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Yankees’ Michael Pineda tames Rays back in their first road loss of year

This time, the Tampa Bay Rays ran into the good Michael Pineda.

In their first road game of the year, Pineda was a stop sign. He flirted with a perfect game, sitting down the Rays’ first 20 batters en route to a two-hitter in an 8-1 win by the New York Yankees. He struck out 11.

You can hardly blame the Rays if they failed to recognize Pineda as the inconsistent pitcher who lasted only eight batters against Tampa Bay earlier in the season in a 4-1 Rays’ win.

This time, the Rays’ managed only a two-out double by Evan Longoria in the seventh and a solo home run by Logan Morrison in the eighth.

For the Yankees, Aaron Judge, Chase Headley and Starlin Castro all homered in the win. The Yankees broke a 3-1 game open with a five-run eighth.

Pineda has always been hard to figure out. He was 6-12 last year with a 4.82 ERA, but he led the Yankees in strikeouts.

“He had really good fastball command,” Rays’ manager Kevin Cash said. “He could place his slider where he needed to, and he mixed in a change-up a lot more than we saw in his first meeting. We’ve always respected how he comes out and competes. He can make some really good hitters look bad.”

For the Rays, it was that way as they visited the Yankees, who won their 16th home opener in their last 20 games.

The teams are off today, then play again on Wednesday.

Lightning finish their season with a win, but must watch the playoffs

The Tampa Bay Lightning barely missed the playoffs. In some ways, that makes it more difficult.

The Lightning wrapped up their regular season Sunday evening, beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-2. That left the team with 94 points, one behind both Toronto and Boston.

Brayden Point scored two goals in the finale. Defensemen Victor Hedman and Braydon Coburn also scored for Tampa Bay.

“It’s hard to digest right now because it’s been less than 24 hours since we’ve known that we weren’t going to play after tonight,” Cooper said. “All I can say is there was a time in early February where we were not relevant at all. This team found a way to make themselves relevant through game 81.

“Just to watch the crowd support at a 5:00 game on a Sunday afternoon on a beautiful day while The Masters is going on. The place is jam packed and nobody left and everybody stayed till the very end.

“There’s a love affair between the team and our fans. I was just proud to be standing there behind the bench, The players, they made the team relevant during the last two and a half months of the season, but, in saying that, come five months from now everybody’s 0-0-0. But, there’s a lot of fight in that group and you’ve got to say a lot of that group will be back here next year and it’s great to be a part of that.”

 The Lightning finished their last 30 games at 20-6-4, but 94 points weren’t enough to get into the post-season. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was 6-1-1 over his last eight starts.

Cooper was pleased with the effort of Point, who finished with 18 goals.

“That kid’s a hockey player,” Cooper said. “It’s hard to define everything good that happens to players. It’s happening to him because of his commitment to be better. I thought it was unbelievably fitting the way the winning goal goes in because the kid that just worked the hardest got awarded with a fluky one because he deserved that. I’m just so impressed that somebody that young and a little bit undersized can come in and – a lot of guys put the team on their back these last few months. But his growth has been phenomenal.

“He’s just a committed kid. (There are) not enough guys like him. I’ll just tell you that.”

Tampa Bay Rays outlast Toronto to capture a 10-8 comeback victory

They won it. They lost it. Then they won it again.

The Tampa Bay Rays won a wild one against the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night, winning 10-8 after losing a 6-2 lead.

For the third time in five games, the Rays jumped on the opposing starter. Toronto’s Francisco Liriano lasted only one-third of an inning, giving up five earned runs and leaving with an ERA of 135.00. But the Blue Jays pecked away at the lead, and went ahead 7-6. The Rays, however, had a comeback of their own to win.

“This is the first interesting one of the season,” said Rays’ manager Kevin Cash. “The back-and-forth. We have a lot of them here. Glad to get it out and have the win. It wasn’t by any means the prettiest game, but really impressed with some big hits, timely hitting, and (reliever) Danny Farquhar. He really stepped up for us, the way he came through. I asked a lot him and did everything he could to keep the lead for us.”

The Rays had 13 hits, including a home run by Evan Longoria (his second of the season). Ricky Weeks, Logan Morrison and Corey Dickerson all had two hits, with Morrison’s and Dickerson’s coming after they came off the bench.

Xavier Cedeno got the win for the Rays, although he got only one out and walked two. Alex Colome got his third save in as many tries.

Outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who had a two-run double, said he was glad to see his team’s offense.

“It’s good,” he said. “I think it’s good for our starting pitchers and it’s good for our bullpen to know that we can come back. These last two games have shown that we can fight back. We fell short yesterday, but being able to come through and be resilient, is pretty good.”

Among those with hits was rookie Daniel Robertson, who had his first career hit.

“It felt amazing, to say the least, and to just get it out of the way. Obviously, I feel like that first one is the toughest one to get and then you start trickling 0-for-8, 0-for-10 and then you start thinking about it. It just felt really good. I knew I was facing a tough pitcher, but I was trying to be aggressive early, especially with runners on. I got a pitch to my liking and put a good swing on it.”

