Ronald Acuña blasts grand slam as Braves go up 5-0 early in NLDS Game 3 vs. Dodgers

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Dodgers starter Walker Buehler needed just five pitches to get through the bottom of the first inning of NLDS Game 3 against the Braves on Sunday night. He needed many more to see his way through the second.

Buehler walked Nick Markakis on four pitches to open the bottom of the second, a harbinger of things to come. Buehler managed to strike out Johan Camargo and Kurt Suzuki consecutively, but then Ozzie Albies singled to center field. Cody Bellinger misplayed it, allowing Markakis to advance to third base and Albies to second. Manager Dave Roberts opted to intentionally walk No. 8 hitter Charlie Culberson to load the bases with opposing starter Sean Newcomb coming to the plate. Buehler completely lost the ability to hit the strike zone as he walked Newcomb on four pitches, forcing in a run.

Acuña stepped to the plate and Buehler still could not throw strikes. He fell behind 3-0, then threw what was objectively ball four, a fastball six inches above the strike zone. Home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom called it a strike, however, which seemed to be a gift to Buehler. On the next pitch, Buehler threw a 98 MPH fastball down the middle, which Acuña lifted 414 feet for a grand slam, putting the Braves up 5-0.

Acuña, 20, is now the youngest player in baseball history to hit a grand slam in the postseason. The record was previously held by Mickey Mantle, who was 21 when he hit a grand slam in the 1953 World Series.

Phillies select active duty Navy aviator in MLB Rule 5 draft

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SAN DIEGO — The Philadelphia Phillies took U.S. Navy aviator Noah Song in the Rule 5 draft Wednesday, hoping the former top pitching prospect can still be effective once he completes his military service.

There is no definitive date on when the 25-year-old Song might be able to join the Phillies.

Song was picked from the Boston Red Sox system in the draft for unprotected minor league players. Philadelphia put him on the military list while he continues his active duty and he won’t count on the 40-man roster, the pool from which major league teams can select players for the 26-man active roster.

Song impressed in his only pro season, making seven starts for Boston’s Class A Lowell affiliate in 2019, with a 1.06 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17 innings. With a fastball clocked in the upper 90s mph, the right-hander dominated that year as a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings.

The Red Sox drafted Song in the fourth round – he likely would’ve gone much higher, but his impending military service caused teams to back off.

In November 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a memo clearing the way for athletes at the nation’s military academies to delay their service commitments and play pro sports after graduation. Song’s request to have those new rules retroactively applied to his case was denied.

Song began school as a flight officer in the summer of 2020 and finished that phase last April. He started additional aviation training in May.

Song was among the 15 players, including three Boston pitchers, taken in the big league phase of the Rule 5 draft, which wasn’t held last year because of the MLB lockout.

Washington took righty Thad Ward from Boston’s Triple-A roster with the first pick. Baltimore took Red Sox minor league pitcher Andrew Politi with the ninth choice and the Phillies chose Song with the 11th selection.

Teams pay $100,000 to take players in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. The players must stay on the big league roster next season or go on waivers and, if unclaimed, be offered back to their original organization for $50,000.