Nationals top Astros in Game 7 to win 1st World Series title

Nationals top Astros in Game 7 to win 1st World Series titled
By BEN WALKER AP Baseball Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg paraded the MVP trophy for delirious fans packed behind the dugout. Max Scherzer tearfully hugged his teammates. Gerardo Parra did the Baby Shark chop, Sean Doolittle flapped snow angels next to the mound.
Almost out of contention in May, champs in October.
Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon and the Washington Nationals completed their amazing comeback journey — fittingly with one last late rally on the road.
In Game 7 of the World Series, no less.
Kendrick and Rendon homered in the seventh inning as the Nationals overcame a two-run deficit, rocking the Houston Astros 6-2 Wednesday night to win the first title in franchise history.
With all eyes on Scherzer and his remarkable recovery after a painkilling injection, these Nationals truly embraced their shot in the only Series when the road team won every game.
Even more against the odds: Juan Soto and Washington came from behind to win five elimination games this postseason, an unprecedented feat.
“What a story,” said Ryan Zimmerman, the only player who’s been a part of every Nationals team.
“The way this game went is the way our whole season went,” he said.
Strasburg, new lefty Patrick Corbin and the Nats brought the first World Series championship to the nation’s capital since ol’ Walter Johnson delivered the crown for the Senators in 1924.
This franchise started out as the Montreal Expos in 1969 when the major leagues expanded beyond the border, putting a team with tricolor caps at jaunty Jarry Park. They moved to D.C. in 2005, ending Washington’s three-decade-plus wait for big league baseball after the Senators left town to become the Texas Rangers.
But the incredible path these wild-card Nationals with the curly W logo took, well, no one could have imagined.
Because in one topsy-turvy week, they put aside the pain of past playoff failures.
“Resilient, relentless bunch of guys,” manager Dave Martinez said. “They fought all year long.”
Having lost star slugger Bryce Harper in free agency and beset by bullpen woes, Washington plummeted to 19-31 in late May. It got so bad there was talk around town the Nationals might fire Martinez and trade away Scherzer.
Instead, they stuck with the mantra that sprung up on T-shirts — Stay In The Fight.
“That was our motto,” Scherzer said.
And months later they finished it, indeed.
“Guess what? We stayed in the fight. We won the fight!” Martinez shouted during the trophy celebration on the field.
“We were down and out. We were 19-31. We didn’t quit then, we weren’t going to quit now,” he said.
Strasburg earned the MVP with a pair of wins, including Game 6.
“It’s almost like we’ve done it so many times that we have to get punched in the face to kind of wake up,” he said.
As pitcher Aníbal Sánchez told Scherzer while hugging him in the middle of the diamond: “We won one. We finally won one.”
For the 43,326 revved-up fans at Minute Maid Park, it was a combination of shock and disappointment. So close to seeing José Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer and their Astros add to the title they won in Game 7 at Dodger Stadium two years ago, they watched this chance suddenly vanish as Houston fell apart.
“I’ve got a group of heartbroken men in there that did everything they could to try to bring a World Series championship to this city. And we fell one win shy,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said.
“Let’s be honest, there’s 28 other teams that would love to have our misery today,” he said. “And I just told our team, it’s hard to put into words and remember all the good that happened because right now we feel as bad as you can possibly feel,” he added.
President Donald Trump, greeted with chants of “Lock him up!” when he attended Game 5 in Washington, tweeted his congratulations to the Nationals from the White House.
“Game 7 was amazing!” Trump tweeted.
Washington kept pulling away after taking the lead, with the sensational Soto hitting an RBI single in the eighth and Adam Eaton adding a two-run single in the ninth.
Zack Greinke was in complete control with a one-hit shutout until Rendon — a Houston prep and college star — hit a solo homer with one out in the seventh that made it 2-1.
“Just gave us a little bit of hope,” Nationals leadoff man Trea Turner said.
When Soto followed with a one-out walk, Hinch decided to make a move. He’d had ace starter Gerrit Cole warming up earlier, but left him in the bullpen.
“I wasn’t going to pitch him unless we were going to win the World Series and have a lead,” Hinch said. “He was going to close the game in the ninth.”
Instead, Hinch signaled for reliable reliever Will Harris.
Kendrick connected on the second pitch, slicing a drive that hit the screen attached to the right field foul pole for a 3-2 lead. Just like that, everything had changed for the team in orange that led the majors with 107 regular-season wins, and the ballpark fell silent.
For Kendrick, another timely blow. At 36, playing on the oldest team in the majors, the journeyman was the NL Championship Series MVP against St. Louis after hitting the winning grand slam in the 10th inning of the deciding Game 5 in the Division Series at Dodger Stadium.
Then again, this was nothing new for the Nationals.
Washington rallied in the eighth to beat Milwaukee in the wild-card game and took the last two to beat Los Angeles in the NLDS, setting up a sweep of the Cardinals in the NLCS.
“This is now the most 2019 Nats thing to ever happen,” Doolittle said. “Another elimination game, another come-from-behind win.”
Far away, a sizable crowd poured into Nationals Park for a watch party. That was the stadium where Houston hammered the Nats for three games last weekend in taking a 3-2 edge, but their luck changed in Texas.
And they won the last two against a team that posted the best home record in the majors (60-21) over the last two decades. Houston earned home-field advantage throughout the postseason, but it didn’t help in the end as the Astros went a stunning 0-4 in their own ballpark during the Series.
“I hope D.C.’s ready for us to come home!” shouted Zimmerman, the Nationals’ initial draft pick back in 2005.
Martinez said Soto, who turned 21 last week, celebrated with his first beer. Meanwhile, the skipper, who had a heart procedure six weeks ago and can’t resume his six-cups-a-day coffee habit, headed back to the clubhouse for a special treat.
“I am,” he said, “going to smoke a cigar.”
With Greinke and Scherzer grunting on every pitch, Game 7 started as a classic duel.
Yuli Gurriel put the Astros ahead with a home run in the second and Carlos Correa added an RBI single off Scherzer that made it 2-0 in the fifth.
Scherzer was done after the fifth. Only a few days earlier, the three-time Cy Young Award winner had been unable to lift his right arm due to nerve irritation near his neck.
Corbin, the $140 million starter, threw three scoreless innings in relief.
Daniel Hudson, released by the Angels in March, closed it out for the Nationals, who made Houston pay for stranding so many runners all game. Hudson struck out Michael Brantley for the last out, then threw his glove to start the celebration.
Houston shares a spring training complex in Florida with the Nationals and reported to camp in February full of high hopes.
The Astros breezed to the AL West title, edged Tampa Bay in a five-game ALDS and topped the Yankees in the ALCS. They had a front-office fiasco in October, which led to the firing of an executive for a boorish rant at female reporters during a clubhouse celebration.
“Yeah, the ultimate goal is to win the World Series, and we fell short to a great team. You can’t hang your head low about that,” Springer said. “You move on and start getting ready for spring training.”
The Nationals became the first wild-card team to win the Series since Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in 2014. Starting with San Francisco’s win, the last six champs have clinched on the road.
The Astros and Nationals start training side-by-side in a few months and open exhibition play with a World Series rematch on Feb. 22 at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. They met in their Grapefruit League opener this year and Scherzer gave up a home run to the first batter of the game.
More AP MLB: and

