MLB team won't have best player for 4-8 weeks

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MLB team won't have best player for 4-8 weeks

From Comcast SportsNet
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Evan Longoria took a right turn out of the Tampa Bay clubhouse and walked a few feet before stepping in front of a group of reporters huddled around a lineup board that will not list his name for the next four to eight weeks. The three-time All-Star was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a partially torn left hamstring Tuesday. Replacing his bat and glove won't be easy. Yet the Rays are confident they'll be OK without their best player, who's hitting .329 with four homers and 19 RBIs. "I've been in similar situations before and it's just one of those things where I'll stay positive," the third baseman said. "It's going to be tough to watch, but I can't really worry about it right now. I've just got to worry about getting healthy." The Rays received the test results before Tuesday night's game against the Seattle Mariners. Longoria was injured Monday while running to second base on an attempted steal. He slid into the bag and remained on the ground for a moment before climbing to his feet and walking to the dugout without assistance. Elliot Johnson replaced him following the third inning and eventually delivered a game-winning RBI single in the 12th inning of a 3-2 victory. The Rays have a knack for finding someone to step up when star players are struggling or hurt. That's one of the reasons they are confident they can withstand Longoria's absence. "We're still a really good team. We're going to have to be that much better defensively, that much better with our execution on the basepaths," executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "Our pitching's going to be very good. We're going to score runs," he added. "So it's one of those things where it's definitely not ideal, but we do have a ton of talent around him that should still allow us to win a lot of games." The Rays have made the playoffs three of the past four seasons, including 2008 when they won the AL East and made an improbable run to the World Series. That year, nearly every starter spent time on the disabled list, including Longoria. Tampa Bay lost the slugger for 26 games early last year and recovered from a slow start to rally from a nine-game deficit in September to win the AL wild card on Longoria's game-ending homer on the final night of the regular season. "I don't have any doubts," that teammates will step up and help the Rays continue a strong start, Longoria said. "We've been down this road before," manager Joe Maddon said. "There's no crying in baseball. ... You just try to make the best decisions afterward and move forward. But you can't worry about it. You don't talk about it negatively because that can bring you down." The Rays purchased the contract of infielder Will Rhymes from Triple-A Durham. To make room on the 40-man roster for Rhymes, reliever Kyle Farnsworth was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. Johnson was in the lineup again Tuesday night. Another utility infielder, Jeff Keppinger, may also get some starts at third while Longoria is out. "It's not clear yet how much time he'll miss. It will be a minimum of four weeks. Somewhere in the four to eight (range), depending on how he responds and how treatment goes," Friedman said. "He's always been a pretty good healer. He's had some hamstring issues in the past and has come back from them pretty quickly, relatively speaking, so we're not going to put a firm timeline on it." Longoria was sidelined by a strained left oblique muscle most of the opening month a year ago. He had a strong second half, finishing with 31 homers and 99 RBIs. He helped the Rays to a 15-8 record in April -- the second-best opening month in franchise history -- and thought he had left his problems with injuries behind him. "It's just one of those things. Driving home last night, I was thinking I can look in the mirror and say I've done everything that I can do to try to prevent these kind of things," Longoria said. "My hamstring just doesn't cooperate with me sometimes."

Curran: Texans perfectly positioned to slow down Brady and the Patriots

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Curran: Texans perfectly positioned to slow down Brady and the Patriots

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes in 14 of the 273 games he started and finished. The Patriots are 6-8 in those games. Among the 14 are three games against Rex Ryan’s Jets, including two in 2013 and the second game of the season in 2009. There’s also the 2015 AFC Championship against Denver, the playoff win over the Texans last year, and the season-opening loss to the Chiefs this year.

The common denominator in those six games? Outstanding defenses with coordinators and personnel that new Brady well and -- in all but the win over the Texans last January -- a dearth of wide receivers.

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Every year there’s a search for the BLUEPRINT!!! for slowing down the Patriots offense and making Brady look mortal. Google “blueprint for beating the Patriots” and you get 370,000 results. Many of those say the 2007 Giants crafted it first. Few of those mention praying for dropped interceptions and helmet catches in the final two minutes.

The most sure way to slow down the Patriots offense is to have really good defensive players who can bring pressure and (this is the key) hoping the Patriots are banged up at wideout and can’t do their usual damage in the middle of the field.

