Corey Hart

Mookie Betts

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights


Red Sox 9, Nationals 4: The Mookie Betts show. A three-run homer, a home run-saving catch. Two stolen bases on one play because the Nationals, apparently, forgot that when you’re in a shift, no one is covering a third, leaving that bag wide open. The Nats defense overall was a total disaster, with mental lapses, balls plopping onto the turf between two fielders and all of that jazz. It’s been like that the entire first week of the season. Which shows you that, even when you’re everyone’s World Series favorite, you still have to play good baseball.

Mets 2, Phillies 0: The Phillies are going to make a lot of pitchers look good this year, even the bad ones. So when a good one like Jacob deGrom faces them, welp, this sort of thing is going to happen. A shutout into the seventh supported by an infield single and a sac fly.

Pirates 5, Tigers 4: The dream of 162-0 is over for the Tigers. Alas. They had their chances, but Jared Hughes bailed Gerrit Cole out of a a no-out, bases-loaded situation in the seventh and Mark Melancon bent but did not break in the ninth. Josh Harrison, Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart all homered for Pittsburgh, which has won 3 of 4.

Royals 12, Twins 3: The Royals, however, still have a shot at 162-0, right? At this rate, why not? The bullpen has been amazing and unlike last year they’re not jus eking by in the one run games. Get this:

Rany later went back and checked and, yes, that extends back to the beginning of the American League as well.

Brewers 5, Cardinals 4: Carlos Gomez had two hits and an RBI for the Brewers in what Ron Roenicke called “an ugly win.” But this play from K-Rod was pretty:

Rockies 2, Giants 0: The Giants raised their banner and carried out their trophies and stuff, then got shut out. Rockies rookie starter Eddie Butler outdueled Giants rookie starter Chris Heston, tossing five and a third shutout innings. Heston only allowed one earned run, but the Rockies’ second run was his fault as he committed an error to allow a run to score. The earned run rules are dumb.

Yankees 6, Orioles 5: Stephen Drew had to pinch hit for Brett Gardner after Gardner needed to exit following an earlier hit-by-pitch. No worries, as all Drew did was hit a grand slam in the seventh to put the Yankees up by two. Chris Young and Mark Teixeira also homered. That’s two in a row for the Yankees. Winning streak.

Rays 2, Blue Jays 1: The Rays runs scored on consecutive bases-loaded walks by R.A. Dickey. It was three walks in a row for Dickey, actually, all after he had recorded two outs. Tampa Bay starter Jake Odorizzi allowed one run over eight innings to spoil the Jays home opener.

Braves 3, Marlins 2: Reading some news stories and random Twitter comments, the whole “the Braves are playing small ball, doing the little things” narrative is clearly starting to take hold. Someone call Whitey Herzog, then, and tell him that they’re defining small ball down. In the fourth it maybe sorta looked like small ball, as Christian Bethancourt made his way around the bases without the aid of a hit, but it also came via a Marlins throwing error and a wild pitch. And the inning ended with another Braves runner caught stealing. The other two runs came the next inning via a combo of single-double-single-single. Yes, the Braves have been really home run dependent, but stringing hits together is not the same thing as “small ball.” I know I probably should care — hey, my team won! — but I don’t want to encourage Fredi Gonzalez into thinking he’s some master button-pusher.

Angels 6, Rangers 3: The Rangers jumped out with three in the first, but Angels’ starter Matt Shoemaker bounced back and didn’t allow anything else while pitching into the seventh. LAA got a pair of two-run homers from Collin Cowgill and David Freese in the fifth inning and they never looked back.

Cubs 7, Reds 6: Jon Lester was roughed up pretty good — and revealed that, yeah, maybe he has the yips — giving up six runs on 10 hits over six innings, putting his ERA at 7.84. Jorge Soler helped bail him out, however, hitting two two-run homers. The Reds bullpen imploded here, as they were up 6-4 when starter Mike Leake left after seven innings. Jumbo Diaz gave up one of those Soler homers to tie it. In the tenth everything unraveled, as relief pitchers who were not Aroldis Chapman allowed the Cubs to win. Such a shame that God Almighty Himself handed down that Commandment about not using your closer in a tie game on the road because He in all of His wisdom and glory has declared the save statistic to be sacred.

Athletics 8, Astros 1: Hey, Evan Gattis finally got a hit. His line on the season is now .042/.080/.042, which is sort of satisfying looking, aesthetically speaking. That was it for Houston highlights, however. Billy Butler hit a three-run homer in the fifth, but the game was already decided by then. Scott Kazmir allowed one run over six.

Dodgers 6, Mariners 5: Alex Guerrero hit a bases-loaded single with two outs in the 10th inning for the walkoff win, in a game the Dodgers trailed 4-0 in the fourth inning. Nelson Cruz hit two homers in a winning effort in a losing cause. Dodgers starter Brandon McCarthy gave up four homers but also struck out ten dudes. That combo doesn’t happen often, according to the Elias Sports bureau. But I suppose both results are a function of guys on the other team hacking like hell.

Diamondbacks 8, Padres 4: Ender Inciarte hit two doubles, a triple and drove in four. If the sports headline in the Arizona Republic is not “Ender’s Game” today, I’m just giving up.

2015 Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

mccutchen hurdle getty

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Big Question: Can the Bucs make a third consecutive trip to the postseason?

