Monday, April 11, 2016

Astros handle Royals in ALDS rematch

 Collin McHugh bounced back from a woeful 2016 debut with seven scoreless innings and Colby Rasmus walloped his third homer of the season to lead the Astros to an 8-2 win over the Royals on Monday, Opening Day at Minute Maid Park.
McHugh, who lasted only one-third of an inning on Wednesday in his first start of the season, rebounded to shut down the Royals, whom he faced twice in last year's American League Division Series. He allowed eight hits and tied Dallas Keuchel's Opening Day effort for the longest outing by an Astros starter this year
"He was really good tonight," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said of McHugh. "He had his cutter working both sides of the plate, and when he can do that, he's tough."
Rasmus launched a long two-run homer to right off Royals right-hander Chris Young in the first inning to give the Astros a 3-0 lead, and Luis Valbuena (double), Jason Castro (triple) and Jose Altuve (single) had consecutive RBI hits in the fourth to make it 6-0. The Astros led 7-0 before the Royals' Kendrys Morales hit a two-run homer off reliever Tony Sipp in the eighth.
"There was a little pep in our step that was needed," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "This is fun to come home. We needed to feel the energy that was provided and also give some back on the field, and I think we did that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
McHugh rebounds: After recording only one out on Wednesday in New York because he had trouble gripping the ball in sub-40-degree weather, McHugh returned to his 2015 form. The Astros right-hander needed 102 pitches to finish seven innings, allowing eight hits and one walk while striking out four.
McHugh, who said he had the best curveball he's had since the beginning of spring, put Wednesday's bad outing behind him as soon as it happen.
"After that night, that was gone and out of my head and it was about getting ready for this start and preparing for this club," he said. "We did a really good job of executing the game plan."
Not this time for Young: The last time Young faced the Astros, he was outstanding -- that was in Game 1 of the 2015 ALDS at Kauffman Stadium. Young, in relief of Yordano Ventura, gave up just three hits and one run while striking out seven through four innings. Monday was a different story, as the Astros hammered him for nine hits and six runs through 4 2/3 innings. Many of the outs he did get were hit hard.
Smashing debut: The Astros unleashed their biggest offensive output of the season in the home opener, reaching season highs in hits (14) and runs scored. Everyone in the starting lineup reached base, with the exception of Carlos Gomez, and Rasmus' homer extended the team record of homers to start a season to seven games.
Extra ball on the field: A ball thrown by a fan onto the field seemed to confuse Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar after George Springer had sliced a run-scoring triple in the eighth inning. With Altuve on first, Springer ripped a liner that Royals right fielder Reymond Fuentes dove for and missed. As Fuentes made his relay throw toward the infield, another ball came flying onto the field.
"I looked at the umpire at second base and said, 'What about that?'" Escobar said. "But the umpire just kind of looked at me and [shrugged his shoulders]. I've never seen that. I thought maybe they should stop the play."
Added Royals manager Ned Yost, "Nothing you can do except find the idiot who threw it and kick him out of the game."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa's 74 RBIs are tied for the most RBIs by a Major League shortstop through 106 games since 1913 (Glenn Wright, 1924; Vern Stephens, 1941-42).
WHAT'S NEXT
Royals: The Royals will send right-hander Kris Medlen to the mound for Game 2 of this four-game series at 7:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Medlen will be making his first start of the season, having been skipped the first time through the rotation because the team had three off-days in the first week.
Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers will make his first home start of the season when the Astros and Royals meet on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. Fiers gave up five runs and nine hits in five innings on Thursday in New York against the Yankees. Last year, he threw the only no-hitter in Minute Maid Park history.

