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.

John Lackey stole the first base of his career

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Cubs starter John Lackey stole the first base of his 15-year career on Wednesday against the Reds. Of course, he spent the first 11 and a half years of his career in the American League, where opportunities to bat, let alone attempt to steal a base, were rare. Lackey entered Wednesday having taken 250 plate appearances, reaching base just 31 times on 17 singles, seven doubles, and seven walks for a .134 on-base percentage. One can imagine the 38-year-old is not exactly the swiftest base runner.

Still, Lackey managed to swipe a bag in the fourth inning. He singled with two outs against Homer Bailey. Then, with an 0-1 count on Ben Zobrist, Lackey broke for second even before Bailey began his windup. Tucker Barnhart stood up to alert Bailey that Lackey was running, so Bailey wheeled around and threw to second base, but Lackey slid into the bag easily safe. It wasn’t a pretty slide, but it did the job.

Lackey, however, was picked off of second base by Barnhart later that inning. Bailey threw a 3-2 fastball wide of the strike zone, walking Zobrist. Lackey had wandered too far off of second base, so Barnhart threw behind Lackey and the tag was applied by Zack Cozart. Lackey was called safe initially. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field was overturned, ending the fourth inning.

Base Ba’al giveth and Base Ba’al taketh away.

Video: Aaron Judge sends a baseball into the upper deck at Citi Field

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge hit another jaw-dropping home run, victimizing Mets starter Robert Gsellman in the top of the fourth game of Wednesday night’s game at Citi Field. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes didn’t even move. The ball traveled 457 feet and was hit 117 MPH off the bat, according to Katie Sharp of River Ave Blues.

The home run moved Judge’s AL-best total to 37, putting him two ahead of the Royals’ Mike Moustakas. Along with the prodigious dinger total, he has 80 RBI, 90 runs scored, and a .291/.421/.616 triple-slash line in 499 plate appearances. Judge is on pace for 50 dingers. If it holds, that would give him the rookie record for home runs in a season. Mark McGwire currently holds the record, having hit 49 for the Athletics in 1987.