Blackhawks

Sunday's action featured two walk-off slams

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Sunday's action featured two walk-off slams

From Comcast SportsNet
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Joey Votto is finally swinging like an MVP again. Votto hit a grand slam in the ninth inning for his third home run of the game on Sunday, rallying the Cincinnati Reds to a rain-delayed 9-6 victory over the Washington Nationals with the biggest game of his career. Votto hit solo homers in his first two at-bats and finished with his second career slam, thrilling a sparse crowd that sat through a long delay and then more rain to see an improbable finish. The Reds said it was the first time in major league history that a player hit a game-ending grand slam for his third home run, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. "You like to see Joey hitting like that," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I keep telling the guys you've got to believe." Washington came into the game with only 15 homers allowed all season, fewest in the majors. Votto broke out of a power drought and helped the Reds avoid a sweep with three perfect swings. "Everybody talks about how he's treading water," teammate Drew Stubbs said. "Then he has a game like that. He wasn't far from hitting five. Hopefully, he's back to what he used to be." The first two homers came off starter Edwin Jackson, ending Votto's drought of no homers since April 30. The slugger also doubled and flied out to the warning track. Votto has been trying to smooth out his swing. "It's certainly a work in progress, but I think I hit more barrels today than I have all season," he said. He got his chance for the last-swing drama when Nationals closer Henry Rodriguez (1-3) got into the game and couldn't get comfortable on the wet mound. Rodriguez walked two batters with two outs to load the bases, including Chris Heisey after getting ahead in the count 0-2. Washington manager Davey Johnson came out to visit Rodriguez, who repeatedly scraped at the wet mound with his cleats. Rodriguez left a 2-2 pitch up and over the plate for Votto, who hit it over the wall in center. The 2010 NL MVP finished with a career-high six RBIs and the second three-homer game of his career. It was Votto's best day since he signed a new deal before opening day that added 10 years and 225 million. "He did today what he's been known to do," Jackson said. "That's what he got paid a lot of money to do." The last player to hit a game-ending home run in a three-homer game was Albert Pujols for St. Louis against Cincinnati on April 16, 2006, according to STATS LLC. Giancarlo Stanton also hit a game-ending slam Sunday for Miami against the New York Mets, making it the first time in 14 years that there were two walk-off slams on one day, STATS said. Mo Vaughn connected for Boston and Steve Finley for San Diego on April 10, 1998. A few thousand fans were left to cheer Cincinnati's first game-ending slam since Adam Dunn connected off Cleveland's Bob Wickman on June 30, 2006. Sean Marshall (1-2) got the win at the end of the long day. The start was delayed 3 hours, 36 minutes by rain, which continued to fall throughout the 3-hour, 45-minute game. Ahead 6-3, the Nationals couldn't close out what would have been their first three-game sweep of the season. The Reds got two runs in the eighth when rookie right fielder Bryce Harper lost Jay Bruce's two-out fly ball in the twilight sky, letting it fall way behind him for a double. Then, Washington's fill-in closer let it slip away, concluding a painful one-week trip. Right fielder Jayson Werth had surgery on his broken left wrist Monday, and Harper needed 10 stitches for a self-inflicted gash above his left eye on Friday after he hurt himself slamming a bat against a wall near the dugout. Catcher Wilson Ramos tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while chasing a passed ball Saturday night. Despite sending 11 players to the disabled list already this season, the Nationals had managed to stay atop the NL East because of their pitching staff, which leads the majors. For one of the few times, it let them down, and Washington dropped into second place behind Atlanta. NOTES: The Nationals headed out for a seven-game homestand, including two games each against San Diego and Pittsburgh and three against Baltimore. The Reds left for an unusual seven-game trip: Atlanta for two games, then on to New York for two against the Mets and three against the Yankees. ... The Nationals called up C Sandy Leon from Double-A Harrisburg. ... Harper wore a bandage over his left eye for the second straight game and had a pair of singles, ending his 0-for-9 slump in Cincinnati. ... Reds 3B Mike Costanzo, called up to replace injured Scott Rolen, made his big league debut as a pinch-hitter in the fifth and hit a sacrifice fly on the first pitch.

