NL East wrap: Marlins top Giants in (only) 12

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NL East wrap: Marlins top Giants in (only) 12

Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Posted: 6:05 p.m. Updated: May 26, 3:45 a.m.
The Associated Press

Marlins 7, Giants 6 (12 Innings)

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- Scott Cousins went to college at the University of San Francisco. He lives in the Bay Area, and he had almost a dozen friends and family at AT&T Park on Wednesday night to witness the biggest moment of his professional career.

"I don't know if I'm going to be welcomed home as much any more," he said.

Cousins scored the go-ahead run in a brutal collision with catcher Buster Posey at home in the 12th inning, injuring the Giants star as the Florida Marlins beat San Francisco 7-6.

The Marlins blew a four-run lead in the ninth, setting up the play at the plate that sent Posey for X-rays on his left ankle.

Emilio Bonifacio hit a shallow fly ball to right-center off Guillermo Mota (2-1) for the second out. Cousins tagged from third base on the sacrifice fly, beating the throw from Nate Schierholtz and lowering his shoulder to slam into Posey for a clean -- albeit cringing -- hit on the reigning NL Rookie of the Year.

Posey's mask went flying in the collision to his chest. Cousins was safe as Posey never could quite corral the ball.

"I felt like he was blocking the dish. It's the go-ahead run to win the game, I got to do whatever I can to score," Cousins said. "I'm not trying to end anybody's season or anything like that. I just was trying to play hard and score the go-ahead run. He didn't say much and you could tell he was in pain.

"And when their manager, when Bruce (Bochy) came out, he was pretty frustrated. I didn't want to make things any more tense."

Posey lay dazed, writhing in pain and curling up in a ball for several minutes as the ballpark fell silent. After several minutes, with fans chanting "Posey! Posey!" he was helped off the field by two team trainers holding his left leg and looking stunned.

There was no immediate update on the severity of Posey's injury. Bochy, a former catcher, didn't believe the play was dirty but said it was difficult to watch.

"It's the toughest play in baseball. You hate to see it," Bochy said. "As a catcher you know what it's like, and you don't like it. Believe me. When I see him laying there, it's certainly not a good feeling."

Said Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez: "It was a tough play at home. Posey was doing his job blocking the plate and the runner doing his job, he was trying to get to get to home plate."

All this after the Giants batted around in the ninth to score four runs and force extra innings. Ryan Webb (1-3) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Braves 4, Pirates 2 (11 Innings)

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Chipper Jones was concerned when saw Brooks Conrad take to the on-deck circle in the seventh inning.

"I was like, 'That's a mistake,'" the 19-year Atlanta Braves veteran said. "'We need to keep him for later.'"

Conrad came through once again after manager Fredi Gonzalez waited for a bigger stage to insert him into the game.

Conrad hit a pinch-hit two-run homer in the 11th inning and Atlanta topped the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 on Wednesday.

The homer, into a sliver of seats in right-center with pinch-runner Wilkin Ramirez on first and one out, was Conrad's fifth career pinch-hit homer.

"He came up in the perfect spot and did what we all know he can," Jones said.

Eric Hinske also had a solo homer for the Braves, who have won three of four and got a strong outing from rookie Mike Minor in a spot start for Tim Hudson.

Steve Pearce homered for the first time in 20 months and went 3 for 5 with two RBIs for Pittsburgh, which has lost three straight.

Five of Conrad's 11 career home runs have been on pinch hits, including three -- two of them grand slams -- last season. He had a walk-off single against St. Louis on May 1, and his only hit since then drove in the tying run with him scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh inning May 18.

"It's just so much fun, especially in the pinch-hit role, getting up there with the game on the line and you've got a chance to drive in the winning run for your team," Conrad said.

Mets 7, Cubs 4

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- Dillon Gee had trouble getting a grip. His problems, though, hardly compared to those of Cubs reliever Justin Berg.

Gee recovered from a wild start while Berg never found the strike zone on a raw, messy Wednesday night as the New York Mets beat Chicago 7-4 in a rain-shortened game.

The game was called with two outs in the top of the seventh inning after a 41-minute delay. It was 47 degrees for the first pitch with a fierce northern wind blowing in from Lake Michigan, and a fog set in around Wrigley Field and kept growing thicker.

"I don't remember a spring where it's been this bad," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

It was particularly bad for Berg, who took over for Casey Coleman (2-4) during the Mets' five-run second inning. Berg came in with runners on second and third and threw 12 pitches -- all balls. His three walks forced home two runs.

"You got to get people out and you got to throw strikes," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "Unfortunately, they weren't able to do either."

"And Bergie has to get on the glove, that's all," he said. "You can't walk people."

Gee (4-0) walked two while allowing four runs in the first, but bounced back to throw five scoreless innings and retire 16 of the last 18 batters he faced.

"I had no feel out there in the first inning," Gee said. "I don't know if I was really prepared for the game, or trying to get adjusted to the weather. All the credit goes to the rest of the team for digging me out of that hole."
Brewers 6, Nationals 4

BOX SCORE

MILWAUKEE -- One of the reasons Zack Greinke accepted a trade to Milwaukee was because he wanted to be able to hit on a regular basis. He loves discussing hitting with everyone.

