Braves score four times in ninth to lower magic number to 1

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The Braves busted open a 5-5 game with four runs in the ninth to beat the Cubs 9-5 on Friday and clinch at least a tie in the NL East with the Nationals scheduled to play later tonight.

All four runs in the ninth came after Freddie Freeman was intentionally walked by Kevin Gregg to set up a double play. But that wasn’t the curious decision from Dale Sveum. The real mystery is why Blake Parker and Pedro Strop were both removed from the game after retiring two batters apiece. Parker got the final out of the seventh and first of the eighth, then was lifted after nine pitches. Strop came in and threw eight pitches to finish the eighth, then was taken out before the ninth even though his spot in the order never came up.

While Gregg has closed most of the year, Parker and Strop have been the Cubs’ best right-handed relievers. Strop’s quick hook might have been explained by the fact that he pitched yesterday, but if that’s an issue, why use him at all in a game that’s pretty meaningless for the Cubs? Parker didn’t pitch Thursday, and there’s no reason he couldn’t have gotten all four outs himself. It’s especially baffling given that Sveum said earlier this week that Strop was now the closer. So, not only was the new closer used in a tie game today, but since he’s now pitched two days in a row, he probably won’t be available for a save chance on Saturday.

OK, back to the Braves. Chris Johnson and Freeman both homered off Scott Baker in this one. Johnson collected three hits in all, raising his average to .3306. He’s barely behind Michael Cuddyer at .3311 for the NL lead. Jason Heyward went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in his return from a broken jaw. As scripted, he was removed from the game after five innings. He’ll sit tomorrow and start again Sunday. Dan Uggla went 0-for-3 with a couple of walks, but he nearly homered in a second straight game, barely pulling a ball foul off Gregg in the ninth.

The Braves will clinch the NL East if the Marlins beat the Nationals this evening. Otherwise, they can do it with another victory over the Cubs tomorrow.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

Associated Press
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Here’s where we stand:

  • The Cardinals won and the Brewers and Cubs lost, putting St. Louis’ lead in the NL Central back up at three;
  • The Twins lost and the Indians won, dropping the Twins lead in the AL Central to four;
  • The top three teams in the NL Wild Card race lost and the next three all won. That means the Nationals are in top Wild Card position, a game and a half ahead of the Brewers and Cubs, who in turn are both three games ahead of the Phillies and Mets. The Diamondbacks are four and a half back; and
  • The A’s, Rays and Indians and Rays all won, keeping the AL Wild Card race at status quo with Oakland two games over the Rays who are a half game ahead of Cleveland.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cardinals 5, Nationals 1: Adam Wainwright allowed one run over seven, out-pitching Max Scherzer. Dexter Fowler robbed a home run too:

The Cards beating the Nationals reduces the Braves’ magic number to clinch the NL East to two. Which means that, for one of the first times in 16 years, the Braves trading Adam Wainwright to the Cardinals actually paid off some for ’em.

Mets 7, Rockies 4: The Mets were down 4-2 in the eighth but rallied for five runs in the final two frames for the win. The rally was pretty much all small ball too, with Pete Alonso — who had homered earlier — walking with the bases loaded and runs coming on ground outs and double play balls and a couple of singles. Jeff McNeil also homered for the Mets who passed their single season team record for dingers with 225. Something like half of all of the teams will set new home run records this year.

Athletics 1, Royals 0: Homer Bailey and Danny Duffy traded zeros for seven innings and the their relievers continued to do so into the eleventh. Jurickson Profar led off the bottom of the eleventh with a walk, however, stole second base and then scored when Mark Canha hit a walkoff double to end it. When the dust settled, A’s pitchers had gone 11 shutout innings striking out 19 Royals batters in all.

Diamondbacks 5, Marlins 4: Abraham Almonte and Christian Walker homered and Mike Leake bent but didn’t break in six and two-thirds mostly effective innings to give the Snakes the win. But who cares about a Marlins-Dbacks game? What you really should know is that I watched season 2, episode 1 of “Columbo” last night and it was great. John Cassavetes was the killer. I love him in everything. Blythe Danner played his wife. She was pregnant with Gwyneth Paltrow during the filming of this one and it aired ten days before Paltrow was born. They put Danner in bulky sweaters and stuff to hide it. The great Myrna Loy, from “The Thin Man” movies, was in it as Danner’s mom. Pat Morita had a bit part as the “house boy” even though he was like 40 when it was made. Racist much? Yeah, well, it was the 70s. George Gaynes — the guy from “Punky Brewster” and the “Police Academy” movies was in it too. The director of the episode was Nicholas Colasanto, who later played Coach on “Cheers.” And the mansion Cassavetes character lived in was the “Benson” mansion:

And yeah, that Jag served as a plot point too. Lovin’ “Columbo” these days, you guys.

