Time: 7:05 PM EDT Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY, 10451 NEW YORK -- As April nears the end, the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees are the best teams in the American League East. It didn't look that way three weeks ago when the teams met in Baltimore. Since then, both teams are rolling as they open a three-game series Friday night at Yankee Stadium. Baltimore began the season with four straight wins, has yet to lose a series and takes a 14-6 record into Friday. It is the Orioles' best 20-game start since 1997, when they won 98 games. In the first series against New York, April 7-9, Baltimore won two one-run games and the Yankees rallied for a 7-3 victory. Each game was decided in the seventh inning or later. Since the last meeting, the Orioles are 10-5 while the Yankees are 12-3. The Orioles are winning despite a .236 team batting average and a .297 on-base percentage. While Johnathan Schoop is batting .294, Adam Jones is hitting .278 and Chris Davis is at .264, Manny Machado's average is .205 and Mark Trumbo is batting .190. Baltimore picked up its latest win with contributions from all those players except for Trumbo, who is hitless in his last 23 at-bats. Despite their key players contributing, the Orioles still needed a bases-loaded walk in the 11th inning from Seth Smith to get a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday." Very seldom are you going to be functional on all cylinders, but those are the types of games you like to win," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. The Orioles also are winning while ace Chris Tillman (sore right shoulder) and closer Zach Britton (left forearm strain) rehab. Both players are close to returning. One Oriole not clicking on all cylinders is Kevin Gausman, who takes a 1-2 record and a 7.50 ERA into his sixth start on Friday. Gausman was 8-6 with a 3.10 ERA in his last 15 starts of 2016 but is struggling to duplicate his success so far." Not very good," Gausman said of his slow start. "Pretty frustrating, especially being the guy who they gave the ball to Opening Day." Gausman's lone win was April 13 in Toronto. In his last two starts, against the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox, the right-hander allowed 13 runs and 16 hits in eight innings, serving up four home runs. On Sunday, Gausman allowed five runs and eight hits, including a career-worst three home runs." I like the fact he didn't implode and got us to the sixth inning and competed like we know Kevin can," Showalter said. "There will be better days for him." Gausman enjoyed two of his better days at Yankee Stadium last season and was 3-1 with a 1.10 ERA in six starts against the Yankees in 2016. On Aug. 28, Gausman allowed seven hits and struck nine in seven innings of a 5-0 win. On Oct. 2, he helped the Orioles clinch the second American League wild-card spot by allowing two runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings of a 5-2 win. Gausman is 6-3 with a 2.24 ERA in 18 appearances (12 starts) against the Yankees. He is 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA in nine appearances (six starts) in New York. The Yankees are winning despite the DL stints of Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez. Gregorius is expected to return from a strained shoulder Friday, and Sanchez, who sustained a biceps strain on a swing in Baltimore on April 8, will start a rehab assignment Tuesday." We are playing good baseball and are confident right now," Yankees third baseman Chase Headley said. Without its starting shortstop and catcher, New York has three regulars hitting at least .300 (Starlin Castro .346, Headley .329, Jacoby Ellsbury .301), and Aaron Judge has seven of the team's 27 home runs." It just creates a great environment for our clubhouse," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said before New York's 3-0 win in Boston on Thursday. "It looks like we have a great group of individuals that all get along with each other, work hard and create an atmosphere of pulling together and competing against a common opponent. It's a good feel." New York's starting pitchers recovered after a sub-par first turn through the rotation, and left-hander CC Sabathia will look to keep it going Friday. After Masahiro Tanaka's three-hitter Thursday, the Yankees have a 2.90 ERA. In the past 15 games, the pitching staff has a 2.37 ERA and a .197 opponents' average. Sabathia (2-1) comes off his worst start of the season when, he allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings in a 6-3 loss at Pittsburgh on April 21. Sabathia has been pitching so well that it only increased his ERA to 2.70." I felt pretty good," Sabathia said. "My stuff was a little short. I just tried to battle and keep the game as close as possible." Sabathia did not get the decision in New York's win in Baltimore on April 9, when he allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits in six innings to give the Yankees a chance at coming back from a 3-0 deficit. The Yankees wound up with a 7-3 win. He is 19-10 with a 3.30 ERA in 39 career starts against the Orioles.
Time: 7:05 PM EDT Venue: Nationals Park, Washington, D. C., 20003 WASHINGTON -- The New York Mets and Washington Nationals have combined to win the last three titles in the National League East. But there was not much of a pennant race when the Nationals took the crown in 2014 and 2016 or when the Mets prevailed in 2015 on the way to the World Series. The Mets won the division by seven games in 2015 while the Nationals were eight games better than New York last year and 17 games in front of their nearest foe in 2014. The Mets will need a good showing this weekend in Washington if they don't want to fall further behind the surging Nationals, who posted a record of 9-1 on a three-city road trip that ended Thursday in Denver with a 16-2 thumping of the Colorado Rockies. First-place Washington scored 46 runs while winning three of four in Denver." That is quite a few runs. Guys came together and really had a heck of a road trip," Washington center fielder Adam Eaton told the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). "I think we are going to keep it going (at home)." The Nationals, who swept the Mets in three games last weekend in New York, will send ace Max Scherzer to the mound for the first game of the series Friday night at Nationals Park. He is 6-3 with a 1.99 ERA in 12 career games against the Mets, with 11 starts. Scherzer (3-1, 1.95) threw a no-hitter at New York in his last start of the 2015 season. The Mets, who have lost 10 of their last 11 and six in a row, will counter with right-hander Jacob deGrom (0-1, 2.55). He was supposed to start against the Nationals on April 21, but a sore neck forced the Mets to use Matt Harvey, and deGrom faced Washington at home on Saturday." We can no longer sit back and say, 'Hey look, it's ugly weather, we've got some guys hurt.' No one cares. They don't care. The Nationals won't care. (The media) doesn't care. The only thing that matters are the guys in that room," Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters Thursday. In his last start, deGrom walked six Nationals but also fanned 10 while giving up three runs at home Saturday. He is 2-3 with a 3.33 ERA in eight career starts against Washington. The Mets (8-13) are already 7 1/2 games behind the Nationals (16-6), whose bullpen ERA is one of the worst in baseball. New York lost at home 7-5 Thursday to the Atlanta Braves. New York has been beset by injuries in the first month of the season. Infielder Wilmer Flores (right knee infection) and first baseman Lucas Duda (hyperextended left elbow) both went on the 10-day disabled list April 21. Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes did not start in any of the three games last weekend in New York. He started Thursday against the Atlanta Braves but left the game in the fourth inning with a hamstring injury." The concern is getting these guys back. Once we get healthy and get our lineup back in there, I think things will turn around," Collins said. Right-hander Noah Syndergaard was scratched from his start on Thursday with a "tired arm," according to Collins. In the last meeting, Daniel Murphy hit a grand slam and Scherzer got the win against the Mets on Sunday night. Murphy is hitting .386 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 22 games against the Mets, his former team." He wants to beat their brains in. He won't say anything, and he won't say anything to us -- it's not like he's in here boasting that he wants to beat the Mets," Scherzer told reporters. "But he wants to beat them apart." The Nationals' offense has been the best in baseball, and is paced by right fielder Bryce Harper (.418, eight homers), first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (.387, 8 homers), shortstop Trea Turner (.347), Eaton (.291) and second baseman Murphy (.340, 5 homers). Washington won the season series 12-7 last season against New York. New York could also face Stephen Strasburg this weekend after he returned from the paternity list after the birth of his second child earlier this week." Well, this is the big leagues. You face great pitching in the big leagues," Collins told reporters Thursday. "As I just told you guys and I told them: Look, I walked around that room, there's seven All-Stars in that room. We've got a good team. It's time to just absolutely grind it out, look in the mirror, get ourselves ready to play, make adjustments that we have to make and go out and play the game."
