Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 9, Pirates 2: And the sweep. Four losses in a row overall for Pittsburgh which is back in wild card territory, looking up at the Cards, still stuck on 81 wins.  Michael Wacha pitched seven shutout innings, allowing only two hits, and drove in two runs to boot. He hasn’t allowed a run in 19 and two-thirds consecutive innings.

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: Just your standard walkoff wild pitch after the best closer in history blew a save. Is it rude of me to note that he’s blown a lot of saves for him lately and that, just maybe, the “never retire, you’re invincible, Mo!” stuff is probably a bit overstated.  Moving on … nice for the Yankees to salvage one. It was pretty dreary for them, I presume, losing three straight games in which they scored eight or nine runs.  To lose a lower scoring one too woulda been hard to take. As it was they didn’t lose too much ground to the Rays this weekend. Problem was, they got passed up by Baltimore and Cleveland.

Royals 5, Tigers 2: Eric Hosmer had three hits including a three-run homer and Bruce Chen baffled the Tigers. And, by extension, continued to baffle all of us. The guy has pitched in 15 major league seasons. If you lined up every pitcher in the big leagues in 1999 or 2000 or so and said “which of these guys is gonna pitch in 15 major league seasons,” I’m guessing Chen would not have been on many folks’ list.

Reds 3, Dodgers 2: Clayton Kershaw and Homer Bailey were pretty close to even for seven innings but then the Reds got to Ronald Bellisario in the ninth, with Zack Cozart singling and Ryan Hanigan doubling him in.

Phillies 3, Braves 2: Nice day for Evan Gattis — he hit two homers including an absolute moon shot — but that’s all the Braves could do against Cole Hamels. Literally, those were the only two hits he gave up in eight innings. Meanwhile Darin Ruf broke the tie with an eighth inning homer of his own after driving in a run earlier.That’s four straight losses for Atlanta. Guess that’ll put the kibosh on any of that “maybe they peaked too soon” talk.

Athletics 7, Astros 2: A seven-run third gives Bartolo all the run support he needed, as he held the Astros to one run in six. It was big Bartolo’s first win since July 26.

Rangers 4, Angels 3: Texas avoids a sweep and stays one and a half back of the A’s. Alex Rios homered in the first and drove in the go-ahead run with a seventh inning double.

Brewers 3, Cubs 1: Yovani Gallardo with another nice start. He’s strung a few of those in a row since coming off the DL last month. Too bad he couldn’t have done this in June and July and gotten Doug Melvin some prospects in a deal.

Padres 5, Rockies 2: Three game sweep for the Padres, all three games with late-inning runs. Here Nick Hundley cleared the based with a double in the Pads’ four-run seventh.

White Sox 4, Orioles 2: The Pale Hose end a nine-game losing streak. Game ended with a nice deke on baserunner Chris Dickerson too. He was trying to steal second when Brian Roberts fouled out. Alexi Ramirez made Dickerson think the ball was on the ground in play so Dickerson made no effort to turn around and head back to first. Double play and ballgame.

Mets 2, Indians 1: Only one run on three hits in five and two thirds innings for Daisuke Matsuzaka, and that run was an inherited run that Vic Black allowed in when he plunked a guy with the bases loaded. Not too shabby for him, and probably satisfying too given that it came against the team that kept him in the minors all year and then cut bait.

Nationals 6, Marlins 4: A hot mess of a day for Stephen Strasburg — he balked in two runs, hit a guy and threw a wild pitch — but he also struck out seven and got his first win in close to a month. Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond each had three hits and drove in two.

Giants 3, Diamondbacks 2: Angel Pagan singled home the winning run in the bottom of the 11th. Madison Bumgarner tossed six shutout innings but was denied a win yet again. Run support is not always an abundant commodity in San Francisco.

Rays 4, Mariners 1: The Rays rally for all four of their runs in the eighth and ninth and, thanks to losses by the Tribe, Orioles and Yankees, up their lead in the wild card race. Still, this road trip started with a four-game lead, now it’s two. And given how badly they’ve played lately, they’re lucky it’s two.

Blue Jays 2, Twins 0: Blue Jays sweep the Twins in the series that was neck-and-neck with the Brewers-Cubs for the “who friggin’ cares?” series of the weekend. At least Brewers-Cubs is a division and geographic rivalry, so I think this one takes the crown.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.