Playoff chase: Cards atop NL Central
Washington got back to playing baseball and swept Atlanta to keep the Braves from clinching the NL East. Meanwhile, the AL wild-card race remained tight with Texas beating Tampa Bay. A quick look at baseball’s playoff picture:
TIGHTENING RACE: Four of the six teams vying for the two AL wild-card berths squared off against a fellow contender Tuesday night. Texas topped Tampa Bay 7-1 to move into a tie with the Rays atop the wild-card chase. Cleveland moved a half-game out while Baltimore is now within two games. Kansas City and New York both lost, but are still in the hunt 3½ games back.
STAYING HOT: The Washington Nationals swept Atlanta in a day-night doubleheader to postpone the Braves’ first NL East title since 2005. Washington has won 10 of its last 11 games to close within five games of Cincinnati for the NL’s second wild-card berth. The first game was a makeup following shootings at the nearby Washington Navy Yard on Monday. Rookie Tanner Roark (7-0) remained unbeaten by allowing just two hits in seven shutout innings in the nightcap. Manager Davey Johnson even seemed to make up a word — “posure,” apparently a cross between poise and composure — to describe his young star.
WELCOME BACK MATT: Matt Kemp went 4 for 4 with three RBIs in his first start since coming off the disabled list Monday to lead Los Angeles to an easy 9-3 rout of Arizona. With the victory, the Dodgers reduced their magic number to clinch the division to two. They can clinch the NL West with a win Wednesday.
LOST PERFECTION: Boston closer Koji Uehara saw his run of 37 consecutive batters retired come to an end as the Orioles rallied against the Red Sox’s star closer. Danny Valencia ended that streak with a triple to lead off the ninth and Matt Wieters hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly to give Baltimore the 3-2 win. Uehara fell four outs short of Bobby Jenks’ major league record for a reliever of 41 consecutive retired batters set in 2007 and Mark Buehrle’s mark for all pitchers of 45 in 2009. The run was the first off Uehara in 30 2-3 innings and ended a streak of 27 scoreless outings since July 9.
SLUMPING PIRATES: Pittsburgh can’t wait for San Diego to get out of town. The Padres beat the Pirates for the second straight night, improving to 30-10 in Pittsburgh since the new ballpark opened in 2001. Pittsburgh fell a game behind St. Louis, which routed Colorado 11-4 to take the NL Central lead.