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

3 Comments

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.

The Phillies signed Danny Espinosa to a minor league deal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Scott Lauber of the Philly Inquirer reports that the Phillies have agreed to terms with infielder Danny Espinosa. He’ll report to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

This will be Espinosa’s fourth organization this year, as he has spent time under contract with the Yankees, Blue Jays and Dodgers in 2018, being released by all three teams after a few weeks. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2017, hitting a mere .173/.245/.278 in 93 games for the Angels, Mariners and Rays. He hit 20 homers a couple of times way back in the day, though, and I guess that — and the humility to accept minor league assignments — will earn you shots if you’re a good guy and you’re in decent shape.