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Vickers Takes Advantage; Pirates, Reds Head Into All-Star Break

Reported by: Send eMail Associated Press
Videographer: TNT Sports; MLB
July 14, 2013

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LOUDON, N.H. -- Stuck in a hospital bed, Brian Vickers wanted to live another day.

Once he recovered, he hungered for a competitive ride.

And once he landed a solid seat, well, Vickers simply had to win.

Even when life tossed obstacles in Vickers' path, his determined spirit never waned. After four years of health scares and unemployment put his promising career in doubt, Vickers kept pushing toward the finish line. He got there Sunday as the surprise winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

"Coming here and sitting in Victory Lane, just makes it one of the most special events in my life," Vickers said.

He had plenty of drivers in the series pulling for this comeback.

One by one, they saluted Vickers with a wave from the car or a back slap on the way to Victory Lane.

Close friend Jimmie Johnson, a five-time Cup champion, pumped his fist out the window in pure happiness as if he had won a sixth title.

Vickers did all he could to savor the unforgettable scene.

"When you have so much love and support around you," Vickers said, "it makes all the difference in the world."

Vickers even tried to celebrate with the fans, though the New Hampshire gates wouldn't open to the grandstands. That's OK. He had a pretty big mob waiting for him -- even his fiancee, who had left the track to catch a ride home, only to reverse course and make it back just in time to greet him.

About the only key cog missing was owner Michael Waltrip. Waltrip and co-owner
Rob Kauffman were in Europe this weekend for the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.

London, Loudon. Off by a letter.

Vickers drives a part-time schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing and shares the No. 55 Toyota with Waltrip and Mark Martin. His win made him the No. 1 contender for a full-time ride at MWR in 2014.

"Wins help a lot of business issues. So this was a great day for that," MWR general manager Ty Norris said. "He's been our focus. We would love to have him in that car."

Vickers snapped a 75-race winless streak and hadn't won since the August 2009 race at Michigan. He won his first career Cup race in August 2006 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Vickers made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in 2009 only to be sidelined most of the next season with blood clots. He had two procedures to close a hole in his heart and insert a stent into a vein in his left leg.

After Red Bull Racing shut down after the 2011 season, Vickers hooked on with a limited ride with MWR. He has been driving full time this season in the Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing.

With his first checkered flag since his return, he is done looking back.

"That's why I came back," he said. "For what's to be, not what's happened."

Jay Bruce hit a two-run homer in Cincinnati's four-run third inning, Shin-Soo Choo also homered, and the Reds beat Julio Teheran and the Atlanta Braves 8-4 on Sunday.
Bruce led the Reds with three hits. Brandon Phillips had a two-run double in the ninth, and Choo had two hits and scored three runs as the Reds split the four-game series.
Reds right-hander Logan Ondrusek (3-0) threw two scoreless innings as the second reliever behind Tony Cingrani, who lasted only four innings.
Teheran (7-5) allowed five runs, seven hits and two walks in 5 1-3 innings.
Andrelton Simmons and Dan Uggla hit homers for Atlanta.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was held out because of a jammed left thumb that will prevent him from playing in the All-Star game on Tuesday.
Atlanta catcher Brian McCann was named to replace him on the NL All-Star team.

PITTSBURGH -- By the way he pitched, you never would have known that Dillon Gee's feet hurt.

The New York Mets right-hander developed blisters on the soles of his feet Sunday during an 87-degree afternoon. It was so warm that the dirt on the mound baked in the sun.

However, Gee overcame the blisters and pitched another gem against the Pirates. John Buck hit a two-run single during a three-run first inning to lead the Mets to a 4-2 win, and New York avoided a sweep by Pittsburgh before the All-Star break.

"Stuff-wise, it probably wasn't the best day but I just tried to throw a lot of strikes, especially after the guys got us out to an early lead and set the tone out there the first inning against a good pitcher," Gee said. "I just wanted to throw a lot of strikes after that and keep them off-balance."

Gee (7-7) allowed just one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings to the Pirates (56-37), who entered the day tied with St. Louis for the best record in the major leagues and the National League Central lead.

Gee is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in five career starts against Pittsburgh. He scattered five hits, struck out two and walked one.

"It's just sometimes this is the way it works out," Gee said of his success against the Pirates. "They're a really good team. I was just trying to throw strikes with all my pitches and just keep them off balance. And it worked out."

After having to use his bullpen for eight innings in the first two games of the series, New York manager Terry Collins was happy to see Gee pitch into the seventh.

"We needed to get innings, we needed to get him deep into the game, and he gave us that," Collins said. "He was exhausted. His foot was bothering him. But he gave us everything we needed today."

Buck's hit capped a three-run first inning against fill-in starter Gerrit Cole (4-3), who lost his third straight start after becoming the first Pirates pitcher since Nick Maddox in 1907 to win the first four of his career.

Buck, Eric Young Jr. and Marlon Byrd each had three hits for New York, which finished a 6-3 road trip. The Mets will host the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Citi Field.

"It's nice that we've kind of proven to ourselves we can have a little more confidence moving to the second half, but there's still a long ways to go," said Mets third baseman David Wright, who will start for the NL on Tuesday. "We did have a nice month after a couple of pretty bad months. It's nice to be progressively getting better so hopefully the best is yet to come and we continue that trend."

Bobby Parnell earned his 17th save in 20 opportunities with a scoreless ninth despite giving up back-to-back singles to Clint Barmes and pinch-hitter Russell Martin with one out. He got Jordy Mercer to fly out to end the game.

"We continue to fight until the final out," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "Sometimes I'd like to see us hit the 'go' button a little earlier in the game, but we always fight."

Starling Marte had two hits for the Pirates, whose three-game winning streak was snapped.

Cole surrendered three runs and six hits in five innings with two walks and five strikeouts. He started in place of All-Star left-hander Jeff Locke, who was scratched from this start on Saturday because of lower back tightness.

The Mets took a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Byrd bounced a run-scoring, ground-rule double into the left-field seats, and Buck lined a two-run single to right.

"I didn't come out ready to pitch and that inexcusable," Cole said. "It's just indefensible. I didn't give our team a very good chance to win. I put us in position where I had to scratch and claw and so did the rest of the team."

Marte also bounced an RBI double into the seats in the third inning to draw the Pirates within 3-1.

Daniel Murphy tripled in a run in the seventh to restore the Mets' three-run lead.

Pittsburgh put runners on second and third with none out in the eighth on a single by Mercer and a double by Andrew McCutchen, but the Pirates scored only one run when Jose Tabata grounded out against LaTroy Hawkins.


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