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Cardinals win, Braves lose as Wild Card gap shrinks again

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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.

Josh Johnson retires from baseball

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Josh Johnson #55 of the San Diego Padres poses during Picture Day on February 21, 2014 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.

Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.

Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.

Report: Angels close to a multi-year deal with Luis Valbuena

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Luis Valbuena #18 of the Houston Astros hits a three run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.

Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.

Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.