Cubs rally late, prevent the Braves from clinching the NL East for at least a little while

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The Braves entered the day with a magic number of one to clinch the NL East and eliminate the Washington Nationals from division title contention. If they could overcome Cubs starter Travis Wood, they could bust out the bubbly at Wrigley, but the Cubs had other ideas.

Wood surrendered a run in the fourth on an Evan Gattis RBI single to right, but other than that, he was very sharp. The lefty allowed just the one run in seven-plus innings of work, allowing five hits and walking four while striking out seven. Braves starter Kris Medlen was even better, however, holding the Cubs scoreless through seven innings. He took the mound for the eighth and even got the first out of the inning, but he was pulled after allowing a single to Starlin Castro. Lefty reliever Scott Downs came in but promptly gave up a single to Donnie Murphy and an RBI double to Anthony Rizzo, allowing the Cubs to tie the game at 1-1. David Carpenter replaced Downs, but wasn’t any better, allowing an RBI single to Dioner Navarro and a sacrifice fly to Nate Schierholtz, giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead entering the ninth.

Pedro Strop tossed an impressive ninth inning, striking out the side to wrap up the 3-1 victory and stave off the Braves’ celebration until at least the end of tonight’s Marlins-Nationals game. If the Marlins win, the Braves will clinch the East. Otherwise, the Braves will attempt to clinch tomorrow afternoon behind rookie starter Julio Teheran.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on it as precedent. Finally, it should be noted that in issuing this statement, the Astros have given at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech, which seems less-than-ideal at best.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?