACC Network. Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts led the program to the NCAA Tournament in his first year at the helm;  this winter despite losing four players to graduation and three more to transfer he has the Pack ranked for the first time in six years.  The overtime loss Tuesday to #3 Virginia was just the appetizer in the “Are the Pack for real?” meal; after Saturday’s entree against the Hokies they get dessert next Tuesday at a #9 North Carolina team they lost by to by eight at home.  And rest assured, coach Buzz Williams’ team is more than mere filler between UVa and UNC:  five of their six league wins are by double-digits.

 

#3 Virginia (19-1, 7-1 ACC) vs. Miami (9-11, 1-7), ACC Network.  The Hurricanes are led by Mitchellville, MD product Chris Lykes (16.6 points and 3.5 assists per game) but they won’t have big man Dewan Hernandez Saturday or any other day for that matter.  The 6-foot-11 center was the team’s returning leading scorer and rebounder but has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the rest of this year and 40% of next season for entering into an agreement and accepting benefits from an agent.  His absence is one of the reasons why coach Jim Larranaga’s team ranks last in the ACC in rebounding, and as Hernandez heads to the NBA Draft he takes whatever remaining postseason hopes the Hurricanes had with him.

 

American (11-9, 5-4 Patriot League) vs. Holy Cross (12-10, 3-6), 2 p.m.  It’s an iron man matchup as AU’s Sam Iorio and Sa’eed Nelson along with Caleb Green and Josh Grandison comprise the conference’s top four players in minutes per game (Green’s #1 with 37.7 while the other three each average 34+).  The Eagles have won three straight and enter a stretch where they play four of five at Bender Arena.  While Crusaders senior Jehyve Floyd leads the conference in shooting (69%) and blocked shots (2.3 per game), the 6-foot-8 forward doesn’t get a ton of help on the glass as Holy cross ranks last in rebounding.  And AU’s great at making their opponents miss, leading the league in field goal defense as well as defending the three.

 

Howard (10-12, 4-3 MEAC) vs Norfolk State (12-10, 7-0), 4 p.m.  The Bison have won three straight conference games thanks in part to the emergence of junior Chad Lott (18 points per game on 57% shooting), a fantastic compliment to the 1-2 punch of R.J. Coles and Charles Williams (the most recent MEAC Player of the Week).  But they’ll find the first-place Spartans a little tougher than the trio that is a combined 3-18 in league play.  Junior Nic Thomas may lead NSU in scoring, but Derrik Jamerson Jr. has been red-hot from three-point range, making 49 percent of his shots from outside the arc.

 

Richmond (8-13, 2-6 Atlantic 10) vs. La Salle (5-14, 3-4), 6 p.m., ESPN+.  Perhaps the snooze alarm the Spiders hit last winter after a 2-10 start was delayed a month this year: Wednesday they defeated A-10 preseason favorite Saint Louis 84-81 thanks to 58% shooting and going 17-of-18 at the free throw line.  The Explorers have won two straight, but two of their three league wins have come against 13th place UMass and the other was against last place Fordham.  La Salle also sports the toxic combination of being the conference’s worst shooting team with allowing the most points per game. They do have an all-name team guard in leading scorer Pookie Powell, however.

 

George Mason (13-8, 7-1 Atlantic 10) at VCU (14-6, 5-2), 6:30 p.m., NBCSN.  It’s one thing to play well in the A-10, quite another to go down to the Rams’ home gym and leave with a victory.  But hold on–the Patriots did just that last year in an 81-80 thriller at the Siegel Center.  Ian Boyd was the hero that day, hitting a game-winning shot with one second left.  Boyd’s back, and so is Otis Livington II who has a buzzer-beater to his credit  against Fordham earlier this month.  Can Boyd, Livingston and breakout star Justin Kier get good looks against a Rams team that leads the conference in field goal defense as well as containing the three?

 

Navy (6-14, 3-6 Patriot League) vs. Loyola (Maryland) (8-14, 4-5), 7 p.m.  Two teams headed in opposite directions meet as the Greyhounds have won four of six while the Midshipmen have lost six of seven.  Loyola also brings the league’s leading scorer to Annapolis in Andrew Kostecka, although the junior hasn’t had a ton of success against the Mids (25 points over four games on 9-19 shooting) in his career.  If Kostecka and the Greyhounds get hot, the Navy offense that ranks last in the Patriot League in shooting and scoring will be ill-pressed to keep up.

