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J.D. comes through with three-run home run

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

TORONTO -- When the Red Sox needed a big swing on Thursday night at Rogers Centre, J.D. Martinez provided it.

The slugger lined a three-run shot to right-center with two outs in the fifth, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead.

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TORONTO -- When the Red Sox needed a big swing on Thursday night at Rogers Centre, J.D. Martinez provided it.

The slugger lined a three-run shot to right-center with two outs in the fifth, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead.

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It was Martinez's fifth homer of the season, and the type of big hit the Red Sox envisioned when they signed him to a five-year, $110 million contract during Spring Training.

Martinez smacked a first-pitch, 88.9-mph fastball from Jays right-hander Marco Estrada for the home run that gave ace Chris Sale his first lead of the night in the finale of a nine-game road trip.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez

Cards storm back twice to best Mets in 13

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler avoided the first water-cooler shower, juking his way through a mob of teammates giddy on the infield dirt. He could not avoid the second, the cold celebration that came minutes later, near his dugout.

"I thought I eluded them, but they got me!" Fowler said afterwards. "I'll be ready next time."

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ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler avoided the first water-cooler shower, juking his way through a mob of teammates giddy on the infield dirt. He could not avoid the second, the cold celebration that came minutes later, near his dugout.

"I thought I eluded them, but they got me!" Fowler said afterwards. "I'll be ready next time."

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Video: NYM@STL: Fowler discusses walk-off hit, win in extras

Fowler's bath came as a reward for his 13th-inning single off Paul Sewald, which helped the Cardinals cap a long day Thursday at Busch Stadium with a 4-3 walk-off win over the Mets. Fowler's hit made a winner of John Gant, who threw three scoreless innings of long relief in his season debut, and brought a climactic end to an afternoon in which Carlos Martinez and Noah Syndergaard performed.

"It felt like a playoff atmosphere," Fowler said. "We could see them again in the playoffs."

Such long-distance forecasting is uncommon in the Cardinals' clubhouse, where focusing on the present qualifies as standard doctrine. But Fowler wasn't the only one alluding to the postseason Thursday, or speaking of the win in excitable terms. Jose Martinez called it the best victory of the season. Manager Mike Matheny called it "special."

Video: NYM@STL: Fowler, Martinez, Pham, Matheny on 4-3 win

"It was one of the best games I ever played," Martinez said. "We never gave up."

Flummoxed by Syndergaard for much of the day, the Cardinals fought back from two deficits. Fowler and Marcell Ozuna, two slumping but important regulars, drove in key runs. Gant, who woke up as a member of Triple-A Memphis and could end up back in the Minors soon, picked up a bullpen asked to record 21 outs. The victory sent the Cardinals to Pittsburgh winners of 10 of 12.

Video: NYM@STL: Ozuna bloops an RBI single to right field

"This was the most special game today for us," Matheny said. "It took a little bit of everything. It took the entire roster."

Gant wasn't even on the roster until a few hours prior to first pitch, swung up from Memphis as insurance to cover innings John Brebbia could not, after Brebbia's three-inning save Wednesday. Gant entered after Martinez tied the game with a two-out double in the 10th, then breezed through a full turn of the Mets' lineup unscathed.

"So much fun to be involved," Gant said. "To compete is what I feel like I'm here for, and it's an amazing feeling."

Video: NYM@STL: Gant strikes out Cabrera in the 12th inning

Martinez's two-out hit scored Tommy Pham and saved the Cardinals a half-inning after Luke Gregerson walked in the go-ahead run with the bases loaded. Pham started St. Louis' first rally with a double in the seventh, and finished with four hits, just one day after suffering a bizarre head injury in the batting cage. Two of those hits came off Syndergaard, who lined up with Carlos Martinez in a rematch of Opening Day starters.

Video: NYM@STL: Pham has four-hit, two-run game vs. Mets

There were 37,762 fans at Busch Stadium expecting to see a high-octane duel, and that's what they got, though both starters were long gone by the end. Syndergaard's defense spoiled what was a dominant start through six; he finished with two runs (one earned) allowed over 7 1/3 innings. Martinez scattered four hits and a run over six frames, routinely wiggling out of jams brought upon by three hit batsmen.

"That's unique, going into a rubber game against a good team with a good starter," Matheny said. "Great series."

Video: NYM@STL: Martinez gives up one run over six frames

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Down to their final out, Jose Martinez inside-outed a 96-mph Familia sinker off the wall in right-center field, just beyond the outstretched reach of Juan Lagares. Martinez clapped his hands at second base as Pham crossed the plate with the tying run.