Nats beat Astros 7-2, force Game 7

The Latest: Nats beat Astros 7-2, force Game 7
HOUSTON (AP) — The Latest on Game 6 of the World Series (all times local):
10:47 p.m.
Stephen Strasburg gutted through without his best fastball to throw five-hit ball for 8 1/3 innings Tuesday night, and now it’s on to Game 7 in the first World Series ever in which the visiting team won each of the first six games.
Adam Eaton and Juan Soto hit solo homers off Justin Verlander in the fifth inning, Anthony Rendon had five RBIs that included a two-run homer in the seventh, and the Nationals rallied past the Astros 7-2 and tied the Series at 3-3.
Fired up after a controversial call at first base went against them in the seventh, the Nationals padded their lead moments later when Anthony Rendon homered off Will Harris. Washington manager Dave Martinez, still enraged at umpires, was ejected during the seventh inning stretch, screaming as a pair of his coaches held him back. Rendon added a two-run double off Chris Devenski in the ninth.
10:20 p.m.
The Washington Nationals are three outs away from forcing a deciding Game 7 in the World Series.
Washington took a 5-2 lead into the ninth inning, after both teams went 1-2-3 in the eighth, following that wild seventh inning that included the disputed interference call before Anthony Rendon’s two-run homer and ejection of manager Dave Martinez.
Chris Devenski was on the mound for Houston to start the ninth.
So far, the visiting team has won every game in this series. The Nationals won the first two games in Houston, before the Astros won three in a row in Washington.
Without a comeback, Houston will lose three games in a row at home for only the second time this year.
10:07 p.m.
Washington manager Dave Martinez has been ejected after a volatile argument in which he was physically restrained from getting at umpire crew chief Gary Cederstrom.
The trouble started in the top of the seventh when speedy Nationals leadoff man Trea Turner was called out for interference — he hit a tapper down the third base line, and plate ump Sam Holbrook said Turner was out for running outside the line.
It was a big call because catcher Robinson Chirinos’ throw had gotten away, leaving runners at second and third.
Martinez came on the field to shout at Holbrook but left fairly soon.
There was a delay of over 4 1/2 minutes while umpires got on the headsets with the replay room. Part of the discussion was whether the play was reviewable — rather, it was an umpire’s judgment, which cannot be challenged.
After the top of the seventh ended, Martinez came on the field to talk to Holbrook and Cederstrom. Suddenly, Martinez got extremely agitated, and bench coach Chip Hale had to hold him back.
The Nationals wound up taking a 5-2 lead on a two-run homer by Anthony Rendon off reliever Will Harris.
After the Astros batted, manager AJ Hinch came from the dugout to talk with Holbrook while Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre met with Cederstrom on the dirt near the backstop.
9:35 p.m.
Stephen Strasburg worked around a leadoff single in the sixth inning to wrap up another scoreless frame and keep the Nationals on top 3-2 in Game 6.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch lifted Justin Verlander for Brad Peacock to start the sixth after Verlander surrendered homers to Adam Eaton and Juan Soto to give the Nationals the lead an inning earlier.
Peacock struck out two in a 1-2-3 sixth inning.
Alex Bregman legged out an infield single with no outs in the bottom of the inning but was erased when Yuli Gurriel grounded into a force out. Yordan Alvarez then also grounded into a force that left Gurriel out at second before Strasburg struck out Carlos Correa to end the inning.
Strasburg has struck out six and thrown 86 pitches through six innings.
9:15 p.m.
The Washington Nationals went deep twice while trying to force a Game 7 at the World Series, and Stephen Strasburg worked out of a jam to protect the lead they just got.
Adam Eaton and Juan Soto each hit solo homers in the fifth inning off laboring Astros starter Justin Verlander to put the Nationals up 3-2 in a Game 6 they have to win to extend their season.
Washington’s two left-handed batters pulled balls into the right field seats. Eaton’s tying blast was measured by MLB Stats at 381 feet, while Soto’s go-ahead shot went a little farther — about 413 feet into the second deck.
Verlander needed 93 pitches (59 strikes) to get through five innings, allowing five hits and walking three. His three strikeouts pushed his MLB postseason career record to 205, but Brad Peacock took over on the mound to start the sixth.
Houston hadn’t had a hit against Strasburg since Alex Bregman’s solo homer in the first put the Astros up 2-1, until No. 9 batter Josh Reddick’s one-out single in the fifth.
George Springer, who hit the first pitch of the game off the wall in left field for a double, followed with another double. But with runners on second and third, Jose Altuve struck out swinging at a low breaking ball and Michael Bradley grounded out.
Strasburg, 4-0 this postseason, has thrown 46 of 77 pitches for strikes. He has five strikeouts and two walks.
8:45 p.m.
Justin Verlander is through four innings but has needed 75 pitches to nurse a 2-1 lead. There’s been some stirring in the Houston bullpen, but no one is throwing yet.
José Urquidy could be warming up soon. The 24-year-old righty rookie, who began the year in Double-A, dazzled with five shutout innings in Game 4 and is available.
Verlander escaped a first-and-second, one-out jam in the fourth. Catcher Robinson Chirinos went to the mound at one point to lock things in.
