Dodgers can’t get it together in the NL wild card mess

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The Braves just lost three straight to the Brewers, yet hardly missed a beat in what’s been an ugly week in the NL wild card race.

With the Dodgers getting swept in their brief two-game series against the Diamondbacks, the National League division winners appear set in stone.

Nationals: 89-64 – 8 1/2-game lead
Reds – 87-57 – 11 1/2-game lead
Giants – 81-62 – 7-game lead

Now here are the wild card standings:

Braves – 81-63 – Lost 3 straight
Cardinals – 75-68 – Lost 3 straight
Dodgers – 74-69 – Lost 3 straight
Pirates – 72-70 – Lost 6 straight
Brewers – 72-71 – Won 3 straight
Phillies – 72-71 – Won 7 straight
D’backs – 71-72 – Won 2 straight

The Braves are still in great position for the top seed, yet after the events of 2011, some nervousness is warranted. Fortunately for them, the Cardinals and Dodgers couldn’t make up any ground the last few days, and now those two face each other the next four days, which, I’m almost positive, is going to make it tough for both teams to go on winning streaks.

I’m focusing on the Dodgers here; they’ve scored 13 runs in losing six of their last seven games. They’re 6-11 since  acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett (and Nick Punto!) from the Red Sox. Matt Kemp is 4-for-32 this month. Hanley Ramirez is in a 4-for-26 slump. Gonzalez is driving in runs — he doubled in both runs in the 3-2 loss tonight — but he’s doing a poor job of getting on base and, as a result, he’s scored just four times in 17 games for the Dodgers.

As things stand now, I have to favor the Cardinals this weekend, even though the series is in L.A. And since the Dodgers have to go to both Washington and Cincinnati next week, circumstances definitely favor the Cardinals if both teams start playing to their ability. If they don’t, well, here come the Brewers and Phillies.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.