Baseball's most surprising team ... the Pirates?

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Baseball's most surprising team ... the Pirates?

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A day before he takes part in the home run derby as part of the All-Star festivities in Kansas City, Andrew McCutchen put on a show for the home fans. McCutchen hit two home runs, Neil Walker homered among his five hits and the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the All-Star break in sole possession of first place following a 13-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. McCutchen hit a pair of two-run homers that immediately followed hits by Walker -- one to open the scoring in the first and another to make it 12-2 in the seventh. "I am not going up to bat to hit home runs," McCutchen said. "I am just trying to put good swings on balls and when I do that, depending on where the pitch is and how my swing is, some balls go out." If they don't go out, they at least drop in for a hit of some sort lately for the red-hot McCutchen, who enters the break on a 21-for-38 (.552) tear. He has multiple hits in six of his past nine games and 23 RBIs in his past 19 games. All of his team-high 18 home runs have come in the past two months -- an NL-high 12 have come with runners on base. The long-woeful Pirates have won six of seven and 10 of 12, and no team in the majors has a better record since May 12 than Pittsburgh's 34-19. "We worked hard to get to where we are, and we've earned our way so far," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. A.J. Burnett pitched effectively into the seventh to win his ninth consecutive decision, and Casey McGehee went 3 for 4 with two RBIs for Pittsburgh. The Pirates (48-37) are 11 games over .500 for the first time since 1992 and are in first place at the break for the first time since 1997. The franchise has endured a North American professional sports record 19 consecutive losing seasons. The Pirates have gone 11-1-1 in their past 13 series and have won seven consecutive series at PNC Park. "Seeing what's going on here, it's fun to be a part of it," said Burnett, acquired in an offseason trade from the New York Yankees. The Giants' Tim Lincecum failed to get out of the fourth inning for the second consecutive start, getting charged with six runs on seven hits. The two-time Cy Young Award winner enters the break with a 6.42 ERA that is worst in the majors among qualifying starters. Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run homer for San Francisco, which has lost five of six and seven of nine. Burnett (10-2) retired 13 consecutive Giants batters from the first until the sixth. He was lifted after Sandoval hit his eighth homer with Buster Posey aboard in the seventh. Burnett was charged with two runs on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings. Burnett improved to 6-0 at home and became the second Pirates pitcher since 1993 to win 10 games prior to the All-star break. Pittsburgh has won each of his past 12 outings. Burnett's winning streak is a career-best. Walker extended his hitting streak to 12 games -- tying a team season high -- with a homer, double and three singles. It was the first five-hit game for a Pirates player since Walker did it July 20, 2010. Walker is hitting .489 (23-for-47) during his streak. "Days like today can happen," said Walker, "but certainly five hits is something that comes around very rarely." Walker hit his sixth home run with nobody on in the third, and the Pirates chased Lincecum (3-10) with a three-run fourth. Burnett's soft liner through the middle with the bases loaded scored McGehee. It was the pitcher's 10th career RBI and first since Aug. 9, 2005, while with Florida. Burnett was the final batter Lincecum would face -- although runs that scored via a Drew Sutton sacrifice fly and Walker single would be charged to him. Lincecum has allowed 69 earned runs -- most in the majors and three more than his total from all of last season. He has allowed 47 earned runs in 47 innings on the road this season. "You never want to say, Hey, I've hit rock bottom,' or anything like that," Lincecum said. "But when things are going as bad as they are right now, you've kind of got to go out there like you've got nothing left to lose. Leave it all out there on the field and what happens, happens." Manager Bruce Bochy said Lincecum will start San Francisco's second game out of the break. He also was emphatic that he has given no thought to removing Lincecum from the rotation. "He's got to put this first half behind him..." Bochy said. "He's got to regroup. We need him. He's got to be determined to turn things around, and have a better second half. "There's not much you can do right now." About the only negative for the Pirates on Sunday was McGehee pulling up lame with a mild left groin strain after swatting a two-run "single" deep into the notch in left-center during the sixth. Pittsburgh entered the day a game up on the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. Only Washington has a better record among NL teams. Notes: The Giants had three errors. ... The Pirates' 29-14 home record is the best in the majors. They have won nine of 11 and 14 of 17 at PNC Park. ... Pittsburgh will be on the road for 16 of its first 22 after the break, beginning with three in Milwaukee Friday-Sunday. Manager Clint Hurdle set the order of his rotation to start the unofficial second half: RHP James McDonald, RHP Kevin Correia, Burnett, RHP Jeff Karstens and LHP Erik Bedard. ... San Francisco hosts Houston for a three-game series coming out of the break beginning Friday. The Giants took two of three from the Astros at home June 12-14.

Morning Skate: Blackhawks get band back together

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks get band back together

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while knowing that nobody will ever forget the courage and zest for life that 5-year-old Red Sox fan Ari Schultz showed in his far too short life. Rest in peace, little guy.  