Video: NYM@STL: Martinez hits game-tying RBI double in 10th

"We already had the confidence, but this game gave us the belief that we can actually stay in the game if we never give up," Martinez said. 

SOUND SMART
The one blemish in Carlos Martinez's six strong innings came in the first, when he hit leadoff man Brandon Nimmo, who then scored on a Yoenis Cespedes double. Martinez hit Nimmo again in the fifth, and Adrian Gonzalez as well. He became the first Cardinals starter to hit at least three batters in a game since Jake Westbrook in 2013. Martinez has now also hit at least one batter in seven straight games, tied for the fourth-longest streak in MLB history. 

HOLLAND IMPRESSES AGAIN
Matheny said he was "very comfortable" giving Greg Holland the ninth inning in a tie game, and even more so after Holland threw a spotless ninth frame. It was the righty's fourth consecutive scoreless appearance. He appears primed to regain closing opportunities in the near future, though Bud Norris also struck out two over a scoreless inning Thursday. Norris has five saves filling in for Holland.

Video: STL@NYM: Holland strikes out Nimmo in the 9th inning

"You're seeing the [bad] swings, and that was the indicator we were looking for," Matheny said of Holland. "What kind of at-bats are guys taking against him? Guys aren't seeing the spin, they aren't picking him up real well. That's what we're accustomed to seeing."

HE SAID IT
"I might have to give some credit to my therapeutic do-rag." -- Pham

UP NEXT
The Cardinals hit the road for their first of 19 games against the Pirates when they open a three-game set at PNC Park on Friday. Miles Mikolas (3-0, 3.46 ERA) looks to win for the third time in a row when he opposes lefty Steven Brault (2-1, 4.44 ERA) at 6:05 p.m. CT. St. Louis went 11-8 against Pittsburgh last season.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals

Yanks sweep Twins with Sanchez's walk-off HR

Special to MLB.com

NEW YORK -- The Yankees always knew they had a chance. Get a couple guys on, get a pitch they could handle, and eight innings where the offense couldn't get going would be largely forgotten.

Just like that.

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NEW YORK -- The Yankees always knew they had a chance. Get a couple guys on, get a pitch they could handle, and eight innings where the offense couldn't get going would be largely forgotten.

Just like that.

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It didn't matter that the Yankees had no hits in the first five innings Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, or that they still had just three hits entering the ninth. All that mattered was that Gary Sanchez came to the plate against Twins closer Fernando Rodney and rocketed a three-run walk-off home run into the left-field seats, giving the Yanks a 4-3 win and extending a six-game winning streak.

"If we can get traffic on the bases, we're always one swing away from our guys," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

Video: MIN@NYY: Boone on Sanchez's walk-off, late offense

The Yankees got that traffic when Didi Gregorius reached on an error to begin the ninth and Giancarlo Stanton followed with an infield hit. That brought up Sanchez, who was hitting .193 this season but already had five home runs.

"He had a real confident look up there," Boone said.

Sanchez was hitless on the day, but he had learned something from his first three plate appearances.

"I noticed through the game they were pitching me inside," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I know Fernando Rodney is a good pitcher and he throws hard, but I was looking for a pitch I could hit."

Video: MIN@NYY: Montgomery K's LaMarre to strand two runners

Rodney indeed throws hard, and he tried to pitch Sanchez inside. The 96.5-mph fastball was the fastest pitch any Yankee has hit for a home run this season, according to Statcast™. It was the second time in his career Sanchez has homered on a pitch at least that fast, the other being a 99-mph Joe Kelly fastball last August.

The home run off Kelly tied a game the Yankees would go on to lose. This one finished off a four-game Yankees sweep of the Twins and earned Sanchez the Gatorade shower that goes to the game's star.

"I knew something was coming," Sanchez said of the shower. "I can just tell you it was cold."

Video: Extended Cut of Gary Sanchez's walkoff homer

The Yankees are hot, even if it didn't look that way in the early innings on Thursday. They were stifled by Twins starter Kyle Gibson, who allowed just one hit and struck out a career-high 10 in six innings. The Yankees didn't score until the seventh, when Stanton doubled off reliever Addison Reed and scored on an Aaron Hicks' sacrifice fly.

Video: MIN@NYY: Hicks plates Stanton on a sacrifice fly

New York didn't score again until Sanchez's home run on the final swing of the day.

It was the 59th career home run for the 25-year-old Sanchez, but it was his first walk-off.

"This definitely is up there, definitely a very exciting moment," Sanchez said. "The other special moment was when we made it to the playoffs, but this is up there."

