Slater's displeasure with Sunday special teams obvious

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Slater's displeasure with Sunday special teams obvious

FOXBORO -- Know this: Matthew Slater is a stand-up guy. 
Slater is a five-year veteran though seems well wiser. He's captain of New England's special teams unit, but can be counted on to answer nearly anything in a thoughtful manner. 
When he spoke Monday after New England's 41-28 Divisional Playoff win over Houston, something was different. Slater wasn't smiling. His answers were brief. 
As far as Patriots special teams were concerned, the captain wasn't happy.
"We gotta get better." 
Kickoff return coverage was as bad against the Texans as it's been all season. New England gave up 216 yards to Houston safety Danieal Manning alone, including 94 yards on the game's opening boot. 
Sunday night Slater said the unit would have to watch the film to better understand what went wrong. This afternoon, after Monday's meetings, he was asked what he learned. 
"There were several breakdowns."
Well. He's not wrong. New England allowed the third-fewest yards per kickoff return (20.7)  in 2012's regular season. Manning averaged 54.0 yards per attempt Sunday. 
Any issues must be fixed before the Patriots host Baltimore in the AFC Championship. 
Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones is a handful for any team. Jones was recently named both to the AFC Pro Bowl team as well as the Associated Press' All-Pro squad. No player had a better kickoff return average than his 30.7 yards. No player had more kickoffs brought in for touchdowns than Jones' two. 
Slater expressed the urgency in preparing for Baltimore, for Jones.  
"It's very important. We know we need to perform better," Slater said. "We can't put our defense in bad situations, like I said last night. But we're on to the next game. We've got to prepare for Jacoby Jones. We know how good he is and what he's capable of." 
The plan for making corrections is simple enough. 
"Just go back to the basics," Slater explained. "Go back to the fundamentals and the rules that we have as coverage players. Just doing out job better and doing our assignments better. 
"It's been a strength for us this season; kickoff coverage has been a strength for us. I'm confident that we'll get it fixed."

Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

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Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

BOSTON (AP)  Christian Bergman rebounded from a miserable start with seven shutout innings and the Seattle Mariners halted Boston's season-high six-game winning streak with a 5-0 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday.

Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer and Guillermo Heredia a solo shot for the Mariners, who averted a three-game sweep with just their second win in nine games. Seattle was shut out the first two games.

Bergman (2-2) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out two. He got a lot of help from his infielders when they turned a double play in each of the first four innings.

Three relievers completed the combined five-hitter, with closer Edwin Diaz getting the final three outs despite two errors by infielders.

Bergman was tagged for 14 hits and 10 runs over four innings in a loss his previous start.

Rick Porcello (3-6) gave up 11 hits, but only two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Seattle finished one off its club record for most double plays turned in a game.

After being shut out for the first 21 innings of the series, the Mariners moved ahead 1-0 in the fourth when Kyle Seager raced home from third after Porcello bounced a pitch that went over catcher Sandy Leon's right shoulder and onto the screen. Seager had doubled leading off and advanced on Danny Valencia's single.

Heredia homered over the Green Monster in the eighth and Cano sent his into the center-field bleachers an inning later.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, had another bullpen session Sunday because he wasn't happy with one a day earlier.

Red Sox: Manager John Farrell said 3B Pablo Sandoval, out since late April with a sprained right knee, will stay on his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket to get his "timing going" with more at-bats.

ROSTER MOVES

Seattle sent Saturday's losing pitcher, RHP Rob Whalen, to Triple-A Tacoma and brought up RHP Ryne Harper from the same club.

The Red Sox also made moves with pitchers, sending Saturday's winner, lefty Brian Johnson, to Triple-A Pawtucket and promoting RHP Blaine Boyer for a day. Boyer will go back down Monday when ace David Price is activated.

Boyer made his Red Sox debut, retiring the only two batters he faced.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Sam Gaviglio (0-1, 1.38 ERA) is set to make his third major-league start when they open a two-game series Monday at Colorado. RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-6, 4.50) is scheduled for the Rockies.

Red Sox: LHP Price makes his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox after being sidelined since early spring training with a strained left elbow.

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Brian Johnson admits he almost retired one year ago due to anxiety

Brian Johnson admits he almost retired one year ago due to anxiety

Brian Johnson almost called it a career at age 25 -- just one year before he went on to throw a complete game shutout at Fenway Park.

He finished Saturday's 6-0 win over the Mariners with eight strikeouts and five hits allowed. To get on the mound at Fenway, he had to overcome a serious bout with anxiety and depression. Things came to a head roughly a year ago.

"At that point in time, I was ready to hang 'em up," Johnson told Mike Giardi and Rob Bradford on WEEI radio Sunday. "I wasn't happy, wasn't sleeping through the night, woke up in cold sweats. I just wasn't happy."

But when things got most challenging, Johnson asked for help, which made all the difference, he explained. He broke down on the phone with his father, and discussed all of the issues he'd been struggling with. Then he spoke on the phone with Red Sox mental skills coach Laz Gutierrez, who helped him game plan to fight against his anxiety and depression. Baseball was one of Johnson's problems, and he was considering cutting it out of his life.

"Yes, there were thoughts in my head where I was like, 'What else would I do with my life?'" Johnson said. "I don't think it was baseball. I mean, yes, I would be lying if I didn't say it was that. I think it was a lot of things. Where I was at in my life, I was only a baseball player, and people only saw me as a baseball player. I was just letting everything build up. I think it stemmed all from when I hurt my elbow. I didn't have any feeling in my hand."

He began to worry about whether the feeling in his hand would disappear during his starts. He'd knock his funny bone and the feeling would be gone. That was only one manifestation of his anxieties.

"I just felt like there microscope on me 24/7," he said, "and that's kind of what let's your mind play tricks on you.'

He added: "If I didn't say anything, I don't think there's any chance I'd be here playing baseball. And it is taboo. I always thought -- the reason it took me so long was because, if I say something, they're never going to trust me again. 'How is he able to perform if he's having anxiety and depression problems.' . . . And lo and behold, I think I have more trust now that I said something."

Johnson just kept getting back on the field by throwing one inning at a time until he started having fun again. Fast forward to Sunday, Johnson has two starts for the Sox for a 2.57 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 14 innings. He has also posted a 2.82 ERA in seven starts and 44.2 innings pitched in the minors.

But some unfortunate news followed his moment of triumph against the Mariners on Saturday. Johnson is heading back down to Pawtucket. The Sox optioned him with David Price rejoining the rotation.

"I would have loved to stay," Johnson said. "But I'm happy to do what they want me to . . . It stinks I'm getting sent down and optioned. But like I told John (Farrell) and like I told Dave (Dombrowski), 'I'm just going to keep working hard. Whenever you guys need me, I'm ready.'

Johnson said he wasn't riding a high of confidence after his excellent outing. He's keeping a level-head, and approaching the game the same way he did before his complete game. But he did admit he had a particularly special moment Saturday. After the game, his dad congratulated Johnson with a hug on the field at Fenway.

Johnson said: "That was the moment I was probably most grateful for everything."