1 seed Bulls one loss away from elimination

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1 seed Bulls one loss away from elimination

From Comcast SportsNet
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- His coach called Jrue Holiday's slump "0 for the world." Even as the misses piled up, Holiday never felt the weight of it on his 21-year-old shoulders. All he could do in a thorny Game 4 was laugh about his struggles with teammate Evan Turner. "You've got to be happy when you play," Holiday said. "It really helps." Boy, did it help Philadelphia in the final minutes against Chicago. Holiday busted out of a game-long slump with consecutive 3-pointers that stretched a one-point lead into seven and helped the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 89-82 on Sunday and take a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series. "Don't fear the consequences," 76ers coach Doug Collins said. It's the top-seeded Bulls who suddenly fear elimination. Spencer Hawes scored 22 points and Holiday had 20 to put the Sixers one win away from joining the short list of eighth-seeded teams that have won a series against a No. 1 seed. Andre Iguodala had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers, who have won the last three games after losing Game 1. Game 5 is Tuesday in Chicago. The short-handed Bulls played without Derrick Rose (torn ACL) and Joakim Noah (sprained ankle). Rose is out for the season and Noah is day to day for the rest of the series. In NBA postseason history, the eighth seed has won a first-round series against the No. 1 seed four times, including last season when Memphis eliminated San Antonio. Golden State (2007), New York (1999) and Denver (1994) also pulled off the rare feat. "I'm not worried about it," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I'm just worried about the next game. We do have more than enough to win with." The Sixers won three straight playoff games for the first time since Allen Iverson fueled their run to the 2001 NBA finals. Holiday was sensational down the stretch after a rocky first 3 quarters. He missed his first five 3-point attempts until he nailed one to make it 77-73. He hit another the next time down for a seven-point lead to the delight of a roaring sellout crowd. They were easily his biggest shots on a 7-of-23 night. He expects to hear the same noise in the next round. "We have to play like it's Game 7," Holiday said. "We want to win in Chicago." The undermanned Bulls kept at it and refused to use playing without their two biggest impact players as an excuse. C.J. Watson, who scored 17 points, hit a step-back jumper to make it a two-point game. In a whistle-happy game, Holiday went to the line with 51 seconds left and made both for an 84-80 lead. Suddenly -- and shockingly -- the Sixers are a win away from taking a playoff series for the first time since 2003. Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls. Taj Gibson chipped in 14 points and 12 rebounds. Without a full roster, the Bulls barked at the refs, talked trash on the court and used every self-motivational tactic they knew to gain an edge on the Sixers. Noah, injured in Game 3, took charge on the bench as head cheerleader. Wearing a protective walking boot, he clapped, cheered and offered instruction in the timeout huddle. Noah was needed more on the court than as a de facto assistant coach. Boozer actively did his best to keep the Bulls in the game. He played through foul trouble to score 18 points through three quarters (matching his combined total for the first two games) and he fought for some of the tough rebounds Noah would grab. It wasn't enough. The Sixers made 22 of 31 free throws to Chicago's 11-for-14 effort. The Sixers only averaged 18.2 free-throw attempts this season. "Bottom line, we've got to play better defense without fouling," Boozer said. "You can't cry about the referees. It's the playoffs. If we could hold them to 17, 18 points in the fourth quarter, maybe we win that game." Iguodala played through right Achilles' tendinitis to make so many impact plays for the Sixers. He halted a Bulls run in the third with a 3 for a 57-56 lead. Bad leg and all, he still soared for a thunderous dunk on the break in the first half for an eight-point lead. One of the worst fourth-quarter foul shooters in the NBA, Iguodala even made both with 26.6 seconds left. "I think the adrenaline carried me through the game," Iguodala said. "It's hard to get on your toes, that's the hardest thing." Game 4 lacked the electric atmosphere early that accompanies a postseason game because the Broad Street Run was routed in front of the sports complex. The Wells Fargo Center was barely half full by tip and the announced crowd of 20,142 needed time to warm up. By the time Holiday hit his 3s, the arena was going wild. His sharp shooting in clutch time came at the right time after a slow start. Holiday and Turner continue to befuddle Collins with their inconsistency. The under-25 starting backcourt followed a solid Game 3 with a combined 3 for 22 for eight points in the first half. Lou Williams, perhaps the league's top reserve, failed to bail them out with a 2-for-10 effort in the game. Their struggles were a key reason the depleted Bulls kept the score tight even without their two stars. The Sixers crashed the boards early without Noah in the lineup and had 15 second-chance points in the half to grab a 10-point lead. Hawes hit the go-ahead 20-footer late in the fourth for the Game 3 winner and he continued his hot hand into Sunday. He had made seven of his first eight shots, including a 3-pointer right before the second quarter buzzer to send the Sixers into halftime with 44-42 lead. Notes: Boxer Bernard Hopkins, former NBA great Dolph Schayes, former Sixers great Julius Erving and actor Bill Murray attended the game. ... Philadelphia last won a playoff series when it beat New Orleans in 2003. ... The Sixers hold a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series for the first time since the 1984 East semifinals. ... 76ers CEO Adam Aron said there was nothing the team could do about the start time.

