Braves hold on to beat Phillies; 3-way tie still possible

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The Braves made it far too interesting after taking an 8-2 lead in the sixth inning Saturday, giving up two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth, yet they held on to beat the Phillies 8-7 and guarantee that Bobby Cox will manage at least one more game.
With the victory, the Braves are 91-71. The Padres and Giants are currently playing this afternoon, with San Diego going for a three-game sweep. If the Padres win, all three teams will be 91-71, leading to one-game playoffs on Monday and Tuesday. If the Giants prevail, then the NL playoff picture will be set, with the Padres being eliminated.
The Braves seemed to be staring at an easy win today with Tim Hudson in command. He allowed just two hits in the contest. However, both were two-run homers. John Mayberry Jr. hit one in the third, and Jayson Werth hit the second in the seventh, bringing the Phillies back to within four runs.
Things got dicey in the eighth, as the Braves turned to Jonny Venters to replace Hudson. After two quick outs, Venters allowed a single and then had Mike Sweeney reach on an Omar Infante error. That brought in Billy Wagner, who gave up a single and a double to make it an 8-7 game.
Wagner got out of trouble after intentionally walking Jayson Werth and striking out Raul Ibanez. He then struck out Shane Victorino, Brian Schneider and Greg Dobbs all looking in the ninth, ending the game.
Of real concern to Atlanta has to be that both Infante and Brooks Conrad committed errors in the game. Those two switched positions today, with Infante moving from third to second, because of Conrad’s recent problems making throws from the hot corner. The Braves may want to reevaluate things now. Infante offers superior range at second base, and that is the busier position of the two.
The Braves offense shined today, but it did so against a bunch of pitchers just getting their work in. After Cole Hamels opened with two hitless innings, the following seven pitchers allowed 14 hits and six walks. Roy Oswalt gave up a run in his one inning, and Joe Blanton allowed two in his.
The Phillies could have suffered something of a blow in the seventh, as lefty specialist J.C. Romero left with an apparent injury. He’s struggled much of the year, but he was still going to be counted on for matchup purposes in the postseason.

Athletics and Mariners to begin the 2019 regular season in Tokyo

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners will begin the 2019 regular season in Japan, in the Tokyo Dome.

The series will mark the third time that the A’s will begin their season in Japan, first doing it in 2008 against the Red Sox and then again in 2012 against the Mariners.

This is just the latest of Major League Baseball’s moves to expand the the game internationally. In addition to those previous series in Japan, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks opened their season in Australia in 2014 and the Dodgers and Padres will play a series in Mexico City this May. There has likewise been talk of the Mets playing a series in London, though those details have not yet been worked out. Obviously the World Baseball Classic represents the league’s effort to broaden the global scope of the once national pastime.

Get ready for early morning baseball, folks.