Nelson Cruz was suffering from migraines when the Seattle Mariners were in Tampa Bay last weekend. He certainly has been causing headaches for opposing pitchers recently.
Cruz [url=http://www.bengalscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-william-jackson-jersey]William Jackson Jersey[/url] , the Mariners’ designated hitter, has eight home runs in his past 16 games, during which he has raised his average from .220 to .251. He hit three home runs in a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels this week and will set his sights on Boston Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello when the teams meet Friday night at Safeco Field.
“He’s certainly in a really good groove right now,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “So hopefully we can ride it for as long as we can.”
Cruz, who missed most of spring training with a quadriceps strain, hit home runs in each of the first two games of the season. But when he returned to the dugout after that second homer, he sprained his right ankle on the bottom step as he was about to put his helmet and gear away and was placed on the 10-day disabled list.
He had seven homers in his first 37 games this season before more than doubling that since May 28.
“I think we’ll look up at the end of the year and we’ll get a typical Nelson Cruz year here. He was off to a slow start early, everybody was all, ‘Where is this going?’ But he’s righted the ship,” Servais said.
Cruz downplayed his part in leading the surprising Mariners to near the top of the American League West.
“The pitching is the one that got us here,” Cruz said. “I think we score enough to be able to win most of the games. We just find a way to scratch runs.”
Servais said the key to Cruz’s recent play has been his health. The 37-year-old also was hobbled after being hit by a pitch on the foot May 15.
“He is feeling healthier,” Servais said. “He’s such a big part of our lineup, driving guys in, getting the ball out of the ballpark. We saw it coming at the end of the last homestand. He started coming out of it, hitting those balls hard [url=http://www.cowboyscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-zack-martin-jersey]Zack Martin Jersey[/url] , hitting balls better.
“He’s getting the ball in the air. His timing is much better, he’s staying behind the ball and he isn’t chasing. He is swinging at strikes. That’s the key for any batter, not just Nelson.”
Porcello (8-3, 3.54 ERA) is 6-5 with a 3.62 ERA in 12 career starts against the Mariners. He has looked much more like the 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner (when he went 22-4) than the pitcher who lost a league-high 17 games last season.
“Two years ago is a long time ago now, it feels like, so it’s hard to compare,” Porcello told MLB.com. “I think we’re doing some things differently than we even did two years ago. So I haven’t really thought about what I was doing then. I know what I’m doing now, and I want to keep that going.”
The Mariners will send left-hander James Paxton (6-1, 3.02) to the mound. Paxton, who hasn’t lost since his first start of the season, is 2-0 with a 0.39 ERA in three career starts against the Red Sox.
Sidney Crosby batted his own rebound out of the air and into the net 19 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Devils 4-3 on Thursday night, denying New Jersey a sweep of the four-game season series.
Kris Letang stole Taylor Hall’s pass in the opening seconds in the Pittsburgh zone and sent Crosby on a semi-break the other way. His initial shot hit the goalpost, but then the star center pulled his hands in and swatted the puck out of the air – a fitting move on the opening day of baseball season.
Crosby extended his goal-scoring streak to five games, including a similar goal against Montreal last Wednesday in which Crosby juggled the puck once on his stick before smacking it from just below shoulder height.
Conor Sheary, Letang and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the Penguins. Matt Murray made 28 saves.
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BRUINS 4, LIGHTNING 2
BOSTON (AP) – Patrice Bergeron had a goal and two assists and Boston took over first place in the Eastern Conference with a win over Tampa Bay.
Tim Schaller and David Pastrnak scored goals 32 seconds apart in the final minute of the first period and Brad Marchand added an empty-net goal with 56 seconds left.
Torey Krug had two assists, Pastrnak finished with a goal and an assist and Tuukka Rask stopped 26 shots for the Bruins, who have 107 points and lead Tampa Bay by a point.
J.T. Miller scored a power-play goal for Tampa Bay in the second and Victor Hedman added a goal in the third. Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 26 saves for the Lightning, who have lost three straight and are 0-3 against the Bruins this season.
BLACKHAWKS 6, JETS 2
CHICAGO (AP) – Emergency goaltender Scott Foster played the final 14 minutes after Chicago lost Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia to injuries, closing out the Blackhawks‘ victory over Winnipeg.
Forsberg was expected to start, but he was scratched after the team said he got hurt during warmups. Delia, who was just recalled from the minors Wednesday, then stopped 25 of 27 shots in his NHL debut before he was helped off the ice in the third period due to a lower-body injury.
Enter Foster, a 36-year-old former goaltender at Western Michigan University. After a short warmup, the game resumed and Foster got a big cheer from the crowd of 21,839 when he denied Tyler Myers for his first save about a minute after he came in.
Backed by chants of ”Foster! Foster!” and more loud ovations down the stretch, he finished with seven stops. Before facing the playoff-bound Jets [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-miles-killebrew-jersey]Miles Killebrew Jersey[/url] , winners of six in a row, Foster’s last competitive action was 20 minutes in relief for the Broncos during his only game in the 2005-06 season.
PREDATORS 5, SHARKS 3
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Ryan Ellis scored the go-ahead goal with 9:54 left and Nashville beat San Jose to set a franchise record with 111 points this season.
With their 50th victory, the NHL-leading Predators padded their lead to four points over Boston in the chase for their first Presidents’ Trophy. Nashville topped the mark of 110 points set in 2006-07 on a night where the franchise also notched its 100th consecutive sellout, a streak that started April 7, 2016, against the Sharks.
Craig Smith and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, Kyle Turris had a goal, and Filip Forsberg had three assists. Nick Bonino added an empty-net goal with 17 seconds left for Nashville, which won the season series against San Jose 2-1.
Juuse Saros made 39 saves for the win, including stopping Logan Couture on a penalty shot with 1:53 left. The goalie also helped the Predators kill a penalty with 3:10 remaining with a flurry of stops.
Couture, Brenden Dillon and Mikkel Boedker scored for the Sharks. San Jose snapped its nine-game point streak.
KINGS 4, COYOTES 2
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Jeff Carter completed a hat trick by scoring with 4:25 left and Los Angeles beat Arizona.
Carter scored for the third consecutive game, helping the Kings open up a two-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks for third place in the Pacific Division before the Freeway Faceoff rivals meet Friday night in Anaheim.
Jack Campbell made 20 saves for his second career win [url=http://www.bearscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-johnthan-banks-jersey]Johnthan Banks Jersey[/url] , and the Kings won consecutive games for the first time since winning three in a row Feb. 17-20. Anze Kopitar added an empty-net goal with 1.7 seconds remaining, and Tyler Toffoli had two assists.
Kevin Connauton scored for the second straight game and Max Domi had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes, who had won two straight over the Kings. Darcy Kuemper made 31 saves.
SENATORS 3, PANTHERS 2, OT
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) – Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored on a penalty shot in overtime to lift Ottawa over Florida.
The Panthers dropped three points behind New Jersey with a game in hand for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Devils lost to Pittsburgh 4-3 in overtime Thursday.
Pageau and Magnus Paajarvi also scored in regulation for the Senators, and Craig Anderson stopped 24 shots.
Aaron Ekblad and Evgeni Dadonov scored for the Panthers, and James Reimer made 27 saves.
BLUE JACKETS 5, FLAMES 1
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) – Pierre-Luc Dubois had his first career hat trick and Columbus Blue Jackets stayed hot with a win over Calgary.
Columbus earned its sixth straight road victory and 12th win in its past 13 games, and moved past the Philadelphia Flyers and into third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Blue Jackets are one point back of the second place Pittsburgh Penguins.
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