Cubs open Wrigley Field with power rally

The Cubs got to christen their new party room Monday night. Addison Russellsmacked a three-run homer in the eighth inning to lift the Cubs to a 5-3 victory over the Reds in the home opener in front of 40,882 at Wrigley Field.
Reds starter Brandon Finnegan held the Cubs hitless over 6 2/3 innings and hit his first career RBI single, but the Cubs rallied with one out in the eighth against Tony CingraniBen Zobrist walked and Cingrani hit Jorge Soler with a pitch before being pulled in favor ofJumbo Diaz. Russell launched the first pitch into the left-field bleachers for his first home run of the season.
Jason Heyward had hit a two-run single in the Cubs seventh to close to 3-2. Monday marked the Cubs' unveiling of their new clubhouse, which includes a designated party room for postgame celebrations.
Billy Hamilton smacked a solo home run in the third that opened a 2-0 lead. He connected off Chicago starter Jon Lester, for one of five hits off the lefty, who lasted six innings in his second start of the season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Duv-all out effort: During Finnegan's four-pitch bottom of the first inning, the second out came via a spectacular play. Heyward hit a fly to left-center field, where Adam Duvall ran to his left and made a diving catch. It was the second-straight game of nice defense from Duvall, who helped win Sunday's game vs. the Pirates with a good throw to the plate that prevented the go-ahead run from scoring.
Hamilton homers, sprints: Leading off the top of the third, Hamilton lifted a home run into the basket above the left-field wall for his first homer of the season. Hamilton, who is 5-for-7 lifetime vs. Lester, sprinted around the bases instead of a slower home run trot.
WHAT'S NEXT
Reds: Alfredo Simon will get the start when the series at Wrigley Field resumes Wednesday at 8:05 p.m. ET. Simon will take a 1.66 career ERA vs. the Cubs, including a 1.04 ERA at the Friendly Confines.
Cubs: After an off-day Tuesday, John Lackey will make his second start of the season and first at home for the Cubs on Wednesday. Lackey got the win in his debut against the D-backs, but it wasn't pretty. He has a career 2.75 ERA in nine career starts against the Reds. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.

Stanton, Ozuna HR as Marlins rout Mets

Looking to reverse their slow start to the season, the Marlins unleashed every bit of their offensive star power Monday at Citi Field, parlaying a seven-run second inning into a 10-3 drubbing of the Mets.
Giancarlo Stanton homered, and Adeiny Hechavarria and Christian Yelich drove in two runs apiece off Mets starter Steven Matz, who could not escape the second in his season debut.
Marcell Ozuna also homered later in the game, and Dee Gordon tallied an RBI for a Miami club that saw all eight of its starting position players cross home at least once. Other box score stuffers included Martin Prado and Chris Johnson, each of whom reached base safely four times.
Much of that damage came against Matz, whose debut came after a nine-day layoff. Rather than lean on their rookie starter, the Mets split the game's final 7 1/3 innings amongst a quintet of relievers. Even the Marlins were not immune from heavy bullpen usage because their own starter, Jarred Cosart, could not finish the fifth inning despite being staked an eight-run lead.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Touchdown in the second: After four straight close games, the Marlins finally gave themselves some breathing room. They did it in a big way with a seven-run second inning, sending 10 to the plate. Twice previously this season, Miami scored as many as three runs in an inning. Hechavarria and Yelich highlighted the seven runs with two-run singles. Stanton capped the frame with a two-run homer, his second of the season. According to Statcast™, it went a projected 419 feet from home plate and had an exit velocity of 106 mph.
Field goal in the fourth: The Mets mustered at least some life in the fourth inning, doing enough damage to ensure that Cosart would not receive the win. Consecutive hits fromDavid WrightYoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda resulted in one run. A Cosart wild pitch and a fielder's choice by Asdrubal Cabrera scored two more. While the rally put some spark into a thinning Citi Field crowd, it was only enough to draw the Mets within five runs of the lead.
Narveson key K: Chris Narveson, who surrendered a double to Bryce Harper and was charged with two runs in Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Nationals, came up big for Miami in the fifth inning. After Cosart was lifted with two outs and two on in a five-run game, Narveson struck out Lucas Duda with a full count. The lefty backed that up with a scoreless sixth, earning him the win.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Three Marlins have hit safely in all five games -- Stanton, Yelich and Prado. Every Mets regular, by contrast, has had at least one hitless game.
REPLAY GOES MARLINS WAY
Three batters into the first inning, the Marlins asked for a review. It ended up being a good decision. Miami challenged the out call on Yelich, who grounded softly to third. Wright made the throw to first, and the bang-bang play was ruled safe. Manager Don Mattingly requested a review. After 2 minutes, 10 seconds, the call was reversed, giving Yelich an infield hit.
WHAT'S NEXT
Marlins: Six days after striking out 13 batters in a loss in his first start, Jose Fernandez is set for Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. ET sandwich game in the series. The right-hander, who made his MLB debut at Citi Field in 2013, hasn't been as consistent on the road as he is at home, where he is 17-1. Away, he is 5-9 with a 3.78 ERA.
Mets: With their bullpen threadbare following 7 1/3 innings of relief in Monday's series opener, the Mets will seek a lengthy start at 7:10 p.m. ET Tuesday from right-hander Noah Syndergaard. He'll face Fernandez in a marquee clash of talented young superstars.

