Though a formality at this point, the Cardinals officially clinched the NL Central tonight with a 7-0 blanking of the Cubs. The offense got to Cubs starter Travis Wood early, scoring three times on a two-run double by Yadier Molina and an RBI single by Jon Jay. Wood exited after the first, as the one inning put him exactly at the 200-inning mark.
David Freese hit a solo home run off of Cubs reliever Brooks Raley in the third. The Cardinals added two more against Raley in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk by Matt Holliday and an RBI ground out by Molina. Matt Holliday crushed a solo home run into the bullpen at Busch Stadium in the bottom of the sixth against reliever Blake Parker.
Meanwhile, Cardinals starter Laynce Lynn was nearly untouchable, holding the Cubs scoreless over six innings on four hits and no walks while striking out nine. Kevin Siegrist, Edward Mujica, Carlos Martinez, and Trevor Rosenthal combined for three scoreless innings to wrap up the game.
The Cardinals aren’t done playing meaningful baseball yet, however. They are tied with the Braves at 95-65. The team with the best record gets home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and gets to play the winner of the Wild Card playoff game, ostensibly weaker than either remaining divisional winner.
The Reds announced earlier that they plan to extend the protective netting at Great American Ball Park in time for Opening Day next season. You can add the Padres and Mariners to what will surely be a growing list.
A young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, which gave new life to the netting debate. Some fans and media types think Major League Baseball is not doing enough to protect fans. While Major League Baseball has issued guidelines for protective netting, it is ultimately up to the teams to decide just how much netting to use.
Orioles closer Zach Britton is likely done for the remainder of the 2017 season after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee, Peter Schmuck and Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun report. Britton has been battling knee problems for most of the season.
The Orioles are still technically in the AL Wild Card race, entering play Thursday 5.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot. With only nine games remaining, however, the 73-80 Orioles are likely being realistic about their chances and not taking any unnecessary risks with Britton.
Britton, 29, put up a 2.89 ERA with 15 saves and a 29/18 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings this season. He will be eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason.