Sunday, April 29, 2012

Scherzer keeps it close, but Tigers fall to Yanks

NEW YORK- Amazingly, Max Scherzer endured 119 pitches over 4 2/3 innings and still gave the Tigers a chance. Much less surprising, CC Sabathia shut the door on them.

Despite seven walks and seven hits allowed by Scherzer, he and reliever Luke Putkonen stranded Yankees galore on the basepaths to keep the Bronx Bombers from busting open Sunday's series finale.

The big hit on the other end, however, never came, allowing Sabathia to last eight solid innings for a 6-2 Tigers loss at Yankee Stadium.

Detroit's sixth loss in its last seven games dropped the Tigers back to .500 heading into a six-game homestand beginning Monday night against the Royals.

Scherzer became the first American League pitcher since Victor Zambrano in 2004 to throw 119 pitches or more without getting through the fifth inning, according to research on baseball-reference.com. Though some of those pitches were close and didn't draw the calls from home-plate umpire Rob Drake, Scherzer also missed his spots on many. Instead of missing over the plate and getting hit, he missed off of it and allowed baserunners.

He left so little over the plate, in fact, that aside from Curtis Granderson's solo home run in the fourth -- a ball that popped out of Austin Jackson's glove as he tried to make a leaping catch over the fence in right-center field -- the Yankees had very little solid contact off Scherzer. Their two previous runs scored in the second on Granderson's bases-loaded walk and Alex Rodriguez's infield bouncer down the third-base line.

Scherzer and Putkonen combined to strand 14 runners, four shy of the maximum possible through six innings, yet the Tigers only trailed by a run. Two seventh-inning runs on a fielder's choice at the plate and a Robinson Cano sacrifice fly helped widen the gap.

The loss closed a wildly turbulent month on the mound for Scherzer (1-3), who came into the season looking to find his midseason form early, but has struggled to find any consistency. He allowed 21 runs on 37 hits over 24 1/3 April innings, with 13 walks and 27 strikeouts.

Prince Fielder's fourth-inning solo homer -- his first home run in 72 at-bats since his two-homer game April 7 -- and Miguel Cabrera's sixth-inning double kept the Tigers close in the middle innings. The problem was that Detroit had precious few other opportunities against Sabathia, who improved to 16-12 for his career against his old AL Central nemesis.

CC sharp as Yankees take series from Tigers

CC Sabathia turned in his sharpest outing of the young season, Curtis Granderson homered and drove in a pair of runs and the Yankees defeated the Tigers, 6-2, on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees scraped together just enough from their numerous opportunities to score against Tigers starter Max Scherzer, posting a victory even after stranding an eye-popping 15 men on base.

Hoping for a deep outing to assist a taxed bullpen, the Yankees got what they needed from Sabathia, as the ace left-hander pitched eight innings and limited the Tigers to two runs as he charged to his third consecutive victory.

New York's second inning provided two soft runs against Scherzer, who has had an erratic opening to his season after winning a career-high 15 games last season for Detroit.

Derek Jeter legged out an infield single to load the bases after it appeared Scherzer had rung him up on a called third strike, and the Yankees took advantage of the break as Granderson worked a walk to pick up his 500th career run batted in.

After a visit to the mound, Alex Rodriguez rolled a tapper down the third-base line that Miguel Cabrera couldn't pick up bare-handed, scored an infield hit.

Granderson provided more wiggle room in the fourth, smashing a deep drive toward the Yankees' bullpen that center fielder Austin Jackson nearly brought back with a spectacular effort. The ball landed safely for Granderson's eighth homer of the year.

Scherzer was up over 50 pitches after two innings and completed his day throwing 119 in just 4 2/3 frames, issuing seven walks that generally did not hurt his final line of three runs and seven hits. He struck out four.

Rodriguez added a second RBI on a seventh-inning fielder's choice, as Chris Stewart slid home safely under a tag from catcher Gerald Laird. The resulting RBI was the 1,904th of Rodriguez's career, passing Willie Mays for sole possession of eighth place on baseball's all-time list.

Robinson Cano added a fifth Yankees run with a sacrifice fly. Even as the Yankees stranded a small village on the bases against Scherzer and reliever Luke Putkonen, who made his Major League debut, the output was enough because of Sabathia's effort.

Prince Fielder crushed a long solo home run into the second deck in right field off Sabathia in the fourth and Miguel Cabrera raked a run-scoring double in the sixth, but otherwise Sabathia was in command. The left-hander walked two and struck out eight.

Seven dead after van flies over railing into Bronx Zoo

A speeding van drove over the railing of an elevated highway and fell 60 feet into the Bronx Zoo in a horrific accident that left seven people dead, authorities said.

The van was driving "at a high rate of speed" southbound in the left lane on the Bronx River Parkway at about 12:30 p.m. when it struck the median divider, ricocheted across all lanes of traffic, flew over the railing and plummeted to the ground, officials said. It is unknown what caused the van to lose control.

The vehicle landed in the southeast part of the Bronx Zoo in a heavily-wooded area that is closed to the public and has no animals, a zoo spokeswoman said.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the driver was a 45-year-old woman, and that the victims included a man and woman in their 80s, a 39-year-old woman and three girls, ages 3, 5, and 15. All were killed.

“We believe that the driver, who was travelling in the left hand lane, struck the Jersey barrier, and in reacting and trying to correct, turned right, went through the barrier and dropped 60 feet,” Kelly said while appearing at an event in Queens

Firefighters were shaken at the scene of the deadly accident.

“It’s terrible, just carnage. The passengers didn’t stand a chance,” an FDNY source at the scene told The New York Post.

“The vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed it hit something that caused it to be airborne over the railing,” said FDNY Deputy Chief Ronald Werner.

“They flew right over the guardrail, didn’t even touch it,” another law enforcement source said.

“The car was crushed upside down. Seven victims were removed from the car, they were pronounced dead on the scene,” said Werner, adding that one firefighter suffered a minor injury during a subsequent search of the heavily-wooded area.

Cops with dogs and in a helicopter using thermal imaging searched the area to make sure there were no other victims.

Werner described a heartbreaking scene.

“I’ve been in the fire department 30 years, sometimes you come upon events that are horrific and this was one of them. You see young kids hurt or lose their life it’s always harder than when you find someone in an older age. It effects all our units,” he said.

Elected officials offered their condolences today in the wake of the tragedy.

“My prayers, as well as those of my office and all Bronxites, go out to the families of the seven victims of today’s accident on the Bronx River Parkway," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with them as they try to grasp the horrific tragedy that has befallen them today."

Alluding to last year's crash involving Bronx Democratic male district leader Michael Robles, Diaz said that his office would reach out the appropriate agencies to examine safety issues on the parkway and discuss potential solutions to the issue, like "road condition and barrier/fence height."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this tragic time," Mayor Bloomberg said today.

The crash is the city’s deadliest since March, 2011, when a crowded bus heading back to Chinatown from Connecticut's Mohegan Sun casino was split in half on Interstate 95 in The Bronx — leaving 14 passengers dead and a blood-soaked mess of severed body parts, crumpled metal and broken glass strewn on the highway.

Cops then said the bus careened off a guardrail, was knocked on its side and skidded 300 feet into the Hutchinson River Parkway exit sign’s stanchion. The steel pole violently sliced through the bus at passengers’ eye level.

With AP

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lead forgotten as bullpen betrays Red Sox

For a while, it seemed Saturday couldn't have gone any better for the Red Sox. By the time their game against the Yankees ended, the Sox wondered openly if things could get any worse.

