Pirates starter A.J. Burnett, who earlier today told the media he is still considering retiring after the 2013 season, turned in a gem against the division and Wild Card rival Reds. The Reds went ahead early on a Ryan Ludwick RBI single in the first inning and a Zack Cozart solo home run in the second. Pirates catcher Russell Martin launched a game-tying two-run homer in the bottom half of the second to knot the game at two apiece. In the sixth, the Pirates scored twice on a Marlon Byrd sacrifice fly and an opposite-field RBI single by Pedro Alvarez against lefty reliever Zach Duke.
Burnett settled down after the first two innings, holding the Reds scoreless in five consecutive innings. After completing the seventh, he had allowed just the two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out twelve. The outing marks Burnett’s season-high in strikeouts and the most he has logged in a game since August 27 against the Rangers when he was with the Yankees.
Bryan Morris and Justin Wilson teamed up for a scoreless eighth inning, with Wilson inducing a crucial inning-ending double play against Joey Votto. Jason Grilli made his first ninth-inning appearance since July 22, before he landed on the disabled list with a strained right flexor tendon. Ludwick led off with a single, but he was erased when Jay Bruce bounced into a 4-6-3 double play. Grilli got Cozart grounded out to shortstop to end the game, his 31st save of the season and his first July 21.
With the Cardinals defeating the Brewers, the Pirates remain two games back in the NL Central while the Reds drop to three games out. In the NL Wild Card, the Pirates take a one-game lead over the Reds for the first NL Wild Card slot. Though both teams are a sustained Nationals hot streak away from qualifying for both spots, the winner of the first Wild Card slot gets home field advantage in the one-game playoff.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.
David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.
Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.
The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.