Matt Holliday out third straight game with stiff back

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Matt Holliday is out of the Cardinals’ starting lineup for a third consecutive game on Tuesday night versus the Nationals. Shane Robinson will start in left field in his place and bat second against Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez.

The Cardinals have a two-game buffer over the Pirates and Reds in the National League Central standings, so maybe this is a precautionary thing. But a three-game absence is typically a red flag.

St. Louis is still missing Allen Craig, who suffered a sprained foot earlier this month and might not be ready for action until sometime in mid-October. The Cardinals have had the most productive offense in the National League this year with 760 runs scored and will continue to try to weather the storm.

Reds ink Oliver Perez to a minor-league deal

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The Reds have signed free agent reliever Oliver Perez to a minor-league contract, the team announced Saturday. The deal comes with a major-league invite and could be worth $1.25 million if Perez secures a roster spot this spring, with an additional $500,000 in potential performance bonuses.

Perez, 36, is coming off of a two-year run with the Nationals. He produced a 4.64 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 an d10.6 SO/9 through 50 relief appearances and 33 innings with the club in 2017. The veteran lefty hasn’t kept an ERA under 4.00 in at least four seasons, but he continues to be undeniably solid against left-handed batters, holding them to a .227/.301/.364 batting line over 18 1/3 innings last year.

While returning southpaw Wandy Peralta appears to have locked down a bullpen spot already, Perez will still compete for another role against fellow left-handers Cody Reed and Amir Garrett, both of whom also have experience in the rotation. If Perez doesn’t break camp with the team, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon notes, he’ll be permitted to opt out of his contract. The Reds are currently looking to bounce back from a dismal performance in 2017, one in which their bullpen ranked 28th among major league teams with a collective 5.63 ERA and -1.2 fWAR.