Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Quicken Loans Arena
CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James plucked the Atlanta Hawks clean and stuffed them for mounting by himself in last year's playoffs. He's got more help now. With Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving healthy and well-rested following a first-round sweep of Detroit, James and the Cleveland Cavaliers enter their series against the Hawks as overwhelming favorites to return to the Eastern Conference finals. The Cavs swept the Hawks a year ago on their way to the NBA Finals and have won seven straight over Atlanta. James, though, said the recent domination means nothing once Game 1 tips off Monday.'' It don't matter if you can win 100 straight games against somebody,'' James said. ''If you lose four in a row, then you're out of the playoffs.'' That's what happened to the Hawks last year, when James overwhelmed them in the conference finals. He nearly averaged a triple-double, posting 30.3 points,11 rebounds and 9.3 assists in the four games, the highest statistical line in postseason history. The four-time MVP was forced to do much of it on his own after the Cavs lost Love to a shoulder injury in the first round and Irving was playing on a gimpy knee that eventually gave out in the Finals, when he shattered his kneecap in Game 1. Atlanta's chances this time hinge on figuring a way to slow down James and take their chances with the rest of the Cavs.'' You start at the top, you put pressure on the leader, put pressure on their best player, which is LeBron James,'' Hawks forward Paul Millsap said. ''I think we go for the head of the snake now, which is LeBron, make it tough on him, get out to the shooters when possible, just make it tough on them all around.'' The Hawks believe their experience last season against James, along with the confidence gained in their first-round win over Boston, will serve them this time.'' Winning Game 6 in Boston is a huge step for not only myself, but this team,'' guard Kent Bazemore said. ''I don't think a lot of people thought we were going to go up there and close it, the way they had been playing us all series. It's just a step for us in the right direction.'' Here are some other things to note as the Hawks and Cavs meet for the second straight postseason:TWITTER TOUGHNESS: Bazemore doesn't like James and vice versa. Atlanta's guard began bashing James on social media before he got to the NBA, and he gave the superstar a shove in last year's playoffs. Needless to say, James shoved back. Bazemore relishes the chance to match up with James and needs an edge to do so.'' Whatever helps you wake up in the morning,'' said Bazemore, who will likely get the first crack at guarding James. ''You got to amp yourself up. You can't go in humble, I guess. You've got to make yourself angry and do whatever you gotta do, because he's a freight train. He comes with everything he has. You have to do the same to hang in there.'' DIRTY DELLY: Cavs hustling guard Matthew Dellavedova was a major pain - literally - in last year's matchup. Dellavedova knocked Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver out of the series with a sprained ankle while diving for a loose ball. He also got tangled up with Hawks big man Al Horford, who threw a forearm in frustration and was ejected from Game 3.'' Delly has actually been a thorn in our side,'' Bazemore said. ''He's hurt us. I respect him. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. Plays hard. He isn't afraid. You've gotta respect that, especially myself. I'm sure he's not trying to take guys out.'' REST VS. RUST: Last season, the Cavs came off a weeklong break following the first round and dropped Game 1 at home to Chicago. Cleveland also lost Game 3, and if not for James' clutch, game-winning 3-pointer in Chicago in Game 4, the Cavs could have been in a 3-1 hole. Coach Tyronn Lue said Sunday his team is ''very anxious'' for the series to start. LAST MEETING: When the teams played in Cleveland on April 11, James scored 34 points (on 13 of 16 shooting) and added six rebounds and six assists - in just three quarters. Irving added 35 points in the Cavs' 109-94 win. GETTING DEFENSIVE: If there's one noticeable change in the Hawks this season, it's their defense. Atlanta held opponents to a league-low 43 percent field-goal percentage and 99.2 points per game. Millsap said the change happened naturally.'' We were struggling offensively,'' he said. ''If you're not scoring, can't let the opponents score. That's where it all started. We struggled on the offensive end, defense was our staple. Defense kept us in games, won us games for us.'' ---This story has been corrected to show that Irving was injured at the end of Game 1, not Game 2, of last year's NBA Finals.