It was an exciting ending, but a familiar result for a Twins-Yankees series in the Bronx. The Yanks have swept three of their past four home series against the Twins, whom they also defeated at home in last season's American League Wild Card Game.

Video: MIN@NYY: German ends relief outing on a high note

The victim this time was Rodney, a 16-year veteran who is in his first season with the Twins.

"I was trying to get a ground-ball double play," Rodney said. "Threw the pitch a little bit high in the strike zone, that's why he could use his hands. He's got quick hands."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Betances fans the side: Looking at the big picture, the Yankees had to be happy with how Dellin Betances looked in striking out the side in the ninth inning. Betances needed only 13 pitches to cut through the top third of the Twins' lineup, and 11 of his 13 pitches were strikes. It was the first time since April 5 that Betances had struck out the side.

Video: MIN@NYY: Betances K's Sano to strike out the side

"That was ho-hum Dellin at his best there," Boone said.

SOUND SMART
Bert Blyleven had three 10-strikeout games against the Yankees, the last one coming in 1987. Only two Twins pitchers since then have fanned 10 Yanks in a game: Eric Milton in 2000 and Gibson on Thursday.

HE SAID IT
"Our approach doesn't change whether they're in first place or last. Our approach is to win series." -- Sanchez, on the Yankees, whose next three opponents (Angels, Astros and Red Sox) entered play Thursday with a combined 51-23 record

Video: Sanchez, Stanton, Boone, Montgomery on Yankees' win

UP NEXT
Boone is a Southern California guy, and he spent most of the 1980s at Anaheim Stadium when his father Bob was playing for the Angels. Now he returns as the Yankees' skipper for a series that could captivate Japan if Shohei Ohtani bats against Masahiro Tanaka Saturday night. First, New York sends ace right-hander Luis Severino (4-1, 2.32 ERA) to the mound for Friday's 10:07 p.m. ET series opener, against left-hander Andrew Heaney (0-1, 9.64 ERA).

Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York.

New York Yankees, Dellin Betances, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez

Acuna hits first homer, leads Braves to win

Power, speed on display as top prospect has 3-hit game
MLB.com @mlbbowman

CINCINNATI -- Ronald Acuna Jr. wowed with his power and impressed with the speed he displayed as he provided a glimpse of his five-tool talents while leading the Braves to a 7-4 win over the Reds on Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.

Acuna notched his first career home run in impressive fashion to begin the second inning and then capped a three-hit performance with the game-winning bloop double he produced as the Braves regained the lead in the eighth and held on to split this four-game series.

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CINCINNATI -- Ronald Acuna Jr. wowed with his power and impressed with the speed he displayed as he provided a glimpse of his five-tool talents while leading the Braves to a 7-4 win over the Reds on Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.

Acuna notched his first career home run in impressive fashion to begin the second inning and then capped a three-hit performance with the game-winning bloop double he produced as the Braves regained the lead in the eighth and held on to split this four-game series.

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"It's always good to get that first homer," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He clocked that ball. But he just shows you what he brings. That set of legs is going to be really valuable for us, the way he can run around and how athletic he is. He definitely makes our club better."

Video: ATL@CIN: Acuna Jr. homers, tallies three hits in win

After Freddie Freeman recorded the last of his three doubles to begin the decisive eighth, Acuna got jammed on Wandy Peralta's first-pitch fastball, but still managed to direct it into no-man's land in shallow right field for a two-out RBI double. The 20-year-old phenom raced home when Dansby Swanson followed with a single.

Albies continues torrid hitting with 8th homer

"The real good ones make an immediate impact," Snitker said. "This kid has skills. He's an asset for us, whether he's batting, in the field or on the bases. It's nice to have him."

Acuna notched his first career hit during Wednesday's Major League debut and then experienced the thrill of his first homer when he opened Thursday's second inning by drilling Homer Bailey's 3-1 slider a projected 416 feet into the second deck located beyond the left-field seats. The majestic solo shot came in what was just the sixth career plate appearance for the young outfielder, who ranks as baseball's second-best prospect per MLB Pipeline.

Video: ATL@CIN: Albies makes nice basket-catch near the tarp

"It was truly a unique moment," Acuna said through an interpreter. "I really enjoyed being able to get my first home run in the big leagues. It was a once in a lifetime experience."

With the addition of Acuna, the Braves have enhanced the opportunities to produce the youthul, energetic brand of baseball that has been displayed as Swanson and 21-year-old Ozzie Albies have spent the season's first two months proving to be consistent offensive assets.