With a commanding lead of 9-0 after five innings and 9-1 through six, the Red Sox were blindsided by a sudden and sustained surge of Yankees offense and suffered a 15-9 defeat in front of a completely exasperated Fenway Park crowd.

Just when the Red Sox thought their fortunes were turning around, they endured about the most unfathomable defeat possible, and it came at the hands of their rivals.

"I think we've hit bottom," said Bobby Valentine after his 14th game as Boston's manager. "That's what I told them after the game. You have to sometimes hit bottom, and if this isn't bottom, we'll find some new ends to the earth, I guess, or something."

Misfortune and frustration have engulfed Valentine's team since the season started. The last-place Red Sox saw their season-high losing streak grow to five games, and they fell to 4-10 on the season.

"In all honesty, I don't want to see if it gets any worse," said shortstop Mike Aviles. "What do we have [for a losing streak], four, five games? I really don't know, in all honesty, because it just hasn't been a good time lately. Baseball hasn't been all that great right now for us. If this is bottom, we're good, because there's nowhere else to go but up, right?"

It was the first time the Red Sox have blown a nine-run lead since June 30, 2009, when they couldn't hold a 10-1 edge at Camden Yards. Before that, you'd have to go back to June 4, 1989, when manager Joe Morgan's team blew a 10-0 lead at Fenway and lost, 13-11, to the Blue Jays. As far as rivalry matchups, some Sox fans still remember Roger Clemens blowing a 9-0 lead at Yankee Stadium on June 26, 1987, which was Derek Jeter's 13th birthday.

How did Saturday's bottoming out happen? Boston's bullpen completely imploded, as the Yankees stormed back with seven runs in the seventh and seven more in the eighth.

Each time Valentine came out to remove another pitcher, he was booed.

"I've been booed in a couple of countries, and a few different stadiums," Valentine said. "I don't want to be booed. I want the good decisions. It just didn't work out."

Negativity is swirling around the Red Sox these days, as memories of last September's 7-20 collapse still loom and the current team has been barraged by injuries and subpar play.

Valentine was asked if this was the type of defeat that could have a lasting psychological impact.

"I mean, this is a psychological situation, right?" Valentine said. "Does last September have a toll? Does losing [Jacoby] Ellsbury have a toll? You've got to be tough. I think we're a tough team. We'll find out. I believe they are."

Without question, the biggest problem the Red Sox face now is the bullpen, which simply hasn't been able to recover from closer Andrew Bailey being erased from the mix on the eve of the regular season due to right thumb surgery.

On this day, the bullpen gave up 13 runs, 12 of which were earned.

"Today was a tough loss," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. "There [were] certainly a lot of good things to start the game. It was tough the way it ended, tough on everyone. I think that after a loss like that, the best thing to do is not to make decisions right away, sleep on things, keep talking about it. Our pitching performance has to improve. That's the bottom line."

As for Saturday, it unraveled at a dizzying rate.

Even when Nick Swisher smashed a grand slam against Vicente Padilla in the seventh, the Sox still had a 9-5 lead. But three batters later, Mark Teixeira hammered his second homer of the day, an opposite-field three-run shot against Matt Albers that made it a one-run game.

"It was definitely frustrating," Albers said. "We have a lead, and as a member of our bullpen, obviously when we have the lead, we want to be able to shut it down. Obviously, we weren't able to do that."

Eduardo Nunez started the eighth with a walk against Franklin Morales. Valentine went to his closer, hoping for a six-out save.

Instead, Alfredo Aceves failed to record an out for the third time this season.

Jeter started the nightmare for Aceves with a hard-fought, eight-pitch walk. Swisher was again in the middle of bad developments for the Red Sox, slamming a screaming line drive over the head of Cody Ross in center for a two-run double that put the Yankees on top for the first time all day.

"Well, you know, he made some quality pitches," Valentine said of Aceves. "He just got some balls up that got hit. It all happened pretty quickly, and it's all kind of confusing right now."

Instead of celebrating their epic comeback, the Yankees continued to belt Boston pitching. Teixeira's ground-rule double in the eighth made it 12-9. The final act for Aceves was an intentional walk to Curtis Granderson.

The Red Sox finally got an out -- two of them, in fact -- when Raul Ibanez hit a line-drive bullet right into the glove of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. But the reprieve was temporary, as Russell Martin smashed a two-run double.

"That was pretty cool," Teixeira said. "I've played in a lot of games, and that might have been the funnest regular-season game I've ever played in. The way we rallied, the way guys pulled through, to come back from 9-0 that late in the game is pretty cool."

Not so much for the Red Sox. Had Valentine ever seen anything like this?

"Maybe, but not that I could recall very quickly," Valentine said.

For most of the afternoon, things couldn't have been any better for the Red Sox.

Lefty Felix Doubront turned in a solid start against the Yankees, limiting them to four hits and one run over six innings. The lefty walked three and struck out seven, throwing 99 pitches.

Sizzling designated hitter David Ortiz went 4-for-4 to raise his average to .436. Jarrod Saltalamacchia broke out of his early-season slump by going 4-for-5 with two doubles.

"Well, you know, there's a lot of good things that happened out there tonight," Valentine said. "They will not be lost in the shuffle. Not a very good three innings at the end. Real good beginning. Felix was terrific. David was terrific. A lot of guys were terrific tonight. I don't think that the outcome is going to destroy all the good things that happened. The outcome wasn't very good."

But this outcome -- because it was so rare -- is bound to linger until the Red Sox can get on that hot streak that has eluded them since last August.

(Saturday's game): Down nine early, gutsy Yanks stun Boston

BOSTON -- It may be true, as the Red Sox claim, that Fenway Park is America's most beloved ballpark. But that sharp marketing tagline should include an important addendum: "Where no lead is ever safe."

The Yankees proved that to be true on Saturday, scoring 15 unanswered runs after the fifth inning to charge back from a nine-run deficit, stunning the inhabitants of the century-old facility with a 15-9 victory over the Red Sox.

"To be able to come back and pull that win off, that's a big win for us," said Nick Swisher, who drilled the go-ahead double for New York in the eighth inning. "That's a huge momentum shift for us. This team, we never give up."

Swisher also hit a grand slam and Mark Teixeira homered twice, as each switch-hitting slugger collected six RBIs to help the Yankees tie a franchise record -- set five times previously -- for the largest deficit overcome in a victory.

New York bombed the hapless Boston bullpen for a pair of seven-run innings, sending 11 men to the plate in the seventh and 12 men up for the eighth.

The Yankees had scored seven or more runs in back-to-back innings only once previously -- also at Fenway Park, on June 19, 2000, in a more lopsided 22-1 victory.

"When you're down, 9-0, after five innings, I know we have a great offense, but you don't see a comeback at any level very often in professional baseball," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think it just shows you the type of lineup that we have."

By the time the carnage was complete, Freddy Garcia's ineffective five-out start for the Yankees -- as well as Felix Doubront's six good frames for Boston -- had long been relegated to a forgettable footnote.

Swisher's first grand slam in a Yankees uniform, and the fifth of his career, came off Vicente Padilla in the seventh and pulled the Yankees within four runs. Before the inning was over, Teixeira had tacked on a three-run blast facing Matt Albers to make it a one-run game.

"We've got guys that don't give away at-bats," Teixeira said. "We take every at-bat seriously, whether it's the first inning or the seventh inning, up nine or down nine. We don't want to just give away at-bats and go through the motions. Tonight, we just got on a little roll. That was a lot of fun."