Time: 7:07 PM EDT Venue: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ont., Canada, M5V1J3 TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays led the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 on Thursday afternoon. After taking the opener Tuesday, they were in a good position to win two consecutive games for the first time this season, win their first series of the season and ensure themselves of a winning road trip. They did none of the above and will come home to play to play the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday with a 6-16 record. The bullpen gave up the lead in the first game of the doubleheader Thursday, with closer Roberto Osuna blowing the save by coughing up a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth to Randal Grichuk and J. P. Howell allowing the game-ending grand slam to Matt Carpenter in the 11th. They went on to lose the second game of the doubleheader 6-4 on Thursday night to finish their trip 3-4. The teams played two Thursday after Wednesday's game was postponed because of rain." It could have been a good day," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Tough first ballgame, then we fell behind early (in the second game). We made a run. Long, tough day getting swept." The Blue Jays nightmare early season continues against the Rays (11-12) for three games before they hit the road again for six games. Blake Snell (0-2, 3.38 ERA) starts Friday for the Rays and opposes Marcus Stroman (2-2, 3.10). There could be some good news for the Blue Jays. Aaron Sanchez, who is on the disabled list with a blister on his right middle finger, will have a throwing session Friday and could start the series finale Sunday, which would bump Marco Estrada to Monday against the New York Yankees. The Rays begin a stretch of 33 games in 34 days until June 1 with the only day off May 18. Gibbons admitted to concern over Osuna, who has lost velocity and has three blown saves in four opportunities." To be honest, I feel really good right now," Osuna said. "I just don't know what's going on. ... I feel good every time I go out there. It's tough with everything happening after two outs. One pitch, for some reason, and it's hard to figure out. I don't think I'm doing anything different or something is wrong with me. I feel great. I can't understand it. ... Today I located by fastball really good for the first three hitters and I missed one pitch right in the middle." The Rays will be rested when they face the Blue Jays. They had Thursday off following a 5-4 loss in 11 innings Wednesday to the Baltimore Orioles, who took two of three from the Rays at Camden Yards. Shortstop Tim Beckham hit two homers for the Rays on Wednesday and has four for the season, with eight RBIs. He has been the regular shortstop as the Rays await the return of Matt Duffy from heel surgery, possibly late next month." I just want to take it day to day and continue to see the ball, continue to trust my approach and (help win) some ballgames," Beckham said. "Just take it day by day, at-bat by at-bat, and hopefully good things will happen." "The way Beck was (Monday), the way he's played the last 10 games, that's exciting," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He's continuing to impress with his opportunities." Beckham is on a seven-game hitting streak, going 11-for-27 (.407/.429/.741) with two homers and five RBIs." Probably just finding his rhythm," Cash said. Snell and Stroman faced each other April 6 at Tropicana Field, with the Blue Jays winning 5-2. Kendrys Morales hit a grand slam in that game, the first allowed by Snell in his career. Snell allowed three hits, five walks and five runs (four earned) overall. The left-hander is 1-2 with a 4.40 ERA in three career starts against Toronto. In his only start at Rogers Centre, he lasted only 1 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, four walks and five runs (two earned) in a 5-3 loss. Stroman is 4-4 with a 4.41 ERA in eight career starts against Tampa Bay. He allowed six hits, two walks and one run while striking out five in 6 1/3 innings against Tampa Bay to win his first start of the season. He has a pitched a complete game in two of his past three starts, a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers and a win over the Los Angeles Angels. Rays outfielder Colby Rasmus, a former Blue Jay, could return from hip surgery this weekend. The Rays have removed outfielder Mallex Smith (strained right hamstring) from the disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Durham.
Time: 7:10 PM EDT Venue: Marlins Park, Miami, FL , 33125 MIAMI -- The Pittsburgh Pirates hope to improve their play in the field as they prepare to face the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park this weekend. Pittsburgh (9-12) opens a three-game road series against the Marlins on Friday, and the Pirates will have to improve their defense if they want to make a move out of the cellar in the National League Central. Right-hander Jameson Taillon (1-0, 2.13 ERA) gets the start for Pittsburgh as he tries to rebound from his shortest outing of the season; he worked 5 1/3 innings last Saturday against the Yankees, allowing four runs on five hits and three walks. However, the defense behind Taillon might be the biggest variable against the Marlins. The Pirates rank last statistically in team defense. The shaky glove work has resulted in the team being tied for the most errors (20) and yielding the most unearned runs (15) in the NL. Pittsburgh made another error Wednesday in a 6-5 win over the Chicago Cubs as the Pirates salvaged one game of the three-game set. The club also made history when infielder Gift Ngoepe debuted and became the first African-born player to play in the majors. However, a 1-0 home loss to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday was a microcosm of how costly bad defense has been on a good night of pitching by Pirates hurlers this season. A throwing error in the second inning led to Addison Russell scoring the only run, spoiling a sharp start by Gerrit Cole. Second baseman Alen Hanson charged Jason Heyward's one-out chopper with Russell on second base, but Hanson's throw to first sailed past first baseman Josh Bell and bounced off the Chicago dugout, allowing Russell to score. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle recently lost All-Star outfielder Starling Marte to an 80-game suspension for a failed drug test. Hurdle told the media after the loss Tuesday that the Pirates sought the defensive answer to their problems within the farm system." You're gonna try and raise your own. That's what we're trying to do throughout our player-development system," Hurdle said. "You develop your own talent, and that's what we're trying to do. We feel we had guys that, given the opportunity and given the reps, could man the positions." We've come up short in some areas in the initial push out of the gate." In contrast to the Pirates, the Marlins (10-10) have displayed slick skills in the field. The team's .992 fielding percentage, .738 defensive efficiency rating and six errors top the NL's defensive stats chart. Miami will put that defense out on Friday to back left-hander Adam Conley (1-1, 3.00), who will be making his fourth start and fifth appearance. The Marlins were again foiled by soft-tossing Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson on Thursday, dropping a 3-2 decision at Citizens Bank Park. Hellickson relied on off-speed pitches to silence the Miami bats, twirling 35 changeups in his 94-pitch outing that led Philadelphia to its sixth straight win and a sweep of the two-game series. Miami manager Don Mattingly said his team needs to regain the energy it showed in San Diego when the Marlins took two of three against the Padres." We kind of battled back in San Diego and got a couple, and then come here. You don't feel a lot of energy," Mattingly said Thursday after the loss, which saw Hellickson work out of a pair of jams." I don't know if it's the two days off. They were in the same situation. I didn't feel a lot of energy, even in the seventh there. We may have to do some things differently in terms of mixing things up."