Ball hits directly off the knob of Suzuki's bat

Albies extended his power surge with the two-run homer he hit off Bailey in the fifth inning. The Braves second baseman is tied for the Major League lead with eight home runs. His ninth-inning RBI double increased his league-leading extra-base total to 19, a mark that had never previously been reached by the end of April by any Braves player.

Video: ATL@CIN: Albies skies a two-run home to right field

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bouncing back: Before issuing consecutive four-pitch walks to Phil Gosselin and Billy Hamilton with one out in the fifth, Sean Newcomb had retired 13 of 17 and encountered just one three-ball count. The free passes proved costly when he grooved a fastball that Joey Votto barrelled for a game-tying three-run homer in the fifth. But the Braves' southpaw regrouped and finished with a perfect sixth.

"I think it boils down to that Votto at-bat," Newcomb said. "Obviously, I missed with one pitch. Other than that, I felt I was in control. I just chalk it up to making a bad pitch to a great hitter."

Video: ATL@CIN: Newcomb strikes out Hamilton swinging

Early advantage: Freeman started the first three-double game of his career with the first-inning two-bagger he sent down the right-field line. Nick Markakis followed with two-out single for the Braves, who have produced a MLB-best .318 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Video: ATL@CIN: Markakis lines an RBI single to right field

SOUND SMART
Acuna (20 years, 129 days) and Albies (21 years, 109 days) both homered Thursday. According to MLB.com's Andrew Simon, the last time a pair of teammates both Albies' age or younger homered in the same game was on Sept. 23, 1978. Coincidentally, that instance also featured the Braves (Bob Horner, Glenn Hubbard) accomplishing the feat against the Reds.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Acuna got from home plate to first base at a pace of 30.4 feet per second when he recorded an infield single in the sixth. Twins center fielder Byron Buxton leads the Majors with an average sprint speed of 30.5 feet per second. 

Video: ATL@CIN: Acuna sprints to first in 4.12 seconds

HE SAID IT
"Atlanta is really playing good. They're doing a great job. I think they're really a force -- four or five guys in the middle of that lineup -- when they come up, we just didn't have any answers for them." -- Reds manager Jim Riggleman

UP NEXT
Julio Teheran will make his third start of the young season against the Phillies when the Braves open a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Teheran's nine strikeouts against the Phillies on April 16 stands as his highest total since 2016. He has a 1.42 ERA over his past three starts. Aaron Nola will start for the Phillies.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna Jr., Sean Newcomb

Dad 'stunned' to see son throwing with a Pirate

Ryan Payzant was in the middle of a conversation with a fellow baseball dad when he was told his son was "playing catch with a Pirate." He glanced over to see his 8-year-old, Colin, tossing the ball with Chad Kuhl.

Dee sparks 2-out rally with fastest triple of '18

Center fielder goes home to 3rd in 10.86 seconds as Mariners plate 3 in 3rd
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

CLEVELAND -- With Dee Gordon providing the speed on the fastest triple in the Majors this season, the Mariners jumped on Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger for three quick runs in a two-out, third-inning rally in Thursday's series opener at Progressive Field.

Clevinger retired the first eight Mariners in order before Seattle strung together four straight hits, including Gordon's first triple with his new club.

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CLEVELAND -- With Dee Gordon providing the speed on the fastest triple in the Majors this season, the Mariners jumped on Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger for three quick runs in a two-out, third-inning rally in Thursday's series opener at Progressive Field.

Clevinger retired the first eight Mariners in order before Seattle strung together four straight hits, including Gordon's first triple with his new club.

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The 30-year-old speedster was clocked at 10.86 seconds from home to third, the fastest time recorded by a Mariner since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. Jarrod Dyson had the previous fastest triple for Seattle: 10.92 seconds last year.

Gordon's fastest clocked triple was 10.80 seconds last season for the Marlins. He also had a 10.82-second effort in which he was thrown out at third.

The swift triple got Seattle on the board after Ryon Healy's two-out single on the first pitch he saw after coming off the 10-day disabled list. Jean Segura followed Gordon's triple with an RBI double and Robinson Cano made it 3-0 with a run-scoring single.

Video: SEA@CLE: Segura rips an RBI double to left in 3rd

Clevinger came into the game with a 2-0 record and 1.75 ERA after throwing a two-hit shutout at the Orioles in his last outing.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Robinson Cano, Dee Gordon, Jean Segura

Cron, Ramos pounce on Bundy with 2-run HRs

Special to MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- The Rays' recent power show continued early in the series finale with the Orioles on Thursday night as they hit two-run homers in each of the first two innings for a 4-0 lead.