Time: 07:05 P.M. EST Venue: PNC Park
The Chicago Cubs have chosen a creative wardrobe on this visit to Pittsburgh. They certainly enjoyed a raucous celebration the last time they were there. The Cubs start a three-game series with the Pirates on Monday night in the NL Central rivals' first meeting since last year's wild-card game. Chicago (17-6) is used to offbeat manager Joe Maddon deciding on unusual themes for road trips. This one is being called a minimalist zany suit trip, with players set to wear ugly suits.'' I saw this website with some cool suits, different,'' Maddon said. ''Mine will feature tulips. If you're at any time without part of your suit, it's a hundred-dollar fine, unless you're working out. ... Part of it is that we never get dressed up. If we're going to dress up, I don't want it to be a conventional suit. That was my premise. Then I found these." Dexter Fowler wore pink shorts and a matching sports coat for his outfit. Maddon said he bought the suit with tulips as well as one with leopard skin. The Cubs' early success is putting the idiom that "a leopard can't change its spots" to the test since the perennially woebegone franchise has been baseball's best team. Maddon's first year with the club was a rousing success, and Chicago's postseason run started with a 4-0 road victory Oct. 7 over a Pirates club that won 98 games. Jake Arrieta struck out 11 in a five-hitter that night to hand Pittsburgh (15-10) its second straight wild-card game loss. Gerrit Cole (2-2, 2.78 ERA), who lost that night by allowing four runs in five innings, will face the Cubs again Monday. He went 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in four 2015 regular-season starts versus Chicago, allowing no homers over 25 1-3 innings before Fowler and Kyle Schwarber - currently on the disabled list - took him deep in the playoffs. Cole is 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA in nine regular-season outings versus Chicago. Fowler is 6 for 17 overall against him. The right-hander won his second straight start Tuesday by yielding four runs - two earned - in six innings of a 9-4 victory at Colorado. The Cubs will counter with a pitcher who has been even more effective than the unbeatable Arrieta in Jason Hammel (3-0, 0.75), who has the NL's best ERA. Hammel struck out seven in six innings of a 9-0 rout at Cincinnati on April 24 in his last outing. The right-hander was 1-2 with a 4.35 ERA in four 2015 starts against Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen is a .300 hitter in 30 at-bats in this matchup and Francisco Cervelli is 5 for 10. Cervelli is expected back in the lineup after he sat out Sunday's 6-5, 11-inning home defeat to Cincinnati that ended Pittsburgh's six-game win streak. The Pirates, who committed a season-high four errors, rallied to tie the game during each of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.'' We got in our own way a couple times, but we battled, and everybody kept playing,'' manager Clint Hurdle said. ''We scored late, they scored late. It was like throwing punches at one another - and they were able to throw one more than we were.'' Chicago welcomed Kris Bryant back from a one-game absence due to an ankle sprain in Sunday's 4-3, 10-inning defeat to Atlanta. The Cubs, who have yet to lose two straight, took 11 of 19 matchups in the 2015 regular season.
Time: 07:07 P.M. EST Venue: Rogers Centre
When they last met the Texas Rangers in October, Jose Bautista capped the Toronto Blue Jays' comeback victory with the bat flip heard 'round North America. The Rangers were clearly angered by that celebration to the shot that cost them the AL division series and it remains to be seen whether they'll seek retribution. All eyes figure to be on Bautista's first at-bat Monday night when Texas tries to deal Toronto its longest home slide in two years in the opener of a four-game series. Bautista provided the most memorable moment of last year's playoffs when he turned around a 97-mph heater from Sam Dyson in the seventh inning for a tie-breaking three-run homer in the Blue Jays' 6-3 win in the decisive Game 5. Bautista stood at home plate to admire his drive, enthusiastically flipping his bat high in the air. Fans proceeded to litter the field after Dyson took exception and walked over to confront the Blue Jays, leading to both dugouts and bullpens to empty.'' It's tough to see,'' said pitcher Cole Hamels at the time, also disappointed by Bautista's celebration, ''a lot of us on our team don't carry ourselves that way.'' It should be interesting to see how A. J. Griffin (3-0, 2.52 ERA) handles things after he spent the entire 2015 season with Oakland while recovering from elbow surgery. The right-hander hopes to build on his best outing Tuesday when he allowed one run and four hits over eight innings in a 10-1 home win over the New York Yankees. Griffin has gone 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA in four starts versus Toronto, but hasn't faced them since 2013. Edwin Encarnacion is 2 for 9 with a home run off him and Bautista is hitless in five at-bats." They like playing in their ballpark," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We'll have to play good baseball and pitch it well." Toronto hopes to avoid its first four-game home skid since April 2014 after taking two of three at Tampa Bay. Josh Donaldson hit his AL-leading ninth homer and Troy Tulowitzki's three-run blast keyed a four-run ninth inning in Sunday's 5-1 win." It's nice to come through for the team in a big spot," Tulowitzki, who is hitting .172, told the league's official website. "I feel good out there. Obviously things aren't going my way, but it's a long season and I'll just keep on grinding away." The Rangers had their four-game winning streak snapped in Sunday's 9-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels that capped a 4-2 homestand. Rougned Odor finished with three hits, while Adrian Beltre, Ian Desmond and Delino DeShields had two apiece. Odor, who has six hits over his last two games, is 13 for 27 with two home runs and four doubles in nine regular-season meetings with the Blue Jays (12-14). R. A. Dickey, who spent his first five seasons with the Rangers (14-11), hopes to move past his recent struggles at Rogers Centre. He's allowed 13 runs and 16 hits - including two homers - over 11 innings while losing two home starts. Dickey (1-3, 6.75) is 2-2 with a 3.51 ERA in eight games versus Texas, including playoffs. He gave up one run over 4 2/3 innings in an 8-4 win in Game 4. Odor is 2 for 3 with a triple off him, but Elvis Andrus is hitless in nine at-bats. The Rangers dropped four of the six regular-season meetings last year.