Murphy, Ramos power Nats over struggling Braves

Wilson Ramos collected four hits and Daniel Murphy continued his hot start to the season as the Nationals defeated the Braves, 6-4, Monday night at Nationals Park. This was the first game of a seven-game stretch against the rebuilding Braves and Phillies for the Nationals, a schedule that gives them the opportunity to get off to a fast start to the season.
They overcame a rocky outing from Max Scherzer, whom the Braves were on from the start, beginning with a two-run double from A.J. Pierzynski in the first. Scherzer battled through six innings, surrendering four runs on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
The Nationals answered the Braves' two-run first with three runs in the bottom of the inning, punctuated by a two-run homer by Murphy off Braves starter Bud Norris. Norris pitched well against the Nationals last week in Atlanta, when he gave up three runs in seven innings, but he did not have the same success Monday. He surrendered five runs on nine hits and issued a pair of walks through five innings.
"There were a lot of groundball singles," said Norris, who threw 37 pitches in the first inning. "I'm trying to keep the ball in the ballpark. It's tough to face the same team in back-to-back starts. Every starting pitcher will say that. I tried to battle and give it everything I had."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Big day for Ramos: Ramos entered the game hitless in his last nine at-bats before going 4-for-4 at the plate and driving in a pair of runs. It was the third four-hit game of his career and first since 2013. His presence was also felt behind the plate, when he threw out speedy Braves rookie Mallex Smith in the fourth inning. It's the second consecutive day Ramos has thrown out a speedy baserunner, after catching Marlins second baseman Dee Gordonstealing Sunday afternoon.
Double trouble: After Pierzynski gave the Braves an early lead with his two-run double in the first, Nick Markakis softened the blow of Washington's three-run first with the two-out, two-run double he delivered in the second inning. Markakis began the fifth inning with his fifth double within a span of nine at-bats. But he was left stranded at third as Scherzer retiredFreddie FreemanAdonis Garcia and Pierzynski without the ball leaving the infield. The Braves recorded just two hits over the final four innings.
Murphy settles in with new team: There was no adjustment period needed for Murphy, who is now 8-for-17 with two homers through his first five games in Washington after a pair of hits Monday. It is as if he picked up where he left off last October, when he helped carry the Mets to the World Series.
Bloody debut: With center fielder Ender Inciarte sidelined until at least April 24 with a hamstring strain, the Braves promoted highly-regarded prospect Mallex Smith on Monday and immediately inserted him into the leadoff spot. Smith highlighted his MLB debut with his first career hit -- a second-inning single off Scherzer that enabled him to show off his speed when he scoring from first base on Markakis' first double. But Smith's memorable night ended when he suffered a laceration above his left eye when his forehead cracked his batting helmet as he slid headfirst toward second base on an unsuccessful stolen base attempt in the fourth inning. More >
WHAT'S NEXT
Braves: Jhoulys Chacin will make his season debut when Atlanta and Washington resume this four-game series on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Chacin earned a rotation spot during Spring Training, but to fit their roster needs the Braves had the veteran right-hander make his first start of the year with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Nationals: Gio Gonzalez will make his season debut as the Nationals host the Braves for the second of this four-game series at Nationals Park. It will be Gonzalez's first outing since a Spring Training game on March 27 after beginning the season in the bullpen because the Nationals wanted to slot him in between Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the rotation.

