NL Wild Card all tied up after Braves lose, Cardinals win

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The Braves led the Wild Card by 10 1/2 games on the morning of August 26, but after a 7-1 loss to the Phillies earlier this evening and the Cardinals’ 13-6 win over the Astros just moments ago, we’ll head into the final day of the season all tied up.

The Braves appeared as lifeless as the sparsely attended crowd at Turner Field tonight. Derek Lowe was touched up for five runs over four innings while the offense could only muster four hits. Their only run scored via a solo home run by Martin Prado in the bottom of the ninth inning. But that’s a minor footnote in their fourth straight loss and their 12th in their last 17 games.

Meanwhile, Roy Oswalt was solid in his playoff tuneup, allowing just three hits over six shutout innings while striking out four and walking one. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Hunter Pence all homered in win No. 101 for the Phillies, which ties a franchise record. It looked like a forgone conclusion prior to their recent eight-game losing streak, but they can still establish a new club record with a win in tomorrow’s season finale.

As for the Cardinals, it appeared as though they were in a lot of trouble after Jake Westbrook gave up five runs over just 2 1/3 innings, but they fought back to tie the game in the top of the fourth inning. The Astros took the lead back when Jimmy Paredes grounded into a double play in the bottom of the fifth, but the Cardinals pulled ahead for good thanks to a four-run top of the seventh, including a go-ahead two-run triple by Ryan Theriot. Allen Craig added a three-run blast in the top of the eighth to officially put the game out of reach. While it was a very different game early on, the Cardinals outscored the Astros 13-1 over the final six innings.

The Braves are scheduled to throw Tim Hudson tomorrow against Joe Blanton in what will likely be a bullpen game for the Phillies. Meanwhile, the Cardinals will send Chris Carpenter to the hill against Astros’ right-hander Brett Myers. If the Braves and Cardinals are still tied at the conclusion of tomorrow’s action, we’ll see a one-game playoff Thursday night in St. Louis.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.

Phillies release veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday

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The Phillies announced on Monday that the club released veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday. Both were competing for the back-up catcher spot on the team’s 25-man roster. With both out of the picture, that means Andrew Knapp has won that honor.

Knapp, 25, hit a combined .266/.330/.390 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 443 plate appearances last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He did not have a great spring but has hit well as of late, which likely pushed him ahead of Hanigan and Holaday. Knapp will serve as the understudy to starting catcher Cameron Rupp.