Friday, April 6, 2018

Moran and Marte lead streaking Pirates over Reds 14-3

 The Pittsburgh Pirates have been one of the biggest early surprises in the major leagues, winning six of their first seven games following the offseason trades of five-time All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen and ace pitcher Gerrit Cole.
"We left Bradenton at the end of spring training feeling we had a good team," rookie third baseman Colin Moran said. "We felt we were capable of winning some games."
Moran had four hits and three RBIs, and Starling Marte hit a bases-loaded triple to lead the Pirates over the Cincinnati Reds 14-3 on Friday night.
Moran's two-run single with two outs in the third inning just dropped in front of diving center fielder Billy Hamilton and put the Pirates ahead for good at 4-2. Marte's triple keyed a six-run sixth inning that included Corey Dickerson's two-run double as Pittsburgh extended its lead to 10-2 while playing through a steady rain.
"I've been a position where I've been hitting with men on base and am just trying to take advantage," Moran said. "We have a dangerous lineup one through eight. We have the ability to score runs."
Dickerson had three hits, including a triple, and Jordy Mercer had two doubles among his three hits. The Pirates had 15 hits, including two each by Marte and Josh Harrison. Harrison also drove in two runs and Josh Bell drew three walks.
Gregory Polanco hit a two-run double during a four-run seventh that made it 14-2. He has six extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in seven games.
"You're not going to score 14 runs every night. You're not going to get 15 hits every night," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "However, the quality of the at-bats overall, the focus and the preparation is in a good place and a very consistent place."
Trevor Williams (2-0) scattered two runs over 5 1/3 innings despite allowing 10 hits. He pitched six hitless innings to win at Detroit last Sunday in his first start of the season.
"It was one of those games that's a little frustrating because you're getting singled to death but fortunately the guys made some big plays behind me and we scored a whole lot of runs," Williams said.
Luis Castillo (0-2) allowed four runs and six hits in five innings and has a 9.00 ERA through two starts. His 3.12 ERA in 15 starts last season led NL rookies.
"He hasn't been as sharp as we've seen him," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "He's been pulling some pitches across the plate and right into the sweet spot of left-handed hitters.
"Still, he was throwing 95-97 (mph) with a good slider and a good changeup, and the Pirates hit him."
Jesse Winker had three hits for the Reds, and Joey Votto, Jose Peraza and Castillo added two each. Cincinnati hit into three double plays and stranded 10 runners in losing for the fifth time in six games.
Moran and Mercer hit back-to-back RBI doubles in the second inning. The Reds tied it in the third on run-scoring singles by Winker and Votto but didn't score again until the ninth.
Clay Holmes, a 25-year-old right-hander, pitched the final two innings for Pittsburgh in his major league debut and allowed one run.
SIEGRIST ON SUSPENDED LIST
The Pirates announced left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist has been placed on the suspended list at Triple-A Indianapolis for failing to report to the club.
The team said Thursday that Siegrist had exercised an opt-out clause and become a free agent. However, Siegrist had a March 29 deadline to opt out and did not at that time.
END OF AN ERA
The Pirates announced 99-year-old usher Phil Coyne, who has been working home games for the team since 1936, has retired. He turns 100 later this month.
TRAINER'S ROOM
Reds: RF Scott Schebler (bruised right elbow) missed his third straight game. He was injured last Sunday when hit by a pitch from Washington LHP Sean Doolittle.
UP NEXT
Cincinnati RHP Sal Romano (0-1, 4.50 ERA) is to start against RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 6.35) on Saturday night. Romano gave up three runs in six innings against Washington last Sunday, when Kuhl allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings at Detroit.

