Volquez looks stellar in debut, Reds in good shape?

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The Reds, as a franchise, have enjoyed quite a breakout season.  Usually an afterthought by mid-June, they currently hold a half-game lead in the National League Central over the heavily favored Cardinals.  To boot, they’re even selling out games at Great American Ballpark in July.

Drew Stubbs has developed into a multi-talented threat at the top of the lineup with 17 stolen bases, 13 home runs and 46 RBI in 300 at-bats, Jay Bruce is finally showing better plate discipline, Joey Votto is leading all National Leaguers in OPS and rookie Mike Leake is 6-1 with a 3.53 ERA over his first 17 big league starts.  Now let’s add Edinson Volquez to the mix.

Volquez underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in August of 2009 and has spent the last year or so rehabbing.  On Saturday night in Cincinnati he made his 2010 debut against the Rockies and absolutely shut them down

Volquez tossed six strong innings and allowed only one earned run as the Reds snagged an 8-1 victory and held off the hard-charging Cards for one more day.  He struck out nine batters, allowed only three hits and issued only two walks.

It should come as no surprise, really, that Volquez looked so dominant.  He was excellent on a four-game rehab assignment prior to Saturday’s big debut, and he posted a 3.21 ERA and 201 strikeouts over 196 innings back in 2008, his first year with the Reds.  Now he’ll look to lift the club to its first playoff berth since 1995.

Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s grand slam keys 8-2 Red Sox win over Astros in ALCS Game 3

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The Red Sox plated five runs in the top of the eighth inning to put Game 3 of the ALCS out of the reach, taking an 8-2 victory over the Astros on Tuesday night in Houston. Four of those eighth-inning runs came on a grand slam to right field by Jackie Bradley, Jr. off of reliever Roberto Osuna, turning their two-run deficit into a back-breaking six-run deficit.

Both teams traded blows in the first inning, with the Red Sox plating two runs on a J.D. Martinez double and a Xander Bogaerts ground out against starter Dallas Keuchel. The Astros got a run back in the bottom half against starter Nathan Eovaldi when Marwin González brought home Jose Altuvé with a single.

Keuchel settled down from there. He ultimately gave up the two runs on four hits with a pair of walks and no strikeouts across five innings. Eovaldi wouldn’t give up another run until the fifth, when Alex Bregman doubled home Altuve. Eovaldi yielded the two runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts in six innings.

Steve Pearce, added to the lineup because of the left-handed Keuchel, smashed a solo home run down the left field line in the sixth against right-handed reliever Joe Smith, breaking the 2-2 tie. Two innings later, all hell broke loose against Osuna. Osuna got Martinez to fly out for the first out, allowed a single to Bogaerts, then got the second out when Pearce gorunded out to third base. Rafael Devers kept the inning alive with a single. Osuna loaded the bases by hitting Brock Holt with an 89 MPH slider, then forced in a run when he hit Mitch Moreland with a 96 MPH fastball. Bradley came up and worked a 1-1 count before depositing a 94 MPH fastball into the right field seats to drastically create space between the Red Sox and Astros.

In the bottom of the eighth, with a healthy five-run cushion, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly combined to keep the Astros off the board. Eduardo Rodríguez got the ball to start the ninth with a pair of lefties slated to bat. Tyler White pinch-hit for Brian McCann but struck out. Evan Gattis then pinch-hit for Tony Kemp and grounded out. Rodríguez cleaned out the inning by striking out George Springer, ending the game in an 8-2 victory for the Red Sox.

The Red Sox will take their 2-1 series lead into Houston on Wednesday night. Rick Porcello will oppose Charlie Morton for an 8:39 PM ET start. A Red Sox win tomorrow would bring them one win away from returning to the World Series for the first time since 2013 and it would leave the defending champion Astros one loss away from elimination.