C.J. Cron hit a two-run homer to center in the first after Denard Span led off with a walk, crushing a low pitch from right-hander Dylan Bundy.

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BALTIMORE -- The Rays' recent power show continued early in the series finale with the Orioles on Thursday night as they hit two-run homers in each of the first two innings for a 4-0 lead.

C.J. Cron hit a two-run homer to center in the first after Denard Span led off with a walk, crushing a low pitch from right-hander Dylan Bundy.

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In the second, Wilson Ramos belted his two-run homer to left after Joey Wendle led off with a double.

Video: Cron's two-run home run

The Rays, who entered Thursday on a five-game winning streak, have now hit nine homers in their past four games.

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com based in Baltimore.

Tampa Bay Rays, C.J. Cron, Wilson Ramos

Homers lift D-backs to 8th straight series win

Dyson, Ahmed, Peralta all went deep to back Koch's six-inning start
MLB.com @SteveGilbertMLB

PHILADELPHIA -- Before departing Citizens Bank Park late Wednesday night following a loss to the Phillies, D-backs left fielder David Peralta had a message for a reporter asking about how his team would respond the next day.

"We'll be ready," he said.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Before departing Citizens Bank Park late Wednesday night following a loss to the Phillies, D-backs left fielder David Peralta had a message for a reporter asking about how his team would respond the next day.

"We'll be ready," he said.

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The D-backs were in fact ready from the get-go Thursday afternoon as they rode a three-run first inning and a strong pitching performance from Matt Koch to an 8-2 win over the Phillies.

Video: ARI@PHI: Koch tosses six innings of two-run ball

With the win, the D-backs still have not lost consecutive games this year and they captured their eighth series to open the season. That is the most series wins to open a season by a National League team since the 1977 Dodgers won eight. The all-time NL record is held by the 1907 Cubs, who won their first 11 series, and the Mariners opened the 2001 season with nine.

"It's really fun to go into a town or be at home and win that first game and show up the second day with a chance to win the series," reliever Archie Bradley said. "We understand what it takes. We understand the situations. There's a moment in every game where we just understand getting to second or stealing that bag or whatever it is, that's kind of the moment that lets us take over the game."

The series wins have helped the D-backs get off to the best start in the NL at 17-7. Impressive, sure, but even more so when you consider that they are missing key pieces.

Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. has missed the whole year due to a right pectoral strain, third baseman Jake Lamb has played in just four games after spraining his left AC joint and Taijuan Walker has been lost for the season to Tommy John surgery.

Video: ARI@PHI: Peralta clubs a two-run shot to left field

"I was talking to Lamb last night through text messages and I was like, 'Dude, I just keep picturing a full lineup,'" Bradley said. "Nothing against the guys who are starting and playing now, but I think that's what everyone keeps saying. You look at the way we're winning, our starters, our bullpen, our defense.

"And, yeah, collectively we may not be hitting as a whole but we're hitting when we need to. With the way we've thrown the ball and the way we've played defense, it's exciting. If we're doing this with the guys now and we're missing two power hitters, what is the rest of the season going to play out to be?"

Video: ARI@PHI: Koch singles up the middle for first MLB hit

Jarrod Dyson and Chris Owings have filled in for Souza in right while Deven Marrero and Daniel Descalso have taken over for Lamb at third.

Koch has pitched in place of Walker twice and has a 1.93 ERA.

"We're missing Souza and Lamb, and those guys both hit 30 bombs [last year], so that's 60 bombs sitting on the DL right now," Dyson said. "Guys are just stepping up. You've got Deven stepping up, you've got Descalso stepping up, I've got to step up, C.O. doing his job. And that's all you can ask for."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Early blow: The D-backs struck first and they struck hard. After Peralta led off the game with a single off Ben Lively, Dyson smacked a homer over the wall in right, his second of the series, as the D-backs grabbed a quick 2-0 lead. It became 3-0 later in the frame and provided Koch with some early breathing room.

"We got off the mat from a tough loss last night," manager Torey Lovullo said. "We were prepared. We scored three runs. You jump ahead of a team like the Phillies and don't really let them catch their breath, and I thought we did a good job of that with Lively. I thought that was the difference in the game today."

Video: ARI@PHI: Ahmed belts a three-run homer to left field

SOUND SMART
Four runs seems to be the magic total for the D-backs these days. They are 15-1 dating back to Sept. 26, 2017, when they score four or more runs in a game.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Koch flashed some leather in the first inning when he snagged Odubel Herrera's smash up the middle. Koch reached behind his back with his glove and the ball found its way in there, and he was able to easily throw out Herrera at first.

