This weekend in Pittsburgh Sports was truly a busy one. To be honest, it’s not surprising given the popularity of the sports teams in this town. To wit: We’re in the second month of the Major League Baseball season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Penguins are in the 2nd Round of the NHL Playoffs and although the NFL season has been over for 3 months, they (along with the Pittsburgh Steelers) were very active with the 2016 NFL Draft.
Speaking of the Steelers and the NFL Draft, let’s begin there as the 7 Round selection process concluded Saturday in Chicago Illinois after beginning Thursday night. The first pick of the draft went to the LA Rams as they (to no surprise) selected California QB Jared Goff, who actually has a Pittsburgh connection as his father Jerry was a former catcher with the Pirates in 1993-94.
Goff has hopes to stabilize a Rams offense that had lacked a franchise QB since the days of former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner and Pittsburgh’s own, Marc Bulger. The NFL Draft’s final pick was CB Kalan Redd (Southern Miss) who was chosen by the Tennessee Titans, who also earned this year’s ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ award, given annually to the final pick of the NFL Draft.
But in between the first and the last Draft picks were 251 other picks, 7 from the Steelers. HC Mike Tomlin’s team had the 25th overall pick in the Draft and they used it to pick CB Artie Burns from the University of Miami. Their goal was to fill a gaping hole in their secondary at the cornerback position. Burns is the first Steelers defensive back to be selected #1 since SS Troy Polamalu in 2003, and the first CB to be drafted #1 since Chad Scott in 1997.
The Steelers also used their #2 pick on the Secondary as they selected S Sean Davis out of Maryland. They kept the focus on defense in the 3rd Round as they picked up DT Javon Hargrave from South Carolina St. They then picked their first offensive selection in the 4th round when they selected OT Jerald Hawkins out of LSU. With no 5th Round picks, they picked up LB Travis Feeny from Washington for their 6th Round pick, they had two 7th Round picks with the first going to WR DeMarcus Ayers out of Houston and their 2nd (and final) 7th Round pick going to inside LB Tyler Matakevich from Temple.
And here’s a list of the Steelers 10 Undrafted Free Agents: Mars Hill DL Jonny Maxey, Miami (Fla.) LB Tyriq McCord, Duke P Will Monday, Florida State DL Giorgio Newberry, Colorado RB Christian Powell, Georgia TE Jay Rome, N.C. State OL Quinton Schooley, Virginia WR Canaan Severin, and Jacksonville State DL Devaunte Sigler.
There were several local players selected as well with the biggest one being former Pitt All-American WR Tyler Boyd (Clairton) getting drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2nd Round, former Woodland Hills HS and Maryland DT Quinton Jefferson going to the Seattle Seahawks in the 5th Round, Bethel Park’s LB Nick Kwiatkowski (West Virginia) going to the Chicago Bears in the 4th Round. Former Pitt players Tight end J.P. Holtz (Browns), cornerback Lafayette Pitts (Dolphins) and linebacker Nicholas Grigsby (Rams) agreed to undrafted free agent deals and former Penn State Defensive lineman Anthony Zettel went in the sixth round, No. 202 overall, to the Detroit Lions. Just two picks later, his Nittany Lions teammate, safety Jordan Lucas, was chosen by the Miami Dolphins at No. 204. They join quarterback Christian Hackenberg, defensive lineman Austin Johnson and defensive end Carl Nassib as the Penn State players selected this weekend.
As for Major League Baseball, the Pirates finished their 3-game home series by taking 2 of 3 from the Cincinnati Reds, a team that almost swept them in Cincinnati, earlier this season. They almost returned the favor vs. the Reds, but the final game in the Rubber Match was a little too much to overcome as they fell to the Reds 6-5 in 11 innings, ending their 6-game winning streak and giving them a record of 15-10, good for 2nd place in the NL Central, 3 games back from the Chicago Cubs, who will be coming the Pittsburgh for a 3-game series starting Monday.
In that 3rd game, Scott Schebler hit an RBI double in the 11th inning and the Cincinnati Reds snapped a six-game losing streak. Eugenio Suarez led off the Reds 11th with a triple past diving left fielder Starling Marte and scored on Schebler’s hit off Ryan Vogelsong (1-1). Schebler had entered earlier in a double switch. In the ninth, he doubled home Adam Duvall for a 5-4 lead. Blake Wood (3-0) pitched two scoreless innings, including a perfect 11th.
The Reds won for only the second time since being no-hit by the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta on April 21. Gregory Polanco and John Jaso homered for the Pirates. Pittsburgh committed a season-high four errors and misplayed other balls.
Jaso hit a solo home run with two outs in the ninth off Ross Ohlendorf that made it 5-all. The drive landed in the first row of seats atop the 21-foot wall in right field. Polanco led off the fifth with his third homer. It became the 39th home run ball to reach the Allegheny River in the 16 seasons of PNC Park.
The Pirates rallied to tie the game during each the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Cincinnati turned to 28-year-old Tim Adelman to make his major league debut after putting scheduled starter Raisel Iglesias on the disabled list earlier Sunday because of an impingement in his right shoulder.
Adelman was pitching in independent leagues in 2012-13 before working his way up the Reds organization from Single-A over the past two-plus years. He allowed five baserunners over six-plus innings and was lifted with a 3-1 lead after allowing a leadoff single to Marte in the seventh.
Adelman’s chance at his first major league win were dashed when, after one out, Sean Rodriguez hit an RBI triple and scored on pinch hitter Matt Joyce’s broken-bat single.
Pirates starter Jeff Locke gave up three runs and four hits in seven innings.
In Game 1, It had been nearly a year since Josh Harrison hit a home run. He ended his drought Friday night while Juan Nicasio struck out eight in seven scoreless innings and Matt Joyce connected as a pinch-hitter to lead the Pirates to a 4-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, extending Pittsburgh’s winning streak to five games.
