Pirates could be without reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen for a month

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In a serious blow to Pittsburgh’s playoff chances, the Pirates may be without center fielder, No. 3 hitter, and reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen until September because of an oblique muscle injury.

McCutchen tweaked his oblique muscle Sunday while hitting a sacrifice fly and an unnamed source told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that it looks like a “serious” strain that could knock him out for at least 3-4 weeks.

McCutchen has once again been one of the most valuable players in the league and has actually improved upon last year’s production, hitting .311 with 17 homers, 17 steals, a league-leading 68 walks, and a .949 OPS that tops last year’s mark of .911.

He’s been extremely durable, missing a grand total of 24 games since the beginning of 2010, so the Pirates have never really had to worry about how to replace McCutchen. Assuming that Starling Marte will be cleared to come off the seven-day concussion disabled list he could shift from left field to center field, with Travis Snider manning left field.

Braves clinch postseason spot with 10-1 win over Nationals

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The Braves clinched a postseason berth with Saturday’s 10-1 win over the Nationals. Now, the only question is whether they’ll get there with an NL East division title or via one of two wild card spots currently up for grabs.

Granted, things are looking pretty good on the division title front. After losing their second straight game to the Braves, the Nationals sit 10.5 games back of first place in the NL East, and every other division rival is at least 15 games out. The Braves, meanwhile, carry a magic number of four; should they clinch, it’ll be their 19th franchise title and 14th since they migrated to the East division in 1994.

They certainly looked like postseason contenders on Saturday. Mike Foltynewicz led the charge with six innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball, limiting the Nationals to four hits while rookie right-hander Austin Voth kept the Braves scoreless through 5 2/3 frames. Things started to tip in Atlanta’s favor in the sixth inning: Nick Markakis put the team on the board with an RBI single, and a four-run breakout in the seventh helped cement a sizable lead. Over the last three innings, the Braves found opportunity after opportunity against the Nationals’ bullpen, capitalizing on walks, throwing errors, and productive outs as they climbed toward a double-digit finish.

The win didn’t come without some sacrifice, however. The Braves lost Charlie Culberson to a facial injury after he was struck by a Fernando Rodney fastball in the seventh inning, and they’ll likely be without him for the remainder of the regular season — pending a formal diagnosis, of course. Culberson’s loss isn’t the only one the club is feeling right now, either, as Johan Camargo ended his season with a hairline fracture in his right shin and Freddie Freeman is playing through a minor bout of elbow soreness after making an early exit from Friday’s 5-0 shutout.