By Rick Hummel

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ATLANTA (TNS) — Manager Mike Shildt almost always looks for a positive spin he can put on a Cardinals defeat, if there is one. And there have been plenty lately, 11 losses in 14 games, which would test even college graduate Shildt’s ample vocabulary.

There was little upside apparent to the naked eye Thursday night, for instance. Poor starting pitching. Equally as unsteady relief pitching. Scant offense. A couple of grounders that could have scooted by for run-scoring singles.

There was that jumping catch that center fielder Harrison Bader made near the wall to end the eighth. But most of the aforementioned amounted to a 10-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves and a fourth consecutive series loss for the Cardinals, something that didn’t come close to happening last year.

Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright walked five in four innings. Two of the walks were intentional but two others were leadoff walks and both scored, one each in the second and third.

Veteran reliever Luke Gregerson was cuffed for four singles in a span of five hitters in a three-run sixth. Dominic Leone allowed two more runs, including Freddie Freeman’s homer.

The offense consisted of Marcell Ozuna’s 13th homer in the sixth and Matt Carpenter’s fifth homer in the eighth.

And the Cardinals were on their way to Arlington, Texas, for an interleague matchup with the Texas Rangers where one or two runs probably aren’t going to be enough.


Homers lift Padres

SAN DIEGO (TNS) — The San Diego Padres’ Ian Kinsler showed he could still hit during the first week of May.

In almost every other portion of the season, the 36-year-old made it appear it might be time to let the kids play.

“I know what I can do,” Kinsler said Thursday afternoon. “And the goal now is to get consistent, where I’m not flashing those moments, where it’s not a series in Atlanta and that’s it.”

Kinsler, who since going 9-for-27 in his first six games this month, a stretch that included a homer and two doubles against the Braves, was 2-for-17 entering Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Petco Park.

But his three-run homer in the sixth inning erased a deficit and provided the winning margin in a 4-3 victory.

Franmil Reyes’ team-leading 13th home run gave the Padres a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

But a night after the Los Angeles Dodgers scored both their runs in a 2-0 victory over the Padres on a bloop single and two singles that didn’t leave the infield, the Pirates scored two runs off Padres starter Eric Lauer with really just one well-hit ball.

A bloop double by Kevin Newman leading off the fifth fell between three Padres defenders. Pitcher Francisco Liriano followed by reaching on a slow roller up the third base line that moved Newman to third. Newman just beat a throw home from Lauer, who had fielded a grounder by Adam Frazier.

After a single to left and an infield single accompanied by Greg Garcia’s throwing error put runners on second and third with two out in the sixth, Adam Warren replaced Lauer and allowed the go-ahead run to score a wild pitch.

Pirates starter Trevor Williams departed with two outs in the fourth inning with what was termed discomfort in his right side.


Twins last 4 homers

SEATTLE (TNS) — If Michael Pineda is going to give up nothing but solo home runs, the Minnesota Twins are probably OK with that. They are getting pretty good at winning the power game.

Pineda allowed the bottom three hitters in the Seattle lineup to connect for home runs, and the former Mariners All-Star has now given up the third-most homers in baseball. But Pineda didn’t allow anyone else to reach third base over his seven innings, while the Twins clobbered four homers of their own, a couple with runners on base, to build a big lead. The result was a pinball game worthy of two of the three most power-laden teams in the majors: 11-6 Twins, Minnesota’s third consecutive victory.

Jason Castro and Max Kepler got the Twins on the board first against Seattle righthander Erik Swanson, each connecting on a first-pitch fastball. But the Twins got serious about roughing up Swanson in the fourth, putting together a seven-run inning, their most productive of the season.

The big blows: A two-run cannon shot by C.J. Cron that traveled more than 450 feet into the far reaches of T-Mobile Park’s upper deck in left-center, and a three-run blast over the center field wall by Byron Buxton, knocking Swanson out of the game. Thanks to a dropped fly ball by center fielder Mallex Smith, the Twins loaded the bases again and Miguel Sano batted with a chance to cap the Twins’ first 11-run inning in a quarter-century. But Sano bounced into a forceout to end the inning.

