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.

Jose Quintana giving White Sox another ace to play as early season success rolls on

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Jose Quintana giving White Sox another ace to play as early season success rolls on

The White Sox newfound brand of crisp, clean baseball is suiting Jose Quintana awfully well. 

The 27-year-old left-hander pitched another gem Tuesday night, firing eight innings of one-run ball to propel the White Sox to a 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox in front of 15,025 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Anchored by improved offensive and defensive support, Quintana lowered his season ERA to 1.40. But more jarring — in a positive way — is that in earning the win on Tuesday, Quintana for the first time in his career won three consecutive starts. 

“It’s way better this year,” Quintana said. “The offense is, for me and for everybody, everybody tries to do his job. We’re off to a really good start and we believe this year is a good year for us, and we’ll try to do everything to stay in first place.”

Quintana’s posted consistently solid results since the White Sox plucked him from Double-A Birmingham to start in a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians four years ago. His decidedly-not-flashy-but-effective pitching style didn’t make headlines like his prolific teammate Chris Sale, but a 3.46 ERA and an unfairly poor win-loss record landed him on plenty of lists and social media takes focused on the most underrated or overlooked players in baseball. 

That’s changed this year. Before his stellar start Tuesday, Quintana was given 8/1 odds by the sports betting website Bovada to win the American League Cy Young, the third-best of anyone (Sale led the way at 6/5). It’s still early, of course, but these six starts to begin the 2016 season stand is one of the best stretches he’s had in his career. 

Manager Robin Ventura attributed Quintana’s ace-like success in part to pitching with a little less pressure than in the past. 

“There is something to be said for going out there thinking if you give up one you’re going to lose,” Ventura said. “It’s been a few years for him. Right now (with) the feeling going on in there, he knows if he just pitches his game those guys are going to scratch out some runs for him.”

The White Sox continue to show signs of ending a head-scratching inability to support Quintana. 

Jose Abreu’s first-inning RBI triple got the White Sox scoring started and his double in the eighth added two insurance runs (a Todd Frazier groundout in the third inning plated the White Sox other run). For the fifth time in six starts this season, Quintana was supported by four or more runs, and Adam Eaton and Austin Jackson made sparkling defensive plays to keep hard-hit balls from inflicting any damage. 

Having the offense score four or more runs in 83 percent of Quintana’s starts seems unlikely — if he makes 32 starts this year, that’d mean he’d get that support in about 27 of those — but it is an improvement off the last few seasons. The White Sox scored three or fewer runs in 54 percent of Quintana’s starts from 2013-15, a span in which it’s worth noting the club also was rated as having the third-worst defense in baseball by DRS and UZR. 

“There’s more of a confidence level of him knowing he doesn’t have to do an extraordinary thing — and he might do it, like tonight,” Ventura said. “But he doesn’t feel like he has to do it on his own.”

Quintana isn’t throwing harder this year and hasn’t added a new pitch or anything like that. But Ventura’s theory on why the Colombia native is pitching better makes sense — perhaps the next step in Quintana’s career was getting a good, reliable team playing behind him.

“He’s probably one of the best right now in the league,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through a translator. 

That’s not hyperbole. Quintana has a top-10 ERA that’s backed up by a 2.12 FIP, which is a good indicator that his early-season success isn’t necessarily a small sample size-generated mirage. 

Quintana is a shining example of how so much has gone right for the White Sox this season — even on the day in which the team announced it would eat over $11 million to cut ties with veteran left-hander John Danks. Not only is he pitching better, but everyone around him is playing better. And the combination of that, so far, has taken Quintana and the White Sox to another level. 

“Everything changed,” Quintana said. “Everything is going in a good direction this year. We believe in that.”

Today on CSN: Lester, Cubs go for sweep in Pittsburgh

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Today on CSN: Lester, Cubs go for sweep in Pittsburgh

The Cubs look to sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11 a.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (2-1, 1.83) vs. Juan Nicasio (3-2, 3.33)

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Rick Hahn: Filling fifth spot in White Sox rotation a 'fluid situation'

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Rick Hahn: Filling fifth spot in White Sox rotation a 'fluid situation'

Erik Johnson gets the first chance at the No. 5 spot in the White Sox rotation, but the situation is hardly finalized.

The White Sox announced Tuesday that they would promote Johnson from Triple-A Charlotte in time to make Thursday’s start in place of John Danks, whom they will officially designated for assignment later this week. But just because Johnson gets the first start doesn’t mean he’s here for good, general manager Rick Hahn said.

Hahn and the White Sox have made it clear they want better production from the fifth spot, whether it's from an internal or an external option.

“It’s going to be a bit of a fluid situation,” Hahn said.

Hahn is comfortable with the team’s internal options at Charlotte beyond Johnson.

Miguel Gonzalez, who started last Monday in Toronto, has a solid major league track record. Then there’s Jacob Turner, who has 27 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings with a 3.04 ERA in five starts.

But Hahn also said the White Sox wouldn’t shy away from looking outside the farm system, either. Hahn declined to answer whether or not the White Sox would watch Tim Lincecum’s tryout Friday in Scottsdale, Ariz. before he noted the club has “scouts everywhere.”

The White Sox could also try and use their internal options to get by for several months before adding another pitcher ahead of the trade deadline.

No matter whom they turn to, the expectation is better results than the White Sox received from Danks, who was 0-4 with a 7.25 ER in four starts.

“Obviously, Erik starts on Thursday,” Hahn said. “After that, we may well make another move next week as we try to accomplish two things with that spot -- first and foremost, get greater production than we’ve been receiving thus far this year.”

“We do have a few internal options.

“If it does get to the point where we’re better off going outside the organization, obviously we’ve never been shy about doing that.”