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Robinson Cano leads Seattle Mariners past Houston Astros

By MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange   |   May 6, 2016 at 2:39 AM
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HOUSTON -- It was Robinson Cano who delivered in the third inning to erase an early deficit and set the stage for a back-and-forth affair between the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros.

Granted another opportunity to produce in the clutch in the ninth inning, Cano came through again.

Cano drilled a bases-clearing double to straightaway center field in the ninth to cap Seattle's second rally against Houston's bullpen in a 6-3 victory on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.

Cano finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs and landed the knockout blow against Astros closer Luke Gregerson (0-1), who staggered in allowing two singles and a walk before facing Cano. When Gregerson grooved a cut fastball down the heart of the plate, Cano knew just how to handle it.

"I was ready," Cano said. "That's a situation where I would say if I was a pitcher, I don't want to face Nelson (Cruz) or myself. In that situation as a hitter, you've got to get ready to see a pitch over the plate because he's (got) one nasty cutter, slider and sinker. Everything moves. So I was ready for the first pitch, something over the plate, and (to) be able to hit the ball out of the infield."

Two innings before Cano closed the book on the comeback, right fielder Seth Smith keyed the initial rally against the Houston (10-19) bullpen.

Smith laced a two-run single off Astros left-hander Tony Sipp to lift the Mariners to a 3-2 lead. Houston rookie starter Chris Devenski departed with a 2-1 advantage, but Ken Giles allowed the two baserunners that scored in the seventh before Gregerson faltered later.

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve again was a one-man wrecking crew, finishing 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. He erased the 3-2 deficit with an RBI double in the seventh, but the Astros squandered an opportunity to reclaim the lead when third base coach Gary Pettis waved home slow-footed Jason Castro on the Altuve drive to center.

Castro was on first when Altuve delivered his hit off Nick Vincent (2-1) and was easily erased at the plate for the second out of the inning.

"Gary's right virtually all the time, so I certainly can't fault him for a play that they had to make a 430-foot relay to (retire) him," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Castro ran hard. I'll have to look at the video to see exactly how it broke down as to where he was when they got the ball."

Devenski labored, retiring the Mariners in order only in the fourth inning once while dodging significant threats in the second, fifth and sixth.

In the third after he allowed the RBI single to Cano, Devenski needed a fabulous defensive play from right fielder George Springer to limit the damage. Springer made a sprawling grab of Nelson Cruz's line drive to preserve the tie as Devenski stranded two base runners to conclude that threat.

"Starting to feel better," Devenski said. "Feel like myself. Got a little hectic but things are working well."

Altuve belted his sixth leadoff home run this season just two off the club record -- to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. He scored the second run when Evan Gattis slapped a two-out RBI single off Wade Miley in the sixth, a rally-salvaging hit after Altuve and Springer reached with no outs before Carlos Correa rolled into a double play.

Miley was solid, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six innings. He gave the Mariners precisely what they required, his problems with the scorching Altuve notwithstanding.

"He's really good - he's really hot right now," Miley said. "He's good regardless but he's seeing the ball well. Other than that I felt pretty good."

NOTES: Astros LF Jake Marisnick was recalled from Triple-A Fresno and batted ninth in the order. With Colby Rasmus slumping and the Astros in need of another right-handed bat to balance their roster, Marisnick ended his short stint with the Grizzlies having compiled only 28 plate appearances. ... Mariners RHP Tony Zych underwent an examination of his right shoulder and the results revealed inflammation but no structural damage. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 3 with right rotator cuff tendinitis and will be sidelined for at least four weeks. ... Astros 2B Jose Altuve was leading the major leagues in steals (10) and doubles (13). The last player to lead the majors in both categories for a full season was Cardinals OF Lou Brock (62 steals, 46 doubles) in 1968.

© 2016 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.

