Cardinals cruise to Game 1 victory over Pirates in NLDS

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Adam Wainwright lived up to his billing as an ace while A.J. Burnett imploded as the Cardinals cruised to a 9-1 blowout win over the Pirates in Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday at Busch Stadium.

This game got out of hand rather quickly, as Burnett gave up seven runs in the third inning without recording an out before getting the hook. The big blow was a three-run homer from Carlos Beltran which traveled an estimated 443 feet. Burnett walked four batters and threw just 38 out of 72 pitches for strikes during the brief outing. Perhaps there was something to his previous struggles in the postseason and Busch Stadium after all.

Wainwright was brilliant, holding the Pirates to just three hits while striking out nine batters and walking none. He retired the first 11 batters he faced and had Pittsburgh’s hitters guessing with his curveball. His only mistake was a solo homer by Pedro Alvarez in the fifth inning. Wainwright probably could have thrown another inning or two if needed, but there was little reason to push it with such a big lead.

The Pirates were dominated in all phases of the game today, but they’ll have a chance to change the conversation quickly with Game 2 scheduled for 1 p.m. ET tomorrow. Pittsburgh will send rookie Gerrit Cole to the hill while Lance Lynn will start for St. Louis.

Reds acquire Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers

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The Reds acquired utilityman Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations, J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group reports.

This is the second time that the Dodgers have traded Sweeney. The club sent him to the Phillies along with John Richy in August 2015 for Chase Utley. The Phillies sent him back to the Dodgers this past offseason with Darin Ruf in exchange for Howie Kendrick.

Sweeney, 26, made his major league debut in 2015 with the Phillies, hitting a meager .176/.286/.353 in 98 plate appearances. With Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, he hit .227/.290/.412 in 131 PA. While Sweeney’s bat hasn’t proven to be anything special, he has played second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions, so his flexibility will make him useful at some point.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.