Buchholz gets knocked around in first start since June 16

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Buchholz gets knocked around in first start since June 16

DETROIT -- The Red Sox' pitching problems aren't limited to the back end of their bullpen.

For the second straight game Sunday, they had to deal with a poor outing from their starting pitcher. On Saturday, it was Josh Beckett, who was blasted for five homers in a 10-0 loss.

On Sunday, it was a sub-par effort from Clay Buchholz, who was making his first start since last June 16, having missed the entire second half of the 2011 season with a stress fracture in his lower back.

Buchholz was tagged for four runs in the first inning -- setting the tone for the day -- another in the second and two more in the fourth.

He was lifted after that, having needed 78 pitches to record just a dozen outs. Unlike Beckett, he didn't have any issues with the long ball and only two of the eight hits against him were for extra bases.

But the effect was still the same: the Sox had to overcome the hole that Buchholz had dug for them, and they were into the bullpen far too soon.

"You know, I felt really good," said Buchholz. "It's just a matter of wanting to keep the ball in the park because the wind was blowing out and I did that. But it just seemed that every time they made contact, the ball either found a hole or was just out of the reach of somebody in the infield."

One problem for Buchholz was not being able to put some hitters away when he was well ahead in the count. In the first inning alone, two Tigers who were behind 0-and-2 to Buchholz managed to connect for big hits.

"I've just got to do a better job of getting guys out and avoiding the big innings," said Buchholz.

Catcher Kelly Shoppach thought that Buchholz was the victim of some bad luck on the field, and, perhaps, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Nothing was wrong with him," said Shoppach. "They're a hot team -- it seemed like all hot. In this series, it seemed like they might have had 10 or 12 ground ball base hits and some broken bats fell in. They have some good hitters over there and they squared us up when we made mistakes.

"Clay threw the ball fine. He had pretty good stuff. He got burned a couple of times in big situations, but I thought he was pretty good today."

Said manager Bobby Valentine: "It didn't seem like he had a great feel for his curveball, so he went to his changeup and that got hit a couple of times . . . It's something he'll improve on."

Sunday marked the first time in his last 42 starts that Buchholz had given up more than five earned runs. Given the way the rest of the staff is going, he picked a bad time to see his streak come to an end.

"It's not the way you wanted to start," Buchholz said. "When this team scores 12 runs in a game, it should be a 100-percent win."

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.