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.
The Mariners are in the midst of reconstructing their roster, a process which most recently resulted in the trade of first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnación to the Yankees, per a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan. While the teams have yet to publicly confirm the deal, the Mariners are expected to receive pitching prospect Juan Then and will likely eat a significant portion of Encarnación’s salary as well.
Encarnación is a sizable get for the Yankees, who could benefit from the veteran’s power and consistency in their ongoing drive toward the postseason. The 36-year-old infielder missed some time with a bout of lower back tightness, dental issues, and soreness in his left hand, but has still maintained a decent .241/.356/.531 batting line with an AL-best 21 home runs, an .888 OPS, and 1.7 fWAR through his first 289 plate appearances of the year. Per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, Encarnación has another $11-12 million left on his contract in 2019, with a $20 million option for the 2020 season and a $5 million buyout.
Then, 19, was acquired by the Yankees in a three-person trade with the Mariners during the 2017 offseason. The right-hander currently ranks no. 27 in the Yankees’ system and made his last pro ball appearance for New York’s rookie-level affiliate in 2018, pitching to a 2.70 ERA, 2.0 BB/9, and 7.6 SO/9 across 50 innings. It’s not clear if any other players are involved in the trade, though USA Today’s Bob Nightengale notes that no other prospects are thought to be included in the package for Encarnación.