Time: 7:10 PM EDT Venue: Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio, 44115 CLEVELAND -- The wounded, road-weary Seattle Mariners will be in Cleveland Friday night to begin a three-game series against the defending American League champion Indians. For Seattle, the series will be the last leg of a 10-game, 11-day, three-city trip that started in Oakland and Detroit. The Mariners arrive in Cleveland having already placed nine players on the disabled list this season, six of whom are still on the DL. It had been seven, but on Thursday the Mariners reinstated right-hander Rob Whalen (right shoulder inflammation) and optioned him to Triple-A Tacoma. They also assigned outfielder Leonys Martin outright to Tacoma. Among those still on Seattle's DL are starting pitchers Felix Hernandez (right shoulder inflammation) and Drew Smyly (left arm flexor strain), plus outfielder Mitch Haniger, who was hitting .338 when he was placed on the DL on Wednesday with a strained right oblique. Despite their challenging schedule -- they will play 17 of their first 26 games on the road -- and lengthy list of injured players, the Mariners lead the American League in runs scored. They are 3-4 on their trip so far. That includes winning two out of three from the Tigers in Detroit. After losing 19-9 in their first game in Detroit, the Mariners came back to win 8-0 and 2-1." We got outscored in the series, but we'll take it," Seattle manager Scott Servais said after the 2-1 win Thursday. "That's getting back to playing our style of ball. We had a rough night the first night here and they scored some runs against us. We didn't pitch very well. Our guys washed it off, got back out there and won the series, and we need to continue to build momentum on the road. Getting a series here is really big for us." The Mariners will be facing an Indians team coming off a dramatic and well-played three-game series with the Houston Astros. Cleveland lost the first game 4-2, but won the last two games 7-6 and 4-3, with closer Cody Allen getting saves in both games. Allen is 5-for-5 in save situations. He had a four-out save Wednesday; in 17 career saves of four or more outs, his ERA is 0.77. Allen came back and got a more conventional three-out save on Thursday. In his nine appearances, this year Allen has pitched nine innings and has 18 strikeouts and one walk. Allen throws in the mid-90s, with a curveball that can be devastating." His curveball right now is as good as we've ever seen it," manager Terry Francona said. "It's not just good, but he's consistent with it." The pitching matchup Friday will be Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco (2-1, 1.65 ERA) vs. Seattle left-hander Ariel Miranda (1-2, 4.35). Carrasco is off to a strong start. He ranks sixth in the American League in ERA and has pitched into the sixth inning and allowed two or fewer runs in each of his first four starts. In two starts against Seattle last year, Carrasco was 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA. He has made four career appearances, three starts, against the Mariners and is 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA. Miranda, who will be making his fifth start of the season, has never faced Cleveland.
Time: 7:10 PM EDT Venue: Comerica Park, Detroit, MI, 48226 DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers felt they had no choice but to send Mike Pelfrey packing at the end of spring training. Less than a month later, Pelfrey will get a chance to exact some revenge against his former team. The veteran right-hander will start for the Chicago White Sox on Friday night against one of the pitchers who edged him out for the fifth spot in Detroit's rotation, left-hander Matt Boyd. Pelfrey was signed to a minor league deal on April 5 and his contract was purchased from Triple-A Charlotte on April 22 to replace injured starter James Shields. In his first outing with the White Sox, Pelfrey gave up four runs (two earned) in 4 1/3 innings against Cleveland on Saturday and was charged with the loss. He allowed a two-run homer to Edwin Encarnaction and Carlos Carrasco shut down the White Sox." Would have definitely liked to go a little deeper in the game," Pelfrey told MLB.com. "I'd like to get that 0-2 pitch back in the first to Encarnacion. Unfortunately, that ended up being the game with as good as Carrasco was, and obviously he was on (Saturday), so kind of tough to put us in a 2-0 hole, especially as good as he was." Pelfrey signed a two-year, $16 million contract with Detroit before last season to fill a rotation spot, but it didn't go well. He was 4-10 with a 5.07 ERA in 24 appearances, including 22 starts. After some poor spring training outings by Pelfrey, the Tigers' brass decided to eat the final year of his contract. They're still paying most of his $8 million salary." You don't want to give good people bad news, regardless. That's not a lot of fun to tell him, but he was very professional about it," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. "He was gracious. As gracious as they are, you still don't want to give them bad news, especially if you like the person." Pelfrey has faced the Tigers 10 times during his career, posting a 3-5 record and 4.19 ERA in those starts." We saw him in Minnesota a couple of years ago, so we're familiar with Pelf," Ausmus said. "A lot of hitters are familiar with Pelf. I was happy for him, getting picked up. This is their livelihood. Pelf is a good guy, so I was happy Pelf got a job." Boyd's most recent start also lasted 4 1/3 innings, but the circumstances for his departure was quite different from Pelfrey's season debut. Boyd was ejected after throwing a pitch behind Minnesota's Miguel Sano, who had to be held back from charging the mound. Detroit center fielder Jacoby Jones was hit in the face by a pitch earlier in that game. Boyd, who is 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA in five career outings against the White Sox, avoided any further disciplinary action from the league. It appears that Boyd will not avoid facing White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, even though Abreu departed Chicago's 5-2 win over Kansas City on Wednesday with hip and groin injuries. Abreu came out for precautionary reasons." I feel good right now," Abreu told MLB.com through interpreter Billy Russo after the game. "I got treatment and I feel good. The day off tomorrow is going to help and I hope to be ready for the first game in Detroit."
Time: 7:10 PM EDT Venue: Fenway Park, Boston, Mass., 02215 BOSTON -- There was a time, and it wasn't all that long ago, when an interleague series between the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox would have qualified as a Misery Loves Company Bowl. Two historic and very unlucky franchises going head to head. But that began to change in 2004, when the Red Sox ended their 86-year Curse of the Bambino by winning it all -- starting a run of three titles in 10 years. The Cubs finally ended their agony after 108 years by winning the World Series in 2016. In the span of 12 years, the teams that play at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, baseball's grand old ballparks, have become winners instead of sad-sack losers. It's just not the same. The Cubs come to Boston having grabbed their rightful place at the top of the National League Central. They are 12-9, but bring an 8-4 road record into Fenway, where Jake Arrieta, off to a great start, opens the three-game series against Boston's Drew Pomeranz on Friday. The return of the Cubs to Fenway means a return for manager Joe Maddon, who managed so many games there with the Tampa Bay Rays, former Red Sox prospect Anthony Rizzo and pitchers John Lacky and Jon Lester. Lackey is slated to work the middle game of the series." It's the American League East, and I cut my teeth there as a manager," Maddon said Wednesday. Rizzo, who like Lester battled and beat cancer as a member of the Red Sox organization, said: "I'm forever thankful (toward the Red Sox). The Red Sox paid for my whole treatment, and they didn't have to do that. The way they treated players on the field and off the field was first class, just like it is here (with the Cubs)." Arrieta, off to a 3-0 start with a 3.65 ERA, is 1-3 lifetime against the Red Sox but current Boston hitters are a combined 8-for-48 against him. Mitch Moreland, Dustin Pedroia and the disabled Pablo Sandoval all have home runs. Arrieta is 1-1 at Fenway Park. Pomeranz will be making his fourth start since coming off the disabled list. He was great his first time out, allowing one run on four hits in six innings in a win over the Baltimore Orioles. But he yielded seven earned runs on 10 hits in 9 2/3 innings his last two times out. He is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA and a .148 opponents' batting average in three career starts against the Cubs. Last year with San Diego, Pomeranz held the Cubs scoreless on three hits in six innings at Wrigley Field. He takes the mound on Friday night in front of a team that is not hitting. The Red Sox (11-10) were blanked for the third time in seven games Thursday night as Masahiro Tanaka tossed a three-hit shutout. Boston has scored 13 runs and gone 5-for-42 with runners in scoring position over those seven games. Asked after Thursday night's latest futility about possible lineup changes, manager John Farrell said: "It's a week. I don't want to say this is something our club is. We've had ballgames when this same lineup has produced, it's put together big innings, it's put together a number of quality at-bats, a high number of hits. It hasn't been the case the last couple of nights."
