Tagged in: debut

Schwarber debuts, leads Nats over Cardinals 5-2

Kyle Schwarber doubled home a run in his delayed Nationals debut, Andrew Stevenson had a pinch-hit homer and Washington defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2 Monday night.

Schwarber, Josh Bell and Josh Harrison were in the starting lineup after being sidelined for Washington’s first six matches by a coronavirus outbreak that prompted the postponement of the team’s season-opening series and left the club short-handed.

The Nats ended a five-game skid, while the Cardinals lost their third consecutive. “We talked about it before the game: Fresh start for all of us, our guys are back,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “So let’s forget about the first six games and start today.”

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Stevenson hit his first homer of the season into St. Louis’ bullpen in right field leading off the seventh inning, putting Washington ahead 4-2. The solo shot was just his fourth homer in 221 career at-bats.

Kyle Finnegan (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings, giving up a run on one hit. He struck out two.

Schwarber, acquired in the offseason after the Chicago Cubs declined to offer him a contract, hit a 1-0 pitch from starter John Gant into right-center to drive in Juan Soto, who singled to start the sixth.

“I felt like a lot of guys had great at-bats all night, working deep counts and making that guy grind out there,” Schwarber said. “You know, that’s contagious.”

The Nationals added a run on the next pitch from reliever Giovanny Gallegos when Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly to foul territory in right, driving in Bell.

Gant (0-1) went five innings and gave up three runs. He permitted six hits, struck out four and walked three.

“The challenge tonight was not getting them all out,” Gant said about the sixth inning, when the first three batters reached against him. “They got a couple of knocks and got me out.”

Washington had an opportunity to break the game open when the first four batters reached to start the eighth against reliever Andrew Miller, including Castro singling home Bell. Ryan Helsley struck out Yan Gomes, and pinch-hitter Ryan Zimmerman flied out to center fielder Dylan Carlson, who threw out Schwarber at home to end the inning.

Yadier Molina hit his second homer of the season in the sixth to pull the Cardinals to 3-2.

Matt Carpenter ended an 0-for-12 start to the season with a bunt single in the third and scored on Tommy Edman’s hit, tying the game at 1. Carpenter has struggled at the plate since spring training, with just two hits in 37 at-bats, including 13 strikeouts.

“I was just glad to get one on the board,” Carpenter said. “Sometimes the first one is the hardest. It obviously was for me.”

Victor Robles led off the game with his second triple of the season and scored on Soto’s one-out single to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

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Matsuyama makes history with Masters triumph

Hideki Matsuyama made history on Sunday as the first male golfer from Japan to collect a major championship.

Ten years after making a sterling debut as the best amateur at Augusta National, Matsuyama claimed the ultimate trophy with a triumph in the Masters.

Matsuyama closed with a 1-over 73 and a one-shot victory that was only close at the end, and never seriously in doubt after Xander Schauffele‘s late charge ended with a triple bogey on the par-3 16th.

Moments before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama needed no interpreter in Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”

So masterful was this performance that Matsuyama stretched his lead to six shots on the back nine until a few moments of drama. With a four-shot lead, he went for the green in two on the par-5 15th and it bounded hard off the back slope and into the pond on the 16th hole.

Matsuyama did well to walk away with bogey, and with Schauffele making a fourth consecutive birdie, the lead was down to two shots with three to play.

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The next swing all but ended it. Schauffele’s tee shot on the par-3 16th bounced of the hill and dribbled into the pond. His third shot from the drop area went into the gallery. He wound up with a triple-bogey 6.

Never mind that Matsuyama bogeyed three of his last four holes.

All that mattered was that uphill walk to the 18th green, needing only to blast out of the bunker and take two putts for the victory.

That’s what he did, a final bogey for a one-shot victory over 24-year-old Masters rookie Will Zalatoris, who closed with a 70 and stayed on the practice range just in case of a playoff.

Matsuyama ended at 10-under 278 for his 15th victory worldwide, and his sixth on the PGA Tour.

He was far from a sure thing, closing at 40-1 to win the tournament at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Matsuyama could be found upward of 60-1 prior to the tournament at some sportsbooks, making him one of the biggest long shots to win Masters since Danny Willett in 2016.

He was not a popular choice for bettors either. As of Thursday, he accounted for only 1% of the money that had been wagered on the odds to win the Masters at William Hill sportsbooks.

