Cardinals win, Braves lose as Wild Card gap shrinks again

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Marlins right-hander Javier Vazquez continued his recent run of domination on Wednesday night in south Florida, allowing only two hits over seven scoreless innings to capture a 4-0 victory against a Braves team that continues to scuffle mightily.

A couple thousand miles northwest, Cardinals third baseman David Freese drove in five runs, Albert Pujols went 2-for-4 and left-hander Jaime Garcia put together a strong outing as a scorching-hot St. Louis club grabbed a  6-5 win over the Mets.

With the Braves’ loss and the Cardinals’ dramatic win, Atlanta’s lead in the National League Wild Card standings has fallen suddenly to just 1.5 games.

The Braves had a healthy 10.5-game Wild Card lead on August 25, but they’ve gone 10-16 since due to a range of different issues. St. Louis, meanwhile, has registered a surprising 19-6 record over that span.

Atlanta has a scheduled off-day Thursday before opening a three-game series against Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg on Friday in the nation’s capital. They’ll then host the Phillies for a three-game season-ending set.

The Cardinals will play an afternoon game against the Mets on Thursday before hosting a three-game weekend series with the rival Cubs. St. Louis’ final series next week is against the league-worst Astros.

It’s already quite apparent that this race will be decided on the final few days of the regular season.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.