Stephen Strasburg had retired nine straight batters before issuing a pair of two-out walks in the fourth. He struck out Carlos Correa to end the inning, but the walks helped push his pitch count to 55.
7:15 p.m.
Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg have both settled in after some early trouble for the third inning of Game 6, with Houston leading Washington 2-1.
Verlander had retired seven in a row when he walked Adam Eaton with two outs in the third. Anthony Rendon then drew a walk on a 10-pitch at-bat, but Juan Soto grounded out to leave the runners stranded.
Strasburg pitched his second straight 1-2-3 inning in the third, striking out Josh Reddick before retiring George Springer and Jose Altuve.
Strasburg has retired seven in a row since Alex Bregman’s solo homer with two outs in the first put Houston on top.
7:31 p.m.
Game 6 is off to a flying start.
Alex Bregman carried his bat past first base after a solo home run that gave Houston a 2-1 in the first inning at rollicking Minute Maid Park.
Already way more back and forth action than we saw at Nationals Park over the weekend, where Washington never led, was outscored 19-3 and went just 1 for 22 with runners in scoring position while losing three games.
Anthony Rendon smartly grounded an RBI single through the vacant side that put Washington ahead 1-0. The run, set up when leadoff man Trea Turner was ruled safe on a replay reversal, extended Justin Verlander’s early woes — he’s given up10 runs in the first inning of six postseason starts this month after allowing only 12 in 34 starts during the regular season.
The Astros quickly bounced back. George Springer hit a double on Stephen Strasburg’s first delivery, took third on a wild pitch and scored on José Altuve’s sacrifice fly to the warning track.
With two outs, Bregman hit a homer to deep left. He trotted with his bat past the bag at first, dropped it in the dirt and continued around the bases.
Yuli Gurriel almost followed with a home run, but his ball was caught against the wall.
7:10 p.m.
Country star Clay Walker, outfitted in a 10-gallon hat, performed the national anthem before Game 6. The predominantly orange-clad crowd waved towels of the same color and cheered loudly as game time approached.
Hakeem Olajuwon zinged the ceremonial first pitch to fellow Houston Rockets legend and Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler. But it wasn’t exactly a dream throw, landing a bit outside where Drexler, who played high school baseball, tried to scoop it.
Olajuwon became an Astros fan after moving to Houston to play for the Houston Cougars and then help the Rockets win back-to-back titles in 1994-95.
Drexler has been an Astros fan as long as he can remember. Growing up in Houston, he would ride his bicycle to games at the Astrodome and nab 50 cent tickets in center field. He said he caught home run balls from a bunch of stars, including Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds.
Drexler then revved up the crowd just before first pitch by yelling: “Play ball.”
7 p.m.
Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg has the chance to become the first MLB pitcher ever to go 5-0 in a single postseason.
Strasburg, the Game 2 winner, takes the mound Tuesday night with the Nationals down 3-2 in the World Series and needing a win to force a Game 7.
The right-hander went into Game 6 with a five-game postseason winning streak, dating back to Game 4 of the 2017 NL Division Series at the Chicago Cubs. He is 5-0 with a 1.54 ERA, striking out 52 and walking only four over 35 innings in that streak.
Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson went 5-1 for Arizona during the 2001 postseason. Francisco Rodriguez was 5-0 for the Angels in 2002 before losing Game 4 of the World Series.
4:30 p.m.
Max Scherzer would start Game 7 of the World Series for Washington on Wednesday if the Nationals win Game 6.
The 35-year-old right-hander missed his scheduled start in Game 5 because of an irritated nerve near his neck, and the Astros beat substitute starter Joe Ross to take a 3-2 Series lead.
Scherzer had a cortisone shot in his neck Sunday and threw in the outfield Tuesday before Game 6.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez says “as of now, he’ll definitely start Game 7.
“He threw. He felt good,” Martinez says.
3:40 p.m.
Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer has thrown to a bullpen catcher in left field before Game 6 of the World Series.
He told a few reporters afterward, “I’m good.”
Scherzer missed his scheduled start in Game 5 on Sunday night because of nerve irritation near his left shoulder and had a cortisone shot.
He said it would take about 48 hours for the painkiller to have an impact.
Pitching coach Paul Menhart watched Scherzer throw. Scherzer hoped to be available for a Game 7 if Washington tied the series Tuesday night.
3:30 p.m.
Washington catcher Kurt Suzuki is out of the Nationals’ lineup again for Game 6 of the World Series.
Suzuki missed the past two games because of a hip flexor strain, and after a travel day still wasn’t in the lineup Tuesday night against the Houston Astros and Justin Verlander.
The Nationals beat Verlander in a 12-3 in last Tuesday in Game 2. The only change to their lineup from then is center fielder Victor Robles batting eighth with Yan Gomes catching and batting ninth.
Houston, which can clinch its second World Series title in three years with a win, is going with the same lineup it used for Game 2 against Stephen Strasburg.
More AP MLB: and

