Daily Dose: Bedard hits the DL again

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Erik Bedard came off the disabled list on July 7, went 0-1 with a 4.15
ERA in 17 innings spread over four starts while working on a limited
pitch count, and landed back on the shelf Sunday. Shoulder problems are
once again to blame, and the Mariners are calling the latest issue
inflammation while hoping to get him back in a couple weeks.

While the latest trip to the DL ruins whatever chance the Mariners
had of dealing Bedard prior to Friday’s deadline, the injury should
make it easier for him to pass through waivers unclaimed after July 31.
In other words, if he comes back in two weeks and looks healthy,
Seattle may still have an opportunity to cash Bedard in before he hits
free agency. He’s continued to pitch well throughout the injuries.

While the Mariners keep chugging along just 10 wins from last year’s total, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Brett Gardner has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees, as the
25-year-old rookie hit .275/.354/.400 with 20 steals in 25 attempts and
great defense through 85 games while splitting time with Melky Cabrera
in center field. Unfortunately he suffered a broken left thumb while
sliding into second base Saturday and will be in a cast for the next
couple weeks before being evaluated further.

Triple-A center fielder Austin Jackson is one of baseball’s best
outfield prospects and is hitting .311/.375/.429 with 17 steals in 92
games, but manager Joe Girardi indicated Sunday that the 22-year-old is
unlikely to be called up as Cabrera gets another chance to play every
day. In terms of offense his .285/.347/.433 mark is nearly identical to
Gardner, but Cabrera’s glove and wheels are downgrades.

* After going 0-for-4 in his big-league debut Saturday, Michael
Saunders notched a pair of hits Sunday while driving in his first
career run. Seattle cleared room for Saunders by designating Wladimir
Belantien for assignment in preparation for a trade, leaving Ryan
Langerhans as his only real competition for playing time and all but
guaranteeing the 22-year-old top prospect regular starts down the
stretch.

Saunders batted .290/.374/.484 at Double-A last season before
struggling after a promotion to Triple-A, but mastered Tacoma while
hitting .310/.378/.544 with 13 homers, 30 total extra-base hits, and a
25/48 K/BB ratio in 64 games prior to the call-up. Saunders projects as
a 20-homer hitter with a .275-.290 batting average, double-digit
steals, and solid defense, but he’s not a mixed-league option yet.

* John Smoltz was regularly clocked at 91-93 miles per hour with his
fastball and showed a good slider while getting six strikeouts in five
innings Sunday, but once again struggled by allowing six runs on nine
hits. Lack of fastball command has really hurt Smoltz and he certainly
hasn’t looked great through six starts, but with a 28/5 K/BB ratio in
30.2 innings his 1-3 record and 7.03 ERA are misleading.

* While making absolutely zero promises regarding the ratio of fantasy insight to inane rambling, I’m now on Twitter
and have quickly become addicted to posting stuff throughout the day.
Whether you’re interested in reading the minutiae of my life, my
complaints about the Twins, or half of random conversations I’m having
with people you likely don’t know, come check out @aarongleeman on Twitter!

AL Quick Hits: Justin Morneau went deep twice Sunday, and now
leads the AL in homers and RBIs … With their efforts to acquire Roy
Halladay stalled the Phillies have been scouting Cliff Lee, who threw
seven innings of two-run ball Sunday for his seventh win … With the Red
Sox facing a right-hander Sunday, Mike Lowell was benched in favor of
Adam LaRoche … Bartolo Colon will stay in the rotation and start
Wednesday, with Jose Contreras pushed to Thursday … Cleveland got
reliever Jess Todd from St. Louis to complete the Mark DeRosa trade …
Already battling the flu, Kevin Millwood left Sunday’s start with a
strained gluteus … Brett Cecil stayed on a roll Sunday with seven
frames of one-run ball … Tony Pena Jr. will go to the low minors to
work on becoming a pitcher after posting a .548 OPS as a “hitter” …
Cleveland turned down Boston’s offer of Michael Bowden, Justin
Masterson, and an unnamed outfield prospect for Victor Martinez.

NL Quick Hits: Geovany Soto (oblique) is slated to take batting
practice Monday and could return as soon as next week … Max Scherzer
shut out the Pirates for seven innings Sunday, striking out eight
without a walk … Because of setbacks, Chris Young (shoulder) isn’t
expected to return until September, if at all … Micah Owings exited
Sunday’s start after three innings with shoulder soreness … Dmitri
Young’s comeback officially ended with a torn quadriceps … Joe Blanton
tossed eight innings of two-run ball Sunday and is 7-2 with a 3.21 ERA
and 82/27 K/BB in 15 starts since an ugly April … Still bothered by a
sore hand, Manny Ramirez sat out Sunday’s game … Chad Gaudin stayed on
a roll Sunday by allowing one run over seven innings in a no-decision …
John Lannan cut his ERA to 3.25 after giving up one run in eight
innings Sunday … Colby Ramus was out of the lineup Sunday and will have
his sore heel examined Monday … Derrek Lee missed his second straight
game Sunday with back spasms, giving Jake Fox the start.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).