Hit parade: Cards crush Crew in home opener

A Cardinals offense that broke out for 31 runs during a weekend series sweep returned home on Monday and battered Brewers pitching with a barrage of extra-base hits. There were 10 in total, sending the Cardinals to a 10-1 victory that extended the home opener festivities well beyond the scheduled pregame ceremonies.
The Cardinals' extra-base tally was up to eight before the Brewers recorded their eighth out of the day. They scored multiple runs in each of the first three innings, chasing Brewers starter Taylor Jungmann along the way. By the end of the third, four of the Cardinals' starting position players -- Matt CarpenterJeremy HazelbakerYadier Molina andAledmys Diaz -- had already secured multi-hit games.
The Cardinals finished with 19 hits, the most they've had in a home opener. Hazelbaker continued his hot start with a four-hit day. Molina and Diaz also chipped in with three-hit games to provide more than enough support for starter Michael Wacha, who shut out Milwaukee over six innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Dream start: Hazelbaker will continue to force his way into the lineup with days like the one he had on Monday. He became the first Cardinal since Daniel Descalso to have four hits in one of his first seven career games, and he leads the club with 10 hits and five extra-base knocks.
Knocked out: With Molina's RBI double in the third inning, Jungmann surrendered more extra-base hits (seven) than he recorded outs (six) in the shortest outing of his budding career. Jungmann was one shy of a dubious franchise record shared by Scott Karl and Bill Pulsipher, each of whom surrendered eight extra-base hits in a Brewers start during the late 1990s.

Quintana, White Sox keep Twins winless

The Twins' early-season slide continued in their sold-out home opener, asJose Quintana tossed six strong innings and Austin Jackson had two RBIs to lift the White Sox to a 4-1 win that dropped Minnesota's record to 0-7.
Quintana gave up one run on four hits and three walks to get his first victory of the year. He outpitched Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson, who went 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits and three walks.
The White Sox took an early 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI single up the middle fromBrett Lawrie with the infield in. After being helped by a throwing error from Eduardo Escobar, Chicago loaded the bases in the fourth to set up a two-run single from Jackson with two outs.
No team has ever lost the first seven games of a season and made the playoffs. Three teams -- the 1974 Pirates, 1995 Reds and 2011 Rays -- started out 0-6 and made the postseason, but they all won their seventh game of the season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Near-miss and a connection: Jackson came within about two inches of launching a grand slam against Gibson with two outs in the fourth inning. The shot, against a 21-mph wind, curved around the foul pole at the last second. But Jackson connected on the next pitch for a two-run single to center.
Rosario gets Twins on the board: The Twins had trouble with runners in scoring position yet again, and their lone run came on an RBI groundout from Eddie Rosario in the fourth. But Trevor Plouffe was stranded at third, as Eduardo Escobar struck out looking to end the inning. The Twins went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Chance for a blowout: The White Sox loaded the bases in the fourth and fifth innings, but they were held to Jackson's two-run single in the fourth. In the fifth, after Lawrie was hit on the right wrist to load the bases with two out, Avisail Garcia swung at the next pitch and flied out to left field. Chicago left 12 runners on base.
Pressly continues to impress: One of the few bright spots for the Twins has been relieverRyan Pressly, and he threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Gibson. Pressly has yet to give up a run in five innings, and he has struck out six. He figures to have a more prominent role in the bullpen going forward.
ALBERS' STREAK CONTINUES
By hurling a scoreless seventh inning, Chicago's Matt Albers extended his scoreless streak to 27 1/3 innings over 24 appearances dating back to Aug. 5, 2015. Albers gave up two hits in the seventh, but he benefited from a double play turned off Kurt Suzuki's popup bunt, which Albers grabbed and then threw to first to nail Escobar.
REPLAY REVIEW
Adam Eaton picked up his first hit since becoming a father, thanks to Robin Ventura's manager challenge in the eighth. With two outs, Eaton hit a grounder to second basemanBrian Dozier and was ruled out at first despite Dozier's slight bobble delaying the throw. Video replay overturned the call, giving Eaton an infield hit.
WHAT'S NEXT
White Sox: Carlos Rodon pitched well enough to win during his season debut in Oakland, allowing two runs over seven innings. But Sonny Gray was a little stingier, and Rodon suffered the 2-1 loss. Rodon will be working on six days' rest Wednesday night at 7:10 p.m. CT, due to Sunday's rainout and Tuesday's scheduled off-day.
Twins: After an off-day on Tuesday, the Twins host the White Sox on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Phil Hughes, who is coming off a solid start against the Orioles, will get the nod. Hughes went six-plus innings vs. Baltimore, but he was stuck with a hard-luck loss, as two inherited runners scored in the seventh.

