Ronald Acuna Jr
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Braves claim NL East title with 6-0 win over Giants

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The Braves kicked off their last home series of the regular season in spectacular fashion on Friday night, clinching a 6-0 win over the Giants to lay claim to the NL East division title for the second year in a row. The title is their 14th in the NL East and 19th overall.

Freddie Freeman got things started for the Braves in the first inning with a sacrifice fly off of San Francisco right-hander Tyler Beede, while Ozzie Albies tacked on an insurance run in the second with an RBI single. It wasn’t long before the Braves started exhibiting some real power, however — Ronald Acuña Jr. launched a first-pitch curveball in the fifth for his 41st home run of the year, while Brian McCann followed suit with his own two-run shot in the sixth.

Behind the Braves’ impressive display, Mike Foltynewicz held the Giants scoreless for eight innings, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out seven of 29 batters. The righty entered Friday’s start sporting an unsightly 4.80 ERA, 5.10 FIP, and 0.6 fWAR — mostly the result of a few bum outings earlier in the year — but still has yet to allow more than a single run in any of his September appearances so far.

In the ninth, Josh Tomlin stepped in for Foltynewicz to polish off the win. He made short work of the heart of the Giants’ order, inducing a groundout from Evan Longoria, serving up one last hit to Stephen Vogt, and retiring both Chris Shaw and Alex Dickerson with just two pitches apiece.

Next month, the Braves will begin their hunt for their fourth World Series championship and first since 1995. They’ve made the postseason in 15 of 24 seasons since their mid-90s crowning, but have only advanced to the Fall Classic twice — losing to the Yankees in 1996 and 1999.

Report: Some MLB teams using outside labs for COVID-19 testing

MLB COVID-19 testing
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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.

The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.

In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.

The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.

We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.