Indians 2, Tigers 1: Death, taxes, Columbo acting befuddled, getting under the hubristic murderer’s skin with his constant questioning and then, just as the episode is about to end, putting it all together and catching the criminal in their web of lies and deception, and the Indians beating the Tigers. This time in extras with Yasiel Puig hitting a walkoff RBI single.

Angels 3, Yankees 2: CC Sabathia only lasted two and two-thirds innings in what was his final regular season start in Yankee Stadium. Maybe even his final game there period as there’s no guarantee he makes the postseason roster. He allowed two and Adam Ottavino gave up an unearned run in the sixth, but it was via his own throwing error and that was the difference in the game. The Angels bullpen tossed five shutout innings.

Mariners 4, Pirates 1: Four M’s pitchers combined to allow one run on six hits while Kyle Lewis and Tom Murphy each homered. The M’s have won four in a row.

Blue Jays 11, Orioles 10: Baltimore led 7-1 heading into the sixth, the Jays rallied to make it close, the O’s scored a couple more to make it 9-5 heading into the ninth but the Jays rallied even bigger, scoring six in the final inning — four of which came on a Randal Grichuk grand slam with two outs — to take an 11-9 lead and then held on 11-10. All of that offense saved Clay Buchholz‘s bacon. He allowed 10 hits, seven for extra bases, in three and two-thirds innings but got the no-decision. His ERA on the season is now 6.48 in ten starts. His nice 2018 season in Arizona seems like it was a hundred years ago. His heyday in Boston seems like a million.

Giants 11, Red Sox 3: The Giants win gave Bruce Bochy his 2,000th victory as a manager. That puts him in pretty exclusive company as he’s only the 11th guy to do that. Every single guy ahead of him on that list is in the Hall of Fame as Bochy will be too one day. Giants starter Jeff Samardzija took a no-hitter into the sixth inning while Boston pitchers for tagged for 15 hits. The Giants scored two runs in the eighth and five more in the ninth to make it a laugher. They go for the sweep this afternoon.

Phillies 4, Braves 1: Zach Eflin allowed only an unearned run while working into the seventh and was backed by homers from Bryce Harper and César Hernández. Jean Segura drew a bases-loaded walk too. The Braves have dropped three in a row.

Padres 2, Brewers 1: Padres starter Dinelson Lamet, who missed all last season with Tommy John surgery — struck out 14 dudes in six one-run innings and got just enough offense behind him — in the form of a two-run homer from rookie Seth Mejias-Brean — to make that stand up.

White Sox 3, Twins 1: Eight Sox pitchers took a combined no-hitter into the sixth inning and ended up allowing only one run on three hits in all. Zack Collins homered and Yoan Moncada doubled twice. And check out this play-off-the-wall and throw to third by Adam Engel, cutting down Eddie Rosario who was trying to stretch a double into a triple:

Worth noting that Rosario would’ve made it if he didn’t take a moment to admire what the initially thought was a homer. And, of course, if he stays on second he’s fine and the Twins have a chance to draw closer in a tight game.

Reds 3, Cubs 2: The Cubs came into this series having won five straight but the Reds have dropped them twice in a row. That’s not idea. Here José Iglesias smacked an RBI double in the top of the tenth to give Cincinnati the win. Reds pitchers played a big part too, of course, with five of them, led by Tyler Mahle, combining on a four-hitter.

Rays 8, Dodgers 7: An eighth inning Cody Bellinger homer gave L.A. a 6-4 lead but the Rays rallied for two runs off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth. Which sort of resets the recent “Jansen is back!” narrative that had begun to form. Austin Meadows led off the 11th inning with a homer and Ji-Man Choi hit a sac fly for an insurance run that, thanks to one more Dodgers run in the bottom half, ended up being needed, as the Rays held on for the victory. Just one more thing: eighteen more pitchers used in this one, which went four hours and forty minutes. At least this one was closer, seemingly more riveting baseball than the previous night.

Astros 3, Rangers 2: Gerrit Cole struck out ten and allowed only two runs in eight innings to pick up his 18th win. And, en route, picked up his 300th strikeout on the season. Cole has not lost a game since May 22, you guys. Yuli Gurriel and José Altuve each homered, supplying all of the offense.