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The Strike Zone

Five Cuts: Giants, Braves extend respective streaks; Marlins walk-off again

(Gene J. Pruskar/AP)Hunter Pence scored the winning run on a throwing error in the top of the 13th vs. the Pirates. (Gene J. Pruskar/AP)

Giants stage massive comeback in wild 13-inning win over Pirates

The Pirates were up 8-2 after five innings in the opening game of their three-game set against the streaking Giants at PNC Park, but Jeff Locke, making his first start of the season, and a trio of Pirates relievers couldn't hold the six-run lead. Four of the first five men Locke faced in the top of the sixth singled, after which Locke was releived by Brian Morris. All four of Locke's baserunners, plus one more charged to Morris, scored, bringing the Giants within one run. The Pirates got one back in the bottom of the sixth, but the Giants tied things up at 9-9 in the top of the seventh against Justin Wilson and Tony Watson.

Then things got really strange. The Pirates took a 10-9 lead with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when Ike Davis scored from second on an infield single to the shortstop. On that play, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford made a diving play to keep Jose Tabata's grounder in the infield but his attempted glove flip to second baseman Brandon Hicks resulted only in a weak roller. While Hicks retrieved the ball, Davis rounded third as if it had been a clean single in to center field and scored just ahead of the throw. However, the Giants tied the game up on singles by Hunter Pence and Buster Posey in the top of the ninth, ultimately sending the game into extra innings.

In the bottom of the tenth, with two outs and a man on base, Neil Walker worked a 14-pitch at-bat against Santago Casilla, during which a wild pitch and a passed ball moved the runner to third, only to ultimately strike out. In the top of the 11th, with the go-ahead run on second base, two outs, and the Giants out of position players, Bruce Bochy sent Madison Bumgarner up to pinch-hit for Casilla (he hit a soft liner back to the pitcher to end the inning). In the bottom of the 11th, with a man on first base, the Giants tried to get the lead runner at second base on a weak infield grounder by Starling Marte only to have pitcher Jean Machi's throw hit the second base umpire in the shoulder leaving both runners safe. Ike Davis then hit into a double play and the Pirates did not score in that inning. In the same position as Bochy an inning earlier, Clint Hurdle sent Gerrit Cole up to pinch-hit for pitcher Jeanmar Gomez to lead off the 12th. Cole reached on an infield single that tipped off Machi's glove and went to second on a subsequent infield single off Machi's glove, hit by Jordy Mercer, but Chris Stewart hit into a double play and the Pirates -- yet again -- did not score in that inning.

Finally, in the top of the 13th, the Giants completed their comeback. Hunter Pence drew a four-pitch walk from Jared Hughes and moved to second when Hughes hit Juan Perez with his next pitch. That brought up Machi in an obvious bunting situation. Machi had three previous plate appearances as a professional, and struck out in his only other major league plate appearance last July. However, Machi not only got the bunt down, but Hughes' wildness extended to his fielding, and he made a throwing error that allowed Pence to score the go-ahead run. Sergio Romo then nailed down San Francisco's 11-10 win in the bottom of the 13th by getting the Pirates to hit into yet another double play.

The win was the Giants' sixth straight and the tenth in their last 11 games. It was also their fourth win in five extra-inning games this season. They'll look to add another win to their streak on Tuesday behind Tim Hudson, who is 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA thus far this season.

Braves lose seventh straight

While the Giants keep winning, the Atlanta Braves entered Monday night's action against the Cardinals having lost six straight games. In those six games, they averaged 1 2/3 runs scored per game, only twice scoring more than one run, and scoring exactly one in all three of their losses to San Francisco over the weekend. Desperate to jumpstart his offense, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez tried hitting his pitcher eighth on Monday night. The Braves scored three runs. They still lost.

Batting Aaron Harang in the eighth spot was the least significant part of Gonzalez's lineup shakeup. He also moved Justin Upton into the second spot, moved Evan Gattis up to cleanup, dropped B.J. Upton to fifth, and sat Dan Uggla in favor of ninth-place hitter Ramiro Peña. Harang and the Uptons went a combined 0-for-8, but Justin did draw a leadoff walk in the sixth and was later driven home by an Evan Gattis single, after which B.J. hit a sac fly to score the second Braves run. The next inning, Peña, who had doubled leading off the third only to be stranded, hit a solo home run to bring the Braves within one run of the Cardinals, but that was all they would get. Atlanta did get the tying run into scoring position in the bottom of the ninth, but Justin Upton took strike three from Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal to end the game.