BREAKING: Pirates Part Way With Frank Coonelly

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Frank Coonelly’s 12-year run as president of the Pittsburgh Pirates is over after another losing season.

The club announced Wednesday that it is parting ways with Coonelly effective immediately. The team said Coonelly’s replacement will be introduced on Monday.

He helped oversee a brief renaissance that resulted in three straight playoff berths from 2013-15.

Coonelly said he understood that “change was necessary” following a stunning second-half collapse in which the Pirates went 25-48 and plummeted to last in the NL Central. The team dismissed manager Clint Hurdle on the final day of the regular season.

“Frank and I both agreed that it was clear a change in the day-to-day leadership of the club is needed,” Pirates chairman Bob Nutting said in a statement. “This leadership transition gives us the opportunity to refresh our entire operations.”

The Pirates have fallen off the pace in recent years, finishing below .500 in three of the last four seasons.

The freefall included a number of off-the-field incidents this season, including the arrest of All-Star closer Felipe Vázquez on felony charges relating to an improper sexual relationship with an underage girl.

Relievers Keone Kela and Kyle Crick were suspended after heated arguments with staff members.

Pirates lose to Cubs 16-6.

Cubs’ Rizzo sprains right ankle during 16-6 win over Pirates
By JOHN JACKSON Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo was pulled from a game Sunday with a sprained right ankle, putting a damper on the Chicago Cubs’ 16-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Rizzo was injured fielding a bunt at first base in the third inning. He had to be helped off the field and could not put pressure on the leg. X-rays taken at Wrigley Field showed no fractures, and an MRI has been scheduled for Monday.
Chicago’s postseason pursuit has already been hindered by an injury to shortstop Javier Báez, who is out for the rest of the regular season with a hairline fracture of his left thumb.
The Cubs maintained their one-game lead over Milwaukee for the second NL wild card. The Nationals are 1 1/2 games ahead of Chicago for the first wild card.
Kris Bryant homered twice, and Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber and Jonathan Lucroy also connected as Chicago battered Pittsburgh for a third straight day. The Cubs scored a total of 47 runs on 49 hits in completing the three-game sweep.
Chicago starter Jose Quintana was pulled after allowing five runs in the third inning, when he fell apart following Rizzo’s injury.
After Erik Gonzalez’s leadoff double, Pirates starter Trevor Williams bunted toward third base. Rizzo charged aggressively from first and rolled his ankle a few steps before fielding the ball. He threw wide to first base and dropped to the ground in pain.
Brad Wieck (1-1) later replaced Quintana with two on and struck out both batters he faced to end the inning. The Cubs rallied for five runs in the bottom of the inning to lead 8-5, starting with Bryant’s second homer of the game and ending when reliever Michael Feliz threw wildly on an appeal play at third base.
Williams (7-7) allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings. Pablo Reyes drove in three runs for the Pirates.
Bryant gave the Cubs an early lead with a three-run blast in the first.
Happ, who replaced Rizzo, hit a two-run shot in the fifth to make it 12-6. Jason Heyward drove in a run in the sixth and Schwarber hit a two-run shot in the seventh. Lucroy capped the scoring with a solo homer in the eighth.
Pirates: 1B Josh Bell (groin strain) missed his second straight game. He is listed as day-to-day after exiting in the fifth inning on Friday. … OF Starling Marte (left wrist sprain) didn’t start for the seventh straight game.
Cubs: Closer Craig Kimbrel (right elbow inflammation) threw 20 pitches in a bullpen session before the game. He reported no issues, but the team will see how he feels Monday before deciding on the next step. … INF Addison Russell was placed on the seven-day concussion list Sunday retroactive to Thursday. He was hit in the head by a pitch last Sunday at Milwaukee.
Pirates: RHP Mitch Keller (1-4, 8.29 ERA) faces LHP Marco Gonzales (15-11, 4.30) Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game home series against Seattle.
Cubs: LHP Cole Hamels (7-7, 3.89 ERA) starts Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Reds. RHP Sonny Gray (10-7, 2.80) pitches for Cincinnati.
More AP MLB: and

