Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.
Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.
It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.
“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”
The Nationals’ magic number entering Sunday afternoon’s action was two, meaning that any combination of two of their own wins and losses by the second-place Marlins would clinch the NL East for them. They took care of business against the Phillies behind a stellar outing from Stephen Strasburg, so once they cleared the field on Nationals Park, they went into the clubhouse to watch the remainder of the Marlins-Braves game.
The Nationals didn’t like what they saw initially. With the game tied 5-5, the Marlins took a 6-5 lead in the top of the eighth inning when Dee Gordon hit a solo homer. The Fish tacked on two more in the ninth on an RBI double from Christian Yelich and a Justin Bour sacrifice fly, making it 8-5. But the Braves rallied in the bottom of the ninth, scoring once on a Tyler Flowers ground out and twice on a Rio Ruiz single that was misplayed by third baseman Brian Anderson but not scored an error.
Neither team scored in the 10th, but the Marlins’ bullpen faltered once again as Lane Adams hit a walk-off two-run home run in the 11th off of Vance Worley. That marked the Braves’ second consecutive walk-off win against the Marlins and clinched the division on behalf of the Nationals, who are the first team to clinch in baseball this season. The Nationals have won the NL East in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history. The club has earned first place in the division in four of the last six campaigns as well.
There’s still something left to play for as the Nationals are still within reach of the faltering Dodgers for the best record in the league. The Dodgers opened Sunday at 92-50 while the Nationals are 88-55.
It’s been a long road back from the disabled list, but Carlos Correa is finally ready to resume his season. The Astros activated Correa from the 10-day DL in advance of Sunday’s series finale and will equip the shortstop with a special protective pad on his thumb when he takes the field.
Correa, 22, initially jammed his left thumb after sliding headfirst into Tyler Flowers‘ shinguard back in early July. Several weeks later, he aggravated the injury on a bad swing and underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament, totaling 47 days on the disabled list as he worked back to full strength.
Prior to the injury, Correa slashed .320/.400/.566 with 20 home runs and a .966 OPS in 375 PA for the Astros, earning his first All-Star distinction and approaching career-high numbers with 4.1 fWAR. He continued to mash in back-to-back rehab assignments with Triple-A Fresno and Double-A Corpus Christi, going 7-for-24 with a double and five RBI leading up to his activation from the disabled list. There’s no guarantee that Correa will return to MVP-caliber production levels when he steps back into the majors, but the hot-hitting shortstop could help give the Astros the edge they need to make a long run in the postseason this fall.