Going deep from both sides of the plate, Teixeira also accounted for New York's first run of the game, hitting a solo shot off Doubront that seemed meaningless when it scraped the top of the Green Monster in the sixth.

"Some games, you get blown out," Teixeira said. "When you play 162 games a year, you're going to get blown out sometimes. But we still said, 'Hey, let's stay in it. We've got a few innings left. You never know.'"

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine turned in desperation to Alfredo Aceves in the eighth, asking six outs of the former Bombers righty. Aceves faced six batters and retired none, surrendering Swisher's go-ahead two-run double to deep center field.

"It all happened pretty quickly, and it's all kind of confusing right now," Valentine said.

Teixeira added more breathing room for the Yankees in the eighth, rapping a two-run ground-rule double down the right-field line. Russell Martin also belted a two-run double as part of the Yankees' outburst.

"A team like that, you can't leave pitches over the middle," Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "You can't make any mistakes, really."

Early, Boston looked very comfortable with the 48 pitches it saw from Garcia's right hand, as Girardi said Garcia lacked his normal velocity and was up in the zone.

Three first-inning doubles, including a David Ortiz grounder that hugged the left-field line, led to a run. Boston added three more in the second inning with Mike Aviles, Ryan Sweeney and Dustin Pedroia knocking in runs.

"Every pitch I was throwing, they hit," Garcia said. "I threw a couple of good pitches in the first inning, and they hit it."

Facing David Phelps in the fifth inning, Cody Ross slugged a two-run homer off the center-field camera stand, and Aviles also drove in two runs for the Red Sox, who had hoped to avenge the spoiling of Fenway Park's 100th anniversary celebration one day prior.

Rafael Soriano logged the victory by pitching a scoreless seventh inning, and New York's bullpen was the unsung hero after Garcia's early exit. Clay Rapada allowed a run, but Phelps kept the Yanks in the game by holding Boston to three runs in four innings.

"It says a lot," Girardi said. "We've had some tough games this season. There's no doubt about it -- a lot of one-run games and some extra-inning games. Our offense just keeps coming at you."

By the ninth, the aisles were packed with dazed Red Sox fans headed out to Yawkey Way, while a few vocal pockets of Yankees fans stayed to revel in the faith they showed in the ballpark's ability to assist in wild rivalry finishes just like Saturday's.

"It makes it a little more fun, there's no doubt," Teixeira said. "If you come back from nine runs against anybody, it's a cool thing. But to do it here in Boston, it makes it a little more fun."

Playroom eyed as hell cellar

They are looking for evidence of death in a SoHo basement that once bustled with life.

Photos emerged yesterday that show beaming kids in the basement of 127 Prince St., where FBI investigators have been searching for evidence in the disappearance 33 years ago of Etan Patz.

The cellar that police now believe may hold the answers to the city’s most heart-wrenching mystery was a space transformed by industrious parents from a commercial cellar to a bright playground.

“We all got together and put down vinyl tiles on the floor and painted the walls,” said Donald Gangemi. “We wound up with 13 kids.”
The parents, lacking community facilities, chipped in to renovate the space, donated by an adjacent art
gallery.

The room had no windows but ran the length of the building with a door to the outside, said Judy Reichler, one of the founding parents.

The basement would have been familiar territory to the Patz family. Etan’s older sister, Shira, was a play-group member, Reichler recalled.

But by 1979, the basement was also the domain of Othniel Miller, the now-75-year-old handyman known for doing odd jobs around the neighborhood who emerged this past week as a prime suspect in the case.

“He was a very good craftsman,” said Steve Kuzma, 78, building manager of nearby 133 Wooster St.
Just a day before Etan vanished in May 1979, he was in the basement, earning a buck from Miller for helping out in his workshop.

After Etan’s disappearance, investigators looking for him noticed freshly poured concrete — although they never dug it up after being told they’d have to pay for repairs.

“Every time I went down there, there was a different wall,” Kuzma told The Post. “It was a maze. [Miller] probably put in some of those walls.”

By the time Miller inhabited the basement, there were no longer smiling, laughing kids there every day, doing things like making necklaces out of macaroni.

“Nobody was living there,” Kuzma said. “It’s a storage basement. There’s a boiler in there and stuff like that.”

The renewed focus by investigators on Miller left Kuzma scratching his head.

“It’s pretty awful. It gives you a creepy feeling,” Kuzma said. “He didn’t seem like that type of guy.”

Yesterday a team of FBI and NYPD investigators finished ripping up the basement’s concrete floor in hopes of finding fresh clues in the search for Etan.

They have now begun meticulously sifting through the rubble underneath. The search — touched off when a cadaver dog “got a hit” to the scent of human remains — is expected to continue through Tuesday.

“This is a very slow, very methodical process,” FBI supervisor Timothy Flannelly said. “We’re still cautiously optimistic.”

He said about 30 to 40 agents were working in the basement.

According to WNBC-TV news the basement search has turned up a “stain of interest” on a piece of
drywall. The significance of the stained area was not known, but it was cut out and sent for analysis. FBI agents, assisted by the NYPD, discovered the stain by spraying the chemical luminol, which can indicate the presence of blood, a law enforcement official told CNN.

NBC also reported that investigators questions a man who once worked with Miller named Jesse Snell. He was seen at the SoHo building the day Patz vanished.

Authorities obtained a search warrant for the basement after a new claim by Miller’s ex-wife that he raped his 10-year-old niece a few years after Etan disappeared.

FBI agents kept eyes on Miller’s Brooklyn apartment yesterday. A woman who answered the door refused to identify herself or say what the feds had wanted.

Etan vanished on May 25, 1979. For decades, investigators have believed Etan was abducted and killed by now-imprisoned child molester José Ramos, who was never charged in his disappearance.

(Saturday's game): Giants end up on wrong end of bizarre finish

NEW YORK -- They still don't believe what they saw. The Giants, incredulous to a fault, saw good fortune gift them a break and bad timing take it away Saturday. And all of that happened in the ninth inning.

San Francisco tied the game on a dropped pop fly that was scored a two-run double, and then took a 5-4 loss to the Mets on a two-play sequence that all but defied description.

First, Aubrey Huff, manning second base for the first time in his career, never broke to the bag on a potential double play, a miscue that allowed the Mets to load the bases with one out.

After that, the Giants retired a runner on a fielder's choice at home, but watched as catcher Buster Posey absorbed a late takeout slide and threw the ball wildly into right field. The Mets came home with the winning run on that play, scoring as Posey argued with the umpire. And that turn of events gave starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong a no-decision even as it gave him new perspective.

"I've never seen anything like that live," Vogelsong said. "I've seen it in some other games, but not in person."

Indeed, the game was fairly innocuous for eight innings before turning in the ninth. San Francisco went into its last at-bat trailing by three runs and did its best to make things interesting. The Giants got a run-scoring single from Emmanuel Burriss, and then they began raiding their bench for pinch-hitters.

The first pinch-hitter, Hector Sanchez, struck out. And the next pinch-hitter, Brandon Belt, came up with two outs and lifted a lazy fly ball to left-center field. Rookie Kirk Neuwenhuis charged the ball and appeared to overrun it, allowing the hit to drop for a double, scoring two runs.

But the Giants, who had removed shortstop Brandon Crawford for Sanchez, soon saw their winning strategy turn to dust. Huff had to move from first base to second, and Burriss went from second to short. From there, the Giants went from needing some luck to watching their fortunes fade.