The Rays and Blue Jays play again today at 6:10 p.m. Chris Archer goes for his second win for the Rays against Aaron Sanchez.




Lightning wins, waits, watches to see if playoffs are possible

The Tampa Bay Lightning has one game left, but the games they don’t control that will be the most nerve-wracking.

The Lightning has to watch as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. A win in either game clinches the playoffs for the Leafs and eliminates the Lightning.

The Lightning closes out his season Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres. The team has to wait to see if that game matters.

The Bolts beat Montreal Friday night, 4-2, to come within one point of the Maple Leafs.

Yanni Gourde scored twice for the Bolts. Nikita Kucherov scored his 40th goal, and Alex Killorn added a goal. Andrie Vasilevskiy played for the third straight game and stopped 27 shots.

“What’s encouraging for us, these guys (rookies) that are new to this, they don’t seem to care,” Bolts’ coach Jon Cooper said. “It doesn’t matter what league they’re playing in. They’re not afraid of the moment.”

The Bolts have gone 7-1-1 in their last nine games. Gourde has scored in five of the last seven games.

“I think just hard work,” Lightning rookie Brayden Point said of his team’s late-season run. “You look at the last two minutes on that penalty kill, guys are selling out and blocking shots. I think that’s why we’re having success. we’re so excited, these are must wins for our team. We’ve got lots of energy. Obviously, it was a tight-checking game, but I think we worked really hard tonight.”

Point said his team would pay attention to Saturday’s game.

“I think we’ll all be watching them pretty close,” Point said. “But we’ve got to rest up and take care of business ourselves.”

Kendrys Morales’ grand slam leads Blue Jays over Rays, Blake Snell

You can blame one swing of the bat.

Or, if you look closer, you can blame the walks that came before it.

Together, the two led to a four-run third inning that gave the Toronto Blue Jays to a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday night. Blake Snell gave up a grand slam to Kendrys Morales in the third, but only after giving up two-out walks to Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista.

“Walks,” Snell said, shaking his head. “that’s always been the thing that gets me so. So I just gotta attack, and I felt like I did really good attacking today. Just gotta do some things mentally to stay into it, but, like I said, things I’m aware of so I can get better at it.”

Manager Kevin Cash agreed.

“I thought Blake had really good stuff,” Cash said. “Any time you give up a grand slam in the third, it’s going to be a big blow. Maybe he drew some experiences from last year, knowing that at that point the game wasn’t over. We still had plenty of outs and innings to get, and he went and got them for us.”

The Rays struggled against Blue Jays’ starter Marcus Stroman, who was backed by three of Toronto’s four double plays.

For the second straight night, Souza was out at the plate for the Rays. This time, he jammed his leg but stayed in the game and had three hits. Snell struck out five and had five walks.

“I was really proud of him, actually,” Souza said. “One pitch changed the game. He got himself into jam. He could’ve collapsed after that and he went 6 2/3 and did a great job. That’s a good start to build off of. Obviously, the results weren’t there with the grand slam, but he can build off that result and keep going forward.”

The Rays and Blue Jays play again tonight at the Trop, with Matt Andriese pitching against Francisco Liriano.

Lightning defeats Toronto to remain alive in playoff scramble

Still, the Tampa Bay Lightning has a pulse.

The Lightning, clinging to hope in the NHL Eastern Conference wild-card chase, beat the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night, 4-1.

Toronto leads the Bolts and New York Islanders by three points.

“It’s about just keeping it kind of in your hands,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “You can’t sit here and look at what the Leafs are doing or what the Islanders are doing. You just look at what you’re doing. And somebody told me we’re the only game on the docket tomorrow, so it’s in our hands. As soon as you start worrying about other stuff, it’ll just affect your mindset. It’s kind of what has got us to this point so far. I’ve said this before, ‘Who’s next? Well, Montreal’s next.’ That’s what we have to focus on.”

Brayden Point scored twice for the Bolts, his 15th and 16th of the year. Nikita Kuchorov scored his 39th of the year, and Michael Bournival scored. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots for Tampa Bay.

Cooper seems to have enjoyed so many callups from the AHL.

“They believe in what we’re doing,” he said. “I’m sure people probably look at our lineup card tonight and try to figure out who some of these guys were, but you know what, they’re hockey players. They’ve got a goal and it’s one game at a time. But it’s just these unsung things that people aren’t going to sit there and say, ‘Well, we won this big draw.’ Well, Dumont won a big draw when we needed it. McKegg won a big draw when we needed it. Bournival scores a huge goal for us to make it a two-goal game, and you need, you just can’t rely on the Points and Palats and Kucherovs to do everything for you. We’re not anywhere without those guys, but you need secondary help and these guys, they’re there for us. And it’s just been a lot of fun to coach this team.”

Cooper said focus is key for his team.