Scherzer struggles to find consistency after loss to Cardinals

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Scherzer struggles to find consistency after loss to Cardinals

Consistency is much of what separates those who are good from those who are great and Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer is no stranger to the concept.

In each of the past three seasons he's pitched over 210 innings with ERAs at 3.15 or lower. He was an All-Star in each of those years and finished no worse than fifth in Cy Young voting.

With Scherzer, you usually know what you're going to get. High strikeouts, low walks and every once in a while an outing for the history books.

Yet through 11 starts in 2016, steadiness from start to start has eluded him. There's been something off, something missing that has left him with an uncharacteristically high 4.05 ERA and an MLB-high 15 homers allowed. 

Take his walks, for instance. Over his last six outings, Scherzer has alternated between walking zero batters and walking three or more. In Friday night's loss to the Cardinals, Scherzer walked four including one with the bases loaded to score a run. In his previous start he walked nobody in eight frames at the Mets.

One day he'll have it and then the next he just won't. 

"Of course I'm upset about the walks," Scherzer said after the Nats' 6-2 loss on Friday. "It seems like I keep walking the left-handed hitters. That's the bigger thing that will frustrate me more than the walks themselves."

The two most costly walks Scherzer issued on Friday came in the third inning, the frame he allowed five runs. Both of those walks - one to Greg Garcia and one to Matt Holliday - came in counts that began with two strikes. Holliday's was with the bases loaded and scored a run. It was the first time Scherzer walked in a run since April of 2013 and just the fourth time he's ever made that mistake.

"I'm not going to beat myself up over those because I was in 0-2 counts and I ended up walking them. It's more indicative that I just didn't have put-away pitches at that point," Scherzer said.

The walks that bothered Scherzer more did not lead to runs. Those were leadoff walks to begin the first and second innings.

"I'm actually more frustrated with the first two walks more than anything, because those can lead to dangerous innings where you have the leadoff walk," Scherzer said.

Friday night was the second time this season that Scherzer has allowed four walks. In 2015, he never walked four in a game. Through 11 starts Scherzer is already at 22 walks on the season after only giving up 34 total in 33 starts last season.

The walks are one thing for Scherzer. Homers are another. And it was again the longball that did Scherzer in on Friday, this time a grand slam by Stephen Piscotty in the third inning. It was just the second grand slam Scherzer has ever given up and his first since 2010.

Piscotty got a hanging slider and walloped it over the left field fence for his first career slam. 

"It was a dumb pitch," Scherzer admitted. "I hadn't shown my fastball yet and I threw another slider and I hung it. He put a good swing on it, ended in a blast."

It was part of a sequence of sliders Scherzer threw to Piscotty and he was waiting for it.

"Including the last at-bat he threw me four straight sliders. Luckily, I got that one," Piscotty said.

Scherzer has now allowed 42 homers over the last two seasons in 44 starts, more than any other pitcher. Since July 7 of 2015, Scherzer has given up 35 homers in 28 games. 

"I know I've been giving up a ton of home runs," Scherzer said. "But that one, that's just an execution thing. That's just me not throwing the right pitch at the right time with poor execution. So that's one where you don't beat yourself up over."