Apr 28, 2017 ATLANTA -- The Washington Wizards will try to close out their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series with the Atlanta Hawks on Friday by replicating the effort put forth in three home games.The Wizards lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, winning three times at home. Finding a way to produce the same effort they have given at the Verizon Center could be the difference, said Washington guard Bradley Beal."We're confident. We gave up two (games) when we were down there," Beal said. "We've got to have the same intensity and focus (in Atlanta) as we have at home. Right now, we're focused and locked in." Game 5 will be played Friday at Philips Arena. If Washington wins, the Wizards will advance to the second round. If Atlanta wins, a seventh game would be played on Sunday in Washington."They took care of business at home," Hawks guard Dennis Schroder said. "We've got to have the right mindset against them (in Atlanta), compete for 48 minutes and do whatever it takes to win." The Hawks are doing a better job defensively against John Wall, who scored a series-low 20 points in Game 5, only to have Beal find the range in the past two games. Beal scored 59 points and shot 22-for-45 from the floor in those two contests, taking some of the scoring pressure off Wall."I think there is an understanding going into Game 6 that all the things that we've been talking about from the start of the series until now, there is no more time to talk about it," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "Actions are going to have to speak for themselves. We are going to have to rise to the occasion." A lingering question is the lack of impact that Hawks center Dwight Howard has had on the series. The big-money free agent signee has been a non-factor in the fourth quarter of the playoffs. He has played a total of 16:32 in five games and produced four points and three rebounds. Budenholzer has tried to get a quicker, more-athletic group on the court in the fourth quarter, and Howard has found himself with limited time down the stretch."They are putting a lot of pressure on us going back the other way," Budenholzer said. "At times, it's asking a lot of Dwight. He's putting a lot of pressure going to the offensive boards to get second and third chances." Howard has voiced his frustration at times with his lack of activity during crunch time. However, he is spouting the party line, saying, "I believe in our team. Whoever Coach puts on the floor is who he feels is the best at the moment." The Wizards have gotten nice production from their bench, particularly Bojan Bogdanovic, who was acquired just before the trade deadline. Bogdanovic scored 14 points in Game 5, his third straight double-digit scoring game. Washington's reserves outscored Atlanta's 26-19 on Wednesday."The bench came in and scored a lot of points and had a big impact on the game," Beal said. "They were aggressive and came in with a lot of energy. They do a good job being focused at home. Now we've got to take it on the road." Backup forward Jason Smith will be a game-time decision for Washington. He left the Wednesday game with a left calf strain. Atlanta reported no injuries.
Time: 8:05 PM EDT Venue: Globe Life Park in Arlington, Arlington, Tex., 76011 The Texas Rangers aren't about to say all is well at the plate after an offensive explosion, but there is definite reason for optimism going into a weekend series with the Los Angeles Angels, starting Friday night at Globe Life Park. The Rangers (10-12) avoided a series sweep and snapped a two-game skid by walloping the Minnesota Twins 14-3 on Wednesday night. Texas scored all its runs from the fifth inning on, including eight crossing the plate in the eighth." We had some opportunities throughout the game, but these guys kept trying to create on the bases as well, and kept swinging the at-bats, and engaged in the at-bats," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "And I think they were really rewarded late with the approaches that they've had." Banister shuffled the lineup and Delino Deshields, Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Rua responded with breakout nights. Deshields, batting leadoff, reached base five times and scored three runs. Batting ninth for the first time in his career, Choo had a triple and a three-run homer in the same inning. Rua stroked his first career grand slam. Rua credited Deshields for setting the tone." For him to be able to do that and get on base five out of six times is outstanding," said Rua, who started at first base. "It's huge. He put together good at-bats, saw a ton of pitches, which helps out the rest of the team recognizing pitches and seeing what the pitcher's got." After scoring just 20 runs in the previous eight games, the Rangers responded with a season high in hits (14) and runs." Hopefully we carry that into the series against L. A," Rua said. The Rangers send Nick Martinez (0-0, 1.29 ERA) to the mound in what likely will be his last spot start for the immediate future. The right-hander was effective in his last outing, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings against Kansas City on April 22. Martinez is filling in for A. J. Griffin, who is on the disabled list with gout in his ankle. The Rangers should be getting back Sam Dyson, but Banister doesn't plan to use the former closer in any high-leverage situations. The Angels (12-12) are coming off a 2-1 home win Thursday night over the Oakland A's. Los Angeles has won four straight and five of seven. The Angels are throwing Tyler Skaggs, who's 1-1 with a 4.44 ERA through four starts. Making his third start on the road, Skaggs earned the win in his last outing on Saturday against Toronto. The lefty worked seven innings and allowed two earned runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Skaggs flew to Texas ahead of the team." It's not ideal, but nothing we haven't done before," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We'll be ready to play." In five career games vs. the Rangers, he is 2-1 with a 6.20 ERA and did not factor in the decision in his start against Texas on April 11. He tossed five innings and allowed five runs on eight hits. Angels starting pitchers have not allowed more than two earned runs in 12 of the last 13 games, compiling a 2.10 ERA in that span." We're confident with what that group of guys can do," Scioscia said. "Where we started the season the guys were stubbing their toe a little bit getting out of the gate. But for most of our guys, they've settled in and given us a chance to win on a nightly basis. It's been key." Mike Trout is hitting .332 against the Rangers, the second-highest average by an active player with at least 150 plate appearances. Since 2012, Kole Calhoun leads the Angels, batting .323 (40/124) at Globe Life Park. The Angels dropped two of three against Texas earlier this season in Anaheim.
Apr 27, 2017 CHICAGO -- Even after the Boston Celtics dropped the first two games of their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Chicago Bulls, coach Brad Stevens wouldn't let his players drop their heads.Stevens kept telling his team that finding a way to maintain an even keel -- even in the face of adversity -- would be key. Now, after three consecutive victories, Boston finds itself one win away from advancing out of the first round for the first time in Stevens' tenure.The Celtics hope to carry the momentum of their 108-97 victory Wednesday night into Game 6, which will be played at the United Center on Friday night. Boston surged to victory Wednesday by ending the game on a 20-4 run despite seeing its leading scorer, guard Isaiah Thomas, shoot 6-for-17 from the field and 1-of-10 from 3-point range.And yet, the Celtics found a way to play through it."It's kind of been the story of our team, being able to fight through adversity," guard Avery Bradley said after matching Thomas with 24 points in Game 5. "No matter what we go through, we would overcome it, and I think it's this group of guys, our coaching staff -- we believe. We believe in one another." Now the Celtics, who have already won a pair of games in Chicago, believe they can close out the series and advance. Should the Bulls win for the first time in three tries on their home floor, the series would shift back to Boston for a deciding Game 7 on Sunday night.While the Celtics have all the momentum after three double-digit victories, the Bulls will make a final push at extending the series. Chicago has been rudderless since losing veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, who fractured his thumb in Game 2 -- the last time the Bulls won. After sitting out the past three games, Rondo remains a long shot to return for Game 6, although there has been speculation that he could be back at some point son.Rondo told reporters Wednesday that he likely won't play again as his fractured thumb hasn't improved."I knew last week it wasn't going to be fixed in a week," Rondo said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "My finger is broken." Rondo or no Rondo, the reality remains the same for the Bulls: They are running out of time.After taking a lead into the fourth quarter of Game 5 when Jimmy Butler beat the buzzer with a basket, Chicago's collapse in the final 12 minutes again demonstrated a team that is fading.The Bulls erased 20-point deficits in Games 3 and 4 before Boston surged ahead to capture victories. Although Chicago didn't fall into the same sort of hole on Wednesday night, the Bulls again couldn't muster enough to pull out of win. And now, they are one loss from seeing their season end.The attitude, according to Butler, is a simple one."Win at all costs," Butler said after Wednesday's loss. "That should be motivation enough, to know that if we don't win this next game, we ain't playing no more this season."
