Orioles

Mason, Predators top Wild 3-1 for 1st win

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Mason, Predators top Wild 3-1 for 1st win

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The Nashville Predators badly needed a break after a pair of shootout losses to start the season and a draining start to this tight game against the Minnesota Wild.

The opening was there for Martin Erat, and the veteran left wing made sure he didn't miss it.

Erat's unassisted goal with 8:15 left made the Wild pay for a late mistake and the Predators earned their first victory, 3-1 on Tuesday night over former teammate Ryan Suter's new club.

``It was just one of those things where you make one mistake, or something happens, and that's it,'' said Dany Heatley, who scored for the third time in three games for the Wild, who failed to finish their opening homestand unbeaten.

Nick Spaling scored in the first period and David Legwand added another goal with 16.2 seconds remaining, but Erat's was the highlight.

He took advantage of a rare mistake by the Wild's relentless star Zach Parise, who sent a pass out from behind his own net to a spot where none of his teammates were close enough to corral. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon was going the wrong way, and the puck kept streaking into the Wild zone with only Erat near it.

``It's a rolling puck, so it's tough,'' goalie Niklas Backstrom said, adding: ``I just have to beat him and get it outside.''

Backstrom came out quickly enough to stop the breakaway with his stick beyond the top of the left circle, but Erat blocked the clearing attempt and chased down the puck at the goal line. He maneuvered it in toward the net and dumped it in before Backstrom could recover and Spurgeon could dive to stop it.

``Marty's been around the league, and in a position like that he knows they're going to go to their forehand,'' Predators coach Barry Trotz said. ``He waited, and at the last minute he jumped in front of it and blocked it. It stayed with him, and he was able to put it in the net. Huge for us, because we were running on fumes.''

Erat shrugged off his shrewd move.

``It was a hard play for him, because the puck was standing on the edge,'' Erat said. ``For a goalie it's always hard to play the puck like that. It just hit me in the stomach. I was actually lucky it didn't hit me somewhere and bounce in the corner.''

Even Predators goalie Chris Mason, who was stellar in his first start this season with 29 saves, was sympathetic to Backstrom.

``That's a bad feeling because I've been on the other end of that too. When the pucks go like that you're kind of caught in between,'' Mason said.

Backstrom stopped 23 shots.

``He played a great game up to that point, and that puck couldn't have been in a worse place,'' Wild coach Mike Yeo said. ``If he doesn't come out, the guy has a breakaway. If he does come out, it's going to be tight as it is.''

The Wild had only themselves to blame, however, for being in a tie game down the stretch. They owned the first period, posting a 12-5 shots advantage.

``It's a matter of just executing and finishing the play. We had some really good chances and good opportunities,'' Parise said. ``Collectively we need to bear down a little bit and put those in, because that's a big difference in the game right there, grabbing that lead.''

Suter left the Predators, who drafted him seventh overall in 2003, for a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Wild that is identical to Parise's deal that was also signed last summer.

His departure angered general manager David Poile at the time, but Suter and Poile spoke genially in the morning before the teams skated.

``I'm getting better. Every game I feel more comfortable,'' Suter said. ``Obviously that's not the way you wanted it to end, but we can take some good things out of it.''

The 36-year-old Mason, in his third stint with the Predators, started for Pekka Rinne because of the back-to-back games. Rinne is 8-3-1 with a 2.20 goals-against average and three shutouts in 13 games against the Wild in his career. Mason, who played for Winnipeg last season, was just 6-5-2 with a 3.20 GAA entering the game.

``We got it tied up and got out of the first period and then we said, `It's 40 minutes. Just dig in and show our character here,''' Trotz said. ``And we did.''

Notes: Heatley has 14 goals and 10 assists in 18 career games against the Predators. ... Predators C Paul Gaustad was scratched for the second straight game because of an upper-body injury. ... The Predators started a franchise-tying seven-game road trip. ... The Wild went 0 for 3 on the power play and are 2 for 13 on the season.

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Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

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All it took for Chris Davis to break out of his slump was a letter from a Red Sox fan

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All it took for Chris Davis to break out of his slump was a letter from a Red Sox fan

Well, dang. We did not expect to need tissues for this video.

When Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was in the midst of the worst slump in Major League Baseball history, it often felt from afar like nothing could pull him out of his doldrums. It was difficult to watch Davis make the worst kind of history, knowing there was nothing fans can do to help.

Apparently, that was a mistake. All it took was a letter.

