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.

Watch: Shohei Ohtani strikes out his first spring training batter

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Sure, spring training games don’t count toward anything “real,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy Angels’ star pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani mowing down his first big league competitors.

On Saturday, Ohtani took the mound against the Brewers for his first official outing in an Angels uniform. After allowing a leadoff double to Jonathan Villar, the 23-year-old righty settled down and issued a three-pitch strikeout to Nate Orf, his first of the spring.

It wasn’t the cleanest inning for the right-hander: the Brewers plated their first run on a walk, wild pitch and subsequent throwing error by catcher Martin Maldonado. Ohtani didn’t let things unravel further, however, and induced a pop-up for the second out before catching Brett Phillips looking on a called strike three to end the inning.

While the two-way phenom only lasted another two batters (a Keon Broxton dinger finished him off in the second), he’s already started to look like a formidable presence on the mound. Time will tell whether he can deliver at the plate as well — rumor has it he could feature in the Angels’ lineup as soon as Monday.