 

Sunday’s Game:

Georgetown (14-7, 4-4 Big East) at #18 Villanova (17-4, 8-0), 12 p.m, FS1.  The Hoyas’ come from behind 80-73 win over Xavier puts Patrick Ewing’s team in sole possession of third place in the conference…but still one and a half game out of league basement.  Even with the consistently uneven season thus far (including a loss to Furman), the Wildcats are the team to beat in the conference.  For the Hoyas recently, Nova’s been the team they can’t beat:  since the re-formation of the “New Big East” they’ve lost 10 of 11 to the Wildcats (eight by double digits).  The defending national champs are led by fifth-year senior Phil Booth in scoring and assists (the Baltimore native also connects on 42% of his three-pointers) who if he needs any motivation can recall a 20-point loss to the Hoyas his team suffered when Booth was a freshman in 2015.  And for the record, Hoyas freshmen James Akinjo (23 points in the second half against the Musketeers) and Mac McClung (27 points against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden) have never lost to Villanova in their careers.

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

How well do we really know each other?  How many of our secrets to we share with those who we consider close friends, neighbors and co-workers?  How much of each of us is an iceberg to others–and what steps do we take to make sure the 90% stays underwater?

It’s easy to be all-in on FX’s “The Americans”.  The spy show takes place in Washington, D.C. during the Reagan administration and unlike the movie “No Way Out” did not have anyone boarding the Metro in Georgetown.  There was plenty of violence and sex…with plenty of 80’s cultural references in the mix (David Copperfield really DID make the Statue of Liberty disappear!).  Over six seasons the show was equal parts up-tempo and slow-burn…led by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (two actors that wound up getting married during the series run) as a pair of travel agents who might just be working for the KGB (okay, SPOILER ALERT, they are).  The seemingly normal couple with two kids and a nice house in Falls Church (I swear a buddy of mine used to mow lawns in that neighborhood) were doing their darnedest to undermine the good old United States of America.  And this was no “Boris & Natasha”–they were chillingly effective at what they did (the suitcase from season three).  But the show became just as much about an evolving marriage as it was about the two spies in it.

Deception lurked around every corner for six strong seasons– from the semi-convincing wigs to having a teenage daughter swipe pages of her minister’s diary.  In the midst of all of the deception, targets (poor Martha) and multiple handlers (Frank Langella as Gabriel remains my favorite), the characters of Philip and Elizabeth (or Mischa and Nadezhda in their home country) went from spies pretending to be married to a married couple pretending to not be spies.  A parent always wants a better world for their children, and after they brought Paige into their world of spycraft one saw both parents push back from condemning their daughter to their world of deception.  Elizabeth wanted a safe job as a State Department mole while Philip wanted Paige to be completely out of the family business (I know what you’re thinking as we head to the finale:  poor Henry Jennings was going to be captain of his prep school hockey team as a senior–as they say in the mother country, Не больше).

And as fate would have it (aren’t TV coincidences crazy?!?), “The Americans” added the wrinkle of having an FBI Agent move next door.  Unlike most sit-coms where the wacky neighbor provides welcome comic relief, Noah Emmerich as Stan Beeman was akin to having missiles in Cuba (or Turkey, depending on whose perspective you prefer)-danger on the doorstep.  Naturally, Stan and Philip became best friends.  And while we saw Philip evolve in his marriage and work we saw Stan’s marriage crumble (due to deception) and work go sideways to a point where he left counter-intelligence.  But in the final episodes, he can’t stop thinking that the Jennings might not be all what they seem.  And what has made the show work is you want to root for Stan and his FBI co-workers to win (it doesn’t hurt that Emmerich played assistant coach Craig Patrick in the movie “Miracle”)…while still be caught up in rooting for Philip and Elizabeth in some way (but not too much).

What also helped “The Americans” maintain a high standard was the devotion to the process of spying:  more than simply car chases and gadgets, the nuts and bolts of espionage was handled deftly from day one.  Philip, Elizabeth, Stan and everyone in the spy game were dogged grinders with not every play paying off.  The show also boasted quite an assembly-line of quality actors in minor roles and bit-parts, from Costa Ronin’s Oleg to Dylan Baker’s turn as a bio-chemist in Season 4.  The show was rich in characters, capers and possibilities.  The biggest one facing fans now is whether Stan’s new wife Renee is KGB, CIA or simply a red herring? In the true spirit of the show, I have a feeling we will never know.

The final run of episodes take place in 1987, during the INF Treaty talks.  Elizabeth has turned against her handler who is trying to overthrow Gorbachev and ruin the summit. Philip is on the run after being spotted with a Russian Orthodox Priest in DC (which amazingly looks like Brooklyn).  Stan is getting closer.  And everybody’s favorite machine, the Mail Robot, continues to hum efficiently.

