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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.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.