Gerrit Cole has been unbelievable in two starts

Former Pirate Gerrit Cole (1-0, 0.64 ERA) through two starts with the Houston Astros, is looking everything the Pirates imagined/hoped he was going to be when they took him 1st overall in the 2011 draft.

Cole was dominant again Saturday night in his first home start as an Astro, striking out 11 for the second straight this season. Cole allowed 0 runs and 5 hits.

Cole in two starts has a K/BB ratio of 22/3.

The swing and miss stuff has been at a level never seen from Cole before as the Astros have found something the Pirates couldn’t with Cole in developing a 3rd and 4th pitch.

From the Houston Chronicle:

[It’s a small sample size, mind you, but after two starts it’d be hard to argue that he’s not the team’s best starter right now..Nineteen of his 102 pitches were swung upon and missed on Saturday, two fewer than the career-high he got against the Rangers.]

“They were pretty mirror images of each other,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He was so good and so dominant and very under control. I love the way that he thinks his way through the game and also executes the game plan. If he doesn’t like a pitch, he stepped off a couple of times. He’s just a very, very impressive, high-end starting pitcher.”

 

NHL: Rangers fire Alain Vigneault

In the midst of starting a quick rebuild/re-tool, the New York Rangers have fired head coach Alain Vigneault.

Vigneault prior to the Rangers season ending loss to the Flyers, made a plea that he deserved to return and that the Rangers coaching staff was one of the organizations biggest strengths. He had multiple years left on his contract with a $4 million a year salary.

Rangers management ultimately decided Vigneault was not the right fit for the Rangers mini-rebuild as always, coaches have expiration dates.

From Press Release: Vigneault served as the Rangers Head Coach for five seasons (2013-14 – 2017-18) after he was named the 34th Head Coach in franchise history on June 21, 2013. In 410 regular season games with the Rangers, Vigneault posted a 226-147-37 record. He ranks third among head coaches in wins and ranks fourth in games coached in franchise history. During his tenure, the Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with the team in 2013-14 and captured the Presidents’ Trophy in 2014-15 for posting the top record in the NHL during the regular season.

 

Pirates are off to 3-0 start

Pirates take Doubleheader from Tigers

G1: Pirates 1 – Tigers 0
W: T.Williams (1-0)
L: M. Fulmer (0-1)
S: Felipe Rivero (1)
PIT Leaders
J. Bell | 2-4, 2B
G. Polanco | 1-3, 2B, RBI
T. Williams | 6 IP – 1 K – 5 BB


G2: Pirates 8 – Tigers 6
W: C. Kuhl (1-0)
L: B. Farmer (0-1)
S: F. Rivero (2)
PIT Leaders
J. Harrison | 3-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2B
D. Freese | 2-4, HR, 2 RBI
S. Marte | 1-2, HR, RBI, BB, 2 R
E. Diaz | 2-4


The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a 3-0 start to the 2018 season.

The 3-0 start might be against a projected bottom-cellar in the AL but this is the exact type of start the Pirates needed in trying to change the narrative where the Pirates got crushed from every angle this winter in acting like an organization that isn’t trying to win now.

There is at least some excitement heading into Monday’s home opener against the Twins.

Off the heels of a thrilling 13-10 win Friday afternoon in the season opener, the Pirates took the first game of a doubleheader today 1-0 vs the Tigers as Trevor Williams was pulled with a no-hitter after six innings and the Pirates bullpen closed to the door to combine for the 1-0 shutout win.

The Pirates bats awoken in the second game of the doubleheader with an 8-6 win to sweep the series.

Josh Harrison had a big night in going 3-5 with a home run, 2 RBIs and a double. David Freese and Starling Marte also homered.
Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

 

Pitt lures Jeff Capel from Duke to become new Mens’ basketball head coach

The University of Pittsburgh will name Duke’s Jeff Capel as their new Mens’ basketball coach at a 12:00 p.m. press conference on Wednesday.

Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

Final Take: For a coaching search that even Pitt officials weren’t sure where it was headed, Heather Lyke and her staff did very well in adjusting on the go from Plan-A to Plan-B and such.

The primary focus early in the process was seeing if they could lure a high pedigree head coach to Pitt and when that became bright and clear it wasn’t going to happen, the final conclusion of the search shows there wasn’t a panic in making a get anybody hiring like Mark Schmidt would have been.

This was about as good as you could do in landing a top level assistant like Capel from a major program in Duke. With Lyke not willing to entertain Sean Miller despite immense pressure from people financially who matter more than just about anyone at the university, the search in the last week is said to have focused on Capel and Buffalo’s Nate Oats who was a favorite among many, but Oats took himself out of the mix late last week a source says.

Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
 

PITT Coaching Search: Dan Hurley Heads to UConn

Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley has been named the new men’s basketball coach at UConn, the school announced Thursday.

Hurley received a six-year deal, ESPN reports.

Hurley, 45, was Pitt’s top target in their coaching search but reality is Hurley was never coming to Pitt and the Panthers offer of at least $3.3 million per season didn’t change anything other than making UConn come up on their initial offer which is said to have been around $2.5 million per season.

Where Pitt goes from here remains to be seen but the school has known for days that getting Hurley was a hail mary.