Musgrove sharp, Stallings homers as Pirates top Giants 4-2

Musgrove sharp, Stallings homers as Pirates top Giants 4-2
By GIDEON RUBIN Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Joe Musgrove pitched five shutout innings and hit a triple, Jacob Stallings homered and the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the San Francisco Giants 4-2 on Thursday.
The Pirates took three of four in the series, and have won 14 of their last 20 games in San Francisco dating to 2014.
Evan Longoria homered for the Giants, who’ve lost four of five. San Francisco has dropped nine of its last 11 home games and is 31-41 at Oracle Park this season.
Musgrove (10-12) struck out seven, gave up four hits and walked none.
Pirates closer Felipe Vázquez worked around a first-and-third, no-outs situation in the ninth for his 28th save in 31 attempts.
Joey Rickard drew a leadoff walk to start the ninth and Donovan Solano followed with a single, but Vázquez struck out Corban Joseph and Mike Yastrzemski, and then got Buster Posey to ground out.
José Osuna doubled in a run in the top of the first, and Cole Tucker tripled and scored on Kevin Kramer’s sacrifice fly to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
Musgrove tripled leading off the fifth and scored on Adam Frazier’s single to make it 3-0.
Longoria hit a two-run homer off reliever Yacksel Ríos — his 19th — in the Giants sixth.
Stallings hit his sixth homer and second of the series leading off the seventh against starter Jeff Samardzija (10-12).
Musgrove’s triple was the first by a Pirates pitcher since May 29, 2010, when Brian Burres did it.
Pirates: CF Starling Marte was out of the lineup for a fourth straight game with a left wrist sprain he suffered making sliding catch on Sunday against St. Louis.
Giants: Manager Bruce Bochy moved up RHP Johnny Cueto’s next scheduled start two days to Sunday, the finale of a three-game series against Miami. The two-time All-Star, who pitched five shutout innings in his first game back from Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, had been scheduled to make his next start on Sept. 17 in Boston. . LHP Will Smith (back inflammation) will play catch on Friday. Bochy said his All-Star closer could be back on the mound as soon as this weekend. . OF Alex Dickerson (right oblique injury) took 40 swings on Wednesday and planned to do the same on Thursday. He’ll hit against a machine on Friday and could pinch hit over the weekend, Bochy said. . OF Jaylin Davis left the game for a pinch runner after being struck by a pitch in from Ríos in the sixth.
Pirates: LHP Steven Brault (4-4, 4.13 ERA) will face Cubs left-hander Jon Lester on Friday in Chicago. Brault is 0-1 with a 6.31 ERA in 13 career appearances (four starts) against the Cubs.
Giants: RHP Tyler Beede (4-9, 5-33) will pitch Friday’s series open against Miami. Beede ended a streak of nine winless starts in his most recent outing on Sept. 7, when he pitched five innings of four-hit ball in a 1-0 victory over the Dodgers.
More AP MLB: and