Time: 07:10 P.M. EST Venue: Great American Ball Park
Johnny Cueto had one of his strongest performances since joining the San Francisco Giants in his latest start, and he's also been at his best in his first two road outings for his new club. Cueto will likely have a little extra adrenaline for his next start away from home Monday night as he faces his former team, the Cincinnati Reds, for the first time. Cueto (4-1, 2.65 ERA) fanned 11 and scattered seven hits while going the distance in a 1-0 win against San Diego on Tuesday, his 100th career victory and seventh shutout." I'm not surprised by what he's doing because he's had that kind of career," manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's why we wanted him here. He kept his composure out there and just made some great pitches." Cueto has allowed one run and pitched at least seven innings while winning each of his two road starts for the Giants (13-13). He'll try to become their first starter to win his first three for the club since Yusmeiro Petit in 2013 in his return to Cincinnati (10-15). Cueto acknowledged that he was "a little excited" to face the Reds but also told MLB's official website that "it's just baseball." He spent his first eight-plus seasons in Cincinnati until a four-player deal sent him to Kansas City on July 26. San Francisco signed him to a six-year deal this offseason valued at $130 million, and even he doesn't know what kind of reception he'll get from Reds fans." The shock of Cueto not being with the Reds anymore has kind of passed for me," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price told MLB's official website. "However, it will be unusual to see him pitching against our team in Cincinnati. ... I'm sure it will mean a lot to Cueto to come back." The Giants are heading to Cincinnati after avoiding a three-game sweep to the New York Mets and earning just their second win in eight road games. Hunter Pence homered and drove in three runs in a 6-1 victory Sunday, giving him 11 RBIs in his last seven games. Cincinnati persevered to end a six-game losing streak Sunday, topping Pittsburgh 6-5 in 11 innings. The Reds blew a two-run advantage and a pair of one-run leads, including one in the ninth, until Scott Schebler's go-ahead double. Cincinnati dropped three of four to the Chicago Cubs in its most recent home series after winning seven of its first nine games there. The Reds have lost five of their last six home matchups against San Francisco and went 2-5 overall in last season's series. Brandon Finnegan, acquired from Kansas City in the Cueto deal, will head to the mound to open a 10-game homestand. The left-hander didn't make it past the fourth inning in his most recent start at Great American Ball Park, a 16-0 loss to the Cubs that featured Jake Arrieta's no-hitter, but had a more respectable showing Tuesday against the Mets. Finnegan (1-1, 3.86) pitched six scoreless innings before giving up Yoenis Cespedes' tying three-run homer in a 4-3 defeat. He will make his first start against San Francisco and his first appearance versus the Giants since facing them in two games in the 2014 World Series. Angel Pagan's status is unknown for the Giants after he was forced to leave Sunday's win with a strained left hamstring. Joe Panik (groin) will likely sit out for a third straight contest. Brandon Belt batted .467 with three homers, five other extra-base hits and 10 RBIs in the seven games against Cincinnati last season.