In 2013, the Pirates snapped a painful 20-year October drought and advanced through the National League Wild Card Game to the NLDS, where they lost in five games to the division-rival Cardinals.

In 2014, the Pirates made it back to the National League Wild Card Game but fell to the eventual World Series-champion Giants.

Postseason baseball is an expectation now in Pittsburgh, and this 2015 group looks amply equipped to keep the tradition going. Let’s start with the outfield, which might be baseball’s best …

Andrew McCutchen, starting center fielder, has finished top three in the National League MVP voting each of the last three seasons. He posted a career-high and National League-leading 168 OPS+ in 2014 and he doesn’t turn 29 years old until October 10, 2015. A good defender to boot, “Cutch” is probably the second-best overall position player in the major leagues. Starling Marte, the Pirates’ 26-year-old starting left fielder, batted .291/.356/.453 with 13 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 135 games last season. He’s getting better every year, and the Pirates have him under contract through at least 2019 at a very team-friendly rate. Gregory Polanco, right field, was ranked a top 10 prospect by Baseball America before the 2014 season. He struggled in 89 games as a rookie, but well-built 23-year-old has all the tools to become a star.

These three can hit, field, and they’re all in or very near their baseball prime.

In the starting rotation the Pirates also have a couple of building blocks: Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano. Cole battled a right lat injury in 2014 that limited him to 138 regular-season innings, but it shouldn’t be a lingering thing and he has looked sharp this spring in the Grapefruit League. The former No. 1 overall pick (2011, out of UCLA) boasts a 3.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9 through his first 255 1/3 career major league innings. He’s only 24 years old and under club control through 2019. Liriano was the biggest bargain of the offseason, re-signing with the Pirates for three years and $39 million in a free agent market where Ervin Santana scored four years, $55 million. Liriano has delivered a 3.20 ERA and 9.4 K/9 in 55 starts over the last two seasons with Pittsburgh. He’s only 31 years old — the same age as $155 million man Jon Lester.

It’s a strong core, and with a few surprises from other players on the roster the Pirates should be in the mix all year for another Wild Card spot and maybe even the National League Central title.

What else is going on?

  • Francisco Liriano has never pitched more than 200 innings in a season, and neither has Gerrit Cole. Pittsburgh will be hoping that changes in 2015 because the rest of the rotation is a little bit iffy. A.J. Burnett left money on the table to sign with the Bucs this offseason and he had great success in 2012-2013 under Pirates coaching coach Ray Searage — the new go-to reclamation project guru — but the 38-year-old righty posted a rough 4.59 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 34 starts last summer with the Phillies. He might be beyond saving. Charlie Morton had a pedestrian 96 ERA+ in 2014 and Vance Worley is due for some serious regression after managing a 2.85 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in his first 110 2/3 innings with the Bucs.
  • Top pitching prospects Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow may be able to provide some help in the second half. Taillon, the No. 29 prospect on Baseball America’s latest Top 100, is on his way back from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. He’s expected to start pitching in minor league games in May. Glasnow, No. 16 on Baseball America’s Top 100, hasn’t appeared in a game above High-A ball but looks to be a fast-riser. Baseball Prospectus recently ranked the Pirates’ farm system eighth overall.
  • Josh Harrison broke out in 2014 just as Pedro Alvarez’s defensive issues at third base began to boil over. Alvarez has been moved into a first-base platoon with Corey Hart and Harrison enters 2015 as the starter at the hot corner. Harrison was a 2014 National League All-Star and even earned MVP votes after batting .315/.347/.490 with 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 143 games. The 27-year-old began the 2014 season as a utilityman. It was quite a rise, though his past numbers suggest he is in for a dropoff.
  • Losing catcher Russell Martin to free agency leaves a sting, but the Pirates did pretty well to fill the void in acquiring Francisco Cervelli from the Yankees last November for lefty reliever Justin Wilson. Cervelli, 29, has batted .293/.372/.449 in 223 plate appearances over the last two seasons and is decent defensively. He shouldn’t be expected to carry that kind of batting line over a full starter’s slate, but something remotely close would be great. Cervelli is hitting very well in the Grapefruit League this spring.
  • Jung Ho Kang drew interest from a range of Major League Baseball teams this winter after hitting .356/.459/.739 with 40 home runs and 117 RBI in 117 games last season for the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization. But it was the Pirates who landed him with a $5,002,015 posting fee and four-year, $11 million major league contract. Kang was a superstar in South Korea, and the usually-frugal Pittsburgh front office surprised a lot of people by nabbing him off the international market. $16 million isn’t a big amount of money for most clubs, but it is for the Pirates. Kang, 27, is expected to open the 2015 season in a utility infield role. If his defense is good enough, he could eventually steal playing time from shortstop Jordy Mercer, who batted .255 with a .305 on-base percentage in 2014.

Prediction: McCutchen, Marte, and Polanco will help lead the Pirates to a second place finish in the National League Central and a third straight appearance in the National League Wild Card Game.

Another weird spring training injury: Corey Hart and a hot tub

Corey Hart

Spring training injuries, man.

Chris Sale broke his foot stepping off his truck, Ronald Belisario broke his shoulder getting out of a swimming pool, and now there’s this from new Pirates outfielder/first baseman Corey Hart:

Hart is attempting to resurrect his career on a one-year deal as a part-timer in Pittsburgh and was already trying to remodel his game with less speed following multiple knee surgeries.