Hiroki Kuroda leaves 2013 debut after getting hit with liner

Hiroki Kuroda leaves 2013 debut after getting hit with liner

Hiroki Kuroda had a less-than-ideal 2013 debut. The right-hander surrendered a Red Sox run in the top of the first inning then took a Shane Victorino line drive off his right fingertips to lead off the second. Kuroda hit the next batter, Jackie Bradley Jr. and walked Jacoby Ellsbury on four pitches. He then plunked…

Caps need to rewrite same old script


Caps need to rewrite same old script

PITTSBURGH – For the past eight months the Capitals have been telling anyone who would listen that this team is different than the ones that disappointed their fans in the past.

Now they have a chance to prove it.

After a crushing 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center, which gave Pittsburgh a commanding  3-1 series lead, the Capitals were saying all the right things.

“It’s a totally different year,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. “Last year we (were) winning 3-1 against the Rangers and we lost. We just have to have the mentality of shift to shift, period by period, and try to turn it around. Try to win the next game.

“We have to take this experience and turn it around our way. I think it sucks, you want to (win) the game and tie the series, but overall I think we have to play our game.”

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who stopped 30 of 33 shots on Wednesday and has allowed two more goals than rookie Matt Murray in this series, said the Capitals need to rely on what got them this far.

“We’re a good team,” he said. “We have the experience, the composure. It’s just a matter of bringing it to use now. We’ve got to keep pushing forward and hopefully the bounces will go our way sooner or later. Focus on the next game and all you can do it put your best effort out there.”


The Caps and Penguins played a pretty even game through two periods, with the Penguins taking a 2-1 lead on goals by Tevor Daley and Matt Cullen and the Capitals tying it on a second-period goal by John Carlson.

But with 2:34 gone in overtime, Penguins forward Conor Sheary threw a puck at the net that went off the heel of the stick of Capitals defenseman Mike Weber, who swiped at the puck and sent it directly to Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist fired a shot between the pads of Holtby as he scrambled back to cover his left post.

“We were OK with (Weber) out there,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “It was more of an unlucky play than anything. We had the puck a little bit earlier and sort of lost it.  It sort of just tied him up and he moved his stick and it went right to Hornqvist. That’s the way it goes.”

Holtby slammed his stick in frustration as he left the ice, realizing the opportunity the Caps had just squandered with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang out of the lineup due to a suspension.   

“It was tough,” Trotz said. “That’s why it’s sudden death. That’s what it feels like. We’ll have to deal with it. 

“This group has dealt with a lot of things. They’ve handled adversity well all year and they’ll do it again. We dug ourselves a hole and we’ll have to see if we can dig ourselves out of it.”

The Caps have not trailed 3-1 in a playoff series since 2009, when they stormed back to beat the Rangers in seven games. But this road looks a lot steeper. 

The Penguins managed to dodge a bullet by winning Game 4 without their top defenseman. And they have not lost three games in a row since late December, let alone three in a row.  

“We’ll have to come up with a Grade A effort on Saturday night,” Trotz said. “The Verizon Center has been a good place for us. I have a lot of trust in this group. It’s shown a lot of resiliency, just as Mike (Sullivan’s) group has shown a lot of resiliency all year. We’ll have to prove it.”

Yes, they will.


Orioles can't break through and lose 7-0 to Yankees


Orioles can't break through and lose 7-0 to Yankees

BALTIMORE – Wednesday’s pregame was dominated by silly talk that the Orioles deliberately canceled the New York Yankees’ batting practice the day before. 

Rain was forecast, but it never came, but that sometimes happens around here. 

The Yankees took batting practice in the mist, and on yet another cool and unpleasant night, broke their six-game losing streak with a 7-0 win over the Orioles before 15,998 at Oriole Park.

Chris Davis, who was wearing a large wrap over his left hand after the game, acknowledges the weather is difficult to play in. 

“It’s tough for everybody, but it’s part of the season. I think the biggest thing for us to remember is it’s a long season. These are the games that test you early on, but later in the season, they pay off,” Davis said. 

Davis played behind Tyler Wilson, who through the first five innings, allowed just one hit, and 11 of his first 15 outs were on the ground. 

It all came apart in the sixth. With one out, Jacoby Ellsbury singled and stole second. He advanced to third on Brett Gardner’s single. Ellsbury scored when Adam Jones did not attempt a throw home on Carlos Beltran’s fly to center field. 

“He just didn't get it out good. He made a great throw to the plate the play before. He just couldn't get it out of his glove. He just couldn't get the exchange down right,” manager Buck Showalter said. 

Mark Teixeira walked, and Gardner scored on Brian McCann’s single to right. Starlin Castro bounced to the mound, but Wilson (1-1) threw the ball past Davis at first for a two-base error as Teixiera scored.

“That’s probably the thing that upsets me most about the outing. Obviously we practice and do that all the time, and there’s no excuse for that. I pushed the ball into the ground, made a good grip, and then threw it into the ground. Stayed low, threw it, did everything the way we always practice it. I just didn't execute. That’s 100 percent on me,” Wilson said. 

The Orioles (15-11) had plenty of opportunities against CC Sabathia, who recorded his 19th win against them. 

They hit into three double plays, and had just one runner on third base. In the fifth, Jonathan Schoop doubled, and one out, Ryan Flaherty singled, but Schoop stayed at third as Joey Rickard and Manny Machado struck out.
“That’s kind of been the way things have been going for us lately. We’ve had a few games where we’ve been able to score some runs early and capitalize on those opportunities but for the most part, we’re not getting the job done when we have runners in scoring position," Davis said.

