Suárez, Eflin, Alvarado help Phillies shut out Braves

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA – Ranger Suarez pitched six sparkling innings, and the Philadelphia Phillies continued their push toward the club’s first playoff berth in a decade with a 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night.

Matt Vierling knocked in the only run in the game with a second-inning sacrifice fly to center that scored J.T. Realmuto.

Suarez allowed five hits, struck out four and walked two. Zach Eflin got five outs before Jose Alvarado finished the six-hitter for his second save.

Philadelphia (82-67) moved within a half-game of San Diego for the National League’s second wild-card spot and remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee for the final playoff berth. The Phillies also hold the season series edge over the Brewers, which is the tiebreaker between the teams this year after Major League Baseball eliminated the single-game tiebreaker under its expanded playoff format.

The Braves (93-57) fell 1 1/2 games behind the idle New York Mets for the NL East lead. The two teams meet in Atlanta next weekend for the final three scheduled games against each other this season. Atlanta has clinched a playoff berth and is presently seeded as the NL’s top wild card.

Atlanta played without outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., who was scratched because of back tightness.

The Braves threatened in the sixth, loading the bases with two out. But Suarez escaped the jam when he retired Michael Harris II on a grounder to first.

Eflin and Alvarado combined to finish the Phillies’ 14th shutout of the season.

Braves starter Max Fried (13-7) struck out eight in five innings. Austin Riley had three hits.

Both teams were affected by high cross-field winds. Two potential home-run balls – one by Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins, and one for Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna – were knocked down at the warning track in left field by the 17-mph winds.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: RHP Mike Soroka will be shut down for the rest of the season due to right elbow inflammation. Manager Brian Snitker said there was no structural damage in Soroka’s elbow and he will gear toward returning for the 2023 season.

Phillies: OF Brandon Marsh was out of the lineup for a second straight game with a left knee contusion. Vierling – who went 5 for 5 in Philadelphia’s 4-3 win over Toronto on Wednesday night – started in center field for Marsh.

UP NEXT

The series continues Friday night with RHP Aaron Nola (9-12, 3.38 ERA) opposing Atlanta RHP Jake Odorizzi (5-5, 4.04 ERA).

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.