Toronto Raptors top Miami Heat in OT despite guards' woes

By Dhiren Mahiban, The Sports Xchange   |   May 6, 2016 at 2:38 AM

TORONTO -- With All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan continuing to struggle, the Toronto Raptors are forced to find other ways to win.

On Thursday night, it was forward DeMarre Carroll stepping up with a game-high 21 points as the Raptors defeated the Miami Heat 96-92 in overtime.

The Raptors evened the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series at one game apiece. The series moves to Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena for Game 3 on Saturday.

"I'm encouraged; we've got to take it," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "We're finding other ways to win, that's very encouraging. We've got to continue to grow with them, find ways to help them and hopefully get their rhythm."

DeRozan and Lowry combined to go 16-for-46 from the field. DeRozan, who had his right thumb taped up after jamming it in Game 1, shot an uncharacteristically low 2-for-8 from the foul line. He finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.

"It's been ugly," DeRozan said with a laugh. "But when we do (play our game), I'm pretty sure you're going to know. It's a grind, honestly. We knew none of this was going to be pretty. None of this was going to come out pretty.

"As long as we can come out with a 'W,' it really doesn't matter how we play, but it's going to come."

Lowry chipped in 18 points and six assists. He shot 7-for-22 from the floor, 1-for-7 from 3-point range and 3-for-6 on free throws.

Goran Dragic topped Miami with 20 points, while Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson had 17 points each in the loss. Hassan Whiteside contributed 13 points and 13 rebounds.

"The second half, I thought we were aggressive, I thought we were making some good defensive plays," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Then the last four or five minutes, they made (big) plays."

Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas had nine fourth-quarter points to help erase what was once a seven-point Heat lead. Lowry then scored back-to-back Raptors baskets, sandwiching a Wade 3-pointer, to give Toronto an 86-83 lead, but Dragic hit a 3-pointer with 10.5 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Lowry fired an airball on a long 3-point attempt at the regulation buzzer.

Miami outscored Toronto 24-15 in the third quarter, closing on a 13-2 run to take a 65-63 lead into the fourth. The Heat shot 11-for-16 from the field in the third, while the Raptors hit just six of 20.

With Dragic in foul trouble, Johnson led the way with nine points while Wade added eight in the period.

Carroll scored 12 first-half points, including a nice give-and-go with Valanciunas to round out the half, giving the Raptors a 48-41 lead at the break.

"(Carroll) was the savoir tonight offensively," Casey said of the forward who missed 41 regular-season games due to a knee injury and played just three of the final five regular-season games after returning.

"He's just now getting his game conditioning back, getting in the rhythm, he's still feeling his way in certain situations as far as getting grooving with the offense," Casey added. "He's just now coming around."

Whiteside helped cut what was once a 14-point Raptors lead down to seven with 10 first-half points. Johnson scored seven of the final nine Heat points in the second quarter, and he had eight at halftime.

Dragic, who had a team-high 11 points through two quarters, left the game with less than four minutes remaining in the second quarter with a lower lip laceration after taking a DeRozan elbow to the chin.

According to the team, Dragic received three stitches on the inside of his lip and five on the outside. A bottom teeth went through his lip during contact.

The Heat matched a franchise worst by committing 11 first-quarter turnovers, helping the Raptors to a 29-19 lead after one period. Toronto scored 14 points off Miami's first-quarter giveaways.

"I feel like if we don't turn the ball over 20-something times, we're going to be fine," Wade said. "The offense was fine. We can't keep giving up 20 turnovers a game. That limits us a lot."

NOTES: F Chris Bosh, who spent his first seven seasons in Toronto, will not play again this season, the Heat announced. The 32-year-old veteran has not played since the All-Star break after a blood clot was discovered in his left leg. ... Raptors G DeMar DeRozan wore a wrap on his right thumb, which he sprained late in Game 1, but he remained in the starting lineup. ... Toronto's offense during the playoffs ranked among the worst in points per game (92.8), field goal percentage (.401), 3-point percentage (.278) and turnovers (14) entering Game 2.

© 2016 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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