Time: 07:10 P.M. EST Venue: Citi Field
The New York Mets had their eight-game win streak snapped while Michael Conforto was finally held in check. The Mets and Conforto will try to start new streaks Monday night at home when Bartolo Colon faces the Atlanta Braves to open a three-game series. New York (15-8) fell 6-1 to Madison Bumgarner and San Francisco at home Sunday to end its streak. The lefty-swinging Conforto went 0 for 5 with three at-bats against Bumgarner and another against a southpaw. The outfielder had hit safely in every game of the streak, going 15 for 31 with 10 RBIs, but he is just 3 for 16 off lefties while batting .381 against right-handers. Manager Terry Collins isn't sure he wants to start him too many times versus southpaws." It all depends on what the situations are," Collins said. "If he shows us that he can start doing some damage against lefties, he'll get some playing time." That won't be an issue in this series since Atlanta (6-18) is starting three right-handers. One reason to like the Mets' chances of capturing the opener is Colon (1-1, 3.42 ERA), who went 4-0 with a 3.66 ERA in five starts against the Braves last year. He seeks his 220th victory to move past Pedro Martinez for second among Dominican-born pitchers. A. J. Pierzynski has the fourth-most plate appearances in the majors against Colon, hitting .274 in 62 at-bats. Nick Markakis owns a .227 average in this matchup. Colon has yielded three runs in each of his last two outings, lasting five innings before the bullpen cost him his second victory by blowing a three-run lead in Tuesday's 4-3 defeat to Cincinnati. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said the team will likely call up Mike Foltynewicz to make his season debut in this contest. The right-hander has posted a 2.05 ERA in four starts at Triple-A Gwinnett. Foltynewicz went 4-6 with a 5.71 ERA last year for the Braves in 18 appearances, including 15 starts. His lone start against the Mets was a 10-8 defeat June 14 in which he lasted 4 1/3 innings and was charged with six runs. New York's Lucas Duda is 3 for 4 with a homer in this matchup. The Mets have won 14 of 20 versus the Braves, sweeping three road games April 22-24. Curtis Granderson went 6 for 13 with two homers and six runs scored in that series. Those contests are part of a dismal 1-12 home start for Atlanta, which has found solace in splitting four games to start a trip that's been shortened to seven due to a rainout in Chicago this weekend. The Braves beat the Cubs 4-3 in 10 innings Sunday. Atlanta prevailed with a 24-man roster after the club called up Emilio Bonifacio and optioned reliever Chris Withrow to the minors. Bonifacio wasn't allowed on the 25-man roster due to a technicality." We're going to battle with what we've got," said Mallex Smith, who had three hits with a single in the 10th. Braves shortstop Erick Aybar has baseball's worst OPS among qualifying players at .377. He's 4 for 38 on the road and hitless in nine at-bats versus the Mets this season.
Time: 07:20 P.M. EST Venue: Miller Park
The last time the Milwaukee Brewers reached the postseason, Ron Roenicke guided them to their first NL Championship Series appearance in 29 years. One day shy of the one-year anniversary of his firing, Roenicke may have some mixed emotions when he returns to Miller Park for the first time Monday night. Roenicke made an impression during his first season as Milwaukee's manager in 2011, leading the club to a franchise-best 96-66 record while becoming only the fourth Brewers skipper to have a winning mark in his first full season. He finished second in NL Manager of the Year voting that year, but the Brewers were never able to capitalize on that success. Milwaukee (9-15) finished with 83, 74 and 82 victories over the following three seasons before he was let go last May 3 after the team had gotten off to a disappointing 7-18 start." I knew it was going to come sometime," Roenicke told the league's official website. "I wish it wasn't that quick. But I think part of managing, when you do it, is you know you're going to have some tough times in different years. I had some great years there, had a lot of fun, and then a couple tough ones." Roenicke landed on his feet as the Los Angeles Dodgers' third base coach in August before leaving after the season to take over the same role with the crosstown Angels. He's hoping to wave more runners home following Sunday's big scoring effort. Los Angeles had scored just four times while going 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position in back-to-back losses at Texas before Kole Calhoun and C. J. Cron had three hits apiece and Geovany Soto homered in his second straight game in a 9-6 win. Calhoun is 5 for 8 in his last two games, while Cron is 8 for 15 in his past four. Right-hander Jered Weaver (3-0, 3.86 ERA) will try to win his first four decisions for the first time since opening 5-0 four years ago and lead the Angels (12-13) to their first back-to-back road victories since sweeping Oakland from April 11-13. In his only start at Miller Park, Weaver gave up three hits over six innings in a 5-0 win Aug. 30, 2013. He was 6-0 with a 1.96 ERA over 11 interleague road starts before allowing five runs over five innings in a 5-0 loss at San Francisco last May. The veteran will face a Milwaukee team that broke out offensively in Sunday's 14-5 home win over Miami that ended a season-high four-game slide. Jonathan Villar, Ryan Braun, Chris Carter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis finished with three hits apiece. Two of Carter's hits left the yard, giving him seven homers on the season. He has two in his last four games against the Angels dating to his time with Houston, but he's just 4 for 20 with one long ball and seven strikeouts all-time versus Weaver." It's pretty clear how he impacts a baseball when he hits it," said manager Craig Counsell, who replaced Roenicke the day after the former manager was fired. Milwaukee will try to keep it going offensively for Jimmy Nelson (3-2, 3.16) as it looks to win back-to-back games for only the third time. The right-hander had his three-game winning streak end Tuesday when he allowed three runs - one earned - and two hits while walking four over 5 1/3 innings in a 4-3 loss at Wrigley Field. The Brewers have dropped a franchise-worst eight straight home meetings.
