Baseball's most surprising team ... the Pirates?

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Baseball's most surprising team ... the Pirates?

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A day before he takes part in the home run derby as part of the All-Star festivities in Kansas City, Andrew McCutchen put on a show for the home fans. McCutchen hit two home runs, Neil Walker homered among his five hits and the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the All-Star break in sole possession of first place following a 13-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. McCutchen hit a pair of two-run homers that immediately followed hits by Walker -- one to open the scoring in the first and another to make it 12-2 in the seventh. "I am not going up to bat to hit home runs," McCutchen said. "I am just trying to put good swings on balls and when I do that, depending on where the pitch is and how my swing is, some balls go out." If they don't go out, they at least drop in for a hit of some sort lately for the red-hot McCutchen, who enters the break on a 21-for-38 (.552) tear. He has multiple hits in six of his past nine games and 23 RBIs in his past 19 games. All of his team-high 18 home runs have come in the past two months -- an NL-high 12 have come with runners on base. The long-woeful Pirates have won six of seven and 10 of 12, and no team in the majors has a better record since May 12 than Pittsburgh's 34-19. "We worked hard to get to where we are, and we've earned our way so far," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. A.J. Burnett pitched effectively into the seventh to win his ninth consecutive decision, and Casey McGehee went 3 for 4 with two RBIs for Pittsburgh. The Pirates (48-37) are 11 games over .500 for the first time since 1992 and are in first place at the break for the first time since 1997. The franchise has endured a North American professional sports record 19 consecutive losing seasons. The Pirates have gone 11-1-1 in their past 13 series and have won seven consecutive series at PNC Park. "Seeing what's going on here, it's fun to be a part of it," said Burnett, acquired in an offseason trade from the New York Yankees. The Giants' Tim Lincecum failed to get out of the fourth inning for the second consecutive start, getting charged with six runs on seven hits. The two-time Cy Young Award winner enters the break with a 6.42 ERA that is worst in the majors among qualifying starters. Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run homer for San Francisco, which has lost five of six and seven of nine. Burnett (10-2) retired 13 consecutive Giants batters from the first until the sixth. He was lifted after Sandoval hit his eighth homer with Buster Posey aboard in the seventh. Burnett was charged with two runs on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings. Burnett improved to 6-0 at home and became the second Pirates pitcher since 1993 to win 10 games prior to the All-star break. Pittsburgh has won each of his past 12 outings. Burnett's winning streak is a career-best. Walker extended his hitting streak to 12 games -- tying a team season high -- with a homer, double and three singles. It was the first five-hit game for a Pirates player since Walker did it July 20, 2010. Walker is hitting .489 (23-for-47) during his streak. "Days like today can happen," said Walker, "but certainly five hits is something that comes around very rarely." Walker hit his sixth home run with nobody on in the third, and the Pirates chased Lincecum (3-10) with a three-run fourth. Burnett's soft liner through the middle with the bases loaded scored McGehee. It was the pitcher's 10th career RBI and first since Aug. 9, 2005, while with Florida. Burnett was the final batter Lincecum would face -- although runs that scored via a Drew Sutton sacrifice fly and Walker single would be charged to him. Lincecum has allowed 69 earned runs -- most in the majors and three more than his total from all of last season. He has allowed 47 earned runs in 47 innings on the road this season. "You never want to say, Hey, I've hit rock bottom,' or anything like that," Lincecum said. "But when things are going as bad as they are right now, you've kind of got to go out there like you've got nothing left to lose. Leave it all out there on the field and what happens, happens." Manager Bruce Bochy said Lincecum will start San Francisco's second game out of the break. He also was emphatic that he has given no thought to removing Lincecum from the rotation. "He's got to put this first half behind him..." Bochy said. "He's got to regroup. We need him. He's got to be determined to turn things around, and have a better second half. "There's not much you can do right now." About the only negative for the Pirates on Sunday was McGehee pulling up lame with a mild left groin strain after swatting a two-run "single" deep into the notch in left-center during the sixth. Pittsburgh entered the day a game up on the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. Only Washington has a better record among NL teams. Notes: The Giants had three errors. ... The Pirates' 29-14 home record is the best in the majors. They have won nine of 11 and 14 of 17 at PNC Park. ... Pittsburgh will be on the road for 16 of its first 22 after the break, beginning with three in Milwaukee Friday-Sunday. Manager Clint Hurdle set the order of his rotation to start the unofficial second half: RHP James McDonald, RHP Kevin Correia, Burnett, RHP Jeff Karstens and LHP Erik Bedard. ... San Francisco hosts Houston for a three-game series coming out of the break beginning Friday. The Giants took two of three from the Astros at home June 12-14.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Who will surprise, who will play NT

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Who will surprise, who will play NT

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 27, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

It’s been 146 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 106 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 17
—Training camp starts (7/27) 61
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 75

The Redskins week that was

Here are some of the most popular post from the last week on www.CSNmidatlantic.com and on www.RealRedskins.com

How well will the Redskins' defense adjust to six new starters? The Redskins unquestionably got an infusion of defensive talent but as we have seen in the past that does not guarantee better results. Throw a new defensive coordinator into the mix and it could take some time for this unit to reach its full potential. I think that there will be struggles early in the season and a better (but not dominant) unit by the time November rolls around.

