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Jackson settles, Freese shines as Cardinals force Game 5

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“I knew I couldn’t let the game overwhelm me,” Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson told a reporter a few minutes after the conclusion of Wednesday night’s 5-3 NLDS Game 4 victory over the Phillies.

Whether that mindset came to the right-hander in hindsight or he truly felt mentally calm after allowing a double, triple and single within his first five pitches, Jackson indeed responded and settled in. After that rough first frame, he retired 17 of the next 20 batters he faced before exiting to a three-run lead.

Cardinals third baseman David Freese hit a two-run go-ahead double in the fourth inning, then launched a towering two-run homer to the center field lawn in the bottom of the sixth. A product of the west St. Louis suburbs, he was granted a chill-inducing curtain call by the Busch Stadium faithful after his blast.

This five-game NLDS will come down to Game 5, Friday night in Philadelphia. Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay. Two old friends and former teammates, both on normal rest. It should be a heck of a finish.

Notes

* The sun caused some issues in the first inning when Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay failed to get a good initial read on a leadoff hit by Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies scored two in that opening frame.

* The Phillies also experienced problems in center field during the first inning, when Shane Victorino’s front foot slipped out from under him while he was trying to throw a ball back to the infield. The outfield grass at Busch Stadium had to be completely replaced after a U2 concert in July and hasn’t fully recovered.

* Freese was 2-for-13 with six strikeouts in the series before his double and heroic home run.

* Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols made one of the best defensive plays of this postseason, picking off Chase Utley as he tried to advance from first to third during a sixth-inning infield hit by Hunter Pence.

* A squirrel dashed across home plate while Phillies starter Roy Oswalt was delivering a pitch to Skip Schumaker in the bottom of the fifth. Oswalt tried to argue for a do-over on the pitch — called a ball — but home plate umpire Angel Hernandez appeared to laugh off that suggestion. Schumaker then flied out. A squirrel (possibly the same one) also reached the playing field in Game 3 Tuesday evening.

* Phillies slugger Ryan Howard went 0-for-8 in both games back in St. Louis, his hometown.

* Placido Polanco, still being bothered by a sports hernia, is 2-for-16 so far in this five-game series.

* Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (finger) was 1-for-3 with two runs scored in his return to the lineup.

Miguel Cabrera blasts two home runs against Braves

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 28: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers hits a three-run home run during the fifth inning of the game against the Cleveland Indians scoring teammates Cameron Maybin #4 and Ian Kinsler #3 (not in photo) on September 28, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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Even while injured, Miguel Cabrera is a force to be reckoned with. The 33-year-old slugger has been playing with a contusion on his knee since Wednesday, according to postgame comments made by Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus.

That didn’t stop him from whacking a 410-foot home run against Atlanta right-hander Matt Wisler on Friday night, skirting the center field fence to put the Tigers up 3-0 in the first inning. In the third, he lead off the inning with another long drive off of Wisler, targeting his changeup for a 421-foot shot, his 38th home run of the season:

It’s Cabrera’s sixth two-run homer game since the start of the season, and his first against the Braves since 2005. He needs just two more home runs to keep an even 40 on the year, which would return him to the kind of league-leading levels that accentuated his MVP case in 2012 and 2013. If he can do it by the end of this Tigers-Braves game (unlikely, but not unheard of), he’ll be the 15th major leaguer to hit four home runs in a single game.

Reds’ manager Bryan Price extended through 2017

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 28: Manager Bryan Price #38 of the Cincinnati Reds looks on during the fifth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 28, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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The Reds will roll with manager Bryan Price for at least one more season. Per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, Price has been extended through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018. He won’t be the only familiar face leading the team, as the Reds have reportedly asked the entire coaching staff to return as well.

This is Price’s second consecutive season with 90+ losses since Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract back in 2014. While he hasn’t been able to replicate the same kind of success that former skipper Dusty Baker found in 2012 and 2013, he’s been saddled with a team that’s still in the throes of rebuilding, not one that looks on the cusp of playoff contention. It is, after all, the same team that has not seen a healthy season from Homer Bailey since Price’s arrival, one that unloaded Jay Bruce for a pair of prospects earlier this year and one whose pitching staff set a single-season record for most home runs given up by a major league team.

Justifying Price’s extension requires a different kind of yardstick, one that measures player development and individual success over the cumulative win-loss record. Here, Price has overseen solid performances from contributors like Adam Duvall, who is batting .244/.297/.506 with 2.9 fWAR in his first full major-league season, as well as young arms like Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen, among others.

From comments made by Reds’ CFO Bob Castellini, Price’s success within a rough rebuilding process appears to have cemented his place within the club, at least for the time being.

I like the young, aggressive team Walt and Dick have put together with players from within our system and from recent trades. […] Bryan has been here seven seasons now. He’s comfortable with the direction we are heading with our young players, and we are comfortable with him leading us in that direction.