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: Consol Energy Center
A heady effort from a short-handed defense corps allowed the Pittsburgh Penguins to grab home-ice advantage away from the Washington Capitals. The Penguins, though, likely won't have one of their top D-men in Olli Maatta as they look to move ahead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series Monday night in Pittsburgh. The Capitals might be missing one of their top defensemen as well, with Brooks Orpik facing a possible suspension for his hit on Maatta. Pittsburgh couldn't stop T. J. Oshie from recording a hat trick in a 4-3 overtime loss Thursday, but bounced back by stifling nearly all of the Capitals' roster in a 2-1 victory in Game 2 on Saturday. The Penguins allowed the one goal while short-handed during Washington's 14-shot third period, paving the way for Eric Fehr to score the winner against his former team with 4:28 to go. Pittsburgh limited the Capitals to 10 shots over the first two periods despite losing Maatta less than five minutes into the game. Orpik knocked his former teammate out with a high hit." I thought it was a late hit," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought it was a target to his head. I think it's the type of hit that everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game. That's how I saw it." Unsurprisingly, Washington coach Barry Trotz didn't.'' (Orpik) just finished on a hit,'' Trotz said. ''There's a little size difference, and I think Maatta was leaning over a little bit. We'll let the league handle it.'' Orpik had a hearing with the NHL's department of player safety Sunday. The Penguins are looking for their third win in four home games in these playoffs and fourth in five overall matchups against Washington. Pittsburgh began that stretch with a 6-2 rout March 20 that ended a three-game home losing streak against the Capitals. Marc-Andre Fleury was in net for the Penguins in that game but is expected to remain out due to a concussion, likely giving 21-year-old rookie Matt Murray a sixth consecutive start. Murray is 4-1-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average in that stretch." I thought Matt was real solid (in Game 2). It was a challenging game in that he didn't see a lot of shots early then in the third period obviously they pressed and he saw significantly some more action," Sullivan said. "I thought his focus was really good. When we needed him to be good down the stretch, he made that timely save for us." Washington will try to give Braden Holtby a better chance to win by stifling Pittsburgh's prodigious shot production. The Penguins have a combined 80 shots on net in the two games and had another 38 blocked. That's resulted in Holtby allowing five goals to Pittsburgh after giving up five in his six games against Philadelphia in the opening round. The Penguins would have had more if the Capitals hadn't denied them on all five power-play chances Saturday, moving them to 30 of 31 on the penalty kill this postseason." We know we can play better. We have had periods but not 60-minute games. We can't give a team like that as much time and space," Holtby said. "It will be a good thing to get on the road and play a more simple style. It seems like the road kind of does that to you. It will be good for us." Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist have scored each of their three goals in this postseason in the Penguins' three home games. Kessel and Sidney Crosby both have a team-high five points in those contests. Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has one assist in his last seven games against the Penguins, including playoffs, and two points in his last five in Pittsburgh. Nicklas Backstrom has no points in his last four matchups." The ultimate goal is to win and we all have that in mind," Crosby told the NHL's official website. "We know taking that hit or taking that punch is going to go a long way."