The Braves will try again on Tuesday as Gavin Floyd makes his Braves debut in a start against Cardinals lefty Trevor Lyons. The Braves had lost consecutive games just once in their first 24 contests before their current losing streak.

Marlins walkoff again

The Mets were leading 3-0 in the bottom of the eighth in Miami Monday night when Daisuke Matsuzaka relieved Jonathan Niese -- who had pitched a gem of a game -- against the top of the Marlins order. Matsuzaka walked the first two men he faced, then gave up an RBI single to Giancarlo Stanton. Casey McGehee then hit a routine liner straight to the shortstop, but Omar Quintanilla mishandled it, and the Marlins scored another run. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then doubled off Matsuzaka to tie the game. Mets manager Terry Collins then turned to his closer in a tie game on the road, and Kyle Farnsworth, with no outs and two men in scoring position, got out of the inning without further damage.

However, the Marlins, who batted around in the eighth, came right back in the bottom of the ninth against lefty Scott Rice and righty Gonzalez Germen. Lefty leadoff man Christian Yelich singled off Rice, after which Germen replaced Rice and Ed Lucas bunted Yelich to second. That set up an intentional walk to Stanton, perhaps the easiest call a manager has had to make all season. Finally, facing a batter attempting to hit, Germen got two quick strikes on McGehee, but McGehee struck back, hitting Germen's 0-2 fastball into right field for a game-winning single. The Marlins' 4-3 win was their second walkoff victory in as many days. Miami is now 6-1 on its current home stand and 15-5 overall at home. The Marlins will send Henderson Alvarez to the mound against Bartolo Colon on Tuesday.

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Troy Tulowitzki homers twice, pushes average over .400

Troy Tulowitki hit two home runs in the Rockies 8-2 win over the Rangers at Coors Field on Monday night, driving in four runs. Adding two walks and a groundout to those homers, he pushed his season line to an absurd .408/.512/.786. As crazy as that line may look on May 6, Tulowitzki's home numbers are even crazier. With that big performance Monday night, Tulo is now hitting .596/.667/1.106 in 60 plate appearances at Coors Field this year. Coors Field is undoubtedly a hitter-friendly ballpark, but when a player is hitting nearly .600 over 60 at-bats, you have to give the bulk of the credit to the player. Tulowitzki's two-hit performance Monday night was his fifth-straight multi-hit game at home. He has gone 13-for-20 in those five games with three home runs and just one strikeout. Tulowitzki now has nine multi-hit games in his 14 home games on the season and has struck out just four times in those 60 plate appearances.

Meanwhile, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado extended his current hitting streak to 25 games with a second-inning home run off the Rangers' Martin Perez. The Rockies improved to 12-5 at home with the win. They have scored seven or more runs in ten of those 12 wins, as well as in two of the losses.

Scherzer, Samardzija dominate for 17 innings without either picking up a complete game

Max Scherzer dominated the Astros in Detroit Monday night, holding Houston to three singles and a walk over eight scoreless innings while striking out nine. In doing so, he dropped his season ERA to an American League-leading 1.72. Scherzer, who threw 111 pitches in those eight innings, did not come out for the ninth inning, though, extending his major league record for most career starts without a complete game to 172. The next active pitcher on that list is Bud Norris with 132, while retired former Expo Tony Armas has 167 career starts without a complete game.

Meanwhile, Jeff Samardzija did pitch nine innings against the White Sox at Wrigley Field, but he didn't get a complete game either. Samardzija allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out seven, but the Cubs were unable to overcome an unearned run following a Mike Olt throwing error in the top of the first. The game went into extra-innings tied at 1-1, and the White Sox ultimately won it 3-1 thanks to a two-out rally against reliever Justin Grimm in the top of the 12th. Samardzija is getting used to that sort of thing. His outing on Monday night dropped his ERA to 1.62, the second-best in all of baseball behind that of the Reds' Johnny Cueto, but Samardzija has yet to pick up his first win.  The Cubs have scored two or fewer runs in five of the seven games he has started and his bullpen gave up seven runs in the other two. As a result, the man with the second-best ERA in all of baseball, who gave up just one unearned run over nine innings on Monday night, is now 0-3 on the season and still without a complete game.
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