Video: ARI@PHI: Koch reaches behind his back for nifty stop

HE SAID IT
"The guys come every day prepared, ready to win. So if you beat us, you beat us prepared. That's how we come in every day, and I love it so far because anybody can hurt you on any given day, and that's the fun part of this team." -- Dyson

UP NEXT
The D-backs open a three-game series with the Nationals on Friday at 4:05 p.m. MT at Nationals Park. Zack Godley will get the start for the D-backs opposite righty Stephen Strasburg. Godley won his last start against the Padres when he allowed a pair of runs in 5 1/3 innings. He has pitched well at Nationals Park, going 2-0 and not allowing a run in three games (one start) over 10 1/3 innings.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Dickerson hits walk-off HR after Nova dazzles

Outfielder's homer stands after review; first walk-off shot of career
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- When Clint Hurdle named Ivan Nova the Pirates' Opening Day starter this spring, he referred to the veteran right-hander as the "dean" of Pittsburgh's rotation. Nova was at his experienced, efficient best on Thursday afternoon, so Corey Dickerson knew what Nova needed from Pittsburgh's lineup.

"Score a run any way possible," Dickerson said.

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PITTSBURGH -- When Clint Hurdle named Ivan Nova the Pirates' Opening Day starter this spring, he referred to the veteran right-hander as the "dean" of Pittsburgh's rotation. Nova was at his experienced, efficient best on Thursday afternoon, so Corey Dickerson knew what Nova needed from Pittsburgh's lineup.

"Score a run any way possible," Dickerson said.

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Dickerson delivered the only run the Pirates needed, putting an end to a tense pitchers' duel at PNC Park by launching his first career walk-off home run to right field and giving the Bucs a 1-0 victory -- and a series win -- over the Tigers.

"It's a shot in the arm. We've been scuffling," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We win a series, and you get the dean on your staff to step up."

The Pirates entered Thursday having lost seven of their last nine games. They were physically worn out after splitting a doubleheader on Wednesday. But Nova took charge, firing eight scoreless innings and striking out five without a walk as he traded zeroes with Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer.

After a couple shaky starts to begin the season, Nova has rounded into form. He needed only 93 pitches to complete his best start of the season, and he has not issued a walk over his last four outings, all quality starts. During that stretch, he has lowered his ERA from 6.10 to 3.32.

"Nova was Nova today. When you see guys swinging and you see he's pitching in the eighth with 70-something pitches, that's Nova," catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "Make people swing. Keep the ball down. Be able to control corners and read hitters. That's him. He's getting better and better. He's back."

But Fulmer was just as stingy on the mound. After holding the Pirates to one run over eight innings on April 1, he struck out nine over six scoreless innings on Thursday. The Tigers had a golden opportunity to break the scoreless tie in the ninth, too, loading the bases with nobody out against Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez.

But Vazquez buckled down. He induced a grounder to third and an infield pop-up for the first two outs, and shortstop Sean Rodriguez made a sliding stop up the middle for the inning-ending forceout at second base. How did he manage to get out of it?

"I have no idea. I was just making pitches, like every one of us should do in that situation. Try to put the pitches in the right place," Vazquez said. "I don't even know how I got out. I was just trying to make the best pitches that I could and I got out of the inning, like probably magic or something."

Video: DET@PIT: Vazquez navigates a bases-loaded jam in 9th

That kept the game tied heading into the bottom of the ninth. Up came Dickerson with one out against reliever Alex Wilson. Dickerson blasted Wilson's second pitch into the right-field seats and, after a replay review determined there was no fan interference, went about celebrating the first walk-off homer of his Major League career.

"I'm glad it stood," Dickerson said. "It's a pretty cool experience."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Escape act: Nova defused one jam in the first inning, stranding Leonys Martin after a leadoff triple by inducing three consecutive groundouts. He walked out of another tight spot in the third, leaving Jose Iglesias on third base. But his most important escape act came in the sixth inning, when his fielding error and a Dixon Machado single put runners on the corners with one out and Miguel Cabrera due up. Cabrera hit a fastball back up the middle at 98.7 mph, according to Statcast™. Nova appeared to deflect the ball toward second baseman Adam Frazier, who flipped the ball to Rodriguez to start an inning-ending double play.

Video: DET@PIT: Nova retires Miggy, the side on double play

"No panic. You have [to think in your] mind that that run's not going to score," Nova said. "Just make one pitch and get the ground ball. … I was lucky enough to get that out."

