MLB pitcher nearly throws 2nd career no-hitter

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MLB pitcher nearly throws 2nd career no-hitter

From Comcast SportsNet
CHICAGO (AP) -- One thought kept crossing A.J. Burnett's mind as he made his dramatic push for a no-hitter. He wanted it -- badly. Instead, he will have to settle for a close call and maybe the best performance of his career. Burnett pitched a one-hitter, Neil Walker drove in five runs and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat Chicago 5-0 on Tuesday night, hours after the Cubs traded ace Ryan Dempster. Burnett started thinking about a no-hitter in the third or fourth inning. "I'm not going to lie," he said. "So, it's one of those things that you want to do, you want to take pride in, but at the same time a lot of luck's got to go into it. I had a lot of great plays behind me. ... Bottom line is it's a W' for us." Burnett just about stole the spotlight after the Cubs traded their best pitcher to Texas just before the non-waiver deadline. His bid for a second career no-hitter and the sixth in the majors this season ended with two outs in the eighth. He had already hit Darwin Barney in the helmet with one out before striking out Luis Valbuena, but his no-hit bid ended at the hands of a rookie when pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas lined a 3-2 pitch to right for a single after two close pitches were called balls. Burnett said he was angry about a 2-2 curve that just missed outside, and he appeared to be yelling at the umpire after the hit. But he struck out David DeJesus with runners on first and third to end the inning. That's probably not much consolation for the veteran, who pitched a wild no-hitter for the Marlins against San Diego on May 12, 2001. He walked nine in that game, two in this one while striking out eight. "I always think about it," he said. "I want to clean that one up. That was a wild one." That a Miami-area native, who was 13-years-old back then, broke it up was a bit of an ironic twist. Not since Sandy Koufax did it to them in September 1965 have the Cubs been no-hit, and the last no-hitter at Wrigley Field came when Milt Pappas pitched one for Chicago against San Diego in September 1972. Burnett sure made it interesting, though. His curve was as sharp as it's ever been, and he just missed the eighth no-hitter in franchise history. "I thought he had a shot," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was just so efficient, pinpoint command. He pitched the left-handers so extremely well tonight. Fastball gloveside, his curveball was sharp for strikes, for chase. Great tempo -- 25 out of 31 first-pitch strikes. The pitch count was in a great place. That's one of the best games I've seen pitched ever." Cubs manager Dale Sveum was impressed, too. "He probably threw 60, 65 curveballs," he said. "Even his fastball, he kept it out of the middle of the plate. We hit a few balls hard. A couple balls without the wind might have been home runs, but he pitched a heck of a game." He retired the first 11 batters before walking Anthony Rizzo, and as the game wore on, the sense that something special was happening filled the old ballpark. There was a loud gasp when Alfonso Soriano sent a drive to deep left-center in the seventh that Andrew McCutchen caught, and first baseman Garrett Jones then made a sliding stop on Bryan LaHair's grounder to end the inning. The Cubs got some relief when Cardenas finally broke through, but even that was tempered by the reality that they got shut down. Cardenas faced Burnett in late May and didn't do so well, going 0-for-3 with two errors in a 1-0 loss. "I remember him and seeing how he was working throughout that game," he said. "When I was able to get that hit, it was great but it was very short-lived because we lost 5-0. ... It's definitely sweet to break up the no-hitter here at our place. That's something you don't want to be a part of." While Burnett cruised along, Casey Coleman had a rough night after being recalled from the minors. Pitching in Dempster's place, he lasted just 4 2-3 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits. Walker quickly put the Cubs ahead in the first when he drove a 2-1 pitch to right for a grand slam -- the second of his career and second at Wrigley Field. He also had a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Burnett's performance overshadowed the big news before the game, with Dempster going to the Rangers for two prospects. The Pirates were a busy bunch, too. They acquired former All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez from Florida and sent third baseman Casey McGehee to the Yankees for reliever Chad Qualls. Notes: Along with Coleman, the Cubs also recalled Cardenas and C Welington Castillo from Triple-A Iowa before the game. ... GM Jed Hoyer said it might not be long before Josh Vitters is called up from Triple-A. He was batting .298 with 15 homers. ... In the Sanchez deal, Pittsburgh also got minor league pitcher Kyle Kaminska for minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and the extra draft pick for 2013 that the Pirates won in the competitive balance lottery for financially weaker teams. ... The Pirates recalled RHP Daniel McCutchen from Triple-A Indianapolis to take Brad Lincoln's spot in the bullpen. Lincoln was dealt to Toronto for Travis Snider on Monday.

Rewind: With another close loss, clock is ticking for Kings in 2016-17

Rewind: With another close loss, clock is ticking for Kings in 2016-17

SACRAMENTO -- Carmelo Anthony missed a pair of free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining in the Kings-Knicks game Friday evening at Golden 1 Center. DeMarcus Cousins, like he had done most of the night, gobbled up the rebound. The Kings All-Star big took a couple of dribbles and then launched a majestic 52-foot shot that was right on target.

Instead of sliding through the net to force overtime, the shot caught front iron and careened off the rim. Cousins fell to the floor, acting out the despair that so many Kings fans in attendance felt. Kings lost by a final of 103-100.

