Reds trounce Pirates to bring NL Wild Card back into a deadlock

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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.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.