The Cardinals needed a sign, metaphorically, something to give them hope that perhaps their season wasn't over just yet.
They got one, literally, in the form of the Missouri Lottery.
Desperately clinging to the hope of winning a spot in the National League Wild Card Game, the Cards received help from the sign just above the left field wall, as well as a silent umpire crew and an absent Bryan Price, to steal a walk-off, 4-3 win over the Reds on Thursday. The win proved important, as the Giants also won their game, staying one game ahead of the Cards for the second Wild Card spot with three games to play.
The play in question came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. After the Reds had tied the game in the top of the inning, Yadier Molina stepped to the plate with Matt Carpenter on first base and Blake Wood on the mound. And on a 2-0 count, Molina ripped a pitch into left field.
The ball took one hop and bounced off the MOLottery.com sign just above the left field wall, but the umpires gave no indication of stopping play and awarding a ground-rule double. As such, Carpenter raced around third and scored a run that could end up saving the Cardinals' season.
The Cards celebrated while the Reds waited for a challenge that never came from their dugout.
"In this situation, Bryan Price did not come up on the top step," crew chief Bill Miller told a pool reporter after the game. "We stayed there. I waited for my partners to come off the field. I looked into the dugout, the Cincinnati dugout, and Bryan Price made no eye contact with me whatsoever, and then after 30 seconds he finally realized, somebody must have told him what had happened, and we were walking off the field."
The Reds have until noon Friday to submit a protest to Thursday's game-ending play. And while the Mets and Giants would certainly like the Reds to pursue the issue, it's worth wondering whether the club, with seemingly nothing to gain, would voluntarily sign its players up to fly back to St. Louis and play out the end of a game on what is supposed to be the first day of their offseason.
We'll know soon enough.
It's the time of year that can win or lose a fantasy championship, so be sure to keep refreshing Rotoworld's constantly-updating player news page for all the latest. And while you're at it, follow @Rotoworld_BB and @nate_grimm if you are on Twitter.
Uncertainty Swirls Around Brantley
Here we go again.
In what is becoming one of baseball's most cherished offseason traditions, there are again questions being raised about Michael Brantley's readiness for the upcoming season after Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reported Thursday, through unnamed sources, that Brantley could miss "significant time next season." Per Heyman's sources close to the team, there is fear that Brantley, who had a second surgery on his right shoulder in August, won't be ready because of the severity of his injury, which was described to Heyman as having to “re-anchor the muscle to the bone.”
The report was news to Brantley and the Indians.
"I'm out again?" said Brantley, Thursday morning at Comerica Park, when asked about the report by Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Maybe he knows something I don't."
Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti was equally clueless about any setback.
"Our expectation is that he'll be ready for spring training," said Antonetti. "We were told after the second surgery that the timeline (for recovery) would be four to five months. As far as I know, nothing has changed."
Of course, we've heard that before as well. Brantley was expected to be ready at or shortly after the start of the 2016 regular season after the original surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn labrum last November, but a report from Hoynes in December suggested Brantley may not have been ready to play until June. Questions swirled, and then, as now, Brantley and the club refuted the report, and Brantley was ultimately able to return in late April.
The shoulder injury limited him to just 11 games before he ended up back on the disabled list, and Brantley finally underwent season-ending surgery in August. It will be a situation to monitor in the coming months, as time is proving to be the only source we can trust when it comes to Brantley's health these days.