Hot-hitting Braves roll over Rockies 8-3 on frigid Friday

While his teammates shivered and the mercury plummeted, Brian McCarthy embraced Colorado's wintry weather.
"Yeah, it felt like high school baseball. I don't mind pitching in cold. I got used to it growing up," McCarthy said. "It's been a while since I've been back in it. It's much easier for the pitcher than the hitter, so keep that in mind and get loose."
McCarthy tossed six solid innings and delivered a two-run double that chased German Marquez in the fifth inning of the Atlanta Braves' 8-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on a frigid Friday that marked the second-coldest game in Coors Field history.
"The cold, it's not something I'm scared of, it's something I almost get excited for," said McCarthy, who attended Cheyenne Mountain High School an hour south of Denver in Colorado Springs. "In the cold, it's just something I know it sucks for hitters. And once I get loose it really isn't that big of a deal for pitchers."
It was 27 degrees when the Rockies' home opener began after an hour-long delay caused by sleet and snow. That was just 4 degrees warmer than when these teams met in Denver on April 23, 2013, in the coldest first-pitch temperature in major league history.
The Braves won that one, 4-3.
McCarthy (2-0) allowed three runs and five hits, more than enough for the hot-hitting Braves, who lead the majors with a whopping 8-run average so far.
"Everybody's doing their part," McCarthy said. "Pinch-hitters are coming in doing it, pitchers have been hitting, the offense has been consistent."
No so the Rockies.
Marquez (0-1) following up a spectacular first start at Arizona by giving up seven runs, seven hits and six walks in just 4 2/3 innings.
"It was a little tough because I didn't have my grip at all," said Marquez, a 23-year-old Venezuelan who, unlike McCarthy, took the mound without long sleeves and never got a good feel for his pitches because of the finger-numbing cold.
Marquez allowed a solo homer to Ozzie Albies in the first and walked two batters before Preston Tucker's sacrifice fly and Dansby Swanson's two-run triple made it 4-0.
"It was my first time seeing snow. I was excited," said Albies, who's from Curacao. "I was acting like a little kid out there. I put the barrel on the ball. That was awesome."
His mound opponent was used to it.
"Maybe growing up in Colorado and playing baseball in this weather all through high school helped? Holy RBI double!! Amazing," tweeted McCarthy's wife, Amanda.
Colorado got a run back in the bottom half when Carlos Gonzalez lined a run-scoring triple to right-center. Gonzalez added a solo homer in the fourth, a 445-foot shot into the right field bleachers, and two batters later Trevor Story also went deep for the first time this season with a 442-footer.
McCarthy, the first Braves pitcher to last six innings so far, followed Swanson's two-out RBI triple in the fifth with a two-run double that made it 7-3 and chased Marquez.
"Any player with a bat in his hand can be dangerous," Rockies manager Bud Black said.
"Of course, that one stings a little bit more," Marquez said. "As a pitcher, you try to get him out. But you know he's still an enemy and he's trying to hurt you, so you've just got to make pitches."
He left his fastball out over the plate and McCarthy drove it into the right-field alley.
"I didn't swing before the game, I wasn't ready to hit in 10 degree weather off a guy throwing 95," said McCarthy, who struck out his first two times up. "That last at-bat I started to get frustrated so I'm glad I was able to do something there."
Peter Moylan, Jose Ramirez and Shane Carle combined to throw three scoreless innings for Atlanta.
SO CLOSE
Swanson, who singled in the third, came close to hitting for the cycle - he drove a pitch to the track in right field in the seventh. In the ninth, he lined out to shallow right.
HOT HITTERS
The Braves have scored an MLB-most 56 runs through seven games, breaking the franchise mark of 53 set by the 2006 team and the 1900 Boston Beaneaters.
"If I knew why or how, we'd have done it last year," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's just one of those things. Everybody is contributing. We've got a lot of guys swinging the bat with men on base."
TRAINER'S ROOM
Braves: C Kurt Suzuki played for the first time since bruising his right hand when he was plunked by a pitch on March 30. Snitker said Suzuki will also catch Sunday. "Going forward, it will be four out of five. I don't want to wear him out," Snitker said.
UP NEXT
Atlanta sends RHP Anibal Sanchez (0-0) to the mound Saturday night, and Colorado counters with RHP Bettis (1-0).

