The Juice: Reds win to sweep Dodgers after Jay Bruce homers twice off Clayton Kershaw; Cards sweep Bucs

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Only 1 1/2 games separate the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central after pennant race action on Sunday. The Reds handed the Los Angeles Dodgers their fourth straight loss overall, winning 3-2 on Ryan Hanigan's double in the bottom of the ninth. Cincy got its other two scores on a pair of solo home runs by Jay Bruce against leading Cy Young contender Clayton Kershaw.

Meanwhile, the Bucs are still stuck on 81 victories after Cardinals beat them 9-2 in St. Louis. Rookie Michael Wacha pitched seven shutout innings and drove in a pair at the plate to keep the Cards in first by 1 1/2.

Bruuuuuuuuce: No left-handed batters had homered against Kershaw all season until Bruce went deep in the second inning. And then Bruce did it again in the bottom of the fourth. Kershaw hadn't allowed any home runs in 58 innings coming in. Bruce said pitchers like Kershaw rarely make mistakes, but when they do...

''He's a pitcher, if he gives you a pitch to hit, if you don't take advantage of it, you're probably out. He threw me a couple pitches I could handle tonight."

Bruce, who has 29 homers on the season, came in with three singles lifetime against Kershaw.

Hanigaaaaaaaan: Like Kershaw, right-hander Homer Bailey of the Reds allowed two runs over seven innings. His teammates got to reliever Ronald Belisario in the ninth, starting with a one-out single by Zack Cozart. Hanigan followed with a double to the fence in left. Sliding head-first, Cozart beat the the bouncing relay throw from Hanley Ramirez, which catcher A.J. Ellis couldn't handle.

"An awesome way to win," Hanigan said.

The Dodgers hadn't lost four straight since they dropped a season-high eight in a row back in May.

Not close: The Cardinals asserted themselves, outscoring the Pirates 26-10 over three games. They won't play each other again this season, unless it's in the playoffs or to break a tie. Matt Carpenter said players on both sides "all knew what was at stake."

'This is the last time we get to play these guys, so it was a big series. I couldn't be happier with the way it played out. Not just the fact that we won all three, but the fashion that we won all three. Really dominated, I feel like, every aspect of the game.''

Limited to about 100 pitches, Wacha needed only 97 in allowing two hits.

Wacha hasn't allowed a run in 19 2/3 innings. About 15 months ago, he was pitching at Texas A&M. His two-run single, the second hit of his career, came against Vin Mazzaro in a four-run fifth inning.

''That was a lot of fun,'' Wacha said of his hit. ''I told myself that I was going to hop on the first heater. I was able to sneak it by the shortstop up the middle. I was pretty fired up about that.''

MORE SCORES

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: Averting a four-game sweep, the Yankees overcame the seventh blown save this season by Mariano Rivera. Ichiro Suzuki scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a Boston mistake. The official scorer credited right-hander Brandon Workman with a wild pitch, but even if Jarrod Saltalamacchia got crossed up, shouldn't he have caught it anyway?

As for Will Middlebrooks' tying home run against Rivera in the ninth, the wind helped.

''I thought he was going to catch it on the track,'' Middlebrooks said. ''I didn't crush it. I didn't think it was a homer.''

The Yankees allowed 34 runs in the first three games of the series, but Hiroki Kuroda shut that thing down a little bit.

Royals 5, Tigers 2: With Bruce Chen sharp again and Eric Hosmer hitting a three-run deep, K.C. took two of three from the Tigers. The Royals are 3 1/2 out in the wild card race and head to Cleveland for three games Monday.

Mets 2, Indians 1: Eric Young hit a two-out double in the ninth for the go-ahead run against Chris Perez after Daisuke Matsuzaka took a one-hit shutout into the sixth. The loss broke a four-game winning streak for Cleveland, but the Tribe is selling playoff tickets and Jason Giambi collected his 2,000th career hit.

White Sox 4, Orioles 2: Pinch-runner Chris Dickerson had no idea where the ball was on the last play of the game. None.

Phillies 3, Braves 2: But, oh, Evan Gattis.

Nationals 6, Marlins 4: He was all over the place, but Stephen Strasburg held it together and let Ryan Zimmerman do his thing at the plate.

Blue Jays 2, Twins 0: Jays sweep. Aesthetically speaking, the 1991 ALCS, it was not.

Rangers 4, Angels 3: His name is Rios, and he homered to help avoid the sweep.

Brewers 3, Cubs 1: Good for Scott Baker, who tossed five shutout innings in his first start since Tommy John surgery in 2012. Yovani Gallardo has his mojo back just in time to make it seem like he didn't have a cruddy year.

Athletics 7, Astros 2: Bartolo Colon also found his mojo in beating the Astros for a fourth time this season.

Giants 3, Diamondbacks 2 (11 inn.): Rookie Ehire Adrianza scored the winning run a a pinch runner. This win would have meant more to the Giants a year ago.

Rays 4, Mariners 1: Rays lead wild card by two games.

Padres 5, Rockies 2: They really should just run a computer simulation, especially on NFL opening Sunday.

''The thing is, everybody goes through bad moments. Everybody does. Every team out there's gone through bad moments this year. Ours is just occurring right now. A lot of it is it's a tough trip. It's a tough trip."

— Rays manager Joe Maddon after a 3-7 road trip

• It would have been Boston's first four-game sweep in the Bronx since 1990.

• The Cubs are 29-46 at Wrigley Field.

• Via the Associated Press: "It was the first time since June 1998 that the Padres have won three straight games despite being tied or behind in the seventh inning or later in each of the three games." They will not be going to the World Series this season.

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