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      panxing18
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      A look at what’s happening around the majors Thursday:

      MIDSUMMER SKID

      The Nationals open a series against Miami hoping to end a five-game skid and get back to .500. Washington fell to 42-43 with a loss to Boston on Wednesday Kevin White Jersey , the first time the preseason NL East favorites have been under .500 this late in the year since being 60-61 on Aug. 21, 2015. The Nationals held a players’ only meeting after a 3-0 loss to the Red Sox highlighted by Adam Eaton’s throwing error and a wild pitch from Ryan Madson. Jeremy Hellickson (2-1, 2.63) makes his second start since returning from the DL, while Marlins righty Pablo Lopez (1-0, 3.00) makes his second MLB start.

      NOT VERY VERLANDER

      Justin Verlander (9-4, 2.12) tries to stop a personal slide when the Astros open a series against the White Sox. Verlander has allowed nine runs in 11 2/3 innings over his past two starts, taking losses to Toronto (four runs) and Tampa Bay (five runs). Verlander hasn’t allowed four or more earned runs in three straight starts since June 2014 while with Detroit. Carlos Rodon (1-3, 4.55) is up for Chicago.

      CUETO’S BACK

      Johnny Cueto is expected to be reinstated from the disabled list and pitch when the Giants open a four-game series against the Cardinals. Cueto was placed on the disabled list May 1 with inflammation in his right elbow. A few days later, he visited Dr. James Andrews, who diagnosed him with a strained elbow. Cueto is 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA in five starts this season. The Giants are 41-21 in his starts since he joined the team in 2016.

      PITCHING IN

      Angels rookie Jaime Barria will start against AL West-leading Seattle in place of Tyler Skaggs a day after the left-hander went on the DL with a thigh strain. Barria is making his 12th start of the season and has given up two earned runs or fewer in four of his last five starts. Lefty Marco Gonzales (8-5, 3.77) makes his first start since pitching the first complete game of his career in a 4-1 win over Kansas City.

      DOUBLE TROUBLE

      Joe Mauer needs one double to give him 415 in his career, which would break a tie with Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett for the Twins’ franchise record. Minnesota has lost six straight and returns home from a 1-8 trip to play Baltimore Christian Covington Jersey , which has the worst record in the majors at 24-61. More good news for the scuffling Twins: Two-time All-Star Ervin Santana (right middle finger surgery) is scheduled to make his next rehab appearance for Class A Fort Myers.

      There are no dreary work days for Don Martindale, who has overwhelmingly embraced his new role as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.

      After serving for five seasons as the team’s linebackers coach, Martindale was promoted to coordinator in January after Dean Pees left the post.

      Enthusiastic doesn’t even begin to describe Martindale’s attitude about being in charge of the defense.

      “Ever since we’ve made this transition, it’s been a joy to just come through those gates every day. I love it,” Martindale said after Wednesday’s mandatory minicamp practice.

      This isn’t the first time Martindale has been put in charge of molding a defense. In 2010, he watched over a unit in Denver that was the worst in the NFL in both yards and points allowed per game.

      Given a second chance, the 55-year-old Martindale is putting together a defense that will rely heavily on the instinct of several of its most proven players, most notably safety Eric Weddle and linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley.

      “He’s just putting his personal fix on our defense and expanding it, giving the guys confidence to play fast,” Weddle said. “The idea is to do what’s best for the defense, not what’s best the individual.”

      Martindale called Mosley “the quarterback” of a fluid unit that can make a snap-change from drop-back coverage to an all-out blitz. In that regard, Mosley believes this defense is superior to the one that in 2017 yielded 18.9 points per game Demarcus Walker Jersey , sixth-best in the NFL.

      “The way we’re able to use our core guys, put them in different spots and do some of the same things just from different positions, it’s more creative, I would say, than where we were last year,” Mosley said.

      Baltimore coach John Harbaugh promoted Martindale rather than go outside the organization because he wanted to extend his vision of a defense that has evolved since his arrival in 2008.

      “All we’re doing is forwarding John’s plan,” Martindale said. “We’re remodeling the package. It’s still Ravens football, it’s still Ravens defense, but we’ve streamlined it. It’s the elegant simplicity. Guys are playing really fast.”

      Asked for his take on Martindale’s defense, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg replied, “They’re fast and they’re furious.”

      Sure, things might be different once the pads go on at training camp Matt Prater Jersey , but at this point, Martindale’s boss likes what he sees.

      “We’re doing a lot of neat things on defense, things that are really good,” Harbaugh said. “More than ever, we’re putting it on our players to make decisions in real time.”

      Martindale has a new title, but old habits die hard.

      “For the most part, it’s been the same,” Mosley said. “He always comes in and says, ‘I have to lead the linebacker room,’ and sits down and gets to talking like he’s back at linebacker coach.”

      Told of Mosley’s disclosure, Martindale smiled and said, “I’ve been trying to stay out of there Reggie Wayne Jersey , but you can’t help but go in. That’s home. I have a good time in the secondary room as well.”

      And just about everywhere else.

      “Where we’re going with this thing is really exciting to me,” Martindale said, “and I know it’s exciting to the players.”

      In other training camp news, cornerback Jimmy Smith was a surprise participant at practice, going through a light regimen of individual drills just six months after tearing his left Achilles tendon.

      “I don’t know if Jimmy’s like half Wolverine, but he’s healed up in half the time of regular human beings,” Weddle said, referring to the amazing recuperative powers of the Marvel super hero.

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