Cardinals grab top seed in National League playoffs

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One of the few things still undetermined at the start of play Sunday has now been … determined.

Despite a lineup that was without Matt Holliday and an oddly-timed substitution of Tony Cruz for Yadier Molina just before first pitch, the Cardinals rolled to a 4-0 victory over the Cubs in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Jake Westbrook threw a scoreless first inning and Joe Kelly went five-plus. Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso, Shane Robinson and Cruz all contributed RBI.

The Cardinals have secured the top seed in the National League with a final regular-season record of 97-75 and will open their five-game NLDS on Thursday against the winner of the National League Wild Card Game — Reds or Pirates — which is set for Tuesday night at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.

The Dodgers (92-69) will play the Braves (96-66) in the other five-game NLDS.

Report: Orioles re-sign Pedro Alvarez to minors deal

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The Orioles have re-signed infielder Pedro Alvarez to a minor league deal, per a report from Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports. The deal guarantees Alvarez $1 million if he makes the 40-man roster and another $2 million in potential performance bonuses. The team has yet to confirm the deal.

This will be Alvarez’s third year with the Orioles. After posting decent numbers in 2016, the 31-year-old was relegated to the minors for the majority of the 2017 season and saw only 14 games at the big league level. He finished the year with an underwhelming .239/.294/.442 batting line and 26 home runs through 595 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk.

Alvarez is expected to split his time between first base and DH this spring, and MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli notes that he’s unlikely to experiment with another outfield role. While he isn’t too far removed from his last productive season in the majors, the veteran infielder will function purely as insurance for first baseman Chris Davis and designated hitter Mark Trumbo and will likely begin the season in the minors.