Sunday, April 2, 2017

Grichuk, Cardinals top Cubs 4-3 in wild opener

 Randal Grichuk hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning and a game-ending RBI single in the ninth, helping the St. Louis Cardinals top the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in a wild prime-time opener on Sunday night.
Jose Martinez sparked the winning rally with a pinch-hit double against Mike Montgomery, who closed out Chicago's World Series championship in November. Yadier Molina then was awarded the first no-pitch intentional walk in major league history, part of baseball's offseason rule changes designed to speed up the game.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Grichuk lined a 1-2 pitch into the gap in left-center for his second career game-ending hit. He was mobbed as he rounded first in the rain, and what was left of a sellout crowd of 47,566 cheered wildly.
The Cardinals appeared set for a tidy 3-0 win before the Cubs rallied in the ninth. Ben Zobrist was hit by a pitch from Seung-hwan Oh and Jason Heyward singled before Willson Contreras hit a drive to left for a tying homer.
Before the dramatic finish, the night belonged to St. Louis right-hander Carlos Martinez, who retired 12 in a row and 18 of 19 over one stretch against the defending champions. The ace right-hander struck out 10 and walked none in 7 1/3 innings in his first start on opening day.
Jon Lester kept Chicago in the game with five effective innings despite not having his best stuff. Kyle Schwarber reached three times in his first game as the leadoff hitter since Dexter Fowler left the Cubs for an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the Cardinals.
Martinez departed with runners on first and second and the Cardinals clinging to a 1-0 lead. He was saluted with a standing ovation.
Oh then came in and hit Schwarber with a pitch, loading the bases as it started to rain. But Oh retired NL MVP Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo on two fly balls to right, ending the inning.
St. Louis went 86-76 last year and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010, but the winter additions of Fowler and reliever Brett Cecil ramped up the optimism for this season. The Cardinals got another positive jolt when they announced a new contract for Molina earlier in the day that runs through the 2020 season.
The sellout crowd at Busch Stadium roared its approval when Molina was introduced before the game, prompting the catcher to doff his cap twice as the cheers continued.
He got another standing ovation when he came to the plate for the first time in the second inning, and there were chants of "Ya-di! Ya-di!" before he grounded a single back up the middle.
Fowler also heard all cheers all night long, and he used his legs to get St. Louis on the board in the third. He reached on an infield single, scampered over to third on Aledmys Diaz's single to center and scored on Matt Carpenter's fly ball to right.
Molina made his 13th consecutive start on opening day, third most in franchise history behind Stan Musial (18) and Lou Brock (15), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Cubs: LHP Brian Duensing was placed on the 10-day disabled list with lower back spasms. The move was made retroactive to Thursday.
Following a day off, right-handers Jake Arrieta of the Cubs and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals get the ball on Tuesday night. Arrieta went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts last year. Wainwright is looking to bounce back after going 13-9 with a 4.62 ERA last season.

New closer, same result: Giants blow lead, lose to D-backs

Two big swings from Madison Bumgarner were undone by another bullpen meltdown in a wild opener for the San Francisco Giants that looked an awful lot like last season.
Chris Owings singled home the winning run and the Arizona Diamondbacks scored twice with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning off new San Francisco closer Mark Melancon for a 6-5 victory Sunday.
Derailed by a dreadful relief corps last year, the Giants started this season the same way - even after trying to fix the problem by bringing in Melancon on a $62 million, four-year contract.
Bumgarner retired his first 16 batters and became the first pitcher to hit two home runs on opening day. He struck out 11 with no walks in seven innings - all for naught.
Arizona got a double by Jeff Mathis and three singles after Melancon (0-1) retired his first two batters in the ninth. A.J. Pollock singled in the tying run, and Owings dumped a base hit into right field to end it.
"We never expect anything negative to happen with Mark out there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It happened. You are not going to be perfect. We had our chances to put the game away a couple of times and couldn't do it."
The Giants had 32 blown saves last season, including nine in September. In their final playoff game, Bochy went through five relievers in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs, and San Francisco was eliminated from its NL Division Series after allowing four runs for a 6-5 defeat.
That led to an offseason overhaul in the bullpen, headlined by the arrival of Melancon as a free agent. He saved 98 games over the past two seasons, most in the majors.'
"You never really want to start it off this way, especially after a heck of a performance by Madison," Melancon said. "This was one of the more impressive games I have seen by anybody. I really wanted to cap off a good start by him. Obviously, it didn't go that way."
New Diamondbacks closer Fernando Rodney (1-0) gave up a run but escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation to get the victory.
It was an emotional debut for new Arizona manager Torey Lovullo, the former Boston bench coach who had many family members in the crowd and thought often of his father, television producer Sam Lovullo (Hee Haw), who died earlier this year.
"It couldn't have been scripted any better," Lovullo said. "The walk that we've been walking, the concepts that we've laid on these guys, they went out there an earned every part of that victory."
The Diamondbacks lost 93 games last season.
San Francisco took a 5-4 lead when Joe Panik led off the ninth with a triple and scored on pinch-hitter Conor Gillaspie's sacrifice fly.
Bumgarner's line-drive homer off Zack Greinke put the Giants ahead 2-0 in the fifth. The pitcher's second solo shot, off lefty Andrew Chafin, broke a 3-all tie in the seventh.
"That is obviously pretty special, having the chance to do that and for that to happen," Bumgarner said, "but my job is out there on the mound. That is where my concern is at."
Bumgarner has 17 career home runs, three last season.
Mathis broke up Bumgarner's perfect-game bid with a one-out triple into the left-field corner in the sixth. Mathis scored on Nick Ahmed's pinch-hit single, and Pollock - who missed virtually all of last season with a broken elbow - followed with a two-run homer just over the left-field fence that tied it at 3.
Greinke was limited to five innings due to a high pitch count. He allowed two runs on four hits, striking out four and throwing 92 pitches.
No pitcher has thrown a perfect game on opening day. Only one has tossed a no-hitter, Hall of Famer Bob Feller for Cleveland in 1940.
Giants: Utilityman Trevor Brown (sprained right ankle) and OF Mac Williamson (strained left quad) opened the season on the 10-day disabled list. Both moves were retroactive to May 30.
Diamondbacks: RHP Jake Barrett, who could be the setup man in the bullpen, opened on the 10-day DL due to right shoulder inflammation. Lovullo said Barrett was making good progress and would throw a bullpen Sunday. LHP Steve Hathaway (left shoulder inflammation) also opened on the 10-day DL.
Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto starts Tuesday after an outstanding first season with the Giants, when he went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA.
Diamondbacks: After an off day Monday, the series resumes with LHP Patrick Corbin (5-13, 5.15) starting for Arizona. He finished last season in the bullpen.