Still, it was an upbeat, if not perfect, night for the Twins’ two large Dominicans who are coming back from serious injury. Pineda, in his first year back from elbow ligament surgery, snapped a streak of five straight starts in which the Twins lost, and like his last one, the only runs he allowed came on a trio of solo homers. Pineda has allowed 13 homers this year — only the Baltimore Orioles’ David Hess and the Los Angeles Angels’ Trevor Cahill, with 14 apiece, have given up more — but 10 have been solo shots, and the other three with a runner on first base.

In fact, Pineda’s mistakes are almost always the painful-but-not-devastating variety: Only one of his last 38 homers allowed, dating back to Aug. 22, 2016, came with more than one runner on base.

That’s as opposed to Tyler Duffey, who took over for Pineda in the eighth inning and immediately made the mistake that Pineda rarely does. After allowing back-to-back hits by Mitch Haniger and Edwin Encarnacion, Duffey served up a high fastball to Seattle cleanup hitter Daniel Vogelback, who pounded it into the seats in right-center and cut the Twins’ lead to three.

Meanwhile, Sano’s 2019 debut with the Twins, delayed by a lacerated right foot he suffered in late January, was mostly uneventful — but in a good way. The third baseman took a series of ground balls before the game, and looked agile and athletic in the field.

“We’ve all been waiting for this. … It’s highly anticipated in a lot of ways,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said before the game about Sano’s arrival into a lineup already stacked with power hitters. “Miguel is going to play. He’s going to be a regular. We’re going to see his name in the lineup a lot.”

That figures to only add to the Twins’ run production. At the plate, Sano grounded out twice, struck out once, and delivered a pair of doubles. The first hit was a sinking liner during the Twins’ seven-run uprising, a single that was misplayed into a double by Domingo Santana. But the second one was a sharply hit line drive into the left-field corner, driving in his first run of the season, and the Twins’ 11th.


ChiSox win

CHICAGO (TNS) — Ryan Cordell got the bunt down.

Yolmer Sanchez did the rest.

Sanchez slid in safely with the go-ahead run on a suicide squeeze in the eighth inning, and the Sox went on to a 4-2 victory against the Blue Jays on Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Cordell had two hits and two RBIs. Leury Garcia also had two hits and drove in an insurance run with a sacrifice fly that scored Charlie Tilson.

Tilson and Nicky Delmonico also had two hits for the Sox.

Sanchez began the rally in the eighth with a one-out walk. He moved to third on a single by Tilson and scored the go-ahead run just ahead of the underhand toss to the plate by Blue Jays reliever Derek Law.

Sox starter Dylan Covey had his best outing of the season but did not factor in the decision. The right-hander allowed one earned run and two hits in 5 2/3 innings, struck out one and walked two.

It was his second time facing the Blue Jays in less than a week. Covey allowed four runs and three hits in a May 10 loss, walked five and surrendered two home runs.

Covey was much more effective Thursday, at one point retiring 12 in a row.

His only mistake came in the second. He surrendered a solo home run to Freddy Galvis that tied the game at 1.

The Sox regained the lead in the fourth when Delmonico scored on Cordell’s infield hit.

The Blue Jays tied the game in the sixth. Randal Grichuk hit a grounder to third for what appeared to be the third out. But Yoan Moncada threw wildly to first, and Eric Sogard scored the tying run.

Covey exited after the play. He lowered his ERA from 5.91 to 4.41.

Kelvin Herrera pitched a scoreless eighth to pick up the win. Alex Colome earned his ninth save.


Reds down Cubs

CINCINNATI (TNS) — Light rain fell on Great American Ball Park in the bottom of the second inning Thursday, but the Cubs had bigger issues in the fifth inning as the Reds scored three times and earned a 4-2 victory.

The game was stopped because of rain with one out in the top of the sixth. Play resumed after a 1-hour, 51-minute delay.

This marked the first time the Cubs (25-16) lost consecutive games since April 25-26. They were unbeaten in their past 10 series (9-0-1) starting April 8.

After cruising through the first four innings, Jose Quintana allowed a home run to Jose Peralta, threw two wild pitches that allowed the tying run to score, and surrendered a two-out RBI single to Eugenio Suarez that allowed the Reds to erase a 2-0 deficit.

The Reds added a run in the bottom of the seventh on three singles off Tyler Chatwood, who allowed five hits and two walks in two innings.