"You hope that something happens for you, and it did," manager Bruce Bochy said. "That last inning, with the way the game was going, just hit the ball on the ground and something is going to happen."

The Giants, who scored their first run in the third inning on a single by Pablo Sandoval, saw things unravel in the home half of the ninth. Lucas Duda, who had walked twice against Vogelsong, got a leadoff single, and the Mets pushed the go-ahead run to second on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Josh Thole.

One walk later, San Francisco (7-7) went to southpaw Jeremy Affeldt in the hopes of ending the game. Affeldt got Justin Turner to ground to shortstop, but Burriss looked at second and didn't throw because Huff wasn't there. He then made the throw to first and narrowly missed getting the call.

"Where he was playing, he had a long way to go," said Bochy, absolving Huff of blame on the play. "We were hoping to just go to first. We didn't pick it up soon enough, but still, i thought [Turner] was out. That's what I was arguing. I haven't seen [the replay], but if you get him, you get him. He's out."

The game was decided moments later on a ground ball to first base, a ball that Belt calmly threw home to Posey to record the second out. Posey, standing in front of the plate, took some late contact from Hairston and threw past Belt into the outfield, allowing the winning run to score.

The backstop contested the ruling on the field, but later admitted it was the proper call.

"There was just so much going on. At that point, you're trying to plead your case for what it's worth," Posey said. "I was just hoping he was too far up the line. Like at second, if you can't touch the ball and the runner's out. That's what I was hoping, but I don't know and I haven't looked at it or anything."

"I knew I was going to be out by a mile. But the play's not over after that," added Hairston, describing the play from his own perspective. "My goal was just to make him not be able to throw the ball to first. My intention was not to hurt him in any way. I just wanted him to alter the throw."

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for San Francisco and continued an interesting trend.

The Giants, who win and lose on their pitching, have yet to allow more than three runs in any of their first seven wins, and they've scored more than four runs just once in their first seven losses.

San Francisco has won three straight series since opening the year on the low end of a three-game sweep against Arizona, and it will have Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner lined up for the last two games against the Mets. New York will counter with Dillon Gee and Johan Santana.

Infielder Ryan Theriot has been missing the last couple days for San Francisco, but he's expected to return to the team for the final two games of the series. Theriot missed Thursday's flight due to an illness, and he didn't arrive in time to make it to Citi Field for the end of Saturday's game.

(Staturday's game): After wild finish, Mets have final say vs. Giants

For much of Saturday's game against the Giants, the Mets appeared on track to a crisp victory that would have been highlighted by Mike Pelfrey's strongest start of the year. But the game devolved into a series of errors.

Much to the Mets' relief, the Giants erred last and the home team prevailed, 5-4, at Citi Field.

Moments after committing a critical misplay that turned what would have been a game-ending pop fly into a game-tying double, Kirk Nieuwenhuis set the wheels in motion on a wild sequence in the bottom of the ninth inning. The rookie center fielder hit a bases-loaded grounder to first baseman Brandon Belt, who threw home to catcher Buster Posey for a forceout. But Posey's throw back to first sailed into right field, allowing Ruben Tejada to score the winning run.

"At this level you're going to escape death a few times, and sometimes you're going to be shot," manager Terry Collins said. "And today, fortunately, we escaped."

With the Mets one strike away from a win in the top of the ninth, Jon Rauch induced a pop fly to shallow center field from Belt. But Nieuwenhuis' sprint for the ball took him too far, and the ball landed behind him as two runs scored.

"I was playing deep, playing no-doubles there," Nieuwenhuis said of the play, which came with the potential tying run on first base. "It was a high fly ball. I just overran it. I was coming from a long way out. It was my ball all the way. I just overran it."

"I didn't think it was over [when the ball was popped up]," Rauch said. "It's not over until the last out is made. It's an unfortunate thing that happened. But these things do happen. If the game was easy, we'd all be playing, and we'd all be making 10 bucks an hour."

Nieuwenhuis was due up fifth in the bottom of the ninth inning, which Lucas Duda started with a leadoff walk. The Mets pinch-ran Scott Hairston for Duda, Josh Thole bunted the runner to second and Ruben Tejada walked.

Justin Turner then hit a grounder to short that could have been turned into a fielder's choice or possibly a double play. But Aubrey Huff, playing second base for the first time in his Major League career, didn't cover the bag, and Turner reached first. That set the stage for Nieuwenhuis' fielder's choice, which might not have resulted in an error if Hairston hadn't slid into Posey.

"I knew I was going to be out by a mile," said Hairston, who clipped Posey's right foot. "But the play's not over after that. My goal was just to make him not be able to throw the ball to first. My intention was not to hurt him in any way. I just wanted him to alter the throw."

Rauch pitched to Belt because Mets closer Frank Francisco retired just one of the four batters he faced in the ninth before making way for Tim Byrdak, who struck out pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez.

"I'm going to talk to Frankie tomorrow," Collins said when asked about the state of his bullpen. "I don't like to do too much right after the game. He pitched as well as he did early in the season. It could be something. I don't know what it is, but I want him to understand [closing games is] why he's here."

The most prominent of the miscues occurred in the ninth inning, but the sloppiness began in the eighth. Ike Davis (picked off first) and David Wright (caught stealing at third) helped prevent the Mets from adding insurance runs -- and as it turned out, might have prevented Pelfrey from finishing the game.

Pelfrey threw 102 pitches over eight innings, walking one and striking out three. But his pitch-to-contact approach worked against the Giants, who scored once in the fourth but did not get a runner to second base in any other inning against the right-hander. He appeared set to pick up his first win of the season when Tejada doubled home two runs in the seventh. According to Collins, Pelfrey would have come out for the ninth had the Mets added to the 4-1 lead.

Instead, Pelfrey went to the trainers' room and rooted on his teammates.

"I said, 'Let's go celebrate,'" Pelfrey said when he saw Belt's pop fly. "And I turned around and walked, and people started screaming behind me and I said, 'What the heck?' I didn't even see it. I said, 'Oh, my gosh.'"

"It was a roller coaster," Nieuwenhuis said of the ninth inning. "I'm just glad we came out on top."

Breaking News: Mets game rained out, doubleheader Monday

The rainstorm headed for New York has forced the Mets to postpone Sunday afternoon’s game against the Giants.

The teams will play a single-admission doubleheader on Monday starting at 4:10 p.m. Johan Santana was scheduled to start by Monday’s series finale, but now has been pushed back to Tuesday to keep the rotation in order.

Instead, Miguel Batista will start the opener against Giants ace Tim Lincecum and Dillon Gee will go
against Madison Bumgarner in the nightcap.

The Mets and Giants have split the first two games of the series.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Morrow, Blue Jays bitten by homers in loss


The ball has been flying out of Rogers Centre all month long, and Wednesday night was no exception.

