Cardinals continue to chip away against Nationals’ lead in Game 5

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UPDATE: The Nationals currently lead the Cardinals 6-4 in Game 5 as we move to the bottom of the seventh inning.

Edwin Jackson was called on to pitch the top of the seventh and quickly walked Jon Jay before giving up a double to Carlos Beltran. Matt Holliday grounded out to shortstop to bring home Jay, but that’s all they could get. Jackson followed with a strike out of Allen Craig and worked around a walk to Yadier Molina before getting David Freese to strike out swinging.

The Cardinals have had their fair share of chances tonight, but they only have six outs left to work with.

10:33 PM: The Cardinals tacked on two more runs in the top of the fifth inning to bring the score to 6-3.

Gio Gonzalez completely unraveled in the fifth by giving up two hits and issuing three walks, including one to force in a run. He also threw a wild pitch to allow a run to score. The Cardinals had the chance for more, but Gonzalez got Yadier Molina to fly to to right field to leave the bases loaded.

10:08 PM: The Cardinals still have quite a hole to dig out of, but they have begun the process of chipping away at the Nationals’ lead.

Carlos Beltran led off the top of the fourth inning with a walk and was quickly brought home on a double down the left field line by Matt Holliday. The Cardinals had the chance for a much bigger inning, but Gio Gonzalez got Allen Craig to ground out to shortstop and Yadier Molina to fly out to right field before striking out David Freese to end the inning. Holliday was left stranded at third base.

The Nationals currently hold a 6-1 lead in the middle of the fourth inning.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.