Giants grab 3-1 lead, leave Rangers on last legs

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Before this series began, many prognosticators gave the Rangers the edge because of the postseason success of Cliff Lee and the team’s powerhouse offense. Not an unreasonable conclusion to make, really. Well, not only did Lee get knocked around pretty good back in Game 1, but the Rangers have been shut out twice in the first four games of the series.

Things just aren’t going according to plan.

Madison Bumgarner was absolutely dominant in Game 4 on Sunday night, allowing just three measly singles over eight shutout innings as part of a 4-0 win. Only one Rangers’ baserunner managed to make it past first base all night long — and that was set up by an error by Juan Uribe in the bottom of the seventh inning.  The 21-year-old left-hander walked a pair and struck out six in the victory, including three strikeouts of Vladimir Guerrero, who looked completely lost in the batter’s box.

Bumgarner is the second youngest pitcher in World Series history with at least eight shutout innings. Jim Palmer was 20 years old when he tossed a complete-game shutout in Game 2 of the 1966 World Series, beating some guy named Sandy Koufax. Gee, and to think, a year ago, many people were ready to give up on Bumgarner as a legit pitching prospect because of a drop in velocity.

Believe it or not, I actually have some good news for Rangers fans. Coming into the series, there was some debate about just where Jonathan Sanchez belonged in the Giants’ rotation, or if he belonged at all. Imagine if Bumgarner got the call in Game 3 on Saturday night instead of Sanchez? The Giants may well have had a commanding 3-0 lead going into Game 4 on Sunday. And that’s certainly not a place you want to be.

While that was the glass half-full approach, here’s the thing. No team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series since the Royals defeated the Cardinals in 1985. And that was with the infamous help of first base umpire Don Denkinger. In other words, it doesn’t look good.

With their collective backs against the wall, the Rangers will turn to their ace Cliff Lee against Tim Lincecum in Game 5 on Monday night. Granted, the left-hander revealed himself to be human in Game 1, but we have a mountain of evidence to suggest that he is quite capable of bouncing back from a poor outing. The Giants have a brilliant pitcher of their own going on Monday, so it would be foolish to look past him, but assuming the Rangers can scrounge up enough runs to actually win — obviously no given at this point — the real toss-up may be Game 6 against Matt Cain back at AT&T Park in San Francisco. A place where the Rangers are 0-11 all-time.

As you may remember, C.J. Wilson was forced to leave in the seventh inning of Game 2 because of a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported Sunday that Wilson began using a topical skin adhesive and plans to be available to start Game 6 on Wednesday. If the Rangers are fortunate enough to get that far, it’s just impossible to know what pitcher they are going to get.

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).