Last week, Blue Jays manager John Farrell referred to his home digs as a "ballpark full of helium" after a game that saw seven balls leave the yard. Entering Wednesday, Rogers Centre was the fourth-most home-run-friendly park in the American League and by the time the game was done, five more homers were hit -- three off Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow.
Morrow struggled out of the gate and never got into a comfort zone, while Toronto's bats couldn't capitalize with runners on, and the Blue Jays dropped Game 2 of a three-game set with the Rays, 12-2. The series is tied at 1-1 with Thursday's rubber game on tap.
"Brandon had powerful stuff," Farrell said. "[But] when he made a mistake out over the plate, he wasn't able to get away with too many mistakes. With first-pitch fastballs they found their way back to the middle and were squared up for extra bases.
"He was up in the zone a little bit more tonight than the first outing in Cleveland. Again, fly balls in this ballpark can be a dangerous combination."
The Rays immediately got to Morrow, as Desmond Jennings led off the game with a single up the middle and Ben Zobrist hit a first-pitch fastball over the fence in right the following at-bat, his second homer of the season, to give Tampa Bay an early 2-0 lead. Morrow, who gave up many well-hit balls in the first, needed 22 pitches to get out of the inning.
After the Blue Jays got one back in the bottom half of the inning courtesy of an RBI single from Jose Bautista, Tampa Bay tacked on another run in the second.
Matt Joyce, who led off the inning with a double, scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by shortstop Sean Rodriguez that put the Rays ahead, 3-1. The two proved to be a problem for Morrow all game long.
Joyce hit another double off Morrow in the fourth and laced a solo homer to right off him in the sixth. Two batters later, Rodriguez drove a 1-0 offering over the fence in center for his first homer of the year to give Tampa a 6-2 lead. Joyce, who went 3-for-5 with three runs scored, had three extra-base hits off Morrow.
"I wasn't very good with my fastball at all, poor command, and I thought it was flat in the zone," said Morrow, whose three home runs allowed matched a career high and the most he's allowed in a game since an Aug. 28 start against the Rays last season.
"I tried a number of times to get my curveball over, that wasn't working for me. Had a decent changeup, but when you've got poor fastball command like that, things aren't going to go well."
Morrow, who entered the game with a 2.26 ERA over 12 career appearances against the Rays, lasted six innings and surrendered six runs on eight hits with three walks. The righty threw 57 of his 98 pitches for strikes.
Morrow, who fanned two, has just nine strikeouts on the season after leading the AL with 10.19 K/9 in 2011.
Farrell agreed that Morrow's command was something that troubled his starter, but he also saw some mechanical things that may have contributed to the difficult start.
"At times he can get a little quick over the rubber and would start to leap towards the catcher rather than taking that turn and allowing things to catch up -- the timing of it wise," Farrell said. "Sometimes it appears that when he tries to get some extra velocity that's when he ends up getting a little more flat in the zone instead of maintaining that downhill plane."
The skipper doesn't plan to implement anything different for Morrow's off-day routine, despite the fact he's allowed six homers over three starts -- 20 innings of work -- and is allowing 2.7 home runs per nine innings. The long ball has plagued Morrow for much of his career -- last season his mark of 1.05 home runs per nine innings was among the top-10 highest in the AL.
"It still centers around fastball location. ... That's where effectiveness is sustained," said Farrell, when asked what the biggest priority should be for Morrow between starts.
Entering the game, Rays players had very little success against Morrow. Lifetime, the current roster was hitting just .171 with a .310 on-base and .274 slugging percentage, good for a measly .583 OPS. Also, among teams that Morrow had at least nine appearances against, his 2.26 ERA vs. Tampa Bay was the lowest.
Things went differently against the Rays in Morrow's first go at them this season, and the offense failed to take advantage of Rays starter David Price, who, like Morrow, didn't have his best stuff.
Price went 5 2/3 innings and gave up eight hits, but limited the Blue Jays to two runs. The only run the left-hander gave up after Bautista's RBI single in the first was a solo homer to Jeff Mathis, his first as a member of the Blue Jays that cut Tampa Bay's lead to 3-2. That was as close as Toronto would come.
The Rays made things even worse in the ninth inning as Carlos Villanueva, who was making his first appearance since April 8, allowed six runs -- including a grand slam to designated hitter Luke Scott. That was the type of offensive production the Blue Jays were unable to get as they left 11 men on base en route to suffering their fifth loss of the season.

Joyce helps supply the power to beat Jays


TORONTO -- So much for matchups.

Matt Joyce entered Wednesday's game batting 2-for-14 with six strikeouts in his career against Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow.
But Joyce liked what he saw from Morrow on this evening, as the left fielder doubled and scored in his first two at-bats and homered in his third trip, one of three allowed by Morrow, as the Rays rolled to a 12-2 win before 15,828 fans at Rogers Centre to even the series at one game apiece.
"He had my number," Joyce said. "He and Ricky Romero really had my number the last few times. Really, every time I've faced them. I really tried to gather as much information as I could the last two days and have a better approach. And it worked out."
The Rays added six runs in the ninth against reliever Carlos Villanueva, including a grand slam by Luke Scott. It was Scott's third career slam and first since May 13, 2010, and his third homer of the season.
Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez also homered for the Rays. Jeff Mathis homered for Toronto against left-hander David Price (2-1).
Joyce entered Wednesday's game 8-for-41 (.195) offensively at Rogers Centre.
Price also likes the Rogers Centre. He held the Blue Jays to two runs on eight hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings. The lefty improved to 10-2 all-time against the Jays and 4-0 in this building.
"David pitched well enough," manager Joe Maddon said. "He still wasn't as sharp as David can be. He still had a good fastball and mixed his pitches well towards the end there, but you know there's more domination coming from him."
"I felt better as the game went along," Price said. "It's tough to get into a groove right now, but it's getting there. I feel better every time I get out there. I feel good pitching here. It's a dome, just like it is back at home. I like pitching inside. I'm still struggling a little bit. I need to get back into form and take it from there."
Morrow, a hard thrower, who nearly no-hit the Rays in 2010, had worked on throwing more changeup and curveballs to complement his fastball and slider.
"The first at-bat, I mean he threw me three changeups," Joyce said. "I think this year his percentage of changeups is way up. When you're able to mix speeds like that it usually means you are more effective. I just had a good approach tonight."
Zobrist, who entered the game 3-for-21 against Morrow, was moved to the No. 2 spot in the order because Maddon wanted his .370 on-base percentage ahead of sluggers Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria.
The move looked good when Zobrist, who was batting .216 coming in, hit his second homer of the season after Desmond Jennings led off the game with a single.
"The different look seemed to work today," Maddon said. "It was a nice look. I like it."
Price allowed three singles to his first four batters in the bottom of the first and the second one, by Jose Bautista, scored Yunel Escobar, who had four hits in the game to equal a career best, to cut the Rays' lead in half. After Edwin Encarnacion hit a sharp single to left, Price ended the inning with two strikeouts.
Joyce doubled and came home on a sacrifice fly by Rodriguez in the second. Mathis trimmed the lead to one with his first homer as a Blue Jay in the home second.
In the top of the fourth, former Blue Jay Jose Molina singled home Joyce, who hit his second double of the game with two out, to give the Rays a 4-2 lead.
The Rays are hoping to see more hits like that because they were hitting only .198 with runners in scoring position entering the game -- and .186 with runners in scoring position and two out.
Escobar led off the fifth with a single, but Pena started and finished superb double play on Kelly Johnson's hard-hit ball to first. But that didn't end the threat.
Price walked Bautista and Encarnacion grounded a single to left center to put runners at the corners. But Price retired Adam Lind on a grounder to second.
Joyce stretched the Rays' lead to 5-2 when he hit his third homer of the season over the right-field fence with one out in the sixth. Rodriguez followed with his first homer of the season to left-center with two out. Morrow finished the inning and his night was over.
"He got real soft as the game was in progress," Maddon said. "He really got a lot more changeup and curveball oriented, slider oriented. We've seen him almost perfect. Tonight he was a little bit more breaking ball oriented."
Price was relieved by Wade Davis with two out in the sixth.

