Braves hold on to beat Phillies; 3-way tie still possible

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The Braves made it far too interesting after taking an 8-2 lead in the sixth inning Saturday, giving up two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth, yet they held on to beat the Phillies 8-7 and guarantee that Bobby Cox will manage at least one more game.
With the victory, the Braves are 91-71. The Padres and Giants are currently playing this afternoon, with San Diego going for a three-game sweep. If the Padres win, all three teams will be 91-71, leading to one-game playoffs on Monday and Tuesday. If the Giants prevail, then the NL playoff picture will be set, with the Padres being eliminated.
The Braves seemed to be staring at an easy win today with Tim Hudson in command. He allowed just two hits in the contest. However, both were two-run homers. John Mayberry Jr. hit one in the third, and Jayson Werth hit the second in the seventh, bringing the Phillies back to within four runs.
Things got dicey in the eighth, as the Braves turned to Jonny Venters to replace Hudson. After two quick outs, Venters allowed a single and then had Mike Sweeney reach on an Omar Infante error. That brought in Billy Wagner, who gave up a single and a double to make it an 8-7 game.
Wagner got out of trouble after intentionally walking Jayson Werth and striking out Raul Ibanez. He then struck out Shane Victorino, Brian Schneider and Greg Dobbs all looking in the ninth, ending the game.
Of real concern to Atlanta has to be that both Infante and Brooks Conrad committed errors in the game. Those two switched positions today, with Infante moving from third to second, because of Conrad’s recent problems making throws from the hot corner. The Braves may want to reevaluate things now. Infante offers superior range at second base, and that is the busier position of the two.
The Braves offense shined today, but it did so against a bunch of pitchers just getting their work in. After Cole Hamels opened with two hitless innings, the following seven pitchers allowed 14 hits and six walks. Roy Oswalt gave up a run in his one inning, and Joe Blanton allowed two in his.
The Phillies could have suffered something of a blow in the seventh, as lefty specialist J.C. Romero left with an apparent injury. He’s struggled much of the year, but he was still going to be counted on for matchup purposes in the postseason.

Jeffrey Springs, Rays agree to $31 million, 4-year contract

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Left-hander Jeffrey Springs became the first of the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration salaries with their teams to reach a deal, agreeing Wednesday to a $31 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year old was among seven Rays who swapped arbitration figures with the team on Jan. 13. He began last season in the bullpen, transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts. He is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 76 outings – 51 of them in relief – since he was acquired from Boston in February 2021.

Springs gets $4 million this year, $5.25 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Tampa Bay has a $15 million option for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout.

The 2025 and 2026 salaries can escalate by up to $3.75 million each based on innings in 2023-24 combined: $1.5 million for 300, $1 million for 325, $750,000 for 350 and $500,000 for 375. The `25 and ’26 salaries also can escalate based on finish in Cy Young Award voting in `23 and ’24: $2 million for winning, $1.5 million for finishing second through fifth in the voting and $250,000 for finishing sixth through 10th.

Tampa Bay’s option price could escalate based on Cy Young voting in 2025 and 2026: by $2.5 million for winning, $2 million for finishing second through fifth and $500,000 for sixth through 10th.

Springs would get $45.25 million if the option is exercised, $52.75 million with the option and meeting all innings targets and the maximum if he meetings the innings targets and wins two Cy Youngs.

Springs’ ERA last season was the second lowest in franchise history for a pitcher working a minimum of 100 innings. Former Rays ace Blake Snell compiled 1.89 ERA on the way to winning the 2018 AL Cy Young.

In addition to finishing sixth in the AL in ERA, Springs allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 25 starts and two runs or fewer 17 times. He joined Tampa Bay’s rotation on May 9, gradually increasing his workload over his next six appearances. Springs was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Arbitration hearings start next week and the Rays remain with the most players scheduled to appear before three-person panels.

Springs had asked for a raise from $947,500 to $3.55 million and had been offered $2.7 million. Tampa remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Tampa Bay also agreed minor league contacts with catcher Gavin Collins and right-hander Jaime Schultz, who will report to major league spring training.

Infielder Austin Shenton and pitchers Anthony Molina and Joe LaSorsa also were invited to big league spring training.