The Cubs scored twice in the first against Luis Castillo, who had a 1.76 ERA entering Thursday’s game. Kris Bryant drew a walk to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 25 consecutive games.

With two out, Javier Baez hit a double down the third-base line that Reds manager David Bell argued was foul.

Nevertheless, the hit put runners in scoring position. Willson Contreras hit a grounder that hit the third-base bag and bounced over third baseman Suarez for a two-run double.

Victor Caratini was activated from the injured list before the game after missing five weeks because of a fractured bone in his left hand. The Cubs optioned catcher Taylor Davis to Triple-A Iowa.


Kipnis has 6 RBI’s in win

CLEVELAND (TNS) — The Indians haven’t had many cases where their offense could bail out a poor outing from a starting pitcher.

But, long day on the mound or not, it’s also a situation they will gladly accept, as a scoring explosion covered up a rough day for Trevor Bauer in the Indians’ 14-7 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night at Progressive Field.

The Indians took the lead on three separate occasions, in large part thanks to Jason Kipnis’ best offensive game of the season and the most productive of his career. Kipnis entered Thursday night with zero home runs in 2019 and only five RBIs. On Thursday night alone, he slugged two homers, drove in a career-high six runs, twice gave the Indians the lead and helped to tie it in the sixth inning.

Kipnis first belted a solo home run in the first inning on a change-up left up in the zone by Orioles starter Dan Straily, giving the Indians on a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, with the Indians now trailing 5-3 after the Orioles countered with two home runs of their own off Bauer, Kipnis launched a three-run home run to give the Tribe a 6-5 advantage.

It marked Kipnis’ first multi-homer game since May 14, 2017 against the Minnesota Twins.

The Orioles (14-29) answered right back against Bauer in the top of the fifth. With two outs and two on, Stevie Wilkerson hit a double off the left-field wall to score both runs and put the Orioles on top 7-6.

Still trailing by that score in the bottom of the sixth, Kipnis walked to the plate with the bases loaded with a chance to do more damage. He didn’t come away with his desired result, but it was enough to tie it, as he grounded into a double play to score a run. Carlos Santana followed by drilling a ball that second baseman Hander Alberto couldn’t handle, scoring Roberto Perez from third as the decisive run.

The Indians (23-19) then tacked on five insurance runs in the seventh inning for good measure. Leonys Martin singled home a run before Kipnis stepped to the plate with the bases loaded again. And, again, he grounded a ball to Alberto, but a string of bad decisions turned what should have been an inning-ending double play into two runs for the Indians.

Alberto ran back Francisco Lindor, who started on first base, to the bag but never tagged him. He also decided to throw to first too late, which allowed Kipnis to beat the toss. Jordan Luplow easily scored on the play and Martin came around from second to score after the throw home was also late.

Santana later added a two-run double and Lindor drove in Perez with a double in the eighth. The 14 runs marked a season high for the Indians.

For the second time in his last three starts, Bauer was roughed up for seven earned runs. Rio Ruiz belted a two-run home to center field run in the second inning, Trey Mancini added a three-run shot to right-center an inning later and then in the fifth, Wilkerson added his two-run double.

Bauer finished with those seven earned runs on five hits and four walks with three strikeouts. He was also tagged for seven earned runs in a 9-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on May 6. AJ Cole, who entered to pitch the sixth, picked up the win.


Nationals claim series

WASHINGTON (TNS) — The Washington Nationals weren’t supposed to need a hero Thursday afternoon. They amassed a four-run lead in the first inning and settled in behind Aníbal Sánchez, who retired the first four New York Mets he faced. Then things went sideways - Sánchez left early with an injury, and the bullpen blew up late.

The hero wasn’t supposed to be Gerardo Parra. The Nationals have one of baseball’s worst offenses, and the 32-year-old was released last week by the San Francisco Giants, who have one of baseball’s other worst offenses, after hitting .198 in 97 plate appearances. Yet for the third time in the seven days since the Nationals signed him, the difference at the plate was Parra, this time in a 7-6 Nationals win.

In the fifth inning, the veteran blasted a 96-mph fastball from Mets starter Zack Wheeler into the Nationals’ bullpen, a two-run homer that broke a 4-4 tie. Two innings later, he drew a two-out walk, stole second and scored the Nationals’ seventh run when Kurt Suzuki singled to right.

