Cardinals grab top seed in National League playoffs

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One of the few things still undetermined at the start of play Sunday has now been … determined.

Despite a lineup that was without Matt Holliday and an oddly-timed substitution of Tony Cruz for Yadier Molina just before first pitch, the Cardinals rolled to a 4-0 victory over the Cubs in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Jake Westbrook threw a scoreless first inning and Joe Kelly went five-plus. Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso, Shane Robinson and Cruz all contributed RBI.

The Cardinals have secured the top seed in the National League with a final regular-season record of 97-75 and will open their five-game NLDS on Thursday against the winner of the National League Wild Card Game — Reds or Pirates — which is set for Tuesday night at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.

The Dodgers (92-69) will play the Braves (96-66) in the other five-game NLDS.

Report: Padres interested in Maikel Franco

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals
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The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.

Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.

Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.