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.

Adrian Gonzalez might retire after his contract is up if his back isn’t any better

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Despite dealing with back trouble for five years, Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers recently made his first ever trip to the disabled list. Then he made another trip there. All of it has him contemplating his future. As he tells Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, his baseball future may be a short one if his health doesn’t improve:

“I want to get back this year to help the team and for me to be healthy,” Gonzalez said. “But I’m thinking more long-term about being able to play more years.

“Because if I have to deal with this next year again? That’ll probably be it. My contract will be over, that’ll probably be it. I won’t play any more. If I can heal it and my body feels good? Now I can go out there and do the things I can do. Then I’ll keep playing.”

Backs are one of those things that don’t get better as you get older. At least not without a lot of work and effort and good luck. Gonzalez is 35 now, so he’ll need all of that to keep playing beyond his current deal.

The Cubs send Kyle Schwarber to the minors

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Kyle Schwarber broke into the bigs in 2015 with a big bat. After missing almost all of the last season with an injury, he reemerged as a postseason hero, posting a .971 OPS in the World Series. As 2017 began he was supposed to be one of the key parts of a potent Cubs offense.

Then the baseball games actually started and he has hit a mere .171/.295/.378. Indeed, he has the lowest batting average among qualified MLB hitters in 2017. Given that he has very little if any defensive value, he has been a significant drag on the Cubs, who are just a single game over .500.

Now this:

The Cubs are also putting Jason Heyward on the disabled list, so the outfield is a bit of a mess these days. Lucky for them, they’re only trailing the Brewers by a game and a half.