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.

Angels fire back at Rob Manfred’s comments re: Mike Trout

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Angels outfielder Mike Trout‘s marketability has been a topic of conversation in recent days as the best players in baseball converged upon Washington, D.C. for the All-Star Game. We learned that, according to one firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, Trout is as recognizable to the average American as Brooklyn Nets reserve forward Kenneth Faried, despite being far and away the best player in baseball and one of the greatest players ever to play the game.

Commissioner Rob Manfred also addressed Trout’s marketability, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reported. Manfred said, “Mike has made decisions on what he wants to do, doesn’t want to do, how he wants to spend his free time or not spend his free time. I think we could help him make his brand very bug. But he has to make a decision to engage. It takes time and effort.”

The Angels fired back on Wednesday, releasing a statement that said:

On behalf of the Angels Organization and baseball fans everywhere, congratulations to Mike Trout on another outstanding All-Star Game performance.

Mike Trout is an exceptional ambassador for the game. Combined with his talent, his solid character creates a perfect role model for young people everywhere. Each year, Mike devotes a tremendous amount of his time and effort contributing to our Organization, and marketing Major League Baseball. He continually chooses to participate in the community, visiting hospitals, schools, and countless other charities. One of Mike’s traits that people admire most is his humility. His brand is built upon generously spending his time engaging with fans, both at home and on the road, while remaining a remarkable baseball player and teammate.

In addition, Mike spends quality time as a husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend. We applaud him for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion. That is rare in today’s society and stands out as much as his extraordinary talent.

It’s not on Trout to build a brand that appeals to MLB’s marketing department, so the Angels are right to back Trout’s decision to stay out of the limelight. The Angels’ motivation likely isn’t entirely selfless, however, as supporting him in this situation may make it more enticing for him to sign a contract extension before his current contract expires after the 2020 season.