David Ortiz puts the Red Sox back in the game with a game-tying grand slam

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The narrative of the ALCS through nine innings of Game 1 and seven innings of Game 2 was all about the Tigers’ pitching dominance and the Red Sox offensive futility. That came to a screeching halt in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Sox mounted a potentially series-altering rally against the Tiger bullpen.

Jose Veras started the bottom of the eighth in relief of starter Max Scherzer, staked to a 5-1 lead. He got Stephen Drew to ground out for the first out of the inning, but then allowed a double down the left field line to Will Middlebrooks. Tigers manager Jim Leyland opted to play matchmaker, pulling Veras for lefty Drew Smyly as Jacoby Ellsbury came to the plate. Smyly couldn’t do his job, walking Ellsbury after getting ahead in the count 1-2. Leyland again came out to the mound, this time bringing in right-hander Al Alburquerque.

Alburquerque got Shane Victorino to strike out for the second out of the inning. Dustin Pedroia kept the rally going with a grounder to right field. Middlebrooks took a wide turn around third base, but he was held up, leaving the bases loaded for David Ortiz. Leyland yanked Alburquerque for closer Joaquin Benoit, looking for a four-out save.

Benoit’s first pitch to Ortiz was a 74 MPH change-up, and Ortiz was ready for it. He launched it into the air to right-center towards the Red Sox bullpen. Right fielder Torii Hunter paced back after it, then leaped in an attempt to rob the home run, but could not come up with it. He careened over the fence, landing hard on the other side as a crowd of Red Sox relievers huddled around him following the game-tying grand slam.

Hunter was shaken up, but not seriously injured. He returned to his position and Benoit struck out Mike Napoli to end the inning, sending the game to the top of the ninth knotted at 5-5.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.