The big series of the weekend kicked off last night in Cincinnati, as the Reds blanked the second-place Pirates by the score of 3-0 in front of a sellout crowd of 40,829 at Great American Ballpark.
Mat Latos was dominant in the victory, allowing just four hits (all singles) over 7 1/3 shutout innings while striking out five and walking three. It turned out that a second inning inside-the-park homer by Chris Heisey was all the offense he needed, but Latos helped his own cause in the bottom of the fifth inning by launching a two-run home run off Wandy Rodriguez. It was the third homer of his career.
The newly-acquired Jonathan Broxton induced a key double play ground ball in the top of the eighth while Aroldis Chapman worked around a hit-by-pitch of NL MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen in the ninth inning for his 24th save of the season. After the game, Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman stayed true to his word by having his head shaved on the field for charity. Great night all around for Cincy.
With the win, the Reds increased their lead in the National League Central to 4 1/2 games. The Pirates will hope to chip away at that lead tonight when they send the struggling James McDonald to the hill against Mike Leake.
Your Friday box scores:
Mariners 3, Yankees 6
Marlins 4, Nationals 7 (first game of doubleheader)
Marlins 5, Nationals 2 (second game of doubleheader)
Indians 2, Tigers 10
Diamondbacks 4, Phillies 2
Orioles 0, Rays 2
Twins 6, Red Sox 5 (10 innings)
Astros 1, Braves 4
Rangers 5, Royals 3
Brewers 3, Cardinals 9
Angels 6, White Sox 8 (10 innings)
Giants 16, Rockies 4
Blue Jays 4, Athletics 5 (15 innings)
Mets 1, Padres 3
Cubs 1, Dodgers 6
No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.
First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.
On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.
Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.