Former Ohio State coach Thad Matta has long been a favorite of Heather Lyke but Pitt officials have had trouble getting Matta to consider the job. Matta turned down an offer from Georgia last week who then went on to hire Tom Crean, another coaching candidate on Pitt’s initial list Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

 

Crosby scores dazzling goal, Guentzel shines late to close out Habs 5-3

Penguins 5 – Canadiens 3

PIT GAME LEADERS
Jake Guentzel | Goal (21), 2 Assist
Sidney Crosby | Goal (24), Assist
Evgeni Malkin | Goal (41), Assist
Derick Brassard | Goal (20, GWG)
Phil Kessel | 2 Assists
Casey DeSmith | 27 Saves, .900 SV%


CROSBY’s MOMENTUM CHANGING GOAL

The Pittsburgh blew a 2-0 lead and trailed 3-2 late in the second period against the lowly Montreal Canadiens until a dazzling goal from Sidney Crosby tied the game at 3-3 with 4:58 left in the period and Pittsburgh re-took control of the game in a 5-3 victory over the Canadiens on Wednesday night at the PPG Paints Arena.

Crosby’s 24th of the season was certainly a top-10 goal of his career from a highlight reel standpoint and it was a goal in a big situation, scoring 38 seconds after the Canadiens went up 3-2 as Pittsburgh was potentially heading into another situation of handing a game to another bad opponent which has been a theme over the last week.

“It was a huge goal for us,” Mike Sullivan said. “To go in after two periods with a tie game was really important for us.”


BRASSARD, GUENTZEL CLOSE OUT THE GAME

Derick Brassard scored 2:38 into the third period, scoring a blistering goal from the slot on the power play off a setup from Jake Guentzel for his 20th of the season to put the Penguins ahead 4-3 and then Guentzel closed the game out with a 1:33 remaining, beating Carey Price blocker side to cap off a three point night.

The Brassard game winning goal was a needed one for him. It was just his second goal as a Penguin but he is on a four game points streak now. The Penguins coaches, though, want to tap in to that goal scoring ability more for Brassard.

He can bury the puck from goal scorer areas and Mike Sullivan said afterwards he would like to find more minutes for Brassard.

“Quite honestly I’d like to find him more minutes in the game,” Sullivan said of Brassard.


TAKEAWAYS

Jake Guentzel had a very strong night in closing out the game. He factored in on the final three goals of the game, picking up 2 primary assists and the late goal. His play away from the puck was also fantastic vs the Canadiens.

Pittsburgh’s top line was at 60% in driving possession in the win.


Sidney Crosby’s spectacular goal was just his 24th goal in 74 games this season as it’s gone a bit unnoticed of the significant dip he’s had in goal scoring production this season.

Crosby last season had 44 goals in 75 games.


Evgeni Malkin with a goal and assist in the win is now up to 41 goals and 50 assists on the season. His 91 points is the highest scoring season from a Penguin since Sidney Crosby’s 104 points season in 2013-2014, the last season of the Dan Bylsma era.

Quite crazy when you’re talking about Evgeni Malkin, but this is also the first season Malkin has topped more than 72 points in a season since 2011-2012.


Casey DeSmith earned his 5th win of the season and as he’s been most nights he’s been good enough to put the Penguins in position to win.

What’s interesting with the backup goaltender situation is while the Penguins obviously don’t have a Marc Andre Fleury behind Matt Murray to go to in the playoffs if needed, which could become problematic if another injury to Matt Murray happens, Pittsburgh has actually received slightly better backup goaltending during the regular season with the combo of DeSmith/Jarry then they did last season where Fleury had a very mediocre regular season before his game took off in the playoffs.

Casey DeSmith | 5-4-1, .913 SV%, .262 GAA
Tristan Jarry | 14-6-2, 2.77 GAA, .908 Sv%
Marc Andre Fleury last season: 18-10-7, 3.02 GAA, .909 SV%

Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
 

Steelers near impact signing with safety Morgan Burnett

Morgan Burnett (6-1, 210)
Age 29 | Experience: 8 years
Previous Contract: 4 years – $24.75 million
2017 Stats: 12 GP | 68 total tackles, 1 FF |

The Pittsburgh Steelers are making their biggest splash in free agency, agreeing to terms on a deal with 29 year old safety Morgan Burnett, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. It was first reported Monday night by NFL Network.

Burnett is scheduled to take a physical with the Steelers today, Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

Strengths/Fit

Burnett has been tabbed as a potential great fit for the Steelers since the start of free agency because of his versatility. He can play anywhere and possesses the type of versatility the Steelers haven’t had from a safety since Troy Polamalu in that you can play Burnett in the slot to right around the line of scrimmage.

Burnett’s biggest strength is that he’s a top run supporting safety.

Where the mixed reviews center around Burnett from his play last season is whether his coverage ability has started to slip at his age.

He allowed a 127 passing rating in 2017, Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

 

Penguins commit to Casey DeSmith as No. 2 goaltender

The Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday re-assigned goaltender Tristan Jarry to Wilkes Barre/Scranton, paving the way for Matt Murray to return this week and likely start vs the New York Islanders tonight.

Barring another injury to Matt Murray, the reassignment of Jarry to the minors will be more of a permanent basis for the rest of the season.

The Penguins are committing to Casey DeSmith as the No. 2 goaltender Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"