Giants beat Cardinals, Cubs clinch NL Central title

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The Cubs weren’t able to take care of their own business against the Brewers to clinch the division on Thursday night, losing 5-4. But they got a little help from the Giants, who beat the Cardinals 6-2, officially making the Cubs the champions of the NL Central.

Against the Brewers, the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead on a Jorge Soler homer, but the Brewers fought back to take a 3-2 lead in the fourth on a Keon Broxton solo homer and a two-run double from Orlando Arcia. They it a 5-3 game in the seventh when Scooter Gennett hit a two-run double of his own. The Cubs rallied in the bottom of the eighth, but could only score one run.

Meanwhile, Hunter Pence gave the Giants an early 2-0 lead of their own with a two-run shot in the first inning. The Cardinals scored once in the third and once in the fourth to knot the game at two apiece, but the tie was quickly broken in the bottom of the fourth as the Giants scored twice thanks to a Johnny Cueto sacrifice fly and an Angel Pagan RBI single. The Giants tacked on two more in the seventh as Denard Span ripped a single to right field with the bases loaded. Cueto was able to outduel Adam Wainwright, pitching nine strong innings. He allowed just the two runs on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, throwing 105 pitches.

This is the Cubs’ first division title since 2008 and their second consecutive appearance in the postseason. They beat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card play-in game to enter the NLDS, then defeated the Cardinals in four games to advance to the NLCS. They were stopped there, getting swept in four games by the Mets. The Cubs are hoping for a different fate this year.

The Cardinals-Giants game was also big because its impact on the NL Wild Card race. The Giants now own a one-game lead over the Mets for the first slot, and the Cardinals now trail the Mets by a full game for the second slot.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.