Dylan Carlson’s tiebreaking single sends Cardinals over Braves in 11

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ATLANTA — Dylan Carlson hit a tiebreaking single in the top of the 11th inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2 to snap their four-game losing streak.

Nolan Gorman singled to begin the 11th and move automatic runner Nolan Arenado to third. Carlson’s single glanced off the glove of second baseman Phil Gosselin, and the Cardinals led 3-2.

“It’s super meaningful,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. “We’ve gotten beaten the last couple of days here. They played good baseball. Today was good baseball on both sides. Today was a good one.”

Spencer Strider dominated with a career-high 12 strikeouts in six innings for the defending World Series champion Braves, who began the game a major league-best 26-7 since June 1 but fell 3 1/2 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East.

Juan Yepez‘s sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th broke a 1-all tie for St. Louis. Matt Olson‘s RBI single tied it at 2 in the bottom half.

Michael Harris II hit a tying homer off Giovanny Gallegos in the seventh for Atlanta. Albert Pujols delivered a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the top of the inning for St. Louis, giving him 121 sacrifice flies to tie Hank Aaron and Frank Thomas for fourth place on the career list.

Strider mixed a fastball that regularly touched 99 mph and a high 80s slider that was equally effective, recording a strikeout for each of the first nine outs, the first time that’s happened since the Braves debuted in Atlanta in 1966.

“It’s cool,” he said. “A lot of good pitchers have pitched for Atlanta. That’s neat. I wish we would’ve pulled out the win as well, but it’s cool.”

Strider, a fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson in 2020, has struck out 102 in 65 2/3 innings this year. He allowed two hits, no runs and two walks.

Only two other pitchers have recorded strikeouts in their first nine outs since the start of 2020: Miami’s Pablo Lopez on July 11, 2021, and Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola on June 25, 2021.

Ryan Helsley (5-1) earned the win in 2 1/3 innings. Packy Naughton earned his first save, and Tyler Matzek (0-2) took the loss.

St. Louis struck out 19 times. The Cardinals, second in the NL Central, had dropped six of seven. Prior to Thursday, the Braves had never struck out more than 18 hitters in a game that lasted 11 or fewer innings.

Arenado popped up to begin the fourth, the first out that was put in play by the Cardinals. Strider struck out three more the rest of the way.

Strider, who struck out 11 in a win last Saturday at Cincinnati and has three double-digit strikeout games in eight career starts, gave up a bloop double to Paul Goldschmidt and a walk to Arenado in the first but struck out Gorman to end the threat. He struck out the side and faced the minimum in the second.

“It’s a game of inches, and the inches got us pretty much,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Carlson went 3 for 3 after entering the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He also turned a double play in the ninth when Carlson caught Harris’ liner in center field and doubled up pinch-runner Gosselin, who had advanced from first past second and was easily forced out.

“In that situation, you’re definitely trying to be aggressive and catch anything over your head,” Carlson said. “When the guy on first can run pretty well … you’ve got to be aggressive and go make a play. Off the bat, that was the initial thought.”

MILESTONES

Pujols needs one extra base hit to reach 1,377 and tie Stan Musial for third place on the career list.

“Now, to be able to mention my name in the sentence along with those guys is like, `What?’ It’s almost like a dream,” Pujols said. “It’s really reality. I’m just thankful and grateful.”

Pujols, who plans to retire after the season, walked onto the field 10 minutes before the first pitch to receive a $1,000 check to his family foundation from the Braves’ foundation. He received a standing ovation before the game and then loud applause when he was introduced as a pinch-hitter.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: C Austin Romine stayed in the game despite getting hit on the helmet by Marcell Ozuna‘s back swing in the 10th. … LF Tyler O'Neill (left hamstring strain) took the night off with Triple-A Memphis and could be activated Friday. … Marmol said he expects LHP Genesis Cabrera (illness) to rejoin the active roster on Friday. … CF Harrison Bader (right plantar fasciitis) is swinging and playing catch before returning to wearing his protective boot the rest of the day. He could return during the upcoming 10-day homestand.

Braves: Snitker said LHP Max Fried, who left Wednesday’s win after 82 pitches with tightness in his right glute muscle, is fine and will make his next scheduled start.

CARDS BY THE NUMBERS

The last time the Cardinals’ first nine outs in a game were via strikeout came March 31, 2019, against Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes. … The last pitcher to record 12 or more Ks against St. Louis was Max Scherzer of the Los Angeles Dodgers with 13 on Sept. 6, 2021. … RHP Jordan Hicks threw 27 of his 34 pitches over 100 mph, two shy of his single-game record. … Gallegos had his fifth blown save of the season, tied for the NL lead.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (6-6, 3.26 ERA) will face RHP Zack Wheeler as St. Louis hosts Philadelphia to begin a four-game series. Wainwright is 7-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 16 career starts and two relief appearances against the Phillies.

Braves: RHP Charlie Morton (4-3, 4.34 ERA) will face RHP Erick Fedde (5-5, 4.29) as Atlanta hosts Washington to begin a three-game series. Morton is 4-6 with a 5.23 ERA in 13 career starts against Washington.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.