Mr. Comeback: Brantley leads Indians to 3-2 win over Royals

 Michael Brantley has perfected the comeback season. Now he has to master completing one.
Brantley singled home two runs on the first pitch of his first at-bat this season, and Carlos Carrasco worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 3-2 win in their chilly home opener over the Kansas City Royals on Friday.
Brantley missed Cleveland's first six games while on the disabled list recovering from offseason ankle surgery. But just hours after being activated, the two-time All-Star who has overcome injuries the past two seasons, delivered in the first inning against Danny Duffy (0-2), who managed to hang around until the sixth.
It was an ideal start for the 30-year-old, who means as much to the Indians as any player on their roster.
"He's an easy guy to bet on," manager Terry Francona said. "I could give you pages and pages of why. He's the heart and soul of our team. He does everything the way you're supposed to. If people saw the way he works to get healthy, it would be hard to bet against him or to ever want to bet against him."
Following devastating, disappointing finishes the past two postseasons, the Indians are hoping this is the year they end a 70-year World Series title drought, baseball's longest. Brantley is a major part of those plans, but he needs to stay healthy after being limited to 101 games the past two seasons.
Brantley has learned one major lesson from his injuries.
"Be patient," said Brantley, who hit a walk-off single to win last year's home opener. "Understand that I'm listening to my body and understand exactly what's going on and how I feel every day and make sure I'm being honest with myself and with this team. I'm feeling good right now. I'll wake up tomorrow and we get to do it again.
"That's all I'm looking forward to, one day at a time, playing as many games as I can."
Carrasco (2-0) gave up two runs in the first inning, but settled in. The right-hander retired 13 straight before running into trouble in the sixth, when the Royals loaded the bases with one put. Carrasco then struck out Lucas Duda looking and retired Cheslor Cuthbert on a liner.
Nick Goody worked the seventh, Andrew Miller put two on then struck out the side in the eighth, and Cody Allen pitched the ninth for his second save.
Francona joked about Miller's ability to escape self-inflicted jams.
"Like he's his own reliever," Francona said. "Once he has to start attacking, it's like he gets better. That's a good feeling. Not too often you look up and it's first and second, and you're just not too sure they're going to score. A lot of times, that's not a good recipe, but with him you're like, `I think we're going to be OK.'"
The Indians, who didn't hit while blowing a 2-0 lead to New York in the AL Division Series last October, came in batting a league-low .161. They only got four hits, but that was enough thanks to Carrasco and their top-flight bullpen.
The Royals dropped to 3-16 in Cleveland since May 8, 2016.
Down 2-0 in the first, the Indians benefited from Duffy's early wildness to score three times.
The left-hander, possibly bothered by the bitter, blustery weather conditions, walked Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis before Jose Ramirez dribbled an RBI single through the middle. After Duffy's third walk, Brantley dropped his single into right.
"The first inning really hurt us, and I've got to be better than that, man," Duffy said. "Two games in a row, my team has given me a lead and I've let it go. That's a bummer."
WELCOME BACK
Rajai Davis received a huge ovation from Cleveland's fans during pregame introductions. Davis, who hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning of Game 7 in the 2016 World Series, re-signed with the club this winter.
Davis doubled in three at-bats.
CHILLING OUT
The Royals have played a league-low five games, thanks to two weather postponements. But manager Ned Yost isn't fretting about their erratic workload. "You can't do anything to change it, so it's as difficult as you want to make it," he said. "You just try to go with the flow the best you can."
Saturday's forecast calls for temperatures in the low 30s.
SORRY SOLER
Kansas City right fielder Jorge Soler went hitless in three at-bats, making him 0 for 34 dating back to last season. He did draw a walk off Allen in the ninth.
UP NEXT
Kansas City RHP Ian Kennedy (0-0, 1.50 ERA) takes on Cleveland RHP Trevor Bauer (0-0, 3.60 ERA) in the second game of the series Saturday. Kennedy is winless in his last five starts against the Indians. Bauer pitched five innings in his first start.

