Thanks to some rare power from Ramon Santiago, the Cardinals’ magic number is down to one to clinch the National League Central. Santiago hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning this afternoon to give the Reds a 10-6 win over the Pirates at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
The game was a thrilling back-and-forth affair. The Reds scored three runs in the first inning off Francisco Liriano before the Pirates chipped away and eventually took the lead in the fifth inning on a two-run single from Neil Walker. The Reds immediately tied things up on an RBI single from Ryan Ludwick, but the Pirates took the lead right back in the seventh with an RBI single from Andrew McCutchen and an RBI triple from Walker. It didn’t last long, as Todd Frazier hit a game-tying two-run homer off John Holdzkom in the bottom-half of the frame. Both bullpens then kept things in check until John Axford issued a leadoff walk to Todd Frazier to begin the bottom of the 10th.
While Axford retired the next batter Devin Mesoraco on a line out to center field, he then allowed a single to Chris Heisey and walked Ryan Ludwick to load the bases. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle turned to Bobby LaFromboise to face pinch-hitter Brayan Pena, who flew out to shallow right field for the second out. However, Santiago followed with the improbable game-winning blast over the left field fence. It was his second career walk-off home run and his first ever grand slam.
With the Pirates now 1 1/2 games back in the National League Central, the Cardinals can clinch the division tonight with a win over the Diamondbacks. If it happens, the Cardinals figure to scratch Adam Wainwright tomorrow while the Pirates will likely hold Gerrit Cole back for Wednesday’s Wild Card game against the Giants.
After missing a month earlier this season with a distal left quadriceps strain, Reds first baseman Joey Votto returned to the disabled list earlier this week with a recurrence of the very same injury. According to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Reds team medical director Tim Kremchek said this afternoon that while Votto’s return isn’t exactly imminent, the hope is that platelet-rich plasma injections will allow him to come back healthier than before and contribute during the second half.
When asked for context for what Kremchek meant by “stretch run,” Fay writes that the Reds are hoping to have Votto back for the final five or six weeks of the regular season. In other words, he’s likely to miss at least another month.
Brandon Phillips had thumb surgery yesterday and is expected to miss around 4-6 weeks, so the Reds should be in the market for infield depth before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Ramon Santiago is the top internal option to fill in at second base now that Skip Schumaker is on the 7-day concussion disabled list. Meanwhile, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Brayan Pena, and the newly-recalled Neftali Soto figure to split playing time at first base.
Brandon Phillips underwent surgery yesterday to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and now the Reds will be without one of the potential options to fill in at second base.
Skip Schumaker was placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list prior to last night’s game. The 34-year-old utility man displayed symptoms after slammed into the right field wall while trying to catch Luis Valbuena’s two-run triple in the 12th inning of Thursday’s game.
With Joey Votto also sidelined, the Reds are going to have to be creative with the right side of their infield. Last night, they used Ramon Santiago to fill in at second base while Jay Bruce made another start at first base.
After joining the Reds on a two-year, $5 million contract over the winter, Schumaker is batting .240/.287/.315 with one home run and 14 RBI over 47 games this season.
Veteran utility man Ramon Santiago has signed a minor-league deal with the Reds and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that he’d get $1.1 million in upfront money for making the Opening Day roster via spring training invitation.
Santiago has spent the past eight years with the Tigers, including several seasons as a productive part-timer, but he hasn’t topped a .700 OPS since 2009 and is now 34 years old.
After defeating the Tigers 4-3 in Game 5 on Thursday night, the Red Sox are just one win away from their first World Series appearance since 2007. They’ll attempt to finish things off in Game 6 of the ALCS tonight at Fenway Park in Boston. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. ET while the game will be broadcast on FOX.
Here’s a quick look at the pitching matchup and some random notes:
Max Scherzer will be tasked with keeping the Tigers’ season alive. The AL Cy Young Award favorite took a no-hitter into the sixth inning back in Game 2 and ended up striking out 13 batters while allowing just one run over seven innings. Of course, the Tigers wasted his strong performance after David Ortiz hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a walkoff single in the ninth. Scherzer has allowed four runs while striking out 26 batters in 16 innings of work this postseason, including two starts and one relief appearance.
The Red Sox will turn to Clay Buchholz to pitch them to a pennant. The 29-year-old had an uneven performance back in Game 2, allowing just one run over the first five innings before being tagged for four runs in the sixth. He gave up two home runs in that start, which are still the only homers by Detroit during the series. Buchholz has allowed eight runs on 15 hits and three walks in 11 2/3 innings over his two starts this postseason.
The big question for the Tigers is whether Alex Avila will be ready to play after he was forced to leave Game 5 with a left patellar tendon strain. If not, Tigers manager Jim Leyland could simply go with Brayan Pena behind the plate, though he told reporters yesterday that he hasn’t ruled out using Victor Martinez at catcher while having Miguel Cabrera start at DH and Ramon Santiago or Don Kelly at third base. We should know for sure later this afternoon.
According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, Red Sox manager John Farrell said yesterday that Xander Bogaerts will make his second straight start at third base in Game 6. The 21-year-old stepped in for Will Middlebrooks in Game 5 and went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be back behind the plate for Boston after David Ross caught Game 5. Meanwhile, Jonny Gomes will get the nod over Daniel Nava in left field once again.