Turns out, he can back up all that chatter, too.

Greinke hit the go-ahead homer and struck out 10 over seven innings, leading the Brewers to a 6-4 win over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday for their season-best sixth straight victory.

"I talk about it all the time," said Greinke, who rarely got chances to hit when he was in the AL in Kansas City. "It's more fun playing (this) way, I like it, it feels like you're doing more in the game."

Prince Fielder drove in four runs for the Brewers, who are the hottest team in baseball over the last two weeks with 13 wins in 16 games.

They've also been dominant at Miller Park with nine consecutive victories at home -- one short of their franchise-best mark set in 1979 -- after completing sweeps of Pittsburgh, Colorado and Washington.

"I felt all along our team would go on a roll somewhere," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I didn't know where it would be or when it would be."

Michael Morse hit his third homer in three days for the Nationals, who limped home on a season-worst five-game skid.

"It was a terrible road trip. We were 1-7. That's a bad road trip," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Bryce Harper (knee) sits for Nats

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Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Bryce Harper (knee) sits for Nats

Bryce Harper is out of the Nationals' lineup Tuesday night after being hit in the knee by a Jeremy Hellickson pitch on Memorial Day.

Big break for the Phils considering Harper has hit .346 against them with three doubles, 11 home runs, 23 RBIs and 21 walks in his last 104 plate appearances against them.

It's an equally big break for Aaron Nola, against whom Harper is 6 for 10 with two homers (see game notes).

For the Phillies, Ryan Howard gets the start at first base against another right-hander, Washington's Joe Ross. Phillies fans are clamoring for more playing time for Tommy Joseph, but starting Howard against Ross does make some sense given how much better lefties have been against him (.295 BA) than righties (.209). Ross throws a ton of sinkers and sliders which make it tough on same-handed hitters.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Cameron Rupp, C
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Tyler Goeddel, LF
7. David Lough, RF
8. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
9. Aaron Nola, P

And for the Nationals:

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Daniel Murphy, 2B
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
5. Clint Robinson, LF
6. Anthony Rendon, 3B
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Danny Espinosa, SS
9. Joe Ross, P

The Ryan Howard saga is hard to watch

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The Ryan Howard saga is hard to watch

It's difficult to feel sorry for a professional athlete who will have earned nearly $200 million in salary before his playing career ends at 37 years old. It's hard, but Ryan Howard is doing an outstanding job of making me feel bad anyway.

The statistics speak for themselves. As the calendar rolls over to June, Howard is batting .157 with more than twice as many strikeouts (52) as base hits (22). Debate rages as to whether the Phillies should hang on to the three-time All-Star for locker-room morale -- perhaps also in the desperate hopes they can still trade him -- or if they should just put The Big Piece out of his misery with an outright release.

There's no satisfying answer here. All I can say is I wish for it to be over.

Howard's decline has been one of the saddest to watch in recent Philly sports memory. From 2005 through 2011, he was the heart of the Phillies' order, belting 284 home runs and driving in 859 runs in six-and-a-half seasons, during the most successful run in franchise history. In 2016, Howard's bat can barely catch up to the ball, let alone knock it out of the infield.

Largely through no fault of his own. Howard has never been the same since rupturing his Achilles on the final at bat of the 2011 season. Sure, there were signs he was slowing down or that the rest of the league was catching up to him even then, averaging 32 homers between the '10-'11 seasons compared to 49.5 over '06-'09 -- but he was still hitting the ball at that point.

Since the injury, Howard's power hasn't necessarily dipped dramatically. It's his ability to hit the ball, period. From '04 to '11, he was a .275 hitter. After the injury, he's batting .226. This season has been especially trying, with the month of May bordering on the historic.

Of course, it's not news Howard's career was derailed by injuries. It's no secret he's been particularly awful this season. It's just harder than ever to watch.

Just how ineffective has Howard been in 2016? In retrospect, maybe the numbers don't quite do the struggle justice. Obviously, he isn't hitting, and he's striking out as frequently as ever. What's new this year is the percentage of fly balls that don't even make it out of the infield -- 12 percent, which is twice as high as any season in 13 Major League seasons.

What does it mean exactly? Howard's swing is so jacked right now that even when he does make contact, even when he doesn't hit a ball into the defensive shift, one in 10 times is essentially a harmless pop-up.

To his credit, Howard also has eight home runs this season, some of which have been big at bats or game-winners. He's also been hailed as a positive influence and leader in the clubhouse, an example this young group of Phillies can certainly benefit from.

Nor do I believe Howard really needs anybody to feel bad for him. He's worked hard and accomplished more than most ever will at his profession, and as a result is able to provide for his family and generations beyond. He's built a great legacy both on the baseball diamond, but one that no doubt extends beyond athletic prowess.

Yet none of that changes the fact that Howard's play has deteriorated to the point where he's become a black hole in the Phillies' lineup. It pains me to say that, to use this platform to write it -- just not as much as it pains me to watch it happening.