Time: 08:15 P.M. EST Venue: Busch Stadium
The Philadelphia Phillies are in position to match their longest win streak since 2012, and facing a pitcher with one of baseball's worst ERAs could help their cause. The struggling Adam Wainwright, however, has fared well against the Phillies in the past and will start Monday night for the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a four-game set at Busch Stadium. Philadelphia (15-10) has won six straight and nine of 10 as it seeks to match a seven-game win streak from Sept. 5-12, 2012." We're having fun out there and everything is coming together," catcher Cameron Rupp said. The Phillies have been one of baseball's biggest surprises while the Cardinals (12-13) have been inconsistent. St. Louis is one defeat shy of its first five-game slide since losing seven straight from July 26-31, 2013. Wainwright (1-3, 7.16 ERA), ironically, was the last Cardinals pitcher to win after yielding four runs over 5 1/3 innings Wednesday in an 11-4 rout at Arizona. He added a three-run triple at the plate. The right-hander has struggled since missing most of last season with an Achilles tendon injury. Wainwright, who has never had an ERA over 3.94 in a full season, failed to strike out more than three batters in four straight starts for the first time since 2007 before he struck out five Diamondbacks. He is 5-2 with a 2.65 ERA in 10 career starts versus the Phillies. St. Louis native Ryan Howard has faced him the most among Philadelphia hitters, going 6 for 24. The Phillies have a 1.61 ERA during their win streak, including nearly spotless relief work. Hector Neris allowed a solo homer in the ninth of Sunday's 2-1 victory over Cleveland to snap the bullpen's streak of 20 straight scoreless innings. Pitching was the story in three weekend one-run victories over the Indians. Vince Velasquez tossed two-hit ball over six innings Sunday." Our offense isn't explosive by any means so for us to be successful, we have to win the close games and we understand that," reliever David Hernandez said. The Phillies are hoping slugger Maikel Franco breaks out of a seven-game homerless drought in which he is 4 for 26. He has a team-high 14 RBIs. Center fielder Odubel Herrera had his 11-game hit streak snapped Sunday by going 0 for 3. Herrera, second in the majors with 23 walks, batted .385 with 11 runs scored over his run. Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson (2-1, 3.81) comes off his best outing of the season, a seven-inning stint in which he struck out eight in Wednesday's 3-0 victory at Washington. The veteran right-hander has not faced St. Louis since 2011. The available Cardinals hitter he has faced the most is Brandon Moss, who is 1 for 6 in this matchup. Moss went deep for the team-high sixth time Sunday for all the offense St. Louis mustered in a 6-1 defeat to the Nationals. The Cardinals have totaled six runs while batting .206 in this four-game slide. Yadier Molina went 0 for 3, snapping an 11-game hitting streak in which he batted .378 and an 18-game streak of reaching base safely. The Cardinals took five of seven from the Phillies in 2015.
Time: 08:15 P.M. EST Venue: Kauffman Stadium
The Washington Nationals' first three games in Missouri proved fruitful, but the next three come against a team that's been a little more difficult to beat at home. That might not matter if Gio Gonzalez can keep limiting teams the way he has so far this season Monday night against the Kansas City Royals. Washington (17-7) canceled out three home losses to Philadelphia with a three-game sweep in St. Louis over the weekend for a fine start to a difficult 10-game road trip that ends with four against the MLB-leading Chicago Cubs." For us to be able to come in here and take three games from them, that's huge, especially on this road trip," Sunday starter Max Scherzer told MLB's official website. "This road trip is going to tell us where we're at. We started off well." It came with Bryce Harper striking out in all four of his at-bats, and the reigning NL MVP is 1 for 17 in his last five games. It's often been Harper and Daniel Murphy pacing the offense, but they'll eventually need Anthony Rendon (.240), Ryan Zimmerman (.219), Jayson Werth (.213), Michael A. Taylor (.190) and Danny Espinosa (.188) to get going. Clint Robinson stepped up with a two-run homer for just his second hit in 23 at-bats this season." It's a long season, and it's going to have to come from somewhere other than the same guys every day," Robinson said. "It's got to come from different sources. So today, that was an example of that." The Washington staff combined to allow two runs in the last two games against the Cardinals, and Gonzalez is one of a few good options to continue the impressive pitching. Gonzalez (1-1, 1.42 ERA) gave up two runs - one earned - and five hits in 6 1/3 innings of a 3-0 home loss to the Phillies on Wednesday and has allowed four total earned runs over his four starts with a .196 opponent batting average. The left-hander has only faced the Royals once since 2011 but is 3-3 with a 7.49 ERA in eight career starts against them. Salvador Perez (5 for 6) and Eric Hosmer (4 for 6 with two home runs and three walks) have hit him best. The Washington-Montreal franchise is 9-3 against the Royals and has won two of three in both of its past visits to Kansas City. Even so, the Royals (13-11) will be happy to return home after a 1-5 road trip on which they avoided going winless only with Sunday's 4-1 win in Seattle. Prior to taking a 1-0 lead in the second inning, they'd gone 27 innings without scoring. Alcides Escobar was 3 for 5 after going 2 for 24 in his previous six games, while Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain each had two hits." We knew we were going to have to find ways to scratch runs across the board, and we did a good job of that," Hosmer, who's 7 for 16 with two home runs in his last four. "We had some things going on the bases today, we had some big hits." The Royals are 8-3 at home and haven't lost a series of any real consequence in Kansas City since Minnesota took two of three from July 2-4. They went 4-8 with three series losses from Sept. 4 through the end of the regular season last year but entered that span with a 13-game lead in the AL Central. Kansas City looks to Edinson Volquez to bounce back after allowing a career high in hits the last time out. Volquez (3-1, 3.34) gave up eight runs and 12 hits in five innings of Tuesday's 9-4 loss at the Los Angeles Angels. The right-hander's ERA jumped more than threefold from 1.09. Murphy is 6 for 15 against Volquez, but Harper is 0 for 6.
