The Daily Bender: April 27 Cover Image
The Daily Bender: April 27
Howard Bender
Sonny Gray Headshot

Gray (back) was dominant in his rehab outing Thursday and could rejoin Oakland's rotation as soon as Tuesday, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. He allowed two hits and no walks while striking out seven batters over 6.0 innings.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from Thursday's outing was Gray sitting 94 with his fastball and locating it extremely well. His seven strikeouts in 6.0 innings back up that notion, as does the fact that he didn't register a walk. Gray is now lined up to start Tuesday in Minnesota, but Slusser notes that the team's off-day Monday affords the A's the luxury of waiting until Wednesday to activate him.
12:50 am (EST)
Christian Bethancourt Headshot

Bethancourt will focus on pitching while at Triple-A El Paso, Dennis Lin of the Union-Tribune reports.

The Padres outrighted Bethancourt off the 40-man roster Tuesday after his struggles as both a reliever and as a hitter while with the big league club. According to Lin, Bethancourt will leave open the possibility of going back behind the plate down the line, but wants to train primarily as a pitcher for the time being. Bethancourt has strong velocity on his fastball, sitting at 94.1 miles per hour, but he'll need time to hone in on his command. He walked a whopping eight batters in just 3.2 innings while with the Padres, but it's clear that the organization is confident enough in his upside to where they believe he can develop as a pitcher down the line.
12:34 am (EST)
Steve Selsky Headshot

Selsky was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday, Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe reports.

With Chase d'Arnaud being claimed Thursday, the Red Sox had to make a 25-man roster move to clear a spot. Selsky had appeared in just three games since April 16 and hadn't made a start since April 9 even with Boston's rash of infield injuries. He'll head down to Pawtucket, where he figures to see much more regular playing time.
12:02 am (EST)
Alex Ovechkin Headshot

Ovechkin potted his fourth goal of the playoffs in Thursday's 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Penguins.

Ovechkin ended Marc-Andre Fleury's shutout bid with 1:43 to play in the second period after Sidney Crosby had also reached the four-goal mark by potting two earlier in the frame. The pair find themselves among a group of seven players tied for second in goals behind Jake Guentzel's five. Ovie had been held off the scoresheet in each of his last two appearances, and is still looking for his first assist of the postseason.
Yesterday 11:54 pm (EST)
Patric Hornqvist Headshot

Hornqvist dished out two helpers in Thursday's 3-2 Game 1 win over the Capitals.

Horqnvist's helpers both came courtesy of Sidney Crosby just 52 seconds apart in the second period. His plus-2 rating in this one gives the Swedish power forward a plus-4 mark through six playoff contests to go along with two goals and three assists.
Yesterday 11:43 pm (EST)
Khris Middleton Headshot

Middleton (illness) contributed 19 points (6-13 FG, 3-5 3Pt, 4-7 FT), five assists, four rebounds and two steals across 42 minutes during Thursday's 92-89 Game 6 loss to the Raptors.

Battling an illness, Middleton managed to be the Bucks' second-leading scorer behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, who dropped 34 points. Though Middleton played well during Game 6's loss, he ultimately struggled to find his footing throughout the series, shooting just 38.5 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from behind the arc coming into Thursday. That being said, Middleton had a productive 29-game regular season after returning from a torn hamstring, producing 14.7 points across 30.7 minutes per game while knocking down a career-high 43.3 percent of his shots from distance.
Yesterday 11:38 pm (EST)
Braden Holtby Headshot

Holtby stopped 18 shots in Thursday's 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Penguins.

Less than five minutes after his team finally dug out of the hole created by a pair of early second-period Sidney Crosby goals, Holtby surrendered the third-period winner to Nick Bonino. Holtby's .857 save percentage tied for his worst mark of the postseason while lowering his total through seven games to .919. There's nothing wrong with a .919 save percentage, but that number pales in comparison to the 27-year-old's .935 career postseason mark.
Yesterday 11:38 pm (EST)
Giannis Antetokounmpo Headshot

Antetokounmpo provided 34 points (13-23 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 7-13 FT), nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks across 47 minutes during Thursday's 92-89 Game 6 loss to the Raptors.

Antetokounmpo played all but one minute during Thursday's game, dominating on both sides of the ball on route to a new career high in playoff points in a game. Though he played with intensity and dominance, the Bucks ultimately couldn't get the victory as the Greek Freak struggled with his free-throws down the stretch. That being said, only two other players scored in double figures for Milwaukee -- Khris Middleton with 19 and Matthew Dellavedova with 12. Antetokounmpo's struggles from the charity stripe in Game 6 aside, he ultimately had not only a coming out party this series, but for the whole season. He finished the 2016-17 campaign averaging 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.6 steals while shooting 52.1 percent from the field across 35.6 minutes per game -- certainly worthy of Most Improved Player consideration.
Yesterday 11:31 pm (EST)
Sidney Crosby Headshot

Crosby scored twice in Thursday's series opener against the Capitals.

Crosby's two goals were instrumental in this 3-2 road win. Both came at even strength in the first 1:04 of the second period, as this battle of top-five regular season power-play units surprisingly produced zero goals on special teams. Crosby now has four goals and five assists over the past five games after being held off the scoresheet in his 2017 postseason debut.
Yesterday 11:27 pm (EST)
Serge Ibaka Headshot

Ibaka finished with seven points (2-7 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 2-2 FT), 11 rebounds and two blocks across 31 minutes during Thursday's 92-89 Game 6 victory over the Bucks.

Though Ibaka struggled to find good looks and knock them down, he was the game's leading rebounder with 11 boards -- his best performance on the glass since Game 1, where he ripped down 14 rebounds. Ibaka also feasted on Milwaukee's lack of perimeter shooting throughout the series, averaging 2.4 blocks coming into Thursday's contest, where he swatted two shots. Depending on how coach Dwane Casey addresses the starting lineup during the Raptors' next series against the Cavaliers, he could be faced up against a tough offensive opponent in Kevin Love. Though, if coach Casey opts to keep rolling with Ibaka at center, he could be matched up against Tristan Thompson. Regardless, Ibaka will be forced to protect the glass, as both players are top-tier rebounding presences. Game 1 tips off Monday.
Yesterday 11:22 pm (EST)
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