Pirates take fight to Giants, Vázquez closes out 27th save

Pirates take fight to Giants, Vázquez closes out 27th save
By JANIE McCAULEY AP Baseball Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Through a long, losing season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have learned to celebrate each other for even the small accomplishments and try to push forward from the times of turmoil — like this week’s embarrassing clubhouse fight between a pair of relief pitchers.
Felipe Vázquez earned his 27th save two days after punching Kyle Crick in the clubhouse as the Pirates beat the San Francisco Giants 6-3 on Wednesday night. Pittsburgh got a welcome lift after Crick required season-ending finger surgery Tuesday following the scrap with Vázquez before Monday’s win, which prompted a team meeting.
Since an injury-plagued month of May for manager Clint Hurdle’s club, there have been so many other issues.
“There’s been some more miles on the tires since then,” Hurdle said before the game, when Pittsburgh went through extra defensive skill work.
Cole Tucker hit an RBI double for a key insurance run in the sixth, and Jose Osuna added a pair of doubles.
Tucker’s double marked the Pirates’ majors-best 50th pinch-hit RBI. Those are the kinds of things Hurdle appreciates right now.
A night earlier, the Pirates lost 5-4 after taking the series opener in comeback fashion Monday 6-4.
“My encouragement was there’s winning and there’s losing, and there’s winning and learning,” Hurdle said. “If you’re losing and not learning you’re wasting your time up here. You’ll get run out of this game. So there’s lessons to be learned and I think we’ve been able to have solid reviews when things haven’t gone our way.”
Jaylin Davis singled home a run, Corban Joseph had an RBI groundout and Mauricio Dubon drew a bases-loaded walk as the Giants got on the board in the fifth against starter Dario Agrazal before winner Michael Feliz (3-4) took over.
“Between walks, errors, we gave up some cheap runs and it came back to haunt us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Offensively we didn’t do much.”
Adam Frazier and Kevin Kramer hit RBI singles in the second for the Pirates, who are 13-6 over their last 19 in San Francisco. Giants righty Logan Webb (1-2), making his fifth major league start, threw a pair of wild pitches that inning and was done after 4 2/3.
Stephen Vogt started a second straight day at catcher for San Francisco after hitting a two-run homer and driving in four runs in Tuesday’s 5-4 win. Bochy had planned to start Buster Posey either Wednesday or Thursday, so he will be behind the plate Thursday afternoon.
Pittsburgh rookie Kevin Newman has a 17-game road hitting streak.
Former Giants and Pirates right-hander Ryan Vogelsong returned to the ballpark and wore his old Giants uniform to observe and work with San Francisco pitching coach Curt Young and the pitching staff.
“It’s good to see Ryan, isn’t it?” Bochy said, noting it’s more about “really just to have him around. He’s good for the players talking baseball. He’s got a great way about him. He provided leadership when he was here.”
Vogelsong played 12 major league seasons between the Giants and Pirates from 2000-2016, going 61-75 with a 4.48 ERA in 179 starts and 289 total appearances covering 1,190 innings.
Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove (9-12, 4.67 ERA) threw on flat ground and the Pirates determined he would be fine to start Thursday against the Giants after he was scratched last Friday because of pain in his right foot. He hasn’t pitched since Aug. 31 at Colorado. … CF Starling Marte was out of the lineup for a third straight game nursing a tender left wrist. He is limited to pinch running. … RHP Nick Burdi underwent forearm surgery Wednesday in Dallas performed by Dr. Keith Meister. Burdi is expected to be fully healthy by the start of spring training.
Giants: RHP Reyes Moronta’s shoulder surgery in Los Angeles on Tuesday went better than expected. Doctors repaired his labrum but the capsule didn’t need a fix. … RHP Johnny Cueto played catch a day after pitching five scoreless innings in his first start since July 28 last year and returning from Tommy John surgery. His next outing is scheduled for Tuesday at Boston. … 3B Evan Longoria had the night off.
Musgrove (9-12, 4.67 ERA) will pitch opposite RHP Jeff Samardzija (10-11, 3.64), who owns a 6-4 career record vs. Pittsburgh over 26 outings and 15 starts.
More AP MLB: and

Cueto dazzles in season debut, Giants beat Pirates 5-4

Cueto dazzles in season debut, Giants beat Pirates 5-4
By JANIE McCAULEY AP Baseball Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Cap on backward, Johnny Cueto punctuated his pitches with confident head shakes and fist pumps.
“Dia De Cueto,” read the sign held by one of his sons.
The Day of Cueto, indeed.
Cueto dazzled over five shutout innings in his long-awaited season debut for San Francisco, showing he can reach top form again 13 months after Tommy John surgery while leading the Giants over the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4 on Tuesday night.
“Like it was opening day,” he said.
The charismatic right-hander, far fitter and stronger than before he got hurt, allowed one hit, struck out four and walked one. He had been scheduled to throw about 70 pitches and wound up at 69.
Stephen Vogt hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs. His two-run single in the first off rookie Mitch Keller (1-4) staked Cueto to a quick lead and Brandon Crawford added an RBI single as four of the first five batters got hits.
“That was a special night for Johnny, just so much hard work and coming back from so much,” said Vogt, who caught Cueto’s comeback outing. “Getting to be a small part of that with him was pretty special for me. It’s been a long road for him to come back. He was just so happy today — before the game, during the game, after the game you could just tell he was having fun.”
Cueto went 1-2-3 in the first on 11 pitches with a strikeout and two groundouts before turning his cap around just for fun and pumping his fists.
He punched his hand into his glove in celebration, chomping his gum all the while.
“That’s my game, every time I pitch just try to have fun,” he said.
Cueto, who pitched his first 7 1/2 seasons with Cincinnati, is 21-4 with a 2.13 ERA over 31 career regular-season starts against the Pirates. He has won nine straight decisions, not including playoffs, facing Pittsburgh since his last loss on May 30, 2012.
Cueto drew cheers from the small number of fans in the ballpark when he took the field to warm up some 30 minutes before first pitch, then received a rousing ovation during pregame introductions.
The 33-year-old Cueto pitched in the big leagues for the first time since July 28 last year. He came back in better shape than before thanks in large part to a healthier diet that included fish and salads.
Cueto won 18 games for San Francisco in 2016 and started the All-Star game that year while dealing with the discomfort he referred to as stabbing pain in the pitching elbow for three years . He’s in the fourth season of a $130 million, six-year contract he signed before the 2016 season.
“It’s easy when you’re in a situation like Johnny’s, you can be comfortable. You’re set for life but he wants to get back and compete, and compete at the highest level. He’s taken such great care of himself and worked hard to get to this point,” manager Bruce Bochy said before the game.
Shaun Anderson earned his first save as the Giants won at home for only the sixth time in their last 18 games. Keller had left his start last Tuesday against the Marlins after taking a line drive off the wrist on his pitching hand in the second inning.
Plate umpire Paul Emmel was replaced in the top of the sixth by second base umpire Mike Estabrook. Emmel took a pitch from Keller off his right hand.
Pirates: RHP Kyle Crick required season-ending surgery on the index finger of his pitching hand resulting from an injury sustained in a clubhouse altercation with fellow reliever Felipe Vázquez before Monday’s game, and the Pirates held a team meeting Tuesday. “One of those clubhouse altercations. A lot of bickering back and forth. Punches were thrown,” Crick said. “You kind of have to at some point stand up for yourself and start throwing back. It’s one of those deals where it’s unfortunate. It’s two losers in this deal. Nobody can win fighting a teammate. It’s just an unfortunate deal.” Both players were fined an undisclosed amount. Crick underwent a procedure Tuesday to repair the extensor tendon, performed by Dr. Scott Hanson in San Francisco. The club expects him to be ready for games come spring training. “The behavior exhibited by these two players last night is unacceptable, inconsistent with the standards expected of a major league player and will not be tolerated by the organization,” general manager Neal Huntington said. No other details of what happened were provided. … CF Starling Marte was out of the lineup for a second straight game nursing a tender left wrist that he sprained catching a flyball Sunday against St. Louis. Manager Clint Hurdle said he could be available to pinch-run but of batting said, “We’re going to work on the hitting part of it.”
Giants: Closer Will Smith is dealing with back inflammation and it’s unclear when he will pitch again. “We’re trying to get him back to where he’s comfortable throwing off the mound. He’s not quite there yet,” Bochy said. … OF Alex Dickerson missed his seventh straight game with a right oblique injury but the hope is he will return this weekend against Miami. He was scheduled to do more hitting off a tee. “If he can take a swing without making a grimace I’ll put him in there,” Bochy said. … LHP Williams Jerez designated for assignment as the Giants cleared 40-man roster room for Cueto’s return.
RHP Dario Agrazal (4-4, 4.94 ERA) faces the Giants for the first time pitching opposite RHP Logan Webb (1-1, 6.50), making his fifth major league start.
More AP MLB: and

