Reds phenom allows 1st earned run since Sept. 10

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Reds phenom allows 1st earned run since Sept. 10

From Comcast SportsNet
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Michael McKenry was prepared for the ultimate fastball. Pittsburgh's reserve catcher caught up with one of Aroldis Chapman's blink-of-an-eye fastballs and ended the reliever's season-long streak of not allowing an earned run, hitting an RBI double in the 10th inning Thursday night for a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Chapman (4-1) hadn't allowed an earned run in a club-record 24 appearances covering 29 innings. He came in to start the 10th with a 0.00 ERA and gave up a leadoff double by Clint Barmes -- only the eighth hit off the left-hander all season. McKenry, batting only .193, knew what was coming next. "He's a special guy with a special arm," McKenry said. "You've got to prepare for the 100 mph fastball. You can't think about anything else." The catcher's double to right field off a 99 mph pitch allowed the Pirates to pull out a game they almost let get away. "McKenry hit a real good pitch," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "If you catch up to Chapman's fastball, you're going to hit it hard somewhere." McKenry also had a sacrifice fly for a 4-3 lead in the seventh, but closer Joel Hanrahan (3-0) blew a save for only the second time this season, giving up a leadoff homer to Ryan Ludwick in the ninth. Chris Resop got his second major league save, allowing the Pirates to take two of three in the series against the NL Central leaders. Resop got Ludwick on a called third strike with two runners aboard, completing Pittsburgh's ninth win in 12 games. This one might have been the best of all. "Probably as satisfying a win as I've had since I've been here for the ballclub," manager Clint Hurdle said. McKenry figured in the Pirates' biggest moments in a back-and-forth game. His sacrifice fly in the seventh took advantage of Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips' blunder. Phillips turned his back to the infield after getting an out at first on a sacrifice, allowing Jose Tabata to go from first to third on the play. McKenry drove him in. Pittsburgh's bullpen ranks second in the NL to Cincinnati's and had blown only three save chances, fewest in the league. Ludwick hit Hanrahan's first pitch into the upper deck to tie it. Hanrahan came into the game 15 of 16 in save chances, having converted 10 in a row since his other missed opportunity on May 8. The Pirates' bench erupted when McKenry came through again in the 10th to regain the lead and end Chapman's streak without allowing an earned run. "We knew his numbers," said reliever Jared Hughes, who escaped a threat in the sixth. "We were really excited on the bench when that happened. "That was awesome -- maybe the best team win all year." Ludwick and Jay Bruce also had solo shots off Kevin Correia. It was Ludwick's 13th career multihomer game. Bruce led off the second inning with his 13th homer. At least one homer has been hit in each of the last 53 games at Great American Ball Park since last July 29, the longest such streak since there were 63 straight games with a homer at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park in 2007-08, according to STATS LLC. Cincinnati's Joey Votto doubled in the first inning, extending his hitting streak to 13 games, one shy of his career high. Tabata threw Votto out at the plate when he tried to score on Phillips' single to right field. Alex Presley doubled, singled and scored a pair of runs batting atop the Pirates' order. Presley, called up at the start of the series to bat leadoff, went 5 of 14 and scored three runs as Pittsburgh won its fifth straight series. Garrett Jones drove in two runs for Pittsburgh with a sacrifice fly and a single. NOTES: The Pirates play their next 15 games against American League teams, starting with three at PNC Park against Kansas City. The Reds host a three-game weekend series against Detroit, making its first trip to Cincinnati since 2001. ... Pittsburgh is 16-10 in one-run games. ... Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez was back in the lineup after sitting out a few games. He broke an 0-for-18 slump with a pinch-hit single on Wednesday. ... Reds 3B Scott Rolen took batting practice for the second consecutive day. Rolen has been on the DL with an inflamed left shoulder since May 12. There's no timetable for his return. ... Reds CF Drew Stubbs missed his second straight game with pulled muscles in his left side. He said the injury was improving.

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Duncan Keith was already deemed unlikely to play in many, if any, Blackhawks preseason games, when training camp opened. As of now, it doesn’t look like he’ll be in the first few.

Keith will probably not play in the Blackhawks’ first four preseason games, assistant coach Kevin Dineen said following Monday’s training camp sessions. As for whether or not Keith will play in any, that’s still up in the air.

“That’s a question that Dunc and the medical staff, Stan [Bowman], Joel [Quenneville], we’ll all get to that. I wouldn’t foresee him certainly in these first four games. I would say that’s not going to happen,” Dineen said. “We’ll let him keep progressing on his timetable that he’s on now.”

