The Reds brought the lumber today against Pirates starter Jeff Locke. Locke, an All-Star, entered today’s start with a 5.43 ERA since the break. It didn’t improve.
The Reds tagged Locke for five runs in the top of the first. After the Reds loaded the bases with one out, Jay Bruce laced a bases-clearing double to center. Todd Frazier followed up with a two-run home run to left field. Locke was pulled from the game after the first inning. Against Pirates reliever Jeanmar Gomez in the second, the Reds continued to pile on, scoring twice on Chris Heisey’s RBI double and a sacrifice fly by Brandon Phillips.
Things began to calm down in the middle innings, and the Pirates even scored three runs of their own on a Neil Walker solo home run in the third, and a Travis Snider solo homer and Justin Morneau sacrifice fly in the fifth against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. But the Reds put the game out of reach, scoring three more runs in the eighth and another in the ninth to go up 11-3. Logan Ondrusek pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth to wrap up the win.
Billy Hamilton, making his second career Major League start, went 3-for-6 with two stolen bases, making him a perfect 12-for-12 in that department since making his debut on September 3.
With the victory, the two 89-67 teams move into a tie for the Wild Card. With the Nationals losing the first of two games against the Marlins today, their elimination number goes down to two, meaning both the Reds and Pirates could be guaranteed a spot in at least the NL Wild Card match as early as tomorrow.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.
Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.
Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.
So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]
Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.
I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.
Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”
Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.
It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.