Padres squeeze past Phils on Amarista bunt

The Padres squeezed and replayed their way to a 4-3 victory over the Phillies on Monday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, spoiling Philadelphia's home opener.
Padres third baseman Alexi Amarista dropped a perfect bunt between the mound and first-base line to score Derek Norris from third with one out in the seventh inning to give San Diego the lead. Wil Myers' solo home run to left field in the fourth inning handed the Padres a three-run lead before the Phillies scored a run each in the fourth, fifth and sixth to tie the game.
The Padres won a replay challenge at first base in the seventh, which allowed the Padres to squeeze with one out. The Phillies lost a replay challenge on an infield fly play in the sixth, which stunted a potential rally.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Infield fly? With the bases loaded and no one out in the bottom of the sixth, the Padres called on lefty reliever Brad Hand, who got pinch-hitter Darin Ruf to pop up to shallow left. That was only the beginning. Left fielder Wil Myers never saw the ball off the bat, and shortstop Alexei Ramirez couldn't make the play as he backtracked. But third-base umpire Will Little ruled it as an infield fly, and -- although a run scored -- Ramirez threw to third for a double play, which was confirmed by review.
Nola commands: The Phillies set up their rotation to have right-hander Aaron Nola pitch the home opener. He allowed four runs in seven innings, walking none and striking out a career-high nine. In 14 innings, Nola has struck out 17 and walked none. Entering Monday, no pitcher in baseball had double-digit strikeouts without allowing a walk.
Fresh squeezed: With runners on the corners in the seventh, Amarista dropped a perfect bunt up the first-base line, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Amarista, making his debut, also singled and hit a fly ball that was tracked down by center fielder Odubel Herrera at the wall. The bunt plated Norris, whose one-out double sparked the rally.
Life at the top Cesar Hernandez, Herrera and Maikel Franco went a combined 5-for-10 with one walk, one triple and two runs scored as the Phillies' 2-3-4 hitters. Leadoff hitterFreddy Galvis went 0-for-4 to drop his batting average to .179. Galvis has not walked in 95 plate appearances, including 66 plate appearances in Spring Training.
INSTANT REPLAY
Andy Green won his first replay challenge as Padres manager, and it proved pivotal in the outcome. Ramirez was called out on a ground ball, but he noticed that Ruf's foot had come off the first-base bag. He signaled for Green to challenge, and the Padres won it, rather conclusively.
WHAT'S NEXT
Padres: Robbie Erlin gets the start against the Phillies on Tuesday at 4:05 p.m. PT, his first of the season after pitching 3 2/3 innings of brilliant relief in Colorado on Friday. Erlin was in competition for the final rotation spot out of camp, but lost out on the final day of Spring Training. He was inserted into the rotation when Tyson Ross went down with a shoulder injury.
Phillies: The only blip for the Phillies' rotation in the first week of the season was Game 3, when right-hander Charlie Morton allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings Wednesday in Cincinnati. Morton gets the opportunity to bounce back Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park.