Time: 8:00 PM EDT Venue: Scottrade Center, St. Louis, MO, 63103 ST. LOUIS -- The Nashville Predators faced the reality Thursday that they will have to play the rest of the playoffs without left winger Kevin Fiala, who sustained a broken left leg on Wednesday night in their series opener against the St. Louis Blues." Kev was playing so well for us," Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis told NHL.com. "He became a dominant player on the ice, and it's a big loss for our team. It hurts right now, hurts for Kev, too, but we have to move forward. He's going to be missed for sure, but we have to find a way to get past it." The Predators will try to do that starting Friday night, when they take on the Blues in Game 2 of the Western Conference second-round series, trying to stay undefeated in this year's postseason. After sweeping the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, the eighth-seeded Predators won Game 1 against the Blues 4-3 on Wednesday. Nashville got a goal and two assists from P. K. Subban and the game-winning goal from Vernon Fiddler with 5:05 left in the third period. Colin Wilson also scored for the Predators in his first game of the postseason, having missed the Chicago series because of a lower-body injury, and he likely must play a major role if the team is going to overcome the loss of Fiala. Wilson led the Predators in playoff points a year ago, when they lost in the second round to the San Jose Sharks. They are trying to advance to the first Western Conference finals in franchise history." He's awesome in the playoffs," Ellis said of Wilson. "He's been good for us all year, so he's adapted to his role on the team, and he's one of the guys we lean heavily on. Now losing Kev, we're going to rely on him even more than ever." Wilson does not believe he will be able to carry the load alone." Throughout the year, I think we're a little bit inconsistent, but when we played our game, we were always unstoppable," Wilson told NHL.com. "We have a lot of talent, great D, great goaltending, all-around strong team with a lot of depth. Watching them was fun, but being a part of it is a lot better." The Blues saw ways they can be better after the Game 1 loss, primarily by avoiding penalties that helped put them in a 3-1 hole in the second period. Two of the Predators' goals came on power plays." They put us on our heels, put us behind, created a lot of momentum," St. Louis goalie Jake Allen said. "When we didn't have to kill any penalties, it changed the game. I thought we played really well five-on-five." That performance did not result in a win, however, which is becoming a problem on home ice for the Blues. They are now 1-2 at home this season, compared to a 3-0 record on the road." We have to be better at home," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We put ourselves in a tough position by not coming out and putting our best game in front of us (in Game 1). We have to be a little more focus and committed to playing a 60-minute game. For me, this time of year, you should definitely feel some momentum and energy from your crowd." There were some things (Wednesday) we can build off, things we certainly learned about their team and things we need to do to be successful."
Time: 8:10 PM EDT Venue: Miller Park, Milwaukee, Wis., 53214 MILWAUKEE -- Even late in spring training, Chase Anderson wasn't sure if he would make the Milwaukee Brewers' rotation. However, on Friday night, when the right-hander takes the mound against the Atlanta Braves in the first contest of a three-game set at Miller Park, he will do so as one of the top starters in the league. The 29-year-old Anderson (2-0) leads the National League with a 1.13 ERA, allowing only three earned runs in 24 innings through his first four starts. Anderson seemed bullpen-bound despite going 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in four spring starts. Those plans changed three days before the season opener when Matt Garza wound up on the disabled list. That opened the door for Anderson, who is 7-1 with a 2.15 ERA over his past 16 starts dating back to last season." I think it's just a pitcher gaining experience, getting better at his craft," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's just in a sweet spot in his career where he's had some failures and some successes, and he learned from both of those." Anderson has faced the Braves twice in his career, winning both times while holding Atlanta to four earned runs in 12 1/3 innings. He won't be the only Brewers player looking to end the month on a high note. First baseman Eric Thames already has the franchise record for most home runs in April with 11, and he has three games left to tie Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez, who hold the all-time record of 14 set in 2006 and 2007, respectively." I'm not trying to hit a home run. I'm trying to get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it," Thames said, though he added, "It's fun to make history." Thames is expected to be back in the lineup Friday despite experiencing left hamstring tightness that forced him from the Thursday game at Cincinnati in the seventh inning. He won't have it easy against the Braves, whose starters have allowed 12 homers this season, the second fewest among NL rotations. Atlanta right-hander Bartolo Colon (1-2, 4.50 ERA) has allowed three long balls this season. He will look for his second victory of 2017 on Friday while also trying to clean up a few things after giving up 11 hits over seven innings but only allowing four runs in a 4-3 loss to the Phillies on April 21." To their credit, they were getting hits off me, and fortunately for me, those hits didn't necessarily turn into runs," Colon said after that outing. Only four batters on Milwaukee's current roster have faced the 43-year-old Colon, who is 4-3 with a 4.33 ERA in nine career starts against the Brewers. The Braves recovered from a six-game losing skid to take a pair from the New York Mets this week, including a 7-5 victory Thursday." We need to get into a winning rhythm," Atlanta center fielder Ender Inciarte said. "I know we have a really good team, and everybody is doing their best."
