Wagner declines All-Star invite, Kuo takes final spot

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Braves outfielder Jason Heyward backed out of the All-Star Game Saturday due to his ongoing recovery from a left thumb bruise, so National League squad manager Charlie Manuel asked closer Billy Wagner on Sunday if he would like to go to Anaheim instead.  Wagner declined respectfully, citing an ankle injury that he would prefer to rest.

“It’s just good that I take some time off,” Wagner told Mark Bowman of MLB.com.  “I can pitch
on it.  But I’d hate to try to push it, when I know that I had some
time. I’d feel better if I knew that I was around for the whole
duration of this year, rather than trying to fight through this ankle
all year.  When we get closer to the end, I’m going to have to be ready
to go everyday and there’s no days off.”

Fair enough.  The Braves have lofty goals this season and the 38-year-old Wagner is wise to want as much rest as possible.

Set on adding a lefty, Manuel then phoned Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez, and Kuo jumped at the opportunity to participate in Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic.  He’s plenty deserving with a 1.03 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 12 holds through 25 appearances this season and his addition to the NL squad makes sense from a strategy standpoint.  Both rosters are now set.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.