It has been a confusing season for Scherzer, but luckily for the Nats it hasn't hurt them much at all. They are tied for first place with the New York Mets and still boast one of baseball's best rotations with their other four holding ERAs at 2.87 or lower. 

Scherzer is their ace, but currently qualifies as their weakest link. While he searches for consistency from start to start, his teammates remain patient and point to his body of work as a whole.

"I'll take him out there any day," shortstop Danny Espinosa said. "He goes out and competes and tonight, just didn't have everything that he wanted."

"It's not how you start, it's how you finish," center fielder Ben Revere said. "With him, he's a pitcher who could finish strong. He'll definitely be big support for us coming down the stretch because he's one of our go-to guys. He's definitely our main guy. It's just one of those games that a couple pitches got away from him. Eventually it's going to come together and he'll be the Max Scherzer that we all know."

Jones leads off, Orioles break four-game losing streak

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Jones leads off, Orioles break four-game losing streak

CLEVELAND—Do the Orioles have a new leadoff hitter? For at least a few days, it’s Adam Jones. 

After four straight losses, and a boatload of strikeouts, manager Buck Showalter decided to bat Jones in the leadoff spot. 

Jones, who had been in a 3-for-39 slump, had three hits in five at-bats as the Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians 6-4 before 21,054 at Progressive Field on Friday night. 

Showalter says that it’s more than likely he’ll bat Jones in the leadoff spot again Saturday. For his first time there since May 10, 2010, Jones did well. 

“The problem when you do something like that, as a manager, what are you going to do tomorrow if he’s 0-for-5 with five punchouts? Where are you going? You always try to leave yourself a little bit of wiggle room,” Showalter said. 

When he was asked if he had made a decision on Saturday, Showalter deflected the question. 

“I hadn’t gotten that far. It’s been a while. Can I just kind of suck this one in a little. No, more than likely. I gave him four options today. Of course, I had already made out the lineup. We both picked the right one,” he said. 

In the previous three games, the Orioles struck out 52 times, and it was a relief to see only six K’s on the team’s scorecard. 

The Orioles’ first four-game losing streak of the season is over. 

“Well, the thing we’ve been focusing on the last four games is Ws and Ls,” Showalter said. “Everything else is, we’re trying to get to an end game of winning a game with the Orioles having more runs than they’ve got after nine innings.”

The Orioles (27-19) scored three runs in the first when Jones led off with a single up the middle. Hyun Soo Kim was hit by a Trevor Bauer pitch. Manny Machado’s single to center scored Jones. Chris Davis walked to load the bases. 

After Mark Trumbo and Nolan Reimold struck out, Jonathan Schoop’s single scored Kim and Machado to give Mike Wright a 3-0 cushion before he faced a batter. 

Wright gave up a run in the second on back-to-back doubles by Jose Ramirez and Juan Uribe. Mike Napoli hit a long home run, his ninth, in the fourth. 

Machado led off the fifth with a double to center, but he unwisely tried to make it a triple when the ball escaped Rajai Davis. Davis’ throw nabbed Machado, and Reimold’s single was wasted. 

Wright didn’t make it out of the fifth. Chris Gimenez began the inning with a walk, Davis singled, and Carlos Santana walked to load the bases with none out. After Jason Kipnis struck out, Francisco Lindor’s fly to right scored Gimenez to tie the game at 3, and Dylan Bundy replaced Wright. 

“It was terrible. When you score three in the first, you should shut out, shut out, shut out, every inning after that. I should never walk anybody. I should continue to be aggressive,” Wright said. 

Bundy (1-1) got four outs for his first major league win, nearly three years after his June 2013 Tommy John surgery. 

“It’s taken four years I guess to get to that point, but it’s still exciting. I actually didn’t know I got the win until some of the teammates told me in the clubhouse, so it was fun,” Bundy said. 

In the seventh, Machado doubled and scored when Davis doubled. Trumbo hit an opposite field home run to right off Zach McAllister (2-2), and the Orioles had a 6-3 lead. 

Brad Brach pitched a scoreless seventh, but Lindor led off the eighth with his fourth home run off Darren O’Day to cut the lead to 6-4. 