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Jon Lester makes Washington Nationals debut 2 weeks after surgery

Jon Lester was back on a mound Thursday, wearing a Washington Nationals uniform while facing opposing batters for the first time in spring training and striking out a couple during his two innings, less than two weeks after surgery to remove a parathyroid gland.

“Baseball, for me, is an escape. I come to the field, I’ve got stuff I need to do. I forget about this,” Lester said, pointing the scar on the front of his throat, after Washington’s 3-1 exhibition victory versus the New York Mets at Port St. Lucia, Florida.

“So you dive into that routine,” the 37-year-old left-hander said.

Wearing a red Nationals No. 34 uniform, Bryce Harper’s old number, along with a green hat the day after St. Patrick’s Day, Lester permitted one run and one hit while throwing 31 pitches, 21 for strikes.

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He went to 0-2 counts on each of the first three Mets hitters, getting the first two out before walking J.D. Davis and giving up a first-pitch RBI double to James McCann. Then Lester pitched a 1-2-3 second inning, and that was that.

His operation was March 5 for hyperparathyroidism, which can affect the amount of calcium levels in the bloodstream and lead to someone tiring easily.

Lester said he had a hard time sleeping Wednesday night.

“Regardless of the surgery, there was still excitement leading up to this day. New team. … I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t nervous,” said Lester, who signed as a free agent with Washington for one year and $5 million after six seasons and one World Series title with the Chicago Cubs. “I had the butterflies, which is always good.”

Another important takeaway: Lester thinks he’ll “be in a good position” to be ready when the regular season starts April 1.

Manager Dave Martinez agreed, figuring Lester should be up to about 75 pitches after three more exhibition starts.

“We’ll see how he gets up tomorrow,” Martinez said. “But I think he’s on the right track.”

Lester took it as a good sign that his changeup worked well. That’s usually the last pitch that gets into gear. “It’s definitely been a point of emphasis, as far as in my bullpens and just really playing catch with it,” Lester said.

“So it was nice to see the results, the couple swing and misses, out in front, and got maybe a couple foul balls on it.”

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Hawks win McMillan’s debut, top Heat 94-80

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Trae Young took over late and made sure Nate McMillan would triumph his debut as interim coach of the Atlanta Hawks.

Young scored 18 points, including 13 straight for his team in the fourth quarter, and the Hawks snapped Miami’s six-game winning streak by defeating the Heat 94-80 on Tuesday night.

John Collins scored 17 for Atlanta, which lost at Miami on Sunday and fired coach Lloyd Pierce on Monday. Kevin Huerter scored 16 for the Hawks and Clint Capela had 10 points and 17 rebounds.

“Losing Coach Pierce, we all had to do better,” McMillan said. “And that was the challenge to this team tonight. He took a hit because we didn’t do what we were supposed to be doing out there. And I thought tonight, they did better.”

Duncan Robinson and Goran Dragic each scored 14 for Miami, which missed an opportunity to get over .500 for the first time this season. Bam Adebayo scored 11 for the Heat, who shot 37% — their fourth-worst showing of the season.

“We had been trending much better offensively,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It just was a flat offensive game. It was not a fluid game for us on that side of the floor.”Tony Snell added 11 for the Hawks.

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“Ugly game, but in the end you win a lot of games giving up 80 points,” Huerter said. “Great bounceback from the last 24 hours. And now we’ve got to finish the first half of the season strong tomorrow in Orlando.”

Miami was outrebounded 47-26, by far its worst margin of the season, and was held to a season-low in points.

The Heat were again without Jimmy Butler, who missed his second consecutive match with right knee inflammation.

Miami shot 29% in the opening quarter and 36% in the half, including a 2-for-15 start from 3-point range. But by limiting Young for the second consecutive game — he had just two points by halftime and five points after three quarters — the Heat hung around, trailing 44-37 at the break and leading 66-63 going into the fourth.

Then Young got hot in the fourth, when the Heat shot just 5 for 18, and just like that what had been the NBA’s longest active winning streak entering the night was finished.

It was Miami’s lowest point total in its home building since scoring 79 versus Milwaukee on Jan. 19, 2016. The Heat were held to 85 or fewer points for the fifth time this season, by far the most in the NBA — with Butler missing four of those five games.

