A walk-off grand slam is probably the coolest finish in baseball, and it happened yesterday -- twice. First, it happened in Miami. The game was tied at two going into the ninth, and former Marlins closer Heath Bell continued his struggles by allowing two runs to give the Mets the lead. Closer Frank Francisco came in, and immediately allowed three baserunners, with the last one being an RBI single by Greg Dobbs to make it a 4-3 game. He was ejected, and Manny Acosta came in, and he got a pair of outs, but the first one was a sac fly, and the game was tied. Needing just one out to end the inning, Acosta walked Hanley Ramirez and plunked Austin Kearns to bring up Giancarlo Stanton with the bases loaded. He hit a titanic grand slam to left center, just missing hitting the home run sculpture, and that gave the Marlins an 8-4 win.
But I'm not done yet. The Nationals-Reds game was delayed for three and a half hours due to rain, and Washington led 6-3 after batting in the eighth. The Reds made it a 6-5 game courtesy of a two-run double by Jay Bruce, and Davey Johnson brought in his current closer, flamethrower Henry Rodriguez. Dusty Baker initially tried to play smallball, as Wilson Valdez sacrificed Devin Mesoraco (pinch running for Ryan Hanigan, who singled) to second. Miguel Cairo popped out, and it was up to Drew Stubbs to win it. But Rodriguez had different ideas. He walked both Stubbs and Chris Heisey (on four straight balls each, after being ahead in the count on both), and that brought up Joey Votto with the bases loaded. This should have immediately set off signal flares, but of course, it didn't. Votto smashed a 96 mph Rodriguez fastball over the center field wall to complete the comeback, give the Reds a 9-6 win, and knock the Nationals out of first place in the NL East for the first time in a month.
Those two games are (rather obviously) your Games of the Day.
Pitching Line of the Day: Wandy Rodriguez of the Astros had a great performance. He allowed one run over eight innings on three hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts. He got a no decision when Brett Myers blew the save, his first of the year. The inimitable Justin Verlander did what he does too: one run on two hits and one walk in seven innings, along with eight strikeouts. Twins prospect (well, kinda) Scott Diamond also was impressive. He shut out the Blue Jays over seven innings, allowing five hits and no walks, striking out four.
Hitting Line of the Day: Today was the Joey Votto show. He went 4/5 with three homers, four runs, six RBI, and for the hell of it, a double. It's almost as if he's taking lessons from Josh Hamilton. The Rays' Ben Zobrist had himself a great game too, going 3/4 with two runs, three RBI, a walk, a double, a homer, and a steal. Now *that's* efficient. Nelson Cruz had a game that could break him out of his season-long funk, as he went 4/5 with three runs, four RBI, a double, a homer, and a steal.
Spotlight Series: This series stunned the hell out of me, even as a Braves fan. Atlanta beat the Cardinals 7-4 yesterday to complete the three game sweep, and jump into first place in the NL East. Braves starter Tommy Hanson only went five innings, but allowed just five hits, three walks, and one run while striking out nine. Cardinals starter Lance Lynn allowed three runs over six innings on only four hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts. The loss was Lynn's first of the year. The big blow for the Braves came in the sixth inning, when Jason Heyward doubled into the right field corner with the bases loaded to bring in three runs. The Cardinals got one back in the bottom of the inning on a Carlos Beltran solo homer, but the Braves got three more in the seventh on a single by Martin Prado and back to back doubles by Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla. One more would come in the eighth on a Michael Bourn single, and the Cardinals made it look much closer with a three run homer by Allen Craig in the ninth, but it wouldn't be enough. Atlanta now possesses the second best record in the NL, and will head home for a brief four game homestand, with two games each against the Reds and Marlins. The Cardinals host the Cubs for a pair of games at home before heading to the west coast for a five game road trip.
Other Games: The Mariners beat the Yankees 6-2 in Andy Pettite's first start since 2010. The Rays nearly blew a 7-1 lead, but hung on to beat the Orioles 9-8. Baltimore remains at the top of the AL East, however. Cole Hamels showed no ill effects with an extra day of rest, and helped the Phililes beat the Padres 3-2. The Red Sox drubbed the Indians 12-1. The Pirates used a late rally to beat the Astros 3-2 in 12 innings. The Royals scored nine in the final three innings to beat the White Sox 9-1. The Cubs used a 13 hit display to beat up on the Brewers 8-2. The Twins withstood a late Blue Jays rally and got a 4-3 win. Verlander's fantastic start gave the Tigers a 3-1 win over the A's. Despite an injury to Matt Kemp, the Dodgers beat the Rockies 11-5. The Rangers smoked Jered Weaver and the Angels 13-6. Despite a terrible-looking lineup, the Giants beat the Diamondbacks 7-3.
Today's Games: all 30 teams play today! Wahoo!!! Jason Hammel starts for the Orioles as they play the Yankees (again). Jake Westbrook and Ryan Dempster is a great-looking NL Central matchup in St Louis. Brandon Morrow goes for the Blue Jays against the Rays. Tim Stauffer makes his season debut for the Padres against the Nationals. Sneaky good Drew Smyly starts for the Tigers against the White Sox. Dan Haren will go for the Angels against the A's. Ian Kennedy vs Clayton Kershaw? Yes please. Christian Friedrich will look to build on his successful first career start, and he'll try to do it against Ryan Vogelsong and the Giants.
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.
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