I'd love nothing more than for Howard to go on a tear and end his final season with the Phillies with head held high. It's the ending a legend like him deserves. Or better yet, improve his production to a level where a contender in the American League would sign Howard and give him one last crack at postseason baseball.

But short of that, I'd love nothing more for it to all be over, to not have to watch one of the great Phillies sluggers flail away every other or third day, or less as it soon may come to. It's not a matter of debate as to when or how that should happen. The sooner, the better.

10 observations from Tuesday's Eagles OTAs

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10 observations from Tuesday's Eagles OTAs

The Eagles wrapped up their Tuesday practice just before 12:30 p.m. under a hot summer-like sun.

Tuesday was the first day of four in the team’s final week of OTAs, which are voluntary. The mandatory minicamp starts next Tuesday and runs through next Thursday.

That’s when we might see Fletcher Cox and Darren Sproles, both of whom have been staying away from the team during the voluntary period. And that’s where we’ll start with today’s 10 observations:

1. With Cox still out, Mike Martin was again working with the first team at defensive tackle next to Bennie Logan, as he was last week. Two weeks ago, Taylor Hart was next to Logan at tackle. Martin was a depth piece in Tennessee and that’s how he’ll fit with the Eagles once Cox comes back.

Martin was also involved in the first little scuffle we’ve seen during these spring practices. Nothing too exciting … just a little shoving with left guard Allen Barbre.

2. Sproles is still out, but Ryan Mathews returned. Mathews missed the last practice opened to the media with an illness but participated Tuesday. The interesting thing was that Mathews didn’t get all the first-team reps. In fact, Kenjon Barner actually opened the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 portions of practice with the first team.

It’s early, but Barner has looked pretty good this spring. It’ll be interesting to see if he fits with the team. He’s ahead of rookie Wendell Smallwood now, but would the team really elect to keep him over a fifth-round pick? Or will the team be OK keeping four running backs again?

Another note: Rueben Randle (gallbladder surgery) is still out.

3. We saw a little trickery from Doug Pederson’s offense on Tuesday against no defense. First, Chase Daniel threw a lateral screen to Josh Huff, who threw down the right to Smallwood. Then, Carson Wentz threw a lateral pass to Nelson Agholor and then Wentz ran a route down the left sideline, but Agholor overthrew him.

Maybe the trick plays are just way to keep practice lighter, but it might also mean the offense is moving along nicely and installing more and more of the playbook. It’s a good sign.

4. Wentz was up and down on Tuesday, but his best completion came on a deep pass down the right sideline to wideout Xavier Rush (who is a candidate for best name on the team). Rush wrestled the ball away from corner C.J. Smith, who should know Wentz pretty well. The two played together at North Dakota State.

Meanwhile, Sam Bradford had a shaky day, throwing several balls that could have been picked off.

5. Again, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks — the two Jim Schwartz guys in the secondary — were working with the first team. On Tuesday, Eric Rowe was the extra corner on the field in the nickel. When Rowe came in, Brooks shifted into the slot. It still looks like Nolan Carroll isn’t yet allowed to practice during team portions.

On the first play of 11 on 11s, Brooks broke up a pass from Bradford that was then picked off by Rodney McLeod and taken the other way. Not a good throw from Bradford, but Brooks was aggressive and jumped it.

6. Down by the goal line during the team period, Malcolm Jenkins made a nice play to get in front of a pass, but couldn’t pick it off. He’s in midseason form. Jenkins had a great year in 2015, but really struggled to intercept balls that he had in his hands.

7. Jordan Hicks didn’t participate in 7 on 7s or 11 on 11s Tuesday. Two weeks ago, he sat out with tightness in his legs, but returned last week. On Tuesday, with Hicks watching, Najee Goode filled in at first-team MIKE, flanked by Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks.

8. Chase Daniel overthrew two balls badly within a few plays during the 11-on-11 drills, but then capped off a drive by dropping a ball into the hands of wideout Paul Turner in the back of the end zone. Decent day for Daniel.

9. The Eagles ran some scout team looks for the first time (that we’ve seen) on Tuesday. Daniel ran the scout team, which makes sense. Normally, it would be the third-string quarterback, but Wentz probably has plenty on his plate. Not sure whom the offense was mimicking, but the two pinnies were Nos. 88 and 82. Perhaps the Cowboys?

10. At one point on Tuesday, the offense started to use a tempo offense, giving everyone in attendance flashbacks to Chip. Well, not exactly. The up-tempo didn’t last long and it did produce the ugliest Wentz pass since he’s been with the team.

We are seeing plenty of interesting looks from the Eagles. At times they’ve been using formations with three tight ends. And they even showed some designed quarterback runs on Tuesday. The progression and complexity of this offense is starting to be revealed by these practices, and it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stupid Observation of the Day: Punter Donnie Jones has begun to wear a pretty sweet white and blue bucket hat at practice when he’s not wearing his helmet. Only a punter could get away with this. Here, you can see him in the background from last week.