“You can’t look too far ahead,” Cooper said. “I hope the guys don’t even know who we’re playing on Sunday. We’re playing Montreal. We’ve got to find a way to beat a really good Montreal team. We just saw them recently, and they, even though we took that game to overtime, they’ve got a good team and if we’re not ready to play the way we played tonight, you can’t exhale because we won this game. There’s a lot of road still to go. As I told the guys, ‘Enjoy this. Enjoy the plane ride. As soon as we land in Montreal, let’s turn the page and get ready for them.’”

The Lightning now travels to Montreal to play tonight.

Lightning’s Steven Stamkos might not play the rest of the year

The Tampa Bay Lightning had hoped that Steven Stamkos would make a triumphant return to the lineup that would power team team in a late-season push for the playoffs.

Evidently, neither will happen.

Stamkos said Thursday that it “wasn’t looking good” for a return to the ice before the regular season ends Sunday.

“It’s probably not looking that good,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times.  “It’s frustrating from an individual perspective where I want to be out there trying to help my team — especially at this (time of) year — but it just doesn’t feel right.”

“If it doesn’t feel right, you can’t expect to be able to go out there and do the things you can when you’re healthy,” Stamkos said. “Obviously with a significant injury, which it was, we want to make sure things heal so you don’t have to deal with it again. It’s tough. I want to be out there as much as anyone. I think I showed that last year coming back for Game 7 (of the Eastern Conference Final).”

Stamkos said when he feels right, he’ll be back, pointing out it was most likely a five-month recovery from the start (which would put it in mid-April). The biggest issue is that his knee flexion is “very limited.”

“It’s gotten better, we kind of hit a pleateau, it was frustrating,” Stamkos said. “There was no setback. Everything still progressed. But it wasn’t a minor procedure. This is pretty major, and there are a lot of working parts when it comes to the knee with having the tissue heal, scar tissue. Things that are kind of behind the scenes that have been tough. We’ve been working hard, just hasn’t been there yet.”

Stamkos had gotten his year off well. He scored nine goals in 17 games before his injury.

The Lightning, on the brink of elimination, plays the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.

Rays’ Alex Cobb makes triumphant return against New York Yankees

For Alex Cobb, it was only 957 days. It just felt longer.

Cobb, the pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays who struggled last September in his comeback, wowed Rays’ fans Wednesday night in a 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees. Cobb went 5 2/3 innings and allowed only one run and four hits in the victory.

“I thought it was a battle,” Cobb said. “I was definitely the best I’ve been on the mound since the Tommy John (surgery). It’s not to the point where I’d like to end up eventually, but it’s good enough to go out there and compete.”

Cobb went only 1-2 in five starts last September, and in his last two, he went a combined 4 2/3 innings and gave up 15 earned runs.

“It’s night and day,” Cobb said. “I at least have the ability and stuff to go out there and get creative. I’m not going to dominate a game with the stuff I have right now, but I can go out there and throw like I did tonight.”

The Rays got a leadoff home run from Corey Dickerson in the first. Jacoby Ellsbury homered in the second to tie things, but Tampa Bay scored three times in the second on a two-run single by Derek Norris, then shut out the Yankees the rest of the way.

For Dickerson, it was the first leadoff home run of his career (in his 32nd game of hitting leadoff). Dickerson and Logan Morrison each had two hits for the Rays.

Alex Colome recorded his second save of the season.

For the Rays, it was the first time since 2012 the team has won its opening series of the year. The Rays’ bullpen had an era of 1.08 in the series.

Tampa Bay now is home against Toronto in a four-game series.

Lighting on verge of elimination from playoffs after loss to Bruins

The Tampa Bay Lightning hasn’t been eliminated yet.

But it may be time to dim the lights.

The Lighting were clobbered 4-0 by Boston Thursday night in a last-chance effort to stay in the NHL wild-card race, and as a result, they are hanging on by their fingernails. Both Ottawa and Toronto could clinch playoff spots with just a bit of success, leaving the Lightning on the outside.

Tampa Bay got only four shots in the first period, and the Bruins scored twice in the second period.

“We weren’t even a threat,” coach Jon Cooper said. “We got beat by a better team.”

“We’re not out of it yet,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “It’s obviously a tough hill to climb, and we need a lot of things to go our way.”

Still, the situation looks dire for Tampa Bay, which plays at Toronto on Thursday.

Former Bucs’ running back Charlie Garner struggles in post-career

Charlie Garner, a former NFL running back who finished his career with the Tampa Bay Bucs, is strugging with brain trauma, he says.

Garner says he suffered at least 12 concussions a year while playing, and doctors believe he is dealing with the early stages of the Cronric Traumatic Encephalopathy.

“I don’t have all of my faculties anymore,” Garner told the Sporting News. “I can’t remember things. When I go to the mall or grocery store, I have to take one of my kids with me to remember where the car is parked. I have trouble remembering converations I had five minutes ago. Bright lights bother me. I just don’e feel right all of the time.”

Garner, 45, gained 7,097 yards in the NFL. He spent 2004 with the Bucs, playing in three games and gaining 111 yards before he was hurt.

“Footbakk gave me a good lifestyle for me and my family, Garner said. “But I might end up paying a big price for it.”

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