The Braves, winners of ten straight, have opened up a 12.5 game lead in the NL East

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Braves youngster Alex Wood gave up one run over six innings in his start on Sunday night against the Phillies — a start in which Delmon Young struck out four times, seeing a total of 15 pitches — to help the Braves to another win. It was their tenth in a row. Meanwhile, the Phillies have gone 1-9 in that stretch. The Nationals have gone a more respectable 6-4. But everyone, obviously, has lost ground and the Braves now sit atop the NL East with a staggering 12.5 game lead.

The winning streak is impressive for a few reasons. First it began as the Braves lost Tim Hudson for the season, making many wonder if they’d have the starting pitching to maintain their division lead. Well, during the winning streak they’ve allowed more than four runs only once and three runs or fewer in seven of those games. Both the starters and the bullpen have been pretty fantastic.

Also impressive: the offensive contributions have come from a number of players. Chris Johnson is on fire, hitting nearly .350. Justin Upton and Jason Heyward are heating up after extended periods of “meh” since April. Even B.J. Upton has gotten into the act. The Braves have had various players carrying them on offense at times this season while most other bats have flailed (Justin Upton in April, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman at times since then) but now they are finally seeing something more akin to a balanced attack.

Finally, it’s been interesting to see the streak go down against decent competition: the Braves have swept the Cardinals and a decent Rockies team and now they’ve dispatched a would-be division rival in the Phillies. Beginning today they play three against the Nats. While a 12.5 game lead is huge — ESPN has the Braves at a 99.9% probability of making the playoffs – a sweep of the Nats this week would basically break their opposition’s back.

Of course this is the Braves, a team which choked away a big division lead just two years ago. It just wasn’t this big, and for that to happen now would require something in baseball the likes of which is rarely if ever seen.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.