Pirates beat Cards one win from NLCS

Pirates 5 Cards 3

PITTSBURGH — When this postseason began, Clint Hurdle was asked whether his Pirates, having merely earned the right to play beyond Game 162, were now playing with “house money.”

Hurdle’s eyes flashed bolts.

“Not at all. That’s not the thinking of the guys in there,” the manager said, tilting his head toward the clubhouse. “There’s only one thing on their minds. You go into it planning to win the World Series.”

One step at a time, but the Bucs, Major League dregs for 20 years, took a big step Sunday toward the next step — which would come at the expense of National League postseason royalty.

With a tiebreaking RBI single by Pedro Alvarez and an insurance one by Russell Martin in the eighth inning, Pittsburgh downed St. Louis, 5-3, to push the Cardinals’ backs against the wall of sound put up by 40,489 at PNC Park.

The Pirates last made the NLCS in 1992, losing to the Braves in seven games


Reds fire Dusty Baker

A six-game losing streak to end the year along with being eliminated in the Wild Card Game sealed Dusty’s fate

CINCINNATI — One very bad week clinched Dusty Baker’s fate. The Cincinnati Reds decided they weren’t going to bring him back.

Not after they ended the season with six losses in a row, including the wild-card playoff game. Not after they failed to get past the opening round of the playoffs for the third time in a row. Not with all the booing at Great American Ball Park.

Instead of keeping Baker around for one more try, the Reds fired him on Friday, parting ways with the manager who led them to their best stretch of success since the Big Red Machine but couldn’t get them deep into the postseason.

“Maybe the time is long enough because I was starting to get quite a few jeers and some hate mail and stuff,” Baker said during a conference call. “So maybe it was time for me to move on.”

The move came after the Reds lost the wild-card playoff in Pittsburgh 6-2 on Tuesday night, their sixth straight loss. The final-week fade was a major factor in the decision, general manager Walt Jocketty said in a phone interview.


Bruins maul Penguins lead East Finals 2-0

It is looking more and more like a Boston Chicago Stanley Cup Final

Brad Marchand scored twice during a four-goal first period and the Boston Bruins routed thePittsburgh Penguins 6-1 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday night.

David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron andJohnny Boychuk also scored for Boston, which hardly broke a sweat while going up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Tuukka Rask kept Sidney Crosby and the rest of the NHL’s top offense in check once again, stopping 26 shots.

Game 3 is Wednesday night in Boston.

Brandon Sutter netted Pittsburgh’s lone goal. Tomas Vokoun gave up three first-period goals on 12 shots before being replaced by Marc-Andre Fleury.

The move did little to blunt the momentum in what has quickly become a one-sided series. Boston held Pittsburgh’s top-ranked power play scoreless for the second straight game, and the Bruins looked like the team marked as the Stanley Cup favorites, not the star-laden Penguins.

Boston insisted it was fortunate to escape Game 1 with a 3-0 victory, saying a couple of bounces could have changed the course of the game dramatically.

The Penguins are making too many mistakes, and the Bruins are cashing in. This series is not even competitive right now. In the West, Chicago is up 2-0 on LA, and looking as impressive as Boston. Of course, the Kings are defending champs, and are unbeaten on home ice this post season, and series can turn quickly so….


Penguins edge Sens, take 2-0 series lead

Sydney Crosby, with the hat trick

The Ottawa Senators have plenty of respect for Sidney Crosby.

As they’re quickly learning, perhaps a little too much.

Working in wide-open swaths of ice left by Ottawa’s tentative defense, the Pittsburgh superstar needed just more than one period to complete his second playoff hat trick and lift the Penguins to a 4-3 victory Friday night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“He’s one of the best in the game and if you give him time, space to make plays, to shoot puck he’s going to burn you,” Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips said. “That’s what we did tonight. We gave him too much room and he took advantage.”