“Defenses are going to be disruptive and do different things to try to guard us,” Robinson said. “But there are always counters and ways to be effective. We just have to find solutions.”

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Washington Wizards teammates laud Russell Westbrook’s ‘great’ overall impact in his debut

Russell Westbrook drove the lane, found Thomas Bryant open for an easy dunk as the Washington Wizards’ big man drew a foul and then immediately ran to Bryant to scream his approval.

In his first match with the Wizards, Westbrook logged only 17 first-half minutes in Washington’s 99-96 triumph over the Detroit Pistons. But his impact was felt with his energy, pace and ability to get the ball moving and draw the defense’s attention.

“You could see in the first half really how many open shots we got,” Wizards forward Davis Bertans said of Westbrook’s impact. “And how many good looks we had and it was all I would say Russ.

“He set the tone for driving and kicking … I am pretty sure it is going to get better from here.” After being held out of the Wizards’ first two preseason games, Westbrook played in the team’s final tuneup before the regular-season opener at Philadelphia on Dec. 23. Westbrook ended with 8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and shot 4-for-10, including 0-for-3 from behind the arc.

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“It was good,” Westbrook said of his first game as a Wizard. “We won, the most important part … I like where we were tonight.

“My job is to try to set the tone. Have them be ready to play.”

The Wizards saw Westbrook’s encouragement on offense in the ability Bradley Beal had to work one-on-one against defenders and how much the Wizards tried to push the pace. Washington led by as much as 16 and had 10 fast-break points in the first half when Westbrook played.

“It just felt great,” Beal said of playing with Westbrook. “It was great energy … I don’t think it will be tough as people are trying to make it out to be. We both do a really good job off of feeding off of each other, just adjusting to how each other plays.

“The most important thing is his pace and energy he brings to the table … it just works out well. We just continue to play off each other, feed off each other and push each other.”

While Beal missed all seven of his 3-point attempts, he scored 15 points and hit seven field goals.

Beal averaged 30.5 points last campaign but drew the majority of the opposing defense’s attention as the Wizards’ lone star.

“Our job is to make the game easier for him,” Westbrook said. “Find a way to constantly feed him the ball so he can score at a high rate. He has shown he is able to do that. He is going to be great. I am not worried about Brad one bit.”

Bryant benefited from the attention Westbrook drew, scoring 22 points and making 7 of 12 shots. And Wizards coach Scott Brooks loved seeing an animated Westbrook celebrating Bryant’s dunk with the foul and encouraging the big man in the first quarter.

“Really good,” Brooks said when asked about Westbrook’s first preseason action. “He’s been looking like that all training camp. His spirit is about winning, not about stats. He plays the right way and teaches our young fellas the right things. He’s great. “He’s nothing short of spectacular, what he tells the guys, how he coaches his teammates and they listen. What he’s done, how he prepares and how he trains and how he looks at the game is priceless.”

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‘Nervous’ Kevin Durant shines in return from injury, calls Brooklyn Nets debut ‘good step’

After a year and a half of Achilles rehabilitation, Kevin Durant returned to the basketball court for the first time on Sunday for the Brooklyn Nets’ preseason game versus the Washington Wizards.

“I was anxious, nervous,” Durant stated afterward. “I visualized this moment for so long — nine, 10 months of thinking about how it would be, this next phase of my career. I felt like I was chomping at the bit, especially once COVID hit because I didn’t see a future — when the season was going to start in the future. I was going through it.

“So to go through this felt solid.”

The first points in the game came from an authoritative Durant dunk. He followed that with an assist to DeAndre Jordan for a dunk.

The Nets went on to defeat the Wizards 119-114. Durant concluded shooting 5-of-12 from the field with 15 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 24 minutes of play. “It felt great, you know, to be back in a routine and get back on the floor and feel like a player again,” he said. “I didn’t think I played great. I felt I had some solid moments.”

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One of them was when he drew a charge on Washington’s Rui Hachimura early in the game.

“I definitely am feeling it right now,” Durant said with a laugh. “It’s good to get back in the flow of things, and it definitely gives me some confidence. … It’s a good step, and I am trying to build on it.”

Before the match, first-year head coach Steve Nash said he hoped to play both Durant and Kyrie Irving “north of 20 minutes” in each of Brooklyn’s two preseason games.

