Wednesday, May 25, 2016
By Tom Jones
May 24, 2016
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) slow to get up as the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate the goal by center Sidney Crosby (87) in the final minute of the second period of game six of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. DIRK SHADD | Times
TAMPA- Well, it's going to have to do it the hard way. Of course, it is. After all, that's how the Lightning does things. The hard way. It's never comfortable unless it's uncomfortable. It never plays its best until the circumstances are at its worst. And the Lightning's situation just got a whole lot worse. If the Lightning wants to take a second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup final, it will first need to take an unexpected and dreaded detour. Tampa Bay is going to have to go to Pittsburgh and beat the Penguins on their home ice Thursday night. If it plays like it did in Tuesday night's 5-2 loss in Game 6, don't count on it. That do-or-die Game 7 is now necessary all because the Lightning couldn't seal the deal on its own ice Tuesday night. It's a loss that might keep the Lightning tossing and turning all summer long. And that summer could start as early as Thursday night if Tampa Bay can't muster a better performance than it did Tuesday.
By Will Graves
May 24, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates' Gregory Polanco rounds first after hitting a three run home run off Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Shelby Miller during the first inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Thrust into the third spot in the lineup behind superstar teammate Andrew McCutchen earlier this month, Gregory Polanco knew it might take a while to get settled.
Or maybe not.
The rapidly maturing Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder is so hot at the moment, even his mishits are finding the seats. Polanco crushed a three-run homer off struggling Shelby Miller in the first inning and finished with a career-best five RBIs as the Pirates rolled by the Arizona Diamondbacks 12-1 on Tuesday night.
''You know you're in the middle of the lineup,'' Polanco said. ''You're expected to hit. You're fighting every pitch, every at-bat.''
Polanco's shot to the concourse in right-center field off Miller (1-6) three batters in gave Pittsburgh an early boost, even if Polanco flung his bat in disgust figuring he'd just missed it. Instead, it cleared the seats for his sixth home run of the season.
''I thought I didn't get that one,'' Polanco said. ''I don't know but ... (it just) kept going.''
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Polanco is hitting .317 (20 of 63) with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 15 games since manager Clint Hurdle elevated him to third in a lineup that is batting an impressive .283.
''You put good hitters at third,'' Hurdle said. ''It's been a nice run for him.''
And a miserable one for Miller. His recent recovery from a poor start with the Diamondbacks took a step backward. Less than a year removed from an All-Star appearance with Atlanta, Miller had his ERA rise to 7.09 after surrendering six runs in five innings.
''I feel I'm obviously a better pitcher than this but the results just aren't there,'' Miller said. ''I'm not going to quit, though.''
The Diamondbacks acquired Miller in December figuring he and Zack Greinke could spearhead the club's return to contention. The transition for both has been uneasy at best. Greinke's ERA is 4.59 and Miller's remains well north of that thanks to an inability to keep the ball in the strike zone or the ballpark, problems that struck once again versus the surging Pirates.
''I keep putting the leadoff hitter on base and that keeps hurting me,'' Miller said. ''I've got to stop doing it. That's pretty simple. I didn't have command of my fastball tonight and it got me into the jams that I wasn't able to escape.''
Francisco Liriano (4-3) scattered two hits in 5 2/3 innings and added an RBI single as the Pirates improved to 6-2 during a 10-game homestand. Pittsburgh is 15-2 in Liriano's last 17 starts at PNC Park, though the left-hander wasn't as clean as he hoped after getting staked to a massive lead, leaving after walking in a run in the sixth.
Pittsburgh reliever Arquimedes Caminero was ejected in the eighth after hitting a pair of batters in the head. Caminero drilled 2B Jean Segura in the seventh and Nick Ahmed in the eighth. Segura was sent to the hospital for tests after showing signs of a concussion. Caminero has struggled all season, walking 13 and hitting three in just 17 1/3 innings of work.
''Guys need to keep the ball down and away from the head area,'' Arizona manager Chip Hale said. ''If a guy can't do it then he has no business being up here in the major leagues.''
Diamondbacks: OF David Peralta is hitting off a tee and sending Hale texts about how rapidly his inflamed right wrist is improving. Peralta went on the disabled list on May 15. ... Reliever Josh Collmenter was scheduled to make a rehab appearance at Triple-A Reno. Collmenter has been on the disabled list all season with right shoulder inflammation.
Pirates: Pitcher Ryan Vogelsong has multiple facial fractures and significant swelling over his left eye after getting hit by a fastball from Colorado's Jordan Lyles on Monday. Vogelsong remained in the hospital on Tuesday and trainer Todd Tomczyk said it could be several days before the swelling subsides enough to get a clearer picture of the extent of Vogelsong's injuries, though Vogelsong's vision has not been severely affected. Pittsburgh called up A.J. Schugel to fill Vogelsong's spot on the roster.
Diamondbacks: Rubby De La Rosa (4-4, 3.53 ERA) returns to work on Wednesday after the Diamondbacks skipped his spot in the rotation while he dealt with a sore groin. De La Rosa is 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA in his last five starts.
Pirates: Jeff Locke (3-3, 4.63 ERA) looks for a second straight victory in the middle game of the three-game set. Locke is 0-2 with a 6.87 ERA in four career appearances against the Diamondbacks.