"I think the biggest thing to remember is to stay the course.  We’re playing really good ball defensively right now. I think we’re throwing the ball really well right now and we’re keeping ourselves in the game and we all know the bats are going to heat up when the weather is not raining and cold and it warms up a bit,” Davis said. 

It got worse in the eighth. T.J. McFarland gave up a leadoff double to Beltran, walked Teixiera and left with the score 5-0 after McCann doubled to right and advance to third on the throw. Didi Gregorius’ single made it 6-0.
Dylan Bundy loaded the bases with two outs, and hit Gardner with a 3-2 pitch. New York (9-16) led 7-0. 

Sabathia (2-2), who barely made New York’s rotation out of spring training, allowed six hits in seven innings. 

“I think over the years, he’s really had to pitch more. His velocity is obviously not where it used to be, but he knows how to pitch. You don’t stay in this game that long not knowing how to pitch,” Davis said. 

Kirby Yates loaded the bases in the eighth with one out, but Dellin Betances struck out Davis and retired Mark Trumbo on a foul pop to third. 

Showalter felt Wilson pitched decently. 

“I thought he was pretty good period. He had a wet ball that he couldn’t get a grip on. He did his part. He was good. He pitched well. We just didn’t score any runs. It’s one of those nights where if even at three, if we can score some … I choose to look at the outing like it really was. He was good. We’ll take that,” Showalter said. 

NOTES: The crowd was the smallest for a Yankees-Orioles game in Baltimore since Sept. 27, 1988 when 15,737 watched at Memorial Stadium. … The Orioles were shut out for the second time this season while New York recorded its first shutout. … Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 2.87) pitches against Kevin Gausman (0-1, 2.45) on Thursday night. 

Caps lose an OT heartbreaker in Game 4


Caps lose an OT heartbreaker in Game 4

PITTSBURGH – Veteran defenseman Mike Weber was inserted into the Capitals lineup Wednesday night for his defensive prowess and physicality. But with the game on the line and the puck in his skates, Weber inadvertently shoved the puck to Patric Hornqvist at the most inopportune time.

Hornqvist fired the puck past Caps goaltender Braden Holtby just 2:34 into overtime, giving the Penguins a dramatic 3-2 win and a commanding 3-1 series lead on the Capitals.

Game 5 will be played Saturday night at Verizon Cernter. 

How it happened: The Capitals got on the board first just 2:58 into the game when Tom Wilson dumped the puck into the offensive zone and Jay Beagle grabbed it and roofed a backhander over Matt Murray for his third goal of the playoffs.  The Caps entered the game with an all-time record of 27-2-5 when Beagle scores (2-0 in the playoffs) and were 18-0-1 when Wilson recorded a point in the regular season. But that didn’t stop the Penguins from taking a 2-1 lead on goals by Trevor Daley and Matt Cullen. Daley scored his first goal of the playoffs 9:16 into the opening period when his shot bounced off Karl Alzner and under Braden Holtby. Penguins center Matt Cullen opened the second period by stripping Nicklas Backstrom on a faceoff and beating him down the ice, sliding the puck between the pads of Holtby for a go-ahead breakaway goal at the 3:07 mark. The Penguins failed on three power-play opportunities and the Caps whiffed on two of their own in the opening 40 minutes before John Carlson scored his fourth goal of the playoffs on a hard-working play by Justin Williams, who stripped defenseman Derrick Pouliot and fed Carlson for a roof shot over Murray with 3:41 to play in the second period.


Change in strategy: After seeing Alex Ovechkin rip off 18 shot attempts and deliver nine hits against the Sidney Crosby line in Game 3, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went a different route, using the Penguins’ bottom two lines against the line of Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Ovechkin. Matt Cullen’s line with wingers Tom Kuhnhackl and Oskar Sundqvist drew most of the assignments on the Ovechkin line and the 39-year-old Cullen did a masterful job, scoring his third goal of the playoffs to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead early in the second period.

Slash on Crosby: Seven years to the day since their dueling hat tricks in the 2009 playoffs, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin went at it again, only with a more physical edge this time. Crosby left the game in a fit of frustration early in the third period after taking a slash to the hand from Ovechkin, slamming his stick on a wall down the tunnel, but returned a few minutes later.  

Lineup changes: Caps defenseman Mike Weber returned to the lineup and played on a third pairing with Taylor Chorney. That meant a promotion for Dmitry Orlov, who played on a second unit with John Carlson.

For the Pens, defenseman Justin Schultz went into the lineup for the suspended Kris Letang and played on a third defense pairing with Ian Cole. Brian Domoulin took Letang’s spot on a top pairing with Trevor Daley, while Ben Lovejoy moved from the third D pairing to the second alongside Derrick Pouliot. Up front, Eric Fehr (undisclosed injury) missed his first game of the playoffs and was replaced by Oskar Sundqvist, who played on a fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnhackl. Bryan Rust played in Game 4 for the Penguins despite walking with a severe limp at the morning skate, lining up alongside Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz. That meant enforcer Tom Sestito remained a healthy scratch.

Look ahead: With two day off before they play again on Saturday night at 7:15, the Capitals and Penguins are scheduled to take Thursday off as a recovery day, then resume practice on Friday. Brooks Orpik has one more game remaining on his three-game suspension.