Cardinals win, Braves lose as Wild Card gap shrinks again


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.

Danny Duffy exits spring training game with left shoulder tightness

Danny Duffy
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Royals’ Opening Day starter Danny Duffy weathered a minor scare during Saturday’s Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks. The left-hander was removed from his final spring training start after experiencing some left shoulder tightness in the second and third innings. No lasting damage appears to have been done — Duffy told reporters that he simply felt a slight ache, nothing more — and it looks like he’ll remain on track to open the season with the team next Thursday.

The 29-year-old southpaw is coming off one of his best performances to date. Despite losing a few weeks to an oblique strain and elbow soreness, he went 9-10 in 24 starts and finished the 2017 season with a 3.81 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 over 146 1/3 innings. While Duffy entered camp with a clean bill of health, he struggled to execute against his spring training opponents and racked up 13 runs, four homers, seven walks and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings of Cactus League play.

The Royals are scheduled to kick off their home opener against the White Sox on Thursday, March 29 at 4:15 PM ET. Barring any further complications with his shoulder, Duffy will take the mound for the Royals, while James Shields is expected to make his first Opening Day appearance for the White Sox.