Henry Frasca, a diehard Red Sox fan, hated watching Davis struggle. So, when the O’s were in town to play his favorite team, he decided to write Davis a letter of encouragement.

The note made its way to Davis, who kept it with him. Inspired by the kind words, Davis had a breakout day at the plate, driving in four runs one his first three hits of 2019. The longtime Oriole has kept the letter with him ever since.

Frasca was unaware of the specific impact his message made, but as the Orioles returned to Fenway Park once again, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime.

This is, frankly, one of the coolest things we’ve seen in a long time. Frasca is just nine years old, but his view on the world and, specifically, helping those in need is both mature beyond his years and inspiring to the adults around him.

The most impressive part of the letter, as Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne highlights in his interview, is the idea that how Davis is playing on the field does not define the person he is off it.

It’s an insightful message, one that’s easy for even grown men and women to forget when cheering on their favorite players from afar. For someone so young, who roots for a rival team, to recognize it so early is mighty impressive.

The video is five minutes long, but well worth every second of your time. Well done to the Orioles, Thorne, Davis, and of course, Frasca most of all.

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Much to his pleasure, Max Scherzer ‘probable’ to start this week

Much to his pleasure, Max Scherzer ‘probable’ to start this week

WASHINGTON -- If you ask Max Scherzer, he is ready. Which is not an upgrade from where he was earlier in the week.

Scherzer felt well again Sunday when he woke up following his second simulation game of the week. His workload increased Saturday, his comfort remained the same and Sunday his body told him he is ready to pitch in a game for the first time since July 25. Davey Martinez agreed -- for the most part. He said Scherzer is “probable” to start Thursday in Pittsburgh.

“I feel good,” Scherzer said. “Kinda do my normal little tests, move my arm and go through the throwing motion, so I feel good. I’m basically sore today the way I should be sore, given that and all the treatment we did yesterday and throwing a sim game. Like everything feels right where it should be. There’s no extra soreness other than what I anticipated. To me, that’s right on par.”

Scherzer remains irritated he was instructed to throw a second simulation game. He understands why. It just was not his personal preference. Part of the reason is in the title of the act. “Simulation” is not reality. For instance, he warned Gerardo Parra a slider was coming in the first simulation game. “Watch your foot,” Scherzer told him out of concern for possible injury. Pitchers are not truly pitching inside during simulations because of that worry. Players could be found to stand in the box without concern of injury. However, they couldn’t competently handle a hall-of-fame pitcher. So, that’s a false test, too. Only being in a game tells the truth.

But this is what Scherzer had to deal with because of the organization managed his return slowly. They focused on the future -- both this season and beyond. Scherzer is much more concerned about the now because, in his view, his rhomboid strain is not a significant injury.

“The long-term health, that’s not even part of the equation,” Scherzer said. “We all know that’s going to be good because we’re dealing with a muscle strain. Every other structure within the back, shoulder, you name it – nothing at play here. It’s literally dealing with the muscle strain and getting through it.”

Knowing this is not a long-term injury has keyed Scherzer’s frustration with the process. He’s felt close, then ready, really close, and again ready throughout the recovery. He’s being teased by the thing he wants to do most: get back on the mound in a real game. 

“Honestly, the toughest part about this whole thing is I feel like the carrot’s right in front of my face,” Scherzer said. “That it’s such day to day that any day it could turn and you always wake up every single day thinking today’s the day that you’re going to wake up and not feel anything and you’re going to go out there and you’re going to throw it and you’re going to feel no pain whatsoever. And you go off running because it’s not a serious injury. That’s been the most frustrating part. 

“If I knew that was going to be however long this is going to take – if I was dealing with, say, a more significant injury where they say, ‘You’re not going to feel good in six weeks’ – all right, you got it. You can easily mentally check out for six weeks knowing I’m not going to be able to throw a ball in six weeks and you can build your rehab around that. That hasn’t been the case. It’s really been day to day: ‘Hey, you might be feeling good here in two days.’ That’s really been the prognosis I’ve gotten from the doctors and everybody about what I’m dealing with. 

“So for me, that’s really been the hardest part mentally. I feel like at any point in time I could be ready to get back out there and at any day everybody’s expecting that this could turn. For me, when you have that carrot right in front of your face and you want to be helping your team, that’s what’s been the most frustrating part for me mentally.”

A bullpen session Monday should be next. After that, a final step to diffuse all of Scherzer’s irritation, his competition-based combat with Martinez and the organization and exasperation with a muscle strain which derailed him for a month can come: pitch one.

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