“When you have that type of injury,” Nash said of Durant after the game, “it is kind of remarkable he’s at the level he’s at.

“It’s amazing. This is an injury that very few people have conquered, so to speak. … It’s beautiful to see him back on the basketball court. I think the world missed him — I certainly did.”

Irving, who hasn’t played since February after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field.

Irving, who played for 18 minutes, declined to speak to reporters after the game, continuing to break the league’s media rules despite his being fined $25,000 on Friday for not speaking to reporters.

During the Nets’ weeklong training camp, Durant was not ready to make any proclamations about how much he would resemble his pre-Achilles injury self before actually playing in a game. After one preseason game, Durant stated he still isn’t ready to make any declarations.

“I want to play at the highest level of basketball — the highest intensity of basketball, and that’s not in the preseason,” Durant said. “I want to play at an elite level late into the season, playoffs. That’s when I want to play my best basketball, so I’m working toward that point.”

Since the game ended, Durant said he has been fielding texts and phone calls from friends, colleagues and acquaintances asking how he is feeling.

“I can’t wait ’til that’s over with so I can get back into the swing of things and just feel like one of the guys again,” Durant said. “So it was a good first step.”

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Clevinger will make Padres debut at Angels

Mike Clevinger will be on the mound Thursday afternoon in Anaheim, Calif., making his debut for the San Diego Padres versus the team that originally drafted him, the Los Angeles Angels.

Clevinger, who was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Padres in a deadline deal on Monday, will make his second start since he was placed on the restricted list by the Indians for breaking COVID-19 protocols in early August. He missed three weeks, but returned with a solid game Aug. 26, giving up two runs on eight hits and one walk over six innings in a triumph over the Minnesota Twins.

Clevinger, who is 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in four starts this campaign, is excited about his chance for a fresh start with a new team.

“(The Padres) are the most exciting team in baseball by far right now,” he said. “It’s definitely the place to be. I’m stoked that they wanted me here. It’s a definitely a destination guys want to be.”

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He could not have picked a better opponent than the Angels to impress his new teammates.

In six career starts against them, he is 4-0 with a 2.94 ERA. He’s even better pitching in Anaheim — 2-0 with a 0.79 ERA in two starts (one earned run in 11 1/3 innings).

The Angels drafted Clevinger out of Seminole Community College in Sanford, Fla., in 2011, and he was having a mediocre season playing Class-A ball in 2014 when he was traded to the Indians for middle reliever Vinnie Pestano, who played his last major league game in 2015.

Clevinger, who was 23 at the time, was 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA in 18 combined starts playing for the Burlington (Iowa) Bees and Inland Empire (Calif.) 66ers, while Pestano was a major league reliever the Angels felt they needed to fortify their bullpen for a playoff push.

Now, Clevinger joins a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in 14 years.

“I know it’s been since 2006, but there’s definitely something brewing here, and it’s going to be special for the coming years, it’s not just this year,” he said.

“I couldn’t be any more excited. This is exactly where I wanted to be. From a distance, this was one of the best organizations around.”

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Rendon homers in debut, Angels rout Mariners 10-2

Anthony Rendon hit a two-run homer and reached base three times in his Angels debut, and Albert Pujols added his 657th career homer in Los Angeles’ 10-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.

Rendon’s homer to left field in the eighth inning brought home Mike Trout and capped an encouraging home opener for the Angels, who got their second victory after losing three of four in Oakland to start the shortened campaign.

”Whenever you have a game like we just had where the offense is clicking, everyone says that hitting is contagious, and it really is,” Rendon said. ”Once you get that one guy going … it just had that tumbleweed effect tonight.”

The Angels’ new $245 million third baseman went 1 for 3 with two walks, two runs and an error. He sat out the Halos’ season-opening series with an oblique muscle injury, but was ready in Anaheim for his first match since leaving Washington for the West Coast.

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”It felt good to be out there and actually be a contributor for the team,” Rendon said. ”It felt good to get that first one out of the way.”

Max Stassi hit a three-run homer, Shohei Ohtani had a long RBI double and Justin Upton drove in two runs as the Halos won their home opener for only the second time in eight years.

The Angels scored 11 runs over four games at the Coliseum, but nearly matched that total in one night at the Big A.

”It’s kind of a tough way to start it on the road with all the day games in Oakland, so it’s nice to get into your own bed,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. ”In spite of no fans, our guys really played that game as though the place is packed, and I love that. It was nice to put up those runs tonight.”

