Brewers rookie flirts with a perfect game

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Brewers rookie flirts with a perfect game

From Comcast SportsNet
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has seen enough of what pitcher Mike Fiers has done for his team this season that he is ready to start promoting him for NL Rookie of the Year. Fiers was very impressive again Tuesday night as he took a perfect game into the seventh inning and led the Brewers to a 3-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Fiers (6-4) retired the first 18 batters before Zack Cozart doubled to left-center leading off the seventh. He advanced to third on a fly ball and scored on Brandon Phillips' sacrifice fly. The only other hits Fiers gave up were eighth-inning singles to Xavier Paul and Ryan Hanigan. The right-hander struck out pinch-hitter Ryan Ludwick to get out of the inning and left the field to a standing ovation. "He pitched an outstanding ball game," Roenicke said. "Absolutely, he has to be put in that conversation (for Rookie of the Year). He's been baffling hitters. And not just average hitters, he's been doing it against some very strong lineups." Fiers said he was aware he was throwing a no-hitter, but stayed focus as his team was only leading by two runs at the time. "Every start I go out there I don't want to give up a hit, but when it got into the sixth and seventh inning, thoughts came into my mind even more," he said. "I'm just trying to put zeroes on the board, no matter if they get 10 hits or zero hits. I just tried to keep my cool and not think about it." Fiers said he thought he threw a good pitch to Cozart, but the Reds shortstop went out and got the pitch. "He got the barrel on it and he hit it in a good spot," he said. "I felt great out there." Fiers has been terrific since he was called up from Triple-A Nashville on May 29. He hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of his last nine starts, going 5-2 with a 1.03 ERA and racking up 61 strikeouts in 61 innings. Roenicke said it was time for everyone to realize that Fiers could pitch in the major leagues. "I think he's shown he can pitch," he said. "He's a battler. He baffles guys with all the different stuff he throws." Jim Henderson pitched a scoreless ninth for his first career save. It was Milwaukee's second consecutive win over the NL Central leaders and its fifth straight victory at home. The Reds have lost three straight for the first time since July 2-5. They remained 3 1-2 games ahead of second-place Pittsburgh. Reds manager Dusty Baker said the problem for Cincinnati was Fiers. "That's one of the best games pitched against us in a long time," Baker said. "There's not a lot we could do. He's very deceptive with that Tim Lincecum-like delivery." Johnny Cueto (14-6) pitched seven innings for the Reds, giving up three runs and six hits while striking out nine. He was trying to become the first NL pitcher to reach 15 wins this season. The Brewers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Aramis Ramirez's 15th home run, a 425-foot shot to the Milwaukee bullpen in left-center. It was the second consecutive game in which Ramirez homered against the Reds. Jean Segura's RBI groundout in the seventh increased the lead to 3-1. It was Segura's first career RBI. NOTES: Baker said 1B Joey Votto would not be activated from the DL on the team's current seven-game road trip, which ends Sunday in Chicago. Votto had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on July 17. ... Brewers RHP Shaun Marcum, on the DL since June 15 with right elbow tightness, will make a rehabilitation start Thursday with Class-A Wisconsin. ... The series concludes Wednesday when the Reds send Mat Latos (10-3) to the mound against Randy Wolf (3-8).

Jae Crowder: Bucks came out and "hit us in the mouth" early, good test

Jae Crowder: Bucks came out and "hit us in the mouth" early, good test

Jae Crowder and Brad Stevens react to the Celtics loss to the Bucks on Wednesday night, followed by Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine talking about where this loss leaves Boston in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Haggerty: Bruins plan to take it slow with McAvoy, unless . . .

Haggerty: Bruins plan to take it slow with McAvoy, unless . . .

BRIGHTON -- Nobody doubts that 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy is going to be a game-changer down the road for the Boston Bruins.

The Boston University sophomore, expected to be in the NHL next season, is the crown jewel of a draft-and-development movement led by general manager Don Sweeney over the last three years. And if McAvoy hits the ground running with the Providence Bruins over the weekend, he may even make his NHL debut with the Bruins sometime in the next 10 days, even though playing in as much as a single game with Boston this season would burn a year off his entry-level contract.

"[The NHL] is still to be determined. It will be contract first and [the AHL] as a good first step for us," said Sweeney after signing McAvoy to an ATO (Amateur Tryout Agreement). "He's made the decision to leave [college] and we're excited about that process. It leaves some options open [for McAvoy], but first and foremost gets him playing and acclimated to pro hockey."

But there's also the reality that a 19-year-old like McAvoy is going to face challenges in pro hockey. Mastering the defenseman position at the NHL level is an extremely complicated process. It's the reason we see a lot more teenage forwards take the league by storm than teenage D-men, who typically need more development time in the AHL to hone their skills at both ends of the rink.

"[The challenge] would be getting him to figure out what works at this level and what doesn't, just like if he were in Providence," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy about the theoretical possibility of McAvoy playing in Boston soon. "We've used seven defensemen here over the last eight weeks and they've done a good job for us, so we'd have to see where he fit in and go from there . . . I've seen him here and there, but I don't know enough about his individual game at this point to know what he would specifically need to do . . .

"[Defense] is a tougher position in the NHL because mistakes are magnified. If you're a forward you've got another layer of defense to support you, so you can get away with some of that stuff. I think that's why you see generally that most of the rookies that age in the NHL are forwards."

Torey Krug signed with the Bruins out of college five years ago and had a one-game cameo with them before spending the entire next season in Providence. Krug says now that, looking back, he knows he wasn't ready to play in the NHL coming out of school and needed a season to sort things out defensively against bigger, stronger, smarter and faster opponents.

"The speed itself wasn't much of an issue, but if you fall asleep even for a second it's going to turn into a scoring chance for the other team," Krug said of the adjustment from college hockey to the NHL. "These games are not easy to play in, even for veterans in the league . . .

"I thought offensively I was ready [right away], but defensively I had a lot to learn. It's a tough league to play in. Offensively it was fun, but defensively I had my share of hiccups realizing I had to go down to Providence to work on some things."

McAvoy isn't expected to follow Krug's path. He'll get development opportunities at the AHL level at the end of this season just like fellow young D-man Brandon Carlo, who used last spring's AHL experience to vault directly into the NHL this season as a 19-year-old playing top-four minutes right from opening night.

It's also the track taken by Zach Werenski last year with the Columbus Blue Jackets. An AHL playoff run fully prepped him for his breakout season as the league's best rookie defenseman.

"It's a long time ago, but I used that [ATO] myself as a benefit and I've always been an advocate of it, and I think Robbie O'Gara, Danton Heinen and Carlo all [did it]," said Sweeney. "All the players that have been able to come on and play at a very high level against men, generally in a playoff stretch drive or the playoffs themselves, it's a unique [experience].

"When you first turn pro, you're introduced to it at a really high level and you have to adjust to it on the fly. It's about structure and understanding the voices you're hearing. And reading and reacting at the pro level are all very important [skills]. [I think] it's a great on-the-job training exercise and right now Brandon is the best example of it. He's been able to jump into our lineup this year, and that's a testament to him and also the work he did last year."

So the Bruins should take their time with McAvoy, though also allow that he could be a dominant exception to the rule and become a force right out of the chute. It certainly appears Sweeney is going to leave that door ajar,  to make sure the Bruins don't miss out on anything with a young defenseman who's already drawn comparisons to Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty.