Braves 5, @Cardinals 2 — Given their hefty lead, there was no immediate cause for Atlanta to fret about losing the first three in this series, their first games since the loss of Jason Heyward reopened their leadoff hole. But with no certainty of Heyward’s productive return come playoff time, there’s no doubt that Jordan Schafer’s two extra-base hits in the first 2 innings raised a big sigh of relief, breaking his 0-12 skid and building a 3-0 lead for Mike Minor. The lefty contained the relentless Cardinals for 7 innings, and when they squawk a bit in the 8th, Fredi Gonzalez took no chances, but brought in Craig Kimbrel for just the second 4-out save of his career.
Pirates 3, @Giants 1 — Just two kinds of batters, I think, had any chance of homering on this pitch from Madison Bumgarner: (1) Miguel Cabrera (sui generis); and (2) open-stance, bucket-stepping RHBs like Clint Barmes. Charlie Morton’s 4th straight strong effort (totaling 7 runs in 27.2 IP) kept Pittsburgh a game up on St. Louis, and pulled them up to one behind the Braves for MLB’s best record.
Nationals 5, @Cubs 4 (13 inn.) — Washington’s third straight win pivoted on two pitcher assists, the first a perfectly placed dribbler that got the job done, the latter a screaming liner that Drew Storen deflected into a game-ending DP that sealed his first save since June. But the true drama came in the 9th, when the Cubs trailed 4-1 with 2 outs.
All three AL Central contenders had day games in the same time zone. Two trailed early but pulled it out, while the other let a lead slip away…. (P.S. I liked D.C. so much, I’m going back for another quickie — look for me in the stands Thursday afternoon, and in the blogs again by Sunday.)
Tigers 6, @White Sox 4 – Joaquin Benoit came out of hiding and shut down two major threats, one handed to him and the other of his own devising, as Detroit salvaged something from their Windy City visit.