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MIAMI (AP) -- Giancarlo Stanton took a lusty swing with his pink bat, then paused a moment to admire his first game-winning grand slam before settling into a home run trot. "That's one of those no-doubters," he said. "It's good I could stand and watch it." Stanton's two-out slam capped a comeback Sunday by the Miami Marlins, who scored six times in the ninth inning to beat an angry Frank Francisco and the New York Mets 8-4. The walk-off victory was the second in the three-game series for the Marlins, who have won 10 of their past 12 games, thanks mostly to their rotation. "We're where we're at because of our pitching," said catcher John Buck, who hit a tying homer in the seventh. "It's kind of nice to have the bats speak up a bit." The Marlins trailed 4-2 when Emilio Bonifacio led off the ninth with his second triple of the game against the struggling Francisco (1-3). Buck walked and pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs followed with an RBI single. Francisco was then replaced, and he walked slowly toward plate umpire Todd Tichenor, hollering angrily. Manager Terry Collins stepped between Tichenor and Francisco, who was ejected even though he was already out of the game. Francisco waved his index finger and then his cap at the ump before finally heading to the dugout, his closer's job in jeopardy. "I thought I was hitting my spots really good, and I didn't get a call," Francisco said. "Any time you see the other team lose their cool like that, you know we're in the driver's seat," Stanton said. When Francisco's tirade ended, the Mets' meltdown continued. Manny Acosta replaced Francisco, and Jose Reyes' sacrifice fly made the score 4-all. After a popup, Hanley Ramirez walked on a 3-2 pitch and Austin Kearns was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Stanton's Mother's Day bat then closed out the victory, launching the first pitch over the left-center wall near the animated home run sculpture for his seventh homer, and sixth this month. At first, Stanton said, he didn't hear the explosion of noise from the crowd of 26,401. "It's a weird feeling," he said. "It's more like silence where all you see is the ball flying, and once you start going, you start to hear the big roar by everybody and the excitement." After rounding the bases, Stanton tossed his helmet 20 feet high before hopping into a sea of jubilant Marlins at home plate. Teammate Logan Morrison gave the 245-pound slugger a celebratory hoist. "I didn't know if his knees were going to hold out," Stanton said. The walk-off win was the fifth for the Marlins in 14 games in their new ballpark. The Mets closed out a 4-2 trip against division opponents, with both losses coming on the game's final swing. "We didn't finish the way we were hoping to finish," Acosta said through a translator. "It's a little tough to swallow." The Marlins climbed two games above .500 even though they're batting just .204 with runners in scoring position, worst in the majors. "We're still not close to our full potential," Stanton said. "Once it clicks for everybody, we're going to be scary." Struggling reliever Heath Bell (2-3) earned the victory despite giving up two runs in the top of the ninth and drawing scattered boos when the inning ended. Mets pinch-hitter Justin Turner broke a 2-all tie with a two-out, two-run double off Bell, whose ERA rose to 10.03. "I liked the way he threw," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He just made one bad pitch." Mets starter Jonathon Niese pitched six innings despite flulike symptoms and departed for a pinch-hitter with a 2-0 lead. But it lasted for only two batters when Ramon Ramirez replaced him. Bonifacio led off the seventh with a stand-up triple, and Buck followed with his fourth homer. Carlos Zambrano pitched seven innings and limited the Mets to two runs, one earned, which lowered his ERA to 1.88. "It was important to keep the game close, do my job and let my teammates do their job," Zambrano said. NOTES: Mets 1B Ike Davis was scratched from the starting lineup with flulike symptoms. He pinch-hit and grounded out to end the seventh with runners at second and third. ... Mets RHP R.A. Dickey said he felt fine one day after being hit on his right wrist by a pitch. He threw another two innings after being hit and earned his fifth victory. ... When David Wright singled in the fourth, he improved to .154 lifetime against Zambrano (4 for 26) with 12 strikeouts. ... The retractable roof was closed for all three games in the series. ... The Marlins, who begin a two-game series Monday against Pittsburgh, beat the Pirates in all six meetings last year.

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.