Time: 8:10 PM EDT Venue: Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX, 77002 In the past two games, the Houston Astros' depth was tested because of injuries to second baseman Jose Altuve and center fielder George Springer. Without Altuve and Springer, the Astros sustained consecutive one-run losses to the Cleveland Indians. Altuve and Springer may not be in the starting lineup again Friday night when Houston plays host to the Oakland Athletics in the opener of a three-game series. Altuve did not start the last two games in Cleveland, and the Astros were handed 7-6 and 4-3 losses. He injured his left shoulder in a scary collision with right fielder Teoscar Hernandez on Tuesday. Hernandez ended up on the disabled list due to a bruised left leg he sustained on the play. Springer has not started the past four games because of left hamstring tightness. He was injured running to first base Saturday in Tampa Bay. Altuve took batting practice in the cage Thursday. He also singled as a pinch hitter off Cleveland closer Cody Allen but was then thrown out trying to steal second." I feel really happy about how I feel today," Altuve said. Springer took one at-bat in the Indians series and is itching to resume a season in which he has seven home runs and 13 RBIs despite a .213 average." I'm getting better," Springer said. "I'm hoping to play soon. I want to play. I don't like to sit here and not help these guys." If Altuve does not play, Marwin Gonzalez likely will start again at second base. If Springer sits, Josh Reddick will be the starting center fielder against his former team. Regardless of who is in the lineup, the Astros will be looking to snap their second losing streak of the season. Houston dropped three straight April 6-8 and is 11-5 in its past 16 games." That was a great game and a great series," Astros manager A. J. Hinch said after the Thursday defeat. "We lost two of the three, but we're not going to hang our heads over it,"Oakland is on its second four-game losing streak of the season after a 2-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. Before the past four games, the A's scored 29 times during a five-game winning streak. During the current skid, Oakland has scored eight total runs and is hitting .179 with 43 strikeouts." We're a little streaky right now," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of the offense, which mustered three hits Thursday. "We'll go through some streaks where it seems like we do a lot of things right, and other times when we bog down offensively, it puts pressure on the pitching staff." Charlie Morton makes his fifth start as an Astro and faces the A's for the first time in his career. He was originally slated to oppose them in Oakland on April 16, but the game was rained out. He is 1-2 with a 4.29 ERA after allowing season highs of five runs and eight hits in five innings during a 6-3 loss Saturday. Morton is throwing a sinker that averages 95.8 mph, but his ground-ball rate is 49.3 percent, down from 57.3 percent when he made 23 starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015. The Athletics' Friday starter, Jharel Cotton, is 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA. He was one of the players Oakland acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Reddick at the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline. Cotton leads American League rookies with 22 2/3 innings pitched, and he recorded the win Saturday when he allowed two runs and six hits in six innings during a 4-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners." I think I was battling the entire game," said Cotton, who allowed his first home run of the season to Robinson Cano on Saturday. "I was talking to myself on the mound, saying, 'Attack, attack, no matter what happens.'"Cotton's lone appearance against the Astros was a no-decision in Oakland on Sept. 19. In a 4-2 loss, he allowed one run and two hits in six innings. Cotton should be well-rested because the A's sent him to Houston on Thursday ahead of the night game at Anaheim." We'll take later buses to the ballpark (Friday) so we can try to maximize the amount of sleep well get," Melvin said. "We've hit all three nights here (in Anaheim), so based on the time we're getting there, the prudent thing to do is to try to get some sleep." The Astros outscored the A's 17-8 in an abbreviated two-game series two weekends ago in Oakland. Houston has won 15 of the past 21 meetings, including eight of the past 10 at home.
Time: 8:15 PM EDT Venue: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Mo., 63102 ST. LOUIS -- In his two seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Dexter Fowler heard a familiar refrain from manager Joe Maddon." You go," Maddon told him before games, "we go." The Cubs often went to victory with Fowler spearheading the charge, including a win in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series in Cleveland as Fowler walloped a leadoff homer. Now the script is being repeated, only five hours or so south of Chicago. Fowler is going and the St. Louis Cardinals' offense is starting to go. In a 6-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays that polished off a doubleheader sweep Thursday, Fowler reached base four times. He singled twice, belted a two-out solo homer in the second inning and also drew a walk. Even his out was well-struck, a fly ball to center. Fowler will try to keep his good work going Friday night when St. Louis starts a weekend series with the Cincinnati Reds in Busch Stadium. Home has been a nice place for Fowler of late. In a four-game span starting with a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on April 19 that saw the leadoff man crack two homers, Fowler is 10-of-18 with five extra-base hits. He has scored in five straight home games." That's a guy who you know is going to get up there and work his at-bats, grind them out," manager Mike Matheny said. "When he's doing that, it gives our offense a different feel." Fowler averaged 4.6 pitches per at-bat in the nightcap Thursday, which included two-pitch plate appearances in the first and eighth. His walk came on the eighth pitch of that plate appearance, and even his out was fairly drawn out, at six pitches. That version of Fowler could make things tough on a Cincinnati pitching staff that has struggled lately to keep opponents down. The Reds (10-12) have lost five of their last six, including a 9-4 decision Wednesday in Milwaukee." You can't consistently dig yourself out of some of the deficits that we had to deal with here lately," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. The Reds will look to Tim Adleman (0-0, 2.70 ERA) to restore some order in the opener. Adleman, who's 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two career outings against the Cardinals, was no-decisioned in a 6-5 loss Saturday night to the Chicago Cubs. He struck out seven and allowed two runs in six good innings. Lance Lynn (2-1, 2.70) will take the mound for St. Louis. He has won his last two starts, including a 4-1 verdict Saturday night in Milwaukee. He is 8-4 against Cincinnati, with a 3.34 ERA in 17 outings (14 starts). Former Red Mike Leake (3-1, 1.32) matches up with Bronson Arroyo (2-2, 6.86) on Saturday, and rookie left-hander Amir Garrett (2-2, 5.09) meets Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha (2-1, 2.55) in Sunday's series finale. Garrett posted his first big league win on April 7 in St. Louis, outdueling Leake 2-0 as Cincinnati took two of three that weekend. Weather could be an issue for this series. There's a 50 percent chance of rain Friday night, a 100 percent chance on Saturday and a 90 percent chance on Sunday.
Time: 8:15 PM EDT Venue: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo., 64129 KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kauffman Stadium will look mighty good to the Kansas City Royals. The Royals, who were off Thursday, open a 10-game homestand Friday, with the first three against the Minnesota Twins. They play 16 of their next 20 at Kauffman Stadium. It is certainly an understatement to say the road has not been kind to the Royals. The Royals completed a seven-game trip Wednesday to Chicago and Texas without a victory." It's frustrating to lose," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "I don't think we've gone a whole road trip without a win since I've been here." It couldn't be a better day for an off-day (Thursday) and then a homestand. We always play better at home." The last time they had a winless trip of this length was an 0-9 voyage in 2006, a season they lost 100 games. The Royals are in last place in the American League Central, having lost 14 of 21 games. If they are to get into postseason contention, they need to turn it around fast." If there's something that could set it off, it's definitely a 10-game homestand," Hosmer said. The Royals' offense has been on the puny side. They have scored two or fewer runs in nine of their past 10 games. The Royals are last in the majors with 54 runs, averaging 2.57 through 21 games." I don't know why we've had trouble on the road," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "But there's definitely a comfort level at home." The Royals began this season with three losses at Minnesota. They were outscored 21-5 at the Target Field games. Last year the Royals dominated the Twins, winning 15 of 19 games, including nine of 10 at The K. The Twins actually play better on the road. They are 5-7 at home and 5-4 in away games. The Twins' bullpen imploded in a Wednesday loss to the Rangers. With the scored tied at 2 after five innings and starter Hector Santiago laboring, manager Paul Molitor went to his bullpen. He used six relievers and they combined to give up 12 runs in three innings in a 14-3 loss." Not their best moment," Molitor said. Taylor Rogers took the loss, giving up three runs and retiring only one, before Tyler Duffey replaced him." Twenty games isn't a huge measuring stick (of the bullpen)," Molitor said. "We're not lined up like we have set guys in set roles. Still kind of mixing and matching at times. I put Rogers in there in the sixth inning, which is a little abnormal. But I thought that the game was kind of in the balance at that particular point." He hits (Joey) Gallo to lead off the inning. He wasn't particularly sharp. We got Duffey in there to try to get a ground ball or a strikeout. He gets ahead and then he spikes one. The bullpen's been doing a good job overall." Ian Kennedy will be the Royals' starter for the first game. His 0-2 record belies his 2.08 ERA. The Royals have supported him with just two runs in his 26 innings on the mound. His 0.69 run-support average is the lowest in the majors for a minimum of four starts. In his Saturday start at Texas, he allowed one run on four hits and three walks over seven innings in a no-decision. The Royals lost 2-1. He is 4-2 with a 3.78 ERA in eight career starts against the Twins. He went 3-0 with a 2.86 ERA in five starts vs. Minnesota last season. The Twins will counter with right-hander Kyle Gibson, who is also looking to pick up his first victory. He is 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his previous start against Detroit, allowing seven runs. He got a no-decision against the Royals on April 6, holding them to three runs in five innings. He is 5-4 with a 3.70 ERA in a dozen starts against Kansas City. Gibson is a 2009 first-round pick out of Missouri. It might be a good day for Yost to put backup catcher Drew Butera in the lineup. He is 6-for-8 off Gibson. Starting catcher Salvador Perez has a .148 average (4-for-27) against Gibson.
