Pittsburgh Pirates right-handed pitcher Nick Kingham made his major league debut against the St. Louis Cardinals last Sunday afternoon, April 29, and walked away with a 5-0 victory, striking out nine and retiring the first 20 batters that he faced. He was only the second pitcher in a century to perform that feat joining San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto. Cueto did it as a member of the Cincinnati Reds in 2008. Kingham retired 20 straight batters before the Cardinals’ Paul Dejong singled with two down in the seventh inning. In 2014, Kingham was ranked by Baseball America as the fifth-best pitching prospect and as having the “best changeup” and the “best control” in the system. Kingham underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, and missed the entire 2016 season as well. He came back and won 10 games in the minors in 2017. As I watched Kingham pitch in the sixth inning in his Major League debut, I thought how lucky I was to be there covering and seeing this possible phenomenon unfolding. I have seen many pitchers perform during my coverage of MLB but I have seen very few with the total repertoire of pitches that Nick Kingham possesses and controls with a quiet nastiness and swagger. If he remains healthy we all may end up asking the question: “Gerrit who?”
For the Pens, it’s easier said than done
Last Sunday, April 29, the Pittsburgh Penguins invaded the Capital One Arena to face a Washington Capitals team that was staggering a bit more than swaggering: the Pens lost by a score of 4-1. But alas, ya know what? There is nothing like a few suspect calls and a few dirty plays to raise the confidence level and the spirit of Washington’s “homeboys’” of hockey. Let’s look at a disallowed goal that the Penguins thought they scored in the third period, a play that Stevie Wonder could have correctly ruled on in less time than it took for the NHL refs to issue an incorrect ruling. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan had this to say regarding the complete home town-based fiasco of a ruling. “My view was that it’s 100 percent a goal. When you blow it up, you can see the white (between the goal line and the puck). It’s behind the post. Whether you use deductive reasoning or you can see the white, whatever it may be, that’s how we saw it. We respectfully disagree with the league and their ruling, but that’s not anything that we can control.”
Just in case the NHL wants to levy a few fines against Sullivan for doubting the “sanctity” of the refs, I suggest that the league also form a line to levy a fine against the brain surgeons that blew, intentionally or unintentionally, such an obvious call. Here was another blown call or non-call by the “zebras” in the first period that was suspect as well. The Capitals’ Brett Connolly made contact with Penguins goalie Matt Murray. That contact allowed Jakub Vrana to score a power-play goal to make the score 2-0. The Penguins challenged the score based on goalie interference but again the refs issued a ruling that said, “The actions of Connolly did not impair Matt Murray’s ability to defend his goal.”
Last but not least, the Caps continued to press and attack Murray’s glove side. Does this mean that Murray (the only goaltender to win two Stanley Cups as a rookie) needs a bigger or different glove combined with a possible change in contact lenses or both? How ‘bout neither.
But hey, accomplishing a three-peat is often easier said than done. I didn’t know the refs would make it that much harder.
(Aubrey Bruce: email@example.com.)
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