Body found in Ca. confirmed as Marine's missing wife; woman jailed on suspicion of murder


TEMECULA, Calif. -- Authorities confirmed Wednesday evening that a body found in California was that of a Marine's wife who disappeared last week, while a woman remains in custody on suspicion of murder.


The San Diego Sheriff's Department said the County Medical Examiner's Office determined the body was 22-year-old Brittany Dawn Killgore, of Fallbrook, Calif., KSWB-TV reported.

Killgore was last seen at around 5 p.m. Friday. Her cell phone was found Saturday in the Gaslamp District of San Diego.

The body was found Tuesday afternoon near Lake Skinner, close to Temecula, about 60 miles north of San Diego, police said.

Investigators made the discovery after leads stemming from the arrest that day at a Point Loma, Calif. motel of Jessica Lynn Lopez, sheriff's Capt. Duncan Fraser said.

Lopez, 25, was treated in hospital for cuts suffered in an apparent suicide attempt before being booked into jail. She was scheduled to make her first court appearance in the case Thursday.

Killgore was last seen with Louis Ray Perez, 45, an active-duty Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, who was arrested Sunday on suspicion of possessing a stolen AR-15 assault rifle in an unrelated case. Investigators said he was "very uncooperative" when questioned about Killgore's disappearance.

Perez appeared in court Wednesday afternoon and pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of stolen property and possession of an assault weapon, KSWB-TV reported.

The judge ordered that Perez remain jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail, saying the Marine's knowledge that he is a person of interest in the investigation of Killgore's murder made him an increased flight risk.

Perez's preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 17.

Killgore's husband, Cory, a Marine also stationed at Camp Pendleton, is currently serving a 
tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Brittany Killgore filed for divorce from him last week. Police said he is not suspected of being involved in her disappearance.

Marine Corps officials agreed to send him home from Afghanistan following his wife's disappearance but it was not known when he was likely to arrive in San Diego County.

Yanks can't catch Twins after Kuroda stumbles


Hiroki Kuroda's encore in the Big Apple will not draw the same rave reviews as his debut.

The right-hander's second start in Yankee Stadium was a brief one -- he lasted 4 1/3 innings, and was responsible for 10 of Minnesota's 13 hits and all six of the Twins' runs -- and he took the losing decision in the Yankees' 6-5 defeat on Wednesday night.
Kuroda, who was acquired this winter after spending the last four seasons in the National League with the Dodgers, was cheered emphatically by Yankees fans last Friday when he tossed eight shutout innings against the Angels. Wednesday, those same fans booed Kuroda when he endured a rough four-run first inning.
"They were really aggressive," Kuroda said of Minnesota's lineup. "And before I was able to get into my rhythm, they were really aggressive and hit a lot of balls early in the count."
Twins slugger Justin Morneau tagged Kuroda for two homers, the second one knocking the Yankees starter out of the game in the fifth. Minnesota, which entered the series with a 5-28 mark in the Bronx since 2002, has won two of the first three games in the series.
"I think we were just trying to be aggressive," Morneau said. "[Kuroda] was great his last time out. But guys came out with runners on base and got big hits. Hitting is contagious, as they say, and it started at the top, and we got rolling."
Kuroda's struggles were out of the gates in the first, when he allowed hits to the first three Twins' hitters, each of whom came around to score. Morneau's first blast of the night -- a two-run shot to right-center field -- made it 4-0.
But the Yankees made up ground quickly in the bottom half of the inning, tallying three runs on four hits off Twins starter Jason Marquis. Derek Jeter singled and Curtis Granderson walked to open the frame, before Robinson Cano doubled in a run and Nick Swisher drove in two more. Swisher leads the team with 13 RBIs this year.
Minnesota's Sean Burroughs had an RBI single in the third, before Cano hit a solo homer -- his first long ball of the year -- in the bottom of the inning. Morneau's second home run came with one out in the fifth, upping the margin to 6-4 and prompting a call to the Yankees' bullpen.
"Not hitting your spots," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, describing Kuroda's troubles Wednesday. "Just not making the quality pitch. Because at any point, you give up a base hit if you don't make a quality pitch, and he just didn't seem to have it from the get-go."
The Yankees stranded two men in the seventh, and showed life in the ninth when Jeter hit a one-out solo homer to cut the Minnesota lead to one. With two outs, Mark Teixeira just missed on a 2-2 fastball from Matt Capps, flying out to right to end the game.
"Just got under it, just a little bit," Teixeira said afterward. "A hair lower and we're still playing right now."
Marquis, making his first career start for Minnesota, earned the victory after allowing four earned runs on seven hits in five innings.
Minnesota's Joe Mauer, 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI on Wednesday, is now 17-for-50 (.340) with three homers and 10 RBIs in 13 career games at Yankee Stadium. Morneau is 22-for-46 (.478) with five doubles, seven homers, 10 RBIs and eight multihit games in 12 career contests at the new ballpark.
Yankees catcher Russell Martin said Kuroda left too many pitches up over the plate, and everyone in the Yankees' clubhouse agreed that the right-hander couldn't execute his bread-and-butter pitch -- his sinker.
"In the past outings, I was able to go to other pitches and make adjustments," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "I tried many things today, but wasn't able to make those adjustments."

Second helping: Morneau blasts two in win


NEW YORK -- After missing large chunks of time with concussion-like symptoms each of the last two years, it's fair to say the health of Justin Morneau was a question mark for the Twins heading into the season.

But so far, Morneau has shown positive signs that he's capable of returning to his previous form, and it was certainly evident against the Yankees on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
Morneau crushed two homers to lift the Twins to a 6-5 victory over the Yankees to help make a winner out of right-hander Jason Marquis in his first start of the season. It also gave the Twins two wins in New York for the first time in 11 seasons under manager Ron Gardenhire.
"It feels good," Morneau said. "It's been kind of a long road, but obviously it's not the end. Hopefully it's the start of being the hitter I'm used to being. It was one good day, but hopefully it's a start of more good days to come."
Morneau has been making steady progress this season, as he didn't miss any time due to injury during Spring Training and has sat out in just one of Minnesota's 12 games this year.
That came Tuesday, but it was related to an unfavorable matchup with CC Sabathia -- plus it was a day after he played first base for the first time this season and homered in a Twins win.
Morneau hasn't dealt with concussion-like issues since the offseason, and added his surgically repaired left wrist has been getting stronger with time.
It's shown up in his statistics, as he's already matched his homer total from last season and is hitting a healthy .279 with a .340 on-base percentage and .605 slugging percentage.
But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was hesitant to say Morneau is officially back to his old ways, because it's so early in the season.
"Let's give him some time here," Gardenhire said. "He's not playing first base every day like he wants to. I know one thing: he's back to enjoying being back to playing baseball. He's having a good time coming to the ballpark not having to deal with a lot of things he was dealing with all before."
Morneau's big day at the plate helped back Marquis, who was making his first start of the season. He made two tuneup starts with Double-A New Britain after missing two weeks of Spring Training to tend to his 7-year-old daughter, Reese, who was seriously injured in a bicycle accident in Staten Island, N.Y.
Marquis looked rusty as he surrendered three runs in the first inning. Six of the first seven batters he faced reached base, but he got Eric Chavez to ground into a double play with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Marquis settled down after that frame, allowing only one more run on a Robinson Cano homer, and he tossed five innings to pick up the win.
"I was just battling, with the speed of my delivery, with the emotions, everything that went on, really," said Marquis, who estimated he had more than 50 family and friends at the game, including his wife and three children. "It was my first start of the year. Everything gets magnified a little bit. You want to come out here and make a good impression on your teammates."
The Twins got out to an early lead against the Yankees for the third straight game, scoring four runs in the first against right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.
Jamey Carroll brought home Denard Span with a double before scoring on a double from Joe Mauer. Morneau then crushed his first homer of the game on a first-pitch fastball from Kuroda to bring home two more runs.
Morneau stayed hot with a single in the third, and later scored on Sean Burroughs' first hit of the season after a double from Chris Parmelee.
And in the fifth, Morneau was at it again, hitting his second homer of the night off Kuroda to chase the right-hander from the game.
Relievers Brian Duensing and Jared Burton combined to hold the Yankees scoreless over three innings before handing the ball off to closer Matt Capps in the ninth. Capps gave up a solo homer to Derek Jeter, but still came away with his third save of the year by getting Mark Teixeira to fly out to right to end the game.
"It just seemed like we were one hit short tonight from tying the game up or possibly going ahead," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "And even look at the last inning -- Tex just missed his ball. I was pleased with our bats. I thought we continued to hit the ball hard, just didn't get the hit."

