The National League playoff picture got a step closer to taking shape last night, as the Cardinals walloped the Nationals 12-2 at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals are three games up on the Dodgers and five ahead of the Brewers for the second Wild Card spot with just five games to play.
Edwin Jackson was hit really hard by his former team, giving up nine runs (eight earned) on six hits and four walks over just 1 1/3 innings. It was his shortest outing of the season.
Allen Craig went 4-for-4 in the victory while Yadier Molina added to his case for National League MVP by hitting his 22nd home run. Adam Wainwright bounced back from some recent shaky efforts to toss six innings of one-run ball. Despite the loss, Bryce Harper went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored. His OPS is now over .800 (.804) for the first time since July 18.
Because the Braves lost to the Mets last night, the Nationals’ magic number to clinch the National League East is down to two. They could clinch it tonight with a victory and another Braves loss. As for the Cardinals, their magic number to clinch the second Wild Card is at three.
Your Saturday box scores:
Reds 1, Pirates 0
Red Sox 1, Orioles 9
Phillies 1, Marlins 2
Royals 5, Indians 8
Mets 3, Braves 1
Yankees 11, Blue Jays 4
Astros 7, Brewers 6
Angels 7, Rangers 4
Rays 1, White Sox 3
Cubs 3, Diamondbacks 8
Tigers 2, Twins 4
Giants 3, Padres 1
Mariners 2, Athletics 8
Rockies 0, Dodgers 8
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.