Reynolds delivers vs former team, Pirates rally past SF 6-4

Reynolds delivers vs former team, Pirates rally past SF 6-4
By GIDEON RUBIN Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Bryan Reynolds finally made it to San Francisco, and he delivered.
Reynolds hit a go-ahead single against his former team during a four-run rally in the ninth inning that sent the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-4 win over the Giants on Monday night.
Down 4-2, the Pirates used three pinch-hitters and came back against three Giants relievers in the ninth.
Kevin Newman hit a tying, two-run single with one out and Reynolds, a fellow rookie, followed with an RBI single off Jandel Gustave.
Reynolds also had a double and is batting .328. The Giants drafted him in the second round in 2016 before trading him to Pittsburgh after the 2018 season in a deal for Andrew McCutchen.
“It’s pretty funny how that all worked out,” Reynolds said. “It was fun to get out there and play. It’s cold, but I have my sleeves.”
José Osuna added a sacrifice fly in the ninth for insurance.
“Our team’s been fun to watch and hard to watch sometimes because we can break your heart and we can make you jump up and down,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve done this.”
Fernando Abad (0-2) gave up two hits and a walk while getting only one out.
The Giants were without All-Star closer Will Smith, shut down after experiencing some tightness throwing earlier in the day, manager Bruce Bochy said.
The Giants were 55-0 when leading after eight innings going into Monday.
“We took advantage of the men they put at the mound,” Hurdle said. “From a professional standpoint, we handled our at bats, we made contact, we drove in runs and we won the game.”
Richard Rodríguez (4-5) pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Felipe Vázquez worked the ninth for his 26th save in 29 chances.
Brandon Belt had three hits, including a two-run double for San Francisco. The Giants lost at home for the seventh time in eight games and fell to nine games below .500 at Oracle Park.
The announced attendance of 26,826 was the smallest at Oracle Park since April 12, 2010.
Belt’s’ two-out, two-run double in the fifth broke a 1-1 tie.
Giants starter Madison Bumgarner gave up two runs on six hits and two walks in seven innings.
“Too bad we couldn’t hold on to give him a win,” Bochy said. “You look at his body of work; he’s been a savior. You have to those guys in charge. Guys who give you innings like that are invaluable — not just innings but quality innings.”
Jacob Stallings homered for the Pirates.
The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the first when Evan Longoria singled in Mike Yastrzemski.
Giants catcher Buster Posey recorded his first career sacrifice bunt when he advanced Yastrzemski in the bottom of the first after 4,539 career at-bats.
Reynolds’ 35th double tied Hall of Famer Paul “Big Poison” Waner (1926) for the Pirates’ rookie record. . Giants center fielder Kevin Pillar took extra bases away from Osuna with a leaping catch against the wall with one out in the fourth. … Newman hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games, batting .429 (24-for-56) three homers and 13 RBI over that stretch.
Pirates: OF Starling Marte was out of the lineup with a left wrist sprain he suffered making a diving catch in Sunday’s game against St. Louis. Manager Clint Hurdle said his status is day-to-day.
Giants: RHP Reyes Moronta will undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair his injured labrum and capsule, manager Bruce Bochy said. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. . LHP Tony Watson underwent an MRI on Monday that showed a hairline fracture on his left wrist. Watson suffered the injury making a diving tag play in St. Louis on Sept. 5. He’ll be reevaluated after wearing a splint for 10 days, Bochy said.
Pirates: RHP Mitch Keller (1-3, 8.18) left his last start on Sept. 4 in the second inning with a right wrist contusion after being struck by a line drive.
Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto (season debut) will make his first start since undergoing Tommy John reconstructive surgery. The two-time All-Star hasn’t pitched in a major league game since July 28, 2018.
More AP MLB: and