Pujols’ solo homer to left in the fifth – his first since turning 40 last winter – pulled him within three of Willie Mays (660) for fifth place in baseball history.

Tim Lopes went deep for the Mariners, who lost three of four in Houston to start the season. Lopes went to high school 15 miles from Angel Stadium in Huntington Beach.

Justus Sheffield (0-1) didn’t get an out in the fourth inning of his eighth career start for the Mariners, yielding four hits and four runs.

”Certainly the common theme for us here with our starters is running into that one inning where the pitch count’s getting up there, and tonight was no different,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. ”He was able to get through the third inning and trying to get back out there for the fourth, and he just wasn’t able to get much going there, either. Rough night there.”

Patrick Sandoval pitched four-hit ball into the fifth for the Angels, but the Orange County native couldn’t stick around long enough for his first career triumph. Ryan Buchter (1-0) worked a perfect sixth inning to earn his first win with Los Angeles.

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David Price makes spring debut for Dodgers

David Price, in his first match action since left wrist surgery in September, said he considered his Dodgers debut on Monday a success.

The linescore wasn’t as generous. Price was charged with two earned runs on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings in a 6-2 defeat to the Reds.

“It’s been a while since I faced hitters wearing a different jersey,” said Price. “Where I’m at in Spring Training, two live and first outing, it’s very positive for myself. First time I’ve been in a game for six, almost seven months. My legs were shaking out there. If you love what you do, you’re going to have nerves and I definitely had them out there today. It was fun. I enjoyed getting back out there. Wasn’t missing by much. For the first time, I’m OK with it.”

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Manager Dave Roberts appeared OK with it as well.

“He was just missing,” said Roberts. “I thought the ball was coming out good. Just to get him out there for a first outing, Dave’s going to be just fine.”

The Dodgers had to take Price — and half of the remaining $96 million on his contract — to pry Mookie Betts from the Red Sox. Price stated it doesn’t sting being known as the salary dump in the Betts trade.

“It’s OK,” he said. “This is a business. I learned that when I was traded from Tampa. I was naïve at the time, thought I’d be a Ray for life and Andrew [Friedman] broke my heart. Teams are going in different routes than they used to and some of it I understand, some of it I don’t. If I was in the owner’s seat, I try to wrap my head around it that way. No hard feelings on my part. My job is to play baseball.”

Price is coming off left wrist surgery for a circulation condition he said dates back to his days in Tampa, which ended in 2014 when current Dodgers president of baseball operations Friedman, then Tampa’s general manager, traded him to Detroit. Price said the surgery worked.

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Jose Altuve grazed by pitch, Astros booed in first away game of spring

Jose Altuve said he tuned out the hecklers. He couldn’t evade a pitch that grazed him.

“He was hit in the foot. That ain’t nothing, you know what I mean?” Astros manager Dusty Baker said Monday after an 11-1 win over Detroit at half-empty Joker Marchant Stadium. “It wasn’t intentional.”

Altuve was loudly booed when he was introduced for his spring training debut, cheered when he struck out and called a cheater by several fans. Quite a difference from past years, when the diminutive All-Star second baseman was among the most popular players in the majors.

But that was before Altuve and his Houston teammates were involved in the sign-stealing scandal that’s rocked baseball. “We just heard a lot of noise, and that’s it,” Altuve said.

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Altuve and fellow starters Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel all played for the first time in the exhibition season.

After Houston opened the Grapefruit League in the stadium it shares with the World Series champion Nationals, this was the first time the Astros were away from their complex — providing a taste of the reaction they might receive on the road this year.

“We were focused on playing baseball. We know that we need to go on the field and get ready and prepared for the coming season,” Altuve said. “That’s what we’re thinking about right now.”

Detroit’s starting pitcher Matthew Boyd, who fanned Altuve in the first inning, said it wasn’t difficult to block out the booing and heckling and remained focused on playing the game.

“It’s spring training. Honestly, let’s let it die. What’s done is done. I know how everybody feels, but no one is going to change anything now,” Boyd said.

“The punishment’s been handed out, the line’s been drawn in the sand. Hopefully that shuts it down, and it’s just best for everyone to move forward. They’ve got to live with it. That’s more than enough punishment.”

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