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Cardinals held to 3 hits by Pirates pitching

Sunday, 06 April 2014 19:26 Published in Sports
 
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- It seemed every time the St. Louis Cardinals hit a ball hard Sunday a Pittsburgh Pirates fielder was there to make the play.
 
Sometimes it was just good conventional defense that stymied the Cardinals' hitters. Other times, the Pirates' shifts made the difference.
 
The Cardinals managed just three hits as Edinson Volquez pitched well for 5 2-3 innings before Tony Sanchez hit a tiebreaking RBI double in the seventh inning to give the Pirates a 2-1 victory.
 
"They did seem to always have a guy in the right place," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose team is hitting just .186 through the first six games of the season. "The hitters know the alignment when they step into the box, so I don't think the shift is having an effect on them. We just want our hitters to think about playing to their strengths instead of worrying about shifts."
 
The right-hander had a 5.71 earned run average with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers last season. That was the worst mark among the 81 major league pitchers who qualified for the ERA title.
 
However, Volquez looked like he was worth the one-year, $5-million contract Sunday following a spring in which he allowed 15 runs in 13 innings.
 
"What you saw was fastball command with downhill angle, big-time spin and tilt on the breaking ball, a good changeup and getting ahead with good pitches," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He pitched a gem."
 
Sanchez's double to deep center field with two outs came off Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (1-1) and snapped a 1-1 tie.
 
The hit by the rookie reserve catcher scored Pedro Alvarez, who led off the inning with a walk, and was Sanchez's second game-winning hit of the week as he singled home the winning run in the 16th inning of Wednesday night's victory over the Cubs.
 
Tony Watson (1-0) retired all four batters he faced, striking out three, and ran his string of consecutive scoreless innings to 24, since last season. Jason Grilli pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save.
 
Wainwright went seven innings and allowed two runs and five hits after pitching seven scoreless innings in his first start of the season at Cincinnati in Monday's opener. He struck out seven and walked two.
 
"I can't let what happen in the seventh inning happen, especially in a close game, a rivalry game like this," Wainwright said. "I walked the leadoff man then left a ball out over the plate with two outs and Sanchez took a good swing at it. You can't do that."
 
The Pirates opened the scoring in the fourth inning when Andrew McCutchen doubled with one out and scored on Neil Walker's two-out double.
 
An RBI triple by the Cardinals' Jon Jay in the sixth tied the score at 1-1 and chased Volquez.
 
NOTES: St. Louis CF Peter Bourjos, who is off to a 0-for-13 start, got the day off and Jay started in his place. The Cardinals acquired Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels in an offseason trade. ... Former RHP Chris Carpenter, who retired at the end of last season and won the 2005 NL Cy Young Award, will throw out the ceremonial pitch at the Cardinals' home opener Monday against the Reds as RHP Michael Wacha (0-0, 0.00) faces LHP Tony Cingrani (0-0, 0.00). . RHP Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh's top pitching prospect, will undergo Tommy John surgery at a date to be determined with David Altcheck performing the operation in New York and miss 12 to 18 months. ... Pirates C Chris Stewart (right knee) began a rehab assignment Sunday with high Class A Bradenton and LHP Jeff Locke (right oblique) will join him Thursday.

Blackhawks topple Blues 4-2

Sunday, 06 April 2014 19:24 Published in Sports
 
CHICAGO (AP) -- Rookie Jeremy Morin scored and set up Patrick Sharp's go-ahead goal in the second period, and the injury-depleted Chicago Blackhawks held on to defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday afternoon for their third straight win.
 
The Blackhawks ground out the victory despite skating without injured star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for the third game. Forward Brandon Saad was a last-minute scratch.
 
Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith also scored for Chicago, which closed to one point behind Colorado for second place in the Central Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Blackhawks have three games left. The Avalanche, who host Pittsburgh on Sunday night, have five games left.
 
Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka connected for St. Louis, which lost its second straight and remained two points behind idle Boston for the NHL's overall point lead and race for the Presidents' Trophy.
 
Both the Blues and Bruins have four games remaining.
 
Chicago's Corey Crawford made 21 saves and St. Louis' Brian Elliott made 31.
 
The Blues skated without two of their top forwards, including leading goal scorer Alexander Steen who missed his third game with an upper-body injury. Vladimir Tarasenko has been sidelined since mid-March with a hand injury.
 
The Blues, who were shut out by Colorado on Saturday, have scored two goals or fewer in eight of their past 10 games.
 
Toews, Chicago's captain, sat out his third game with an upper-body injury suffered last Sunday when he was drilled by Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik.
 
