Pirates beat Mets in 11, earn 55th win


Between Pedro Alvarez’s first-inning, two-run home run and Jordy Mercer’s walk-off RBI single to center in the 11th, the Pirates couldn’t muster much offense against Mets starter Jeremy Hefner and the bullpen. Pirates starter Charlie Morton held the Mets down through five, but allowed an RBI single to David Wright in the sixth and a solo home run to Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the seventh to tie it.

Rather than use closer Bobby Parnell in the eleventh after exhausting most of their other bullpen options, manager Terry Collins decided to play “by the book” and use 23-year-old Gonzalez Germen, who was making his Major League debut. Including his work in the Minors, he had pitched once since June 29. Andrew McCutchen walked to lead off the inning, then stole second base while Alvarez struck out. Russell Martin was intentionally walked to set up a double play, but Germen struck out Gaby Sanchez swinging for the second out. On the third pitch of the last at-bat of the game, Jordy Mercer snuck a ground ball up the middle, allowing McCutchen to score from second base to seal the win.

The victory is the 55th of the season for the Pirates. As the Cardinals defeated the Cubs earlier 3-2 for their 56th win, they remain one game ahead of the Pirates in first place in the NL Central. The Pirates have a four-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds for the first NL Wild Card spot.

Danny Duffy exits spring training game with left shoulder tightness

Danny Duffy
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Royals’ Opening Day starter Danny Duffy weathered a minor scare during Saturday’s Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks. The left-hander was removed from his final spring training start after experiencing some left shoulder tightness in the second and third innings. No lasting damage appears to have been done — Duffy told reporters that he simply felt a slight ache, nothing more — and it looks like he’ll remain on track to open the season with the team next Thursday.

The 29-year-old southpaw is coming off one of his best performances to date. Despite losing a few weeks to an oblique strain and elbow soreness, he went 9-10 in 24 starts and finished the 2017 season with a 3.81 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 over 146 1/3 innings. While Duffy entered camp with a clean bill of health, he struggled to execute against his spring training opponents and racked up 13 runs, four homers, seven walks and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings of Cactus League play.

The Royals are scheduled to kick off their home opener against the White Sox on Thursday, March 29 at 4:15 PM ET. Barring any further complications with his shoulder, Duffy will take the mound for the Royals, while James Shields is expected to make his first Opening Day appearance for the White Sox.