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National League Quick Hits: Jeremy Hellickson was pulled from Thursday's game against the Braves due to a sprained right knee. It's certainly good news that the injury appears to be minor and doesn't involve his arm at all. The 29-year-old finishes his 2016 campaign with a 12-10 record, 3.71 ERA and 154/45 K/BB ratio over 189 innings. He's positioned to secure a fairly lucrative multi-year contract in the off-season ... Joey Votto was forced to leave Thursday's game against the Cardinals after getting hit in the face by an errant throw from Tommy Pham. Votto blooped a double into the outfield in the eighth inning, but Pham's throw came through and drilled him on the chin at second base. There was a considerable amount of blood on his face, though the injury isn't believed to be too serious ... Jean Segura is dealing with a cramp under his left rib cage. Segura departed Thursday's game with the ailment. The D'Backs think he's going to be fine, but they'll see how he feels when he reports to the park Friday before knowing whether he'll be in the lineup ... according to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, there may be meniscus tears in Wilson Ramos' right knee. Ramos has already been diagnosed with a torn ACL, but the extent of the damage could range well beyond that. The impending free agent catcher came down hard on his right knee Monday after jumping to catch a throw at home plate and will undergo major surgery at some point in the near future. This is obviously going to crush his open-market value despite a breakout 2016. Ramos, 29, batted .307/.354/.496 with 22 home runs and 80 RBI over 131 games for the NL East-champion Nationals ... Bryce Harper (thumb) remained sidelined Thursday. Harper injured his left thumb on an awkward slide into third base on Sunday against the Pirates and hasn't played since. His official status is still day-to-day ... Daniel Murphy (glute) was out of the Nationals' lineup again on Thursday versus the Diamondbacks. Murphy hasn't started a game for the Nats since September 17 because of a strained glute and that probably won't change over the final weekend of the regular season, but he is expected to be a full-go for the best-of-five NLDS next week against the Dodgers ... Yasmany Tomas was scratched from the Diamondbacks' lineup Thursday with a stiff neck. Brandon Drury is in left field and Socrates Brito is now in right field for the afternoon tilt at Nationals Park. Tomas could very well remain limited over the regular season's final weekend ... Jason Hammel has been scratched from his scheduled Friday start against the Reds due to right elbow tightness. Hammel has looked off all month, and this might officially rule him out of the mix for the Cubs' postseason roster. A new starter for Friday has not been announced. The National League Central champs could make it a bullpen game at Great American Ball Park ... Johnny Cueto came through clutch in Thursday's 7-2 win over the Rockies, striking out 11 while allowing two runs over seven innings. Cueto wasn't unhittable on Thursday -- indeed, he surrendered nine of them -- but he managed to evade trouble on the scoreboard, for the most part. He got his hiccups out of the way early, surrendering an RBI double to Nolan Arenado and an RBI triple to David Dahl in the first inning. From that point onward, he posted goose eggs. In his first year with the Giants, Cueto has pitched to a 2.79 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 198/45 K/BB ratio over 219 2/3 innings. He allowed more than two runs in just three of his final 10 starts.
American League Quick Hits: X-rays on Mike Trout's left shoulder came back negative. Trout exited Wednesday's game against the A's after being hit in the shoulder blade by a pitch, but he's expected to be fine. The hope is that he'll be ready to go on Friday versus the Astros ... Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said Thursday that the goal is to start Corey Kluber (quad) in Game 1 or 2 of the ALDS. Kluber left his start Monday against the Tigers after suffering a mild quadriceps strain and won't make another appearance in the regular season, but he was able to play catch on Thursday morning and the Indians sound optimistic that he'll be ready to rock for one of the first two games of the best-of-five Division Series. "[Kluber] is not going to not make that start," said Callaway. "He'd be like Curt Schilling. He's going to go out there and pitch" ... Danny Salazar (forearm) tossed 30-plus pitches in a bullpen session Wednesday. He only threw his fastball and changeup, but Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said Salazar would be limited to those two pitches anyway if he's able to return as a reliever in the postseason. Salazar is attempting to rehab a mild strain of his right flexor musculature. He has not been ruled out for the ALDS ... Devon Travis (shoulder) was back in the Blue Jays' starting lineup on Thursday night. Travis missed a handful of games after injuring his left shoulder in Monday's benches-clearing fracas with the Yankees ... Ubaldo Jimenez held the Blue Jays scoreless over 6 2/3 innings Thursday, allowing one hit in a 4-0 Orioles shutout. Jimenez gave up a single to Ezequiel Carrera to lead off the game and nothing more, walking three and striking out five. The start was the last and easily the most important for Jimenez this year, pulling the O's into a tie with the Jays with three games left to play. For the 32-year-old, it was a strong end to an up and down season. Jimenez ends with an 8-12 record, 5.44 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 29 games, including 25 starts ... CC Sabathia struck out eight while allowing one run over 7 1/3 innings in Thursday's 5-1 win over the Red Sox. The Sox didn't roll out a full post-clinch lineup -- regulars Xander Bogaerts, David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. were among the starters -- but Sabathia still had little trouble shutting them down in his final 2016 start. He ended on a high note, allowing one run or fewer in three of his final four starts to lower his overall ERA to 3.91. The 36-year-old has already said he hopes to pitch beyond 2017, and after showing he's still able to get hitters out this year, it will be interesting to see how he fares as he approaches his career's sunset ... Jesus Montero has been suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for dimethylbutylamine. Montero has spent all of 2016 at Triple-A in the Blue Jays' organization, batting .317/.349/.438 with 11 homers. The former top prospect will turn 27 in November and his future in the majors is now looking as cloudy as ever.