I grew up an hour north of Boston.  I’ve covered the Marathon.  My sister was on the same block as the explosions yesterday…and my cousin’s wife was at the finish line with her 1 and 3 year old until a half hour before the blasts.  One reason why I fell into sports journalism is that it’s fun…aka the toy department… and I can try to be mildly amusing when talking about Toronto playing Tampa Bay by saying “You can call them Rays, you can call them Jays”.  Again, the focus is more on mild than amusing.  But one can’t be sarcastic about train accidents, trials or war.  I’m the comedic relief.  It’s tough when the nasty world invades my own…I was covering Otto Porter Jr’s announcement he was headed to the NBA when the Marathon went from sporting spectacle to a day of disaster.  I scrambled to reach my sister and although she was safe she was understandably shaken.  I’ve heard her happy and sad over the years–but never in terror…and as a big brother that shook the hell out of me.  I feel for the victims.  I’m happy friends and family are safe.  And I hope justice comes in finding who’s responsible for this.  Now it’s time for another press conference (Maryland’s Alex Len going pro)…and afternoon drive updates on WTOP, where I try to be mildly amusing.  To paraphrase Lorne Michaels and Rudy Guiliani, “Can I be funny?”–“Why start now?”.

Miami makes everything go down better– Seems as thought all the Nationals needed was a trip to South Beach to cure their recent ills…getting swept by Atlanta. It’s a long season, but it’s never good to be broomed at home by one of your division rivals.  Bullpen issues (13th in the National League in OBP, 14th SLG, 3rd in blown saves) catching injuries (Ramos on the shelf in a strange sense of deja vu) and the inability to beat playoff teams (1-5 against teams that made the 2013 postseason) have to temper whatever Nattitude was as full steam after the opening series sweep of the AAA Miami Marlins.  I almost want to downgrade the Marlins to a minor league city like “Dade County Dipsy Doodles” until they get their act together.  And with another three-spot against this mess of a franchise, the Marlins may be the worst thing for this club right now–giving the Nats false confidence when they still have a ways to go to get back to last year’s level.  If you win, so what– these are the Marlins.  And when you can’t beat the worst team in the league like Tuesday night, what are you to do?  A key early stretch is on the horizon–from April 22nd to May 2nd the Nats play 11 games against St. Louis, Cincinnati and Atlanta.  Brace yourselves.

Capital Blossoms– last week I compared the Capitals to the Cherry Blossoms in DC… blooming in early April before becoming an afterthought by mid-May.  Now they have been on a tear as of late… but how much of that is a byproduct of being in the softest division of the NHL (let the record show they are 14-3 against the Southeast Division)? Can this team compete effectively over a seven game series against a legitimately good team?  Tuesday’s 5-1 thumping of Toronto was the 10th out of division win for the team this season (10-14-2) in 26 games…how tired were the Maple Leafs after last night’s 2-0 win over New Jersey?  In a season that’s given us plenty of schedule quirks (like consecutive nights in Winnipeg)… the Caps have started a five game stretch against teams from Canada.  But more importantly they play their final three games at home–including a duel with second place Winnipeg Tuesday April 23rd (Jets trail the Caps by 4 points with 5 games remaining).  Eight straight wins… is there any room left on the bandwagon?

Moving Days– Sophomores Otto Porter, Jr. and Alex Len declare for the NBA one day apart while Georgetown and Maryland wish them well.  Coach John Thompson III wasn’t shocked:  “We weren’t caught off guard…we expected Otto to move on after this year.”  Coach Mark Turgeon knew it was time:  “Alex has been a pro since he set foot on campus…the way the practices, the way he takes care of himself”.  While the Hoyas and Terps would be much better next winter with Porter and Len, the lure of first round guaranteed money was too good to pass up.  Even if the 7-foot-1 Len turns out to be a project.  Even if Porter has trouble finding minutes or an ideal position for his skill set.  Each coach heralds their respective sophomore’s work ethic…which is a huge key in making the transition from college to pro basketball.  One hopes they find their way to solid organizations with non-cancerous locker rooms where they can learn, grow and thrive.

Masters– Ah, yes. Tiger’s drop and a 14 year old’s tardiness overshadowed the best weekend for an Australian since George Lazenby landed the role of James Bond.  Tiger tailed off after being in the hunt for most of the first two rounds. Was there golf karma in taking the longer drop? The US Open will be the fifth anniversary of Tiger’s most recent Major championship. Jack Nicklaus’ longest gap during his run?  He had two “droughts”– just under three years (1967-70) and just over five years (1980 PGA-1986 Masters).  One feels it’s only a matter of time before Woods wins another and with conditioning what it is now there appears to be a larger window for him to win 4 or 5 more– but for every Lee Trevino that wins a PGA at 45, there’s a Tom Watson who stops winning majors at 33.  Oh– and congratulations to Adam Scott for winning the tournament.

Standing Pat–  Broadcast legend Pat Summerall passes away at 82.  The voice of the NFL on CBS and FOX called 16 Super Bowls for the two networks over four decades.  His booming voice dominated game opens (check them out on youtube)… and his economy of words made him the perfect complement to John Madden.  In 1981, Summerall and Vin Scully were competing for the #1 play-by-play job at CBS and while Scully painted better word pictures, Summerall didn’t bring the easel as much as set the stage for Madden’s “BOOM’s” and the telestrator.  He said more in five words than most said in fifteen.  I fell for the NFL of Summerall/Madden.  And he made announcing something a 13 year old want to dream about doing.