Message sent: the Braves Sweep the Phillies, take a 2.5 game lead

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Yunel Escobar double play.jpgThe Braves beat the Phillies 2-1 this afternoon behind a stellar outing from Derek Lowe and some timely hitting from Omar Infante, who was subbing for a banged up Chipper Jones.  Lowe gave up one run on six hits in eight innings with seven strikeouts. He was helped by a couple of timely double plays and, as I mentioned earlier today, a little bit of luck too.

Kyle Kendrick was nearly as good, giving up one run in seven innings. Jose Contreras showed that he is mortal, however, walking two (one intentionally) and giving up a two-out RBI single to Omar Infante to drive home the winning run. Or maybe he’s just mortal against the Braves.

The Braves have won eight straight and now have a 2.5 game lead in the NL East as they hop a plane for the west coast.  The Phillies have lost nine of their last 11 and have scored a mere 14 runs in those games.  I suppose there are worse plans than asking Roy Halladay to throw perfect games every time out, but the Phillies need a better one, and fast.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.

Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.

Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.