Called out, thrown out: With two outs in the eighth inning, Frazier doubled and the Tigers intentionally walked Gregory Polanco. Starling Marte hit a grounder to third baseman Niko Goodrum, who attempted to tag Frazier on his way to third. Frazier avoided the tag, and Cabrera couldn't wrangle Goodrum's throw to first, seemingly loading the bases. But second-base umpire Mike Winters, the crew chief, overruled third-base umpire Tim Timmons to say that Frazier ran out of the baseline and was therefore out. Hurdle argued the call with Winters and was ejected for the first time this season.

Video: DET@PIT: Hurdle ejected for arguing call on the bases

 "I didn't like the call," Hurdle said. "What confuses me is maybe you've got to look to see if the guy's out or safe at first before you make the call at third, I don't know. But the angle -- he said he's all over it. I just don't think he's all over it. He's the ump. He made the call. The call stuck.

"The other hard part for us is we've seen Josh Harrison get out of some things. If you watch the replays of that and he's not out of the baseline, you watch the replay of this and he's out of the baseline, I think it goes back to interpretation. That's the hard part."

SOUND SMART
Since the start of the 2014 season, there have been seven games in which a team won, 1-0, on a walk-off home run. The Pirates now have three of those wins. Neil Walker walked off against the Cubs on March 31, 2014. Harrison did so on Aug. 23, 2017, ending Rich Hill's no-hit bid in the 10th inning. Dickerson rounded out the group on Thursday.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
On Wednesday night, Rodriguez robbed the Tigers of a run with a running grab at the warning track in left field. He was back at it on Thursday afternoon, this time from the shortstop position. With one out in the fifth inning, Rodriguez ranged back and over to the left-field line, diving to snag Victor Reyes' pop-up for the second out of the inning.

"I didn't think he was going to have it, to be honest," Nova said, "but the guy hustled and he got it."

According to Statcast™, Rodriguez ran 107 feet to make the play, his second-longest run for an out this season.

Video: DET@PIT: Rodriguez lays out for terrific diving grab

HE SAID IT
"Nova pitched unbelievable today. He got out of a lot of jams. He's a smart pitcher, calm pitcher. Great composure. We definitely wanted to feed off that. We needed to get a run over for him. He pitched a heck of a ballgame."-- Dickerson

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Dickerson's towering walk-off home run was almost for naught when the Tigers used a challenge to see if the fan who caught the ball committed interference by reaching over the right-field wall. However, after a quick review, the replay official could not definitively determine that the ball would have remained in play had no contact with the spectator occurred, so the call stood, and the Pirates' celebration continued.

Video: DET@PIT: Home run call stands on Dickerson's walk-off

UP NEXT
Left-hander Steven Brault will take the mound at PNC Park as the Pirates begin their first series of the season against the National League Central rival Cardinals on Friday. Brault will face Cardinals newcomer Miles Mikolas, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Corey Dickerson, Ivan Nova

Steve Kerr once threw a gem at Dodger Stadium -- until Bret Saberhagen's team dropped eight runs on him

Warriors coach Steve Kerr has a knack for entertaining, whether on the court or off it.

In addition to an envy-inspiring run as an NBA player (winning five NBA Finals, three with Michael Jordan and the Bulls and two with the Spurs), he's been a color analyst -- not to mention his current run with the Warriors, with whom he's won two NBA titles since 2014. 

Holt exits with left hamstring tightness

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

TORONTO -- In his final night filling in for Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, Red Sox infielder Brock Holt exited Thursday's series finale vs. the Blue Jays with a tight left hamstring after pulling into second on a double in the top of the third inning at Rogers Centre.

Holt grabbed his hamstring and tried to see if he could loosen it up, but he had to come out of the game.

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TORONTO -- In his final night filling in for Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, Red Sox infielder Brock Holt exited Thursday's series finale vs. the Blue Jays with a tight left hamstring after pulling into second on a double in the top of the third inning at Rogers Centre.

Holt grabbed his hamstring and tried to see if he could loosen it up, but he had to come out of the game.

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Tzu-Wei Lin ran for Holt and replaced him at shortstop.

Bogaerts will be activated from the disabled list for Friday night's game against the Rays. Lin was the likely candidate to be optioned, but that could change if Holt is forced to miss time.

Holt had been on fire of late, going 7-for-11 in this three-game series against the Blue Jays.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Brock Holt

Renteria to miss 3 games for mother's funeral

Special to MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- White Sox manager Rick Renteria will be away from the team Friday and Saturday to attend funeral services for his mother, Angela, who passed away Wednesday at 91.

The services will be in Austin, Texas.