The plan was laid out by coach Dave Joerger in the first week of training camp. First learn to how compete and then learn how to win. It was always going to be a process, but after another tough loss, this time on their home floor, the Sacramento Kings are becoming the poster child for “close, but no cigar.”

“We didn’t make a shot in the last minute, minute ten seconds,” Joerger said following the game. “It’s nobody’s fault. Nobody’s trying to miss. We executed and got where we wanted.”

Sacramento got the stops they needed, although they still gave up a few tough offensive rebounds down the stretch. The game came down to their inability to finish on the offensive side of the ball.

Down one with 21.9 seconds remaining, Cousins cut through two Knick defenders and stood all alone at the basket. His two-footer somehow rolled off the rim and into the hands of the Knicks.  

With 3.9 seconds remaining and Sacramento trailing by 103-100, Rudy Gay missed a contested 3-pointer that would have tied the game. Again, no one tries to miss a game-tying shot.

You can’t ask for much more if you are Joerger. His best two players had the ball in their hands repeatedly down the stretch. They even had open looks, but sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce the way you need it to.

“It’s tough - frustrating loss,” veteran Omri Casspi said following the game. “Basically it comes down to down the stretch, making plays and knocking down shots. I felt like we had good shots, we’ve just got to make them.”

Sacramento shot just 7-of-21 from the field (33.3 percent) in the fourth quarter, but the ball movement stopped late in the fourth, especially when Ty Lawson left the game at the 5:19 mark.

The Kings did a nice job of defending the Knicks down the stretch, but it always comes down to a missed layup, a slow rotation or an offensive rebound by the opposition that does them in.

“We competed throughout the whole night, it’s just small mistakes,” Cousins said following the loss. “We’ve got to correct those or we’re going to continue to lose close games.”

The clock is ticking for Sacramento. With the loss, they have now lost four of their last five and sit at 8-14 on the season. Their schedule to-date was considered the second toughest in the NBA and it doesn’t get any easier Saturday night when they travel to Utah to take on the Jazz on the second night of a back-to-back.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Darren Collison said. “We can’t sit there and say that we’re going to figure it out and lose these games because the West is not going to wait for us. We’ve got to be able to play - play the right way.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Kings. They see improvement, but they just can’t seem to get over the hump. They have been within in striking distance late in games in each of their last four losses, but the process of finishing games has been a difficult one.

“I think we’re in a good place, we’ve just got to continue to grow, keep our heads up, stay positive,” Cousins said. “I think we’ll be fine. Hate to say it, but it’s a learning curve.”

Sacramento will be tested on what they learned against the Knicks when they face a well rested, but injury riddled Jazz team that plays extremely hard under coach Quin Snyder.

Three takeaways: Labanc creating offense for Sharks

Three takeaways: Labanc creating offense for Sharks

ANAHEIM – The Sharks dropped their second in a row in regulation on Friday in Anaheim, as the Ducks moved into first place in the suddenly tight Pacific. What were the three biggest takeaways from the game? Here we go…

1 – Getting down early…again

The Sharks were surely aware that a good start was key against the Ducks, who have given up the fewest third period goals in the NHL (15). It didn’t happen, and Anaheim seized a 2-0 lead 15 minutes into the game. It was similar to what happened against Ottawa on Wednesday, when the Senators scored two goals in the first eight minutes and went on to a 4-2 win.

The Sharks managed to fight back and tie it with a strong second period, but they may have used up their energy tanks by the time the third period started, and the Ducks took back the momentum – and the two points.

“I think anybody in this league, let alone Anaheim in their home barn, it’s tough to come back,” Dylan DeMelo said. “We did a good job fighting back. It was just unfortunate that they got that one there with about five minutes left.”

Headed into Saturday’s game with Carolina, the Sharks are 11-4-0 when scoring first, and 4-7-1 when allowing the first goal.

2 – Labanc creating offense

Rookie Kevin Labanc was all around the puck even before his goal made it 2-2 in the second period. With three goals, he now has more than Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, Mikkel Boedker, Melker Karlsson and Chris Tierney, in about half the games.

Does Labanc feel he can help fill the offensive void with so many players failing to produce?

“Everybody here can score goals. It’s just a matter of opportunities and getting the right bounces,” Labanc said. 

“Some guys just don’t have the right bounces going their way. We’ve just got to stay positive. I’m doing everything that I can to do what’s right for the team and to win the game. Whether it be scoring goals, blocking shots, I’ve just got to do my job and play the right way.”

You have to think Labanc is on the cusp on staying with the Sharks for the season, and with so many players just not getting it done on the scoresheet, perhaps it’s time some of his former Barracuda teammates join him on the NHL roster.

3 – Snakebitten Pavelski

Once again, Joe Pavelski had some great chances that he couldn’t cash in on, just like against Ottawa. There’s certainly no reason to worry about Pavelski's play, but had he been able to finish his opportunities against the Senators and Ducks, the Sharks could have at least gotten a point in the standings in each.

“We had some good looks. Myself, I had a bunch. Have to start putting it in the net,” Pavelski said. 

“It’s frustrating when you know a goal could change the game like that and you’re missing some good opportunities. [Have to] keep working for the next chance.”