Time: 9:40 PM EDT Venue: Chase Field, Phoenix, Ariz., 85004 PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies meet in a three-game series starting Friday in a matchup of National League West heavyweights. Just as everyone expected. Well, maybe some of the two teams' players and their immediate families. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants were universal picks to top the division before the season. Instead, Arizona (15-9) took over the division lead by a half-game by beating the San Diego Padres 6-2 on Thursday. Colorado (14-9) slipped to second in the extremely early-season standings after losing its third straight to the Washington Nationals, 16-5. Among the challenges for the Rockies will be containing the D-backs' running game. After watching Arizona run nearly at will this week, San Diego manager Andy Green called the Diamondbacks "the best running team in baseball. Milwaukee is probably right behind them." Milwaukee might end up with more (stolen) bags. Arizona's success rate is going to be higher." The D-backs stole two more bases Thursday to raise their major-league-leading total to 27 this season." It's a challenge for us," Green said. "It's good for us to go through it early in the season because it's an eye-opener to see how easy it is for them to take bags on some of our guys." The Friday game will match Diamondbacks strikeout artist Robbie Ray (2-0, 3.42 ERA) against Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland (2-1, 3.32 ERA). Ray went 8-15 with a 4.90 ERA last year but set career highs in starts (32), innings (174 1/3) and strikeouts (218). The strikeout total ranked tied for No. 9 in the majors, and his 11.25 strikeouts per nine innings trailed only Jose Fernandez (12.49) in the National League. The key for Ray is to be efficient enough to last deep into games. He has been helped by early-count outs in recent starts, though he also seems to be winning recent battles on 3-2 counts." (That) has allowed him to work deeper into games," manager Torey Lovullo said. "The stuff is still electric. The fastball, the breaking ball, the combination of those two pitches has been tremendous, and at times he's overmatched some really good offensive teams." In his most recent start, Ray gave up five runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings in an 11-5 win over the Dodgers. Freeland heads into his fifth major league start coming off a big outing. He threw seven scoreless innings in an 8-0 shutout of San Francisco on Sunday, allowing six hits while walking one and striking out three. Freeland recorded 12 outs on ground balls." His best stuff is down in the strike zone with movement down," Rockies manager Bud Black said after the game. "When you're throwing the ball in the low 90s with action down, you're going to get grounders." Freeland, 23, has pitched in four big-league games, all starts." You learn at home and you learn on the road," Freeland told the Denver Post. "It's about being comfortable in all situations." The Rockies hope Freeland can stop a stretch of subpar pitching that saw the Nationals put up 42 runs en route to winning the last three games of the midweek series at Coors Field. While Freeland will be facing the Diamondbacks for the first time, Ray is 2-1 with a 5.30 ERA in seven career starts against the Rockies. Both teams will feel confident if the game is tight. The Rockies have been great in one-run games, producing a big-league-best 7-0 record. The last team in the majors to start 7-0 in such games was the 2006 Houston Astros. Last year, Colorado was 12-20 in one-run games. Arizona is 4-1 in one-run contests.
Time: 10:10 PM EDT Venue: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA, 90012 LOS ANGELES -- Riding a six-game winning streak, the Philadelphia Phillies are brimming with confidence." The way we're playing right now, we're not afraid of anybody," first baseman Brock Stassi told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We've faced some good pitching already. The Mets and the Nationals have great pitching staffs. Even the Marlins, too. It goes to show we grind out at-bats." The Phillies (11-9) open a seven-game road swing Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers (11-12) at Dodger Stadium. Struggling Dodgers right-hander Kentra Maeda (1-2, 8.05 ERA) will oppose Phillies righty Jerad Eickhoff (0-1, 2.55) in the opener. Stassi's RBI triple in the sixth inning was the difference in the Phillies' 3-2 victory over the Miami Marlins on Thursday at Philadelphia. The Phillies got another solid effort from Jeremy Hellickson (4-0), who allowed a run on seven hits in six innings to tie Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw for the National League lead in wins. Eickhoff has received no-decisions in his past three starts. In his last outing against the Atlanta Braves on Monday, Eickoff struck out seven, walked two and gave up a run on two hits in five innings in a 4-3 win by the Phillies. In his only start against the Dodgers last season, Eickhoff fanned eight with two walks, allowing four runs on seven hits in six innings, but didn't factor into the decision. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner and catcher Yasmani Grandal each homered off Eickhoff. After a slow start, Maikel Franco has heated up for the Phillies. Franco is batting .350 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in his last seven games. Overall, Franco is hitting .221 with four home runs and 20 RBIs. Franco has a .292 batting average with two homers and nine RBIs in 54 at-bats against Los Angeles. Maeda is coming off his worst performance, serving up a career-high six runs on nine hits in five innings in an 11-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks last Friday. Maeda struck out five and walked one. In two career starts against the Phillies, Maeda is 2-0 with a 4.09 ERA. Corey Seager homered for the second game in a row, the latter blast coming on his 23rd birthday Thursday, and the Dodgers scored four runs in the 10th for a 5-1 win over the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers split their four-game series with the Giants. Seager, the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year, is batting .429 with two homers and five RBIs in his past seven contests. For the season, Seager has five homers with 17 RBIs and a .318 batting average. Seager is batting .423 with two home runs and three RBIs in 26 at-bats against the Phillies. The Dodgers managed just six runs in three games against the Giants before Thursday. Manager Dave Roberts isn't worried about his offense though." We know our bats will come around," Roberts said, according to The Orange County Register. "We know how good we are. We know how much talent we have. We know we're going to win baseball games. The way we've been inconsistent in different facets of the game and still find ourselves one game under .500. I think we're in a good spot."