Archer outpitches Tanaka, Rays top Yankees 7-3 in MLB opener

Pitch by pitch, Chris Archer set the tone for what he and the Tampa Bay Rays hope will be a bounce-back year.
Not such a good start for Masahiro Tanaka and the New York Yankees.
Archer pitched seven solid innings, and the Rays roughed up Tanaka on the way to beating New York 7-3 in the first game of the new Major League Baseball season Sunday.
"We didn't play perfect, but we played well enough to win," Archer said. "We scored a lot of runs and made some nice defensive plays. It's all about winning, and we did that."
And what the Rays didn't do a lot of last season, when they sank to the bottom of the AL East with their worst finish (68-94) since 2007.
New York lost on opening day for the sixth consecutive year, with Tanaka matching the shortest start ever by a Yankees pitcher in an opener.
"It happens. He's human," Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "He just didn't command anything. ... He usually self corrects real well. But today, he tried a few things and it just didn't work."
Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison homered and drove in three runs apiece before a sellout crowd of 31,042 at Tropicana Field. Tanaka, who had baseball's lowest ERA in spring training, was tagged for a career-worst seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.
A first-time All-Star in 2015 who lost an AL-leading 19 times last season, Archer (1-0) limited New York to two runs and seven hits. He narrowly escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to turn a five-run lead over to a revamped bullpen.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said it was important to give his ace an opportunity to get through the seventh.
"I'm really happy he did, not only for my sake but the other guys on the staff, too," Archer said. " I want them to know when stuff gets hairy, you need to strap it on and go right after them. We don't need to be bailed out, we need to get out of the inning."
There were three games around in the majors on the first day, and the Rays got off to a quick start.
Leadoff man Corey Dickerson singled in the Tampa Bay first for the first hit of the season and later scored on Longoria's sacrifice fly as part of a three-run inning. Longoria connected for a two-run drive in the second.
Aaron Judge had a RBI double, while Starlin Castro and Chase Headley each had three hits for the Yankees.
Tanaka (0-1) made his third consecutive opening day start for the Yankees, and had been 6-0 with a 2.82 ERA in eight career starts against Tampa Bay. He gave up eight hits and two walks.
Longoria connected for his fourth homer on opening day. Morrison, who didn't drive in a run until May 17 last season, added a solo drive in the third.
"Obviously, you just have to accept it. I can't take it back," Tanaka said through a translator. "So, the main thing is, I really need to move forward from today. Make the necessary adjustments."
Tanaka, who tied Hideo Nomo for the most opening day starts by a Japanese-born pitcher, had a seven-game winning streak stopped. He went 7-0 with a 2.28 ERA over his final nine starts of last season. ... Tanaka had won all three of his previous career starts at Tropicana Field, limiting the Rays to four earned runs in 20 innings for a 1.80 ERA. He led the AL with a 2.36 road ERA in 2016, trailing only the Mets' Noah Syndergaard (2.29) for the major league lead.
It was the second-shortest start of Tanka's career. He tied the Yankees shortest on opening day, joining Ron Guidry (1983) and Mel Stottlemyre (1973).
Dickerson, who hit 24 home runs last year, was 1 for 5 in his debut as Tampa Bay's leadoff hitter against right-handed pitching. Cash is considering moving right-handed batting Steven Souza Jr. to the top of the order against left-handers, beginning Tuesday against CC Sabathia.
Yankees: SS Didi Gregorius (right shoulder strain) expects to start limited baseball activities the middle of this week. He is out until some time in May. ... INF-OF Tyler Austin (broken left ankle) was placed on the 60-day disabled list.
Rays: Longoria, who sat out Tampa Bay's final spring training game due to a stiff neck, made his club-record ninth consecutive start on opening day. ... Seven players, including C Wilson Ramos, OF Colby Rasmus and SS Matt Duffy, begin the season on the disabled list.
Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia, 3-7 in 14 starts at Tropicana Field since joining New York in 2009, is Tuesday night's scheduled starter. He's 2-0 against the Rays in three road starts over the last two seasons.
Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi is set to work the second game of the series, which resumes after a day off. He went 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 14 outings after the All-Star break last year. He was the only Tampa Bay starter with a winning record, at 10-6, in 2016.