Nicasio (3-2) allowed three hits and one walk in sending the Reds to their fifth straight loss. Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Nicasio has won all three home starts with a 1.89 ERA while losing both road starts with a 6.75 ERA.
Harrison hit his first home run since May 15, a span of 379 at-bats, into the bleachers in right field with two outs in the fourth to raise the Pirates’ lead to 2-0. An inning earlier, David Freese hit a two-out RBI single.
Joyce sliced a two-run home run off the foul pole in left, his third, in the seventh inning to make it 4-0. He is hitting .357 with three home runs after signing a minor league contract early in spring training on the heels of a dreadful 2015 in which he batted just .174 with five home runs in 93 games for the Los Angeles Angels.
The Reds scored their run on Tucker Barnhart’s RBI double with two outs in the ninth. Mark Melancon relieved Arquimedes Caminero and got Scott Schebler to hit a game-ending fly out for his sixth save.
Starling Marte and Jordy Mercer had two hits each for the Pirates.
Dan Straily (0-1) worked six innings in the longest of three outings since the Reds moved him from the bullpen into the rotation. He gave up two runs and five hits while striking out five and walking three.
Joey Votto had two hits for the Reds, who have gone 4-13 since taking two of three against the Pirates during the first week of the season from April 8-10, at Cincinnati.
In Game 2, Pirates starter Francisco Liriano pitched 6 2/3 strong innings and John Jaso homered to open the bottom of the first as Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati 5-1 Saturday night for the Pirates’ sixth straight win and the Reds’ sixth consecutive loss.
In his first win since April 3 when he pitched six scoreless innings against St. Louis, Liriano (2-1) held the Reds to five hits and struck out six while walking none after allowing 17 bases on balls in his first four starts.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was pleased with Liriano’s outing. Even when the left-hander won in the opener with 10 strikeouts, he also had five walks.
Jaso hit the first pitch of the game from Alfredo Simon (0-3) out to right-center field for his first home run of the season. It was also his fifth career homer leading off the first and came after Jaso spent extra time working on his swing with hitting coach Jeff Branson prior to the game.
Simon lowered his ERA to 13.50 from 16.39 by allowing three runs and six-plus innings. He walked four and struck out four. Francisco Cervelli’s RBI single in the fifth for the Pirates snapped a 1-1 tie and chased Simon. Josh Harrison added a sacrifice fly later in the inning. Cervelli and David Freese each had two hits of the Pirates’ 10 hits.
Sean Rodriguez hit a two-run homer, his fourth, in the eighth to make it 5-1 after entering the game in the top of the inning at first base as a defensive replacement for Jaso. Mark Melancon got the last out for his seventh save, striking out Zack Cozart with runners on first and second.
Billy Hamilton had three hits for the Reds and scored their only run in the fifth, tying it at 1 when he came around from first base on Cozart’s double. Cincinnati has scored just 10 runs during its losing streak.
The Pirates’ Jordy Mercer extended his hitting streak to seven games.
In the NBA, Golden State Warriors G Steph Curry said that that while he’s still dealing with knee pain, he’s confident he can return even sooner than most have projected. Apparently they didn’t need him on the court of Game 1 of their Second Round series vs. the Portland Trail Blazers as they destroyed them 118-106.
That puts his return well inside the 14-day window originally estimated for Curry that GM Bob Meyers walked back at a press conference last week, saying Curry would be “constantly re-evaluated” and could return sooner.
Whether they’ll need to will be the question. If the Warriors dominate Game 2, why risk putting Curry back from a sprained MCL so early? See if they can go up 3-0 without him, play without him until he’s absolutely needed and make sure he’s available for the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors are superior to Portland, with or without Curry, so they might as well see how far they can go without risking his health.
Then again, here’s what Dr. Rodney Benner, a surgeon from the Shelbourne Knee Center in Indianapolis told me about the risk of Curry suffering further injury from a premature return:
Since the ligament is structurally intact and just painful, the athlete can return to play whenever the pain subsides with time and treatment. At that time, the Warriors athletic training staff will likely put Steph through a functional progression, starting with light exercise and progressing on towards basketball activities, and then on to running, lateral movement, and full competition as he can tolerate. The only real risk of returning to competition too early is a return of soreness and pain, not continued structural damage to the ligament.
Of course, if he were to get hit on the outside of the knee again, causing the knee to collapse inward and stretch the ligament again, he could re-injure the ligament. However, that risk is really the same as any other time, not just because he had a previous injury. All in all, it’s about the best news Warriors fans could hope for with this type of injury mechanism.
So if Curry’s pain is manageable and there’s no risk of further injury, there’s no reason for him not to play. If that happens, Curry could play Game 3 to put the series out of reach for good, then perhaps rest Game 4 and hope the Warriors sweep, or return for Game 5 if necessary. The Warriors have options and all of them seem good despite how concerning Curry’s injury originally seemed.
In other NBA Playoff action, the Miami Heat demolished the Charlotte Hornets 106-73 in Game 7. The Heat will now move onto play either the Toronto Raptors or Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
In other Charlotte Hornet news, Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing will interview with the Sacramento Kings about their head coaching vacancy. Ewing has been an NBA assistant since 2002, working with Washington, Houston, Orlando and Charlotte.
Ewing played for Mike Jarvis in high school, John Thompson in college and the likes of Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy in the NBA. ”He believes in balance, he believes in work, he believes in defense and he believes in structure,” Clifford said, adding that Ewing – despite his lineage as one of the game’s all-time great players – never took a shortcut in his coaching career.
And in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals 2-1 to tie their Best-Of-Seven Eastern Conference Semifinals series at a game apiece.
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