Flaherty dazzles again, Cardinals drop Pirates 2-0

Flaherty dazzles again, Cardinals drop Pirates 2-0
By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jack Flaherty always had the tools. Figuring out how to put them together has been the challenge for the 23-year-old pitcher since the former first-round pick arrived in St. Louis two years ago.
While Flaherty is sketchy on specifics about what what exactly he changed heading into the All-Star break, one thing is for certain: the roadblocks — mental, physical and otherwise — are all gone. Flaherty is rolling, and so are the Cardinals.
Flaherty overwhelmed the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 2-0 victory on Sunday, striking out 10 against five hits and a walk over eight electric innings to keep up a dazzling run that has turned him into the de facto ace for the NL Central leaders. Flaherty (10-7) won for the sixth time in eight starts while dropping his post All-Star break ERA to 0.76 as St. Louis pushed its lead in the division to 4 1/2 games over second-place Chicago with three weeks to go in the regular season.
“He’s in control of the conviction of what he’s doing,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Just a lot of big league pitches consistently. Fastball where he wants it to with good life on it, and a really good slider as well. That’s what pitching looks like. Phenomenal job.”
Flaherty’s surge began with seven innings of two-hit ball against San Francisco on July 7. The Cardinals lost 1-0 that day, but the switch flipped. Flaherty has been lights out while fueling St. Louis’ sprint to first and has allowed just three earned runs 56 innings across eight starts since Aug. 1.
“(I’ve made) small adjustments, not really to my mechanics, but mentally to how I was going about things,” Flaherty said. “So little things here and there. Just tried to kind of carry it from one start to the next.”
Carlos Martinez worked a perfect ninth for his 19th save to finish off a season series dominated by the Cardinals. St. Louis won 14 of its 19 meetings with Pittsburgh, including 10 of 12 in the second half, one of the main reasons the Cardinals are heading to October while the Pirates are planning for next season.
“Guys are healthy,” Flaherty said. “We’re playing together. Playing as a team. Not letting any moment get too big.”
Paul Goldschmidt had an RBI double , and Harrison Bader added a run-scoring single off Pittsburgh rookie James Marvel (0-1). Matt Carpenter went 2 for 3 while starting at third base and is hitting .400 (6 for 15) in September as the veteran tries to shake out of a season-long slump.
“Like everybody else, he understands it’s about the team,” Shildt said of Carpenter. “He’s got his head in the right spot to help us win baseball games.”
Flaherty’s effectiveness ended Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle and second baseman Adam Frazier’s respective days a little bit early. Both were ejected by home-plate umpire Roberto Ortiz in the seventh for arguing balls and strikes after Ortiz ruled a pair of borderline pitches in favor of Flaherty.
“He’s taken it to another level,” Hurdle said of Flaherty. ” He was as advertised from what we watched coming in here. It’s been going on for two months.”
Marvel, the 1,087th player chosen in the 2015 draft, was solid in his first major-league start after piling up 16 victories across Double-A and Triple-A this season. With more than 40 people in the stands who roared every time he stepped out of the dugout onto the field at PNC Park, Marvel gave up two runs and four hits in five-plus innings with two walks and two strikeouts.
“I can’t really hear things when I’m pitching,” Marvel said. “I tend to zone out and focus on what I’m doing and the glove. But I’d be lying if I said that today there weren’t a few instances where I heard them.”
There was plenty to cheer about. Marvel, who won 16 games combined during stops at Double-A and Triple-A this summer, didn’t allow a hit until Marcell Ozuna’s two-out single in the fourth. Bader’s flare to center in the fifth scored Carpenter to put the Cardinals in front and Goldschmidt hit an opposite-field double following a lead-off walk to Kolten Wong in the sixth. Otherwise, Marvel was efficient and rarely rattled.
“A very good first impression,” Hurdle said.
Marvel will get a chance at a second, third and fourth.
Cardinals: C Matt Wieters was unavailable on Sunday. Manager Mike Shildt declined to provide specifics. Wieters is expected to be available on Tuesday in Colorado.
Pirates: CF Starling Marte sprained his left wrist while making a catch in the ninth inning. The team pinch-hit for Marte in the ninth. … OF Jason Martin was moved to the 60-day injured list with a dislocated left shoulder. … RHP Yefry Ramirez (right calf strain) was activated off the 10-day IL.
Cardinals: Start a three-game set in Colorado on Tuesday with Michael Wacha (6-6, 4.98 ERA) on the hill.
Pirates: Begin a seven-game road trip on Monday in San Francisco. Trevor Williams (7-6, 5.16 ERA) starts against Madison Bumgarner (9-8, 3.81).
More AP MLB: and