Which Redskins will surprise in 2017? Every player carries expectations into the season. Some will be better than we believe right now (think of what many thought Vernon Davis would do last year) and some will play worse (Josh Doctson). I take out the crystal ball to figure out who will exceed expectations and who will fall below them.

Don't count out 3rd straight franchise tag for Cousins—Yes, Bruce Allen said that he is willing to franchise tag Kirk Cousins for a third time next year, a move that would cost $34 million for one season. But I think that’s a total bluff; the Redskins’ salary cap situation for 2018 would make such a move very difficult for them to pull off. The best hope for Cousins being a Redskin in 2018 is getting him signed to a long-term contract by July 15 of this year. The tone of the conversation regarding a new deal has been positive lately but the team must come up with a serious offer for a deal to happen.

For Redskins, finding a nose tackle needs to be a priority—Well, it’s up to Jim Tomsula to “make” a nose tackle. Phil Taylor is a true NT and he will get a shot. But he hasn’t played a snap since 2014. Undrafted free agent Ondre Pipkins also has nose tackle size at 6-3, 325. But he is a long shot, as are the Redskins’ chances of being significantly better against the run if they don’t find someone, anyone to be an adequate solution as the nose tackle.

Did Vernon Davis make the NFL change celebration rules? Although I prefer the John Riggins way of celebrating a touchdown—hand the ball to the referee because you’ve been in the end zone before and you expect to be back again soon—elaborate celebrations don’t bother me. After a TD in a game I’m covering I’m focused on writing about the scoring drive. When I’m watching at home, my attention goes to Twitter or to the refrigerator. I do think that it was dumb for the Redskins to lose 15 yards of field position because Vernon Davis put a jump shot over the crossbar so that’s why I’m glad that the NFL changed the celebration rules.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Orioles get shut out by Astros, lose fifth straight game

Orioles get shut out by Astros, lose fifth straight game

HOUSTON -- Jake Marisnick and Carlos Beltran each homered to back a solid start by Joe Musgrove, and the Houston Astros beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-0 on Friday night.

Marisnick went deep with one out in the third inning, and Beltran's shot to the second deck in right field came with two outs in the sixth.

Musgrove (4-4) allowed four hits in seven innings before the bullpen closed it out to send the Orioles to their season-high fifth straight loss.

Musgrove bounced back after allowing eight hits and a season-high seven runs in a season-low three-plus innings in an 8-6 loss to Cleveland in his last start.

The Orioles weren't able to string any hits together until the eighth inning when a double by Hyun Soo Kim and singles by Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy loaded the bases with no outs. But Chris Devenski struck out Seth Smith before retiring Adam Jones and Manny Machado on fly balls to escape the jam.

Ken Giles struck out one in a perfect ninth for his 14th save.

Kevin Gausman (2-4) yielded eight hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings for the Orioles, who have dropped seven of their last nine.

Machado had two hits, but the other three batters at the top of Baltimore's order went 0 for 12 with seven strikeouts, including four by Smith.

Marisnick homered in his second straight at-bat after hitting the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of a 7-6 win over the Tigers on Thursday night. George Springer followed with a single and Josh Reddick reached on an error by Schoop. But the Astros were unable to add on after Gausman retired the next two batters to end the inning.

Marisnick has six home runs this season after hitting just five last year.

JIMENEZ TO BULLPEN

The Orioles have moved struggling right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to the bullpen and will move reliever Alec Asher into the rotation to start on Sunday. Jimenez is 1-2 with a 7.17 ERA in nine appearances with eight starts this season. Asher has started two games this season but has worked mostly as a reliever and is 1-2 with a 2.17 ERA.

"I think he deserves the opportunity ... the challenge is that it takes a guy that's been pitching well out of our `pen," manager Buck Showalter said. "But we've been challenged to try and figure out a way to get a little deeper in some of the games, and it doesn't really matter who we've got in the bullpen if we don't."

UP NEXT

Orioles: Wade Miley (1-2 2.59 ERA) is scheduled to start for Baltimore on Saturday. He allowed six hits and three runs in seven innings of a 3-1 loss to Toronto in his last start and hasn't gotten a win since April 14.

Astros: Ace Dallas Keuchel is expected to come off the disabled list to start on Saturday after missing just one start because of a pinched nerve in his neck. The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner has brushed off a tough 2016 season by opening this year 7-0 with a 1.84 ERA. The left-hander has the second-lowest ERA in the majors and his wins are tied for most in the big leagues.