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KANSAS CITY -- White Sox manager Rick Renteria will be away from the team Friday and Saturday to attend funeral services for his mother, Angela, who passed away Wednesday at 91.

The services will be in Austin, Texas.

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Bench coach Joe McEwing will step in as acting manager for Friday's game and Saturday's doubleheader.

The White Sox tweeted late Thursday afternoon: "Our sympathies go out to Ricky and the entire Renteria family."

Tweet from @whitesox: We are saddened to learn that Ricky Renteria���s mother, Angela, 91, passed away Wednesday. Renteria will miss games Friday and Saturday while he attends services in Austin, Texas, and will rejoin the team on Sunday. Our sympathies go out to Ricky and the entire Renteria family.

"It's a difficult time," Renteria said Thursday, requesting that the conversation not include his personal matters.

Thinking of Farquhar

The White Sox received T-shirts Thursday with "Pray for 43" written across the chest and "For Danny" on the left sleeve. The shirts were created in response to the ruptured aneurysm that Danny Farquhar suffered a week ago.

"We've had him in our prayers," outfielder Nicky Delmonico said. "We go out there and play for him every day."

Renteria offered encouraging news about Farquhar on Thursday.

"We're happy to report that he's moving in a positive direction," Renteria said.

Tweet from @whitesox: New clubhouse t-shirts. ������ pic.twitter.com/hkQBKKTCnI

Renteria said the shirts are another show of support from the White Sox family for Farquhar.

"They want him to know they are thinking about him," Renteria said. "At this point, it's their show of love for a teammate."

Worth noting

• The White Sox didn't have their full complement of players as they opened Thursday's game against the Royals. Delmonico was originally in the lineup, but had to be scratched because of a stiff neck.

Jose Abreu didn't start Thursday because of stomach flu symptoms, but Renteria said Abreu was available to pinch-hit.

• The White Sox have outrighted first baseman Casey Gillaspie to Triple-A Charlotte. Chicago's 40-man roster now stands at 39.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com based in Kansas City.

Chicago White Sox, Danny Farquhar

Bryant out of Cubs' lineup for 3rd straight game

Third baseman remains day to day after being hit in head Sunday
Special to MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant remains day to day, as he was again out of the lineup for Thursday's series opener against the Brewers after being hit in the head by a 96-mph fastball on Sunday in Colorado.

Bryant, who is missing his third straight game, participated in on-field pregame activities, and manager Joe Maddon said he was waiting to hear whether Bryant might be available off the bench. Maddon reiterated that he does not believe Bryant's condition is serious, but the club is waiting for "everyone to be on board" before returning him to the lineup.

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CHICAGO -- Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant remains day to day, as he was again out of the lineup for Thursday's series opener against the Brewers after being hit in the head by a 96-mph fastball on Sunday in Colorado.

Bryant, who is missing his third straight game, participated in on-field pregame activities, and manager Joe Maddon said he was waiting to hear whether Bryant might be available off the bench. Maddon reiterated that he does not believe Bryant's condition is serious, but the club is waiting for "everyone to be on board" before returning him to the lineup.

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Tommy La Stella started at third base in Bryant's place.

Maddon admitted that not having Bryant available hurts the team's offense. Entering Thursday, the Cubs were batting .324 and averaging 9.5 runs per game in their 11 wins, while hitting just .181 and averaging just 1.7 runs per game in their 10 losses.

Bryant is batting .319 with two home runs and 11 RBIs.

"It's just different. It's hard to maintain a level of high success when you're missing guys like that," Maddon said. "You can battle through it briefly, but in the long term, you definitely don't want to lose him for a long period of time."

First baseman Anthony Rizzo said Bryant "seems good" considering how hard Bryant was hit.

"It's a scary thing," Rizzo said.

Maddon said he won't talk to Bryant about the third baseman's experience of being hit in the head, which the manager characterized as "personal." Maddon would rather Bryant speak to people who have experienced being hit in the head, if he chooses.

Maddon added that he prefers to allow Bryant to work through how he is feeling and handle getting back in the batter's box his own way.

"I'm listening to what his needs are right now," Maddon said. "I'm making sure that the medical procedures are being followed so that we do everything right. It's never going to be a unilateral decision on my part to insist that he plays, ever. I'm listening to K.B., the doctors, trying to do the right things and get him back out there. It's early. I really feel strongly that he's going to be fine, but I don't want to push it."

Jeff Arnold is a contributor to MLB.com.

Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant

A's option Opening Day starter Graveman

A's also send Bassitt to Triple-A; Font added to 25-man roster
MLB.com @DKramer_