Reds still hold the advantage in winner-take-all Game 5

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Momentum, if such a thing exists in baseball, favors the Giants. Thursday’s matchup, Matt Cain vs. Mat Latos, would likewise seem to favor the Giants. And yet the Reds are still the better bet to win Thursday’s series-ending Game 5.

– The Reds have home-field advantage. It didn’t count for much the last two days, but the Reds were tied for the NL’s best record at home (50-31) this season.

– Recent history suggests the Reds have Cain’s number. Including Saturday’s Game 1, in which the Giants ace allowed three runs in five innings, Cain is 0-3 with a 5.50 ERA and six homers surrendered in 18 innings against the Reds this year. Two of those three starts were in San Francisco, too. Overall, Cain was far better at home this year (2.03 ERA, seven homers allowed in 111 IP) than on the road (3.56 ERA, 14 homers allowed in 109 IP).

– Latos is pitching even better than Cain at the moment. He had a 2.41 ERA over the final two months of the regular season. Plus, he’s dominated the Giants. He was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in two starts during the season. Pitching in relief of the injured Johnny Cueto, he allowed one run over four innings in relief in the Game 1 victory.

– Even though the Reds’ No. 1 starter (Cuet0) faced two batters in Game 1 and their hottest starter going into the series (Latos) hasn’t started at all, the Reds have outscored the Giants 18-12 in the NLDS. They’ve been the better team.

– Since Wednesday’s game wasn’t close, the key relievers on both teams will be rested for Game 5. That favors the Reds, given that Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall are a bit stronger than the Giants’ late-game committee.

– The Reds also have Bronson Arroyo lurking if something truly unexpected happens. It’s doubtful Dusty Baker will be looking to go to him, but he was awesome in Game 2 and he’s actually been quite successful on three days’ rest in his career, going 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in eight starts.

Of course, just about anything can happen in an all-hands-on-deck game, and things will get very interesting if Latos happens to struggle early. I like the Reds in this one, but given that I preferred the Giants a week ago, what do I know?

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”