Reds get on the board but Pirates open even bigger lead in National League Wild Card Game

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Reds slugger Jay Bruce was 0-for-11 against Pirates starter Francisco Liriano entering this National League Wild Card Game and struck out on three straight sliders in his first meeting Tuesday night against the left-hander, but Bruce got Cincinnati its first run of the night with an RBI single in the top of the fourth inning after Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a Liriano pitch and Ryan Ludwick slapped a single.

Reds starter Johnny Cueto was lifted by manger Dusty Baker in the bottom of the fourth following a one-out double by Starling Marte and left-handed reliever Sean Marshall could not erase that threat, yielding an RBI double to the Steel City’s hometown hero, Neil Walker. Marshall then issued an intentional walk to Andrew McCutchen and a base-on-balls to Justin Morneau. Cincy turned next to right-hander JJ Hoover, who surrendered the Pirates’ fifth run of the game when Brandon Phillips botched what should have been an inning-ending doubleplay.

Pittsburgh is on top 5-1 as this NL Wild Card Game moves to the top of the fifth.

Jon Gray will start Opening Day for the Rockies

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Manager Bud Black has tabbed Jon Gray to start on Opening Day for the Rockies. That will be Monday, April 3 in Milwaukee against the Brewers in an afternoon contest.

Gray, 25, is starting Opening Day for the first time in his career. He’ll be the sixth different Rockies pitcher to start Opening Day in as many years.

The Rockies and Gray had a bit of a scare on Friday as he left his spring training start with discomfort in his left foot, but everything came up clean in an MRI. He pitched again on Wednesday with no issue.

Last season, Gray went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA and a 185/59 K/BB ratio in 168 innings. A consensus top prospect entering each of the previous three seasons, Gray surprisingly put up better numbers at Coors Field — the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — than away.

Blake Treinen named Nationals closer

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Today Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker named Blake Treinen as his closer. Treinen has saved exactly one big league game.

There wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice, however. Last year Washington had Mark Melancon, but with him gone and GM Mike Rizzo’s failure to land a high-profile closer in the offseason, it became a contest between Treinen Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.

Treinen posted a 2.28 ERA with 31 walks and 63 Ks in 67 innings in 2016. His big improvement last year came against lefties, who had tattooed him in the past. He pitched well this spring as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Nats are our favorites to win the NL East, but we do have some questions about the pen. Blake Treinen will take the first crack at answering them.