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facing one batter in the fifth inning at San Diego before the Padres battered the Bra

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GLENDALE Josh Allen Jersey , Ariz. (AP)A crowd of reporters around his locker, Robert Nkemdiche was asked what he learned the first two years in the NFL.”I learned I was terrible,” he said.He was joking. Everyone laughed.But, with a new coaching staff giving the big defensive tackle a clean slate, this is a big season for the former first-round draft pick to prove to the Cardinals that they were right to select him 29th overall out of Mississippi in 2017.There have been no breakout performances, just a big play here and there – he returned an Eli Manning fumble for a TD last season – and there have been too many mistakes, including way too many offside penalties. In 17 career games, he has 12 tackles, four of them solo, and zero sacks.He knows it is time to show he’s better than that or risk forever being saddled as a ”draft bust.”If the mammoth player – 6-foot-4, 296 pounds – harnesses his raw skills and attends to the little things, maybe he’ll even find himself starting up front.”I try to stay away from the analogies of guys who are busts because everybody has their own projection of how they see guys,”Cardinals first-year head coach Steve Wilks said after Monday’s practice, the team’s first in pads. ”In a short period of time of being around Robert, I think he’s a tremendous player. I think he’s locked in, he’s focused. I think he’s doing well and I think he’s going to be a good player for us this year.”Nkemdiche won’t call this a make-or-break season, but he has learned a lot about what it takes to succeed in the trenches at the game’s highest level.”It’s a big step,” he said of this coming season. ”It’s not really technically pressure. It’s just me wanting to be good Jawaan Taylor Jersey , me wanting to give back to these guys, and all the guys who put in work for me, and give back to the coaches, people who believe in me and really just resting that case and being the player I know I can be.”There’s really no pressure, just `come on, take a step forward.”’Nkemdiche has his quirks, including colorfully braided hair and a nose ring.He likes shopping at Goodwill.Nkemdiche is not that stereotypical growling monster of a human that people believe play defensive tackle in this violent game. But he wants to be good and insists he is a severe critic of himself.He blames his two unproductive seasons on injuries and ”some things I could have did better.””Just being a more polished player, as in the whole perspective and really just growing as a dude, as a person,” he said. ”It’s cool. Things have slowed down a little bit and it’s fun. I can actually see what’s going on. It’s not like a blur.”He should take some solace in the case of Arizona teammate D.J. Humphries. The Cardinals drafted the big tackle out of Florida in the first round (24th overall) in 2015 but he didn’t even suit up for a game as a rookie- the Cardinals coaches were convinced he didn’t have the maturity yet to play in the league. But the next season he was the starter at right tackle and eventually was moved to the left side. Injuries limited him to five games last year, but he has evolved into the Cardinals’ best offensive lineman and anchors that unit at left tackle this year.Wilks has said he doesn’t mind players with a few quirks, that he would ”let Robert be Robert” as long as he continues to work hard to get better. So far, so good.The coach said after Monday’s workout that he’s encouraged.”His commitment,” Wilks said. ”He’s trying to do it our way. Change sometimes is hard for everyone and I think he’s embraced that. He meets a lot with coach (Don) Johnson. His energy on the football field is phenomenal and he’s trying to pay attention to details. You just got to make sure he’s consistent and concentrates and doesn’t jump offside. That’s one of the concerns.”So it’s details, details, details for Nkemdiche, and, most importantly Josh Oliver Jersey , some production when he’s on the field.”Do it on Sunday,” he said. ”When it’s game time, show up and play ball. It’s a very simple concept, just go out there and be a dog, be a disruptive force, play every play at extreme capacity.”And don’t jump offside.—
ATLANTA — Backed by four home runs, veteran San Diego Padres left-hander Clayton Richard finally got his first career victory over the Atlanta Braves on June 4 in San Diego.
Now comes the hard part, though, as Richard tries to follow up that victory with one in Atlanta, where both he and the Padres have struggled.
Richard is 0-5 on the road against the Braves, going 0-4 with a 7.52 ERA in five games at Turner Field and losing last April during the first series at new SunTrust Park while giving up nine hits, including two homers, and four runs in six innings.
The Braves’ 4-2 victory over the Padres in the series opener Thursday night was their eighth straight at home over San Diego and 13th in the past 15 games against the Padres.
Atlanta, meanwhile, has lost 12 of its past 15 games in San Diego.
Richard (5-6, 4.40 ERA) is pitching well at home or on the road going into Friday night’s start against the National League East-leading Braves (40-28).
The 34-year-old former college quarterback carried a no-hitter through two outs in the seventh inning at Miami on Sunday and has pitched at least seven innings in six of his past seven starts while lowering his ERA by nearly two runs since early May.
It had been tentatively lined up for Richard to face the Braves’ Julio Teheran, who left early in the 11-4 Padres victory at San Diego on June 4 because of a right thumb contusion.
Brandon McCarthy (5-3, 5.03) will start opposite Richard Deandre Baker Jersey , though, with Teheran now penciled in to come off the 10-day disabled list Sunday and face the Padres (33-38) in the series finale.
“He threw a good bullpen and he was fine,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Teheran. “The plan will be, unless something comes up from now until then, for him to start of Sunday.”
Teheran gave up three homers and then was pulled after facing one batter in the fifth inning at San Diego before the Padres battered the Braves’ bullpen in a seven-run sixth.
Given the nice cushion, Richard worked seven innings and gave up six hits and three runs in his first career victory over the Braves.
“You go from making sure you are executing pitches to making sure you are throwing strikes,” Richard said afterward. “It’s fun to have those types of games.”
Richard, not the offense, was the story on Sunday in Miami. The Padres are the only major league team to never throw a no-hit game.
Tyson Ross and Jordan Lyles took no-hitters into the eighth inning this season before Richard made it to the seventh, though.
“He’s such a contact-oriented pitcher that those aren’t really the guys that profile to get no-hitters very often,” Padres manager Andy Green said of Richard.
While Richard has turned his season around, veteran left-hander McCarthy has been heading the other way for the Braves.
McCarthy was 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA in April but gave up 14 runs in his first two starts of May and lasted just 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles a week ago.
The 6-foot-8 McCarthy, acquired from Los Angeles in an offseason trade, has enjoyed success in his career against San Diego, though. He is 8-1 with a 3.73 ERA in 11 appearances, including 10 starts.
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