Time: 10:15 PM EDT Venue: AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA, 94107 SAN FRANCISCO -- Two of April's worst starting pitchers will attempt to get into the win column before the calendar flips to May when the San Diego Padres visit the San Francisco Giants on Friday night to begin a three-game series. The clubs met in San Diego during the first week of the season, with the Padres winning two of three. Right-handers Luis Perdomo (0-1) of the Padres and Jeff Samardzija (0-4) of the Giants will duel in Friday's series opener. Perdomo also started the first game of the series in San Diego, and left well before the Padres had wrapped up a 7-6 win. He gave up two home runs to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt in his 5 1/3 innings, including a grand slam in the sixth that allowed San Francisco to erase a three-run deficit and take a 5-4 lead. Perdomo was charged with five runs on seven hits, and afterward complained of a sore shoulder. He was shelved for two starts with what was diagnosed as tendinitis. Perdomo's comeback start last Sunday was similar to his first -- strong for five innings, but a disaster in the sixth. He was pulled one out into a six-run sixth, having allowed the first three runs in what turned into a 7-3 home loss to Miami." It was good to see he felt good," Padres manager Andy Green said after the game. "About the fourth or fifth (inning), he really hit his stride." Perdomo will be making the sixth appearance, and fourth start, of his career against the Giants. He has gone 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA. The second-year major-leaguer will take a 6.97 ERA, the seventh-worst in the National League among pitchers with two or more starts, to the hill Friday. One of the few pitchers lower on the ERA list is Samardzija, who has gone 0-4 with a 7.40 ERA, worst in the NL, in his first four starts. He did not face the Padres, who fell 6-2 to the Diamondbacks on Thursday night, in the earlier series. But he has fared well against them in the past, going 7-2 with a 3.19 ERA in 12 meetings, including 10 starts. Samardzija will be looking to continue a run of strong pitching by Giants starters at home. They are coming off a 5-1, 10-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in which starter Matt Moore allowed one run on just two hits in seven innings. That gave Giants starters a 2.57 ERA in 11 home starts this season. Giants hitters, meanwhile, haven't held up their end of the bargain. San Francisco totaled eight runs in a four-game series against the Dodgers to start the homestand, a set they were able to split thanks to their pitching." We have to get this offense going," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after Thursday's loss. "It's a better offense than what we're showing." One encouraging aspect of the offense in the Los Angeles series was newcomer Christian Arroyo, who went 0-for-6 to start his major league career before recording his first hit off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday, his first home run against Sergio Romo on Wednesday and his first two-hit game in Thursday's series finale.
Apr 28, 2017 SALT LAKE CITY -- Veteran leaders were brought to Utah during the offseason to help give the Jazz a final push back into the NBA postseason. Those veterans have the team within a game of winning a playoff series.If the Jazz can beat the Los Angeles Clippers for a third straight time Friday night, Utah would advance to face the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference second round. Utah holds a 3-2 lead over the Clippers after winning 96-92 on Tuesday.Los Angeles won three times in four games against the Jazz in the regular season."We have to have the desperation in going up to Utah and win it," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "We've won there before. We've won in the playoffs there before. This team is not going to quit, I can tell you that." With stars Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward sidelined during key stretches of the series, Utah turned to playoff veterans such as Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and George Hill to keep the ship from sinking in turbulent waters. Their leadership has proved invaluable in closing out several tight games."These guys have been there before," Gobert said. "We try to make the right play at the right time, and these guys know what to do, so we just trust them." Johnson, in particular, stepped up big in the fourth quarter in each of the three Jazz wins. His knack for knocking down baskets at critical junctures has helped Utah close out the final minutes in those games.The veteran forward averaged 21 points on 60 percent shooting in Utah's three victories. If the Clippers want to avoid a fourth loss to the Jazz, stopping Johnson and the other veteran playmakers will be absolutely critical Friday."They made really timely shots," Clippers guard Chris Paul said after the Tuesday game, noting that Johnson and Rodney Hood each came up with clutch fourth-quarter baskets. "It seems like that's been the case in just about every game in the series now. Now we've got to get to the drawing board and figure out how to make them miss. We can't hope they miss. We got to try to make them miss." Paul has been doing his part to try to will Los Angeles to victory. He is averaging 27 points, 10.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds in the postseason, but he isn't getting consistent help on the offensive end.Part of the issue is the Jazz defense has turned it up a notch since Gobert's return. Clippers guard Jamal Crawford exploded for 25 points in Game 4, but he disappeared in Game 5. Los Angeles guard J. J. Redick poured out 27 points in Game 5, but he struggled to find his shot in prior games.In addition, Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin is out for the remainder of the postseason after sustaining a toe injury in Game 3.Gobert has locked down the rim and crashed the boards, allowing the Jazz to clamp down on the wings better over the past two games. Utah outscored Los Angeles in the paint and finished with more total rebounds in each of those two wins.Since his return from a knee injury in Game 4, Gobert has averaged 13 points, 12 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 2.5 steals in 30 minutes per game."He changes some things with his rim protection, but what he has given us on the boards on both ends of the floor (is critical)," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "He's had a number of games this year where he's had some big offensive rebounds late in the game. I can't say enough about him on the glass."
Time: 10:30 PM EDT Venue: Honda Center, Anaheim, CA, 92806 ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The majority of the talk regarding the Anaheim Ducks' strategy to defeat the Edmonton Oilers in their Western Conference semifinal series focused around stopping Hart Trophy candidate Connor McDavid. The Ducks may want to consider refocusing their attention to another young Oilers standout if they plan to even the series in Game 2 on Friday night at Honda Center. Second-year winger Leon Draisaitl has feasted on the Ducks all season, scoring six goals in five regular-season games between the teams and adding a goal and three assists in Edmonton's 5-3 win in Game 1. The German forward's empty-net goal capped a four-goal, third-period outburst for the Oilers. Edmonton handed the Ducks their first loss of the postseason and first regulation loss since March 10. With 12 points overall (seven goals, five assists) against the Ducks this season, Draisaitl is garnering more focus from both the opposition and the media, but he is not shying away from either." The attention is on McDavid, and rightfully so," Draisaitl said. "He's the best player in the world. For me, whether it's 10 guys asking me questions or two, it doesn't matter." It's a dream. I think every hockey player dreams of playing in the NHL and dreams of playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It wasn't any different for me. So far, it's been a lot of fun." Edmonton coach Todd McLellan believes Draisaitl's role as a support player for McDavid should not reduce the attention Draisaitl deserves as one of the game's developing stars." Leon doesn't mind stepping up and putting himself out there," McLellan said. "The fact is that Connor does get most of the shadowing and checking and that type of stuff, and in turn that leaves Leon open. He has that ability and broad shoulders to accept that role." While Draisaitl was a constant point-producer this season, the Oilers got an additional boost from an unexpected source in Game 1. Defenseman Adam Larsson scored four goals in 79 regular-season games, but he found the back of the net twice in the third period in Game 1, including the decisive goal." You need depth scoring in the playoffs if you want to get really far," Larsson said. "You need your top guys, too, if you want to go a long way." The Ducks quickly lost home-ice advantage after Game 1, in which coach Randy Carlyle was dissatisfied with the effort of his players after Anaheim dispatched the Calgary Flames in a four-game sweep." We need more physically and emotionally from some players in the next game," Carlyle said. The Ducks' lack of discipline was the deciding factor in Wednesday's loss. The Oilers converted 2 of 5 power plays. Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler, who returned to the lineup after missing the entire Calgary series, knows that the path to victory needs to come by giving the talented Oilers fewer chances to score with the man advantage." Discipline is something we talked about. You can't give a team with that offensive firepower that many looks on the power play," Fowler said after practice Thursday. "Even if they don't capitalize on it, it gives them momentum." We can clean that up by taking less penalties, but we also gave them a couple of easy chances at full strength as well." An injury likely will change the lineup for Anaheim. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of Game 1 and did not return. Bieksa has been ruled doubtful for Game 2, which could signal the return of Sami Vatanen, who has been sidelined with an upper-body injury since Game 1 against Calgary. If Vatanen cannot go, Korbinian Holzer should draw in as the sixth defenseman." When I feel like I can help to team to win, I'll return to the lineup," Vatanen said. "I'm really close to returning."