 *PHT writer James O’Brien has the Chicago Blackhawks adjusting to the returns of both Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp after their short stints away from the fold. It will be really interesting to see if the Blackhawks can recreate their magic by bringing some of the past Cup pieces to the scene after last year’s disappointing end.

*Ilya Kovalchuk is primed for a return to the NHL in 2018-19 after playing one more season, an Olympic season no less, in the KHL.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Arpon Basu chronicling the day with the Cup in Montreal for Marc-Andre Fleury.

*Speaking of the Blackhawks, it sounds like Jonathan Toews is going to scale back on the “Captain Serious” approach to his hockey career this upcoming season.

*Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee is pleased with the state of his expansion team after looking at some of the pieces, and doing a little wheeling and dealing after the fact. I mean, you have to wheel and deal if you’re a hockey team in Vegas, right?

*Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar is relieved his new contract with the Winged Wheels will allow him to avoid arbitration.

*For something completely different: It remains to be seen whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but we’re completely in a culture where media entities are writing full stories about posters. Okay, I think this is a bad thing and my mind is already made up.

 


 

Andrelton Simmons slugs Angels to 7-3 win over Red Sox

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Andrelton Simmons slugs Angels to 7-3 win over Red Sox

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- When runs come in bunches, so do the wins for the Los Angeles Angels.

Andrelton Simmons drove in three runs, including a go-ahead two-run homer, Albert Pujols went 3-for-4 with two RBI and the Angels rallied for a 7-3 victory over the Red Sox on Saturday night.

Simmons hit his 10th homer of the season to left and put the Angels ahead 4-3 in the third inning after falling behind early. Pujols doubled to score Yunel Escobar and Mike Trout to start the four-run outburst.

"When we got a pitch to hit we hit it hard," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Albert got us going, that's a big double. One thing that can get you back into the game, extra-base hits tonight showed up."

The Angels improved to 38-10 when scoring four or more runs, compared to a 10-41 mark when held to three or fewer.

Battering Red Sox ace David Price even after facing a 3-0 deficit after two innings made this particular offensive eruption all the more impressive.

"We started chipping away," said Simmons, who went 2 for 4. "Guys just kept putting up good at-bats. We just didn't make it easy for them."

JC Ramirez (9-8) recorded his second win at home in 11 starts, striking out six while allowing one earned run and five hits in six innings despite struggling early.

The Red Sox got off to another fast start after scoring five runs in the first inning on Friday. Hanley Ramirez had an RBI single to start the scoring, and the Red Sox got two runs in the second after the Angels' franchise-record streak of 14 games without an error ended when Ramirez couldn't make the catch to complete a double play while covering first. Mookie Betts hit his 31st double to knock in a run and then was driven in by Andrew Benintendi for a 3-0 lead.

However, the Angels were able to respond after dropping the series opener. They added two runs in the fifth when Simmons singled, again bringing home Pujols, and he scored on a throwing error by shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

Trout picked up an RBI in the sixth, giving him five in seven games this home stand.

Price (5-3) gave up five earned runs and seven hits in five innings, allowing more than three earned runs for only the second time this year.

"The one thing that they did do well was they forced him to throw a lot of pitches," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Obviously, the third inning, two big swings were the difference."

ANOTHER PUJOLS MILESTONE

Pujols became the 26th player to score 1,700 runs when he touched home plate after Simmons went deep. Pujols joins Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez and Willie Mays in amassing at least 600 home runs and 1,700 runs.

Scioscia called Pujols' continued climb into the history books a moment of "living history."

"He's had an incredible career and he's got more in his tank," Scioscia said. "It's fun to see the guys he is connected with."

FARRELL TOSSED

Farrell got the boot for arguing with umpire Phil Cuzzi in the middle of the fifth, though his original intent was to keep Dustin Pedroia from the same outcome. But by the time Farrell got to home plate, Pedroia had ended his conversation with Cuzzi and Farrell picked up where it left off.

"Anytime you make a comment about balls and strikes, that's probably what it's going to get you," Farrell said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: INF Josh Rutledge (concussion) is likely to come off the disabled list on Monday. ... Mitch Moreland was in the starting lineup at DH for the first time this season.

Angels: LHP Tyler Skaggs (strained oblique) pitched four innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake, giving up three earned runs and six hits.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (4-12, 4.60 ERA) has just one win in his last 10 starts, but it came against the Angels last month. Porcello has allowed two earned runs in 14 innings over his last two starts, striking out 13 without allowing a walk in that span, and still took the loss in both outings.

Angels: RHP Parker Bridwell (3-1, 3.18 ERA) went a career-high 6 2/3 innings to pick up the win against the Red Sox last month. Bridwell has held opponents to two earned runs or fewer in five of his last six starts.