“That’s a big one in that moment,” Parra said of the steal. “The first base coach [Tim Bogar], he’s a good guy. He knows a lot that I steal bases, and he gave me a chance, and I got it.”

The insurance run loomed large when the Mets rallied with four hits and two runs against closer Sean Doolittle in the ninth. But Doolittle got Mets outfielder Keon Broxton to swing through a high fastball with the bases loaded to end it.

Parra hasn’t revolutionized his approach at the plate in Washington - he entered the game hitting .143 in 15 plate appearances with the Nationals - but he went 3-for-3 Thursday with the walk, and almost all of his hits have come in crucial situations. Parra’s five hits since joining the team: a game-winning grand slam Saturday, a no-hit-bid-shattering double in the eighth Sunday and a rally-sustaining double in the first, a single and the crucial home run Thursday against the Mets (20-22).

The injury-riddled Nationals are slowly healing, and Manager Dave Martinez said Parra’s position in the lineup was as important as his presence.

“When you can lengthen your lineup and have two veteran guys that swing the bat fairly well, it helps down there [at the bottom of the order],” Martinez said. “I thought it was key for us today, being able to stretch out long innings and keep them going.”

The victory left the Nationals at 18-25, six games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East, and secured their first series victory since April 18, when they beat Parra’s old club. After looking overmatched Tuesday in a series-opening 6-2 loss, the Nationals rebounded Wednesday in a 5-1 win and carried the quality into Thursday. Martinez downplayed the importance of winning a series, because he wants the team to focus on one game at a time.

“Going into today, we’re 1-0,” Martinez said. “Every series you play, you want to come out with a winning series. I tell the boys, ‘Just go out there and play.’ “

The prospect of a series win looked daunting at first. Wheeler entered the game sizzling, a 2.93 ERA and 49 strikeouts over his previous 40 innings (six starts). Yet the Nationals jumped on him in the first, turning three singles, two doubles and a walk into four runs.

In the second, Sánchez grimaced in pain after issuing a one-out walk to center fielder Brandon Nimmo. During the eight-pitch at-bat, Sánchez had thrown over to first base and felt a twist in his left hamstring, an injury that has troubled the veteran starter in the past. His landing leg felt compromised.

“I couldn’t stop my body to home plate,” Sánchez said. “That’s why I [threw] a few balls after that.”

After the final pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez walked off the mound and yelled into his glove. Though Sánchez will get an MRI exam Friday, he considers the injury “not serious.” Martinez expects the left hamstring soreness will land Sánchez on the injured list and force him to miss his next start.

Enter Erick Fedde, the starter the Nationals turned into a reliever last week. The right-hander got Mets shortstop Amed Rosario to ground to counterpart Wilmer Difo for what looked like a tailor-made double play. But Difo mishandled the grounder, stepped on second base himself and made a wide throw to first. The Nationals once again prolonged an inning and put themselves in trouble with poor defense.

Yet Fedde escaped, striking out catcher Tomas Nido to get out of the inning. It was the latest performance in a stretch that had become Fedde’s best at the major league level.

The next inning, it fell apart. Fedde allowed leadoff singles to Wheeler and Jeff McNeil. Robinson Cano laced a ground-rule double to left-center, scoring Wheeler. Then right fielder Michael Conforto erased his starter’s struggles by depositing the first pitch he saw from Fedde, a 93-mph sinker up and in, into the Nationals’ bullpen in right field. The three-run homer tied the game at four.

Despite that mistake - the sinker running too far back in over the plate - Martinez thought Fedde pitched well and showed further development in his new role.

“I told him today when he came out of the game, ‘I know you gave up a few runs, but you threw the ball really well, so just keep it going,’ ” Martinez said.

Wheeler settled in himself, retiring 10 of the next 13 Nationals hitters after the first. Fedde and the procession of one-inning relievers behind him locked in, too. Yet where Wheeler faltered, allowing the homer to Parra, the Nationals did not. Following the Conforto home run, they set down 17 of the next 19 Mets hitters.

Then came the ninth. Doolittle created a mess of his own but worked out of it for his seventh save.

“When he goes out there, it’s his to win or lose,” Martinez said of Doolittle. “He battled through it, and he got a big out for us.”