D’Arnaud, Swanson homer as Braves win 3-2, get playoff berth

Travis d'Arnaud
Getty Images
0 Comments

ATLANTA – Braves manager Brian Snitker wasn’t overly excited about his team clinching a playoff berth.

He would’ve preferred that the Milwaukee Brewers had beaten the New York Mets so Atlanta would be in a first-place tie in the NL East.

“I hope Milwaukee comes back, quite honestly,” Snitker said before the Mets finished off the Brewers. “But if we get in the door, we give ourselves a chance. That’s what we want to do. The No. 1 thing is we want to win the division and we’re right there to make that happen, but it’s good to give yourself an opportunity when you get in the tournament.”

Travis d'Arnaud broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, Dansby Swanson went deep in the eighth, and the Braves beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 Tuesday night and clinched a playoff berth.

The defending World Series champion Braves secured their trip to the postseason when Milwaukee lost to the Mets 7-5 less than 30 minutes later. Atlanta (93-55) is also vying for its fifth consecutive division title, but remained in second place, one game behind the New York in the NL East.

There was no celebration in the clubhouse after the game. Country music played softly in the background as a few players milled about and talked quietly.

The Braves have much bigger goals in mind than just making the playoffs.

“Obviously we’re aiming for higher, but making the playoffs is a big deal,” d’Arnaud said. “A lot of Hall of Famers played their whole career and never made it to the playoffs. But for us it’s a simple as try to win every series. It’s a marathon. It’s not over.”

Swanson added his 21st homer, an opposite-field solo shot to right off Kyle Finnegan that sailed 379 feet and padded the lead to 3-1. The Braves have won 10 straight games at home, outscoring opponents 47-15 over this stretch. Atlanta is 52-25 at Truist Park and has the NL’s second-best winning percentage in home games.

Matt Olson singled with out in the fourth before d’Arnaud hit his 18th homer, a 422-foot shot off Erasmo Ramirez (4-2) that made it 2-0.

Charlie Morton (8-6) allowed one run and three hits with three walks and nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He didn’t give up a hit until Victor Robles singled with one out in the third. Robles advanced on a throwing error by Morton on a pickoff move, but Morton struck out the next two batters to end the threat.

Morton avoided trouble in the 31-pitch fourth. He issued a pair of two-out walks, and the runners advanced on a wild pitch before Morton hit CJ Abrams with a pitch to load the bases. The 38-year-old right-hander struck out Ildemaro Vargas to escape the jam.

The last-place Nationals trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the sixth. Joey Meneses doubled and advanced to third on Luke Voit‘s single that chased Morton. Collin McHugh had a chance to get out of the jam, but second baseman Vaughn Grissom made a throwing error on a potential double play grounder that scored Meneses and put runners at second and third.

McHugh retired the next two batters to avoid further damage.

Morton improved to 6-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 15 home starts this season.

Kenley Jansen faced seven batters in the ninth for his NL-leading 36th save in 43 chances. The first two batters reached without the ball leaving the infield before Jansen struck out the next two batters. Luis Garcia delivered a run-scoring single to make it 3-2, Meneses was intentionally walked, and Luke Voit flew out to end it with the bases loaded.

Atlanta is 26-8 against Washington over the last two years. The Braves have gone deep 35 times against the Nationals this season and lead the NL with 224 homers.

Washington starter Patrick Corbin left the game with two outs in the first with back spasms. He had a 1-1 count on Matt Olson when Corbin stepped back off the mound and bent over and time was called. Manager Dave Martinez and a trainer came out to see about Corbin, who soon walked off the field under his own power.

“The last pitch that I threw, it grabbed on me,” Corbin said. “I’m not quite sure what it is, but I just tried to hang out there as long as I could to see if it would go away, but it didn’t. I’m just a little sore now.”

Ramirez took over and retired five in a row before Grissom reached on an infield single in the third. Corbin had lost nine consecutive starts against Atlanta and had a 7.28 ERA over that stretch.

For the Braves, the game and the postseason berth were kind of ho-hum affair. Snitker wasn’t surprised that nobody was in the mood to celebrate.

“No, everybody’s tired,” Snitker said. “These guys want to go home and get a good night’s sleep becasue that (12:20 p.m.) game will come early tomorrow.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: Martinez said DH Nelson Cruz (eye inflammation) is still not ready to face big league pitching and will stay out of the lineup until he’s ready. … LHP MacKenzie Gore (left shoulder inflammation) reported no problems after his bullpen session and will make a rehab start with Triple-A Rochester on Friday.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider has a sore left oblique and will not make his next start Saturday in Philadelphia. Snitker said Strider will not go on the injured list and will play catch until he’s ready to return to the rotation. … Jansen tweaked his neck trying to field the first ball that was put in play in the ninth. Snitker said he wasn’t sure if the closer would be able to pitch on Wednesday.

NICE MOVES

Atlanta SS Dansby Swanson made a sliding, backhanded stop of Meneses’ hard grounder in the fourth and threw the runner out easily from the outfield grass. … Robles ran hard to his left in center field and made a diving catch of d’Arnaud’s liner to end the sixth.

UP NEXT

Braves rookie RHP Bryce Elder (1-3, 3.67 ERA) will make his seventh start as the teams conclude a three-game series with a 12:20 p.m. start. The Nationals will start Paolo Espino.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
Getty Images
5 Comments

PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.