After the home run, Napoli walked, Ramirez doubled, and Uribe struck out. Lonnie Chisenhall was walked intentionally to load the bases, and Gimenez hit a ball that looked as if it was going to right field, but Schoop snared it, and threw to Machado to begin the artful double play that ended the eighth for Cleveland (25-21).

Zach Britton earned his 13th save with a scoreless ninth. 

The losing streak is over, and mass strikeouts were averted. 

“We’re not afraid to strike out. They’re going to come. More than that, it was some of the pitches we took and gave ourselves another chance to get a better pitch to hit, and I think when we did get something to work with, we put it in play and found some holes, too,” Trumbo said. 

NOTES: Machado has 19 doubles. … O’Day has allowed four home runs so far this season, one below his total for the entire 2016 season. … Ubaldo Jimenez (2-5, 6.04) faces Danny Salazar (4-3, 2.32) on Saturday afternoon at 4:10 p.m. 

RELATED: SHOWALTER NOT SURE HOW LONG HARDY WILL BE OUT

Scherzer gives up grand slam as Nationals fall to Cardinals

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Scherzer gives up grand slam as Nationals fall to Cardinals

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night at Nationals Park.

How it happened: Max Scherzer's play this season continues to be an outlier both for the Nationals' 2016 rotation and within the context of his career. The former Cy Young winner put in yet another uncharacteristic outing on Friday night, not only losing command of the strike zone, but issuing runs in a fashion you just don't see often from the Nationals' ace.

Scherzer gave up five runs in total to the Cardinals on Friday and four of them came on a grand slam by Stephen Piscotty. It was just the second grand slam Scherzer has ever allowed and the first since 2010. Scherzer also walked in a runner with the bases loaded for just the fourth time in his nine MLB seasons.

Those two plays happened in back-to-back at-bats. You just don't see that very often.

The Nationals' unbeaten record against St. Louis was broken with the 6-2 loss, the fourth defeat for the Nats in their last seven contests. The Nationals are now an even .500 at 13-13 in the month of May.

What it means: The loss doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but Scherzer's season remains a concern. Things could be worse, of course, but he has clearly been the weakest link in their rotation so far. It's unexpected and the Nats are fortunate the rest of their starting group has otherwise been so good. Even with Scherzer's 4.05 ERA, the Nats rank second in baseball as a rotation in the category. This is the latest Scherzer has held an ERA above 4.00 since 2012 and after his 11th start, it's no longer early.

Homer, walks do Scherzer in: Six of the seven innings Scherzer threw were scoreless and he allowed only three hits, but a disastrous third inning was all it took to ruin his Frday night. Scherzer first ran into trouble by giving up a one-out single to pitcher Jaime Garcia. He then walked Greg Garcia, allowed a single to Aledmys Diaz and then a walk to Matt Holliday to bring in a run. It was the first time since April 24, 2013 that Scherzer has walked in a run. The next at-bat was Piscotty's grand slam, a towering shot to left field off a slider. Scherzer has allowed a league-high 15 homers this season. No pitcher has given up more than the 42 bombs he's surrendered since the start of 2015. It was also the second time Scherzer has allowed four walks this season. He didn't walk four batters in a game all of 2015. Over his last six starts, Scherzer has alternated between zero walk outings and ones where he issues three or more. It's a strange trend that even he probably can't explain.

Espinosa homers again: Danny Espinosa homered for the second straight night and now has five on the season. He has four homers in May. He also had four homers last May, more than any other month in 2015. His career-high is eight set back in May of 2011. Espinosa likes hitting homers in May, apparently. 

Murphy ties hits record: Daniel Murphy got another hit in this one, a single to left field in the sixth inning. That gave him 40 in May, which tied a Nationals record for hits in a single month. Denard Span also had 40 hits in August of 2014. Murphy has four more games left in May to break it. The odds are pretty good he'll end up closer to 50 than he will 40 with the way he's been playing. The record for hits in one month, by the way, is held by Ty Cobb. He had 68 in July of 1912. Murphy's been good, but he isn't getting anywhere close to that.

Up next: The Nationals and Cardinals continue their series with a 7:15 p.m. first pitch on Saturday night. Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 2.87) will square off with Adam Wainwright (4-3, 5.77) in a rematch of Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS.