The Braves beat the Phillies 2-1 on Sunday to pull within 4 1/2 games of the Nationals in the NL East. With Chien-Ming Wang getting a spot start, the Nationals lost to the Brewers 6-2.
Now, with a five-game lead in the loss column and just 10 left to play, the Nationals are still sitting pretty. However, just look at the remaining schedules for both:
Washington: vs. Mil, 3 @Phi, 3 @StL, 3 vs. Phi
Atlanta: 3 vs. Mia, 3 vs. NYM, 3 @Pit
While the Phillies have dropped from three games to five games back of the Cardinals in the wild card by losing to the Braves the last two days, they’re not giving up yet. Perhaps they will be the time that last series of the season rolls around. But for now, the Nationals have at least seven more tough games ahead of them.
The Braves, on the other hand, got three of baseball’s coldest teams left on the schedule. The Mets have won three in a row, but that’s only because they’ve been facing the Marlins.
Atlanta could well go 8-1 to finish the season. If that happens, the Nationals would need to go 5-5 to win the division outright.
Maybe it won’t materialize. The Braves, for what it’s worth, have already lined up their rotation so that Kris Medlen would start the one-game wild card playoff. They’re not going to go all out and play Chipper Jones nine straight in an attempt to overtake the Nationals. They might drift a bit and lose a couple to inferior teams. If so, the Nationals would have nothing to worry about. Still, until that happens, it’d probably be for the best that we don’t see Wang on the mound again.
No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.
First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.
On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.
Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.