Marlins right-hander Javier Vazquez continued his recent run of domination on Wednesday night in south Florida, allowing only two hits over seven scoreless innings to capture a 4-0 victory against a Braves team that continues to scuffle mightily.
A couple thousand miles northwest, Cardinals third baseman David Freese drove in five runs, Albert Pujols went 2-for-4 and left-hander Jaime Garcia put together a strong outing as a scorching-hot St. Louis club grabbed a 6-5 win over the Mets.
With the Braves’ loss and the Cardinals’ dramatic win, Atlanta’s lead in the National League Wild Card standings has fallen suddenly to just 1.5 games.
The Braves had a healthy 10.5-game Wild Card lead on August 25, but they’ve gone 10-16 since due to a range of different issues. St. Louis, meanwhile, has registered a surprising 19-6 record over that span.
Atlanta has a scheduled off-day Thursday before opening a three-game series against Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg on Friday in the nation’s capital. They’ll then host the Phillies for a three-game season-ending set.
The Cardinals will play an afternoon game against the Mets on Thursday before hosting a three-game weekend series with the rival Cubs. St. Louis’ final series next week is against the league-worst Astros.
It’s already quite apparent that this race will be decided on the final few days of the regular season.
With last Wednesday’s start against the Yankees, Mariners hurler Hisashi Iwakuma pushed his 2016 innings total up to 2016. That clears the 162-inning hurdle for his 2017 option to vest at $14 million. However, as Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors reports, the language in Iwakuma’s contract also stipulates that the right-hander finish the season without suffering a specific injury.
Iwakuma, 35, was in agreement with the Dodgers on a three-year contract back in December but failed the physical, which nullified the deal. He ended up signing with the Mariners on a one-year, $12 million deal with a full no-trade clause and club options for 2017 and ’18 that vest at specific inning thresholds (162 each or 324 for both seasons).
This season, Iwakuma has stayed healthy, making 26 starts to the tune of a 14-9 record, a 3.81 ERA and a 118/36 K/BB ratio in 163 innings.
Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki deposited a single to left-center field in the fourth inning of Monday night’s game against the Mets, then added a double to center field in the eighth. Those mark hits No. 3,010 and 3,011 for Suzuki in his major league career, tying and then moving past Wade Boggs for sole possession of 27th on baseball’s all-time hits list.
Suzuki would come around to score on a double by Xavier Scruggs to break a scoreless tie in the eighth.
Here’s the video of Ichiro’s first hit.
By the end of the season, Suzuki will have presumably moved ahead of Rafael Palmeiro (26th; 3,020) and Lou Brock (25th; 3,023).
Suzuki was 2-for-4 after the double. With baseball’s fifth month nearly complete, the 42-year-old is currently batting .298/.371/.373.