Weiner a jerk before crotchgate, craved media attention: book


Disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner was behaving like a jerk long before the world got a glimpse of his crotch.


A new book offering an inside look at the US House of Representatives depicts Weiner as a desperately ambitious loudmouth who berated his staff and would do or say anything for TV airtime.

Weiner “would enter his office in the Rayburn Building screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘Why the f--k am I not on MSNBC?!’” journalist Robert Draper wrote in “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the US House of Representatives.”

He finally got his wish, Draper wrote, when Weiner pushed to become the liberal spokesman for ObamaCare.

“He was now on MSNBC every week, sometimes every day — to the point where he was carrying his own makeup kit. (Or rather, his press guy was.)” Draper wrote.

Excerpts of the book, due out Tuesday, surfaced yesterday on the Web site Politico.

The arrogant Weiner takes a beating in several passages for his relentless self-promotion.

“When the health-care debate kicked in, Anthony Weiner became the one-man standard-bearer for the single-payer system,” the book says.

Then Weiner went rogue — saying and doing what he pleased without coordinating with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to the book.

“Neither Pelosi nor anyone else deputized him to speak for his party. But as the ultimate freelancer, Anthony Weiner had discovered that if you go on TV often enough and say something catchy . . . your point of view . . . can actually become the conventional wisdom,” Draper wrote.

Weiner was so full of himself, he even lectured President Obama on how to sell health-care reform to the public while flying on Air Force One.

“In September 2009, after spending a day with Obama in New York to promote a financial-reform bill, Weiner hitched a ride back to Washington on the president’s private plane — and, being Weiner, couldn’t resist giving the leader of the free world some advice on how to achieve health reform,” according to the book.

“‘Mr. President, I think you’re looking at this entirely the wrong way,’ he said. ‘You need to simplify it. Just say that what we’re doing is gradually expanding Medicare,’ ” Draper wrote.

“At least Obama had a sense of humor,” the author added.

“‘Well,’ [Obama] said with a grin after their conversation, ‘Enjoy your last ride on Air Force One.’ ”

Weiner resigned last June after a three-week circus that began when it was revealed that he sent a lewd crotch photo via Twitter to a Washington state co-ed.

Ramos' sac fly seals Nats' comeback vs. Astros


The Nationals scored two runs in the eighth inning and edged the Astros, 3-2, at Nationals Park on Wednesday night.

Washington was down a run before rallying off three Houston relievers who had problems throwing strikes. Right-hander Fernando Rodriguez started the eighth and allowed a walk and single to Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman, respectively. Left-hander Wesley Wright then entered the game and walked Adam LaRoche to load the bases.
In came Rhiner Cruz to face Jayson Werth. On a 3-2 pitch, Werth walked to force home Espinosa and tie the score at 2. It was Werth's sixth RBI of the season.
"The pitch was a lot closer than I thought," said Werth. "[Cruz] kind of pulled the pitch. It was a ball. That guy was pretty nasty.
"I'll tell you what, the Astros are a lot better team than people know. They have some good pitching. They have some guys in their bullpen that throw pretty hard."
Two batters after Werth's free pass, Wilson Ramos hit a sacrifice fly that scored LaRoche. Ramos felt he should have hit the ball better than he did.
"That was a good pitch to hit a homer," Ramos said.
With the victory, the Nationals improved their record to 10-3, and 5-2 in one-run games.
"It builds confidence. It's good for this team to get wins like that, especially early in the season," Werth said about the one-run victories. "We'll take the wins as we can get them right now. I hope they will keep coming.
"We're a good club. As the season goes, we'll continue to prove it. Right now, we'll focus on one game at a time, and one day at a time. We'll do all right."
For the third start in a row, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann didn't get the run support he needed, but he was solid, pitching seven innings and allowing one run on four hits. When Zimmermann has pitched this season, the Nationals have scored a total of two runs.
"We know who he is and what he means to this team," Werth said, regarding Zimmermann. "He is a big part of this club. We like playing behind him. We like when he is on the mound. We like when he has the ball, from a defensive standpoint."
Zimmermann didn't seem to care that he received another no-decision. The team win was good enough for him.
"A win is a win, no matter how we get it," Zimmermann said. "We are getting into the late innings in the last couple of games. It makes it extra exciting. I'm happy we got the win. I'm just trying to go out there and battle, keep the team in the game as long as I possibly can. Fortunately, I was able to go seven innings again tonight. The bats came around late. Better late than never."
The Astros were able to take the lead against Zimmermann in the fourth inning. Jordan Schafer led off with an infield single, then stole second base before advancing to third on a groundout by Jed Lowrie. Travis Buck followed and grounded out to LaRoche at first base, but Schafer ended up scoring on the play.
Zimmermann would leave the game with his second consecutive no-decision after the Nationals tied the game in the seventh inning off Houston starter Lucas Harrell. With two outs, Rick Ankiel scored on a double by Roger Bernadina.
"I felt great again. Ramos called a great game. We stuck to the game plan most of the game," Zimmermann said. "The fastball was really good tonight. I was able to have some breaking pitches when I needed to. Our defense did a great job behind me, making some big plays when we needed to."
The Astros went ahead in the top of the eighth inning off reliever Ryan Mattheus. After leading off with a double, Jason Castro scored on a single by Schafer, who also saved a run with his glove earlier in the game with a fine running catch on a deep drive to center by Ian Desmond that would have scored Ramos.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team and the way we played," Harrell said. "This was a tough loss today. We really battled hard, we stayed in the game the whole game, and they made some great plays behind me defensively. Jordan Schafer made a great play, and he came up with a big hit and knocked Castro in. It was just a tough loss."
The Nationals secured their fourth consecutive series victory with the win. Werth has played on his share of playoff teams, and he compares this Nationals team to the 2007 Phillies who won the National League East title, but lost to the Rockies in the NL Division Series.
"But we'll wait and see before we compare too much," Werth said. "This Nationals team is different. We are younger, it's super-talented. The team I played on in Philly was a little more polished and older.
"This is a fun place to play, a good clubhouse, a good group of guys, super-talented. What we lack is experience. We keep winning these one-run games, and we keep coming from behind, and we keep doing the little things to win the ballgames. ... I think by the end of the season, we'll have that much-needed experience."