DiVincenzo makes it rain; Nova tops Michigan 79-62 for title

When he wasn't dribbling behind his back, winking to the TV announcers, stuffing shots or dishing out assists, Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo was making it rain.
First, 3-pointers.
Later on, confetti.
The redhead kid with the nickname Big Ragu came off the bench to make five 3s and score 31 points Monday to lift `Nova to another blowout victory in the NCAA Tournament - this time 79-62 over Michigan for its second national title in three seasons.
The sophomore guard had 12 points and an assist during a first-half run to help the Wildcats (36-4) pull ahead, then scored nine straight for Villanova midway through the second to snuff out the Wolverines. He capped the second shooting skein with a 3-pointer from a step behind the arc. He punctuated it with a knowing wink over to the sideline, where TV announcers Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery were sitting.
Yep, he knew he could do it. And his teammates were more than willing to let him steal the show.
"If someone's hot, feed `em," said Jalen Brunson, the national Player of the Year, who finished with nine points and was perfectly fine with playing a supporting role on this night.
In taking the program's third overall title, Villanova won all six games by double digits over this tournament run, joining Michigan State (2000), Duke (2001) and North Carolina (2009) in that rare air.
The last team to win its two Final Four games by 16 or more: UCLA in 1968. During the dynasty.
One key question: Does Jay Wright's team belong on the list of the best of all-time?
Maybe so, considering the way Villanova dismantled everyone in front of it in a tournament that was dripping with upsets, underdogs and at least the appearance of parity.
Maybe so, considering the Wildcats won in seemingly every way imaginable. This victory came two nights after they set a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers (they had 10 in this one), and one week after they relied more on defense in a win over Texas Tech in the Elite Eight.
"We don't really look at it that way," Wright said. "We don't look at it as, did we just dominate that team? No. We played well."
And really, that debate's for later.
DiVincenzo squashed any questions about this game with a 10-for-15 shooting night - 5 for 7 from 3 -that was, frankly, better than that. He was a no-doubt winner of the Final Four's most-outstanding-player award.
With Michigan trying to stay in striking range early in the second half, he opened his game-sealing run with an around-the-back dribble to get to the hoop and get fouled. On the other end, he delivered a two-handed rejection of Michigan's Charles Matthews - his second block of the game, to go with five rebounds and three assists - when Matthews tried to bring it into the paint.
The 3 that capped things off came from a big step behind the arc and gave Villanova a 62-44 lead with 7:58 left.
"Honestly, I didn't look at the score at all," DiVincenzo said. "I didn't know how many points I had. I didn't know any of that. I was just trying to make the right play. And Omari (Spellman) was setting unbelievable screens for me getting me open. And I was just feeling it."
About the only drama at the end was whether DiVincenzo could unwrap himself from his teammates' mob hug to hurl the ball underhanded toward the rafters after the buzzer. He succeeded there, too.
"Sometimes I think about whether I'm a good defender, because in practice, he makes me look bad," said junior Mikal Bridges, who likely made this his final audition for the NBA with a 19-point night on 7-for-12 shooting.
What a couple of months it's been for Philly. First the Eagles. Now this. The Super Bowl, though, was a classic. This one was only beautiful to one team.
Michigan (33-8) came out playing tough-nosed defense it relied on over a 14-game winning streak that got the Wolverines to their second final in six years.
Moe Wagner scored 11 early points to pick up where he left off in a dominating performance in the semifinal. Villanova started 1 for 9 from 3-point range. And yet, after DiVincenzo banged down a 3 from a step behind the arc for Villanova's second of the night, coach John Beilein looked at the scoreboard and saw his team behind, 23-21.
"The way DiVincenzo shot the ball, it was just incredible for us to try to win that game with the roll he went on," the coach said.
If his first 3 wasn't demoralizing enough, DiVincenzo made another, then took a bounce pass from Brunson for a dunk, then paid it forward with an assist to Spellman. It was part of a 23-7 run that gave the Wildcats a nine-point lead at halftime; they never looked back.
DiVincenzo competed hard for a starting spot this year, but didn't win it. He made the best of it as a sixth man. Wright waited all of 52 seconds in the second half to get him back on the floor.
"It just shows how much depth we have, and that we don't care who gets the credit," Brunson said.
Though he didn't play in the 2016 Final Four, DiVincenzo got his fair share of credit for that title, too.
His season cut short because of a knee injury, he was healthy enough to run the scout squad for Villanova. Some on the team said he was better at doing Oklahoma star Buddy Hield than Hield himself.
But maybe a more apt comparison is to ... Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?
DiVincenzo joins them in the rare club of players to crack 30 points while also shooting better than 66 percent from the floor in a Final Four game.