Time: 09:30 P.M. EST Venue: AT&T Center
There was a possession in which LaMarcus Aldridge grabbed a defensive rebound, outlet-passed to Manu Ginobili, who then turned and fired a 70-foot strike to Kawhi Leonard for a dunk. The whole play took about 3 seconds. And the ball never touched the floor. Not everything came that easily for San Antonio in the opener of the Spurs' Western Conference semifinal series against Oklahoma City on Saturday. It only seemed that way, as they rolled to a 124-92 win and now look to take a 2-0 lead when the series continues in San Antonio on Monday night.'' Now we've got to get back to the drawing board and see what we've got to do better to get ready for Game 2,'' Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook said. ''Come out and play with a different mindset.'' That would be a start. The three worst playoff losses of Kevin Durant and Westbrook's time together in Oklahoma City have one thing in common - they all happened in San Antonio. The Spurs won by 35 on May 21, 2014, followed that up eight nights later with a 28-point win and now have added a 32-pointer for good measure. The Game 1 margin was the biggest defeat Thunder coach Billy Donovan has dealt with in more than 17 years. It was Feb. 10, 1999 - 660 games ago for Donovan - when his Florida Gators lost 91-56 to Tennessee. That Gator team recovered and won four of its next five games, and if the Thunder are going to get out of this series they'll have to do something similar.'' I think the guys in that locker room are pretty competitive,'' Donovan said. ''I think they're going to want to come back and respond.'' The key for the Thunder in Game 2 will be stopping Aldridge. They had no answers for him in Game 1; Aldridge scored 38 points and didn't even play 30 minutes. When the Spurs acquired him, it was evident that they would again be a major title favorite. It's working out exactly as San Antonio planned.'' I don't know an exact date,'' coach Gregg Popovich said when asked how long it took Aldridge to get comfortable with the Spurs. ''It was a progression. Any new player in a new program, it's a progression. It takes a little bit of time to get comfortable with the system and secondly, with teammates - who does what, when, where, how, all that kind of thing. It was just a steady kind of improvement and recognition as the year went on.'' If players get asked to play big minutes Monday, that shouldn't be an issue. Game 3 isn't until Friday night in Oklahoma City. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have long been one of the league's all-time trios. But the sheer margin by which they're separating themselves from some of the others on that list is getting to be staggering. Consider:Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won 600 games together for the Los Angeles Lakers. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish won 632 in their days as Boston Celtics teammates. It took a long time for those numbers to be passed. It's going to take a real long time before anyone even comes near what Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have done - now with 700 wins together after Saturday's Game 1 victory. Everything worked for the Spurs in the opener. They had 39 assists and all but one of their players who got minutes had at least one - the exception being Andre Miller. And the Spurs are 43-1 at home this season, 34-0 when Duncan is in the lineup. And for all the adjustments Oklahoma City will make, figuring out how to get better against Leonard's defense probably should be foremost. Leonard spent much of Game 1 guarding Westbrook, helping force him into a 5-for-19 night from the floor. Meanwhile, Leonard and Aldridge combined to make 28 of 36 shots.