Astros unable to keep Nats down late in defeat


WASHINGTON -- There were any number of moments the Astros could have singled out from Wednesday's game that proved to be their downfall, whether it was Lucas Harrell giving up a two-out hit in the seventh, Rhiner Cruz's bases-loaded walk in the eighth, or not stringing any hits together.

Unfortunately for the Astros, their inability to do the little things -- make the extra play, get the extra hit -- has become a nuisance, if not a recurring theme early in the season.
The Nationals made the key plays when the Astros couldn't, pushing across a pair of runs in the eighth inning to send Houston to yet another one-run loss, 3-2, at Nationals Park. The Astros have lost a season-high four games in a row.
"I keep saying it: we're putting ourselves in a position to win these games," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "These one-run games are showing these guys how close they are."
Still, the Astros have lost seven of eight games following a 3-1 start that had them full of optimism. Houston has lost four games by one run, all of which have come on a seven-game road trip which comes to an end Thursday in Washington.
"It's tough," Astros catcher Jason Castro said. "Those are the ones we want to win, we need to win those. The ball isn't falling our way. We've had a couple of bad breaks, and we just need to keep playing. We're giving a great effort all the way around. You can't really ask anything more of these guys, and we're happy with that."
The Astros were leading, 2-1, heading to the bottom of the eighth Wednesday when reliever Fernando Rodriguez got himself in trouble by allowing the first two batters to reach with a walk and a single. Left-hander Wesley Wright walked the bases loaded with no outs, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position.
Mills summoned hard-throwing rookie Cruz from the bullpen, saying it was the team's best chance to get a strikeout. Instead, Cruz's first walk of the season -- to Jayson Werth -- forced home the tying run, and Wilson Ramos hit a sacrifice fly to score Adam LaRoche with the go-ahead run one out later.
"The pitch was a lot closer than I thought," Werth said about the walk. "He kind of pulled the pitch. It was a ball. That guy was pretty nasty. I'll tell you what, the Astros are a lot better team than people know. They have some good pitching. They have some guys in their bullpen that throw pretty hard."
Jordan Schafer, still not recovered from a cold he's dealt with for the last few days, went 2-for-4 with a run, an RBI and a stolen base. He also made a nice running catch at the wall in the fifth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit and help preserve the Astros' 1-0 lead.
"It's tough no matter how many you lose in a row," Schafer said. "A loss is a loss. We're in every game. It's not like we're getting blown out. We're in every game, and we just have to do the little things right throughout the game to get wins. Little things are costing us games, and we have to tighten up on that."
Astros starter Lucas Harrell was terrific in holding the Nationals to four hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings while throwing 97 pitches. The Nationals entered the game with a Major League-best 1.91 team ERA, and watched starter Jordan Zimmermann hold the Astros to four hits and one earned run in seven innings.
"I definitely got back to using my sinker and getting guys out with that," Harrell said. "The first couple of innings, I started out and didn't have a lot of command and was a little bit sporadic, but I felt like as the game went on, I got stronger."
Harrell, who has a 2.25 ERA through three starts, praised his teammates.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team and the way we played," he said. "This was a tough loss today. We really battled hard, we stayed in the game the whole game, and they made some great plays behind me defensively. Jordan Schafer made a great play, and he came up with a big hit and knocked Castro in. It was just a tough loss."
The Astros, who were in a 2-for-29 funk with runners in scoring position entering play Wednesday, failed to get a hit in their first five at-bats with runners on second or third before Schafer's two-out single in the eighth scored Castro to put the Astros ahead, 2-1.
"I'm trying to be aggressive," Schafer said. "I'm looking for something, a good pitch to hit, and luckily he got a ball in there, and I put a good swing on it."

Banker rates dates in a spreadsheet -- then shares the file with one of them


A data-driven investment banker kept a detailed spreadsheet of 12 women he was chasing — coldly ranking their appearance on a scale of 1 to 10 — only to see his master plan backfire when he foolishly sent the file to one of them.


The spreadsheet shows the meticulous records that David Merkur, 28, kept on each of the girls — eight of whom he met on Match.com and four he’d met through friends and family — and a column for their profile photos.

After one date in February, he noted under the “Initial Date Comments” category: “very jappy; one and done for me.”

None of the ladies scores lower than 7 in the appearance category.Other missives included, “Drunkenly hooked up after J****’s birthday party at K-Town karaoke,” and “Conversation still on- going.”

For one date named Liliana, who scored a 9.5, Merkur wrote, “Looks beautiful; from coastal Romania; Chanel make-up artist.”

But after a few conversations and Facebook chats, Merkur noted that her old boyfriend “might be back in the picture.”

He made himself another note to call her after she returned from an April trip to Florida.

For his Match.com ladies, he kept meticulous text- message records under “dates of message communication,” documenting when he sent a message and when he received one.

The spreadsheet was even color-coded: blue to indicate “upcoming” dates, orange means “monitor closely,” and then there was “(Bold=ASAP).’’

For the girls he was less interested in, a dull yellow was for “monitor casually.”

His system was exposed after an April 4 date at the Rose Bar with a 26-year-old brunette stunner named Arielle. Over drinks, Merkur told her about his spreadsheet.

Arielle asked to see it — and he e-mailed it to her.

“Well . . . this could be a mistake, but what the hell,” Merkur wrote.

“I thought about deleting the names, but figured I might as well give you the whole thing. I only deleted the non-Match people’s names (at the bottom) since some I’ve known for a long time.”

“I hope this e-mail doesn’t backfire, because I really had a great time and hope to hang again soon :),” he added. “However, I will keep my word! Have a great weekend!”

On April 9, Arielle — whom Merkur described in his spreadsheet as “very pretty, sweet & down to earth” with a “great personality” — e-mailed it to her friends with the note:
“Wanted to pass this on to you for some monday morning entertainment. I went on a date with this guy last wednesday. On the date, he tells me that he has a spreadsheet for tracking all of the people from Match that are ‘in process.’ Naturally, I tease him and ask him to send me the spreadsheet.

She added, “For some strange reason, he actually does. See below/attached. Just when I thought I had seen it all . . .”

Soon after, the spreadsheet went viral on the Web.

Merkur, an associate director in capital markets for real-estate finance firm Ladder Capital, told The New York Post last night that he was sorry for making the crass document.

“I sincerely regret my serious lapse in judgment in this matter and apologize to everyone,” he said.

“I am deeply remorseful. Suffice it to say, I will never do anything like this again.”
He earlier told Jezebel.com that he found his handiwork “wacky and quirky and kind of funny.”

Merkur argued that his busy job prevents him from remembering the mundane details of his nights out.

“I work with spreadsheets a lot. I work long days . . . go out on a couple of midweek dates . . . how am I going to remember them? I’m not. So I made the spreadsheets,” he told Jezebel.com.

Merkur told Jezebel that he sent Arielle the spreadsheet because “she works with spreadsheets a lot, too” and she “seemed like a very sweet girl.”

“I won’t be using Match.com ever again,” he said.

“I screwed some people, and I screwed myself.”

Arielle, a Long Island native, couldn’t be reached.

The compilation shows that Merkur was e-mailing, texting and dating several women at the same time in late March and early April.

Some dates clearly didn’t rate as high as Arielle.

Cortney, a 24-year-old Chicago native, got a 7.5 in looks but lost points after she blew off a 
scheduled date.

“Stood me up: said 4/2 that she was at hospital with friend; might revisit,” Merkur wrote.