Keith has been participating in one practice each day but has not been in any of the scrimmages. Assistant coach Mike Kitchen said Keith has asked to skate in the team’s second practice each day – each session is about 20-25 minutes – but the Blackhawks have told him no. As of now, both Dineen and Kitchen figure Keith will be ready for the regular-season opener but the Blackhawks will continue to be prudent with him.

“He’s out there wheeling around, doing well,” Dineen said. “We had a good chat with him today. He feels like he has a lot of jump but not a lot of stamina right now. We’ll continue the way we’ve handled it so far. We’ll keep moving forward that way.”

Players returning soon

Patrick Kane, who was at the United Center on Monday afternoon, will skate with the Blackhawks on Tuesday. Defenseman Michal Kempny will also join Tuesday’s sessions. Dineen said Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin are expected to join the Blackhawks on Friday.

Neither Kane nor Kempny are expected to play Wednesday vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]​

Pokka is back

Defenseman Ville Pokka, who played for Team Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, skated with the Blackhawks on Monday.

“Anybody coming back from Toronto over the last two weeks is going to have a heck of a lot of confidence,” Dineen said. “A young kid like that getting the chance to represent his country on the international stage is a great honor and a pick-me-up heading into training camp and the season.”

First cuts made

The Blackhawks made their first round of cuts on Monday, sending Radovan Bondra, John Dahlstrom, Nathan Noel and Roy Radke to their respective junior teams. The active roster is now at 57 players.

Looking back at Texas in 2013 and setting Notre Dame’s defensive expectations

Looking back at Texas in 2013 and setting Notre Dame’s defensive expectations

After allowing 40 points in an embarrassing road loss at Brigham Young three years ago, Texas coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Diaz, whose defense only had one sack at the time of his firing, was replaced by a defensive analyst with coordinator experience. Sound familiar?

In-season, high-profile coordinator firings aren’t completely unheard of at the college level, but they are rare. So with Notre Dame replacing Brian VanGorder with Greg Hudson on Sunday, we can look back at Texas’ 2013 season as a rough blueprint for setting expectations for the Irish defense going forward. 

And the expectation is this: A mid-season firing of a coordinator probably won’t fix a broken defense. It didn’t necessarily do that at Texas. 

Like VanGorder’s 2015 defense, Diaz’s group in 2012 was inconsistent and prone to debilitating showings: West Virginia, Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State all scored 40 or more points against the Longhorns, with Texas losing three of those four games in a 9-4 season. 

So with championship expectations still on Brown at Texas, and a defense clearly in regression, Brown fired Diaz — who earned $700,000, about $400,000 lower than the salary ESPN reported VanGorder earned in 2014 — just two games into the 2013 season. Here’s how Texas fared after jettisoning Diaz and promoting former Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to that post in Austin:

Lost, 44-23, vs. Ole Miss (allowed 6.24 yards per play)
Won, 31-21, vs. Kansas State (allowed 5.74 yards per play)
Won, 31-30, at Iowa State (allowed 6.01 yards per play)
Won, 36-20, vs. Oklahoma (allowed 4.46 yards per play)
Won, 30-7, at TCU (allowed 3.90 yards per play)
Won, 35-13, vs. Kansas (allowed 5.19 yards per play)
Won, 47-40, at West Virginia (allowed 4.81 yards per play)
Lost, 38-13, vs. Oklahoma State (allowed 6.13 yards per play)
Won, 41-16. vs Texas Tech (allowed 4.95 yards per play)
Lost, 30-10, at Baylor (allowed 5.52 yards per play)
Lost, 30-7, vs. Oregon (allowed 6.90 yards per play)

Texas still struggled to stop the Big 12’s most powerful offenses in Oklahoma State and Baylor, as well as Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. That win over Oklahoma certainly was impressive — the Sooners went on to beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl — and this group did do better in terms of putting pressure on opposing offenses, but for the most part, Texas’ defense was still an up-and-down group. 

Its defense did well against Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU and Texas Tech but struggled to stop Ole Miss, Iowa State and West Virginia. Robinson didn’t magically turn Texas into a reliably-competitive defense: The Longhorns finished 44th in defensive S&P+, 57th in scoring defense (25.8 PPG) and 62nd in yards per play (5.48). It wasn’t good enough to allow Texas to compete for a Big 12 championship (of course, it's worth noting Texas' offense wasn't, either). 

Notre Dame’s circumstances are different, with the Irish possessing a much better offense this year than Texas had three years ago (Case McCoy and a banged-up David Ash were largely ineffective) but less talent on defense (both Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed totaled double-digit sacks; Notre Dame only has one sack as a team through four games). 

But the lesson here is that a mid-season coordinator change shouldn’t be expected to completely fix a defense. For Notre Dame’s sake, it has to hope Hudson can, at least, inject something into this defense to marginally improve it enough to get the Irish to six wins and bowl eligibility.