Dodgers can’t get it together in the NL wild card mess

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The Braves just lost three straight to the Brewers, yet hardly missed a beat in what’s been an ugly week in the NL wild card race.

With the Dodgers getting swept in their brief two-game series against the Diamondbacks, the National League division winners appear set in stone.

Nationals: 89-64 – 8 1/2-game lead
Reds – 87-57 – 11 1/2-game lead
Giants – 81-62 – 7-game lead

Now here are the wild card standings:

Braves – 81-63 – Lost 3 straight
Cardinals – 75-68 – Lost 3 straight
Dodgers – 74-69 – Lost 3 straight
Pirates – 72-70 – Lost 6 straight
Brewers – 72-71 – Won 3 straight
Phillies – 72-71 – Won 7 straight
D’backs – 71-72 – Won 2 straight

The Braves are still in great position for the top seed, yet after the events of 2011, some nervousness is warranted. Fortunately for them, the Cardinals and Dodgers couldn’t make up any ground the last few days, and now those two face each other the next four days, which, I’m almost positive, is going to make it tough for both teams to go on winning streaks.

I’m focusing on the Dodgers here; they’ve scored 13 runs in losing six of their last seven games. They’re 6-11 since  acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett (and Nick Punto!) from the Red Sox. Matt Kemp is 4-for-32 this month. Hanley Ramirez is in a 4-for-26 slump. Gonzalez is driving in runs — he doubled in both runs in the 3-2 loss tonight — but he’s doing a poor job of getting on base and, as a result, he’s scored just four times in 17 games for the Dodgers.

As things stand now, I have to favor the Cardinals this weekend, even though the series is in L.A. And since the Dodgers have to go to both Washington and Cincinnati next week, circumstances definitely favor the Cardinals if both teams start playing to their ability. If they don’t, well, here come the Brewers and Phillies.

Red Sox survive back-and-forth affair with Astros, win 8-6 to take 3-1 lead in ALCS

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Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday night between the Red Sox and Astros was a thrilling back-and-forth affair with seven lead changes. Ultimately, the Red Sox emerged victorious with a hard-fought 7-5 victory.

The Red Sox wasted no time getting on the board, plating two runs in the top of the first inning against Charlie Morton thanks to a walk, hit-by-pitch, wild pitch, and a Rafael Devers single. In the bottom half, José Altuve hit what appeared to be a game-tying two-run home run to right field off of Rick Porcello. Mookie Betts leaped and was interfered with by fans in the stands, so Altuve was called out instead. The ruling was upheld after review.

In the bottom of the second, the Astros officially scored their first run when Carlos Correa knocked home a run with a single. The Red Sox immediately got it back when Xander Bogaerts doubled in a run in the top of the third, running the score to 3-1. In what would become a trend, the Astros also responded as George Springer drilled a solo homer and Josh Reddick hit an RBI single of his own to tie the game at 3-3. Tony Kemp added a solo homer down the right field line in the fourth to put the Astros on top for the first time. Bogaerts hit another RBI single in the top of the fifth to re-tie the game at 4-4. Correa followed suit in the bottom half, hitting his second RBI single of the game to give the Astros back the lead.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., who hit a soul-crushing grand slam off of Roberto Osuna in Game 3, hit another homer in Game 4, a two-run shot in the sixth off of Josh James. In the seventh, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs and Lance McCullers, Jr. entered to try to put out the fire. He did not, briefly, walking Brock Holt to force in a run and make the score 7-5. McCullers did end up getting out of the inning without any further damage. Just for good measure, though, J.D. Martinez tacked on a run in the eighth with an RBI single to make it 8-5.

Ryan Brasier got five outs and Matt Barnes one in the sixth and seventh. Manager Alex Cora decided to call on Craig Kimbrel for a six-out save when the bottom of the eighth rolled around. The 2018 postseason hasn’t been kind to Kimbrel as he had given up runs in all three of his appearances. Kimbrel gave up hits to the first three batters he faced. Kemp led off with a single but he tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second base by Betts. Kimbrel then hit Alex Bregman with a pitch and surrendered a double to George Springer, putting runners at second and third with one out. Altuve knocked in a run with a ground out to make it 8-6, but Kimbrel saw his way out of the inning by striking out Marwin González.

In the ninth, Cora decided to keep Kimbrel in the ballgame despite his continued struggles. Kimbrel got Yuli Gurriel to pop up to start the inning, but then issued back-to-back walks to Reddick and Correa. Kimbrel got out number two by getting Brian McCann to fly out to right field, then walked Tony Kemp to load the bases. Cora decided to stay with Kimbrel as Bregman came to the plate. Kimbrel threw a first-pitch, 97 MPH fastball that Bregman laced into shallow left field. Andrew Benintendi charged in and dived, catching the ball just in time to save the game, ending it for an 8-6 victory. Of the 18 half-innings, the two sides failed to score in only seven of them.

The Red Sox, now up three games to one in the ALCS, will try to close it out on Thursday night in Houston. If the Red Sox win, they will return to the World Series for the first time since 2013.