Kane, who has resumed skating, missed his ninth with a lower-body injury suffered against the Blues on March 19.
 
Toews and Kane are expected to return for the start of the playoffs.
 
Chicago dominated territorially in the chippy first period and outshot the Blues 11-3, but trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes.
 
Schwartz's power-play goal at 1:57 of the first opened the scoring. After taking Brenden Morrow's pass, Schwartz fired from the left circle, but his shot hit traffic in front of the net and bounded back to him. His second shot got through the screen and beat Crawford low.
 
Crawford made a pad save on Patrik Berglund's short-handed breakaway attempt midway through the first.
 
Elliott stopped several prime Chicago chances in the final minutes of the first as Chicago turned up the pressure. With 1:30 to go, he blocked a point-blank short-handed shot by Marian Hossa, who rocketed in alone past Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
 
Morin tied it at 1 at 8:34 of the second, when he drove to the net and pushed in a rebound of Bryan Bickell's shot. Bickell had picked off a pass at center ice before cruising back into the Blues' zone and firing from the left circle.
 
Sharp put Chicago ahead 2-1 with 27 seconds left in the second when he completed a 2-on-1 break with Morin. Morin carried the puck down the right side, then passed to Sharp who fired a shot past Elliott's stick side from the left circle.
 
Kruger made it 3-1 just 56 seconds into the third. Elliott got a piece of Joakim Nordstrom's shot from the right wing, but the puck trickled to the left goal post. Kruger punched it in.
 
Sobotka cut it to 3-2 with 2:02 left when his flipping shot from the left wing knuckled under Crawford's glove. Smith scored into an empty-net with 3.3 seconds left.
 
NOTES: Blackhawks D Johnny Oduya sat out his third game with a lower-body injury. Healthy scratches for Chicago were D David Rundblad and forwards Teuvo Teravainen and Matt Carey. ... Blues scratches were defensemen Ian Cole and Jordan Leopold and F Dmitrij Jaskin.

Cardinals strike early, down Pirates 6-1

Saturday, 05 April 2014 23:08 Published in Sports
 
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Yadier Molina hit his second homer of the season, Jhonny Peralta added a late two-run shot and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 Saturday night.
 
Molina finished 2 for 4 and his solo homer in the sixth gave the Cardinals plenty of cushion as they bounced back from a 12-2 loss on Friday night by jumping on Pittsburgh ace Francisco Liriano (0-1) early.
 
St. Louis used a three-run first inning to put the Pirates in an early hole then held on as Joe Kelly (1-0) wiggled his way out of trouble. The right-hander worked 5 1-3 innings, walking four and striking out four in his first start of the season.
 
The Pirates left 11 runners on base, including seven in the first four innings.
 
Liriano, who struck out 10 in six innings on opening day against the Cubs, settled down after early trouble. The left-hander gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings, walking two and striking out four.
 
It wasn't exactly a repeat of the last time Liriano faced St. Louis, when he held the Cardinals in check in Game 3 of the NL division series to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. The Cardinals rallied to take the series in five, though six months later it appears the clubs that finished one-two in the NL Central remain evenly matched. The teams have now split the last 26 meetings.
 
The Cardinals didn't give Liriano time to settle in on a brisk night at PNC Park.
 
Matt Carpenter led off with a single. Peralta walked and Matt Holliday followed with an RBI single to right. Peralta scored on a sacrifice fly by Allen Craig, with Holliday scoring on a perfectly placed single to left by Matt Adams.
 
The Pirates had their chances to get back in it against Kelly. They loaded the bases in the third but managed only a single run when Kelly walked Russell Martin.
 
Pittsburgh had two on with two outs in the fourth and two one with one out in the sixth against Kelly but couldn't come through. St. Louis reliever Carlos Martinez replaced Kelly and retired Starling Marte and Travis Snider on groundouts to end the threat.
 
The Cardinals' bullpen didn't give up a hit in 3 2-3 innings of work.
 
Molina provided insurance with a homer to right and Peralta's second home run with the Cardinals slipped inside the left field foul pole against Pittsburgh reliever Jeanmar Gomez in the ninth.
 
NOTES: Marte went 1 for 5 and has reached base in each of his 17 career games against St. Louis. ... St. Louis reliever Jason Motte, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, participated in a simulated game in Florida on Saturday. Manager Mike Matheny said the team doesn't have a pre-determined role set for Motte, who saved 42 games in 2012 before the injury. ... The series concludes on Sunday when Adam Wainwright (1-0, 0.00) is set to go for St. Louis against Edinson Volquez (0-0, 0.00), who pitched two innings of relief in a loss to the Cubs on Thursday.

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