That’s your blueprint. And it’s in place this week. This isn’t saying the Patriots will lose to Houston, who I’ll wager won’t produce more than 10 offensive points. But I’ll also bet you straight up that Brady completes fewer than half of his passes against Houston.

No Edelman, Gronk with a groin, Danny Amendola coming back from concussion and Brandin Cooks still getting adjusted will leave the Texans knowing their key to success is jamming the middle and making Brady work outside.  

The Texans were fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt last season (5.83), second in passing yards allowed per game (201), first in first downs allowed per game (17) and second in completion percentage against (58.68).

Brady knows what’s coming. He talked about it earlier this week on WEEI with Kirk and Callahan, saying, “They were the No. 1-ranked defense in the league last year. I don’t think I completed many passes in that game, either. I think I was below 50 percent. They just did a good job of putting pressure and when you put pressure, the ball has to come out quick and they had a lot of guys in coverage, too. It was just tough to get rid of it quick. The one positive we took out of that game was we made a lot of big plays. Some teams are going to decide to take away some shorter throws, and they give up longer plays. I think we had seven plays over 20 yards in that game. We moved the ball pretty well. It just didn’t look super rhythmic."

The Texans were able to get pressure and drop a lot of guys in coverage because they have exceptional talent up front.

Brady broke down the Texans’ front on Wednesday, starting with J.J. Watt, saying, “Earlier in his career you used to kind of get a bead on where he’d be, [which] could help you out a little bit. But now they move him so much he’s going to really face every guy that you have up front. [He’ll] be on both sides, be inside, be outside. They run a lot of games. They’ve got a lot of scheme stuff that they use to try to get their guys free in the front, but all of those guys are exceptional athletes. J.J. is an incredible player. He’s been Defensive Player of the Year (three times). He’s got speed, quickness, power, he’s got all the moves, got all the counters. He’s just a tough guy to block.

“Then you pair him with Whitney Mercilus, who’s one of the most underrated players, I think, in the league in terms of rushing the passer to everything that he does to help that team. I know practicing against that guy how good he is. And then with Jadeveon [Clowney], he’s one of the most athletic guys in the league. He does some things that other people can’t do. He’s just size, speed, explosiveness. So all those guys on the same field at one time is a big problem for any offense. You don’t want to be holding the ball too long because you know that they’re going to get home at some point and I think that means we’ve got to really stay on track. We can’t have many negative plays. We’ve just got to play a really consistent kind of football for the entire game.”

The Texans are in a little bit of trouble at corner this week. One starter, Kevin Johnson, is down with an MCL and Johnathan Joseph will be playing with a shoulder injury that forced him from last week’s game against the Bengals.  

The Patriots made it look easy last week against the Saints, which caused people who’d been pointing out Brady was BORN IN 1977!!!! stare at their shoelaces for a few days. But they’re just resting because they’ll be back Sunday evening and into Monday with the same “old” song, ignoring the facts of the case.

The facts are that Brady -- with a full complement in the playoffs last year and the Texans missing J.J. Watt -- had his hands full to the tune of a 47.37 completion percentage, the lowest completion percentage in 34 career playoff games. Without Edelman in this season's opener (and losing Amendola midway through), he completed 44.44 percent of his passes -- fourth-worst among games he started and finished.

The key in this one could be Cooks. As Brady pointed out, the Texans yielded some chunk plays. Cooks, who’s got speed to spare on the outside, will likely be looking at press coverage that -- if he can be beat it -- will give him a chance to run under some Brady duck-and-chucks. And there will be some of those.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien -- whose defense is run by former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel -- isn’t looking at the KC game as a blueprint. He’s looking instead at the 27 points scored and the points left on the field by New England.

“When I look at their offense, obviously they didn’t win the game, but there were several things that they did in the game that were very good,” said O’Brien. “They’re a very dangerous team on offense. They play fast. They play with great efficiency. They have a different game plan every week, different personnel that they’re using and so, it’s difficult. You don’t really know what to expect. The combination of Tom and Josh [McDaniels], the brains behind that offense, it’s hard. It’s hard to deal with that and we’re just going to have to see what it is when the game starts and do the best we can to keep up with what they’re trying to do and go from there.”

The Patriots offense knows generally what’s coming from Houston and vice versa. The Patriots won’t be “rhythmic” and there will be balls skipping in the general vicinity of where Brady hoped a receiver would be when he let it go with Watt or Mercilus bearing down on him. Bet on it.

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