Time: 10:05 P.M. EST Venue: Oakland Coliseum
Oakland's sweep of Seattle last month put in motion a road winning streak that stretched on for its first seven games, but that road form has since fallen off. The Mariners don't have that kind of winning streak, but they've been more than capable away from home and have had similar success in Oakland for nearly two years. Seattle has a chance to get back at the Athletics this week with three in the East Bay beginning Monday night with Nathan Karns hoping to build off an impressive outing. Oakland (13-13) won three at Seattle from April 8-10 while holding the Mariners (13-11) to four runs and a .155 average. Seattle, however, has won four straight series in Oakland and is 12-5 there since dropping two of three from April 3-5, 2014. The Mariners are yet to lose a road series, going 8-4 while taking two of three in four different sets. They also won two of three in both their recent home series, though Sunday's 4-1 loss to Kansas City denied them a sweep. They've won five straight series for the first time since a run of six from May 18-June 5, 2011. The little offense Seattle got Sunday again involved Seth Smith, who was 2 for 3 with a run scored and is batting .389 in his last five with two home runs and a double. The right fielder is batting .317 with a .990 OPS after being at .241 and .714 on May 2 in his first season with Seattle." I think his approach from the first day of spring training has been fantastic," manager Scott Servais told MLB's official website. "He's not trying to do too much. He's used the whole field. He's a guy they typically shift against a lot, and multiple times he's beat the shift because he is using the whole field." Just the quality of the at-bat and the consistency of it is great to see." He'll be out to support Karns (2-1, 3.63 ERA), who didn't need much help in his latest effort. The right-hander yielded two hits with three walks in seven scoreless innings of Tuesday's 11-1 home win over Houston." He established it from the get-go, he was going to be in control," Servais said. "When you see that confidence come from your starting pitcher and really good tempo, it really dictates the rest of the game." Control has held him back from going that deep into more games with Karns issuing 11 walks in 17 1/3 innings of his last three starts. Still, that's been the route to success for him so far after opening the season by allowing four runs and seven hits with one walk in five innings of a 6-1 loss to Oakland on April 9. Karns has lost both career starts against the A's with a 5.06 ERA and .318 opponent average. Josh Reddick (2 for 5) and Marcus Semien (2 for 7) have both homered off him. The A's counter with Kendall Graveman, whose start to the season went the other way in his latest outing. Graveman (1-2, 4.03) surrendered six runs and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings of last Monday's 7-3 loss in Detroit after giving up four runs and 10 hits in 17 2/3 innings of his first three starts. Three home runs were the difference." You've just got to execute and not fall behind, and also make more meaningful pitches early in the count," said Graveman, who's 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA in a start and two relief efforts against Seattle. The A's also just missed out on a sweep because of Sunday's 2-1 loss to Houston, dropping them to an AL-worst 5-8 at home with 2.77 runs scored per game.
Time: 10:10 P.M. EST Venue: Petco Park
Colorado's Nolan Arenado has been to an All-Star Game and won a Silver Slugger Award thanks in part to the kind of torrid stretch he's riding right now. Now the third baseman will try to build on his lofty numbers versus James Shields on Monday night when the Rockies chase their first four-game winning streak since July in the opener of a three-game road series against the San Diego Padres. Arenado has picked up where he left off last season when he tied Bryce Harper for the NL home run title with 42 and led the league with 130 RBIs and 354 total bases. On Sunday, the three-time Gold Glove award winner surpassed rookie teammate Trevor Story to take the major league lead with his 11th homer in a 6-3 win at Arizona. He also knocked in three runs, raising his MLB-leading total to 25. Arenado is 10 for 22 with four homers in his last five games for Colorado (12-12), which moved into a tie for first place in the NL West following its first sweep at Arizona since 2004." He literally impacts the game on both sides of the ball almost every single day," manager Walt Weiss told the league's official website. "That's why it's so hard to give him a day off." Arenado will try to lead the Rockies to their longest winning streak since they last ran off four straight from July 9-12. He's batting .322 with five home runs in his last 16 games at San Diego and is 12 for 23 with four homers versus Shields. Shields has four quality starts in his first five outings, but he's dropped his first four decisions for the first time in his career. The Padres haven't scored for him in three of those starts, and he has the second-lowest run-support average in the majors at 1.36. The right-hander is coming off his best performance Tuesday when he allowed one run and three hits over seven innings in a 1-0 loss at San Francisco. He had won six straight decisions versus Colorado before surrendering four runs and six hits - including three homers - over seven innings in a 6-3 road loss April 10. Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and Ryan Raburn took him deep in that one. Gonzalez is batting .360 with three homers in 25 at-bats against Shields (0-4, 3.55 ERA). The Padres (9-16) fell short of their first sweep Sunday when they managed only three hits off Clayton Kershaw in a 1-0 road loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.'' There's more fight in us, and we've got to get that fight out of us,'' manager Andy Green said after his team's sixth loss in eight games. Matt Kemp has been a bright spot, going 12 for 33 with two homers in his last eight games. He's batting .410 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs over his past 15 versus Colorado. Jon Gray (0-0, 11.42) will try to keep the Padres scuffling, but he's allowed 11 runs and 16 hits over 8 2/3 innings in his first two starts. The third overall pick in 2013 is still seeking his first big league victory, going 0-2 with a 6.57 ERA in 11 starts. The right-hander, though, has been at his best versus San Diego, surrendering one run and six hits with 11 strikeouts over 10 innings in two career meetings. The Rockies dropped two of three at home to the Padres from April 8-10.