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.

Bradley Zimmer to miss 8-12 months after shoulder surgery

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Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer is out for the year after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, the team announced Saturday. The projected recovery timetable spans anywhere from 8-12 months, which puts Zimmer’s return in the second half of the 2019 season, assuming that all goes well.

Zimmer, 25, had not made an appearance for the Indians since June 3. He racked up a cumulative nine weeks on the major- and minor-league disabled lists this season and will have finished his year with a .226/.281/.330 batting line, seven extra-base hits, and four stolen bases in 114 plate appearances.

The outfielder reportedly sustained his season-ending injury during a workout in Triple-A Columbus, where Cleveland.com’s Joe Noga says Zimmer began feeling discomfort in his shoulder after completing a set of one-handed throwing drills. Comments from club manager Terry Francona suggest that the Indians have every reason to believe that he’ll make a full recovery by next summer, though it’s not yet clear whether or not he’ll need additional time to readjust to a full workload when he takes the field again.