Braves top Nationals, extend Wild Card lead to three games

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The Braves aren’t out of the woods yet, but they are inching closer to winning the NL Wild Card.

Behind a three-run first inning against Stephen Strasburg, the Braves topped the Nationals 7-4 last night. The Cardinals lost to the Cubs 5-1, so the Braves now lead the National League Wild Card by three games with five games remaining.

Tim Hudson allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings in the last night’s victory. He left the game with cramping in his neck, but the issue is considered minor and he should be fine if the Braves need him to start the season finale next Wednesday against the Phillies. However, at this point, it doesn’t look like the season will go down to the final day.

Strasburg allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits over four innings while striking out three and walking none. His command was a little shaky, especially in the first inning, but he retired 10 out of the final 11 batters he faced. He now has a 2.00 ERA and 14/0 K/BB ratio over 18 innings since returning from Tommy John surgery.

Dan Uggla and Brian McCann both knocked in a pair of runs in the win while Michael Bourn swiped two bases, giving him a major-league best 58 stolen bases for the season. Bourn was also involved in a blown run-down play in the top of the ninth inning in which he was able to score from second base because nobody was covering home plate.

The Braves’ magic number for the Wild Card is down to three. They’ll send Brandon Beachy up against Chien-Ming Wang this afternoon. As for the Cardinals, they’ll have Kyle Lohse opposing Rodrigo Lopez.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.