Cardinals fall again as Padres complete sweep in San Diego

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Kyle Lohse tallied a season-high eight strikeouts over six strong innings, but the Redbirds’ offense continued its prolonged slump on Wednesday in San Diego as the Padres completed a three-game sweep of the defending World Series champions.

Matt Holliday finished 0-for-4 and is now batting just .204 over his past 14 games. Yadier Molina went 0-for-3 and laid down an ill-advised sacrifice bunt with a runner on second base and no outs in the ninth inning, damaging the threat of a late comeback. That bunt call apparently did not come from manager Mike Matheny.

The Cardinals have dropped 11 of their last 15 games and hold just a half-game lead over the Dodgers for the National League’s second Wild Card spot. The hard-charging Phillies are just three games back, and the Pirates are still alive with a mere two-game deficit. Milwaukee is 3 1/2 games out.

St. Louis visits Chavez Ravine next for a huge four-game set. We’ve entered must-see baseball territory.

Report: Astros extend Justin Verlander for two years, $66 million

Justin Verlander
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The Astros are in agreement with right-hander Justin Verlander on a two-year, $66 million extension, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was among those to report on Friday. With no money deferred, the $33 million he’ll receive over the next two years will set a record AAV for major-league pitchers; something MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says matters to Verlander, who “cares how his deals affect markets (and fellow players).”

While it’s far from the five-year, $100 million extension teammate Alex Bregman signed with the club on Friday, the deal will give the Astros a bigger window to consider their long-term plans for the ace before he hits free agency again. Prior to Saturday’s agreement, Verlander’s original contract — the hefty seven-year, $180 million arrangement he reached with the Tigers in 2013 — was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

It’s difficult to overestimate the value Verlander has provided to the Astros since they acquired him from the Tigers back in 2017. He was named the 2017 ALCS MVP following seven shutout innings in a must-win Game 6 performance and helped the Astros clinch their first franchise World Series title. In 2018, he earned his seventh career All-Star distinction and received consideration for both AL Cy Young and MVP awards after pitching to a 16-9 record in 34 starts with a 2.52 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 12.2 SO/9 (the product of a career-high 290 strikeouts), and 6.7 fWAR over 214 innings.

The deal has not been confirmed by the team.